I’m back, from outer space

• Ok, not from outer space, but the Karoo, Bloemfontein, Johannesburg and the Vaal dam, which are pretty close. We did roughly 3000km in 8 days — and let me tell you that a long road-trip with my parents is no picnic. No accidents or mishaps but a few nail-biting moments, some wrong turns, some arm-pinching (dad’s arm, mom’s fingers) and some near-hysterical if-not-quite-screaming then certainly unpleasant raising of the voice.

• Moving on then, shall we? The audio books were great. Ian Rankin’s A Question of Blood (excellently read by James McPherson) followed by Jane Austen’s Emma and then Simon Winchester reading his surprisingly good and interesting Outposts: Journeys to the Surviving Relics of the British Empire (from the mid-1980s). I became really interested to find out more about Tristan da Cunha, especially since it’s only about 2000 km to the South of Cape Town in the Southern Ocean. I loved the description of the Tristanians as almost alien-like (and their reactions to “the houtside world”). I wonder if the Internet and satellite TV have changed them very much.

• Get back to find that my dog has been “an alien from Mars” according to my sister. Very sweet apparently, but rather odd.

• Good book-haul for Christmas: The Black Book (Orhan Pamuk); Digging to America (Anne Tyler); The Last Lecture (Randy Pausch); Cringe the Beloved Country (a satirical look at South African culture over the years); Three Letter Plague (Jonny Steinberg); and then 1000 Books to change your life (by TimeOut).

• Read two-thirds of The Orchard by Drusilla Modjeska which has me thinking about relationships, gender and subjectivity, ways of seeing etc. She’s very good on the difference between the masculine and feminine gaze. Definitely a post in there if I can rouse myself from my summer slumber.

• And then there’s the cricket. South Africa poised to beat Australia at home in a test series is practically unheard of! It’s great to see a South African team play with such passion, determination and confidence rather than arrogance. This looks to be a great team (unless the Aussies are just rather poor at the moment).

• It was very good to spend quality time with my Joburg family but it was horrible to be away from P for such a long time. She’s only back from KwaZulu-Natal tomorrow and she had a pretty wretched time. Very unexpected family death on about her 2nd or 3rd day of holiday which has meant almost no real holiday for her at all. Poor chicken. I will have to whisk her away next w/e for some pampering.

• Off to catch up on some blog-reading now. Cheers! And Happy New Year!


17 Responses to I’m back, from outer space

  1. Sarah says:

    Glad to hear you survived your family road-trip Pete!

    I’m happy to see you’re reading The Orchid, as it’s a favourite of mine. I thought Digging to America was only a moderate novel although I’m told Anne Tyler has written better. I’ve got The Black Book in the TBR pile, it’s just a matter of finding the time.

    Although it pains me to say it, the South Africans are definitely outplaying us at the moment (at home, as you pointed out!). Still, never say die and all that.

  2. samza says:

    I got the same requests to add some info to Book Blogs. Do you think I should make a group about bookish charities, mention it in the discussion, or leave these kinds of things out of the site altogether? What do you think?

  3. Courtney says:

    happy new year to you as well! Both you and Litlove recommending The Orchard means I will be reading it soon, I think!

  4. litlove says:

    Happy New Year to you, too, Pete. Eight thousand kilometers is a long stretch of intimacy with family relatives, and I feel your pain. Glad the audio books were good and lovely Christmas loot.

  5. Pete says:

    Sarah – Thanks and glad to hear you enjoyed Modjeska’s Orchard as well. I’m sure the Aussies will bounce back in the cricket pretty soon. I haven’t checked what your papers are saying but I’m guessing it’s all about rebuilding after the Warne / McGrath era.

    Courtney – Great to hear from you again. Happy New Year and happy reading!

    Litlove – Thanks for the empathy – these family trips are not easy but we survived this one and it was quite fun in parts! As for the Christmas loot, now that I have a lovely TBR pile, I’m dragging my feet and lounging around instead. Perhaps it’s New Year’s anxiety. On Friday I can make a fresh start.

  6. seachanges says:

    Haven’t read the Orchard, but will be on the look-out for it. You seem to have a nice pile of books to work your way through! Glad you survived the family holiday – ahh don’t we just love them to be able to say goodbye again! And then look forward to the next time when we’ve all but forgotten what it was like last time…. Cannot live with them but cannot live without them. There’s a conundrum. A happy new year to you!

  7. Make Tea Not War says:

    I’m sure there would be a LOT of unpleasant raising of voices if I went on a road trip with my parents. Wishing you a very happy 2009!

  8. Dorothy W. says:

    Glad you had a good trip! I’m intrigued by The Orchard — I’ve heard so many interesting things. Will have to keep my eye out for it. Same thing for The Black Book.

  9. boxofbooks says:

    I love my parents but I doubt I could survive 3000 km of them. Glad you made it back!

  10. qugrainne says:

    I had to laugh when you spoke of intimate moments in the car with parents, and in the next breath told us what you were listening to on audio books (no doubt to save your sanity)!!
    Happy New Year, Couchtrip. I hope you enjoy more opportunity to read in 2009!

  11. doctordi says:

    Happy New Year, Pete! And poor P – there’s never a good time for death, unexpected or otherwise, but over the holidays is particularly brutal. I hope she’s all right – a weekend away sounds like just the thing, good lad. Glad you survived the road trip – always a pressure-cooker, even with a few games of ‘I Spy’ thrown in…

    Oh, and great book haul! No one ever buys me books – strange, sooo strange, but true. Your list of books made me quite wistful. Happy reading in 2009!

  12. Pete says:

    Seachanges – Very true about our fanilies (and reminds me of the U2’s “with or without you I can’t live”). It also makes me determined to move out again this year. This is the Year of the House. I also have a good feeling about this year’s reading too.

    Make Tea – That would be a blog I’d love to read (the Make Tea extended family road-trip that is). Happy 2009 to you too!

    Dorothy – I’m sure you have enough reading to be busy with judging from your TBR pile (but a few more are always welcome). Enjoying Pamuk (The Black Book) so far. There’s something so rich and layered about Turkish writing.

    BoxofBooks – I think there’s something very symbolic about a road-trip with one’s parents when we’re all adults. Thank God for audiobooks is all I can say.

    Qugrainne – Yes, definitely a sanity-saver. Emma was brilliant and Rankin is a masterful storyteller too. Happy New Year to you too and happy reading!

    DoctorDi – A very happy 2009 to you too! Thanks for the sympathy re P. She’s doing well and is looking forward to our weekend away (from today). Happy reading and writing to you too. I’m holding thumbs for your novel.

  13. Marjo Moore says:

    Have you started Pamuk’s book yet? I’m in the midst of it and it’s the most beautiful thing I’ve ever read!! Takes your breath away- the scope, the genius that it took to do this!

  14. ted says:

    That’s a road trip and a half, especially with one’s parents. We traveled with my Mom around England and Sicily this summer and I became 14-years-old for almost the entire two weeks! Not pretty.

    Happy New Year and Happy Reading.

  15. Bee says:

    Last night I had to take a defensive driving course (dratted speeding ticket), and there was a young South African woman sitting behind me. We were discussing, as a group, the importance of maintaining slow speeds . . . in the event of people/animals suddenly appearing in the road. She mentioned that South Africans are warned to turn a light on IN their car in order to divert the large leaping animals who might be compelled to jump directly at the car is it hurtles down the road. It was a funny moment about an unknown place: You never even know about the things you don’t know about, if you catch my meaning. Anyway, I thought of it again when you described your long car journey. What sort of things made your mother clutch your father with anxiety and fear? I realized that I couldn’t even guess.

    I’ve enjoyed your book recommendations, in this and your previous post. The Orchard particularly intrigues me. I used to read a lot of that sort of thing, but tend to be lazily fictional in my reading these days.

    A very happy new year to you —

  16. Pete says:

    Marjo – Welcome! And now that I know that you’re enjoying Pamuk’s The Black Book, I will bump it up the pile. I read the first few pages on holiday and really loved his writing. The descriptions were really evocative.

    Ted – That sounds like a good story. I didn’t feel so much 14 as actually my parents’ parents. Looking after them a little bit now that they’re getting a bit older. Happy New Year to you too, and the reading’s certainly happy so far.

    Bee – I had a chuckle at your comment because even though there’s certainly some anxiety (or a lot of anxiety) in those arm pinches, I think she also knows that it’s the easiest way to inflict pain without causing a car crash! I’m not sure what he did, maybe take his eyes off the road. We didn’t meet any animals on the road though – the national road is too busy for that – but on my way to work today I saw three sheep tied up in the boot of a mazda. It was funny and rather sad at the same time. They looked very stoic about it. Good luck with the defensive driving. And a very happy new year to you too.

  17. Bee says:

    My goodness! Is there actually ROOM for three sheep in the boot of a Mazda?

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