Sunday, January 25, 2009

Aurealis Awards

Well deserved congratulations to all the winners, especially Western Australians, K. A. Bedford, Best Science Fiction novel for Time Machines Repaired While-U-Wait, Jonathan Strahan, editor Best Anthology for The Starry Rift and Shaun Tan, Best Illustrated Book for Tales From Outer Suburbia (even if he has abandoned us for brighter lights). Best collection winner, Magic Dirt by Sean Williams was published locally by Ticonderoga Publishing run by Russell B. Farr and also deserves a mention in the West Aussie list of achievers.

Edit: In West Aussie successes I omitted to mention Trent Jamieson who is not a West Australian but took out Best Young Adult Short Story for Cracks in Shiny Issue 2 put out by Twelfth Planet Press which is Western Australian.

It was good to see Simon Brown, one of the Clarion South 2007 tutors, win Best Science Fiction Short Story for The Empire in Dreaming Again. Coincidentally I had just finished reading this without realising it was a finalist and enjoyed it thoroughly.

The complete list of winners is here but after looking at that you could go here and make the list of finalists a reading checklist. This was a extremely strong field and the judges must have had a very difficult time separating out the winners from such quality. I've read enough of the finalists to want to read the rest. I think you'd enjoy them too.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

The Laughing Quadruplets.

I defy anyone not to have a smile on their face after seeing this.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

My Garden.

There's no question that my garden is not fashionable - and to tell the truth, I don't want it to be if the gardens created in garden makeovers on television are an example of what we should aspire to. I certainly want areas where we can sit with friends on a summer evening or with an early morning cup of coffee and modern gardens excel in this. Where they fail is in creating a useful garden as well. My ideal garden is an old-fashioned cottage garden - one where most of the plants as well as being decorative, have a purpose.

Excluding the largely functional vegetable patch in which, because I can't restrain myself, you'll find still find some flowers - edible ones like nasturtiums, calendulas and violas - much of the rest of the garden is also edible. Apart from the bulbs presently hidden under ground, in among the agapanthus, gerberas, bearded irises, cactus, orchids, pelargoniums and petunias there is an assortment of the more common food plants. From where I'm sitting I can see sweet potatoes, rhubarb, grapes, strawberries, lettuces, perpetual spinach and lots of herbs - basil, tarragon, marjoram, oregano, rigani, several different thymes and parsleys, assorted mints and rosemary, sage, chives and ginger.

There are some other plants too, usually only grown for decoration, various parts of which are either edible or have other uses and I grow a number of them as well. Here's a sample:
Roses: blossoms - edible, albeit of an odd texture, in sandwiches but yummy as sugared petals or rosebuds. Rose hips are a good source of Vitamin C when made into jellies or syrups while perfumed red blossoms make a wonderful conserve. Also used in making rose water and in pot pourri
Violets: blossoms are delicious sugared and the leaves have medicinal uses.
Nasturtiums: leaves and flowers add a peppery sharpness to salads and the flowers are delicious (if not very healthy) battered and deep fried.
Dianthus: sometimes called clove pinks and used for pot pourri or flavouring.
Society garlic: flowers can be used in salads.
Lavender: used in cooking, as a moth repellent and in the perfume, lavender water. It's also used medicinally.
Lemon verbena: used in teas and as a flavouring.
Water lily: I haven't tried it but I'm told the root is edible.
Lilly pilly: fruits are edible.
Elderberry: flowers are edible (as fritters in particular) and also used in making elderflower champagne. The berries are used to make wine.
Rose and lemon scented geraniums: used in pot pourri and to flavour cakes.

And that's only what is in the garden just now. There are other annuals that come and go in season.

My garden is different but it is still pretty and it certainly smells lovely. Anyone can do the same. Why don't you try?

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Barak Obama, President of the United States of America.

Or he will be around 1.00 Perth time tomorrow morning. For the first time in a long while I have a degree of hope for the voice of sanity in world politics. That said I also fear that the Bush legacy may be too much for anyone, however intelligent and willing, to change easily - at least in the short term. I hope and pray that Obama can do what he has committed to and that he is given the time to do it for the sake of his own country and the world. I wish him well but I don't envy him the task.

Monday, January 19, 2009


The fires are all pretty much under control now but there is still a smoky haze to the north. There is considerable damage.

In King's Park in recent years there has been a considerable effort made to remove exotic plants from the park and replant with plants native to the area. Much of this has been destroyed and it will take years for it to be restored. The Yanchep fire has caused millions of dollars worth of damage to the National Park and pine plantation. Hasty efforts are being made salvage what wood they can while in Bridgetown, homes and other buildings were destroyed.

But with a major fire so close to the CBD it could have been worse, much worse.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Summer Smoke

Perth has been enveloped in smoke nearly all day. Because we live near the top of a north facing hill we can usually see a considerable distance but today the the smoke was so dense that we could only see a couple of blocks. It was like looking down on a thick fog. Immediately around us the air seemed clear but every breath came with its load of invisible particles. We had to keep the house closed up and so couldn't use the air conditioner because it's an evaporative one - a minor inconvenience really since we have ceiling fans and our house stays cool for up to four days even in temperatures over 38 degrees C. and we've had a run of those.

Over the day reports have come in about the fires. There are four but one of the most serious are in King's Park where arson is suspected. Homes have been threatened and people evacuated. For those who do not know Perth, King's Park is 1003 acres of bush and parkland adjacent to the western side of the CBD. This is much loved and a popular tourist spot with stunning views over the Swan River and why anyone would want to set a fire in the middle of the city is beyond belief. The other major city fire started at Two Rocks near Yanchep and is burning though Yanchep National Park and Pinjar Pine Plantation, while in the South West a serious fire, believed to be arson, is burning in Bridgetown.

I cannot imagine why anyone would start fires like this. They must know they stand the chance of killing people, not to mention animals and birds, and the cost of the fighting the fires will be nothing put along side the cost of trying to rebuild lives, homes and businesses.

I remember a ranger once telling me how, after a fire swept through some farming properties, he'd had to shoot hundreds of sheep, so badly burned they couldn't be saved. He hated doing it and said the sheep had just stood there unable even to walk, their eyes dark with pain and beyond even making a sound. These are the visible creatures but what about the birds burned in their nests, the lizards, the bandicoots and all the other small animals? They suffer just as much.

When I was about five a fire came close to where we were living. Our parents piled us into the truck ready to leave. I remember the crimson painted sky, the hot ash falling around us and the fire eating its way through the bush towards us like some immense monster. We were lucky that day. Something stopped the fire but sometimes not all the luck in the world will save lives and homes. It's a pity those who light these fires never take into account the consequences.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Well That Didn't Hurt Much.

Birthday's over for another year - not that I feel any older. Lots of visitors, cards and phone calls. What more could I ask for?

But on another subject, Virgo's recent appendicitis has led me to think about the state of our health system. Given the limited funding for public hospitals we still have reasonable quality health care in Australia. Our doctors and nurses work incredibly hard under difficult circumstances. This is not to say there isn't room for improvement. There certainly is. Mistakes are made and ambulance ramping is an indication that the government needs to be less focused on monetary cuts and more on innovative ways to improve the service.

That said however, in Virgo's case as far as treatment is concerned, whether she had private health cover or not, she would still have been placed in the same four bed ward in the public hospital, nursed by the same staff, had the same diagnostic tests and the same successful outcome as anyone else. The truth is that if you attend the Emergency Department of a public hospital with a life threatening emergency, you will be seen and attended to quickly and efficiently. If it is less serious you may well have to wait but you will receive appropriate treatment eventually. And, unlike some countries, you will receive whatever treatment you need. While you may have some costs to pay you will not be left with enormous medical bills that leave you struggling for years.

We have a family connection in Cambodia and when I hear how their health system and hospitals function I'm overwhelmingly grateful for ours whatever its imperfections. Our hospital system may need a major overhaul but at least we have infrastructure that can be built on and we definitely do not have a Third World health system.

Sunday, January 04, 2009

Best wishes, Clarion South 2009

I've just realised that by now you will be settling in and getting to know your fellow Clarionites. You are in for a whirlwind of activity. There will be highs and lows, lots of laughter and maybe a few tears. You will learn so much - about yourself as well as about your writing. Write and crit for all you're worth. I can honestly say there will never be a time like it in your lives. Live it to the full.

Saturday, January 03, 2009

In Case You're Wondering...

The paucity of blogging has been due not to Christmas/New Year frivolity but to illness. Early in December Pisces brought home - and generously shared - a flu-like bug which he got over in about a week while I'm still collapsing into bed around lunchtime although my ability to concentrate has returned.

So, a little late, here is my review of 2008. It was a very mixed year in many areas, full of change. There have been worries and failures, joys and achievements. Here are a few of the highlights and low lights.

My novel is ready to send out. And do I hear "about time"?

We have finally been able to move along with the renovations. Lots more to do but we are actually getting somewhere after endless delays.

I have been a panelist at two conventions - and enjoyed it.

Virgo moved out. I miss her heaps but this is the natural order of things and as long as she is happy so am I.

I have taught a few writing workshops - which reminded me how much I enjoy teaching and I'm looking forward to doing more this year.

We have taken active steps towards greening our household - signing up for solar PV panels, a solar hot water system and a rainwater tank with more in the pipeline. This is something I've wanted to do for years but couldn't afford until now.

I was co-convener of the KSP Mini con. Time consuming but worth it.

There have been health issues ranging from my mother breaking a femur, Virgo having appendicitis and both Pisces and I having our own problems. Not all resolved yet but nothing life threatening.

Cadillac, my cat of many years, passed away. I miss him so much.

I will be a Writer in Residence at Tom Collins House in 2009. Yay!

Angus, the deeply traumatised rescued kitten who came to live with us five months ago, has slowly become a happy, loving little cat - and that's something I'm truly pleased to have achieved.

Finally, but not least, I have kept up this blog - and I am delighted to see how many of you visit. Thank you for dropping by.