Slow Travel


“What are men to rocks and mountains?”

Sometimes taking the slow road can bring enormous pleasure. That’s not to say we don’t appreciate a fast jet on an overseas holiday. But there are compensations in the slowness of some things. Jane Austen appreciated the beauty around her on walks and rides and so it is always with pleasure when I think on the beauty of my countryside. In the southern corner of Victoria Australia, is  The Great Southern Rail Trail. It is a bike path made from the old railway line and meanders Continue reading


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The things that matter

When a life ends, you get to learn what matters. What matters is the sum of all the everyday exchanges; the sum of all the love. Sometimes cooking the food, enjoying the company, living the simple life is all that remains. Pondering the 200th anniversary of Jane Austen’s death Continue reading


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Detecting an apricot on a tree.


The first ripe apricot on our tree this Australian summer


This year the 200th since Jane Austen’s death, it is rewarding to turn to Jane’s letters from Chawton that are so are full of the seasons and the garden. Although Jane wasn’t responsible for the garden, she enjoyed the fruits of others’ labour. She tells Cassandra, “our young poeny at the foot of the fir tree has just blown and looks very handsome”. Favourite flowers, the syringas, that I have in my garden, “are coming out”. Fruit trees in the orchard were indispensable to the economy of the household but also to the pleasure, “an apricot has been detected on one of the trees”. Jane Austen’s delight shines Continue reading

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Alain de Botton’s The Course of Love

It centers on one couple: Rabih  and Kirsten. It is very modern in that the nuclear couple reign supreme; the friends and family only get a passing glance. But it is a very poignant look at the couple in modern life. It feels like  an everyman couple; a couple we can all relate to. And its premise, that the proof of love begins when the romance fades is so apt. Rabih and Kirsten are like  minor characters in an Austen novel, they are Mr and Ms Bennett, Mr and Mrs Palmer or Mr and Mrs Musgrove in the Austen Six. Only in a post modern novel can they take their place centre-stage. But that is the beauty
of the modern; the ordinary Continue reading

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Was Mrs Bennet too interested in young men’s bank balances?

Maggie Alderson in her recent column in Melbourne’s The Age channels Mrs Bennet in wondering who is the ‘best possible choice’ for her daughter. And what does Austen suggest? Sure, Mr Darcy is a man of consequence and with a fortune to match. But there are a myriad of heroes who always have enough money – let’s face it one always needs enough in the 18th Century – but are distinguishable by their values rather than their bank balances. Honourable Edward Ferrars is case in point.

Edward’s sister, who I like to call, Supercilious-Superior-Sister-in-law-Fanny Dashwood, Continue reading

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How attractive is a loving family?

Virtuous and Undervalued Anne Elliot does regret her family’s lack of feeling when she is to marry Captain Wentworth. She had “the consciousness of having no relations to bestow on him which a man of sense could value.” An extended family that is supportive and fun is an attractive part of any partner’s dowry:


The disproportion in their fortune was nothing; it did not give her a moment’s regret; but to have no family to receive and estimate him properly; nothing of respectability, of harmony, of good-will to offer in return for all the worth and all the prompt welcome which met her in his brothers and sisters, was a source of as lively pain as her mind could be well sensible of, under circumstances of otherwise strong felicity”. Continue reading

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When Vanity Rules

In Pride and Prejudice when Superior-And-Spoilt-Mr Darcy gives Flawed but Fabulous Elizabeth the letter explaining his dealings with Wickham, and she fully understands her role in the past she is “absolutely ashamed of herself…she had been blind, partial, prejudiced and absurd”. She had not let reason and an unbiased interpretation of events guide her. Instead she had let her vanity rule to her folly. But whereas some heroes and heroines can slay a dragon or a formidable foe, sometimes it is the facing of ourselves that takes courage and this is exactly what Elizabeth does. She is the heroine that faces Continue reading

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