Caught in the Act (of Reading): Edwin Turner, Master Book Thief

I just read this interview and found parts of it very thought provoking. I reblog it so that other interested people might get a chance to read it and be inspired by it.

The WordPress.com Blog

Book lovers, lock your libraries: a voracious reader is among us. We recently chatted with Edwin Turner, the mastermind behind Biblioklept, a popular literary blog dedicated to books, art, and the ways in which the two shape our world. Join us for a conversation with Ed about blogging, literature, and finding a sense of community through the solitary act of writing.

Why did you start Biblioklept?

In September of 2006 two friends suggested I start a blog. I thought the idea of blogging was kind of silly, but I started Biblioklept as a WordPress.com blog after doing some basic research into the various platforms out there. Then I started writing. And then I became addicted.

How did you come up with the intriguing name?

I think it was just there, waiting for me. Like a lot of people who read, I keep lists of words — I mean…

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Before and after the War, a Reblog.

In 1942/1943 my friends in Berlin and I had often contemplated what life might be like, once we had peace again. Our dreams for the future were very basic. We all wanted to get married and have children. We all wanted our husbands to have occupations that would enable us to live in comfortable houses. My friend Siglinde and I were for ever drawing house-plans. There would be at least three bed-rooms: one for the parents, one for two boys and another one for two girls. Yes, to have two boys as well as two girls, that was our ideal.

Before we married, we would finish school and go to university and our husbands would of course be university educated. In peace-time we would be able to buy all the things we had been able to buy before the war started: Bananas, pineapples, oranges and lemons; all this would be available again! Somehow we knew, we were only dreaming about all this. We had no idea, what would really happen, once the war ended.

I turned eight in September of 1942. Most of my friends were around the same age. My friend Siglinde however was four years my senior, the same as my cousin Sigrid.

When I was about thirteen, Cousin Sigrid made a remark, that put a damper on my wishful thinking. Sigrid had noticed, that I got very good marks in high-school. So she said in a quite friendly way: ‘I see, you’ll probably end up becoming a Fräulein Doctor!’ This remark made me furious inside. It sounded to me, that once I embarked on becoming a ‘Fräulein Doctor’ I would have no hope in the world of acquiring a husband and children. ‘Who in their right mind would study to achieve a doctorate and miss out on having a husband and children?’ I thought to myself.

Mum, Tante Ilse and Uncle Peter loved to read romance and crime fiction. Most of the books they read were translations from English. Mum and Tante Ilse loved Courts-Mahler, Uncle Peter liked Scotland Yard stories best. They all had read ‘Gone with the Wind’. Even my father, who boasted, he never read any novels, read this one.

I read ‘Gone with the Wind’, when I was fourteen. My father’s sister Elisabeth, on hearing this, was shocked, that my mother let me read this novel. According to Tante Lisa, I was much too young to read something like this. However some of my girl-friends read this book too. They all loved Rhett Butler. About Scarlett the opinions were divided. Personally I did not care for the way she treated Melanie. I thought by constantly making passionate advances towards Ashley, she showed total disregard for Melanie’s feelings. Rhett adored Melanie. He showed her great respect as a person with a noble character. In contrast, he was well aware that Scarlet was anything but noble. Often he found Scarlett’s irrational behaviour highly amusing. Ashley treated Scarlett in a very gentleman like way. Not so Rhett. This impressed my friends. They all admired Rhett! I think, I admired Ashley more. –

Mum and Tante Ilse borrowed books from a lending library. A middle-sized novel cost one Deutsche Mark to borrow for one week, a real big novel cost two Marks. In secret I once read a translation of ‘Amber’. Fascinating stuff this was.

When I read ‘Amber’, I was probably thirteen. I read it only, when I was by myself in the apartment, which happened often enough. I was able to consume the whole big novel without anybody noticing it. I knew, Mum and Tante Ilse had read the book already, because they often talked about it, how good it was. But the book was still lying around at our place. There were a few more days before it had to be returned to the library. I found out, that Amber was a fifteen year old country-girl, who went to London. The time was the seventeen hundreds. Because of her beauty, Amber was able to make it in the world. She had lots of lovers. She always made sure, that her next lover was of a higher ranking than the previous one. That made it possible for her, to climb up the social ladder. – Well, this is about as much as I still remember from that novel.

During the first years after the war we lived like paupers. Still, I realized – maybe a bit to my regret – that there was a big difference between a desperately poor girl from the country and me, desperately poor city girl from a ‘good’ family. I knew then, whether I wanted it or not, I had to put up with an extremely low standard of living for some time yet. And I mean by ‘low standard’ not the low standard that everyone went through during the adjustments after the war, but a standard, where it was necessary for us to get social services payments!

Was I out to enhance my appearance in order to catch a prosperous male as an escort to take me out to fun-parties and adult entertainment? No way! Something like that was just not for me. I felt I was plain Uta who was never invited to go out anywhere with anyone.

Was I really that plain? I wonder. Up to age fourteen I may have had some chances with the opposite sex, given the opportunity. However by age fifteen I had put on so much weight, that I felt to be totally unattractive. I was right, because no attractive male ever made an attempt to woo for my attention, not until I was about seventeen and a half that is. But even then things didn’t change much for me. I honestly felt like some kind of a social freak during most of my teenage years.

Diary, October 2013

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These are some of the participating ships of the International Fleet Review as they arrive in Sydney Harbour, Friday, 4th October 2013.

The following is a news item from the Sydney Morning Herald:

“Prince Harry has arrived in Sydney to help celebrate 100 years since the Royal Australian Navy fleet first entered the waterway.
The International Fleet Review visit marks the prince’s first official trip to Australia representing the royal family.

This morning he and Governor-General Quentin Bryce will board the HMAS Leeuwin on Sydney Harbour, where people are already gathering at prime viewing points.

The International Fleet Review visit marks the prince’s first official trip to Australia representing the royal family.

This morning he and Governor-General Quentin Bryce will board the HMAS Leeuwin on Sydney Harbour, where people are already gathering at prime viewing points.”

The above news item was published in the Sydney Morning Herald just a bit over a week ago. The International Fleet Review has been a truly remarkable event. Sydney Harbour looked wonderful throughout all the days of celebrations. In the meantime the Sydney area has had several warnings about extreme fire danger because of heat and strong winds. In bush areas all over New South Wales several fires have been out of control for several days. Yesterday, Sunday, a grass fire at a parking area destroyed more than 40 cars! It’s amazing how quickly a fire can get out of control.

Memories from 1950 to 1955

THIS IS A REWORKING OF ONE OF MY OLDER BLOGS. GOING BACK AGAIN TO MY GROWING UP YEARS IN BERLIN.

I left high-school at intermediate level in the summer of 1951. Thereafter I lost contact with all my girl-friends, who went on to high-school to the end of year thirteen to get the ‘Abitur’, which would qualify them for university entrance. My choice was to continue higher education at a commercial school, which hopefully would qualify me for a secretarial position.

The best thing at that school was, that we read Goethe’s Faust. I was therefore able to get good marks in German. English was a good subject for me too. However in all the commercial subjects I was extremely unsatisfactory.

One day our class-teacher, Herr Gluschke, had had enough and talked to me under four eyes. “How come “, he said, “that you are good in all subjects, the other teachers teach, and in all the subjects that I teach, you’re far from good?”

What did I answer? Did I say, that the other subjects interested me more? Did I tell him, I found it hard to work anything out on a counting machine because I felt I needed a lot more practice on it? Or that I had problems remembering the required wording in answer to a set question, when we were not allowed to take notes in his classes and when we had no books whatsoever on the subjects he was teaching? I don’t know, what I answered him.

No wonder I was dead scared of the final exams. Rather than finish the second year of commercial schooling, I applied for a job which would enable me to get familiar with secretarial work. I looked up advertised jobs. In one of the ads they offered two beginners’ jobs for office work. Later I found out, that there were ninety-five applicants for these two very lowly paid jobs! And I was the extremely lucky person, who ended up with one of the two jobs!

Herr Gluschke, on hearing that I wanted to leave school and start working, happily wished me all the best for the future! I started work in the clearing house of FLEUROP/INTERFLORA on the second of January 1953 and stayed with that company for the best part of five years.

At commercial school my best and probably only friend was Eva Horn. Eva did not finish school either. Her father, who was an executive at TELEFUNKEN, had seen to it, that she could start work for TELEFUNKEN in Spain. Apparently Eva longed to experience a different country.

Apart from some commercial English, we had also learned a bit of commercial Spanish at school, which came in handy for Eva Of course in Spain it did not take her long to speak and write Spanish fluently. She became friends with a Spanish guy called Jesus. So Eva stayed on in Spain. I missed her very much. We kept writing each other for a while. I also saw her, when she came back to Berlin to visit her parents.

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I had started selling Sunday night newspapers during the summer of 1950. I needed a special permission from the police to do it for I was not sixteen yet and therefore not supposed to work late at night. But since I was nearly sixteen and looked much older anyway, I had no problem in getting the permission.

I had to sell ‘Die Nachtausgabe des Montags-Echos’ (the night-edition of the Monday-Echo). It earned me a bit of pocket-money. Occasionally people would think I was a university student who was badly in need of money. These people would give me a generous tip, sometimes a five Mark note! Once a class-mate saw me selling papers in front of a cinema. I felt extremely embarrassed that my class-mate had seen me doing this. It was not the done thing for school-students to sell papers. University-students did it all the time, but not school-students.

Soon after Easter of 1952 (I was seventeen and a half) I met Wolfgang Steinberg. He was already nineteen and in his final year of schooling. I had gone to an evening class to catch up on a bit of Spanish. Wolfgang happened to be in this class. When he realized that I had already done a bit of Spanish at Commercial School, he approached me in a very friendly way asking me whether I would be willing to study some Spanish together with him.

So we did get together. When he was invited to our place on a Sunday, he met my mother. My mother had no objections to my seeing him again. At the time we still had a piano on loan in our home. Wolfgang came to visit several times, even when my mother was not at home. He would play wonderful tunes on the piano. Once Mum came home unexpectedly when we had done a bit of necking. Mum stormed into the living-room and straight away screamed at the top of her voice that Wolfgang had behaved improperly because he had caused her daughter to have a red face! Well, it was obvious, wasn’t it, that I had fallen in love with this guy.

This was not good enough for my mother, of course. She had to find out a bit more about his background. He had claimed that his mother was dead and that he lived with his aunt. Well, it was true, his mother had died when he was still very young. His father had married again and owned a small flower-shop.

In my mother’s eyes this made Wolfgang some-one of very low standing; definitely not suited for me as a companion! My mother decided, she wanted to see the father in his flower-shop and made me go along with her.

The flower-shop turned out to be very small indeed. The whole family was gathered in the shop, when we arrived. There was the congenial looking father, who was of small stature. The mother was a tallish woman. I imagined her to be very resolute and practical in every way. Wolfgang had shown me a picture of his mother who had died when he was still so young. But he did remember her and missed her very much. The photo showed a young, extremely friendly and beautiful looking woman. I could understand, how a boy would be fascinated by those soft features. The step-mother turned out to have rather harsh features. There was also a step-sister, a spindly looking girl of about ten. When she heard, what was going on, she said full of ‘Schadenfreude’: “Ah. so Wolfgang has been telling fibs again!”

Then Wolfgang was called out. When he appeared from behind the shop, he looked small and embarrassed, letting his head hang from having a bad conscience. I felt sorry for him. Talking to the father, my mother made sure, that we two young people were never allowed to see each other again. The father said a few soothing words to me, trying to comfort me. He urged me, that it was for the best, if I listened to my mother.

I trotted back home with Mum, feeling very, very sad indeed. For the next few months my only friend remained my school-friend Eva. She lived around the corner. I was allowed to visit her at night-time, whenever I felt like it. I also went on a few outings with her.

A few months later, aged eighteen, I started work. Then in the spring of 1953 I met another guy, who I thought was very likable indeed. During the summer of 1953 I met Wolfgang one more time. He had done his ‘Abitur’ in the meantime and found employment in some office near Kurfürstendamm. He was telling me about Fax- machines, which he had to use.

When I told him about my new friend, he must have sensed, that I was not really interested anymore in a friendship with him; that most likely I was feeling somewhat attached to the other guy. We parted as good friends. However we agreed, it would be interesting to see each other again at the same place, which was the Bayrischer Platz, exactly ten years later, on the 30th June 1963. But by that time I was already married with three children and living in Australia. Needless to say, I never saw him again.

But here are some more thoughts on Wolfgang. He had been telling me such wonderful stories! He also played songs on the piano. I loved it when he played the song about the lonely soldier at the river Wolga. He also knew some naughty songs. But I told him, I wasn’t so keen on these. He accepted that gracefully.

I called him ‘Wölfi’; he called me ‘Schäfchen’. Schäfchen means ‘little sheep’. Of course, he only called me that, when no-one else was around. ‘Schäfchen’, he said it lovingly and understandingly, and I didn’t object! I must say, as compared to him, I really felt like a ‘Schäfchen’. He told me, he earned some pocket money as a piano-player in night-bars. So he must have been well aware of what was going on at night-time in a big city.

Students in their final year of high-school, that is the thirteenth year of schooling (after having started at around six), those students in their final year were called ‘Abiturienten’. So Wolfgang was an ‘Abiturient’, when I met him at the Spanish evening class. I had joined that class of the Workers’ Education to catch up on Spanish, for I felt the few hours of schooling at my school were not sufficient to get a proper footing in the language. Come to think of it, there would not have been a reason for Wolfgang to join that class, for Spanish was not required at his school. He was interested in travel though. Maybe that is why he wanted to learn some Spanish.

Sunday nights I was supposed to sell news-papers. One Sunday night I skipped it, because I wanted to stay with Wolfgang. That was a mistake, because Mum found out about it. She was outraged about my behaviour. She started making inquiries about him. She had begun to smell a rat! And yes, she was right. Wolfgang had been telling me and Mum quite a lot of fibs. For one, he did not want to admit, that his father was only a small shopkeeper. He thought, if Frau Dr. Spickermann knew about that, she would never agree to her daughter going out with him! So he told us stories about a rich aunt, who was his patron and who took him on travels to Italy and America. It was of course all fantasy! Naturally Mum thought, he could not be trusted anymore. There was not a thing in the world I could have done to change her mind. I still had feelings for him, but I had to suppress them.

When I started office work I quit my paper job even though in the beginning I earned an extremely low salary at FLEUROP.
I guess a year later it would have been my choice to continue meeting Wolfgang in secret. We both had jobs by that time. Actually I forgot to mention that we kept up a secret correspondence for about a month (via Eva’s address). Wolfgang and I promised each other then to meet again one year later at Bayrischer Platz. This was the last I saw of him. I felt at the time that my friend, Karl-Heinz, was the better choice for me. I think this new guy never ever met my mother. Mum did not want to know of my friendship with him. She definitely did not approve of him. He was only 17 when I first met him (I was nine months his senior). In the end he preferred another girl. And she was a bit older than I was! In May 1955, when I was twenty and a half, I met my lovely husband. He’s still with me and keeps telling me every day that he loves me!

Fleet Review Celebrations in Sydney, October 2013

Tall ships on display in Sydney

Continuing the fleet review celebrations, more than a dozen tall ships were on display today on Sydney Harbour.

The public were also able to board international warships at Barangaroo and Garden Island, to get a glimpse of life at sea.

On Saturday, Prince Harry and Governor-General Quentin Bryce performed the official review of warships from 17 nations.

Up to a million people are estimated to have watched a huge light and fireworks show which lit up Sydney harbour to end the day’s celebrations– the biggest since the Olympic Games.

The dazzling fireworks display was launched from city rooftops, barges, the Harbour Bridge, and the decks of Navy warships.

Images of key moments in the Navy’s history were projected onto the Opera House along with archival sound recordings, honouring Australian sailors who have lost their lives at sea.

 

The above is a news item which I copied from the Sydney Morning Herald webpage.

 

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On Sunday, the 6th October, we made it to Central Station in Sydney. From there we took the tram to Darling Harbour. It was already late afternoon. However there were still huge crowds everywhere. Some of the tall ships had made it from Sydney Harbour to Darling Harbour. If you wanted to go on board of one, you had to buy a ticket and then join a large queue to be let on the boat. We did not feel like waiting around for so long. We promenaded instead along Darling Harbour. Peter took a few pictures. For refreshment we bought some lovely ice-creams and listened to some beautiful Lebanese music.

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Someone who had seen Peter taking pictures of me asked whether we wanted to have a picture taken of us together. We thought this was very kind of him.
Someone who had seen Peter taking pictures of me asked whether we wanted to have a picture taken of us together. We thought this was very kind of him.

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We took the tram back to Central Station. From there we could catch our train back home to Dapto. It was nearly 9 pm by the time we were home. We had left home some ten hours earlier because we had been invited to a talk about the environment that we did not want to miss out on.

By the way to our great shock we noticed yesterday morning that we had lost one hour: Our clocks had been set forward onto Daylight Saving Time!

My Friends in 1947

I made a few changes to this blog. This is why I think some people might perhaps want to have another look.

AuntyUta

I’m surprised that Franziska isn’t in that birthday photo from 1947, when I turned thirteen. Dr Petzel used to give Franziska ‘preferential’ treatment because her father had a doctor title. I remember I used to climb with her and her younger brother on chestnut trees to pick nice ripe chestnuts. This must have been in autumn of 1946.

So Franziska is not in the picture. Gisela (16), Jutta (14), Lilo (14) and Irene (still 13) are in the picture from right to left.

Cordula had turned 12 on the 20th May of that year, whereas Eva would turn 12 in December of 1947.

There are four school-friends in the birthday photo. Gisela was already sixteen and seemed very mature to us. She had to do all the housework at home because her mother had died.  Her father worked as a truck-driver.  Gisela was an excellent reader. When a teacher had…

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