Thursday, September 30, 2010

And the tears of the sky are wet

Well, they're wet, but not salty. There was rain on the wind - Which suddenly led me to realise our salt project - out on the low roof of the sort of doghousey thing next to the shed - in the 18 litre very unwatertight box - now covered in a strapped on old sheet and not the lid... was not going to work if the rain was replacing the evaporating water. And somehow I don't see the carrying in and out happening every time there is a rain-squall - that can happen at a moment's notice here. so for now it is out of the sun... and rain and on the verandah.

There was a terrible panicky scream from the kitchen yesterday. B has had a little difficulty adapting to her husband not cooking, or the boys not being there to help (in Paddy's case this can be... interesting. His liquidised baked-bean creation was only a few milli-amps short of independant life;-) and his ginger buiscuits could be used to thaw wooly mammoths back to life - still he can cook some things well. James is more consistantly reliable and does a really good banana and pecan nut cake.). I'm not touching her food until this lot is well over. The result: the contents of the microwave was on fire. She was defrosting some rolls... To save electricity I bake quite large batches, and then bag them and freeze them. So I put twist ties on the bags so I can just take out what we need.

B just put the bag in, twist tie and all, and sparks and plastic met and melted... anyway. It went out. I'm going to have to start teaching basics in case I get around to dying middle-aged or first (only the good die young, which counted me out)

We've had a bit of chaos with James bookings - despite B making the operator repeat it twice - he wasn't speaking local English (#$@%$ing call-centers!) which means the payment for the ticket had P instead of a B reference. So time in the bank today...

B's off at a 'girls-get-together-before-a-wedding' thing tonight. She had to cook, poor dear! (I did instruct, and send her with some roll-mops too)

And my buddy Gary can't get here :-( -- work chaos, and meeting changes.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Weighing in

Well, B has gone off to Scottish Dancing without me. This is probably a very bad idea, because my missing it means they'll learn yet another new thing for me to get hopelessly wrong. I am not a gifted dancer. I'm still not feeling too great though. I had fish and rice - and some internal discomfort - for supper. This really has proved a nasty ailment. Anyway, onward, ever onward. I have been trying to proof Dragon's Ring and failing to find any errors. That's difficult... because I know they're there. We had visitors at lunch time today. Heh. One of them - having stared hard at the cover of 'Fangs' - started reading the story I have in the collection. I had to laugh at her laughing her way through it - and, I hope realising it wasn't QUITE what she thought it was. I suppose -- having been involved with sf and fantasy for a long time, I hadn't realised EVERYONE (even those who don't read the genre) would not automatically that the book just had to be a mockery of the undead-porn that seems to have become quite fashionable. It's rather cutesy story about a Vampire who is trying to raise (and protect)his daughter Zara.
"You have blood spots on your collar," she said, with nasty glee.
I sighed. Zara always delighted in pointing that sort of thing out. Being a vampire isn't easy. And then I had to put up with Zara as well. "And you have a zit on your nose," I said, peering down my own nose at her.
It had the desired effect. Frantic squinting. Feeling with long black fingernails. "Eugh, gross! It's not fair." She stomped off in her Doc Martins to go and apply more makeup. She's not very good at it. It's not easy when you can't use a mirror. It's harder when you're a teenager. Zara's been that way for 300 years now and she's not got any better at being subject to teen hormones, or at applying makeup. Immortality has its downsides. Being a teenager forever is one of the worse possible ones. Having to live with one forever is, however, the worst curse of being one of the undead. And I had endless millennia of it ahead of me. Zara is my daughter. And no, I didn't bite her. Banish the thought! It's enough to make blood turn to ashes in my mouth. I did help to help to hammer the stake through Count Orlok's heart, though. It took Zara nearly a century to forgive me for ‘ruining her life' and ‘interfering'. Actually, I'm still regularly accused of the latter.
It's true, of course. But when did that ever stop a father?

If you want to read the rest you'll have to buy the book :-)

Anyway, nothing much but work and feeling a bit grim today. Tomorrow will be better, we hope. B and I are sort of the edge of trying to put on some weight - we're both still losing weight on the catch-it, grow-it diet, despite having increased our portion sizes. I'm really not too sure why, as the only change has been in protein -we eat very little chicken, pork or lamb, a little beef, and make up for that with a little wallaby and a lot of fish or shellfish. Vegetables and carbohydrates are much the same, in fact more of both, but we do consume very much less milk or cheese. The day starts with a big bowl of porrige, we have around 500 grammes of fresh rolls each. There are usually anzacs or cake with our coffee. Our 'tea'(AKA supper) is always protein, at least 3 types of veg - sometimes together, and some kind of starch... Still, being sick brought home the fact that I just don't have a lot of bodyfat left - I am under 60Kgs now and B is less. I've lost about 9kgs, and B quite a bit more than me. No we haven't got any debilitating diseases - they won't let you into Australia without checking. Most of the time we're healthier than most, and quite active. The boys were concerned and told us not to lose any more - we've increased portion sizes and added extra cake etc. But I am actually considering a bit of spare being needed in case we get sick.
This was not a problem I expected to face!

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Dragon's Ring, and other stories...

Well, you know you've changed worlds when your Doctor drops in after work to check on you. Yes I was, shall we say, being 'bloody' interesting, but this never happened to me before. I was poked, prodded, had my pulse checked, got told to take the one med, forthwith, and told in no uncertain terms to NOT go out (there was a meeting I wanted to go to) and to go without hesitation to the hospital (where they would call him out) if it got any worse. We then talked sf and about India, and stray dogs, and comparitive food for 3/4 of an hour. Yes, he's a nice guy, and concerned, and we've read a lot of the same books... but wow. Different to South Africa. Drop-ins are one of the things I'm coming to love about this place. Maybe because it is an island and really is a community, the way most of the world -- not even rural South Africa, is anymore. It's a bit like stepping back -- in some of the aspects we wish we'd not lost -- 50 years. The technology and the tolerances seem to be fairly modern, for which I am grateful, because 50 years ago they probably would not have approved of my beard, let alone hair - but I'm not even unusual here. Of course we miss our family and friends but it's probably one of the best of communities to try to fit in to, simply because it is still a community. Yeah, everyone knows who you are. Probably not a good place to have a dark secret... In the waiting room at the Doctors, I talked about recipes for fruit-cake with one of our friends, about Gilbert and Sullivan with another, and then chatted about lichen species with a chap with a much bigger beard than mine, and then got to meet the doyenne of the local museum - I suppose wanting (or being prepared to) live out here is a selection mechanism for unusual set of people. Talking through stomach cramps is not the easiest though!

And today a couple more people dropped by, called to find out how I was... not a good place for even pale secrets! I ended up having a complicated debate about CS Lewis's veiws on religion and the history of the Tuetonic knights over lunch (a plain roll for me). I thought I'd be talking about sheep if anything here. Shows how wrong you can be. I'm quite fond of sheep, but it's nice to have some alternate subjects!

My seedlings are popping up here in the study - it's got good winter morning sun. The tomatoes showed the soil deficiencies - I've as a result of the dark green ribs and yellow-green leaves on the Grosse Lisse added trace elements and iron. Oddly the black Russian tomatoes were fine and the Rouge de Marmade mostly fine. The other plants are just germinating (or not) so hopefully the trace elements will give them the right start. I've been talking to them. So far we're merely at threats, but tomorrow if there is not a better effort in the growing department, I might have to make an example of one the Grosse Lisses.

The wind (and intermittant rain) continues today. We hope it clears for the weekend as we're hoping Gary - one of my best friends now living in Canada - gets here. Of course I also hope to feel just a little better by then.

The proofs for the Paperback of Dragon's Ring came in as .pdf - and also my author copies of FANGS FOR THE MAMMARIES (a collection of short stories about vampires in suburbia in which I have a story. Humour) in the post. The artwork is... startling! :-). I am so sorry B didn't open it in front of John-the-Post-Office! It nearly made Dr Biren's eyes pop out, and started the medical students sweating. Actually - the cover is FAR the most shocking thing about the book, but the puns are bad.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Solo night drive!

It seems to me amazing that we have been here almost 9 months, and I am still clocking up basic firsts.

This evening was the first time I have driven in the dark, alone. And here there is no fear of bandits, but a real fear of hitting an animal, and I am used to having spare eyes in the car, yelling "wallaby" at suitable moments.

At one stage I was actually trying to work out if I could have taken a wrong turn somewhere, as the road, "A ribbon of sand, between the tetree trees", (appologies to The Highwayman) was going on for ever, but I realised that I was only driving at about 40km/h, (Limit is 100km/h) so that was why it was taking soooo long.

But eventually the tar road appeared ahead, with fields on either side, so it was easier to see the 'roos. As it was I had watched a possum climb a tree, saw both a wombat and several wallaby moving out of my way, and disturbed 3 ducks that had decided to overnight on the sandy road. So different to my trips home after dark at our last house, where it was often misty as well.

ooh Collywobbles

I've picked up some sort of bug, which ended up in gastro, me at the Doctor and them trying to persaude me to stay there. I am a little better now, but not up to much.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Before, and After - with fluffy boots

Dear me. Here I was in my tangled, longhaired glory... and mom has inflicted this on me. This is stage two of a three day haircut. Complete with cheerleader woolly boots. I am a shadow of my former self. Anyone got a recipe for preventing hairloss?

The cats have fish!!

Not only did our wonderful neighbour bring us delicious fish for the cats, but today we went fishing, and despite the tide being wrong, and the wind still blowing, we managed to get a nice sized Trigger fish to bring home. So the cats are very happy, and can look forward to the prospect of more snow in Tassie next week with fortitude!

We had decided a while back to try to make salt out of sea water, but it was on the list of things we had not got round to. I saw an 18 litre container in our 'other' supermarket, with a snaplock lid, so I bought it, and today remembered to take it to the beach.

We were at a beach, Trousers Point, where there is a steep wooden staircase down to the beach, and once we had finished fishing across the headland, I set off to fill my new container with sea water. The plan being to allow it to evaporate, and then to top it up with more sea water to make it more saline etc.

I could have rolled up my trousers and waded in to fill it, but I chose instead to clamber over some rocks to where I could fill it without getting my booties wet, (they seem to take days to dry). Then I discovered that 'snaplock' does not mean seal, in any way at all. So there I was with a wet front from just lifting the basin, never mind the stagger across the rocks carrying 18kgs, and then over the soft sand to the staircase. By the time I got to the top, I reckon I had spilt about 4kgs, so at least it was easier to carry, but Dave then emptied some more out, so we would not have too much corrosive sea water inside the back of the ute.

Still, we now have about 10 litres of water in a container that will have to have a material cover made for it tomorrow, and will have to be sieved, somehow, to get out the pieces of seaweed that insisted on coming along. But, I am hoping that if we remember to top it up, with 2 litres at a time out of Coke bottles, we will eventually arrive at salt, watch this space....

Saturday, September 25, 2010

I've had better days

Well, I've seen better days. The dentist did the root canal work yesterday, and found rather a mess. An entire root that had been missed, and a lot of infection. It's been quietly poisoning me for years, giving me low grade fevers, etc. Let's hope that it clears up and gets me writing at great speed and enthusiasm - which I am going to need. There wasn't much of that today, despite a better night than most. I completely forgot my writer's group today.

And St.Kilda and Collingwood drew.

Friday, September 24, 2010

We HAVE to catch fish!

(plz helup am starving kitty. Need fisssssh)
We went off fishing this morning, the tide was 11, and I had to do Meals on Wheels at 12, but we hoped to catch on the incoming tide.

Today was basically the first time since our first week here, that we actually HAD to catch fish. The cats run out of food tomorrow. Not pellets, just the wet stuff. I have not bought any tinned food for them since they got here, but some kind people who were going back to the Mainland gave us an opened tin, so they have had a taste of some Aussie wet food, and loved it. But they have also been very happy with their fresh, frozen, raw or cooked fish, interspersed with a bit of raw squid for variety. But tomorrow the freezer will be bare, of any fish I want to give them anyway.

But, I do not know whether it was the added stress of Having to catch, rather than wanting to catch, but we landed no fish that were big enough to keep. Dave pointed out that if we were castaways, we would not be worrying about size, or bag limits. True, but not a point the cats are ready to accept.

So tomorrow we have to go out again, and this time we really really have to catch, so I am holding thumbs that the wind dies down a bit, and the Wrasse are feeling really hungry by then.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Oh, my golly gosh!!

Yes, I did it! I feel that taking all the blame is the only way to go, as it is so obvious anyway!

I was told, and I am sure she is right, that we can make a few extra pennies by having ads on the blog. And with my total failure to find a job on the island, I thought it would be an easy and simple way to go, and might help to fill the ever emptying coffers.

So, with the help of our visitor from the USA, I started the whole process 2 weeks ago. But, we needed to be checked out by the 'powers that be' in cyberspace, or where ever, so she has gone home, and I was left to set it up, all on my own, once the permission to do so came through today. It basically reduced me to tears, I could not find the toolbars the 3 different help sites said I had. Eventually Dave came to my aid, and said they were on his computer, not mine! Right, but then I was registered as him, and the permission was for me, on my email address.... Luckily the house is not that big, and I could move easily from one persona, or desktop to another.

So now we have ads, boy do we have ads!

I am calling for comments, do they go or stay? CAN "I" make them smaller??

Please feel free to let me know all about it, I have had a bad day anyway!

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

A day in the life...

Hmm. If I wrote nothing at all today, would anyone notice?
We've cut the rest of the the wood up, I've worked, B's cut grass and vaccuumed. We had the visiting dentist around for supper, and I have 2 roos to butcher in the morning.

And that's that.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

dentists, power etc.

I see on the news tonight we can expect our power bills to go up and keep going up. I really, really want to get off grid. It'll have to wait for the fullness of time - when we have the last of the kids through uni and can seriously turn to looking to own future again, but, even though it seems to involve quite a lot of initial capital, and then a fair amount of maintenance cost... it has to be less of a killer than having to try and crimp down and down. We got one of those power-measuring kits from the local council... intended to save you money. It said the freezer wasn't cold enough, so now our bills will be higher... heh.

I've always wanted to do this: so starting afresh will be a good reason to have to. We do need power for me to work, and besides I have no desire to return to the 'bad' aspects of self-sufficiency. There is a great deal of pleasure and good value and flavour and nutrition to be gained from catching your own fish and growing your own veggies. Not much benefit in spending several hours handwashing clothes and sheets. And lamp-light might be good for hiding the wrinkles, but it's lousy for reading. And getting up to shovel more coal into the steam-driven computer is a PITA. I've always wanted the best from both worlds, which I believe you can have by being selective.

Did the dentist today. Mutter - nice bloke - ex-South African and his radiographer wife. Diver and keen fisherman... and he x-rayed my niggly tooth and told me that the problem isn't a cracked or leaking filling it's a totally inadequate root canal, which has a low-grade chronic abcess gently poisoning me. This has been going on for quite some time, maybe even a couple of years. I had a similar issue a few years back and it just leaves one constantly mildly debilitated. Getting it fixed here, of course, is expensive which is why we tried to do it over there.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Squidding? Squiding?

I am busy knitting at the moment. Off and on since I left school and started working, I have been 'into' knitting and have produced several garments before the phase has worn off. This time I have produced a several pairs of gloves and 'mullimits', an amazingly shaggy brown jersey, which is the prime example of 'do not buy your wool from a hazy picture on line' and I am now knitting baby clothes for the CWA. A friend of ours was over in the 'big smoke' today so I asked her to get me some more wool, I am terrified of what might turn up next, if I order on line again. I did put in a second order in August, and they phoned me today to ask if I still wanted them to supply the wool, I used their slow response as an excuse to get out of it. I am used to 'on line' orders being dealt with in 24 hours not 24 days!!

I have had to learn a whole new language since we got here. Nothing to do with Aussie English/ South African English, but all to do with fishing.

So this evening we went squidding? or squiding? or anyway we went down to the wharf, and met a friend there, so we could initiate her in our methods of catching them.

The weather was too windy, the tide was too late, but after today the tide gets worse for about a week, so it was do or die day. So we put on a whole extra layer of clothes, and then added woolly hats and gloves, and set off.

The wind added a whole new perspective to casting. It was blowing almost straight back down the pier, so I was throwing as hard as I could across it, and getting a few metres out. Then a Pike jumped out of the water and tried to bite my squid jig. Dave lost interest in squid, and got a lure out for the Pike, he had a hit, but failed to land it.

I caught a squid, and then my line knotted, and in the late dusk I could not see well enough to untangle it, so I left it for tomorrow, and took the friend off to have a lesson in how to gut squid. Dave caught a second squid while we were busy, so I gutted that one as well, while the others went back to casting. But with no further joy, we divided the catch, and came home to the fire.

Still it shows that even if conditions are not perfect, there are still hungry creatures out there!

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Culture and fine dining, Flinders Island style

What do you mean you didn't know the ferry brought pro-biotic yogurt? I'll have you we also have agric. here!

Oddly, per capita, the island is probably more 'cultured' than Melbourne or Sydney, even if it lacks the gracious finesse of Pretoria (South Africa's world renowned 'snor'* city - and what could be more cultured than that?) and the sheer Zing Za-Za Boom of the metropolis of Kwambonambi. I suppose the island lifestyle requirements make for a rather... shall we say 'eccentric' mix, with the literary hub of Bowman's store, and the little art gallery across the road, and a very lively Sing Australia group, and at least three pick-up bands. The festival in the vines and various functions at the Sports Club and the tavern at Lady Barron are great places for enthusiasm (except for the gothy-emo ones who have a wonderful mix of enthusiasm and carefully cultivated ennui) and wondrous Australian-American accents. You haven't lived until you've the Flinders Island verson of Credence Clearwater Revival, or Dire Straits. Last night we had piano duets and the Sing Australia crew doing a charity event for anti-cancer. I am now so cultured that I know that 'Bait hoven' isn't tossing rotten pilchards overboard. At this rate I shall soon be ready to wear a cummerbund and grace elegant soirées! They let the audience sing at one stage, but after hearing Greg and I they realised what an evil they had let loose, and went back to playing the piano. I liked the Mikado bit though (which I know rather well on account of Rats, Bats and Vats).

And today we went to Birthdays(of several friends) lunch at Vistas - a little restaurant above Trousers Point. They do try to do local food, and their vegetables and salad come from the property. I had grilled lamb cutlets (exotic food for us) with a tomato relish. B had a scallop and prawn vol-au-vent with a wine and cream sauce. I'd have said some tarragon to the scallop sauce would have added a dimension, but it was still, for a little two person restaurant, in the middle of nowhere, a very credible effort. Producing 10 different meals, pretty fast, almost all together, is no mean feat. I know, and I had more staff! A lovely meal with entertaining company -- less intimidating than taking my publisher out to a restaurant in Melbourne was.

*snor is a moustache, a requirement for the social elite of the Jacaranda city (without any sexual discrimination, I am sure), aka Tchwane - pronounced chew-on-'e, which therefore may possibly also mean 'moustache'.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Excuse me, but you're getting it all wrong

...As the actress said to the bishop. I was talking to a friend via skype this morning, and the subject of supper came up.

"spiny-lobster ravioli in a mushroom and cheese sauce with spinach and raisins."

"You do eat exotic stuff don't you?" with the unspoken implication of howcome you claim to not have the money for your kids to be international students, and maybe go ski-ing in Colorado too.

Well, it's rather like the actress trying to explain that she's not a chiorboy, and that a different approach is called for. Tonight we had spiny lobster rissoles, with tagliatelli and fennel, tomato and peach chutney with flatleaf parley.

It would have been exotic and damned expensive in Melbourne. But the only bought ingredient yesterday were about twenty raisins. Tonight was a spoonful of peach chutney, and some butter on the noodles, and the teaspoon of oil I used to fry the fennel and the risoles in. The Spiny lobster is out of the local ocean, and give us 5 meals. We use everything but the guts. Everyone's chooks are laying right now, so friends keeping giving us eggs. A friend had to give up on gluten so gave us a lot flour which was getting a little elderly - so egg+flour+salt equals ravioli or tagliatelli. The cheese was a present from other friends emptying the fridge before flying out. The mushrooms - picked in the field next door in autumn and dried. The rissoles - half a roll from the flour, and cautiously picked (can we spare them?) thinnings of spring onions, parsley stalks, silverbeet stalks, bulb fennel softened and added into the the leg and carcass picking of the spiny lobster. The tomato chutney we'd been given from last season's glut, and of course parsley and spinach are fresh out of the garden.

'Exotic' would be lamb chops and frozen peas. We can get those things but they come from off-island. Or crumbed and frozen fish fingers.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Lost: one mountain

The wind has blown the mountain away. I've just had a look and there is no sign of Strzlecki to be seen. Just a gray haze where it used to be. I'd go and have a closer look but I am scared B would put an advert in the Island news. "Missing: one mountain and husband. Reward for mountain."

The days ARE getting longer, and locals say the wind is necessary to blow the muttonbirds back. At the moment it feels like it must be doing a double trip to pick a second batch. I am going to have to go over to Tassie and 'borrow' one of those signs that says '110km, it's a limit not a challenge'. Mind you the wind would probably just blow it over and ignore it.

The tomato seedlings are responding, and have survived a dose of my home made brown seaweed goop (made by letting kelp stand in water a milk-bottle) and are growing bigger. It shows the truth of the old South African adage "wat nie dood maak, maak vet" (what doesn't kill, fattens).

The seed-bed outside is fairing less well. The cats think it is a delightful big sandbox! The red onions have responded to this, and some Salsify and absolutely nothing else. Tassie is having a lot of rain, but we haven't.

It's drying out and last night I noticed a bit of static about. Can't wait to see it crackle off B's nylon knickers so I can say "My dear, I fear you have Amps in your panties" and then duck run very very fast :-)

Thursday, September 16, 2010

The patterns of the dance

Humans tend to be creatures of patterns. Pattern recognition helps me spot clams, helps me pick out spiny lobster from sea-weed. Helps me make a horse's butt out of the Scottish dancing which is very patterned (the fisherman's reel was more like the fisherman's bird's nest). The weather on Flinders of course follows its own patterns - mostly aimed at making a muck of mine - which are shaped around weeks, and the ferry (I bake on wednesday, as that's when our friends come to collect post and goods from the shop) and the tides (combinations of tide and light rule our fishing), which no one told the wind and weather they had to co-operate with. Still, we love order, forward planning, that sort of thing. I've been trying to find a pattern that would work best for my kids and their future and of course government beaurocracy has been playing the weather. Anyway, many 'phone calls and I hope I have something that will let them both follow their heart's desires and each other. Tomorrow we must talk and see if we can make it work.

Anyway, in the pattern of the seasons the seedlings are coming up in the garden. Tassie has had its'coldest day in decade or something. You can rely on the weather! (to muck things up).

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

21 and barely ever been kissed before (ha ha)

Well with Time-travel between countries it was James - my little 6'1" boy's 21st brithday bash last night/this morning. He's probably grateful that his dad wasn't around to show cute pictures of him dressed only in mud at age 18 months. Or blonde with long curly hair at pre-school.

Well. I miss my boy anyway. He'll lecture his old man, as usual, about all sorts of things from how I dive to how I eat... but I guess there is some justice there. I look forward to giving his children noisy musical instruments one day.

So here's to you my son.
May you build a ladder to the stars,
and climb on every rung.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

fried Abelone

I was so wrapped up in a piece I was trying to write that I nearly forgot to post today. We're expecting gloomy weather, so we went out to Peter's & Helen's place and took advantage of the offer of some extra she-oak. It's a beautiful spot, but oddly that doesn't make She-oak any lighter or softer! I've been trying to track down details for kids future here too. Needless to say they don't fit any of the damned boxes that are intended to sort people's lives out. So tomorrow will be more phone calls. B has sorted James flights out for the holidays - but we're still not sure about Pads.

I did Abelone in Island style (whole abalone crumbed, and fried) Now I have heartburn. Serves me right I guess.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Unis, kids, and trying to write

It's been one of those difficult days which I probably should have either gone for a long walk or gone fishing or dug over the garden. I had three must-do writing tasks for today and managed one. Paddy and Clare's saga about getting into the same country continue. They both want to continue at uni. Clare has an Honours from Cambridge, Paddy is just finishing his B.Sc in Physics and Comp. Sci. Clare wants to do post-grad medicine, and with firsts from her uni is going to be welcomed anywhere in the UK. Paddy wants to fiddle with matlab and continue as a career geek. He's already got acceptance for honours and a subwarden job - meaning his honours (in physics) and accomodation are effectively free at Rhodes. Rhodes does not offer Medicine, and anyway, SA Unis for medicine are an undergrad beginning thing and none-too highly regarded these days, sadly. So as Malawi (Clare's home at the moment) is a non-starter for both, SA is a non-starter for Clare, it's down to the UK or Australia. I might be biased here. If they married either one could take the other partner to their country - Paddy as permanent resident, can bring Clare to Australia on a 2 year temporary visa, which then converts to permanent 2 years after marriage - and then enter uni here as a local at local rates. Clare as a UK citizen could take her spouse and after 3 years of residence... he can enter their uni system as a local rates. International rates are just wildly beyond our or their reach. So, basically one or other cannot go to uni, (scholarships or buraries excluded) if they want to be in the same country for varying numbers of years. Working timelines for all this has basically left me unworked, and Paddy sleepless. Of course a scholarship or bursary could change this - but that's an uncertain area - especially for Pads in UK, where the competition is likely to be even stiffer. Most of them require that you enroll first and then apply. At least here he faces mere local rates (which is still worse than Rhodes, where they are trying to keep him).

Anyway, we had two Flinders island grown asparagus spears with our supper. Most delicious they were too! And now to try and focus on the sequel to Dragon's Ring. I need a bestseller, yesterday, for my kids sake. Just getting them out here is expensive enough, let alone all the other hoops. Still, they're all great kids, and we love them dearly.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Are we cannibals from Africa?

We've just had friends for dinner. They were very tough and had to be stewed for a while. Not that ALL South Africans are cannibals all of the time, it's just the price of meat here. And we've run out of enemies to cook :-). Heh. Which is why we served fish and calamari, and had a nice bottle of riesling. The cats were mightily certain we were cooking fish for them. The meal was fun -it's been a while since we entertained. Still, it is at times like this - after dinner, that you realise how nice having someone come in to do the dishes was. Anyway, we gradually piece together more of the island people - hear of people who make wind turbines and cut the blades with a chainsaw. Nothing like precision tools ;-). Sounds like my dad's Free State micrometer - a 4 pound hammer.

We got told of someone who has a cow and calf to sell - we want to do our own milk and our own chooks - but the time and cost might be too much right now - as the veg need a lot too.

I've decided - as I am going to be very busy writing for the next while, that I need to set up a project list or I will simply never get to any of these.
At the moment a crab-catching expedition,
a scallop scouting expedition - I still have to see them underwater and alive - have found a lot of fresh shells. Season is closed, but I would like to find them.
getting and hanging a mullet net. Got a reply and a price from Haverford.
A razor-clam expedition.
As sort of longer term projects prawns and eels need to be looked into, as does the big mincer. I want to get some wallaby, and turkey and do some sausage.

Saturday, September 11, 2010


The dogs seem set on punishing us for going to Aussiecon. Not as cats might with deliberate intent to let you know this is not what is expected of staff, but as rather nervous dogs might... ie. by sleeping all day when we're around, and insisting on going out 3-4 times a night. That was bad enough the first time around when we had young children. At 20-30... we were better able to cope or just stupider about admitting that it left us half-brain-dead. They were like this when they came out of quarantine, so I am hoping that they will settle again. I've got a slew of work to do, none of which is easy with with a yawn where the thinking pattern ought to be. We had a merry task getting them out the study this morning when B wanted to vaccuum it - they wanted to sleep!

We had our little fair on at the showgrounds today, with B working on a stall dispensing coffee, tea and various scones, and the dreaded saveloys pink and evil. Our neighbour Alan made haste get one before they were all finished, and did not understand my shudder. I said perhaps you had to be born Australian to enjoy them. I've cheerfully adopted vegemite, and muttonbirds, and I liked Milo long before I got here. But not Saveloys. Anyway, I bought some nice looking potatoes, and a few lettuce plants to boost the supply that are up, and a rod and reel that were going fairly cheap. Talked to a bunch of people and even bought a pumpkin. Yes, me. Bought pumpkin. Unlike brussel sprouts which would in my opinion best be served with saveloys to Robert Mugabe as his daily tea, pumpkin still comes under edible as fritters or roasted. I really don't like it boiled or as soup (boiled with extra water?). Besides it was a sympathy buy. They had a mountain of them.

I also had fun telling people at the used book stall that books rotted the brain. I should know, after all.

Friday, September 10, 2010

herbs and the value of people

Kate has flown off to Brissy and it was rather interesting going to the little airport... only on Flinders would you end up meeting and chatting to 4 sets of people (I think there were 3 people there we did not talk to or know) when seeing off a friend. It was an interesting view of the dynamics of what makes the island work. It is its community. It is a very fragile social environment and is actually enormously dependent on the general goodwill and 'mate-ship' of a relatively small number of people. Any society has its share of bludgers who put in as little as possible. Shrug. Those we have with us always. It's the others that matter, and the island is lucky to have a good few of them - but unlike the city, that's a fairly small and very finite resource. The Doctors and their son, who have managed to bind into the community, were on the plane out. So was the vet. So were some of the island's small population of children. The knock ons to three of the community things we belong to just from that handful are dire. The children are leaving and that is dreadful for the school, the others, to my relief, will be back. But it does remind you that this is an island, an isolated place on the edge. People have value, the way that they do not in the city, or even the mainland.

We went and made 'tea' AKA lunch for a sick friend (yet another person the island simply has no replacement for), and then took up an invitation from Peter to come see their place - which is off grid, powered by a wind-turbine we can see from here. Dave spent the afternoon being hopelessly envious of the tools. Sigh. We're a long way up from nothing (like when we started) but a long long way from where I need to be. Their house on the hill is beautiful - made of solid double-tongued cedar... from Canada. Ah well. One day. I will say that their wind-turbine is quite loud. That hadn't occured to me. And then they gave us some rosemary plants which I hope will establish. We've now got rosemary, sage, thyme, mint, oregano, lavender, parsley (moss curled and italian) tarragon and fennel growing. Obviously we still need basil and a bay tree, but fresh herbs are making strides. Garlic chives might be another experiment. The tomatoes are growing from seed in my study, but I have had no other major seed-growing experiments come up yet, but you can see spring is stirring.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Plinky-plonky frogs and girly stuff

The seasons turn. Now is the time for plinky-plonky frogs - which sound rather like one of the home-made fishing-line and oil-can guitars which I made as kid. I am particularly musically gifted at tuneless plinky-plonky noises and so the frogs in the fields. It's a beautifully eerie out there with the myriad stars burning down cold and clear, and the dark alive with the sound.

And our stuff arrived at the PO - we got our cordless drill and our other parcel. John-the-post-office took a look at the cordless drill (in its carrying case) and said to Barbs - "huh, more girly stuff, eh?" I think we'll get a chainsaw through the post next. Or maybe a jack-hammer? Still, I now have a mitre-saw and a drill - which I felt very bare without.

Anyway, I took Kate to my writer's group today, and then we took her to our Scottish romp... er dancing. Poor lass, I think she needs a holiday to recover from us!

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Alas, Poor Kate, we knew her well...

Poor Kate. She's had a rough day - having been viciously attacked by one of our streams as we walked to the waterfalls on Strzeleki. It jumped up and attacked and bruised her buttocks and wet her shoes, jeans, jacket, blouse and somehow missed her hat and camera. And then we tortured her with the smell of fresh Anzac biscuits (cookies, American friends) and prevented her from devouring the double batch. Then we left her fingers raw with digging for pipis (aka clams) in icy water. And then to add brutality to assualt, torture, and freezing, I threatened her with snot. Well, raw oyster. I am one of those cooks that believes that you have to taste (unless toxic raw) all the ingredients raw, so you can learn how cooking alters them, and therefore what cooking methods work for different tastes. Raw seaweed yesterday, raw oyster today. I was under the mistaken impression I was being nice. Oh well. It appeals to a cook. And I did cook her very own squid for her, which she liked much more than the snot.

Thrownetting today produced a large number of small mullet, one small Australian salmon, and no less than 4 flounder - all close-ish to legal size, but I put them back as I didn't have a measure with me. Oh and five palm-size crabs, which I kept for Tal Grottli (uses whole little crabs to flavour stock). I really need a proper crab-hunting expedition soon - there must be millions about, judging by the holes. The problem with crabs is of course inverse-square law as far as getting meat out is concerned.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

'Has anyone noticed I got razorburn from a kiss from Garth Nix?'

It would be a good title for the picture, anyway... Hard to find a nicer guy for my wife to get razorburn from. Barbs was also her usual multipurpose self. A signing table for Glenda Larke, a driver through the insane traffic of Inner city Melbourne. I refuse to do that. (She even drove Toni (my Publisher) and Howard Taylor and a friend of Toni's and I out to a little ex-pub called the 'The Fitz' for dinner which included Roo (I hear Kanga is hopping mad) which was appropriate, as Fitz is the Hero of RATS BATS AND VATS and THE RATS, THE BATS AND THE UGLY. The experience frightened Howard out of a year's growth, but did get Toni to put a title on a the next book - I am writing a sequel to DRAGON'S RING - DOG AND DRAGON. STARDOGS and the Leewit's tale (with Eric) are also on the probable card.
Of course there were panels and far too many people passing like ships in the night - I never got a proper chance to meet any number of people, and the programming was quite... changeable. But - despite not knowing where we had to be (Yes, I have a brilliant social secretary - when she's not being a signing table or chaffeur, and when the rooms have not been switched.) we had a pretty good con, and did have a lot of fun in chatting with Mel and Eric, and a lovely dinner too, and caught up with several other friends, Tan, Chris, Morgan, and the barflies - lovely to see you, and made some new ones. As usual I'm bubbling over with new daft ideas. We also did some vital shopping - acquired a drill and some pine nuts and rechargeable batteries and 3 litres of olive oil and some wool, and a heavier mallet for Abalone - much of which we had to post back. There were other fun things - people in interesting costumes (these are the exception, rather than rule everyone imagines. There was one which was the perfect cure for the common cold, on account of if the lady-wearer dared sneeze her VERY low cut and made for less... shall we say, frontage, garment, might have have had a 'wardrobe malfunction' that could have killed with flying sequins. Normally men stare at the frontage for reasons other than fear, and do not back away. This time it was different! And no, no photographs.

And then we flew back over to the island with Kate. Took her to molest chthulhu's offspring last night and to Castle rock, Killiekrankie, and then West End - where she caught her first fish today. I got some abs and we had them fresh Tassie style - one each, egg and then crumbs and fried (not too long), and a fennel tomato and seaweed dish for her tea. She's experiencing the magic of the Isle.

Monday, September 6, 2010

We're back!

Wow, what a CON. We had a really wonderful con, meeting so many of the blog readers, catching up with old friends and making new ones. The panels were fun, the interaction inbetween sometimes more so! Some of the costumes we saw were really good, some way out, but there was an amazing mix of nationalities, all having a ball, taking part in formal and informal discussions

Melbourne itself is a city, with people and traffic, and trams, which share the road with the cars, and sometimes have there own tracks, which I tried to drive down as well! I loved the company and the food, but I could have done without the other people on the road, as even with a GPS and sometimes several backseat drivers, I still managed to not get it right!

But it is great to get back home. Our dogs and cats seem pleased to see us. And the island seems to have survived without us remarkably well.

We celebrated by taking our (exAussie now US) visitor to go squiding, and she was the only one of the three of us to catch. So embarrassing. There was another fisherman on the wharf who caught, but we might have better luck next time.

But I, for one, am really tired, after all the interactions, the chatting and laughing, the constant worry about time, missing a panel etc, I am looking forward to a peaceful nights sleep.

Friday, September 3, 2010

Melbourne, conferences and other animals

Yes, we're here safe. Did you know our friends in Melbourne stayed in an obscurely named street... and Melbourne has two. Well, neither did we. The GPS did. We've had quite a tour, and ended up in a back alley with a high wall and barbed wire in a light industrial area... in the wrong suburb. Viva la map-book! Anyway Mel and Eric were very kind to us when got here, tired and city-shocked, to their far from light-industial home with the most important thing of any good house, lots of books and coffee. Oh and wooden floors I really envy. They are beautiful.

So far the con has been entertaining. We've met a fair numbber of people who said 'oh, we read your blog!' Hi guys. Sharryn, get a gmail addy, so Granny can visit and make grannistic comments.:-) There are also a number of tender young minds bruised by the fact that the con did not explicitly forbid me to talk about holocephalidae and their reproductive strategies in the Alien Zoo panel. Huh. They should be grateful. I spared them the slipper limpet, Crepidula fornicata.

We have pine nuts, a drill, vice grips and a larger abalone tenderiser and some more wool and a large olive oil and are now trying how to fit this into our weight allowance flying back. Interesting times!

The foraging arround here seems very protected by local landowners who want money before you harvest the roadkill in these hot metal trays. This 'restaurant' idea will never catch on, I tell you.

Anyway, we're alive and in one piece, and missing our dogs, cats and Island already.