The road to Middlemarch book review: Love of Eliot lasts a lifetime

THE ROAD TO MIDDLEMARCHRebecca Mead Text Publishing, 320pp, $32.99 
Nanjing Night Net

George Eliot is the literary equivalent to the Masonic handshake. ”You like George Eliot?” someone will say. ”Then I know who you are,” is the instant thought. It’s a recognition of being in love with the same person.

At 17, Rebecca Mead was given a novel featuring a 19-year-old heroine called Dorothea Brooke. The opening line is: ”Miss Brooke had that kind of beauty which seems to be thrown into relief by poor dress.” Miss Mead (non-fictional), born almost 150 years after Miss Brooke (fictional), and a century after the words were written, immediately needed to know more about the already remarkable Miss Brooke. She read on. In knowing Miss Brooke (Dorothea), Miss Mead (Rebecca) came to know herself. Middlemarch is accompanying her through life.

It’s a glorious thing for a writer to be able to formally acknowledge the love affair – often the deepest love affair of their lives – they have had with the work of another writer and to celebrate the sweet coincidences. The Road to Middlemarch: My Life with George Eliot details how Middlemarch reflected, sustained, extended and disciplined Rebecca Mead’s life.

British-born Mead is an author and New Yorker journalist. Learned, candid and self-deprecating, she shares with Dorothea Brooke celestial humility and admirable discipline. She also has a useful practical charm – an ordered mind. Figuring a way to contain the complex magnificence of Middlemarch, reveal crucial biographical detail about George Eliot and sustain a delicate autobiographical harmony is a task fit to rattle a field marshal.

Rebecca Mead is steadfast and unrattled.

”I couldn’t believe how relevant and urgent it felt,” she writes about her provincial 17-year-old self in 1985, preparing for university exams, aiming to get into one of the ancient universities in Britain, and reading Middlemarch in the cumbersome Penguin edition, the cover featuring a perplexing picture of a Victorian woman out walking through sylvan countryside.

Victorian? ”The questions with which George Eliot made her characters wrestle would all be mine eventually. How is wisdom to be attained? What are the satisfactions of personal ambition and how might they be weighed against ties and duties to others? What does a good marriage consist of, and what makes a bad one? What do the young owe the old and vice versa? What is the proper foundation of morality?”

The 17-year-old missed many of the questions, but she knew that the point of reading is that even if we don’t think we understand, at some level we do, especially if the source of genius in an author is her acute psychological perception.

Virginia Woolf saw this, observing that Middlemarch is ”one of the few English novels written for grown-up people”. Woolf, snobbish and malicious, had reservations about Eliot (”the granddaughter of a carpenter,” she sniffs) but she recognised a genius superior to her own in her 1919 essay, when Eliot’s fame was at its nadir. ”As one comes back to the books after years of absence they pour out, even against our expectation, the same store of energy and heat …” Woolf also saw how loss of faith as a young woman was the source of her moral consciousness. There was, too, the alluring, mysteriously feminine aspect of Eliot that colours everything.

Eliot, when she was plain Mary Ann Evans from the Midlands, brilliant, religious, female and ugly, had a tormented young life. As she lost her faith, her beloved father rejected her and her abject letters to him make painful reading. Mead writes about these years with an unguarded and imaginative intimacy that comes as a shock. Then Eliot fell in love with Herbert Spencer, the greatest thinker of the day, only to be rejected because Spencer found it impossible to fall in love with a plain woman. Ivan Turgenev, on the other hand, said Eliot made him understand how it was possible to fall in love with a woman who wasn’t pretty. Turgenev is still read.

Eliot’s life was one long struggle against convention. The powerful men, and some women of her day, esteemed her radiant mind and clamoured for her friendship, but their ambivalent attitude to her as a female had as much to do with to do with her late blooming as a writer as did her loss of faith.

She was 37 when she began her first fiction, Scenes of Clerical Life, and wrote because she had met the man who gave her the love and affection to ballast her generous soul. Physically, George Henry Lewes might have been as unappealing as she was, but he was the model for the incandescent Will Ladislaw, Dorothea’s destiny after her false start with Casaubon. Ladislaw is the most enchanting incarnation of spring in fiction.

Mead suggests the way you have lived your life has the greatest effect on how you read books. It’s an arresting thought that, in her quiet way, she charts through the revealing (but not too revealing) comments about her emotional and moral progress in parallel with Dorothea’s. Like Dorothea, Mead had yearnings ”common to womanhood” and it is a revelation to see the fictional woman from the past integrate with the contemporary non-fictional woman. Mead’s capacity for directness, shared with Dorothea, brings freshness to her words and her own story is the perfect wire on which to hang talk about the infinite glories of Middlemarch; the tragic Lydgate and the terrible Rosamund, the luminous love between Mary Garth and Fred Vincy, the compassion Eliot has for the wicked Bulstrode and her admiration of his interestingly uninteresting wife.

Mead’s perception of Eliot’s use of childhood landscape – not as a site of sad nostalgia, but as restoration of the emotional intensity of childhood is bracing. In the landscape of our youth, Eliot says, there is nothing important – except that is where we learned to be human. Sensitivity to one’s childhood landscape is a sign of moral maturity.

There are deep – the deepest? – pleasures to be had here. All the devastating nuances of human behaviour in Middlemarch surface again, reminding us that Middlemarch, featuring ”a heroine of the ordinary”, is a step into a greater human consciousness, where sympathy for the human dilemma causes egotism to shrink.

Eliot and Lewes had famous ”Sunday afternoons” at their London house, where invitations were chased by the powerful and prestigious and much of their talk has echoed down the century. Rebecca Mead extends this talk. Perhaps this calm, thrilling book will do for George Eliot what Colin Firth did for Jane Austen.

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Firepower `vital ingredient’

FIREPOWER is a crucial key to becoming the next tennis star, says Roger Rasheed.
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“As coaches, we’re looking for something different,” the former Australian tennis player turned coach said yesterday.

Rasheed, former coach of Lleyton Hewitt and Frenchmen Jo-Wilfried Tsonga and Gael Monfils, was the special guest at the McDonald’s Burnie International business luncheon.

He is the current coach of Bulgarian 22-year-old Grigor Dimitrov, who won his first set against world No. 1 Rafael Nadal at the Australian Open last week.

Bringing out the firepower

Known for his tell-it-as-it-is attitude, Rasheed admits his style of high performance training is “pretty extreme”.

Two hours before Dimitrov’s quarter final match against Nadal, the player and Rasheed went for a walk underneath the grandstands at Rod Laver Arena.

“I said to him, `It’s a good result reaching the quarter finals, but I need to know you’re going to beat him … if you’re feeling comfortable and happy that you’re making up the numbers I’ll pull you out of the match’,” Rasheed explained.

“He went for a walk for five minutes and came back and said to me `I’m going to beat him, now tell me what to do’.” Dimitrov went on to win the first set against the world No.1 6-3.

This is what Rasheed explained as having the firepower.

“It just showed him for the first time he can create his own environment against these players … now you’re living in their space,” Rasheed said.

Australia’s next tennis stars

Australian teens and Davis Cup players Nick Kyrgios and Thanasi Kokkinakis are the most exciting players since Hewitt, according to Rasheed.

“They have legitimate firepower and are comfortable playing against the bigger players,” he said.

Burnie a valuable stepping stone

Rasheed says tournaments like the Burnie International are the stepping stones young players need on the road to becoming a professional tennis player. “I must take my hat off to the sponsors and the support the club gives these kids playing here.”

Guest speaker Roger Rasheed recounts a story from his time coaching to those gathered at the Burnie Tennis Club for the luncheon. Pictures: Meg Windram.

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Silent kill book review: Beguiling and deceptively political action-man thriller

SILENT KILLPeter Corris Allen & Unwin, 255pp, $32.99 
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PI Cliff Hardy can still duck a crafty punch. After all, he’s in pretty good shape for an older guy (as women so often tell him), given the heart bypass operation, the booze (he’s got it under control), the fact that he’s a grandfather, and Silent Kill constitutes his 39th case. And it’s a doozy.

An old acquaintance wants to employ Hardy as a bodyguard for Rory O’Hara, an ex-firebrand student agitator, ex-independent MP turned whistle-blower. Still recovering from a hit-and-run accident (probably not an accident), the partially crippled O’Hara is about to go on the road amassing support for his new political party. His mission? To address ”corruption at the heart of governments local, state and federal and the need for a new kind of person to bring honesty back into public life and corporate management”.

Hardy needs the money more than the rhetoric so joins the entourage on the tour bus taking them to O’Hara’s first gig. This is set (aptly) in Wollongong – the city that inspired a stage play in 2011, The Table of Knowledge, based on the transcripts of an Independent Commission Against Corruption inquiry into the seedy transactions between developers and council officials in a local kebab shop.

Peter Corris has always had his finger on the political pulse but never more so than in this Hardy outing, which manages to resonate both with the political impulses of a whistleblower in the Assange mode, and the more recent ICAC inquiry into government corruption in New South Wales. This is the best kind of crime fiction, holding a mirror up to the muddled times in which we live to reveal a not altogether flattering reflection.

Sadly for O’Hara, the metaphorical wheels come off his election bus in Wollongong when his coke-sniffing, former-model girlfriend is abducted (someone wants O’Hara to pipe down). To make matters worse, his Korean nurse turns up brutally murdered. It’s the end of the road for O’Hara’s political crusade. Hardy, on the othetr hand, soon scores another gig when the well-to-do brother of the dead nurse engages him to find her killer and offers Hardy a six-figure account on which to draw his necessities.

And so Hardy takes to the road once again; first to Darwin, where he finds a terrified O’Hara in hiding; thence to Canberra where matters take an even more interesting turn in the heritage township of Gundaroo, and finally back to Sydney for a showdown in a Russian cafe where his quarry compulsively plays chess.

Along the way, Hardy’s emotional life hits a few road bumps. He loses one girlfriend (”There was an age gap and we had incompatible temperaments”) and finds another (”She wasn’t beautiful but something more and better”) but ends up wistfully alone (”I have a feeling I’ll meet up with her again”). Hardy, it would appear, is both an indefatigable romantic and an optimist.

There’s an ease about Corris’ writing that belies the complexity of the plot and the sharpness of the observations. As related from Hardy’s point of view, we see what Hardy sees, hear what he thinks, but mostly he’s a man of action telling us what he did next. You have to pay attention to pick up on what makes Hardy (and Corris) tick.

For example, on the trip to Wollongong Hardy packs his .38 Smith & Wesson and Thomas Dormandy’s book on the history of opium. The pay-off comes later on the plane to Darwin, where Hardy is still reading the Dormandy book about ”how the British created millions of Chinese addicts in the interest of trade”. The comment is barbed.

As Corris demonstrates once again, it’s not the demonic killer in the shadows we have to fear so much as the cupidity of the corporations that rule our lives. Silent kill indeed. Corris is as indefatigable as his hero.

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Egypt’s siege mentality bad news for journalists

Cairo: Egypt’s government sees many enemies when it looks out of the bunker from which it says it is simultaneously fighting terrorism and installing democracy.
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In the first months after the Muslim Brotherhood-backed government of Mohamed Mursi was deposed and an interim, military-backed government was installed, it was Syrian refugees who felt the heat.

Those 133,000 Syrians who had fled their country’s brutal war and a lifetime of oppression by the regime of Bashar al-Assad, and before him his father Hafez, were suddenly stopped at checkpoints across Cairo, deported, beaten and viewed with intense suspicion.

If they were not backing Assad’s Alawite-led government, the reasoning went, then they must be backing Syria’s Sunni-led resistance. And who is the largest organised Sunni group in Egypt? The Muslim Brotherhood.

Palestinian refugees faced the same assessment – they must be from neighbouring Gaza, Egyptian authorities assumed, which is led by the Islamist Hamas movement, known to all as the Palestinian franchise of the Brotherhood brand.

Underneath it all lies a deep, deep distrust of political Islam and the Muslim Brotherhood, whose members have been rounded up in their thousands since Mursi was deposed and imprisoned on July 3.

Most of the movement’s leadership is either behind bars and facing terrorism charges, like Mursi, or they have fled the country to avoid arrest. Thousands of supporters who took to the streets to protest what they believe was a coup against Egypt’s first democratically elected president have been detained, many without charge, for months.

It has been an extraordinary political journey for a country that was ruled for nearly three decades by dictator Hosni Mubarak, who was swept aside in February 2011 to make way for what many revolutionaries hoped would be a more democratic Egypt.

Instead, the country remained deeply polarised. The Supreme Council of the Armed Forces violently suppressed protest after protest until Egyptians, faced with a choice popularly described as between cancer (the Mubarak-linked candidate, Ahmed Shafiq) and death (Mursi), chose death.

It quickly became clear to many that they had made the wrong choice.

Egyptians had experimented with political Islam and they didn’t like what they saw, says Said Sadek, a professor of political sociology at the American University in Cairo.

On June 30, almost year to the day since Mursi was elected, hundreds of thousands of Egyptians rose up again, disgusted with the actions of the Brotherhood-backed government and determined to see its downfall.

The Brotherhood went from political leaders to pariahs in a matter of days.

Caught up in the frenzy of anti-Muslim Brotherhood sentiment is the Qatar-funded al-Jazeera television network, which has long been accused of a pro-Brotherhood editorial stance.

Once seen as the network that gave voice to the Arab revolutions, it is now viewed in Egypt quite literally as an enemy of the state.

Broadcasting via three main channels in Egypt – al-Jazeera English, al-Jazeera Arabic and al-Jazeera Mubasher Misr (Egypt Live) –  Sadek says some of its staff resigned from its Arabic-language channels over its perceived anti-Egypt bias.

Its Arabic channels were viewed as more compromised than its English-language outlet, and yet all have been tainted with the accusation of partiality.

“It is taking the side of the Muslim Brotherhood all the way, with totally unobjective, totally biased coverage,” says Sadek. “It declared war on the June 30 revolution and the Egyptian government and it began to promote incitement and negative coverage of Egypt.”

Al-Jazeera English and its journalists deny the charges of bias, and overnight the network released a compilation of news reports on Egypt to back its claims.

”Here are all of the packages our team produced from the field since July 2013. We make no apologies for telling all sides of the story and we stand by our journalism. Judge for yourself,” the network announced.

“This is a challenge to free speech, to the right of journalists to report on all aspects of events, and to the right of people to know what is going on,” a network spokesman said.

“We will continue to pursue all avenues to get our journalists back,” he said of the five journalists facing charges of producing false news and aiding terrorists, including Australian reporter Peter Greste and his two colleagues, dual Egyptian-Canadian citizen Mohamed Fadel Fahmy and Egyptian Baher Mohamed. They have been in jail since December 29 and have been given no prospect of  bail pending trial.

The Egyptian authorities’ campaign against al-Jazeera began the day President Mursi was deposed – an act the broadcaster declared was a “coup” and not the popular “people’s revolution” that army chief Abdel Fattah al-Sisi insisted it was.

On July 3, authorities raided the offices of al-Jazeera Arabic and al-Jazeera Mubasher Misr and 28 staff were arrested, including the station director.

By July 15 al-Jazeera Mubasher Misr cameraman Mohamed Badr was arrested – he remains in prison. Correspondent Abdullah al-Shami was arrested on August 14 and also remains behind bars.

The same day a crew from al-Jazeera English was detained, including correspondent Wayne Hay and producers Russ Finn and Baher Mohamed. Mohamed was released after two days (but he was detained again with Greste), while the other two were deported to London after five days’ detention.

The crackdown continued, with crews arrested and beaten while covering security operations against a pro-Mursi protest camp – a story that all foreign correspondents and most local media in Egypt covered, at times daily.

In post-revolution Egypt, it seemed, if you covered the Brotherhood, you supported the Brotherhood.

But tied up with the campaign against al-Jazeera is a broader, regional struggle that pits Qatar, which openly backed the rise of the Brotherhood in Egypt, and the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia, who threw Egypt billions of dollars as a financial lifeline once Mursi was deposed.

Part of that struggle is also a battle for control – behind the scenes – of the political opposition to Assad’s rule in Syria.

In the meantime, international human rights and press freedom groups have spoken out against the treatment of al-Jazeera’s reporters, who on Wednesday were told they would stand trial on a series of serious terrorism-related charges – all of which they deny.

“The move sends the chilling message that only one narrative is acceptable in Egypt today – that which is sanctioned by the Egyptian authorities,” said Salil Shetty, secretary-general of Amnesty International.

“Journalists cannot operate freely in a climate of fear. The latest development is a brazen attempt to stifle independent reporting in Egypt. In the lead-up to elections, a free press is essential,” said Mr Shetty.

The Committee to Protect Journalists described Egypt’s actions as an “attempt to criminalise legitimate journalistic work”.

“The government’s lack of tolerance shows that it is unable to handle criticism,” said Sherif Mansour, CPJ’s Middle East and North Africa Coordinator.

In a census the CPJ conducted in December, Egypt ranked among the world’s worst offenders for jailing journalists after Turkey, Iran, China, Eritrea, Vietnam, Syria, Azerbaijan and Ethiopia.

It doesn’t look like slipping out of the top 10 any time soon.

This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.

Cycling day to assist ill man

BURNIE’S Dan House has travelling to do after finding out in September he has terminal bowel cancer at age 31.
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A cycling relay organised by North-West-based Battlescars Foundation at Latrobe Recreation Ground next month will raise money to help him travel with his daughter Shakiya, 10, to the places he’s always wanted to see.

Mr House, a former North- West carnivals cyclist, will ride at the March 16 Ride to Recovery, a 12-hour relay starting at 7am.

“It’s certainly given me something to look forward to during my treatment cycles,” he said.

He is undergoing chemotherapy, but wants to travel to New York with Shakiya and see Madison Square Garden.

Mr House grew up cycling and won wheel races at carnivals in junior years.

Hearing he had terminal cancer focused him on making the most of his time.

“Bowel cancer in someone my age is not common,” he said.

Mr House said he is dealing with it well.

“I’m a pretty positive [person]. I’ve taken it on board.”

The cycling day would show other people in his condition there is support, he said.

Battlescars Foundation was formed to raise funds and awareness for people fighting illness.

It hopes to raise $10,000 at the relay, most of which will help Mr House cross items off his Bucket List as he fights cancer.

Teams of up to 10 are welcome to join, and entry is $100 per team.

Entry is open to anyone who can ride a bike, as long as they have a helmet and brakes.

North-West performers Gina Timms, Brett Boxhall and Dana Badcock will sing live at the fundraiser.

Battlescars Foundation president Mark Astell said he will take breaks throughout the event, but other entrants have signalled they will ride all day.To register for the event or for more information contact Mr Astell on 0400 450 611.

Battlescars Foundation Tasmania president Mark Astell and cancer patient Daniel House prepare for the foundation’s charity bike ride at Latrobe Recreation Ground. Picture: Katrina Dodd.

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John Waters: Star and car

Actor John Waters and his Toyota Tarago.The lowdown Born in London and moving to Australia in 1968, Waters has been a much-loved stalwart of the film, theatre, TV and music industries for more than 40 years. He is perhaps most famous for his long-running role on the acclaimed children’s TV show Play School.
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Other career hihglights Roles on TV shows, including Fireflies, All Saints and Offspring; playing Captain Alfred Taylor in the classic 1980 film Breaker Morant.

Current projects Starring in Looking Through A Glass Onion – John Lennon in Word and Music. For tour dates, see lookingthroughaglassonion南京夜网.au.

The year I bought my co-owned Hillman Minx – 1966

The price we paid for it – £12

What was your first car?

The first car I had I co-owned with a friend of mine from school. I was 17 and we bought a 1958 Hillman Minx. This was in south-west London, where I was born and grew up. I remember the interesting feature of it was that it had only one interior door handle, so to get out, you had to pass it around to everybody one by one. I don’t remember it going very well at all, although it was quite hardy. We owned it just for the course of one winter, and it survived, which was quite something in those days.

What are you driving now?

A Toyota Tarago, which is a great vehicle. I have small children all over again, having first had children 40 years ago, so when you have three primary school children, you’re not only driving them around, you’re driving their friends as well. So it’s a full eight-seater and it does the job really well.

Do you have a dream car in mind?

I guess it would be a sort of 1961 Cadillac DeVille convertible with white-wall tyres. That’s the rock’n’roll car. It’ll happen when the opportunity comes along.

What’s your pet road peeve?

I think probably drivers who pull up at a set of lights with a crossroad in the right-hand lane without indicating, and then once everybody’s stopped, indicate that they’re going to turn right. I think there should be a little rocket launcher in the front of every car to do away with people who do that. Of course, the truth is that some poor sod might just be totally unfamiliar with the area.

What’s your favourite drive?

I once drove what you might call the Riviera road from Marseilles in the south of France to Nice. It’s a winding road that clings to the side of a cliff, with views of the Mediterranean on one side and rocky outcrops on the other.

I was in an open-top Sunbeam Alpine that I borrowed from a friend in England to drive on the continent. That was back in my early 20s, when I spent a fair bit of time in France.

If you could go on a long road trip with absolutely anyone, who would it be?

It would have to be Jimmy Greaves, my favourite footballer of all time. He started out his career at Chelsea and had the bulk of his career at Spurs and was the record goal scorer for England. He’s a very funny East End cockney lad.

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Bouncing baby courts team attention

Mum’s the word: Canberra basketballer Abby Bishop with her five-month-old niece Zala whom she has been looking after for her sister since last August. Photo: Katherine GriffithsWhen elite basketballer Abby Bishop flew into Melbourne last night for a weekend of matches, she had an unlikely companion at her side – five-month-old baby Zala.
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The Canberra Capitals star volunteered to take care of her niece on behalf of her sister last August, when baby Zala was just two days old. That may have seemed a major impediment to a professional sportswoman who spends much of her life on the road but Bishop, whose achievements include playing for Australia at the 2012 Olympics, figured Zala could come along too. So far, it’s worked.

Zala has become a regular fixture at the team’s training sessions in Canberra. If she gets restless, coach Carrie Graf, a new mother herself (to twins) steps in as babysitter and perches Zala on her shoulder while barking orders on the court.

When the Capitals are on the road, Bishop arranges for a friend or teammate to watch Zala during the game. Bishop is even negotiating with Basketball Australia for Zala to be allowed to go on international trips.

The past five months have already included Canberra’s taxing eight-game, 37-day, 10,500-kilometre trip around Australia. Zala was there for every match and she will be in the stands again as the Capitals take on the Melbourne Boomers on Saturday and the Dandenong Rangers on Sunday.

“It was an easy decision to take [Zala] and it’s been rewarding,” Bishop said.

“It was a spur of the moment thing, one week I was a normal 25-year-old and the next week I had a baby. There was no pregnancy, so people were a bit surprised.

“From the moment we left the hospital I felt like she was mine and as time’s gone on it’s been stronger.

Obviously my life has changed, but all in a good way. It’s put basketball and life into perspective.”

Bishop and her sister are in regular contact, sharing photos, videos and video phone calls to share Zala’s special moments.

The lifestyle change and sleepless nights took their toll on Bishop at the start.

“Things as simple as grocery shopping become different and hard, I don’t have family in Canberra so Zala does everything with me,” she said.

But she has recovered and plans to have more children in the future.

“I’ve always loved kids, and the switch just goes on,” she said. “Even though I didn’t carry Zala for nine months, the switch did go on for me.”

For most of Bishop’s life, her only concern has been basketball.

She played for Australia at the 2012 Olympic Games in London and has won multiple WNBL titles.

Bishop has won a WNBA championship in the United States and had a playing stint in France.

She’s aiming for a world championship berth this year and is considering returning to France at the end of Canberra’s WNBL campaign.

She also wants to play at the 2016 Olympics. But from now on, she’s a package deal with baby Zala. “I still treat basketball seriously,” she said, “but Zala is No. 1 now. Basketball is second to her and always will be.”

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Jail likely for man who used `coward’s punch’

A MAN who used a “coward’s punch” to hit a man in the face in a violent attack in Launceston is likely to face jail when he is sentenced.
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Dion Francis Saunders, 21, pleaded guilty in the Launceston Magistrate’s Court yesterday to one count of common assault and one count of having committed a nuisance.

Police prosecutor Brett Steele told the court that Saunders’ offending had likely breached a four- month suspended sentence.

Court security officers immediately took Saunders into custody after his appearance.

Magistrate Reg Marron will sentence Saunders on Monday at 11.30am.

Mr Steele earlier told the court that Saunders was among a group of men in the Quadrant Mall about 12.30am on September 22, when another group of men passed them.

The two groups brushed shoulders with one another, leading to a short verbal exchange.

The groups separated, then one man returned to shake hands with a member from Saunders’ group.

Saunders approached the complainant and threw a single punch with his right fist, hitting the man in the face. The man retreated and reported the matter to police.

He suffered a swollen cut lip and spent $1250 on dental work to repair his teeth.

The complainant’s mother wrote a letter to the court, outlining her concerns with high-profile “one- punch” assaults, now called “the coward’s punch”, in the media.

Police showed Saunders CCTV footage of his attack on the man, but while Saunders identified himself, he said he could not remember anything because he had been drinking heavily.

Mr Steele also told the court about the time Saunders urinated in the doorway of the old Chicken Feed store in Charles Street, on the night of September 7, telling police to “f— off” and continuing to urinate when officers saw him.

Saunders’ defence solicitor told the court her client was the provider for his family and his partner was seven weeks’ pregnant with their first child.

She said Saunders had an “intense need to relieve himself” when he urinated in the street, having been drinking heavily, and also recognised his problem with alcohol-fuelled violence.

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What diesel 4WD should I buy?

Nissan X-Trail’s solid off-road credentials make it a solid option for the well-travelled.The dilemma
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Janet and her husband are looking for a car that can tow their new camper trailer, which weighs about 700 kilograms, and has a boot big enough to hold a camping fridge and other gear. They would like a manual transmission and have settled on the idea of some kind of used diesel compact four-wheel-drive, preferably with less than 50,000 kilometres on the clock. They are keen on Nissan’s X-Trail, but want to know if anything else might suit.

The budget

Up to $30,000.

The shortlist

The X-Trail wouldn’t be our first choice for the average urban-bound buyer, but for this kind of scenario it’s bang on target, despite its advancing age.

The creeping miniaturisation of the compact 4WD segment means many options either don’t have the boot space Janet wants, or are too tarmac-oriented.

There’s no guarantee with some models at this budget that she will get a diesel engine, so we’ll wave goodbye now to contenders such as Ford’s Kuga, Honda’s CR-V, Mazda’s CX-5 and Volkswagen’s Tiguan and focus on two alternatives to the X-Trail capable of catering to those with an adventurous streak.

2008-on Nissan X-Trail diesel, from $18,150*

This Nissan is on its last legs in market terms and is due for replacement soon. There are more agile, thriftier compact 4WDs with roomier back seats, more refined diesel engines and better ANCAP safety ratings than its four stars, but its strong off-road potential, cushioned rough-road ride and big, versatile boot are very well aligned with Janet’s criteria. Manual versions, which have a 2.0-litre diesel engine with more grunt than autos, are the pick of the litter.

Value is another strong suit, with $30,000 more than enough to target a base TS model with next to nothing on the odometer. TLs at this budget tend to be a little older and more travelled, but compensate with a luxurious, leather-clad specification.

2011-on Skoda Yeti 103 TDI, from $24,420*

An altogether different package from the Nissan, this has a more diminutive exterior, better road manners and a more refined, economical 2.0-litre diesel engine. It has a more upmarket cabin too.

However, it also has a smaller boot and bitsier rough-road ride, and its long-term durability prospects are up for debate in this company. Only an optioned-up example would match an X-Trail TL’s level of kit. The Yeti is good value, though, with 2013 models with less than 5000 kilometres on the odometer available for this money.

It’s also not afraid to get its feet dirty and, while the cabin cedes to the Nissan for room, you can remove one, two or all three of its individual back seats to make the most of the available space.

2010-13 Subaru Forester diesel, from $23,650*

These jiggers retain their value well, so you’ll be lucky to get more than a 2012 base 2.0D with some kilometres on the odometer for $30,000. Leather-clad 2.0D Premiums will be older again.

The Subaru, though, wins back ground with spotless safety credentials and probably this group’s best compromise between handling and rough-road comfort.

Manual models, with their low-range gearing, are adroit off road by compact 4WD standards.

The lack of an auto variant is also unlikely to be an issue here and the cabin, despite ceding to the Nissan for boot space and the Skoda for flexibility, has a strong, functional streak. It’s a pity, then, that turbo lag makes the otherwise flexible and refined boxer diesel engine the least driveable here.

Drive recommends

The Subaru is too well suited to this scenario to be discounted lightly, but you’ll have to pay over and above to get into one. With equally talented rivals available for less, that’s a problem.

The Skoda? It’s a brilliant compact 4WD for city buyers with occasional rough and tumble on their agenda, but for more serious adventurers, its stern ride and long-term durability and reliability question marks would make us think twice.

So we end up where we began. The X-Trail isn’t the sharpest, most state-of-the-art compact 4WD, but it’s better used value than a Forester and has the Yeti covered away from the big smoke. That’s just enough to get it over the line first.

This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.

Heads and tails: Frank Camorra’s baked fish

Whole snapper baked on potatoes and capsicum, with Catalan wilted spinach. Whole snapper baked on potatoes and capsicum, with Catalan wilted spinach.
Nanjing Night Net

Cooking a whole fish is a fantastic way of feeding a large group and it is a lot easier then it looks. I know many people worry they will not know when the fish is cooked, but by cooking it whole you give yourself a lot more leeway with the timing. By cooking fish on the bone, the flesh retains much more moisture than when it is filleted, and it remains at a beautiful serving temperature for longer. The succulent flakes of fish also draw flavour from the bones during this process.

I like to use small snappers for this dish, but you can use red emperor or any large, white-fleshed fish and just cook it for longer. The bed of potato and vegetables absorbs any cooking juices, which make the potatoes even tastier. In fact, the potatoes are my favourite part of this dish, as they take on the intense flavour of the stock and wine and the richness of the fish.Whole snapper baked on potatoes and capsicum

210ml extra virgin olive oil

1/2 cup flat-leaf parsley, firmly packed

5 garlic cloves

4 x 500g whole snapper, cleaned and scaled

1 1/2kg brown onions, finely sliced

2 red capsicums, seeded and finely sliced

2 green capsicums, seeded and finely sliced

7 bay leaves

fine sea salt

4 lemons, sliced

200ml fish stock

4 waxy potatoes (such as Nicola), sliced in

5mm rounds

3 ripe tomatoes, peeled, seeded and chopped

100ml white wine

sea salt flakes to sprinkle

In a blender, puree 60ml of olive oil, parsley and two large garlic cloves, season to taste and set aside. Remove the fish fins and spines with a pair of kitchen scissors. Rinse fish under cold water and pat dry with paper towel. Heat 80ml of olive oil in a large frying pan over low-medium heat.

Finely chop remaining three garlic cloves and cook with onion, capsicums, three bay leaves and a pinch of salt for 15-20 minutes, covered, stirring occasionally. Pre-heat oven to 180C. Put the fish in a large bowl with several pinches of sea salt and the garlic and parsley paste and rub all over.

Season the cavity of each fish with salt, a few slices of lemon and a bay leaf. Drizzle a little olive oil into a large baking tray, then spread about a quarter of the onion mixture over it. Pour the fish stock over, put potato on top then season.

Lay the remaining onion mix over the potato, sprinkle with tomato pieces and most of the remaining lemon slices and season again. Place fish on top and dress with remaining lemon slices.

Drizzle white wine and the remaining olive oil over the fish. Bake for 15-20 minutes, or until the fish flakes when tested with a fork. Remove the fish and place on a plate, cover with foil and keep warm.

Cover the baking tray with foil and return to oven for 15 minutes, or until the potato is soft. Make a bed of the baked vegetable mix on four warm plates and place a snapper on each. Sprinkle with sea salt flakes and serve.

Serves 4

Catalan wilted spinach

80g pine nuts

500g baby spinach leaves

120g raisins

200ml Pedro Ximenez sherry

125ml extra virgin olive oil

2 garlic cloves, thinly sliced

2 1/2 tbsp lemon juice

sea salt flakes

Pre-heat the oven to 180C. Place the pine nuts on a baking tray lined with baking paper and roast for five minutes or until lightly golden.

Wash and dry the spinach in a large stainless steel bowl. Soak the raisins in the sherry in a small bowl.

Heat the olive oil in a frypan over a medium heat. Add the garlic and cook, stirring regularly, for two to three minutes or until golden. Pour hot oil and garlic over the spinach and mix well with tongs.

Add the raisin mixture and lemon juice and season with salt. Toss to combine. Set aside for 15 minutes, tossing the dressing through the leaves every five minutes. Check the seasoning, add pine nuts and serve.

This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.