Thursday, May 29, 2014

AWWC 2014: The Lascar's Dagger by Glenda Larke

It seems to be the season for books about magical daggers. No sooner had I finished Satima Flavell's The Dagger of Dresnia than I had a phone call from Dymocks to say one of my book requests, Glenda Larke's The Lascar's Dagger, was in. I was lucky enough to attend a kaffeeklatsch with Glenda at Conflux last year where she told us a little about the background of how she came to be writing this book. It sounded fascinating so I had been waiting anxiously for it to come in. Here are my thoughts on it.

The Lascar's Dagger is Book 1 of The Forsaken Lands trilogy.

This was an enthralling read for me. While there is plenty of action and drama this is only part of the story. It's also about court intrigue, what happens when people are caught up in events outside their control and how they act and react when difficult choices are forced on them.

The book opens with a young man, Ardhi (the lascar of the title), racing to try to avert a tragedy. He fails and the repercussions spread wide, far beyond his home in the Summer Islands. His task of retrieving a stolen treasure becomes more complicated when the magical dagger he is to use as his guide abandons him for Saker, a witan or priest who is also a spy for the Pontifect, head of the Va faith.

These are dangerous times. The old beliefs with their links to nature are under threat, the horror of the horned death is spreading while exploration in search of the Spicerie for spice trade has already brought the merchants into conflict with the people of the Summer Islands. All this threatens to destabilise the world and lead to war and the Pontifect needs to keep informed. With instructions not to draw attention to himself Saker is sent as a spiritual advisor to the prince and princess of Ardrone but despite his efforts he can't avoid trouble. There is much more danger at the court than anyone expects.

In Saker we have a flawed man who tries to do good but doesn't always succeed. He takes his priestly responsibilities seriously (even if he sometimes fails to live up to them) but is also as susceptible as anyone else to being manipulated - and there are many manipulators from the dagger itself, many of the Ardronese court and the religious leaders to mention only a few. It's hardly surprising he struggles and fails at times but his ability to grow and learn - and he has a lot to learn - all goes to make him a realistic character.

There are other characters I really liked too. Sorrel Redwing, herself a victim of tragedy and handmaiden to Princess Matilda, was one. She never shirks what has to be done, intelligently using her witchery - a magical skill - and not blindly accepting what she is told. It's a pleasure to see a woman character whose strength doesn't come from carrying a sword but from doing what has to be done, however hard, with the minimum of fuss.

I also liked Saker's boss, the Pontifect. She is a woman who knows her own mind and with the responsibility for the well being of the religion she needs every bit of her intelligence.

But it's not only the women who are strong and well drawn. Saker and Ardhi are not the only male characters. There are others like Lord Juster, a privateer, who befriends and supports Saker at the Ardronese court and Prince Ryce, Princess Matilda's brother, who also has hard lessons to learn.

The opposing players didn't disappoint either. From the vicious Prime, to the rulers of Ardrone and Lowmeer and the spice merchants they are all rounded and well drawn characters with compelling motivations ranging from self interest to greed. They may not be "nice" but they are all believable.

I really enjoyed this book, particularly the steady, well paced build up of tension, the complexity of the plot and the creativity of the world building. The author excels at creating rich and believable worlds and societies and this one is nicely layered, with religion, economics, politics and magic all combined to make a cohesive whole.

I found The Lascar's Dagger an engrossing read and I'm looking forward to the next book in the trilogy  which is due out early in 2015.

The Lascar's Dagger was published by Orbit in 2014 and, with other books by Glenda Larke, is available in Australia as a paperback from Dymocks book stores, Fishpond and Booktopia as well as The Book Depository and independent booksellers. It is also available as an ebook.

Glenda Larke's website is here and she is also on Facebook.

Sunday, May 25, 2014

Elephant Rescues

I found these videos very touching - and the one thing that they forcefully bring home is that human beings are not uniquely intelligent nor are we the only creatures with emotions. Not that I've ever really believed that we are so special. After all, as a species we seem to hate as much as we love. Why else would we have wars over trivialities and why would so many of us - and I'm looking at the current Australian Federal Government and the socially unfair Budget they are trying to introduce as a perfect example - be unable to empathise with others? In my opinion, animals do have emotions and are capable of caring for others. They are almost certainly different in some ways from human emotions and I doubt they have deep philosophical discussions about them like we do - not that we seem to gain much from that - but that doesn't mean they are any less real.

Let's face it, the fact that many of us can believe rubbish like rhino horn or tiger testicles are aphrodisiacs doesn't speak too highly of our intelligence, does it, nor does that we still allow slavery to exist in some parts of the world while treating men and women as equal is anathema to a large part of the human population. We might think we are superior but we still have a long way to go and when I look at these videos I begin to wonder exactly why we see ourselves as better than animals.

So here are the links.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=D_Fi2ccZ8GE

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Cd-LtWtNvDw

Then there are these videos of Koko, a female lowlands gorilla who was taught sign language.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SNuZ4OE6vCk

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CQCOHUXmEZg

So what do you think after watching them?

Saturday, May 24, 2014

Sudden Death - It Makes You Think.

We - my husband and I - were deeply shocked by the tragic death of a very dear friend a couple of days ago in a particularly horrific accident. I won't go into details but it's given me a serious jolt. This was a man happy in his life, well respected by the larger community, who was going about his daily routine when his life ended abruptly. We last saw him about a month and a half ago and had plans to catch up soon and now we can't. Everything has changed, literally in a flash.

It's made me think about our lives. We've slid into something of a rut lately and maybe it's time we woke up and climbed out of it. There have been reasons, some quite genuine, but, if I'm honest, much of it's been simply not making enough effort or letting things overwhelm us. Life seems infinite when you're living it and just muddling through each day but, of course, it's not. It could end at any minute. I think it's time to do all those things we've been putting off because they seemed too hard. I've started a list and I'm making plans. We're none of us immortal so why not join me? You've nothing to lose.

Thursday, May 22, 2014

AWWC 2014: The Dagger of Dresnia by Satima Flavell

The Dagger of Dresnia is the first book in The Talismans trilogy and is Satima Flavell's first published novel.

King Fairstad is on his deathbed, his triplet sons are desperately ill and Queen Ellyria battles exhaustion as she struggles to keep the court functioning while she nurses her family. Unlike Fairstad, she might be one of the elves and have magical powers but that is a dangerous and closely kept secret with the priests teaching that magic is evil. When her sons' fiancees arrive just as the king dies she is faced with the prospect of chaos enveloping the kingdom. Offered hope by a visiting doctor - in the form of a cure for her sons and magic talismans to protect the kingdom from the chaos that will inevitably follow the king's death - she accepts only to find that there is a terrible price to pay. Her benefactor is not what he seems and it will take all her skill and magic to protect her family and save the kingdom from disaster.

The Dagger of Dresnia is high fantasy and a great read with a nicely realised mediaeval world where magic can be good or evil. It's a well written tale with a complex and wide ranging story line with many twists but its closely observed characters are what lift it above many other similar novels. While there is plenty of action it was the relationships and interplay of the characters that engaged me most and it was a pleasant change to see a mature woman as the protagonist, something that is all too rare in speculative fiction. Intelligent and resourceful, Ellyria is not prepared to sit back and let her enemy do as he pleases. Even though he seems to hold all the power, she exploits his weaknesses wherever and however she can.

But Ellyria is not the only strong, well drawn woman. Tammirayne, the foreign princess who marries Ellyria's son, Beverak, is young, resilient and brave and she grows in unexpected ways as the story progresses. There are many others and the author devotes as much care to them as she does to the male characters who are also varied, well drawn and totally believable.

I thoroughly enjoyed The Dagger of Dresnia and am eagerly waiting for The Cloak of Challiver, the next instalment in The Talismans trilogy.

The Dagger of Dresnia is published by Satalyte Publishing in April 2014 and is available both as  paperback and e-book from the publisher and Amazon 

Satima Flavell's website is here, she blogs here and she is also on Facebook.


Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Mary Anning

Have you seen today's Google Doodle? It's a birthday tribute to Mary Anning who would be 215 if she was still alive. And who is/was Mary Anning, do I hear you ask? I'd have asked the same if I hadn't recently seen a documentary about her and her discoveries.

Well, she was an extraordinary woman by any standard. Born in Lyme Regis in 1799, she was one of the two surviving children of Richard and Mary Anning. Her father was a cabinet maker and fossil hunter and the Jurassic marine fossil beds in the cliffs around Lyme Regis were - and still are - a rich source. At the time, although palaeontology was still in its infancy, there was great interest in fossils and gentleman fossil collectors were willing to pay for interesting pieces and finding fossils and selling them  was how the family supported themselves after Richard Anning died when Mary was eleven.

Mary had a great eye for picking out unusual fossils and many of her discoveries led to a new understanding of the past but, living as she did in a time when women generally were not highly regarded in scientific circles - they couldn't go to university and, even with all her groundbreaking discoveries, Mary Anning was not eligible to join the Geological Society of London nor did she receive full credit for many of her discoveries because she was a woman, her ability and work was not recognised by much of the scientific community. Not everyone ignored her though and she did have supporters who credited her and gave financial support to her and her family but life was often difficult for her. You can read about her life here.

The thing that most strikes me about this story is that this is a woman who has been of enormous importance to our understanding of a particular area of science and yet, although she did have some people who acknowledged her work, was excluded from formal recognition by the scientific establishment because she was a woman. How ridiculous.

The truly sad thing is that this hasn't changed in many parts of the world even now. Not that we can be too judgemental. Even as recently as the early 1960s - that's only fifty years ago - societal pressures meant that most women left school at the age of 14 or 15. Of those who continued their education, many left school and went into short secretarial courses - basically typing, shorthand and elementary book keeping so they could work in an office, while of those who completed Year 12 only a small percentage matriculated and went to university. This didn't mean there weren't young women who were capable of tertiary education. There certainly were but the attitude of many people was that spending money on educating a girl to a higher level was a waste. After all, she was only going to get married and stop working, wasn't she.

Thank goodness, our society has changed and there have been advances - not enough unfortunately or we wouldn't still be having to have conversations about gender equality but some. With luck these changes will continue and the next Mary Anning's work will be recognised and she will be feted and rewarded for it. With luck.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

2013 Nebula Award Winners

These were announced last night.

The complete list of nominees is here but the winners are:

Novel:

Ancillary Justice, Ann Leckie (Orbit US; Orbit UK)

Novella:

"The Weight of the Sunrise", Vylar Kaftan (Asimov's 2/13)

Novelette:

"The Waiting Stars", Aliette de Bodard (The Other Half of the Sky)

Short Story:

"If You Were a Dinosaur, My Love", Rachel Swirsky (Apex 3/13)

Ray Bradbury Award for Outstanding Dramatic Presentation

Gravity

Andre Norton Award for Young Adult Science Fiction and Fantasy Book

Sister Mine, Nalo Hopkinson (Grand Central)

Kevin O'Donnell Jr. Service to SFWA Award: Michael Armstrong

2013 Damon Knight Grand Master Award: Samuel R. Delany

2013 Special Honoree: Frank M. Robinson 

Sunday, May 18, 2014

Linkage

I'm not well today so here are some links to enjoy via some of my favourite blogs.

First is from US fantasy author, Jim C. Hines.  I visit his blog often. He has no problem with saying what he thinks about social issues and it's worth reading for that alone but he also puts up Friday links of what he calls cool stuff and these always amuse me. So, via his most recent Friday post, I share this link to some extraordinary sand sculptures and this one of cuddling dogs while from the previous Friday comes this where cats and dogs show that they can be friends.

Then there's this via Australian author, Tansy Rayner Roberts, whose blog is another favourite. She gives interesting links to what's happening in the writing world as well as issues relating to women. I've recently read her short story collection, Love and Romanpunk, and I'll do a review soon. In this link magazine readers tweeted their version of how headlines about well known women should read as opposed to the - as they put it - 'snarky' headlines that so often feature in gossip magazines.

Enjoy.

Saturday, May 17, 2014

RSS Feed and Subscription Problems

Well I think I've resolved this problem - although I'm not an expert so I may not have. I've abandoned Atom but can't get rid of the heading for some reason - and, I confess, that after multiple attempts I kind of lost interest. Ah well, no doubt 'twill all work out in the end. In any event if you want to subscribe the RSS one is active.

And as a reward for your patience I give you this link which made me giggle and this one that I found very touching.

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Who Says Cats Don't Care.

This video showing a family cat driving off a dog which attacked a small boy in California and the accompanying article came up on my Facebook newsfeed this morning. Given the reputation of cats being aloof and uninvolved with those they live with I guess it's really surprising to many that a cat would do this but not to me.

Of course, it all depends on the cat. I can't imagine my current always anxious feline friend doing anything except running away and hiding but there have been others in my life who have been very different. The most memorable was a handsome, white fronted and very big (as in muscular) tabby boy who lived with my family for many years when I was child.  He was easy going, placid, affectionate and very loveable, tolerating almost anything from my toddler brother, who would stuff him into the tray of his favourite toy truck leaving him lying on his back, head resting on the cab without a complaint until one of us noticed and rescued him. He never resisted - no growling, hissing or scratching or other sign of displeasure. He just lay there waiting patiently. Such a lovely boy and he doted on my brother and followed him around most of the time when he was out in the yard.

Puss was special in many other ways. He and our dog were best mates. In the evenings they would curl up together, Puss curved into her body, head on her shoulder. They would explore together and more than once we found the dog digging out a mouse nest then standing back so Puss could try to catch the escapees. This was rarely successful. He was more a lover than a hunter but they worked as a team.

Fiercely territorial, he never wandered beyond our very large yard and he appointed himself its guardian. In those days, folk worried less about wandering dogs and they would come into our yard probably attracted by our dog. They only did it once because Puss stationed himself about half way along on the side fence where there was a ledge - just outside the kitchen window as it happened which is how we knew what was going on. The dog would sniff along the path, blissfully unaware of what was going to happen until Puss launched himself onto its back and dug in his claws. Tail waving, legs braced, he would ride the terrified dog to the low front fence, where he would jump off. Then he'd watch until it was out of sight, lick down any errant fur and come back and settle down again on his ledge.

Just goes to show that we should not fall into the trap of stereotyping, I think.

Monday, May 12, 2014

Code Breakers of Bletchley Park

For decades after World War 2 nothing was known about the people - mostly women - who spent their war at Bletchley Park outside Milton Keynes in Buckinghamshire in England working as code breakers. Bound by the Official Secrets Act  they were not able to share, even with their nearest and dearest, what they had been doing during the war and they received no official recognition at the time although their achievement was extraordinary and of incalculable importance to the war effort.

Some of those recruited came from Oxford and Cambridge and others on personal recommendations or from the armed forces but recruitment wasn't always so conventional. A crossword competition in one of the daily newspapers identified those who could complete a crossword in a short time and they were called for interview.

It wasn't only the cryptographers' work that was special about Bletchley Park though. The creation of the bombe - a mechanical device developed to break the German Enigma code machine by Alan Turing, Gordon Welchman and Harold Keen building on information received from the Polish Cypher Bureau shortly before war broke out - led eventually to the creation of automatic machines to deal with the volume of encrypted messages and from them to the creation by Tommy Powers and his team of Colossus, credited as the world's first digital electronic computer that could be programmed, in 1943. Ten of these were in use by the end of the war. While Colossus was efficient at the task for which it was designed it was limited and, sadly, because of the secrecy surrounding the machines and the work of the cryptographers, The government ordered the dismantling all of the Colossus machines and all drawings and notes were supposed to be destroyed.

There's a but, though, luckily for us. Despite all the efforts to destroy any plans or parts, enough remnants remained in engineers' notebooks and in the US to enable a reconstruction which is now on display at The National Museum of Computing at Bletchley Park.

Bletchley Park and those who worked there are no longer hidden in secrecy and Bletchley Park, run by the Bletchley Park Trust, is now open to the public, housing The National Museum of Computing and a number of other exhibits.

.

Sunday, May 11, 2014

Mothers' Day

It's Mothers' Day today here in Australia and, while I have no problem with the day itself - mothers after all are one of the most important people in anyone's life - I have real problems with the commercialisation of the day. My kids know, and have known from when they were toddlers, that I don't want presents on Mothers Day. All I really want is to spend some time with them and, if they feel so inclined, flowers are always welcome - and that's what I have today.

Sagittarius and his family couldn't make it on the actual day but they came earlier and we had a lovely chance to catch up, Virgo called in a few hours ago with a gorgeous orchid and Pisces spoiled me with a huge bunch of chrysanthemums - white chrysanthemums being the traditional Mothers Day flowers here.

But while I and many other mothers might be happy with family time, low key as it is, it's impossible not to notice the overwhelming commercial build up. The media has been full of suggested gifts ranging from personal items like jewellery, the inevitable pale pink nighties and dressing gowns (woe betide those like me who detest pink), slippers and perfume (all of which at least suggest that the mother in question is being given something for herself) to the mundane - toasters, vacuum cleaners, washing machines and hardware items (because, of course, what every mother needs is to be reminded that her only function in life is to do housework). Then there's the patently ridiculous like the bedding company trying to sell a bedroom suite as a suitable present or another company that seems to think a storewide sale of floor coverings is the way to go.

Seeing this, it's no wonder that Anna Jarvis, the American woman who campaigned for Mothers Day to be recognised as an official holiday in the US, was so disgusted by the activities of retailers and florists cashing in on the day that within six years of its inception in 1914 she was actively lobbying to have it removed and continued to do so for the rest of her life. Despite her efforts it continues and has spread over much of the world, often supplanting older mothers' day traditions.

Friday, May 09, 2014

Orphan Black

What started me thinking about this is Foz Meadows and her most recent blog post prompted by the brilliant Canadian television production of Orphan Black. (I'm not giving a link because, believe me, you don't want spoilers for this series.) I've been entranced by this show since it started. Without giving any of the story away it's fair to say the acting by the lead, Tatiana Maslany, is exceptional as is that of Jordan Gavaris - and you'll have to watch it to see what I mean.

The series explores a number of ethical issues and it's often violent. Much of it centres around Sarah Manning who is flawed and not averse to petty cons. She also has a deep love for her daughter and many of her choices are driven by trying to ensure her child is safe. It hadn't struck me until I read Foz Meadows' blog that Sarah is in fact an anti-hero and that such a woman is often held to different standards than a male character. I've been left with much food for thought because I'm deeply invested in Sarah's struggle and I want her to survive but, as Meadows points out, the outcome for such female characters is often very different from that of male characters. Not infrequently the man gets to redeem himself but a similarly placed woman often ends up estranging herself from those she cares about. I'm hoping the writers of Orphan Black don't disappoint me and, given the complexities and unexpected plot turns so far, there seems a good possibility that they won't.

 Here in Australia the second series is now free to air on SBS 2 on Tuesday evening at 8:30.  I have to say SBS 2 has become my favourite channel for quality speculative fiction. So far on Tuesday evenings this year we've been able to watch the first series of Orphan Black, the gripping French series, The Returned (Les Revenants) and series one of The Walking Dead with series two now airing. Even better is that if you happen to miss an episode of any of these you can catch up on SBS On Demand.

I just had a thought. If the Federal Government cuts funding to the ABC and SBS as they are flagging we might lose ABC Iview and SBS On Demand and that would be terrible. Yet another reason for us to support our national non-commercial channels and to make sure the government knows we watch them and want them to survive.

Thursday, May 08, 2014

Eta Aquariid Meteor Shower

Well I got all excited about this, didn't I. The Eta Aquariid meteor shower (made up of fragments behind left by Halley's Comet on its regular visits) was going to be clearly visible and particularly bright in the Southern Hemisphere. There are other meteor showers too, of course. In the Southern Hemisphere we can view the Orionids in October, the Leonids (visible in both hemispheres in November but this is going to be weak this year apparently) and the Geminids in December as well but this year the Eta Aquariids is supposed to be unusually spectacular so I was very tempted by it. The ABC Science website has all the details.

Great, I thought. May is often fine and we haven't had rain for so long that clear skies seemed highly probable in spite of the Bureau of Meteorology telling us there was rain on the way (I don't know about other people but I'd just about given up expecting any rain, it'd been so long since we had any). Yes, it might be a tad chilly and between 3:00 AM and 5:00 AM is a little hard to cope with but it's a minor sacrifice for something so special.

Then the clouds rolled in but that's okay, I thought. It's on for several nights. There'll be another chance. Then the cloud cover got more dense and the rain set in. So no meteor display but you know what? That's actually even better because we've had so little rain for such a long time that every drop is precious. So send 'er down, Hughie, and keep on sending it down. There'll be other opportunities to watch a meteor shower - Geminids, I'm looking at you - and in December the chance of rain is almost nil with our long and dry summer under way.

Tuesday, May 06, 2014

Nigeria - 276 School Girls Kidnapped

This is so appalling that I can barely hold back the tears. In Nigeria three weeks ago, terrorists attacked a boarding school for girls, overwhelmed the security guards and kidnapped at least 276 students because they don't believe in education for girls. Some of the girls  - 53 of them according to some reports - escaped meaning that at least 223 are still held captive.The attackers - an Islamist group calling themselves Boko Haram - like the Taliban in Afghanistan and other extremist groups claim to be representing their religion. They are not. Islam does not deny education to women and girls.  The group leaders say the girls aged between 16 and 18 will be sold into marriage or slavery.

Bad as this is, the ineptitude - or worse - on the part of the Nigerian Government has compounded the situation. Initially at least, the government seems to have sat on their collective hands, while the parents, teachers and other community members led the search. They have now asked for help from the international community but after three weeks any hope of a rescue is unlikely. Let's hope it's not too late.


Sunday, May 04, 2014

2013 Aurealis Awards

Well that first attempt at posting was something of a disastrous mess. I'm not sure what happened so I've deleted it and I'm trying again.

I've just realised that while I was A-Z blogging I neglected to blog about the 2013 Aurealis Awards so here is the list of winners:

Best Children's Book

The Four Seasons of Lucy McKenzie by Kirsty Murray (Allen & Unwin)

Best Young Adult Short Fiction

By Bone-light by Juliet Marillier (Prickle Moon, Ticonderoga Publications)

Best Young Adult Novel (tie)

These Broken Stars by Amie Kaufman & Meagan Spooner (Allen & Unwin)
&
Fairytales for Wilde Girls by Allyse Near (Random House Australia)

Best Anthology

The Year's Best Australian Fantasy and Horror 2012 Liz Grzyb & Talie Helene (editors) (Ticonderoga Publications)
&
One Small Step, An Anthology of Discoveries Tehani Wesseley (editor) (FableCroft Publishing)

Best Collection

The Bone Chime Song and Other Stories by Joanne Anderton (Fablecroft Publishing)

Best Illustrated Book or Graphic Novel (tie)

Burger Force by Jackie Ryan (self-published)
&
The Deep Vol 2: The Vanishing Island by Tom Taylor & James Brouwer (Gestalt Publishing)

Best Horror Short Fiction

The Year of Ancient Ghosts by Kim Wilkins (The Year of Ancient Ghosts, Ticonderoga Publications)

Best Horror Novel

Fairytales for Wilde Girls by Allyse Near (Random House Australia)

Best Fantasy Short Fiction

The Last Stormdancer by Jay Kristoff (Thomas Dunne Books)

Best Fantasy Novel

A Crucible of Souls by Mitchell Hogan (self-published)

Best Science Fiction Short Fiction

Air, Water and the Grove by Kaaron Warren (The Lowest Heaven, Pandemonium Press)

Best Science Fiction Novel

Lexicon by Max Barry (Hachette)

Peter McNamara Convenors' Award For Excellence

Jonathan Strahan

Kris Hembury Encouragement Award

Tristan Savage

Congratulations to all.

Saturday, May 03, 2014

Cat Friend v Dog Friend

I'm not feeling well today so I needed something to cheer me up and, although I have watched these umpteen times, as a long time sharer of my life with cats and dogs they always make me laugh. Have a look here and here to see if you agree.


Friday, May 02, 2014

Reflections on the A-Z Blog Challenge

This is the first time I've done anything like this and I have to say that, although it took planning and work, I enjoyed it. It's also the first time since I was at Clarion South that I've made the effort to write a daily post. Usually I post when something interests me for some reason and sometimes, when Real Life gets in the way as it has for much of this year, I get a little lazy. Perhaps surprisingly though, I found myself enjoying writing the daily post again. I don't know if I'll be quite that regular from now on - it's more likely to be 3-4 times a week - and the posts may well be a little shorter but I am feeling inspired again.

So what have I gained from the experience?

Well, I've been reminded that it isn't all that hard to post more often. This April has been a very difficult month for many reasons that have been time consuming and distressing but I still managed to post daily, even writing some posts in advance.

I found out a lot about using images under Creative Commons and other licences. It had always seemed too hard before but it turns out it's not. Who'd have thought that if someone wants to make something available for others to use they would make it simple? I know. Amazing isn't it.

An interesting fact - if you want a lot of hits put up a post entitled H.E.M.P. although I'm pretty sure most of those who visited it would have been very surprised to find it was about an Australian Senate  election and that H.E.M.P. is a political party. Still that's brought something else brought home to me - making the post title something that attracts attention gets hits. While I knew this already having it  reinforced is always a good thing.

Then there's the added bonus of reading a number of interesting blogs I doubt I'd have come across in the way.

Will I do it again? I think so because it has been a positive experience - and who knows, I might actually work out how get the logo uploaded next time. I have no idea why I couldn't work it out this time since I'm usually fine with such things but, hey, I've got eleven months to work on it. Right?

Thursday, May 01, 2014

May Day

Where I live in the Southern Hemisphere the first  of May doesn't have the same history attached to it as it does in Europe. There it's an important marker of Spring and has been celebrated in all probability for millennia. From my time in southern England I remember that the real change in season becomes marked about then although officially Spring began in March.

There are signs before then. The daffodils are flowering, having shivered their way out of the still chilly ground back in March, the leaf buds on the deciduous trees are swelling with a hardy few ones already open and beginning to clothe bare branches with a shimmer of green and the hawthorn buds - the hawthorn is the traditional mayflower of Great Britain - are fat and ready to burst into flower. There's no doubt that the weather is warming - the ice covering the fish pond in our garden had thawed after all - but it's May when there's a sudden burst of life. The weather warms, trees don their leafy green gowns, flowers smother previously bare twigs and birds work busily at finishing their new dwellings ready for the next generation. It's no wonder it was a time for fertility rites for centuries.

Here, on the other hand, it's nothing special for most of us, although there are a few small and unofficial May Day marches to mark International Workers' Day on the nearest weekend to May 1. Otherwise, May 1 is fairly uneventful.

We may be well into Autumn - it officially started at the beginning at March - but it's still mostly days warm enough for Pisces to go the beach for a swim and the need to switch from light cotton clothing to light weight jeans and a t-shirt with a sweater in the mornings and evenings. It is changing though. For the last few days, it's stayed cool enough inside to tempt Small Dog and me out to stand in the sun for a while to warm up and chilly enough at night to warrant putting the winter quilt on the bed and even to light the heater for an hour as we begin our slow slide towards winter.