Saturday, April 30, 2011

A promisory note

OK I faithfully promise to write up the catching of the garfish and other adventures of the day tomorrow - it's mega late, and it's been a long day, and it was mostly too funny to skimp writing properly.

Friday, April 29, 2011

To search, perchance to find...

Well, I promised to tell of our day - Jamie having a day off and the weather forecast being good, we seized the day, and we took Jamie's boat out of West End -- and had a good look for my weight-belt... which I found!!! This comes under the heading of totally unlikely miricles. I had meanwhile stacked more weights on the other belt - it's at about 13Kg now and that is just too little when an aqualung is empty and too much to free-dive comfortably. If I wore an old suit, I'd sink like... a weightbelt, without a diver. So still a need for a few more weights and another belt, as aqualungs are really for crayfishing as far as I am concerned.

It was a bit of an iffy day, and Jamie's one motor was misfiring a bit so we did not head out to Frankland rock (I was grateful - the current streams at about 3 knots and it's not too big and it is several miles offshore.)

Instead we dived off Cape Frankland off a big rock in the middle of the bay. I went one way and as usual Jamie the other. I was trying to go the same way, but my underwater sense of direction is rubbish and Jamie was already down by the time I got in. The first part - around 15-17 metres was actually too power-scoured and sans cracks, but when I got around to the other side - 10 metres or so, it was much better. I spotted a huge cray under a boulder. Getting in was a bit tight, (no room to move your hands back from in front of your head, but I thought fine (quite normal for free-diving)... until, 2 hands on cray... and I knocked my mouthpiece out trying to wriggle it out. I had to reverse out, because I couldn't get my arms back. and get it again, which was a good excercise in controlling panic. Still, it worked (look I had full lung full of air, and 2 minutes really to do it in) and I learned what could and couldn't be done with an aqualung and BC. Jamie frequently takes his off to go into cracks but NO THANKS. Anyway - a bit spooked I swam around the rock - not going back into that hole.
And there was another small crack... and from OUTSIDE the rock I could reach his tail all curled up to jam him there. I straightened that out, wriggled him around and got him to a wider area, and out. (Sounds easy. It's not). Holding the cray (3.2Kg) with both hands I swam back to the boat. Jamie was also coming in with a bag - 2 males and 3 females (slightly smaller), to my one, but he'd finished his air, was cold and I still had 140 in my tank. So I went back to the area I had just come from (having swum a big useless 12-3 o'clock anticlocwise circle the first time, over blank ground, and found another big male under the first rock I came to. I could get my hands in from the side and get both horns, but... I couldn't BUDGE him, not a micron. No Leverage, and they're strong. Anyway, I realised I simply would NEVER get him out, let go and swam to look under the next rock. And he must have thought I was coming back or was stronger than I am... because he was moving there and I was able to grab him while out.

I swam him back to the boat and had 3.08kg cray to go with first and as I was low on air, quit.

On the way back we free dived in about 4.5 metres for the greenlip abalone. With the near empty tank I was floating with the weight I had - on the bottom with wetsuit compression I had to swim hard to get up.

I don't own a pot big enough for a 3Kg crayfish (let alone a couple) (and Jamie very kindly donated his catch to an upcoming event we're planning)so I had to go up to Jamie's place and cook them. I think it was 11.30 pm when I finally got to bed...

Still, a very good day.

Thursday, April 28, 2011


I'll tell you about it tomorrow. I'm tired.

I caught two 3kg + crays

16Kg of crays and 10 abalone...

Wednesday, April 27, 2011


Do click on the pictures to view in full size.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Island Funerals and more on weights

It was Glady's (Gladys Robinson) funeral today -- an islander we were fortunate to get to know a little - with more than 90 years of Island life behind her. She was born and grew up on Vansittart Island in the Franklin sounds, born when a sailboat was the only way off, when salted muttonbird was a major food item (no fridge or freezer) - intelligent and a reader (and razor witted to the end), she had only ever been to school for two years. Shows what you can do without, and still achieve. She was obviously much loved as Lady Barron (and a lot of the island) were at the church. It only seats about 25, so people spilled out onto the grass and even onto the road. From where your spirit is, Glady, I am sure you can see Vansittart still.

For those of us not born here, they say the only way you know if you're an islander is by how many people show at your funeral...

I went up to Jamie's place to try and make more dive weights. Alas, we managed to break the mold. Anyway, I have 4 more. On the way home, I tested the new roo-bar (depite driving slowly and avoiding hitting more than 30.) I conclude the local wallaby are either suicidal or thick... I really glad it was there.

I'm off to bed. Got up at 3 to spear flounder...

Monday, April 25, 2011

How to lose weight without diets or extra excercise

And keep it off!

The answer, dear reader, is easy. Strap 9 kgs of lead around your waist and proceed into the sea. Somewhere, about 5-6 metres down... have it unhitch.

Given that I float like a cork in a wetsuit (you've never seen how a cork floats in a wetsuit? You poor deprived soul. Write to your MP at once!)I need a weightbelt to get even an inch underwater, this has issues...

I tried the 'new' wetsuit Peter picked up for me at a garage sale. It's - I thought - only 5mm. Long-john and seperate hooded top, and my 'new' BC... which kept inflating. The wetsuit is great fit - like it was made for me, but I soon discovered has two problems, the one less of an issue than the other. Firstly, it's the warmest wetsuit I have ever worn. It has soft gussets on the sleeves and I suspect qualifies as a semi-dry suit. I nearly expired of heat... in the water. This will be wonderful for spring when our water is really cold. For a day when I was having to struggle to get underwater it was very hot. The second problem (besides the BC issue) was that it is also more boyant than my 7mm suit (also longjohn and top) MUCH more bouyant. In fact it took 2 weightbelts to get me down - and I still had to hold on and swim down. 15Kg of lead, and of course the weight of the tank takes some carrying. And then - as happens - I had a fin come off. I turned to grab it and found myself heading upward -- with one fin the swim down was really hard. I dropped the spear to use both arms. Got it... it was drifting off a few feet from the bottom, and with two fins and enormous effort got the handspear. Seriously, it was two exhausing swims... around 10 metres that felt like swimming a half a mile. I was really tired and had battled to stay under all the way (about 80 yards) and decided shore was the better part of trying to get down (assuming my BC feed or valve was malfuntioning)and killing myself with exhaustion. The trouble with being really tired (and HOT) is the brain obviously wasn't working, as I must have swum 2/3 of the way to the shore before realising the problem was that I'd lost a weight-belt.

So I lost weight and I am furious about it. I have a very slim chance of finding it, and it represents a fair amount of work and a lot of time, and rather a lot of not so cheap or available lead - weights are $18 each and I'd need about 7 and a belt is $12 so buying it right OUT.

The physical effort probably DID lose me a kg or two. Personally, as way of reducing body mass, lugging heavy weights and swimming against bouyancy sucks.

And what's the bet that smart-arse google links this to a whole bunch of weight-loss and diet sites?

The Anzac day service on the hill above Marshall Bay in the predawn remains one of the most moving experiences of my being in Australia. The moment's silence after the last post was again broken by the kookaburra, and the grey distances of the bay made the scene with cenotaph and flag at half mast eerie and magnificent.

Lest we forget.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Saffron Crocuses

So far the island is rewarding anyone who came for Easter with gales and occasional rain. It's flickered between cold and miserable to warmer and miserable. I am very glad not to be on a yacht racing.

My Saffron crocuses are growing! I think I have about 7 plants, so saffron flavoured dishes (as you get 3 stamens per flower, making saffron a labour-intensive and large number of saffron crocus demanding task. But you have to start somewhere...

And I may start by demolishing the smoke alarm... it hates me grilling. I have the air-extractor on and a window making a through draft, and it is still impossible to grill two chops without multiple meeep meeeeep meeeeeep. Now with our grow it or catch it diet, grilled meat has gone from 4 times a week (back in South Africa) to maybe once every month or so, if that. But we had been given some pork chops - a vast treat, and one rather spoiled by this blasted alarm every 30 seconds while I cook. Anyway, it's generally not that sensitive, so I will allow it to live.

Tomorrow I need to try and do reasonable drawings of the steam-mole and coal-fired submarine. I've done a slew of sketches in between work today. I've never been asked for this degree of input into cover art before...

We've opened the gate from the long paddock into the big field. But the sheep say they LIKE keeping us trapped. It's fun. (Ok so sheep don't get a lot of entertainment).

Friday, April 22, 2011

Australian three peaks race is on

The Island's easter excitement (besides the twelve stations of the cross and the Anzac service).
The dog ate my homework. Okay, actually I ended up not posting because the editor at Pyr asked me to do some sketches of the steam mole and the Cuttlefish. And yesterday was a fairly non-entity working day for me.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

long paddock

Well, I put on my second best frock and baked for B's CWA cake sale. I'm going to burn my jockstrap and become a liberated male one day (do I really have to wear it while I am doing this?) I took the hot-cross buns in to much CWA amusement as B was helping clean a house out. Much hilariarity and comments about repressed men, and B not beating me often enough to keep me in my place followed. Fortunately the island is kind of getting used to the idea that I cook. The mysterious steamer from Hong-Kong (ordered from a . au site!) arrived. Instructions in best Chinese... won't buy from them again.

We've moved the sheep into the 'long paddock' for a day or two (our driveway - to save us mowing the edges of it) - with another hyper sheepdog (the other was more of an 'eye dog' intimidating the sheep by staring at them, this one is just pant pant pant run run run hither and thither. We have an alternative way out through the field, which is fine so long as you have a bit of patience.

I cooked up what is probably the last load tomatoes for the freezer. Did a little batch of apples too, but have a few more of those to do against the winter. The mushrooms are starting to put their heads up - and if we get a good rain now we should get a fair number. The Sheep may not help.

I've been tangenting on a YA - contemporary (not 'urban' strictly, because this isn't urban, and I am thinking of setting it here) proposal for O'Mike. It's an interesting setting, not least because of its history which is long and colourful (and bleak too) by Australian standards.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Cabin fever

I needed to get out today. About lunch-time it just hit me like -as they say--a smackeroo-blurby. So as B was out getting someone's house ready, I took Peter's van - and as Wednesday was looking at me with reproachful eyes, and I was having 'I should have taken Roly out more ' guilt, I took both of them up to Peter's place (I felt I was over-using a friend's goodwill, and I reckon I owe him some oysters in thanks) rather than the beach as I didn't want them wet and in his vehicle. They ran (Puggle on a lead to try and stop him overdoing it, poor boy) around the lower paddock there, and Wednesday found an electric fence. I have this thing about them only leaving here to go walking in a veheicle so breakout is less tempting, I hope. Anyway, I was out for half an hour and it did lift the spirts a bit and tire out the black menace. She's really missing her playmate. I'm finding it very quiet with B away such a lot. I'm solitary, but there are degrees of solitude. I cut up our stack of wood, and did some minor woodwork before getting back to work, feeling a bit better. They say snow is forecast for Hobart area so maybe it is the weather change. Winter is on its way.

Pads and I were talking on skype - he's been to the Botany Dept and seen my old Oxalis project still on a shelf... Rhodes. Like here it's a bit of a time-warp.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Tomatillos and sorbet glasses

According to Quilly's instructions I grilled these until the skins blackened a bit. The sauce I made is okay, rather than great. And I can't say the aftertaste is inspiring. I don't think they warrant garden space unless I find a more attractive use. Oh well, I can say I have grown them now.

The school had a jumble sale that I had to go to on my own as B was at the shop in Lady Barron. She's having a frantic week, working all over. I need B so I get over my mean-ness at these things. They say Scots blood will out and I am very shall we say, conservative about these things and probably missed a number of good buys. As they say -- no' mean, just carefu'-- But I did get some sorbet glasses, for 20 cents a piece, and was well pleased with that. I probably should have bought some of the tables and furniture bits simply for the value of the wood, and if I'd been there fast enough to get two 30 dollar kayaks, I would have. But they need work, and I could only have one, and I could see no way of transporting it easily. So: rather like the windsurfers at an earlier garage sale, they stayed unbought.

And then I came home and wrote. Just to be different!

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Shops, buns etc.

Well, a couple of the hired help dropped our stove back this evening with the benefit of an empty gas cylinder and without the benefit of oven cleaner - by the smell from inside. Anyway, lesson learned. Couple of people down on the list of 'avoid'. They're exceptions, but there always are a few.

Anyway I made hot cross buns today. I had no idea just how complicated getting that white cross in the middle was.

B's very excited to be getting the possibility of working a few days down Lady Barron shop. My better half for some reason loves keeping shop - she really enjoyed the wine-cellar work back in Rosetta, and, I think was very good at it. For me, I'd rather do almost anything else. I guess I am fairly solitary a lot of the time and enjoy company now and again. B likes chatting to customers, helping people.

It looks like a week of fairly 'ordinary' weather blowing in, which ought to help the writing process. I've done a bit today, as well as some more firewood cutting. We need about 5 ton to see us through winter, and I only have about 1...

I ate one of the tomatillos (green) this afternoon. It was more pleasant than a green tomato :-) which it looked like. So tomorrow I will see if I have enough for a mexican style salsa (right?).

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Big birds, little birds and dinner we never got.

A rather blurry shot of one tine little study invaders that I caught and carefully released. I suppose I'll forgive it the little deposit on my carefully cupped hands.

and the opposite extreme - an albatross at sea today. I'm glad I didn't have him in my cupped hands. I'd be more afraid of his beak than his poo, but don't want either. We had a good fish off Prime Seal Island (and saw a prime (ie. one) seal, and 2 dolphins en route. A good thing we got some nice fresh fish for our tea, as the 'Can we borrow your stove (our small catering gas stove) for their TV gourmet farmer dinner we'll give you a couple of tickets to the dinner,' certainly borrowed the stove, but the tickets to the posh dinner were conspicuous by their absence. I'd have been happy to lend it to them anyway, simply to help out, but it's pretty irritating to promise and not deliver, and I would have been interested in seeing what they did to the island's produce. Oh well, I won't be in hurry to help out the tourist association again. And I do hope they bring it back, clean, whole and with a full gas cylinder.

B ran into med students at the airport, leaving, and I think we have more island converts there. The weather was superb today so a pity they had to go. Never come to the Island for less than week!

Anyway, this was where we launched today - Port Davies, looking back at Cave Beach,

Stunning, isn't it?

Friday, April 15, 2011

I seem to have aquired a bit of a cold. Please can the original owner reclaim it. I really don't want it. The weather today was a bit ordinary (as they say here) - a pity seeing as I was hoping to go and fish or dive. Anyway, I did cut a load of firewood at my mate Pete's place, and sort out some lures from the most amazing tangle. And save the lives of three Wendies (aka female superb fairy wrens) that had flown into the study. Fortunately for them, just then we had no cats in the study.

We lent the medical students some wetsuits and stuff. I gather the attempts to get into a 7mm jacket were more than just funny.

And then we went to the boardgames evening and no-one came. Bill and Maria rescued us, before we came home. And now it is dark and late and cold. There are new and miserable cows next door, and they 'la lowing'. I will have persuade Wednesday before full winter that she really doesn't need the study door open to check on them! See what drinking snail beer does to you!

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Well now -another Thursday - what is it about thursdays - they all seem to start at ridiculous hours, manage to be energetic and then finish with Scottish dancing.

Today we had some blokes from the travelling Gourmet (I think? An australian TV show) come and borrow my gas stove. I got the new chain onto the chainsaw, B cut a lot of grass. I wrote, and cooked spanish omletes and flaked trout with fennel and spring onions for - as they say here - our tea. And then we went a dancing...

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

New book sales

While this is not strictly island life, it does affect how we're able to survive, feed ourselves, pay the rent etc. I've sold two new books on proposal to Pyr Books, Steampunk - set in an Alternate history where coal (and the British Empire) remain dominant. It's quite a dark and polluted world. The first book - CUTTLEFISH - involves getting from London to the drought-ravaged Republic of Westralia, and does, briefly, touch Flinders Island. The second book THE STEAM-MOLE is set in Australia.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011


It was my good friends Bill and Maria's wedding today -- just a quiet wedding with enough superb food to sink several galleons. It was my first wedding conducted by a Tink and I had thought them Tinks only fixed pots and got chased away from hen-houses. Ok so this was a different kind of Tink. Did a good service.

We took the bride's adult daughter and brother fishing... in the rain down to Trousers / Fotheringate. There was great excitement at the catching of leatherjackets. It is an entrancing spot, and safe to say they were entranced.

And wet, as it rained.

And then we came back and ate far too much. I'd give a more erudite write up of a lovely wedding of two wonderful people, but I'm too full, and too tired.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Rain were chucking it down...

...Leaving Whitemark and through North Notts it did not desist. There were cows with bronchitis and wet sheep to invite us, as home loomed up through mist..."

The winter rains appear to have started. It seems odd that this was just last week.

I've been doing some writing, and some weeding, and some transplanting (ie. writing has been a little difficult.) Something is plainly wrong with the world as it rained before I watered the transplanted plants rather than in the normal course of events, waiting until I finished.

We did a huge lunch yesterday for some of the friends we owed meals to. Some may recover from the tentacles in the bouillabaisse. I used some of the gurnard perch - put in at the last minute, along with the abalone, and I must say it is very well suited for this treatment. It is a pity the fish has these highly toxic (and painful) spines, making it a risky thing to catch and handle.

I have today received a formal letter of complaint from the Union of Vampires and Allied Trades about the levels of garlic their members have encountered in their victi...clients as a result of the excessive consumption of Dave's salsa verde. I reckon it a good thing I ate some myself. Must have worked on the postal service, as my 2 BCs and another parcel arrived. Now all we need is some nice weather.

I got inspired by Bill's outdoor work-table and put together the bits I got from Peter into a fairly sturdy structure weighing in at about 350 pounds and with 6 inch legs and a work-top that has so much oil I think it is weatherproof. I'm very pleased with it anyway. The only downside is that it sloped very slightly (because we chopped the legs with a chainsaw, and it is outside on uneven ground right next to the shed. So I got B to give me a hand and we rotated it.

Bad move.

It now slopes twice as much!

Sunday, April 10, 2011

The world of cats.

The cats seem to be trying very hard to fill the vaccuum left by Roly, doing things they never did before. There is a certain je ne sais quoi about this, adding a degree of should we say colour... and, yes texture, to our otherwise dull lives. Batman and La Duchesse have taken to both occupying my study (along with Puggles and Wednesday) and then also both gracing the bedroom with their feline magesty. Unfortately besides needing 2/3 of the bed, they, um added texture. And colour, although, in the dark in the small hours when I put my hand into the kitty-sick on my torch on the bedside table, I was only aware of the texture. The light brought no great relief because then I became aware of color they added. Mostly red: the Duvet-top gore was remarkably well spread for the one headless mouse I stood on in hasty departure for the bathroom.

I am assured that it is gesture of the highest esteem for them to share....

Friday, April 8, 2011


Wednesday, Puggle and the cats are being supportive, and surrounding me in the study.
Yes, I am so apologetic about disturbing you, kitty...

And the island can be a very tranquil place.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Out brave candle.

Roly is dead. He died as he was born, on my lap.
If there are no dogs in in Heaven, then let me go where they go.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Not Good

The news is basically not good. Roly has managed to eat a little, he's not in any major distress or pain. There does however appear to be a mass in his abdomen, and he still has the squirts. He's still on the drip. He really can't walk on his own.

The mystery of the vanishing snail-trap beer is solved. Wednesday has been drinking it.

The only really good news today is that the wonderful Bob Eggleton (the fantastic cover for DRAGON'S RING) is going to be doing the artwork for DOG AND DRAGON. I am trying to write proposals but am so depressed and tired that between spells of Roly sitting I have achieved almost nothing.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Roly is Sick

And on a drip, and being watched 24/7 So posting will be erratic

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Sunday not so good...

Well, it is Sunday, and Roland hasn't been well. Unhappy tummy, and just not well. Tonight he refused to eat anything at all (we had boiled a chicken for him). So it's vet in the morning unless there is vast and dramatic improvement. He is drinking a little.

B appears to be coming down with my bug, and I haven't managed much constructive writing or other work today.

On the plus side the clocks went back today. Which means I can feel saintly when I get up at 5.30 AM (whereas 6.30 AM - yesterday - I just feel lazy.)

Saturday, April 2, 2011

So long and thanks for all the sheep...

Roland didn't eat all supper tonight so I am a little worried about the old fellow.

Barbs is off washing glasses for big wedding party, and I have been processing some of the apples we've been given - they're (some of them) a bit floury. But they've been cooked up with a bit of lemon and sugar and will make - with some spice and raisins - fair apple tartlet filling, and be useful in other things. I made some sweet pastry and a couple of batches of biscuits (cookies in American) and tried to stretch my brain. O'Mike - Agent of evil and authors has asked me for some 'different'proposal ideas. And right now the brain is producing... some snot for the sinuses. Heaven knows I have produced some of the weirder ideas in sf/fantasy for the last 15 years or so. I'm not sure quite what 'different' means.

We had the sheep from the paddock treated (2 of them) for flystrike. A magnificent lesson in how to play rugby. Much that I have suspected about the game (I played for years at school) is probably true. We then herded the thirty through the garden, and into the front paddock - which was an interesting excercise in makeshift hurdle-construction and the intellect of sheep.

Friday, April 1, 2011

New York

I have decided to move to inner city New York and become a Vegan. Unfortunately I can't take my dogs and and cats but I will have them put down and not just abandon them. It will be a little sad but I can console myself with being able to afford some fashionable outfits to wear while I sip my caffeine free lattes and work on my latest Vampire bestseller on my Apple in one of those little coffee shops.

Yes! My new life starts today. My Astrologer, Ms. Far Opolli, pale-pinked my palm. What was the date again?