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Big Bad Bruce by Dianne Bates and Phoebe Middleton & When Hunger Calls by Bert Kitchen

October 1994, no. 165

Bates and Middleton are certainly valiant in their attempts to make a giant hollow rampaging male ego appear cute in Big Bad Bruce. Just look at it go! Indiscriminately swallowing everything in sight, making its way through the world astride a giant throbbing machine. But don’t toss this big glossy number aside – it can serve an excellent purpose. Treat it, allow me to suggest, thus.

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Who made the best Sachertorte in the world? Andrew Riemer’s mum. The recipe is lost now, but it came from the Ursuline nuns in Sopron, a small Hungarian town where Andrew Riemer’s mother grew up. This information comes early in The Hapsburg Cafe, which is an account of the author’s second visit to the places of his childhood (the first account being recorded in Inside Outside). I waited and waited for him to go to the Ursuline Convent in Sopron and get the recipe, but the duffer never did. Even though he called a part of the book ‘Remembrance of Things Past’. Men. What’s a Madeleine when you could have a Sachertorte?

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I suspect that even his contemporaries found Matthew Flinders strange and not entirely likeable. His father hoped that, like his grandfather and himself, Matthew would become a surgeon, but filled with enthusiasm for adventure after reading Robinson Crusoe, the youth insisted on a career in the navy. He wrote to the woman who would become his long-suffering wife in a style that would have been stilted even then, one that conveyed his undoubted affection in such a self-conscious way as to leave the modern reader with an unpleasant sense of self-righteousness. Amid preparations for the Investigator voyage, Flinders told his father: ‘I have no present or future intention of marrying either [Ann Chappelle] or any other person, but leave England only wedded to my ship.’ Then, when his father declined to provide him with the funds he needed to underwrite the marriage he was in fact contemplating, Flinders replied peremptorily that his father should henceforth consider that he had four children rather than five.

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