Sunday, May 28, 2006

Ducks Don't Roost

What do you do with a duck while you're on holiday? Jan roped in my sister Julie to look after some of her poultry while she is interstate. We drove up into the hills under Mount Wellington on Sunday afternoon where she fed us scones and we played with my brand-new mobile phone – which I used to take the photographs on this page.

Sunday afternoons I'm usually so tired that I nap for a while, but after two cups of percolated coffee at Jan's table I felt wide awake. Still, I was content to stand back and let Julie, Jan and her little boy chase the ducks and chickens around the coop.

The ducks took a bit of chasing down, since they don't roost at dusk like the chickens usually do.

We put the chickens into a black bag in the back of the car, while I held on to a sack containing three ducks. They weren't too bad on the drive down to Julie's place – I eased the top of the sack open a little so they could get some air but I kept my hand over the opening since the idea of three ducks suddenly loose in a moving vehicle doesn't bear thinking about.

Everything went off all right and it wasn't as difficult as I had feared it might be.

If anybody has a difficult job, it was our preacher at the morning service today. In the space of a 20-minute sermon "In The Beginning" he had to summarise the creation of the universe, explaining who, what, why and how with reference to Genesis chapter 1 and John chapter 1. Whew! I didn't envy him the job.

sinister  Tasmanian

Old Time Radio slot:

X Minus One "The Cave of Night" [1956] this is so topical it's rather eerie: an American astronaut is trapped in space after a rocket launch goes wrong and the whole world is agog; there's a sort of war-of-the-worlds feel in that the story is seen from the viewpoint of the journalists reporting the drama. Comparisons with the Australian mine rescue this month seem unavoidable.

Weird Circle "Fall of the House of Usher" [1943] first in a little-remembered series of thrillers that drew heavily on classic literature. For their premiere, they hark back to Poe and give the story of Roderick Usher the radio-drama treatment, opening the story out, exploring motivations and bringing in new supporting characters. Now usually that sort of thing is anathema to me, but this actually works better than some attempts to do a faithful dramatisation I've heard.

Hancock's Half Hour "First Night Party" [1954] ties in with the sort of self-referencing that used to be a staple of radio comedians. This is the first episode of Hancock's own radio show, and it concerns his attempt to wine and dine the critics to drum up publicity for its broadcast. Needless to say things go spectacularly wrong. All the familiar ingredients are there, though they haven't been fine-tuned yet as they would be in later years - Moira Lister is the female lead, for example, and quite different to Hattie Jacques. Bill Kerr and Sid James are their unchangable selves though.

Strange Doctor Weird "The House Where Death Lived" [1944] Another first episode. In this one the eponymous narrator (gilding the lily a bit to make him both strange and weird surely?) tells us the story of two ruthless killers who are victims on a father's search for vengeance. Fifteen minutes of fairly unsubtle stuff - par for the course for radio horror of the time.

Sherlock Holmes "The Greek Interpreter" - couldn't miss out the Great Detective since it was Conan Doyle's birthday this week.

According to Britain's librarians, Harper Lee's To Kill a Mocking Bird is the book that everyone should read.

The Pulitzer prize-winning classic has topped a World Book Day poll conducted by the Museum, Libraries and Archives Council (MLA), in which librarians around Britain were asked the question, "Which book should every adult read before they die?"

According to Diana Ashcroft, one of the librarians who voted for the book, it "has all the factors of a great read. It is touching and funny but has a serious message about prejudice, fighting for justice and coming of age."

Harper Lee is also likely to receive a renewed flush of publicity with the opening this week of the Hollywood film Capote, in which she is a key character.

To Kill a Mocking Bird heads an odd triumvirate at the top of the librarians' list: it is followed by the Bible and, in third place, the Lord of the Rings trilogy. Further down the rankings, a mixture of classics and popular contemporary titles feature.

Mark Wood, chairman of the MLA, commented, "This goes to show that if you are stuck for something to read, you should ask a librarian."

The list in full:
To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
The Bible
The Lord of the Rings Trilogy by JRR Tolkien
1984 by George Orwell
A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens
Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte
Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
All Quite on the Western Front by E M Remarque
His Dark Materials Trilogy by Phillip Pullman
Birdsong by Sebastian Faulks
The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck
The Lord of the Flies by William Golding
The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time by Mark Haddon
Tess of the D'urbevilles by Thomas Hardy
Winnie the Pooh by AA Milne
Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte
The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Graham
Gone With the Wind by Margaret Mitchell
Great Expectations by Charles Dickens
The Time Traveller's Wife by Audrey Niffenegger
The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold
The Prophet by Khalil Gibran
David Copperfield by Charles Dickens
The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho
The Master and Margarita by Mikhail Bulgakov
Life of Pi by Yann Martel
Middlemarch by George Eliot
The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver
A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess
A Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich by Alexander Solzenhitsyn

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