Clancy of the Overflow – old and modern

One of my favourite poets (my only favourite poet?) is A. B. “Banjo” Paterson, famous for writing Waltzing Matilda* and The Man from Snowy River (which, in a glorious moment of teenage nerdity, I once memorised, all 1052 words of it). He also wrote Clancy of the Overflow, one of the original laments for a country life.

The original version is:

I had written him a letter which I had, for want of better
Knowledge, sent to where I met him down the Lachlan, years ago,
He was shearing when I knew him, so I sent the letter to him,
Just ‘on spec’, addressed as follows, ‘Clancy, of The Overflow’.

And an answer came directed in a writing unexpected,
(And I think the same was written with a thumb-nail dipped in tar)
‘Twas his shearing mate who wrote it, and verbatim I will quote it:
‘Clancy’s gone to Queensland droving, and we don’t know where he are.’

. . . . .

In my wild erratic fancy visions come to me of Clancy
Gone a-droving ‘down the Cooper’ where the Western drovers go;
As the stock are slowly stringing, Clancy rides behind them singing,
For the drover’s life has pleasures that the townsfolk never know.

And the bush hath friends to meet him, and their kindly voices greet him
In the murmur of the breezes and the river on its bars,
And he sees the vision splendid of the sunlit plains extended,
And at night the wond’rous glory of the everlasting stars.

. . . . .

I am sitting in my dingy little office, where a stingy
Ray of sunlight struggles feebly down between the houses tall,
And the foetid air and gritty of the dusty, dirty city
Through the open window floating, spreads its foulness over all

And in place of lowing cattle, I can hear the fiendish rattle
Of the tramways and the ‘buses making hurry down the street,
And the language uninviting of the gutter children fighting,
Comes fitfully and faintly through the ceaseless tramp of feet.

And the hurrying people daunt me, and their pallid faces haunt me
As they shoulder one another in their rush and nervous haste,
With their eager eyes and greedy, and their stunted forms and weedy,
For townsfolk have no time to grow, they have no time to waste.

And I somehow rather fancy that I’d like to change with Clancy,
Like to take a turn at droving where the seasons come and go,
While he faced the round eternal of the cash-book and the journal —
But I doubt he’d suit the office, Clancy, of ‘The Overflow’.


A few weeks ago, The Book Accumulator passed this wonderful parody/homage on to me, which was written by Joe Wolfe, an Australian physicist turned comic poet. I trust I’m not breaking any copyright by posting this in full as he reads it out in the radio segment I’ve linked to above.


I had written him a text
Which I’d sent, hoping the next
Time he came in mobile coverage
He’d have time to say hello.
But I’d heard he’d lost his iPhone,
So I emailed him from my smart phone,
Just addressed, on spec, as follows:

And the answer redirected
Wasn’t quite what I’d expected
And it wasn’t from the shearing mate
Who’d answered once before.
His ISP provider wrote it
And verbatim I will quote it:
‘This account has been suspended:
You won’t hear from him any more.’

In my wild erratic fancy
Visions come to me of Clancy:
Out of reach of mobile coverage
Where the Western rivers flow.
Instead of tapping on the small screen,
He’d be camping by the tall green
River gums, a pleasure
That the town folk never know.

Well, the bush has friends to meet him
But the rest of us can’t greet him:
Out there, even Telstra’s network
Doesn’t give you any bars.
He can’t blog the vision splendid
Of the sunlit plains extended
Or tweet the wondrous glory
Of the everlasting stars.

I am sitting at the keyboard,
I’m too stressed out to be bored
As I answer all the emails
By the deadlines they contain.
While my screen fills with promotions
For lotions and strange potions
And announcements of the million-dollar Prizes I can claim.

But the looming deadlines haunt me
And their harassing senders taunt me
That they need response this evening
For tomorrow is too late!
But their texts, too quickly ended,
Often can’t be comprehended
For their writers have no time to think
They have no time to wait.

And I sometimes rather fancy
That I’d like to trade with Clancy:
Just set up an email bouncer
Saying ‘Sorry, had to go.’
While he faced an inbox jamming
Up with deadlines and with spamming
As he signed off every message:

Given my recent job decision, this resonates!

* Waltzing Matilda totally works as a lullaby, just as well as or better than Oh Little Town of Bethlehem and Away in a Manger, and the Australian national anthem (OK, my bedtime repertoire is limited to “songs to which I know all the lyrics”). However, Bookmark is not as keen as I would like her to be about going to sleep, and singing about a suicidal sheep-thief may not be assisting that?

Fire – C. C. Humphreys – 4/10 (DNF)

“Fire. Vulnerable as any newborn. Like a child, you give it life, pray that it will thrive and repay your care. Yet how will it survive its first moments in a harsh world?”


From the back cover: “1666. The Great Plague has passed. Londoners celebrate survival in different ways. They drink. They gamble. They indulge in carnal delights. But 666 is the number of the Beast, the year foretold when Christ will return. A gang of fanatics – the Saints – choose to hasten that prophesied day. They will kidnap, rape, murder. Above all, they will kill a king. Two men – the highwayman William Coke and the thief-taker Pitman – are recruited to stop them. Then in the early hours of 2 September 1666, something starts that will overtake them all… London’s a tinder box. Politically, sexually, religiously. Literally. It is about to burn.”

(there are some nice graphics on the back which make that blurb a bit cooler)

This had great promise in the Prologue, with a little two-page excursion into “a spark of fire as a newborn” metaphor which I really liked (and from which I’ve quoted above) and I thought would be indicative of great writing to follow.

Sadly, I was disappointed. I can’t figure out what I didn’t like about this book. It’s readable enough – I got to page 170 in a couple of fairly short reading bursts, and some of its passages set up rich pictures and scenes.

The writing was often bawdy, but not enough to act as a deterrent for me. I couldn’t decide whether it was an intentional effort to write in a non-gendered way (I thought it was a woman trying hard to write like a man – I discover with Google that the author is male…) or to be historically authentic. I have no idea whether any of it was historically authentic at all, but I’m don’t really care.

I think what bothered me was that the line between good and bad was too clear. After a few months of reading Cormoran Strike novels where the perpetrator is always a trusted character or at least a known character in the investigators’ lives, the very obviously split world narrative bugged me, and the sad and difficult things happening to the lead characters were too painful to read when we seemed to be moving further from resolution rather than towards it.

In short, I can’t put my finger on what I didn’t like about this, I just didn’t. Someone else, or even me on a different day, might find it perfectly readable.

Additional information

Copy turned up unsolicited in the post, I presume from the publisher! Amusingly I have an email from the publisher offering me a copy, to which I did not respond, and yet it appeared anyway.
Publisher: Century, 329 pages (paperback)
Order Fire from Amazon*Waterstones or Foyles
* this is an affiliate link – I will be paid a small percentage of your purchase price if you use this link, which goes towards the running costs of this site

It’s Monday! What Are You Reading?

It's Monday! What Are You Reading

Now that the blog is back up again, time for me to join a few memes again, which I always used to love participating in (though I won’t do them every week). This one is pretty self-explanatory, hosted by Book Date.

Reading in print:daughter's secret

The Daughter’s Secret by Eva Holland – another review copy that’s turned up at some point in the last 18 months. I thought I was going to ditch this one straight away based on the unhappy premise (schoolgirl runs away with teacher aged 15, he goes to prison, now 5 years later he’s being released, what’s the impact on the family), but the first few pages are promising.

Listening to:lesson in secrets

A Lesson in Secrets by Jacqueline Winspear (one of the Maisie Dobbs series) – borrowed from Westminster Library through OneClick. I haven’t read any of the Maisie Dobbs series, but I’ve seen them highly recommended many times. I’d prefer to start at the start of the series, but this was the only one that was available from the library. It’s started very well, so I’ve got high hopes!


What I’m listening to

(or – “to what I am listening”, if like me you are somewhat of a grammar snob)

So what have I been doing with all that commute time over the last 9 months if not reading? Well, my commute is roughly 7 mins walk, 2 mins wait for train, 8 mins train, 5 mins walk, 2 mins wait for train, 8 mins train, 3 mins walk. So while it’s delightful to only have a 35 minute commute (by London standards, that’s pretty good), it is Not Conducive to reading books.

Enter two friends: the podcast and the audiobook.

I’ve become a real fan of podcasts over the last 12-18 months in a way that I hadn’t even contemplated could be possible before. My regular listens are Mom And Dad Are FightingThe Double X Gabfest (both from Slate), Happier by Gretchen Rubin (about whose books I’ve written here, here and here), Ask A Clean Person (yes, it’s a show about cleaning things) from the Heritage Radio Network and No Such Thing As a Fish by the QI elves.

Audiobooks – over the last few months, I’ve listened to all three of the Cormoran Strike books, Gretchen Rubin’s Better Than Before, Gary Taubes’ Why We Get Fat and Helen Russell’s The Year of Living Danishly, and I’ve started and abandoned Kate Atkinson’s A God In Ruins and Sue Perkins’ Spectacles. Reviews to follow at some point.

I’ve discovered that listening to the spoken word (podcast or audiobook) is just the right amount of entertainment while walking, and perfectly mixed on the Tube with a game of Two Dots (I’ve got rather good at Two Dots). I definitely can’t listen and email at the same time, and Two Dots by itself is insufficiently captivating for the Tube journey.

The podcasts don’t quite come out regularly enough for me – the two Slate ones alternate weeks, so between them there is a new episode on Thursdays, and the other three seem to come out weekly (though Ask A Clean Person is a bit spasmodic and I have actually unsubscribed, though I will re-subscribe). When I’m between audiobooks, that’s not enough material per week.

Any recommendations?

Fun fact – the QI elves are slowly becoming famous – they got their own TV show, No Such Thing As The News a few months back, and I spotted one of the Elves in the wild a few weeks back – it transpires he lives nearby.

And in case you’re wondering, I get my audiobooks both from an Audible subscription and through One Click Digital, Westminster Libraries’ audiobook service.

Start of something new

So here’s a scary thing: I resigned from my job.

“That’s not so scary! Millennials change jobs every 2-3 years!” I hear you cry.

Not this millennial. I’ve had 2 paid jobs in my life, and one was making lattes and dishing up stale croissants during one university summer. I’ve been at Large Accountancy Firm for the best part of 8 years – my first day was 8 Sept 2008. (Side note: Lehman Brothers collapsed on 15 Sept 2008. I try not to feel responsible.)

I’m definitely not going to get into the details of why I left on social media, but if you know me in real life, buy me a coffee and we’ll chat.


That’s big, huh? Particularly because I don’t have a new job yet.

I finish Current Job on 2nd September, so I still have a few weeks of large spreadsheets and accounts proof-reading ahead of me. Anyone got recommendations for reading on my last month of that particular commute?


Thoughts on social media and blogging

I used to follow dozens, maybe even more than a hundred blogs. I saved book reviews from them, used them to see what people were generally saying about a book, and linked my reviews to other people’s reviews.

As my favourite bloggers have wandered off (mostly to have kids, though a few of them have come back, or become bestselling authors – I’m looking at Books I Done Read, Iris on Books, The Sleepless Reader, Teadevotee – sometimes to become serious open water swimmers and marathon runners) I ended up with a blog reader split into “favourite book blogs” where there were very few posts and I never read them anyway, and hundreds of unread posts in “book blogs”.

The internet is just too big to try to keep up with everything that everyone is saying. That’s why I like Twitter better than Facebook – no one expects you to keep up with everything that happens on Twitter, whereas I know of at least two occasions warranting at the very least email invitations if not phone call invitations that were organised just on Facebook with the attitude that if the person isn’t on Facebook, they’re not important!? I took a break from social media for the first part of Lent 2016 and while I ended up going back because I felt I was disconnecting from friends I had on Twitter and missing out on enjoying people’s pretty pictures on Instagram, I’m not going back to Facebook in anywhere near as big a way and I’m still contemplating removing myself from it altogether and just making sure I catch up with certain people by email more.

I also moved my blog reader more towards personal blogs and “good living”/lifehacking and a dose of parenting: Modern Mrs Darcy, Back To Her Roots, The Happiness Project, Hey Let’s Make Stuff, Lifehacker, Coffee and Crumbs, Time Management Ninja (which I used to read a lot and now don’t so much). I find these ones so much easier to sift through for things I’m really interested in or where I know I will enjoy reading the content, and just mark as read things I know I don’t care about (this applies to about 85% of Lifehacker posts).

It was blogs like MMD and BTHR that made me think I needed to change the direction of my blog – and it’s probably no coincidence that a lot of these are written by women in their late 20s and 30s who have 1-4 kids. Apparently, subconsciously, I’ve changed the group from whom I want to learn. I used to want to learn (what to read) from voracious readers; now I want to learn how to enjoy this insane season of new parenthood and work and activity. Is it fair to say that these 10 years are probably going to be the busiest and best of my life?

Hence the re-launch and the changes in my reading. I guess reading blogs on the commute became the replacement for reading books – short personal essays (which is really what blog posts are) are much more digestible in 8 minute intervals at 6.40am than a few pages of a novel!

What? there’s still someone here?

New blog, new… what? New me? Definitely not. Slightly changed me, for sure.

This used to be exclusively a book review blog, with occasional life-related chat, and I also used to have a cycling blog which never really got off the ground at Adventures with Cecily*. Now that I do not read anywhere near as much, nor cycle that much, I wanted a more general blog – more in the style of Modern Mrs Darcy, whose blog I adore reading. So – I’m doing a bit of a blog re-launch.

What to expect

Fewer books, though hopefully more books than in the last year or two!

More general life stuff (upcoming: bullet journaling, goal setting, resuming cycling)

More simplicity. I just don’t have time for a million systems any more. I used to log my reading on LibraryThing and on Goodreads, and I’m giving up on both of those. I like some of the community aspects of both, but social media provides quite enough (too much?) community for me already and I wasn’t really getting anything else from these that I’m not getting between the blog, Twitter, a spreadsheet for tracking my reading and, you know, actually talking to people.

Less edited writing. I won’t pretend that my writing was particularly edited beforehand (and I’m such a stickler for spell-checking and formatting that I’ll no doubt be highly embarrassed if I make typos!), but in the interests of just getting posts written and out there (which is what I’m aiming for), some of that gloss is going to be abandoned. I’m doing this so that I have a daily/multiple-times-a-week writing practice, not so I have a super fancy blog from which to make £££.

What not to expect

Me to write any more intelligently, concisely or insightfully. This is my corner of the internet to chat, and if you want to come over here to chat with me, that’s fantastic! But I certainly won’t pretend I have all the answers. (Does anybody?)

Fancy photographs. Ain’t got time for that.

* Cecily got stolen and has been replaced by Jack (speedy road bike) and Gwendolyn (Dutch style bike). Cycling with Other Characters from The Importance of Being Earnest is a less catchy title.