An antidote to grimness

I’ve just finished reading Paris Trout by Pete Dexter, winner of the 1988 National Book Award. It’s a bleak story of a wealthy man without a conscience, who murders a little black girl and abuses his wife, and believes that his money can buy him out of trouble. The tension builds slowly but steadily. There’s a constant hint of a forthcoming cataclysm, but it’s a long time coming. Paris Trout is one of the least likeable fictional characters I’ve come across, but I found the story compulsive and read it over four nights. The shocking ending left me gloomily satisfied.

For a change of tone, I began reading Confessions of a Turtle Wife by Anita Salzberg. Since buying a Kindle I’ve become ruthless with my reading choices. Once I would plod through a paperback because having bought it I felt I should finish it. Now, with 751 titles loaded on the Kindle and the knowledge I will never be able to read them all (particularly as I continue adding to them), if I’m not enjoying them pretty quickly, ping, button pressed, title deleted. Life is too short to finish a book you are not enjoying. Discarded titles lie in a virtual heap all over the floor.

Before getting up this morning, I flicked open the Turtle Wife intending to read the first few paragraphs to see whether it was destined for a ping or not. It was only the insistent moans of Tommy and the clicking of his claws on the tiles an hour later that dragged me downstairs to feed him, by which time I was a quarter of a way through the book and laughing out loud non-stop.


It is the matter of fact, deadpan narrative that makes this such a funny read. As Anita’s new husband Allen the turtleholic acquires ever more turtle-friends, Anita takes it all in her stride. Turtles in the kitchen; turtles in the bath; turtles trundle free-ranging around the apartment laying eggs and small smelly deposits on the carpet. Twenty-gallon tanks and associated maintenance equipment occupy the kitchen shelves. Astroturf is laid in the apartment for the comfort of the turtles. People turn up day and night with unwanted or injured turtles as Allen takes on the job of Turtle Adoption Committee representative for New York.

They visit a man who has more than 1,000 turtles, and whose basement is ‘to turtle people what Canterbury was to Chaucer’s pilgrims,’ and his imperturbable wife ‘the Mother Teresa of turtle wives.’

Going on vacation is always a problem. Some turtles can go with them (yes!), but those left behind need a level of attention that would challenge an Intensive Care Unit. Turtles know what they want and how to get it. Tulip, the Malayan box turtle won’t eat unless she’s wrapped in a towel and sung to while being rocked in a rocking chair for half an hour. It looks as if tiny Omni has been eaten by the cat.

Then there’s the Turtle Roundup and the Turtle Show where eccentric turtle-owners bring their pets in a variety of strange clothing ranging from sombreros to suspenders.

For a turtleholic, nothing is too much trouble to ensure the care and comfort of their charges. ‘…  it went everywhere in its own customized traveling bag, complete with indoor-outdoor carpeting, hot water bottle, miniature sleeping bag and mini heating pad.’ One owner played thunderstorm tapes for her box turtle, one bought a miniature Christmas tree each year for hers. And so on.

There’s also the more serious aspect of illicit importation of turtles, their welfare, and the destruction of turtle habitat.

Well, from this you may be able to guess that I am totally hooked on this book! So it’s bye for now while I dive back into the world of turtlemania. And no, I do not plan on getting a turtle, before you ask.

PS. Many years ago I kept two small terrapins. My mother-in-law at the time was highly critical in case the children swallowed one because, she said, there had been a recent report in an Italian newspaper of a child who had swallowed a terrapin that lived in its stomach, and the child was growing up to look like one.


Do not let your child swallow a terrapin




Colour, croaks, scurrying feet and the watchful eye

Summer was late arriving this year, but to compensate it lingered long. Despite the mid-November date, we are enjoying many warm sunny days and cloudless blue skies.

Yesterday evening when we walked the dogs it was still mild at 5.30, and the sunset was astounding, like a laser display in tones of gold, dove-grey and pink, blazing, fading, rekindling itself and splashing the skies with streaks that morphed as we watched them, and throwing golden lights onto the tops of the trees in the valley. We didn’t have our cameras with us. I am always left unsatisfied by photos of sunsets, no matter how vibrant. It’s their constantly changing shape and colour that fascinates me, something a static image cannot capture.

There is plenty of colour in the garden. The gingko and liquidambar trees I planted 10 years ago are aglow, wearing their most vivid gladrags; the roses are slightly battered, sharing their stems with hips, but unbowed; the cosmos is still vibrant, the nasturtiums and honeysuckle flourishing too.


Autumn rose




Virginia creeper


Liquidambar leaves


Reclining walnut tree at Hedgehog Hill










Tiny fungi

I’ve been raking up the fallen leaves and putting them at the end of the garden beneath the walnut tree – the one blown over in the great storm of 1999, which despite being knocked flat on its side has flourished and grown upwards. Unless you look at the original trunk that now lies horizontal to the ground, you’d never know. Beneath the tree is a patch of ivy and brambles, and that is where the hedgehogs hang out. The dead leaves will give them cover during their hibernation, and provide a source of food for the insects that will provide food for them when they emerge from their winter rest. And as the leaves decompose they will supply nourishment to the walnut tree that supplies us with a crop of nuts. I don’t understand why people burn leaves.

Indoors I can hear the constant scampering of tiny feet coming from the loft. The noise they make must be – I believe – disproportionate to the size of their owners; because if not, it must be a herd of goats bashing the floorboards as they run around doing whatever it is they do up there.

Last night it was midnight when the cranes passed overhead, their haunting voices eerie in the darkness, and the familiar lump rose in my throat and my eyes did their involuntary watering at the thought of the long journey these birds undertake every year of their lives.

And through all the seasons, for who knows how many years, out in the field the unblinking oak tree eye watches ……. It looks as if at one time the tree forked, and this branch was cut. The tree is estimated to be at least 400 years old. I’ve always loved the ‘eye’, which makes the branch look rather like a large, friendly snail, don’t you think?


The oak tree’s eye

Misleading leads to misunderstanding

So, justifying my optimism that there was a solution, and confounding my pessimism that it would not be found, the RAM saga has ended happily. For those who have an interest in such things, here is the explanation. For those who don’t, you can stop reading now.

The existing 3 go. of RAM in the computer was in two modules, both of which are the same size physically, but one supplies 2 go. of memory and the other supplies 1 go. of memory

The idea was to remove the 1 go. module and replace it with a new 2 go module, giving a total RAM of 4 go. But as mentioned in the previous post, that did not work. The computer declared that it only had 1 go. of RAM.

The first attempt to rectify the situation consisted of ramming reseating the new 2 go module back into its slot, and the result was an improvement – 3 go. of RAM now found, bringing us back to square one and still leaving 1 go. AWOL.

Let me ask a question.

If you had two objects before you, indistinguishable except that one carried a reference “1” and the other was marked “2”, would you logically expect the numbers to be indicative of their capacity? If so, in this instance, you would be wrong.


Because the module marked “2” only supplied 1 go. of RAM, while the module marked “1” supplied 2 go. Geddit?

So with the new 2 go module rammed reseated, and the original “2” that was actually 1 replaced with the original “1”that was actually 2, we achieved the desired 4.

Oh never mind.

Why do things never work?

Some people are optimists, and some are pessimists.

I fall between the two. Mostly I’m optimistic, but when it comes to anything vaguely technical, or electrical, I’m a pessimist. Not because I expect things not to work, but because I know from experience that they won’t.

No matter how carefully, methodically I follow instructions from start to finish, step by step, when it comes to “Click here to complete installation,” I know damned well there will not be anything there to click, or if there is clicking will cause smoke to billow, or blow all the fuses in the house. And that’s a fact.

Therefore it comes as no surprise when the RAM upgrade for my laptop fails to upgrade.

Lightroom running on 3 go really struggles, and to export a photo I have to close down all programmes, restart Lightroom, export the photo, and restart everything again. For each photo. Which is tiresome and time consuming.

So I am pleased to find that the 3 go can be upgraded to 4 go. No more than that – it’s an old 32-bit machine but adequate for everything – except Lightroom.

And I speak to the Dell RAM suppliers and ascertain the exact, precise 2 go. RAM module necessary to replace the 1 go. module, and order it, and am thrilled when it arrives. And pessimistic that it will work.

As usual, my pessimism is totally justified. After following all the steps to replace the module, so that 4 go. are now firmly snapped into place, I restart the computer.

And how much RAM do you think it finds?

1 Go.

That’s right – instead of adding memory, it has subtracted it. What was 3 and should now be 4 is instead 1.

Surprised? No.

Frustrated. Yes.


I am optimistic there is a solution somewhere.

And pessimistic that I’ll find it.

And the audiobook winners are ……

Rafiki needed some encouragement to do her part in choosing the winners. She was more interested in trying to bite through the lamp cable.

She’s a little self-conscious at the moment. We left her with a friend while we were away on holiday, and it’s the first time she’s been away from the house for 20 years. Parrots are very sensitive, and she may have suffered from stress being in an unknown environment. She shed all her chest and back feathers, and instead of replacing them with new ones, has only managed to grow some fluffy down. Hence she looks as if she’s wearing a little white woolly waistcoat. At her next moult, she will hopefully regrow her proper plumage.

She was finally persuaded to take her pick from the 20 names on the dish, and the two winners are …….

Ladies, you will  be receiving the necessary code to download your copies, and I really hope you will enjoy listening.

I’m so sorry you couldn’t all win, but thank you very much for participating.








No such thing as a free lunch, but ………….

…. there is such thing as a free audio book from Audible!

Absolutely free, no strings.

Just leave a comment or smile below. Using my ultra high-tech selection method, I will write your name on a little slip of paper, fold all the slips up tightly and put them into a bowl and let Rafiki, my parrot, choose two. The two selected names will each receive a free audio copy of Best Foot Forward, exquisitely read by Anne Day-Jones. You can listen to a sample here.


There are two copies available. Entries accepted until Monday afternoon, 3rd November at 14.00 French time, and the two winners will be named on Tuesday.

Good luck. :)