Saturday 29 August 2020

Book review: The Swayne Family, Vance Palmer (1934)

 I bought this book second-hand at Vinnies in Fairy Meadow and it cost $8.

A nuanced portrait of middle Australia at the beginning of the third decade of last century, this novel contains stories of family relations over the backdrop of the Roaring Twenties. The Great War had not long before ended. Palmer gives us a kind of ‘Neighbours’ for a lost era, with gentle dramatic arcs punctuated by a few striking events that don’t unnecessarily tax the reader’s credulity. 

He also gives us striking visual imagery that adds considerable lustre to what otherwise might have been merely a novel of manners and sentiment, allowing the author to situate his work within the confines of Modernism. Sometimes stiff expression and occasionally awkward structural ploys, however, sit in contrast to the progressive nature of the sentiments the book retails in, though privileging the notion of youth, something that was very much alive in the author’s mind while composing his narrative, today seems quaint and even antiquated. Going by what’s in this book, people living in the 1920s must’ve felt they were part of something unprecedented. Such dreams would be sorely tested in the years that followed that of its publication.

George and Kathleen, Ernest and Dorothy, Digby (the patriarch) and Margaret (his wife) come to life in a way that provides the reader with access to the zeitgeist pre-WWII. Palmer disturbingly foreshadows knowledge of the Holocaust (see publication date) and also, conveniently for a reader not situated close in time to the events portrayed, refers to Japanese ambitions in China. Such tactics help to give depth to the characters and to orient the reader in historical time. 

When he was alive Palmer was known as a left-wing participant in the public sphere and knowing this fact would help a reader of ‘The Swayne Family’ to understand it. Fundamentally about the quality of personal status in Melbourne society during the Depression, the book posits a world of fragile reputations where the opinion of the community is prized more than individual happiness. Reading it you can easily grasp why the counterculture of the 1960s was so necessary: a corrective for outdated ideas that had survived the effects of radical technological and epistemological changes over the previous century. 

Digby comes in for a good deal of the criticism that is implied in the author’s themes and narratorial strategies, but on the other hand Palmer demonstrates a subtle command of the values of his subjects. He examines not just the actions of Digby and Margaret but also their origins, and so gives us to understand them all the more completely. I was deeply impressed by Palmer’s version of Australian society’s mores and customs in an era when the idea of the cultural cringe was already well-established, and when people tried to come to terms with modernity in an environment characterised by both technological change and want. The author is swimming in a sea familiar to him, and the reader is consequently comfortable, feeling that what is presented to him or her makes sense.

But this novel is not a well-intentioned screed. It offers a rounded and whole viewpoint that encompasses a range of different points of view. 

It is also shy of apportioning blame and, for that reason, I valued the book highly as I was reading. Once I finished it my estimation of the author was even higher and I wonder if it mightn’t be worthwhile for some enterprising publisher to reprint some of Palmer’s titles. We now live in an era when the counterculture is the thing that requires some correction, and so see a slew of TV shows situated in precisely the era this book belongs to. I believe it is currently not available in regular retail stores or on Amazon, which seems, to me, to be an unfortunate and unwarranted circumstance. I was completely engrossed in Palmer’s creation and every day, while living with it, looked forward to the opportunity to pick it up and open it so that I could return to the story of the fictional Swayne family. In fact I saw myself in Ernest and my father in Digby.

Sunday 23 August 2020

Book review: Maoism: A Global History, Julia Lovell (2019)

I bought this broad-ranging, in-depth work of history at Gleebooks on the way back from out of town. All my books have been packed up for the house move, so I needed something to get me through Sunday (a time when TV fare is subpar).

Probably the most influential Asian of the 20th century, Mao succeeded while his knack for pithy phrases and his volatile temperament were productive. As a ruler he was a disaster, of course (see a recent review for details), but as a change agent he was more than just effective.

Lovell at the end of her book takes a few pages to discuss the ways Mao is celebrated in China today. At this point the pace of the book slows and becomes more contemplative (and less dramatic) but the author is always a careful chronicler, providing support for occasional personal observations and producing a lively and satisfying work of scholarship.

The subtitle is germane if you want to know what the book is really about. It takes in views across the globe from China to Peru, and from India to Nepal. The CCP’s explicit task in the second half of the twentieth century – to transfer its violent revolutionary methods to other nations in the wake of the Soviet government’s censuring of celebrations of Stalin – was often met with enthusiasm from educated people. Mao’s influence was both wide and deep, so protestations today from the CCP about foreign interference are of course hypocritical: historically speaking, China has always been intent on participating as a major player in the politics of other countries.

It wasn’t just in the third world, either. Mao’s appeal was alive in Europe and the US as well, though there the outcome of people’s activities was usually less violent. There were nevertheless bloody episodes in such countries as Italy and Germany. 

For Mao, it was a matter of national pride to be seen as a success, though the truth was more frequently hidden than revealed, as the reality of the Great Leap Forward exposes.

One problem that historians like Lovell encounter however is that many of the records for the period in question are kept in sealed archives. So the truth may not be known for a very long time. Lovell skirts around this problem and did access material from records that have been opened for perusal, as well as those in the archives of other countries. Maoism’s reach into the politics of nations such as Indonesia and Tanzania mean that much can be known even if the CCP won’t cooperate with scholars and publishers.

Lovell is a reliable witness who evidently harbours a passion for her subject. Despite this, you feel as you read that she has a solid grasp not only of the particulars of the evidence she unearths, but of the significance of Maoism for world history in the 20th century. Because of the continuing relevance of the CCP today, this influence remains alive for all of humanity. Mao’s legacy is strong and shows no signs of relinquishing its hold on our regard, despite the many voices that have been raised to deliver messages that the Party cannot be glad to hear.

Wednesday 19 August 2020

Book review: So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed, Jon Ronson (2015)

I bought this at a St Vincent de Paul’s opportunity shop having just left a meeting and it cost $5.

This study of reputation as it is constituted in the public sphere in the developed world was well worth the price paid to buy. It’s a fabulous account of online culture and came well before its time (see publication date). 

In his fun and well-written book, Ronson tries to come to grips with the democritisation of speech in the internet age, where pile-ons are the dark flip-side of its ubiquity. The dark lining of a silver ear. I totally got his appeal to the reader’s better nature. He tries very hard to pin down the issues raised by the cases of reputational damage he chronicles.

I’ve written on this blog at length about the public sphere, so readers will be familiar with the issues Ronson grapples with if they sample my jouettes. Ronson does the same thing but with a few more concrete cases. I would have liked more exposure of the perpetrators of the kind of malicious commentary that passes for political speech in countries where the ability to say out loud about politics what you really think is not questioned by authorities. 

People often, as Ronson points out, abuse the privileges they possess. 

The fact that this fabulous book was given to a charity is illustrative of our collective priorities. I certainly won’t be giving it away – unless it’s to a friend to borrow and read.

Sunday 16 August 2020

RAV4 Cruiser hybrid AWD (episode three)

This is the third post in a series. The first post is here and the second here.

In the middle of last month I fuelled up the car again at the petrol station, this time (with 702km on the odometer) putting in $29.30 worth of unleaded. The time before I’d put in just over $25 at 256km, so the efficiency of Ensign was once again evident but as the second time I didn’t register in my phone the cost of fuel it’s hard to make a more precise estimate.

I was typing “precise” when I heard the intercom buzz. I let in a deliveryman with a parcel, which turned out to contain a satchel branded with the Toyota name and the word “hybrid”. Grey cloth, matching what seems these days to be the most common colour (along with white) for new passenger vehicles (though not Ensign).

Inside the satchel was a portable rechargeable battery and a capped cup for use outside (for flat whites and chai lattes, evidently). The battery had instructions in bad English and had been made in China. The cup was branded and had good English for its instructions.

Twenty-two July was also the day of my first car service, and I drove Ensign down to the dealership to drop it off then went to the Broadway Shopping Centre for lunch (rice with butter chicken as well as some of a chickpea curry, along with a Coke) after which I got a call from the dealership telling me the car was ready to pick up. I walked uphill through Glebe and into the service area’s office where I sat down with a woman to process my account. I told her about the warning message that I’d earlier mentioned to Ryan (the salesman) but she dismissed my complaint rather abruptly, as though I’d been wrong to mention it. 

I wasn’t proud of my conduct at this tete-a-tete, though I didn’t say, for example, “I’ve been driving cars for over 40 years. How old are you?” The conversation did however evolve in such a fashion as I felt my experience was discounted in favour of a simulacrum of intelligence as embodied in the car’s computer system, which seems not to have a heuristic function. Not only will it not synchronise its knowledge of time with that of location so as to understand when a school zone limit applies (between 8am and 9.30am and between 2.30pm and 4pm), but it won’t learn which routes a particular driver favours; it will keep on asking you to turn off the motorway even if the car and the driver have taken the same route before.

One day while driving I took note of how the instrument panel speed indicator won’t keep up with all road signs. Instead it provides an approximate guide or else is completely wrong; on one occasion I had it showing 110km per hour in a 50km/hr zone. So keep your eyes peeled and don’t expect the car to be right 100% of the time.

The car has its own understanding of the world, one which sometimes has little to do with reality beyond the confines of its programming and its limited knowledge. For example, when you start the car a message comes up on the centre console. See photo below. The manufacturer calls this article of equipment the “multimedia display” and, confusingly, calls part of the instrument panel the “multi-information display”, appearing to break new weirdness records for English used in manufacturers’ manuals.

The ignition message asks you to, among other things, obey road rules. It also notes for your information that some directions given by the satnav might be wrong. All well and good, but I don’t really need to be told to read the owner’s manual as I return home from buying a second-hand lamp at a thrift shop out in the boonies. The message is there by default and can, after a few seconds, be dismissed with a “Continue” button you can tap (once it becomes operative). The message also automatically goes away after a few more seconds, but after the first couple of times driving the car you’re unlikely to bother reading it. On the other hand, if someone wants your car space and you’re parked in a shopping mall, or if you need to get out into traffic because of a sudden break in the flow of cars, a few seconds can make all the difference. 

In reality, the car has these demands – you cannot put an address into the satnav while the car is in motion, a circumstance that is germane to the discussion underway currently – so you have to adapt your behaviour, as it were, to meet it halfway. It’s programmed to operate in a certain fashion and only within strict parameters can you engage with it in real time. You don’t drive the car, you work with the machine to navigate the roads.

This is the new reality of AI: often you are prompted to respond and, in other cases, you must override the system. In some cases this is not an option. For example I must listen to a warning message every time I reach Regent Street at the end of Harris Street. I have no idea why – at this, particular, spot – such a message becomes audible, but it is so: I hit a certain point in my trip to Botany (where the house I’m in the process of buying is located) and a message comes out of the car’s speakers (“Please obey all road rules”).

And if, after getting in the car, you want to quickly plug in a destination address, and you are in a hurry, you might have to wait until the first red traffic light to do it since, instead of a map of your city, the car’s redundant warning message will be stubbornly occupying critical real estate on the centre console. If there’s no red light you may find yourself pulling over to the side of the road in order to enable the satnav to accept your destination address.

Other functions and features are welcome. One day driving to Wollongong a blonde Millennial was so close to the rear of my car I could almost see the colours of her eyes. Afterward, I was so flustered I missed my turnoff so used the satnav to get back to the Princes Highway. This kind of improvisation to get out of a sticky situation would’ve been impossible in the old car. 

Some features, such as automatic door locking, can be confusing. It activates when you reach 25km per hour so that the doors won’t lock if you’re just moving the car to a more convenient spot, for example if your parking slot is narrow or if the car parked next to you is too close to open the doors. But passengers not aware of the feature might ask why the doors are locked when they want to get out to the kerb. There’s a universal unlocking button in the armrest of the driver’s side door that can be used to unlock back doors, or else a passenger can use an individual door’s locking mechanism – if he or she can work out how it operates – to get out of the car independently. This is another of the car’s features you must adjust your expectations to meet halfway.

Confusion might also result from the seatbelt warning, which kicks in once a weight is on a seat and the car is in motion. A weight might not represent a person, however, so you can get an alarm if you place a heavy bag on the back seat. The alarm goes away eventually but the first time it happens it might cause you to pull over to the side of the road to see what the fuss is all about.

The design for the “handbrake” (which kicks in once you put the car into Park) is good: a small red LED in a button on the console between the front seats lights up once it has engaged, letting you feel confident about turning the car off. When you turn the car on the instrument panel lights up with a short animation featuring the model name; it is easy to understand intuitively and serves the purpose of alerting the driver to the machine’s new state.

If you brake heavily to stop the car suddenly a tone will sound and a red warning will display on the instrument panel with the word “Brake”. I’m not sure of the utility of this feature but it shocked me when this circumstance first occurred to me while driving. I had been in traffic moving at about 50km per hour and the car in front suddenly propped, making it necessary for me to stomp on the brakes. 

This was a novelty, but some things happily haven’t changed, for example the knobs for radio volume adjustment and A/C operation. The radio is turned on by pressing a knob, though you change stations on the centre console using virtual buttons. The A/C temperature control knob is large and frictionless, with no stutters to impede your use of it while driving at speed. 

But keeping track of everything in a 2020 RAV4 does place an unusual burden on you. An ability to make and receive phone calls, for example, and to connect your mobile to the car via Bluetooth, adds levels of complexity to the driving experience. Hence the warning on starting. Despite all the distractions safety is generally enhanced and abiding by the law is easier than in a car without such digital features.

There hadn’t initially been many puzzles with the RAV4, though I’d called Ryan to ask about where to put the road tolling company’s tag. It turns out: within the black-spotted section at the top of the windscreen (I’d wondered if it’d be impaired in its operation if placed there). The tag arrived in my mailbox in a small satchel a few days after I’d ordered the device from Linkt, which used to be called Roam, and which trades on the stockmarket as Transurban. You can use their tags in all eastern states, so it’s handy for drivers in New South Wales to register with them and to get a tag delivered. The thing fits easily in the mailbox and has an adhesive area on a stem that you activate by pulling off a piece of paper (like a Band-Aid).

Ryan also told me that the locking mechanism in the door handle – if your remote control is within the car’s sensor’s ambit, you touch a marked area of the handle to lock the car – works in the rain. He sounded a tad perplexed when I’d asked this question and told me that the car has all the latest technology. 

He was, of course, right. The automatic wipers were a revelation and resulted in changed practice. When you go under cover – as, for example, happens for me when I park in the garage under my apartment building, or when going into the carpark of my local supermarket – the wipers stop, so you might want to use the operational lever to get rid of the drips that accumulate on the windscreen as a result of runoff from the roof. Or you might not, and simply let them sit there. If you want to get rid of the drips – this sort of thing bothers some people, including me – just click the lever down one notch and the wipers will activate once. In the event, I left the drips to sit and just parked the car with them sitting on the glass in front of me. 

Despite the car’s bulk, handling is impressive. It has a crisp feel because its suspension is tight, giving you confidence to address speed bumps at speed – you just chunk over them without scapes or undue bounce – and making steep driveways (such as the one at Officeworks in Glebe, a suburb of Sydney) perfectly manageable where before I’d had to creep into the trough to avoid part of the car coming into contact with the concrete.

The engine provides adequate power – remember, I had a car with a significantly larger engine just before buying my RAV4 – under all circumstances. At a steady 50km per hour on a flat road the battery alone might be powering the motors. Performance at speed and uphill on the highway is also different from what I had before. Under such conditions, compared to the Aurion, the RAV4 works hard, though I have to qualify this comment. 

The day of my first service Ryan countered my remarks about this issue by noting that, due to the anticipated (or actual) introduction of emissions caps, all manufacturers are phasing out their six-cylinder models. In Europe, for example, the burden of compliance with such caps rests with manufacturers, meaning that if fleet emissions don’t fall below a government-prescribed level, manufacturers are forced to pay a financial penalty. Other jurisdictions are either researching such limits or else are in the process of introducing them. So the days of the standard Aussie six-cylinder sedan are coming to an end, but for the moment I feel slightly underpowered. This came to mind while driving up the hill out of Wollongong with cars in the fast lane zooming past me. I felt wimpy flogging my 2.5-litre four-cylinder motor apparently to death.

Though the thing did still provide acceleration uphill at speed. Suitable for overtaking trucks. On one occasion at 80km per hour on an incline up the side of an escarpment with three adults on board it pulled away easily. But compared to the silence of the car accelerating effortlessly at low speed under the power of the traction battery, the sound of the petrol engine under pressure stands out for its seeming violence. On the motorway up a hill at 90km per hour the petrol engine and the battery both operated to move the RAV4 forward. Once on the flat at the same speed the engine began to charge the nickel-metal hydride battery and the system toggled between these two states, keeping the car’s speed steady while alternately charging and draining the battery.

On the day I had my first service done, I told Ryan, as I walked away from him in his place of work, that, if Toyota brought out a six-cylinder hybrid, I’d be interested in getting one. This won’t however happen.

To learn about the car’s features I brought the manuals upstairs to my flat, working out how to set the wipers to operate automatically when the car senses rain. On the day of my service I also dropped by at the Apple store and bought a half-metre USB cable for the iPhone 7. The accessory remains permanently inside the cabin and comes in handy when I have friends with me while driving on the open road. We are able to connect the car with the mobile phone of one person, and so play music on it through the RAV4’s speakers.

The instruction manual that came in the box of the free portable charging battery was less useful when I tried to learn how to work it (see photo below), and after a few attempts I gave up. The problem is that you might press the power button to make the charger go on – with a phone plugged into it via a USB cable, it initially works – but after 34 seconds (I timed it with a stopwatch) it turns off, meaning that the device you plug into it will not get charged. You can see it go off because the “charging” symbol on your phone disappears and because on the battery pack the lights go off. (They’re lined up on the end of the device between the power button and the USB socket.)

No matter how many times I consulted the manual, I couldn’t work out how to make the battery stay on after I left it to go away and watch TV or get a drink of mineral water.

I’ve fortunately had no such problems with the car. I’m reminded of Ryan’s cheerful laugh, and also of the marketing material that came with the rucksack: “Good things come to those who wait.” But I didn’t have to. I’d only had the car for a couple of weeks (I picked it up in the first week of July) and had already used it in pretty much every conceivable situation a car can find itself in. I’d only used $77 worth of fuel though I’d travelled over 1100 kilometres. Seven dollars per 100 kilometres is good going.

Tuesday 11 August 2020

Book review: Protestants: The Faith that Made the Modern World, Alec Ryrie (2017)

The author is an Anglican minister but there is no hint of triumphalism in this brilliant historical work, one that takes the reader from the modern origins of Protestantism in the 16th century up to our times. Ryrie was born in the UK and graduated from Oxford Uni but grew up in the US.

There is the occasional mention of the Lollards and the Hussites but nothing substantial, whereas for Luther and Zwingli and Calvin there is a complete exegesis based on original sources. There are 20 pages of notes as well as an index.

Ryrie is a clever writer, it should be said, who is aware of how the reader is feeling at different points in the narrative and who inserts divagations at points apropos in order to provide a rich and rewarding experience. While complex, the book is not difficult. This combination of factors is an index of Ryrie’s skill.

While the facts are comprehensive it is the building of a story that sustains the reader who spends time with this book. It tells a story that has a remarkable origin and that continues to sustain both people and polis wherever it is practiced. Again: no triumphalism. Rather, an awareness of the protean nature of the project, one that occupies and rewards the people involved in it wherever they may live and whatever their roles.

While Ryrie’s main point about this form of religious practice is centred, in his mind, on a love affair with God, it also has other characteristics: the tendency of Protestants to both cleave to the word of the Bible and to splinter into groups. The way that this plays out at different times helps the reader to understand identity politics, which Ryrie (possibly optimistically) sees as another offshoot of Protestantism.

He takes the reader from the homeland of Protestantism in continental Europe, to the United States of America, to Korea and China and places beyond. His task is massive but stylistically he’s up to the challenge. A very good book indeed.

Wednesday 5 August 2020

Book review: The Six: The Lives of the Mitford Sisters, Laura Thompson (2015)

I was bored out of my brain watching TV, since my home contents has been packed up due to the fact that I’m moving house, and so I walked to Glebe and bought some books, this being one of them. It turned out to be a good choice as my state of mind – feeling a little vulnerable and uncertain due to the change underway – consoned with traces of anxiety the book communicates.

It’s difficult to write a biography about six women like the Mitford sisters because of their connections with Nazism, but Thompson has done us a great service by indulging in her personal fascination with her subjects. This is a magnificent biography.

It’s a thorough exposé of a period of time so different from today but, also, so similar in many respects, not the least of which is the reason for notoriety of the women under examination. The fact that so much is known about them, due to the survival of a large number of private letters and also due to the existence of published works of fiction (and memoir), adds richness to Thompson’s account.

She had to become acquainted with some of the darkest parts of history in order to write it. I applaud her gumption and recognise the worth of her approach, which mingles the personal with the public in a thrilling manner. The way the sisters related to their parents, to each other, to significant others, and to the public provides a view that is at the same time microscopic and broad. 

The title is stripped back and modern, matching the subject matter. Reading the book it’s actually easy to see why some of the Mitford sisters responded to the call of the siren, but I wonder if Thompson might not have realised how nihilism made them liable to succumb to fascism and Communism in the absence of other, equally rewarding, inputs. Nancy, who went on to become a successful novelist, seems to have remained least liable to respond positively to the lure of the political extremism that animated the era, though even she did so at some points. 

Jessica went the other way from Unity and Diana, and became a Communist. And while Thompson remarks from time to time how difficult it is, now, for us to understand people living then – almost a century ago now – she is reticent about going the next step and making proclamations that might explain why some of these youthful sisters (and, indeed, their parents) cleaved so strongly to fascism. In my mind it certainly had something to do with youth, but it was more complex than that, and I alluded to some of the things that were in action at the time in a review of another book, which I read in May

Again, it’s germane for me to say that Thompson has done us all a favour at the same time as she indulged her own fascination with these women. I strongly recommend this book to people who are curious about the 1930s or to people who want to understand more about our own times, with its violent public sphere and extreme views.

Sunday 2 August 2020

Grocery shopping list for July 2020

This post is the nineteenth in a series and the fifth with rona. 

3 July

Drove to Woolworths and bought (see receipt below) taramosalata, marinaded goat’s cheese, onions, linguine, a sultana butter cake, flavoured mineral water (no-sugar), and – whoops-a-daisy! – a bottle of tonic water.

5 July

Went to the convenience store and bought eggs, milk, and sliced chicken breast. Then popped in at the bottle shop and bought two six-packs of Carlton Zero.

6 July

Drove to Woolies and bought fillet steak, a barramundi fillet, smoked hake fillets, bread, an oakleaf lettuce, bean salad, “spiced cauliflower and winter veg,” and blueberries. 

This trip to the supermarket was my first one in the RAV4 and, with the roof racks on, as headroom is sufficient, I had no dramas going into the carpark. Standing under the store next to the car, I eventually worked out how to open the rear door, which works by touch (not using the remote control). After a few false starts the door opened. 

7 July

Walked to the pharmacy and popped in at Coles while in the arcade to buy (see receipt below) some no-sugar flavoured mineral water. It was dearer than I usually pay at Woolworths, though Woolies’ price for this (from my point of view) essential item seems to change from day to day.

On this day I had a conversation on Twitter with @GayCarBoys about my contretemps with the rear door. “It took me 5 minutes to work out how to open the rear door!” (Actually it was more like 30 seconds.) He answered: “Was the button not working?” “I had to learn by doing,” I replied. “The sales guy gave me a 30 minute rundown of features when I picked the car up, but some things weren't covered ...” He replied: “TBH they really don't have time to. I reckon there is a business in showing people how to work their gizmos ;)” 

I couldn’t actually accurately recall how long the explanation took that Ryan gave me in the auto retailer’s showroom, but it took forever. A RAV4 has so many features, and the way it talks with the driver’s phone is astounding (I feel like a Boomer in the Geeks 2 U ad).

9 July

Went to the pharmacy and then the tailor’s (to pick up dry cleaning) and on the way home popped in at Woolies and picked up (see receipt below) sliced pastrami, sliced ham, “spiced cauliflower and winter veg”, couscous with pumpkin, tomato soup, lamb soup, and lentil soup.

11 July 

Went to the convenience store and bought milk.

12 July

Drove to Officeworks and on the way home popped in at Woolworths and bought (see receipt below) sliced chicken breast, sliced ham, raisin butter cake, carrot cake, chillies, tomatoes, and flavoured mineral water (no-sugar).

14 July 

Went to the tailor’s and to the pharmacy and while out used Woolworths to buy (see receipt below) bean salad, lentil salad, Tim Tams, and flavoured mineral water (no-sugar).

Later drove to Officeworks and bought (see receipt below) a bottle of hand sanitiser for visitors to the apartment, which I’d decided to sell.

16 July

Drove to Woolworths and bought eggs, bread, milk, a saucepan (because I’d forgotten to put one aside prior to the move), pastrami, a cos lettuce, and flavoured mineral water (no-sugar).

17 July

Went to Bunnings and bought (see receipt below) Stanley knife blades and cleaning liquid. This gear was to get tape off my apartment window. The stuff had been used to hold up a pillow case designed to keep the sun out of my eyes while I sat at the computer in the early mornings but now, with the sale, it had become an eyesore. 

18 July

Drove to Woolies and bought (see receipt below) instant oats, apples, blueberries, Tim Tams, and flavoured mineral water (no-sugar).

In the evening went to the Feather and Bone Butchery website and put in an order (see confirmation screen clip, below) to be delivered.

20 July

Went to Woolies and bought (see receipt below) a perch fillet, salmon steaks, smoked hake fillets, lentil salad, couscous with pumpkin, tomato soup, taramosalata, a sultana butter cake, and two bottles of Schweppes “Agrum” no-sugar drink.

I’d taken an email from Feather and Bone Butchery out of the spam folder in the morning and at 12.06pm Nevil called me on the phone as the intercom, he said, wasn’t working. I went down and met him and carried the box upstairs, then repackaged everything for freezing, finishing at 12.23pm. I called the building manager’s office to log an error notice for the equipment and they said someone would probably come out the same day, or the next, to fix it.

In the afternoon I went to the bottle shop and bought two six-packs of Carlton Zero. While out I popped in at the convenience store and bought biscuits (Caramel Crowns, and Mint Slice) and a packet of chips.

22 July

Went to Woolies and bought sliced pastrami, sliced ham, apples, blueberries, lamb soup, chicken noodle soup, hummus with harissa, Tim Tams, and flavoured mineral water (no-sugar).

23 July

Walked to Woolies and bought (see receipt below) “spiced roasted cauliflower and winter veg”, sundried tomatoes, d’affinois cheese, bhuja, Tim Tams, and mouthwash.

24 July

Went to Woolworths and bought lentil salad, bread, milk, biscuits (Chocolate Gaiety, Caramel Crowns), and no-sugar flavoured mineral water.

25 July

Walked to Glebe to buy books and while there stopped at Harris Farm Markets and bought (see receipt below) harira (tomato, lentil and chickpea) soup, chicken and white bean soup, Hungarian salami, Danish salami, Maffra “Riverslea” red cheddar, blue cheese, blueberries, and lentil chips.

26 July

Went to Woolworths and bought Jatz crackers and no-sugar mineral water.

27 July

Drove to Lakemba (to buy a shirt); while there I popped in at a grocer’s and got a container of spiced, fried fish, a container of beef and potato biryani, and a container of chicken tawa (which involves pieces of an animal being cooked on a “tawa”, or round frying pan with, according to Google, “fresh tomatoes, onions chillies and a range of spices”; it is popular in India and Pakistan).

28 July

Had a local appointment and on the way home stopped at Woolies and bought hummus with harissa, taramosalata, apples, blueberries, bean salad, cauliflower soup, beetroot soup, a sultana butter cake, and some Caramel Crowns (a type of biscuit).

29 July

Had some errands to do with the car so, while out, I popped in at Coles and bought (see receipt below) paper towels, instant oats, and flavoured mineral water (no-sugar).