Writing Big Year: Russia is tough

I’m in awe of professional historians who effortlessly glide between the archives of different countries. Me, I find it arduous enough to dig into American and British records. The former Soviet Union was amongst the most closed of societies, but even after is demise in 1991, only the briefest flowering of “real historical work” in my nuclear field occurred in the mid-90s-to-early-00s before Putin shut up the shop. The image is of a series of historical articles collected by ex-atomic-scientist Victor Sidorenko. It’s priceless in terms of disclosure but proved hard to translate and is ultra-technical rather than “here is the story of what we did.”

In the end my knowledge of how Soviet reactors came to be is not deep and is informed more by the work of better researchers than me, rather than my own work. Should I have done better? Maybe so, but I’d have needed to make many trips into Russia to find survivors and interview them, with the help of an interpreter and research assistant, and I could never justify the effort. Have I guessed “the truth”? I think so but I’ll stand ready to be corrected. All I can hope is that young Russian researchers one day tackle this fascinating local aspect of a fascinating global technological development.

Writer’s Big Year: Admiring another writer

I met Felicity Everett, as part of a writers’ lunch group, during her brief decampment to Australia. I read her prior novel, The Story of Us, and recall being most impressed by her terrific grasp of narrative control and characterisation. These are not my writerly strengths. She has a new book out now, The People at Number 9, and exactly the same thoughts went through my head as I powered through it. In this difficult year of reading, I tend to find fault with every book I open, but not this one. I read it in two days and gasped with admiration: if only I can, one day, write this well!

Big Decade: What’s respite from obsession like?

Check out the doppelganger. One of the pair is the intense one, attending to a big year. The other is the relaxing one, enjoying birding in northwest Victoria. Which is which? How would I know?

It felt decidedly strange to do no writing, not even journaling, for five full days. Sleeps were full of dreams. I would have said it was a welcome respite, but the transition back to real life has been a jolt.

Fitness Big Year: Geek and gear

What greater pleasure than buying the gear you need to progress your passion, eh? Research it, ask your friends, equivocate . . . then slap down the dollars! A rookie cyclist like me receives so much advice, so much that I’m wanting to defer, to take pleasure in the deferral. Well, I can announce that I’ve begun acquiring bicycling gear: gifted gel gloves and the little under-seat satchel in the photo. Not exactly profligate, but you need to know this: once the floodgates are opened, there are no limits. Anyone know the price of a better bike?