Friday, December 28, 2007
Coming, as I do, from a multicultural, multiracial family which includes Christians, Hindus and Buddhists, and where everyone's beliefs are respected and celebrated by us all, I find this quite incomprehensible. We are happy to accept our family members for the people they are and the same goes for those of our acquaintances who are atheist, Muslim, Baha'i or anything else. Why can't the rest of the world do the same?
Pisces's family gathers at his sister's beach house at Palm Beach on Boxing Day. It's only a couple of minutes walk away from the beach but this year the heat was so intense that swims were few and very short. Poor Virgo spent some time out in the garden under the trees with her cousins and still got burned. She, who loves the beach, was cursed with the only pale porcelain complexion in the family, inherited from her great grandfather. She looks at me who has to work at not getting tanned and feels very hard done by.
Tuesday, December 25, 2007
Although we are in danger of the beeping of cash registers drowning the original message of Christmas they aren't the important part of the day. Nor is the fact that every year someone just has to remind us that shepherds couldn't possibly have been watching their sheep in the snow because it's the wrong season, the Wise Men probably weren't kings and anyhow the date seems to have been chosen to coincide with the Roman Saturnalia. Then there are those who are convinced that children allowed to believe in Father Christmas will lose all trust in their parents. None of this is important. The choice of date was purely arbitrary since no-one actually knows when it was. The early Church did what it has done ever since and settled on a date that already had a festival associated with it, changing its nature and making it the Church's own.
From a purely religious festival driven by the desire of the faithful to celebrate the birth of Jesus the season has spread to be embraced by the secular part of the community and although some rail about this, I don't think it matters. Amid all the crassness and commercialism, Christmas still brings something special, common to everyone no matter what their belief. It is the reconnection of family and friends - that all important glue that holds society together. This year spare a thought for those who would otherwise spend Christmas alone and do what you can to help them share that connection if only for a while. In my opinion, that's the true spirit of Christmas.
With that thought, I wish you all a merry Christmas and a New Year filled with every good thing.
Sunday, December 23, 2007
The bombers and fire brigades are back today because the fire has flared up again and below us the suburb is smothered in smoke. We are fortunate we live on a hill and the wind has until now been blowing most of the smoke away from us - just as well too since Virgo and I both suffer from asthma along with several of our neighbours. We have an evaporative air-conditioner (very popular in our dry climate) and the day is heating up but it's dangerous to put it on because of the risk of flying sparks lodging in it. As a result we're sweltering inside with all the doors and windows closed and the washing, rescued as the wind changed, sogging on clothes airers.
This fire and the ones that annually devastate another bushland enclave, also a short walk from my home, put all of us who live here (and our property) at risk, as do fires set by arsonists everywhere in the world. I find this behaviour totally incomprehensible. What conceivable pleasure is there in causing such destruction? I understand the fascination of fire. I grew up with an open wood fire and wood fired stove providing our household heating and hot water. There's nothing much to match the pleasure of sitting in front of a log fire on a cold winter's day but there's also nothing quite so terrifying as an out of control wildfire. These idiots are lighting fires in the middle of suburbs. What do they think they are doing?
Saturday, December 22, 2007
Tuesday, December 18, 2007
Less pleasant, Virgo, who is house-sitting, woke to find the power off and, unable to find a simple solution, tried to get an electrician to call. The first one she tried advertises 24 hour service but after hours (the only time they could come today) they charge $289.00 for the first half hour. That's about half her weekly wage. She's already lost all her food so she's now trying to track down someone else to come in normal hours tomorrow. When you compare those rates with say a teacher's pay you wonder why anyone would join a profession.
Saturday, December 15, 2007
Enough maudlin self flagellation. Taos Toolbox Writers' Workshop in the US is now open for applications. Among others (Walter Jon Williams and Stephen R. Donaldson to be precise) Kelly Link is a lecturer. Kelly was one of the tutors at Clarion South this year and I learned an enormous amount from her. I would so like to be there but unless the Lotto comes through...
Sunday, December 09, 2007
Friday, December 07, 2007
It was a real thrill to be at the Awards this year and I'll be crossing my fingers for the West Australian contingent in 2008. It's especially pleasing to see some of my favourite writers such as Glenda Larke, Juliet Marillier and Shane Jiraiya Cummings listed.
Wednesday, November 28, 2007
Everywhere verges are being abandoned into miniature dustbowls. My own verge is still relatively green because gazanias self-seeded there about fifteen years ago and, since everything else I have ever planted there (except for the jonquils that appear miraculously every winter to perfume the street) from natives to desert exotics has died, I'm grateful for their dark green leaves, decorative even when heat stress makes them turn their silver-grey undersides out. Then the garden looks like moonlight by day except for a scattering of flowers ranging from bronze touched with rust through amber- gold, the exact colour of the eye of the tiger, and on to clear yellow, bright as a buttercup. I wonder if I held it under my chin as we did when we were children, whether it would tell me if I liked butter too?
The back garden is a different story. I've given up watering the lower garden. It's not visible from the house and water is very precious. I want to pave it, scent it with thymes in between the bricks and edge it with tough and lovely perenials like agapanthus, dianthus (the gorgeously perfumed clove pinks) and have purple hardenbergia garlanding along the back fence. Hardenbergia, kangaroo paws and banksias are very popular now but I remember when I was a child my mother was regarded as a little odd for encouraging these beautiful natives which everyone else in our sub-division ripped out.
The top garden just outside the house is finally being worked on again. The standard roses have had a first flush of blossom but a second is on the way and this evening I noticed a crimson bud opening on the Mr Lincoln bush. There's still some weeding to be done but in a few days I will plant waterfall petunias (and soften their pastels of lavenders and pinks with white and cream as well). They'll replace the nasturtiums that have finally shriveled under the heat and their delicate perfume can mingle with potted herbs outside my door.
I thought the rest could wait until it rains again but I succumbed to the selection of basils and parsleys at the shopping centre and now they sit in their seed boxes waiting to be planted out. Be patient, little ones. Rain is coming.
Saturday, November 24, 2007
So I thought this was a good time to look at what I found most annoying during the campaign - apart from the fact that it was certainly the most boring campaign I've ever had to watch. It was so dull that I suspect there'll be a record number of folk fined for not voting because they fell asleep. For the benefit of those from elsewhere we have compulsory voting in Australia. That way we all have to bear the responsibility.
Top of the list was the phone calls from would be Members of Parliament and/or their supporters. They were all annoying but the recorded telephone call from John Howard put him and his party in the same category as the dreaded telemarketers (if not worse) because it came after 9:00 pm which a straw poll of acquaintances of all political colours agreed is past the time when it is civilised to intrude. Given my attitude to phone pests, and for the same reasons, this did not go down well.
Then there were the trees sacrificed in the name of advertising by all parties. In each week of the campaign our household (with four registered voters and in a marginal seat) received anything up to 10-12 pieces of glossy electioneering, usually with 2-3 sheets in each. This does not include the average of one or two a week during the six months before the election date was announced. With all parties claiming green credentials I have to wonder exactly how they define them.
As a voter I want to know what precisely I am being promised so I sit through media interviews however stultifying. I do not want to see a candidate or member of a political party evade issues and they all did. That's right. No matter what party they represented. I lost count of the number of times interviews became a classic example of the "Yes, Minister" mantra of if you don't like the question being asked answer one you do like whether it has been asked or not. Are they forced to study "Yes, Minister" tapes before they stand for election to learn these techniques?
I became heartily sick of seeing little babies being cuddled and kissed. This is the only time in their lives the poor little mites don't have to think about politics and its ramifications and they can't escape. Just leave them alone, I say.
Then there was the endless and repetitive television and radio advertising, little of it positive with the bulk crudely produced and designed to scare, not inform. My advice: if you want to spend vast amounts of money on advertising at least make it look as if you have something to offer.
Finally, calling an election in the hot months of the year when it isn't forced is not a good idea. While the actual voting takes place inside, the queues of those waiting to get in at the polling booths are broiling. Makes a mockery of the anti-skin cancer campaigns, doesn't it.
Not only the political parties need to think about their actions. The attempt by a commercial television channel to rescue us from the boredom of serious commentary in the tally room by bringing along personalities to make their program of vote tallies entertaining and the filming of skits by a satirical program are hardly treating the election of a government which will determine our future for the next three or four years with the respect it deserves. Unfortunately tally room space being somewhat confined, the entertainment frequently drowned the actual results being broadcast by the only nationwide free to air program. But, hey, why would people without access to big city based channels want to know who their next government was going to be anyway?
So there's my list. Any chance of it making a difference? No, I didn't think so.
Thursday, November 22, 2007
Tuesday, November 20, 2007
Congratulations to you both. This is a great achievement and you should be very proud given the calibre of the entries in this world wide competition.
I'll be keeping my fingers crossed for Sonia when the prizewinner is announced.
Saturday, November 17, 2007
Why do I blog? In the end it's because I like to write and share my writing life with anyone who cares to read about it. I blog about things that are important to me, what is happening in my life and things I hope will be interesting and give pleasure to anyone who finds my blog. My blog is not the journey of self exploration a written personal journal would be but it is an aspect of myself and one I'm pleased to share.
Friday, November 09, 2007
Then there are the pests who forward dial so you answer the phone to no response and when or if they eventually deign to speak to you do not apologise for this rudeness. Instead they ask cheerily "How are you today?" and even these are not as annoying as the dinner time callers. Can't they - or their employers - look at a clock?
We've put our number down on the Government's Do Not Ring Register now and considered going ex directory although even that doesn't seem to stop automated dialing according to friends who have private numbers.
The solution often suggested is to evolve strategies to irritate them as much as they irritate us but I'd feel guilty about doing that because the blame really can't be laid on the actual callers. They are simply earning a living, usually with a prescribed spiel, while those ultimately responsible for the invasion of our privacy, their employers, are unfortunately far too clever to get caught actually communicating with those whose lives they make miserable.
Wednesday, November 07, 2007
There was a death, two births and a marriage. There has been serious illness, sadness and great joy. I went to Clarion South, learned so much, and made some good friends in the process. Through it all I've kept on writing. I finished and began editing my first novel and my second is under way. I've completed ten short stories, two of which have already achieved recognition, and ventured back to poetry. I've given several workshops at writing groups and been a guest speaker as well.
I didn't quite meet all my objectives but given the circumstances I'm satisfied. I give myself a gold star.
Tuesday, November 06, 2007
Monday, November 05, 2007
The bird's nest fern I inherited nearly thirty years ago is obviously happy. It's now large enough to be almost blocking access to mundane but useful equipment like the hot water system and air conditioner. I hate to disturb it but I will have to find some way of suspending it from the pergola although it's so heavy that it is going to be a challenge.
In among the honeysuckle there are Boston and fish bone ferns (my poor holly ferns and maidenhairs didn't survive last summer), strings of delicate chain of hearts succulents, a very tough aspidistra, a crown of thorns - vicious but lovely when it's in flower - and several cacti in the arid area where the sun bakes the only exposed part.
This little garden is one of the joys of summer. It takes the least work of all but it's cool and green and reminds me of the "ferned grot" of Victorian poet, Thomas Edward Brown, in his poem "My Garden".
Wednesday, October 31, 2007
Tuesday, October 30, 2007
The roses are spectacular too just now. Not quite as exhibitionist as the cacti, they go for the massed bouquet look. I wasn't expecting too much of them this year. The mild winter meant they never lost all their leaves and the Queen Elizabeth climber managed at least a couple of flowers all through the cold season. They are beautiful though in their first flush of the season. The Peace, Apricot Nectar and Princess de Monaco standards are rewarding me for taking them out of their pots and planting them in the garden. They are all smothered in blossoms. Up close they look a little ragged now after the wind, rain and hail of the weekend but from a distance they are still glorious. The Icebergs, on the other hand, seem quite happy to produce continual flowers, even in their pots on either side of the steps. Mr Lincoln, Papa Meilland, First Love and Pascali are not quite as generous with their blossoms but when they come they are a joy especially the two crimsons which produce a heady perfume that wafts in the back door.
And now to give everything a good weeding. They deserve it.
Sunday, October 28, 2007
As of yesterday we have daylight saving which doesn't, of course, save daylight at all since the amount of daylight remains the same no matter how you fiddle with the clock. This means that one of the great pleasures in my life - that hour just after dawn before the sleepyheads get up and the noise of the day begins denied me through winter - is now denied me all summer as well.
Another illogicality seems to have escaped our leaders too. We are being offered subsidies to save energy, told to turn off stand by on our household gadgets, replace our light bulbs with energy efficient replacements and to turn off lights when we leave the room. All very sensible - except with daylight saving, it's dark when we get up so in a house of say four people at any one time there are at least four lights on and since it's not energy efficient to keep turning fluorescent lights on and off there may well be five or six. To get these people to their educational or work places the trains, buses etc. all have to run longer hours in the dark too with the workers involved starting earlier and having to turn on lights. In theory the lights then go on an hour later at night but in my house at least, because the day stays lighter longer, we eat later which means we stay up later so the lights are then on for the same period as they were before at night. This in turn makes for sleep deprived cranky folk who are now getting, as a result of being unable change their Nature ordained wake up clocks, an hour less sleep. And yes, I do know I could go to bed earlier. Unfortunately, my body doesn't feel the same. If I go to bed earlier, I don't go to sleep until the time I usually would. You know, the one prescribed by Nature. I must say that I now have a much greater appreciation of the stresses endured by shift workers though why that has to be inflicted on everyone I fail to see. So enlighten me, we are "saving" what exactly?
I will try not to rant again on this subject but I promise nothing.
Thursday, October 25, 2007
Week 1: Sean Williams
Week 2: Marianne de Pierres
Week 3: Margo Lanagan
Week 4: Jack Dann
Week 5: Kelly Link and Gavin J. Grant
Week 6: Kelly Link and Gavin J. Grant
Details of the workshop can be found at http://www.clarionsouth.org.
Applications open February 1, 2008.
Friday, October 19, 2007
Monday, October 15, 2007
This in turn causes much stress and distress for a small tan and white dog who regards it as her absolute obligation to rid the world of big black birds even if they are nearly as big as she is and armed with a long sharp beak. So there are many mad barking rushes out into the yard followed by scratching on the back door and the pleading of "I can't do this by myself. Will you please come and help?"
The ravens are well aware of her limitations so they position themselves just out of reach and stare down at her setting off another barking frenzy. They're not at all sure of me though so they fly off when they see me pick up a pebble, with a fighter squad of honeyeaters diving on them as they go. They really have no need to be afraid of me because even if I threw the pebble they are much too far away for me to hit them and I wouldn't really want to anyway. After all they are only doing what they are meant to but I just prefer not to see them doing it so let's just keep it our little secret.
Thursday, October 04, 2007
Thursday 27 September, 2007
I’m at the airport waiting in line to check in. I’m juggling a walking stick, a carry on bag on wheels, a suitcase, also with wheels, my handbag, laptop, camera and ticket folder. I’m more than usually hampered because on my way here – in the car in fact – I suddenly developed severe sciatica. Simultaneously three check-in lights start flashing. Virgo, who dropped me off at the entrance and went to park the car, is nowhere to be seen and the line behind me is getting restive. You’d think the walking stick shuffle might have alerted them to my limitations but they seem to have the idea that I’m messing about. In fact I’m trying, not very effectively, to move forward without losing my grip on my belongings. Then I manage to drop just about everything. That helps a lot. With difficulty, I gather up my possessions and head for the nearest window where I drop another bundle. This does not make for a confident approach but the check-in itself goes smoothly and I’m offered and gratefully accept a wheelchair. At that moment a harried Virgo appears and takes over.
We head for the security check and the laptop is extracted and my bags get dumped in trays and we’re in the gate – to the accompaniment of loud beeps. This always happens to me! Why? Anyway I’m hustled away – as usual. Will I consent to a pat down – like I have any choice. A consent form and a pen are shoved in front of me and I sign. I offer to stand. Not necessary. Surely it would be less trouble for all concerned but I’m not going to cause any trouble. I’m not sure that much could have been concealed under a pair of jeans and a fitted sweater but if it makes them happy… Besides my very ample figure probably looks suspiciously oversize but I make it on board to wait out the delays caused by a late connecting passenger coming from the International Terminal and a disruptive passenger who has to be removed and we’re off. At least my journeys are full of exciting moments, aren't they.
Friday, 28 September, 2007
It’s years since I’ve been in Canberra so I spent some time this morning checking out the city centre before heading to the Gorman House Arts Centre for the first workshop I’d booked into – The Noble and Knightly Art of the Long Sword. What an experience! A mix of age and gender and all shapes and sizes, we lined up to be taught a few of the basics of handling a long sword. We stepped, lunged, attacked, defended. The difficulties of co-ordinating hands, feet and body while remembering exactly what moves had to be made provided a challenge, lots of laughs and near misses. It has to be the best fun I’ve had in years.
I caught up with some fellow Clarionites at the opening ceremony. This was a blast and MC Jack Dann had us in fits of laughter. The official guests were introduced. Most exciting from my point of view, Laura Goodin, one of my Clarion South mates, was presented with her prize as the winner of the Conflux Short Story Competition. Congratulations, Laura!
Then Larissa Stoljar gave an amazing performance of a vocal work – not singing but sounds familiar to us all from cartoons arranged into a co-ordinated performance piece. Truly extraordinary – and unforgettable.
Saturday 29 September 2007.
So many panels – and I want to go to all of them. They cover so much – paranormal romance, world building, blogging, magic, genres, publishing. Add the interview/question and answer sessions with the official guests and workshops and we barely have time to breathe. Fortunately the panels are all being transferred to pod casts so I can pick up any I miss later. Yay! Tonight I’m skipping the Regency Gothic banquet and out to dinner with friends. It has been so great to catch up with all those people I rarely get to see. And, even more exciting, some more Clarionites have arrived.
Sunday 30 September 2007
So now I know a lot more ways to kill someone efficiently using a dagger, long sword or short sword. Hmm. At last my heroine will know what she's actually doing which I'm sure will be a relief to her. I also know about writing tie-ins, where exactly YA fiction sits in relation to urban fantasy and more about blogging and using LJs. Most of us Clarionites turned up to the panel on Clarions and decided that we had been a fairly functional group as these workshops go. Then a couple of us wandered out into the cold
Monday October 2007
Dammit, I missed the panel on what makes a good villain due to yet another elevator malfunction. The lifts have been the one irritation of the weekend. They skip the floor you’re on or stop at every floor whether they have been called there or not. They arrive without a light indicating they are moving or which direction they are heading. You press the down button and are swept non-stop up to the top floor and back down to the basement before you’re spat out on the ground floor. Those who could tried the fire escape stairs but that led straight to the basement where the exit doors were locked so they had to take another lift, when it finally arrived, back up to the ground floor. You can wait with an ever increasing queue to go back to your room and on one occasion the lift never came – at all. We trailed around after a helpful staff member like a flock of ducklings and crammed in to the service elevator with the room service trolley. The worst though was when a lift full of people got stuck and they were rescued only when someone heard them hammering on the door. No-one (including me who finds stairs very difficult at the best of times) was brave enough to take the lift either up or down between the 1st floor (where the convention rooms were) and the ground floor (the bar and restaurant) so there was continual traipsing up and down the spiral staircase, which fortunately sweeps widely making it feasible for all but those with toddlers in pushers.
So what else today? Readings by Jason Nahrung, Kaaron Warren, Rob Hood and Richard Harland, a KaffeeKlatch session with Simon Brown, a fascinating panel on the role of the female in speculative fiction including insights into the success and otherwise of women writing male characters and men writing women and some thoughts on space opera. And finally the closing ceremony followed by the Dead Dog party in the bar.
By then we were just about dead from exhaustion and I wouldn’t have missed a moment of it.
Tuesday 2 October 2007
Apart from my blog entries I haven’t written a word over the four days but others have. Some disappeared to laptops in their rooms and a few settled in the bar with files or writing pads. While I really want to go to sleep now - for a long time but the plane flight home will have to suffice - I feel re-energised as well. My head is buzzing with ideas that I want to put on paper. Maybe a nice little horror piece on lifts? We shall see.
It was strange at breakfast this morning to see the change in those eating there. Only a handful of Confluxers remain, those of us who like me intend to do a bit of sightseeing or have awkward plane times. Most of the new cohort appears to be part of tour groups here to visit Floriade and that’s where I’m off to now.
Friday, September 21, 2007
I look nostalgically back to the days when flying meant fronting up to the counter an hour or so before your flight left, depositing your suitcase and heading off for a cup of coffee until your flight was called. Then you picked up your hand luggage, kissed a few good-byes and wandered off to the gate. Once on board - at least at Perth Airport - you could see families and friends standing on the verandah waving the plane out of sight.
I traveled a lot at one time in my working life so packing and flying doesn't worry me but the complications brought about by the airport security changes do. I accept the world is different now and there is a very real threat of terrorists using aircraft for their own purposes but some of the security requirements are simply bizarre.
A friend, going to the airport to farewell her brother returning home to another state, forgot she had nail clippers in her handbag. You know nail clippers - those little objects about half the length of your little finger, with a blunt ended nail file approximately one and a half centimetres long that acts as a lever so you can open the clippers just enough to insert a finger nail? They showed up at the security check and she was asked to hand them over.
"Can I collect them on the way back?" she asked - not unreasonably I'd have thought. The rest of the family meanwhile continued through and waited.
"No, if you want to go through we're confiscating them. You don't get them back."
"Can I say good-bye to my brother over the barrier then?"
"No, if you won't give us the clippers we'll go and tell him you said good-bye."
Okay maybe she should have just handed them over no matter how absurd it was but by then she was feeling stroppy. The officer went and spoke to her brother and she went back to the car.
Before the plane took off she got a phone call. Her brother was not happy. According to him the officer had said she refused to comply with the confiscation because she wasn't interested in seeing him off. Petty and nasty.
All this over a tiny item with no potential for use as a weapon while at the same time anyone can take cabin luggage and a laptop on board, both of which are heavy enough to be used to disable flight crew or anyone else who gets in the way if someone is so inclined. For that matter why can't these items (legal everywhere except airports) be returned to someone who is only seeing a passenger off and not going near a plane? Use a check system like a cloakroom. It works in libraries, museums and art galleries.
Sunday, September 16, 2007
It's hardly a surprise (to Virgo and me at least but maybe we're just prescient) but it's just been announced that Chris Judd is not re-signing with the Eagles and hoping to sign with a Melbourne club for next year. If that had happened early in the season I would have thought it was a disaster but the way the team played after injury reduced his performance to about 60% I think there's still plenty of hope for next year. We'll hear the Club song again.
Friday, September 07, 2007
Monday, August 27, 2007
The good news is that I have had a character wandering around in my head for weeks and she seems to be growing every day. Last week she set off on a vision quest with no help from my conscious mind and wouldn't you just guess, it's all ending in tears. The story is obviously much bigger than a short story so now I think it might be, "Welcome to the new new novel." We shall see.
By the way she's a much more interesting character than the main character in the previous novel attempt. Maybe that's why she's grabbed my attention so firmly. I'm looking forward to following her adventures.
Sunday, August 19, 2007
Shire of Mundaring National Young Writers' Awards
1st place Melissa Wellam (ACT) The Succubus
2nd place Monica Revy (WA) The Day of Reckoning
Stephanie Wong (WA) Unfolding Plots and Story Lines
1st place Helen Venn (WA) The Healing
2nd place Susan Wardle (NSW) The Chance
Helen Venn (WA) Surrogate
B.J. Thomason (VIC) Uptoun Wells
Sonia Helbig (WA) Trillion Dollar Baby
M. LeGuier (WA) Deathwatch
Monica Carroll (ACT) Dog Luck
I am over the moon and don't expect to land again sometime soon.
I've arranged for a guided tour of the Writers' Centre for some friends before it starts and, although I have attended workshops there for years, I have never been on a tour. The centre is based in old home of author, Katharine Susannah Prichard, on Greenmount, right on the edge of the Darling scarp behind Perth. It's a wonderful setting and I'm looking forward to learning more of its history.
Wednesday, August 15, 2007
There are hundreds all filed away for later. Many of their companions have already morphed into completed stories and, in their time, so will these. They come from a variety of triggers. An idea or a word, something from the news, a new scientific discovery, an overheard fragment of conversation or something as simple as my cat hiding (unsuccessfully) behind a blade of grass.
The best though is the writing marathon. A phrase, a sentence or a word chosen at random sends me off into places I'd never have come to without it. Sometimes these beginnings seem to have no future and I file them away for days when inspiration is running low but others nag at me and I find myself thinking, planning and writing. And a new story is born.
Monday, August 13, 2007
The sun has brought out the bees too. Dozens of them buzz around the potted camellia sitting outside the family room all winter as it scatters its saucer sized blossoms in a carpet of rich pink and white. Jaz, who is allergic to bee stings, dices with death whenever she is let out. Fortunately she is not very good at catching them.
Tiny grey skinks sun themselves on the brick wall, some not much bigger than a matchstick, with scales like fine, delicate lace, and, along the back fence, the trees are packed with nesting honeyeaters and wattlebirds. The eggs and nestlings are very popular with the raucous ravens that squabble loudly in their home tree in the next street. They drop in for a snack far too often. I know they have to eat but I'd rather not see their predations. Jaz loathes them, having been cornered by one when she was a puppy. They are big birds, handsome in their glossy black, and quite capable of doing a little dog an injury. Although she no longer has to worry about that she has not forgiven them and throws herself at the door barking frantically until someone lets her out.
All the signs are there. Spring is just around the corner and we are enjoying the prelude.
Monday, August 06, 2007
What is it about television programmers? Don't they realise that if we get messed around too much we stop watching their channel. That means we don't see their advertisements either. That means advertisers begin to wonder why they are paying lots of money etc etc etc... I've already lost interest in Medium because of the insertion of repeats and out of sequence episodes by the same channel and Torchwood is still establishing its audience here. Wouldn't it be a good idea to lock us in before you start playing around with it? Just a thought.
Sunday, August 05, 2007
I'm still trying to organise my finances so I can go to Conflux 4 in real time. After last night I want to go all the more. We shall see.
Sunday, July 29, 2007
A lot of doctors are booked out for anything up to a week because of the volume of cases. When Virgo obviously needed antibiotics we first tried our GP, then half a dozen others before we could get her an appointment and that wasn't until the next day. If we hadn't managed that, our only other option would have been the Emergency Department but the winter ailments have made them desperately over-crowded.
The short-sightedness of our politicians, and the squabbling over funding between State and Federal governments, has left the whole system struggling. Okay, if what you have is life-threatening, you will get quick and efficient treatment. It may be on a trolley in the Emergency Department or you may be stuck in an ambulance for hours but you will be treated. In the meantime other patients will be waiting for hours, all unwell, many in pain and often having to deal with bored children who have had to come with them because no-one was available to take care of them.
When we had occasion to visit an Emergency Department about eighteen months ago Virgo and I sat in the waiting room for over six hours watching as ambulance after ambulance pulled in. It didn't impact on us because they had taken Pisces in quickly and we knew he was receiving treatment. We were fortunate. Others in the waiting room before us had been there for eight or more hours and some of them were in considerable pain.
Many could probably have been dealt with by a GP but that is not an option on a Sunday. It's a big enough problem during the week because (at least in part) we are suffering the consequences of the decision of the previous Paul Keating Federal Labor government which decided that Australia was oversupplied with doctors and cut the number of places - not that the present Liberal government has improved things in this area.
All this highlights the need for another major hospital in our city and the State Government is going to build one. Isn't that great? Well yes, if they weren't planning on building it in the suburbs the south of the city and then closing down the central teaching hospital, Royal Perth. This will leave the central city area with no hospital services.
If there's a gas explosion, the equivalent of the recent steam pipe explosion in New York, for example, where will all the injured go? Will they be able to be carried to the central hospital if ambulances can't access the area? No. They will have to be carried out to ambulances and transported for a considerable distance to outlying hospitals. Will the walking injured be able to get themselves to hospitals? No again. They will have to make their way to ambulances which will have to ferry them again to the outlying hospitals, tying up all available ambulances and causing delays in treatment that may well end up costing lives.
Perth is growing and we certainly need a new hospital south of the city but not if we lose our central city hospital.
Sunday, July 22, 2007
Monday, July 16, 2007
I'm very tired at the moment so it's not surprising I fell asleep but tonight I'm staying awake to watch Torchwood somehow. I was disappointed in the first episode but it's growing on me. Jack is convincingly enigmatic and I like Gwen, although why a no nonsense copper is among this rather flawed group I find hard to accept. At least in Doctor Who you know that the Doctor and his companion are the good guys and in the end they don't usually do something irretrievably foolish however many mistakes they make along the way. So far in Torchwood we have had three of five staff members who have between them put the Earth and everything on it at risk, not including Gwen who is still learning and entitled to the occasional error. I have to ask myself if these are the best people to be protecting the planet, self appointed or not. Couldn't Jack have recruited others who could be a little less unstable? On the other hand, of course, totally unflawed characters are extremely boring. We shall see how the series develops.
Thursday, July 12, 2007
Friday, July 06, 2007
I have a few bits I'm not happy with but they shouldn't take too long to fix. Then a thorough check of spelling and grammar (during which I will no doubt find other flaws needing fixing) and a few unfortunates of my acquaintance who have volunteered to crit it for me will get their copies.
Monday, July 02, 2007
Sunday, July 01, 2007
On another note, I remembered to go out last night during a gap in the clouds and look at the moon. Sadly I have to report that I have been the victim of false advertising. A blue moon is, I am disappointed to tell you, just the normal colour. Should I send in a report to Consumer Affairs? As well I think someone should be sued for my distress and mental anguish at this deception by the media and meteorologists which has been going on all my life. $10,000,000 should cover it.
Wednesday, June 27, 2007
Saturday, June 23, 2007
I estimate I have about another 20,000 to go. (It has to be an estimate because as I rewrite whole sections get discarded but others expand. Boy do they expand!) In the process I have found some minor plot flaws and fixed them and generally tidied up. Of the remaining chapters one has already been fairly well edited and the remaining four need a lot of attention. But I'm so near the end now that I can almost believe I am going to make it by my self-imposed deadline.
Wish me luck.
Saturday, June 16, 2007
Now I will go and try to sleep off a migraine which has come back with renewed viciousness. Since we are supposed to be going to the movies tonight with friends we meet with regularly once a month - to see As it is in Heaven, a Swedish movie with good reviews - I need to be both pain free and alert. Painkillers will ensure pain free. Alert I'm not so sure about.
This group of friends is something quite unusual I think. Most of us, or our spouses, have known the others since primary school, secondary school or university days plus a few others met along the way since. There are currently eleven couples and two singles. Others have stayed for a while and left over the years but the core has remained. Between us we have accumulated a large number of children and a few grandchildren.
When the children were younger we went away for long weekends as well as socialising and going out together to kid-friendly places. Now we go to theatres, movies, picnics, restaurants and whatever interesting places we can find. Recently we've gone to the Gravity Display Centre in Gingin, the Perth Observatory and on a walk through an historic township among others. We still visit each other's homes and we have been known to party. We're close-knit and support one another much like a family. Virgo was trying to explain the relationship to one of her friends recently and ended up saying, "It's been like growing up with a whole lot of extra aunties and uncles and cousins." And that I think is as good a way as any of describing how we are.
Friday, June 15, 2007
As well I have two other short stories (begun as writing exercises at my local writers' club) which are nagging at me to finish them. One is almost finished and the other is about a third of the way through. Well they'll just have to wait, won't they, and given the end of the month is only fifteen days away, they shouldn't have to wait too long.
Best of all, I'm finally keeping up with the 100 word a day challenge.
Monday, June 04, 2007
Pisces also has a day off work today (unusual because he usually works long weekends) and we've been out in the garden. We've had very little time for the past couple of months to spend any time together so it has been a real pleasure.
I'm actually feeling quite inspired. Yesterday a friend had lunch for a group of fellow writers. Lots of discussion of favourite books and authors, writing techniques and all the other things dear to writers' hearts. We sat in her beautiful garden until the evening chill forced us to leave. Many years ago I used to teach at the secondary school in this area but I had forgotten how aptly named Mount Pleasant is. Then I drove home along the broad waters of the Canning and Swan Rivers where they intersect near the middle of Perth. For the first time in weeks I feel that if I sit down and write I'll achieve something. About time too.
Sunday, June 03, 2007
It has certainly inspired me to go back to my writing with a fresh eye. So much was said in such a succinct and beautiful way with not a surplus moment. That's what the best writing is too - spare and lyrical at the same time. Now to see if I can manage the same with words...
Friday, June 01, 2007
I've been been laid low with a particularly nasty bug, visiting my hospitalised mother, making arrangements to be made for her when she is discharged and all the other stuff of life ever since.
It's not that I don't want to write. I have ideas and characters and worlds buzzing in my head that I need to put down. The problem is partly finding time and but, more importantly the energy, to write. I challenged one of my classmates (who is also having trouble managing to fit in the exercises) to committing to 100 words a day hoping this would make me keep up. I'm struggling with even that workload - and my normal daily output is around 1500-2000 words. I hope she is doing better.
I think we sometimes underestimate the work that is involved in writing. Because we love what we are doing we think of it as relaxing. Pretty silly when you think about it. We play sport, hard, and end up exhausted and exhilarated at the same time. Why shouldn't brain work be the same?
Friday, May 18, 2007
Monday, May 14, 2007
Friday, May 11, 2007
I garden for several reasons. I like to know what I am eating to start with and I know this way that there are no unwanted chemicals affecting my crops. I can pick what I want out of the garden and have it on the table fresher than anything I could buy. But the main reason is that I get enormous satisfaction from gardening. I like the feel of the earth, watching the plants grow and spending time in the open air. I find too that this is a time when all those shadowy ideas I want to write about coalesce and after a session outside I am ready to come in and start writing a story. It's rather like walking or exercising. The rhythm and lack of need to think sets the brain free to work in other ways so it investigates and plays with ideas in a way it wouldn't otherwise.
Tuesday, May 08, 2007
And Phoenix is good. He creeps across the garden every centimetre saying "Excuse me. I don't mean to intrude but seeing I'm here I wouldn't say no to a snack." Then when a handful of cat biscuits are produced and consumed there is much rubbing around legs accompanied by plaintive little mews as if to say "Thank you so much. I really do love you. You can pick me up if you like." and, of course, Virgo does just that while Phoenix smooches and purrs.
All this is, of course, very disturbing to Jaz, because she's about the same size as the cat. She vacillates between "Gotta get rid of the cat. Let me at him." and "The cat's looking at me and I don't like it." which is usually followed by "I think I'll go back inside now."
Cadillac, on the other hand, is an inside cat and generally speaking not the heroic type. He usually runs for cover whenever he hears the door bell and doesn't emerge until the visitors have left. When Jaz first arrived Caddy was so horrified that he headed under my bed where he remained except terrified forays for food and to use his tray for over two months. Finally we lured him out with a pheromone diffuser which was almost as disturbing as him living under the bed. He just sat swaying in front of the diffuser, eyes glazed, while we gradually weaned him off it.
So it was something of a surprise yesterday when Cadillac, ensconced on his favourite chair under the family room table, decided enough was enough and started to growl at Phoenix. The growling grew louder and then he started hissing and spitting. This is not quite as brave as it sounds because he was hidden by the table cloth and peeping from under a lifted corner of it. Phoenix crouched outside the door and hissed back. This sent Caddy, fluffed up to twice his normal size, racing for cover under the dining room table at the other end of the house where he pretended it had never happened.
But today Cadillac defended his territory again from the same vantage point. This time he didn't run away. Maybe he has decided it's time to assert himself at last.
Tuesday, May 01, 2007
My mother is presently in Royal Perth Hospital, a major teaching and primary care hospital in Perth. Because my father doesn't like to drive in the city (neither do I but that's another issue) I have been driving him to the hospital and parking is always stretched. This is despite the fact that there is a train station not far from the hospital and a free bus service from the main city bus station which enables many people to visit the hospital without taking their vehicle. In our case public transport isn't an option so we have to struggle to find a spot close enough for us to be able to walk. We're managing but the State government has decided to build a new hospital in Murdoch to service the south of the city. This is a good idea in itself because there is an obvious need in that area. However when they do this they have decided to close Royal Perth Hospital diverting much of its patient load to Sir Charles Gairdner Hospital, which is already struggling under its own workload. Is this rational?
Monday, April 30, 2007
We have a new desalinisation plant in operation now but there is so much more that could - make that should - be done if only our politicians had the foresight. Sadly whenever someone comes up with an innovative idea it gets pooh-poohed. It won't work. If it could work it will cost too much. It will take too long. We don't have the technology. What rubbish. By that criteria the Western Australian goldfields wouldn't have had a water supply piped in from the coast a century ago. The massive works of the Romans would never have happened. We wouldn't have the Panama Canal. The list is endless.
It seems to me that with climate change altering where rain will fall we should be trying every way we can to collect water and we should be encouraging everyone to be involved. When we built our house twenty five years ago we looked into options for installing rainwater tanks and recycle grey water believing that to do that then would make us environmentally responsible and that it would be cheaper than to try and do it later.
"No, you can't do that," we were told. "Rainwater tanks breed mosquitoes and there is no way to recycle grey water." The fact that it was being done in other parts of Australia successfully meant nothing. Things have changed dramatically in the last few years. Rather too late don't you think.
Oops you've caught me ranting again so I will calm down and go to the vet to pick up Jaz who is having some work done on her mouth. Poor little dog.
Tuesday, April 24, 2007
I am starting to make some progress with the goals I set myself - much more slowly than I'd like but something is better than nothing in the circumstances. So here's some of what I have achieved on the writing front. Another Clarionite and I gave a talk about the experience to our local speculative fiction writing group. I also gave a talk on the Clarion experience to my local writing group. I have edited four of my Clarion stories and I think they are ready to go out. I ran a workshop at a writers' group on critiquing techniques and conducted a follow up workshop where those techniques were applied. I have several stories underway and am working on them whenever I can grab a moment. Finally I have been asked to be a guest speaker at a meeting of State branch of a nationwide writing organisation.
Well, that's not as bad as I thought it was. I think I'll mark my report card "Making progress but could do better."
Tuesday, March 27, 2007
During the course you are expected to write at least six stories and critique those of the rest of the group. This means writing one story and reading and critting a minimum of sixteen stories a week. The daily average was three stories to be critiqued every day which can be anywhere in the short story range. The longest story at this Clarion South was, from memory, slightly over 8,000 words. I found reading and critting a story usually took me between between one and one and a half hours. The crit then had to be distilled down to a two minute summary for the crit room. With sixteen classmate's crits plus the tutor's unlimited time and a general discussion this limit had to be adhered to rigidly to get through the work load. The person being critiqued is not allowed to comment until the class crits are done.
Inevitably some participants find it hard to have their work dissected so intensely. Clarions can prove difficult for those who take criticism of their work as criticism of themselves but the work being submitted is not polished. It can't be. It is first draft and I counted myself lucky if I could manage a spell and grammar check before I handed it in. Crits were honest and meant to help in my experience because we were all there to improve our skills in writing and critiquing and there was no point in any other approach. Because there is such a range of sub-genres being produced it is not always easy for those whose interests lie in one particular area to comment on another with which they are unfamiliar but over the workshop everyone's writing became more experimental as we were exposed to ideas and styles.
My goals in attending Clarion South were to gain skills in writing to a tight deadline, to try writing in areas I had not tackled before and to improve my critiquing skills. I feel I achieved all these objectives but I also gained in other ways. I am now much more confident in backing my own opinion in writing and critiquing and that increase in self-esteem flows on to other areas of life. The website is still active and there is continuing contact between the group with celebration and support available in equal measure.
Saturday, March 10, 2007
I have considerable sympathy for the residents of Port Hedland as a result but I am forced to wonder why in, a time when governments and employers are supposedly much more aware than they were thirty years ago, we have construction camps destroyed and lives lost when we have had well over a hundred years of experience of these annual, natural events. In Port Hedland thirty years ago they had a well devised action plan and carried it out (and this was before Cyclone Tracy hit Darwin). Why do communities (however temporary) not have the same ability to protect their residents now?
Saturday, March 03, 2007
Later on I will try to give a better idea of what is actually involved and what the experience itself is like - but not yet.
Saturday, February 24, 2007
I had wanted to give up eating meat for a long time before we took the plunge. I was very unhappy about the treatment of food animals and felt a hypocrite for being prepared to eat meat but knowing if someone else didn't kill it I wouldn't do it myself. At the same time it seemed too difficult to cater for in a family of meat eaters especially when my diet already requires so many exclusions. I had compromised by making at least four main meals a week vegetarian but Virgo's decision meant it was easier to go to the next step. There have been side benefits apart from the moral ones. The past year has been one of my healthiest in a decade and while I can't be certain it's not eating meat I'm hoping it will continue. I caught far fewer viruses and consequently actually achieved much more. My only problem was iron deficiency and this has happened to me on a regular basis for years so I doubt it has anything to do with my diet.
Now we have more birthdays to look forward to. Pisces' is next weekend and since he's working the whole of the long weekend I'm not sure what we can do. Maybe Virgo and I will take him out for a meal if either of them aren't working at the same time. Shifts that involve all weekend work are a real pain. Most social lives are arranged around Saturday nights and Sundays and I can't remember the last time we were able to go on a picnic with friends or family or even visit for a Sunday lunch as a family unit. The government trumpets about full employment but so many people are working weird hours or cobbling together two or more part-time or casual jobs just to survive. I'd like to see governments caring a bit more about the social consequences of this life style where often married couples and families don't see each other for more than a few minutes a day let alone keeping in contact with their extended family.
I will now step down from my soap box.
Wednesday, February 21, 2007
What else have I done since I got home? Slept - a lot. It's almost impossible to describe to anyone who has not been part of the experience just how little sleep figured. I had a routine appointment with my GP and he took one look at me and put me on the scales. I have lost nearly eight kilos since Christmas. This was not deliberate. All the time I was at Clarion I was eating well balanced meals and having far less exercise than normal due to my back flaring up. All I can put it down to is the mental energy involved burning up the calories. I'm not unhappy about this you understand, and my doctor is positively cheering, but I don't want to lose much more.
Today I had coffee with a friend, Satima, also a speculative fiction writer who was passing through Perth on her way to England and that was my first social activity since I arrived home. I haven't so much as made a phone call to anyone outside the family. But tomorrow life will begin again. By then I will be awake enough to be coherent.
Friday, February 16, 2007
And there will be tears in the morning if not before bedtime.
Thursday, February 15, 2007
On to other things:
Everything is winding down now and we're starting to get organised to go home. You know the sort of thing - confirming flight bookings, working out just how much to post home (and trying not to think about the cost), presents, packing, cleaning out the fridge. The convenors have been worried that we might be in a state of denial, I think, but much as we would like it to be otherwise we do know that come Saturday this amazing experience will come to an end. As a result, although we're looking forward to seeing family and friends, we're all feeling a bit down at the same time because this is something we can never experience again.
We're going to miss the type of bizarre conversation that only a group of speculative fiction writers can have. An example: last night we were sitting in our living area doing our crits. They are done individually without discussion but when we've written them down we sometimes have a general chat about things we might not have understood and so on. So three of us were going over a sex scene in one of the stories and how it fitted into the story structure when the fourth person in the room looked up from her crit and asked, "Are ship's doors made of metal or steel?" This had absolutely no connection to the stories any of us were critting or anything else but after a couple of puzzled looks we answered the question, she went back to her crit and we went on with our original discussion.
We will miss being able to wander into someone else's flat and sitting down to crit or chat with them. We will miss feeling free to bounce ideas, however weird, off 16 other minds. We will miss the hysterical laughter when an idea goes gonzo. We will miss each other.
We are trying to make arrangements to meet up or stay in contact in the future because we trust each other, both as writers and individuals, and we don't want to lose this.
So forgive us a few tears and hugs (or may be a lot) on Saturday morning and weave them in among the many happy memories.