Archive for November, 2011

Culling my library

I am a confessed book lover.

Most writers are, I’ve found. If you want to be a good writer you are also a reader. That’s a given.

I am also slightly addicted to buying and collecting books. When I married – that was over 40 years ago – combining my library with my wife’s library created a big problem. She is also a bookaholic, and a hoarder of books like me. In our first year of marriage I built two large bookcases. Problem solved – for the time being. Then came along the children and they soon had their books too and their own bookcases. When they left home the problem was slightly improved; part of my library is now in my daughter’s home in Clare and a few are in my son’s home in Sydney. It’s alright; I’ve read most of those books.

About 5 years ago I bought another 4 bookshelves from a well known furniture chain from Scandinavia. I had fun assembling them and stocking them with books. You see, the problem had grown to a critical stage: there were large piles of books everywhere. Problem solved – or so I thought. Over recent months the situation has reached another crisis point: not enough room on the shelves for new and recently acquired books.

My office has been in need of a drastic makeover for several years. The situation would make any bomb site look tidy in comparison. Time for action, so over several hot days recently – it was too unpleasant working in the garden – I attacked ground zero.

My technique is simple: sort and chuck. (Some unkind people might have suggested ‘slash and burn’ would have been more effective.) I progressively sorted through every item on the shelves. Some items didn’t belong – like dozens of computer disks. It’s a BOOK shelf – not a storage cupboard. Some books were obsolete and went straight into our recycling bin. I don’t need a copy of a guide to Microsoft Windows 95 or Word for Windows 6 for Dummies or even a 1998 Melbourne street directory. I have a more current version of the directory and don’t need another, and the computer books are now many years obsolete.

The trouble was that I have trouble throwing away books. I can give them away, I can let people borrow semi-permanently, I can even sell to a second hand book dealer – but throw away! Never!

I’ve changed.

I have to be ruthless and dispose of any book I will no longer read. Some I want to read again – maybe, so I might keep a few. Over the next year the culling will continue until I have enough room on the shelves for the books I want to read again, or I need to use as reference tools.

Now… what about that huge pile of magazines?

Good reading, and good writing.

I have just read my 4000th book

Asterix & Obelix's Birthday

I have just read my 4000th book.

It was Asterix & Obelix’s Birthday: The Golden Book.

Yes, I know there are derogatory names for people like me. I don’t care. I’ve kept a complete list of books and magazines that I have read since 1st September, 1966 when I was still in high school. For the first few years I only recorded the names and authors of books I had finished reading. In more recent years I have also recorded the issue number of magazines that I have read cover to cover. I read most of the magazines I buy in their entirety. I figure that I’ve paid good money for those magazines, so I’m going to get good value for my expenditure. Quirky, yes. Odd, maybe. That’s just me; no apologies will be forthcoming.

Significantly the 4000th book was the latest in one of my favourite series of books – the Asterix comics. I started buying this series in the early 1970s and my children grew up knowing them thoroughly. Every time a new title was published there was severe competition in our family to read it first. They claim that their general knowledge of the history and times of the Roman Empire was largely formed by reading the Asterix books. It is quite a possibility that they also learned to read using these books. I was a teacher librarian at the time so I made sure the school had a good supply of the titles, my family often reading them first.

One of the saddest days of my teaching career was when my entire collection of Asterix books was damaged due to fire in an adjacent classroom. It brought me to tears. The books were rescued, cleaned of soot and are in reasonable condition despite the fire. But even today I still get slightly sooty hands reading them. It was a delight to recently find a title I didn’t have in my library.

Good reading, good writing.

Happy birthday to me

Yes, that time of year has rolled around again. (Sings “Happy birthday” quietly to himself; no-one joins in.)

I had a very busy day with only one special happening. Well, two actually.

I spent most of the morning at the doctors’ surgery. Nothing to get alarmed about – just a routine check-up and all is in order. I needed new scripts for some regular medications I take. I also renewed my driver’s licence last week because the 10 years on the old one were up. To get my licence I had to declare that I had diabetes (which I was diagnosed with since my last renewal). This required a doctor’s consultation and a 4 page questionnaire for her to fill in after she had run me through quite a few tests, most relating to my eyesight. No problems there.

In the afternoon I helped my wife packing up my mother in law’s unit. Last Monday she was admitted to a local aged care home with advancing dementia. It is sad to see her deteriorating on a daily basis, but she is now receiving the professional care we tried to provide but it was beyond our skills. I admire people who dedicate their working lives to helping people in need like this.

A highlight for my birthday was that I bought myself some new binoculars. My old pair has been good, but I bought some lightweight, compact binoculars which are much better. Can’t wait to get out in the field and try them out doing some birding.

In the evening I took my wife to one of the local hotels for a birthday dinner. We had a lovely time, good food and a great view over the River Murray. It was definitely the highlight of the day. Later we each had separate meetings to attend. Mine proved to long and, at times, difficult and challenging, having to deal with a serious issue.

Now back to writing.


What every man needs

Warning: This post has little to do with writing. In fact, it probably has nothing to do with writing – except that I’m writing it.

What does every man need?

Quite a few things, I dare say. Generally most of those “needs” could easily be reclassified as “wants”.

In my opinion, however, there is one thing this man needs: a good pair of slippers. After a hard day’s work there are few more comforting or relaxing things as a good pair of comfortable slippers.

Now I haven’t had a proper pair of slippers in several decades. Instead I have replaced slippers with Ugg boots, that wonderful Australian invention with its soft fleecy lining that ease any aches in the feet and is deliciously warm in the winter, cool in the summer and just about perfect for the rest of the year.

Sadly, my old pair of Ugg boots met an unfortunate end recently; they were thrown unceremoniously into the rubbish bin accompanied by rapturous applause from She-Who-Must-Be-Obeyed. (I made that last bit up – the bit about the applause.) My wife has been encouraging me to find a suitable replacement pair for longer than I care to remember. The fleecy lining had been flattened many years ago. The side of one had developed a rip to rival the San Andreas Fault and the outsides no longer looked in prime condition. They could have been mistaken for a oddly shaped refugee from a compost heap.

I tried. I really tried to find a replacement pair but extensive searches and numerous test fittings of potential replacements unearthed nothing suitable. (To be honest, I only went to one local store, and then only tried on about 3 pairs.) Imagine my delight, and my wife’s approval, when I found a pair recently that not only felt comfortable as to size, but also reminded me what I had been missing for so many years.

They are wonderfully comfortable.

Just perfect for relaxing every evening. Don’t know why I didn’t throw the old ones away several years ago.

Read more about Ugg boots here.

Good writing.

Dealing with time wasters

I guess almost every occupation has inbuilt time wasting activities. Unnecessary meetings, for example. In another life I experienced – as a classroom teacher – I was aware of many time wasters, and not just some of the activities indulged in by my students.

I, too, was guilty of being sidetracked by time wasting activities in my daily routines. Overall I think I managed them at quite a reasonable level. It’s amazing how accountability to parents, colleagues and a principal can be a strong incentive to perform.


As a writer, however, I generally don’t have anyone peering over my shoulder ensuring I keep on task. I’m accountable to only myself. There’s the problem; it’s so easy to allow time wasting activities and distractions to get in the way of productive writing times.

In recent months I’ve been aware of the growing problem I have with an enormous volume of email traffic. It was severely getting in the way of essential, on task writing activities. I wasn’t making the progress I desired, so I had to do something drastic. Several years ago I solved the problem in a limited way by categorising incoming emails into folders. This streamlined the way I dealt with less important mail by placing them in their own folders waiting for attention when time allowed.

Problem emails

Since then the problem has escalated to a new level. Dealing with my incoming mail was taking increasingly larger slabs of time every day. Some emails sat waiting in their folder for months without being read. That was not good. The ever growing number of unread documents was beginning to really bug me. In fact, I was almost becoming depressed.

In a few weeks I will be travelling for an extended time, a significant portion of the journey will be without internet access and limited access for the rest. It horrified me to think of how many thousands of emails would be waiting for me on my return.

Dealing with the problem:

Over the last week I have been steadily unsubscribing from a whole range of newsletters that were causing the issue. Many of them are very worthy and interesting, I’m sure. In order to get some semblance of productivity back into my life I had to take this drastic action. After all, I can resubscribe again if I really need to. It will also mean I won’t have a massive problem to deal with when I return home from my travels.

That has to be a good thing.

Good writing.