Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Both woo and hoo


I have rather exciting news, and frustratingly, no real way to tell it. This is the situation.

In my spare time I write. I've been doing it from the pre-teen years, if you count the "Shangar the Black" stories*. It started out as mostly science fiction, fantasy, horror, That Sort Of Thing, but lately it's been more mainstream. It's been mostly short stories, because that's what I grew up on, but there's also been this blog, and several uncompleted novels (one autobiographical, one large-scale SF, one rather meandering attempt at erotica, and one in progress), and a great ream of poems and a few plays.

It's been mostly for my own enjoyment. Other people do weirder things.

Anyway, I applied for one of those hard-to-get-into boot camp things, those intensive "couple of weeks in the wilderness" hot-housing courses where they drop you in the desert with only a thesurus and you have to be able to construct a simile using only what you can find in the natural environment, and start a fire using only an aphorism and a lump of anapestic tetrameter... I applied and the other day they rang me and told me I was in.

This is serious good news for me, serious good news. It's happening this summer. I spent the rest of the night running up and down across the ceiling shrieking in a high-piched voice until Sarah coaxed me down with a glass of expensive (i.e.: more than five dollars a bottle) red wine, and I have not shut up about it since. Six weeks in the north Australian jungle with only other writers for company.

It is a bit terrifying. I haven't written short stories for ages. I don't know any of these people with whom I will be spending sixish weeks. I suspect, as I suspect many people do who succeed in anything, that any success I have had in this area has been due to the combined effects of luck, universal background weirdness and typographical errors in administration - my inadequacies may be found out. I may get writer's block, I may get manic or depressed, I not have anything to say. I may turn out to be allergic to semicolons.

But I am going. Pretty much the only thing that could stop me would be something medical happening to Sarah. I have commenced discussions with my boss, where I said I was going to go, and he said that other people wanted holidays around that time and it may not be easy, and I said that wouldn't be a problem, because I would resign and reapply for my own job when I came back, and given that they've been advertising for someone to do a similar job in a nicer area for two years without any real success, and that they would have a maximum of two months to find a qualified medical practitioner mad enough to want to come to the South but sane enough to work here who would out-interview and out-perform me, I reckoned I'd be right.

All calm and collected, but I've almost never disagreed with a senior doctor before, and it went relatively well.

So - I don't know how I'll blog from there, because of the whole confidentiality thing. The writers camp is called Greystoke, it's over a thousand kilometres away, on the grounds of Mangani University in Opar**. It's summer in the tropics. I have it on good authority that the air will be like treacle, that there will be honey-moths and sugar-cane and mango juice, and that there are people who will leave you alone, and there are rivers full of crocodiles.

We shall see. I had best get on with this. Thanks for listening - to be honest, this was written more out of "I want to tell people" rather than any thought that what I have to write will be interesting to others. Next post should be better.

Thanks for listening, will speak soon,


* "Black" in the way that black metal music is black - i.e. anaemically white but wanting to be scary.

** No, it's not. But until I come up with a better idea of getting around this whole confidentiality thing, that's what I'm going to be calling it.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Don't you thrust your crochets onto me


And have finally managed to get back onto my own blog after locking myself out for a considerable period of time. I would explain how this happend, but it's actually too pathetic to relate.

In other news, Sarah returned wide-eyed from the recent Supreme Inter-Galactic Cat Show and told me of a hideous encounter she had had.

She had taken her cats, as is her wont, to be displayed at the cat show, and the cats were positioned aesthetically in their cages. Sarah breeds extremely fine looking animals, all long soft fur and remarkable colours, but their nature remains unrepentently cat, and they frequently fail to co-operate with her. In particular, they do not pose regally on their sumptuous cushions of purple satin, looking impressive and inscrutable. Instead they clean themselves, curl up in a ball or on occasion, produce various luridly coloured gastro-intestinal products and sit there looking perplexed.

We have, by the way, two groups of cats, the outside ones and the inside ones. The outside ones are few, they have been given to us by people who say "otherwise he'll be put down". The inside ones are a few more, they are the product of Sarah's exquisitely worked out breeding programme.

The two tribes are at war. When the screen door is opened, the outside cats and the inside cats press up against it and swear at each other. Each tribe has its great warrior, war-chief, what the old Anglo-Saxons called their battle-wolf. The inside cats tremble at the dread name of Twinkle, while the outside cats groan beneath the iron claw of Fluffy.

Anyhow - the cats are in their cages, and people come up and look at them. Sarah was chatting with a fellow fancier*, when a small, red-faced man tapped managed to attract her attention.

"Excuse me" he said, pointing at one of the cages. "What kind of cat is that?"

"That cat?"


"There isn't one" said Sarah.

She was right. The cage held a single tiger-striped cushion. The cat that was going to be put in there was being examined by someone else.

"Well, what's that? is it a Siamese?" said the man, pointing at the cushion.

"It's a cushion" said Sarah.

"In the cage" said the man.

"It's just a cushion" repeated Sarah.

There was a pause. The smal man nodded impatiently. "What breed?"

Sarah stared. "Breed?"

"Yes, what breed is it?"

"Tontine?" guessed Sarah.

The man nodded again, and walked off. Sarah went off to have a cup of coffee and reconsider her beliefs about the advisability of government by democratic election. She put the cat in the cage, and he imediately squirmed underneath the cushion and went to sleep. A few minutes later the man and his family appeared.

"Look" the man was saying to his wife and children. "See?"

"It's certainly unusual" said the woman. "What kind is it again?"

"A Tontine. A Tontine Kushan" said the man, pronouncing it in some exotic-sounding orientalish way. "They're quite rare."

Sarah could endure no more. She did not want the man going around saying she travelled around the state attending cat shows and exhibiting embroidered bits of manchester. She hobbled to her feet. She placed her face close to the man's and spoke clearly.

"There is no cat in there" she eunciated. "It is a cushion."

The man stared at her, then gazed downward. As far as anyone could see, the cage was empty of all animate life. only the gentle rising and falling of the pillow with each breath of the cat below gave any hint of occupacy. The man gazed for a moment, then looked up at Sarah with a belligerent expression.

"Well, if it's not a cat then, how come I can see it breathing?"

This is actually true. Not a word of a lie.

Anyhow - I will post again soonish. In the interim I leave you with a definition from an archaic on-line dictionary I was reading:

crotcheteer [crotchet (whim) + -eer] one who has a crotchet or who thrusts his crotchets on others

Anyone who is enlightened by that explaation, please forward an interpretation to me.

Thanks for reading,


*The correct title for a breeder of cats. Thus the Cat Fancier, the Dog Fancier, etcetera. There was actually a magazine dedicated to those who breed the particular species of bird known as the Boy, but the magazine no longer exists. There is a book.