Friday, 30 January 2009

It's Friday evening

It's Friday evening - Oh yeah! - and I'm in the mood for music.

Thursday, 29 January 2009

Heat Wave... part two

24oC at 6am, 37oC at 6pm, 43oC in the middle of the day. Yep, we're having a run of hot ones. One of the upsides (apart from looking forward to the beach and an iced vodka and a beer at the end of a working day) is that it's easier to get up early in the morning to do some writing.

There may be no clouds, but there's still a silver lining.

Wednesday, 28 January 2009

Heat Wave

Forecasts are buzzing that we're about to have a once-in-a-century heat wave. The media are betting on it. We occasionally get five or six very hot days across January and February and hit 41.5 here a couple of weeks back (that's 109 in the old money), although on this part of the coast it usually cools towards the end of such a day. But today is going to see the start of a string of these, we're told (yesterday was a comfortable 30). This'd be fine if every workplace had air-conditioning, but I'll focus on the prospect of a swim and a nice cold beer when I get home instead. Cheers!

What else could I play, but Marilyn Monroe in Heat Wave?

Tuesday, 27 January 2009


The Bat Boat arrived in town yesterday. Well, not so much the Bat Boat as
Earthrace, the carbon neutral and record-setting Kiwi boat that cut two weeks off the world record, to power round the planet in just under 61 days. A wonderfully innovative design with a superb Maori emblem adorning it, which I haven't done justice to here becau
se I forgot to switch the camera from black and white to colour. There's a time for atmospheric photos, but this wasn't it. Visit the web link for better images.

Sunday, 25 January 2009

Australia Day

It's impossible to go more than 50 metres down any street in town today -- and probably across any Australian town -- without hearing the sounds of partying. It's a designated party day, with many people firing up the barbecue at breakfast and keeping it burning until after sun-down. There'll be eskies and old paddling pools full of ice and slabs of beer and wine and soft drinks, and the smell of kangaroo steaks, emu burgers, prawns and calamari cooking; there'll be Pavlova and fruit salad, lamingtons and anything else Australians want to claim as their own. It's Australia Day, whatever that means -- and it means different things to different people -- but the overall flavour of the day is one of official ceremonies (where government bodies recognise the achievements of individuals of diverse ethnic origins and present Orders of Australia and certificates of citizenship) along with both private and public parties.

It's either Australia Day or Invasion Day, depending on how you see it. Either way, the day marks the arrival of the First Fleet in Botany Bay on 26th January, 1788, and the British colonisation of this land. For many, this remains a matter of regret, although Prime Minister Kevin Rudd's apology to indigenous Australians in 2008 may have paved the way to redress this and to allow some of the wounds to heal. So it's also a time to reflect and commit to improving the quality of life for all Australians.

While I don't go a bundle on flag-waving and get a bit edgy about anything that might smack of nationalism in an unthinking or jingoistic sense, preferring to advocate a common global humanity instead, I'm all for public holidays, long weekends and partying. Consequently, I had a fine time at the house of friends, enjoying good company, a barbecue, wonderful desserts, an esky full of iced beer and wine... Cheers.

In response

In response to my rabbit troubles, Mrs T (who writes for the BBC and The View From Here) suggested I visit Intrepid Ideas' blog for my solution. Had a look at the bean shooter video and reckon this is definitely the way to go. Thanks, Jane and Mr Intrepid. Maybe I should get in touch with Rufus Hussey.

In response to my comment about heading down to the beach, Gary Davison (PaperBooks author of Fat Tuesday), in true Oliver-style, asked for more. More?!!!

Now, it always seems unfair to post pictures of a beach in summer knowing full-well that people on the other side of the hemisphere are struggling with winter blues. Seems like rubbing salt into the wound. But Gary's comment got me thinking: maybe they'll serve as a reminder of what's round the corner, something to look forward to. So, in this spirit, and in response to Gary's request, I grabbed the camera when I went for a run jog stumble down to the beach this morning and took a few shots for him.

Saturday, 24 January 2009

Today's routine

  • Checked e-mails and blogs during a late and drawn-out breakfast. Slow and easy Saturday morning. Sigh.
  • Spent hour or so working on single paragraph of Number Two, Part One. Thought this paragraph was constructed okay until I looked at it today from different angle. Experimented by switching around a few features and then realised major renovation was required. Significant demolition took place. Hopefully, new sentences will have more enduring quality. Will check it out again later.
  • Hanging out washing as I chew over preferences between one word or another.
  • Spent few hours working on Number Two, Part Three - a different stage of the edit. This edit being shaped by Daft Punk's Alive 2007 (at high decibels) and much dancing of arms over keyboard. Gotta feel the rhythm, oh yeah! Hooked on editing this part with Daft Punk blaring it seems. After being in a slump for a few days, the words are working again. Phew!
  • Must get some sun now. Out in the garden for some rabbit-chasing or down to the beach. Back to the words later.

Friday, 23 January 2009

Mad Hatter meme

Innocently enough, I asked Mrs T over at The Witty Ways of a Wayward Wife whether she owned a leopard-skin pill-box hat. Her post on Hats Off To Jay Kay made it clear she had a history with hats and ever since I first heard Bob Dylan singing about a leopard-skin pill-box hat back in the 70s, I've wanted to see one. Well, she answered my question big-time with her post I admit it! I have a fake fur leopard skin hat! (Some people have a thing for shoes it seems, some for leather, but Mrs T... well, not only does she have a leopard-skin pill-box hat, but, amongst her incredible collection, she even has a Pocahontas head-dress!)

Given that she's outed herself in this way, I felt I should admit that I also own a few hats, although nothing quite as fancy as hers. I thought it'd also be fair to treat her post as a Mad Hatter meme, with an open invitation to join in (even if hats might not be your thing, but shoes or ties or odd socks or ... leather... no, forget that last one.)

The Panama is my day-to-day hat of choice. Although Dirk Bogarde's seedy character in the film version of Death in Venice is not someone I'd wish to emulate, the Panama does have a number of literary connotations for me (Thomas Mann, Somerset Maughan, D H Lawrence, etc) and is very practical for the climate I live in. I usually have two or three feathers in the hat band and, as one hat gets too old for regular wear, it finds its way into the boot of the car for occasional wear... until it disintegrates and then I treat it like a corn dolly: I bury that one and buy myself another.

I was forced to wear this hideous green thing during our Christmas 2007 celebrations at work! Thought it might be grounds for a Work Place Harassment claim. It left me convinced that it was St Patrick's Day and not Christmas, but that might have been because of how much Guinness I'd been drinking. It's so hideous I can't bring myself to get rid of it.

This is my gardening hat with detachable fly net! There are days here when our mosquitoes will eat a person alive -- whole -- and other days when, if the mosquitoes haven't had you, the flies will simply pick you up and carry you off. Head-to-toe army fatigues, body armour and appropriate weaponry is strongly recommended.

My father gave me one of his hats when I returned to the UK in winter once, having forgotten how cold it could be. He bought it in Italy and looks as if he should be at the helm of a sleek yacht when he wears this type of cap, whereas I look as if I've stepped off a nineteenth century barge... and should be thrown into the water. It also proved that I have a bigger head than he does and that, if you cut off the circulation to the top of your head, it doesn't matter how cold it gets because you can't feel anything anyway.

I run jog lope in this hat. The long peak, accompanied by sunglasses, prevents people from recognising me and commenting to my face about my abysmal running jogging loping style.

Here is a picture of what is potentially my next hat:

If that @#!#^&$! rabbit (see previous post) insists on making my garden his home, then there's every chance I'll make his skin my hat. Forget the faux leopard-skin, I want a rabbit-skin pill-box hat.

Last word to good ol' Bob Dylan, where some of this started.

Thursday, 22 January 2009

Back to work

Back to work today. To the job that pays the bills, that is. Less time time to write, to think, to waste... boo hoo!

Oh well, it's Australia Day on Monday and, while I don't go a bundle on nationalism, after two days at work I'll be ready for a long weekend.

Wednesday, 21 January 2009

Rabbit plague

Bloody rabbits! Whoever introduced them into Australia deserves to be exhumed and shot. Ever since Monday, when I opened a rarely used side-gate to make things easier for the plumber, I've been plagued by a rabbit. It's only a bun of a thing, but that means it's faster and can get through the narrowest of gaps. I've wasted precious writing time trying to get the thing to leave again, but it quite likes our quarter acre it seems, particularly the vegetable plot.

I built a ramshackle fence of the upturned garden bench, bits of old cement sheet and the like, across a section of garden, to limit its adventures and direct it back to where it came from, and the pesky wabbit found a way through. Last night I corralled it back behind that fence and left the side-gate open so that it could return to its mummy, daddy and hundreds of brothers and sisters, and plugged all the holes in the fence... but found it sitting in the veggie plot this morning. Happy as Larry, or Peter Rabbit. When I catch it (fat chance!) I might give up vegetarianism and light up the barbecue, consider some tasty stir-fry recipes.

Q: What's a wok?

A: It's wot you hit a wabbit wiv when you haven't got a wifle.

Tuesday, 20 January 2009

Homage to the plumber

The story so far...
The water was shooting out at over a litre a minute, which might not sound like much but was enough over who-knows-how-many-months to start turning that corner of our garden into a veritable oasis and, once the plumber dug a hole in the right spot to reveal it, enough to create an underground lake for a fairly impressive Underworld Water Theme Park (mud wrestling a speciality). The Theme Park is an idea I need to hold onto because I've now got to raise enough cash to pay the forthcoming water bill. It's either that or selling the house... or skipping the country... except I've already done that once and there might be a limit on how many times a person can skip countries.

Anyway, all power to the excellent plumber. Ignore the drivel I made up about him yesterday -- he didn't pass out from dehydration at all -- but instead he turned up promptly, dug a few holes in record time (especially given that it was a sweltering day), found the problem and fixed it. Pronto. Tres vite. Excellento. Formidable.

In homage to excellent plumbers everywhere (and excluding that peculiar brand of plumber who never ever turns up despite assuring you he will), here's a plumber joke. I can never remember jokes usually, but my father-in-law told me this about 20 years ago and I still remember it.

A little old lady had some trouble with her pipes, so she called the plumber and asked him to come and fix them, which he promised to do first thing the following morning. Being a little forgetful, she forgot he was coming the following morning and went out to do her shopping and then play bridge with her cronies. When the plumber turned up and knocked on her door, her parrot squawked, "Who's there?" And the plumber answered: "It's the plumber, come to mend the pipes." When no one answered the door after a few minutes, the plumber knocked again, and the parrot squawked, "Who's there?" And the plumber answered: "It's the plumber, come to mend the pipes." Still no one answered and so, after a few more minutes, the plumber knocked again, and the parrot squawked, "Who's there?" And, once again, the plumber answered: "It's the plumber, come to mend the pipes." By mid-morning he was crying with frustration and by lunchtime the poor fella had died of exhaustion. That evening, the little old lady returned home and stumbled over someone as she tried to unlatch her door in the dark. "Who's there?" she said. And the parrot answered: "It's the plumber, come to mend the pipes."

Monday, 19 January 2009

Water, water everywhere and not a drop to drink...

Going to try something different with the blog for a while. More frequent, but shorter pieces. Am responding to the need to spend more time writing (Number Two specifically, novel and short story projects generally), without giving up the blog network, which is an enjoyable addiction.

Have been in Melbourne for a few days, which always provides an excuse to savour a couple more restaurants from this capital of restaurants (no kidding), and had an excellent Vietnamese banquet at Binh Minh on Victoria Street, Richmond. It's energetic, noisy and always seems a tad chaotic (so crowded three of us were standing at the tables they'd rustled up for our party of six) while one of the waiters went hunting for extra chairs. (Wild chairs can be seen roaming down the back lanes and alleys of Richmond, but it takes a trained Chair Whisperer to catch them.)

Was staying in North Melbourne, a suburb of cobbled lanes and wide streets I hadn't spent time in before, but am smitten with the architecture: lots of terraced workers' cottages with wrought iron filligree; small front yards with deep verandahs. Some of the double storey houses are more Italianate in style. And only a short walk from Queen Vic market, where I stocked up on tea from the wonderful McIver's: Ceylon BOP, Assam, Orange Pekoe, Queen Mary, Darjeeling and... being something of a doughnut and unable to juggle so much tea at one time, I picked up two packs of Queen Mary instead of including my favourite Irish Breakfast. Hmm.

I always try and get to one of the galleries when in Melbourne, and so called in at the NGV's (National Gallery of Victoria) Ian Potter Centre in Fed Square to have a squiz at an exhibition of photographs by Rennie Ellis (No Standing Only Dancing). It depicted an Australia of the 70s and 80s, which I didn't know, so was interested to compare many of the images with my memories of the UK and France during this period. I liked that Rennie Ellis adopted a similar philosophy to Alfred Stieglitz who said of his own photography:
"Art or not art, that is immaterial - I continue on my own way, seeking my own truth, ever affirming today." (Interesting exhibition, but one of my favourite contemporary - and local - photographers remains Richard Crawley.)

Inspiration comes in many forms and I picked up an idea for Number Four when I was looking in a shop in Royal Parade. Have been chewing through it ever since, and I think it might just work. Am saying no more than that for the moment. Oooh, the mystery!

Back at the PC today (obviously) and it was my intention to get stuck into Number Two at nine o'clock. However, with the post came a letter from the Water Board. Thought it must be a bill, but it wasn't even that good. They were letting me know that they'd taken a meter reading recently and that it was unusually high. Very politely they advised me that either:
  • we'd had more guests staying with us than usual and that not only had they all been showering at least ten times a day, but that their elephants had been showering at this rate too;
  • our garden watering had increased to such an extent that we'd possibly be eligible for rice growing subsidies;
  • we had an underground leak that might make Niagra Falls look like a trickle.
After some spectacularly successful Plumber Whispering, a plumber is in the garden digging lots of holes and looking increasingly in need of rehydration (it is high summer here, after all). I've considered taking a bottle of ice cold rain water out for him, but am convinced that he'll sniff out the source of the leak much quicker if he's very, very thirsty... and, besides, I now have to think of 10 ways to pay the forthcoming water bill, the plumber and all my credit card bills from the weekend.

Oh, he seems to have fainted into one of his holes. Maybe I should take that water out after all. "Hey, you can't lie there; that's not a garden bed." I'll just go and rustle up a chair...

Thursday, 8 January 2009

The Day of the Indies

Here was a pretty cool Christmas pressie: the news that, supported by Arts Council England, a number of independent publishers and independent booksellers chose to include The Snowing and Greening of Thomas Passmore as one of the Pick-of-the-Month titles in their inaugural Exclusively Independent promotion.

Phew! That was a sentence-and-a-half.

This promotion has been featured in articles at two trade posts -- The Bookseller and BookBrunch -- and, in more detail, at Legend Press, who were involved with initiating the project.