Walking around Adaminaby, 29/2/2016


At the midpoint of my walk (today it was the 58 minute mark)


About 25 minutes into my walk


About 5 minutes into my walk

Low level mist to start with, clear skies, clouds, a number of kookaburras, black cockatoos,  and three kangaroos.  No photos of the birds or kangaroos: they were all a bit faster than me.  It was a great walk.: there’s a fairly regular flow of traffic on the Yaouk Road at this time of the morning,  but in between I feel like the only human in the universe.

Clouds and Contrails, Adaminaby, 28/2/2016


Clouds in the east,  and a perfect cross of contrails. The main domestic air route we see here is from Sydney (or Canberra) to Melbourne.  Whenever I’ve flown from Canberra to Melbourne,  I’ve usually seen Lake Eucumbene on the left as the plane heads south. There are some thunderheads amongst the cloud cover tonight, and the wind is picking up.

Remembering Sir Bruce the Battle Rat

Sir Bruce the Battle Rat (28/2/1998 – 26/2/2015) was a much loved member of our family.  He was utterly fearless, happy to take on dogs much bigger than him and the occasional bull, too, if he had the opportunity.

Sir Bruce had an early near death experience when he was bitten on the muzzle as a small puppy.  But he survived.  His absolute favourite activity, for about the first twelve years of his life, was chasing and retrieving a tennis ball.  He liked going for walks, too, and was quite patient when people wanted to pat him.  Sir Bruce took almost everything in his stride, and it was difficult in the last couple of years as he became deaf and nearly blind.  He started being less interested in walks, and the walks became shorter.  And then they stopped.  Sleeping became very important: lots of rests for our elderly dog.

It was difficult saying goodbye to him twelve months ago.  We knew it was time to let him go – past time, even – but it’s never easy.  Our other dog, Max, missed Sir Bruce terribly.  For the first time in his (then 12 years) of life, Max was (and will remain) an only dog.

We have many happy memories of Sir Bruce, and today I need them all.

Walking in Canberra, 25/2/2016


It’s hot in Canberra today.  It’s currently about 36 degrees C,  and it was around 26 degrees when I finished walking at 9 am this morning.  There’s wind, too, so I hope that no fires take hold.  When the weather gets a little cooler,  I’ll start walking to Lake Ginninderra again. The best thing about this heat?  Drying our washing in two hours.

Vikings: A History of the Viking Age by Robert Carlson

This book provides a good introduction to the Viking Age, and it will only take an hour (or less) to read.

Vikings: A History of the Viking Age by Robert Carlson

‘The history of the Viking Age is well known, until you try to distinguish between the myths and facts of this fascinating period of time.’

Are you interested in the Vikings?  Do you want to read an overview of their history, learn a little more about who the Vikings were, and how they lived?  If you do, you may find this brief book interesting.

In the introduction, Robert Carlson writes that the appellation of Vikings was applied from about 1820, to a group more properly known as Danes, Norsemen or Norse.  In Chapter One, he then goes on to write about their life at home in Scandinavia, and how they were basically hunters, fisherman, free holding farmers, with many skilled craftsmen.  The geography of their homeland led them to become expert ship builders.

‘This is what prepared them for the influential role they were to play as the Middle Ages unfolded.’

In Chapter Two, Mr Carlson identifies some of the reasons why the Vikings started to look beyond their shores.  Once they did, they found the English shores especially ripe for hit and run raids.  But there was more to the Vikings than raiding, as shown in Chapter Three.  In 837 CE, they had established a ship repair base in Ireland and soon after Dublin was their trading base.  York was another trading base, and London was also an important link.  The Vikings expanded beyond the British Isles, into Europe and Russia as well as into Constantinople. (In particular, I’ve always found Harald Hadrada and the Varangian Guard fascinating).

In Chapter Four, Mr Carlson looks at why the Vikings were so successful.  In Chapter Five, he provides some details about some of the more colourful characters of the Viking Age.

‘History has a necessary but not always helpful way of putting things in boxes neatly, bookended with dates on either side and so it is with the Viking Age.’

This is a brief book, and would take around an hour to read.  Each chapter opens with a quote from Beowulf, is full of interesting information, and would provide a solid starting point for anyone looking to learn more about this period of history.

Note: I was offered a free copy of this book by the publishing company Hourly History LTD.  I was happy to accept the offer and enjoyed reading the book.  While I knew some of the information contained in the book, I learned some new information as well.  The only thing I wanted a bit more information about was the writer’s background.  Perhaps Hourly History LTD could consider including a brief biography of the author?

Jennifer Cameron-Smith


Blood on the Sand by Michael Jecks

I really enjoy reading well-written historical fiction.  This novel is the second of a trilogy written by Michael Jecks about the Hundred Years War.

Blood on the Sand by Michael Jecks

‘There was a chill breeze coming off the sea as Berenger Fripper squatted on his haunches near the fire.’

After the English victory at Crecy in 1346, Berenger Fripper and his men are stationed at Villeneuve-la-Hardie as part of the siege of Calais.  Their mission is to defend newly won English territory from the French and their Genoese allies.  But there’s a problem: someone from within the vintaine is passing important information to the French.  Berenger Fripper needs to find out who it is: not only is the safety of the men at stake, but also the future of the war.  The vintaine contains some new members, and there’s no shortage of suspicion and suspects.

Things get worse when the vintaine is attacked while at sea in the harbour near Calais and are captured by the Genoese. What will happen next?

‘There is not profit in death, my friend.’

I really enjoyed the way in which Mr Jecks developed many of the characters in this novel.  Berenger Fripper himself is starting to feel like an old man (in his 30s) and has a number of regrets.  He also has to deal with the tensions between some of the members of his vintaine while trying to work out who is passing information to the French.

I’m looking forward to the third book: some of the characters are starting to feel like old friends, and I want to know what will happen next.

Jennifer Cameron-Smith

Settling the Office by Paul Strangio, Paul t’ Hart and James Walter


If you have any interest in Australian politics, specifically in the development of the role of the prime minister, I recommend this book.  I’ll be very keen to read Volume 2 as well.

Settling the Office by Paul Strangio, Paul t’ Hart and James Walter

‘So what do we know about the role of prime minister, and about that office?’

There’s been intense focus on the political leadership of prime ministers within Australia over the past couple of decades, and the changes in leadership over the past decade have certainly focussed our attention.  We’ve had five prime ministers in the past ten years, while in the previous twenty years we’ve only had three.  Is this a leadership crisis?

In this book, authors Paul Strangio, Paul t’ Hart and James Walter examine the development of the role of prime minister in the period from 1901 to 1949.  Their focus is not so much on the sixteen individuals who occupied the office of prime minister during this forty-nine year period but on the history of the prime ministership.  In doing this, the authors have looked at three separate elements: first, how the role of prime minister was borrowed from the Westminster model, adapted to Australian circumstances at Federation, and then developed in practice; secondly how the role has evolved taking into account the attributes which each prime minister has brought to his occupancy of the position; and finally the circumstances (war, peace, economic prosperity or crisis) in which each prime minister held office.  A second volume is intended, to cover the period from 1949 to 2015.

The book is organised into seven chapters, entitled:

  1. The Colonial Inheritance
  2. Ringmaster of the Early Commonwealth: Alfred Deakin
  3. Prime-ministerial Polarities: Andrew Fisher and Billy Hughes
  4. Thwarted Ambition: Stanley Bruce and James Scullin
  5. Popularity versus Leadership: Joseph Lyons and Robert Menzies
  6. A Nation-building Tandem: John Curtin and Ben Chifley
  7. Settling the Prime Ministership

I found this book very interesting.  I especially enjoyed reading Chapter 5, for its more nuanced assessment of Joseph Lyons. While I’ve been aware of every Australian prime minister since Robert Menzies, I’ve never really considered how the role of prime minister has evolved since Federation.  Interestingly, while the prime minister is seen as the most important person in the Australian Parliament, the role of prime minister is not mentioned in the Australian Constitution.  I’d recommend this book to anyone with an interest in Australian Federal politics.

Note: My thanks to NetGalley and Melbourne University Publishing for providing me with a free electronic copy of this book for review purposes.

Jennifer Cameron-Smith