Thursday, May 29, 2014

A rat in the Arras Bed

Batman - a skinny flatsided tabby, brought a rat in to the house to play with later in the small hours of this morning. A large, long tailed, very loud rat. I heard the squeaking and shrieking, in fifty different sharps and flats while I was making date-loaf this morning at around 5.45 AM (Barbs was going to take it in with her) I went to investigate, and foolishly decided the rat was as good as dead, and left him to his chasing it around the tail end of a book case in the hall (rat was just out of reach but would retreat to back of the hidey spot - and he'd go around chase it the other way. I opened a door slightly so Rat couldn't hide there, and went back to mixing and sifting.

Next thing there is an interesting shriek and squeak of an entirely different pitch -- Barbs emerges from the Bedroom a trifle disheveled, as it is hard to be completely sheveled when a large rat has joined you - and the other cat, Duchess, IN the bed.

The rat had, wisely, left before there was a cat fight about whose rat he was, and had left for more salubrious climbs... er climes - in other words run behind the large Lion-witch-and-the-wardrobe style wardrobe, and run up the back of it and was now jumping at the ceiling.

Batman, in the manner of all cats decided his work was now done and it was time for a leisurely wash on the somewhat disordered bed.

I closed the door went off to find an object of rat chastisement and something to stand on - it's a tall cupboard.

But when I returned the rat... wasn't there. Now it's not a very large bedroom and my dear wife who lives in fear of the coming ice age, accumulates clothes. No... let's try for tact. I am a bad provider and the two cupboards and three large chests of drawers are just piteously inadequate. Anyway I have things in one of them. Neither of us are very good at throwing useful clothes away, and one cupboard - the jerseys I think, is just too full, and will keep popping open. As the rat couldn't get out of the room and couldn't be found... we decided it must be in there. Barbs did the most magnificent enactment of the long-arm unpack (a drama in 3 parts or shelves) ever seen by man, or this man anyway, while I waited ready as any terrier, and the cats just did bored and put-upon for being expected to stay for this farce.

No rat. And work to go to, and breakfast and date loaf to be dealt with. We left the cats in there, and dealt with these matters. A little later I went back and the hard-working cats had fallen asleep on the jersey-pile and I looked behind the cupboard, spotted the rat, and walloped him with a broomstick, which was rat-terminal. Cats couldn't even deign to have a look. Dogs on the other hand were nearly beside themselves with excitement as I carried it off to throw away.

The rest of the day was largely spent wrestling with HTML coding STARDOGS to put up on Amazon. This did not go well as I unwittingly converted ALL the dashes to m-dashes (the long ones) early in the process, and had to go back and do it all over again -- because I couldn't fix it, and had done a lot of 'stuff' after that. Ah well. At least there was no rat in it.

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

A wet and windy day

Today was one of those perfect days... for rounding up almost any city dweller who knows nothing of where the food in the supermarket comes from, who thinks - if anything about it all, that it is too expensive. And that pizza delivery is really the same as hunter gathering... and putting them out on the farm (not even I would wish being at sea on a day like today) where Norm and the boys are preggy-testing the sheep. In the horizontal rain, and the mud, and the howling wind. It's probably not that much fun for the sheep either, but at least their wool sheds water and insulates. They looked wet and bedraggled and they weren't a patch on the gents trying to do the job. It's days like this that I don't miss my old fish-farming days one bit, and this was just as wet, and possibly muddier. I noticed a complete lack of female mud covered figures. Must be sexism, please find your nearest militant feminist having her latte in the trendy inner city hotspot and send her to join them immediately. I'm sure it would... uh. Change those naughty farmers hidebound patriarchal gender role thoughts... or something. :-) Seriously, I watched my dive-buddy's little daughter catching and carrying lambs a couple of days ago. They were nearly bigger than her. If I was a farmer's seven year old son, I'd start playing my cards carefully right now, because that's an amazing little girl. It's a tough life at times but also a very good one, and I think we should all (especially the latte-sippers of the inner city) be very grateful there are still kids like that.

I've collected an old door of the wool-shed this morning in the deluge (or at least a semi-gap therein), saving it from the scrap-heap to become par of a future shelter for Dave's boat. A 12' by 8' steel frame covered with corrugated iron - a bit trashed on the upper and lower edges - a windy day was maybe not quite the ideal time for doing this. I nearly saw New Zealand again. I'm not ready. I need an Australian Passport first.

I took some warm potato to the chooks, as I would want to be out in this... and they were happily pecking away outside. The one that got so beaten up (pecking order) seems to be recovering nicely.

Monday, May 26, 2014

Vale Manny

I have just heard that one of the young Frenchmen who visited here in January is dead in a hospital in Vietnam, after surgery to correct an intestinal problem. It's hard to get my head around a young man dying (yes, climbing, diving accidents happen) but we tend to think of medical problems being for the older folk. Not true of course, but I am still shocked and saddened by it. We always thought we'd see him here again one day. My friends, there is no time like right now to reach out to people you like or love. Tomorrow might be too late.

We only met Manny for a couple of weeks, but he will forever have a place in our memories and stories.
Manny, Quilly, Marc, about to go spearfishing

Saturday, May 24, 2014

to EIN or not to EIN

I got at 4.30AM this morning to appreciate just how helpful the US IRS is at helping people. For over an hour I sat and listened to this delightful muzac while all their consultants were busy helping people. The music was so wonderful that when I finally got a consultant on line I almost asked if I wait a little longer, so I could listen just one more time... Nah. Kidding. It was annoying, and I hope i never get malaria and have to have quinine again (last time I got one of those weird, but known side effects, where you here music from your memory. All the time. All the music. Even elevator music. It's all in there. So was my mother's endless organ practice. Those Calypso records from my early childhood... music can be hell, when you cannot choose and cannot shut it off. Anyway - the consultant when I finally got one was efficient pleasant, helpful. I now have an EIN, which will save me 25% of my income on Amazon being withheld for US tax.

Needless to say this made me wide awake and bright eyed and bushy tailed all day. It did actually. I could have used a bit more sleep! Anyway, I butchered the two wallaby shot last night, and settled in to re-reading Stardogs, in part for turning it into an e-book. Yesterday's adventures included wood-cutting and radiator replacement... the wild times and untrammeled excitement :-)

Friday, May 23, 2014

New Zealand, work and an important announcement

I'm back after a long hiatus, largely caused by work (a lot of it), a bit of depression (caused by the work. Writing is a bit like long distance running. For a lot of the time you just don't seem to get anywhere, especially with big books - which this last one was.) This, to be honest, was compounded by the usual issues with traditional publishing: They're very slow payers, and not generous ones at that. Their communication is terrible (for example they've found it too hard to tell me when a book is coming out. I look it up on Amazon.) With the fiasco with selling the movie rights to Pyramid Scheme (the publisher had retained the rights, and would have to pay us 50% if they were sold - in a nutshell, it seems it was too much like hard work for relatively little money for their Hollywood agent, so he didn't bother, and then when asked offered a very easily provable as such falsehood as an excuse. He claimed the company in question were just buying up a bulk lot of cheap properties. Well my agent had offered them a book to which I had rights... and they could have had for nothing, and they didn't want it, and none of my other very extensive author acquaintances had had such an approach, so: BS. It was a small but respectable company, with a good track record... but not based in Hollywood)left me so mad I wasn't wanting to do the ordinary writing work (for which I'd have to wrestle to get paid, with royalties that would be late, and the last twice, had obvious adding up errors in them. It's possible to work, and work well through this, -- I've had to do it before -- but it isn't easy. Some people like to talk about misery and spread it around. I'm rather more like a cat. I prefer to be on my own to deal with it. And not inflict it too much on others.
I did it. Still. I was fairly bleak about it.

I finally got it done, got it turned in. Got the two short stories I had to do done. But it did leave me under pressure, and not really with the energy to spare for the blog. It's why I have decided to press ahead and self-publish a few novels - I have brought out my reverted to me rights books - and they sell steadily and pay honestly and on time - without giving me the morbs.

Anyway, I turned it all in and went off to a small conference in New Zealand, where I was GoH.

New Zealand was interesting in a head-space sort of way. See, I had been to New Zealand and Australia (Tassie and Flinders Island) specifically with Barbs, back when I had finally decided that it really was time to try and move out of South Africa. We liked New Zealand, South Island a lot in the geographical sense. We liked Flinders Island more, and Tassie got third place for me. Still, I knew emigration wasn't easy, and beggars (which is what migrants always are to some extent - supplicants) can't be choosers. We applied to NZ and Australia. Now, in some ways NZ was the straightforward application - both Barbs and I have desired professional training, we scored high on points-for-entry system. We fitted into the age bracket (by enough). The downside is that I would have to work as a Fisheries biologist, or Barbs as a radiographer, and wherever we were put (be that a slum in Auckland, or Stewart Island). The fact that I was a writer, with contracted work ahead, and wanted to continue with that was a non-starter, unless Barbs worked as a radiographer (and we would have to live where they put her). Bureaucracy and rigidity seemed to rule their migration system. You're not allowed to be anything but the ordinary, even if you aren't. Now there is fair amount of that in Australian Bureaucracy too, although it is patchy. But their migration officials and policies did seem a lot brighter and more flexible. They accepted me as a writer - granted us permanent residence, so we came to the Island which was one of my best-ever decisions (yes, I know. Barbs made it :-)). So far I don't think their decision has cost them anything. It might even have been faintly tax positive ;-/. Barbs and I have paid our way. We're grateful to be here. We've tried to fit in, to learn to be part of our new society. To do our bit to pay back - and to pay forward - that acceptance. Before we left South Africa we had the entire nine yard gamut of "Australia! You'll be miserable. You'll be there seven years before anyone will invite you in to their home, you'll have no friends, and you'll be running back with your tails between your legs. You're a 'hensopper', a fool to go." All I can say is: maybe that'd be true for you jokers, but it wasn't for us. It's always hard to leave a country you loved, family, friends, and you do take a financial hit - but Flinders island and the people here made it a lot easier than I think most people have it. And my mates various have been a real failure to the seven years nonsense. I've made some of the most solid friends in my life here - far more of them than we did in Mooi River/ Nottingham Rd area.

So: New Zealand. It's a pretty country - got some good wine and fine company. Maybe there is a Flinders Island community there.
with lots of beautiful back country.

I enjoyed the con. I liked seeing a few old friends, and meeting the young writers there. There are some here in Australia (and probably in NZ too, but I didn't meet them) who are letting the Political Correctness and 'message' of writing overtake the important thing - the story. In the US that's become such a big deal a lot of cons are just painful, and I gather the UK is if anything worse (and the last Aussie one I went to had a little bit shouldering its way in). It was a relief not to find it in NZ. A good sermon needs to be entertaining, and I expect to hear it in church. When it's not entertaining and not in church... you're doing it wrong.

It was interesting to think that - had NZ not been so regimented about migration, and Australia less flexible, we might have ended up on a hill farm like this.

Which looked - geographically - very like where we came from. Although the mountains are different shape and there is more snow.

and the sea is an odd colour.
Er. That's lake Taupo. But the sea was an odd colour, especially where the glacial rivers had been running into it.
and it.
But it was soft and green (that bit is called The Desert, and is used as military training ground. It's bleak.)

I like the country, liked the people we met.But then came the best part. Getting on the plane back to Oz. Ok, It was a slightly bigger plane.
But even this

with buildings and people, people, people felt like coming home - we saw some good friends in Melbourne, and went to one of the best Italian restaurants I've been to in oh, ten years.

Really coming home.

Back where I belong, where I know everyone in the airport building. And now we have final and for us best news part: we've just heard that our citizenship ceremony will be taking place on 18th of June 2014 at the MPC in Whitemark, and we will be Australians, not just permanent residents. I hope our friends here will all come to help us celebrate, because we do want celebrate!

Funny thing - Bureaucracy or no, we could move to NZ as Australians just like that, now. But there is no chance we're going. We've come home. You're stuck with with us.