Things that irk…

We’re going on a holiday, leaving early tomorrow morning. The Wonder Dog had the big shave late yesterday, so that he will have a limited supply of fur to shed in the place we’re staying. He’s now about the size, shape and colour of a new born lamb. The poor wee thing. The Old Boy is out getting prescriptions filled and buying something we can eat today, as I was a bit too clever using up the food before we left. I should be doing last-minute laundry and then packing but, instead, ever loyal to my fans (cough) I’m doing the blog first. I hope you realise it’s because you’re all so special and it has nothing to do with putting off the ironing. Now, to leave you something to think about, and possibly comment on, during the week. At the risk of proving I’m a grumpy old bag, here are some things in books that really irk me. 1. I’m really irritated by authors who don’t respect their readers’ intelligence. They have to explain everything. I want you to show me how a person is feeling by what they do, or what they say. Don’t just tell me. Even worse, don’t show me and then tell me anyway in case I don’t get it. I get it!  EG:  Tarnya slammed the door shut behind her, threw her bag on the chair and stomped across the room. “You can go to hell, Cheryl!” she said.  “I’m gonna kick you into the middle of next week.” Tarnya was really angry with her best friend. I guessed Tarnya was upset in the first sentence. What she said to Cheryl confirmed my opinion. The third sentence just tells me the author thinks I’m too stupid to realise what she spent the last two sentences trying to show me. Perhaps it’s that the author lacks confidence in her writing technique. If so, she should get a good (better) editor and take their advice. 2. If you’re going to kill a character off, don’t make it someone with whom I’ve made a deep emotional connection. Kill off relative strangers. I never understood Rowling’s decision to kill Dumbledore.  I kept waiting for him to reappear in the next book, a la Gandalf. As for Mr Patrick Ness killing the dog… I understand the reasoning (plot-wise) but I have never got over the emotional damage done to my psyche. If he’d died in the first chapter or two, I’d have been upset but I would have got over it. But, the dog hangs around for so long and he’s so sweet and loyal and brave and funny… I loved that dog. Darn you, Ness! 3. What’s all the mucking about with “said” for crying out loud? It’s meant to be one of the invisibles like was, a, the and it. It merely connects the name of the speaker to the dialogue. “You can go to hell, Cheryl!” Tarnya said. I prefer “Tarnya said” rather than “said Tarnya”, simply because said before the name is olde worlde. No one says “said she” any more, so why “said Tarnya”? But, if you want to do it, at least be consistent. Stick with one way of doing it throughout the book. As soon as you chop and change we notice it. Our focus should be on the dialogue, not the tag at the end. As for making it interesting by substituting every suggestion from the thesaurus instead of “said”… don’t. Maybe an occasional “whispered” or “shrieked” would be okay, but you don’t need to put “asked” or “inquired” when there’s a question mark at the end. We know it’s a question already. Stop taking my attention off the important stuff by fiddling about with the inconsequential. It has a similar effect on my nerves as fingernails dragged down a blackboard. I want to get lost in the story and you keep interrupting me. Grrr. Have I made the same mistakes? Yes to all three. Perhaps that’s why my clients’ books get published while I’m still waiting for mine to be picked up. sigh. What about you, dear readers? What annoys you? I promise I’ll try to avoid them in my next book....

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Is the grass really greener?

“The grass is always greener on the other side…” When you’re driving about our magnificent countryside, it’s easy to spot the wishful thinkers. At practically every farm or paddock you drive past, you will see cows, horses or sheep (even the occasional goat) with their heads shoved through or under the fence. Despite the large expanse of pasture stretched out behind them, the animals are desperate to nibble the tuft of weeds on the other side of the fence. I suppose the thinking is, “If they’ve put a fence up to keep us out then this must be prime tucker!” Or, it could be as simple as, “Ooh, num-nums.” I’m not an expert on these things, so I’m taking an educated guess. Unfortunately, the reality is that the pasture behind them is grown specifically for the animals and is far more nutritious for them. (The only exception would be in a drought when the paddock is bare, but that doesn’t suit the point I’m making so let’s all pretend it doesn’t count.) It’s also a dangerous practice. Too often these animals find themselves on the wrong side – the road side. Then it’s time to play dodge-the-cars. Sometimes, in these encounters, the humans escape with just a damaged car and no injury, but sometimes the consequences are deadly. A friend of mine was killed when her car hit a cow. For the animals, however, it’s practically always lethal. One has to ask, “Were  those few mouthfuls of illicit green grass worth all that?” “Why the bucolic ruminations?” I hear you ask. Well, we humans have the same propensity to think that the grass has got to be greener on the other side of our fence. We look at other people’s lives – their jobs, their wealth, their families, their health – and we think, “I wish my life was like that. I wish I had what they’ve got.” I was at the hospital yesterday for my monthly visit with Dr P and the girls. I plonked myself into a nice recliner in the chemo room and chatted to the other two ladies there. They were both hooked up to the IV, getting a dose of weed-killer (chemo to the uninitiated). When they saw that all I was having was a quick jab in the gut, one of them said, “I wish I could have what she’s got.” The nurse smiled at me, then turned to the lady and said, “Oh no, you don’t.” Why? Was it because my injection has worse effects than chemo? No. It was because when the other patient’s chemo and any other treatment is finished, she will recover her health and go on with her life. She will recover. I will be on these injections indefinitely with, possibly, chemo to look forward to later and there will be no recovery. (Unless the boffins finally find the cure before I kick the bucket). My grass looked greener, but her pasture was actually a better place to be in. I’m not telling you this in a pathetic ploy for your sympathy. The little incident reminded me of the folly of thinking like a sheep. The grass may look greener but it often isn’t, and it’s usually not wise to pursue it. Please note: This isn’t aimed at people in bad situations who need to grasp any opportunity they can to get out of there. (Similar to the drought scenario I mentioned earlier.) I’m talking about the great majority of us who waste our time wishing and hoping and dreaming of being someone else, with someone else’s wealth, health, looks and  goods. Perhaps we need to spend more time appreciating and enjoying the people who love us, and the life we’re living, now....

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Well-played, sir!

Last night the old Boy and I went to watch our grandson’s first football match. It was a family affair with all of us there except my daughter-in-law who couldn’t leave work in time. They didn’t use the whole oval, just one small patch down in the goal square, but it was big enough for these guys. They were all aged 5 or 6, except for our grandson who’ll turn 5 in a couple of weeks. It was an interesting experience. You’ve heard the term: It’s like herding chooks. These were chooks with attitude. When they weren’t part of the scrambling melee around the ball, they entertained themselves with wrestling matches…with their own team-mates. In the third quarter the umpire had to issue a warning to one enterprising child: Leave the goalposts alone or I’ll give the other team a free kick. The curly-headed moppet was playing “horsey” with the little, movable goal post. The sad thing is, it was the first time in the evening when he’d looked like he was having fun. There was an escapee at half time. Most of the lads gathered around the coach for half-time instructions…and the food he was handing around. Our boy was posing for “action shots” that his grandpa was photographing, while his dad kept urging him to go listen to the coach. But then, out of the pack, a flash of red and black made a run for it. Just over the boundary line his father finally caught up with him. He was carried back but he didn’t go without a fight. He even tried the old ‘go-limp-and-droopy-in-their-arms’ trick. There was a lot to impress me last night. There were the  kids who kept running up and down, trying like Trojans, even though they had no idea what they were doing. There were the parents, uncles and aunties, siblings and friends who sat (if they were lucky) or stood around the chook -sorry – footy field on a cold night, to encourage those kids. There were the coaches, who kept rounding up the stray chooks, trying to offer some sort of guidance. (We should pay these people squillions of dollars; they deserve every cent.) And then there was the umpire. My son-in-law told us the fellow was a grandpa of one of the kids in our grandson’s team. He could have been home watching the big game on TV, in the comfort of his favourite chair, and who could begrudge him that. But, there he was in his shorts, a whistle around his neck, running up and down amongst the lads, like an aged colossus surrounded by munchkins. There are three things about this man that deeply impressed me (apart from him actually being there). 1. He was very fit. I could barely walk from the car to the field and this chap ran up and down for forty minutes and didn’t even puff. 2. He seemed to know what the kids were actually doing. He blew his whistle; he called illegal tackles (there were a lot of them); he reminded the kids which end their goal was… How on earth did he make sense of the swirling maelstrom of little sweaty bodies? 3. He smiled the whole time. He actually seemed to enjoy himself, even when he was “accidentally” kicked in the shins. Volunteers are the unsung heroes of society. I’m constantly blown away by the people who willingly, selflessly, give of their time and resources to help others, with no expectation of reward or even recognition. I raise my glass to you, oh patient umpiring grandpa, and all you other wonderful, giving people and I say: Huzzah, sire! Well done, oh good and faithful! Spam update: This week there were 87 spam attempts on my blog about spam. Hahaaa. You’ve got to admire their...

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