Eating your way through literature

I don’t know if this ever happens to you guys, but reading always makes me hungry. Whenever an author mentions a person eating something that sounds like it would taste good, immediately I crave that sort of food. Then when they mention someone drinking something, say for example a beer, I start to feel like drinking beer.

For example, I am reading East of Eden at the moment and there is a character called Lee, who, other than dispensing sage advice to the hapless family for whom he is a servant, he seems to be perpetually brewing coffee. I can’t tell you how many superfluous cups of coffee this character has prompted me to drink! In fact this character trait of offering other characters coffee is almost a cliche as the narrative is riddled with this humble service.

If you are reading Hemingway things get even worse because, as he wrote in his autobiographical work, A Moveable Feast (the title of which gives away the point I am going to make), he talks about why he inserted so many eating and drinking scenes in his novels. Just about every scene has someone drinking some unimpeachably delectable alcoholic beverage or eating copious amounts of food. This was all because Hemingway was starving at the time and could barely afford to buy lunch, so when he wrote, his thoughts drifted to the food he dreamed of eating.

So it’s interesting the way we as modern readers can be influenced by the cravings that motivated the authors initially, even though these cravings were unfulfilledbruce-lee-suit-sunglasses by the authors at the time.

 

 

 

“Would you like some coffee?”

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Wrecking ball and the McDonald’s builders

IMG_1023
This is the house that Burbank built. Amazingly it is still standing.

 

The Werribee Manor, the site of the great Australian novel I am supposed to be working on.
The Werribee Manor, the site of the great Australian novel I am supposed to be working on.
Pretending to be an author at Werribee.
Pretending to be an author at Werribee.
The game I have been playing obsessively for 2 years.
The game I have been playing obsessively for 2 years.

I’ve been living in this Burbank house for I don’t know give or take six months now. The first few weeks were a fun adventure, with no blinds, no TV and no internet. So we headed over to Perth for a holiday away from our brand new home. Otherwise I would have used up thousands of dollars on my iPhone which I used as an internet source for feeding my addition to the online multiplayer game League of Legends. I wonder if there is a deliberate irony in the naming of the game as though they had to come up with the most obvious title imaginable – it’s like calling a novel, A novel story or a film, Cinematic Masterpiece. The name alone should have been warning enough for me!   At first I was very excited by the idea of a new home. Our previous home was a bit too large, with a backyard we rarely used, and I liked the idea of living in a townhouse,  rather than a typical brick veneer or large estate. The small backyard appealed to me and the place seemed spacious and cosy at the same time. The main design flaw I felt was the small size of the lounge room, which disappointed me because, even though I don’t use that room very often, I like the thought that I could accommodate more people there if ever the need arose, or at least stretch out a little more if so desired. As I say, when I first moved in and during the first months of occupation, despite the battle to get an internet service provider (I guess I should not be surprised that the Labor government’s NBN behemoth is not only  billions of wasteddollars, but is also a bureaucratic,  inefficient operation) and the heat wave during summer that we suffered through with a broken air conditioner and the greenhouse effect of living in a house without blinds,  I fell in love with the place, and each new day of our residence, I was filled with a youthful excitement, the childlike feeling akin to receiving a new toy.   But just like the suffusing glow of new toy ownership evaporates for the child, so too did the new house feeling disappear, replaced by more complacent feelings and at times outright frustration and anger at the quality of the Burbank construction. Little things started to go wrong, bits falling off here and there, and then I started to get frustrated with the quality of the fixtures and fittings, the design of the bathroom the inadequate heating and cooling and the aftersales service.  Many were the times I felt like I wanted to vent my frustration of Facebook about how lousy a builder Burbank was, to complain about all the things that have been unsatisfactory about the house. But then I thought, what good will it do? Firstly, my ten or so Facebook friends are unlikely to stir up a revolution over one whingeing, disgruntled homeowner. Secondly, I have no benchmark by which to compare my concerns. As I’ve never owned a new house before, it may be that, perhaps, the things that have gone wrong here go wrong in many houses. Also, it occurs to me that others may be aware of a fact to which I was oblivious – that Burbank is the McDonald’s of builders anyway and that it would be foolish for me to expect a five course gourmet meal when I enter MacDonald’s to order a burger with fries. (Those who know me may wish to stretch the analogy further, given my penchant for ordering McDonald’s foods, but I would protest by saying that I don’t expect much when I order there, and hence am rarely disappointed.)

The setup in my home office was supposed to enhance my productivity.
The setup in my home office was supposed to enhance my productivity.

For instance, how soon should the concrete in the garage star cracking? I don’t know whether these cracks mean a shoddy job done, as I suspect, or a natural part of the building process. I am assured by others that the cracks appearing in the walls are a typical part of the building process and these happened to all new buildings as they ‘settle’. However Burbank’s after sales service was horribly inadequate compared to the service offered by other builders such as Metricon. The chubby man who came into my home to evaluate it – after three months! – looked like he would have preferred to be anywhere else but where he was. His cursory look over the property was as thorough as a child’s bath, and relied on the checklist I had made of the cracks and problems with the property. He was no doubt in a hurry to get to lunch as the breakfast he had just come from was already fading into obscurity. So this company relies on the homeowner to point out faults rather than checking these with an expert eye. Sure I was able to pick out some of the more obvious cracks but I do work for a living, as the bible instructs me to, and hadn’t had a chance to go thought the whole house looking for cracks, something that I would imagine the rigorous follow up inspection of a trustworthy building company would do.   The actual handyman they sent out to fix the problems was in even more of a hurry than the previous guy.  Just like the aforementioned, officious, chubby guy inspector, the latter representative refused to take responsibility for the most obvious chips and cracks in the paintwork, which he claimed were as a result of the  damage left by the furniture removalists, which I don’t believe is the case, given I only noticed these marks much later. So I am beginning to see that despite outlaying what, for me, was a small fortune for this property, I really have bought a cheeseburger rather than a filet mignon; I have coke to drink rather than Chardonnay. As I reflection on my dissatisfaction with the house, it reminds me of the process of decay all flesh is heir to. Now not only have there been cracks in the wall, some of which the maintenance guy patched up within the two or so minutes he was in our house, but the paint is peeling and chipping in places. The carpet is starting to rise in the corners of the rooms and as I mentioned earlier, there is a series of small cracks in the garage. So life is replete with incompetence and decay. A state of decay is man’s natural state: even the best items constructed by man will contain the seeds of their destruction. Perhaps even amidst the finest workmanship there are elements of man’s incompetence. Who amongst us can say they have done everything brilliantly or excellently? You may note the picture of my ‘office’. When I set this up in the new house I took a picture of the desks to remind myself that there were no excuses for poor productivity. Yet most evenings I have used the office for playing League of Legends, the online multiplayer video game. I justified my gaming on the grounds that each night when I came home to do my work I was too tired to do anything and the gaming would recharge my batteries. Since ditching my Creative Writing Maters course due to the exorbitant cost of the units and my unwillingness to meet this cost, instead of working on my grand narrative, I have been playing League of Legends most nights. The following photos show the Werribee Mansion, one of the settings of the novel I have done so little work on over the past year. To add to the chagrin I feel at my minuscule output as a writer, I read yesterday of a novelist who started out as a casual blogger and who was asked by a leading publisher to write a novel. More heartbreak for me as I read stories like that, especially when I consider the attempts I have made to get published, sending of manuscripts that are returned with a polite but firm refusal. So anyway the point I wanted to make was that this week I uninstalled the game League of Legends. I wasn’t the first time I had uninstalled but I hope to really quit this time. Otherwise I will get nothing done at all. It is my goal to finish this book by the end of the year. I am kind of stuck with it at the moment as I have all the key story elements included but I am well shy of the content required for a full story and the bits are still not that well integrated. Speaking of building, renovating and decay, I was on Twitter this week. I guess with League of Legends uninstalled I had to be doing something. Presumably, Given I am a video gamer, I was sent a link to a Minecraft parody of the song Wrecking Ball by Miley Cyrus. I tell, you if you love Minecraft or Miley Cyrus, or if you just want to see something creative, you should look at that video. It was exceptionally creative – the music and the animation were first class. Like most males on the planet I was aware that Miley Cyrus created a video clip featuring herself swinging naked from a wrecking ball for this song. Interestingly enough I had actually never heard the song before, despite the obvious enticement of Miley Cyrus swinging naked from a wrecking ball (I can show some restraint), so I went on to iTunes to listen to the actual song for a bit, having heard  the parody. What I found interesting was that it’s actually a good song. I even thought of buying it for a moment but the idea of spending $3 on a Miley Cyrus song seemed just plain wrong. I’m not against paying for music but three bucks, seriously! Maybe I’ll download it as a ringtone. I love using ironic ring tones that people don’t expect me to use, featuring songs antithetical to my whole worldview. Anyway, the interesting element about the song – aside from the lingering elements of country music phrasing that have almost faded from her ‘style’, but which made her first hits so appealing – is the content of the lyrics (Sure the melody is catchy too, which doesn’t hurt). The irony is that her film clip has garnered all the attention because of the blatant sexuality and the debate about the morality of the young woman removing her clothes for the sake of selling records. When you listen to the lyrics though it is about getting thought to a man emotionally, something most women could appreciate and understand, and at times, I’m sure they feel they need a wrecking ball to knock down the emotional barrier that men put up to protect their egos. Its chorus also relates the dangers of woman trying too hard to knock down these barriers or ‘walls’ and in the process destroying he relationship  that drew them to this man in the first place. So, in trying to improve the emotional connectively with their mate, the woman pictured by this song has made the situation worse than it has been previously. So it is a shame the song has received attention for the video clip alone, rather than the messages it conveys, a message typifying real life relationship problems. Even the symbolism of the wrecking ball, whilst dismissed as a crass stunt, is actually an apt metaphor. Let’s be honest, men only really notice the sexual side of a woman. The overt symbolism of a naked woman swinging in to break down walls is a critique of male sexuality, which is a crude blunt instrument. Sure men notice a woman’s virtue, modesty and charm, but this is often long after they have been won over by her beauty.

 

This is me playing video games; my customary face each evening  for the past 2 years.
This is me playing video games; my customary face each evening for the past 2 years.

Incredulity in the time of cholera

One thing I have learned in my course of studies in writing is that the great authors can make us believe what they write. Just recently I read Lord of the flies and whilst the premise is as simple and ridiculous as any invented by a high school student, the way the narrative is written evokes credulity, and one can visualize the terror Ralph experiences on the island as he is being chased by marauding teenage savages.
On the other hand I’m struggling to believe anything Marquez writes in his Love in the time of cholera . A fourteen year old girl for whom an affair with a geriatric man is a Sunday paradise? The same man with a crush on another man’s wife that has lasted fifty years. Seriously? It’s a labour just to get to the end of this tediously written book and the implausible storyline makes it all the more
difficult.

On becoming a writer

The task of writing is not easy. It is a creative, artistic venture with little guarantee of success. The impact on my writing this trimester can be characterised by three main themes: firstly that the unconscious mind is of paramount importance in the writing process; secondly that, although it is important to read the works of other authors and to read them critically, a writer must pursue their own path. The course of reading and writing has also caused me to reflect also upon an aspect of the craft I had possibly been neglecting, that of paying attention to concrete details, which is crucial for starting out and for producing lasting works of fiction.

The unconscious plays an important role in shaping the artist’s work, particularly in the formative stages of the work. Prior to undertaking this course I had used a number of the strategies outlined by Kate Grenville (1999) to develop my writing. Grenville advocates the use of diary entries or choosing random dictionary words to use as a springboard for ideas from which the artist might improvise a passage of writing (1999). These methods are useful to start the writing process and to ensure the writer is not ‘blocked’. Likewise, Julia Cameron (1994) advocates writing what she calls ‘morning pages’ (p.9), a form of free writing that is not concerned with the appropriateness or accuracy of the material but rather forces the writer to write quickly so as to get used to writing and using the unconscious mind to generate ideas. Dorothea Brand (1934) refers to this process as ‘free writing’ and her invocation to ‘rise half an hour or a full hour earlier than you customarily rise’ (p. 47) in order to write down thoughts, recollections or stream of consciousness prose is a helpful and invigorating suggestion. Applying this to my writing has enabled me to write without self consciousness or critical appraisal and has contributed to an abundant output.

The unconscious mind filters information taken in from the outer world through our senses and can be trained to create artistic interpretations of what we perceive of our reality. As writers we need to overcome the blockages to the creative flow by renewing or refreshing our storehouse of treasures (experiences), which we can process, evaluate and use as material for our creative undertakings. Brand (1934) considers the genius as one who can view the world with the eyes of a child. Writers must have a dual self, in that they must look at the world carefully, sharpening their perspectives through acute observation. As if I was not burdened with guilt prior to this, upon reflection that we writers must not be caught up in the trivial problems of humanity (Brand, 1934) but rather soar above them like benevolent eagles, who do not contend themselves with trivialities, I am now self flagellation to an even higher degree. Particularly as I consider how frequently not only am I preoccupied with these so called trivial thoughts but so too is my writing! I am more encouraged by Julia Cameron’s instruction to take an ‘artist date’ (p. 18) or to take a weekly walk a means by which we artists fill the ‘well’, our collection of experiences and perceptions that we use when composing our art. It certainly is important to open up our perceptions, to watch life more carefully and to focus our attention. I have begun to deliberately pay more attention to what is going on around me, noticing little details, which will be stored away for a later date and included (possibly) in a creative work.

This idea of developing a bank of resources in the unconscious mind which will later be translated into fictional sketches illuminates another aspect of writing; the double life of the writer. On the one hand there is the author of the work, which as Margret Atwood (2002) suggests, is ‘the only part that may survive death’ (p.39). It is not the real human being in a sense but the individual author who fashions from life experience a world of apparent reality. Then there is the individual themselves ‘when no writing is going forward’ (p. 30) who is locked in a ‘symbiotic’(p.32) relationship with the author, as it is from their actual lives the material is drawn to create their writing. My own life often feels like a dry run for my fictional writing as I often find myself looking at a person or a situation to see whether there is something I would like to write about them. Brand (1934) contemplates this dual nature as on the one hand, adult, being ‘the artisan, the workman and the critic’ (p.39) and on the other being the author of ‘genius’ who lives spontaneously and responds ‘freshly and quickly to new scenes (p. 38). The latter phase she refers to as the unconscious aspect of the writer, which she believes is from whence the ‘story arises’ (p.47). This is encouraging to me as I have little attention to detail and love working from my unconscious. I am learning to apply my critical faculties to my work so as to produce work of better quality.

In order to commence any piece of writing an artist must use a variety of strategies to lead into the writing. As well as the free writing (Brand, 1934), an assortment of other efforts can be made to play around with language so as to coax our thoughts onto paper. I found Hazel Smith’s word exercises (2006) invaluable in developing ideas for a story and in shaping characters and situations from the ether. For example her task of using a referent, which she defines as a ‘specific idea, or event’ (p.18), which can form the basis of a piece of writing, enabled me to work on a short piece based on the idea of a map, some of which is as follows:

It was hot and all he had in his hands were the compass and the map. What he hoped to accomplish was uncertain; he wanted to get to the creek, after which his hopes were a little obscure.

He wandered for an hour before he collapsed, head in his hands. As he gazed up, he saw water, pristine, blue and diaphanous. He ran forward, immersed himself in the clear, crystal lake; his map was discarded, crumpled on the sand and the sun, strong overhead, burned his flesh. With no plan for the moment beyond now, no prospect of salvation, he felt alive.

Smith advocates the use of other strategies such as ‘word pools’ (p. 17), which force the writer to choose words randomly and place these in order as they occur to you. Many of these strategies are great at not only getting a story rolling but also enabling one to progress even in a more advanced stage of a narrative when the author may feel constrained. I will incorporate these strategies into my writing so as to handle the various situations I will encounter.

Something that is counterintuitive – and perhaps harder to grasp, but at the same time liberating – is the idea that artists should not slavishly follow the methods, style or career of other authors. Indeed there may be pitfalls to the approach and it may be counterproductive. According to Krauth (2001), writers must read the works of others who have gone before them from whom they will discover a ‘passion for seeing the world, and for writing about it’ (p 168). Ultimately the work they produce must be their own. Krauth cautions would be writers that ‘the road already taken by one individual may not be the pathway forward for another’ (p. 169), suggesting that a degree of individuality and a search for one’s own unique voice is an essential part in the success of the emerging artist. Brande (1934) also stresses the importance of studying the ‘masters of English prose writing’ to an exacting standard, but to avoid slavishly modelling one’s own style on their works. Writers must avoid the temptation to ‘imitate’ by discovering one’s own tastes and preferences’ (p.84). Often writers can feel too overwhelmed by their predecessors or feel that their favourite author is the ideal artist to emulate. It is refreshing to hear that our own voices can emerge strong after we cultivate these tastes and the experience of putting our thoughts on paper. Often, upon hearing the advice of other writers I have experienced a sensation would be a feeling akin to being shackled. Whilst these authors are no doubt well intentioned their advice has left me cold, believing they have little fresh insight into my own writing or that I have to go back to basics and relearn everything and hence all of the work I have done over the past few year is wasted, a dead end. However, the thought that I am free to pursue my own path is liberating.

Another important element of fiction writing is the noticing and recording of concrete details, rather than abstract concepts. In fact writers use characters, actions and descriptions to reveal more nuances of meaning than the mere description of concepts could. This is an area of weakness in my writing I hope to overcome and will seek to notice more and record more of the myriad of details I notice around me. In ‘good’ stories, according to the writer, Flannery O’Connor (2006), the ‘characters are shown through the action, and the action is controlled through the characters’ (p. 523), enabling the reader a glimpse into the surface and deeper meanings of the text. She feels it is a failing of many authors that they wish to write about problems or thematic concerns rather than about people or about clearly defined situations. Whilst an author may maintain their moral framework, she argues that ‘fiction operates through the senses’ and, hence, the reader must be made to ‘feel’ in order to be convinced by the story (p. 524). Use of detail is crucial in capturing essential ‘human truths’ according to James Wood (p. 71, 2008). We need to be careful in including details as they might give us insight into a character’s thinking and ‘palpability’ rather than abstract ideas are enticing to a reader (Wood, 2008). Once again this causes me to reflect on the importance of observation and to be more careful with the symbolic and literal meaning of the details I include.

The process of how a story unfolds is also fascinating in that the author does not often have complete control over the direction the narrative is heading in. The writer should be surprised by the journey they are taken on by their writing, as the plot or characters develop in ways they may not have planned or foresaw. Kevin Brophy (2003) suggests the writer is drawn ‘forward by curiosity about where the words might lead’ (p.142) and it is our ‘passion’ that excites us as authors to keep writing until we arrive at the end of the story. When Kate Grenville started a project that would become Lillian’s Story, she started out with no clear direction of where she might take the story (2006). Using whatever time she had at her disposal she started with ‘free association’ (p.144). She continued to write believing that it was better to have questions in her mind about where the story would go rather than a clear idea or ‘answer’. These examples have allowed me to explore ideas in my writing that I may otherwise be afraid to tackle. I am able to invent characters and allow my unconscious mind to determine what happens to them and how a particular story will evolve, rather than be constrained by a definite plan at the outset.

Writing is a painstaking process but obliviously a worthwhile one for the way that it enables readers to be transported into a place of fantasy, where they identify with characters and feel part of the story of humanity as it struggles with ambiguous morality and immense challenges. It is also a craft which requires the adherence to certain skills and strategies such as free writing, referents and sharp observations of the world around us. What I take away particularly from my experiments with writing and the expert opinions on the art form is the fact that the form is always changing and this allows fledgling artists such as myself to carve our own niche without self consciousness or the need to implicitly follow the masters before us.

References

Atwood, M. (2002). Negotiating with the dead: A writer on writing. London: Virago Press.

Brophy, K. (2003). Explorations in creative writing. Carlton: Melbourne University Press.

Cameron, J. (1994). The artist’s way. London: Pan Macmillan.

O’Connor, F. (2006). Writing short stories. In L. Anderson (ed.), Creative writing; a workbook with readings (pp. 523-32). Oxford: Routledge.

Grenville, K. (1999). The writing book (2nd ed.). Crows Nest: Allen and Unwin.

Grenville, K. (2006). Searching for the secret river. Melbourne: Text Publishing.

Krauth, N (2001). Learning writing though reading. In B. Walker (ed.), The writer’s reader: a guide to writing fiction and poetry (pp. 167-71). Sydney: Halstead Press.

Smith, H. (2006). The writing experiment. Crows Nest: Allen and Unwin.

Wood, J. (2008). How fiction works. London: Jonathan Cape.

The night to be much observed

Because the LORD kept vigil that night to bring them out of Egypt, on this night all the Israelites are to keep vigil to honour the LORD for the generations to come. Exodus 12:40

We kept the tradition handed down for generations. We observed the special night which for the Israelites acknowledges their passage from slavery to freedom and which for Christians marks the date when Christ was crucified in order to free us from the slavery of sin.
It was a beautiful occasion. Simple, but full of the abundance the Lord has provided. Our meal consisted of two lamb roasts – perfect, without fat, like the Passover lamb. I was excited to be able to cook with my mother again as we created a sumptuous feast of lamb, scalloped potatoes, salad and dessert. Working together we put the meal together in about an hour and everything was cooked within two hours.
We made everything without yeast, as the night marked the transition into the first day of unleavened bread, where for Christians this means not only removing leaven from our homes but symbolically reflecting on the sacrifice of Christ, which has removed the leaven of sin from our lives.
As we sat down to eat our roast potatoes, the lamb – which was cooked to perfection in rosemary and olive oil and sliced expertly with mum’s electric knife ‒ we read scriptures, we shared the communal wine; and the blending of the Church of God and Catholic traditions, which was probably a first for humanity, had never seemed so sublime.
Everything about the meal was perfect: the potatoes were cut into thin slithers, covered in onions and bathed in a cream before being cooked in the oven. The pumpkin was melt-in-the-mouth good and the salad, which I made even with my limited experience of putting together salads, was the ideal accompaniment to the hot food.
Then the desert was another blessing from the Almighty. We used unleavened bread, the rice mountain bread from my beloved Coles to make bread and butter pudding. Not just any bread and butter pudding. This one was laced with generous servings of butter and jam to give it extra sweetness and was served in separate ceramic dishes for each diner.
The fellowship between us was also convivial and most of the discussions theological. For me this was slightly less engaging than the political discussions I am accustomed to but it suited the occasion. Fellowship, brilliant food, a reverence for the Lord. This is what we can expect and look forward to in God’s Kingdom. Praise be to heaven that we received our taste of this on Friday.

Charles Tyrwhitt

 

If you are looking for good quality menswear on the internet, in particular men’s business shirts, you could do far worse than pay a visit to the Charles Tyrwhitt website. Whilst the quality of the shirts sold by Charles Tyrwhitt cannot compare with the finest Italian made shirts, their standards are quite high. What is great about them, however,  is their user friendly website, which makes buying a cinch (unlike many online retailers who make it a near impossibility to buy from their site) and the frequent sales, which substantially reduce the price of some items.

One thing I’ve noticed about myself as a consumer is a high level of brand loyalty. I wonder if all consumers are as fickle as they are perceived or whether they remain steadfastly loyal to their favourite brands and companies, despite the incredible change we see in the world, particularly in the retail sector. Perhaps, dear reader (I know, that sounds Charlotte Brontëish, but how else can I say it?) you can leave a comment on whether or not you are loyal to your favourite brands.

According to a book I once read (something about one key business systems?), brand loyalty is based on a number of factors. It could be the quality of the product or service one purchases on the first dealing with that company – first impressions are powerful and take a long time to overcome. Similarly, emotion may take the ascendency over reason in the decision to favour one brand over another. But I think the perception of quality, whether imagined or false, has a lot to do with our consumer choices and the adherence to a chosen brand. Consistency is also crucial. If we enter a restaurant and enjoy quality food on Monday and return on the Tuesday for an equivalent experience, only to find the quality of the food of a much lesser standard, we feel cheated and our allegiance to that supplier is tested.

So for years I’ve shopped exclusively at Coles, though many suggest to me there is little difference between Coles and Safeway, or that Safeway (can you believe it dear reader!) is even a superior store (sacré bleu!). when people are so bold as to suggest this I am roused to indignation and reel off, to their amazement, a series of reasons for my preference, while they smile and avert their eyes from someone who gets so wound up over something most people don’t give a second thought to. Or there was my Reebok buying. For years I had an aversion to Nike and only bought Reebok runners, a practice which lasted up until recently when I found I could exist with the cheaper Puma and Slazenger variants.  Of course I am well known for my frequenting of McDonald’s restaurants, where once again, when I protest I value their food safety standards and the superior training of their staff – compared to say Hungry Jacks, whose hiring regime leaves much to be desired, I again get those bemused expressions that look at me as if to say, ‘you sorry fellow, God help you.’

But all that aside, I am wanting to refer especially to the English menswear store Charles Tyrwhitt, from whom I buy about half of my clothes and whose online trading platform has been one of the best I have seen. This deep brand loyalty I harbor for CT stems from my positive first impressions. Not so much of the clothing itself, but the attractive presentation of their shirts, ties and other garments on their website and in their catalogues. I remember staring for hours at these images and longing for these fantastic shirts. When I bought some cufflinks, a shirt and a tie from them for the first time – and I still have the first ever tie I bought, I was less than impressed. Whilst the English-made shirt was nice enough, it was not exceptional and did not look as nice as some of my other shirts. The tie was good and of an acceptable quality though the cufflinks I purchased didn’t fit properly and before long rusted!

My next purchase was much more successful and brings together two of my favourite aspects of shopping with CT. I bought two shirts with cutaway collars for little over $60 Au apiece for shirts that would sell for over a hundred dollars here of a comparable quality. The best aspect of CT is their regular sales and the genuine savings one can make buying items during the sales. I also fell on love with the cutaway collar shirt with French cuffs, the best variety of shirt available at that price anywhere. That being said, the shirt is a little bit pricey when not on special as it sells for roughly $120.

If you can purchase one of their suits when it is on special, you would have invested wisely, however, they strike me as being too expensive ordinarily, considering where they are manufactured and comparable items for sale in Australia at  a similar price. The suits are produced in disparate parts of Europe such as Romania, Czechoslovakia and most of them sell for close to $1000, which is coming close to what you would expect to pay for suits made in England or Germany.   That being said if you want to buy quality Italian suits you will be paying in the thousands. The quality of the  Charles Tyrwhitt suits will be better than most suits sold in retail stores in Australia, most of which are made in China, and hence not worth the loom they were threaded on, so it’s worth paying the additional price for the quality. I have purchased a cotton suit from them and these are probably to be avoided, given they crumple easily and don’t have the same ‘serious’ look of their woollen suits.  The ‘fit’ of the suits is actually quite good even one has to buy them without the privilege of trying them on. The suit I bought required no tailoring whatsoever, which is more than I can say for suits I have taken to our local tailors, which need more work after I have seen the tailor than they did before I took the suit to them. 

As I say though, the non-iron cutaway collar shirt has been a great addition to my wardrobe. It fits moderately well, though he sleeves are not of an ideal length. One of the frustrating aspects of buying shirt online is that in order to modify the sleeve length you will need to pay extra for that. That being said, however, the standard sleeve and collar lengths are adequate for all but the most fastidious buyer. The other problem with sleeve length is that the French cuff sleeves are longer than the single-button cuff sleeves, even when sold under the same measurement.

Their products are not the world’s best. They certainly lack the elegance of the best Italian brands, but their clothing exudes a certain style and elegance (particularly the dignified white shirts). Charles Tyrwhitt have retained my loyalty through special prices, their quality shirts and ease of accessing and shopping at their site; it certainly beats going to Myer.

Gardenworld cafe

One of life’s pleasures, that is to say one of those transient experiences that evoke temporary joy, or in Schopenhauer’s words, alleviation from misery, is to drink coffee and to dine at Garden World Cafe.

I have been here on many occasions and on each one of these, imperfect though it was, I have received a momentary respite from the struggling world around me.

The service is efficient and afforded in a friendly manner, and the food, though expensive, is often fresh and of good quality. Occasionally the chefs surprise me with some exceptional meals but, by and large, the food is more than adequate.

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Paul Donovan’s Web Log

Welcome to Paul Donovan’s blog, a blog started by a struggling writer, seeking the elusive mistress, fame. As you can appreciate, for a struggling unpublished writer, whose brilliance has time and time been neglected by the wider world in favour of stories about exploding aeroplanes or vegetarian vampires, a writer will seek any means at their disposal to allow their inspirational works reach a wider audience. Hence, I have started writing in this blog in the hope that I will gain a wider readership and the fictional stories which have bemused, offended, entertained and cajoled a worldwide audience of about 13, will be read and loved by generations of Australians. Please feel free to read anything on this site. I will endeavour to create works of excellence for your entertainment and education and hope that you and I (the author and reader) make some sort of (intellectual) connection.

God bless and enjoy!

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