Thursday, December 30, 2010

He did it!!

Back in South Africa, Dave and his brother were master crayfish catchers. They would go out for an hour or so, catch their quota and come back in, while younger divers struggled to get any at all. Dave was very used to taking friends diving, and watching them battle to catch.

Here on Flinders it has been the other way round. Dave has battled to find crayfish in a totally new environment. And all the ones he did see were undersized.

Today I am one very proud wife, Dave caught his first size crayfish! We have been here just short of a year, and catching crays was one of the areas we did not expect to struggle, but to be fair, he can only dive for them when invited out on someones boat, so he has not had many chances to look for them.

Still I love crayfish, and I am so so pleased to see him come home with one he has caught himself!

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Doing it the hard way

I guess I am, by most standards, hopelessly obstinate. When most people are curled up in their nice warm bed having realised the fish are not there, or back in the pub because the wind is blowing you sideways across the cliff... I'm still there. The same I guess goes for the writing, and for the constuction -- or destruction projects. It's not that I'm good at them, just persistant - or too stupid to give in. This was put to the test today when I got Bill to come and help me haul my new work-bench out of Peter's shed. Now is one of those quick jobs - cut 4 legs with a chainsaw. About 3 minutes work...

Yeah well. Enter some very old concrete imbedded pieces of some REALLY hard timber. And the chainsaw from Ping Ping, circa 1910. Okay it said 'Stihl' on the casing but if I were them I'd be denying it :-) So Pete starts it with a rattle and a clatter, and yours truly goes under the bench and gets loose with gurt clouds of smoke and cuts - not without effort... one leg. Leg 2... sparks and smoke and no progress. #$%@ bits of cement from concreting the bench in. So Peter goes to sharpen the blade, and we try again. And again. In choking clouds of carbon monoxide, oil, soot and cursing... repeat until you have Dave with one of those weeny branch saws (not a bowsaw) but a saw half the size of the leg... sawing away. It was a sharp little saw, but little. Anyway two hours later, and some crowbar work later, and language to make a lascar blush, the legs are cut... only it's not moving...

Now we get the 'right said fred' part - with 3 hot tired men and a large crowbar.
We took this off... to get that out. And then to move that we took off the next. and so on. and on. The bench came out small pieces. Heh. Good thing the chainsaw had rattled and gasped its near last or we'd have had the shed down too.

Two and a half hours that ten minute job took, and Bill was trying to get back to his project that he only had today to do...

Anyway, I have four sturdy legs towards a work-bench... :-)

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

"I'm chinese junk-man from Hong Kong..."

I wonder who else remembers that song?
Well, the usual Flinders chaos. Bill popping in with a second half-tank, a quick cuppa and bit of a laugh and chat, and Molly to be fussed over. Peter giving me a call about work-bench he's taking out of his shed. Do I want it? Yes. So went up and had a look and a beer and chat... And got offered a bunch of timber, and a useful piece of strapping and a couple more extension cords... At the moment, if it is going, I'm usually keen, although the generosity leaves me feeling awkward. But right now I am definately the junk-man, collecting to replace what I had to leave behind. I've always been into waste-not want not, a regular packrat, that's me. And I had part with a lot of it. I am used to having a bit in the workshop that'll do for this or that, so it's been quite hard, being without it. Writing's gone OK despite the sadness of having to destroy one tomato plant. A tragedy.

James and Nik went off to spear fish this morning (and did well at it), and I had a nice run of writing then, despite being envious. The boy is getting good at it. Even hit a large mullet, and they move pretty quick. They saw our neighbor in waders and with a large sack of something... so we've all been trying to guess what it could be. All a secret here, of course!

Monday, December 27, 2010

"And he walks just like John Wayne..."

James went for a cycle today, as far as Emita, not having cycled for six months. Enough said!

I discovered part of the problem with the veg beds! The roots from the Gum trees some distance away... have been being well nourished and watered. So some root chopping was done. Gradually, I am shifting the rest of the plants out of the study - long past due, but I am only one bloke, trying to write and live. I planted the russian and lebanese cucumbers out next to the shed. Something ate the last ones I put in there :-(

And otherwise, we muddle on. B cut grass. Paddy is in Malawi, so I feel less worried than when he's in SA. James made a huge batch of biccies - about 160 IIRC - or two days worth, and managed to get some Clancy brothers songs off a very elderly tape that accidentally came with us. Then he asked me for their names...

I have been thinking of a folding hand spear I can put on a pouch on my belt (along with the new kill-knife and a ton of lead). Inevitably IF you need one... it's on the beach. And if you don't, very much in your way and occupying your hands.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Gurnard-Perch etc.

I have heard of this game 'cricket' and I used to think it was played in Australia, but alas, I was mislead. (Ashes? What Ashes? And the Sydney to Hobart looks like being er... exciting, to judge by our wind today.

I've had real focus trouble with the book today. Curiously my Amazon bookscan figures show SLOW TRAIN TO ARCTURUS selling better than anything else, although DRAGON'S RING is LISTED as bestselling the figures show two books sold... Worrying.

I put the asparagus - Martha Washington - out today -- for certain values of out, they're still in a very large tub, but outside. I have the intimidating task of filling the next raised bed (believe me we need it and I want it, but it is LARGE). Sigh. At this stage - when the writing is coming hard, there are not enough hours in the day to get my quota of words, cook and do the bare essentials.

We had gurnard-perch Neosebastes scorpaenoides for supper (you know - the fish with the toxic spines, related to the stone-fish etc.) With huge pop-eyes and many spines... they're not pretty. Which makes for a fairly cautious filleting option... and not one where you need a cat climbing your leg while you are engaged in. Gee... guess what La Duchesse thought would be a good idea? I really would like to know a little more about the toxin, and whether it is injected or just on the spine or just in the mucous and how best to inactivate it (and how it survives death and freezing) as they're very good eating. But, Duchesse not withstanding, I don't want to use myself as a guinea pig. Not an ideal grilling fish, it is like crayfish in texture, and better than monk-fish in taste for mock-crayfish.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

An Australian Christmas

Well, it did feel odd to arrive at Christmas a good 9 hours early. But it's a secret see. If the kids find out about this you'll all be moving here, and trust me, emigrating can be quite hard at times. Father Christmas used his magic shrinking potion to sqeeze down the Chimney and I had wisely left the glass door ajar and bottle of beer (Boags) and the mince pie ready. So he did leave a little something for B and I, and new booties for James (you know the cute little woolly numbers. One should always be very specific in those letters to Santa, and say 'wetsuit booties'). B and I have a turntable which can send our records to the computer and digitise them so our very long not available Scots and Irish folk. It works but so far my attempts have resulted in interesting double dubbing. Yes, I'm inept.
Looking through the records I see we have a lot of old Jaluka, and David Kramer. I might just try them on the locals for shock value. If I didn't value our 96 year old Scottish dancing teacher beyond rubies, I might be tempted to swap a Juluka song on CD for one of these blessed slow hop skip and jump Strathspey (I have more chance of falling pregnant than doing a Strathspey right).

Anyway we had a lovely lunch at Barb and Dale's place, ate FAR too much (ham, chicken, oysters, crayfish, various salads, and far too many kinds of pudding) It was - thank heavens - cool for dinner, overlooking the vast emptiness of Marshall bay. Dale makes furniture out of driftwood and I must ask him if I can put up pictures sometime.

We talked on Skype to the family - my brother and sister and Paddy back in South Africa. Paddy gave us fine present in terms of final results for his BSc.
Distances oppress.
But tomorrow will be another beautiful island day.
And I will press on with the book.
And to celebrate Christmas B's graphics card has fried.

Friday, December 24, 2010

The Day before Christmas

Well, it should be spent wrapping presents, getting the meal ready for tomorrow, etc etc.'

We got up at 6am, woke a friend around the corner, and took him with us up to The Docks. There Dave and James got the final use out of the tanks they had hired for a few days, and we fished from the rocks. We only caught 4 smallish Wrasse between us, and then retreated on the ute, and the flask of hot water. The others dived for 2 hours, with a fishing break in the middle of it, as they got very cold. (There is currently snow both north and south of Flinders Island, so although it is a clear sunny day, the slight wind has a bite to it.) Still we came home with a feed of abalone, and food for the cats, so that was great.

Then into town to do the last shopping, and fill up with petrol, and we got home at 3pm.

After a quick lunch we set to, washing the gear we had used, mincing the abalone as an experiment with turning them into 'frikkedele' or meatballs, cooking the crayfish for tomorrows lunch (so at least that fits the tradition!) and Dave cooking a feast for my belated Birthday supper.

I am hoping for a peaceful day on Monday, just a calm day to reflect back on the wonderful year we have spent here, and what plans we can make for 2011, but I am not sure I am going to get it. Life is certainly all go at the moment.

For those who celebrate it, I hope you have a Merry Christmas tomorrow, and for those who don't, I hope you have a good day anyway.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

The day after.

Well, you know how it is? You have a special day, and then the next day feels a bit flat... ?? Right.

Today certainly did not conform to the pattern. In the first place the wind blew, if not a gale, a very very hard wind. I got up earlyish to get to the housework that was neglected yesterday, and was nearly done when friends arrived to drop us a BBQ. We had a coffee with them and then I had to rush off to take James to Trousers Point for a couple of hours surfing, with most of the teenagers on the island.

He packed some bread to take with him, no time to add jam, and I got my fishing gear together, thinking that if I was going to drive down there, I might as well see what I could catch, and we have a fishing spot well away from any sane surfer. We planned to arrive before the bus, but were just after it, so James went to join the others, and left his bread in the ute.

I went off to our spot across the headland, and discovered that the rock we stand halfway down at high tide, had waves breaking over the top of it! The wind was really blowing the sea into white horses and bigger waves than I wanted to face. So I watched for a while, and then retreated, without even unpacking the bait. Total chicken, but there was so much white water, I thought that no fish would even see the food.

Back home we then got another visitor, our landlord's mother, who has not been around to see us for a while, so we had a really good chat, and caught up on all the news. After she had gone, we had lunch and then Dave went off to his writers circle, which he really enjoys.

James managed to get a lift back from the beach, which saved his feet walking from town, and I heard that they had had a BBQ at the beach so he was not starving, as I had imagined.

Another friend popped in to fetch the wine we had been storing for him, and it was great to see him back on the island. I am getting used to the idea that a lot of the people we meet here are not resident all year round. But I do miss them when they are away!

James then helped me restart the computer game I got for my birthday, which was really frustrating for him, as I am very slow, but I have not died yet, which is a huge plus in my book.

Dave got back from Writers in time to cook supper/tea so we could get to Scottish dancing on time.

All in all a busy day, with no time for a let down at all.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

He's a happy camper...

despite the howling wind. It was actually a rather pleasant presenty day - James's 2Kg Australian Salmon (a gift from the sea), some ham, garlic, beetroot, a tomato plant, and pepper-berry. Thank you all. Tomorrow is B's B'day so we hope there are some pressies there too :-).

Monday, December 20, 2010

Not Angels, Angles

We had a rather disappointing dive yesterday, off a very small boat in very rough sea and murky water no size crays - we desperately need some for Christmas.
On our way back we saw not 1 but 3 blonde echidnas

It was the Pageant in the evening.

With B doing a beautiful poem reading, and James being Joseph and me being the Archangel Gabriel, and being kept from trumpets.

Today we gave cats and dogs worm pills. B has a hole right through her thumb-nail and I have a similarly injured index finger. And no, it wasn't the dogs - it was Robin (the littlest cat.) James eventually crushed it (not the cat, the pill, Peter) into powder, mixed it with condensed milk and put it on her nose. (well he got her to lick some).

Saturday, December 18, 2010

The tree, bookscan

So we have a Christmas tree. For the first time in many years it actually didn't need to lose 10 feet to fit into the house. Mind you as we had to leave all our decorations behind, this had to be a bit smaller. It needed a nail-file not a chainsaw.

It's odd coming up to our second Christmas away from the farm and the way things were. Our first in Australia, of course. I think it is the time which is hardest for immigrants, and we're so grateful to have James here for this one. Maybe... someday, when the stone has found its home again, we'll get to the Somerset pye (with deboned ham hock (coated in chicken liver pate) inside a deboned chicken (coated in an apple and mushroom pate) inside a deboned duck (coated in a nut-pate) and inside a deboned turkey (coated with a layer of forcemeat with capsicums and pitted olives - which I don't think very traditional but I like them, and pastry case. My sister always hated it and moaned. My brother always did a very good gammon which he steamed over sherry and we made a slew of salads and ate for Africa, with trifle and Christmas pud with brandy butter after.

Maybe another year, when finances and life finally sort out... (keep swimming up the undertow!)

Anyway, I now should get all the Bookscan data from all my books, in exel form I believe once a week. It cost a bit but I'll never ever have the terrible shock of DRAGON'S RING again. Hopefully the pre-order will help to affect my career, so thank you, anyone who did this! I will have a very good idea of what if any royalties (instead of the current impossible budgeting situation) I will get and also a very good idea of just what is going on. Which areas books are selling in, which bookshops simply didn't take/get any stock. Where to direct attention, where not to waste my time. I'm rather iffy about having to do all this (I write. Time taken to do other things, is less books. BUT someone needs to watch all these things, and it appears it will be me, or not done. And if it isn't done... I won't sell books. So I will be watching it. I'll post sales so you can see them.)

Friday, December 17, 2010

So what is a monkey's wedding?

When it rains and the sun shines... back in the old country we called that a monkey's wedding. As there is a shortage of my rellies here getting married, I assume there must a local expression? In other news I see there is possibility of snow in Vic this weekend - a bit early for a white Christmas. James and I have been straight armed into being Joseph (James) and the Archangel Gabriel at the Christmas pageant. This is an invitation to disaster.

We're eating tomatoes out of the garden :-)

Thursday, December 16, 2010

And some went in looking very serious

And some went looking very serious
And accompanied by fellows with knives in their belts...

And came out looking very pleased with themselves :-)

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Fiddlers Green - Vansittart

"I don't want a harp nor a halo not me. Just give me ship and a good rolling sea..."
Fiddler's Green (traditional Irish folk)

Well, we got a call to say the weather was lovely, and Jeremy wanted to take his boat out - She's a 'new' elderly 'chuck-chuckie' as we called little wooden boats with inboards (after the sound of the engines). They're a step back into the past, and it took right back to being a kid playing around on the boat my dad used to fish off - smae smells and feel, same roll on the sea. They're not fast, and they tend to be a bit deeper draft, but they're cheaper to run and well, they feel like something out of a good part of my childhood - like paddling my little flat-bottom canoe along the marshy islands of the Umgeni - chasing mullet. Although I need to work, I also need to feed the family and as it was invitation to me with James as an ancillary... I couldn't just deputise him. Anyway, they've all gone for squid and I am here today, but yesterday was me back in my old element. We slipped the mooring and set off from Lady Barron, out past the fringe of islands that keep those waters flat and out to off Vansittart, where we set a cray pot and briefly kissed a rock -- the tide streams very strongly there.

On the way we met some fellow fishers (for once the damned politically correct is appropriate).

and this is dolphin sliding under the bow. Look carefully. It was that close to us.

We set a longline for gummy shark -- which I thought (having set numerous lines for Soupfin when I worked on sharks) was kind of small. The anchors weren't. Anyway, then we went off to fish for flathead past the wreck of the Farsund. (look for vansittart on Google earth - you can see the wreck, and there are some stunning pics)

We keep changing the way things are done around here, so James and I put on paravanes and towed lures... James a Yazuri Jig, me a silver spoon. James got taken at full speed - by a flathead. And later again, which was quite a shock to our local expert. And a third time that got off... Then it was handline and drift -- where oddly handlines outcaught our host (who is a good fisherman) on a rod. I guess it depends on the fish and the ground. I also got a gummy shark, which I would have put back but the local though a good catch... So we got a few feeds of fish and went back to pick up the cray pot... empty, and the longline... absent. We spotted one bouy about 300 yards from where we'd set (while discussing diving crays at night and the possibilities of sharks... only the hooks came up empty... and the missing. And then the whole snood missing. And then the 6mm rope... bitten off. The other bouy, the anchor and the rest of the rope had left with a larger shark, I imagine.

We searched for some time but had to head back... and then the engine overheated, in the tricky sandbanks between the islands. So using the outboard on the dingy we had to pony the chuckie home, to drive home past this middle-earth sunset.

Fresh fish for tea...

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Learning from mistakes.

I have heard that it is good to learn from your own mistakes, and I have sometimes tried to learn from others mistakes, but that does not always work.

Some weeks ago, Dave helped a friend load hay, while I drove the ute they were loading onto. Dave was wearing Tshirt and shorts, and ended up really itchy from the hay.

So, today I was helping the same friend unload the hay, it is wet and of inferior quality, so is being returned to the farmer. Right. So I put on a thin Tshirt and then a thick long sleeved checked shirt, open in front as it is 30 degrees in the shade, and the hay barn. And we unload a trailer full of hay, and then start on the back of the ute. Suddenly I had to sit down, my head was throbbing and I was incredibly giddy. I was given some cordial to drink, and I took off the thick shirt, and in 2 minutes I was back to unloading hay.

Now I am have very itchy arms from the hay. So, I learnt what to wear to deal with hay, I just need to get the correct weather for the activity.

Dave and James have gone off fishing for the day on a different boat, so I just have to wait and see what sort of a day, and catch, they have had.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Cave Beach

Ok nothing much happened yesterday except a truly delicous crayfish dinner with Max and Sue - which was a lot of fun. And writing of course.

Today was writing, and cleaning gutters with James at Bluff House, and writing, and the dentist (phew done, he's a nice guy... but dental work... anyway, I was so tired I fell asleep while he was working! I went out to pick up B and James from Visiting 'Rosy' :-) at Emita, and we drove down to catch 4 o├žlock high tide at Cave beach: A new find for us, and hell on clothes on the etched limestone. The caves are spectacular though

James of course had to dive, and persauded me that it was only waist deep out to this island. If you keep your waist around your neck, it was. Except for the last bit, where, tackle box above my head, rod in other hand above my head... Hat floating on surface... also above my head.

And then back home with a crosserous like a rhinosarous B who wanted to go to the school for their final prizegiving and pageant thing. She missed the bit that she wanted to see, so I would like a longer snorkel.

And then it was Monday!

Monday is the beginning of the week, so I always start with all sorts of good intentions, of what I will achieve before Sunday suddenly comes around again.

Today was no different, except that we got a lot of the items ticked off the list. We did the washing, cleaned the gutters, (on our house, and a friends house down the road.) cut some of the really long grass, finished cleaning the rectory, visited friends for some Rummicub (and laughs), went fishing (caught and speared some fish), spent an hour and a half at the dentist (only Dave!), attended the school end of year concert and prisegiving (only me), and now I am tired!

But I do feel that we achieved a lot, between the three of us, so the rest of the week is sure to be franticly busy too, but hopefully we can have some fun as well.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

The Shrimpenvolk Reich

Well, what a summer... sheeting rain again today. James and I popped in on Molly's boss to inspect his fish-tank and the Shrimpenvolk Reich (it appears that Adolf was reborn (perhaps after a few thousand re-runs as a maggot) as a Vun-clawed Oberfurer shrimp, assulting the rest. I suspect he hasn't Karmically progressed and will shortly be retrying life as a maggot again!). The goby, blenny and wrasses and even crabs are under decapodan jackboot, and he is planning on a blitzclaw strike against Poland or Bill's kitchen. That was my excitement, besides James making a moist, dense chocolate cake, and more anzacs (I hope his future wife is suitably grateful) and me doing a batch of Chelsea buns (accused of being a mysterious South African invention here. Chelsea... another typically African name), and being reliably informed that what my plants need is Epsom salts (which I have tried now), I have done some writing.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Getting the Bird

Something fowl has been happening in the league of extra-ordinary chimney sweeps, because we've two consultancies in a row, with the cats watching facinated as the latest birdy ends up inside the combustion heater, looking out, fluttering about.

This is the third since summer started - and as the last one spent a good 24 hours in there and had me trying to figure just how to get it out before it died in there and got us out -- they've shaken loose a load of soot -- some of which they take out with them. I've released two blackbird... which came in as starlings.

The interesting part, of course, is catching them, without them going soot-bomber all over the house. The second one - a smallish bird who barely spent ten minutes in the fascinating environs of our chimney - was quite easy for anyone who has ever wriggled crays out of a tight hole - it moved back into the far corner of the baffles when I tried get hold of it. Its grateful attempts at pecking and scratching made me SO glad it wasn't a Rosella. It did escape at the doorway, but a quick flick saw it gone with nothing more than a reproachful glance from the cats. The other - larger one - who was still fiesty after a long stay in durance chimney, made a dash for the fire-door as I reached for him, but I pinioned him with a forearm and let him fly off with soot-able messages for his nearest and dearest.

Now maybe what we need is a bigger chimney for the turkeys.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Now I know why I joined the CWA!

I was very chuffed when I was invited to join the CWA (Country Woman's Assoc) and have enjoyed their meetings very much. BUT last night was their Christmas dinner, to which husbands were invited, and I managed an invite for James as well. Well, everyone brought a 'plate', some for main course, and some for pudding. And we ate, and we ate. The food was totally delicious, and very varied, there was certainly something for everyone! So I reckon that is why so many people join, it is in order to eat really well.

Today we went off to a new beach, halfway up the west side of the island, taking 2 friends with us, and meeting 2 more there. Well, I am sure it is the right spot for something, and it was very beautiful, but certainly at full tide, I could not find any fish with my bait. Diving with a snorkel and a spear, James managed to get a leatherjacket, and we came home with some Wrasse, but it was not a very productive spot. Having said that, I must admit that Dave caught a huge Flathead, on a very small rod, but I was on another rock, so missed all that excitement.We were also given some Australian Salmon that had been caught at North East River, so it was not a bad day, and the sun shone, for the first time in a few days, and the wind was light, so it was good to be out at the beach again.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010


Today we had a 'working bee' to see how many people we could exhaust on one property in one day!

Seriously we were working on the rectory. We have a new minister coming next week, and as no one has been living in the rectory for a while the garden needed a tidy up, and so did the parish office. So we all set to, with a will, and boy did we work. I was lucky in that I drew the job of painting, just the window and the downpipe, oh, and the other downpipe, and around the front door, etc. But that was a lot easier than the heavy weeding and mowing that the others were doing.

So James sanded, and I painted, a good hard wearing brown. I had gone dressed for work in denim jeans and my painting white shirt. The wind was blowing a real gale, and so my shirt has an unusual pattern of brown spots that blew off my brush. At one stage I was using an undercling hold to layback off, as I painted the top of the window, and gusts of wind were blowing my whole body, never mind just the brush, so some of the lines are not as straight as they could be.

But, when we left, the whole property was looking so much neater, and cared for, I hope they really enjoy their time living here.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Someone dropped the ball

It happens all the time. You find an author who writes well, who writes books you love ...

And they vanish.

Sometimes they will surface again under a pseudonym, but mostly Jane A. Greatread is gone forever.

What this means is not that Jane stopped writing, or isn't just as good as ever, but that someone in the great chain of publisher - distributor - retail that claims roughly 90% of the cover price of Jane's book for supposedly doing the job properly, dropped the ball.

Jane A. Greatread controls none of this, but her ever selling another book to publisher under her own name depends on Jane's book selling more than her last book on the bookscan numbers. These numbers are available to everyone (publishing, retail, distribution) except Jane, who never gets to see them, but will get a royalty report... 12-18 months too late.

By then, Jane's career as a writer is dead. Publishers won't buy from her, and retailers won't buy from them if they do.

This has just happened to me.

DRAGON'S RING - great cover, and, I have been told, really good book came out in October 2009 -- We'd sold our house, we were trying to pay for the dogs and cats quarantine, and trying to do the myriad other things to emigrate.

I got the royalty statement yesterday (yes, 14 months later, that's publishing). The hardcover sold barely 1000 copies. A MANKIND WITCH - with one of the worst covers in sf/fantasy - sold 3500 copies in hardcover.

Looking at my royalty statement: (figures which are NOT available to retail or other publishers, unlike total sales) the reason was easy to see. Very few copies were shipped -- somewhat less than 1/3 of A MANKIND WITCH. Someone either at Baen, Simon and Schuster (who are supposed to handle marketing and distribution) or a buyer at one of the retail chains made a decision that destroyed any chance the book had of success. Now it probably wasn't Baen -- or at least not Toni Weisskoph -- because she bought the next book. But that's the only person that has an alibi I know of.

Of course I am the one who gets to carry the can. And to the readers who enjoy my books, I vanish.

Only I B'AIN'T DEAD. And I am NOT ready to give in or just start again with a pseudonym.
I have one chance to show that they all screwed up, and keep my books selling and name alive. DRAGON'S RING paperback come out 28 December (the second worst selling release day of the year. Gee, thanks, that helps ;-)) Given the dismal figures for the hardcover... store orders will be abysmal or non-existent. The idiot who dropped the ball last time won't be pushing it, because it will show them up. So: if you enjoy my books, want see more of them, and would like to give the supply chain that has destroyed so many many good books and good authors a poke up the snoot... please order it from a bookstore or Amazon. No, this won't make me rich. I get 64 cents from that sale. But if I can get enough pre-orders, the book will get into stores, and will get a fighting chance.

Right now, it has none.
I've also taken steps to get those Bookscan figures so that I am informed immediately, and not 14 months too late.
And I am pursuing e-books actively, (I have a collection out from Naked Reader Press - where if you buy from the site - I get 60% of the cover price. Otherwise the stories are available on Amazon etc. (and I earn 50% of what you pay) where if anyone drops my ball, it will be me.
Well, I have had my visit to the dentist, and finished the current book. Tomorrow I start on the other one I am part way through, and rest this one. And now I am going to bed.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

29 years...

Barbs and I have been married for 29 years today, which says a great deal about my wife's stamina, courage and some people may say reflects poorly on her common sense.
I don't win lotteries , but I won that one.

Nothing much vastly exciting today - it's been windy and quite cool. The book maketh progress. We had grilled magpie-perch and squid (with soy,ginger, a little chili) and a pasta with fresh parsley, red onions, and clams, and a fresh salad from the garden (imported tomato. They won't get ripe!).

I've planted out a bunch more seedlings - peppers and tomatillos and basil. Not too sure what I'll do with the tomatillos.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Defying Gravity above the swimming pool, and other stories

We are forecast a week of rotten weather (it's howling now) but the day was a scorching beauty. So B did duty at the fair, selling cakes and the delicious saveloys (buy one, the world will be a happier place) And i took J, Nik an Rob to climb at Emita. The defiance of gravity was sometimes achieved. Intermittantly...

This was a ray that came cruising along through the swimming-pool clear water. It must have been 2 metres across.

Then we came home, picked up B, had lunch and went out to West End again to make up for yesterday's Abelone failure. 20 abelone were taken and the bouy and anchor proved a great idea. The flag sadly will tell submarines I am diving. Next I will fit a bag to it, as I was sinking under the weight of the abelone. People seem to find the fact that we snorkel and free dive for them quite odd. Oh and James is entirely too good with the handspear. I think he got 4 more fish today.

The Abelone beating is messy process... I strip down to the official budgie smugglers and do it out on the grass, thump splatter spray... and James and I hosed each other down afterwards as little bits of ab fly everywhere. We had a stir-fry of fresh Abelone and spring onions which was worth every moment of it.

And then we caught 3 more squid.

But not much writing was done :-(

Friday, December 3, 2010

I had a good morning's work and thought this book would be done... and AJ called to say the water was flat clear and low at West End and just how soon could we get there. So, as tomorrow is forecast good and the rest of the week wind and rain... we went. It was not a particularly good Abs spot, (I found one size one) but James had the hand-spear and managed to spear 4 fish. We both had a go with the speargun, which is a major mission to load (new rubber) and failed miserably. Barbs had caught another 3 off the rocks, so a good haul despite the Abs. So we came home and had a feed of magpie perch. They were quite soft fleshed but tasty. Worth doing again, but DO NOT SKIN. If you skin them they'll fall apart. So then Bill called to say he and my girlfriend Molly the Great Dane cross stag-hound were into the squid... so we went with carpe diem - only it was after sundown, and got 5 squid. Coming to the house, Roly the Old English was trying to let James know he loved him... Bump and a squid jig goes flying. So we get him out the way, get the lights on and the two of us searching... no jig. Then James has the bright idea of looking at Roland... it is in his hair (he doesn't even know - the new hair accessory for Old English Sheepdogs... As James is lifting it out... the weight hooks... and Roly moves... so he had a jig in his fingers. He is mercurochrome red handed. And I will bath and go to bed.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Oh my lamentable memory

I suspect I need to eat more muttonbirds or something. I believe fish-oil is supposed to help. I was deep in the book and managed to forget today was my writer's circle. Sue now has the recipe: set the date and then tell Barbs. Anyway the session was entertaining as usual. And after so many years... I'm still learning. It's fascinating (with a good group) to see how people develop in different directions. Each of us have our strengths. We had a new writer there - working on a family history - and the horrors of travelling Steerage out to Australia. We have dancing tonight, and I want write a little more, so I will love you and leave you.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

8 er ate Squid...

8 squid tonight (our record I think) - we weren't even going down, but Bill gave us a call to say they were thick tonight. Of course when we got there it had gone quiet, but it picked up. There was an enormous ray slowly flapping around the pier, like a big dirty dishtowel. He was at least a metre and a half across. And another stunning 9PM last-light sky. I'm nearly out of cap so I won't post pictures. The wordcount continues.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010


Today James and I drove nothwards up the island. I spent the morning helping some friends in the garden, while James gave a computer lesson, to a late starter. He says she is learning fast, and having bought her computer for a song at the garage sale, will soon be proficient at using it.

Then he helped cut some bushes, with the wonderful hedge cutter, which I must admit I do not like as much as the electric one, as I find the petrol engine heavy when holding the machine at full arm stretch.

After coming home for lunch, he and I headed out again to go and fish. We came home with 7 fish, a high total for us, and they were of 3 very different species. Leatherjacket, Wrasse and Pike. We also caught a really beautiful bright green fish, with pale blue lines in its tail fins, and a dull red stripe along its body. As it was only 240mm long, and we had no idea what it was, we returned it to grow bigger. (Please do not post to tell me it was big enough to be legal, and the best eating fish in Tas?)

While we were gutting our catch, I got hit by the 49th wave, and ended up rather wet, so I showered as soon as we got home. While I was in the shower, James and Dave headed out to try for some squid. I was tired by then, and was happy to stay home!

They did not catch any, as the tide is still a bit early, and the wind was blowing, but at least Dave got out for a bit.

Monday, November 29, 2010

crays may get cheaper...

I see the Chinese are not buying Tassie crays... well, I've never been that convinced that the commercial catch does not have a huge impact on the recreational catch (the Commercial catch is around than 94% of the catch if I recall correctly). Interesting times...

Barbs and James went off fishing and caught some kitty fish, and Mike brought my new speargun rubber this morning. And I worked. We had calamari for supper and I thought James might burst. The green sauce was a little too minty... we're forced to use 'only fit for garnish' moss curled parsley as the Italian has gone to seed. Still, it has done well for us.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Medium Monsoon

"And rain slacked off soon, to medium Monsoon, and the day didn't look such a black 'un..."
Except it was. James and I went out to the gun club - in the rain, and assumed that the shoot had been cancelled. So we went to Lady Barron, and got wetter yet trying for trevally for half an hour. No fish, and lots of wet... So we went to Max for coffee (very good coffee at the Lady Barron store. If you come to Flinders you basically HAVE to do two things. Climb Strzlecki and buy a Coffee from Max and Sue. There is a long list of good 'could do', but that's the 'must do') to find that Tom had given us the wrong date... and it had been yesterday. So we bought chicken wire and came home. B had on the garden tour and got in at about six, very tired. And the rain had finally let up.

Oh well, a bit more writing work done and I dismembered a reel I bout several garage sales ago to see if I could fix it with the 3rd broken one I bought yesterday. And now I have enough bits to make another whole reel.

Cooked James flathead and chips - just to let him know he was back on the island.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Barbeques and garage sales

Molly's* full-time boyfriend (I'm only Molly's bit on the side) invited us for a barbie as a housewarming. He wouldn't let us do it in the traditional South African style with some petrol and locking the doors on the new occupants, on account of this is Flinders and you don't lock the doors, and anyway petrol is too expensive. Lots of interesting salads (pumpkin, feta, pine nuts and parsley) they had made way better yoghurt cheese than us, with half a teaspoon of salt. There was meat! (from a butcher, not a 'roo or the larder of the ocean). We'd been promised special roasted Kamarooka ants which build anthills slightly larger than Texas and have stinging tails and pink trunks, but the quarantine inspector must have got them.

Anyway good coffee, good wine, a load 'guid craik' - the parts Greg and Greg (who were sitting next to each other.... either that or this Australian red wine is making me see double. Normally I thought the things your saw double were alike... Obviously the Rusty Dunnie Cabernet 2011 we bought for the occassion is something really special. This double vision is of two different things) about the length of TV aerial and the sort of reception you'd get were probably some of the worst double entendres I haven't made myself. All in all, a great evening.

The morning started with a garage sale. It turned out to be contents rather than the garage itself, but we did buy a few bargains - 3 bust fishing-rods with 2 good reels (for $2 - a real bargain), another bicycle (James has his one here), a nice life jacket (we have a collection now - at this rate we can strap them together and attach an outboard to them, and buy a small boat to wear) and a shortie wetsuit that would do for an extra vest (but not another me size wetsuit as I'd hoped for), and 3 pairs of fins (the shoe kind for summuer) and a game of Boule. And by something of a misunderstanding failed to buy the 2 windsurfers - we said fine, deal, and went off to get more money and the owner thought we'd left and sold them to someone else - for less! This is probably a blessing as I only know how to sail in one direction with a windsurfer - and this is Okay on small dams and less of a good idea on the open ocean.

Much later we ended up with a $10 computer for a friend and large box of envelopes... but that is another story.

And then our top seckrit agent in Melbourne (a friend who is retiring to to the Island) gave me a call to say he was at a garage sale and there was a 2 piece thick wetsuit for $20 did I want it? So I was a very happy man after all. This may change if James gets me to ride the bicycle.

* Molly is a Great Dane cross Irish Wolfhound and is a very lovely girl.

Friday, November 26, 2010

James is home

Our boy is home. Poor lad hasn't seen much sleep, but we went out to D and L's Australian citizenship party (It'll be 3 more years and one month before we can apply) at their beautiful beach house on Fotheringate bay. We're just so glad to see him, and it means a lot to us.

James and I took a walk down to where the limestone meets the granite. Geology and zoology talked crypically as we climbed through caves
and looked at little rock islands which were feasts for the writer's imagination.


I have made some yogurt that was edible, some that was not so good, and some cheese that is SALTY.

Now I have found a recipe for making our own soap. Is this a good idea? It sounds so simple, does it actually work?

It uses caustic soda, water, animal fat and olive oil, and says just mix and leave to dry. I could do that.... I think.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Cottage cheese

Despite the enormous attractions of the chicken tractor book Sue tried to lead me astray with, and the fact that Bill was catching trevally down at the wharf, today was largely devoted to moving the book on 3K more. And B making our first batch of yoghurt cottage cheese, which has been strung up until it goes Awey... or at least until the wey goes away. It's hanging in a cheese-cloth, from a hook in the ceiling, draining, losing its wey...

We(ie B) also made a batch of flavoured yoghurt (packet add water)with the easy yo device. Hmm. Well, it tastes more like curds and wey, than Yoghurt, or Jogurt or yo gert or even Yo ho ho. Perhaps some rum would improve it (I gather if you drink enough of it, rum improves almost anything except the next day). And, as could only happen on Flinders, we got a call this afternoon from the local Post office saying "I've got a parcel here that says keep refrigerated. It's hot today and I am worried about it." It was our yoghurt culture, (with two tiny ice packs) enough culture to make yoghurt bridge to South America, or to make me cultured (actually no, but that's because I absorb culture like I absorb dance. And I am to dance what a tyrannosaurus is to lace-making.)

Scottish Dancing tonight was rather full of the D team (ie Me) and three new people. Some of the dances resembled brownian motion. Others were a good example of inertial dithering. You had know idea there was that much science in this, did you?

And hopefully our James will be here tomorrow. We can't wait to see our boy.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

chook house wood

Eeek. it's half ten and I haven't posted a thing yet. Cut some wood for the chook house. And wrote. 2.8K today, including some hard stuff. More tomorrow... Hopefully James is on his way

Tuesday, November 23, 2010


Eish. It was HOT today. Unusually so, with a hot dry wind. And to add insult to injury some #$%#ing bird broke the lead shoot out of one of the watermelons. Still the book moved on. I have seeded a large seedling tray with artichoke seeds. I've also put in more asparagus seed seeing as the once I planted have shot up and are a good six inches... Okay maybe 5... we men are prone to exaggurate about length. Anyway, the grape (in a container) and the next pumkin and next rock melon went out this evening. Hope tomorrow is cooler.

Monday, November 22, 2010


Well, I have made two sublime meals with the artichokes either as side dishes or as part of the meal. Today I cooked a couple of small ones, took the hearts out, a did a dish of barley and fresh broad beans, with a bit of butter and chopped fresh parsley and mint - and chopped artichoke hearts - with wallaby meatballs. Eh, wonderful. The smell of the fresh herbs at the last minute on the barley was a feast in itself.

Yesterday we ate big artichokes as a starter - just pulling the scales off and dipping them in butter, before a pasta with calamari tentacles, clam-fritters and a little bacon and shredded silverbeet and a little fresh sage. The effect of the artichokes was to make the calamari taste almost exactly like crayfish.

Not bad for meals for two for under a dollar each - which is what I try to keep us to (these two were probably WAY under. Only the pasta, the barley and single piece of bacon got bought). A friend of mine back in South Africa - who also earns US dollars was saying how they were battling to survive and feed their kids properly. Other things here are very expensive, but at least we have cut food costs and still eat quite well.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Bees, chickens and Artichokes (artichooks?)

Met the island beekeeper today, and it turns out he's an ex-zoologist. We chatted about the important secret things zoologists talk about - the sex life of invertebrates, just in case you want to know (the details of which are only for those initates into the inner circle who survived second year Zoology. Don't ask. I might tell you, and brain-floss is hard to get through your ears). Anyway, he grows berries (and honey) - might get a boysenberry cane or two from him. I said my dad had kept bees and I'd always thought I'd like to try it. He was really encouraging, said the Island needed more beekeepers, and he'd help me with a hive if I liked. We looked at Sue's chooks together, and I soon realised the core secret of chook-keepers. Every single one of them SWEARS by his or her breed. All others are inferior ;-). Honestly it's like AFL team rivalry. I want a bird which is OK for eggs and meat occassionally. Not for for being the best... well, not yet.

Artichokes are possibly my favourite veggie. So my delight today at getting some - all at the stage of take them now or they'll flower, was very great. I did manage to grow them with difficulty back in South Africa, but I've never had anything LIKE enough (enough in Dave's book too many to eat, and enough to pickle) I got some seeds too (from some that had already gone past the eating point), so hopefully will get some plants going. I wonder if they can be grown as a field crop :-)

First bell peppers (capsicums, sweet peppers) went out today and first cucumbers (the gerkin source) too.

Anyway, we got home from the chook-yard tour to discover the back door hadn't latched properly and our dear dogs (brought at great expense and heartache from South Africa) had emptied the garbage pail onto the kitchen floor, and transported the salt outside and eaten a carton of 2 minute noodles.

They were NOT popular.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Glasses, cows and chooks

When we were leaving South Africa for this remote island of ours, my wife finally put her foot down and I ended up going to an optometrist - Moffat optical in Pietermaritzburg. Now I'm not good with fragile things (dunno why, you'd have thought coping with my brain would have trained me. So we decided to spend quite a bit extra and get Titanium frames, because as I explained to them, it's a expensive flight to get new glasses, aside from the hassle of not having them, and the cost of them in Australia. They must be the rolls royce of eye-ware 'cause I can't have them go wrong.

So if anyone happens to pop in to Moffat Optical in Hayfields... tell them I am waiting for them to fly over fix the darn things. They keep (3rd time now) losing a screw (different sides) and dropping the lens. No damage done, except I have to find and replace the screw. And about all I really need glasses for is that darn screw (I still have - just, long enough arms to read with. Actually my glasses have VERY light duty, and live on the shelf above the computer and never travel further than 1 foot from my desk. Barbs glasses are always on her neck on their cord and go everywhere. She needs superstrong frames, I don't. And actually cheapest low magnification supermarket reading glasses are easier to read with than these too.

Anyway - cows and chooks... someone planning on leaving the island is trying to re-home his 2 cows and his chickens. We planned eventually on both, but have been kind of holding off because the initial capital input is quite steep - and by the sounds of it you can spend more on the creatures' dinners than they save on yours. We definitely want MILKING cows - and these I don't think have been, although they are quite people familiar. The chooks... well I've a feeling there is a big learning curve waiting for us... Matters under consideration.

Late post...

Having worked to 1.45 AM to get the proofs in (which - when your day starts at between 5-5.30 is a longish day) thursday, and of course the dogs were less keen on this silly idea of you'd like to sleep in because you worked late (even with an eye-mask and the blinds drawn this is touch and go with me - I'm light sensitive in sleep, and will wake up if you shone a torch on my face, for example) and so friday started at its usual usual time. Surprisingly I did get about 1.4K done - but should have gone to bed early and been nice and fresh...

Yeah well. This is Dave Freer we're talking about. Willy Weather said we'd have 1 knot winds last night. He lied, but still, we went down to Lady Barron to see if it was true, at about 7.45PM where indeed the Trevally are all around the wharf. So are teen-age yoof and their music and entertainment on a friday night... (clubbing is a bit limited here) so, although B got one squid, we retreated to the flounder grounds, even if the water was riffled a bit.
We were alone there, never a good sign, as Bud and Rex know good conditions better than most of the world, and show us yoof ('cause we are, to them) how it is done. The wind ripple was a bit much, really. It was patchy though. Anyway. We walked... and walked - about mid/upper thigh water, maybe a kilometer or so. And saw... squat. Well, a 3 foot wingpan skate, and a trevally accomanying it.(I had a go at the trevally but missed). No I AM NOT spearing a 3 foot skate ... with a vicious barbed spine in 3 feet of water. Unless I killed it outright, I will get spiked, or lose my spear. Besides I have a soft spot for them, and the only time I had skate wing, I didn't like it much.) A lot of puffer-fish. 3 little garfish (scooped 2 successfully, lost the other due to having a go at the next while it was still in the net. duh) Flounder = 0. I was blaming the bright moonlight. At this point real doubt that you can actually see flounder is creeping into your mind - as well as water creeping into your toes. B's new waders didn't leak but mine do. The only comfort was we'd seen no jet-trails of flounder stirred muddy water either. Anyway we came back shallower because it's less hard work... and within 150 yards of the truck found flounder and squid. There is quite a different strategy to spearing both - Squid, I have found are happy to believe they can't be seen in perifery of the light.If you shine a light directly on them for more than a few seconds, they're offski... The flounder are easier - as long as you spot the eyes, keep the light Anyway got 7 and 2 squid (lost one squid before I learned the light-trick) and came home with my wet foot, and B just generally frozen. Then of course the fish still had to be cleaned and freezer/fridged. At midnight, it was done.

And so like woos I went to bed and did not post.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

The next step.

Well, our experiment into salt making came to a grinding halt, and has yet to be restarted, but it will get there in time.

But our next challenge arrived today.

We went on a cheese making course before we left South Africa, thinking that if we ever got a cow, we could make cheese with the extra milk. So far we have a field, if we wish to use it, but no cow or sheep.

What I did not know, until today, is that one can use a yogurt maker to make cheese. (Alright, I will admit it, I did not even know there was such a machine as a yogurt maker.) So, we have been given a yogurt maker. I have read all the instructions, and hopefully tomorrow will be the first run, to see if we can make yogurt, and then to see if we can turn it into cheese. I am sure we will be eating the first few batches, before we start on the cheese production, but I am really excited to see what is going to come out of our kitchen in the next while.

The instructions also list all the wonderful ingredients and vitamins we will be eating, so we should be healthier, as well as fatter in a few weeks. I have a long list of tasks I want to get done while the weather is warm, so hopefully this will give me the 'get up and go' and the extra energy I will need.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

sew dangerous

B having finished her run through the proofs has been sewing. Braver men than me have been known to go into hiding when this happens. B likes sewing nearly as much as she does cooking. Only I have even less skill here. So much bad language has been forthcoming. Still we have a dive flag and a new dog-cushion cover, and various other tasks have been done. I'll stop tip-toeing around the house real soon too :-)

I've done another 2.1K of book and some more proof reading - only discover it's due tomorrow night. So now to proofs...

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

more Proofs

Hokay so more proofs and 2K more book and I planted out the Scorzonera and the Salsify. Made a supper of some crayfish (spiny lobster) in a cream sauce and spring onions and sugar snap peas and some thyme. Would have worked better with tarragon. Still, very nice on jasmine rice, with a mango-carrot salad. We had brakpan slice for dessert a name which does not do adequate credit this passionfruit creation.

And now to work...

Monday, November 15, 2010


Hmm. I realise I just forgot to post anything yesterday! It was my writer's group late yesterday pm and trying to get my wordcount done last night, posting got away from me. The writers group continues to be a fascinating insight into different lives and backgrounds (Nik for instance is Indian and his descriptions of India are incredibly vivid and real). It's also great seeing how the guys progress - me too, I hope. I keep learning stuff. To add to the time issue, I've just got the page proofs for MUCH FALL OF BLOOD. I've been frantically planting out seedlings but need to clear some space and prep some planting area for the melons and pumpkins and sweetcorn - no room in the garden for those. And we need to get some kind of LARGE planter for the grape plant.

We went down to try for squid, but the wind was too hectic, although the tide and time is right.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

waders and veggie hampers

The wind in the willows.... well everything tonight. Blowing snot out of your ears if you face into the breeze. Been an interesting day - we went to 2 garage sales - couldn't have been more different (the first was a resell everything we bought at garage sales sale. In a garage with lots of junk and eggs for anyone who came to buy. At which we found some $10 waders for B and combustion stove-top kettle and an icecream scoop (lost ours moving over) and some more plates-not-for-smart. The proprieter's partner was sitting drinking beer at 9 AM. The second was terribly smart and not in anything quite as lowering as a garage and had nicky-knacky clothes and scarves and bits of pottery... well, B found a couple of bargains, and then we had to rush to the Church fair (at which everyone takes a stall) and I had to drop in my various slices... there were books, plants, cakes, frilly hangers (what is the difference between a male hanger and female hanger? Um Don't answer that!)and there were I think 8 raffles. I bought some tomato seedlings, and B some raffle tickets...

We should have bought a lotto ticket instead because we won the veggie hamper. I have to laugh. Never won as much as a slice of cake before we came here. It includes a store bought chicken which will be a shock for us! It's like store-bought cake...

And some person left a roo-bar just inside our gate. We need one, but this one won't fit, sadly. Nice thought though. It's aluminium which makes - I think - it quite hard to alter. Anyway, that's Flinders. Now to find out who it was so I can thank them.

Friday, November 12, 2010

kitty channel

For the cat owner who wants everything of best for their darling putty-tats. A new startling reality channel... Our three were utterly rivetted to the box, watching it this morning. It took me a good 15 minutes (I was making rolls, slice etc) to work out that actually they were watching the glass of the combustion stove, intently, and not the TV which wasn't on, anyway.

They looked for all the world like three ladies glued to their favourite soapy.

There was a starling inside the combustion stove fluttering in front of the glass. (it was far too warm for a fire).

I was able to just open the door a crack and reach in and grab him, before the next inevitable act in the little drama took place (ergo, a cat - trying very hard to wriggle past me, into the ash... and a sooty bird whizzing around the white curtains (John's not ours. We would never buy white curtains) like a sort of demented ash-bomber. Anyhoo, it didn't happen, and I was able to liberate it outside to ash-bomb its gum tree and fellow starlings.

The cats were very disappointed in me.

I had to get some ingredients so I zigged into town and did a drop in on Bill (and my new hairy girlfriend Molly - a great Dane cross Irish wolfhound) - who has a device I sorely envy - to whit an electric knife sharpener. I have to admit I'm useless at sharpening knives. Some people have it, some don't. I don't. He also made my day by giving me a rocking knife board. We'd hunted Melbourne flat for one. For cutting fresh herbs, there is nothing finer.

It has been the hottest day I think we've had on Flinders -- the kids went swimming off the pier this evening. We went down to try for squid (the tide was past, but the weather was Sultry. I got a couple, but it feels like we're in for the mother and father of all storms. I was informed the Barometer is falling fast. Got to catch it!

Thursday, November 11, 2010

And I thought yesterday was busy!

Today we got up early, loaded up two friends and headed for the beach. We went up to West End so that Dave could dive for abalone. He was shown a new spot by one of our friends but decided to dive in his tried and tested spot, as he would be diving alone.

He got his 10 abalone, and while he was out the three of us fished. For one of the gents it was his first attempt with a fishing rod, and I wish I had a pic of his face with his first fish on the hook. Unfortunately it was too small and had to go back, but I gave him the Australian Salmon I caught, as a consolation prize. (Yes, I did tell him that they do not freeze well, and he had to eat it tonight.)

The salmon gave me a super fight, and our unfortunate friend was dancing from side to side of me with the landing net, ready to catch it, as the fish zigged across in front of us. Still it all ended well, and I got a Wrasse to keep the cats happy. Just at the last we tried a hole Dave had found diving, and if I am prepared to get wet to fish, it should be really productive.

Unfortunately we were on a time limit, as I had to be back in town to collect the Meals on Wheels at 12 again, so I dropped off the three men, and just made it in time to deliver the food, but with no time to go into the house to change. I had been using squid for bait, and I could smell it, but none of the recipients noticed, I hope. Or they were too polite to say so!

Then it was back home to help Dave with the abalone, rinse the wetsuits, eat some lunch and head out to the show grounds to help set up the tables for the fair on Saturday. We took a while to get in, and then carried tables hither and yon to get them into the right place for the stalls. The birds seem to live in there between shows, so we also spent some time sweeping and cleaning tables.

I rushed back home with 10 minutes to spare for a shower and food, before meeting our boat fishing buddy for some stick shift driving practice. The plan was that I would drive slowly around a field and he would load hay bales onto the back. Dave made me a delicious snack, and then came out with me, to see where I was going to be, so he could fetch me home in time for dancing tonight.

So as it was only one field up, and one across, from where we live, he came out with bare feet, and in shorts and a long sleeved T-shirt. Once I started driving, Dave naturally started to help with the hay bales. So, I can definitely say that, in order to load hay, you need gloves, thick long pants and shoes!! Still we got it all loaded up in record time, and I can now have some R & R before we go dancing. And I am once more proficient at gear changing, or managing a clutch anyway.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010


We had a friend in South Africa who was ex British Army. And I am sure I am misquoting, but his saying went something like, "Precise prior planning prevents p..s poor performance!"

Today I feel as if I have been running on the spot. I got quite a lot done, but a little pausing and planning would have saved a lot of running around.

I wanted to mow the long grass. I have been keeping the lawn mowed, with the brushcutter, but we have now decided to cut the whole area inside our fence, to discourage snakes and fire. I thought I would have a peaceful week in which to do it, but the days seem to be filling up with other essentials, like fishing, more work, CWA, etc, so today I needed to make a good dent in it.

I cut for an hour, but Dave needed the cream that had not yet come off yesterday's boat when he went to town. So I changed into smarter clothes and went shopping at 9am, when the shops open, and bought what we needed and then came home and vacuumed the house.

Then after a proper wash and brush up I went back into town for a small church service at the Multipurpose Centre for the older ladies who cannot make it to church on Sundays. I also collected a 'roo and a cabbage, and did most of a round for Meals on Wheels. Unfortunately one of the recipients lives out of town, and we deliver to her daughter, but she had closed her business while she was at a meeting, so I could not get in.

So I went back home and we cut up the 'roo for dog food, and gave each, very grateful, dog a bone, finished off the 'slice' ready to take in to town for the CWA as a trial run for the fair on Saturday. Dave had also made more Chelsea Buns for me, and as we had to take things to be sold at the market in Dec, he had donated one of his books. I had knitted a pair of mullimitts with wool sent over from New Zealand. (And beautiful they looked too!) As I was a hostess I also had to organise tea and coffee.

Once again I drove into town, delivered the Meals on Wheels, returned the 'eskies' or 'coolboxes' to the kitchen, invited a friend to join us tomorrow, and went to set up for the CWA. I discovered there were about 25 big boxes of books on the table we usually sit at, so I moved them to a neat pile on the floor, and put the 'slice' in the fridge to go on setting, and boiled the kettle. Then I discovered I had forgotten the milk, the mittens and the book.

Back home I rushed, dashed in and around dogs to collect what I needed, and got back just in time for the meeting to start. The secretary had been into the CWA rooms before me, had seen the books, and had decided to use another table. She was quite bewildered to come back and find the books moved, buns on the counter, but no humans around! Still, we had a fun meeting, with lots of laughs, and I won the raffle. A beautiful red tea towel, which is exactly what we need. They were one of the things we did not bring over with us.

Dave's food was well received, but they pointed out that the 'slice' needed to set better, as it would have to be eaten with fingers on Saturday. Luckily today we all had teaspoons to eat with today but it was delicious.

Then back home to do another assault on the grass, some of which is waist high. I made some progress, but I have put the completion date back to the end of next week, or maybe a bit later....

Now it is 6pm, and I am going to have a long leisurely bath, and contemplate how I could have managed the day better.

There is still sewing to do, and we are leaving early tomorrow morning, so I could begin planning for that...

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Tennis biscuits and purple recipes

Well, I kan haz another cheap landing net - after the prawn-net debacle (Squid jigs get caught in it) I went to Roberts to get some sweetcorn seed and there it was, after my abortive slice ingredient shopping expedition to the busy metropolis of Whitemark. (You can tell I'm backsliding into my cave dwelling Neanderthal roots, when Whitemark gets referred to as 'busy'. I dread leaving the island for the city.) In the city they have bananas and cream even when the ferry hasn't come in yet. But they don't know your name or try to help you figure what a Tennis biscuit is in local parlance. (Not a favourite, but in James's Tupperware cookbook there is a fridge tart which probably fits the 'slice' bill. It's from Brakpan. How could I go wrong? (The instructions say that wearing a crimpolene dress is essential, otherwise the recipe may not believe you're a tupperware-selling-tannie from Brakpan).

Yes, now that you mention it the ingredients ARE purple. How ever did you guess? Now, I am sure I am maligning Brakpan. That wonderful sensitive cultured people live there and are terribly hurt by these vile nasturtiums* that I am casting. My apologies. I was mentally scarred by Brakpan as a youth. Thing is I am not a clued up enough new Ozzie to find a place there to mock for being shall we say 'different'( aren't these PC words ridiculous?) Ok. Own up. Who said "Flinders Island"? Humph. I know I brought the local IQ down a bit by coming here, but there are some very bright people here. We just prefer living on a quiet remote Island... which is really a sign intelligence and good taste (Okay so there is me as well. I just like it).

By the waffle you may gather the most exciting thing to hasppen today was the guy coming to read the meter. And a bunch of recipes for slices. And my fishing licence arrived. It was quite funny how defensive B got about what she imagined was a slight on our Postal service and the Fisheries crowd. "While you look at this! It's miricle!" I held up the new licence. "What is it?" "They posted my fisheries permit card." "Well," says B hackles rising, "It hasn't been that long." "That's what I mean. It's a miricle. It's been less than a week, and I've got it! It got posted and arrived..." No sarcasm. It really is something that still amazes me.

Ok you probably have to have experienced the South African department of Home Affairs and the South African Postal Service to appreciate how different this is, just like you have to have been stuck in Brakpan (as I was as a young conscript, trying to hitch a ride home for a weekend pass) to appreciate the significance of purple pudding from there.

I am sure it will be delicious.

*nasturtiums _are_ vile. Bitter and peppery. Aspersions on the other hand are quite tasty if boiled briefly and served with butter. Yes, actually I do know I am being silly. It felt like a good day for it.

Monday, November 8, 2010

slice 'n dice

I've committed myself to making a 'slice' for the church fair. Now I thought this meant a kamikaze slasher movie attack on anyone about to buy a saveloy (a mercy killing, your honour) but it turns out this is a sweet thing to be had with tea. ("May I give you a slice of jam and pecan tart, Mrs Jones?")

This is not really my area of cooking. At all.

Would a key lime pie count? Black satin pie? Banoffee?


The trials and tribulations of a lost South African amatuer chef.
What's wrong with a nice bit of squid to dunk in their tea? ;-)

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Turning over compost and eating (not the compost)

The wonderfully informative piece on fast composting (which told me less than i needed to know) did say I needed to turn over the pile. I considered merely standing on my head and looking at it upside down as a good approximation, but then, knowing my veggie soil needs it and James needs a lot of feeding, decided to do it. Conclusions. 1)It's a long way from compost. 2) It's heavy.

Perhaps not the right task to take on after the 4 hour Italian style lunch Wanda fed us, but as I came home weighing about twice what I left, excercise was called for. Eh? what did we eat? Well, stuffed olives, gorgozola and pate and biccies then tortellini and a home-made pasta sauce (gnocci with gluten free flour does not work) and then roast lamb and veggies, and then tiramasu and then coffee and choccies.

Most delicious. Do not turn down an invitation to eat there, ever. Do NOT have a biccy or two at tea. Hold back on gorgonzola even if you love it as much as I do.

No. I will not have a last mint thin!!

It's raining spit-spots and I shall write for a while and take my over-stuffed stomach to bed.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Alas, no camera!!

We had a really beautiful morning out, with 2 friends, on a seacliff. The sea was like coloured glass, the sky washed clear and blue, and none of us took a camera!!

The 2 'guests' were doing their first rock climbs, in idyllic surroundings, and there is no proof that they actually got up any of the routes they attempted. (Which they did!) Life is so unfair. They will just have to come again, when the weather and sea are just as perfect and do it again.

(Also they might choose a day when one does not have to perform in the evening, and the other does not have a 80km cycle the next day!)

But despite the lack of evidence, they said that they had actually enjoyed the morning, so I hope the bruises do not show on stage tonight, and that the stiffness does not prevent a long cycle tomorrow!

Dave also climbed a route, just to show that it was possible, but I stayed on solid ground, and just did some instruction yelling, and some belaying.

Unfortunately the weather had not looked so good at home, so we had taken no diving or fishing gear with us, but we had a wonderful morning all the same.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Alas poor writer...

I've been a bit muted lately, burning the midnight keyboard. Well, the reason is fairly uncomfortable - I have to try to earn a living, and I get paid in US dollars. Like most writers (I've seen occasional scathing comments about 'greedy authors' re the price of Australian books. For the record: from that paperback you just paid an eyewatering amount for... I got 64 cents, US cents - 63 Australian cents right now) we don't make much money. While I enjoy writing and work rather hard at it, it's a fairly marginal profession. Breaking even for us, even though we live very frugally, requires three things. Firstly, that I get paid reasonably promptly as I am the kind that stresses about money and battles to be productive when I am worrying about how to pay the bills, and the cushion is not large. As anyone who has ever been involved will tell you, publishing is always very slow about paying turn-in or royalties. You're looking at 2-5 months, and royalties only start after a full 6 month reporting period - meaning you can only see that money as much as 13-14 months after the book. The crowd I have mostly published with are quite good about being prompt on initial signing money (about 1/4- 1/3 of what a book will earn). So the first point is always rather doubtful. It goes with the territory, and that's the way it is. The second factor is a slight premium on being paid in US $ when the currency exchange is in my favour. It's not, right now (needless to say, nothing has got any cheaper, though). This also doesn't look like it'll change in short order. It could be worse, I could be in South Africa where galloping inflation on medical, insurance and unavoidables like electricity and municipal rates were killing us, which, when you add that to what amounts to income deflation, ain't pretty. In times when the local currency was stable or getting weaker... I at least didn't lose money while I waited to be paid. The third factor is keeping it all ticking over - if you're in a cycle where, yes, they're late, royalties are 18 months late, but it doesn't matter that much because you're getting paid at regular intervals, although it's money not from the book you've turned in but the one before, and royalties from the one two back. I really have to write two, to two and half books a year to earn a bit less than Tassie average wage -- and I'm not at the bottom of the sales scale... I've just been glad to be able to do something I love and we're just careful with money and get by. But it's hard, constant work - which got royally screwed up by the GFC and then us emigrating and all the drama associated with that and my mum's death. I'm behind. What's worse is the new contracts... just aren't. We have a two year hiatus there, and I'm down 3 books under contract, one of which I am busy with. Several things are hanging in the wings, but none have finalised.

And then finally things have all come together in bit of a perfect thump. I finally got the turn in money for the last book - July I think.(now fair enough, it's a co-authored book, and it's not just me they were waiting on) But instead of paying electronically as usual, as they're supposed to... I got a cheque. Which I gave to the bank. Who called to say... two months to clear a foreign cheque over a certain value. As you may be aware the currency situation between when I turned this in and now already means a pay cut of 20%. By the time this finalises? Who knows. But it's not going to be good. So between the bank and the slow paying, the exchange rate, and the hiatus in my production and contracts, things are not at their best.

I'm battler, and not a quitter. I can do nothing to make publishing in general change the ways of the last two centuries. I'd be a fool to waste my time trying. I registered a complaint with the bank, and they changed their tune slightly to 6 weeks. I can do nothing about the exchange rate. So I'm working on the only angle I can: I got onto Eric (my co-author) and Mike (my agent) and we're working on finalising ANY of the outstanding deals. Eric is looking at another (the final) Karres book, which has been agreed to in principle, just not signed yet. Mike is following up on STARDOGS - which is finished and they've been hanging onto, and the possibility of a prequel to SLOW TRAIN TO ARCTURUS. I'm pushing to finish the Steampunk YA thing Mike thinks he has a buyer for, and DOG AND DRAGON, for which I can at least get into the wait for turn-in queue. I'm also looking at other avenues. I've a collection of shorts coming out as an e-book on Kindle and other formats, I've got SAVE THE DRAGONS sitting in the US with Baen (one of those deals we're waiting on). I'd like it come out in print (I owe people people copies when it does), but if they don't move soon -- I'll do that as Kindle/ ebook too. (where, BTW I get between 50-60% of the cover price, depending where people buy it, as opposed 8% of the US paperback price for paperbacks).

But the reality is, unless some of these (and not just one) come through very soon, and the exchange rate does not go any further South for me... I need to find another job (if I can find one, hopefully on the island), and write as and when I can.

Alas, poor writer, I knew him well.
Ah well. Back to swimming up the undertow.
Nil carborundum illegitimi.
But if I am a little more terse than usual, and the sense of humour is a bit sparse, you'll understand.

Thursday, November 4, 2010


A few pictures

Our boys and their buddy Charlie at the Hall ball

And a gull and the mountain

spot the gull.
It's a romantic tale of gull meets bouy and presents the bouy with a token of her affections.
Which is rather like my writing career at the moment...

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

We have a new convert!

We went down to the wharf for squid tonight.

A new island resident joined us. And having told us that he had done river fishing, but had not fished in the sea before, proceeded to catch more than anyone else on the jetty. I wonder if he is a poker player? Or if it was just beginners luck? Or his dayglo pink jig? But whatever the case, we all had several chuckles, (especially as he learned never to look a live squid in the eye!) and we came home with some squid.

I think we have hooked a new convert into the fine art of squidding.

He has also learned to gut them, now he just has to eat one, to compare it to bought calamari.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

And there were no fish

It was windy and cold at 6 on the jetty. And there were no fish so I was back by 7.30AM. And I have worked and waterd some plants. And that's about all for today.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Dismembering 'roo and the great salt disaster

Well, I am getting better at deboning a wallaby. Still not good but better than my first inept fumbling where I rather expected to find fingers in the meat.

The salt-making experiment due to my impatience ended in disaster - the level wasn't dropping (due to laziness on my part, not carrying it into the sun and too fine a weave cover.) So I transferred it into a couple of large pots and reduced the water on the combustion heater. Unfortunately it picked up a metallic taste from the pot. So we start again. There goes a lot of effort and getting wet. Oh well, we learn.

I've put out some more tomato plants and the Siberian watermelon, and a pumpkin. I'm having variable results with plant outs. My zucchini still are not thriving. I know. Suddenly they'll all grow.

I've made some home-made blue bait - with salted mullet and fish oil. Still have to test it.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Supper and the partition of India

Well, I took the crab bisque and added the fresh broad beans (fava beans) to it (still no rhubarb) and some cubed fillets of leatherjacket (the ideal fish for this as it doesn't fall apart if slightly overcooked) and served it to B for her 'tea' (AKA supper) with big crusty flaps of home-made Olive oil and rosemary bread. It was a delicious complex of flavours, with the slight sweetness (and the richness) of the crab contrasted by the beans (which have a 'green' and mild nutty flavour). The fish just absorbs tastes so it merely something solid that was neither bean nor bread (nor good red herring).

I'm sort of fiddling with the universe for the steampunk thing and so as India was such a major aspect of the British Empire, had Dr Biren helping me plot an alternate history breakup of the Indian subcontinent, with more of a look at how things might have fallen out had the Brits not being busy with divide and rule. Fascinating excercise (if you are an Alternate History / Science Fiction writer)

We had 40 knot gusts today - I was really glad not to be at sea. The easterly actually blew the outside rocking couch thing right over - not happened before. The sea was all the colours of yuck, and full of wild white horses

Saturday, October 30, 2010

sinking, sinking, black ink over the nose...

Or something like that. Anyone recognising the quote have 10 brownie points. Anyway, in this case I merely refer to my attempts to make ball sinkers (or egg sinkers as Quilly would call them). Lesson 1. heat the mould. lesson 2 - do not forget to pull out the wire. Lesson 3 - put on gloves. Lesson 4 - try for lots of patience. If I recall correctly doing this with my dad, he had a blowtorch and a pouring ladle - which could make life easier. The darn lead kept setting in the pouring hole (ergo, heat the mould). Anyway, I managed 8 sinkers in about 8 tries. Mr Efficiency, that's me (the mould makes 4 per time). It's a learning curve and it did use up some bigger damaged sinkers.

We took the dogs down to long point - Wednesday and Roly. Poor Puggles had to stay behind and he cried. I did some thrownetting and caught a goby. Go me. We also collected some of the little ribbed mussels (which are small) and grow in huge beds on the sand. Taste Okay, just a lot of them to very little meat. I also turned over rocks and collected little crabs (and I mean little - 2-3 inches across) which i have made into a crab bisque, with some fennel, leeks, garlic, onions, tomato, parsley and thyme and a carrot (did I use everything that was available and pretend I planned it that way? Hmm. You're close. But I didn't put in broad beans, snow peas, brocolli, beets silverbeet, or lettuce. Or sage or marjoram. Or Rhubarb.)

I took Puggles (and his cruciate) for a very short walk on the nearby beach. Poor boy, He did so enjoy it, and he was OK on the leash. It's easier when the others aren't there.

Our dog-tucker roo supplier brought us more roo (wallaby) and showed me how to debone them. It'll take me a bit of practice... at the moment there is way too much meat left on the bones for me to approve.

Oh and I managed 1000 words worth of a short story, which may even be saleable one day for our writers group. So there is the black ink.