Book Review: Wilderness


Wilderness by Roddy Doyle

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Wilderness is a book for younger readers. I usually enjoy such books, but something about this one just didn’t do it for me. I didn’t connect with the characters. I couldn’t relate to them.

It’s a story of two boys who are taken on a wilderness holiday by their mother. She is keen to be away from home while her husband’s first wife visits their daughter, who lives with her dad. I enjoyed the mother/daughter relationship — the fear, anger and getting to know each other scenes. However, I didn’t enjoy the wilderness side of the book. It bordered on boring. It didn’t feel realistic. And the climax wasn’t very suspenseful.

It’s a story that explores relationships within dysfunctional families, which is a situation I know well, but that’s where my connection with this book ended.

Having said this, it wasn’t a terrible book, just not meaningful enough for my liking.

Writing: The Cogs Turn

As mentioned yesterday in Writing Progress Bar, I have been posting a lot about other things but nothing has appeared lately about my writing. I wouldn’t blame readers for thinking it’s not happening, but it is. I can’t say I’m crunching the numbers, but slow and steady still finishes the race.

Over the last two weeks I’ve written about 2,000 words per week, which I think is good. It’s certainly better than not writing at all. As of right now, I’m hovering just below the 10,000 word mark, which is very exciting.

However, what I really want to post about today is how even the best planned stories can go off in a completely new direction. This has happened to me with Whispering Caves. My plans are sitting dormant and the storyline has changed. The main character’s personality is not how I envisioned. A rawer, gutsier woman is coming through and that is definitely a good thing. Her background has shifted too. She has had a tough upbringing and I guess that’s why she won’t take any crap from anyone. I like her.

But that’s not the only thing that has changed. My entire vision for the manuscript never saw the light of day. For starters, I surprised myself by writing in first person and then I surprised myself by splitting the manuscript into three parts. I won’t go into details as to why, but I’m pleased with the new direction.

Finally, remember that “book” thread that gave me so much trouble? Well, it seems all the thought that went into that thread has paid off because I am now completely rid of the old storylines and scenes that kept popping up in my head. (I suffered from “not wanting to let go” syndrome.) The cogs are turning in the right direction and the storyline is nothing like my plan, but it feels complete in my mind.

I may not give regular updates, but the status bar will indicate if I’m still focused and writing the manuscript. At this stage, I will not set a public goal as to when I want to finish the manuscript. I just want to write and setting goals could put unnecessary pressure on me. The manuscript will be finished when I reach the end.

Writing Progress Bar

This website is a personal diary where I record the things I’m interested in — namely writing, reading, genealogy, knitting and a few other minor activities such as computer programs and operating systems, and game playing such as Playstation.

At times, the website will be dominated by one of these topics more than the others. At other times, I’ll go relatively quiet because I haven’t got much to say at the time. Lately there’s been a run on computer and knitting topics because I’ve been using both of these things to help me relax as my blood specialist tells me I must not get stressed. Easier said than done.

You may have also noticed the new writing progress bar I’ve added to the sidebar. In fact, it’s not new, I’ve used it before but for some reason that I can’t remember I moved away from it. Now that I’m writing again — yes, I am writing amongst all the other stuff — I thought the bar would be a good indicator how I’m going even though I may not be talking about writing much. It’s also a good motivator for me, as I like seeing the numbers climb higher and will strive to make it keep happening.

I will give a proper writing update tomorrow.

iPhone Syncing on Linux

Sorry to bore you with all this linex stuff but my website is the place I archive information I may need in the future.  Hence this post.  🙂  However, hopefully it will also help other linux users to iron out problems they are facing too.

Regular readers of this blog will know I own an iPod Touch and use it virtually everyday to read ebooks.  When I swapped over to linux last weekend, one of the things I had to put on my “to-do list” was “how do I access my ipod from linux?”

I was pleased to find software in the repositories to help with this.  I chose gtkpod, a manager that will allow me to add music, ebooks, photos, etc without having to connect with iTunes (which isn’t compatible with linux).

Having said that iPod Touches are relatively new and Apple don’t worry about the little people so don’t make is easy for anyone who likes to be different.  They haven’t made it easy for us poor linux users, which means I have to do some extra work to make my iPod Touch work properly.  I found a website called Abort, Retry, Hack? which gives information on iPhone Syncing on Linux.

Guess I’ve got some reading to do and a bit of fiddling about to follow.  Luckily, I enjoy this type of thing because I’m a bit geekish.

Edit (several hours later):
It seems iTouch is meant to work straight out of the box with Ubuntu 10.04, but it doesn’t for me. Typical! The instructions in the page linked to above want the user to jailbreak their unit, but I don’t want to do that. There are meant to be “work arounds”, but none of them have worked for me either.

I tried two apps, but had no joy with either of them. I’m not willing to keep downloading and installing anything else unless I’m confident they will work. I think I’ll put this aside for the time being. I’ll continue to do the research when time permits and see if I can find a solution.

Website: Most Popular Posts of All Time

I used to be obsessed with what people were coming to this website for. In fact, I felt as if I was wasting my time if no one read my posts. I guess a lot of people feel that way. Yet these days, my website is more of a collection of links and data gathered in one spot for my own use. I rarely check statistics and only did so today because I had nothing else to do (actually, I’ve got plenty to do but I’m feeling rather lazy).

Anyway, the statistics gave me quite a surprise. This website is mainly to do with writing – my own writing together with resources and tips as well. But here are the top five posts of all-time (or maybe I should say, since the popular posts plugin was installed, which was about 18 months to two years ago, so “all time” is a bit over the top really):

1. Time Line of the Black Death
2. Laid Lain Lay Lie
3. Scribes Message Board to Close Down
4. The Medieval Village
5. The Medieval Horse

If I were still obsessed, this would be proof that I’m compiling a website about the wrong topic. Medieval times seem to be the favoured topic here – the statistics range from 5,000 views to 8,000 views each.

Out of the next five posts in the list, four of them are also to do with the medieval period. However, item number 10 is to do with writing. Shock of shocks! That post is:

10. How to Plot Your Novel

It received a shameful 1,447 views. Never mind. At least I’m not reporting that no one ever visits the site, except me. Now that would be depressing. 🙂

Genealogy: 1901 & 1911 Irish Census Online

I have a few Irish connections, but not many considering the number of people in my tree. G, on the other hand, has a direct ancestor who was Irish and moved to Scotland; one of his children (or maybe a few of them, I can’t clearly remember offhand) emigrated to Australia. This is a clear indication that genealogists can easily be looking in the wrong place for the information they seek.

Anyway, I was thrilled to discover that the Irish Census records for 1901 and 1911 have been made available online. From what I can see, the records are searchable and free. This is courtesy of The National Archives of Ireland.

About the 1901 and 1911 censuses

The 1901 and 1911 censuses are the only surviving full censuses of Ireland open to the public. Both censuses cover the island of Ireland. They were released to public inspection in 1961, because of the stream of requests for information about people’s ages, particularly those born before civil registration of births began in 1864.

The 1901 census was taken on 31st March 1901. The 1911 census was taken on 2 April 1911.

What information does the census contain?

Ireland is unusual among English-speaking census-taking countries in that our original household manuscript returns survive. These are the forms filled out and signed by the head of each household on census night. Most other countries only have Enumerators’ books, where family details were transcribed by the person charged with collecting the census information.

The basic topographical divisions for the census are: County; District Electoral Division; Townland or Street. This is a simple hierarchical structure which makes it easy to access any area in the country. The returns are arranged in clusters by townland/street within district electoral division within county. For each townland/street, there are a number of original household returns, filled in and signed by heads of households, and three statistical returns, dealing with religious denominations, classification of buildings, and out-offices and farm-steadings, filled out by the Enumerator for that townland/street.

– taken from The National Archives of Ireland website

Family Tree: Lilian Joyce Field

Lilian Joyce Field is my aunt on my father’s side. We knew her as “Joyce”. I’ve never met her and I know very little about her, except she grew up in Barnardos care as did my father. I don’t know if she married or if she has children.

But I want to know.

Joyce was about 16 years of age in the photo, which was taken around 1950. I know it’s a long time ago and she will have changed a lot in that time, but I’m hoping someone will come across this post at some time in the future and will recognise her. If that happens, please contact me. I would love to receive information on Joyce’s descendants as it would make my family tree complete.

You may leave a comment or, if you prefer some privacy, please use the contact form (in the navigation bar above) to reach me.


In January 2017, I made contact with Joyce’s family. Her children seem to know so little about their mother’s history. They said she never spoke about it much. I could fill in some of the blanks for them, but the mysteries still remain. Especially in regards to the child she had in about 1949. Dad told me about the child, but couldn’t tell me if it was a boy or a girl. Joyce’s family found paperwork after her death that suggested a child. They believe it was a girl, but are not 100% sure. Who was that child? If you know, I’d love to hear from you.

Book Review: When I Forgot

When I Forgot

When I Forgot by Elina Hirvonen

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I saw this in a second hand bookshop and, liking the blurb, decided to buy it.

When I Forgot is a dark, contemporary story of only 180 pages. It’s written in a way that I found to be quite confusing at times, as it moved back and forth between time periods frequently and I became a bit lost. Yet the information being slowly fed to me was intriguing, which meant I had to keep reading to find out what was happening.

Anna is a young woman sitting in a café trying to read a book. Yet the content of the book brings memories of her childhood to mind. She spends the entire day lost in thought, remembering a childhood wrought with fear and distrust. She also remembers the day dreams she had to help keep herself sane – a child’s effort to hold on to hope. As her story unfolds the darkness shifts and it’s easy to relate to why a person wants to forget, why Anna chose to forget. But in forgetting the bad times she also forgot the good memories too, because rarely is life all bad.

This story is about mental illness, the effects of war and the perspective of a child who doesn’t fully understand what is happening to her family. It’s a story that clearly shows how one person’s actions can affect so many lives. It’s a story that shows that love can be so deeply buried you don’t know it’s there.

I could really relate to the theme, the emotions and the feeling of hopelessness. The author’s writing style, however, was not for me. The confusion I felt whilst reading was distracting and, in the end, irritating. I’m glad the book was short because I don’t think I could have dealt with it much longer, which is a shame, because if it had been written with a smoother style this would have been a very moving reading experience.