Tag Archives: Paddington Bear

An Unauthorised Book Tour…”My Father & Other Liars”: Geoff Le Pard.

For those of you who know Geoff Le Pard and his latest book: My Father & Other Liars, it is my duty to inform you that his book ran away from home in London and decided to brave the sharks, snakes, poisonous jellyfish, crocodiles and deadly drop bears and flew solo all the way to Australia.

Heading into Sydney.

Heading into Sydney.

By the time the book arrived here, it was clearly exhausted and handed me a note which said: “Please take care of this book.” Of course, there was a jar of marmalade in its suitcase and being the warm, friendly and book-loving Australian that I am, I took the book inside and it now calls Australia home. It’s even traded the marmalade in for Vegemite toast. Like most English backpackers who take up residence on your couch, I don’t think the book will be going home any time soon!

Although every author knows that their book takes on a life all of its own once it’s been published, I don’t think even Geoff expected his latest book to go on an Australian tour without him. Geoff is a very keen International traveller who has not only been to Australia but fallen in love with place. So, not unsurprisingly, I can hear Geoff shouting out all the way from the UK: “Wait for me!! How dare you leave without me!!”

I’ve had words like that with my own kids over the years and they haven’t listened and neither did Geoff’s book. It’s still here and Geoff’s nowhere in sight.

Apologies Geoff but we couldn’t wait. The book’s tour Down Under has unofficially been launched. Thanks to my filling fallen out, My Father and Other Liars and I boarded the train to Sydney to go to the dentist. My dentist is in Kirribilli just a stone’s throw from the Sydney Harbour Bridge. If you have ever seen the film Finding Nemo, the dentist in the movie could very well be my dentist, right down to the fish tank! Well, there is some debate but he’s close enough. So, of course, the book was thrilled to be on location. It fancies being turned into a movie one day!

The book takesin the view of the Sydney Opera House. I think it brought the London weather with it.

The book takes in the view of the Sydney Opera House. I think it brought the London weather with it.

Geoff's book really was refusing to toe the line and I seriously feared we'd be arrested or given our proximity to the Prime MInister's Sydney residence, be mistaken for terrorists. If you can't trust a package any more, who's to say you can trust a book these days? Particularly one which can not read signs!

Geoff’s book really was refusing to toe the line and I seriously feared we’d be arrested or given our proximity to the Prime Minister’s Sydney residence, be mistaken for terrorists. If you can’t trust a package any more, who’s to say you can trust a book these days? Particularly one which can not read signs!

After my appointment, we walked down the hill under the Bridge and the book insisted on photo after photo and even took a few selfies. Talk about pushy. I thought the book was trying to drum up some additional publicity but when I caught it emailing the photos to Geoff and tormenting him with those gorgeous harbour views, I had my doubts.

Do selfies always reverse the text in the picture or is it just me?

Do selfies always reverse the text in the picture or is it just me? Oh yes. Don’t you just love the wind! That is definitely NOT my usual coiffure!

Anyway, jokes aside, reading My Father & Other Liars has been quite a unique reading experience for me. Usually, when I’m reading a book, I’ve never met the author and know very little about them at all. After I’ve read the book, I might have been lucky enough to meet them at the Sydney Writer’s Festival or equivalent or read an article online but essentially the author remains a mystery…unknown.

Another dodgy selfie in front of Sydney's famous Luna Park face.

Another dodgy selfie in front of Sydney’s famous Luna Park face.

However, when it came to reading My Father & Other Liars, the cart went before the horse. Through reading each other’s blogs and numerous comments back and forth, Geoff and I have come to know each other pretty well, especially given we’ve never met in person. We’re friends. This meant of course that I knew the author before reading the book and I wondered whether I could divorce that from reading a work of fiction. For some of you, you might be able to make that disconnect easily but I tend to read mostly non-fiction and process the novels that I do read as real. You could say that for me the line between fact and fiction is rather thin. That is, if there is a line at all

To further complicate matters, I’ve also read a series of letters written by Geoff’s Dad outlining his experiences as a paratrooper, which Geoff has posted on his blog. While “Dad” seemed to have a good sense of humour, he seemed pretty honourable to me. He certainly didn’t appear to be the inspiration behind the book. So this was another connection I had to switch off.

After playing a spot of beach cricket, the book sunbakes at Umina Beach, North of Sydney.

After playing a spot of beach cricket, the book sunbakes at Umina Beach, North of Sydney.

Another thing I should tell you about how I read Geoff’s book was that I specifically ordered hard copy…a real book. Call me a late-adapter to technology but I don’t have a Kindle or any other such device and I find reading long chunks of text difficult on the computer. I have collected antiquarian books almost all my life and love the smell of must, those beautiful , meticulous etchings and the covers almost good enough to eat.

Proudly standing under the Australian flags

Proudly standing under the Australian flags

Yet, while I have my collection, when it comes to reading a book and I mean really reading a book, I not only read it with my eyes and I guess in turn my soul. I also read it with my pen. I have quite an elaborate system of taking notes in my book. I underline great phrases, similes or metaphors and if I really want to come back to something, I make a note in the margin. The ultimate though is circling the page number down the bottom so I can definitely find my way back to that point.

So, when it comes to me reading books: “No ink = no good.”

So as a good indicator of how I found My Father and Other Liars, it has plenty of ink throughout, not just highlighting Geoff’s expressions but also to highlight the scientific details. The book is educational as well as a great read.

When it comes to genres, just like its author, My Father and Other Liars isn’t a book you can simply pigeon-hole and slap one all-encompassing category. Indeed, it could easily be considered thriller, mystery, science fiction, drama and there’s even a bit of romance. It refuses to be contained.

Bilbo, our Border Collie, snaffled up the book.

Bilbo, our Border Collie, snaffled up the book.

So, what is the book about?

My Father and Other Liars addresses the tension between religion and science and what happens when these often conflicting spheres merge together. What emerges is a thrilling exploration which covers three continents and I must say, Geoff manages to convey a strong sense of these different cultures both through authentic dialogue but also through noting those little details. When he writes about England, there’s a “strong cup of tea” and while in Oklahoma, there was this bit of inimitable dialogue: “So who fancies biscuits and gravy, y’all?” I wrote “yuck” next to that one. For an Australian, biscuits are sweet and what Americans refer to as “cookies” whereas this is referring to what we would know as a “scone”. However, the character is not in Australia and using these authentic snippets, really helps to convey that sense of place, which is very important to me. After all, the inner person is also in an outer world.

Lady reading Geoff Le Pard's: "My Father & Other Liars."

Only to have Lady run off with it! Lady reading Geoff Le Pard’s: “My Father & Other Liars.”

In terms of reviewing the book as a whole, I’m going to defer to this review from Suffolk Scribblings: https://authordylanhearn.wordpress.com/2015/09/25/recommended-reads-my-father-and-other-liars-by-geoff-le-pard/

However, perhaps the greatest recommendation is that I as a non-reader of novels, haven’t put it down and am reading about 100 pages a day. I’m finding myself slipping into their world and almost talking to the characters or hearing their voices, which might suggest I need a psychiatrist but that’s been a long standing issue and something I call “being creative”. At the moment, I have 120pages to go and I feel that tension between racing to see how it ends and wanting to take my time because I don’t want the book to finish. I particularly like the character of Mo and so many of us, is well-intentioned and has blundered through life hurting those he loves most and struggles with intimacy. Mo is the book’s reluctant hero and I can’t but feel sorry for him getting embroiled in all of this but then again, a bit excitement speeds up the heart.

………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………….

I’ve just finished the book and strongly recommend it. It tells a suspense-filled, credible story filled with conspiracy and intrigue and well-developed, believable characters. Geoff has down a great job switching between three continents and even with my very poor sense of direction, I didn’t get lost. That said, at the start, I did find it hard to keep up with the number of characters but ultimately this just heightened the sense of conspiracy and those men in black were hiding everywhere.

Well done, Geoff and by the way, your book says: “G’day!” It also wants to know if the cheque’s in the mail? It’s had unexplained expenses and I swear there’s no mini bar anywhere in sight.

If you’d like to pop over to Geoff’s blog, you can find him at http://www.geofflepard.com

Have you read My Father and Other Liars or any of Geoff Le Pard’s other books? Any comments?

xx Rowena

PS: I must say that if you are wondering whether any red-faced embarrassment was experienced in the production of these photographs, the answer is most definitely. The kids were away and I felt like a real goose heading down to the beach with a plastic cricket bat. But the photo is paramount and I only ended up having to explain to one onlooker that I was photographing a friend’s book who was in the UK. “Publicity”, was all they said. Hmm…you seem to be able to get away with a lot as “publicity”!

Catching the Palm Beach Ferry – the Perfect Antedote for a Rough Week.

Last week might not have been the worst of times but it certainly wasn’t the best of times either.

No matter how medical tests pan out, they still put you through an emotional and organisational wringer. Moreover, I won’t even mention what we all could have accomplished if we hadn’t spent an eternity on hold… waiting. That just adds stress on top of stress because you can’t help thinking about what else you could be doing if you weren’t still waiting. After all, didn’t you know? Life’s a beach!

So far the test results are encouraging but we are waiting for the final results. Make that still waiting!!

Anyway, whenever you are going through a trial, you have to do the whole ying and yang thing and somehow balance up the good and the bad. You need to look after your mental health as much as your physical health…even when someone you love is seriously ill.

Ettalong Beach

Ettalong Beach

So after a rough week, we needed a great weekend. The kids were already been booked into scout and cub camps and were looking forward to extreme fun as well as pushing their physical limits.Geoff and I were off to Palm Beach together until fate intervened. Miss needed a taxi and so Geoff stayed home. I did reconsider Palm Beach but I really needed a break and we all know what the home front’s like. It’s a constant battle against an insatiable, demanding beast which is constantly sucking you dry. So as much as I hate to admit it, I took off on the Palm Beach Ferry looking forward to drifting off into a blissful state of suspended animation in Palm Beach and I wasn’t looking back.

Ettalong Wharf looking towards Booker Bay

Ettalong Wharf looking towards Booker Bay

Meanwhile, on the way to the ferry, Geoff’s short straw was cut even shorter when his mobile rang and he was off to work for a few hours. What have I mentioned about Mrs Murphy’s Law?

So there I was at Ettalong Wharf about to set off on my own private adventure, which, as it turned, it wasn’t going to be all rest and recuperation, after all.

What I love about traveling or going out solo is that you can meet an amazing cast of characters you’d never meet otherwise. When you’re with the family or group, while it’s fabulous to enjoy each others’ company and do things together, you also become insular. Immersed on your own private island. But Rowie was out of her chrysalis and my wings were just about dry. This repressed social butterfly was about to take off!!

Boarding the ferry.

Boarding the ferry.

Before even boarding the ferry, I met a wonderful group of 20 somethings who made me their  Paddington Bear.  I didn’t even need to lure them with marmalade. You see, with my broken foot back in the boot again and staggering along with my walking stick and my bag, I didn’t even need a sign saying: “Please take care of this bear”. It was pretty obvious I could use a hand. My new-found friends chivalrously carried my suitcase onto the ferry and even invited me to sit with them in the crew section, among the privileged few, which I might add, did not include the buck’s party wandering around the ferry wearing green aprons. Suddenly, I was part of a mobile party and it was such FUN!!!! Surrounded by a kaleidoscope of outfits, fake and real tans and short skirts. Actually, make that short short or some instances, even short short short. It was time to  Party!!!!

Traveling in style with my absolutely fabulous ferry friend, Emma. Happy Birthday!

Traveling in style with my absolutely fabulous ferry friend, Emma. Happy Birthday!

Fun and compassion…such a wonderful mix.When you’re having a bit of a rough trot, you don’t want all doom, gloom or even too much sympathy. There’s no better therapy than a laugh and experiencing an unexpected, spontaneous act of human kindness and the hand of friendship, especially from strangers from the distant galaxy of youth. It was just what the doctor ordered!

After all, don’t you sometimes get sick of being a grown up and I didn’t realise the Palm Beach Ferry could also be a time-machine.

Heaven!

Heaven!

But my new found friends, weren’t just about partying, looking good and having fun. They were such caring, compassionate and thoughtful people who really touched my heart. They had time for me. Included me.They even carried my bag to the bus stop, which also involved a lot of trust on my part as well. That’s gives an insight into the bond we’d forged on a very short ferry ride. I know this meeting wasn’t a random thing. That it was destiny. Meant to be. Serendipity.

At this point, we parted ways as I waited for the bus but the party continued. Another gaggle of twenty somethings were spilling over the footpath and onto the road. Putting my “mum hat” back on again, I felt like shepherding them off the road and back onto the footpath, although I said nothing. I don’t think you needed any testing apparatus to know they’d had more than a few drinks and I could sense the Palm Beach locals would be eying off this unruly mob thinking “@#$% Coasties!!” However, at least these characters knew how to have a good time and as long as they stayed off the road, they weren’t hurting anyone.They were all heading off to Newport Arms, which is abut a 15 minute bus ride from Palm Beach. The Newport Arms is one of Sydney’s most popular hotels or pubs and is quite legendary.

A disapproving Mrs Mangel from the hit drama series, Neighbours.

A disapproving Mrs Mangel from the hit drama series, Neighbours.

The bus pulled up and I sat opposite an elderly lady who was already sporting a few frowns and other disparaging expressions. If you ever used to watch Neighbours going way back to the beginning, there was Mrs Mangel and this woman was a white-haired impersonation a she sat in her seat so stiff and almost frozen,  The party revelers, including the bucks party, also clamber on board. By now, they were under the weather, rowdy and rambunctious. No sooner than the bus starts moving and the bucks start belting out iconic Cold Chisel songs, providing live, on bus entertainment. I loved it. Soaked up every minute of it. Great memories.

Cold Chisel: Cheap Wine & A Three Day Growth: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cFKxbr4_-Vc

Jimmy Barnes: Working Class Man: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tQl8_u-JKew

However, to say “Mrs Mangel” was looking “Uncomfortable” would be such an understatement. Evidently, she found the echoing sounds of fun and jovial happiness. as torturous as fingernails scratching down a chalk board. I could sense the pain in every cell in her body. It was etched across her face and she’s so incredibly uncomfortable. She yearned to get out of here. Get those louts off the bus so she could return to civilisation. She was really suffering in serious pain and looking across to me for some kind of understanding or even salvation. I haven’t made it to the hairdresser for awhile so the grey is showing but being more mature doesn’t make me a wowser. That said, I shouldn’t judge. I often struggle with loud noises myself but juxtaposed against everyone else on the bus, who were squeezing the fun out of life, it really looked like she’d swallowed a bag of sour lemons.

This reminded me of something an elderly friend once told me. She said that her husband had “decided to get old”. At the time, that struck me as odd. After all, he was in his late 80s and a returned serviceman, At that grand age, he was old. However, I am coming to realise that there is a difference between getting old and feeling old. Feeling old is a choice.My grandmother said much the same thing. That she’d look in the mirror and she didn’t know the old woman staring back at her. Quite remarkable really. At least, I used to think so until I started looking in the mirror and started seeing glimpses of photos I’d seen of my great grandmother looking back at me when I still feel 25 on the inside and I suspect I will feel forever young: www.youtube.com/watch?v=rQi8wEHMm5Y

I was barely on the bus and I was off, leaving the party behind as I headed for a weekend of silence, solitude and serenity alone at Palm Beach. Almost immediately, despite the animated screams from the kids playing in the pool next door (this time it was my turn to feel somewhat tortured), I fell into a deep, comatose sleep and began to dream.

Sunset, Pittwater, Palm Beach.

Sunset, Pittwater, Palm Beach.

When I finally woke up and the sun had all but set, I realised that the screaming had finally stopped. I’m not talking about the kids screaming in the pool but the screaming in my heart and in my head. I had only been vaguely conscious of the scream before but now that it had stopped, I could hear it so clearly and feel its pain. Yes, I’ve been screaming, silently, unconsciously screaming for some time but it was only now that it had stopped that I could ironically hear myself. The touch of human kindness on the ferry had released me. Set me free. Probably not forever, it was only intermission but it brought relief.

Now, I could feel myself slowly starting to stretch back into my full height, gaining strength and being able to stretch my wings enough to fly, instead of being curled up into a self-protective ball so I could just survive.

It was then I remembered a childhood song, which Google (my not so secret best friend) reminded me came from Romper Room: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aIRu8-5Nyek

Bend and stretch

reach for the sky

There goes Jupiter,

There goes Mars

Stand on tippy toes

Oh so high!”

I would love to hear how the love and compassion of a stranger has touched you. Please share!

Love & Blessings,

Rowena