I have been reading books

I have been reading

Amber, Furs and Cockleshells
Bike rides with pilgrims and merchants
Anne Mustoe
[second-hand paperback]

A wonderfully simple easy-reading lovely book. Anne writes separately about three journeys, two across Europe and one across the USA. Each story is charming, funny and informative. An inspirational good read. I suggest you start the book by reading the last page first, the last page talks about her kit or more specifically her bike. This is important information for me.



birdsong #17
[free paperback zine]

Thanks birdsong for sending this across the Atlantic for me. It was a good read and a quick read. My highlight was Jess Paps’ Aquarium picture.



Chasing Mona Lisa,
Tricia Goyer and Mike Yorkey
[kindle ebook]

An excellent story set in Paris in the twilight of WW2. A clearly written page turner, neither predictable nor out-for-lunch. I argued with a couple of possible inconsistencies, but really it was a great book with wonderful characters.



Hide and Seek
Ian Rankin
[kindle ebook]

I am a big Ian Rankin fan and won’t catch a plane without him. I love reading about the seedier side of Edinburgh. However I am finding his first two books a little more difficult, they seem to be an attempt at literary journals rather than an airport novels. The characters in Ian’s books, over the years, have become my friends and through reading ‘Hide and Seek’ I enjoyed finding out how many of them met each other.




JAAM was a good read, but not an outstanding read. I will consider buying JAAM again if it comes out in kindle format, otherwise it is too expensive to have sent to me.



New Zealand through the Goalposts
Fay Looney

Thanks Mum for my birthday present. To be Kiwi is to have at least some of your blood running with the adrenalin of rugby. This coffee table photo essay book, is a wonderful glimpse into what it means to be Kiwi and to grow up on rugby.



Relief: A Christian Literary Expression
Volume 6, Issue 1
[kindle ebook]

This is a fantastic literary journal. With the exception of Blackmail Press, I have found the New Zealand literary journals that I have read to be totally spineless when it comes to covering social issues. Relief just sucked in all of the big issues, discussed them and left them wide open for interpretation. Even though there was plenty of room for argument I never felt as if I was being expected to conform to someone else’s way of thinking.

I thought ‘A Field of White Crosses’ by Jessica Becker was an excellent creative non-fiction short story. It was a miserably sad tale of molestation and abortion, which left me feeling deflated, drained and angry at the complex set of circumstances that girded it.

I will buy more Relief journals and hope that they continue to tackle the hard subjects. I also long for a Kiwi equivalent.



Sport 39
(Sport: New Zealand Literary Journal)
[kindle ebook]

I enjoyed Sport a lot and am very thankful that they publish in kindle format. I was fortunate to buy the copy that published the winners of the ‘The Long and the Short of It’ story competition. And my favourite story came from one of its winners, Lawrence Patchett with his story ‘The Road to Tokomairiro’. Lovely historical fiction set in South Otago and based on a journey of the old Cobb & Co. stagecoach runs.

I look forward to buying another ‘Sport’.



takahē 74

I really enjoyed takahē. I did not like the layout at all, a clunky sized and formatted journal may suit my grandfather but doesn’t suit me. However the content more than made up for its appearance.

I really enjoyed the aptly named ‘White Elephant’ by Kelly Joseph, her accepting take on a rural, marginalised asocial woman was sometimes a little jarring, but mostly beautifully written and left my heart-strings totally pulled.

‘Pines’ by Simon Goodwin was also a good story focused on the generational legacies of war.

I also loved Liz Breslin’s poem ‘Out of the groove’ and had to read the four lines many times to understand her very simple message. Poets Leonard Lambert and Charlotte Trevella also put in strong performances.

Unless it comes out in kindle format, sadly it will probably be quite some time until I buy another takahē. The price of international postage on top of the journal price make it an expensive choice. My discretionary income can be better spent buying journals that are innovative enough to reach 21st century native ebook readers.



The Man Who Cycled The Americas
Mark Beaumont
[borrowed paperback]

Oh I have learnt so much and been so inspired by Mark Beaumont’s ‘The Man Who Cycled The World’ and his latest book ‘The Man Who Cycled The Americas’. They are both funny, gruelling and fantastic reads that offer great insights into tour and endurance cycling. ‘The Man Who Cycled The Americas’ also includes his climbing the two tallest American mountains.

This book is well worth its read and will appeal to cyclists and non cyclists alike. Mark, please give us a detailed appendix about your kit.



The Presence of the Future
George Eldon Ladd

I am only three quarters of the way through this book and cannot understand why I did not read it years ago. It is a fantastic exposition of inaugurated eschatology. Some parts of it I have had to labour through and other parts have got me so fired-up. This book has deepened my understanding of kingdom theology and has left me feeling like I am standing on firm ground knee deep in mud.

It is a great book.



A note to Literary Journal publishers.

I prefer to read my journals including the poetry in kindle format. When reading poetry I change my settings to landscape and read on. I am aware that I somewhat miss the ascetics of page layout, however the comfort and ease of my Kindle far out-way that. So please if you want the money of people such as myself, get producing mobi formatted ebooks.

The World’s Fastest Indian

It feels like a lot has happened in the two weeks since I watched this movie. But the warm fuzzy feeling of The World’s Fastest Indian still lingers.

I am not too sure what made this movie leave such a warm lasting presence on me, maybe when I watched it, I just felt like a Kiwi among Kiwi’s or maybe it really was “One Hell of a Good True Story”. Whatever, it rates very highly in my list of recently watched movies.

The story is about a Southlander call Burt Munro. The Burt in the movies seems to be a little eccentric and majorly lovable. He buys and old Indian motorbike, tweaks it a little and wins a land speed record on it. The movie is based on a true story, though there seems to have been a few extra characters thrown in for good measure.

I relate to the story and particularly the Burt character, because his experiences as a Kiwi abroad seem to be so stereotypically similar to my own and probably similar to countless other OE’ed Kiwi’s.

Though I cannot help but think his Southland accent and especially his R’s were slightly screwed up, Anthony Hopkins really did an excellent job. He really portrayed the naivety, simplicity and slackness of Kiwi culture well. He reminded me of a few neighbours and friends.

I really enjoyed the acting of Chris Williams. Chris played the role of a rather endearing and helpful transsexual called Tina. Though his resent movie Dodge Ball was fairly terrible. Annie Whittle also stared well as the compassionate and almost gentle girlfriend of Burt’s. Thirteen year old Aaron Murphy who either played the roll of Tom or Sam. It all depends on what version of the dismal TWFI’s websites you read. Whatever, his acting was good and he played another of the cast’s lovable characters.

The extra characters didn’t interest me that much; I thought the movie possibly could have done without them, though they did keep this road movie moving. I would have loved to have seen a little more, well actually anything about his trip home. This is not just a boy’s motorbike movie. Women hire it, buy it, you will enjoy it as well!

Well done Antony, Chris, Annie, Aaron and the many extra’s for making an average and interesting road story into a very good and well worth watching “hell of a good true story”
7 out of 10.

Oh check out this Burt Munro info page.


Excellent, excellent, excellent.

I have very little experience with theatre, so am not that qualified to give this very short review. But here is what I have to say about Frost/Nixon presently showing at London’s West End’s Gielgud Theatre.

I enjoyed the history, I enjoyed the story line, I enjoyed the acting and I enjoyed the theatre.

It was wonderful watching theatre that was political and relevant to both today’s political arena and the Watergate era. It was a good history lesson and a good warning siren for today’s political culture.

I particularly liked the acting of Frank Langella who played the part of Richard Nixon. My favourite character was Jim Elliot played by Elliot Cowan, he played well the part of a history changing geek. I think Michael Sheen played his role of Michael Frost well. However I never managed to like him. He was just too sleazy for me.

I loved the minimal use of props. I have an imagination and it was great being encouraged to use it. I really do not know much about theatre but if the Director Michael Grandage was responsible for the stage layout and the use of the television cameras etc., then he did an excellent job.

Well done, the play was a good experience and a good encouragement to get out from behind screens and to watch more theatre.


Cafe number 10.

I loved this place; it was dark, dingy, smoky and generally pure dead mingin’. But I loved the place. It has since fallen victim to the tourist industry and the rapid increase of rent in the Vilnius Old Town.

I never felt safe in this place, the coffee sucked, the beer was good, one waitress was great the other was terrible. The seats were old and worn, the windows were always steamed.

But there is much that I loved about this place. First the clientèle. They all looked like they needed to have a fully clothed swim in a washing machine, most of them seemed to be sucking cigarettes and drinking brandy whilst either writing, reading or planning a revolution. The art on the wall was consistently good, abstract and changing. The music was always indicative of its surroundings and usually consisted of jazz, blues, heavy metal or punk.

Afrika was the kind of place that I would lavatate towards when I was in the mood for one of two things; writing or being shot. It was great!

But I would be doing Afrika a great disservice if I failed to mention its potato pancakes. They were crispy, oven fried, one would take up most of your plate and they were covered in bucket loads of sour cream. Afrika potato pancakes have become the benchmark for all pancakes. And nothing, not even my own, comes close.

Well done Afrika. Vilnius and Lithuania is a lesser place because of your absence.

The words below were written in Afrika back in 2003. They are an extract from a bigger story, but if you bother to read them, it will give you a good feel of the place.

It’s all rather ironic really. As I munger in this café I am stunned by its emptiness. I don’t like the emptiness, the lack of cigarette smoke means my eyes don’t hurt and I can survey my surroundings. I don’t like the surroundings. The blues music only serves my melancholy.

So I study the napkins in front of me. They are pee yellow and boring; they seem to be sponsored by Švyturys Beer. My eye moves to the ascetically pleasing half roll of cardboard in front of me. Well probably more ascetically pleasing if you are a man rather than a woman. On it is a picture of a female angel dressed in a white silk low neck dress. Her arms are bare, her face and hair resembles perfection. Her wings are small and cute and are open above her head. But what I expect is designed to make you want to buy the bottle of plonk on the bottom right hand corner of the card is the fact that she is leaning forward and that the low neck line is hanging open. Funny enough I have only seen men drinking this drink in this café. The only words in the picture say, I think, “Engel Gluhmein”. It is not the local language, but the picture is!

Then I move to the left where I find an ash tray. Written on the bottom of it is “u get connected to the flavour of the world- L&M”. Hey that is my language, bad English, but what does it mean?

… As for me at the finality of my aromic pen pushing… I choose to live happily ever after in the greyness of the romance, oblivious to the cards that I have been dealt – more coffee please.

“When the going gets tough the tough get coffee”. Cafe no.11.

Q. Who would be a big enough friutloop to start with café no.11 out of 10?

A. Meee , pick me, me, me.

Though this café is not in my top 10 and probably not really in my top 11 either is still deserves a mention. We are talking about Premjera. Premjera is a road side café in the Telsiai Region on between Palanga and Šiauliai.

It is a cool cafe, but it only really gets the thumbs up for one reason and that is they make a very good cappuccino. Now you international readers may be a little confused as to why just having a very good cappuccino would get a cafe up to no. 11.

The answer is Lavazza! Though Lavazza produce an excellent coffee powder, the company that trains people how to make the coffee here in Lithuania seems to have no idea on what people like, or at least on what I like. Lavazza likes foam and hates heat. Your average Lavazza cappuccino is half a cup of warmish brownish liquid with half a cup of foam and often no stinkin garnish on top. At the risk of sounding like Dr Niles Crane, it is just not right!

However at Premjera if you ask for a cappuccino, the coffee comes out hot enough to need one of those little warnings on the cup, with just under a finger thickness of foam and a splattering a chocolate on top. Well done Premjera.

In my not so humble opinion the only other place that you can get a good cappuccino in Lithuania is at the Latvian chain called Double Coffee. I kind of admire this chain because they have obviously spent a lot of time at Star Yucks, learnt as much as they could, which is almost everything and then came back to the Baltic’s and emulated it. I mean well done for helping keep one of the big horrible destructive coffee chains out of Lithuania, too bad you are trying to do the same thing. Well done for having a great cappuccino, too bad for having terrible food. I am sorry but I will continue trying to support local businesses and independent cafes.

Anyhow back to Premjera, because it does more than just coffee right. As far as Lithuania goes it is a relatively traditional place. It has always given us very good service and it is not expensive. In winter it has an open fire and bearable music. And in summer it has a fantastic outdoor seating area far enough away from the highway to not be bothered by the traffic.

The downsides are; if you do not like Lithuanian food, you’re screwed, the toilets are not usually clean and the cafe can be hard to find when travelling west.

I give the café 6 out of 10. It is a very un-me café, but has a very good cappuccino . Whenever we are driving past and need a stop, will definitely be my first choice. It may even be worth visiting for a summer drive.

The photo is taken in their garden, not the best photo, maybe having our eyes open would make it nicer. But it is the best that I could do, I could not find any photo’s of the cafe on the internet.

“When the going gets tough, the tough get coffee”

Over the next few months I am going to be reviewing my top 10 of all time cafes.
We will be journeying through six countries and ten towns or cities. You will hear why they are special to me, what makes a coffee and café good. You will also be burdened with having to wade through my memories and not so personal opinions.
Hold on tight, buckle your seat belts and let the saliva flow.

Swiming Upstream

Well a movie to review. But this review will be a short one. Swimming Upstream was a wonderful “coming of age” Australian Movie, based in the 1950’s with good acting, a good story and it addressed good social issues. It is actually a true story based on the life of Tony Fingleton. I had never heard of him before either.

The storyline is basically as follows. Alcoholic Father pushes his sons to excel in swimming. Anymore and I will spoil the story. But included in that storyline is a hard look at social issues like alcoholism, domestic violence, self esteem, competitive parents of sporting kids, victim mentality and much more. The story is very emotional, quite sad, but with a positive spin to it.

It is an excellent movie to show to youth groups, orphanages etc.

It is worth mentioning the acting of Judy Davis who plays the role of the wife and mother. I have only seen her in one other role and that there she also played a rather worn out looking mother. But she does it well; maybe soon I will see her in a leading role.

We purchased the movie from our local Rimi for I think five Litas. But you can buy it from its official website.
My rating for the movies is 6 out of 10. It almost hurts me to give it such a low rating. But it is personal taste and I like a different genre of movie, check out “You Have To Not Watch This Movie”. But it is a wonderful Sunday night DVD with the family.
SaveDarfur.org has a post called “How will history judge us?” that’s worth checking out…

Julia Jazz Trio



Julia Jazz Trio

Oh how does she do it?

Who do what?

Who being Julija Jačėnaitė and what being, well taking her voice from those husky lows to those perky up-tempo highs. If you are a lover of “jazz vocalists” then this is a must for your collection. This woman is a diva but unlike most divas her voice doesn’t sound tired and worn out from too many years of nicotine and alcohol. Julia has a youthful and energetic voice that injects a vibrancy into a genre of music that can well do with it.

Of course a trio is made up of three people. Julia is supported by a rather peaceful and groovy keyboardist called Paulius Zdanavičius and a rather typical but none the less good jazz drummer named Mindaugas Juškevičius.

The range of songs that they play is very interesting. You definitely could not accuse this song selection as being boring. My favourites are the up-tempo ones like Take the “a” Train and Summertime. They do and excellent version of The girl from Ipanema, they bring some creditably back to the Somethin’ Stupid after Robbie and Nicole destroyed it.

But the highlight is From Heart to Heart. You may not have heard of this song, that is because it appears that Julia wrote it. Well done Julia.

Many of my readers may think that the names of these musicians sound exotic. Well they are not, they are simply Lithuanian.

What would I like these guys to do more of? Well my only criticism is “Julia if you can write one song you can write a whole album of them”. More Cd’s and more home grown songs please.

What else do I listen to in the same genre? Billy Holiday, Edith Piaff, Marlene Dietrich, Norah Jones and Antonio Carlos Jobim. But really this CD is just in a different and more elite class.

My copy of 19…live was purchased in some strange music shop in the “BIG” shopping centre in Klaipeda. But international people if you cannot find it when searching at www.accoona.com try emailing Julia at juliajazztrio@hotmail.com

Again excellent Jazz Vocalist CD. If you like the genre buy it!

SaveDarfur.org has a post called “How will history judge us?” that’s worth checking out…

Note for a Child/ Impossibly Beautiful

Oh so so moody, so moody, wonderfully moody. Lyrics have managed to be non mainstream, factual, biblical and actually interesting and worth listening to. This is such a refreshing change from the average rhyming predictable chucking together of words that many of today’s songs suffer from.

It seems a little trite to say this but the song’s strengths are the deepness of it lyrics and the melody of the music. I love it because it pulls me towards God through its almost melancholic moods. The song’s unpredictable lyrical swings and comparisons take me on a quite unexpected and slightly theological journey into accidental worship.

What would I like to see “Note for a Child” try next? Maybe address some social justice issues and take those beautiful mood swings into something with a faster tempo.

What else do I listen to in the same genre? Kevin Prosch’s ‘Palanquin’ and Martyn Joseph’s ‘Who Ever It Was Who Brought Me Here Will Have To Take Me Home’.

My copy of Impossibly Beautiful is from the album titled Late and Alone. The CD only has five songs on it, but their quality is equal to better than Impossibly Beautiful.

Well done whoever you are, I will look for you again.

Scottish and Wonderful

If you have Scottish ancestry, have visited Scotland, heard of Scotland or haven’t even thought about it, then you will like this good ole fashioned feel good true story.

In case you haven’t already guessed, this movie titled “My Life So Far” is based in Scotland, complete with accents, kilts, banter and blether. The only thing lacking and for some of you this will be good news, is the over use of the bagpipes.

The lead role is played by a bairn, we’an or whatever your culture calls a child. But don’t let this put you off. Robbie Norman who I have never heard of before or since does an excellent job of playing Fraser Pettigrew, a kinda cool and snooty boy growing through his hormonally-unbalanced years. His on screen father Edward played by Colin Firth is a loveable and some what useless character who also contributes a notable performance. Irčne Jacob, playing the role of Fraser’s uncle’s fiancée-come wife whose performance can best be described as stereotypically movie French, seemed to slot in easily to her unconventional fun loving and slightly rebellious character. The only player to let down the side was Fraser’s rather flimsy mother Moira, played by Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio. Her Scottish accent sounds distinctively North American.

The story pretty much follows the life of Fraser from a baby scaling buildings to an adolescent discovering his sexuality. The movie portrays very well a healthy relationship between an imperfect father and his imperfect son. It clearly depicts Fraser searching for himself and his independent role in life as his father is pushed out from the centre of his universe and replaced by the earthly fruits that the world has to offer.

My favourite scene in the movie would have to be where Edward, whilst walking to church is sent home to look for his son. Upon entering the home he hears the evil voice of Louis Armstrong coming from his lounge room. He quietly enters the room to see his young son listening to this forbidden music supplied by his French aunt, smoking a cigar, drinking what looks like Bailey’s Irish Cream and looking at pornography. Rather than rebuke his already rebelling son he chooses to give him a little space to grow up and quietly leaves the room. Good parenting, bad parenting; your choice.

And my other favourite scene was watching and listening to the cooks blether away whilst plucking chooks. Maybe today Scottish women have given up on plucking chickens but I know for sure your average Scot still definitely hasn’t given up on the wee blether. This scene made me quite homesick for the country that was once my home.

“My Life So Far” is safe to watch with friends and respected company alike. Really it is a pretty safe movie. I rate the movie 5 out of 10 or maybe 6, this would be the nicest Scottish movie that I have seen, but it scores low because it just lacks the angst and depression that seem to create the great story lines that I find synonymous with the high quality of the Scottish film industry.