Sunday, 23 August 2015

Ah, the weekend visit to my locals....

It's been a lovely weekend. I had Friday off as a reward for working last Saturday during our local Armed Forces Day Air Show, so that made it even more enjoyable. The Blue Jays have had a reasonably successful weekend so far, staying in the hunt for a playoff position. Hoping they continue their good play today to finish off the weekend. Jo and I went out Friday, always nice to spend an afternoon out with her, even if this trip included stopping at the hospital for her to get some x-rays and blood work done.

Yesterday I went out by myself for a little while, wandering around 5th Street in Courtenay and then dropping off a number of books at Nearly New Books and then replenishing my stocks. (Not that my stocks really need replenishing). Last night, while we watched the Blue Jays and while Jo kept track of the World Athletic Championships, I restacked my shelves and reorganised them. Downstairs looks great now, even if my bedside table is full to overflowing. Of course the reason for that is that I did manage to buy a few books while I was out yesterday, as well as trading some in. I bought one new book at The Laughing Oyster and a few used ones at Nearly New. So what did I buy, you ask with baited breath? I thought you'd never ask. Here goes!

The Laughing Oyster

1. Stolen Lives by Jazzy Mackenzie (Jade de Jong #2) - This is a new author for me, with a story set in South Africa. I've read a few books set there the last couple of years; one by Malla Nunn, which I enjoyed immensely and a Canadian book, The Water Man's Daughter, that involved a voyage to South Africa to find out why her father was murdered. This story also looked quite interesting and I figured I should give it a try. We'll see.

Nearly New Books

 I bought a nice mix of classic fiction, mysteries, horror, etc. Now to get around to reading them.

1. Shutter Island by Dennis Lehane - I've never read any books by Dennis Lehane but, from his titles, he's had a successful career having his books translated into film; Gone, Baby Gone and Mystic River, as well as Shutter Island. This story seems to have an interesting mix of mystery and suspense from the write up.

2. Sleeping Dogs by Thomas Perry (#2 in the Butcher's Boy series) - I'm reserving judgement on this series. I read The Butcher's Boy recently and enjoyed it overall; lots of action, lots of travel and very suspenseful. Still, it left me somewhat unsatisfied. However, I've had difficulty finding copies of the series so when #2 showed up on the bookshelf at Nearly New, I thought fate was calling and I decided to give it a try.

3. Flirt by Laurell K. Hamilton (Anita Blake #18) - The Anita Blake, vampire hunter, books have been one of my guilty pleasures, although it's been quite awhile since I dusted off one for a read. The series is sexy, violent, thrilling and at one time I read them voraciously. I think in some of her later books, she's started writing the stories in, meaning, she was just keeping book store shelves full. But, still, the stories are always entertaining and I want to see what disaster or creature Anita is 'flirting' with now!

4. The Martian by Martin Weir - This was a pleasant surprise, finding a copy of this book at my used book store. It's one of the books and maybe movies of the year, from a discussing point of view at the very least. The premise, when I first looked into it, reminded me of an old movie I remember watching; Robinson Crusoe on Mars. Of course this will be all tech'd up and more fascinating than that movie from the '60s, but I've been looking for it for awhile and was thrilled to find it before anyone else did.

5. Serpent by Clive Cussler (NUMA Files #1) - I've been more in the mood for old-fashioned adventures of late and have started exploring Clive Cussler. He wrote the Dirk Pitt books, amongst many other series and I think he's worth exploring. I've got the first books in a few of his series now so shortly I hope to start one.

6. The Jewel in the Crown by Paul Scott (The Raj Quarter #1) - OK, here you go, my first 'classic' sort of fiction. Jo and I were discussing this the other day as we do sometime. We were talking about the various TV mini-series that were centred on the Raj; The Jewel in the Crown, A Passage to India and I added this book to my list. I didn't realise it was a series but I want to try this and see how deeply I feel like exploring the series. It definitely sounds interesting.

7. Gently in the Sun by Alan Hunter (Inspector George Gently series) - This is one of those series that will take me a few years to get through but it's also one of those series that I look forward to exploring more fully.

8. Ghost Road Blues by Jonathan Maberry - Another new author for me, one I've been checking the book store shelves for and was happy to find at Nearly New. This will probably by an October, Halloween type read, a horror story from an exciting new author in the genre.

9. Shroud for a Nightingale by P.D. James (Inspector Dalgliesh #4) - I'm glad I finally took the leap and tried an Inspector Dalgliesh mystery as it was one of my favourites in a long time. James writes with intelligence and a nice pace. I've read a couple now and plan to go through this series over the next couple of years.

10. Demelza by Winston Graham (Poldark #2) - Another series that I want to try because of the TV version, which Jo and I started watching almost by default; you know how it is, one of those lazy afternoons, checking the channels and stopping at the 2nd or 3rd episode of the mini-series and becoming hooked on it. Yup, one of those. I've read a couple of Graham's books, quite enjoyed Marnie. Looking forward to starting this series.

11. Sharpe's Waterloo by Bernard Cornwell (Sharpe #20) - This is one of those historical adventure series, along with the Hornblower series and Flashman series, that I want to read and also want to have on my bookshelf. I like the covers! I'm slowly whittling them down.

So as you can see, my bookshelves are brimming, but I'm working methodically at getting through them. At the moment I'm reading -

Currently Reading

1. Vanity Fair by William Makepeace Thackeray - This is a slow project, but a very interesting one. I've been working my way through this for a few weeks now and I'm enjoying very much. I like the characters, even though they aren't necessarily the most sympathetic. Having said that, they also possess redeeming features that flesh them out. I also enjoy Thackeray's humour and his way with telling a story. Enjoying very much so far.

2. The Palace Tiger by Barbara Cleverly (Joe Sandilands #4) - I've enjoyed the first three books in this series, set in the Raj's India after WWI and featuring Scotland Yard Commander Joe Sandilands, very much. I really like the setting and the time period. With each story, Cleverly seems to be finding her stroke more and more. Unfortunately for me, this is the last of the series on my bookshelf so I'll have to start searching for number 5 and beyond in the next months. I do like the covers too.

3. The Sleeping Doll by Jeffery Deaver (Kathryn Dance #1) - Deaver writes a tense, well-crafted thriller normally. I've enjoyed the Lincoln Rhymes stories I've read so far (still have a few in that series to finish). This is the first featuring Kathryn Dance, a California Bureau of Investigation Special Agent who specialises in kinesics, the science of interpreting behaviour. I'm just starting this but already enjoying. I think it'll be a tense, thrilling chase as Kathryn and her team try to track down escaped serial killer, Daniel Pell.

So there you go, almost time for the Blue Jays and then back to work tomorrow. Enjoy your week!!

Sunday, 16 August 2015

My Recent Trip and Book Purchases

The Kids Together Again
I went back to Ontario last week to attend my nephew's wedding, visit with Jennifer (my daughter) and then head up to North Bay to see my Dad and sister, Chris. It was nice that all the kids, managed to get together and we all were in North Bay at the same time.

John, Rick and I at Patrick's wedding (sitting on the chair that tore my pants)

It was nice to spend time with all of them; there were a few chuckles, well, quite a few actually. I think my Dad enjoyed having us all together.

The boys with Dad
It was especially nice to spend some time with Jennifer and Martin. The only bad thing about the trip was that Jo couldn't accompany me; as she was laid up with a sore back. Next time!

With Jennifer and Martin at the wedding.

Of course, to the chagrin of my aching bookshelves, I did manage to find an our or so to visit The Book Bazaar in Ottawa and Allison the Bookman in North Bay and find a couple of new books to flesh out my lists. So let's see, what did I find?

The Book Bazaar, Ottawa, Ontario

1. Stettin Station by David Downing (3rd John Russell book). An excellent WWII spy thriller series. At least the first book was excellent, one of my favourites of this year.

2. La BĂȘte Humaine by Emile Zola (1890). A classic selection. I had enjoyed The Ladies' Paradise by Zola very much and when I saw this, thought I should give another of his books a try.

3. Sharpe's Honour by Bernard Cornwell - The continuing adventures of Richard Sharpe as he battles Napoleon's armies and my continuing search for the complete set of books in the series.

4. A Town Like Alice by Nevil Shute - One of my favourite authors and my sis-in-law, Sue, read this recently and highly recommended it to me.

5. Industrial Magic by Kelley Armstrong (Women of the Otherworld, #4). I enjoyed the first book, Bitten, very much and also the TV series based on Bitten. I want to try more in this series.

6. Last Laugh, Mr. Moto by John P. Marquand - I do enjoy these pulp fiction novels; I've read 2 in this series so far and I was pleasantly surprised to find this excellent copy of another in the Mr. Moto (Japanese spy extraordinaire) series.

Allison the Bookman, North Bay, Ontario

1. China Lake by Meg Gardiner (Evan Delaney #1) - Meg Gardiner is one of those authors that somebody recommended to me and I've been keeping an eye out for her books of late. Luckily I've found a few in the past couple of months. Now to start reading them. :)

2. Last Bus to Woodstock by Colin Dexter (Inspector Morse #1) - Jo introduced me to the joy of the various TV series based on these books; Morse, Lewis and Endeavour. It's time I started reading the Morse books.

3. The Crossword Murder by Nero Blanc - This is another mystery series I've been hunting for as the premise sounded interesting. It's been difficult to find any books, but luckily Allison's had one in the series.

4. The Assassins by Joyce Carol Oates - I've never read anything by Oates before so I bought this with some trepidation.  But I will have much time on my hands in the near future to give her a try. *fingers crossed*

5. Dance Hall of the Dead by Tony Hillerman - I read the first book in this series, The Blessing Way, just this past month and enjoyed it very much; it was nicely different from my other mystery series, featuring the Navajo police, Joe Leaphorn and introducing their culture. This is book #2.

6. The Cat Who Ate Danish Modern by Lilian Jackson Braun - I like a cozy mystery and I'm currently reading and enjoying the 1st book in this series. This is #2 in the Qwilleran and Koko mystery series.

So there you have it, a nice trip back to visit family and a successful visit to a couple of different book stores.  And loving being back home with Jo and our puppies.

Monday, 3 August 2015

The Classics - My Current Top Ten List

Before I make a Top Ten List of  my favourite 'Classics', you have to realise that my acquaintance with said Classics is a relatively new thing. I did take a Classic Literature course at university in which we read such books as James Joyce's Ulysses (I never finished it), D.H. Lawrence's Women in Love (I don't think I finished it), Henry James' Portrait of a Lady (I don't think I finished it), etc. I think you see a theme here. In High school, we took Wuthering Heights and in my French Literature class, we looked at books by Moliere (The Misanthrope) and Gustave Flaubert (Madame Bovary) and I generally didn't enjoy the experiences. I do remember back in Grade 9 or 10 reading Charles Dickens Pickwick Papers (written in 1836) and enjoying very much. So there was at least on success in my experiences.

Now also having said the above, I have enjoyed many movies based on the classics; Franco Zeffirelli's Romeo and Juliet (of course, it starred Olivia Hussey), the musical Oliver based on Dickens' Oliver Twist and others. So I will readily admit, I'm not adverse to a good movie adaptation of a classic.

Now since I've been married to Jo, my film and other experiences related to the Classics has increased exponentially (a lot). I've enjoyed many of the PBS classic series that were adapted from Classic novels, such as the Jane Austen series, Poldark, The Ladies' Paradise, etc. We've also talked about her favourites. I've sat with her in our den as she's listened to radio adaptations of other books, such as Daniel Deronda. It's made me more interested in taking out some of the books and giving them a try and I think, over the past 3 or 4 years, my Classic experience has been pretty good and overall, I've enjoyed it very much.

I think my first attempt was when Jo and I watched The Jane Austen Book Club. In the movie, one of the lady's from the book club is challenged by her boyfriend; he will read Pride and Prejudice if she attempts his favourite SciFi novel, The Left Hand of Darkness by Ursula LeGuin. Well, since that is one of my favourite SciFi novels and since Jo loves the books of Jane Austen, I challenged her. I did indeed finish Pride and Prejudice (and I see that in my Goodreads scoring, I gave it a three star rating. To be fair, it was my first attempt in many years and I think if I read it again now, I would rate it much higher). Like the movie, Jo did not attempt The Left Hand of Darkness.

But all of the above factors, plus my various reading challenges in Goodreads did make me more interested in exploring the Classic genre. For the past 3 or 4 years, I've done so and it's been a pleasant experience. Before I get into a top ten list, what do I mean when I say a Classic? Firstly, if it was published before 1900, it's a classic; it might be crap, but it's a classic, just for its age. Secondly, I tend to look at a number of authors and books, especially those that were included in my English course, even if published in the early 1900's as classics. Authors like D.H. Lawrence, E.M. Forster, Somerset Maugham, etc.

Maybe my current Top Ten List might give you some ideas. Recognise that this is a Top Ten List based on probably reading 12 - 15 'Classics' over the past few years. But it's a start.

10. The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson (originally published in 1886) - I read this in Oct 2011 and gave it 4 stars. "I'd never read before and can't say that I actually have ever seen the movie from beginning to end. So I was pleasantly surprised at how much I enjoyed the story and how smoothly it flowed. It was a very quick read and held my attention. I was surprised that the story was actually told for the most part from the perspective of Mr. Utterson, a friend of Dr Jekyll, and that Jekyll and Hyde for that matter for the most part are somewhat peripheral to the story; until the end anyway. On the whole, a very enjoyable story and I highly recommend if you've never read before."

9. The Moonstone by Wilkie Collins (originally published in 1868) - I read this in Feb of this year and gave it 4 stars) "This was a bit of a slow read for me at times, but I did let myself get distracted with some of my other books. However, having said that, I enjoyed this book very much. I liked how Collins laid out the mystery; letting various characters provide their inputs to the events to help present the whole story. I enjoyed the characters; Betteridge the butler (the first narrator) and how he used the Robinson Crusoe story to provide him guidance on the goings on; Ezra Jennings, Dr Candy's assistant and an outcast for his strange appearance, but at the same time, a gentle, caring soul, who comes up with a unique solution to working out the mystery; the Scotland Sgt Cuff, droll, caught up with roses, but a sharp mind. As the story progressed, I did have the workings of a solution, but still enjoyed following through with it. I liked Collins' style of writing, finding it very accessible. Was the story too long? I thought it might have been at the beginning, but I think originally it was presented as a serial to magazines, so for that reason, it makes sense. And anyway, as the story progressed, the tension and pace, quickened perceptibly. All in all, it was an excellent story and I'm glad that I've started reading some of these classics over the past few years. It's allowed me to discover the wonders of story - telling from the past century. Highly recommended. I will check out Collins' other stories."

8. A Room with a View by E.M. Forster (originally published in 1904) - I read this in Jan of 2014 and gave it 4 stars. "This isn't normally a book in my comfort zone as, of late, I do prefer mysteries and SciFi, but it's the second E.M. Forster book I've read in the past couple of years and I do enjoy his writing style. The story flows very nicely and I like how it developed and how the characters interacted. I've never seen the various movie versions from beginning to end, just snatches but as I discussed with my wife, it seems they were very faithful to the book. It is a classic and I liked the ending, it was most satisfying. Overall, I'm glad I took a chance and dove in."

7. The Ladies' Paradise by Emile Zola (originally published in 1883 as Au Bonheur des Dames) -  I read this Jul 2014 and gave it 4 stars. "I decided to read this because of the BBC TV series, The Paradise, which was based on Zola's book. At its core, it is the story of the development of the major department store (set in Paris) and its impact on the people of the city and especially those whose smaller shops surround The Ladies' Paradise and are threatened by its very success. The story focuses on Octave Mouret, whose vision and enterprise make the Paradise what it is, and on Denise Baudu, who arrives in Paris to live with her uncle (owning the shop across the road), along with her two brothers. Denise has nothing and finds that she must find work elsewhere as her uncle's shop can't support her. So begins her career, off and on, at The Ladies' Paradise, as a shop clerk. Fascinating story, the development and success of the store, Mouret's developing love for Denise, Denise's troubles within the store and with her family. The very impact of The Ladies' Paradise, based on actual stores that developed during the 1800's, on the city is also very interesting. At times it's a very depressing story, especially as the negative impact on the surrounding shops grows and grows, but it also portrays an interesting picture of the times, the culture.. Most enjoyable. There are other books by Zola that make this a series, if I read his biography correctly, with The Ladies' Paradise being the second book. I may have to try and find the others."

6. The Moon and Sixpence by W. Somerset Maugham (originally published in 1919) - I read this Jun 2015 and gave it a 5 - star rating. "Such an excellent story! My first experience with Somerset Maugham was The Razor's Edge, a book I had great difficulty putting down. The Moon and Sixpence is my second experience and I found this story much the same. It is based somewhat on the life of Paul Gauguin and follows one Charles Strickland, a London businessman, who in his '40s decides to leave his family, move to Paris and become a painter. The author of the tale meets up with Strickland throughout his time in Paris and follows him ultimately to Tahiti, where Strickland has finally found out where he belongs and what he wants to paint. Strickland is not a likable character; he abandons his wife and children, ruins other lives during his travels. But there is something about him that draws the author in. Maugham is a wonderful story-teller, his style is clear and flows so wonderfully. He puts you in his story, you can picture the people and the locations. And the story is fascinating, a joy to read."

5. The Mill on the Floss by George Eliot (originally published in 1876) - I read this in May 2015 and gave it 5 stars. "Such an excellent classic. I read George Eliot's Daniel Deronda last year and loved her writing style. She writes with intelligence and emotion. The Mill on the Floss tells the story of Maggie Tulliver and her family; father and mother and brother Tom. Her father owns the mill of the title. It has been in his family for generations. Due to various bad financial dealings, a lost court case and debts, he loses the mill and ends up working for the lawyer, Wakem, who he had the court case against. Maggie is a beautiful, head strong girl, a difficult way to be in the time of this story. She loves Wakem's son, Phillip, a disabled young man, but due to her father's strong feelings against that family, they must meet in secret. There are many tragedies in this story, the family's bankruptcy, the father's illness as a result of losing the court case, his death, Maggie's tragic loves, etc. The story is told in seven sub-stories, as Maggie and Tom grow up. Tom is her brother, she loves him dearly and craves his returned love. It is his intransigence that keeps her and Phillip apart and leads to other tragedies. I liked many of the characters, especially Maggie's cousin, Lucy, who loves and cares for Maggie dearly. The story moves easily through Maggie's life and as you get used to the language of the day, and this isn't a hard prospect as Eliot writes so well, you will quickly get into the flow of the story. The ending left me feeling very sad and bereft, especially that it took this final event to bring brother and sister back together. Excellent story..."

4. The Razor's Edge by W. Somerset Maugham (originally published in 1944, definitely my latest Classic) - I read this in Mar 2013 and gave it 5 stars. "I'd never read any Somerset Maugham before and really had no desire to read anything by him either. However recently I saw The Razor's Edge in a antique/ collectibles shop and I liked the look of it. Since one of my Reading groups was reading Modern English Classics as this month's genre, I decided to read it. I must say that I was most pleasantly surprised. Maugham has a way about him of telling a story. His writing style is very fluid and eminently readable. The story was interesting, the dialogue flowed nicely and I found myself waiting anxiously to get back to the book when I put it down. Did a lot happen? It was a tale of people, specifically friends of Maugham's, as he is the narrator and a character, with whom he spends time and observes. I liked the characters and I liked Maugham as well. He's an observer of humanity and expresses his observations so very well. Anyway, I loved the story, it's one of my favourites of this year. Will I read any more of his books? Well I purchased The Moon and Sixpence yesterday, so I hope so.. "

3. Lady Chatterley's Lover by D.H. Lawrence (originally published in 1928) - I read this in Feb 2014 and gave it 5 stars. "Definitely a book out of my normal comfort zone, but such an excellent read. I had ideas about what to expect; a banned book, due to its rawness, explicit sexual language, etc. but I was surprised. It's a thoughtful story of a woman, living in a marriage with a broken man; physically broken from the war, but also emotionally broken. Constance loves Clifford Chatterley anyway, cares for him, comforts him, but finds her life to be stagnant, loveless, emotionless. She meets Oliver Mellors, an other ex-soldier who now works as the game keeper on the Chatterley estate and finds herself drawn to him. The story is about their developing relationship, both emotional and sexual. I expected the sex to be graphic, raw, but other than some language, it was crafted very lovingly, on the whole, very gently. The story itself is interesting, the characters as well and the interludes describing the countryside, the coal mining country are also well-crafted. An excellent story and I'm glad I finally pulled the book off my shelves to read."

2. Parade's End by Ford Madox Ford (Originally published from 1924 - 1928) - I read this May 2014 and gave it 5 stars. "This was a challenging, but ultimately, an enjoyable and interesting read. The book is made of four separate books, Some Do Not, No More Parades, A Man Could Stand Up and The Last Post. It is set in England and France, before, during and after WWI. It deals with Christopher Tietjens, his wife Sylvia and Valentine Wannop, a young woman who has captured Christopher's heart. Around these people are family members, Christopher's brother, Mark; friends, associates and many others. Christopher's relationship with his wife is bitter and harsh, she goes out of her way to destroy his life, even though she won't grant him a divorce. At the same time, Christopher has fallen in love with the young woman, Valentine, who he met as a result of his father's friendship with Valentine's mother. Amidst these personal issues is the war, life in the trenches, all these matters. The story is detailed, it takes time to get used to the flow of the story, but when you do, it is enthralling. The second and third books, which deal more with the War itself, I personally found the most interesting. Critics have said that there needn't have been a fourth book, that Christopher, himself, isn't really even present, but, ultimately, I found that it wrapped up so many of the unresolved issues very nicely. Definitely worth reading, if you want to try a classic."

1. Daniel Deronda by George Eliot (originally published in 1876) - I read this in Oct 2013 and gave it 5 stars. "Not my normal story at all; I do tend towards more light reading, thriller, adventure, but at times I do try to explore more challenging stories. This was definitely one of those. It's a true classic, well-written and intelligent. The story focuses on two main characters, Gwendolen Harleth, a selfish, young lady who thinks the world revolves around her and Daniel Deronda, a gentlemen searching for himself. This search has many aspects, the simple one being trying to ascertain who his parents are as he has grown up under the protection/ guidance of Sir Hugo Mallinger from his childhood. This also involves more internal searching, who is he, why does he think as he does. He is a caring individual, selflessly helping friends and strangers; his flighty school friend Hugo Meyrick, the lovely Jewess Mira and even Gwendolen. There is so much in this book, unspoken love, a brief study of what it is like to be Jewish in those times, death, romance, etc. I was very surprised how much I enjoyed the story and as I worked my way through the initial pages to get accustomed to the style of the time, it was published in 1876, I enjoyed it immensely. As much as Gwendolen irritated me to no end with her selfishness, at the same time, there was an inkling of sympathy for the plight she finds herself in (even if much of it is due to her own actions) and ultimately.. well, I won't go there. You can discover that for yourself. It's a heavy tome, but well worth reading. I'm very glad I did."

So there is my current Top Ten. I'm sure it will be adjusted as I explore the Classics more. I promised myself to read at least 4 this year. I'm currently enjoying Vanity Fair (1848) by William Thackeray and hope to read one more (my fourth) by December. I'm leaning toward one of Far from the Madding Crowd (1874) by Thomas Hardy, Can You Forgive Her (1865) by William Trollope or The Last of the Mohicans (1826) by James Fenimore Cooper. Of course, I do also have a few modern Classics on my list for my Fiction challenge, including After Leaving Mr. MacKenzie by Jean Rhys, Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier, Brideshead Revisited by Evelyn Waugh and Mrs. Dalloway by Virginia Woolf. So I hope to continue my enjoyable journey down these paths, along with my normal mystery and SciFi reading.

Sunday, 2 August 2015

Reminiscences of a Military Brat - Part 15 - Basic Training

In the summer of 1975, I finished my first year at University of Toronto, passed my exams, said my good-byes to my fellow residents of Cody House and prepared for my first summer with the Canadian Armed Forces; Basic Training. In those days, Basic Officers Training was conducted out on the West Coast at Chilliwack, British Columbia. I'd heard my brother Rick tell me many stories about his adventures and activities when he went there in the late '60s and was looking forward to it. I had never been west of Ontario so that had an added attraction. This was going to be a great adventure, flying west on the service flight, seeing Vancouver, having my first military training on the edge of the Rocky Mountains.

Well, so I thought anyway. As I mentioned previously, during those days, we had three military colleges going full swing plus a large number of us 'civvie u' types (those of us who attended civilian university on military scholarships) and Women!! Basically, my University Liaison Officer, a Captain who worked out of the Avenue Road site in Toronto (at Avenue Road was the Canadian Forces Staff College and Staff School, a place where officers learned how to be better officers; Captains being groomed to be Majors and Majors being groomed for more senior ranks).  The University Liaison Officer for we Officer Cadets (OCdt) who went to university in central Ontario had an office there and he looked after us, so to speak, and arranged our summer training programs. Anyway, he informed me that, no, unfortunately, the Civilian university types would instead be attending Basic Training at Camp Borden, just up the road from Toronto. There were too many military college types and Chilliwack was full to the brim; well, with just enough room for the female OCdts to attend there. The overflow from the military colleges and we civvie u types would get the enjoyment of going to Borden.

I will admit that this was a bit of a letdown . And when I saw where I was staying for the next 13 weeks (The building seems to have been converted for another use, but it was one just like that photo above). There were 3 platoons of us civilian university Officer Cadets. I was in 13 Platoon and if that is the building, I think the room just to the left of the main entrance on the second floor was our room.

My summer digs
Yes, we were 4 to a room. We started off the summer with about 10 UTPMs in our platoon. They were men who had been in the military for a number of years already as Sgts and such, but who had applied to be offices and were attending university (called the University Training Plan for Men) after which they would be commissioned officers. Our training staff, 2 young lieutenants from the Royal Canadian Regiment, 1 Warrant Officer Field Engineer and 1 Sergeant from Armoured Corp, quickly realised that these fellows were wasting their time spending 13 weeks with us and moved them over with the military college types who had already been in Borden for a month. Luckily our roommate, Ron Emby, imparted some useful information to us on waxing floors, ironing and polishing boots, etc before he left. Thanks for that Ron!

My roomies, Jim Dunstan, Tom Beggs and Lorne Ness
So after the first week, I had my roommates for the summer. We got along, that was what was important. We were a mix, Jim (the fella in his undies) became a dentist. Unfortunately I can't remember what the other two did?? As you can see, quite a few folks, once they made there bed to satisfy our morning room inspections, never slept under their covers. They either slept on the floor under their bed in their sleeping bag, or slept on top of the perfectly made beds, also in their sleeping bags. Personally, I couldn't see the point. I figured that I was going to be up until midnight or later every night, waxing floors, ironing, polishing and studying and then getting up at 5 a.m. for our morning run before classes that I may as well have some little bit of comfort. It wasn't that hard to make a bed. Anyway, quite often our morning inspectors would make a point of messing up beds that they figured weren't being slept in, just to keep us on our toes.

As you can see from the photos, we didn't have a lot of room for storing our kit. The locker by the bed had to be set up in just a certain manner, uniforms hung in a certain order, the top three doors of the small dresser containing specific items in a specific order; top drawer, a comb, shaving kit, etc, next drawer, so many pairs of socks and underwear and third drawer, a certain number of t-shirts. The bottom two drawers could be filled up and we also had a barrack box at the end of the bed we could cram full of our civilian clothes. On either side of the door to our room, we had the storage cabinets for our FNs (the rifles we carried on parade and to the ranges).

Our first responsibilities were to get our floors shiny and smooth. After we had them nicely waxed, we spent most of our time skating around the room in our wool socks to keep the floors shiny for inspection.  Each of the three platoons had other areas of responsibilities; a section of hallway to wax and buff, one of the washrooms or showers to keep clean. You quickly got into a routine each day and night, what to do before you went to bed, how to minimise your efforts in getting your rooms ready for morning inspection, all those basics.

Be vewwy vewwy afraid!!
For the next 13 weeks, our routine alternated between classrooms and heading out into the field for exercises to test our mettle as future leaders. Over the course of the summer each cadet took turns as Platoon Commander or Deputy Platoon Commander, which meant getting everybody up and out of bed in the morning, ready for morning PT (a run or a trip to the obstacle course), back to barracks and quickly ready for inspection and breakfast, then marching the platoon to classes or to whatever else the instructors had planned for us. It was a mixture of classroom work; Military writing, Military Law, etc during which you desperately tried to stay awake. Classrooms were hot and you weren't getting any sleep so the tendency was to perform the falling asleep head bob. Eyes start to glaze over, you nod your head as if you are agreeing with your instructor, nod again, eyes closing, then eyes close and your head drops and the instructor shouts at you to WAKE UP!!! Lots of drill in preparation for the big grad parade; platoon drill followed by Company drill with the other platoons, quick march, slow march, march in review order.

A day at the ranges
And then for a change, we'd march off down the road to the ranges; qualify on the FNC1, our main weapon and a heavy sucker. Or just for familiarisation, the FNC2 (the automatic version of the C1), the SMG (sub-machine gun) or the 9 mm pistol. I will say I never won any shooting trophies, but at the same time I also never accidentally pointed my weapon at the instructors to show them I had a jam and then spent the rest of the day burning ammo boxes while the rest of us had fun shooting. "This is my rifle, this is my gun, this for killing, this is for fun". You figure it out. :)

If we weren't shooting, we were doing the obstacle course; which I have to admit, I quite enjoyed; crawling through tunnels, swinging across creeks on a rope, climbing walls. That was fun. What wasn't quite so much fun was doing the gas hut. We got some classroom training on how to use our gas mask, then off to the gas hut, some more instruction and explanation on what was going to happen and then in we went. First they had us run around the room, do some jumping jacks to get us nice and sweaty; because tear gas loves sweat, makes it burn nicely. Then standing in a circle around this little fire and the instructor drops in some gas pellets and shouts 'Gas Gas Gas!' and out come the gas masks from our carriers and with eyes closed shut tightly and holding our breath, we quickly don our masks, test it to make sure it's snug and then off we go again, running around the room, jumping jacks, our necks and hands and any exposed skin burning. The exit is opened and out we go, single file. Before we can leave, we have to take off the mask, shout our name rank and serial number and out we go, hacking, coughing, spitting. Of course, stupid me, as I shout my serial number, I get it backwards (not that the instructor would even know or care) and I say, damn, and start over again, taking a breath before I do so... gag!! (I never said I was the quickest rabbit in the forest and I do like to mix metaphors).

So besides the routine stuff, we also spent every second weekend in the field. This was to give us the opportunity to really test our mettle and leadership skills. We either marched to Blackdown Park, or poison ivy hell, and found our campsite, set up our hoochies and spent the day doing small tasks; building bridges, setting up a communication line, doing map work, etc. Each day one of us got to be Platoon leader and either find our next location and keep our platoon on the march, or direct one of the tasks, or multitudinous other ways to see that we were suitable as leaders. Our instructors were a mix. Lt Fenton was the head instructor and firm but fair. Lt Allen was a bit of a wild card, somewhat strange at times and could be a picky stickler. WO Mushrow was our hero. He was strict and fair at the same time, 5' nothing, but a true leader. We called 13 Platoon 'Mushrow's Mushrooms' in his honour. Our Sgt Carmichael (I think that was his name) was a good guy, during some of our tasks, he'd drive off and bring us back coffees or hamburgers.

Having a break on the side of the road
Our biggest exercise was our overnight Escape and Evasion exercise. On a Friday evening, we met in the classroom. They handed some of us snake bite kits and told us we were going off to the Bruce Peninsula, that we were escaped Prisoners of War and that we had to get to the safe site by Sunday and that the instructors would be hunting us down overnight and on Saturday. So on that note, at 9 in the evening, off we went in our Deuce and a Half's (2 and a half ton trucks). They dropped us off in groups on this road and told us to head to safety. Of course, we had no idea where we were and where were going, just a general idea. Jim Dunstan and I stayed together, getting on each other's nerves as we got more and more tired. Early Saturday morning, we were walking down this stretch of highway and decided we would go into the woods and rest until evening, when we saw a snake (oh yes, the snakebite kits were because the Bruce Peninsula has rattlesnakes). At that point, we decided instead to walk through the town just ahead and rest on the other side. Of course, that is when we were captured and brought back to the POW camp. There we spent the next 20 hours blindfolded, being interrogated, etc. Not the most fun time I had on basic training.

13 Platoon - Mushrow's Mushrooms
Having said that, Basic Training was a fun time, a time to look back on fondly. Even with all the hard work and lack of sleep, we managed to spend a few hours each evening relaxing in our little club, having a few soda pops. When I could, I went up to North Bay to visit the folks, have a nice bath, eat good food and forget about camp for a weekend. But I managed to get through it. I wasn't the best student and I wasn't the worst. As was the case during most of my courses, I floated through as a good, solid student who successfully passed his course and moved onto the next challenge.

I did graduate! Woo hoo!!
Mom and Dad came down to Borden for my graduation and after a nice day and a nice parade, my summer was over. It remained only to pack up my kit and head back to university for 2nd year.

Saturday, 1 August 2015

July 2015 - Monthly Reading update.

It's another hot sunny day as we start off August. It's been hot and dry for the past few months. The yard is basically brown as we're on Level 3 water restrictions. Of course this is just the second year we've had our in-ground sprinkler system and we've been unable to use it since May because of the restrictions. So, once again, I've been out there with the hose and hand watering all the flowers. (not well enough unfortunately, as they've taken a bit of a beating too. But, that's life. More of the same weather for the next few days anyway.

Anyway, onto my July update. I've had a pretty successful month, managing to complete 8 books and about 1/3 of my major quarterly read, Vanity Fair. Total pages for the month, roughly 2700. Overall in 2015, I've completed 57 books, which according to the Goodreads master statistician, leaves me two books ahead of my schedule of I want to complete my challenge total of 95 books. Overall, I've also read approximately 18,750 pages. OK, so let's see, what other stats can I throw down...

Gender of Author
Male - 5
Female - 3

Genre of Book
Mystery/ Thriller - 6
Memoir - 1
Fiction - 1

Rating of Book
4 star - 3
3 star - 5

So no real classics this month, but overall, an enjoyable reading list. My favourites were -

Cover Her Face by P.D. James (Inspector Dalgleish #1) - "I've previously read a couple of other of PD James' Inspector Dalgleish mysteries before and enjoyed very much. I like how intelligent James writes. This is the first Dalgleish mystery and I must say I enjoyed as much as the others I've read. Dalgleish is almost a peripheral character in the story, James rather focuses on the other characters/ suspects and their activities, motivations as she develops the story. Basically, Sally Juup, a housemaid is found dead (strangled) in her bedroom. All of the family members are suspects. The story follows Dalgleish as he performs his police work, interrogating the family members, travelling around the area to discuss Sally's character and past with family members and other relations. But at the same time, the story also follows around the people from the estate, allowing us to see their motivations, their thoughts on the murder, their own investigations. It's an interesting way to present a case and I found the story well-written and interesting. There were some nice little surprises which added to the story. All-in-all, most enjoyable and I will be continuing my experiences with Inspector Dalgleish."

Go Tell a Watchman by Harper Lee - "I'm not exactly sure what to say about this book. To Kill a Mockingbird is such an iconic book and has long been my favourite all-time story, so even just picking this up, I did with some trepidation. However, the way I thought about it was this. This is not Mockingbird, rather a continuation of the story. Scout, now 26 years who has lived away from Maycomb for many years is making her yearly journey back home to see Atticus. Atticus is now an older man, of course. Henry Clinton, Scout's (or rather Jean Louise's) boyfriend, is an associate in the practise. Scout has been influenced by her life in New York and during this visit receives a number of shocks. Maybe Atticus isn't the man she grew up thinking he was? Maybe Maycomb is no longer a home for her. The story is set during the time of race upheaval in the South and Harper Lee tries to portray some of the impact on this small town. Some of the philosophy Lee tries to explain is a bit jumbled, but I think she gets the point across. I enjoyed the flashbacks to Scout's childhood, it does remind me of those stories that make up Mockingbird. I liked Atticus' brother, Scout's Uncle Jack. In fact he plays a greater active role in this story than Atticus. The basis of the story is Scout's need to find out why Atticus is acting in a manner she finds incongruous to her picture of him. Is he someone she doesn't know or does he just work in mysterious ways? I think if you're expecting more of Mockingbird, you may be disappointed. But at the same time, I found the story satisfying in a different way. It will never leave me with the imprint that Mockingbird did, but I'm glad the book came out and I'm glad I had the opportunity to read it."

The Cold, Cold Ground by Adrian McKinty (Sean Duffy #1) - "I was very pleasantly surprised with this book. It was a most entertaining book, a police procedural set during the Troubles in Northern Ireland. The case involves a series of murders of homosexual men in a country which at the time still had homosexuality in their books as a crime. Throw in an old mystery involving a missing woman and also hunger strikes by prisoners in The Maze and riots and bombings as a normal day-in-the-life and you've got a scary, but very interesting setting for this mystery. I enjoyed McKinty's writing style very much. I liked the main characters; Sgt Duffy, a Catholic police officer working in the Royal Ulster Constabulary and I liked his partners in the RUC and many others of the cast. The book moved along at a steady pace, with enough action to satisfy any enjoyer of thrillers. While scary at times (this was a place I would not have ever wanted to live and yet people still tried to live normal lives, to keep things moving along), there is also a nice light deft touch to the story. The characters are nicely developed and the mystery is interesting. Highly recommend."

Currently Reading

I've 3 very different books on the go, one Classic, Vanity Fair by William Thackeray, Excession, the 4th book in the Culture SciFi series by Iain M. Banks (an excellent SciFi series) and The Blessing Way, the first book in the Lt Joe Leaphorn (of the Navajo Tribal Police) series by Tony Hillerman, a series I've heard many good things about and have wanted to try for awhile now.

Recent Purchases

I turned in about 7 books at Nearly New Books in Comox, yesterday so took he opportunity to purchase a couple (4) new (used) books as well. Here they are, all mysteries - Raisins and Almonds, the 9th book in the Phryne Fisher mystery series, set in Australia, written by Kerry Greenwood, Heavenly Pleasures, the 2nd book in the Corinna Chapman series, also by Kerry Greenwood, Tucker Peak, the 12th book in the Joe Gunther mystery series, by Archer Mayor and The Treatment, the 2nd Jack Caffery thriller, by Mo Hayder. They've been placed lovingly in my TBR bookshelves.

So there you go, the Jul update. I will be on the road for a few days in the next week, so will take a few books with me for my flight. I hope to have at least one more entry before I go. Have a great Saturday!

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