Monthly Archives: November 2013

Weekly Word Wrangle: Scrofulous


Ah… the word for this week (or fortnight as I am running late already on the ‘weekly’ idea) is scrofulous.

Ponder the sound of this word for a minute; what does it make you think about?

I found it while reading the latest novel of another of my favourite Australian authors, Tim Winton, Eyrie (review soon to be found on this blog). I just loved how it rolled around my mouth before it came out, but I also thought that it didn’t sound like a particularly complimentary term.

Winton is a master of words and uses it in the context of his protagonist walking around a dock area and teams it up with the word ‘strakes’. Not being a boating aficionado I really had no real clue as to its meaning, which was refreshing. ‘Scrofulous strakes’ (see alliteration can be good!) is part of the description of boats in the dock area.  So now I had to find out not only the original word ‘scrofulous’ (adjective) but also the noun that Winton paired with it – ‘strakes’.

I hear you saying get on with it; tell us what it really means. Skipping into my synonym and thesaurus search on my computer tells me nothing.  So off I went to the trusty old (or not so old) Macquarie Dictionary (online), which tells me that ‘scrofulous’ has two meanings, the first is to be affected by scrofula, I hear you say what the?? This is where the picture can really start forming in your mind because scrofula is a “disorder of a tuberculous nature” which involves the swelling and degeneration of glands.  The second meaning has us thinking about moral corruption, so I am going with the first meaning.  To narrow it down I went in search of the meaning of ‘strakes’, which in this context relates to the planking on the side or bottom of a boat.

There you have it, the boats had bulging, swollen or degenerated planks (not sure if they were also morally corrupt!). To give you the full context, I am providing the sentence in which I found these little beauties so you can judge whether I should have worked it out without a dictionary. “He sidled between buffed hulls and scrofulous strakes, beneath stepped masts and exhaust-blackened transoms as drills and sanders wailed in the bellies of launches, ocean racers, gamefishers.”(Winton, p.120).

Not sure that I will find a use for this description in my own writing but you have to hand it to Tim Winton it does conjure a picture.


Source of definition

Also referenced,

Winton, T. Eyrie. Penguin Group. 2013. Print


book review: Mr Wigg by Inga Simpson



the author and the book

Inga Simpson has an affinity with nature.  She has been a professional writer within the public service, writes non-fiction articles, short stories and of course now, Mr Wigg.  Currently undertaking a PhD in English Literature in Queensland, Inga also teaches writing and is focusing on a nature writing project.  I understand that she has previously written a novel but I could not find it referenced anywhere.  Mr Wigg was published by Hachette Australia in 2013 and is just a small bite at 296 luscious pages.

the blurb

“It’s the summer of 1971, not far from the stone-fruit capital of New South Wales, where Mr Wigg lives on what is left of his family farm, Mrs Wigg has been gone almost a year and he thinks about here every day. He misses his daughter, too, and wonders, when he’ll see her again.” (excerpt only)

the review

Maybe it is just me or where I was at the time Mr Wigg was published, but I wonder if the book was launched in the quiet, unassuming way of Mr Wigg himself.  I had heard of the book release but it certainly didn’t receive the fanfare it probably should have, as an Australian beauty.

Soft and sweet as the fruit it explores, as I read this book I had an overwhelming sense of nostalgia.  Not because I grew up on a farm but because so many of the images and emotions bring the period back to life, engaging all of my senses – heart and head were pumping as I worked through the seasons with Mr Wigg. Harking back to the 70’s when life seemed to be so much simpler, yet the complexities of relationships and families are ever present, it provided a backdrop at once familiar yet different to my own life experience.

Mr Wigg is a man of routine, so much of him reminds me of all that is good about the past.  There is no pretence or expansive neediness. He just gets on with it. Through all of the ups and downs of life, each day seems to bring him a gift of the land and he gives as much back.  We learn a little bit more about many of the fruits we take for granted now and in a very charming way.  Who knew that fruit could have such personalities!

The act of entwining a fairy tale being told by Mr Wigg to his grandchildren into the narrative gives an almost otherworldly sense to everyday life. Drawing parallels between the fruit trees he nurtures and the magic of the story gives us a real sense of Mr Wigg.  You cannot help but feel that you would want this man as a Grandfather for your children. Love is infused in his daily life, whether it be the love of his wife, his children, grandchildren or his beloved orchard.

It is also a story about lost opportunities which we should all heed when going about our daily lives and the search for what we believe is important. What price do we pay for the ‘things’ we want and is it really worth it in the end? The difficulties Mr Wigg faces with his family could be our very own, not necessarily with the same players or circumstances but with raw emotion of the relationships we must deal with as a family.

A book that can cover you like a warm quilt on a Winter’s afternoon or a breathe of sweet, peach scented-air on a Summer’s day, it provides a feeling of comfort as you discover the story of Mr Wigg.

favourite quote

There were so many ‘little pearlers’ through the book that I had difficulty choosing just one. You really can’t go past Persimmons and Peaches talking to one another, but in saying that the advice that his mother gave Mr Wigg before he married resonated with me. ‘Don’t forget she’s her own person, son. She had a whole life before she met you.’ Then with the benefit of age and wisdom “He sometimes wondered, now, what his mother had given up, and who she had been before she became a wife and a mother.(p.272) ” A thought for us all.

most lasting image

You know when you finish reading a book, sometimes there is an image that continues to sit with you for a long time? It doesn’t always happen but when it does it really hangs on. From Mr Wigg I have so many images that still are inhabiting my mind space but one that seems to be the brightest is Mr Wigg dancing around in the kitchen “in his socks, while his dinner cooked” reminiscing about the times he would go dancing with his wife.   

why it is important to read cover to cover…………………………

One of things that appealed to me was the simplicity of the cover of Mr Wigg.  Its bright orange background was stunning but the font used for the title, a little inconsistent in density intrigued me.  Luckily, it was explained within the last pages of the book. The font was taken from scanned images of embossed gardening labels giving them the disintegrated look that you would expect in the garden environment.  To me this shows great care and thought was put into this book not just in the content but the whole design and gives it an authenticity.

For more information about Inga Simpson or Mr Wigg’s facebook page –

Weekly Word Wrangle: Hagiography


I recently came across a tip schedule for writers, its’ very first tip was never to use alliteration.  Well pooh to that, I like alliteration and so does the internet obviously with www. being three letters that are ingrained in our consciousness. So starts my weekly word wrangle (I could have added ‘Wednesday’s’ but I used restraint!).

From time to time I come across words that I have never seen before, have been used in a context not expected or just plain make me scratch my head, laugh or wonder enough to look the up the meaning or to think about using it in some writing. These words could pop up in something I am reading; by flicking through a dictionary; watching a TV show; listening to lyrics of a song or by wrangling a new word that I have heard in conversation. It is a great game for me to find a word that I do not know and explore it a little further to increase my word knowledge.

So the inaugural wonder word is Hagiography.

I heard this mentioned on TV last week but couldn’t quite grasp what it was all about in the context of the show I was watching.  So off I went to find this word that reminded me of the word Haggis.  Nothing to do with Haggis, it’s actually rooted in the Greek language.  I guessed that it would have to do with writing or drawing with the ‘graphy’ part but wasn’t sure about the ‘hagio’ bit.

So like a good student I headed toward a dictionary, in this instance the Macquarie Online version which tells me that the word is about the writing and study of the saints (that’s the ‘hagio’ part of the word = ‘holy’), but it still wasn’t in the context of the show I was watching which was definitely not about saints. Sooooo I went to the second meaning which is basically a flattering biography which puts its subject on a pedestal….. ah hah found it fitted perfectly in the show’s circumstance.

Apparently you can also have an autohagiography – it sounds like some of the self-congratulatory politician’s biographies that are circulating!

Source of definition

book review: No Place Like Home by Caroline Overington


no Place like home - Random House

the author and the book

Caroline Overington is an award-winning investigative journalist that has turned her hand to successfully writing contemporary Australian novels. No Place Like Home was published under the banner of ‘A Bantam Book by Random House Australia’ in 2013. It follows other novels, Sisters of Mercy, Matilda is Missing, Ghost Child and I Came to Say Goodbye.

the blurb

“Shortly after 9.30am, a young man walks into Surf City, Bondi’s newest shopping complex. He’s wearing a dark grey hoodie – and a bomb around his neck…………….” (short version)

the review

Written with journalistic sensibility this tense drama is set in a shopping centre and involves ‘ordinary people’ that we all could interact with on a daily basis – it could just be the topic of a report we watch unfold in the nightly news.  Told from the view of Police Chaplain, Paul Doherty we hear the often untold story of those involved in a siege, this one involving a bomb attached to a refugee in the unlikely setting of a lingerie shop.  However, this story goes beyond the issues of refugees in Australia, it explores what it is to be human in a society trying to understand itself.

Although not the overt purpose of the book, morality is explored in a number of situations, particularly, in the treatment of the refugee Ali Khan by a number of the characters, and in general as someone who has been invited to live in our country.  It also looks at other moral issues such as fidelity, honesty, valour, materialism and our beliefs.

Some characters that we meet in the novel we can empathise with and others just make us shake our heads, but they are all integral to this novel.  Paul Doherty tries to explain the twist and turns of the circumstances and gives us someone who we can relate to in this day and age – questioning his faith and place in the world.  Among the characters that Paul introduces us to are the five people in the lingerie shop (why are they all in a lingerie shop?…. you will have to read to find out) and throughout the book we learn more about each, there is Mouse the ‘bunny eared’ shop assistant, Kimmie a nail technician, Roger a real estate salesman, Mitchell a schoolboy on a mission to buy a video game and of course, Ali Khan who has the bomb attached to him.

I found themes of loss and regret entwined with the more complex issues of the plot.  The loss of innocence, commitment, trust and ultimately the life we should value. We also see how hindsight plays its role in how we remember and perceive our life.

favourite quote

Although not directly related to the central motif of the siege, I thought this quote lets us know that it is definitely Australian and also gives us the sense of the loss that is brought to bear in this novel.

He could tell by looking that the armchair had been Amy’s father’s, and only his: there was something about the way the material at the end of the seat was worn away, where the old man’s hands had gripped for years, watching Channel Nine News and World Series Cricket.”(p.247)

Australia is suffering from perplexity around the issue of refugees, what is it we should be doing? It would seem there are more opinions than solutions, but Overington’s treatment of the issue within the non-threatening environment of fiction is able to make us consider what we think about the issue. It may not provide the solution but at least it gets it into the front of our minds so we keep thinking about what it is we should be doing and maybe rethink some of the things we have been doing.

most intriguing character – Ali Khan

What do we think of refugees?  What do they think of us?  From Paul Doherty’s perspective we are able to see how many of the characters interacted with Ali Khan. We hear about the treatment he receives not only in Australia as a refugee but as an outcast of his own country.  What makes this character so intriguing is that we never actually hear his side of the story.

Written in a quite distinctive yet simple prose the book offers what could be called an ‘easy’ read.  Not a 600 page epic but a ‘slice of life’ in 352 pages.  It is a book that engages you in a short space of time then carries you at a measured pace to be able to complete within a few hours – if you really want to – I lingered longer because I wanted to enjoy it a little bit more.

What I find with Overington’s novels, is that they stir emotions and this book is no exception. Consider how you would feel if it was your son, daughter, husband, niece, friend, employee under threat and what would you think of the person you believe is threatening them?

I always think that a good book is a book that makes you ‘feel’, whether it is joy, sadness, anger or just generally questioning what life is about and No Place Like Home does exactly that.

For more information about Caroline Overington

Ten reasons


If you are wondering why this blog is called zero dinero, here are the top ten reasons (or impossibly implausible ideas);

  1. The amount of money that is earned by this blogger from reading and writing.  Note: at this point in time….. you never know what will happen if you keep trying, just ask Thomas the Tank Engine.
  2. It’s what happens when caught up reading a book – ‘no, there is no dinner!’ (not quite the right translation but hey who’s being technical now).
  3. The cost to you of reading my ‘ruminations’ and being gentle.
  4. I don’t know why, but it reminds me of so many vintage comedians like the Marx Bros. or Abbott and Costello and makes me smile.
  5. That’s about how much it costs to use a Public Library – how important are they!
  6. It’s a nod to some possible Spanish heritage (that’s another story).
  7. How much money is left in the pocket after the book hoarding tendency has been satisfied …………………..not really satisfied but almost, you can never have enough books.
  8. I really like Robert De Niro (close but no cigar!).
  9. Zero is such a lovely round figure – just like me.
  10. It takes exactly that amount of money to be loved and to love the people in your life. Don’t waste your time searching for mucho dinero when what you need is already within your grasp.