Monday, December 25, 2017

Merry Christmas

and a happy New Year to all.

I'm usually not much of a fan of the Mariah Carey song All I Want For Christmas is You but I did enjoy this a capella version by Out of the Blue.  It was originally released as a charity fundraiser and is still available for download.  I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

The New Year is Coming

and it can't be soon enough for us because 2017 has been one health problem after another. Starting with my continuing illness, which started after my hospitalisation at the end of last year and from which I'm still not fully recovered, nothing has gone as we planned. Granted these days I usually manage to stay up until around 5:30 PM with an afternoon rest of only one and a half hours (in the early stages I was collapsing by 10:00AM and the time I can stay up has slowly increased over the year) but I still struggle to do much and my - our - social life has suffered greatly as a result. I'm not the only one with health challenges, either. Pisces still has his own problems to deal and while he is beginning to feel better, he still has quite a way to go.

Then, just after we sat down on Monday and planned out how to catch up on many of the things that have had to be put on hold (because neither of us have been capable of doing much beyond surviving) disaster hit - again. A few weeks ago we bought a new oven - our old one had started belching out smoke a couple of months ago and there was only so long I was prepared to go without a functional oven - and yesterday the electrician came to install it.

Everything was going well - the oven was installed and working (not without one unpleasant surprise - the person who had installed the old oven had not done the job properly and it could have led to a serious fire so just as well it was being removed). There were a couple of other things we wanted fixed, too, and I climbed the step ladder to check out one of these. So far so good and I started climbing down. Then, as I reached for the last step, the electrician came in, I turned to speak to him, missed the step and hit the floor.

Now I have a broken bone in my foot and I'm wearing a cam boot for some weeks at least. This is heavy and awkward and I'm certainly not going to be able to do any of the many physical things that were a major part of our carefully worked out plans. It's enough to make you wonder what we've done to make the Universe have it in for us.

Thursday, December 07, 2017

Small Amusements

1. I was talking to a friend who gets her grandchildren dressed and off to school a couple of mornings a week. Grandson (10) has been being generally obstructive but is finally fully dressed and in his room reading. His sister (7) is struggling. She can't find her school uniform t-shirt, only one of her brother's which is far too large. She goes off in tears to phone Mum who assures her she had put it out ready. Grandmother is trying to sort this out when she suddenly has a thought and goes to check on brother. He has on his sister's t-shirt and when told to take it off gets very mouthy. This grandmother is not one to take any nonsense and threatens she will take it off if he doesn't so he complies still having many words to say. They are running late by the time sister is dressed so grandmother says she'll drive them. Her patience is now exhausted so when grandson is dilly-dallying about getting in the car she tells him he can walk and leaves. (The school is just at the end of the street and they usually walk unless it's raining).

After school and the kids come home to get ready for grandmother to take them to swimming. Grandson comes in when he's changed his clothes and says, unwisely, 'I was almost late for school, Nan, and I was talking to my mates and we agree you were over the top making me walk.' Nan is so NOT impressed and relays this to his parents, who are equally unimpressed. Oddly enough grandson has not tried this again.

2. Then I was chatting to the sheep poo delivery man as you do and he was telling me about his ten year old son - do you see a pattern here? This time the boy is at school and does not want to do physical education for some reason. His excuse: 'See, miss, my dad has a bad back because of his work and I think I've got a bad back, too, so I shouldn't have to do exercises.' Didn't work out well for him either.

Monday, December 04, 2017

There's a Jitti-jitti in My Garden

Jitti-jitti - sometimes djiti-djiti or chitty-chitty - is the Noongar name for the Australian willy wagtail - the Noongars being the local indigenous people of south western Australia. I think it's a particularly appropriate name, too, given the way these endearing little birds chatter. Their common name of willy wagtails is because they spend a lot of of their time shaking their rumps with their tails fanned up, and as you might have guessed if you know anything about birds in Australia, they are related to the Australian fantails. They are cheeky and I've yet to find anything they are intimidated by. They take no nonsense from anyone or anything and will drive off much bigger birds without any sign of nerves. Around here they regularly take to the Australian ravens and kookaburras, both of which are much larger and can be aggressive.

For a long time willy wagtail numbers had plummeted but recently they have recovered and now they can often be seen and heard. The one who's chosen our garden as part of his hunting grounds - they catch flies, small moths and mosquitoes (the last in particular makes them very welcome as far as I'm concerned) - arrived a couple of weeks ago. He's very bold, sitting on the fence chittering at me while he waits for something suitable to eat to appear. Very handsome he looks, too, in his black and white tuxedo with his tail fanned up before he swoops and grabs whatever morsel he's seen in mid-air. He isn't the least bit bothered by my working in the garden and will fly down to grab a snack no more than a hands breadth away from me.

in local Aboriginal legend they are regarded as gossips but they figure in other stories in different parts of the country. In some places they are considered birds of ill omen though I have no idea why such a charming, little creature should have that reputation. To me they are very special little birds and I hope their resurgence continues.

If you're interested you can read more about them here. Oh and I tried to find a photo but turns out there aren't too many in the public domain and those that are were somewhat underwhelming.

Saturday, November 25, 2017

Things That Go...

I've been pushing Pisces to go through some boxes of stuff I sorted out and left on the veranda mumble mumble months ago. If it had been down to me I'd have simply taken it to be recycled once I got it sorted but he was convinced that I was just throwing usable stuff out and wanted to check through it. Well, that's perfectly true but it's not usable by us and that's the point of taking it to the recycling depot, isn't it. It's a place where anything that can be reused as is will be sold on and other usable bits and pieces - like metal, paper and glass - are sent off to be used again. I'd rather it went to someone who can use it rather than just sit around here to clutter the place up. Still he, having filled the car boot to the brim, has headed off to the depot so I'm not complaining.

Anyhow his sudden spring into activity led me to go out and check the gas BBQ which has been bundled up for far too long and to see if we have enough gas should we need it (the answer to that is not really). This in turn reminded me that there was a pile of empty plant pots that had accumulated from my recent repotting frenzy and which really needed to be transferred to the garden shed (if they'll be of any use to me in the future) or into the recycling bin (apparently the local council can deal with them. Who'd have thought.).

I'd stacked the pots out of sight under the eaves but we have a garden shed, don'cha know. Why not keep them in there, I thought. So I put on my gloves and started to dismantle the pile. For some unknown reason, probably in the interests of moving along quickly when I was planting some plants out though why I thought it would work as a long term solution I do not know, I had put a whole pile of empty seedling trays into one of the large pots. I tipped them out and found one was full of spider webs. Okay, I thought, better get rid of that before it goes in the bin so I took it over to the nearest garden bed and gave it a good shake. Not much moved so I got a stick to pull the web out - and uncovered an unusually large and shiny black widow spider. Her body was about as big as the nail on my little finger so you can imagine how big she was when her legs were included and she wasn't going anywhere. I tried shaking harder. Nope. Then I banged it on the ground forcefully. Nah. Finally I flicked her out onto the garden with the stick and thought we'd seen the last of each other. Nooooo. She was not happy about giving up her home and started to chase after it - and since it was in still in my hand, after me as well. I'm not even mildly arachnophobic but even I was getting a little nervous by now - black widows have a painful bite - but she was so intent on getting home that I was able to use the container to guide her to a suitable new place where she disappeared from sight.

The pots had another surprise for me when I went back to finish dismantling the pile. There I was happily taking pot after pot out when something moved in the bottom of one - something a lot bigger than a spider. Before I had a chance to even think a large frog flung itself at the side of the pot - and I have to say I don't know who got the biggest shock. I yelled, Pisces came running and the frog threw itself even higher up towards the top of the pot. On its third attempt it made it up and over - the pot is about 40 cms deep so that gives you an idea of froggie's jumping ability - and disappeared in among the pots of cacti (these by the way are in bloom at the moment and their blossoms are truly glorious).

So there you go - some somewhat unexpected things you can find in my garden.

Monday, November 20, 2017

Ever Heard of the Hobyahs?

I have. When I was in my second or third year of primary school we had as our reading book Book Two of the Victorian School Readers. These had been put together in the period between 1927 and 1930 and so were already very dated - but post war shortages of books and other education materials which lasted well into the fifties I guess meant that Education Departments had to make do with whatever they could find. The Victorian Readers had a moral agenda intending to teach their readers among other things appropriate behaviour as well as an appreciation of literature, patriotism and their place as Australians in the world. The later books were also a reflection of their times in the casual racism they expressed. If you're interested this very readable article - The Victorian Readers by Claire Bradford - on the Austlit website gives more information.

What brought this book to mind was a recent column in the local West Australian newspaper by Robert Drewe. Drewe's columns are entertaining musings on whatever he's thinking about at the time and recently that was The Hobyahs, which was one of the stories which featured in my Victorian Reader at the time.

The Hobyahs is a grim tale of a little old man and a little old woman who live with a little girl and their dog, Little Dog Turpie, in a house made of hemp stalks. Every night the hobyahs come in from the bush saying 'Hobyah, Hobyah, eat up the old man and the old woman and carry off the little girl.' Every night Little Dog Turpie barks and drives off the hobyahs but his barking annoys the little old man and so he bit by bit dismembers Little Dog Turpie by the first night cutting off his tail, then one leg, then another and so on but the dog keeps on barking his warning until finally his head is cut off. The hobyahs then kill the man and woman and carry off the little girl in a sack which they leave hung up while they go to sleep - because hobyahs sleep in the day. The girl cries so much that a passing man with a big dog hears her and rescues her and puts his dog in the sack. When the hobyahs wake up the dog jumps out and eats them up. I gather from Robert Drewe's column that in the next edition Little Dog Turpie became Yellow Dog Dingo in an attempt to make what was according to the book originally a Scottish tale more Australian. All that did to judge from the flurry of letters that resulted after Drewe's column was to terrify a whole new group of children.

Why anyone would have thought this was a suitable tale for seven and eight year olds I have no idea. As you can see the details are firmly fixed in my mind many, many years on. It didn't give me nightmares but it certainly did to others of my generation and I wonder if the fact that I had access to and frequently read a book of the original versions of fairy tales set in obviously distant lands was the reason I was able to understand this was not true. The fairy stories I was reading were certainly not lacking in brutality - Cinderella's stepmother cut off the toes of one of her daughters so she could fit into the glass slipper, someone else had magically red hot shoes placed on her feet as a punishment and someone else had shoes that forced her to dance until she dies magically fitted are only a few examples that I remember - and I do wonder now if my parents had actually read this particular book. If they had I'm pretty sure I would have been banned from reading it since it also had a whole bunch of Greek and Roman myths which were, to put it mildly, problematic reading for a seven to eight year old. Who knows, though, it might have contributed to my ongoing interest in speculative fiction of all sorts. If it did I'm grateful but I have to say if you mention hobyahs to almost anyone of my vintage who went through an Australian school at the same time you are likely to set off fearful shivers at the memory.

Thursday, November 16, 2017


A dear friend has been working on a memoir and recently he was talking about his experiences as a non-sport interested schoolboy in Australia back in the day. No matter how he tried to fit into the pattern that demanded boys be at least competent at sport and that they should also take an interest in the various sports that dominate Australian conversation he never seemed to get it right. That he preferred to read rather than play sport branded him as an outsider and as a result he was the butt of continual bullying throughout his school days.

As a girl my experience was different but no less unhappy. Things started out well. I loved my Year one teacher and I still have happy memories of that class. The next year wasn't so good. Mrs A frankly terrified me. She shouted at the least infraction and her punishments were harsh considering we were only seven years old. Things looked up when one day in the middle of the year I was sent home with all my gear and a note to my parents saying the school district boundary had changed and I was now to attend another school. Initially I was seriously scared  - Mrs A had severely damaged my expectations of school - but as it turned out my teachers during my time there were a delight and I was very happy.

But then the school district boundaries changed again and it was back to the first school. My class teacher was great and every lesson was a joy - and that was in a class of 65 kids (fairly typical in those early post war days). Things went sour pretty quickly when I met Mrs B. She was the sewing teacher - girls had sewing two afternoons a week - and she took an instant dislike to me and another girl, M. Nothing we did was right. I'd sew something and it was terrible and had to be pulled out and that was the pattern for the whole year. I didn't complete one of the items we were supposed to because I spent the year stuck on the first one. Even worse she gathered a small coterie of girls she favoured around her and they took their cue from her so M. and I were always under verbal attack.

The following year was more of the same - great class teacher, monstrous bullying by the sewing teacher and her cohort of favourites. Then things got worse because in Year Six Mrs B. was my classroom teacher as well as sewing teacher and she extended her dislike to two boys as well as M. and me. We were ignored, ridiculed and made to feel as if we were total failures. Later when this all came out we were asked why we hadn't said anything but when you're a child and someone like a teacher tells you that you're worthless you believe it. It's your fault, you're not trying hard enough, you could do better and so your self esteem bottoms.

This all came to an end when one of the boys she was bullying became seriously ill and in his delirium it all came out. Bizarrely he was the son of one of her fellow teaching staff so why she had thought he was a good target who knows. Although I didn't know until years later apparently the parents were all called in for a meeting and things did improve as far as she was concerned but we remained the target of bullying by the other kids who saw no need to change their ways. M's parents decided to move away but the remaining three of us just had to get on with living. The next year we had a great class teacher in Mr F. but I was still in Mrs B's sewing class and because no-one had told me she had been confronted about her behaviour, I lived in terror of her bullying coming back.

The two boys and I moved on to different secondary schools the next year but we stayed in contact until our lives got too busy in our twenties. We were all lucky because our secondary schools encouraged us to achieve but the bullying has had life long effects on all of us. In those days the after effects of bullying were not understood and I suspect that our parents and the school thought they'd dealt effectively with the situation but the fact that I'm still angry even this long after the event shows they had not.

The friend whose post got me reflecting on my own experience has added a postscript where he speculates about how different his life might have been had he not been bullied and has come to the conclusion that bad as it was he might not have met his wife if it hadn't happened. My view is somewhat similar. I wish I hadn't had to live through what I did but if I hadn't my life choices would most likely have been very different. As a result I wouldn't have the life I have now, one with which I'm very happy.

I should say that I was in two minds about posting this but bullying is serious and those who have not experienced it really don't understand just how much damage it does. If this helps one person understand that it is worth posting about it however uncomfortable it has been for me.


Saturday, November 11, 2017


I've posted before about our resident froggies. We love having them around and encourage them as much as possible. The vast majority are motorbike frogs (Litoria moorei). They range in colour from vivid green and gold to dark brown and are classed as a tree frog although they spend most of their time on the ground. The common name of motorbike frog comes from the males' mating call which sounds something like a motorbike changing gear. You can hear it here.

Bear in mind that what we hear is that sound being repeated by numerous frogs and you'll have some idea of the cacophony surrounding us every night. We don't mind them calling for the most part but at the moment they're having a bit of breeding frenzy which means it can get somewhat deafening out there in the evening in the garden - and some of them are nowhere near the pond. Just imagine if you will several dozen males scattered all over the garden and all calling at once. Several are in the pond but others are calling in the veggie garden,  among the pot plants, in the flower beds and there's even one outside my window in the front yard. That's an awful lot of  'Hello, ladies.' going on and today there's even one calling in the midday heat. I went to have a look and he was sitting half submerged in the pond on a pad of algae. Somehow I doubt he'll get too many takers as he spruiks the delights of his pond, the females being sensibly tucked up in their daytime hidey holes

It's not only the horny males who are out and about, though. A couple of nights ago I went outside and nearly hit the veranda roof as a startled youngster took off and sent a pile of bamboo stakes flying. Then last night I almost stepped on another juvenile which was outside on the doorstep engaging in a staring contest with Mr Puss who was inside. As it had no intention of moving - and Puss was poised to overcome his fear of the outside world and pounce as soon as I opened the door - I had to go around via the back door so I could pick it up on a trowel. Of course, it waited until it and the trowel were up at my waist height before it remembered it could jump and did.

Thursday, November 09, 2017

Morning Pages

Like most writers I journal. So did Queen Victoria as it happens but I doubt historians are going to paw through mine when I die or that my children will bother to check whatever remains as hers did to make sure nothing salacious or inappropriate remained. Can't have any of dear Mama's ramblings about John Brown or Abdul Karim getting out, can we. The scandal of it.

I, on the other hand, do destroy a lot of my journals myself on a regular basis or we'd be drowning in pages of very uninteresting twaddle around here. This is because, unlike the kind of journalling recommended by my writing teachers, many of these journals are very much a reflection of what I have on my mind at any particular time. This can be a rant about the state of the world or my own life or my family, a list of things to do or a reflection on what's happening around me, some of which I'd be happy to share but others I definitely would not like to.

My journalling is based on Julia Cameron's suggestion in her book The Artist's Way that we should handwrite what she calls Morning Pages first thing every day. That is three pages - I use A4 - of whatever comes to mind with no preplanning and without any taboos or restrictions as what you write about. I'm guessing you can see why, quite apart from the build up of paper and books taking over the house, I might feel destroying these journals is sometimes a good idea. The other option, if I feel there's a possibility that I might write something that I'd rather no-one else saw, is to use loose sheets. It's also a good idea when I'm away from home.

There are several reasons for journalling this way. Mainly I use it to clarify my thoughts on whatever I'm writing about (and usually by the time I reach the end of the third page I have sorted out whatever is bothering me and can approach the day with a clear mind). I'll probably never even reread this kind of journalling nor will I when these pages are just me looking back at what happened the previous day (and that means thinking about what I did or didn't achieve) and deciding what I need to do next. Once it's written down it gets fixed in my memory so there's no need to look at it. Thirdly, at busy times - like the lead up to Christmas - I might make a list to work through. Then there are the days when I simply have some idea that I want to get down before I forget it. That's when this becomes more like a regular writer's journal where it might turn out to be a thought about whatever writing project I'm working on or a paragraph or more that I'll transfer to the computer later on - something like a description of a character, an outline of a scene or a story line.

I do this every morning - as I have for more than twenty years - as soon after I get up as I can. For me that is after I've made a cup of coffee and fed and medicated my cat (wouldn't be left alone to do the pages otherwise) and ideally before anyone else is stirring. I'm an early riser - usually up well before Pisces comes to - so this time to myself is not difficult to find - but over the years Pisces has learned that, should he happen to get up before I've finished, quiet is appreciated.

 At the moment my Morning Pages are a mix of things. On the one hand there are writing bits and pieces because we're in the middle of NaNoWriMo which is the annual attempt by many writers to try to get around 50,000 words written in November. I'm not to sure that will happen to me at the rate I'm progressing but at least I'm writing which has not been the case since I got sick twelve months ago. On the other hand I'm trying to set myself a list of tasks to get done so we can tackle the many things that need doing around here in an orderly way. Next week or month it may be something entirely different. No matter what form it takes, though, I can't see myself giving up doing these pages until I can no longer hold a pen.

Monday, November 06, 2017

World Fantasy Awards 2017

These prestigious awards are announced at the annual World Fantasy Convention. The 2017 winners have just been announced and you can see the full list of winners here. Heartiest congratulations to all.

I might have had to visit an online bookseller to see what all the fuss is about - and invest in the winning books. Actually I invested in the books by the other finalists as well. So I now have the following on my Kindle:

The Sudden Appearance of Hope by Claire North (Redhook; Orbit UK) which is this year's winner.

Borderline by Mishell Baker (Saga)  - finalist

Roadsouls by Betsy James (Aquaduct) - finalist

The Obelisk Gate by NK Jemisin (Orbit US; Orbit UK) - finalist - and since this is the second book in The Broken Earth trilogy I also had to buy those on either side of it, didn't I. These are The Fifth Season which I think won a Hugo last year and The Stone Sky. 

Lovecraft Country by Matt Ruff (Harper) - finalist

The there's the long fiction:

The Dream-Quest of Vellitt Boe By Kij Johnson ( Publishing) this year's long fiction winner

The Ballad of Black Tom by Victor LaValle ( Publishing) - finalist

Every Heart a Doorway by Seanan McGuire ( Publishing) - finalist

A Taste of Honey by Kai Ashante Wilson ( Publishing) - finalist

I also bought one anthology Dreaming in the Dark ed. Jack Dann (PS Australia) and winner of the anthology section before guilt kicked in and I decided I'd reached my spending limit for now. Maybe I'll go back for the rest when my credit card has recovered.

Saturday, November 04, 2017

There Are Days

when you wonder if it's worth the effort. I'm talking about gardening, of course. Today I went out to put up the summer shade cloth covers over the most delicate veggies - this is essential here and the daytime temperatures are already reaching the low thirties - and discovered the following:

1. I have bud worm in my tomatoes. The fruit affected were already on advanced plants I bought a few weeks ago so whether they were already infested or they came from my garden - the most likely scenario I have to admit - I don't know but now I'll have to start some sort of spraying regime. I don't like to use poisons so this means I need to track down one of the Bacillus thuringiensis based sprays specific to these destructive, little critters. These sprays contain a bacterium that kills caterpillars once ingested and has no effect on other beneficial insects - or people for that matter.

2. Something is eating my pak choy. They are covered in so many tiny pin holes that the leaves literally fall apart when you touch them. This has happened suddenly and is not due to the ubiquitous white cabbage butterfly because 1) I can't find a single one of these caterpillars on the plants proving the BT based spray I've been using to combat them is effective and 2) those little beasties don't cause this kind of pin hole damage anyway. I'll have to pull these plants out and dump them and hope that the caterpillar spray I'm getting for the budworm works on whatever this is before they decimate the new seedlings I planted out yesterday.

3) The garlic chives are again infested with black aphids. These nasties have already wiped out most of my red onions - they brought some sort of a virus with them as well damaging them by sap sucking. Luckily, although they attacked the spring onions and onion chives as well, those have survived - so far at least, though if the aphids spread from the garlic chives I'll be in trouble. I've seen some ladybirds in the garden which is heartening because their nymph stage just loves to eat aphids.

The good thing is that I can still find plenty to eat in the garden. The first zucchini flowers opened this morning. They are glorious to look at and to eat. I think I'd grow zucchini and pumpkin even if they didn't produce such tasty fruit because the flowers are so beautiful. I'll try to get a photo tomorrow so you can enjoy them, too. The rainbow chard is just as stunning - with red, yellow and pink stems that positively glow when the sunlight hits them - and they taste as good as they look. Then there's the kale which so far hasn't been attacked by whatever has attacked my other brassicas - and has been keeping us and our neighbours fed for months. The grape vines are shooting madly and that means dolmades soon while the dwarf French beans I planted months ago are still producing and we still have beetroot, Florence fennel, lettuces and nasturtium flowers and leaves to pick. Oh and I forgot to say we have just picked the first of the strawberries and blueberries.

So we're not going to go hungry just yet. Unfortunately neither are the bugs so I'd better get on with finding a suitable spray, hadn't I.

Wednesday, November 01, 2017

Getting Ready for the Apocalypse

So I was reading The Path trilogy by Diana Pharaoh Francis while I was sick this week and enjoyed it very much. The characters do a lot of travelling around in their magical, pre-industrial world - on horseback, on foot and magically - and, of course, they have to carry whatever they need with them in backpacks. At one stage she lists what the protagonist takes with her which is 2 blankets, an extra set of clothing (including spare boots) but not for herself, a waterproof cloak, waterbag, food (she hasn't much of this but then she is an excellent forager), a pot, a bowl, a belt knife, paper, a leather kit (for a particular purpose otherwise I doubt you'd include this), string, needles and thread, pouch of oil (I have no idea why you'd take this with you. Cooking, perhaps?), flint, whetstone, fish hooks, comb, extra socks, cake of soap, 4 candles, money and medicine kit.

This was not unlike what I would have selected in a similar situation albeit I'd be leaving out the candles and instead taking a torch and I would include a sleeping bag of some sort in preference to blankets, adding a spoon, extra underwear, something to write with (since paper is of limited use without a writing implement) and some things would have been substituted with more modern items.

At least that's what I thought until coincidentally The Link - a local TV program headed by Stan Grant which featured interviews and discussions with people on current topics of interest (and which sadly is not being renewed for next year) - showed an interview with a man who is determined to be prepared for any calamity that might happen and this in turn led me into the world of the Doomsday Preppers and the Bug Out Bag.

I'd never really considered the need to be prepared for more than day to day mishaps which means I do no more than keep a first aid kit, an emergency blanket, wind up torch, matches, a weatherproof poncho, a spare jacket and hat that roll up small enough to put in a pocket plus (this is Australia after all) some water in my car - and while I've never needed to deal with an apocalyptic situation they've all been used at one time or another.

Preppers take things to a whole different level. They want to provide for their survival in the case of major disaster - and by that they mean DISASTER on a large scale like civil unrest, major earthquake, eruption of a super volcano and so on. They are determined to be prepared for any eventuality and one of their basic tools is the Bug Out Bag. These are many and varied but are intended to provide for your needs for 72 hours while you head for your chosen - and ideally preprepared - bolt hole, which is somewhere off grid where you can protect you and yours.

If you google 'bug out bag' you'll find it's big business, too. Survival equipment, lists of what you need in your BOB and even ready made packs are all available whether you intend to head to the wilderness or withdraw to the safety of your home (which you’ve made secure from attack) along with your emergency supplies - and in the case of the US preppers where it is strongest, armed to the teeth. Given our gun laws in Australia weapons are one aspect that's unlikely to rate highly here. Not to say, of course, that weapons couldn't be needed or made if things got really bad but it's not a high priority here.

I was fascinated by what I found - and it's going to prove useful in my fiction writing - but I don’t intend to invest in a Bug Out Bag or stock up on more than I already have. With luck in any emergency (which here is most likely to be a natural one like storm or earthquake damage) I’ll be able to cobble together the essentials from the pantry and our existing camping gear.

That said I can understand why folk feel under threat. The world is not a stable place at the moment and the desire to feel you have some control over your destiny is inevitably going to appeal. I'm just not at all convinced this is the way to go about it. Let's hope I'm right.

Monday, October 23, 2017

Bits and Bobs

I was really struggling this morning - the world is a pretty awful place at the moment with a succession of natural disasters causing so much suffering in many places and, even worse than that, there are so many people displaced by war or suffering at the hands of their fellow humans - so I was tempted to have a bit of a whinge about how terrible everything is.

But then several things turned up from various sources that gave me joy and I realised that for all the war mongering and humanity's inability to treat the desperate with kindness there is still good in the world.

Here are some tired American Samoan firefighters singing as they come to the end of their shift. It's a beautiful a cappella rendition of a hymn but I don't think you need to be affiliated to any religion to appreciate this.

Then there's this video of Migaloo, one of only a handful of white humpback whales and for many years believed to be the only one in existence. Migaloo migrates along the east coast of Australia every year and you can find out more here. Let's hope the laws enacted every year to protect him and any other white whales in Australian waters will be enough for him to enjoy a long and happy life.

Now for something more along the lines of 'how on earth do they do that' with the Russian Berezka dance troupe performing one of their famous 'floating' dances. I for one am more than happy not pry and just enjoy the illusion but I can see why people are fascinated and want to know the secret.

Saturday, October 21, 2017


to at least try to do NaNoWriMo this year. I'm still struggling with life - Pisces is still unwell but he is improving slowly and while I'm better than I was I'm by no means back to my usual self either - so when you add in frustration levels that are chanting continuously about how much I should have done and haven't it's more than a little bit of a challenge to even be considering something this big. On the other hand if I just sit here and wallow in my miseries I'll never make any progress.

So I have a plan which is not necessarily to aim at achieving great things during November - like finishing a novel for instance - but instead to write something every day. I'll be aiming at 1,000 words and as long as they are creative I'll be happy. If I find my rhythm and my creativity blossoms I'll be very happy but I'll be satisfied as long as I just get that many words written every day.

I'mm posting this here so I have something to keep me accountable. How successful I will be I have no idea but I'm making the commitment and that's a start.

Edited because I forgot to put in the link to NaNoWriMo.

Friday, October 20, 2017

Spring Time

We might be in the middle of Spring at the moment - and Spring weather is as unpredictable here as anywhere else - but it's getting downright confusing with night time temperatures ranging from as low as 8-10°C then up to 17°C the next night then being followed by daytime maxima which can be as low as 20° C one day or into in the low thirties the next. I've been wanting to wash my winter clothes ready to put away but no sooner do I decide that it would be a good day to tackle it than the rain sets in and temperatures plummet again.

Ah well, it's not going to matter in the grand scheme of things I guess but it's meant the wardrobe purge I wanted to start has been on hold for a few weeks. It's hot already today, though, and I'm home alone - Pisces is in hospital for a minor procedure - so I think it's time I overcame my inertia and at least begin sorting. I mightn't be able to get everything organised but I can make a start. Actually I already have and the clothesline is full of things that I can do without even if the temperature drops dramatically again.

I confess to finding it difficult to part with things sometimes - and that would be clothes I'm talking about although Pisces might think books are more of a problem although they don't count, do they. In particular I'm thinking about those items of clothing that haven't been worn for a year or so but which are still too good to end up in the rubbish or recycling but are too far gone to be suitable to send to the charity shop and, which if I'm honest, I know I'll probably never wear again. It goes against the grain to throw them in the rubbish bin so there they sit taking up space in my cupboards and my life. I'm going to have to make some hard decisions and do what I tell the resident hoarder to do. Which is? Be ruthless. If it hasn't been worn in a year - unless it's a special purpose outfit that gets used infrequently, it's wearing out or no longer fits send it off to a new home or dump it.

It's easier said than done, of course, but I have no desire to live in a house that is slowly filling up with unused clutter so I will get on with it. Wish me luck.

Monday, October 16, 2017

We Haz Frogs

As you may or may not remember I have a cat. Now Mr Puss is 'special' and not only because he has a potentially life threatening health condition which means he get rather spoiled. Having had a very scary beginning to his life, he is inordinately afraid of everything and everyone except Pisces and me. Because of this he's always been an inside cat. We have a large house and he's never shown any interest in braving the outside world being more than happy to just follow me around. He occasionally pokes his head out but that's it. We've had other inside cats and they've all been happy to walk on a lead but not this boy. He wouldn't even accept a harness when he was a kitten.

To help make up for his lack of outdoor activity I keep cat grass in the house, something he goes into a frenzy of delight over. I grow it in two long water well pots that I rotate in and out of the house. Water well pots as you may know have a place for water in the base which wicks up to keep the plant wet and are filled through a hole in the side. I don't usually use this on the cat grass pots because I don't want to bring undesirables like slugs and slaters into the house, so I keep the hole taped over - but when I went out to bring the new pot in the other day the tape had come off.

This hole in this particular pot is quite small - about 3.5 cms across - and I don't know why but after I picked it up I decided I should tip out the car grass to make sure all was well. Since these pots are rather weighty when I went to put it back down it landed rather heavily. Out of the hole popped a large brown motorbike frog (Litoria moorei is its proper name and it gets its common name from the call of the male which really does sound like a motorbike changing gear). It was so large in fact that I have no idea how it got inside in the first place. It sat a few moments staring at me before it was followed by a tiny - and very pretty - green and cream juvenile about 2.5 cms in length. The big fellow took off and disappeared but we had to relocate the little one to the frog pond since it froze there on the hot concrete and I had visions of it dying where it was.

Since then I've found another similar little froggy among my seedlings and these are unlikely to be the last because I noticed yesterday there were at least half a dozen large tadpoles already with legs as well as scores of tinier legless ones of every size you could think of in the frog pond. Most of these will not survive for long but while it may be sad, it's probably a good thing given that just about every potential frog dwelling place in our yard is already occupied - something Pisces doesn't always remember so that startled yells as he lifts something are getting pretty much standard around here.

Monday, October 09, 2017

She Has a Point

Jo, of Jo on Food, Life and a Scent of Chocolate, commented here the other day that perhaps I should change my profile to gardener instead of writer. I can see why. My posts lately have been more gardening than anything else. I seemed to have lost my writing mojo with my illness. No matter how I tried my creativity had fled and all I managed to do was to struggle through each day and - if I was lucky - fiddle around a little in the garden. I'm not sure if growing food counts as creativity but it should. You're making something out of soil, water and seeds after all.

Not that I haven't always gardened, of course. I mentioned once before how I was gifted with my own garden when I was nine and in one way or another I've gardened ever since. The thing about gardening is that it's restful on one level - pulling weeds is hardly mind stretching, just methodical and repetitive for instance - but needs careful thought on another, especially if like me you like to grow at least some of your own food. You have to plan to make sure you have a regular supply of crops coming in or you will end up hungry.

In this it's very similar to writing or any other creative activity. Even for a pantser like me you have to have some idea of where your story is heading - so planning - and there's a lot of time spent on the repetitive task of just getting words on the page. Finally, though, you get to pull it all together and that's the harvest of the finally completed and edited story.

The thing is I wasn't able to do any of this. I started blogging more regularly in the hope that it might help but I had not one creative thought in me and I had just about resigned myself to just messing around with plants forever - until yesterday that is when an idea suddenly sprang into life. It's been percolating all day and for the first time in over a year I feel that wonderful rush of wanting to get words down of the page. Whether this will develop into anything worthwhile I have no idea but for now I'm heading to Ulysses (the writing program I was using before this hiatus) and I'm going to see what happens. Wish me luck.

Wednesday, October 04, 2017

I've Been Gardening Again

In the aftermath of the storm - and with the arrival of some lovely warm, sunny Spring days - I decided it was time to plant at least some of the summer veggies. It was Pisces' fault because I had mentioned I needed some potting mix and as we were passing by our local garden centre on Friday he suggested we pick it up and have a coffee at their very pleasant cafe - Waldecks in Stirling if you're interested. Naturally enough I then wandered off to look at the seedlings - well, what else would I do with temptation mere steps away - and stocked up.

We came home with tomatoes - lots of tomatoes because I found some heritage ones I wanted to try and I'm none to sure of how successful they'll be, capsicums, more sweet corn, zucchinis, a couple of different kinds of basil, spring onions and two different cucumbers to add to what I planted last week. Over the weekend I planted all except the onions because I wanted to make sure the aphid problem really had finished first. Now, apart from the onions, all I need for this first planting are pumpkins - they will fill up any vacant spaces and some more beans, bok choy and lettuce although I will be doing staggered follow up plantings of most all the way through the season.

All this planting and warm weather means I've had to hand water daily. That's very time consuming so this morning I decided it was finally time to get out the sprinklers. At least that was the plan.

I went out early - Puss thinks I should wake up at daybreak to dispense food and clean litter trays and luckily my body clock works that way, too, so we're both waking up at about 6:00 AM these days - and the first sprinkler would not connect with the hose. Dammit. The second wouldn't either. nor the third. Things were getting desperate when I finally found one that did. It was only a temporary solution though because the veggie patch is an awkward shape and to get an even coverage without wasteful overlaps I need all four sprinklers.

Pisces was awake by then - and extremely grumpy  - but he worked his garden fittings magic and finally we got the two most important sprinklers working. Why sprinklers that clicked into place on the hose perfectly at the end of Autumn no longer work I have no idea - but I've now handed it all over to himself to play with. I'm just hoping he'll have managed to resolve it by Saturday, which, if it doesn't rain first, will be the next time I need them.

Sunday, September 24, 2017

Windy Weather

It certainly was. We've just had one of the Spring storms we're prone to here when a cold front comes up from the south bringing strong winds and heavy rain - rain is much needed so you won't hear me complaining about that at least. The wind was blasting the house, so much so that when I went out to put something in the bin I was almost blown off my feet.

We had very little damage although the sound of bits of tree - only gum nuts and small branchlets fortunately - hitting the roof above my bedroom at the height of the storm was a bit disturbing - and we are certainly better off than those left as some were without power or with roofs blown off or fallen trees. The veggie patch took the brunt of it here. When I went out yesterday morning the coriander was flattened - luckily it's still only in flower or I'd have lost all the seeds - and the borage was a mess. I grow that against a trellis given its tendency to snap stems at the drop of a hat - or a careless brush past - but that wasn't enough to protect it this time. Those weren't the only casualties. Half the snowpeas had been ripped off their trellis, too - not that this was too much of a loss since they've just about stopped producing and are starting to die off. There were other minor problems but they are just that - minor.

The coriander was in most urgent need so I started by making a temporary fence of stakes around its bed high enough and secure enough to hold the plants upright. Luckily they're in a long narrow bed and their stems aren't broken or it would have been much more difficult. When I turned to the borage it was obvious the bulk of it was too damaged to rescue - though I did manage to save a couple of plants ready for a certain small girl who loves to eat the flowers - and I ended up filling two big bins with it and the remains of the snow peas.

My back was telling me I should leave it at that but I had some sweet corn seedlings that desperately needed to go in and Pisces had obligingly shifted a big bag of sheep manure to that part of the garden and all I had to do was to spread it and plant them so, of course, I did. You know how it is. You start with one task then you see another and another. Gardening is especially like that, I think, which is why I then remembered I had started to empty the compost out of one of the bins a few days ago and I should move and spread the rest. Then I saw some weeds that needed to be pulled out and really I should put around some slow release fertiliser and so it went until suddenly it was around 3:30 PM and Pisces was hovering around looking worried because I had seized up so much I could barely walk.

It might seem silly to push myself so hard but the truth is working in the garden clears my mind and is deeply satisfying. I was talking to a friend a couple of days ago and we decided that gardening was good for the soul and it is. I'm still struggling a bit today - the arthritis I've had since I was a girl is not forgiving - but it was definitely worth it.

Friday, September 22, 2017

Yes, It's Definitely Spring

because the masked woodswallow is back. I only see it at this time of the year and my favourite bird guide - The Field Guide to the Birds of Australia by Graham Pizzey and Frank Knight if you're interested - tells me that they are nomadic and migrate seasonally to the coast which all fits in with their regular appearance here. As you can see below they are handsome birds and I suspect it is here to breed since their main breeding period is September to December although there can be earlier and later nestings.

Adult male masked woodswallow
Photo by Peter Jacobs
 from Australia

Licensed CC BY-SA 2.0

I'm more than happy to welcome them because they are insectivorous and, as a gardener who tries not to use any sprays or poisons if at all possible, I need all the help I can get in controlling pests naturally. I'm not completely pure in this as I'm occasionally forced to use Dipel (a naturally occurring bacteria that is fatal to caterpillars like those of the Cabbage White butterfly but has no effect on anything else and I confess I did spray the swarming big headed ants (yes, that really is their name and they are a exotic and significant pest here) out on the paving a couple of days ago although I'd probably have left even them alone if they hadn't swarmed over my feet and bitten me. Mind you if they excavate much more under the paving they are likely to find me less accommodating.

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Well That Was Odd

I went into the kitchen to clean up after lunch and there on top of the plate of food scraps on the bench was a small (about 2.5 cms in length) piece of brown plastic with a couple of prongs jutting out. Where it came from, or for that matter what it was, I had no idea. I couldn't think of anything it could have come from so I put it out of my mind and disposed of the scraps. Then I opened the dishwasher and there was another similar small piece of plastic on the open dishwasher door. That they appeared on opposite sides of the kitchen made it even more bewildering.

Weird, I thought. Then I noticed that the two prongs on the new one were hollow and seemed to correlate with those on the other piece. Even more odd. I pushed them together and the prongs connected and clicked into place. Then I noticed writing on the top piece. It was a brand name but as far as I know - and, as I've now felt compelled to go through every drawer in the kitchen and trawled the manufacturer's web site, I'm pretty sure - I don't have and, if I remember correctly, never have had anything that made by this particular manufacturer.

We'll probably never know where it/they came from but I have a theory - formed after living here for many years of strange things turning up without explanation. We're either located on top of a portal into another dimension or we have some very tricky fae folk, with far too much time on their hands who like to amuse themselves at our expense, living nearby. The only logical conclusions, don't you think.

Monday, September 18, 2017

Ducky Tales

So there we were a couple of days ago just about to go out when I heard a loud honking noise and I went to look. Coming along my neighbour's driveway was an Australian shelduck with four ducklings in tow. She was obviously very distressed and under attack from the resident ravens while a pair of kookaburras were looking on with definite evil intent.

Our neighbours heard the commotion and joined us as we tried to encourage her to find shelter. These ducks often nest quite a distance from water and all would have been well if we could have persuaded her to change direction so she was heading towards Lake Karrinyup which is about a five minute walk away. But she was determinedly heading in quite the wrong direction. There are other watery places in that direction - Star Swamp (misnamed as it it is actually a pretty little lake in a bushland reserve) on the other side of several very busy major roads and Lake Carine, also in bushland and over major roads. Both are about a twenty minute walk from here.

My neighbour tried to contact someone who might be able to catch and release them in a more appropriate place but could find no-one available. So things were looking pretty grim. We had an appointment and had to leave - there were five other people there by now and I figured they would be able to handle the situation and truthfully, however sad it was, I was starting to think it would be more appropriate to let nature take its harsh course.

We were coming home three hours later when we spotted a neighbour who lives five houses down standing by the side of the road staring into their neighbour's garden and stopped to see what was going on. And there was mother duck and now there were only two ducklings being dive-bombed by the ravens and kookaburras. Mother duck was still heading in the worst possible direction towards the busy roads but she suddenly veered off through their open garage. She'd spotted their swimming pool and all three dived in happily bathing. We left our neighbours working out where they could find a large enough net to try to catch them since chlorinated swimming pools do not provide much in the way of sustenance and that was the last we expected to hear of it.

Not so. Yesterday we heard that they had finally managed to catch them and taken them to our local vet when mother duck had one final surprise. Of the two remaining ducklings one was a shelduck but the other ... was not. We had noticed that it was considerably smaller than the others and much darker in colour but how mother duck ended up with it remains a mystery.

Sunday, September 10, 2017


After the oven caught fire a week or so ago - why, yes, it was a tad exciting but fortunately I was in the kitchen so was able to deal with it quickly - I have been left without an oven. The flu like virus I came down with shortly after has meant I haven't been able to replace it yet. I've done the research now and so it's only a matter of getting to the shops to have a look at the shortlisted ones before we - and by that I mean I, although Pisces thinks his opinion counts even though he never uses the oven - make a final decision.

You'd think that choosing an oven would be fairly simple, wouldn't you, but I've learned a few things over the years and I have some very specific requirements. Firstly it has to be self cleaning because life is too short to waste on cleaning an oven, it needs to have controls that aren't likely to snap off - ask me why I'm even thinking about that sometime and I'll be happy to fill you in - and it must have an internal grill that can be used without having the door open - again you're hearing the voice of experience. Apart from that it can be relatively simple since I don't want twenty different cooking functions  - and I've seen some that have at least that. I have no idea what you'd use most of them for and I have no intention of finding out.

In the meantime while I've been trying to slot in time to go to buy the oven I've discovered I also need to buy a new washing machine. My existing one is still working but the noises it's making are, to put it mildly, alarming and, given it's fourteen years old, it's probably wiser to buy a new one than to spend on what would obviously be an expensive repair. They says bad things come in threes so my fingers are crossed that this time nothing else is going to die on me.

As you can imagine being without an oven has limited my cooking somewhat but it has also brought back memories because when we were newlyweds and moved into our new home the first unpleasant discovery we made was that the stove didn't work. This was in the days before houses were inspected before purchase - and I'm not going to tell you how long ago that was. Luckily, since we had no money for luxury items like stoves, we had been given two electric frypans as wedding presents and that was how all our meals were cooked for the next year.

So today I've been reliving the past a bit having brought out my electric frypan - a much fancier version than my first ones - and baked a tasty meal in it. I'm not so enamoured of it that I won't be going oven shopping this week, though. Nostalgia is all very well but convenience beats it any day.

Friday, September 01, 2017


Okay today it's officially Spring - which brings me to quote Shakespeare from As You Like It

'In springtime, the only pretty ring time,
 When birds do sing, hey ding a ding ding;
 Sweet lovers love the spring.'

Well I don't know about all that 'hey ding a ding ding' stuff but for the past three nights starting at about 10:00 PM the park magpies have settled in the tree outside my bedroom window carolling and it's lovely. There isn't a much more glorious sound than a clan of Australian magpies in full voice in my opinion and as far as I'm concerned they are welcome to keep doing it for as long as they want.

This is a pale version of what I've been hearing because there are only three of them but you can perhaps imagine how lovely it is on a night when ten or more are singing in a full moon. This video does not do magpies justice as regards to appearance either as they are soaked and looking seriously bedraggled. Actually they are very handsome birds as you can see here. This fellow is having a lot to say for himself, not only singing but also squawking and chatting unlike my nightly visitors who are simply carolling.

Thursday, August 31, 2017

Weather Worries

I've been avoiding the news as much as possible lately. Sabre rattling stupidities on every side do not make for an easy mind, do they, and I've been finding it all a bit much.

Then there are the severe weather events which seem to be happening all over the planet. While my heart goes out to those affected by Hurricane Harvey in Texas - so far there are 22 deaths reported and widespread severe and destructive flooding - they aren't the only ones in trouble. In the past few days Typhoon Hato lashed Hong Kong, Macao and southern China killing at least twelve and causing much damage and yet another severe tropical storm is heading towards the region while over 1,200 people have already lost their lives in monsoonal floods in India, Bangladesh and Nepal. It almost feels as if we are being given a nasty shake up by the Earth to remind us that we are not invulnerable which, given the number of climate change denialists out there, is probably necessary. After all it doesn't matter much what it was that started it now. What matters is what we're going to do to try and slow things down. I don't know about you but I tremble at the thought of what kind of world my grandchildren will grow up in if we - by which I mean humankind in general - don't act.

It's depressing beyond belief to think about all this but there are a few things happening that give me hope for humanity and this video of people and pets being rescued in Texas is one. It made me cry - in a good way.

Saturday, August 26, 2017

It's Been One of Those Weeks

It really has. First off last Saturday I broke a toe which has left me hobbling and hurting all week. Since there's nothing to be done about it except wait until it heals it's a case of grin and bear it - and remember not to try to walk normally because 'Owwwww!'

Then on Sunday I got a severe sore throat and by Monday had added a headache, weakness, achy muscles and total exhaustion that left me in bed for the next three days. By Tuesday Pisces had something similar but fortunately not as badly. Oh, and I now have what I would otherwise have thought was a bad cold if it hadn't developed while I was already sick.

The sore throat and other symptoms had improved somewhat by yesterday but not enough to eat anything that wasn't soft so soup seemed a good idea. And this was why I was out in the veggie patch  and how I discovered the aphid invasion I told you about. I managed to keep upright long enough to deal them a bit of a blow and ended back in bed.

Given all this I need something to cheer me up so here is part of the garden outside my back door. This photo doesn't do it justice but the poppies and anemones and the little heartsease in the front (so small they barely show up here) give me much pleasure.

Friday, August 25, 2017

I Hates Them

Aphids, that is. I'm pretty much a live and let live kind of gardener. As long as I can get enough from the garden for our needs I don't mind if something nibbles on a leaf or two. I companion plant, avoid killing unless it's absolutely unavoidable and sharing's fine by me. If you're disturbed by this and want perfection you'll probably not want to look too closely at what I bring in from the garden but since I'm growing things for us, well. who cares. Certainly not me or Pisces.

But occasionally I have to resort to sterner measures like using organic sprays or one containing a specific form of bacteria (Bacillus thuringiensis) which is toxic only to leaf eating caterpillars. If I didn't do this there wouldn't be a cabbage plant left in the garden - and I confess that sometimes I grit my teeth and squash.

This is all well and good and this year things have been going along fruitfully in the veggie patch - until yesterday when I went out to get some spring onions and silverbeet to make a pot of soup for our lunch. The silverbeet was fine and I picked a big bunch but I noticed as I was heading to the spring onion bed that the red onion seedlings I planted a few weeks ago had been pretty much wiped out. Odd, I thought, but things like that happen in gardening - and then I discovered the probable reason why. More than half the spring onions were smothered in black aphids. These nasty wee beasties can devastate a garden in a very short time so I reluctantly decided on the squashing approach after pulling out the worst affected then hosed the remainder - and, although I couldn't see any problems with them, the rest of the onion tribe - with a blast of water.

This morning there was only a light scattering of aphids on the spring onions but they had - courtesy of some resident ants whose nest I haven't been able to track down - spread to the rest of the onions. So I squashed and hosed the spring onions - the red onion bed is too big to deal with by hand so my fingers are crossed that hosing will be enough. It probably would have been even better if yesterday I hadn't forgotten that chives are part of the onion family, too, because when I checked them they were literally seething with the little blighters to the point that when I hosed them the water came off like a grey soup. That lot of greedy little invaders is now buried never to rise again and I hope the chives will survive

So that's the situation at the moment and I guess I'll be battling aphids for a few more days until the ladybirds build up sufficient numbers to help control them.

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Lookie, Lookie, Lookie

I don't know if you remember but some weeks ago I came across a mushroom 'farm' in a box - and, of course, I had to 'invest' in it, didn't I. It's been sitting safely under the worm farm around the side of the house where I could check on it and water it regularly. While I could see along the inside edge of the box when I pulled it back from the plastic liner that things were happening, nothing looked even faintly like the beginning of a mushroom.

Then yesterday I found this.

That's right I have little bitty mushrooms coming up - and these are only a few of them. I can't wait until they are big enough to pick.

Monday, August 14, 2017

Character Names Matter

I splurged recently on a bunch of e-books that were part of a promo. They are a mixture of science fiction and fantasy of various types and I've been really enjoying them. It's always great to find new authors and this is one way I get to read widely and experience other parts of the genre that I might not find otherwise.

Among these books are a lot of fantasy of various types - urban fantasy, steampunk, YA, epic fantasy and much else besides. A lot have crossovers between our present day and the fey world and many are seriously dark. All really good stuff but...

Something has been seriously annoying me and it's the way some authors have named their characters. It can really throw you out of the story to suddenly meet a fairy, fey or what ever you like to call them who has a very modern name. For example in one story there's a character who is an important fey but doesn't know it because she was hidden in the human world as a baby. This makes her a threat to the very traditional fey society with its hatred of pretty much anything human and they are out to get her any way they can. It's a cracking read, too, as she deals with the constant attacks and comes into her fey powers. But her fey name is one which when I researched it - I had to because it was bugging me so much - only appeared as a girl's name in the late sixties or early seventies while her human name is a more traditional Anne. This jarred so much that I struggled to get back into the story for a while.

I'm pretty sure some of you are thinking I'm making a lot of fuss about a name and even I couldn't work out initially why this irritated me so much but then I got it. The fey name wasn't consistent with  the fey society we were being shown. Whoever had named the girl wouldn't have chosen a name popular in the modern human society they despised. Once that was done believability in the world evaporated.

I'm not suggesting that an author should be tied into anyone else's ideas of what to name their characters. My characters are apt to spring into life complete with their names and changing it is fraught with anguish - it's like they won't give up whatever defines who they are - so I get how hard it is to do. At the same time, though, it's important to be consistent with the world of which the character is part.

I'll give you an example from my own writing. I wrote a story about two girls and their relationship with a telepathic herd of one horned creatures. I had no problems with naming the girls but the leader of the herd was a different thing. No matter what I called him it didn't seem to fit. In the end he was given the name of Unicorn and I wrote on not entirely happily but hoping it work. One hundred and thirty thousand words later he was still Unicorn and I knew it didn't fit with the society of the world or that of the herd and my critiquers were all picking up on it. It took a lot of thinking and research but finally he had another name that made sense in the world in which he lived. To my surprise I found that with that new name a number of other niggles could be dealt with, too, because the world itself worked better.

So, although it slightly diminished my enjoyment of the story that started me off on this train of thought, I'm actually grateful to that author. She has given me an important reminder. Names do matter in writing and it's essential to get that right if you want to keep your readers happy.

Sunday, August 13, 2017

The Storms Are A-Coming

Well, that's what the forecast says so yesterday I went out to try to get some photos of the Iceland poppies before they are destroyed by the wind and rain. I've planted them in the garden outside the family room where I can see them every time I look out and they are a joy to me and to the bees.

As you can see my plan didn't work very well. The wind kept whipping them around making them either face away from the camera, have their petals blown backwards or simply end up a blur. Given they would certainly be badly damaged if I left them I picked a big bunch and they're now inside where they are much better behaved.

Just to prove that you can sometimes be lucky, though, here's a photo of the first poppy flower we had this year. I took it a couple of days ago. Still not the greatest photo but isn't it a gorgeous colour.

Tuesday, August 08, 2017

Tattoos and Football

Yes, the inked body art that's becoome so popular these days. What's made me think about tattoos right now? Well I've been watching the footy and many of the players are heavily tattooed so it's hard not to think about them.

Before I go any further perhaps I should say I couldn't care less if someone is tattooed. Virgo has several  - and my horror when she rang me from Egypt when she was much younger to announce that she was planning to get a tattoo was all to do with the possibility of her getting tattooed in a country where she couldn't even speak the language and had no way of judging hygiene standards and not the tattoo itself. She waited to get home much to my relief and those she has are attractive and elegant. It's not something I'd do myself because first of all I'm a wimp and I know it would hurt a lot and second I wouldn't want something so permanent anywhere on me because I like variety in my choices of personal adornment too much to want to be limited by ink, and, of course, like every art there are good and bad practitioners. I've certainly seen some tatts that make me wonder what was the tattooist thinking. This is me, though, and what others do is their business.

One thing I do wonder about, though, is if some the football players might not come to regret the amount of tattooing they have. They seem to be trying to hide what, let's face it, are currently pretty good looking bodies and I'm not sure why. They're young, fit and muscular, which makes them very physically attractive to start with and while tattoos look good on taut young muscles they may not look so great in twenty or thirty years when things start to sag, something that inevitably happens no matter how fit you are.

Still it's not my place to judge and I defend their right to do as they see fit. Not everyone agrees with such bodily autonomy apparently and it's amazing what these choices can lead to according to some people. In a letter to the editor in our local newspaper one writer had a number of complaints about footballers who, in his opinion, need to improve their game. He complained briefly about lack of skills - which is valid - but that wasn't the worst. The trouble with AFL football today is that so many players are sporting tattoos and - wait for it - they wear their knee socks folded down. Really.

Thursday, August 03, 2017

Helsinki or What Might Have Been

About this time last year I was slowly coming to terms with the fact that I mightn't be going to Worldcon - the annual World Science Fiction convention - in Helsinki in 2017. There was still a faint possibility so I was getting stuff organised like making sure Pisces had renewed his passport and working out the complicated logistics of travelling. For those of us with disabilities travel is more complicated than for the able bodied. There's working out how to break flights so that your back doesn't seize up completely - it was going to involve several days with breaks in what admittedly are some lovely places but that in turn adds cost, sorting out medication and trying to find accommodation within close walking distance of the venue at a price I could afford.

Truth was I was already half-hearted about this. Pisces' illness had taken up so much time that I was finding it hard to focus on something as far away as August 2017. I had quite literally lost count of the number of scans, pathology tests and specialists' visits he had had - I had gone to all these with him so you can imagine how many hours had accumulated - and that's not even mentioning all the hospital admissions and, of course, on top of that was the endless worry. What if he doesn't get better. What if... What if...

Still by September he was starting to improve. I wasn't making any definite plans but there did seem to be a chance we'd make it to Helsinki. I wasn't prepared to actually risk making bookings but things were looking up. If he continued to improve by the New Year maybe...

Then disaster struck in November when I ended up in hospital. It was serious but something that I should have recovered from very quickly but that wasn't what happened. I was almost a complete invalid for the next seven months, only leaving the house to go to the doctor. I'm over the worst of that now but I'm still not well enough to consider travelling and truth be told, neither is Pisces.

So no Worldcon for me this year. Will I consider next year? Maybe but we'll just have to see how things go.

Wednesday, August 02, 2017


There I was talking about the TV series Trapped the other day and said it was set in rural Iceland. Of course, it wasn't, was it. For some reason I'd got that bit mixed up with another series. Trapped was set in a remote, small port, still in Iceland but hardly rural. I have no idea why I got that wrong given the fact that it was a port was crucial to the plot, too. Oh well. Now I've straightened out that confusion out I should say that I thoroughly enjoyed this series. I liked the way historical crimes as well as their consequences were explored in a town cut off by a blizzard as the tiny police force tried to deal with present day murders and other serious crimes all the while under stress from their own personal problems, pressure from police headquarters and a car ferry load of irate visitors who had expected to disembark and head for Reykjavik. Filled with tension and really gripping.  

Sunday, July 30, 2017

Reading, Reading, Reading

and that's included a lot of Nordic and Scandinavian noir and crime novels recently. I always read widely and I'm not at all sure of why these particular books have caught my fancy and I'm reading so many more at the moment but I am. It's way beyond how I'm always on the look out for the next Jo Nesbo, for instance, and have devoured all of Henk Mankell's Kurt Wallender novels as well as watching the Swedish TV version (with the help of the SBS sub titles) as well as the English language adaptation of the novels starring Kenneth Brannagh.

None of which explains my recent urge to read Nordic noir almost exclusively. I say almost because I managed to slot in Six Four, a Japanese police investigation along with lots of police politics by Hideo Yokoyama, The Shadow Land by Elizabeth Kostova (a mystery set in Rumania) and Wild Seed, The Parable of the Sower and Kindred by Octavia E. Butler along the way. Can't entirely abandon my fantasy and science fiction interests. I guess my reading choices might be in part because I've enjoyed some recent television series on SBS, the Australian channel that has a lot of programs in languages other than English. I especially liked Trapped and Midnight Sun both of which involved police investigations in isolated parts of the world - Trapped is set in rural Iceland and Midnight Sun in a Swedish mining town above the Arctic Circle in midsummer and coping with the climatic extremes forms an important part of the background of both.

Why isn't important, though, is it, because I thought you might like to see what I've been reading. So here's the list of Scandinavian books I've finished in the past month - I still have a few to read on my Kindle. Some I've enjoyed more than others but I can't say that I've been disappointed in any of them.

So, in no particular order, here is what I've been reading:

The Dying Detective by Leif G W Persson

Hellfire by Karin Fossum

Frozen Out by Quentin Bates - yes, he's English but the setting is Scandinavian.

Where Roses Never Die by Gunnar Staalesen

The Crow Girl by Erik Axl Sund

The Hummingbird by Karl Hiekkapelto

The Bird Tribunal by Agnes Ravatn

Faceless Killers: Kurt Wallander by Henk Mankell. This one's a reread.

Sunday, July 23, 2017

The Things You Find In Your Garden

There I was yesterday dismantling the overgrown rockery around a pond we've decided to pull out near the shed in the backyard - it's too far from the house to be much more than a mosquito haven and keeping them under control takes a lot of work for little reward - when I found this.

It's mine and the last time I saw it was about twenty years ago when we put the pond we're now taking out in place. I had no idea at the time what had happened to it but somehow it had ended up under a couple of big and very heavy rocks.

That it's turned up is actually fortuitous because when I was in hospital the last time they somehow lost my current bracelet and I haven't got around to ordering a replacement. I have a fancier one but it is easy to scratch so I don't like to wear it all the time and only put it on when I go out.

Weird, hey. Not as weird, though, as the multiple bells of a brass wind chime which turned up over a period of months not long after we moved in and the other strange bits and pieces over the years that have come from who knows where.

While we have no idea what's brought all these oddments to us I have a theory and it's quite obvious really. We're sitting on a portal into another dimension and things come and go through it. It explains the on-going mystery of the missing sock out of what I'd swear were part of a pair when I put them in the wash as well, doesn't it. What other explanation could there be?

Saturday, July 22, 2017

Small Joys

Confused tomatoes in the veggie garden.

We're harvesting a decent handful every couple of days from this self sown plant - ridiculous in the middle of winter.

A couple of other things that gave me joy.

A small person clutching a daffodil picked to add to the bouquet she's making and gazing at it fascinated - I think it was the first one she'd seen close up.

Same small person discovering that you can eat borage flowers and they're delicious. She went home with a bunch she was nibbling on as they drove off.

A flock of pink and grey galahs on my neighbour's roof. They live in the park behind our place and se her roof as a vantage point. They're such clowns. I tried to get a photo but they were too far away.

Friday, July 21, 2017


There are some snow peas, sugar snap peas and French beans hidden underneath the spring onions and pak choi as well. Stir-fry coming up.

Thursday, July 20, 2017


I discovered we have bananas coming. See?

This is one of several ladyfinger banana flowers. There are a couple of bunches already formed, too, but they're still green and didn't show up against the leaves.