Archive for the 'Humour' Category

Book review: The Valley Between

THIELE The Valley Between HC

Book Review: The Valley Between by Colin Thiele, published by Rigby Publishing in 1981.


Last week I reviewed the official biography of Colin Thiele. You can read that review here. I found this biography to be very interesting and quite inspirational. Thiele was a prolific writer despite also being a full-time teacher and a much-in-demand public speaker. In his day, he was a much-loved author, particularly regarding his works for children of all ages. His new books were always eagerly awaited and sold out quickly. I believe that his writing is still held in high regard, though many younger readers have probably not heard of him. Even younger teachers may not be aware of the huge contribution Thiele made to Australian literature.


After reading his biography, I was inspired to reread some of his works. I have a few in my own library, but for some titles, I had to go to my local public library. Not all of his books are available here locally, so I am grateful for the provision of interlibrary loans. (We have access to all the books held in public and some school libraries throughout our state of South Australia.)

The Valley Between

One of the books I choose to read was The Valley Between a novel for children set in the mid-north of South Australia in the 1930s. The valley in the title refers to the Barossa Valley about an hour’s drive north of Adelaide. This is a world famous wine region. Thiele grew up a short distance north of this valley. He was born in 1920 and so this book very much reflects his boyhood experiences and exploits. It would be interesting to know how much is from personal experience, and how much is from his very fertile imagination. This story roughly continues from his earlier and better-known novel, The Sun on the StubbleBoth were later adapted into a television series. Probably his best-known work is Storm Boy which later became a very popular film of the same name. A remake of the film is under way this year (2017).


The narrative of The Valley Between is mostly in short vignettes of the happenings in the life of the protagonist, Benno Schulz. Each chapter is an episode in itself, but the over-arching storyline follows Benno’s first experiences after leaving primary school. In those days, many children did not go on to secondary or tertiary education.

While each chapter can be read in isolation just like a short story, several characters appear in each episode, intersecting with the life of Benno as he grows up on a farm near the imaginary town of Gonunda. The town is quite clearly reflective of the town of Eudunda where Thiele grew up. There is a statue of Thiele in a park of the town.

German influences

Many of the characters in the story are descendants of the German settlers who came to South Australia in the 1800s. Thiele uses their distinct dialect, a mixture of English, German and mash-ups of both languages to great effect. He has even included a glossary of German words at the back. I, too, have the same heritage, so the language is easy for me to read. Contemporary readers may struggle a little until they get used to it. This is a small price to pay for reading this delightful story. Many incidents are laugh out loud moments as Benno gets into all kinds of adventures, both deliberate and inadvertent.


Colin Thiele is known for his rich descriptions of the environment in which his stories are based. His words sing with metaphors and similes which bring his settings to life. His wonderful characters come to life through his words and their sometimes bizarre actions and attitudes. While I have said that this book is somewhat episodic in structure, the narrative carries the reader on to the satisfying conclusion.

When I first came across this title in a list of his works, I thought that I had missed reading this title. On getting about half way through, I realised that I had read it, albeit several decades ago, possibly when it was first published. It is well worth tracking down a copy to read.

Further reading:

Colin Thiele

Review of Morton’s Anglish Fictionary

Morton's Anglish Fictionary; Fierst Endition by Morton Benning


Morton Benning – Morton’s Anglish Fictionary: Fierst Endition (2016)

It is the sign of a good book when one laughs out loud. I laughed when reading this book, almost on every page and many times on some pages.

It is even better if, when I read out a portion to my wife, she laughs out loud too. Or groans – with a roll of the eyes.

A winner

Morton Benning has a winner here with hundreds of neologisms, invented words made by changing one or two letters, all with their own improbable, but highly entertaining, daffynition.

Over several years I have seen portions of this amazing volume develop as the author tried out the words and meanings by testing new words on his Facebook friends, also known as contrefutors, many of them adding extras of their own, or modifying suggestions.


While I admit that I read right through the book from cover to cover when I received it, and it can be read like that, I think it is best read by dipping into various pages at random. In this way, it is sure to entertain the reader for many years.

A downside

I notice that the author has called this the Fierst Endition (read the book for daffynitions of those words). I do hope there is not only a seconned endition, but a theard and more. There is one downside of this work. By the time I was only half way through reading, I was seriously questioning my ability to spell even basic words. Sigh.

Such phun.

Grab yourself a copy from here. You won’t regret it.

Here are a few tasty morsels:

  • pratzel: an annoying idiot twisted in a knot and baked
  • velcrow: a raven that sticks around
  • shenannygans: grandmothers behaving badly
  • articulatte: to communicate clearly about, or because of, coffee

Short fiction #43 “The Proposal”

The Proposal

Doris sat like a stone statue on the park bench. She’d been waiting now for over an hour, wondering when David would arrive for their date. She was starting to feel cold; the sun had almost set and there was a chill in the breeze. She had not dressed adequately.

She looked at the young couples walking arm in arm across the grass, along the paths and around the lake. Several couples were lying in the few sunny spots still available; at least one couple was in an amorous embrace. Far too passionate for public display she had been thinking, but her eyes could not stray far from staring at them. She longed to have a passionate embrace from a loving man.

David seemed to be the perfect answer: tall, dark, handsome – actually he was none of those things, but she loved to fantasise. There was no harm in dreaming. Besides, he was good looking, almost handsome. David wasn’t dark either; in fact, he was almost grey all over his considerable head of hair. Distinguished; that would be a better description. And tall – he was barely a centimetre taller than her, and she had never been called tall. ‘Squirt’ her brother had unkindly referred to her when they were growing up all those years ago.

Finally she saw David limping towards her. ‘What happened to you?’

‘You wouldn’t believe it.’

‘Try me.’ She stared at his leg as he gently rubbed a sore spot. ‘I might just be convinced.’ He didn’t see the smile on her face.

He groaned. ‘I can’t believe the day I’ve had.’ He paused, as if gathering his thoughts.

‘Try starting at the beginning,’ she said. ‘It sounds like it might be an interesting story. Something for us to laugh at in our old age.’ She giggled nervously. The withering scowl in response told her it was time to shut up and listen.

‘I was trying to sleep-in after the long movie I watched last night,’ he went on, ‘but the late cup of tea I made myself had other ideas.’

Picturing the situation she wanted to laugh, but caught her automatic reflex just in time. ‘Mmm…’ It was best to let David go on with the account. She didn’t want to hinder the flow of his story.

‘In my hurry to get out of bed my feet got tangled in my underwear.’ He sighed. ‘I’d carelessly left them on the floor just where there was a distinct possibility of potential tripping.’ With dramatic arm movements he attempted to demonstrate how he went sprawling across the bedroom floor. ‘No harm done really, except for badly bruised knees and a pair of glasses smashed on the wardrobe.’

‘Oh dear,’ she said. ‘That’s not good.’

‘Not good?’ he said. ‘It went downhill from that point on. I managed to find my way to the bathroom without an accident and back again to the bedroom without further incident.’

‘That’s good.’

‘No – it gets better – or worse. I knew I had a spare pair of glasses in the chest of drawers. Upended every drawer on the bed and couldn’t find them. Took me an hour to put everything back again.’ David gave a deep sigh. ‘Managed to find something suitable to wear and made it out to the kitchen. When I went to get the milk out of the fridge I saw my spare glasses on top of the fridge. Have no idea how they got there, but finally I could see again. After a fashion.’

‘That’s good.’ Doris covered her mouth with her hand, determined not to giggle, and certainly not laugh. ‘So all that drama made you late for our date?’

‘No – that was just the beginning.’ He rubbed his knees, then his elbows and finally he gingerly felt his head. ‘Mid morning I had to walk down to the pharmacy to get my blood pressure medication. Stopped at the newsagent next door instead. I wondered why the girl laughed out loud. No respect from today’s youth.’

Doris realised that her shoulders were ready to give away the fact that she was also on the verge of laughing. ‘So she kindly directed you safely to the pharmacy?’

‘Yes – and no.’ David frowned at the memory. ‘She took me to the door like she was leading a two-year-old, patted me on the shoulder and said, “There ya go, dear.” I hate being patronised by young people in shops.’

‘Me too. My butcher calls me darling. Hate that.’

‘Anyway,’ he went on, ‘I forgot that there are two steps up into the pharmacy. Made the first one, missed the second – and over I went.’ He gingerly rubbed his chest. ‘Think I’ve possibly broken a rib or two.’ He watched young couple who were still caressing passionately. ‘They were very good in the pharmacy. The young girls there helped me up, sat me down and took care of my script and all. Good service.’

‘So all of that made you late?’

‘No. As I came out some fool had left his dog tied to the rubbish bin. With these old glasses I didn’t see the lead and over I went again, this time cracking my head on the bench seat next to it. Gave me a whacking headache.’

‘So, did you go to the doctor to get checked out for concussion?’

‘No way. You need to be on death’s door to get to see the doc – and then you have to wait at least three weeks. No – I went home. And I made it without further incident, thankfully.’

‘That’s good.’ Doris was beginning to shake. She wasn’t sure whether it was from the cold – or suppressed laughter.

‘That’s not the end of it,’ he went on, ‘for lunch I wanted to heat up the leftover sausages from last night but instead of setting the microwave for 2 minutes, I pressed 20 instead. Burnt them to charcoal.’

‘That’s no good. What did you do then?’

‘Had to deal with the fire brigade.’

‘What? Why?’

‘The smoke automatically set off the fire alarm which alerted my neighbour. When he saw the smoke billowing from my kitchen window he called the brigade. I sure had some explaining to do.’ He paused.

‘But the firemen understood, I hope.’

‘Yes – they were great. I was that aggressive woman who caused all the problems.’

‘So there was a fire woman in the crew?’

‘No. She was the television news reporter. Another rude young upstart.’

‘So all that held you up and made you late.’

‘But that’s not the end of it. When I went out into the garden to check whether the vegetables needed watering, I tripped over the hose. My helpful neighbour had tried to use it on the house before the firies came, and he just left it there. Of course I didn’t land on the lawn – I had to land in the fish pond. Got soaked all over. If I’d drowned I’d have sued my neighbour.’

‘So you then had to change into fresh clothes.’

‘That’s right. And because I’d sorted through my chest of drawers in the morning while looking for my spare glasses I had trouble finding things. I’d been far too systematic.’

‘I know the feeling. Did the same with my pantry a few weeks ago,’ added Doris. ‘It was all neat and tidy but I couldn’t find a thing. Then I couldn’t find my glasses either. I found them three weeks later behind two tins of baked beans.’

David turned and looked Doris in the eyes. He gently leaned over and kissed her with a long and passionate kiss.
‘I think we should get married,’ he suddenly announced. ‘We seem so suited to each other.’

All rights reserved.

Copyright 2015 Trevor W Hampel.

You can read more of my short stories here.

A terse tercet

We’re weary of your endless chatter,
We’ll serve your tongue upon a platter –
Cooked deep fried and done in batter.


I had a good laugh

Last Wednesday my wife and I had the joy of seeing a preview of the soon to be released movie The best exotic marigold hotel starring Judi Dench, Maggie Smith, Bill Nighy and several other wonderful actors. My wife won the tickets through and offer made by the Seniors Card people here in South Australia.

We both thoroughly enjoyed the movie and will eventually buy the DVD as it is such a delightful romp with many hilarious lines and incidents. Unknown to each other a group of ageing English people respond to glossy advertising placed by the young manager of a run down hotel in India. Unable to afford their current housing, or seeking adventure, each in the group sets out to take up residence in the hotel. Through many misunderstandings, misadventures, comical situations and a touch of pathos, the group is thrown together in an unlikely situation and help one another to survive – or not.

I haven’t laughed out loud like this for some time. In fact, the whole audience – the theatre was full – enjoyed it so much that I occasionally missed some of the wonderful dialogue. Mind you, the average age of the audience was well over 60; you have to be 60 to qualify for a seniors card. The script was certainly written with seniors in mind – but younger generations will also get a good laugh at this, if only out of fear of what might happen to them in a decade or two.

I am a great admirer of the acting of both Judi Dench and Maggie Smith but this movie shows how both of them are ageing quickly. May they continue to delight audiences for many years to come – even if those movies send up the elderly in hilarious ways like this wonderful film.

Highly recommended.