Thursday, 13 September 2018

The Barefoot Investor

A separation and divorce makes you reconsider pretty much everything in your life and I've been doing quite a bit of reconsidering lately. Of course there are so very many changes over this time, some positive, some not so much, but there are also many new horizons, new opportunities, many new and different ways of looking at and doing things. One of the big ones is the way that you do things with money. It can take a while to realise that this doesn't need to be the same as when you were married. Especially if that way wasn't working particularly well for you anyway. It's important to do things your own way now.

I'd never paid all that much attention to our finances during the marriage. I earn a good wage and I thought that that would be enough and things would just happen. Well, they don't just happen, you still need to do things to make them happen. But I'm doing those things now.

I've come a long way in the past three years, and more particularly in the past year. I'm debt free (apart from the mortgage) but things can always be better. I've come to realise that just because things had been done a certain way for the past 20 years they may no longer feel right, that way may not fit me any more. I've already changed a lot of things that I do in my life. So, it was time to really look at matters financial.

I reserved The Barefoot Investor at my library and got cracking. The Barefoot Investor has been huge over the past few years, with over 850,000 copies sold! Clearly lots of people have found Scott Pape's methods helpful. It's a quick enjoyable read for a finance book, although I found his jocular, blokey banter a bit much at times.

A lot of the Barefoot message is about empowerment and control, control over your money and your life.
The goal of the Barefoot Investor can be summarised in one word: control

Scott has nine steps to financial freedom. 
Most are very sensible things. Consolidate and pay off your debts. Have a buffer for emergencies. Buy your house. Get your super in order. He has a specific way of doing this with multiple buckets (separate online accounts where you parcel off your money).

The bucket system doesn't appeal to me really. I don't want to do that, so I'm not going to. And I don't think I need to. I'm starting this process at Step 7.

I do like that he doesn't like budgets though. I really don't like budgets and don't work well within one.

For most people, budgets don't work. They're like surviving on a grapefruit diet. 
Budgets set you up to fail. You feel like a loser with no willpower. 

But Scott Pape is big on conscious spending. Which dovetails very nicely with the decluttering and minimalistic (lite, super extra lite minimalist) approach that I've been trying to adopt of late.

Environment Victoria says the vast majority of what we buy ends up in landfill within six weeks of purchase. 
Six weeks! Can that really be true? I don't see how. Food and consumables sure. But the rest of it? It's hard to imagine. 

Scott's sensible advice has helped me work out my priorities, and some strategies.

Become an investor, not a trader.
Make saving automatic. Increase your pre-tax super to 15% (or up to $25, 000 - the current annual maximum). 
Super should be the centrepiece of your long-term investment program.
The best place to invest your money for the long term, regardless of your age, is super.
Your greatest investment weapon is time. 
Great. Time isn't exactly on my side, but I can certainly make use of the time I have left as a worker. Speaking of which, Scott is a big advocate to "Never, Ever Retire"! What? I've just really started thinking about how to make retirement happen, and now he's telling me I shouldn't ever retire... Well we'll see about that I guess.

I wish I had made many of these decisions and changes years ago. But I didn't, and there's nothing I can do about that. But I'm making the right moves now. Scott likes to say "I've got this". I haven't got it yet, but every fortnight it's coming closer. And I might just get myself a new pillow. 

You can listen to Scott Pape on a podcast with Mia Freedman. 

Friday, 7 September 2018

The Newcastle Reading List


I grew up in Newcastle. Well close enough. Much easier to say Newcastle, so people know where you mean. When I grew up the boys all went off to work at Comm Steel and BHP, major industries that don't exist anymore. Newcastle has been the inspiration for a number of songs. The Newcastle Song. We all grew up knowing "Don't you ever let a chance go by."

Newcastle famously rioted when a pub shut.

So you can imagine my surprise when I was catching up on a recent SMH article, and saw this written bold and large:
Newcastle is now ranked as one of the world's top five hipster cities
What? Really? Hipsters? Can a deconstructed vegemite toast really be the basis of all this acclaim?

I didn't have much of a problem with the second half of the sentence
and is welcoming a growing literary scene.
Sure. That bit is easy. I've loved attending the Newcastle Writers Festival three times over the past few years, and I'm aware of more and more writers and poets calling Newcastle home. The hipster claim appears to be old news. And I'd still agree that "you’ll see more hipsters in the first ten meters of Crown Street, Surry Hills than you will in a week in Newcastle".

One of the interesting things that the article did was include a list of Newcastle Novels, and even though the lists have been light on here for a while, I knew I couldn't let this chance go by...

Newcastle Novels

Lover's Knots: A Hundred Year Novel - Marion Halligan 1992

Paterson - William Carlos Williams 1963

Southern Steel - Dymphna Cusack 1953

The Last Thread - Michael Sala 2012

The Long Prospect - Elizabeth Harrower 1958

The Restorer - Michael Sala 2017

Sadly I haven't read any of these books. There's always so much reading to be done.

Sunday, 29 July 2018

La Grand Boucle/Tour de Force

I don't really remember when I bought Tour de Force, but I came across the DVD recently (in a stack in my house) and of course July seemed the perfect time to watch it, and so I put the disc in the player on Day 4 of the 2018 Tour. I wasn't planning to watch the whole thing but I enjoyed it so much that I missed the start of the Stage that night!

The start of the movie is a bit hokey, with a bit of trouble setting up amateur cyclist Francois' motivation to take on cycling the Tour -doing each stage the day before the actual cyclists. I believe lots of people do that, at least a stage or two for mere mortals, and certainly lots of amateur cyclists will take on the more famous tour climbs like the Col de Tourmalet, Mont Ventoux and Alpe d'huez. And in an amazing life imitates art there's an amazing group of amateur women cyclists (Donnons des elles au vélo) doing the full tour to push for a Women's Tour. They do it tough, the roads aren't closed for them.
We respect the traffic signs. We stop at red lights. We respect the rules,” Kalachova says.
Actually they're pushing for the return of the Tour de France Feminin which ran alongside the men's event from 1984-89, it has a fascinating history. I have enjoyed La Course (a women's race on the final day) the last few years, but it's a hard nights viewing. The Australian telecast of the iconic final day of the Tour starts tonight at 2330 and goes til 0400. A hard gig when you're working this evening, doing the school run in the morning, and working tomorrow evening. But I'll be on the couch for part of it and will wistfully think back on 2013 when I stood on the Rue du Rivoli for the final stage. 

Oh wait I'm supposed to be talking about La Grand Boucle... If I hadn't put in the hard yards on the couch over many cold July nights then I don't think I could have enjoyed it like I did. I understand the brigades of mad fans, the rituals and rhythms of the Tour, even the camera angles, classic shots. The Dutch jokes. I can't imagine being able to enjoy it quite so much if you weren't a cycling fan, or at least a Tour fan. There's a lot of in jokes. But it's a nice feel good movie. I'll certainly watch it again, next July, or perhaps even once more this July if I can sneak it in. 

Donnons des elles au vélo link to website in French
Donnons des elles au vélo link to news article in English

Paris in July 2018

Tuesday, 10 July 2018

The Red Balloon

I only really learnt something of this book in 2016 when I made my list of Children's Books Set in Paris. I was immediately intrigued by the cover and bought it online that day.

The Red Balloon was the first book that I read for my first Dewey's 24 hour readathon back in October 2016. And I found it really disappointing.

The Red Balloon is actually still photos from a film of the same name and is surely one of the earliest movie tie-ins. The production quality of the book is really quite poor and the translation is terrible. 

Now usually when you let a balloon go, it flies away. But Pascal's balloon stayed outside the window, and the two of them looked at each other through the glass. Pascal was surprised that his balloon hadn't flown away, but not really as surprised as all that. Friends will do all kinds of things for you. If the friend happens to be a balloon, it doesn't fly away. 
Still the concept is delightful even if the execution falls somewhat short of the mark.  What child wouldn't love a balloon friend who will wait for him or her while they're at school and not fly away when your mother throws it out?

Then even more recently I discovered the 1956 film was available on SBS On Demand (this post has been languishing half-formed for quite some time, and sadly it's not On Demand any more, but it is on Youtube).  A mere 34 minutes long it won an Oscar for Best Original Screenplay and many other prestigious prizes including the Palme D'Or for Best Short Film at Cannes. It remains the only short film to win the Oscar for Best Original Screenplay!

This is one of those rare situations where the movie is so, so much better than the book.

The Red Balloon movie is a fascinating glimpse into a 1950s Paris which seems a far grimier Paris than the one we enjoy today. Wiki tells us that it was filmed in a part of Belleville that has since been largely demolished. It is an almost a silent movie with very little dialogue.

And now I see that there is a modern homage to The Red Balloon - The Flight of the Red Balloon/Le Voyage de Ballon Rouge (2008), the first French film by Taiwanese director  Hou Hsaio-Hsien.

I suspect that I'll be watching this sometime soon. It's currently on SBS On Demand for those in Australia. 

Balloons are still a big deal in Paris. Australian Anna Dawson moved to Paris and started walking around with a pink balloon, now she is an Instagram star with more than 135, 000 followers.

Paris in July

Friday, 6 July 2018

Claris The Chicest Mouse in Paris

Somehow I had missed the pre publicity for Claris, and so recently I was walking out of my local bookshop (having already bought four books) when I was stopped in my tracks by Claris in the window display. I hadn't noticed her on the way in, despite stopping to look at the Paris themed window. I gasped, turned around, walked straight back in and bought it. I love Paris, obviously. I love kids books. I love Megan Hess's illustrations. And now she's written a picture book. Such a no-brainer that I would buy it, I would read it immediately and that I would love it. All of those things happened.

Claris is the story of a small French mouse. She lives in the mountains of France but is no country bumpkin. Claris fashions haute couture creations from garbage bags. But her friends and relatives just don't care. She dreams of Paris and of finding the stylish people.

Claris gets a lift in a hot air balloon with two frogs, one in a beret. Claris arrives in Paris and sets off to find somewhere to live. There are some hazards along the way of course, like a grumpy cat, and a nasty girl who is a sneering snitch.

From the very outset (with the totally gorgeous endpapers) Claris is utterly delightful. I just love the contrast between Claris' designer outfits and her hairy, mousey little legs.

The story is told in rhyming couplets and is charmant. 

So while the mice feasted on crumbs of éclair,
 she read about handbags in Vanity Fair. 

My copy came with a delightful little Claris pin.

I'm generally too old to have Instagram envy, but oh, Megan Hess's life on Instagram! Can anyone really be that glamorous?

Paris in July 

Tuesday, 3 July 2018

Big Little Lies

I've fallen under the thrall of all things Big Little Lies recently. I binge watched the miniseries a few weeks ago. I inhaled it, and just loved it. I'd borrowed a copy from my library as I couldn't get it on my streaming services, and I was a bit worried about the move to an American location. Big Little Lies, the book, is Australian and firmly set in Sydney. Big Little Lies, the series, has moved to Monterey in California. But I loved it so much that I then went out and bought the DVD, so I could watch it again whenever I wanted to (after pressing it onto all of my friends first). I'm very excited that a second series is in production and will be released next year. 

The series has an absolutely fantastic soundtrack. Perhaps my favourite discovery is Ituana's breathy, lovely version of You Can't Always Get What You Want. I loved that so much that I took out a trial subscription to Spotify! Which I am enjoying very much. 

Very soon I found myself downloading the audiobook on my new love (Borrowbox). 15 hours 55 minutes! In just two weeks (I'm sure I won't be able to renew it as it's really popular, I had to wait for it)- that's quite an ask for me. But it was pretty easy I guess. Even though I didn't really love Caroline Lee's voice work- I found her rather overwrought Aussie accent a bit much actually. Her narration is fine, but I found her character voices grating for some reason.  But I did love the story and was sucked right in yet again. 

Just in case anyone else has been hiding under a rock Big Little Lies tells the stories of three kindergarten mums. Their friendship, their relationships and families. Madeleine is the feisty one, she's on her second marriage, and is the old hand of the school yard, an expert in the politics and cliques (yes of the parents). Celeste and Jane are both first time kindergarten mums, Celeste is married with twin boys, Jane is the youngest, a single mother with one son, Ziggy. All are juggling busy lives and finding their own way with work life balance, and each has made quite different decisions and compromises in her life. 

From the start of the book and the movie we know that someone has died. But not who. Big Little Lies is a Who Was It? more so than a Whodunnit? There are a number of smaller mysteries along the way and I did guess those whilst watching the show and I kept wondering if I would have guessed them if I read the book first. 

Given that the series was so fresh in my mind, I was very interested in the differences between the book and screen versions- and there are quite a few really. But they tend to be minor - some of the characters have an extra kid in the book (it tends to be the brothers that are left out), Mrs Ponder who lives next to the school didn't make the cut to the small screen. I can't remember Jane's parents being in the series. There are a few story lines that are in the show but not in the book. And of course everyone is richer and everything is grander in Monterey than they were back on the Pirriwee Peninsula. 

Speaking of which the whole Pirriwee setting really annoyed me. The rest of the Sydney suburbs mentioned are real. Jane's parents live in Granville, she lived in Newtown before moving to the peninsula. Why then make up the fictional Pirriwee? Are you really protecting the innocent when it's clearly a Northern Beaches location? Why bother?

Structurally, I really loved the little snippets from parents at the school that began or finished each chapter. Police interviews are not really like this at all I suspect. I'm sure everyone would be much better behaved, but I love all the catty little snippets given in these sections, and the differing insights and information. 

Liane Moriarty is a phenomenally successful Australian author. Rather remarkably two of her sisters are authors too, successful, but not quite in the stratospheric leagues that Liane inhabits. Big Little Lies was my first Liane Moriarty read, I know that there'll be more.

Thursday, 7 June 2018

Hay Festival 100 Books

Oh. This List! Created by the Hay Festival to honour 100 years of women's suffrage in the UK. 

100 books by women published since 1918.

A Book of Mediterranean Food - Elizabeth David
A Girl is a Half-Formed Thing - Eimear McBride
A Place of Greater Safety - Hilary Mantel

Ain't I A Woman - Bell Hooks
Ariel - Sylvia Plath
At The Source - Gillian Clarke
Babette's Feast - Isak Dinesen (Karen Blixen)
Bad Behavior - Mary Gaitskill
The Bastard of Istanbul - Elif Shafak
Beloved - Toni Morrison
Bonjour Tristesse - Françoise Sagan
Brick Lane - Monica Ali
Bridget Jones's Diary - Helen Fielding
Close Range Wyoming Stories - Annie Proulx
Cold Comfort Farm - Stella Gibbons
The Collected Dorothy Parker - Dorothy Parker
Dept. of Speculation - Jenny Offill
Everyday Sexism - Laura Bates
Falling Away - Alice Oswald
Frost in May - Antonia White
Gilead - Marilynne Robinson
Gone Girl - Gillian Flynn
Gone With The Wind - Margaret Mitchell
Half of a Yellow Sun - Chimamanda Ngozi Adiche
Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban - J.K. Rowling
Headscarves and Hymens: Why the Middle East Needs a Sexual Revolution - Mona Eltahawy
Heartburn - Nora Ephron
Henry and June - Anaïs Nin
Home going - Yaa Gyasi
How to be a Woman - Caitlin Moran

How to Eat - Nigella Lawson
How We Survived Communism and Even Laughed - Slavonia Drakulic
I Captured the Castle - Dodie Smith
I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings - Maya Angelou
Into That Darkness - Gitta Sereny
Like Water For Chocolate - Laura Esquivel
Lullaby - Leila Sliming
Mrs Palfrey at the Claremont - Elizabeth Taylor
My Brilliant Friend - Elena Ferrante
Notes on a Scandal - Zoë Heller
Noughts + Crosses - Malorie Blackman
Orange Are Not The Only Fruit - Jeanette Winterson
Orlando - Virginia Woolf
Persepolis - Marjane Satrapi (currently reading)
Pippi Longstocking - Astrid Lindgren (see my review)
Possession - A.S. Byatt
Rachel's Holiday - Marian Keyes
Rebecca - Daphe du Maurier
Regeneration - Pat Barker
Selected Stories - Alice Munro
Small Island - Andrea Levy
Standing Female Nude - Carol Ann Duffy
Stranger On A Train - Patricia Highsmith
Testament of Youth - Vera Brittain
The Argonauts - Maggie Nelson

The Body in the Library - Agatha Christie
The Color Purple - Alice Walker
The Country Girls - Edna O'Brien
The Crusades: Islamic Perspectives - Carole Hillenbrand
The Diary of a Young Girl - Anne Frank (see my review)
The Female Eunuch - Germaine Greer
The Feminine Mystique - Betty Friedan
The Fountain Overflows - Rebecca West
The Glass Castle - Jeanette Walls
The God of Small Things - Arundhati Roy
The Golden Notebook - Doris Lessing
The Gruffalo - Julia Donaldson, Axel Scheffler (illustrator)
The Handmaid's Tale - Margaret Atwood
The Haunting of Hill House - Shirley Jackson
The House of Spirits - Isabelle Allende
The Human Condition - Hannah Arendt
The Illustrated Mum - Jacqueline Wilson (see my review)
The Land of Green Plums - Herta Müller
The Left Hand of Darkness - Ursula K. Le Guin
The Moonmins and the Great Flood - Tove Jansson
The Passion According to G.H. - Clarice Lispector
The Poisonwood Bible - Barbara Kingsolver
The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie - Muriel Spark
The Pursuit of Love - Nancy Mitford
The Road Home - RoseTremain
The Second Sex - Simone de Beauvoir
The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole Aged 13 3/4 - Sue Townsend
The Secret History - Donna Tartt
The Shock Doctrine - Naomi Klein
The View from the Ground - Martha Gellhorn
The Year of Magical Thinking - Joan Didion
Their Eyes Were Watching God - Zora Neale Hurston
Three Strong Women - Marie NDiaye
Tipping the Velvet - Sarah Waters
To Kill a Mockingbird - Harper Lee
Train to Nowhere - Anita Leslie
Under the Net - Iris Murdoch
Unless - Carol Shields
We Need To Talk About Kevin - Lionel Shriver
What I Loved - Siri Hustvedt

White Teeth - Zadie Smith
Wide Sargasso Sea - Jean Rhys
Wild Swans. Three Daughters of China - Jung Chang
Wise Children - Angela Carter
Women & Power. A Manifesto - Mary Beard


I find this a super interesting list. So many here that I want to read, so many that I've meant to read over the years. And yes that noise you hear is the creaking and groaning of my huge TBR growing even bigger.

I do wonder at the inclusion of such a very recent book as Lullaby. It's much too recent to be able to judge it's place on this list. I'm also not convinced at the value of books like Gone Girl being included here.