Sorting through my father’s hoard, part 4: Moby Dick

Behold, The Modern Library INC edition from 1926!!!


….Iiiiiiiiii have not actually read Moby Dick. I don’t know if I plan to. I did read the Classics Illustrated comic version of it when I was about fourteen; does that count? And I will grant that it has one of the best opening lines in literature, which thousands of teenagers in the American education system have been forced to analyse:

“Call me Ishamel.”

Genius, I say.

Plus it inspired the whole theme from that film where Khan Noonien Singh simply refused to let bygones be bygones:

Cheerful stuff.

Continue reading “Sorting through my father’s hoard, part 4: Moby Dick”

BBC Banished, Episode 2

Last time on Banished: Elizabeth and Tommy were star-crossed lovers! James was being bullied by Marston! Major Ross has ISSUES! Governor Philip tries to be a reasonable authority figure! Private Buckley is a smirky creep! Tommy and Elizabeth got married on the scaffold! Such romance!

There is skulduggery and digging and whatnot in this episode. Let’s get to it.

(I just realised how many captures there are of Joseph Millson as Major Ross throughout this review. I can’t help it; he makes the best faces.)

The show makes the most of its location shooting by opening on a glorious shot of a misty sunrise. Beautiful. James sharpens a shell, enough that he can cut his palm. Is he trying to quell his hunger by drinking his own blood?

james on the beach.PNG

Oh, no, he’s just going to put the fear of a very hungry guy into Marston. He looms over the bed as Marston sleeps, and somehow manages to make the shell look very threatening as he puts it to Marston’s throat, who wakes up sharpish.

(Ha, ha, ha, I’m so unfunny.)

He demands his food back. Marston points out that if he kills him, he’ll hang, but James says he’d rather die quickly by the noose than starve to death.  Marston calls his bluff and dares him to do it, but (un)fortunately he’s saved by the daily bugle. Thwarted, James tells Marston that the hungrier he gets, the easier it’ll be for him to gut Marston like a fish, and vanishes into the…day, leaving Marston somewhat shaken.

It seems that the show has actually remembered that Elizabeth should still be in incredible pain from having the skin of her back lacerated multiple times, so we’re treated to a nice tender scene (in both senses of the word) where Tommy laces her up in her stays, distracting her from the sheer agony of it all by telling her a joke about a polar bear cub. It’s not the best joke – don’t give up your day job is all I’m saying, Tommy – but it gets a laugh out of Elizabeth. Which immediately hurts her, defeating the point of the exercise. But she doesn’t seem to mind, because they kiss under extreme closeup.

Continue reading “BBC Banished, Episode 2”

BBC Banished, Episode 1

Warning: while I do love this series, a lot, I may not take it entirely seriously in these reviews. Abandon hope of complete solemnity.

Speaking of which; before we do anything else, I’m going to get this out of the way, right now, because it’s something of a pet peeve of mine when it comes to visual depictions of historical fashion:






anne and kitty




mrs johnson
(Actually, no, I take it back here; this could be a very messy version of a legitimate hairstyle called the hedgehog that was in fashion during the 1780s and 90s.)


Okay. Okay. I think I’ve gotten it all out of my




I’m fine. I’m good. The women’s hairstyles pissed me off at the start. I learned to deal with it. We’ve got a lot to get through.

Continue reading “BBC Banished, Episode 1”

Day 15, August 2nd – Galloping!

Today has been very tiring. We packed up as usual, and managed to get away be ten past eleven.

Today, our riding would be different – today, we had the opportunity to gallop! We’d always kept to trotting before, especially since we would carry items on saddle bags, and if we went into a canter the movement of the bags would frighten the horses. Wearing back packs would also alarm the horses. Everything alarms the horses. We live by their whims. Now, the bags were off and stored in the van, and we were ready.

Well. Everyone else was ready. I was too nervous to attempt it during the first hour,but after a rest break I, and everyone else who been worried, grew bolder. We shed our saddle bags and urged our horses into something far better than a sometimes painful canter.

If you have never galloped across the Monoglian plains, rising up and down in your saddle with loping jolts, your stomach undecided where to go, grasping your reins in one hand, hanging grimly onto the front of the saddle with the other, the wind blowing your shirt out behind you and whipping your face, you haven’t lived.

It chafed. A lot. But it was worth it.

As the horses slowed down and we headed towards out camp site, the clouds grew more dark threatening. Aloysius seemed quite tired from the run, and fell further and further behind, no matter how I dug my heels in or ordered him forwards. I didn’t dare be more forceful, for fear he’d buck me off and hurt me, or just leave me behind. Soon I was very much alone, with everyone else just blips on the horizon. I anticipated being stuck in the middle of a plain when it started pouring.

Then one of the wranglers came back from where he was leading Georgie’s horse, and smacked Aloysius on the flank with his whip. Aloysius sped up again. Aloysius began to run. I began to slide sideways. The rain was just beginning and was splattering my sun glasses. I could barely see. I could barely hang on. I was slipping further, until I was nearly hanging off Aloysius’s side. I could just tell we were now on rocky ground as Aloysius ran up into the hills. I could see rocks flashing past, when I could see at all.

I remember thinking “I’m going to fall off and smash face first into a rock and the helmet’s not going to do any good.” I was very calm about it. There was no room for fear, only for holding on.

But then I could see the camp where everyone was pulling rucksacks out of the van and setting up tents,  and then Aloysius was slowing down and slowing down until at last I could jump off and hold myself and breathe for a moment and be surprised I was still alive.

Working together, we all managed to get our tents set up. We pulled on waterproof trousers and jackets and crammed into the ‘porches’ of our tents. We huddled together and watched the lightning. There was very little in the way, and we were able to see so much of it. We felt very alone and vulnerable, afraid that we’d draw the current down from the sky, with only canvas to protect us.

Once the rain stopped and the sky cleared, we managed to get a fire started and cooked supper. We had one last vodka party with the wranglers, as this was our last night of horse trekking. The vodka tasted like communion wafer gone mad. I only had a small glass; other members of the group drank far more, and were disturbing me long after I went to bed at half eleven.

Georgie later woke me up to ask me for some of my water. I directed her to where it was stored, then actually got up to see what was going on. Georgie had to pour about a litre of my carefully iodized water down Emma’s barely conscious throat, so that she didn’t need a stomach pump or choke on her own vomit in the night. I had to start the iodization process again with my now empty water bottle, prepping the iodine solution to dilute and slogging to the water tanks to get more, then returning to my sleeping bag – where a drunk Emma then proceeded to shove her feet in my face all night long.

Just say no to vodka. It’s not worth it.

Day 14, August 1st – day 2 of horse trek

We spent a great deal of time riding today around more of the lake, before turning up into a large valley to camp. Most of the horses were fairly well behaved (Amit and Georgie’s horses having been traded during the night for more docile creatures) but Chris’s horse almost ran away after it sat down and Chris, in the advice if the wranglers, got off just before it rolled over. Fortunately this was rare. Aloysius is a little badly behaved, but hasn’t done anything really bad while I’ve been riding him. Kaz’s horse was also traded; she got a new one and christened it Attitude Junior.

Was rather drained while setting up. Leadership is been very stressful, even though it’s the last day, still not very organised. I like to think that I made things work.

This fiekd that we have camped in is rater bumpy and full of flies, as cattle graze here when’s it’s not being used and leave their droppings. It’s not very nice to camp here, but it’s only for one night.

For a change, Kaz and Mr. Postle cooked for us, and the menu was consuderably perked up. Though we had a vegetable stir fry and pasta as we always do on alternate days, for starters there was garlic bread, and a delicious fruit salad in pineapple juce fr desert. In addition, the wranglers drove off in the van that’s been accompanying us to carry extra supplies, and broght back and slaughtered the first of their two sheep. they borrowed one of our mixing/washing bowels to catch the blood and various organs (we washed it very thoroughly afterwards!) and as thanks invited us to share in the barbeque.

Mongolian barbeque, made with freshly killed mutton, is sumptuous.

I also practised making flatbread with water, flour and salt, which everyone liked Some people are asking how to make it. We will need it in the days to come, when we run out of shop bought bread.

The evening (or rather night) ended with the group having something of a vodka party with the wranglers for the second time in as many days. I went to bed early, as vodka is not my thing. It was probably just as well that I did – when Will woke me up getting Emma and georgie’s tents so the could sleep in Leslie and Ellie’s tent and ‘not disturb me’, it was 2 o’clock. If I were still leader, I’d put a restriction on them doing that –

– but I’m not any longer. Meh.

Day 13, July 31st – beginning of the horse trek!

This morning was a bit of a disaster. We have worked out a rota where different groups clean and wash up on different days. My tent group were cooking for today, but we were late getting up, late starting the fire, late cooking breakfast, and just generally late. As a result we had to make the wranglers wait more than half an hour before we saddled up and set off.

The rest of the day was gratifying. I am quite fond of my definitively male horse, a grey, spotted creature. I call him Aloysius. He is an animal who seems to know very much what he wants and is determined to get it – he wants to stop dead in the middle of a track to get a mouthful of grass, he does so, unless I yank his head back up again right quick.

I’ve mastered the art of steering him, and have at least worked out how to make him start and stop, but quickening the pace still remains somewhat beyond me. There are only so many times you can say ‘chu’, the sound for encouraging the horse to move faster, before feeling like a hyperactive steam train, but that is how you have to act when you have other horses and riders breathing up your back – literally.

At least Aloysius is fairly well behaved, and doesn’t try to buck my off – like Georgie’s horse, or kick everybody in sight, like Ellie’s, or just be generally skittish like Emma and Amit’s. They all had to be led along by wranglers, to prevent the horses from bolting. Amit in particular is very annoyed, especially since his white horse is so sweet looking and deceptively cute.

Aloysius is very friendly with Kaz’s horse, an Eeyore-lookalike who I called Applejuice, until I learned Kaz had name it Attitude.

We travelled around the edge of the lake for many miles, travelling along the beach and through some tiny streams, until we reached the first campsite.

The place we are staying in for the night is very pleasant, with hot sunshine, though we have to walk up a nearby hill to get dead wood from the trees, around the hill to get to the freshly dug latrine – complete with a privacy screen rigged up from two spare canvas bags and my walking poles – and about half a kilometre to the shore of the lake to get water, sponge bathe or swim. When we iodize the water to drink, we have to sieve off all the detritus from the water – sand, occasional weeds and dead water insects and water fleas Yum.

The wranglers are all very friendly, and they are going to provide two meals for us during the trek – which while consist of killing sheep we purchase and cooking them in a Mongolian style barbecue. I can’t wait – we are getting better at cooking but we are getting tired of scrambled eggs, cucumber sandwiches and pasta.

Today, Will decided on a new way of draining the water out of the rice pot; by putting the lid on and letting the water out of the hole required for steam. The water was drained but since the metal of the lid had expanded, we now couldn’t get the lid off, since it had lost the handle some time ago. We battled with the lid, growing increasingly hungry and terrified of breaking it and getting glass into our rice, plus the fact that the pot was still incredibly hot and heavy. Finally, we managed to lever it off with forks, and no breakages!

Day 12, July 30th – time at the Great White Lake!

Today was a fairly quiet day, sine the head wrangler still hasn’t turned up yet, and we can’t set off until he does.

We rose fairly late for us – those who weren’t cooking at 8.30, those who were a ittle earlier – and enjoyed rather better porridge than we cooked earlier in the week. For one thing, it didn’t burn.

Despite our not setting off, we all had an opportunity to ride upon the troupe of horses that had been arranged for us. The one I rode today was a very temperamental animal – it didn’t start walking for the longest time, and when it finally did so, it strolled along very slowly. However, it did speed up nicely, giving me an opportunity to practise my rising trot – even though i didn’t nee to use it, in the end.

We even galloped for a few moments, but by then my poor bruised pelvic bone had had more than enough, and called a halt. I can’t see that my cycling shorts underneath my trousers made much difference, but I feel happier for knowing they’re there, and I look very smart in my new riding boots – even if I look like a prat in my hat.

I am the leader for the group for this day and the next two. I have to communicate a good deal more, and tell people what to do rather than do it myself, or do as I’m told. Organising what other people do is hard, but Kaz, the team leader, is helping me a good deal by giving me hints at what to do.

We decided not to cook the evening meal in the dusk and wash the dishes by torchlight, for once; we confounded the fates by starting the fire at 5 o’clock, and eating at 7. As a result, we were able to take part in a series of volleyball matches on the beach of the Great White Lake as the sun begins to go down, against the local wranglers – and at the moment we’re winning 8-5.

I feel very happy and contented. Here’s to it lasting.

Day 11, July 29th – Reaching Tariat, and the Great White Lake!

Today set off to a good start, with a heavenly breakfast at Fairfields, an English speaking restaurant run by an Australian couple, right next door to the hostel we were staying at. The variety of the menu meant that pizza and chips could be ordered without anyone blinking any eyes, though also available were sausage sandwiches made of frankfurters and lovely thick, crusty bread. WE were making up for potentially paltry breakfasts later on and it was well worth it!

Mr. Postle, before our disbelieving eyes, consumed eggs, tomatoes, sausages, bacon, toast and pancakes, as well as tea and coffee! Such food all together is so uncommon now as to be almost alien, and we’re just over a week in!

After driving through the hot sunshine we stopped at a roadside shrine to feast upon cucumber sandwiches. Many members of the group were slightly nervous at the sight of three circling birds, obviously giving us the beady eye, which on an obscure form of eagle is quite a sight to see. Mr. Postle said they were portentous, but we told him that was only vultures.

Before leaving, we all walked around the shrine three times, and several of us left offerings. Typically you’re meant to left vodka or food, but a limited budget meant that symbolic stones were top of the list. I like to think the spirits appreciated the purple flowers that I found.

Stops came three more times; to take pictures of a famous gorge, a tree with supposedly 100 branches, and the largest of Mongolia’s volcanoes (at the moment dormant). All three sites were adorned with prayer shawls, which at first sight look more like batter blue plastic bags – being ravaged by the elements didn’t help – but have great spiritual importance.

Finally, we reached Tariat, a small town on the edge of the Great White Lake, and drove to the spot where we would meet the wranglers for the trek – only they hadn’t arrived yet.

We are camped on the shores of the Great Lake, on a plain surrounded by rocky hills, and inhabited by strange moths that click their wings together as they fly. At least we have plenty of woods for the fires, and a ready made fire pit for we to start news ones. The horses that are grazing nearby are very noisy, though.

We have worries about them coming to eat out tent guy-ropes.

Day 10, July 28th – still on the road. To Tsetserleg.

Disasters in the fire department, because of a blustery wind that seemed to come from every direction at once, meant that we had a meagre meal of porridge oats, and the washing up had to be done in cold water.

Despite the intense old and general dewiness of the morning, the litter sweep of the camp provided us with a laugh. Will, the present trek leader, told us that he wanted us yo pick up all rubbish “even if it’s a pair of filthy stinker bowers,” – and then proceeded to pick up his first item, which turned out to be a pair of filthy stinking boxers. Not ours, thankfully. Personally I think they looked more like y-fronts.

Once personal cleaning was carried out, the trekkers once again piled into the buses/vans, and we were off on another wacky adventure.

The sights out of the window – sadly passing by too quickly to be photographed – are sometimes mind-boggling. Yesterday we saw camels being driven, huge herds of horses and countless goats and sheep, and today we saw yaks!

All this scenery made up for the bumpy ride – to my reckoning, I’ve cracked my head against the metal frame of the window I sit beside at least seven times. The rodeo style of the ride is quite fun, especially when the drivers take it into their minds to race each other across the bumpy country side.

Consequently we rumbled into Tsetserleg at around 2.00 in the afternoon, and thanks to Chris (accommodation officer for the time being) found a suitable hostel. Only six dollars per bed! Although, since there were only four beds per room, to save even more money the boys and girls only took a room each, with someone inevitably sleeping on the floor.

Yours truly volunteered to take that spot, out of the goodness of my black little heart.

Braving the sudden violent thunderstorm, four members of our number found a wonderful little restaurant for us to eat at that evening, with both Monogolian and Chinese food. There was only a small hiccup when Chris, carrying much of our money for safe keeping, somehow managed to drop it in a puddle, leading to us spreading out the notes across one of the beds to dry out.

A good evening out at the restaurant eating meat patties and egg fried rice, with supplies bought earlier in the day from Tsterleg’s supermarket, the evening was not dampened by Amit’s discovery of titillating chains in the basement beneath us.

Tomorrow, the horses await us at the Great Lake.

Day 9, July 27th – On the Road!

Up at 6.00 today to finish packing for an 8.30 start – that soon became a 9.00 start. The two buses- one filled with supplies and rucksacks, and one with all the teenagers who didn’t fit into the first bus – spent the next nine or so hours driving out of Ulaan Bataar, across the country side, in and out of various potholes and occasionally off road altogether, until we arrived at Kharkorum, our first rest stop.

Toilet breaks were strongly anticipated, even if it meant that the buses had to halt in the middle of nowhere for those desperate enough to crouch in or behind a ditch.

There were additional stops – first was to admire the view of a certain valley, and second tp examine a roadside shrine, covered with blue prayer shawls.

Another longer one stop was more recreational, as we visited a Buddhist monastery; one of the few still used for religious purposes in Mongolia. Sadly photos could not be taken without charge, but blue prayer shawls and other souvenirs and supplies could be bought with ease.

When we finally reached our destination for the night, there was some discussion as to whether we should stay in a hostel, or camp. In the interests of saving money, we settled for the latter, despite the temptations of steak for dinner.

The fiasco of what followed – the reckless driving about attempting to find a suitable campsite, the attempts to purchase wood for the fire, the clearing of the campsite, the digging of the latrine (near impossible and eventually ending up amidst the rubble on the far side of a bridge) the various attempts to start a fire, finally cooking and eating a meal of pasta and sauce at 10.00, and washing up afterwards, led us to agree that tomorrow, we will seek a hostel to stay in.

Watching Will attempt to coax the fire into life by blowing on it earned him the nicknames ‘Bellows’ and ‘Fireman Sam’.