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June 29, 2017

Marlin Cove with white sails!
Winter Pastimes
It is mid-winter on Great Barrier Island so we are not there, but rather in mid-winter in the tropics at our alternative residence way up near the top of Australia. Here it fluctuates between 25 degrees and 30 degrees centigrade during the day and is not meant to rain. It is, however, raining, and feels almost chilly (apparently it will be 27 degrees today but I guess the dampness makes it feel colder.) We have been coming here every winter now since 2008, and up until last year it was predictably sunny, almost never rained even slightly, and was 28 degrees centigrade (82.4 degrees Fahrenheit) every day. Over the last two years this has changed and we seem to have cloudy days and some rain quite often. The rain is usually light, soft and warmish so shouldn’t complain. My main annoyance apart from the knotty problem of climate warming is that the manager of the complex of apartments where we reside in winter, has taken down the massive white sails that cover the lovely lagoon swimming pool (complete with white sand, palm trees etc) temporarily (and that word is the clue as to why I am annoyed). I don’t mind having some of the sails in place but in the old days (when we had 28 degrees and sun all day) he used to take down most of the sails at this time of year so the pool could warm up and sun could fall happily on the deck chairs scattered about on the white sand. About three years ago he stopped doing this, and left all the sails up all year (reason: because they caught all the bits that fell from the palm trees, thus made cleaning the pool easier). There is one small patch of sand a two second walk from our patio, through a little gate, that feels almost private and is a most pleasant location on which to spend an hour or two lolling on a deckchair in the sun. The smallish shade over that bit means even this small section is shaded from the sun. So the temporary removal of the sails is cause for celebration and means I can sunbathe again. Well I could if the clouds would go away (they do occasionally). Here’s what I know for sure; when the sun finally comes out permanently and the true winter ‘dry season’ begins, our manager will put up his new sails. They are not going to be white, they are going to be black! This is apparently the new ‘in’ colour for sails and looks great; “the black ‘disappears’ as if the sails weren’t even there” apparently. Perhaps this will prove to be the case but I am pretty certain that disappear or not they still won’t allow the sun onto my patch of sand.

I have been obsessed with sleeker red sails recently as well as the white-soon-to-be-black sails of our pool. This week the NZ team (Emirates Team NZ) won the America’s Cup, beating the US team Oracle resoundingly. I can’t sail, am not particularly interested in sport, but I am, it seems, a nationalistic Kiwi when it comes to the America’s Cup. Of course, it is very hard indeed to find out anything about it in Australia as they did not enter a boat, and anything NZ that looks like winning they prefer to ignore. (One must note, however, that the helmsman and most of the sailors on the US Oracle boat were Australians. If Oracle had won, therefore, perhaps Australian TV would have shown more of the race). However, our apartment TV has numerous ghastly paid sports channels because the people who rent these units when the owners (us) aren’t in residence like to watch sport (they come here from some cold winter city and pay lots of money to rent an apartment in the sun for a week and then stay inside out of the rain and watch TV all day instead of watching it at their own residence). But on the plus side it meant there was a channel that I could watch all the America’s Cup races on live. I didn’t watch them live as that would have been a step too far as they were on at 3am Queensland time. But I did manage to get up by 7.30am every morning when the replay was on and watch them, having been very careful not to turn on any other device before doing so, so as not to find out who won before I watched. Even John began to watch as the competition heated up. When we won he said he’d better take me out for breakfast as a celebration; sort of as if I had personally played a role in winning simply by being a genuine Kiwi. John is also a Kiwi but only by special deed poll as he is really a Yorkshireman, born and raised. When it comes down to it, if Yorkshire had had a team in the final of the America’s Cup, I have little doubt who he would be cheering for. (I was so pleased about the Kiwi win that I even wrote my Psychology Today blog post on it. Not surprisingly it does not seem to have garnered millions of excited hits from Americans!)

A few weeks ago John and I both sent in our spit samples to Ancestry to discover clues as to where we came from and who do you think you are? We have yet to get our results and of course we know they ain’t going to have me coming from Kiwi-land as it goes way further back than that! We have both done some work on our genealogies; John a considerable amount for his recent genealogy back to his great-grandparents and me further back but with much less detail or surety or fascinatiing stories (and with considerable permitted plagiarism of the trees of distant relations who are real ‘amateur’ genealogists and who have researched large aspects of our shared ancestry properly). Trying to understand our DNA results will be something to do on a rainy day, and may even be grist for a newsletter!

Writing and Reading!
Not so much writing as planning my next novel! It has to be something I want to spend the next year engrossed in. I am toying with a protagonist who is a genealogist but is not irerested in her own identity… Of course if the manuscript that is currently sitting with my agent waiting to be read turns out to be worth revising, that will be my next task.

I am also doing a lot of reading at the moment. These days I mostly read e-books as I can travel with hundreds of them on my Kindle. I still love (and buy) print books too of course, but even then often get an e-book version as well so I can take it with me! One great way to get the occasional deeply discounted (or sometimes free) e-book is to sign up to Bookbub (just requires an e-mail and password). BookBub is a free daily email that notifies readers about deep discounts on acclaimed e-books. You choose the types you'd like to get notified about — with categories ranging from mysteries to cookbooks — and they send great time-limited deals (usually only available for one to seven days) in those genres to your inbox. BookBub doesn't actually sell books, but gives you links to click to the book you might want to buy on your chosen online retailer (eg: Amazon, Nook, Kobo, iBook). Book publishers offer deals at these sites for promotional purposes, and Bookbub determines the best ones to feature to their millions of members. Sale prices are usually 99 cents, $1.99 or $2.99, and there are also a number of books free for a limited time.

A Drop in the Ocean had a feature deal back in August, 2016, and hopefully will be selected for another one this year. If you would like to sign up to Bookbub, click on this url https://www.bookbub.com/authors/jenni-ogden and it will bring you to my Bookbub page. Please do FOLLOW ME and if you are not already a Bookbub member it will ask you to sign up first. I haven’t made any efforts to get followers to date; this is my first! All it means is that you will get an e-mail if I have a Bookbub deal, and also if I have a new book coming out! (So about once every year or two!) But you will get a daily tempting deal you can check out if you wish and then buy quickly before the deal expires and the e-book shoots from 99 cents back to $12 or whatever. Bookbub works best for the US, UK, Canada, India and Australia. NZ not so much because of time differences.

My latest Psychology Today blog post (be warned, it is about Nationalism and being up-oneself.) https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/trouble-in-mind/201706/david-and-goliath-when-sports-inspire-national-pride

Book Review
Nutshell by Ian McEwan

I am an enormous admirer of Ian McEwan’s writing. I don’t love all his books, but most of them I do. I read Nutshell last year as soon as it came out, but for some reason (Christmas?) didn’t review it. Yet it would count as possibly the best book I had read in twelve months, certainly one of them, and possibly the best McEwan has written. (His novel The Childen Act would be a close second.)

The brief blurb for Nutshell reads like this:

'Trudy has betrayed her husband, John. She's still in the marital home; a dilapidated, priceless London townhouse but John's not here. Instead, she's with his brother, the profoundly banal Claude, and the two of them have a plan. But there is a witness to their plot: the inquisitive, nine-month old resident of Trudy's womb.

Told from a perspective unlike any other, Nutshell is a classic tale of murder and deceit from one of the world's master storytellers.'

So Nutshell is a contemporary version of Hamlet, where the infidelity between Trudy and her brother-in-law is wittily and eloquently observed by a foetus two weeks before birth.

Here’s the opening line: ‘So here I am, upside down in a woman. Arms patiently crossed, waiting, waiting and wondering who I’m in, what I’m in for.’

Hold on! You’re about to find out!

McEwan is a literary genius and intellectual giant, no question. Not is only is his concept and his characterisation of the foetus riveting, funny and perceptive, his every word, every sentence, is worth reading again… and again.

It is clearly fantastical for a foetus to have this level of insight—and command of the English language—but it doesn’t feel at all like fantasy after a while. I can imagine a pregnant woman finding this book quite spooky.

‘Not everyone knows what it is to have your father's rival's penis inches from your nose. By this late stage they should be refraining on my behalf. Courtesy, if not clinical judgement, demands it. I close my eyes, I grit my gums, I brace myself against the uterine walls. This turbulence would shake the wings off a Boeing. My mother goads her lover, whips him on with her fair-ground shrieks. Wall of Death! On each occasion, on every piston stroke, I dread that he'll break through and shaft my soft-boned skull and seed my thoughts with his essence, with the teeming cream of his banality. Then, brain-damaged, I'll think and speak like him. I'll be the son of Claude.’

How often have you enjoyed a novel when the main characters (Trudy, John and Claude) are immensely unlikeable? But then there’s that foetus…

What more can one say?

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