The Week: 3rd – 9th April

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Driving from Queanbeyan to Canberra on Thursday afternoon. A few hours later there was a terror attack in Queanbeyan, and this road was the one the attackers used to escape interstate (the state border is at the rise up ahead on the road). Now I’ll always think of that when I see this gorgeous picture.

More of that lower in this post.

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Visiting the Treasures of Versailles exhibition at the National Gallery yesterday. Canberra has had an exclusive exhibition from Versailles for a few months now (including stuff like Marie Antoinette’s harp and Madame de Pompadour’s furniture), but because I was overseas I didn’t get there until this weekend. We actually tried to visit last week, but it was so busy everywhere we couldn’t even find a place to park! Yesterday the queue to get into the exhibition was so long it ran the entire length of the building, but we were determined to visit! It ends next week.

Dropping my brother home in the city yesterday afternoon.

Gorgeous, sunny autumn afternoon.

Parrots everywhere in Canberra now the autumn berries are coming out.

There was an Islamic State-inspired terror attack here overnight from Thursday to Friday this week. Of course – because nothing makes the news unless it happens in Sydney or Melbourne – it was barely reported.

The details of it are appalling, and I won’t go into them, but two teenaged boys went on a fourteen-hour rampage. The final stabbing happened on my aunt’s street, a few metres from her front door – it could have been her.

The house one of the attackers lived in and that was raided by police is a few doors from the house my grandmother lived in until she died in 2015. The murder at the service station happened close to where I’d met people for lunch a few hours earlier, and near our Ukrainian hall. The two guys were caught across the border here in Canberra, a few streets from my house, on a road I’d been down twice that day.

Literally every location a crime was committed during the rampage was somewhere I’d been on Thursday, and also somewhere I had a personal connection to.

While Canberra is the capital city, Queanbeyan is basically a country town, a small community just over the state border, and it is so shocking that now terrorism can literally happen anywhere.

I’m so angry that it barely made the news, because things only get reported if they happen in “known” cities.

A Visit to Dr Johnson’s House

Meet the ‘Grammar Vigilante’ of Bristol

My review of A Perfect Gentleman by Candace Camp

My review of Courtship and Marriage in Jane Austen’s World (Jane Austen Regency Life #2) by Maria Grace

Make a Date with Harlequin – Viking!

Make a Date with Harlequin – Cowboy!

A visit to Dr Johnson’s House

Samuel_Johnson_by_Joshua_ReynoldsPortrait of Samuel Johnson commissioned for Henry Thrale's Streatham Park gallery. BY Joshua Reynolds 1772.

My first full day in London in a while was a big one: a visit to Charles Dickens’ house, visits to two of the places I used to live, a night at the Royal Ballet… But before I got to the theatre I also visited the building I lived in the very first few weeks I was in England all those years ago: Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese.

Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese London England EC4 Sonya Heaney Oksana Heaney February 2017

Before that, I finally paid a visit to the house of Dr Samuel Johnson, the man credited with creating the first modern dictionary, amongst other things.

Stealing the Wikipedia introduction:

‘Samuel Johnson (18 September 1709 [O.S. 7 September] – 13 December 1784), often referred to as Dr Johnson, was an English writer who made lasting contributions to English literature as a poet, essayist, moralist, literary critic, biographer, editor and lexicographer. Johnson was a devout Anglican and committed Tory, and is described by the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography as “arguably the most distinguished man of letters in English history”. He is also the subject of perhaps the most famous biography in English literature, namely The Life of Samuel Johnson by James Boswell.’

It was another famous landmark I’d lived practically next door to, but never visited. Built in about 1700, the house is VERY different to the Victorian-era Dickens house I’d been to earlier on.

Dr Samuel Johnson's House London England EC4 Sonya Heaney Oksana Heaney February 2017 Cat

Dr Samuel Johnson's House London England EC4 Sonya Heaney February 2017 Sittiing Rooms.

Dr Samuel Johnson's House London England EC4 Sonya Heaney February 2017 View

Dr Samuel Johnson's House London England EC4 Sonya Heaney Oksana Heaney February 2017.

Dr Samuel Johnson's House London England EC4 Sonya Heaney February 2017 Stairs to Basement

Dr Samuel Johnson's House London England EC4 Sonya Heaney Oksana Heaney February 2017

The Week: 20th – 26th March

Canberra’s sky this week.

We started the week so well! Temperatures in the 30s, sunny days. And then the rain hit. It’s so odd to have rain in Canberra at all, let alone a number of days in a row.

Friday evening.

The first Formula One race of the year is on in Melbourne this weekend, and it is the first time in about a decade I haven’t gone. We gave up our (crazy-expensive) premium seats after the race last year. The corruption in the sport was a real turn-off. Little did anyone know that new managers would sweep in and fire sleazy, misogynistic, Putin-loving boss Bernie Ecclestone soon afterwards!

However, all those thousands once spent on the F1 can now go to more trips to Europe!

There is something stirring in Belarus. If there’s one country in Europe people care even less about than Ukraine, it’s their neighbour. On Saturday there were protests; there’ve been mass arrests in Minsk – demonstrators and journalists alike (it is estimated about one thousand people were arrested); the riot police were out in force. The country’s opposition leader was arrested shortly before the protests began, and one woman was even put in a mental hospital for daring to protest.

This is Soviet-level stuff.

It looks like the stirrings of the 2013-14 revolution in Ukraine. Frightening, but important.

in other news, this story (below) yesterday was… even after reading it, I still don’t understand:

Naked demonstrators kill sheep under Auschwitz gates

Estonian children in a forced settlement in Siberia in 1952.

Yesterday was the anniversary of the beginning of the Kremlin’s mass deportation of 90 000 Baltic people (mostly women and children). They were sent to forced settlements in inhospitable parts of Russia, and most were never able to return.

I was on Westminster Bridge only three or so weeks ago (the photo above is from this month). The terror attack this week was… not unexpected. Sadly, I’m surprised it has been so long since something like this happened in London.

Some people have been saying: ‘Why should we care so much about London? How about (insert world conflict here)?’

Um… as if anybody cares about Yemen etc. any other day of the week! I wish they did!

People are allowed to care about London AND other things!

However, while everyone was distracted by London, Russia did some absolutely awful things in Ukraine this week. They assassinated a Russian Putin critic in the middle of Kyiv in broad daylight. They blew up the Ukrainian army’s biggest and most important munitions factory (the image above), heavily hampering their ability to fight the invasion. They killed more people in their war.

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This is an amazing – and funny – account mocking Putin, and if you have Twitter, you should follow it. Last year, the Kremlin actually bribed Twitter to ban it for a while – so much for freedom of speech! So they deserve support.

It seems bizarre that this week the US and the UK decided to put bans on electronics on aeroplanes, citing the need to stop terror attacks. The following day, a home-grown terrorist committed the London attack – without a Kindle, a laptop, a camera, OR a plane. Me not being able to take my Kindle when I fly through the Middle East twice more this year sure didn’t stop what happened in Westminster.

Travel is becoming exhausting. The ridiculous liquids ban on international flights was meant to have been lifted years ago. Instead, here we all are, still carrying lip gloss in little ziplock bags for no particular reason, and now we can’t even read a book during our flight!

I had to go through airport security FIVE times just to get home a few weeks ago. I wish there was a way I could do aeroplane-free travel, but it’s a bit of a problem, living on an island!

O-kay… I think the ranting is done for the moment.

Jugiong Writers’ Festival last weekend.

My review of The Prodigal Son (A Rowland Sinclair Novella) by Sulari Gentill

RITA Nominees Announced

A Visit to Charles Dickens’ House

Romance without feminism is no longer an option.

Monday Randomness

Jugiong Writers’ Festival last weekend.

I’ve been wanting to write something about the Jugiong Writers’ Festival all week, but I have no idea how to say it!

Jugiong Writers Festival 2017 Sonya Heaney Stan Grant Sulari Gentill Di Morrissey Margareta Osborn.

Now, some of the images I’m going to use belong to other people, so if you’re not okay with that, tell me, and I’ll remove them.

Sonya Heaney margareta Osborn Sulari Gentill Di Morrissey

This is Sulari Gentill’s photo, taken just before our panel began on Saturday afternoon.

Firstly, I’ll direct you to this article from The Guardian about the first ever Jugiong festival in 2015:

From little towns, big writers’ festivals grow.

Then, I’ll direct you to the authors on the panel I moderated – in alphabetical order:

Sulari Gentill

Di Morrissey

Margareta Osborn

Three very well-liked, well-known authors. And I’m supposed to link them all together for a fifty-minute panel, when the only two things that link their works are that they are WOMEN from AUSTRALIA??

The good thing is, they all know what they’re talking about, and (I think!) it all worked out well.

I have been to big book conventions before, and I’ve hated every minute of them. At a convention a few years ago I spent too much of every day downstairs, hiding in the bar, because every attempt I made at starting a conversation ended in funny looks and turned shoulders.

I agree with the article above, that these smaller, more rural book events are much friendlier and more inclusive than the big book conferences I’ve attended before.

Sonya Heaney Margareta Osborn Sulari Gentill Di Morrissey Jugiong Writers Festival 18th March 2017

Vivien Thomson’s photo.

Our panel was titled “Connection to People and Place”, which was vaguely advertised as having a rural focus. However, with authors writing everything from modern-day rural fiction, to 1930s Sydney, to 1904 Italy, this was a bit tricky! The good thing is that they all have such a sense of “place” that there was more time for conversation than there was time for the panel to run for.

Sonya Heaney margareta Osborn Sulari Gentill Di Morrissey Jugiong Writers Festival 18th March 2017

Sulari Gentill’s photo.

Stan Grant opens 2017 Jugiong Writers Festival @thelandnews #Jugiong #HilltopsRegion Over 250 visitors

Newspaper photo from… I have no idea!

I know I come from Australia’s capital city, but as often as not we’re lumped in with rural, rather than urban Australia (half the ads we have on TV are for tractors etc.), and as we see more kangaroos in Canberra than almost anyone else in the nation, I definitely don’t feel out of place in the country.

Kangaroos Lawn Cemetery Queanbeyan Australia 11th July 2015 Sonya Heaney Oksana Heaney Winter

E.g. – my grandparents’ graves!

My day actually began with running (okay, driving at the speed limit) to the Canberra Centre to pick up two huge boxes of books they needed in Jugiong that afternoon. So my arrival was later than the others involved in the event.

I think the issues we discussed on the stage were relevant to all fiction written by women. I’ve been (more than) mildly obsessed with Regency and Victorian fiction in the past couple of years, but I think that any of those authors could have got up there last weekend and had similar things to say.

Women want to tell stories, and women authors often face the same obstacles no matter what. They write PLACE, and they write characters, and no matter what they do, they get lumped into the same group as “lady authors”, no matter is it’s romance, crime, or… well, or anything.

Free Champagne at the end of the day Sonya Oksana Heaney Jugiong Writers' Festival 18th March 2017

Free sparkling wine at the book launch at the end of the afternoon.

The discussion definitely did NOT go where I thought it would, but it seemed the audience enjoyed themselves, so… I only wish the people watching had more time for questions, but when you have three beloved authors in one panel – it’s not easy!

The other thing about Jugiong that was great was that JUGIONG was great! I have travelled through neighbouring – famous – Gundagai many times in the past few decades, but have never been to Jugiong. It’s a tiny place, but has a gorgeous – and recently renovated – old pub that I have plans to visit again soon.

Also, thank you to Freda and the rest of the team involved in the organisation of the weekend.

On top of that, the drive in and out from Canberra? Just look at it!

Jugiong NSW to Canberra ACT 18th March 2017 On the Road Sonya Oksana Heaney 2017

Jugiong NSW to Canberra ACT 18th March 2017 On the Road Sonya Oksana Heaney 2017 Dusk

 

A visit to Charles Dickens’ house

Charles Dickens Doughty Street London Sonya Heaney February 2017

The view down Doughty Street.

Charles Dickens lived in many different places in his lifetime, but this house near my old home in Holborn, London is the one that has been turned into a museum about his life (and was recently – expensively – renovated).

Even though I lived and worked within a short walk of this house for a couple of years, I never actually visited. And so one chilly day at the end of February, on a short break in London on the way home from Italy, I marched from Covent Garden to pretty Doughty Street to finally pay a visit.

It is an interesting house in its own right, a recreation of middle class life in the Victorian era. I am not a fan of Dickens, the family man (or should I say, Dickens, the man who abandoned his family!), but there is no denying the impact he made on the world.

Naturally, the museum errs on the side of worship, rather than presenting some of the less savoury facts about his life beyond his books.

Dickens’ writing desk.

This is the bedroom where his teenaged sister-in-law, Mary Hogarth, died unexpectedly. Dickens had a rather unhealthy obsession with this girl and her “purity”, which would carry over to a fascination with other very young women throughout his life.

The Enterprise and The Dolphin Red Lion Street London February 2017 Sonya Oksana Heaney Holborn Pubs

And, of course, the day wouldn’t have been complete without a visit to my old home – Red Lion Street!

The Week: 13th – 19th March

What you see above are two shots driving home – Jugiong to Canberra – from the book festival yesterday evening (obviously the second picture was taken before the first one – the sun was setting as we drove). This whole section of Australia looks like this: dry, yellow, bright light.

So, I spent Saturday afternoon  moderating at the wonderful, friendly Jugiong Writers Festival. I was stunned that a book festival in a country town could pull in both so many celebrities, and SUCH big crowds. It was a little bit intimidating!

The wonderful book launch at the end of the day (with essential, free sparkling wine!) was a nice bonus.

Also – they have a GREAT pub! I’ve already planned a weekend trip back with my brother and his partner.

I stole a couple of pictures from Sulari Gentill’s Facebook page.

Here is the worst photograph ever, of me (and also Margareta Osborn), looking like we want to murder each other. It was put online by ABC reporter Pip Courtney. I couldn’t stop laughing when I saw it!

(That weird stripe across my face is actually the pot plant next to me!)

Autumn light on Friday evening in Canberra.

Thursday evening.

Finnish Ski Troops in 1940

Monday was the anniversary of the end of the Winter War, when Moscow decided to randomly invade Finland and steal regions of their country while the world was distracted by Hitler. (Anything about this situation seem relevant to 2017 – just change Finland to Ukraine and Hitler to Trump!). The Kremlin’s hybrid warfare tactics then are near-identical to what they are currently doing to their neighbours.

History is constantly running on repeat.

My review of Someone to Hold (Westcott #2) by Mary Balogh

My review of Seven Minutes in Heaven (Desperate Duchesses by the Numbers #3) by Eloisa James

Happy St Patrick’s Day!

Follow-up on Mem Fox

Happy Canberra Day!