Wednesday, 26 August 2009

Great fiction?

I have just completed one of my greatest pieces of fantasy. It is a speculative, historically-based, narrative that will weave together ideas from contemporary and historical media sources, inspiration from current policy directions and futuristic approaches to fundamental health issues. And all in only 23 pages! At least the proposal is 23 pages. The final manuscript will of course be more weighty.

It has to submitted in signed septuplicate. Yes – it is a grant application that took me approximately a month to pull together. As I proofread the final version I pondered on the fact that last year 1500 people applied for these three positions. So, if everyone’s application was approximately the same length:

1500 x 23 = 34,500
34,500 x 7 = 241,500

Any guess on how many trees 241,500 sheets of paper equals?

My other writing time has been limited to jotting ideas on notepaper while waiting between meetings. Oh the exotic life of the writer!

Thursday, 20 August 2009

Linguistic gymnastics

In the Weekend Australian in an article on the possibility of the introduction of capital gains tax to the family home:
The Henry review is scheduled to release its recommendations in December. Dr Henry told a conference six weeks ago that the review was close to “putting big ideas on paper”...
For some reason that phrase just tickled my fancy. I think I’m going to go around telling people that I am close to putting big ideas on paper. Not true, but who is going to quibble? You could argue forever on the definition of “close.” As to “big ideas,” don’t get me started. But it sounds pro-active and forward-thinking and I could do with some of that.

Tuesday, 18 August 2009

Dance season

It must be spring – the snakes are a’ slithering. As I sit here writing, there is a constant susurration in the ceiling above my head. Although I know:

a) it’s probably a carpet python with no ill intentions towards me.
b) probably not poisonous if a)
c) unlikely to be able to get into the house
d) likely to be more scared of me than I am of it

the hairs on the back of my neck still tingle. It’s all those weasel words like probably, unlikely and likely that make me twitch.

There is something elemental about snakes. My father, the Baptist minister, would say that it all goes back to the Garden of Eden and original sin. I don’t know if he thought of it in those terms when he almost trod on one a few days ago lying in a puddle of sunshine by the water tanks (the snake, not my Dad). I do know that he described himself as feeling “extremely alert” for the rest of the day.

Last year the children called the snake in the ceiling “Langeschlange Laps.” I suspect this year it is an even more lange schlange and it definitely is doing laps. It cavorted for only a few days last year before it started venturing out over the trees and tanks. I remember that cavorting season was in September because I was in Sydney for my parent’s big party. It seems as if the schlange schedule has moved up this year. Maybe there’s a big party coming up. Other bets are on a long hot summer.

Thursday, 13 August 2009

Oh starry night

I’ve not been sleeping well recently. The kids have all had some sort of flu-virus thing that left them first sick then miserable. There have been lots of late night visits and small requests coming out of the dark: “May I sleep with you for a while Mummy?” While it is sweet, it isn’t conducive to sleep, especially if it happens more than once in the night.

Last night I walked one child back to bed at 3.30am and on the way back to my own, stopped to see if I could see the Perseid meteor shower. It was a stunning night: clear with a suggestion of haze around the stars (or maybe that was just the sleep in my eyes). I watched for about five minutes, but didn’t see any meteors. I think I would have needed to be outside for a longer period of time.

Lying back in bed I started worrying about a meeting I have today and tried to focus my mind on other things. “I know,” said I to myself, “I’ll think about writing, that thing that I currently have no emotional energy or time for. That’ll help me sleep.”

I did eventually get back to sleep. I’ve been gnawing for a week or so though over the idea suggested by one Australian book publisher that a good book needs to tell or show or make you think in a way that you haven’t before. He wrote about how even though the Harry Potter and Stephanie Meyer series are hugely popular, they don’t really give you a fresh perspective on the world. I want to go back to my book and reread it in the light of whether it says anything new, fresh and thoughtful about the world. And if it doesn’t, I need to do something about it…maybe next time I’m wandering the house at 3am.

Thursday, 6 August 2009

Crotchety things

I have it on good authority that it is probably the crows eating the lemonades. I’ve had to pick the ripest ones and bring them inside. I am fond enough of the fruit to enter battle with the crows. They of course get their revenge by their crack of dawn arguments in the tree outside our bedroom window.

There are few sounds more insistent and irritating than a crow in full voice when the light is still blue and the household asleep.

My battles with the crows are fairly low-key scuffles. After all, neither my livelihood nor my daily food depends on beating the predators. I often give thanks for being able to live in the country without having to be dependent on it. I’m not even a gentlewoman farmer, just a frivolous dabbler around the edges of food production. I’m thrilled when I get to eat something we’ve grown but I do not depend on it in any way.

Through a chain of events, I realised today that I have been blogging for nearly two and a half years. A friend of mine recently redesigned her website and I wondered if I should do the same. Would it actually look fresh and inviting like hers or would it look like a desperate attempt on my part to hide my lack of writing?

And lack is what it is. My mother-in-law asked how work was going and laughed when I told her that I am frightened most of the time. Mothers-in-law sometimes do that. It is all new, all difficult, all stretching me in different directions. I feel like I only have a light grasp on what I am doing and that my skill-set is mutating as I speak. This can be a good thing but it’s certainly exhausting. I wish I could say that I wasn’t writing because I was reading, or growing food, nurturing my children, whipping up delicious meals or doing something else productive. The answer is much more simple. I’m just too tired at the moment.

Tuesday, 4 August 2009

The quick and the hungry

Winters in the Rosewood Scrub are glories of cold, frosty nights and perfect blue and gold days. Flowers blaze. Roses, geraniums, nasturtiums, verbena, the wattles, jonquils, basil, even the citrus are flowering. Mandarins and lemons hang on trees. People leave anonymous piles of citrus in tearooms and church halls hoping for takers. I’ve clearly been here long enough though that my plaint is that it is too dry. The ground is cracking, grasses drying, trees wishing for a solid soaking.

This used to be the worst time of year for us to get up our driveway. Dust would cloak the gullies and our engines and tyres and children and bladders would protest every jolt and grind. Complaints of all this year are replaced with joy at a sweep of smooth bitumen. Well, not the complaints of all – one neighbour has complained that we removed his prime entertainment of watching people tackle the driveway but you can’t please everyone. Of course, immediately after replacing the driveway, our septic system revolted (in so many ways), but that’s another story.

A common sight at this time of year are tiny glints of light all over the hills as people hang reflectors in trees and on fences to try protect fruit crops. The weapons of choice are cds or bladders from cask wine, tied to strings. They dance in the light and sometimes frighten off the birds. We often hang them in the guava and mulberry trees but have never done so in the citrus. I’ve never had to fight the wildlife for our lemonades until this year. One day there was this:

And the next this:

I don’t even know what it was. Is there something out that that has a taste for tangy sweet citrus? Was it a crow that it was able to break through the skin? Or was it something that gnawed its way in? In these hills it's the quick and the hungry.