Monday, August 30, 2010

Into the Depths of Chaos

I've been resisting the urge for the last week to post yet another little lefty rant here, and to propose that at the moment - with both the major political parties effectively on good behaviour bonds and desperately trying to look stable and responsible, while the public service run the country - we're getting the best political governance we've had for a decade and-we-should-consider-just-leaving-things-this-way.

I'm not going to do that, however. Because, let's face it. There's no point.

So, instead, I'm going to talk about bathrooms.

Specifically, our bathroom. Or what remains of it.

It's amazing the way that the loss of one little room can throw an entire family into complete chaos. Until a week or so ago, I wouldn't have believed it possible, but - trust me on this - it's absolutely the case. Even a bathroom which is, let's face it, pretty much a single purpose room.

A while back, we decided to have our bathroom done up. We made this decision for two reasons:

1. Our house was designed and built (along with every other house in our neighbourhood) in the 1970's as a 'Guvvy'; that is, to be used as 'government housing' for either government workers who had to move to Canberra, or for low income housing. This means that the house was built to a plan, a budget, and a certain standard*. When we purchased it, a lot of the house had already been renovated, but not the bathroom. We inherited the original, 1970's bathroom, complete with narrow, shallow, enamel-less bath, peeling water damaged paint, mouldy roof, uneven water-catching floor and permanently dirt-ingrained grouting.

2. The whole room, like pretty much anything built in Canberra in the 1970's, was lined with asbestos.**

So a few weeks ago we bit the bullet, organised some quotes, and chose a nice bloke to do up the bathroom. We picked out new taps, showerhead, tiles... all the usual stuff. We try not to think too much about the dollars involved.

Of course, the downside was that we'd have no bathroom for a couple of weeks, but we consoled ourselves with the fact that we'd booked the renovation in for spring, when it'd be getting warmer, and our respective workloads would be a little under control.

"We'll manage." Min and I told each other. "How difficult can it be?"

Well, quite difficult, as it turns out.

Partly because our bathroom man had a cancellation, and bumped our job forward a month-and-a-half, which put it into the busiest part of the uni semester for me, and the trailing-but-still-bloody-cold final weeks of the Canberra winter. Still, at least we'll have our lovely new bathroom sooner.

In the meantime, though, we're facing down the challenges of a house where all the bathroom stuff (and it's incredible just how much stuff can come out of such a small room - Toby's bath toys alone filled a green bag, which is now sitting outside on the back porch) is crammed into whichever cupboard or horizontal surface will hold it. Then there's the challenge of keeping a toddler out of a room which currently:
  • Has no door and
  • Has drying concrete on the floor, drying waterproofer on the walls, a gaping hole where the shower drain used to be, power sockets hanging out of the walls and a sharp steel strip along the floor where the new shower base will sit. In other words, it's the most interesting room in the house at the moment.
Then finally there's the fact that, well, we don't have a shower. I'll be honest here; I like my showers. Especially in the mornings. It's safe to say that after coffee, a shower is perhaps the most important part of my daily routine. I'm one of those people who doesn't actually feel conscious until I've had my morning shower. At the moment, I'm showering in the bathroom down the hall from my office at work, by which point I've usually been up for hours, and feel like a sort of grotty zombie, and the feeling never really goes away.

It's not all bad, though. For one thing, our new bathroom, when it's done, will be lovely. It'll be the first time that both of us have owned and lived in a house with a really *nice* bathroom. It'll help us pretend we're on holidays in a hotel.

Also, from a personal perspective, I love watching professional tradespeople at work. I'm someone who likes building things and working with my hands, and have had various degrees of success with various projects. Min and I (with help from family) did most of the renovation work on our old house in Perth ourselves, and it was one of the most rewarding experiences of my life. It also gave me an appreciation for the skill involved in creating and constructing so many of the things we take for granted. Like bathrooms, for example. There's a lot of pleasure to be had from watching people who really know what they're doing, and at the moment, I can't wait to get home in the evenings and see what the guys have done during the day - and because the job started with a complete strip out of the whole room, I get to watch it on a step-by-step basis, which is teaching me a lot, too.

So it's not all bad. Sure, the house is in disarray and we can't park our cars in the garage at the moment (mainly because it's full of tiles and wall paneling), but there are a lot of pluses, too.

And, of course, in a couple of weeks, we'll have the largest shower in Canberra.

Now that's worth waiting for.

*low
** Actually, turns out that this also applies to the toilet and laundry, neither of which are covered in the existing reno, and the latter of which I did up myself last year. Oops.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Who I Voted For...

Today, for the first time in my voting life, I didn't cast my vote for the Australian Labor Party in either the house of reps, or the Senate.

And, I'll be honest, it hurt. It wasn't an easy decision.

I'm also sitting here now, at 10.40 on election night, looking down the barrel of a Liberal minority government, with Tony bloody Abbot as Prime Minister, and wondering what the hell happened to common sense in this country.

But, and I want to be totally clear on this, I don't regret my voting decision - not for a moment.

When I stood there in that polling booth this morning, Imogen was in the booth next door, and Toby was standing between us, holding our hands. And when I looked at those ballot papers, I just couldn't do it. I couldn't vote for a party which backflipped on the CPRS, which stopped processing of refugees for political gain, which is committed to coal power at the expense of funding alternative energy sources and which has, during the last couple of months, proven beyond a shadow of a doubt that it is more concerned with winning government - at whatever cost - than it is with governing. But mostly I couldn't vote for a party which is so utterly ruthless in regard to environmental policy that it didn't have the moral fortitude or political courage to set an ambitious, or difficult emissions reduction target for this country.

And, of course, the only alternative was the Liberals. Might as well vote for Kerry Packer.

So, for the record, I voted for the Greens in both houses, and preferenced Labor. Neither of my first preference candidates managed to get up, but that doesn't really matter, because that's not who I was really voting for.

This morning in the polling booth, I looked down at my son standing there, and I voted for my grandkids.

And, from the looks of the voting figures, most notably the first preference figures for the Greens, I wasn't the only one.

As we sit here on the verge of three years of complete parliamentary shitfight, I just hope to God the major parties get the message that I, and a lot of other Australians, sent them today, in no uncertain terms.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Get it India!

I'll start by apologising for the bad pun in the title. Ever since I became a father, I just can't seem to get away from the bad 'dad' jokes.

Anyway...

A few years ago now, back at the turn of the century, Imogen and I attended a W.A. Premier's Literary Award dinner at the State Library of Western Australia. At the dinner, I sat next to one of the other shortlisted authors; this blonde woman from Melbourne named Kirsty Murray, whose book Zarconi's Magic Flying Fish got up that evening to win the prize for best children's book.

We had a great night, all of us, and Kirsty and I kept in touch as the decade progressed.

Kirsty writes (among other things) historical fiction - it's one of her real passions. I've heard her talk about it on a couple of occasions (actually, I've got vague recollections of the two of us doing a panel on the subject at some-writer's-festival-or-other, but I can't recall any specifics, so it's quite possible that my brain is just making it up.)

In any case, the point is that not only does she write historical fiction, but she writes it beautifully. Reading her books is reading the work of a true craftsperson - her dedication to her art is evident in every carefully chosen word, and every perfectly constructed sentence. For me, the difficult part about historical fiction isn't so much finding material to write about - the past is just loaded with tiny and intriguing little cul-de-sac's of narrative just begging to be explored - but making the past come to life; getting all the tiny details and elements correct, but also writing in such a way as to capture the sensory aspects of a time and place which I can have no direct experience of.

Kirsty is an absolute master of this, however, and a few weeks ago she asked me if I'd launch her latest novel India Dark here in Canberra, and - as I mentioned at the time - I was thrilled to be able to agree.

Even more thrilled to get the book in the mail a couple of weeks ago.

On Monday afternoon, I took a break from my reading for the ACT Book of the Year Award* and picked up Kirsty's book.

At midnight on monday, I finished it.

And, I have to say, I'm so thrilled to be launching it. It's beautiful. The writing and storytelling is sublime, but most impressive (for me, at least) is the way that Kirsty has taken a fascinating chapter of Australian history, and breathed life into it; utterly convincing, utterly believable, and utterly engaging life.

I'm not going to go into the specifics of the plot and so on here - I'll save that for my launch speech on friday evening. Suffice to say that it's a fantastic achievement, and everyone should read it.

Congratulations, Kirsty.


*In case you're wondering, as of this morning my reading status there is: 6 books to go, 6 days to the judge's meeting. It's probably going to be closer than the election. More interesting, too.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Words Words Words Words Words Worlds....

I know what you're thinking. You're thinking that it didn't take me long after my July Blog-a-thon to slip back into my bad old ways, aren't you.

Well, have I got news for you!

Uhm.

You're right.

Still, here I am. With bronchitis, nonetheless. But the antibiotics are cutting in now, and I can go for up to half an hour without coughing, which is nice.

Anyway, on to the serious stuff.

I spend my life swimming in words: when I'm not writing them, I'm speaking them or reading them, or assessing them. My 'spare time' is spent either weaving them together or pulling them apart. My own words, other people's words - doesn't matter.

Worlds of words.

And, of course, the upshot of this is that - like most people - most of the time nowadays I take words for granted. It's gotta be a pretty special set of words to leap off a page and catch my attention, and most of the time I just swim through them without noticing how beautiful - how powerful and miraculous - even the simplest word is.

The reason I mention it is that Toby is starting to talk at the moment.

Well, technically he's been talking for a little while, now, a couple of months at least. He started his first basic words back in about April or May; 'mum' 'water' 'milk', that sort of thing.

But lately, something has gone 'click' in that little brain of his, and now he's picking up words on a daily basis: he repeats whatever we say. He points excitedly at anything he recognises and tells us what we're looking at (Drives home are great fun; 'Car! Car! Car! Bus! Car! Car! Car! Truck! Car! Tiger!*)

Every word is a delight, to him and to me. The sheer joy that is written all over his little face at just having that simple, most basic skill of communication; the ability to name an object, and the connection that comes with it, reminds me every time of the sheer beauty of human communication; of what it brings to a life, and of what you can do with it.

This was really driven home to me when we were in Perth a couple of weeks ago. To Min and my amazement, Toby's cousin, Meri, who's about 18 months older than him and therefore a much more fluent speaker, could talk to him, and understand exactly what he was saying to her, even when we couldn't.

"Toby is thirsty. He wants water." She'd tell us, and suddenly the last five minutes of Toby trying to climb up onto the kitchen bench made sense.

"Toby's being silly." Meri informed us one evening, just as our son tried his best to stick his tongue into a dripping tap.

Watching the two of them talk - and they had long conversations on a few occasions - was one of the delights of the trip. Just like watching this little growing miracle of language is an ongoing delight now.

If nothing else, it's been a really good reminder to me not to take my words for granted - every single little utterance that Toby makes is hard fought for; he struggles to get his tongue around difficult sounds, or to tack on that extra syllable, or to pick one word out of a string of others. But when he gets it, there's delight all round.

And as a final, vaguely related offering, here's a video that's been doing my head in slightly. It's an Italian parody of a 60's pop song, sung in gibberish, but designed to sound like American English. You'll go nuts trying to 'interpret' it.

Which, at the moment, is probably how Toby is experiencing the world, too.



*I said his vocab was expanding, but we're still working on the difference between a cat and a tiger...

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Launching my Family

Right, so I promised a write up on the launch that we had for 'Daywards' at the Fremantle Children's Literature Centre while I was in Perth last week.

To be honest, I thought I was a bit over book launches - for my own books, at least. I didn't launch Into White Silence or the last couple of Nathan Nuttboard books, largely because I couldn't really see the point.

I'm actually regretting that decision now - I think it was a mistake.

I'll explain why.

Last tuesday night was a lovely evening. And I know that as the author of the book in question I'm undoubtedly a little biased, but the whole night had a really nice feel about it. Perhaps this was just because people kept saying nice things about me and my book, or because we got the booze out well before the speeches, or just because almost everyone there was related to me in one way or another, but there was a good vibe going on.

Before we got to the formal bit of the launch, there was a lot of catching up: People I haven't seen in years turned up out of the woodwork for this one including; our old neighbours from Greenmount with their little girl who I last saw when she was about 11, and who is now 18 and about 7 feet tall. My cousin (who I used to share a house with) and her husband who I thought were still living in England. My old piano teacher from when I was a kid and her son, who's read A New Kind of Dreaming. My former colleague from the Trinity library, Rosemary. Past teachers. Old friends. All sorts of unexpected surprises.

And, of course, family. My sister and her two girls were there. Toby was there - tearing around the place with his cousins and making all sorts of noise (He kept walking up to the posters and exclaiming 'Dadda!' at the top of his voice, which I thoroughly approved of.)

And Mum. And Dad. We'll get back to them shortly.

First, we were all welcomed by the Director of the Fremantle Children's Literature Centre, Lesley Reece. It's difficult for me to describe Lesley, except to say that she is one of the most incredible women I know. She set up the FCLC, seventeen years ago and has worked tirelessly ever since to turn it into one of the single most important and unique educational and cultural institutions in the country. She was the person responsible for supporting and encouraging my writing career: she put me in touch with Gary Crew, right back in 1997, and persuaded him that I was worth mentoring in my writing. Once I got published, she stood behind my books and ensured that I was able to get as much coverage for them as possible in the west. When I left teaching to become a full time writer, Lesley again worked on my behalf - finding me suitable speaking and teaching gigs to keep the wolf from the door.

And more than just patronage, Lesley (and her teams at the FCLC through the years) have also become close friends - to the point where, when Min and I were looking for a venue for our wedding, we asked if we could hold it on the Lawns of the Lit Centre, and Lesley agreed without hesitation.

The Fremantle Children's Literature Centre has been a special place for me and my family in the ten years that it took me to write this trilogy, and it was a delight to see the final book of the three go out into the world from the main gallery there.

Anyway...

Once everyone was welcomed, the book was launched by Melissa Parke, the federal MP for Fremantle, who I met a couple of years ago at another book launch, and who really impressed me at the time for her commitment to the lit centre, and to reading and children's literature generally. She's also a speculative fiction fan, which wins her huge points in my book.

And she did an incredible job - there she was, in the middle of an Election campaign, and yet she still found the time to not only launch the book, but also to read the entire trilogy beforehand! That's well over 1000 pages, which she got through in just a couple of weeks, while still campaigning for her seat. And not only did she read the books, but she thought about them, too. She picked up on all the little threads and ideas in the book that I'd hoped people would get but which, as a writer, you're never really certain have come through. Writers don't often get to experience someone doing such a close reading of their work, at least, not to our faces, and it was incredibly gratifying. I have a copy of her speech, which I'll tack on to the end of this post for anyone interested to have a look at. I'm sure she won't mind...

After she'd launched the book, I did a short and passably coherent speech; "thank you blah blah blah..." and then sat down again, expecting to get on with some serious book signing and wine drinking.

Except for one minor detail. Lesley had made other plans. She announced that we had another speaker.

I'll admit that I groaned, inwardly. One thing I kinda dislike are book launches with too many speeches, or speeches that go for too long.

Then it got worse. The person Lesley invited to the podium was...

...my mother.

Now, I should explain a little something here. Many years ago, I spoke at my brother and sister's 21st Birthday parties. I thought I spoke really well at both. Sure, I might have sworn perhaps once or twice. Certainly not more than three times. And nothing I said was even remotely outrageous. And so I was rather surprised when the family then voted to place an embargo on me ever speaking in public at family gatherings, ever again.

That didn't necessarily stop me, though. I just moved my venue a little. Those of you who've heard me tell stories about my writing will know that my family tend to, well, feature rather heavily. And not always in the most flattering light. Mum in particular gets a bit of a hard time in a couple of my stories.*

And, for some years now, Lesley has been threatening to find an occasion to give my mother the right of reply.

I really should have seen that coming, shouldn't I?

So mum got up to speak, and I poured myself a big glass of wine.

And she made a lovely speech, although she did dredge up several bits of my early writing which I was certain I'd destroyed some years ago. And she did tend to overstate a few things. But it was nice hearing her talk about what it's like to be the parent of a writer, and how proud she and dad are of the fact.

That was when I worked it out: book launches are for other people, not me.

Kinda obvious, really, but being the egocentric git that I am, it hadn't actually occurred to me that the idea of launching a book is to give people a chance to celebrate it, and each other, and the story, and their relationship to it. It's really got bugger all to do with the author, when all is said and done. Stories, after all, are one of the things that connect people to one another, and book launches are an example of that, writ large.

So, that's my booklaunch story. At the end of the evening, everyone went home happy; it was a lovely night and a celebration not just of my book, but of all books, of family, friends, the past and the future, of children and life.

My kind of a night out, really.

*stories which, I might add, are all COMPLETELY TRUE and not in any way exaggerated. Much.

Melissa Parke's Speech from the Launch for 'Daywards' at the Fremantle Children's Literature Centre, Tuesday 27th August, 2010
I’d like to acknowledge the Noongar people as the traditional owners of the land we’re meeting on and pay respect to their elders past and present – this acknowledgment is particularly significant tonight as we talk about a book that greatly honours Indigenous knowledge and skills and connection to the land.

When I was asked quite recently to launch Tony Eaton’s book Daywards, as the third book of the Darklands trilogy I said (channelling Kevin Rudd) “Fair Suck of the Sauce Bottle Lesley! We’ve got an election coming and I can’t see myself having time to read one book let alone three.”

But what with Lesley’s persuasive powers, and me being a long-time lover of science fantasy books, and having enjoyed meeting Tony at the launch of another book – Marc Greenwood and Frane Lessac’s Simpson and his Donkey - I found myself agreeing to launch this book.

And I’m so glad I did. The target readership is young adults and upwards. I am definitely in the upwards part of that age bracket and I thoroughly enjoyed all three books. They can each be read on their own but I do think it’s worth experiencing each one in turn.

The entire story is set 1000 years into the future and it’s a future that is eerily familiar and frighteningly believable as we confront a harsh and unrelentingly hot and contaminated Australian landscape that is the result of late 21st century large-scale climate change causing the destabilisation of a large number of fission reactors and waste storage facilities throughout the world. In this world, there are two groups of people trying to survive.

In the first book, Nightpeople, part of the earth is closed off from the rest of the world by a huge wall and is sparsely populated by small tribes of elderly people called Darklanders, a few of whom are dreamers in the style of Aboriginal elders, who connect spiritually with the land and the life that lives within it, such as snakes, lizards and wild dogs, and sources of water.

The main character in the first book is Saria, the last of her race to be born and she is spirited away as a baby to be looked after in a secret valley until she is a teenager. She is then called upon to answer her destiny which involves actually leaving her land in a search for her mother who was taken by the Nightpeople to domed cities in the sky.
In the book Skyfall, we meet the other group of people trying to survive in this post-apocalyptic environment. They are the Skypeople or ‘Nightpeople’ so called because they can only travel at night as they have no ability to withstand the sun’s radiation. They live in artificial technological domed cities in the sky and have no direct contact with the environment. The upper classes live in luxury in the highest domes, albeit with protein supplements as their only food source, while there is an underclass serving them that lives in poverty. One of the domed sky cities is called Port city – reminding one of Fremantle - and there is a part of Port City called North Port Central, calling to mind the north port quay proposal to build futuristic dubai-style islands off the coast of Fremantle. Could this be our own doomed future helpfully described for us by Tony?

In the trilogy, the skypeople fear that their artificial society is breaking down both physically and socially and so they study the darklanders in order to understand their genetic makeup and see if they can isolate the genes that make people viable outdoors in the contaminated hot climate.

Saria was brought to the domed city in the sky by the skypeople to be studied. She meets Lari – a young man and – to cut to the chase, they team up to start their own clan which mingles the races of the earth and the sky to produce people who can withstand the harsh effects of the sun and the atmosphere outside of the domes without having to wear a special suit. In the third book Daywards the clan lives in caves in the forest, surviving by hunting and gathering, although there are still skypeople coming to study them. Saria – the heroine from the first book – is by now an elderly woman and she seeks to returns to her home in the Darklands.
The main young female character in Daywards is Dara. In the end, Dara is faced with the choice of returning with Saria to the Darklands or of going with the skypeople in order to see what kind of common future may be forged between the two peoples in this book. I won’t give the story away by saying what she chooses.

Although set 1000 years into the future these stories seem familiar to us in WA. For instance, Dara remembers her father showing her the giant forests down south. Not far from Port city there is the crumbling city of Per. There are animals called hoppers which from the description bear a great similarity to kangaroos. Dara’s favourite expletive is “Shi”, which bears a remarkable resemblance to a word in contemporary usage.

Like all of the best high-level science fantasy, this trilogy takes on the important imaginative task of casting a series of current trends and issues forward into a social and physical scenario that examines the consequence of heading down that path.
With phrases like “the blasted remains of a great human folly” the trilogy is a powerful warning of what could happen if we don’t act on climate change; if we don’t act to save the diversity of earth’s species, a large number of which are here in Australia; and if we don’t properly manage our precious sources of water.

I’m going to recommend that all of my parliamentary colleagues read it.
At a time when we have our first female PM – who as Lesley has noted has visited the Fremantle Children’s Literature centre when she was Minister for Education and acting PM - it is also appropriate to note the strong female characters in this trilogy who are called upon to save this future world that has been seared in the shifting and the burning. Saria and Dara are the most powerful characters because they are interconnected with the Earth and life on it and can harness that energy to devastating effect as we see throughout the trilogy but particularly in the thrilling climax in Daywards.

In an era when modern Australia is still only beginning to fully recognise and value the contribution of Aboriginal people to its history, its present and to its future, this trilogy is an acknowledgement of Aboriginal people’s connection to the land and a signal that we can learn from those who have respected the earth for thousands of years. It is also a celebration of family and of appreciation for both youth and elders in our community.

Finally, at a time when fear of ‘the other’ is such a feature of Australian community opinion on asylum-seekers and refugees, the trilogy has an important message about the need for diverse peoples to work together to try to understand and esteem each other as the only way we will ultimately all survive. We may at some stage all be boat or sky people or darklanders, needing to leave our homes and forge a new life elsewhere with other peoples in order to survive. If we do the right thing by the planet then hopefully our successors will not need to build sky domes made of plascrete and clearcrete to protect them from the atmosphere and will not a thousand years into the future find our detritus washed up on the beach. As described in the book “unidentifiable foam and rubber shapes, tangles of fine polymer mesh, lumps of weathered plascrete, all of it aeons old and all of it still clinging to the otherwise pristine beach like ancient tumours, stubbornly refusing to vanish even with the inexorable passage of time”.

I’d like to thank Tony for this fantastic series - it is beautifully written, tremendously thought-provoking and utterly believable. I note Tony’s comment that it has taken him 10 years to write and how happy he is to finally finish this epic, but I must ask Anthony to reconsider this decision as I really want to know what happens next! You know when you’ve read something fantastic because when you get to the end you are reluctant to put it down and you feel a bit lost. I certainly feel sad to have lost my method of election escapism but I am grateful to Tony and to Lesley for the lovely moments I have had reading these books. I’d also now like to suggest a prequel to tell us what exactly went wrong on earth that resulted in large scale climate change with its catastrophic consequences. Perhaps such a prequel could start with a conference in Copenhagen. Just an idea Tony.

Congratulations again on this beautiful book and thankyou for inviting me to be a part of it.


Sunday, August 1, 2010

Why the Wheels Came off at the Final Corner...

So, my I will Post Every Day During July thing was going really nicely, up until about 48 hours ago, when things here plunged into a black hole of silence, which took us through to today, August first.

It's a pity, really - I enjoyed my (almost) daily blogging; having the obligation to produce something every day was good for my writing. Good for making me think a little more engagingly about my blog and do a little more planning for it. I was kinda sad to see it all fizzle out like that.

I'm sure you're all wondering 'What happened?'

Well, in two words: "Food Poisoning."

Friday, we took Toby and his cousins to the Zoo. We had a wonderful day. Took a lot of photos to use for the blog, saw tigers (they go 'Grrrrrrrrr') rode on the Merry-go-round (or 'carousel', if you happen to come from Texas), watched the elephant show, and all the other stuff that one does at the zoo. We also - and this is the important bit - ate lunch. Specifically one hot dog and one burger, which Min and I shared.

Then, at eleven p.m. friday night, I started throwing up.

I'll spare you the rest of the details. Trust me, you don't want 'em. It wasn't pretty. Suffice to say that by the time we got onto our plane home yesterday afternoon, both Min and I were sick as dogs, I'd had an anti-nausea injection from the only GP in Perth who'd fit us in at short notice, (Min's symptoms cut in just a little too late for the needle, but we got some pills into her) we'd dosed up on all sorts of other medications, and went through the longest four-hour-flight of our lives.

Luckily, we were picked up at the airport by Min's mum, who took us all home to her place and proceeded to look after Toby while Min and I slept for twelve hours.

So now it's Sunday afternoon. We've been home a couple of hours, are just getting unpacked, washing on, heater on, a very happy puppy at our feet, and are all feeling a lot better than we were this time yesterday.

And in the meantime, the end of my blogging July just sort of slipped past. Sorry about that, everyone, but at least my final excuse was a doozy.

In any case, I've got a few little bits and pieces that I'm going to post about during the next few days and weeks. While I'm not going to keep up daily posting, I'm going to shoot for a very achievable 3 posts per week, or thereabouts from here on in.

So, cheers to anyone who bothered reading my July ramblings - thanks for your patience.

Now, I'm going to try and eat some dry toast and vegemite...

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