Monday, January 31, 2011


It's been a session of farewells. Saddest and hardest for us has been James, seeing as we did not see Paddy at all this December. It's a reality, as they grow older we'll see less and less of them, especially if they end up in far countries. It was a major, major, major epic getting them permanent residence, and a door I desperately wanted to open for them, but what they decide to do with it is their own decision. That doesn't make it easy for parents I guess, but that is reality and we'll have to accept and cope with whatever happens. There will always be a place here for them.

Barbs James and I went to D&L's music barbeque, and were insufferably rude by being distracted into diving - and spending a lot of hours out in the bay. It was a 2km swim - for which I am now paying. I have chafed two toes raw on the fin. I did succeed in spearing a huge flathed - which got away, and zebra which didn't. James got a leatherjacket and a small flathead. We saw some really large bream, and trevally. All-in-all a very good father-son session, and I hope our hosts forgive us.

Our Melbourne (for now) dwelling friends are away, and we have the loan of their vehicle while ours gets some fixing done - expensive, slow fixing. It's a minibus - as an ex South African I find driving it (back from the airport yesterday) makes me feel I should be playing Boom boom noise instead of dulcet classic music.

The proofs for CRAWLSPACE AND OTHER STORIES are done, back with Eric, so the Kindle version of that (which has the novella prequel to Rats Bats and Vats in it, and the Crawlspace novelette - in the same universe - that I want to write a whole book on, if it is popular enough).

And now, we return to Dog and Dragon. Going to be all hands to the pumps for the next few weeks. B has gone off to a Board Games evening without me.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Smokey and the bandits

A picture from the New year barbeque, cooking muttonbirds. We got our licence renewal notices today. We'll just get one, as 25 muttonbirds is plenty.
Chuckle. You know you have a low profile here when the local cop wanders down onto the warf and asks you if you're a tourist. We've been here longer than he has. Actually I would think we're quite well known, just not at the sports club or pub.

Friday, January 28, 2011


In between the time of contemplating Spriggans and pictsies for the current book, we draw closer to James going back. Pads is already in South Africa, back at Uni. This morning we proved you can mome a lot with a crowbar and a hi-lift jack - even a small container. Miricle-of-miricles we found John-the juggler's shop open when we went to get petrol, so I was finally able to buy youth size wetsuit for a friend. Now I have wetsuit... all I need is strong kite, and I can fly it to Tassie.

Then, after lunch, as his time with us grows few, James and I went off for a dive. The first spot had decent size breaking waves (most unusual here) and a strong current and will not be visited in a big hurry again, unless the easterly blows. Then we went back to Trousers point bay and had a glorious dive along the edge, with the water shivered with enorous shoals of fry, and even yours truly succeeding in shooting zebrafish and Magpie perch and leatherjacket. At one stage I was surrounded by Garfish - which were lots of fun to see, but impossible to shoot. I also shot the largest crab I have seen on the island - not vast by crab standards but I have been needing crabs for cooking, and I thought I might lose it if I swam down and tried to catch it by hand. I also had a fit of concience having had several fish come off the spear. I have no problem killing fish, but I dislike injuring them and not doing a clean job. I think I may have to get a single-prong spear with a bigger barb.

And thus, having caught our fish, we came gallumphing home. B had gone to the CWA dinner and it was just J and I having a seafood dinner. I've gutted several of the fish through the back - leaving the belly intact, for barbeque. It's obviously weird to the locals, by the looks I got.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Australia Day

Yesterday was Australia day, and the island had its get together at Yellow beach. It was rather different to last year... in that last year we knew almost no-one and this year we knew almost everyone. Last year I was bright and eager to talk to everyone, and this year I was so tired I could barely talk to my friends.

In the morning we'd gone to dive where I'd seen some scallop shells washed up, last year. I only saw one there this year and it was old. The season is closed but I want to locate them. The area proved rather dull, thick seagrass, sand, prawn holes, a myriad little fry (in their billions) until in the thick sea-grass I spotted a scallop... well, the fan-pattern. I swam down to pick it up... touched it... and the flathead whose pectoral I had just touched took off like a ballistic missile. So did I, vertical lift off above the water. Anyway, the next dodgy thing I saw - about 4 metres down was a bit of kelp - in the seagrass. I prodded that with a spear and the ray swam off.

Then we had a coffee at Max's, made an early stop in at the Australia day do, where the Lions were hard at work, organising a vast tea, and went off to go waterski-ing... on the sea.

Now, here is the truth. I cannot waterski. I can do the splits, cartwheel, get liters of water up my nose, and try again, and again and again with determined stubborness, but not ski. I was just getting up and losing it. James got a bit further and managed to stand for about half a minute... really skiing. One day. Anyway, it was fun, even if we got to the Australia day thing again too late for the races (phew) and the beach cricket (which james likes). But there is no finer place for an Australia day celebration than Flinders island, I conclude, especially if you are a kid. Everyone looks out for the kids - most of them know the kids. It was just so different to the average beach in South Africa (where you have to watch your child every second).

I am as a result today very very stiff and rather bruised.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

A fish on a bicycle -no something more implausible

A terrible sight was seen on the streets of Whitemark, an apparition to make your blood freeze... or at least make you run for cover. Yes, yours truly on a bicycle. These things are not my metier, but I decided that as we live two km from town, and there was a bicycle for $10 for sale at a garage sale... James's very smart mountain bike is here, but 1)it's his, 2)it's very tall... so I thought this might work and save fuel. It's been about 12 years since I last got onto a bicycle and that was not much fun. (on the beach riding back to my son with an asthma attack.) This is a road bicycle, and I was rather wary... and wobbly. But although I put long sleeves and long trousers on, gravel rash did not happen. So now we'll just have to work at a little more distance and maybe slightly less arthritic tortoise speed (my son informed me I got up to 15 km an hour...)

Monday, January 24, 2011

The Bare Hands Gang

Talk of killing what we are willing to eat... A while back I happened to read a diatribe by hardcore vegetarian about how humans were not evolved to eat meat because we were such puny-bodied animals we could never run down a buck and had no teeth to kill it with. She was a holy mission to tell us meat-eaters how evolutionarily deviant we were...

Now, your choice of diet... is your choice. If you want to live on miricle whip and coke, good-o, fine by me. If you are trying to raise your kids on it I might just be forced to do something about it, but sensible, careful, thinking vegetarians can nourish their kids just fine (it just takes a bit more thought, and it always should take some).

But humans are omnivores. And quite frankly a bit of meat does us good from the iron and vitamin D point of view, besides the fact that our gastro-intestinal tract seems well adapted to it. Anyway, she's wrong. Besides the fact that as tool using animals (almost inevitably using tools for food aquisition) humans are not unique (birds crack snails on specific stones, use twigs to fish for bugs to name two examples - and simians throw things, and use sticks to 'fish' for things.) we do hunt -- quite effectively at times -- for animals with nothing but our hands. She - city bred and supermarket fed vegetarian - just assumed that 'prey' was always a nice steak producing size critter. It probably wasn't a lot of the time, back in Africa when our shared ancestors were picking fleas (or salt) off each other. It was small creatures. Lizards. Fieldmice - find a nest and they're easy. Baby birds (muttonbirds are still a case of this). Frogs. Fish. Yes, I have caught them with my hands. And then there is the advantage of running and hunting in a communicating pack. Apparently a bunch of kids here used to run down (sans weapons - barring maybe a pen-knife or a stick picked up from the bush) wallaby for their tea.

And that, of course, is without thinking of the sessile invertebrattes - or invertebrates in general - oysters might need a rock or a fire to open, but black mussels you can stand on, if you have no fire or rock. Locusts and termites are still big parts of many traditional diets. I read the Maya used to eat rafts of mosquito larvae. And crabs, prawns, crayfish, and octopus are all things you can catch barehanded. Sometimes you get hurt doing it, but it's not that difficult.

I'm always a little taken aback by demands to permit traditional hunting - be it of whales or seals or abalone... that somehow involves a 4x4, or a glass-fibre boat with an outboard, and a rifle or aqualungs. Not that I oppose traditional hunting/gathering, or even non-traditional hunting and gathering - we're adaptable creatures and we learned new ways to hunt all the time. I believe it is a vital way of getting back to what we are, to understand the value and price (both morally and in effort) of food. But I feel if anyone wants traditional hunting/gathering rights in excess to those granted to anyone else, should do the entire number - from making the boat and spear to dressing in the traditional way for it. I would love to do this myself, to learn. I suspect from the personal moral point of view, once I had learned, I'd still end up choosing a modern piece of kit to do the job quickly, cleanly and efficiently. But then, if I was passing the rules I'd have said these are size and bag limits etc, but "any food you can gather, stark naked, with no mechanical or manufactued by a third party means of access or tools is fair game, provided you eat it in one sitting, there" because that is the human tradition.

But then I have always been a little odd.
Well. Very odd.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

So the fireys cricket was cancelled due to inclement weather, We have battled to get the collection CRAWLSPACE AND OTHER STORIES onto B's Sony reader, and Eric and I are trying to settle on a cover, we've had pleasant barbie despite the weather... and I am for bed.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Voila, an Australian Dream... we can build a chookhouse

Let's see - I missed writing up yesterday's adventures and misadventures because I had a bit of a rush piece of editing - Eric and I are putting together a Kindle version of our short stories, including the prequel Novella* to RATS, BATS & VATS - GENIE OUT OF THE VAT and the Novelette** CRAWLSPACE which is set in the RATS BATS universe some 40 years on. I've already got a collection of shorts GOTH SEX KITTEN & OTHER STORIES (which has far less sex than the title may suggest, and much more Kitten)

The weather being good I took Nik and James to Cave beach in the moring, after a surprise visit from our ex-South African Dentist friends bringing us some frozen trout from the Lakes in Tassie. It's rather a treat after sea-fish and sea-fish.

One of these days some enterprising cameraman is going to make a fortune making a movie of the Wetsuit Mazurka... especially the interesting new variation -- including wild threshing and muffled "what do I do now?" from Nik lost somewhere inside the hooded vest. He was in danger of drowning next to the ute, let alone the water - stuck half way into the top. Anyway, 'suitably' attired, we went down to water, after a minor blunder through impenetrable jungle and down a small sand cliff. I had the near impossible to reload speargun and lads had handspears. The speargun needs surgery - it's just too powerful for these little reef fish. I saved it for the very biggest leatherjacket. It was rather like shooting a sparrow with a howitzer. Anyway, I borrowed Nik's spear and did manage to spear a Magpie perch. James got two Zebra perch - much better eating, and Nik a Leatherjacket. After the reverse wetsuit Mazurka... we went to gut fish. Grin. I learned to gut fish back when I was too small to reach the sink, and James and Pads both did it from about grade one or two. Nik, on the other hand is well-brought up 'civilized' lad (unlike us back-country types), whose vision of food was the plastic wrapped stuff in the supermarket. Hats off to him - he wanted to learn something we considered, well, as basic as brushing your own teeth. It brought home to me just how divorced people are from the reality of where food comes from. And despite declaring he was going to become a vegetarian, he came home with us and learned to fillet too. It was a very aging process for me as he seemed to think your fingers belong in front of the blade! I don't think he is suited to being a short-hand typist. It's a bit of a moral standpoint on my part - I believe in being prepared to kill -- as quickly and cleanly as possible -- what I am prepared to eat. Although I do admit to torturing the occassional cabbage, because we all have a nasty streak.

Today was Bill and Maria's Garage sale, and we came home with several bargains, some Mathoms*** and a large number of 'that seemed like a good idea at time'. People are strange! they want bargains... yet bypass the real ones. There were some absolute beauties for sale, and some really odd bits... snow chains (on Flinders. Good for mud I suppose). More vases than Buckingham palace has. I eventually concluded that people like to buy the tat, and are sure there is something wrong with all the good bits. Heh. I think we're going to join the garage sale recyclers here, as at least two of the browsers I have met... having garage sales.

Anyway end result is my tool supply is slowly but steadily no longer utterly pitiful (we have an angle grinder, some bolt cutters, a fence puller, and various other bitsa kit). And we had yet another dentist visit, and a number of good cups of coffee with Molly (my great Dane X wolfhound girlfriend) mum and dad, and a visit to Max-the-border-collie-of-charm-and-sagacity's parents for more tea, before returning to work. It says too much about me that I ID people by their pets... I'm fond of them... Unlike my hounds who stole and ate the raw brocolli I had just picked and put on the outside table. Sigh. Labrador = insatiable appetite.

Despite the howling gale this afternoon James put the new angle grinder to use on the corrugated iron (more scrap) for the Chookabago. In the end the structure will have cost us surprisingly little - except James's labour and some wire. But most of the tools we now have and have scrounged thanks to the sort of friends I seem attract, scrap timber, nails and roof.

"Voila. An Australian dream, we can build a chook-house with hardly any means..."

Yes, actually I do sing nearly as well as I dance. And I can't whistle either.

Anyway, James has been destructing computer and soundsystem bits all over the house, and we are told repairing same. So why are there enough bits to make another two?

*Novella - about 1/4- 2/5 of a novel (usually a novel is 80-110 thousand words, and a novella 20-35K - this is 29 000)
** Novelette - more or less between 10-20 000 words.
*** Read Lord of the Rings.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

On the joys of being wanted

It's the oddest things that make you feel part of a place. In this case it was a friend saying their partner had taken the car to play Golf, and the car was now stuck, unstarting, at the Sports Club. Could we give him a lift down there? Now it was a very small ask, and a pleasure to help out - a minor paying back of some of the kindnesses we've recieved... but it felt good to think that someone here regarded us as good enough mates to ask to help out. It also leaves you feeling that well, if need be, we could ask them to help out. It's odd how important little things like this become when you're far from the support system you grew up with.

We had an island farewell this evening and then Scottish dancing, which was more cosmopolitan than ever (we had South Africans, Irish, English, Chinese, Philipino, Indian, American... and a minority of those really unusual ones, Australians born-and-bred). I still have two left feet.

James and I spent two hours or so diving this morning - or rather, James diving and shooting fish, me bobbing and missing them and fighting the current. It was very strong, and I was trying out my 'new'(second hand $10) 7 mm longjohn and 7mm hooded top. I am still using my weightbelt for the old gear, and have no new weights yet. I was warm... but battling to get down. We swam upcurrent (so it would wash us back to our entry point, but it was HARD work, and constant swimming. I broke the rubber on my handspear, and really need to buy a roll of the stuff. Not sure where to get it, but I bet it's cheap - whereas the made up ones are a expensive for surgical rubber, a piece of netcord and two cable ties.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Minipies, life. TWO parcels

Let's see, James after another pale, predawn start (well, 11.30) did some further work on the Chookabago. Bill brought us a circular saw to borrow for the chook palace... but as B was out and the gifted guard dogs were fast asleep and I was working we didn't even see him. B and J got a squid last night while I worked, but that's our token contribution to the seafood store for about the last 2 weeks of shocking weather. Hopefully we'll get a dive in tomorrow, and shoot some fish.

We got two surprises in the post today - firstly a huge, varied batch of wool from New Zealand, courtesy of the author of DEPUTY DAN :-) And a box books... NOT DRAGON'S RING for which I offered to dance 'you can keep your paperback on' on top of Mount Strzelecki if got here -- as they are supposed to, before release date, but MUCH FALL OF BLOOD. DRAGON'S RING distribution - even to me seems to be... flawed.

other Quiet day today, only two drop ins...

I made a large batch of mini-pies with some curried mince today. I've frozen some against the next 'bring-a-plate'. We thought they meant we had to bring a plate to fill up ;-)

I got on with book, going back to the drawing board a bit. That is necessary from time to time.

yet another thrilling day

Mike (my agent) asked me for an urgent chapter-by-chapter summary of STARDOGS yesterday. As a typically dense, complex Dave Freer book (ie. yes, you may find it easy to read, but I estimate I cover the same material as my two frequent co-authors in 0.5 to 0.2 of the verbage. This is not really a good thing. It's just the way I write)the summary is a nightmare. And boring too ;-). The book isn't. This made as much sense as summarise the bible, chapter by chapter. I am fairly sure the editor in question will 1)not follow the summary 2)not buy the book, so that was a 4000 word (ie a short story) worth of wasted time. On the other hand, if they read the first chapter, and liked/hated it, the rest is there. I cannot see the point of this, but I've done it. Let no-one say I've not tried my best for New York (the inverse, however...). Anyway, it was a long day's work, and really off the direction I am trying to go with Dog and Dragon. So when I finished, I went to bed instead of posting about my thrilling day.

Monday, January 17, 2011

The Chookabago

The mobile chook house - aka the Chookabago, aka a 'chicken tractor' is in the throes of construction. With the scavenged timber (yeilding a mere 5.7 kilos of nails) James and I have been on construction mission. We are, I admit, having some problems with the plumbing for the jacuzzi in the chooks second bathroom, and getting suitable wallpaper to match the curtains in the nesting boxes has stretched the island resources to its limit. My brain is quite glad to turn to writing rather than engineering.

James's order of electronic bits for B's computer arrived, and so hopefully the graphics will return her to her favorite games.

We had homemade seafood pizza for supper - grin - the treat for us is the pizza, not the seafood! I had mine A la Garth Nix with salad on top. My family regards this genteel revulsion especially as it is Sue's yummy lettuce. But I have to try and improve the writing somehow. Maybe this is the sekrit handshake ;-).

Sunday, January 16, 2011

"And on and on and more and more they came"

I am not sure whose quote that is, or whether I have got it right, but that is how this afternoon felt.

Before anyone takes offense, or is upset, I want to say really and truly from my heart, "I love to have visitors, I enjoy people dropping in, it is one of the features that really endears island life to me!"

Today we went off to church, and stayed for the delicious tea afterwards. The tea is always good, but one of the wonderful bakers does try to spoil our boys when they are on the island, and, as this would probably be the last time that James would be down at the Lady Barron church this visit, she pulled out all the stops, along with all the cream and strawberries! Yes, we also had sandwiches, and homebaked biscuits, and cheese crackers, but the pavlova and cream sponges topped them today.

James then went off to claypidgeon shooting at the gun club, (I hope I have that right!) and we drove home, a little over riched on cream, but with the left overs in the car, kindly donated to James in absentia.

As we arrived home, we saw visitors arriving at our gate, and they came in for a coffee, and took away the BBQ we had been loaned for the New Years bash. Unfortunately James was not home to sort the computer problem they had come to consult him about. Still it was great to see them and we had a good chat.

Literally 1 minute after they drove out, James arrived from the opposite direction, with the chap who had taken him off to the shooting. He came in for a coffee, and to morn the fact that he had agreed to take James, who had apparently broken all the ettiquette rules and outshot his host! We will obviously need to teach him tact, if not shooting. Anyway we heard a lot about the safety of roosters in town, with many ideas on how to silence them.

After he left I got out the brushcutter to mow the lawn, and our next 2 visitors arrived, having phoned to check we were home first. We had a coffee, and as we were no longer quite so overcreamed, he got to taste some of the leftover cream cake. (The earlier visitors lost out as I was not ready to look at more cream yet!)I had a lot of fun with a small girl, who loves to visit our cats, and will always politely greet us as well! The daddy also got us some wood to use on the chook house, so he was doubly welcome, not just for bringing his daughter.

Now I have cut a bit more lawn, and Dave and James are busy on the chook house, so I will go and see if any squid are around. The sea is still a bit brown from all the extra water that has flowed in with all the recent rain, but looking at mainland Aus, I really do not feel in any position to comment on the amount we got.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

A tannic ocean

'And there was the sea, the colour of tea, cold, univiting and glum...' The wind has swung to westerly and pushed the flood from Pat's river back into the pier at Whitemark. The sea was tannic and murky, when we went down to try for squid this evening. Still, we met our newly Australian citizen Doctors (Congratulations!) and Max (the border collie) and my girlfriend Molly the Great Dane X Wolfhound and Bill and Maria. Much amusement derived from B trying to net a skate on Bill's line with too short a net (Maria and I holding her feet) It got away, for which we're all grateful. Dr Biren says he's seen a number of nasty skate-spine wounds which inevitably don't heal well.

Anyway, we decided it wasn't much good for squid, chatted a bit, and came home. That's the worst I have seen the water here looking.

We went to a garage sale this AM and bought a couple of bits and bobs - a hand saw, a small orbital sander (they're fairly useless, but I have so few tools, and some cross stitch and books for B and yet another Alvey reel for me (boat one) and a couple of wastepaper baskets. These were the biggest win as they're an iniquitous price here - I keep threatening to use other containers (ours stayed in SA) but everything gets appropriated for plants.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Extreme weather to stillness

Today we had winds going up to 65 knots, and belting rain. We had the internet and cellphones down for about 14 hours, and I think 4 short power - outages. No major damage, but this merely the tail end aftermath of what hit Queensland. It was still not a bad writing day despite it. But by about 6pm the sun was out and the wind still. It was hard to believe we were on the same island. I managed a bit of good writing in between, and then we went off to tea with Peter and Helen (who must think 'Africa = the poor beggars are starving' just on the sheer volume of the feed they gave us. We had a really tender juicy turkey and an excellent gravy - an enormous treat as we don't get to eat bird-meat very often (I think we're averaging about once every couple of months, if you count muttonbirds). Many terrible jokes, much laughter... what going for a meal should be. And hell on the liver, methinks. And now it is late and I am for bed as we a garage sale to go to early tomorrow.

Thursday, January 13, 2011


We took Roly - the OES in to see the Vet today, as he has been huffing and puffing a lot. John thinks he may have an enlarged heart (which is fatal over 6 - 24 months) - which is pretty close to his maximum probable lifespan. Anyway, we've got him on some medication, and we're watching him. He's 11 - a ripe old age for a very big dog (he's large for an OES) so eventually the bad time must come. At the moment he is still running about, his color is good, his lungs look good on x-ray. He's eating like a horse, and his temperature is normal. He's just panting a lot.

Anyway, we're starting with a diuretic and bronchiodilator... and, gospel according to Dave, a haircut. Vet says wearing a thick fur coat in torpid weather won't make him pant without a high temperature. I sweat copiously if I wear a fur coat in hot weather - without raising my temperature. If I DIDN'T sweat I would raise my temperature and die... dogs don't sweat, they pant to achieve the same, or at least as I always understood thermoregulation. Anyway, we do our best, give him his affection, his people and we'll see.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

wild weather

We're forecast exceptionally high winds and heavy rain tomorrow. Our creek is about 200 yards off, and on the flat - more or less 15 foot lower than us, so it'd have to be quite epic to get here. It's wet, and windy here, but not, thank heavens anything like Queensland. I've spend about 3 hours today watching TV (normally a year's ration) and our thoughts and prayers with those caught in the flood.

We had our writer's group today out at Trouser's Point and the mountain is even wetter. The sea was an angry, white-ripped grey and our hosts said they'd been watching waterspouts out on it. Apparently the post planes haven't made it in for a few days, but that didn't stop Greg from crayfishing yesterday, and Peter from catching squid!

Ever onward.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

salad, floods etc.

I saw the scary pictures of the flooding in Qeensland, and my heart and prayers go out to all those who are dealing with the missing persons situation. B and I really need to get signed up with the SES here, and make our own emergency plan for fires (I think - I hope - floods are less likely). What to take, what to do, and what to leave... Australia really does seem to live between droughts, floods and fires. Still, generally the emergency services seem very jacked up, compared to Africa, and people pitch in to help.

Other than that, writing continues, our friend Carol keeps bringing dribs of her house-clearing out to us. Not that we're not grateful for the ladder and the chili, but we'd rather keep her.

Salad at the moment is miricle of miricles, tomato and lettuce out of the garden at the same time. The lettuce is pretty sucky, but it's lettuce. Living from garden to mouth with a gardener-in-chief who is a bit low on ept does make for some rather less than supermarket-appetising veggies (yeah, yeah we all know home grown is supposed to be best, but the truth is, it isn't always), but they're varied and free of pesticides (and mostly free of pests, but DO inspect your salad!)


Monday, January 10, 2011

I got a job!

The island was getting dry. We have a sign that is put up outside town when our fire danger reaches a certain level, saying that we now need permits before lighting fires. The sign went up last week, luckily after we had had our New Year's BBQ, so that fire was alright.

But today it rained. It actually started last night, but I slept through that, but all morning it drizzled or rained, so we our drive is now full of puddles, and our water tank has hopefully filled up nicely. The forecast is for more rain each day until Friday, so we should be fine for a couple of months after that, for household use, as well as on the fire front. The airport got 13mm, so we were probably close to that, and our under-the-verandah-water-tank is a quarter of the width of the roof, but the same length, so in my theory, we should get 4mm in the tank for every 1mm on the roof.

I had a part time job for a few hours each week, which today turned into 2 separate jobs on a Tuesday, so my weeks will now have a definite shape, and we will have some extra income, for which I am most grateful. It was all finalised over a cup of tea this afternoon, and tomorrow I start, I really love this island.

The sun has almost broken through the clouds so we are in for another amazing sunset behind the pine trees. Yesterday I congratulated our landlord on planting the pines in just the right spot, so the view of the sunset is so spectacular from the lounge windows. He told me firmly that they were planted about 70 years ago, and the house is only 21, so I crept back into my hole, not even daring to say the house was well sited in that case. But I still really appreciate the summer sunsets that I can see from the lounge or my computer, in James's room. Dave is unfortunately on the wrong side of the house, but comes through to enjoy them often.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Wanted - one rat executioner

I went to get our supper (calamari) from the freezer, and discovered our dear cats had brought in a large rat. This is not, per se, unusual. But rat in question was not yet dead. It was also not, as is usual in these cases, attended by cats, playing with it. Now, I am accustomed to disposing of half-eaten rodents. The cats are doing a public service here as they're introduced menaces to indigenous wildlife, crops, our food, and our cats haven't taken any birds as yet. But I'm not one of the ilk that likes to see something suffer, and tend to kill things that have to die quickly. Except this would make a bloody mess indoors of the carpet... and picking it up would probably get me bitten. So I thought - Bet it's Duchess, she's the prime ratter, but Robin occassionally manages a mouse (and biting her staff when they try and give her pills...) And this'll be a big treat for her. So I transported Robin to the rat. Never have I seen such selective blindness! Two microns from her nose, and it was "rat? what rat?" as she left arching her tail superciliosly... so Duchy was next. Rat looks at her. Duchess gives it a look of benign disinterest and stalks off to her kitty kibble, ignoring it. So I got an old tin, flicked it into that, took it outside, killed it and tossed as far over the fence as possible.

And there was Batman eagerly attacking the trailing edge of a dogblanket B was carrying.


You can rely on them.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Sports Day.

Wow, we had a fun late afternoon/evening today. (When I say 'we' I mean James and I, as Dave was good and stayed home and worked.)

The island sports started at 4pm, and had races for all ages, from under 6 to adult, egg and spoon, throw the egg, 3 legged race, etc. I think about half the island was there, and so many took part. I tried the 'over 50's walk' race, and finished about midfield, which I was pleased with, not having trained at all, or dressed in shoes that were made (or suitable) for walking. Still it was great to be part of it all.

There was a running commentary from a gent parked in his car close to the finish line, hooked up to huge speakers, and he had lots of in house jokes etc, some of which I even understood. Still, he was good for a laugh, and set the mood for the day.

One of the prizes for the kids races were water pistols, and soon there were many children running around squirting each other. One totally cute small boy, (under 3) had a wonderful time going around spraying all the adults, and as it was very hot and sticky, most of them were grateful, rather than annoyed.

There was a BBQ, of course, which had added kebabs to the usual repetoire, but I didn't actually see someone eat one, so I am not sure what they were like.

All in all it was a fun day out, and I am keen to go again next year, but I may put in some practise if I am going to take part! (James proved that if you are going to enter a 3 legged race, you need to have some practise time first, or you will hit the deck!)

Friday, January 7, 2011

Mock sea-horse kebabs

I must admit to being tired and flat even a couple of days after the floundering. Part of this I put down to the hot and humid days, with wind so the sea wouldn't even be nice.

I did little mini-seafood kebabs - a cube of leatherjacket, a cube of abalone and a squid tentacle - each on a toothpick. The cooked result looked alarmingly like a sea-horse! I mariananded them in light soy, sugar, garlic, ginger, white wine, a little cornflour, and they were very good - but more suitable as a starter because 3 little skewers and I was riched out. But the leatherjacket worked very well in this.

I've been keeping an eye on the Bookscan data - which is a bit worrying. I think we can safely say DRAGON'S RING is simply not in most major chain stores across the US - it still sold 171 copies in the last week, but only from 70% of the reporting areas, and when you consider for example how many B&N stores in one state (at least 10) or even city, that basically means if it is in them, it didn't sell. That's alarming at the reporting period when most of an author's books should sell. So: if you happen to be in the US, and go into a B&N - do see if it is there, and please tell me.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

We went a-floundering!

Last night we were told by one of the locals, that it was going to be THE night for flounder. The full tide was midnightish, but we still went down, leaving home at 9pm. We hit our first 'roo on the road. We have tried to be very careful, driving slowly from sunset on, with all the occupants in the ute on red alert watching for animals on, or close to, the road. But we missed seeing one that crossed the road at the wrong moment, and unfortunately did not live to reach the other side. The only possible upside is that it definitely didn't make it, and the ute was not damaged, as our round-to-it has not got us towards a 'roobar yet.

When we got to our secret destination, there was no moon, no wind and almost no water, as the tide was still far out. We chatted for a bit, and then kitted up and set off into the sea. It started slowly and then we were spotting flounder in pairs, I would hold the light and Dave and James would spear them. We have never managed to catch 10 before, and last night we tripled that. It was really amazing! Having not eaten flounder for a while, it feels really good to know we have several meals stockpiled in the freezer. (I had visualised that we would have to fish every day in order to eat, and I find it really reassuring when we catch enough for several days, so we don't have to go out when the weather is miserable.)

The stars were so close, the wind was hardly a ripple on the water, and as the other 2 flounderers had gone home long before us, the peace, interspersed with the guys wounding themselves on the barbs of the spears, was absolute. It was really a night to remember.

We got home after midnight, with all the fish still to gut and sort for fridge and freezer. (We had also got a couple of squid.) So it was almost 2am before we got to bed.

Today we went up to one of the highest properties on the island for a lunch out. It was great to see the amazing views that they have towards the north of the island, and the beaches on both the east and west coasts. Of course we had failed in the most basic ute care, and had given it some oil, but no water, so she heated on the climb up, but with the aid of some elderly drinking water, we made our lunch date, almost on time. We had a walk around the property, and then ate a wonderful meal. We got home in time to take down the Christmas decorations, eat some flounder and head off to Scottish dancing.

Needless to say our concentration was not of the best, so we got a bit confused in some of the dances, but the others are very understanding about our lapses!

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Flounders, stars

It's still light outside - at a quarter to nine in the evening. We're hoping to go and spear flounder tonight, but that happens after dark... late night coming. There are still so many things I still want to do here... north east river on the tide, North East river at night - prawns, wading the upper Patriarchs at night, and exploring various spots for razor clams and scallops... we'll get there.

Last night at about midnight I took the dogs out. The stars were beautiful and very close... and there in myriads that I didn't know existed before I came here.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

A false image

Yesterday constituted nothing more wildly exciting than my pouring some sugar down the inside of my trousers. No, I won't explain. I will leave it to your sordid imaginations :-) I wrote, James went for a dive at West End, and brought home some Abs. We played about an hour and a half of Cranium and I proved 1)I can't hum, 2)I can't spell without writing it down. 3)Bill has unsuspected gifts as a sculptor. 4)Women are smarter (or play cranium better) than men.

Today the weather was supposed to be utterly calm, and we were supposed to set a long-line for gummy shark to show our frequent dive partner how it is done. I have set many as a biologist for sampling purposes, and really prefer leaving shark alone. They're a very popular eating around here - I find it rather boring fish - but I did eat a lot of it (impoverished biologist's first rule: work on something that you can eat. And preferably that someone else catches or keeps alive!) I

This picture is a falsehood and a deception. The wind was stiff, the swell nasty and short, and the flat sea was full of holes. We kept falling into them or going airbourne over them. Barbs had a sore back anyway, and was looking like death warmed over by the time we got out there. I wanted to set in deepish water (daytime set, just off the tide-race (fish come past). Only the bouy-lines proved a little short. The small bouy sank.... the big one floated and so did its anchor... (just as well so we could recover it) so we had to set in much shallower. The catsharks (all returned) got among it, and we did get something large - but it bit off the snood line as we were trying to haul it up. And it was wet and choppy, and B slept on the boat and then on a rock. We caught a handful of Flathead -15 between us -big fish, but rather sparse - picked up B and the wind dropped and let us retrieve the second set - which is when I took the photo. Hard to believe we got pounded, looking at that. Nice ride back though.

And so, once again to work.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

One Settler

Quilly's comment yesterday "Well, I'm very proud of ya'll. It's a hard thing to emigrate when you have a high paying job to go to, it's a whole nother thing when you're going to a new place to hard scrabble." brought me back to one of my oldest politically incorrect assertions: All humans are either settlers (emigrants) or the descendents of the same - or we'd be very crowded back in some little marshy valley back in Africa. That's what we as a species do (there are many other species who are the same -- many of whom are just as much of PITA as humans, if slightly less able to apply their minds to it). I'm not going to get into a whole philosophical debate about the rights and wrongs of it, because there are both, and I wrote a whole book on the subject already (Slow Train to Arcturus) -- just to say that having done this, I have a new-found understanding and respect for the settlers in strange lands, who moved from certainties to the unknown with - often - nothing more than a hatful of hope. Yep, they messed up at times. We humans do. We are unique in that we can recognise that we have done so, and none of us are untainted by it (while admitting this is not fashionable either, I hold it true).

The settlers also paid a high price at times, and it took all the courage and hard work they could muster just to survive too. And it surely wasn't all fun or exploiting anyone. It was just what you did, and it is strange to us now, because our world has changed. For a simple example of things still in living memory we can't imagine doing now... I read earlier today about a rural Australian life back in the 'good old days'- when bedsheets were still turned - cut in half when the middle got thin - and had seam down the middle to make them last a year or two longer, and soap was made with lye and sheep fat. Yes, they had enough to eat, and space to grow in. But not shoes... kids would run a rabbit trap-line for pocket money... Life has got easier as well as more complex.

"And some of them knew fortune, and some of them knew fame, but more of them knew hardship and died upon the plain." (Christie Moore - City of Chicago)

Yep, it's still hard scrabble for us, but it was easier than for my forefathers. There is communication and generally the earlier settlers here have been friendly :-).

If you'd like to criticise settlers or emigrants -- especially those who do it the hard way -- no benefits, no scrounging, no security, no family or friends to turn to, no well-paying secure job... why don't you try it? I think it's a fairly tough natural selection process.

I am deeply grateful to Australia for being a place that will let me in to scrabble, and to Australians for having us here, giving us what I felt South Africa wasn't and helping us along with settling in... Because I don't know if we'd have coped without that.

It's a fine country with some very fine people.
I liked it here from the start.
I am beginning to love it.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

A year passing

Time of course is an illusion, but one which is fairly good at fooling us. We've been in Australia for a year exactly now, and it's been a momentous year of ups and downs. It's been a good one, from the island point of view, settling in point of view, and a tough one from the writing and US$ point of view. Anyway, we persist.

Our friend Carol is planning to leave the island :-( . She had her grandchildren and younger daughter here, and son-in-law, and wanted to have a barbeque with them and her friends (who are mostly our friends too) and as she's in a unit - as they call a flat around here, 'volunteered' our place. As these things will it grew a life of its own, with James inviting Nik and B inviting a few people (for children to play, see :-)) anyway, here we have been for a year, and we didn't rush off and invite people from far off places like Lady Barron and Killiecrankie - and we still ended up with 24 people. I cooked fish and crays on the braai (real braai - not this gas thing) and people seemed to like it. I cooked muttonbird and they made me move around the corner. We soon had the traditional women sitting around drinking and talking sport (cricket? What cricket?) and men soothing* their smoke parched throats as they slaved over the hot fire.

Anyway, the highs and lows... well, lows: leaving SA was hard, Telstra was not much of introduction to anything (Dear Hobart East Telstra shop, I hope you had a very poor year, and the same for the new year!), the little misadventures with the Ute overheating were not fun, as was the tire saga, and blown away tent. Neither were our medical nasties (but we have help here) and B's and my nasty alarms proved false - scary as hell, but false. Having the boys back in South Africa was never easy, and of course we miss family and old friends. I'd love to be diving with my brother. The various issues posting of Author copy books to the wrong country and publisher's admin seeming have trouble with the idea of emigration, the usual slow payments while the exchange rate strips money away - I lost 20% of the turn-in money for the latest book that way, and of course the debacle with Dragon's Ring were some of the very lows. The costs of moving us, and the animals, and the exchange rate and publishing scene have put buying a home far back onto the backburner. That's hard after 15 years in your own home. But it will be beaten.

On the high side... well, there were the many acts of kindness - from Roger and his wife have us land on them in Hobart, to the nice guys from customs and emigration and our unaccompanied baggage (which was one of those mountains we expected, that turned into a molehill), Pat and Noel and their family in Orford - rescuing us when we had trouble with the Ute, giving us a place to sleep. The other campers who rescued our stuff and remaining tent at Beauty Point, and John coming to meet us off the ferry when we arrived tired and very unfamiliar... Inga who was our first ever visitor, who brought us cake.

Getting our Rock.

And then the many friends and kindly folk who helped us start to fit in. Rosemary and Anne especially, but everyone from Jamie to Jeremy to Greg taking us fishing and showing us the ropes... well, showing us how little we knew. The crays here need you to have the invisiblity disruptor fitted to your mask. The flounder too hide so well. And the joy of having the boys and Clare here in June, and having Clare stay a bit extra - that meant a lot to us. Having Biren drop in to check on me when I was sick... Meeting friends made through the blog - Bill and Maria and Peter and Helen. Getting the writers group going and fun that's been. Watching James blossom into a good hand-spearo.

The climbing,

the diving, the fishing, the perfect sunsets, and wonderful views. The long days of summer.

Having Paddy finish his B.Sc with double firsts, and J getting a first for maths this year.

Eating many new things, learning about Tassie pepper, and Lark single Malt.

Getting used to never locking things, and recognising and of course greeting every car.

Having our dogs and cats arrive, and their sheer joy is something I will always treasure. It was a hard expensive decision, but a good one, I hope.

Beginning to have the island move from beautiful but unknown -- it's always felt rather like coming home to place we'd never been to but knew we belonged in -- to place we feel more secure and familiar with.

Been there.
Done that.

On the whole -good outweighs the bad by several orders of magnitude.
So here is 2011! We'll keep swimming up the undertow, and with any luck, it'll be a better year.
And may 2011 be a wonderful year for all of you!

Happy New Year!

*beer is known to be good for beer-batter, and according to our new priest, shampoo (really. I believe many men find it very attractive. I believe there is a money scented one for men wishing to attract ladies of negotiable virtue) and of course as smoke-throat soother. Why do you think people so often drink beer when they smoke?