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Modern family season 5 torrent 02.10.2019

factotum monster blood tattoo torrent

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As I was at breakfast a saheb was announced, and a stout party made his appearance, a M. Olive, a French [Pg 20] merchant in the shawl trade, who passes the winter season at Amritsir, returning to Cashmere, when the passes open, for business.

The Maharajah does not permit Europeans to reside in the valley during the winter; perhaps, from jealousy of their becoming permanent residents, and finally annexing the country; perhaps, because the winter is the time for collecting his revenue, when, it is said, the most infamous oppression is practised, and complaints are rife and loud. I had seen the new comer, but was not acquainted with him, and could do no less than invite him to share my homely fare, and after some polite demur he fell to.

He spoke no English, and my French had been lying 'perdue' a couple of years or so; but I assayed to converse, and eking out my French with Hindostani managed to keep up the conversation without difficulty. The stout gent had been carried all the way from Amritsir in a jan-pan—a sort of covered chair on poles—which four or six men at a time carry on their shoulders.

How he could ever get up the Pir Panjal, I could not imagine. Another traveller had also arrived—one, by the bye, I should have previously noted as having arrived at Rijaori the day I halted there—an artillery Vet, who had been suffering from some affection of the head, and irritability of nerves. He dined with me at Rijaori, and highly approved the mahseer, which he pronounced equal to salmon, but far inferior in my opinion.

In the course of the day I found the unfortunate Vet had sent his pony round by the Poonah pass from Baramoolah, and he lamented having done so, groaning over the prospect of the morrow's arduous exertions. I, therefore, placed mine at his disposal, as I prefer footing it, especially when the path is difficult. From Possianah to Dupchin. The road from Possianah descends to the torrent roaring at a considerable depth below, from which the ascent recommences, so that you have to descend from a considerable elevation, perhaps a quarter of the height of the Pir, and then again ascend on the other side; which loss of way is provoking.

From Possianah to the foot of the Pir is, I imagine, two miles, the latter part of the road very rough and stony. It is, undoubtedly, a tremendous pull; and one meets with a provoking deception as to distance. For when about a quarter of the height has been ascended, the first flight, as it were, up to the snow drift, the traveller looking above him, puffing and panting with his violent efforts, sees above him what appears to be the summit close at hand, which is but the top of the lower ridge, from which runs a somewhat level path on the slope to the snow drift—an enormous mass of snow, some half-mile long, and, I suppose, from one to two hundred yards broad, and, I fancy, from fifty to a hundred feet deep, filling a gorge of the mountain which commences quite at the summit.

Over this mass we struggled, a violent icy blast in our faces, to a point where the path turns off to the left, and climbs upwards by zigzags to the more gradual slope under the summit. Here I overtook a woman carrying a boy of, perhaps, five years old, who, poor little creature, was crying bitterly from cold, his teeth chattering, and presenting a forlorn appearance. The woman was sitting down disconsolate, unable to proceed. I tried to persuade her to put the lad down, and [Pg 22] lead him, to restore circulation, but she did not adopt my suggestion; so, leaving a man to help them on, I continued my ascent, and finally reached the top.

The height is, I believe, some 10, feet above the sea. The view, looking back, is magnificent—an endless succession of wave-like lines of hills terminating, as they gradually recede, in the hot vapours of the Punjab. It was pleasant to look down the steep and rugged path we had won our way up, there beholding others still toiling and struggling upwards, the coolies with their loads in a long-drawn straggling line, here coming into view, and quickly disappearing behind some projection or in some bend of the road, but constantly to be seen resting on their crutches.

I watched my ponies with some anxiety. They had been stripped in order to give them every freedom of limb, and several coolies had been told off to assist them. They were more than half-way up when I saw them: it was just at a difficult point, where the snow was deep and soft, and the path hung on the side of the mountain.

The old Yarkandi broke through the snow, and was plunging and struggling violently, but after three or four desperate efforts got out of trouble. The other avoided this place. I find the former from his very caution apt to go off the good path, and get himself into difficulties.

When the snow gives, he goes down on his knees and so hobbles on. I did not wait longer, but strode away over the snowy plains, which descend in a very gentle incline to the Alliahabad Serai. The sensation was delightful after the troublesome ascent, and I enjoyed the change of play of muscles amazingly, as did my two little dogs to whom the snow was a novelty. They kept frisking and bounding about, rushing off to a distance, then occasionally taking a roll.

The landscape, as a winter scene, was perfect,—one glittering field of snow, lofty hills on either side also covered with snow, the sun shining cheerily, and the difficult entrance to the valley achieved. But after a time my eyes ached from the glare, and I was glad when a mile or two of descent brought us to patches of brown hillside.

There were two very awkward watercourses to cross, the banks high, precipitous, and covered with snow, giving every chance of a tumble. I got well over, and found the serai, where I had intended to halt, in such a state from snow, melted and unmelted, and the only place for camping in a similar condition that, shrinking from its chill uninviting aspect, I determined to push on; so after my usual breakfast of cold tea and hard eggs I again sped on my way—and a toilsome way it was.

The sun was now very hot, and the path running over ridges and down gorges of rock on the slopes of the mountain, and encumbered with snow, in enormous drifts in some of the ravines, made this additional eight miles I think it was a formidable addition to the ascent of the Panjal. I forgot to mention that on the top of the Pir is a faquir's hut, where last year we were supplied with the most delicious draught of milk we had ever tasted.

But the faquir had not yet ventured to face the inclement climate, so no milk this time. There is also a small watch tower of an octagonal form, of which there are several to be seen, here and there, along the route. This forms a very conspicuous object, being so distinctly seen at Possianah as to deceive one as to the distance; and I fancy that an European accustomed to the denser atmosphere of the mountain regions in that quarter of the globe would be astonished at the atmospheric effects here.

Rarely, except in case of a thunder [Pg 24] storm, and in the rainy season which lasts about two months, is there any vapour to impede the vision, which roams over snowy peaks of various chains of mountains far on the other side of Cashmere. The beauties of this scenery, in its magnificence and colossal proportions, its illimitable extent and brilliancy of colouring, is far beyond any description.

All around you nature exhibits herself in her most attractive forms, presenting almost every variety of shape and colour, mountain and valley, rock and dell, forests of noble pines and individual giants waving their monstrous arms overhead as you pursue your path, with foaming torrents dashing at the bottom of the precipices below you, gushing rills of purest water trickling from the hills on whose slopes you move, and from the path to the torrent below you stretch undulating grassy slopes, here steep, there gently inclining, occasionally intercepted by a rough ravine through which tumbles a torrent, and the whole surface gay with many flowers which the while perfume the air—the 'tout ensemble' is such as to send the observant traveller, however much his limbs may be taxed, exhilarated and rejoicing on his way.

It is a new existence to any one coming from the depressing monotony of the interminable plains of the Punjab. I had a long time to wait at Dupchin before any of my followers arrived; so I took a snooze under a pine tree adjoining a fine stream, at which I had slaked my thirst. The whole of my effects did not arrive until about five o'clock.

There was no village, no house here, it being simply used as a camp ground, for which it offered some facilities—a level surface, wood and water in abundance—food we had brought with us. The night was bitterly cold, but my servants managed tolerably, four or five sleeping in my smaller tent, as many [Pg 25] as it would hold.

Others and the coolies coiling themselves up in their warm blankets under a pine-clad bank, screening them from the wind, by the help of rousing fires of dry pine wood kept up through the night, if not perfectly comfortable, did not suffer: for they did not grumble—a good sign. To Shupyim. The first part of the road is rough and difficult, through a pine forest. You then cross the river by a bridge, the scenery charming; emerge from the forest, and enter upon level grass lands.

We halted at Heerpoor for breakfast, a small village where supplies are to be got: there is an old serai, one small room only habitable, but good ground for camping. The road from Heerpoor to Shupyim is good, over level grassy elevated land, park-like scenery on either hand, the valley of Cashmere widening before you, and a glorious display of mountains beyond it.

One may consider oneself fairly in the valley here, having left the mountains behind; there remain only slight elevations between Shupyim and Sirinuggur. I followed the path to Sirinuggur which, although one of the principal roads to the capital, was but a bridle path, in some places difficult to find, and leading over rivers and streams, some of which, being without bridges, are awkward to cross.

We halted at a village called Serai, from there being the remains of one there. Ramoo is the usual station, but it does not divide the distance so equally, being too near Shupyim. We had some difficulty in obtaining supplies, Jamhal Khan being compelled to resort to harsh measures, such as kicking and so forth, to bring the village official to a sense of his duties, and the importance of a 'burra saheb.

Olive came up: he had intended going right on to Sirinuggur, expecting horses out to meet him, with his city man of business. The latter did appear, and informed him that the ponies were sent the other road, it being understood he would enter the valley of Baramoolah.

Previous to thus taking 'tiffin,' I proposed to M. Olive that we should unite our provisions and dine together, as I had some claret on which I wished to have his judgment pronounced. He readily assented, remarking that his khansamah should have orders to combine culinary operations with mine. I strolled out, and went in the direction of Sirinuggur, looking to obtain a view of that city, but could only discern its site, indicated by the fort of Hari-Parbut, conspicuous on a solitary hill, and by the poplar trees, forming avenues round the city.

I returned and sat down to dinner with M. Olive, who, by the bye, added nothing to the repast, apologising as he had intended dining at Sirinuggur. However, I had abundance, and the claret was greatly admired, and fully appreciated, M. Olive declaring it to be 'une veritable acquisition': it had, however, considerable body, so we did not drink more than half the bottle—sufficient again to engage us in uninterrupted conversation.

Olive became quite eloquent, and getting on some pet topics connected with France and her glories, Louis Nap. He is a very agreeable companion, having all the politeness of manner of the well-educated Frenchman, and being a man of sense and observation I found all he enlarged upon, and his views and opinions, interesting and instructive.

To the city of Sirinuggur—the immediate object and termination of the first part of my journey. The road was indifferent and uninteresting, running through a low level country with undulations, more or less elevated, and watercourses. We passed some splendid chunar trees, and occasional stretches of verdant turf; and on either side, adjoining the road, were growing large patches of lilies, blue and white, scenting the air with the most delicate perfume.

About a mile from the city one enters an avenue of poplars, leading on to a bridge crossing the river Jhelum which flows through the midst of the city; and from this bridge one obtains a general idea of the city itself. The impression is far from favourable, the houses appearing mean and in a state of ruin and neglect, the population squalid and dirty. Nor does a more intimate acquaintance remove this impression. The site of the city is beautiful, the surrounding scenery all that could be wished, but man, in himself and his works, has disfigured and defiled [Pg 29] as lovely a spot as could be anywhere selected in the universe.

I was conducted to a small house on the Jhelum, called Colonel Browne's house, from his frequently residing there. It is kept for the senior officer arriving, and I happen at this time to be that important individual. There was no noticeable difference between this and the eight or nine small residences on either side. I was waited upon by the Maharajah's Vakeel, the Baboo, Mohur Chunder, a most intelligent, active, and obliging official, affording every information and every assistance possible in one's affairs.

He is the 'factotum' as regards Europeans, being, I believe, retained on account of his tact in giving them satisfaction, and keeping things 'serene' between them and the residents. He provided me with a boat, partly thatched, and six men, to pull about and do the lions, the river being the highway. I had written to the Baboo to engage two shikarries whom I named, and he had despatched a 'purwanah' for their attendance, but had not yet heard of them.

This I did not regret, as I wished to look about me a bit before starting upon any fresh excursion. In the afternoon I took boat, and descended the river, passing amid the city under some half-dozen bridges of, I think, four arches each, if arches they may be called, for the tops are flat.

The piers are constructed of large rough timbers in the log, placed in layers transversely, and the roadway is formed of longitudinal and transverse [Pg 30] timbers its whole length. The 'tetes-de-pont' are nearly all of wood, with a rough stone pediment. The Jhelum is very deep, and the stream strong, the water not clear. The city is, undoubtedly, interesting as viewed in this manner, and the buildings decidedly picturesque from the very irregularity of their dilapidations.

They are built principally of timber, roofs slightly aslant covered with earth, on which is generally grass or other vegetation. Some buildings are of brick and wood; a few of stone, brick, and wood, the stone forming the foundation, and many of them bearing distinct signs of having been portions of other buildings of a by-gone age.

The banks of the river are high and steep, built up in some places by stone facings. Houses with balconies projecting are supported by wooden props sloping to the wall, and there resting in what appears a very precarious manner—just stayed on an irregular ledge of the stone facing at hazard, and any interstice to make up the measurement filled in with chips.

There are a few houses of more pretension and better finish, exhibiting more taste and elegance in their decoration in carved wood. These belong to wealthy merchants, and they have some nondescript sort of glazed windows; but the houses generally have only lattices. There are no buildings especially to notice, except the Rajah's residence, or fort, as they call it, a long, rambling string of buildings on the left bank, connected with which is the most conspicuous object in the city, a new Hindoo temple, with a gilt pyramido-conical cupola.

This is new and glaring, and, therefore, quite out of harmony with the mass of buildings around it. There are also two or three old wooden 'musjeds,' constructed when the professors of Islam were in the ascendant, now in a state of rapid decay, as appears to be the race and religion they represent.

We pulled down beyond the city to the new houses building by the Maharajah for Europeans, an out of the way place, though affording a fine view of the fort of Hari-Parbut and the mountain ranges looking N. I returned up the river, and enjoyed the trip much. The banks of the river and the houses overhanging are prettily diversified by trees, here and there. I took my boat, and, on the representation of Jamhal Khan, gun and shot for wild fowl, and was pulled rapidly down stream.

We turned up a canal, and passing under some beautiful trees, the air fresh and pure, lending a charm to everything, we entered a sort of sluice gate by which the waters of the Dal have exit, passing through this channel to the Jhelum. In this Dal are the far-famed floating gardens, in which vegetables are cultivated. There are also beautiful isles forming groves and gardens, which in the palmy days of the Mahomedan conquerors were places of constant resort for the indulgence of luxury and pleasure, and still attract numerous parties of pleasure, European, of course, and native, the latter adopting quite the pic-nic style.

The floating gardens are formed of the weeds dragged up from the bottom, with which the lake is covered, with the exception of large open spaces under the mountains to whose sides sloping downwards it carries its waters. This lake is partly artificial, as it is pent in by embankments with sluice gates, the system of which, however, I am unacquainted with.

This piece of water is of great extent, and is one of the most important features of the neighbouring scenery. I returned to the same outlet by a circuitous route among the weed islands and gardens: and when seated at breakfast in my upper-storied room, from which a beautifully diversified prospect was visible, I quite revelled in the delightful sensations of the delicious climate and surrounding loveliness of scenery.

I called upon the Government Agent, a resident—an anomalous appointment. The individual holding it is a civilian, and his duties are to maintain amiable relations between English visitors and the inhabitants, adjust any disputes, and check irregularities; a duty—from the peculiar position which gives no direct authority over officers—calling for much tact and judgment.

Had a long conversation with the present incumbent, Mr. I cruised down the river in the evening, and saw some decidedly pretty faces among the young girls washing or drawing water at the river side: but none appear to exhibit themselves but those of mature years and the very young. Probably the Hindoos adopt the custom of the Mahomedans in this respect.

It is a mixed population, and it is reasonable to imagine such a fashion to prevail. I was disposed to reject the generally pronounced opinion that there is much female beauty among the Cashmiries, but I now consider it extremely probable there is. The features are of quite a distinct type from the Hindoos of the plains, as is the complexion which is a clear rich olive-brown—eyes dark and fine—mouths rather large, but teeth even and white.

The hair, also, appears to be finer in fibre than that of the people of Hindostan. It is generally worn as far as I could see, in a number of small plaits, divided from the centre of the forehead, and falling regularly all round the head, their extremities being lengthened by some artificial hair or wool, which continues the plait.

The centre plaits resting on the [Pg 33] middle of the back are longest, and extend to the swell: all the points are worked into a sort of finishing plait, from the centre of which depends a large tassel. The effect, were the hair but clean, would, I think, be charming. Of the figures I can say nothing, as they are enveloped in a hideous, shapeless, woollen smock, of no pretension to form or fashion.

This appears to be the only article of dress the lower classes wear, and I have seen no other. I have been much struck with the decidedly Jewish caste of countenance repeatedly exhibited. Some faces, I have noticed, would be positively affirmed to belong to that remarkable race, if in Europe.

Another observation I made was, that the expression was quite different from other Asiatic races I am acquainted with, there being an open, frank, and agreeable intelligent look about the Cashmiries quite European, and such as you would expect to meet with only in a highly-civilized people. I should like to unravel the mystery of their origin, but that is lost in the mists of early traditions, not to be relied on: and their country has undergone so many changes of rulers, that the original race, though perhaps still retaining much of its own characteristics, has imbibed those of the races commingling with them.

I walked through the city to the Jumma Musjed, the principal place of Mahomedan worship, now much dilapidated and rapidly yielding to the desolating inroads of time, without any attempt, apparently, to check or repair its ravages. A complete panorama of the city is presented to the visitor from the top of the 'musjed. The surrounding country is picturesque, presenting a pleasing variety of mountain and water, but deficient in timber. The beauty [Pg 34] of the valley consists in what is really out of the valley, in the glorious range of mountains forming it, with their never-ending variety of form and colour.

The valley is a dead flat, with uplands also level which, in their remarkable resemblance to shores, with other corresponding features, have given rise to the theory entertained by scientific men, that the valley was once a lake.

And there is a tradition generally prevalent and confidently believed by the Cashmiries, that their valley was a lake, and they have legends as numerous as the Irish about it: and connected with every fountain and spring, and almost every remarkable natural feature in the country, is some wondrous fable of goblin, sprite, or fairy.

The fort of Hari-Parbut overlooking the city is a fine object, and should form a part of every sketch of Sirinuggur and its environs. The famous Takt-i-Suleiman also claims especial notice. This is a very ancient Hindoo temple, crowning a hill of considerable height which bounds the eastern side of the Dal lake. I ascended to the Takt this afternoon, and enjoyed a beautiful and extensive panoramic view around, too lovely and varied for description. The ascent was steep, and the sun warm, but the air when on the summit, fresh and pure, soon refreshed me.

I descended on the Jhelum side of the hill, and made for the boat which was to meet me, and so returned. I took a walk round the Jhelum side of the Takt-i-Suleiman to the Dal lake; and then made my way back by its shore. It appears to me advisable that both a chaplain and a surgeon should be provided by Government during the leave season in Sirinuggur, as so large a number of officers resort there. Suleiman has not succeeded in hiring a place in the city, as I had directed him; but has been stirring him [Pg 35] self, and was waited upon here by some Affghans, who wished to possess the Scriptures, of which they had heard.

I took boat, and went down the river, and selected a place to sketch—the sun very hot, and the boat constantly in motion. One of the boatmen caught a fish; it was handsome in form and colour, bearing a resemblance to a trout, but without spots. I had him for breakfast—very bony, and not particularly good in flavour.

I determined to make a start somewhere; heard nothing of my shikarries expected, so directed another to attend. I went down river, and got out to visit a shoemaker's shop, who was making some leather socks for me to wear with grass sandals, the best things for climbing slippery hills. They require socks to be divided to admit the great toe separately, as the bands of the sandal pass between that toe and the others; and as the grass thong is apt to chafe one unaccustomed to it, the protection of a leather over a thick worsted sock is desirable.

He recommended me to go to the Wurdwan, and I decided to do so. Phuttoo, and another shikarry who was with me last year, arrived; so all goes well. I agreed with Jamhal Khan, who is unfit for mountain work from asthma, to give him his discharge. I take with me Abdoolah, Ali Bucks, the 'bheestie,' and assistant scullion, and Buddoo, 'classee,' who is likewise personal attendant.

The bearer and Suleiman remain behind with my effects, as do my ponies and 'syces'; also little Fan, who is about to increase the canine race, and needs quiet and nursing. I have engaged two large boats, which convey me and my staff and baggage as far as Islamabad, which will [Pg 36] take two days to reach by their mode of progression—one man tracking, hauling the boat with a tow-rope, another steering with a paddle.

But I am told they keep it up day and night. I made all arrangements with the invaluable Baboo, with reference to my servants and effects. The Wurdwan is reputed to be the best locality for shikar in Cashmere. Ibex are plentiful, bears also, and in the autumn, 'bara sing. I went down river, and sent to the shoemaker, who was reported to have gone up to my place: had a pleasant row, and took a farewell view of the beauties of the landscape: had everything packed and ready for an early start in the morning.

Embarked myself and belongings—servants, shikarries, and baggage in separate boat. My folding bed had just room for it under the thatch. The boats are long, narrow for their length, and flat-bottomed; they are floored, and, barring the necessity of constantly stooping, not incommodious.

We got off at last, after the usual delays, and made slowly up the stream, propelled by one-man power, a heavy prospect: but everything charming around, so I went in for pictorial enjoyment. After half an hour of this tedious confinement, I jumped ashore, and took my way by the river side, making short cuts at some of the bends and turns which are numerous; for, after toiling around them some six hours, we were within a quarter of a mile of the Takt-i-Suleiman, as the crow flies, though no doubt we had navigated twelve or fourteen miles.

This did not look encouraging. Having made good headway, I sat under a noble 'chunar' tree, awaiting the arrival of the boats, when I breakfasted, and embarked, and we pursued our watery way. Again I went ashore, and walked through the country until stopped by a creek, and, the sun being very hot, then took shelter under my thatch, and so on until dusk, when I halted or anchored for dinner, turned in about nine, and roused at daybreak,—.

I went ashore, and walked from half-past five to half-past seven, and having cut off some tremendous 'detours,' as I thought, I sat down to await the boats. Here was a business. I ascertained the direction of the right one, got a boat, and crossing the deceptive stream, made across country to the boats, which we hit upon without difficulty; and without further adventure or mishap, but in dull and prosperous monotony, we punted our way to Islamabad, where we arrived about 4 P.

Everything the same, but now familiar and less interesting; I think some of the larger fishes have been taken out of the tank—my old acquaintance the kotwal officiously civil as usual—the vizier, my friend Ahmet Shah, the kardar, absent in the neighbourhood. I made all arrangements to go on towards the Wurdwan in the morning, and sent on a sepoy to arrange for coolies and supplies—which have to be carried with us—at Shanguz, the village we are to halt at to-morrow. May 11th. I got well away early, and had a pleasant [Pg 38] march over a level grassy tract of country, crossing a deep watercourse now and then, and, passing through a very pretty village, stopped in a delightful spot under some giant chunars on a bank overhanging a rivulet, a village close at hand.

Then, having breakfasted, I came on here to Shanguz, also a prettily situated village, with its stream, its irregular garden plats, grassy slopes, and noble chunar trees: under one of which leafy monsters, my humble tent, a little thing just containing my bed, is pitched. Ahmet Shah and the kotwal came all the way from Islamabad, the former to pay his respects and make his acknowledgments for a turban I sent him from the Punjab, as a recognition of his great civility and attention last year.

He brought me a beautiful cock pheasant alive, one of the Meynahl: he had been caught about a month, so I hope he may live. I should like to take some of these birds home and naturalize them; they would be highly prized. They may be called a link between the pea-fowl and the pheasant. They have a delicate top knot, and their colour is the most brilliant deep blue, rifle-green, and bronze, of glossy and metallic sheen.

The tail is plain buff; there he falls off in plumage. He is much larger than the English bird. He is to be put in a cage, and kept for me till I return to the Punjab. There is a thunder-storm, and rain now falling—a bore for my retinue, who have but a leafy canopy over them: but they have lots of covering. I purchased my three servants each a warm Cashmere blanket yesterday, four rupees each, rather a heavy pull as I had, previous to leaving Amritsir, given each of them a warm suit.

But, poor chaps, they will have to rough it in the Wurdwan snows, so some additional warm wrapper is necessary. I am snug in my little canvas nutshell, though without room to turn round. I have now, to my surprise, brought [Pg 39] up my diary to this date, and feel as if I could stick to it. To-morrow is my birthday: what a crowd of thoughts arise and connect themselves with it! We arrived here at a quarter to nine, having in the earlier portion of the journey passed through a beautiful country.

The path led along the slopes of some hills of moderate height, well-wooded and, here and there, opening out into smooth lawns; the woods were full of blossoms, a white clematis very plentiful and full of flower. The trees and shrubs, in their character and distribution, and indeed the whole scene, strongly resembled an extensive shrubbery or wilderness, intended to look wild and natural, such as we see in the domains of the wealthy in Old England.

And to strengthen the resemblance, the well-remembered voice of the cuckoo resounded over hill and dale, and one remained perched on a tree near enough to be distinctly observed. Other birds were singing lustily: among them the blackbird's sweet melody was plainly distinguished. It is, I believe, the same bird, and sings the same notes as the English bird.

The cuckoo, also, is precisely similar to our welcome spring visitor, and, curious enough, the Cashmiries also call him 'cuckoo. How pleasant it was to traverse these lovely glades, lifting the eyes from which, mountain ranges presented themselves, the more distant rugged and bleak, and covered with snow, those nearer displaying their many diverging slopes in multiplied ramifications, some open and grassy, others with nearly all the ridges covered with pine forests, with which other trees mingling agreeably contrasted their diverse colours.

I must not forget to note that this my birth-day was ushered in by a real May morning, much such in temperature as the finest and brightest in England would be; [Pg 40] and abundance of May, the thorn being in full blossom, adorned and perfumed the way side. There was also white clover, and a veritable bumble-bee, with the same portly person and drab coloured behind as the common English one.

The banks, also, sported their violets, but, alas! Who could fail to exult in exuberance of spirits, thus surrounded by nature's choicest beauties? Certainly not I. Rejoicing, and buoyant with vigorous health, my mind undisturbed, having a long holiday before me, and feeling within me the ability and taste, fresh and capable as ever of old, to appreciate and enjoy the blessings of Providence so amply vouchsafed me, I felt my whole being full to overflowing of joy, admiration, gratitude, and praise.

I gave myself up to reflections suitable to the day—. They were in great excitement, in consequence of the probability of the new comer interfering with their plans for my shooting operations, by occupying the localities they desired to hunt. I had, as usual, given notice of my intention to rest here to-morrow, Sunday. The shikarries tried to shake this resolve by pointing out the advantages to be gained by pushing on, and getting first into the Wurdwan valley; but I was proof against such arguments.

The dreaded stranger proved to be an officer of the 79th from Lahore, on two months' leave. I asked him to dinner, and fortunately, in addition to my usual stew, had a rice pudding, to which I added guava jelly; a rich plumcake brought up the rear. These solids, with a glass or two of very fair sherry, was quite a feast in these wild regions, and my luxurious habits astonished my sporting [Pg 41] companion; to whom, to save my character, I revealed that it was my birthday, and repeated my friend D——'s quaint apology for an unusual extravagance, "Sure, and it isn't every day that Shamus kills a bullock.

My guest informed me that he had just missed two shots at bara sing near the village, the coolies having given him information of four or five of those animals having crossed their path. He intended going further to day, but I believe has halted for the night. He told me the spot in the Wurdwan he is making for, which my shikarries tell me is out of our beat; so all is serene, except the weather—a heavy thunder-shower, and more coming—the sky unsettled.

This is a charming bivouac, my camp by a village, on a level spot of turf shaded by walnut trees. Below, in a cultivated valley, runs an inconsiderable river, divided into many channels. The stream runs towards the South, the valley of its formation disappearing in the distance, as shut in gradually by a succession of hills, prolongations of the spurs of the mountains.

But a considerable extent of the valley is visible, and forms a lovely landscape. I strolled out after dinner, and remained gazing over its charms, till dusk warned me to return. I then sat outside reading by the light of my lantern, an honest stable utensil, broken in upon by a consultation with my shikarries, who are in good spirits, and anticipate great sport.

An aspiration to heaven, a thought to home, and my birth-day, my forty-second is ended. What may not happen ere I see another—should such be the will of God! Rain continued to pour all day. I was visited, however, by the lumbadar of Eish Mackahm whose acquaintance I made last year, and the jolly, lusty-looking individual, hearing of my arrival at Islamabad, had come three days' journey to see [Pg 42] me, bringing as a propitiatory 'nuzzur,' some of his cakes of bread, which I had formerly commended, and two jars of delicious honey.

My stout friend is by no means loquacious, and is blind of one eye; but with the other he steadily contemplated me, appearing to receive much inward satisfaction therefrom. He brought with him, and introduced, a renowned shikarry, a fine-looking middle-aged man, who said he was desirous of an interview, as he had heard so much of my character as a hunter. It is true that in this country it needs but small exploits to win fame, so expansive is rumour, the inhabitants delighting in tattle, and magnifying their consequence by exalting the performances and success of the saheb they attend in the chase.

But I suspect my sporting visitor had other views, more interested—perhaps, hoping for employment. I was really pleased to see the 'lumbadar,' who was most civil and obliging last year. He was detained by the continued rain, so I gave orders for the due entertainment of himself and followers, who found suitable accommodation in the village. We moved on towards the Wurdwan, the path leading up the Nah-bugh valley, which gradually narrowed, cultivation appearing only at intervals, until it ceased altogether, as the valley became transformed into a wild, rugged ravine, shut in by steep and lofty hills, dotted with firs.

We advanced to the foot of the pass, nearly to the snow, and there encamped. I went out in the afternoon to look for game, and ascended some steep hills, very hard work; having traversed much ground without seeing anything, I sat down, peering from an eminence, down on the slopes below, like an eagle from his eyrie.

One of the shikarries went a little further on, and shortly gave notice of game in view: [Pg 43] we rapidly closed with him, and learned that a bear with two cubs were in the adjoining ravine. Away, in pursuit—we sighted the chase, who were moving quickly away, here and there grubbing, routing, and feeding, as is the wont of these creatures. Over very rough ground we climbed, and scrambled; and descended to the bed of the ravine.

The Bruin family, still going ahead, were concealed by a projecting ledge of rock, to which we hurried; and from the fall of stones down the hill on the other side the rock, we knew that we were close on our game. We turned the angle, and saw B. He did not see us; but a step or two further and B. There was no time to lose, so rapidly aiming at the old bear, I struck her hard somewhere in the back; but, after stumbling and uttering a fierce growl, she went on, but was again descried, when I fired the second barrel ineffectually, then loaded and pursued up hill.

The chase was soon in view, labouring heavily. We got to the top of the hill, and a few paces down the declivity was B. Hearing her pursuers, she shuffled on, when I fired and brought her down, finishing her with another barrel. Leaving men to take the skin, we went after the Meynahl pheasants, some of which had been seen; and after trying in vain to get within shot of these beautiful birds, we descended the hill, and when near the bottom, the leading shikarry suddenly stopped, and directed me to prepare for action.

I, supposing a Meynahl pheasant to be the object, took the double gun, but was told to change, and, following the direction of the shikarry, saw the great ugly head of a large bear, protruding from the bushes—only the head visible. I fired the single Whitworth, but [Pg 44] ineffectually. The animal was about fifty yards off only, and I found the sight at two hundred yards, which accounted for the ball passing over his head.

He hastened rapidly out of danger. Then we returned to camp. Up and away, to mount the pass leading into the Wurdwan. It was laborious climbing, but after some half-dozen pauses, I reached the summit—glorious scenery all around, and a magnificent backward and downward view into the valley of Cashmere, passing over which the eye rested on the Pir Panjal range, which formed a fitting background to so splendid a picture.

There was an extensive tract of snow to traverse, leading with a slight downward slope into the Wurdwan, which soon was partly indicated, rather than revealed, by the system of snowy mountains. I had two shots with the Whitworth at a small animal, the natives call 'drin,' which I suppose from its habits to be the marmot.

It is of a dark red-brown, burrows, sits on a stone close to its hole, and chatters. The little animal was about one hundred and twenty yards from me: the first bullet passed about an inch over it. It soon took up the same position again, and the second missile struck the stone close under it; so that the fragments must have struck him.

He made a precipitate dive, and we saw no more of him. I halted to breakfast; then pushed on, the path a tolerable one, following the windings of the hills on whose sides it hung—the scenery wild, and romantic, and full of interest. We crossed many ravines and snowdrifts. We met two coolies who had accompanied my late guest of the 79th, returning: they informed the shikarries that the saheb had not gone down the valley, but up to the ground that we had hoped to secure.

Wrath of shikarries excessive—unmeasured abuse heaped upon conflicting [Pg 45] party—all sorts of plans of retaliation suggested, and appeals made to me to exercise the authority of my superior rank and order the offender back. I took it all very quietly, and succeeded not only in calming the angry men, but put them in good humour by suggesting various problematical advantages to be derived from the presence of the other party. We came at length—and really at length, for it was a long stretch—in view of the Wurdwan, the valley opening out many thousand feet below, two or three small villages with their clustering hovels and irregular patches of cultivation shewing themselves.

A rapid stream, of dimensions and volume claiming, perhaps, to be styled a river, was brawling and fighting its way against innumerable obstacles and impediments down the vale. A very steep winding path brought us down to its banks, and instead of crossing over to the village of Ainshin, as we should have done, had it not been already in possession of a hostile party, we moved along the right bank upwards. We went on some two or three miles to a village, where it was proposed to camp, but received information here that the other saheb had taken up position in a village just opposite,—indeed we saw his coolies arrive there—and had gone up the mountain, where four or five shots had been heard in rapid succession.

Great jabber among the shikarries. The shikarries were full of [Pg 46] glee at the idea of the long faces of the contending ones, when they should find themselves outwitted. We procured half-a-dozen fresh hands from the village, sent them to the rear to assist in bringing up the baggage, and then moved onwards; and, having gained some three miles, crossed the river by an ingenious bridge of some forty yards span, a considerable body of water of some depth rushing below, and took post at the village of Ofith, across the enemy's route, and securing possession of the Kuzuznai valley, whose overhanging cliffs are famous for ibex.

The village is situated in the very mouth of the valley, the position, therefore, admirable. Heavy rain coming on, I got to leeward of a big tree, and in the course of two or three hours had the satisfaction of seeing my three personal attendants coming up, along the left side of the river. They had passed through the enemy's camp, their appearance producing consternation and serious enquiries as to where their saheb was, and where he was going to.

The enquiring shikarry was informed that their saheb was not going to be done, but they did not know where he would stop, most likely in the best place. Expressions of astonishment at the length of our march, and ill-concealed signs of disappointment and defeat, on the part of shikarry, who threatened to give us the 'go-by' yet. Much merriment at this recital among my forces.

Notwithstanding the I should think twenty-four miles rough march, I started off to hunt, information of the habitat of bears in the vicinity having been given. There were only about two hours of daylight before us; we recrossed the river, and two 'bara sing' were descried by the keen-sighted Subhan, feeding high up on a hill side. Pursuit was resolved—up a snow drift in a ravine, then up the steep side of the hill, crawling with hands and feet, literally clinging to the side of the [Pg 47] hill.

We made observations near the crest of this spur—the animals on the 'qui vive,' looking out, standing on a superior ridge. We paused, while a practicable route was sought for: then climbed onwards to more level ground, and saw the game, now three in number on the opposite height, perhaps three hundred yards off, but could not be sure, as there were boughs intervening. We tried for a better position, but our prey, declining nearer intimacy, absconded, and left us looking ruefully at each other, with a nasty descent before us.

I got down safe, and on reaching camp found all my things safely arrived, and dinner ready:—turned in, hopeful for the following day's sport. We had a tremendous climb ere we even looked about for game, two hours, I should think, of exhausting efforts. I wore grass sandals, or could not have kept my footing.

Subhan, the leader, the younger of my three shikarries, with astonishing acuteness of vision, at last suddenly dropped to game, and pointed out several bara sing feeding together. They were in a spot most difficult of approach without discovery; and these creatures at this season are wonderfully wary. There were no sheltering timbers under which stealthily to steal upon our prey. However, after consultation, leaving three attendants to remain behind in concealment, we climbed upwards, hoping to find covering ground, but had to stop, as we could not but discover ourselves.

Here some of the deer were seen to lie down, one only standing, and great hopes were entertained of a successful stalk. Two other deer came into view higher up the mountain. As we turned about on our sides to move off, two does, that were close upon us in the rear, dashed off and away down hill, but without any sensible effect upon our hopes. It was a most arduous struggle up the hill side, slippery with hoar frost, and fearfully steep.

With extreme difficulty we reached a narrow ledge, on which we all four could just cling, some one way, some another—a giddy height—when, to our infinite disgust, we saw the three attendants moving out below. All sorts of signs and gesticulations were made to stay them, but on they blundered. I had yesterday pointed out to the shikarries the folly of having these followers, as, forming with us a long line when ascending or crossing a hill, we no sooner pass out of sight, than they come into view; so that any animal getting a glimpse of us, and regarding the spot from which we have passed, sees the followers coming across the same place, and, of course, decamps.

I had tried to impress the importance of this simple fact upon them; but they are so wedded to their own habits, and trust so entirely to luck, rather than skill, in approaching game that, though acknowledging the force of my observations, they did not act upon them. At last this blundering train, looking upwards, saw our impatient gestures, and, mistaking their meaning, only quickened their pace. At length they did understand, and lay down.

We now descended, and crossed the face of the hill towards the deer. We discerned them now afoot, leisurely moving upwards, and cropping the fresh grass that came in their way. They were in a favourable place to approach now: but we had to be cautious, and keep out of sight. We moved with studied step, and reached the position [Pg 50] from which we expected to open fire—nothing visible: we thought the prey probably behind some of the many inequalities of ground, peered everywhere, and shifted position, till the whole ground was closely scanned; but no game.

They might have gently crossed the hill feeding: but no, they were clean gone. A misgiving now struck me, and, looking back, there were the abominable coolies plodding contentedly on. They had moved, when we descended, and came right out in sight of the deer which, of course, they had completely scared away.

In this unsuccessful chase we crossed some fearful places, the most difficult being sloping masses of snow overlaying precipices, yawning for the unlucky wight whose feet might slip. I gave up the attempt to cross these unaided, after one narrow escape, having slipped and fallen, but fortunately recovered myself. The mode of crossing was by digging holes in the snow for the foot to cling to, as we slowly progressed.

It was, without exaggeration, imminently hazardous, and I must own to have been unnerved more than once. I breakfasted, and lay down to wait until afternoon, when the animals, having reposed in some inaccessible lair during the day, again come forth, out into the grassy slopes, to feed. Subhan, the ever quick-sighted, espied two bara sing far distant and below us: the spy glass confirmed his vision. The plan of operations decided upon, we made our approaches over easier ground, being now lower down, yet some thousands of feet high, and gained a rising ground overlooking the place in which the animals had been seen feeding.

We could not see them now, but saw a large stag high up above us, quite out of hope. We remained long watching, and saw nothing, so descended [Pg 51] to move nearer, under the impression that the deer had gone lower down the hollow; making for the edge of which, we became suddenly conscious of the presence of our game, who had been all the time in front of our late position, concealed by the rising ground.

One, a fine doe, turned round, pausing, and presenting a broadside, hurriedly I grasped a rifle, put up a sight, and fired, only to miss. The affrighted animal, giving a prodigious bound, hurried after the others up the hill, pausing and turning, now and again, to gaze back upon their intruders. It's hard, it's often disheartening and painful.

But there's a clarity of purpose to it. So before I was published, all I thought about was: Will I ever be good enough for someone to say yes? Then someone said yes, you're good enough, and that was mindblowing and wonderful and actually very empowering. As a result, here are the things I worry about now, in no particular order:. Have I got complacent? Am I repeating myself? Can I make my next deadline? Is this book an improvement on the last one? Will I disappoint my existing readers?

Will I find new readers? Am I justifying my publishers' faith in me? Can I deliver what I told them I can deliver? Should I be thinking about the next potential project? How long will it be before I can't think of anything new to say? Should I be doing more blogging and stuff? Is there really a bias against women writers in spec fic or am I losing my mind? My new book's coming out -- is it going to bomb? Will everybody hate it?

Will it finish my career? People are going through tough times, does that mean my life as a full time writer is over? I have no idea if other writers worry about this stuff. I only know that I do, and sometimes I feel quite overwhelmed. Katy Guest reviewed the new paperback edition in "The Independent": "A consumate plotter, the multi-Booker-winner Peter Carey packs a lot of distance and a great deal of stuff into this teeming novel about a boy's childhood.

Carey's next novel, Parrot and Olivier in America, will be published in Australia by Penguin in November, ahead of its international release in There isn't much news out about it but the Penguin Books news letter has some details see the April 29, entry. In January this year Carey published an essay in "The Age" arguing against any relaxation of the current copyright and territorial publishing arrangements covering the Australian publishing industry.

You can read also Carey's submission to the government inquiry. PDF file. In my last " Peter Carey Watch " I mentioned that the Scottish national opera company was performing an opera based on Carey's short story "Happy Story", and now "The Age" is reporting that "composer Brett Dean, who lives in Melbourne, and his librettist, Amanda Holden, who lives in London" have mostly finished a three-act opera based on Bliss.

The Australian National Portrait Gallery has made available Lewis Morley's photographic portrait of the author, dating from For the past couple of weeks I've been attempting to get this weblog back into shape and, while it's not fully there yet, it is slowly coming back to life.

New entries are being posted, comments are now available and the look and feel of the blog are not too bad. Of course, there are problems: a lot of old entries are still not available and old comments are going to remain unavailable for some time. I was also worried for a while that Bloglines the RSS reader wasn't picking up the correct feeds but even that seems to have sorted itself out today.

I still have to somehow send a message to the 47 or so subscribers I had to my old weblog to move their subscriptions over to this one. Just another item on the to-do list. Other than that, the new software has the added advantage of better control of screen size and allows "tagging", which will hopefully allow me to track my entry subjects better. I have no idea how long it will take to re-instate all the old entries, but it certainly is a good advertisement for ensuring my back-ups are up to date.

A couple of Australian literary awards slipped under the radar over the past month; I put it down to just trying to keep the weblog afloat. The Dobbie Encouragement Award is for a first work by a female writer, and the shortlists works are:. All things are Hers. Concealed or manifest, Found or unfound, Her Spirit lives in each -- Dumb till the Master-Soul its secret guessed And gave its silence speech. She is the Crystal Queen Of all men's vision, and the moving breath Which through the greyness of the sordid scene Gloweth and quickeneth.

She is the flower-maid of the dreaming noon, The goddess of the temple of the night; Where the berg-turrets gleam beneath the moon She builds Her throne of white. She knows the Battle-Hymn of mighty wars When wind and ocean thunder on strand. She knows the song the lonely river-bars Sing to the listening land. Armoured and helmeted and spurred for fight She fires men's hearts to right the bitter wrong; Yet sits She weaving of a summer night Flowers of a bridal song. She gives the temper that has made men great And fashioned heroes out of common clay, And welded firm into a mighty State The tribes of yesterday.

Youth's radiant vision, and the dreamy dawn Of the soft lovelight in a maiden's eyes, And holiest joys of motherhood, are drawn By Her from Paradise. She knows the Wheel-Song of the Stars that run Their glittering courses through the blue abyss. Ere the round earth fell flaimg form the sun Her spirit was, and is.

She is the Phoenix, ever making true The dim tradition of the misty morn. The crucible of science gives anew Her fairy form re-born. All things are Hers -- but not with equal word Dowers She the pilgrims of the sacred shrine. Only the Great Interpreters have heard Her melodies divine. All things are Hers, and so to Her I bring Songs of the dreams that haunt me on my way -- I who scarce hear the rustle of Her wing Borne on the wind away!

Charles Thatcher's poem, "Taking the Census", contains a number of elements that most of us would see as being indicative of the character of early Australian settlers from Europe: humour, resilience and a healthy disrespect for government. The narrator of the poem has bribed the local census-taker for a look at the "papers" of his fellow townspeople; he doesn't say why, but we can just assume he likes to snoop on his neighbours. As he originally suspects, the local ladies are lying about their ages:.

Miss Fluffen says she's thirty-two, But to tell such a story is naughty, She's a regular frumpish old maid, And if she's a year old she's forty. But it's not just their ages that people lie about: a washerwoman puts down her occupation as a "clear starcher", the chemist's assistant becomes an M. None of them are too happy with the government collecting this data and, mischievously, attempt to circumvent the process at each turn.

A trait that is still evident today, as the census-recorded religion of "Jed Knight" attests. But it's the last couple who provide the humour of the piece. They've left their occupations blank on their forms and find it vastly amusing that they would be asked to supply one: ".. The modern reader will have little doubt about these young women, nor, I suspect, did the poem's original readers. Text: "Taking the Census" by Charles R.

Publishing history: another poem that's difficult to track. He left Australia in and died in Shanghai, China, in in Thatcher appears to have self-published two or three collections of his verse in the late s and s, so it might be that this poem appeared in one of those. Failing that, it would have appeared in a newspaper or magazine of the time, but I can find no record of it. I've posted a couple of times about the National Library of Australia's newspaper digitsation project and now Gideon Haigh in "The Age" has published a piece about the same project.

His essay delves deeper into the differences between it and the Queensland based Austlit national bibliographic enterprise, and introduces us to some of the top text correctors. In the international library community, digitisation of old newspapers so that they can be keyword searched is a supercool area.

But the NLA's system would be taking this to Brangelina-like coolness by, politely and sotto voce, soliciting members of the public to participate in ironing out the wrinkles in the digital text. What happened next is pretty damn amazing. Well, we built it and they did come. So they - the Australian public - did. Once word began spreading - among genealogists, amateur historians and online library users - the trickle became a flood.

Right now, a community of about far-flung souls are turning on their computers for up to 50 hours a week and tidying text prepared by optical character recognition OCR software, as well as subject tagging and even annotating it.

The most prolific of these contributors is Julie Hempenstall who, as of today, has corrected , lines. I reckon I've done a fair bit and I've only corrected some 3, lines. It's a vast difference, and I have no idea how she's done it. The full shortlists for each award are available here. The overall winners of the main prizes - Best Book and Best First Book - are chosen from the winners of these categories from each of the commonwealth regions. You can see the full list of shortlisted titles in each region here.

The gentle heart that hated wrong, The courage that all ills withsood, The seeing eye, the mighty song That stirred us into Nationhood, Have passed. What garlands can be spread? The Prince of Courtesy is dead. The power that touched all human chords With wit that lightened thro' the years Without a sting, whose tender words Unsealed the fountain of our tears - Ah! Great Singer of the South, who set Thy face to Duty as a star, Though, in hushed skies of violet, Thy throne of kingship gleamed afar, Shall not the toil of common days And nobler lustre to thy days!

O Mighty Voice, whose words shall stand - When all our songs have ceased to be - Steadfast, the watchwords of our land, The guide and torch of Liberty! The Master-Poet called afar, And thou at last hast found thy star!

There's a new suburb to be built on the banks of the Maribyrnong River in Melbourne and writer Michael McGirr wants it named after the poet John Shaw Neilson, who lived in the area for many years. Sounds like a plan to me. Anson Cameron was so taken by the theft of Picasso's Weeping Woman from the National Gallery of Victoria in the mids that he decided to write a novel about it, and quickly discovered that "the rumours were more valuable to me than the truth.

A while ago it was a musical version of Thorn Birds , and now it's Picnic at Hanging Rock getting the treatment. Peter Carey is moving publishers. Angela Meyer, of the "LiteraryMinded" weblog, makes a guest appearance on the "Flashlight Worthy" weblog and lists the Australian fiction that has shaped her literary tastes. Michael C has been reappraising grunge fiction over on his weblog "Eurhythmania". Upon an iron balcony above the city streets, All day the pale sick woman lies; across her idle feet A striped rug from Arabia, and in her slender hands The magic book that tells her tales of undiscovered lands.

It takes courage to make of one's disability a spring-board by which to leap into the realm of pure romance. This stoic grit is what Mrs. Mabel Forrest has been showing these last two years and more, weaving her fantasies while she lies like another Heine, on her couch, and dyeing the stuffs of her imagination with her own heart-blood. Only a little groan escapes her lips -"Upon an iron balcony above the city streets, all day the pale sick woman lies.

Her own brave music drowns it. But the people of Brisbane must not allow this gallant poetess of Queensland, our unofficial laureate, to toil on and on without some act of recognition simply because she refuses to be beaten by ill-health, and still sings on of love and beauty with such buoyancy of genius that we should never suspect the heavy and continuous handicaps which she carries with the blitheness of another R.

But we have become a little wiser from the mistakes of the past. We refuse to deny honour to genius because it is contemporary and alive. Only a few months ago Australians from every part of the Commonwealth sent their salutations to Mary Gilmore on her 68th birthday.

She knows the bush with all the intimacy and sureness of a native. She has in many a poem thrown the glamour of her poetry over creek and scrub. She not only knows but can weave into a sweet symphony the names of the bush flowers and the bush birds. For this reason all lovers of the open air in sunny Queensland are indebted to the poetess who has found in Nature's highways and by-ways so much fragrance, colour, and grace. Mabel Forrest turns her very handicaps into song. Yet sometimes she grows wistlul and weary-what wonder?

Lavishly, has she scattered the largess of beauty around our lives. Surely it is only a sincere proof of our gratitude to cheer her in her physical weakness with a substantial token of goodwill. The appeal on behalf of Mrs. Forrest has been made on behalf of a small committee in Brisbane, and has been signed by Zina Cumbrae-Stewart president of the National Council of Women , as chairwoman, and Merna Gillies president, Town and Country Women's Club , as hon.

Last week "The Australian Writer's Marketplace" conducted an online forum with YA author Michael Gerard Bauer and they have now posted some highlights of that session on their website. Kate: How conscious are you of the influence of your locality when writing? MGB: Quite a bit. I felt the Ashgrove location a great deal in The Running Man and made a conscious decision to use the real suburb and street names in the story because it was based on some childhood memories of growing up there.

Robyn: Do you think having been a teacher has helped you as a writer, and if it has, what have you found most valuable about it? MGB: Yes, definitely. I think it gave me a good understanding of the people I was writing about. I certainly couldn't have written ishmael as well without drawing on my teaching years. During teaching I also read lots of YA books and loved them. Now when I visit schools to talk I feel very comfortable in that environment. Charles Harpur's poem "A Beautiful Squatter" is a strange little affair and rather out of character for the poet.

I've always been of the view that Harpur wrote very much in the European style - or, at least, what I suspect that style to be - rather than in a quintessential Australian bush ballad style. This impression is partly due to his writing period, from , which precedes the work of Lawson and Paterson , and partly due to the way he handled his subject matter. He looked at the Australian bush with an eye that would not have been out of place in the Old World.

If you read " Dawn and Sunrise in the Snowy Mountains ", for example, you don't get much of a sense that the poet is describing an Australian scene, in fact it could quite as easily have been written about Switzerland or the Rockies. It's not the bush I think of when I remember Harpur, it's love sonnets, and mood pieces rather than balladic tales and poems to be recited round a campfire. Now, don't get me wrong, I'm not criticising Harpur for this, just trying to put him in context.

He did write " The Creek of the Four Graves " in which describes the death and burial of four men in the bush, killed in a skirmish with local aboriginals. But this is a long contemplative piece: a novel rather than a short story. Which is why "The Beautiful Squatter" is so different from his other work.

The squatter of the title, riding through the bush, comes across two young Aboriginal women sitting under a tree by a creek. He seduces them with tales of "dampers and blankets quite new", and, while this is not stated explicitly, gets rather intimate with at least one of them. The women return to their camp where the story of their encounter comes out, the local mob get a group of men together and the squatter is "waddied to death in the bloom of his charms.

The story is reasonable enough and the humour of the poem is directed towards the squatter rather than the indigenous natives, which might have been the expected course. Yet even they are sketched in caricature, which is very different from the dignified, elusive natives of "Creek". The poet doesn't judge or take sides here, however, and maybe he meant this poem as a sort of warning to the whites not to treat the Aborigines as play-things and chattels.

If so he was remarkably ahead of his time. A Tale of the Bush" as two examples which showed understanding of the problems of Aboriginal-White conflict. As she says in her essay: "It seems appropriate that it should be the Irish, with their own history of invasion and usurpation, who were in the van of opposition to white oppression of Aboriginals" Southerly , March , p The poet definitely had to be included in this collection.

The recent re-issue of Dying Inside , Robert Silverberg's classic sf novel from the early s, and the subsequent excellent reviews it started to garner, prompted me to check my bookshelves to see if I had a copy. I did, and as soon as I dragged it off the shelf I realised I knew next to nothing about it. The edition I have is a Ballantine Books paperback from October And I have no idea of when or where I bought it.

Generally such US editions wouldn't come into my hands unless I had bought them directly from the States which I did a bit of in the s or from a second-hand bookstore. Paperbacks of this kind were considered to be fairly disposable by used-book sellers so it would normally have an Australian price in pencil on an inside page, or in ink on the cover.

I can find no evidence of either of those. I have no idea how long the book has been in my possession, but I can safely say I've never read it before. I knew of it but Silverberg was never one of my big favourites back then. Not that I disliked him, it's just that I was interested in other writers at the time.

So this book is a peculiar one: it's possible that I've had this book for over thirty years without reading it. And that leads me to wonder if there are others on the shelves that date from that time, lying lost and forgotten. I wouldn't be at all surprised. A Decent Ransom is a fascinating first adult novel from Ivana Hrubra that takes us deep into the psyches of the main protagonists.

It is the story of a simple kidnap plan that goes horribly wrong because our inner lives can be so different to outward appearances and physical realities. Set in a large country town or the outskirts of a city in Australia it is the story of Phoebus, a year-old boy who lives with his brother Kenny, a young adult, in an isolated farmhouse. They are marginalised kids from a background of abuse and poverty.

Abandoned by their parents and abused by an uncle, they fend for themselves working at a truck stop. Phoebus has left school and is basically Kenny's domestic slave, subservient to his needs. Kenny is a borderline psychotic who behaves wildly, egged on by substance abuse.

However, there is a lot of love between them. They only have each other. They have befriended two young Chinese prostitutes, Janelle and Lien. Kenny is in love with Janelle. Wanting to start a better life for them all he comes up with a plan to kidnap a local woman, Kathryn, and extract a ransom from her rich husband, Rupert. The story is told through the eyes of Phoebus, Janelle, Kathryn and Rupert. We are taken into their thoughts and the truths about their lives, which are not what they appear to be from the outside.

Phoebus and Janelle convey the character of Kenny to the reader. His character, actions and philosophy on life drive the story and affect everyone in it, but he never speaks for himself as the others do.

Finely layered and compelling, this is a well-written thriller about the rich inner landscapes that can exist in bleak surroundings. Hrubra does particularly well developing the relationship between Phoebus and the kidnapped woman. He looks after her and protects her through to the end, even though he is aware that she has an agenda he doesn't agree with to get revenge on her husband.

How often is there an enormous difference between what we think and what we say and do? This is conveyed particularly well in the book by Janelle, whose beautiful expression of her yearnings and inner feelings to her self is contrasted in the story with how she is perceived. She has a poor command of English and a degrading job as a dancer and prostitute in men's club with a mind that resonates with hope and love and poetry. In A Decent Ransom the fates of all the characters, driven by madness, greed, love, revenge and hope for something better, come together within a clever plot that moves with humour and pathos to a satisfying conclusion in this well crafted and totally absorbing story.

This year the judges have added a Civic Choice Award to the other two. This is an award that will be voted on by the general public after the accouncement of the Best Writing Award finalists. That announcement will take place on or about 8 November.

The author's work can include all genres and forms for example, fiction, non-fiction, essays, plays, screenplays and poetry.

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