Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Whale Stranding

Hamelin Bay on Western Australia's south coast has be one of the most beautiful places in the world. It's a sheltered bay with white sand so brilliant it dazzles. By the beach the water is literally as clear as glass slowly changing through palest aqua to turquoise as you go out into the ocean. It's a pleasant holiday spot with good swimming and fishing, close to the tourist region of Margaret River, well known for its vineyards, caves and surf, and the Leeuwin Naturaliste National Park.

This tranquil place was the site where more than eighty long finned pilot whales and a dolphin were reported to have beached themselves on Monday. Only twenty five whales were still alive when they were discovered so they had been there for some time. A frantic rescue effort was put in motion with people coming from as far away as Perth to try to keep the survivors alive. Trenches were dug around them to help support their body weight and volunteers worked through the night, wrapping them in wet towels and dousing them with buckets of water.

It was decided to move them a few kilometers along the coast to a bay with deeper water to lessen the likelihood of them beaching again. Sadly by then, despite the best efforts of the vets and volunteers, only eleven were still alive and eventually only ten of those were successfully released. Reports have just come in that a number of dead whales have been sighted off the coast. Let's hope that they are incorrect.

Situations like this, and the human response to it, are what gives me hope for our species. While Japanese whalers are hunting and killing whales in Antarctic waters (claiming scientific research as the reason) Australians are working together to save other whales. Instead of killing whales more useful scientific research might be to try and find out just why whales beach themselves and where they fit into the network of species vital to the ecology of our planet, the one we are all part of.

I understand that there are cultures that have used whale products to enable them to survive for centuries and, although I don't see the need for it in the present day, I'm willing to accept that this is a customary right but I see no other reason for killing them.

I visited the Cheynes Beach Whaling Station near Albany in Western Australia shortly before it closed in 1978. A whale was being flensed at the time and I was overwhelmed by the size and stench, so much so that I had to leave. As I stood outside looking over the bay, another whale carcass was being hauled off a whale chaser, armed with a harpoon gun at its prow. The water was alive with big, shadowy shapes, that I presume were sharks drawn by the blood from the whale. I have not felt comfortable about the killing of whales since and my distaste increased when I discovered that a harpoon does not always kill instantly as the tour guide implied.

Perhaps there was a time in human history when such killing might have been justified by need but that time is long past. Looking at the photos of the people working so hard to save the whales at Hamelin Bay I have to say I hope the few remaining whaling nations will realise this and soon.

You can see photos of the rescue attempt here

Edit: Sadly, six of the released whales have again beached themselves, this time in an isolated and difficult to reach area, and died.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Media Responsiblity

Sexy photos purported to be of a young Pauline Hanson were printed in a number of newspapers this week. I'm not much into scandal so I didn't bother to read the story but apparently a lot of people did. Then other media outlets jumped in to take their bite. In the end it was impossible to ignore what had happened as the details appeared in news bulletins all over the place.

Most disturbing to me is that anyone actually bought these photos in the first place.

I don't agree with Ms Hanson's politics in any way but certain sections of the media seem to delight in seeking to embarrass her (and many other public figures) at every turn and in areas that have no connection to public life. Even if they had been genuine what possible relevance to anyone are some sexy photos taken over thirty years ago of a very young woman to the person she is today? The invasion of privacy is nothing short of outrageous.

To make matters worse the person who authorised the purchase is quoted in this morning's newspaper as saying he always said that if the photos turned out not to be of Ms Hanson he'd be the first to apologise. So now they've proven it he's saying sorry. That is supposed to make up for a week of scandal and humiliation where the story was taken up by other media outlets as well, is it? Not in my book. I hope Ms Hanson sues them and wins.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009


My poor garden is suffering badly at the moment. A series of difficulties - personal physical problems mainly - has led to infestations of couch grass, crab grass and scale just about everywhere. As a result I'm finding it rather depressing just at a time when I need uplifting. But there are still a few delights among the misery.

With the cooler nights the roses have begun their Autumn flush of flowers. Because a number came from my parents' house when they moved I don't know all the names but they range in colour from rich, dark reds through pinks, apricots and yellows to whites.

On the family room table I have a vase of crimson roses - Papa Meilland, Mr Lincoln and another that came from my parents' house. They are gloriously fragrant, filling the whole area with their perfume. They have been under constant assault by Angus cat, who, I have just realised, had never seen flowers in a vase close up before. He's usually a quick learner - no doubt how he survived his traumatic early life - and learned not to put so much as a paw on a table in his first couple of weeks in the house. But the roses fascinate him. He started by sitting on a chair, eyes fixed, until he couldn't stand it. He made a rush across the table, batting with his paws until a blossom fell out then he grabbed it in his mouth and carried it off. It was about when he reached the floor that the thorns started to dig in and he dropped it and ran off. This happened a few times. Now he's wiser but still can't resist creeping up on them at least as far as the table edge.

Jaz, of course, finds the whole thing disturbing and barks furiously.
"Will someone come, please. The cat's being very bad. Please come."
Unfortunately she disapproves of so many of the cat's activities - looking at her, sitting on the arm of the sofa, walking across my bed, going into the bathroom, lying on the living room window sill, lying under a chair, to mention only a few - she's more likely to be in trouble for barking than praised even if the end result is Angus also in trouble.

I'm truly delighted at the progress Angus has made. It's hard to believe that it's only nine months since he was a terrified little scrap of a kitten, frightened of literally everything. Now he's happy, confident and affectionate within the family although sudden noises and strangers still send him running for cover.

Friday, March 13, 2009

2008 Australian Shadows Awards

These are the awards for the best dark fiction by Australian writers:

And the winner is: Lee Battersby for The Claws of Native Ghosts. Lee is a local Perth writer with an awesome gift for story writing. A well deserved win. Congratulations, Lee.

Also on the shortlist were:

Sara Douglass: This Way to the Exit
Jason Fischer: Rick Gets a Job
Christopher Green: Lakeside
Paul Haines: Her Collection of Intimacy

Jason and Chris attended Clarion South 2007 with me and it doesn't surprise me in the least to see them listed here. They both have a great future in front of them.

Well done, all of you.

Go here for the judges report.

Writers of the Future

Honourable Mention. My first in this competition. Doing happy dance. Just what I needed at the end of a very bad week.

Monday, March 09, 2009

New Ceres Nights

Twelfth Planet Press have put out a press release for a special offer in March.

"Leading up the release of New Ceres Nights Twelfth Planet Press are offering the anthology 2012 at the special price of A$16 to anywhere in Australia including postage or A$20 to anywhere outside of Australia including postage for all of March!

We want to get the word out so we're also offering a free electronic copy of the Aurealis Award nominated "Fleshy" by Tansy Rayner Roberts for every blog entry spreading the word about our 2012 Special Deal for March.

Each of the stories in 2012 presents an original take on the imminent future of humanity. Each has something to say about who we are and who we might want to be. 2012 is both a call to imagine the future of the world and a call to create it.

2012 collects stories written by: Deborah Biancotti, Martin Livings, Dirk Flinthart, David Conyers, Simon Brown, Lucy Sussex, Tansy Rayner Roberts, Kaaron Warren, Angela Slatter, Ben Peek and Sean McMullen

2012 received an Honoroble Mention in the Anthology Category at the Aurealis Awards 2009.
“Fleshy” by Tansy Rayner Roberts, was shortlisted for Best Science Fiction Short Story, Aurealis Awards 2009

2012 March 2009 Special Deal

-- offer ends March 31, 2009 --"

More information here.

Life Lessons

Do not ever put anything off until tomorrow if you can possibly do it today. You may not get the chance again. A lesson learned in a hard way.

Sunday, March 08, 2009


I have observed the following:

1. An adult raven can bathe in the bird bath albeit with great difficulty but much enjoyment.

2. Jaz has learned that dropping one piece of banana in hopes of being offered more does not work. Either it will be taken away by the boss or the cat will try to get it.

3. Angus (the nearly grown up kitten) has discovered that while dogs lurve banana, cats do not.

4. Angus loves to play with plastic bags to the point of stealing them from the tube shaped storage bag. They are even better when filled with shredded paper.

5. Muscat grapevines, when thwarted in delivering their bumper crop by birds and rodents, will sometimes set another, although not so prolifically.

6. A creek lilly pilly in full blossom is a wondrous sight.

7. An upturned flower pot in an overgrown garden bed is a serious threat to a small Cav. It's even worse when someone sprays it with a hose so it makes frightening hollow sounds - then laughs.

8. Perpetual spinach will grow successfully in a large pot. Guess what we are having for dinner.

9. Men and women shop for food entirely differently - even with a specific list - but at least we won't starve.

10.I have an irrational hatred of the phrase "Very much so".

11.Rose fertiliser works so much better on roses than ordinary fertiliser. Who'd have thought it.

And now I am going to have my lunch before a nap to rest my brain. I'm guessing you wish I'd done it in the opposite order.

Monday, March 02, 2009

Wendy Richard

I have just read that has Wendy Richard passed away from cancer. It brought back so many memories especially of her days as the flirty, sexy Miss Brahms in the sitcom Are You Being Served and the early days of the BBC soap Eastenders where she played Pauline. My interest in Eastenders soon disappeared but I continued to admire the versatility of Wendy Richard, who having previously played a variety of minor roles, (in the Carry On movies among other things) effortlessly transformed herself from the sexy girls of those parts into the dowdy, matronly Pauline showing her considerable performing range. It makes the point I think that we underestimate the ability of soap actors. They work for the most part with frankly unbelievable story lines and yet create characters who become real to their viewers. Considering the millions who tune into them that's quite an achievement.

Clarion South Fundraising Appeal

Clarion South are holding a fundraising appeal during March.

I cannot over-emphasise how much my attendance at Clarion South has impacted on my life. I learned so much about writing and professional skills as well as gaining a support group and friends who I believe will stay with me for the rest of my life. The care taken of us by Kate, Rob, Heather and Bob (all volunteers) was extraordinary in its generosity.

You can make a donation by going to here or help by advertising the appeal on your blog, LJ, Facebook, My Space etc. Further information about the workshop and the appeal can be found at

Please consider giving to this cause or promoting it where you can. It may seem less important than the other appeals where people have lost their livelihoods and homes but it is an investment in the next generation of speculative fiction writers. You only have to look at the list of graduates to see how many are now making a career for themselves and giving pleasure to others in the process.

Sunday, March 01, 2009


When I got up this morning the air in the back garden was still and heavy with rose perfume. I can't remember it ever being so strong in the morning before. It's not as though there are masses of roses out at the moment either or that they are the most richly perfumed varieties. I suspect it was a combination of the scents of the rose blossoms that are open and the rose geranium foliage.

Maybe the electrical storm we had around 5:30 am set it off. It woke me with lightning that lit up inside of the house, blinds drawn and all, and thunder rumbling loudly but only a few drops of rain. Then again perhaps something (a cat?) had brushed against the rose geranium foliage releasing its fragrance. Very strange whatever the cause.