This week; take it or leave it.

I’ve been wracking my brains as to what to write about this week. The Old Boy’s out hunting bargains at garage sales; his favourite thing to do on a Saturday morning. The Wonder Dog is curled up nearby, on top of the recliner, having a snooze: one of his favourite things to do every morning. I’ve had breakfast, the second cup of coffee is on the desk, and I’m poised; ready to dispense witty observations, philosophical meanderings and brilliant insights. The result so far? Nada. Nothing. Zip. Zilch. Zero. Here’s a little observation I will freely share with the world: tendinitis is the pits, baby! It blinking well hurts. It’s been one of those sad, grey weeks. The Colorado theatre shooting thing was just appalling. The young perpetrator is definitely – to use a medical term – stark-staring-bonkers. I can’t imagine the terror the victims felt. But, I have a little question…please indulge me for a moment…what were people doing taking a three month old baby and a six year old child to the movies at midnight? Different people, different lives I guess. Good on Christian Bale for visiting the survivors in hospital. Nice gesture; although I think he should have worn the Batman suit and made it even more special. Then again, if he did, some would just say he was doing it for publicity. It’s such a cynical world we live in. Of course, the people of Syria are living through a similar nightmare every single day. And that’s as depressing as all heck. When will the madness end? And what about the starving thousands (or more) in the Sahel (continent of Africa)? This time the rest of the world is in a bit of a bind, economically speaking, so the aid isn’t pouring in like it used to. The Euro’s under threat so people in the Sahel will just have to die. Try explaining that to a starving child. My son had to take his darling old mastiff dog, Sarge, for a final visit to the vet, yesterday. It was a kindness to the dog, but still gut-wrenching for those who knew and loved him. Of course, when these things happen, old sooks like me can’t help remembering other pets, other visits to the vet, other times of crying oneself to sleep over an animal. I know…I know…try explaining that to a starving child. The thing is we can’t pick and choose what makes us sad. I’m still waiting to hear news (good or bad) from the publishers to whom I submitted my teen novel, You Cry You Die. It’s a good story, even if I do say so myself. I’m trying not to despair, but I’m seriously tempted. Of course, this week I read about two different authors who have recently written their first novel, and both of them had publishers in a bidding war and both have not only sold said first novel but have made a very handy sum while doing so. Can I just make it clear for any editor/publisher reading this blog: you don’t have to fight for it; you don’t have to offer a squillion dollars. I’d be thrilled if you just put the thing in print. Please. Meanwhile I’m working on another book. It’s something completely different. I intended it to be light-hearted, humourous satire but – I guess I can’t help myself – it’s become a little serious and now I’m having trouble writing it. The main character has stupidly got herself sick with breast cancer and it’s messing with my emotions. By the way, I HATE the South Australian Health Department’s latest ad for breast-screening. Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for women getting mammograms. But this ad tells women that they should do it to save their loved ones from the pain and suffering they’ll endure if the woman gets cancer. Thanks a lot, SAHealth! Well done, you! Now, all of us with breast cancer can feel guilty for hurting our dear ones. How dare we get sick and put them through that ordeal. So, my apologies to everyone who loves me. I hadn’t realised that when I got myself a hearty dose of cancer, that I was being so irresponsible. I should have realised what it would put you through. All right; I admit it. I’m feeling crabby today. I’m tired from lack of sleep and I’m sick of putting up with a stupid carcass that hurts. Tendinitis! Really? What was I thinking? It’s a great blinking painful NUISANCE. A friend prayed for healing for me yesterday. Now it hurts even more. For goodness sake! That’s it. Cheer me up, people. I dare you.    ...

Read More

Flawed perfection

I tootled off to the doc, yesterday, to get an anti-pneumonia jab. While I was there I happened to mention the arthritis in my wrist was giving me gip (actually, it’s driving me bonkers!) and asked if he had any suggestions. The usual stuff wasn’t helping much. He did a bit of “hmmm”; told me to move it this way and that; heard me moan; pushed my thumb; heard me yelp, and then said, “That’s tendinitis.” Blinking heck. I’ll just add it to the list, shall I? I feel as though my warranty’s run out and now, slowly but surely, all my bits and pieces are breaking down, rusting out, falling off or going “bzzz pfffft” and emitting puffs of smoke. We used to own an upright freezer. The day after the warranty ran out the darn thing broke down. The day after! Do you think I could get the bloke to honour the warranty? Hahhaaaaaa haa. I know that technically he was in the right to refuse to help but I reckon, morally, he had an obligation. After all, he didn’t deliver it until two days after the warranty had started. Jeff had given up his job to go back to study and at that stage I’d only got a little bit of part-time work. Money was limited. It was a deeply frustrating situation. When I heard I had one more physical complaint, I got that same frustrated – arrrrgggghhhhhhhhh – feeling. Last night, while channel-surfing, I watched a few minutes of the movie Daredevil. The gorgeous Ben Affleck plays a “super-hero” who is blind.  To compensate for his lack of sight, he has developed super-hearing. This is then his great strength, as well as his weakness. (The villain overwhelms him with noise.) An interesting concept. I found myself wondering about other characters who have physical disabilities. Of course the first one to spring to mind is the fabulous Lincoln Rhyme: Jeffrey Deaver’s super-intelligent, quadriplegic detective. His physical condition forces him to focus his mind, but at the same time leaves him vulnerable, both to outside enemies (eg in The Bone Collector) and to his own physical frailty. Simply brilliant stuff. Beginner-writers are often counselled to give their heros a flaw. (Eg: Inspector Rebus’s problem with alcohol.) People relate better to characters that aren’t perfect. However, not many consider giving them a serious physical problem. (Bravo Mr Deaver!) I tried to think of some more. Hellboy is handicapped by being red, with a sort of hammer for a hand, and weird horns growing out of his head, but I don’t count him. He’s just a bit too “alien” to fit the subset I’m considering. I wonder why no one has thought of a character with tendinitis, arthritis, collapsed discs, asthma, lymphoedema and cancer? Oh wait; I know why. They’d be too decrepit to achieve much other than writing stern letters, thinking wild thoughts and wheezing. Then again, I could definitely see Clint Eastwood pulling it off. Hmmm…food for thought. I hope your warranty is still intact. Make the most of it. If it isn’t; perhaps you could use the rusty, creaky bits as inspiration. Make yourself a cape and limp out into the world to make it a better place....

Read More

I’m book ends

I’ve been asked to speak at our public library in August, as part of their “meet the author” series. Of course my first question was: Why me? I’m not an author. I’m grateful to the librarian who invited me to speak in the Reading Room, Gawler Library, August 25, 11am – noon (see you there). She said: But, you’re very involved in writing. You review for Good Reading. You edit authors’ manuscripts. You have inside knowledge. And, you know what? She’s right. I do know stuff. After all, even though I’m not yet an author, I am a writer, reviewer and editor. I’m the literary equivalent of book ends. I edit (the beginning) and I review (the end product). The only thing missing is the middle bit: the book! Lately I’d begun to despair about my so-called writing career. I wondered if I was kidding myself and if I should try to find a “proper job”. The sister who is 5 years older than me, and has a Bachelor of Arts and used to work in the law courts and was an assistant for a politician, is currently working as a cook/cleaner in a nursing home. I gather she’s too old for anything else. No one wants to hire someone in the  mumble mumbles. I fear that, if I looked for something else to do, I’d be in the same boat as her; except that I’m not physically capable of doing that sort of work. As it is I pay a woman several years older than me to clean my floors, because I’m too decrepit to manage the vacuuming and floor mopping. Sad but true. There’s also the other problem of the yearning in my gut. I’ve wanted to write since I was old enough to discover story books. I’m almost there. Mount Everest is just over the horizon. I can’t let the dream go. I’ve had short stories, articles, reviews and interviews published in various journals and magazines, so I’m definitely a writer. In fact I’ve written three novels and I’m working on my fourth. Books one and two are resting from their search for a publishing house, and I intend to do some intensive reconstruction work before sending them out again. No. 3 is currently floating around the cosmos in search of a taker. I have fingers, toes and other bits and pieces firmly crossed for it. Before sending it off again a week or so ago, I read it through for the first time in about 4 months, and even though I say so myself: it’s pretty good! I review stuff, so I should know. So…dream back in focus; goal in sight; loins girded; computer on…I’m soldiering on. One day I’ll be a proper author and then I won’t just be book ends. (Not that there’s anything wrong with book ends. They keep things neat, tidy and standing up straight.) When one of my books finally makes it out into the wider world, you’ll be the first to know.  ...

Read More

Am I a racist?

I was channel-surfing the TV the other night and came across a show by two young Australian men of non-European heritage, who were sharing insights on Australia from a “brown person’s” perspective. (I’m quoting them, so don’t judge me.) They weren’t the greatest comedians that I’ve heard – the second one, in particular, didn’t always get the timing right – but they were pretty good. They seemed to be funny, charming and clever. They were particularly witty when they had a go at the foibles of Australian culture and, in particular, racism.  I laughed, or at least smiled, a lot. I think humour is an excellent way to educate people about racism, which is the product of a narrow, uneducated mind that is driven by fear, self-interest and ignorance. It is hateful, abhorrent, illogical and just plain nasty. Racist statements are often generalisations (another bug-bear of mine): all Muslims are terrorists; all New Zealanders have unhealthy interests in sheep; all Americans are warmongers. Racism assumes that the racist’s ethnic group and culture is superior to everyone else. It is the fault of the non-member for not being born in the superior collective and they should be eliminated (or at least moved elsewhere). So, I cheered the two lads on. I realise they were cleverly turning the tables. This is what it feels like to be racially vilified, they were saying. It’s your turn, white people. Now, I get that. I appreciate the technique. I’m willing to laugh and agree: Yeah, those bogans in the Cronulla riots were right dingbats. The people who abuse taxi-drivers, or assume that all Muslims are terrorists, are ignorant starts-with-w-rhymes-with-bankers. But, as the material became more generalised, more bitter, more sweeping in its attack, I began to get annoyed. All whites are racists; all whites are drunks; all whites have no culture; all whites are ill-mannered and stupid; Israel should be wiped off the face of the earth… Hey! Wait a minute! Could it be that these two young men are…racist? Or is racism a white disease and therefore only perpetrated by white Europeans? Hmm… Hutus vs Tutsis; Sunnis vs Shi’ites; Burmese vs Karens; Tamils vs Sinhalese; Arabs vs Jews… These conflicts have nothing to do with ethnic and cultural differences? Let’s face it: ignorance, hatred, racism and fear are endemic in every culture. It’s one of the major defects in the human condition. I applaud the young men’s attempt to highlight the foolishness, the arrogance which often leads to violence, that is found in racism; especially in white people’s treatment of coloured people throughout the world. However, I think they scuttled their own boat when they descended to the same level as their oppressors. They lost the moral high ground. Or, am I a racist for not liking racist jokes about my skin colour? Should I accept their statement that white Australians who have “brown” friends only do so as a form of tokenism, to show them off at parties? (I rarely take friends of any colour to parties. In fact, I hardly ever go myself.)  Am I a racist for having friends of various ethnicities? What do I do about my non-white friends now? If I de-friend them, because I don’t want to be guilty of tokenism, wouldn’t that also be racist? I’m confused. Am I a racist? I realise it’s my fault that I was born white. I’m sorry for the hurt perpetrated by my ethnic group on all the other ethnic groups. I wish caucasians could be as non-judgmental, non-racist, non-exclusive, all-embracing as the other people groups on this planet. Damn, I think I’ve just been racist again. Well done, lads, you’ve got me thinking. The trouble is, you’ve left me swinging in the air of indecision. I have this awful feeling that I’m damned if I do and damned if I don’t. I should have watched the football, ...

Read More