Saturday, 31 January 2009

Five things I learned on holidays

1) Holiday houses never have enough teaspoons.

2) Fishing is no fun if all you’re doing is baiting hooks and casting lines for children.

3) Children only enjoy fishing if they catch a fish in the first 30 seconds. Makes you wonder why you bothered baiting all those #@$?!*! hooks.

4) Going for a brisk walk along the beach every morning will only do pleasing things for your hip measurement if you don’t also spend the rest of the day lazing around eating cheese and biscuits and drinking wine.

5) Actually fishing is no fun full stop. I only know how annoying it is to take children fishing because the Carnivore told me. I was lazing on the lounge eating the cheese and biscuits while he was out suffering. Look, it was tough, but someone had to do it.

I should probably add a sixth point: I discovered I’m even lazier than I'd realised, hence there were no blog posts while I was away. I did a few pages in my art journal, but failed to finish any of the sewing projects I took, or read any of the books. I was a complete vegetable, though I did manage to drag myself off the lounge long enough to thrash the whole family at putt-putt golf. A most satisfying holiday!

So I’m back, all refreshed and ready to dive into the challenges of the new year. Baby Duck starts school on Monday, so once I get over the tearful goodbyes (mine, not his) it will be full steam ahead on Dragonheart, my fantasy novel which has been languishing since Nano ended.

And yes, I’m aware there was a fairly awful movie around a few years ago of that name. The best thing about it was that the dragon had a Scottish accent, since it was voiced by Sean Connery, who never bothers to alter his accent even to play a Russian sub commander. It’s only a working title. No doubt something stupendous and far more suitable will occur to me in the fullness of time. In the meantime I’d appreciate it if you kept the sniggering to a minimum, okay?

Wednesday, 14 January 2009

I see dragons, he sees ... bacon?

Remember Mark Antony’s beautiful speech from Antony and Cleopatra that begins “sometimes we see a cloud that's baconish”?


Okay, how about this. What do you see in this picture?

A rhino perhaps? A dragon even?

We visited Jenolan Caves in the Blue Mountains west of Sydney recently. The ducklings and I had fun spotting all sorts of strange creatures in the caves, like this “dragon”. There were stalacmites at odd angles that looked just like unicorn horns, lots of monsters and a couple of dragons.

What was my beloved’s contribution to this game of make believe?

“Hey, that one looks like bacon.” [He's talking about the pinkish shawls hanging from the ceiling.]

My meat-obsessed carnivore doesn’t have a poetic bone in his body. Drama Duck and I looked at each other, that special look that says “we really love him but he’s not quite like the rest of us, is he?”

“Maybe the dragon eats the bacon,” she said.

It was an … interesting day. We changed our minds several times about whether or not to go that day due to doubtful weather and general laziness (at least on my part). So we didn’t end up leaving till eleven, and by the time we got there it was 3 o’clock in the afternoon.

The last 10 kms or so of the trip winds round and round the mountainsides on a road that feels about two foot wide, with a terrifying drop off the edge. I was practically hyperventilating and vowing never to return before we’d even arrived. Thank goodness we didn’t meet one of the many tourist buses coming the other way.

There’s nothing much there above ground, just a hotel and ticket office. We crawled past a million tourists to the carpark, which was full. A sign directed us up a steep road to carpark 2.

Which was also full. So we climbed more mountain roads, around more scary twisty bends to carpark 3.

Which was also full. By this time we are a long way from where we need to be and I’m starting to wonder if we’re going to have to park somewhere in central Australia. The road is now a dirt track with a most terrifying incline. But at last we find a place to dump the car, though we almost lose traction and fall back down the mountainside trying to get there. A helpful man directs us to a walking track to take us back down to the ticket office, which he says will take about 20 minutes “or I could call the bus up here for you”.

“No, no,” says the Carnivore gaily, “we’re happy to walk.”

I think 20 minutes might take more like 40 with Baby Duck in tow, but I can’t face the idea of a bus ride back down that dreadful road either, so we walk.

Did I ever mention that I hate walking downhill? I know I’m not the fittest person, but by the time we got to the bottom my quads felt like jelly – and we hadn’t even started yet.

The first guided tour that wasn’t sold out was at 4:30, so we spent the time in between doing the self-guided tour of the Nettle cave, which is largely above ground. Demon Duck kept having conniptions about how high up we were, but everyone else enjoyed it (though there were a lot of stairs).

Then we took a guided tour of the Lucas Cave. Our guide announced that there were 910 steps to climb “but don’t worry, they’re nearly all at the beginning – after that it’s okay”. So we and 164 million of our new best friends trooped off up the stairs of torment to view the delights of the Lucas Cave.

Which took so long, with 164 million people in the group, that there was no time to see any more caves after that, for which I was profoundly grateful, though Baby Duck was disappointed. He wanted to go back the next weekend.

Fortunately we didn’t have to climb back up the mountain to our car. There was a minibus to take drivers back to the various carparks, otherwise I’d probably still be there, crawling upwards on my hands and knees.

One more not-a-New-Year’s-resolution: Must. Get. Fit.

[And one more time without the bacon:

Sometime we see a cloud that’s dragonish;
A vapour sometime like a bear or lion,
A tower’d citadel, a pendant rock,
A forked mountain, or blue promontory
With trees upon’t, that nod unto the world,
And mock our eyes with air

Friday, 9 January 2009


Whew! Lucky I didn’t make any New Year’s resolutions. Those babies would have been smashed already. Have I been exercising? Eating less rubbish? Writing every day? Updating my blog twice a week? Only if today is Opposites Day.

Not that I’ve been completely unproductive. I’ve sewn a few bags lately, including a tote bag for Demon Duck’s teacher that we both liked so much we were sad to part with it.

I also finished a more sedate handbag for myself. I’m wearing a lot of blues and browns lately so it goes nicely.

I’ve got stuck into the decluttering and have already thrown out a stack of scrapbooking magazines about four foot high. I’m still working my way through another stack almost as big. This job is part of the reclamation of the rumpus room as a usable space and not just a junk storage area, which has been hanging over my head for ages. It feels great to see the floor reappearing from under the piles!

A curious side effect of the sorting process is that is makes me want to scrap again – or at least mess around with paints and patterned paper, which I haven’t done in nearly two years. I dug out my old art journal and did a couple of pages, which was a lot of fun. This is one of them.

So no New Year’s resolutions, because I know I’ll break them. But goals – I can do that. Generally I aim too high and miss, but at least I get further than I would otherwise. Last year I wanted to finish two first drafts, Man Bites Dog and Starfire. I only managed Man Bites Dog, but I wouldn’t have done even that without something to aim for. I also wrote 50,000 words on a new novel, Dragonheart, plus started revisions on Man Bites Dog.

Another goal was to start submitting short stories for publication. I only submitted two, which wasn’t as many as I’d planned, but one got a very encouraging rejection and the other got published, so that went pretty well too.

Writing goals for this year are:

* finish revising Man Bites Dog
* complete first draft of Dragonheart
* write and submit more short stories
* establish a routine of writing daily (at least on school days!).

Other goals include:

* keep up with the monthly art journal challenges at Blue Bazaar
* declutter and get organised
* have more fun!
* and I’m not even going to mention the whole exercise-and-diet thing.

The “have more fun” goal started well. On New Year’s Day we had afternoon tea with the neighbours that turned into dinner and a movie as well. Less successful (from my point of view at least) was an excursion to Jenolan Caves a few days later. But I’ll tell you about that next time I post on my new bi-weekly*-but-it’s-not-a-New-Year’s-Resolution schedule.

Happy New Year to all!

*I just looked up “biweekly” in the dictionary because I was having a vague moment about whether it means “twice a week” or “once every two weeks”. According to my dictionary it means both. Both?? They’re two completely different things! It’s an outrage!! What kind of sloppy good-for-nothing word is that?