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Posts Tagged ‘Humour’

For years now, in summer I’ve slept in the downstairs bedroom of my 2-storey apartment with the back sliding door to the garden jammed open a few inches for coolness. Around 1 a.m. the perfume from the white ginger blossoms blooming near the steps would start to filter inside, and along with it would come beautifully cool, dew laden air. After the insane heat of the day, it was like being touched by the hand of God.

Quoth the raven, “Nevermore.”

A few nights ago, as I was watching an episode of The Mentalist on TV, I was distracted by the strange behaviour of my younger cat Tim, who was sitting on top of the air cooler near the back door. He kept looking down at the floor between the cooler and the door, and back to me. As time went on, he grew more and more agitated. Suddenly, he leapt to his feet and puffed himself up. I thought it must be the tom from across the road, come to torment him: Ha ha, look at you, what a pansy, to have to be locked in at night!

But instead of rushing forward — Tim’s neutered, but he likes a good fight, I’ve got the vet bills to prove it — Tim came back to me.

He looked horrified.

Now this is a cat that has brought in six-foot-long pythons in the past, and once, a yellow-bellied black of about five feet, which my daughter, up on holidays from Melbourne, inadvertently took a shower with. Says I to myself, If Tim’s horrified, maybe I should be horrified too. I jumped to my feet to close the back door against the rabid dog, vengeful tom, whatever, but when the sliding door reached three inches, I hit an obstruction. The door wouldn’t close any further.

What was stopping it? I couldn’t see. The only light was behind me and the air cooler threw a shadow into the space between it and the back door, and my eyes aren’t very good, anyway. I peered over, still holding the door as shut as I could.

This isn't me! It's Tanya BennettPhoto by Manly Daily, n.d.

This isn’t me! It’s Tanya Bennett
Photo by Manly Daily, n.d.

The python raised his head and looked up at me, a sort of: What are you doing? look. Python? Correction, make that humungous python, one of the biggest I’d ever seen, already halfway into the room. He had come for the old cat who was sleeping on the corner of the bed near the back door. I grabbed both cats and flung them into the living room, snatched up my mobile phone, turned off the TV and fled. I closed the door that led from the study to the rest of the apartment, and jammed the space underneath with a length of wood held in place with two heavy pot plants.

Now I’ve lived with pythons before, always against my will, mind you. There was one in the ceiling of the house I moved into in the bush in 1978. But he was a gentleman, he had guidelines. He never came down to hunt mice and bush rats until after nine at night when I and the children were safely tucked up in bed. (With no car, no phone and no power, there was little to do in the bush once the sun went down.) This South Golden Beach python was singularly lacking in manners.

The wildlife people came out next day, but they couldn’t find him. Perhaps, they said, he went back out in the night through the back door I’d left open for him. Perhaps, perhaps … The back room leads to a space under the stairs crammed with things I’ve accumulated over the last 14 years, he could have been anywhere there among the boxes.

But they thought he’d gone, so I locked the back door into the garden and rang for a repairman for the back screen door. I also needed a screen door for my upstairs bedroom; I’d had no screen door upstairs for years – with a mosquito net over the bed, I’d never felt the need of one. Now I did! This place is subtropical, surrounded by lush vegetation and big trees, the python could easily get into my upstairs bedroom unless I kept the glass sliding door closed, which turns the room into an inferno in summer.

And there the situation stands. I come in here to work on the computer for an hour or so a day, and I’ve begun to clear out under the stairs, a job that was more that overdue. But I won’t let the cats in here until I’ve completely torn the place apart. I’ve lost cats to pythons before, it’s not a nice experience.

All up, the event produced some good outcomes: I get two much needed screen doors, and the back bedroom gets its first really good going-over in 14 years. I’m all set for whatever the Mayan calendar cares to throw at me.

Now it’s on to sorting through the 35 years of papers I’ve been carrying around, and the 14 years of useless objects I’ve collected while my head was stuck in a computer, writing.

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I had a funny experience the other day: I’d gone to the pathologist for my annual blood test, which required fasting – always a stressful time for me. I’d been fasting for 14 hours by the time I came out of the pathologist’s. As I was maundering, a bit light headed, through the shopping centre afterwards, I noticed the weighing machine.

The machine and I are friends. We have a date, once a fortnight. It was only five days since our last tryst, but there it stood, and I thought: Wot-the-hell, it won’t hurt to weigh myself again. I tend to put on weight in winter. It was mid-winter now, and I like to keep an eye on things.

I fished out a dollar coin and stood on the machine, which informed me that I was four pounds lighter than I’d been five days ago. Four pounds lighter! For an instant, I was jubilant, but then I began to have doubts: Four pounds in five days — in the middle of winter? Not likely. I wandered away, thinking that, with my low blood sugar, perhaps I’d read the numbers wrongly.

I really was feeling a bit strange. I went into the coffee shop and wolfed down a cappucchino and a large piece of banana bread with butter. That should do it, I thought. Then I read the local paper for a while, to give my body time to catch up; but I couldn’t really concentrate on who had just grown the biggest pumpkin in Goonellabah. I was still brooding about the weighing machine, and how I couldn’t possibly have been four pound lighter.

Out with another coin. I returned to the machine. This time it told me I was five pounds lighter. Five pounds! But I’d been four lighter, twenty minutes ago. Dearie me. I began to do the math. One pound in twenty minutes was three pounds an hour.

I was fading away. At this rate, I’d be lucky to last two days.

The banana bread, plus the sugar I’d put in my coffee, still hadn’t kicked in. I made it to a bench in the shopping centre and sat down. Two days. I’d never get my e-book out in that time; I was only up to page 82 of Mark Coker’s Smashwords Guide, and I hadn’t even opened the How To Kindle book. I’d never get the sequel finished, and I’d never get to see my daughter, who was arriving at the end of August.

Biochemistry’s a wonderful thing. After about ten minutes of this, my blood sugar finally decided to get the message, and kicked in. With this came the realisation that there must be something wrong with the weighing machine. I went into the chemist shop and reported it. Bad machine, to have let me down in my hour of need.

Waiting for the bus that would take me home, I was struck by how beautiful everything looked — the trees, the sky, even the shopping centre’s crappy banners flying in the wind. And I thought: Reminders of mortality are a good thing.

Nothing <i>too</i> big, mind you. Just something small that can be fixed with a cup of coffee and a piece of banana bread.

Danielle de Valera
twitter.com#!/de_valera

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To be honest, I’m pretty damaged; I guess I’ll recover eventually. For 10 days, eight of us, friends from way-back university days toured New Zealand, lurching from meal to meal (we’re old, yn’kow) across the country — watch for my e-book: NZ Picnic Spots I Have Known. After a while, I grew tired and tended to crouch in the back of the minivan, whimpering, when we made yet another stop. But I never complained. Not even when I slipped on the insane tiling of the Hundertwasser Toilets, now a major tourist attraction for Kawakawa in the Bay of Islands.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Nor did I complain about my experience in the Old Rotorua Bath House, now a museum, where I was underground inspecting the pipes that once brought in the healing waters when the information film showing unknown to me in the theatre above my head, reached the point where it depicted the 1896 earthquake, complete with sound effects, floor tremors and rocking furniture. (The patrons’ seats actually rock up and down, side-to-side.) There were no warning signs underground about the film. As my girlfriend and I fled the scene with our hair on end, I couldn’t help wondering how many tourists were lost to heart attacks while down there inspecting the pipes.

Yep, NZ is exciting. We dislodged retinas on the bungee jump and lost two of our number on the 8-Hour Redwood Epic Walk; but the Inflatable Rubber Hamster Wheel pleased all. Rotorua’s Perorming Sheep were, however, a disappointment. The corps de ballet lacked cohesion, the leading ewe kept falling off her points, and the costumes were uninspired. Top marks to the company, though, for enthusiasm, and the combined Southdown-Border Leicester choir was impressive.

Meanwhile, back in South Golden Beach the cats had devised various schemes to torment their conscientious keeper. The old cat was a challenge, as always — her profession, really. Worse was the young cat’s decision not to walk on the bedroom floor while I was away — some kind of cat oblation to the gods? Who knows. I’m told he leapt from shelves to ledges and pieces of furniture, never once touching the carpet, causing my friend to wonder what horror might be concealed somewhere on the floor of the bedroom she was sleeping in. (He’s the cat who brings in the snakes.) All in all, both cats had a good time, but I wonder about my friend, who never once told me later ‘what a lovely time’ she’d had.

Seriously, if you are in the North Island, a must-see is the Princes Gate Hotel in Rotorua — a beautiful, ornate timber 2-storey building built in 1897, which served a fabulous, 2-course Early Bird dinner for NZ$29.95, the Rotorua Museum (but give the underground pipes a miss unless you like to live dangerously), and the Waterfront Fish & Chip Restaurant (BYO) at Mangonui.

I rounded off my adventures with a 3-hour languish in the Gold Coast airport when the shuttle bus I’d booked failed to appear and I had to wait for another with no money left but the price of a cup of coffee. New Agers would say I attracted this experience with my fear of airports. As long as they don’t say it to my face, they’ll survive.

And so it’s back to my reclusive lifestyle. As the song says: ‘It’s very nice to go travelling, But it’s oh so nice to come home.’

If anyone out there reading this is intending to travel – have fun. I did.

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Is there anyone out there who feels the way I do about travel?  Surely I’m not alone in this. There must be a few other people who, no matter how alluring the prospect, find themselves thinking: I’d rather stay at home.

‘Are you excited?’ friends ask me when I tell them I have to go to New Zealand next Saturday for ten days — that’s my phrase: I HAVE to go away, as if I’ve been dragooned into the situation. ‘No,’ I tell them, ‘I’d rather stay at home.’ ‘You’ll enjoy it when you get there,’ they say gamely.

Maybe.

Already the burn back’s begun – what if someone slips a bag of dope into my luggage before I go through customs?  Most worrying of all is the trauma my cats are going to go through. (Note to Cat Lovers—Not: I’ve owned more dogs in my lifetime than cats, but the fence around my current home’s no good, so it’s cats these days.)

I tell myself that travel will be good for me. But I can’t seem to convince me.

The part I hate most is not the plane trip — I don’t mind the idea of dying if it’s quick. It’s the airport. I picture myself wandering lost forever around the endless corridors they always seem to have, like the character in the old Kingston Trio song, ‘But did he ever return? No, he never returned, And his fate is still unlearned …’

The fact that the Gold Coast airport isn’t big, and the cheap, pedal-driven airline I’ve chosen to fly with is little more than a hangar with no corridors doesn’t seem to make any difference. So there weren’t any corridors last time. There could be corridors this time. Well, there could be …

I’ve got a kindly, live-in babysitter for the cats; I couldn’t have gone otherwise. But they’ll still be traumatised because I hardly ever go anywhere, and they’re not used to it. I imagine the old cat living up the paper bark ti tree in the back yard the whole time, drinking dew off the leaves, sneaking in at night to snatch a few mouthfuls of food as death from malnutrition approaches. And I know the young cat will pine — when I went to Brisbane for five days in 2010, my formerly handsome, upstanding cat was a wreck when I returned.

Still, there’s nothing for it but to go. My ticket’s paid, my bags stand ready to be packed. I’m leaving on a jet plane and, like the song says, I hate to go.

Some people love to travel.

Not me.

Is anyone else out there a home body?

Danielle de Valera,  Australian author, editor & manuscript assessor since 1992

http://www.ecademy.com/account.php?userid=danielledevalera

@ de_valera

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Ah twitter, what a waste of time. It’s got to epitomise the worst of the social media – frivolous, banal, no use to anyone. Certainly not to a struggling writer like yourself.

Think again.

I’ve only been investigating social media for six weeks and twitter for two. What I’ve discovered might amaze you. While it’s true that twitter and Facebook have a lot of rubbish in them, twitter is also doing something else.

It’s broadcasting. In real time — assuming you have a phone that will take the app. I don’t have one at the moment, but after what I’ve seen in the last two weeks, I can see that, as a serious writer, just as I once had to have a computer rather than an electric typewriter, now I’m going to have to buy a phone that will take a twitter application.

For those of you as innocent as I was of twitter and how it works, the basis is this:

On twitter, you choose to Follow certain people. Other people may choose to Follow you. How did these followers find you? They found you on other social media sites. The tweets from the people you are following come up on your screen. Your tweets only appear on the screens of those who are following you.

I currently have 6 followers. Right. So what use could I possibly get out of twitter?

Twitter acts as a broadcaster. A recent survey, whose figures I can’t exactly remember, so puleese don’t quote me, said that 40% of twitter is banality; 30% is self-promotion and the rest is information — which, if you have chosen Who to Follow carefully is information that might be relevant to you. For example, last week, Pier 9, an Australian publishing house in the Murdoch empire, advertised that they were looking for an editor with 2-3 years experience in the trade.

As far as I know, THEY DIDN’T PUT THE AD IN THE NEWSPAPER, THEY PUT IT ON TWITTER.

Agents, publishers, editors are putting stuff out that might be relevant to you. And you can follow them.

Meanwhile, back in the jungle, you can broadcast your own stuff. Wot stuff? Well, recently I had a short story scheduled to be read out on BayFM, the radio station in Byron Bay. It’s not every day I get a story read out on radio, I wanted people to tune in and listen, so I tweeted this to my 6 followers.

You tweeted it to six followers! What possible use could that be to you? I mean to say, 6 people are going to hear about it this way, you’d have been better off texting them. Wrong. Because I was also a member of that powerful social media site Ecademy (the first on the scene in 1998, BTW, compared with Facebook’s 2004) I had been lucky enough to meet Sam Borrett, one of the highflyers there. I became one of his followers, and he graciously become one of mine. When I tweeted to 6 people, he retweeted my message to his followers who number around 5,000. Some of those followers have 20,000 followers.

Are you getting the picture now?

Working on the old six-degrees-of-separation theory, even if you’re not fortunate enough to have a powerful follower at first hand as I had, you can bet your boots that somewhere down the track, one of your followers’ followers has. If you’re thinking of putting out a book in the future, get onto twitter. When your time comes, you’ll have a following, who also have a following, who also have a following, and that’s how something can become viral.

Let’s suppose you don’t use twitter and you have a book coming out. You go for newspapers and a bit of radio if you’re lucky.

How many people do you think will hear about your book?

[More in a fortnight on the social media scene in general, and why, as a writer, you need to be in it.]

Follow me on twitter: http://twitter.com#!/de_valera

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This isn’t going to be a blog about the meaning of life, a discourse in which I try to sell you my philosophy, all wrapped up in The Wonder of Me. Rather, it’s an overview of how and why I’m currently upping my profile on the web.

It’s all about book promotion.

As you might (or might not) know, I’ve a little freelance manuscript assessment business, specialising in the novel and the memoir. What I began to notice was that it was becoming so hard to get your first novel published by a large company in Australia that more and more emerging writers were taking to e book self-publishing or going with very small e book publishers who also had Print on Demand (POD) facilities in Australia. Urged on by cries that the internet was the coming thing, what with Kindle, etc. they were excited. Think of the size of the web! they said to me. Millions of people will see my book.

Hmmm, said I to myself. (Perhaps this is the place to admit that I have a streak of cynicism in my makeup. Well hidden, but it’s there.) Back to the point. Most of these writers had little coverage on the net, and the results of their digiPOD publishing ventures were extremely disappointing, to say the least. As the assessor/mentor, the one who had held their hands through all the rewrites, and who had kept in touch with them afterwards to see how this wondrous new digiPOD sally turned out, I was one of the first to hear the cries of disappointment and disillusion.

I felt for them. What to do?

I’m so old I can remember the time in Australia when all you had to do was write out your novel in longhand on a block of foolscap, pay a typist to type it up for you, send it off to a publisher and Bob’s your uncle — you’d be a published author in no time. This doesn’t happen anymore. But the ease and low cost of digiPOD publishing with such sites as the UK Council of the Arts funded Youwrite on, is persuading emerging writers that this is the new, modern book explosion. Just put up your website, and watch the sales roll in.

Ho.

As I was pondering this dilemma, the flyer for Sam Borrett’s social media networking seminar fell into my letterbox. I’m now sallying forth into what feels to me like The Wilderness of Zin. (This phrase, which I’d give my eye teeth to have written, is the name of a paper written by Leonard Woolley and T E Lawrence for the British Museum in 1914 — Lawrence later achieved fame as Lawrence of Arabia, for his part in raising the Arab revolt against the Turks during WWI.) The wails of the disappointed writers have woken me from my happy delusion that all the internet was good for was research and email, and putting up pictures of you with your new hair colour. So here I am, floundering about the wilderness, trying to discover things I can take back home to help those emerging writers.

Will I find anything that can help them? It’s too soon to know. But tell you what: I’m fascinated. There’s definitely something out there.

Wish me luck.

Danielle

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Like the American Indian narrator of that fine book One Flew Over the Cuckoos’ Nest says at the end of the novel, “I’ve been away a long time”.  Things have been happening here.

First, the landlord decided to replace the living room carpet in my little 2-storey broom cupboard 300 metres from the Pacific; the carpet had come with the building thirty-five years ago. Everyth piece of furniture in the room had to be emptied and the furniture carried outside. This was followed by an orgy of washing 12 years of dust off the furniture – writers aren’t renowned for their housekeeping. After the new carpet had been laid I discovered that the LL had chosen a carpet shade so dark it’s like living on a bitumen road. I have to stop myself from looking left and right when I cross the room): Perhaps it was on special.

Then my male cat bought in Snake No. 3 (it’s Spring over here in beautiful, downtown Australia). He likes to take them into the bathroom upstairs, figuring the shower recess is the best place for an interrogation and easy for me to hose down afterwards. BUT this one was larger than the previous two and he lost it halfway up the internal staircase. I couldn’t do the bucket trip I’d applied in the bathroom scenario on the previous two occasions and had to resort to waiting until the snake  reached the living room floor and corralling it with a straw In basket, held down by an antique flat iron; these were the only things to hand at the time. What to do next? That took some thinking. I managed to slide an old Barry Manilow vinyl record cover under the In basket and then transfer the whole lot to a giant garbage bag which I carried down to the canal. The captive looked none the worse for wear when I released him – standing well back and retrieving the various items afterwards. He made for the water and I made my way home with tips for writers the last thing on my mind.

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