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ISSUE #167

A new world awaits our intrepid Seniors with the addition of some old binoculars
Mike's Pith & Wind - Next Door
My back has been in a perilous state almost from the moment Maria and I first started planting trees, (thirty at last count), and it finally gave out on Saturday night when I was doing my customary back stretching exercises that, until then, I’d fondly imagined had been keeping such back problems at bay. I waddled awkwardly to the bedroom where M was avidly studying her iPhone and got into bed incrementally and with the appropriate pained sound effects that she eventually couldn’t ignore.
Fortunately I had implemented a plan that very night that involved my not drinking tea after five o’clock that I hoped would not require me to go to the toilet to pee my customary three or four times, because the one time I did have to pee on this night took about five excruciating minutes and that was mostly getting to and from the toilet and safely back in bed.
I didn’t sleep very well in any case and spent most of my waking time painfully adopting one of the three positions I felt most comfortable in, only one of which I am regularly able to sleep in, and so I fully expected the next day to be one of more pain and very little movement for its entirety.
The first half an hour lived up to my worst expectations, but to my surprise the level of pain improved quite rapidly and not long after feeling obliged to eat my breakfast standing up I was actually able to do an impression of sitting down without too much discomfort.
In fact, I was soon so confident about sitting I felt that I could even cope with travelling some distance in the poodle, which, as you know is designed exclusively for very tiny French people. I suggested to M that we should go to Glen Waverley as we’d planned the previous day and have a look around the Waverley Antique Bazaar, (that M considers her 'Cabinet of Curiosities' and I’d previously thought of as the Aristoc Warehouse) to look for some second-hand binoculars.
The reason I was keen to get binoculars is that we have access to an extraordinary range of bird-life up here in Mt Evelyn and we’re both getting interested in checking the birds out more closely. We’re still in the early stages of planting our personal exotic mini-forest so the birds aren’t overly interested in our place yet, but Next Door is quite a different and much more attractive proposition.
There is a hint of mystery about Next Door. Our place is very new, as are the places to the front and back and right of us, but Next Door is pretty much a simple wooden shack hidden amidst the unconstrained bush that occupies the rest of the section.
Being shy by nature, M and I have been somewhat reticent about making contact with any of our neighbours, but even so after a decent.. read more
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Dick's Toolbox - The Saint
It’s not often that you come across something that you read sixty years ago to be surprised by what you remember and have forgotten.
How this came about is simple. I am something of a voracious reader. We were on holiday and I ran out of books to read. Being, like many people somewhat financially bereft after the exigencies of Christmas, I went into the Salvos, which was right next to the full retail local bookshop. I was curious to see what the citizens of this growing seaside resort had donated from their extensive, and hopefully cultivated, libraries. Perhaps a selection of recommended reading from the Times Literary Supplement or the New York Review of Books?
Well, a short inspection head tilted to the right, wondering about the strange smell and wishing that I had remembered my glasses, revealed that their main intention was to give away all the crap literature on their shelves. A worse thought was that they had chosen to give away the best of what they had. In short, the choice was between rubbish and more rubbish, so much so that I wondered how most of the books came to be published. Somewhere an editor, hopefully drug free, had thought that there was an audience out there, thousands of readers prepared to give away their money for badly written stories of suburban lust, demented magic or maniacal crime written with the ability of a primary school drop-out.
I soon discovered that there are lot of books worse that Dan Brown, in fact that Dan Brown might be the Tolstoy of the donated book. But at two dollars a book I was determined that I would find something and fortunately there were just enough of books of note that you could confess to having purchased them. In fact there was one absolutely delightful surprise, ‘Silver Light’ by David Thomson, normally a film historian, that made the journey worthwhile. He writes like a dream.
But also there, amongst the other four books, was “The Best of the Saint”, containing sixteen shortish stories by Leslie Charteris. Even better, it had a forward by the late Sir Roger Moore, who had played The Saint in the early 1960s and who was probably the only TV hero to drive a Volvo – a 1962 P1800 coupe is my recollection.
At the time of the TV series in the 1960s, the then quite young Roger Moore was not a bad fit for the role of Simon Templar. Leslie Charteris thought him quite apt, and he was definitely better that when he played James Bond as an aging wax-works animatronic.
Was The Saint popular? Well over 40 million copies in twenty languages, fifteen feature films, ten radio series and a comic strip would indicate that the answer to that question is yes. read more
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