Friday, July 31, 2009

And in flew Enza...

I had every intention of being a good blogger this week, and blogging away every day. Even just a little bit.

And then, at 5.13 monday night, I got a sore throat.

"Darn. Here comes a head cold." I said.

Oh, such optimism.

By tuesday morning, I no longer had a sore throat. Instead, it felt like someone had scoured the inside of my neck with steel wool. I also had a headache, which I put down to lack of caffeine and tried to 'cure' with three double shot coffees over the course of the morning.

Not surprisingly, this didn't work. (Though I got through my tuesday afternoon lecture in record time!)

Tuesday night: Couldn't get warm. Wore ugly brown flannel PJ's, thick dressing gown, wrapped self in blankets. Put on the felt bootliners from my Antarctic Boots. Was still cold.

"I think I'm getting sick." I told Imogen.

"Duh." She replied.

Wednesday morning: 8.30am tutorial. "I'm not feeling too flash, so I'll keep away from you all." My class didn't seem to mind. Finished class early. Called the uni health service. Made an appointment.

"Do you have the flu?" the receptionist asked.

"I don't think so." I replied.

Now, let me explain. I had my flu-shot this year, damn it. It made me feel appalling for about a week afterwards, but I had it anyway so that I wouldn't get the flu. I was set. Guarenteed a flu-free winter. It was a lock.

Hadn't factored in Mexican Pig Disease, though.

"What are your symptoms?" The nice lady at the medical centre asked.

"Uhm, aching all over. Headache. Really sore throat..."

"I'll tell you what." She replied in a voice so tolerant that I immediately felt like a complete nong. "When you come into the clinic, you'll find a box of face masks and some handwash on a desk. Just wash your hands and put on a mask before you come up to see me, okay?"

"Oh my god! I've got swine flu, haven't I? I'm going to DIE!"

"Just put the mask on, buddy."

She hung up on me.

For fifteen minutes I sat there, head pounding, in my darkened office. My life didn't flash before my eyes so much as ooze down the back of my throat. Then I went down for my appointment. Put on the mask, as directed. Washed the hands, as directed. And then went back outside and sat in the corridor outside the medical centre, as directed. On the bench with me were two other people. Both also with masks on. None of us looked too happy.

"Oh hell, this is it. I'm going to die like a character from a Michael Crighton novel." I thought. For a moment I thought of grabbing my two fellow victims. We could make a run for it. But then one of them launched into a series of lung-inverting, hacking coughs, and so I just moved to the other end of the bench, instead.

After a short wait, an unmarked door in the corridor opened, and Darth Vader came out.

"Anthony Eaton?"

Hang on a moment! That's not the rich, dulcet tones of James Earl Jones. That's just some skinny doctor wearing more respiratory protection gear than your average scuba diver. I followed him in, through the unmarked door and into (I kid you not) the medical centre storage room. I took a seat beside a pile of crutches. Next to a stack of cardboard boxes marked 'Antiseptic hand wash.'

"What seems to be the problem?" Asked Darth.

"I'm going to die, aren't I?"

"Well, philosophically speaking, we're all going to die. It's the existential dilemma, isn't it?"

Actually, Darth didn't really say that. I wish he had, though.

Instead, he looked in my ears. And listened to my chest. And looked down my throat.

"You've definately picked up influenza."

"But I had my flu shot."

"Yeah. So did a lot of people. This swine flu really threw a spanner in the works..."

I sat. Waiting for him to press the button which would call in the men in white coveralls and full face helmets to whisk me off in an unmarked white Ford transit van to an unknown location, somwhere in the mountains outside Canberra.

"Go home. Take some sudafed. Oh, and as you've got a baby in your house, we'll put you on Tamiflu, too. Also take some cough mixture for the cough."

"I don't have a cough."

"You will."

I went home. Sadly disappointed at the lack of unnamed health department operatives shadowing my every move. Didn't they get it? I was now an agent of the plague.

Yesterday, I spent the day in bed. It wasn't nearly as much fun as it should have been.

This morning, I've developed a bit of a cough. Darth was right. He must have been using the force.

I'm feeling a bit better now, though. Mike S was right when he tweeted me that 'Tamiflu will be your friend.' it is. This morning, I almost felt like a coffee. Almost.

So anyway, that's my non-blogging excuse.

Now, I'm going back to bed. It's almost 10.00am, after all...

Friday, July 24, 2009

Will be able to blog on a semi regular basis on matters pertaining to, but not limited to, own life...

So...

This week I've been putting together a job application.

*gasp*

I realise that for most of you who are, you know, living in the real world, this probably isn't such a big deal.

But for the last seven years I'VE BEEN WORKING AS A FULL TIME, SELF-EMPLOYED WRITER, PEOPLE!

And that's not the worst part. The last time I actually had to apply for a job was when I finished university and applied for my teaching position in Perth. I applied for one job. I had one interview. That was in 1994.

That's right. The sum total of my experience in the field of getting a proper job is one interview, over a decade and a half ago.

And boy, things have changed...

When I finally dug it out, my CV was only half a page long. It had dog-paw prints on it. A silverfish had eaten the honours off my arts degree. When I compared it to the job advertisement, it was immediately clear that it wasn't going to work any more.

For one thing, what the hell are 'selection criteria'? Who invented them? When? And why do I have to assess myself against them? Isn't that what the selection panel are for?

For what it's worth - here's the 'selection criteria' for my life since leaving teaching at the end of 2002:

The ideal candidate for this position will:
  • Get out of bed before nine. At least twice per week.
  • Write a minimum of words per day.
  • Remember not to repeat the same gags at the same festivals two years running.
  • Develop a fondness for toasted cheese and mustard sandwiches
  • Have a dog who requires putting out / bringing in a minimum 900 times per day
  • Be addicted to caffeine.
That's it. You'll note no requirement to be fully committed to the principles of equity (even though I am) and to maintaining an optimal OH&S environment in my working position. No need to have a 'demonstrated capacity for production of best-practice output at world-class levels'. I don't even need to own a tie!

*Sigh*

Luckily, I have some lovely friends, who have been far more diligent than I during the last few years, who have bothered to familiarise themselves with 'jobspeak' and have all gently pointed out to me that referring to my ability to entertain "sugar-loaded year nines on a friday afternoon" as an "educational strength" probably won't cut the mustard with the interview panel. (Mmmmm...mustard. *fighting back sudden craving for a toasted sandwich*) Thanks to them. You know who you are...

Actually, I'm rather excited about the whole thing, now. I'm really loving 'selection criteria'. I'm thinking of running my whole life according to them.

"Sorry darling, the ideal candidate to change that particular nappy will be fully conversant with current infant-hygene technology, and capable of implementing that knowledge at all levels of their day-to-day parenting practice. That's clearly not me..."

Have a good day, everyone. I'm off to rewrite my CV...

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

An Open Letter to the Prime Minister, Kevin Rudd

I'll be dropping copies of this in the mail this afternoon, to both the PM's Canberra and Queensland offices...

The Hon. Kevin Rudd
P.O.Box 6022
House of Representatives
Parliament House
Canberra, ACT

Dear Mr. Rudd,

I write concerning the recent proposal from the productivity commission regarding changes to Australian Territorial Copyright laws. As a parent, an educator and a practicing, published, Australian writer, the ramifications of these proposed alterations concern me immensely, and I appeal to you and your government not to accept the commission’s proposals.

Mr Rudd, you were elected to office on the promise of (among other things) an ‘education revolution.’ I among many other Australians voted for your government. On the night of your election, I can still recall clearly the elation that I and my family felt as the numbers came in – the firm belief that ‘things would be different now’. I was similarly delighted a few days later when you named Ms. Gillard as your deputy and minister for education. Along with thousands of other Australians I stood on the lawns of Parliament house on the 13th of February, 2008, listened to and cheered at your apology to the Stolen Generations. As far as I am concerned, these were all positive and effective steps towards propelling this country towards a brighter, inclusive, educated future.

The proposal by the productivity commission, though, is not. It is the result of intensive and expensive lobbying by large corporations, using former Premier Bob Carr as their mouthpiece and spokesperson, and cynically disguised as the ‘coalition for cheaper books.’ It is a recommendation based on the broad principles of free market ideology, but without reference to the specific features of the market in question.

Mr Rudd, the Australian publishing industry is a thriving, competitive, creatively and artistically progressive one. Australian authors, despite what the letters page of The Australian would have us believe, are achieving disproportionate amounts of success on the world stage. In my own field of Children’s and Young Adult writing, Australian writers are highly sought after and regarded by the enormous United States and European publishers. We regularly win major international prizes in acknowledgment of this fact. Last year Melbourne Writer Sonya Hartnett was awarded the Astrid Lindgren Memorial Prize – the world’s largest and most significant award for Children’s and Young Adult writing. This year Melina Marchetta received the American Library Association’s Michel L. Printz Medal for her novel Jellicoe Road – again, one of the most prestigious prizes in literature.

One of the key reasons that writers such as Hartnett, Marchetta and many others including myself are able to compete and succeed on the international stage, Mr. Rudd, is because we live in a country where there is a vibrant and successful local publishing industry, which is in a position to be able to profitably nurture new writing talent, making a career in writing a viable – if not always lucrative – one.

The proposal to abolish territorial copyright laws will destabilize the foundations upon which this industry rests, if for no other reason than the fact that we will be opening our own market up to a marketplace which, for almost every other country in the world, is closed to us in return. This is not a free trade agreement which is being proposed here, Mr. Rudd – it’s an open invitation to the publishers of countries like the US and England, who themselves maintain stringent territorial copyright laws with regard to their own markets and show no signs of removing them, to have free reign within the Australian economy. It will funnel profits for Australian writing directly overseas, will put Australian writers in the position of having to compete for sales against cheaply produced and imported overseas copies of their own works, and will make it almost impossible for smaller Australian publishing houses to compete against the might of multinational publishers and retailers. It will destabilize the Australian publishing industry, remove the Australian content from many of the Australian books published to our children, and make the prospect of writing Australian fiction, which might not sell overseas, a distinctly unappealing one.

Additionally, despite Mr. Carr’s assurances to the contrary, there is no guarantee that this move will in any way effect the price of books. Dymocks practice of regularly charging above recommended retail price for its products would seem to suggest that they are not nearly so concerned with the bottom line for consumers as their marketing spin would suggest. Should this legislation pass, they will be under no obligation to drop their prices – the Australian market for books will remain unchanged in terms of number of consumers, competition, and price points. All this will do is open the door for Dymocks and their partners to lower their own bottom line at the expense of the writers and publishers who provide their product.

Mr Rudd, I urge you not to accept the productivity commission’s recommendations. Aside from the fact that they have been made against the advice of almost every Australian writer and publisher, the impact that they will have on Australian reading and writing culture will, if nothing else, serve only to undermine and weaken any possible long term effect of your education revolution.

Sincerely,

Anthony Eaton.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Territorial Copyright and Being Heard

As there is a lot of debate currently happening on the issue of territorial copyright, I thought it might be a good idea to put some useful information together in one place, so that people who want to be heard find it simple to do so. Here, then, are a few steps and bits of information you might find useful

1. Inform yourself. The following websites will be handy in making sure you have a solid working background knowledge of the issue: (For the most part, these arguments are from the perspective of the writing/publishing community. This includes me. I make no apologies for the fact. If you'd like the Dymocks/Big Business side of the argument, I'd suggest you phone Bob Carr...)

2. Get Writing: Write to politicians (on both sides of politics), the media, and anyone else you can think of. A few tips:
  • Use snail mail - Good old fashioned envelopes and stamps. These have an impact and large organisations and political offices find things in hard copy a lot harder to ignore, because they leave a paper trail. One of my university politics lecturers once told me that if you wanted a pothole in your road fixed, you should write to the Queen, as the letter would be stamped by Buck. House and then forwarded to the Australian High Commission in London, who'd stamp it and forward it to the Dept. of Foreign affairs in Canberra, who'd stamp it and forward it to your local council, who'd see all the stamps and freak out.

  • Be Polite. Resist the urge to refer to those involved as a spineless, profit mongering, corporate bootlickers. This will be difficult, but will make you look better in the long run.

  • When writing to Labor Politicians, mention Bob Carr's role in this. He's on the board of Dymocks. He's also not particularly popular in the Labor Party. It won't hurt to remind the current crop of federal pollies about his commercial association with the 'Coalition for cheaper books'

  • Some useful addresses: All members of parliament (Labor, Liberal and Other) will receive mail sent to them at their parliamentary offices via the following address:

  • Parliamentary Address:
    PO Box 6022
    House of Representatives
    Parliament House
    Canberra ACT 2600
Or, you can write to their individual electoral offices. (Or CC copies to both...)

Prime Minister Kevin Rudd:
PO Box 476
Morningside Qld 4170

The Hon. Peter Garrett: Minister for the Arts:
PO Box 249
Maroubra NSW 2035

The Hon. Julia Gillard - Deputy Prime Minister, Minister for Education:
PO Locked Bag 14
Werribee Vic 3030

The Hon. Lindsay Tanner - Minister for finance and deregulation:
280 King Street
Melbourne Vic 3000

The Hon. Wayne Swan - Treasurer
PO Box 182
Nundah Qld 4012

And don't forget the opposition and minor parties - if there's enough political points in it, they'll also grab the opportunity to keep the pressure on the Govt:

The Hon. Malcolm Turnbull - Leader of the Opposition:
PO Box 545
Edgecliff NSW 2027

Senator Bob Brown - Leader of the Greens:
GPO Box 404
Hobart Tas 7001

Additionally - find your local member and write to them, too, urging them to pressure all of the above ministers. You can find member's contact details here (House of Reps) and Here (Senate)

3. Screw Dymocks. Obviously, don't shop there. Goes without saying. Also encourage your friends, family, random strangers in the street to do the same. But also:
  • If you have a Dymocks Booklovers card, then mail it back to them. Again, encourage everyone you know to do the same. The address of the head office is: Dymocks Australia 428 George St, Sydney NSW 2000. Large corporations rely on their 'loyalty' programmes for an enormous amount of direct marketing information. If a large number of 'loyal' customers bail on them, it'll send a message. Be sure to include a short, polite note explaining that, as you won't be requiring the card any longer because of their role in promoting the dismantling of Australia's territoral copyright laws, you wanted to return it.

  • If you are a writer with a website - ensure that any links to Dymocks.com are removed from it. Point to an independent bookseller instead. If you can't find one, then go for another retailer which doesn't side with the coalition for cheaper books. (Borders, A&U etc...)
Naturally, the more people who do any or all of these things, the more effective the results. Assuming that the government accepts the commission's recommendation for a three year hiatus until territorial copyright is abolished, this gives us some breathing room. It also means, however, that there's a long period ahead - an entire term of political office, including at least one federal election - for this issue to die and be forgotten until it can be slipped through parliament.

It's up to anyone who cares for the Australian writing and publishing industry not to allow that to happen.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

On Matters Masterchef

I'll admit it. Like most of the rest of the country I've been watching Masterchef assiduously for the last couple of months. Like everyone else I've developed something of a crush on Matt Preston. Have enjoyed immensely George's ability to invent new and torturous ways of twisting the English language into totally incomprehensible sentences, and have loved the way Gary perpetually looks as though he's swallowed a canary.

Like everyone else I've wanted to take Chris' hat and feed it to him, possibly with a side order of pigs head poached in beer-flavoured-tripe. I've despaired at the high sweat content of almost everything Julie cooks. I've revelled in Poh's complete meltdowns as she attempts to get out nine courses, all involving panadus, in under four minutes.

I've compared Matt Moran to a walking Roll-On deoderant, but without the appealing personality.

I've struggled to remember the host's name from one episode to the next.

But I haven't given a moment's thought to the effect of the show on the cooking industry, except to assume that 'it must be really great to be promoting cooking like this.'

This morning, though, on the way to work, Radio National had a fascinating interview with a chef and with the head of a large, tafe-based culinary school, and it was fascinating to hear their perspectives on the subject.

The title 'masterchef' for one thing. Sure, makes for great television, and I know it was brought under licence from the U.K. (though the U.K. version of masterchef is, in many ways, a very different animal from the Australian one), but I hadn't stopped to consider how insulting it might be to anyone who's worked their arse off for four years of culinary school, then through an apprenticeship, and then as a line cook for however many years it takes them to earn the title 'chef'. As one of the interviewees pointed out, he's been in the cooking industry for 40 years, and has yet to meet a 'master chef.'

It must also be horribly disappointing when you've spent a career in the kitchen, anonymously slaving over hot stoves, putting out hundreds of covers per night, to see the sort of opportunities and adulation being heaped upon the Masterchef contestants who are all (I'm sure) nice enough people and very good in the kitchen, but when all is said and done, are still just amatuer chefs.

It's kind of insulting, too - the implication that the cooking life is one that anyone with a bit of a palate and some reasonable kitchen skills can pick up in a few months. A little like when people discover that you write children's books and immediately tell you that 'I'm going to do that, one of these days' as though it's the simplest thing in the world to knock out a book.

So, as someone who loves food and who loves eating out, I just want to give a big shout out to all the chefs out there. And the cooks. And the apprentices. And the dishpigs out the back. Thanks for the effort you put in to feeding us. Thanks for your passion for food. Thanks for the 14 hour days and the lack of social life and for putting up with the burns and the heat and the demanding customers.

You're all masterchefs, in my book.

(I'm still going to watch the final few nights, though!)

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

My top 10 Tips

Writers often get asked what are our ‘tips’ for people who want to write. Usually we say fairly general stuff like ‘Keep practicing’ and ‘don’t get discouraged’ and ‘learn to accept criticism’. These aren’t always the most useful or practical bits of advice so, for what it’s worth, here are…

Tony’s Ten Writing Tips:

1. Never start a story / chapter with a rhetorical question.
They’re a really boring and predicable way of trying to get your reader’s attention.

2. For that matter, don’t end your story / chapter with a rhetorical question, either.
Cliff-hanger endings are great, and can be very useful, but if your reader isn’t asking the important questions about your story on their own, then there’s a problem with your writing, and just telling them what to think won’t solve it.

3. In fact, let’s face it – for the most part, rhetorical questions suck, anywhere in your writing. Avoid them like the plague.
They’re a lazy way to make your reader engage with your story. Be more subtle. Use characterisation and make your reader wonder about what your character really intends when he / she / they / it does or says something unusual. Then leave them wondering for a while.

4. First person point-of-view is easy to write, but hard to write well.
A lot of people like first person POV, and that’s cool. But you have to be a really disciplined writer to avoid your first person story becoming a completely passive telling of events, rather than a more interesting showing of them. It’s easy in first person writing to keep repeating your ‘I’ pronoun; “I walked down the street, I saw a dog, I spoke to the dog, I said, ‘hi dog’…” and so on…

5. No matter how hard you try, you won’t be able to write Lord Of The Rings in 1000 words.
You might have a great idea for an epic fantasy covering the entire history of the land of Central-Earth and involving dragons, elves, swords-with-names, amulets, evil magicians, faeries, and a quest to retrieve the amulet of (insert-amulet-name-and-powers-here) and throw it into a far off volcano / distant gully of fire / ocean / impossibly large frog. Unless you resign yourself to spending the next three decades or so of your life writing it, you probably won’t do it justice. If this is for a school assignment where your teacher has set a word / page limit, then chances are you’re not going to fit it in. Write about something you have actual experience of, instead. Which brings us to #6…

6. Write about something you have actual experience of.
No, I don’t mean write ‘What-I-did-on-my-holidays’ stories. (Generally speaking, nobody really cares about them, either), but remember that all good writing needs to have some element of truth in it. This is what readers pick up on and relate to. Even if you decide to ignore #5 and go for the epic fantasy story, this rule still applies. Perhaps more so. Readers don’t say “Hey, I totally understand what it’s like to be a dragon with no wings and so I’m really enjoying this nine-page description of the history of wingless dragons!”, but they might say “Hey, I really understand what it’s like not to fit in when all your peers are different to you” so it’s this aspect of your wingless-dragon character that you probably want to spend your time developing. This is the stuff that readers will get. This is what will make them like or dislike your characters. Think about the things you know about. Use them in your writing.

7. Learn to edit.
Seriously. Accept the fact that you probably won’t write a masterpiece in your first draft. I never have. Most writers don’t. Also accept the fact that most writers spend about 90% of their time rewriting and editing stuff they’ve already written about a hundred times, and only about 10% actually creating new material. In my experience, it’s editing, not talent / genius / inspiration that makes the difference between a good story and a great story.

8. Less is more.
Not all the time, but most of it. Readers are often more interested by what you don’t say than what you do. Long descriptive passages might sound pretty, but they can lose you a reader. Long and detailed explanations of why everything in your story has happened might seem important to you, but for a reader they can get dull. Trust your reader’s intelligence and imagination to fill in the gaps for you.

9. Sentences, Paragraphs and Dialogue are your friends.
Learn to use them. Then use them well.

10. Learn to accept criticism.
Okay, I know I said I wasn’t going to do this one, but it’s a Reeeeealy important one. All the good writing I’ve ever read has come from writers who are prepared to listen to other people’s opinions – even if they don’t necessarily agree with them – and at least consider the possibility that their own writing or story might not be perfect. A good friend of mine once told me that ‘just because you’ve written it, doesn’t make it good.’ It’s the best advice I’ve ever received. As a writer you also need to accept that fact that not everyone is going to like everything you write. It’s part of the deal you make when you put something ‘out there’ for other people to read.

So there you are. Ten writing tips. In no particular order. The other thing I’d mention is that you could ask 100 different writers for their top ten writing tips, and you’d probably get 100 different lists. Some of them will probably contradict everything I’ve said here. It’s part of the joy of writing, really – finding out what works for you.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Farewell, Australian Publishing...

So today the Australian Productivity commission released its report recommending the removal of parallel importation laws for Australian books, effectively removing territorial copyright restrictions that protect Australian writers and publishers, and make it much easier for authors who write specifically Australian content to make some sort of a living off their writing, despite its lack of appeal for the giant US and European markets.

There are a lot of issues at play here. Check out Lili Wilkinson's blog for a good, early response.

The commission has made this recommendation (which sets Australia apart from every other country in the world with the exception of New Zealand) despite the protests of the vast majority of the Australian publishing and writing industry, and seemingly without regard to the long term cultural implications of such a decision.

Speaking as a writer who has never had any great appeal to overseas publishers (of my ten books, all currently still in print with Australian publishers, only one has ever been published overseas, in translation in France) this makes me very scared for the future of specifically Australian writing and content. As the smaller and more local publishing houses struggle to compete with cheap, remaindered stock from overseas (often significantly reworked for the foreign marketplace) it seems to me that there will be little willingness to accept the risks involved in taking on first time writers, or niche writers who deal in Australia-specific content.

It is a sad, sad day for Australian writing.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Toby in the snow...

And here, because I like you all, is Toby in the snow...

The Problem with Mountains.

So, I spent last week up in the snow with my family. 3 Days skiing for me, 3 days of not skiing for Min. (She’s not all that into skiing and with good reason – it’s a long and horrible story involving a French chairlift…) She played in the snow with Toby, instead.

I’ve been addicted to snow skiing for about 22 years now, since my first trip to the Victorian snow fields as a 15-year-old on a school trip. Not a good addiction to have when you live in Perth, which is flat, at sea level, and really not at all cold.

It’s damn expensive, for one thing. Particularly in Australia, where the number of ski fields are few and far between, and thus there’s a virtual monopoly situation. Lift passes are ludicrously expensive (I worked out that, even on the days where I skied from the first to last lifts, it still cost me something in the order of $4.80 every time I planted my bum on a chairlift or T-bar.) then there’s the price of ski clothing, hire gear, petrol to and from the snow, national park entry fees, ski tube tickets, food and drink (at Blue Cow Mountain, where we spent the week, the cost of 270mls of bottled water is also, co-incidently, something in the order of $4.80).

It’s also hard work, lugging awkward gear up large mountains while breathing the thin air. My skis are 170cm long. This means that they are the perfect size for snagging in doorways, hitting innocent passers-by in the head, snagging in low hanging branches and not fitting into ski-racks. All this has to be done in boots which, while comfortable when attached to said skis, are something akin to medieval torture devices when not.

It’s dangerous. This week I had my most spectacular crash ever. I hit a patch of ice at full speed on a black run and proceeded to slide something in the order of 150 metres, losing one ski in the process. Luckily I was able to get up and walk away from that one, to a round of applause from the people on a nearby chairlift. Much luckier than the poor guy I once watched getting stretchered down from the very same mountain after coming off second best in an altercation with a concrete lift pylon.

And yet, I love it. Despite the cost, despite the danger and inconvenience. There’s nothing like the feeling of acceleration as you launch yourself straight down the fall line of a slope, of carving down a hard run with the inside edge of your downhill ski biting into the packed snow, the smooth transfer of your weight through your legs in the turns, the bite of cold air on your cheeks at speed, the exhilaration of slipping into the air off the small hummocks and flying for seconds at a time, the way that a minute adjustment of your body position – the tiniest shifting of weight – can send you flicking off in a completely different direction, the jelly feeling in your legs as you slide to a stop at the bottom of a run and look back uphill at the looming mountain which you’ve just tested yourself against.

I blame Kingsley. He was the guy who really taught me to ski. I’d had other instructors, of course, on lessons and such like, but Kingsley was a fellow teacher who I worked with back when I started teaching. He also taught physics and the man could ski. Not just ski, but fly. We took a group of students to the snow back in about 1994, and every morning, while they were in their lessons, Kingsley took me out and down runs I had no right to be anywhere near. He showed me not just how to move my body, but taught me why to move my body in certain ways. He explained the physics, the forces and resistances and bio-mechanics of the whole exercise, and in the process turned skiing for me from a sport into a dance – into a delicate balance of weight and rhythm. And so now it’s an addiction I can’t get away from.

All I need to do now is write a book about it, so I can claim my lift tickets as a tax deduction…

Actually, that’s not as stupid an idea as it sounds.

Friday, July 3, 2009

Same Blog, New Location

So, this morning I posted over at Goodreads about my reasons for starting up a blog there. This was inspired by Adele's post this morning at Persnickety Snark, and dwelt largely with the question of accessibility.

It was soon pointed out to me, though, that the downside of a Goodreads blog is that people who aren't members, and don't necessarily want to become members, can't post comments. Which kinda undermines the whole accessiblity thing, really.

And so, therefore, in the interests of keeping things open, and also because I just want to be like all the cool kids (ie: James Roy), I've migrated my blog over here to blogspot. I'll keep the Goodreads one going, though, as a kind of mirror site to this one. That way everyone can choose which forum they prefer.

Of course, 'everyone' is about 6 people, to date, so it's really something of a moot point...

Either way, welcome all to 'Musings from an Outer-Spiral-Arm #2'

Enjoy.

LinkWithin

Blog Widget by LinkWithin