Best holiday read – Papillon

I tend to read alot on holiday, as I don’t get the chance any other time. I like books with good stories and suspense. This year I downloaded Papillon onto my Kindle and loved it.


For those of you who don’t know it was written by Henri Charrière in 1969, an autobiography that covers the period 1931 – 1945 in his life. It was also dramatised into a Hollywood film in 1973 starring the great Steve McQueen. It the story of a man who was one of the few people to successfully escape from the notorious French penal colony of Devil’s Island.

Charriere becomes incarcerated, for murdering a pimp and becomes known as “Papillon,” or “butterfly,” because of a prominent tattoo. He maintains throughout that he is innocent and plots his way out of Devil’s Island.

The brutality of life at the penal colony is clear, along with the inhuman treatment – including long periods of solitary confinement, that he encounters. But his strength of will sees him through several escape attempts and ultimate freedom. He also finds the best in people, particularly his inmates and people he meets along the way.

Was it all true – maybe not. Some portions the story are disputed and several of Charriere’s fellow inmates have claimed over the years that he incorporated the experiences of other would-be escapees and presented them as his own story. But who cares, a great writer borrows wherever he can.

To me it’s a Boys Own adventure story. It’s gripping and the pace never fades – a real page turner. It’s my (current) favourite and a great book for your next holiday maybe….

Christmas Travails

Christmas is really stressful. The men in our house, i.e. me and my two sons are under strict instructions to clean the house today. This is bound to result in family grief, as we won’t have done it to my wife’s standards despite spending bloody hours on it. I can feel the pressure mounting as the clock starts ticking down to her return…

I did a bit of research to see if I could make the process less stressful. Eventually I came across an article by Drew Norman which sets out some of the issues and solutions:

1. Assume it’s dirty.

Most men don’t see dirt. In general, we don’t see half of what needs to be done. They do. So don’t stand around complaining that you can’t clean what you can’t see. Assume it’s dirty, and get busy.

2. Claim some jobs.
Things will be much less confusing around the house, and much more equal, if you claim some specific duties. Doing the washing or grocery shopping is a good start, for example. Stay away from the dusting, since you can’t see dust.

3. Read the directions.
Dish-washing detergents and cleaning fluids of all kinds have directions on them. These are very helpful, don’t bother your wife with stupid questions.

4. Turn off the game, and concentrate.
Whether it’s the iPod, Sky box, or the game you’ve been waiting for, turn off the distractions while you work. Household tasks are mundane, true, but not if you’re learning how to do them right for the first time. Later, if your work has received approval several times, you may graduate to music in the background or something.

5. Do the job, then shut up about it.
Nothing can spoil the effort to help more often and effectively, than to brag about it. Don’t ever imply to her, or (especially) in mixed company, that you are “doing your share.” You are a dead man if you do. You must remember that you are Housework Handicapped. You will never be as good as She, or able to see the whole picture that She sees.

It feels to me like a PhD thesis, and something that could be enormously valuable to mankind in future. Maybe I’ll start with some more research.

Hold on a minute, my wife returns in four hours. We had better get cracking….