Posted by: jkirkby8712 | January 21, 2011

Thursday, 20th January 2011 – more Wilbur Smith reading.

Australia’s last three singles survivors took to the courts in the continuation of second round  matches of the Australian Open today. Jelena Dokic’s defeat last night  left fifth seed Samantha Stosur and wildcard entrants Alicia Molik and Bernard Tomic to fly the flag for the host nation at Melbourne Park. Molik will meet Russian 13th seed Nadia Petrova, while Tomic is set to take on 31st-seeded Spaniard Feliciano Lopez during the day session. Stosur, who scored a commanding 6-1 6-1 victory over American wildcard recipient Lauren Davis in the first round, meets Russian world No.61 Vera Dushevina in the opening match of the night session on Rod Laver Arena, and I would be planning my evening activities to be sure I saw that game – though perhaps, Sam might have more chance of winning were I ‘not’ watching!!

Anyway, I watched her match this evening regardless, and she won – at last I have an Australian player to keep watching, well at least one more game. In fact there are two – Bernard Tomic won his match in three sets, but unfortunately, Alicia was no match for her opponent. Today’s Australian results saw Samantha Stosur [Aust] defeated Vera Dushevina [Russia] 6/3,6/2;  Bernard Tomic {aust] defeated Feliciano Lopez 7/6,7/6,6/3 and Alicia Molik [Aust] lost to Nadia Petrova [Russia] 6/4,6/1.  After his match, Tomic insisted that he could upstage history-chasing top seed Rafael Nadal [his 3rd Round opponent] on Saturday night. Despite the fact that no Australian man in almost a decade has defeated a World No. 1. Tomic believes anything is possible.  Mmmmm, not this time I don’t think, Bernard.

A couple of comments from Brisbane relatives today, a kind of sympathetic return for my concerns about the Queensland floods last week. Jill [sister] noted that  ‘sorry to hear and see Victoria in such a mess. Between Australia and overseas, with their floods and landslides, you begin to wonder what the world is coming to’ [that was a reference to the extremely tragic floods and subsequent landslides which have occurred in Brazil over recent days, with quite heavy loss of ,life, and much destruction.  Meanwhile, from my Uncle Merv [with whom, together with his wife, I enjoyed a pleasant lunch in the heart of Brisbane, back in October when I was up there], wrote back in response to my latest enquiry about their welfare – living in the inner Brisbane suburb of St Lucia, he had told me previously  that their home was safe from floodwaters as they were on higher ground. However, St Lucia was one of the Brisbane suburbs heavily hit by last Thursdays inundation of Brisbane, so I had wondered whether his optimism had been misguided?  Merv wrote that “No, we escaped all ill effects from the floods and only had a 4 day blackout [of the power] which was bad enough but absolutely nothing compared to the flood victims’ problems”.  Merv went on to say that “We want to express our regrets for the problems you are all experiencing in Victoria with your flood problems and trust you will receive all the help you need”.

I mentioned a week or so ago, that daughter Susan gave me for Christmas, the two outstanding Wilbur Smith books that I had not read. I finished ‘Warloch’ just before the end of the Christmas/New Year break, and last night before I went off to sleep, completed the second of those novels, ‘The Quest’.  This story was in fact the sequel to Smith’s Egyptian series – consisting of River God, The Seventh Scroll, and Warloch, and basically continued the story of the Warloch named Taita, described as being ‘wise in the lore of the ancient gods and a master of  the magic and the supernatural’.  As I indicated with the earlier novel, while I found that the reading of this novel meant that as usual with a Wilbur Smith novel, it was very difficult to want to put the book down, that aspect of magic and the supernatural was probably the main aspect of the book[s] that I didn’t enjoy as much as other aspects of the storyline. I just felt there was too much ‘magic’.  That all may well be believable for others, but I find it less so, than the normal historical fiction aspect of moist of his novels which don’t rely over much on supernatural forces.  The book was published in April 2007, so on this occasion, I was a little slower than normal in getting hold of the book.

In brief précis form, the main theme of this novel relates to the situation where Egypt  is struck by a series of terrible plagues that cripple the kingdom, and then the ultimate disaster follows. The Nile fails. The waters that nourish and sustain the land dry up. Something catastrophic is taking place in the distant and totally unexplored depths of Africa, from where the mighty river springs. In desperation the Pharoah sends for Taita, the only man who might be able to win through to the source of the Nile and discover the cause of all their woes. None of them can have any idea of what a terrible enemy lies in ambush for the Warlock in those mysterious lands at the end of their world.  Meanwhile, one of the editors [Hazel Orme] at MacMillan publishers had this to say about ‘The Quest’.

‘What a spell-binding, magical (in more ways than one!) story this is! I was swept into Taita’s quest from the first page and onwards through your vividly evoked African landscapes – the papyrus swamps, the tsetse fly belt, the barren landscapes of the Red Stones and, perhaps best of all, the glorious Cloud Gardens that are rotten at the core – to the thrilling confrontation with Eos. “There are many splendid battle scenes that kept me on the edge of my seat, and I was gripped by all that went on in the sanatorium, which seemed, also, to carry a neat comment about the price of today’s medical research. Taita himself is a mesmerizing character and Eos, the witch, his perfect foil – her beauty contrasting sharply with the horrors for which she is responsible. Incomparable storytelling from the master – as ever, your host of readers will be absorbed in and delighted by this novel, as I was.’

Řeka bohů IV

Well yes, I was, certainly keen to read the book through to it’s end, but as usual, I found the extent of violence, and the descriptions of man’s inhumanity to man, occasionally quite disturbing – though having now read all of the 30+ novels that Wilbur Smith has written, I should either be used to that aspect of his writing by now, or in fact, stopped reading them!  I’ve done neither!  I am well warned also  –  on the back jacket cover of this novel, that expert writer of violence and the supernatural, Stephen King, writes simply that ‘Wilbur Smith’s swashbuckling novels of Africa – the bodices rip and the blood flows. You can get lost in them and misplaced all of August’. Looking at it in that manner, it seems that I have misplaced the three weeks since Christmas!

I wonder how many more novels this author can produce?  He will be 78 this year!  Well, there is at least one more on the drawing board, in fact it may be very close to being available by the publishers –  called ‘Those In Peril’, due for release in 2011.  I shall enquire.

Meanwhile, last night, I commented to my brother, Robert, over in South Australia with the cyclists, that his photo with Robbie McEwan, was beginning to increase in value [with McEwan the Tour leader after Stage 2].  His brief response to me today noted that he had ‘Met Robbie again last night, as we had drinks with the Radio Shack team [minus Lance Armstrong]. Got a good shot of Cavendish today, trailing the field covered in bandages [he had a bad crash 4km from the finish yesterday].  As for my Rob’s own riding with the touring team he is over there with, he noted that ‘he was going well. ‘Maintaining my status, i.e, the rest of the group want me drug tested!!’   At 62 years old, he is probably the oldest rider in his group, but knowing Rob from his training regime, etc, he would be keeping well up with the rest of them. In the meantime, the real race, the Tour Down Under, completed Stage 3 of the race today, and there was another change in the overall leadership. This featured a King of the Mountain stage and a sprint, over a total distance of 129 kilometres. The winner was Australia’s Michael Mathews, from last year’s Tour leader, Andre Greipel, with Matthew Goss of Australia in 3rd place. That placing was enough to give Goss back the overall leadership position.

Incidentally, the 20th January is a significant date – back in 1973, that was the day on which I was married. While that marriage is no longer an issue, one of the many memorable occasions about the wedding, which was held down in Ballarat [a city notoriously referred to as the coldest place in Australia – totally wrong of course] where the temperatures that Saturday afternoon were in excess of 100 degrees Fahrenheit, probably closer to 40C, and those conditions were accentuated by the fact that the reception centre [a building in the middle of Lydiard Street, Ballarat, close to the Art Gallery from memory] had no proper air conditioning in those days! I do recall a bit of a ‘dispute’ between one or two guests and the staff of the establishment over whether the curtains in the place should remain shut, or be opened [to let in some air] – that ‘debate’ involving curtains being opened, then shut consecutively, went on for some minutes. I actually can’t recall which ‘side’ got the upper hand in the end.  Merv [referred to above] together with wife Margaret and two of their four sons drove over from Whyalla, in South Australia for that wedding – I recall the boys arriving at the church in shorts and thongs!! Again, I can’t recall if they came to the reception, but I believe Merv may have been one of the ‘combatants’ in the curtain saga, along with Shirley’s father, Louis, who had earlier in the proceedings had an argument regarding the time taken for photographs – I think our wedding guests might have justifiably become a bit peeved at the time they’d had to wait between the church service and the beginning of the reception, understandable in view of the climate of the day. Did we go up to the Botanic Gardens for those photos?   My memory seems to be deteriorating on many aspects of certain occasions.

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