Thursday, March 31, 2011

Yesterday involved the dentist, and cooking supper for some friends - two of whom have various allergies/ intolerances - very stressfull as you really don't want to accidentally kill off your guests (doing it on purpose - that's fine, no?). Today has been paperwork and admin, mostly. I seem to be developing a head-cold or something. Very flat batteries.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

A dog in waders.

The Old English sheepdog just came into my office wearing waders. (OK around Roly's neck and not on his great big hairy feet.) Yes, interesting times... (They were on the line and he'd walked through the strap)

And this picture I hope gives me a few bragging rights. I got this flathead with the handspear today - guts out it weighed 1.985 Kg

Had to drive home in the wetsuit as I can't get out of it alone.

We have some cooked tomato in the coffin-freezer. We have two plants planted out and repotted. We have Mike reporting that the turn in cheque for DOG AND DRAGON has arrived (good, they pay on acceptance.) We have a little writing done today. And we have me going to bed.

Monday, March 28, 2011

The Zombie Roo-bar rises...

Heh, our friends Annie and Alan are back with a couple of lovely trout for us. You'd never think an ex-trout farmer would miss trout.

Today was the day of the roo-bar -- I've bartered for some fish a wrecked one, which Bill (mostly Bill) and me spent to today returning to life. I can haz a zombie-roo-bar... thank heavens for Bill. I would still be under the ute, swearing. There was quite a lot of delicate surgery to do with the sledge hammer. We still need to bolt on a lower bar - the zombie-roo-bar was from a larger 4X4 - so starts a little high to protect part of the transmission, but as I said to the Blue Slug (the Ute's is the Blue Slug), she'd better now behave as if she had the grunt of a great big V8 4X$ or I'll take her new look away from her. I'd like to say I was to car-mechanic work what Placido Domingo was to Punk rock... but that would be inaccurate. Flattering. I am more like what a Wolfhound is to banjo playing - completely lost, and likely to try and eat the banjo - or hit the ute with a sledge hammer. Fortunately Bill has a sense of humour and does know what he's doing or I might by now have a small pile of crumpled metal parts.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

A long day

What is it about 2.30 AM starts that leave one rather plumb tuckered at the end of the day? (said day included about 3km walk through the water, gilling and gutting 7 flounder, a dive in VERY murky water (score 2 crays - both just too small and returned) catching a couple of fish, a difficult surf boat launch and retrieval (too shallow water. Lots of HEAVING, and then offloading dive gear and fuel tanks holding the boat in the surf, fetching same again, and returning from picking up a dog-roo from two dear friends - who looked at us, and fed us (Boy genius left the rolls in the freezer) and finding our 'new' freezer had been offloaded (and it is LARGE) and to move out of the possible rain (ergo move half the contents of one room - including 200kg of dog food and about the same of rice, oil etc out - move freezer (too heavy to carry) and move it all back in again... cook supper. Feel a little tired.)

Yeah. I know. Soft. We'd have had to lick the road clean too when you were young.

This morning's floundering saw me miss two flounder. Both took off before I speared. One burrowed under my feet. For fear of getting the five-toed flounder I couldn't spear him. It did lack the grace and charm of my trevally effort of yesterday though, which probably is in a class of its own. Seeing what the fish was, I fought it very carefully. It was tired and I got it into the shallows and ... it came off. Fish was tired... so did not flap off. I dropped rod. leaped into the shallows and flicked fish up the rock-slope. It now realises panic is a good thing and is flapping and bouncing its way back to the water. I run out of water after it and move it higher. Am about to dispatch it when a wave licks my toes. Hastily move tackle bag and camera... look back at rod... tip poking out of the water. So I run and grab tip... it comes off. I have line and haul up and retreive rod... walk up rocks...

Trevally is missing.
It had flapped into a deep crack, from whence I extracted it before the next wave and read it the last rites.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Ok - a2.30 AM start planned and it's late already. Floundering and dving planned tomorrow, finished chookabago, and new weights and pots for strawberries and trees today and also sorted nets and put away the last of the scrap wood. And caught about 5kg of fish in half an hour.

B went to the ladies pampering day and got pampered. But I'll let her tell you about it.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Part done...

Well, a whole lot more things got part done today. It would probably be a good idea to finish something... nah. Why start now?

The sea was VILE today - despite the wind dropping and rain stopping. Running 2.4 metre swell - which compared to usual mill-pond was huge. It DID do one thing - Barbs and Bill nearly got taken out by a wave on a rock-platform (got their feet wet, cause Bill saw it at the last moment. B had her back to it. NEVER turn your back the sea chilluns. It's treacherous.) and maybe both learned something? I hope so. I'd like to keep both of them alive. So catch was bad, but the company good. Then we collected Arthur (our parish priest) from the airport and my wife decided that despite having agreed to walk up the mountain with friends that she wanted to do it this afternoon. I said fine so long as she was happy to do it twice. We didn't go all the way (as the bishop said to the actress, but B is getting really very fit. It is beautiful up there, and the little river is in spate and the weird mushrooms are out.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Keeping the mozzies (and everyone else) at bay

Well, we seem to have stuck on 14 sales... It's been a long and mostly entertaining day, with the usual visitors and tribulations (you ever seen that cartoon about the DIY canoe - that the maker had one point up and the other down?) I did that to the chookabago AND the door-screen (to allow door to be open and dogs not to go in.) Yes, I am gifted.

And we had a South African visitor for supper this evening, which was fun. I am really good at asking questions just as someone's mouth is full! Now if I had that kind of timing with the Scottish dancing... We fed her on abalone, roo and granilla fool. And garlic.

And then took her to the dancing.

We're nice people. Really.
Just not to be too close to ;-)

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

The Wind through the treeses...

We had 90km an hour winds last night - strong enough to blow a tarp weighted down with a battery and weightbelt off our veranda table. Then we had some decent weather for a bit of work on the round tuits, with 10 minute checks on Amazon Kindle site to see how CRAWLSPACE AND OTHER STORIES was doing. 14 sales to date, so, not riches untold, but it's found money really. I'm hoping to do more, possibly even a few novels.

I had my writer's group this afternoon, so trundled out to Trousers' Point to have different looks at writing action. One thing about this island - if you're willing there are a LOT of things you can be involved in - from Sing Australia to the Pony club. It's quite hard to find time for it all:-).

Jamie came by with a bunch of sprats that had washed up on the beach at the creek mouth. I can only think it was a sudden flush of fresh water - and possibly temperature change (as land water is a lot colder). The chookabago is really a bit of baling wire (tie chicken wire together) and a few perches and some straw from being ready. - of course I'll find stuff to fuss about which will take more time.

And now it is raining again. So... the shed again tomorrow. Fishing gear sort (shudder). Worm farm to contrive.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

ten forward nine back... CRAWLSPACE!!!!

Well, it has been absolutely awful weather today - no possibility of walking up the mountain. (Flinders was rather Obelix's Switzerland today - Flat. To all appearances anyway.) So I had to brave the horrifying task of the shed. Hey we've only BEEN here 14 months, and the stuff 12.. That's hardly trying. Everything there was no room for was sort of shoved in there - a wise solution! But space-wise I needed a place to sort out the wetsuit collection (I think 17 wetsuits in various sizes (from 8 year old kids to XL)/ thicknesses) All elderly. Mostly second hand. All still getting used.) This involved a lot of that tedious messing around in n-dimensional space because there is so little room (and it was raining outside) that every item had to be moved to move ANYTHING, often up, over, under sideways AND through. By some form of topological miricle we got it done, and I now have a space for the gas stove, a work-bench and a hanging cupboard full of wetsuits, waders, BCs etc.
Feeling like I achieved something... I've just turned in a book (so turn in money is due), I'm due a cheque for a short story, Barbs having been working rather a lot, and with living off the land and having stocked up on the basic dry goods in bulk very cheaply with Peter's container load... I felt some headway was being made.

Then B got the post, and instead of the cheque I hoped for... and we got more than a thousand dollars of bills - all essentials - Phone, internet, Vet, and Car repair and tyre... still, when you're careful about spending (I'm a writer: translate = earn 8% of the US cover price of each paperback. Payment is in US$ (not good now)is often erratic, and very widely spaced) and live largely off the land, these sort bills about double our expenses this month, so it hurts.

But then today, Finally YAY!!!! The Kindle version of CRAWLSPACE AND OTHER STORIES - A novella and a novellette in the RATS BATS AND VATS Universe (and a few other shorts)that I wrote with Eric Flint went live on Amazon. And as we've done this ourselves, it means I can track sales. Which means... yeah. I got to see the first sale has happened! So I'm $1.75 up! :-) I know. It's a drop in the ocean but it felt really really good. I detest the vast lag phase in paper publishing (typically you may not know for a year-15 months how much you've sold, or if you will earn anything at all. This is a relic of old manual warehouse record systems, but with modern barcode/computer inventory, it's really a little archaic.) I LOVE being able to get some idea of what is going on.


Monday, March 21, 2011

Kitty munchies, and Sergeant Baker

The weather being moderately vile, I worked on the Chookabago, a doggy-gate for the passage, and catching up on the back-post and then helping B to turn the wrasse into kitty munchies (we do eat a little ourselves, but it's not a big target species for us. The cats however like it hugely. I gather that steamed it is very popular with Chinese diners. I put it into Thai green curry, and a tomato based fish soup. The key is not to overcook it, which is too easy.) Anyway, 33 days cat food now organised.

We also ate the Sergeant Baker (Hime purpurissatus that one of our visiting Medical students -Foong - had shot. It's bony. The tail section was a nice flaking not bad fish, but the body tasted very fishy.

If the weather lifts - but the wind doesn't, I want to go and look for Tasmanian Mountain pepper-berries
Otherwise, shudder the round to it list goes into some very demanding items. And O'Mike is nagging for fresh book-proposals.

Sunday, March 20, 2011


I thought I'd never told you about the fine art of splat.

Abalone is $300 a kg I believe. For us, well, it's one of our staples. Sea-mutton, they call it here. Now if you're lucky and time the tide right and know where to go, you find greenlips shallow enough not to dive. If you're quick and lucky, you can have an ab knife under them before you can say Knockmealgarten and Ballykinderry Fair, and it's quite easy. Pop and they're in the bag. It helps if you have a hookah or aqualungs, of course.

Otherwise you end up working pretty hard... but diving down and wrestling with the beasts at 5-10 metres is the easy part, as far as I am concerned. The hard bit is when - After several hours in cold water swimming about energetically, and just bursting with zoomy energy as a result - I get home, fresh-water wash the gear, hang it up and then... strip down to the budgie-smugglers (AKA speedo) -- horrible sight, trust me, and about to get worse - and position myself on a far corner of the garden, with a board - a good jarrah plank - I shattered the woosy plastic I used, a knife, a steak mallet, and a bag of abalone. First I shuck them, and then pin the very tough muscle to the board with the knife (otherwise a lot of work goes flying into the bushes), and the splat begins. Beat it tender. Only... the steak hammer tends to take off little fragments that go splat-airbourne and liberally coat the surrounding 40 km exclusion zone, bushes, grass, passing birds, and principally the little hairy feller in the budgie smugglers with the mallet, with teeny sticky gooey bits of abalone. The mallet handle become slimy and life and limb are in danger of tenderised (that's why I use the knife, these days. Tenderised my hand.) The abalone are then transported to the kitchen window and the long task of de-splatting begins with a nice cold wash down of the hairy little bloke and his utensils with the garden hose. Then we proceed (shivering artisically, to let the universe know how I have suffered) to the shower and scrub the gooey gobbets off. I'm hairy. It sticks.
I mean SCRUB.
All for a mere $300 a Kg morsel.
Cheap at twice the price I tell you ;-)

Saturday, March 19, 2011


I don't know if I am suffering from utter exhaustion or sick. I took the new regulators to Mike this AM and got a clean bill of health for both. So I took a test dive up at West End. (no I did not go very deep - 8 metres max. Most of the time at 3-5 metres.) There was a very very strong current running and I had to tow my bouy across it twice as I battled to find the abalone. And then - when I found some out of main current, struggled to get them off - too light - need more weights. I chose this spot because it's an easy dive. I did see a lot of very nice fish, but didn't spear one. My hands were so tired I couldn't hold the hand-spear cocked at the end (and I put off spearing to the end) I was in the water for around 3 hours (quite a lot of that on the surface with a snorkel trying to find the Abs)which is quite chewing I suppose. B did quite well off the wrasse and got a mullet - on squid bait! And then home, beat Abs, and worked on the 'roo bar which we've swapped for some fish. It's been bent in a collision with another vehicle and despite me having a BIG crow-bar not winning. B wants me to the plastic one off the ute and try it - But I am scared I'll get that off in pieces, and not be able to get the 'new' one on.

We were supposed to go and fish for gummy shark on the east coast this evening, but it's been wind-cancelled, and I'm relieved. I'd like to do it (no I'm not very fond of 'flake' but it's a good trading item.)

Anyway, we had a delicious supper of rolled roast lamb shoulder (a very welcome pressie from one of the farmers) last night, with sufficient garlic and fresh rosemary. So tonight I just made a thick rosemary and sweet wine and cream gravy and served the tail end thin-sliced with the gravy on rolls out of the freezer with some fresh salad. It was superb.

Friday, March 18, 2011

slow return to life...

Normal programming begins to resume. My tomatillos are reaching the point where I will need to figure just what to do with them. Tomatoes we're awash with so need to preserve. My garden is suffering from some neglect/minimal care and a big catch-up is called for.

Work resumes on the Chookabago. I have been given two wheelie-bin wheels, and I hope that'll do.

I took the BC that Peter bought at a garage sale to Mike Nicholls - the local dive-master. The short answer is that it is probably not easily fixable - But as Mike just bought a bunch of new ones, he kindly gave me an old one he was about to retire. Look, most of the time I don't NEED a BC - I'm in very shallow water, so it's a glorified backpack for a tank. Hopefully the post will bring my octos and I'll be in business.

The speargun is back in operation (been using handspears because it was impossible to load. I need to get onto melting lead for another weightbelt... the round tuit list grows.

I saw a bunch of quail stealing chook-food over at some Polish friends place, and recall reading somewhere that quail are quite good poultry to keep - low hassle and low noise. And very tiny eggs... Anyone tried that?

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

And that, said Jack, is That!

Dog and Dragon is turned in.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

The Gas stove worketh

Big Yay! Mick got our gas stove to work (South African fittings and Australian fittings are totally incompatible. Help was hard to find) Otherwise, I'm 114 pages of 182 pages into the edits for draft 2. A long day at it.But the end is really getting close.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Draft 1

I've just finished DOG AND DRAGON draft 1. B is doing edits, and I'll start on those shortly. I've finally figured how to fix a proposal for Mike (my agent in US), and my dive regulators have been posted. But there hasn't been a lot of time for all the essentials of living outside of writing... soon I hope.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

an early start

Got up at 2 AM this morning to go floundering in the fog- a dangerous passtime as you get so easily disorientatied. We did and I was all for walking off into the sounds - fortunately we still had the light in the ute visible. My mate Bill may eventually forgive me for making him try a 'skinny fish' (big mullet) for his first, but he soon got he hang of it. A big skate/ray kept harassing us, making B very nervous. Other than that, we are still editing... closing in on that now. Oddly the squid have been very slim pickings this year, and I was glad to spear one last night. But we're getting them by ones, not buckets.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Just seen the horrific pictures of the tsunami in Japan. Thoughts and prayers there. Oddly Tasmanian SES are having a tsunami drill/practice here this weekend. I hope it stays practice.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Wish you were here

(taking our trainee doctors to kayak in Fotheringate bay)

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

The sore hand gang

Went to sea this afternoon and the freezer now has 16 pairs of large flathead fillet and a gurnard, and a gummy shark in it. Unfortunately the ratchet on the boat winch was not clicked in and when I stopped to take the handle off to change to a lower gearing the handle spun around like a bat out - well very fast and hard and tenderised my thumb.

The saga of trying to get the BC's and regulators and other dive bits I bought to flinders continuethetheth... The box is too big for Australia Post. I think we're up to plan G now...

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Shrove Tuesday

Roly is slightly better - not best but better, which we're grateful for. He's not a young dog, but I think a happy one, and he has his dad with him, and he's still really enjoying food

Shrove Tuesday today so we were part of the Anglican church pancake do at the CWA rooms. I made a lot pancakes. It was fun... for the first half hour :-) but I really am not used to standing for hours any more. Getting old and soft.

At 4 this afternoon we took a couple of visiting medical students and nurse to our little cliff at Emita and let them have some fun. There is enormous pleasure in showing off your sport and this place. We gave the some Abalone to cook for their tea, which was almost more fun than watching them defy gravity - the look on someone-s face when they discover that falling off did not mean pain and death is fun.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Couriers... don't please

So, as the crayfish diving here is all hookah (which involves a boat, a compressor, a skipper's ticket - none of which I have) or tanks-BC-Regulator - which I also don't have, but have hired -quite reasonably - from Mike Nicholls the local divemaster. It's still an expensive process or one that relies on someone offering you a spot on their boat with their hookah. Which happens, but not that often.

So as Mike has said I could borrow a tank and just pay for refills, and my frequent dive biddy Jamie has a spare tank, and the garage sales had produced a BC thanks to my buddy Peter in Melbourne... I decided that I needed to by a regulator/octo. And as I am hoping to do a little diving in the next few weeks, I had a look on the net. I'm mostly diving 3-5 (with occasional 10) metres which I can do free, but you do not want to fight with these crays free-diving, and besides you can't really spot them from the surface. So I had no real qualms about buying a second hand rig. I'll test in shallow water and I don't go deep or long enough to make major decompression an issue if I have to do an emergency ascent.

So I find an ad. For two sets of gear - which from my POV means I will be able to dive with my boys, or Clare, or they can dive, and it's much safer. In Sydney. So I call up another one of my mates - who has just got a new head for his ute, by courier. "Couriers Please - they're great, cost me relatively little to get it here from Ballarat. I've dealt with them for years..."

Great. So I agree to internet transfer the money to this bloke in Sydney - he e-mails the bank details, we do a transfer, I am excited about the kit... e-mail Couriers Please. No reply. So I phone them. They'll get their sales guys to call me. They never do, but I am busy finishing a book. I send the seller details of how it needs to be packed...

Meanwhile i work through until 3AM finish the book... only to have Roland sick. I'm not sure what is wrong with him, I've had him at the vet twice today. He's got a temp and a sore tum. And he's miz... and I've had about an hour and a half sleep.

And then the seller contacts me. UM. "I made a mistake in the e-mail with my bank details." So... we have to follow up. Now our bank is clear - you get it wrong, it's your lookout. They don't match name and number. So we thought we'd probably lost it... (This is WHY I got the seller to email his details. Paste them in)

Fortunately the number is not an account they have, so it bounced.

So we pay into the right account.

I phone Couriers Please, who about 2 weeks back delivered Bill's head. Spend 20 minutes on hold... get a live body. Tell him what I want.
"No we don't deliver there."
"But you just did."
"No I am sorry. We don't."
"But Bill's just got his stuff delivered."
"Can I put you on hold."
Another 3 minutes.
"No. Sorry."
So now I have paid for a bunch of gear - booties, weight belts, BCs and octos... and they're in a box in Sydney.
Tomorrow I'll have to look at other options. Of course perfect timing - my Melbourne mate, who is an organising whiz called to say he was off to London - and he had a friend bringing a container out from South Africa with some space. Did I want anything.
Can I get a runner with a cleft stick? I am sure they deliver to Flinders Island.
In the meanwhile I can can say Couriers Please don't. If they'd said 'oh we stuffed up and found it was too expensive and we're not doing it again' -- that's fair enough. But this BS about not delivering here,(when they just had) really rubbed me raw.
Anyway, done the first layer of spell checking...
Nil Carborundum illigitimi. (which is probably spelled wrong)

The book is dead. Long live the book

Ok 3 AM - and I am declaring DOG AND DRAGON draft 1 DONE. 99500 words - close on precisely 100 000 required, and draft 2 is always longer.

good night!

Saturday, March 5, 2011

green chili-garlic tomato sauce,

B and i are both as sick as can be. I am trying to finish the book - 4 K today
I made a very good Chileans green chili and fresh tomato and garlic bread-sauce. It's evil garlic and quite chili - 4 chili in about 200 ml. But, because of the sweetness of tomato, and garlic, it's very good.
And now. Onward.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

I now also have B's cold and a some more words to the story. And tomorrow, I will have yet more.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Another day, another chicken.

Ok so todays exciting episode involved writing. And I think Puggles eating a zucchini plant, Drat the dog. And B bringing home the last rooster. These have been manna from heaven, as we haven't had to do more for our meals off them than draw and pluck them. They have usually arrived with impeccable timing, for when we're frantic/exhausted... but one of the island lessons is always accept these offers (with gratitude and preferably some sort of return gift) as that way, people offer again. If you say 'no thank you, we're awash with say tomatos, they seem to write you off the list for the future or any other excess. I can understand it and have learned: be grateful. Be ingenious. And think of little things to give :-)

B seems to be developing a cold, and me too. Not needed. Do think if I say 'no thanks' it would mean we'd get no more?

And as Flinders has very large ants (one of which bit me when I was doing the chicken in) the latest book has Muryan - Cornish Ant-faries.

"Just how big is this giant?" she asked in a fading voice.
"Oh not so big. The last one had three heads, and was terrible. This one isn't more than eighteen cubits tall. Living stone too though, so not much use firing arrows into him. You'll deal with him, though."
"You could have told me earlier," said Meb.
"Why?" asked the spriggan.
"I could have got a better head start, running away," said Meb, bitterly. "I need to talk to the muryan."
"There is nothing like ants to bring down giants," agreed the spriggan.
"I hope you're right," said Meb. "Because that's all I can think of right now.