Friday, May 18, 2007

Of novels and other things

I've enrolled in an on-line Write a Fantasy Novel course run by the talented Tansy Rayner Roberts. The idea was that I'd have at least a faint idea of what I wanted to write about before I started the course. Then life came crashing in and it was the first session and I still hadn't made a decision. The problem wasn't so much that I didn't have ideas, more that I had too many of them and hadn't had time to sift through them. I was told at Clarion South that my two first stories felt like the beginnings of novels and I have a number of other thoughts and beginnings, not to mention the half finished novel that I've always intended to return to so there is quite a lot to select from. This doesn't mean I can decide which one to go with though and that is the problem. Tansy suggested awesomeness is what is needed. Unfortunately they all feel awesome to me. So I now have to make a final decision - soon - or I'll be struggling all through the course. Wish me luck and a few days when I have time to think.

Monday, May 14, 2007

Mouse in the house

At least we think we have one - it may be past tense. Not that I would count on Cadillac's hunting ability. He has been known to corner the odd gecko or skink but I usually get to rescue them then because he doesn't seem to know the next step. I suspect it's his biscuits that are the attraction since it has set up home at the back of the freezer in the laundry where they are kept. When we moved the freezer to clean behind it we found much rodent evidence. No wonder Jaz has been so upset in the night and trying desperately to get under there. This means that on the nights that Virgo declines to have doggy company in her room there are outbursts of barking and scratching until I go and pick Jaz's bed and dump it on the floor beside my bed where she happily snores until Cadillac decides he'd like to sleep there instead and abandons my feet to roust her out. Jaz then comes around to me and starts pawing until I wake up and remove him so she can go back to sleep. Last night he did this three times. Grrrr. If he's not careful it'll be the laundry for him on a permanent basis .

Friday, May 11, 2007

Mary, Mary, quite contrary

Well not really. It's the next bit - how does your garden grow - that applies to me at the moment. And the answer is ... not very well. While I was at Clarion South the couch grass invaded just about everywhere and as I had left my garden in the charge of two non-gardeners no-one noticed. It's taking me forever to get it down to manageable levels again so the vegie garden has still not been planted for winter. Some parts are doing well in spite of the previous neglect. I have a forest of basil which is steadily being converted into pesto and put away in the freezer. The spring onions are looking splendid and there are masses of parsley, chives, shallots and garlic so all is not lost. But now I need to start putting the greens - broccoli, lettuces, coriander, chard for starters - and the roots like carrots, onions and beetroot as well as peas of all sorts and other winter herbs.
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

Of cats and dogs

We have a visiting cat. Apparently he started coming around while I was at Clarion South. He's a handsome fellow, with a black Batman's mask on a white face and beautifully balanced black and white markings over the rest of his body. The only thing that mars him is that the black patch under his chin extends on one side up to the corner of his mouth. We wondered for a while if he was a stray because he spends so much time in our yard but he has acquired a fancy red and white collar with Phoenix and a phone number written on it so apparently he has a home. He also has (although I'm betting his family doesn't know it) a number of other meal providers including my neighbours and, I'm sorry to say, us. This is because Virgo was convinced he was starving - and he certainly was skinny - so she felt obliged to feed him to protect the large number of honeyeaters, wattle birds, willy wagtails and doves we encourage around the garden.
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


I'm not fond of visiting hospitals. It's probably due to spending more time than I like in them as a patient. But at the moment with my mother confined to bed with a cracked femur visiting is what I do. I'm always amazed at the inadequate parking provided for any major hospital whether it is privately or government run although the government institutions are by far the worst. I do understand that there are limits on just how many places are available but I also understand just how valuable visitors are to recovery.
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?