Monday, 28 February 2011

Avoiding cliche

How do you describe the last few days of summer while avoiding cliche? Every phrase that springs to mind: "dog days", "shimmering heat", "brassy sunshine", "warm fug of humidity", "burning footpaths", "breathless sunstained evenings", "car doors too hot to touch", "sudden gusty storms", "melting dregs of the day"...all sound trite and overused.

Has summer really been so dissected and described that there is nothing left to say? Or has my brain simply melted into a puddle of raddled cliches swirling around in what the sun and sweat have left?

Wednesday, 23 February 2011

Super Vignettes

OED, Vignette: /vi:'njet/ A short descriptive essay or character sketch.
Me, Super vignette: Extra short descriptive sketch.


A palomino mare and foal: golden horses, white railings, green, green field. Gone by in a flash of gold, white, green.

Grey mare with brown foal and a discussion of genetics. And why Blithe Boy isn't adopted even though he is the only blonde Blithe.

Local pacing trainer ambling along the road in his buggy texting as he goes. Does the law against using your mobile phone while driving apply here?

Unbearably muggy molten days turning to cool, dampness on the wings of a fantastical lightening and wind storm.

Learning some new techniques for
plotting novels and trying to figure out when to try them out.

Realising that while I like doing business, there are few things more boring than business network meetings.

Finding a three word description of my business: I sell words.

Being told that I am middle-aged and feeling middle-aged from lack of sleep.

A woman asking for scuffs (backless slide on shoes) at the shoe shop then telling me that she also doesn't like anything over the top of the foot. Me stopping myself from telling her that, by definition, that would no longer be a shoe, just something on which you were temporarily standing.

My big sister running her first half marathon in 2 hours and 36 minutes. I couldn't even run for half an hour. My admiration is boundless.

A huge brown bird dozing in the sunshine on a fencepost being harassed by a pair of lapwings until it finally flaps lazily across the dam. Downthrust from its wings ruffling the brown surface of the water. Walking stiffly to the side of the dam to drink with the lapwings still circling and insanely squawking.

Saturday, 12 February 2011

Strange paths

It's been an odd week or so. The irony is that when I am busy getting things done in real life, my blogging suffers. I started blogging almost four years ago now as a way to get myself writing and to exercise my writing muscles. Now, much of my everyday life consists of writing and reading and I don't need the exercise so much. And I just often don't have the time or energy to write something interesting and significant. If you're interested in brief snippets of my life, you can follow my tweets. Sometimes it is easier to come up with 140 characters than a fully fledged post.

The second irony is that in being busy, I've started writing fiction again in odd moments. I've picked up a second part-time job working in a friend's shoe store. In between pricing shoes and helping people select shoes, I often have quiet moments and the motivation to write. I think my family are a bit horrified that I'm heading down the path of career suicide or are at the very least over-qualified. I point out that it's not a lifetime career choice but a part-time job that pays a few bills and isn't too stressful. I'm working two half days, between taking the kids to school and picking them up. It's a local shop in the next small town. I see lots of people I know, meet many others and find the people watching fascinating. I'm wondering if I could get away with writing a book based on the characters I meet in the mode of D.E. Stevenson's Miss Buncle.

It's also a delight to be out of the university and community consultancy mindset. No-one is talking about key learnings, policy recommendations, transparency, accountability, commitment to social equity, strategic support and all the jargon of bureaucracies everywhere. Not that I don't enjoy that but I can step away from it and see it for the self-contained (though better-paid) world that it is.

I'm also working on helping the shop get into online shopping. It's a slow process starting with needing to get a new computer. I discovered that the computer in the shop was bought second hand in 1998 from the local high school! I personally would never buy a computer that has ever been anywhere near a high school. It's like buying a car from a driving instructor -- the guts have been well and truly flogged out of it (not to mention the germs). Oddly enough, this dinosaur is connected to broadband. It's like the Mississippi River funnelled through a mouse-powered turbine that chokes regularly. Once the hardware problem has been solved, I suspect I've have less spare time for writing but I'll be using again some of my "core competencies" to "strategically position" the shoe store online.

See. I can still do it.

Tuesday, 1 February 2011

Cool but frightening

Take a look at this animated image of Cyclone Yasi bearing down on North Queensland. It is expected to cross the coast around 1am on Thursday. Residents are currently being asked to evacuate low-lying areas and to drive south as far as possible, but at least as far as Mackay. Enforced evacuations will kick in later today. Two Cairns hospitals are being evacuated to Brisbane.

Cairns is 1700km from Brisbane, Mackay is 1000km. So people driving themselves away from the coast need to be at least a day's drive south.

And for those congenital sightsee-ers, this message from the Deputy Police Commissioner who according to the
ABC says that "anyone foolish enough to venture out during the height of the cyclone will be left to fend for themselves."

"At about 8:00am tomorrow, on current predictions, it will become dangerous to be driving about or walking about or doing anything outside due to the force of the winds," he said. "If people purposely go out and get into strife and create a high risk, sending emergency services workers out into that environment is not practical or sensible."

It's a tough year to be in Queensland.

Onward and upward

I'm rereading Don Watson's Death Sentence: The Decay of Public Language. It is not just a rant, it's an inspirational rant. Don't read it if you want to feel comfortable in your management-speak and your everyday sloppiness of expression. Do read it if you want to feel challenged to express ideas simply, clearly and powerfully.

In his own words:
Words can be like notes, like expressions of the soul. They can make our hair stand up, they can lift our understanding to a higher plane, make us see things differently. They can inspire love and hope. You can see it happen before your eyes. Words can create a magic halo. But they have to have some thought or sentiment attached; and, like notes, be skillfully arranged.
Go, arrange words, make some music.