04 December 2011

Rainy Sunday, landlord visit, & hairballs

Interesting day so far: woken early by cats, as usual; got up, let them out, topped up their food & water, smooched them, went back to bed (having stayed up late studying then ebaying, really needed more sleep). Late morning - a knock at the door. My flatmate's out, so I stumble out of bed, pull on my jeans (slept in t-shirt), open door to our landlord.

Not entirely unexpected visit, cos I rang him early in the week; he missed that call; I missed his return call; I meant to ring again this weekend. He's a considerate bloke, happy to just talk on the doorstep as it's an unscheduled appearance, but it's chilly, drizzling and windy, and there are things I want to show him, so I invite him in. Relieved to see that the place is reasonably clean & tidy (other than my bedroom, which I closed the door on – as much as I can, given the suitcase in the way).

I show him the broken towel rail in the bathroom, ask if I should buy a new one at Bunnings; he's happy with that, will install it himself. He's not even fazed by the enormous crack in the skirting board where my flatmate's picture fell down – says he'll fix that with some white fill (probably not the kind dentists use). I show him the wonky tap over the kitchen sink (glad I washed up), and the broken sash-cord in the kitchen window, both of which he says he'll fix next weekend. Little bit concerned that he's planning to do all of it himself, but we'll see how it goes.

Then I settle down to check my emails, look at my eBay lists, have some midday breakfast – until Rosy throws up. Her long fur is so gorgeous, but gives her hairballs quite often, despite my attempts to brush her. Usually she manages to chunder on the wooden floor (easy to clean, except if vomit goes into the cracks between floorboards), or a flat-weave rug, but this time she barfs on my flatmate's shag-pile (cotton, not wool, thank heavens) rug. Which I washed just recently. Oh well. I can probably sponge the stain out, now that I've wiped off the bile and blobs of fur.

After that, the three cats and I had a fun time playing outside in the chill wind (no drizzle at that point), then I came back in to work on my assignments – sorry, “assignment” singular – the last one! Which is why I'm posting here, instead of writing about learning environments and risk assessments. (does cat vomit count as an OHS risk? I s'pose it does.)

10 November 2011

Fern the Fearless Adventurer

About a year ago I was living in a granny flat in Annandale (granny flat = garden flat; this was both, as it was built in the back garden for P's mother to live in, while P & J and their two sons lived in the main house).

Photo: foreground to back, Blanche, Fern, Charlie, Rosy

I'd told P & J before I moved in that I had two cats, but actually had five for about half the time I lived there (only 8 months, sadly) - the two street kittens I'd rescued and planned to keep as my forever cats, and three other street kittens who I intended to rehome. I eventually took darling Charlie and beautiful Blanche to the Cat Protection Society where they lived for a month or two before being adopted (separately, to my sorrow).

I ended up keeping Blanche and Charlie's sister Fern, as well as their cousins Treasure and Rosy, because Fern is so like her mother Sandy, who befriended me when I was a catless cat lover and she was a street cat. Actually, that similarity was the first reason I thought about keeping Fern, rather than either of her siblings, but then it was mostly because she is so brave, friendly, inquisitive, good at climbing, determined to get into every bag, box, drawer and shelf, playful, confident, and fond of snuggling. In other words, I fell in love with her. Also, Fern is quite petite, even as an adult, so she's the 'point five' of my 2.5 fur-children :-)

As the saying "Curiosity killed the cat" indicates, many cats are keen to explore nooks and crannies. Fern takes this to extremes, not only climbing into boxes and drawers, but once hopping into the back of a delivery truck that was picking up a rented fridge from next door. Fortunately the driver noticed her before he closed up and drove off. Fern is also an excellent climber; again, a feature common to many cats - but she is good at climbing down, as well as up - a rare skill.

She does everything whole-heartedly: eating, play-fighting, climbing, hunting, snuggling with her family (feline and human), even sleeping. Most other cats I've known will respond if you stroke them while they're sleeping, either with a friendly "mrrrp?" or by glaring blearily at you. Fern just remains in her neatly curled up sleeping pose and ignores you. If she's on her way to something important, you can click your fingers or call her name to no avail; she just keeps marching straight on to her destination. She is however quite amenable to being called to come in at night (unlike her cousins), and even though she generally Does Not Like Being Picked Up, she'll allow me to carry her inside in the evening.

Fern also likes to sleep at regular times, the most important of which is from around 5 or 6pm to about 11pm or midnight. Then she'll get up, stretch, have a snack, wash her face, then tear around the house attacking rugs, toy mice, and any available human feet, before settling down again for some snoozing and napping.

So when she was Absent Without Official Leave from our current home one evening last week, I was concerned. Having brought the other two in and closed any points of egress at 6pm, I checked for Fern and called her from the front and back yards, with no response. Not a big deal at that point. By 8pm I was a bit worried, and walked around the cul-de-sac where we now live, calling her and checking under shrubs. I started writing this blog post at about 9pm, to stop myself from worrying. After all, the last time she went missing, in November last year, she did come home safely. Eventually.

I am an over-anxious cat-mum, quite often - I have a tendency to anxiety anyway (and do work on strategies to manage that), and I've seen several of Fern's street cat cousins killed on the road, and friends' cats have suffered various alarums and excursions, including a probable spider bite that caused temporary paralysis in one cat's back legs. So my worries were not completely unfounded. At 10pm I walked round to the next street to our north. My route there was via the connecting road, a very busy one, but Fern, if she were there, would've gone via back yards - much safer in terms of traffic, but full of possible dangers such as Sheds and Garages. I walked along the street, calling and pausing to hear any response, intruding onto properties where I could see closed garages or sheds, hoping no one would catch me, but ready with the "my darling cat is missing" explanation.

Last year's disappearance involved a garage only three houses away. That time, I'd last seen Fern at about 4pm, then gone to have a rest. When I brought the others indoors at 6pm, there was no sign of her. I wasn't worried, just thought she was having a good time climbing somewhere. Later that night I was starting to imagine dire things, and checked up the laneway that was my point of access to the granny flat. No sight or sound of my little girl, so I went back home to bed, but slept intermittently, waking to check if Fern was outside wanting to come in.

Photo: Looking across the lane from our old place to a barn (not the guilty garage)

Early the next morning I checked along the laneway again, and heard meowing in response to my calls. It was 5am, so there was no traffic in the lane, which made it easier to hear. I meowed back, and worked out that the sound was coming from behind a light green garage door. When I sat right up against the door, and peered through the small opening at one side, I could see Fern! My darling girl yelled louder when she saw me, and poked one paw into the gap between the concrete wall and the metal roller door, trying to reach me. I didn't think it fair to try waking the residents of the house at 5am, so I sat with Fern, trying to stick my hand through to pat her for reassurance. We managed to touch paw tip to finger tip, but that didn't help get her out, or let her know why I was there but not helping her escape.

She'd missed her evening meal, and probably didn't have access to water. I didn't know what to do about water, but went and got a small tin of tuna (my food, not cat food) and flicked little bits of it to her through the gap. She ate enthusiastically, and meowed at me some more. This roller-door was a side-to-side one, not the usual kind that rolls upwards to open, so when the door was closed, there was space all down one side to allow for the big roll of metal that it would curl into when opening.

Some tradesmen came to work on the driveway of the house next door at 7am, jackhammering up the concrete, starting at the laneway end, right near where Fern and I were. Fern fled in terror at the noise, and I went round to the front door of the green-garage-place to ask the owners if I could retrieve my cat from their garage. A man answered, and when I explained the situation, said he was a guest, and the owners weren't up yet. I went back to try and comfort Fern, who was losing her voice from yelling.

One of the owners, who I'll call UnCatLover, eventually appeared; she said she had to go to work soon so didn't have time to let me through their house and garden to look in the garage, but she'd have a look herself, and I could go back around the block to the laneway entrance to the garage where she'd let me know what she found. UnCatLover reported that there was no sight or sound of a cat, and the garage hadn't been opened since 5pm the previous afternoon, so if it'd been in there at all, it must've run out through the door into the garden while she was looking for it. So I went off calling and looking along the street, back home to see if Fern had reappeared, and along the laneway again - no sign of her.

Later that day I went back to the house to ask if I could look in the garage myself, in case Fern was still in there, and hiding when people she didn't know were hunting for her. UnCatLover's partner took me through the house to the garage, where I discovered just how much stuff there was inside - plenty of scope for a small, traumatised cat to hide. I poked around a bit, as did Helpful Man, but neither of us could see or hear Fern. I showed Helpful Man where Fern had been when I saw her from outside, and he could see traces of the tuna that I'd flicked to her, but he thought she'd probably got out when UnCatLover opened the door into the garden - despite the fact there were dogs in the garden at the time. I asked if I might leave some water in case she was still trapped there, and Helpful Man said okay.

Friends on Facebook had been giving me lots of moral support since I'd posted about Fern being AWOL, and those who lived near enough and had time available offered to come and help me search. After another night of worrying, and hugging Treasure and Rosy rather more than they appreciated, I was out early the next morning calling along the laneway, and particularly outside that light green garage door. To my amazement, I heard Fern again, and was able to see her briefly through the gap between the wall and the roller door - only briefly because work on the next door driveway started up again, and Fern disappeared.

I rang a friend who lived nearby and asked if she could come and help. Julie was very happy to, but explained she was at a friend's place, so it would take her a while to get to the laneway - and then the friend offered to come too. While I waited, there was a lull in the driveway work, and Fern reappeared. After touching paws with her, I ducked back home to get some tuna, partly because I thought she'd be hungry, and partly to entice her to stay within sight.

It was wonderful to have Julie's and her friend's support. When they came, I asked them both to look through the gap, and tell me what they could see, thinking that UnCatLover might be even more sceptical about Fern being there. And halleluja! They both saw her - Julie had met Fern before and recognised her; the friend just saw a small pale shape with big eyes. So I asked Friend (wish I could remember her name!) to stay at the garage door, so she'd see if Fern got out that way, while Julie and I went round to the front door. As expected, UnCatLover was very sceptical, but with me pleading and Julie assuring her that there was indeed a small cat in the garage, she allowed me to go through the house, through the garden, and into the garage (which had been tidied a bit since I was last there).

Julie and I clambered around through the boxes, woodworking materials, and rolls of shadecloth, calling Fern. No response. I looked in the drawers of a desk, into any box that wasn't firmly sealed, and under piles of papers. Helpful Man came to see if he could assist, and offered to open the roller door to see if Fern would run out into the lane. I asked him not to, because I was sure the noise of the door opening would alarm Fern, especially if she was in the corner near the gap where I'd seen her (since the tidy-up, I couldn't see or reach that place from inside the garage). Helpful Man also offered to move some more stuff so I could get to that corner, but looked a bit dubious about it - it would've been a major operation to clear a path I could use to get there. So I found a space where I could sit on the floor, while Helpful Man and Julie waited just outside the garden door, in case my usually brave Fern was hiding from everyone except me. And I sang, because I often sing to my cats - fortunately they don't seem to mind whether I sing in tune or not.

I sang "Ferny is my darling girl, I love her so, I hope she's safe" over and over, and eventually Fern emerged from within a pile of stuff that I'd searched through. I refrained from pouncing on her, but picked her up gently, and started walking towards the garden door. Fern was very distressed, and tried to get away, so I sat down with her and let go, just stroked her and kept singing to her. Then I said to Helpful Man that I'd need to go back through their house and round the block to my place so I could get a carry cage (should've thought of that before!), and he told me there was an ordinary door off to one side that would take me straight out into the laneway. So I hugged Fern a bit more, nicked out the side door nice and quietly, ran home to grab a carry cage (patted Rosy and Trezh, telling them their cousin would be home soon - they seemed unconcerned), and dashed back to the garage.

When I sat and called Fern this time she came straight away. She wasn't pleased to be stuffed into the carry cage, but I didn't give her an option. I carried her to the garden door so I could show Helpful Man, who was pleased to see Fern was okay, and UnCatLover, who was very surprised to see an actual cat being brought out of her garage. I thanked them both very much (hoping that UnCatLover would be the one to find any poo or wee that Fern might've left behind), and went home (via the side door and laneway), accompanied by Julie and Friend, cradling a wailing Fern in the carry cage.

Darling fearless Fern was very jumpy after that, startled by loud noises, wary of strangers instead of friendly, and much less keen on getting into boxes and cupboards - for several months, anyway. She gradually regained her confidence and was back to climbing up, on and into everything, smooching visitors, and exploring our next new neighbourhood.

So last week, when she reappeared at midnight on the same day that she'd gone AWOL, I was hugely relieved. Neither of us wants to go through Fern Being Trapped In A Garage again.

08 November 2011

Pop-up books and paper engineering

When I was a kid I loved pop-up books. We didn't keep any of my childhood pop-up treasures, probably because the tabs had torn and bits no longer popped up. Now as an adult I'm collecting them in a new guise, starting with some amazing 'paper engineering' books by Robert Sabuda and Matthew Reinhart.

I first came across the term 'paper engineering' after I bought a couple of little gift books by Robert Sabuda one Christmas. I gave Winter in White to my aunt, and kept Christmas! for myself (my aunt probably would've preferred a specifically Christmassy book, and I really wanted to keep Winter in White, but the corner of Christmas! was dinged so I couldn't give it as a gift).

These books, while small and much simpler than many of Sabuda's works, were far more sophisticated than the pop-up books of my childhood. Those 1970s books had tabs that you pulled down, to make an image pop up from the page, or pulled sideways, to make an image slide across the page.

Christmas! has a double-spread page for each letter in the word Christmas, including an elaborate Snowflake, Icicles hanging from a building's eaves, and a pull-along Toy horse. Winter in White has a twirling skater on a foil pond, a reindeer with ornaments dangling from its antlers, two doves tying a red ribbon, and other gorgeous moving images.

I was so taken with these that I looked for more examples of this kind of work, and thus discovered that there was such a thing as 'paper engineering'. Since then I've bought a pop-up alphabet book, ABC3-D, two books from the trilogy Encyclopedia Mythologica by Reinhart and Sabuda - Gods & Heroes, and Dragons & Monsters...

Maurice Sendak's first pop-up book, Mummy? (co-created with Arthur Yorinks and Matthew Reinhardt)

a book of dots - abstract art, really - 600 Black Dots by David A. Carter,

and Snow White by Jane Ray.

And in a stroke of good fortune, I won a copy of Matthew Reinhardt's brilliant Star Wars: A Pop-up Guide to the Galaxy in a competition run by Infinitas Bookshop.

Some photos I took of my copy of Dragons & Monsters:

and a video (taken with my digital still camera) of one section of Dragons & Monsters unfolding.

06 November 2011

A Pocket Full of Eyes, by Lili Wilkinson

Taxidermy, gamers, lust and romance, a suspicious death - I don't know how Australian author Lili Wilkinson weaves these all into a coherent story, but she does. Published by Allen & Unwin in 2011, the tale has humour, lovely geeky moments, clever clues and tricky red herrings, suspense, and wonderful characters.

I would guess the title is a deliberate reference to Agatha Christie's A Pocketful of Rye, not just the words from the nursery rhyme 'Sing A Song of Sixpence'. The heroine, Beatrice May Ross, is much the same age as teenage private eye Veronica Mars, but her style of sleuthing is more like Miss Marple's - at least to start with. A fan of girl detectives Trixie Belden and Nancy Drew, Bee is determined to solve the mysterious death at the museum where she's doing work experience in the summer before her final year of high school.

From just a description the characters might sound caricatured, but in the context of the story they are totally believable, multi-layered, and engaging. Bee's mother Angela is a Dungeons & Dragons gamer, who has a gaming buddy turned boyfriend known as the Celestial Badger. The romantic interest is Toby - an annoying, cute, mysterious medical student who spouts random facts about animals and insects, and is an excellent kisser. Gus, the senior taxidermist at the museum and Bee's mentor, is laconic, habit-bound, and dour - at least until shortly before his death.

In between sleuthing, discovering what Toby's motives really are, dealing with a duplicitous best friend, and becoming expert in various techniques of taxidermy, Bee realises why she is so addicted to reading classic crime fiction, with its logical plots and neat conclusions. Her precision, list-making and attention to detail help her find clues, but she needs a different approach to deal with the changes in her life.

Some useful information: Flesh-eating beetles are used to clean the more fragile skeletons of birds and small animals before the rest of the taxidermy process. Bee tells Toby that sometimes the beetles aren't keen on what they're offered, but spraying the corpse with a mixture of Vegemite and beer will whet their appetites because "They're good Australian beetles." :-P

05 November 2011

at the Speculative Fiction Festival 2011, NSW Writers' Centre

Keith Stevenson launches the anthology Anywhere But Earth

Richard Harland

Alan Baxter

Margo Lanagan

Judith Ridge and Margo Lanagan

me and Pamela Freeman

03 November 2011

For those who've come across the seas

The title of my post is a line from Australia's national anthem, Advance Australia Fair, which claims "For those who've come across the seas/ We've boundless plains to share".

I was going to post a book review today, or maybe blog about reading in general, but am so distressed by the recent deaths of yet more asylum seekers, and disgusted by the political bickering that is the only response from the government and the opposition, I'm going to write about that instead.

I know it's part of a politician's job to slag their opponents off and rubbish all their ideas, regardless of their actual merit. And I know that many intelligent, well-educated people can completely lack historical perspective - or maybe just become unable to use it when they're too absorbed in their own pains and gains. But how superficial are these politicians that their response to the recent drowning of at least six asylum seekers trying to reach Australia is to try to score points by blaming and finding fault with each other's policies and strategies? Especially given that the policies of each are basically the same - ignore the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and reject asylum seekers, prevent them reaching Australia if at all possible, and if they get here, mandatory detention for all, usually in privatised prisons in remote areas, or off-shore, for indefinite periods.

Neither the government nor the opposition denies that community detention would be cheaper than sending asylum seekers to detention centres. They are well aware that indefinite detention has a seriously detrimental effect on detainees, often causing major depression and self-harming, sometimes suicide. The majority of asylum seekers are eventually recognised as legitimate refugees.

Twenty-eight people drowned within sight of Christmas Island late last year. Six women and children died this week during their desperate voyage to find shelter from persecution. Prime Minister Gillard is quoted as saying the tragedy “tears at your heart", following that by saying that the way to prevent such tragedies is to deter asylum seekers. I imagine some of these people seeking protection from torture, wrongful imprisonment and the state-endorsed murder that is "ethnic cleansing" already know they're not welcome in Australia, but they must hope that we will be less cruel, less dangerous, than the situation they're fleeing. So if we can't stop them entrusting their lives to people smugglers with leaky boats, what should we do?

How about helping them get here? Close the detention centres, use the money saved to fund planes or sea-worthy boats to bring asylum seekers here. Keep them in community detention, run the usual checks to determine if their claims are valid, gain valuable new residents who will contribute to our nation, save hundreds of men, women and children from needless psychological damage, save lives...

This has all been said before. I don't expect my blog post to change the minds of the millions of Australians who believe the fear-mongering stories put out by so-called "current affairs" programs. I'm saying this so at least I'm not contributing my silence to the barriers that we, people privileged to live in safety and comfort, set up against those who are fleeing for their lives.

If you're not already angry about this tragic farce that politicians and bureaucrats have created for refugees, here's an open letter by author Tom Keneally to "Shooty", a Sri Lankan refugee who committed suicide in Villawood detention centre last week.

If you're angry to the point of despair, please take heart from the work done by the Asylum Seeker Resource Centre and the dozens of other organisations that offer support and advocacy to asylum seekers, refugees and detainees in Australia.

May we all live in peace.

Asylum, noun. The protection granted by a nation to someone who has left their native country as a political refugee.
Shelter or protection from danger.

Photo: A candlelight vigil at Villawood detention centre in memory of Shooty

Cagney & Lacey in the 21st Century

It's a cop show about two women detectives, their lives, their loves, and their work fighting crime. One woman has a husband and kids, the other is single. One is blonde, one is brunette. They both care deeply about their work, and their audience comes to care deeply about them.

Depending on when you were born, and whether you've seen American cop shows from the 1980s or British cops shows from the 20teens, the names that this description evokes for you might be Cagney & Lacey, or Scott & Bailey, or if you're lucky, both.

In my teens I was a great fan of Cagney & Lacey. It was the first cop show I'd seen with strong central female characters - and their gender wasn't even the central focus of the show. (If you're old enough, or interested in television history, you may remember the cop show starring Angie Dickinson, made when the mere existence of a female cop was remarkable enough that the show was called Police Woman.) Cagney & Lacey was about these women, their partnership, their contrasting personalities, the team they worked with, and the crimes that they solved.

When I first read about Scott & Bailey - I think in a recommendation from amazon.co.uk - I was excited to see there was a new series co-created by Sally Wainwright, because I love her earlier series, At Home with the Braithwaites. Seeing that the lead roles would be played by Lesley Sharp, who was awesome as Alison Mundy in Afterlife, and Suranne Jones, who I'd recently seen for the first time as Idris in the Doctor Who episode 'The Doctor's Wife', made me even more keen to watch the show.

It's a hard-hitting drama. The victims and their families suffer, the perpetrators suffer, the cops suffer... There are some horrendously gruesome murders, one of which, in context, leaves us feeling sympathy for the killer. There are only six episodes in this first season - not unusual for British television dramas - and I really hope that there'll be more episodes to come. Sometimes the grimness of the storylines made me think I wouldn't want to watch the show again; then there'd be such brilliant writing and acting that I'd want to watch it again straight away to appreciate it more, and rewatch the whole series to see how the characters change and grow, and sometimes revert to old bad habits.

Rachel Bailey is a brilliant detective, but as her partner Janet Scott says, clueless when it comes to relationships. Janet is compassionate, professional, and loyal - qualities that come into conflict a few times. All the supporting characters, from the other cops in the Major Incident Team, through families and friends, to the villains of the week, and the philandering barrister, are all believable, though often surprising. And Manchester makes a great backdrop for the drama.

Another joy of watching Scott & Bailey was discovering Amelia Bullmore, who plays the boss, DCI Gill Murray. I have actually seen Amelia Bullmore before, but only in her comic roles. As well as having written some episodes of This Life, Attachments, and Black Cab, Bullmore has played comedy roles in Linda Green and The IT Crowd, dramatic roles in series including State of Play and Ashes to Ashes, and satire in TwentyTwelve (for Australian viewers, TwentyTwelve is Britain's answer to John Clarke, Bryan Dawe & Gina Riley organising the Sydney Olympics in The Games). At first I thought Gill was simply the stereotypical police chief in a police procedural which is basically a two-hander: staying in the office, briefing the team, having the occasional word with the lead characters, and clapping them on the back at the end of the episode. But we gradually and naturally find out that there's a lot more to Gill than this, giving her the depth that makes her situation in episode six an agonising one for her, for Janet Scott and Rachel Bailey, and for the audience. We want her to make the decision that will leave our heroes happy, but understand why that's almost impossible for Gill, a woman of great integrity who wants to believe that playing by the rules is best, and morality will always match with justice.

Also, the theme tune is fab. It's by Murray Gold, a film, television and theatre composer who has written music for Doctor Who since 2005. Part funky city track, part old-style Western theme, I'd listen to it for enjoyment on its own, and it works very well over the opening credits of Scott & Bailey.
I'm sure I've seen a youtube vid of the whole opening sequence, but can't find it now, so here's a trailer with part of the theme music.

Bonus extra: Here's a post about Amelia Bullmore's series Black Cab, from the blog Taxi-Mart News Blog

01 November 2011

Attention Seeking Behaviour

I'm starting Blogtoberfest now, even though I'm a month late. October was a fairly dire month for me, and I'm hoping November will be much better. Also, I'm going to ride the waves of NaNoWriMo energy, blogging every day as my NaNo buddies work on their novels and word counts. So hopefully you'll be seeing me here far, far more often than in recent months.

Recently I saw a conversation on twitter in which one tweep castigated another for moaning and attention seeking. This struck me as rather odd, as why would anyone tweet about anything if they didn't want someone to pay attention? Whether we're asking a question, venting about something, posting a cute picture, heckling a TV show, squeeing in fannish delight, boasting of an achievement, sobbing our heart out, or telling a joke, we're doing it on twitter because we hope someone will notice, and preferably care enough respond or retweet.

The term "attention seeking" seems to be mostly used about someone who is expressing an emotion that others aren't comfortable with - often pride, anger or despair - or voicing an opinion that others want to undermine. Rather than deal with "negative" emotions or ideas that we don't like but can't find an argument against, it's so much easier to just make the person wrong. Wrong not just in what they're saying or how they're saying it, but in what they're doing, even what they're being. And definitely undeserving of attention.

Well, bugger that. There are definitely times when I'm happy just pootling around in my own world, or interacting with my cats (they have no inhibitions about seeking attention when they want it, or rejecting it when they don't), but there are other times when if I'm not able to interact with another person, give them my attention and be the focus of theirs, I feel hunger for that exchange of attention. And if I spend a lot of time away from other people, with my only exchanges being online, and especially if I'm not honestly expressing what I'm feeling, then I feel starved, malnourished for lack of being noticed and responded to. And it gets harder to respond to others, almost as if I become out of practice, or my "able to heed others" muscle has atrophied. Too few demands for my heedfulness are as stressful as too many.

Thank you for reading this post. I hope you found it interesting. You may think I'm addressing these words to no one, or to some random person who googled on "heedfulness" or "NaNoWriMo" and scrolled down to the end to see if there was a conclusion... But I'm not. I'm talking to you. I'm noticing you.


12 June 2011

a good YA book with a stupid "how to get help" bit at the end

I just read Beautiful Monster, by Kate McCaffrey, published by Fremantle Press (which is partly why I bought it - supporting Aus small press) in 2010.

this is a venting post, not a review, so it's probably going to have massive spoilers and be emotive rather than thought through.

the story itself is okay - not particularly original, more a mixture of familiar themes and plot elements that many writers have worked with (not that there's anything wrong with that): how the death of a child affects a family - parents and sibling/s; how destructive eating disorders can be; how someone with an eating disorder can delude themselves so that they honestly believe they're striving for perfection while they're really doing themselves serious damage; the unreliable narrator...

the voice is great - Tess's thoughts and feelings are conveyed so well, I couldn't remember if it was first person or third (it's limited third, firmly fixed inside Tess's perspective). Not sure that I really get a sense of Tess changing with age - from 13 to 15 to 17 - but that could just be because everything is distorted by the grief, self-blame and self-loathing that she gets lost in.

the structure is okay - a steady flow of narrative interrupted by a couple of big jumps, each over a two-year gap, with some references in the third section to the major events that took place within the second gap.

from my perspective as someone who's had an eating disorder, the writer really does a good job of getting into that mind frame - fear, trying to stay in control, feeling physically ill at the sight of food, thinking about food all the time, an extremely distorted body image (very nicely written scene in which Tess, urged by a friend, sees for a moment how she really looks in the mirror - so thin she's skeletal - then her defenses spring up and enable her to see what she thinks is there - pudgy flabby fat), massive guilt and self-loathing.

the imaginary friend who personifies all of Tess's distorted thinking is well written, but I'm not so sure about that same persona hooking up with a new victim in the epilogue - it conveys the point that other people are putting themselves through hell with self-hatred and distorted thinking too, but it makes it seem almost as if the persona is an evil spirit separate from Tess - which surely wasn't the point?

anyway, apart from relating to Tess's nausea, fear and guilt, the thing that really made it hard for me to sleep after reading Beautiful Monster was the unhelpful "help" page at the back of the book.
I'm glad it's there - like any tv program, non-fiction book or novel that deals with mental illness, grief or self-harming, it's a good idea to provide viewers/readers with some contacts in case they need to talk to someone about how they feel after watching/reading it.
but this one, after asking "Need help?", says
"If you or someone you know needs help there are lots of people to go to. You can speak to parents, friends, siblings, teachers and counsellors."

hello?! this spiel presumably was written by someone at the publishing company, not by the author, and I'm sure their intentions are good - wonderful - but if you've read the book, you might've noticed that someone who is self-harming probably feels ashamed & isolated, and is trying to cover it up. people who are hospitalised cos they've nearly killed themselves probably *don't* feel like they can talk to anyone - even if there are caring, non-judgemental people who are actively trying to help them - and saying "there are lots of people to go to" doesn't change that.

at least they do put the urls for reachout, beyondblue, kidshelp, and other good websites, and the phone number for Kids' Helpline. I just wish they'd either left out the line about "lots of people" or put the websites first. Kids Helpline now has a live chat service on its website, because a lot of kids feel safer with the anonymity of being online, rather than ringing and having someone hear their voice, and have more chance of finding privacy on a computer than on their parents' landline or a mobile for which their parents may be paying the bill.

so anyways, I guess maybe I'm feeling a bit unable to communicate myself, to have been so stirred up by the book and the help info. and I do have caring, intelligent, non-judgemental friends and a fab sister that I can talk to. oh wells.

I might have another go at getting to sleep now (after I check FB to see if anything exciting is happening), and save my review (which might well be a review) of The Adoration of Jenna Fox for tomorrow, or sometime.

PS the cover illustration for Beautiful Monster is fab - it looks to me like the skeleton of a baby bird - baby birds are usually so ugly, but tug at our hearts despite that - they're so fragile, and will become beautiful being that can fly, if they don't fall out of their nests or get starved out by a cuckoo.

PPS YA fiction that deals with 'dark' stuff can be totally fabulous and can save people's lives. we do not need censorship of 'heavy' issues - kids (and other people who read YA) choose to read light or dark stories for various reasons, and not having gritty tales available to read won't make anyone's life all bright and sparkly if it isn't already.

07 June 2011

What I learnt from watching Season 3 of True Blood

May Contain Spoilers (although I'm trying to be cleverly cryptic). May Contain Traces of O+ or Tree Nuts.

1. The actor who plays Alcide Herveaux, Joe Manganiello, is appropriately hunky - tall, dark, handsome, well-muscled - but strangely non-hirsute. Then again, that bitch Debbie Pelt isn't hirsute, and she has a nice thick pelt when she changes. But still, I was expecting chest hair. and a bit of tummy hair. maybe Joe's a model as well as an actor?

2. Fairies/the Fae mostly wear white, or pastels. Some of their clothes look a bit 60s, some more 70s.

3. You know how the post-WWII Nazi movement used the code name Werewolves? There was a reason for that.

4. If you've read the books, you know that Charlaine Harris created amazing characters (human and otherwise) and set them in a believable alternate version of contemporary America, and then put them through hell. In each season, I've been impressed by how Alan Ball & his team of producers, writers, actors, directors, designers, et al, do a really good job of showing us these great characters and their particular world, and putting them through hell.

5. Climate change is happening, people! If we don't do something to stop this human-created mess, someone like Russell Edgington will, and it won't be pleasant.

6. Just Say No to V. seriously, it might do wonders for your health and your sex life, but it can also give you waking nightmares, and make you a target for angry vampires.

7. If the brother you didn't know you had suddenly turns up, you're right to be pissed off.

8. Don't let your life be ruined by a sad drunken man in saggy underpants.

9. If you tell the guy you just had sex with that you can't take any more of this supernatural shit, don't be surprised if he tells you he's a supe too.

10. Jason Stackhouse may still be not very bright, but he's turning out an okay kind of guy.

11. A high school counsellor will not help you in your attempt to make your son forgo the love of his life and marry a short, chatty blonde instead, even if she is a good cook.

12. If you love somebody, it's okay to tie them to the toilet and put duct tape over their mouth so they can't scream for help. Well, no, really it's not okay. And you'll get what's coming to you. Some day...

13. You think your boyfriend has used, lied to and betrayed you? Sure he has! He still loves you, though. Even though there's yet more betrayal that you don't know about yet.

14. Godric was, in the end, an unusually compassionate and peaceful vampire. Like, really unusual. One of a kind. And look what happened to him. Never mind how hot they are, vampires are Not Nice!

15. Kevin was the only man she ever loved.

16. Vampires do some really gross things when they're having sex with another vampire that they don't really like. And I'm not talking about doing things with pointy wooden objects. although that was pretty gross too.

17. In the Buffyverse, a staked vampire turns to ash/dust and blows away, clothes included. In the Sookieverse, a staked vampire turns to a great pool of bloody, semi-dissolved flesh that you have to clean up. and the clothes need disposing of, too.

18. Most of the people we see in True Blood are strongly influenced by anecdotal evidence. And *very* strongly influenced by seeing a newsreader killed Live On Screen.

19. In the right context, "I'm not too good for you" is a great chat-up line.

20. But it can't compete with True Love.

02 April 2011

On Australian Women Writing SF

a guest post by Tansy Rayner Roberts

Australians writers aren’t particularly known for their science fiction, especially right now with fantasy dominating the bestseller shelves, and more of a slipstreamy, speculative fiction sensibility prevalent in the small presses. But it’s there - it has always been there - simmering beneath the surface. As is common where a genre is perceived as marginal, those few examples most people can remember tend to be the ones written by men, just as the majority of books reviewed or considered historically to be “important” also tend, on the whole, to be those written by men.

But I am not most people!

Among my favourite and best beloved works, the first one that comes to mind is the classic feminist-lesbian-shakespearian-dystopian short story by Lucy Sussex, “My Lady Tongue.” There’s also Less Than Human, an industrial-robots-in-near-future-Japan novel by Maxine McArthur, which I love for its characterisation and sense of place as well as a kick-ass crime plot.

Speaking of kick-ass, well, you can’t talk about Australian science fiction without mentioning Marianne de Pierres, who has kept the space opera flag flying in recent years, even as the rest of Australia’s meagre handful of SF writers leap aboard the fantasy ship instead.
Nylon Angel is an Australian classic (dytopia again, we do that so well), and her Sentients of Orion series comes well recommended. Even her recent YA debut, Burn Bright, which has all the hallmarks of a vampire paranormal, is science fictional in the extreme.

I always get annoyed when people put together lists of “important” or “classic” science fiction works and deliberately leave out the YA or childrens books, because that’s often where the women authors are to be found. Certainly, when it comes to science fiction, Australia has a long and marvellous history of children’s authors writing brilliant, disturbing work. Gillian Rubenstein’s Space Demons, for example, is a true Australian children’s classic, very much of its time but still chilling in the depiction of a computer game that can swallow you whole.

Right now, I’m hanging out for what I believe will become a new Australian SF classic. Sue Isle’s Nightsiders was published this month by Twelfth Planet Press, the first in a series of short story quartets by Australian women writers. I haven’t seen the finished book yet, but I have read a couple of the stories and am excited to see more. Nightsiders is another Australian dystopia, centred around a future Perth which has been evacuated by the majority of its population due to climate change, in which only a few stragglers remain, sleeping by day and living by night. The stories I have read of this suite already are harsh and touching, and I can’t wait to receive my book in the post!

One thing is for certain - we have some great Australian women SF writers, but not nearly enough. I’m hoping that the next decade will bring some great new work from established and new voices, and that readers return to the genre in droves.

Tansy Rayner Roberts is the author of Power and Majesty (Creature Court Book One) and The Shattered City (Creature Court Book Two, April 2011) with Reign of Beasts (Creature Court Book Three, coming in November 2011) hot on its tail. Her short story collection Love and Romanpunk will be published as part of the Twelfth Planet Press “Twelve Planets” series in May. It is a little bit science fiction.

This post comes to you as part of Tansy’s Mighty Slapdash Blog Tour, and comes with a cookie fragment of new release The Shattered City:

Macready laughed, stepping back, out of range. “Does the sword not feel like she belongs to you?”

Skysilver, that was the trick to it. Didn’t matter how fast it took you, being a sentinel, it was skysilver that drew you in and made you belong. It had a song you couldn’t quite hear, a heat that connected you to the sky and the Court. If Delphine could just listen to the song of the skysilver, she would understand.

“No, she belongs to you, and I don’t take gifts unless I know their price.”

31 March 2011

SF Mistressworks - a reading meme

This list was created by reviewer and author Ian Sales, in response to the Gollancz SF Masterworks series.

Ian explains:

"[These are all by women,] science fiction only, no fantasy; and no YA or children’s works. One work per author... Arbitrary end date of 2000.
For trilogies or series, I’ve listed the first book but put the trilogy/series name in square brackets afterwards. Asterisked titles are in Gollancz’s SF Masterworks series. And if the Masterworks series is allowed an anthology, so am I: hence the inclusion of Despatches from the Frontiers of the Female Mind. I’ve also sneakily included one or two collections, for those writers best known for their short fiction.

The list is in order of year of publication.

You know how it works: bold those you’ve read, italicise those you own but have not read. (If you’ve read the entire named series, you can even emboldenize that as well.)"

The titles bolded below are ones that I (Deborah) have read - some many times, some only once. I might also add some titles to Ian's list (or replace some, if I stick to the 'one title by each author' rule). And maybe get started on a Fantasy Mistressworks list :-)

1 * Frankenstein, Mary Shelley (1818)
2 * Herland, Charlotte Perkins Gilman (1915)
3 Orlando, Virginia Woolf (1928)
4 Lest Ye Die, Cicely Hamilton (1928)
5 Swastika Night, Katherine Burdekin (1937)
6 was deleted cos Francis Leslie Ashton is male (1951)
7 The Sword of Rhiannon, Leigh Brackett (1953)
8 Pilgrimage: The Book of the People, Zenna Henderson (1961)
9 Memoirs of a Spacewoman, Naomi Mitchison (1962)
10 Witch World, Andre Norton (1963)
11 Sunburst, Phyllis Gotlieb (1964)
12 Jirel of Joiry, CL Moore (1969)
13 Heroes and Villains, Angela Carter (1969)
14 Ten Thousand Light Years From Home, James Tiptree Jr (1973)
15 * The Dispossessed, Ursula K Le Guin (1974)
16 Walk to the End of the World, Suzy McKee Charnas (1974)
17 * The Female Man, Joana Russ (1975)
18 Missing Man, Katherine MacLean (1975)
19 * Arslan, MJ Engh (1976)
20 * Floating Worlds, Cecelia Holland (1976)
21 * Where Late the Sweet Birds Sang, Kate Wilhelm (1976)
22 Islands, Marta Randall (1976)
23 Dreamsnake, Vonda N McIntyre (1978)
24 False Dawn, Chelsea Quinn Yarbro (1978)
25 Shikasta [Canopus in Argos: Archives], Doris Lessing (1979)
26 Kindred, Octavia Butler (1979)
27 Benefits, Zoe Fairbairns (1979)
28 The Snow Queen, Joan D Vinge (1980)
29 The Silent City, Élisabeth Vonarburg (1981)
30 The Silver Metal Lover, Tanith Lee (1981)
31 The Many-Coloured Land [Saga of the Exiles], Julian May (1981)
32 Darkchild [Daughters of the Sunstone], Sydney J van Scyoc (1982)
33 The Crystal Singer, Anne McCaffrey (1982)
34 Native Tongue, Suzette Haden Elgin (1984)
35 The Handmaid’s Tale, Margaret Atwood (1985)
36 Jerusalem Fire, RM Meluch (1985)
37 Children of Anthi, Jay D Blakeney (1985)
38 The Dream Years, Lisa Goldstein (1985)
39 Despatches from the Frontiers of the Female Mind, Sarah Lefanu & Jen Green (1985)
40 Queen of the States, Josephine Saxton (1986)
41 The Wave and the Flame [Lear's Daughters], Marjorie Bradley Kellogg (1986)
42 The Journal of Nicholas the American, Leigh Kennedy (1986)
43 A Door into Ocean, Joan Slonczewski (1986)
44 Angel at Apogee, SN Lewitt (1987)
45 In Conquest Born, CS Friedman (1987)
46 Pennterra, Judith Moffett (1987)
47 Kairos, Gwyneth Jones (1988)
48 Cyteen , CJ Cherryh (1988)
49 Unquenchable Fire, Rachel Pollack (1988)
50 The City, Not Long After, Pat Murphy (1988)
51 The Steerswoman [Steerswoman series], Rosemary Kirstein (1989)
52 The Third Eagle, RA MacAvoy (1989)
53 * Grass, Sheri S Tepper (1989)
54 Heritage of Flight, Susan Shwartz (1989)
55 Falcon, Emma Bull (1989)
56 The Archivist, Gill Alderman (1989)
57 Winterlong [Winterlong trilogy], Elizabeth Hand (1990)
58 A Gift Upon the Shore, MK Wren (1990)
59 Red Spider, White Web, Misha (1990)
60 Polar City Blues, Katharine Kerr (1990)
61 Body of Glass (AKA He, She and It), Marge Piercy (1991)
62 Sarah Canary, Karen Joy Fowler (1991)
63 Beggars in Spain [Sleepless trilogy], Nancy Kress (1991)
64 A Woman of the Iron People, Eleanor Arnason (1991)
65 Hermetech, Storm Constantine (1991)
66 China Mountain Zhang, Maureen F McHugh (1992)
67 Fools, Pat Cadigan (1992)
68 Correspondence, Sue Thomas (1992)
69 Lost Futures, Lisa Tuttle (1992)
70 Doomsday Book, Connie Willis (1992)
71 Ammonite, Nicola Griffith (1993)
72 The Holder of the World, Bharati Mukherjee (1993)
73 Queen City Jazz, Kathleen Ann Goonan (1994)
74 Happy Policeman, Patricia Anthony (1994)
75 Shadow Man, Melissa Scott (1995)
76 Legacies, Alison Sinclair (1995)
77 Primary Inversion [Skolian Saga], Catherine Asaro (1995)
78 Alien Influences, Kristine Kathryn Rusch (1995)
79 The Sparrow, Mary Doria Russell (1996)
80 Memory [Vorkosigan series], Lois McMaster Bujold (1996)
81 Remnant Population, Elizabeth Moon (1996)
82 Looking for the Mahdi, N Lee Wood (1996)
83 An Exchange of Hostages [Jurisdiction series], Susan R Matthews (1997)
84 Fool’s War, Sarah Zettel (1997)
85 Black Wine, Candas Jane Dorsey (1997)
86 Halfway Human, Carolyn Ives Gilman (1998)
87 Vast, Linda Nagata (1998)
88 Hand of Prophecy, Severna Park (1998)
89 Brown Girl in the Ring, Nalo Hopkinson (1998)
90 Dreaming in Smoke, Tricia Sullivan (1999)
91 Ash: A Secret History, Mary Gentle (2000)

you can read more about this list on Ian Sales' blog

I read about it first on Tansy Rayner Roberts' blog

11 February 2011

my dear Cassandra...

When I read that Cassandra Austen burned most of the letters she received from her sister Jane, I was distraught - how could Cassandra do such a thing? To destroy the words of one of the English speaking world's greatest prose writers seemed unforgivable.

Then when I watched the BBC telemovie 'Miss Austen Regrets' I saw the intense relationship between the sisters - even though Cassandra is off-screen for most of the drama - and could understand why she might want to destroy those reminders of her sister, who she'd never see again, never receive a letter from again.

The intensity of feeling between Elinor and Marianne Dashwood is, I imagine, based on the closeness between Cassandra and Jane Austen. However similar or different they might be, they meant so much to each other, no other friend or family member could replace that trust and intimacy of spirit.

I'd sort of watched 'Miss Austen Regrets' a year or more ago, but skipped in and out of it while - I can't remember - channel flicking, or Facebooking, or ringing my mum... The main things that struck me that time were how well suited Olivia Williams and Greta Scacchi were to play sisters,

and how much Imogen Poots, the actress who plays their niece Fanny Knight, looks like Our Cassandra - Australian author Cassandra Golds.

This time around I also realised that both Williams and Scacchi had previously been in adaptations of Emma -

Olivia Williams played Jane Fairfax in the 1996 BBC version of Emma

and Greta Scacchi played Miss Taylor/Mrs Weston in Douglas McGrath's film of the same year.

(A film better known as Gwyneth Paltrow's Emma, although I think Paltrow and Toni Collette would've been better cast in each other's roles - not that Collette wasn't great as Harriet Smith, but she would've made a better Emma than Paltrow did).

That film was also the one with beautiful, talented Ewen McGregor looking hideous as the dashing Frank Churchill in a dreadful wig, which was needed cos his hair was still very short from playing Renton in Trainspotting.

And in a lovely coincidence, Ewan McGregor was later in a film called Cassandra's Dream

These images are of course all copyright the owners - presumably the BBC and the relevant film studios. I mean no infringement of copyright; I am not profiting from the use of these images, and will happily remove them if required to do so by the owners.

08 February 2011

the chair in the park

I've just watched two eps of Bones on telly, one last night, one tonight, so I'm using a Bones-style title for this post.

I loved that the ep screened on Channel 7 tonight had a character called Harriet, who was in industrial espionage - Harriet the Spy :-D

so the chair was sitting under some lovely big gum trees (will get photo of them next time) in the park where I go to feed the street cats. there are a couple of park benches installed by the local council, but this was a dining chair, with nice red patterned fabric on the seat. it came in very handy when I decided that if Lenny wasn't going to come to the food, then I'd take the food to Lenny.

after going to the optometrist for a check-up, and buying groceries at the supermarket at the end of the street, I went back to my car to stash the groceries and pick up the catfood that I'd brought from home - 3 sachets and a tin of fish/meat/chicken, a box of dry food/biscuits, and several containers that had had muffins in them, which make good dishes for the food and milk.

Smoky was waiting under my car - I know she and the others of her family that are still around do recognise me as someone who will feed them and not hurt them, but that's the first time I've thought she recognised my car, presumably by smell. they know me by sight, and know my voice when I call 'puss, puss, puss', but my car looks just like every other little red Hyundai, so it must be the smell of my cats that Smoky recognised (if she did - it could've been coincidence, cos they do sit under other cars sometimes, and I'd parked near where they usually hang out).

oh, this was meant to be a shorter post! I do ramble on, sorry. hopefully either you skipped the previous paragraph, or you find speculations about animal intelligence/memory/senses as interesting as I do.

before I put food out for Smoky, I called 'puss, puss', hoping Sandy and the others would turn up. No one else showed, so I left Smoky eating and went to the house where Sandy had raised her kittens from 3 weeks to 7 weeks.
there used to be some very friendly Korean guys living there, who put food out for Sandy & her babies (but weren't too keen on any of the other street cats, and were a bit hostile to Lenny).

now there are different guys living there, who are generally unsympathetic to all the street cats, and very hostile to any that they find in their vegie garden, which they put a lot of work into.
Two of the guys were sitting in the backyard smoking & chatting; I greeted them and asked if there were any cats around, and they said no, quite emphatically, so I went back to the park.

I stood guard while Smoky ate, smiling at passers by, chatting with ones who seemed friendly, and wishing them a happy new year if they looked like they might be Chinese, Korean, or Vietnamese. After Smoky'd had most of a sachet, some dry food & milk, and was washing her face, I heard a tom caterwauling at the other end of the park, so I went calling, hoping it might be Lenny.

no sign of the tom, but Sandy appeared, meowing loudly back to me, so I was able to smooch with her and give her food too. after she'd eaten, and was washing her face, Tabby leapt over the fence from the front yard of the jungle house, so she, like her sisters, had most of a sachet, some dry food & some milk (and Sandy & Smoky had a bit more wet food, so they wouldn't try and steal Tabby's).

then I realised that Lenny was sitting on a wooden frame covered in shade cloth, in the backyard of the jungle house, overlooking the park. he was obviously keen to get some food, but too wary of me, and the frequent passers-by, to come down into the park. I put the last of the third sachet of wet food, and some dry food, into one of the muffin-tray lids, and, standing on tiptoes and hanging onto the fence for balance, managed to push it up onto the shadecloth a metre or so away from Lenny. he did retreat while I was doing that, but the lovely stinky fishy food drew him back, and once I'd backed off, he tucked in.

meanwhile, Sandy and I played and smooched, Tabby and Smoky sat and watched, and I chatted to passers-by. one woman stopped and took photos of them with her phone. another admired the cats, Smoky particularly, and I told her about their history. she said she'd like to adopt one, but only if they were friendly. I said that there was a young cat who was quite friendly, who I might be able to socialise enough that she could be adopted - I showed the woman a photo of Ember on my phone.

shortly after the woman continued on her way, I saw Ember, crossing the road from the jungle house, heading away from the park. I called, and she came (once she realised who I was) and I opened the tin catfood, thinking I probably would have to take some of it home, as Sandy & her sisters all seemed satisfied, and Lenny wasn't coming down to eat.

however, the sound of the tin opening, and the smell of the jellymeat, got everyone interested again, so I gave plenty to Ember, while doling out spoonfuls to Sandy, Smoky and Tabby, who did quite well at fitting in some more. Lenny came right to the edge of the shadecloth frame and looked so plaintive that I decided to give him some more dry & tinned food, and to try & give him some milk. that's when I spotted the upholstered chair sitting under the trees a little distance away.

I dished up portions of wet & dry food into three cups of a muffin tray and poured some milk into the fourth, made sure the chair was propped firmly against the fence, and clambered up carefully, putting my weight only on the edges of the chair-frame, as the seat itself seemed pretty dodgy. Lenny fled, but I put the muffin tray carefully in the area he'd been sitting in, then moved myself and the chair a good distance away. the four girls by now had finished eating, Ember tried to smooch with Sandy, who smacked her, and Smoky & Tabby decided to sit under or next to the chair.

it was so good to see Lenny cautiously approach the muffin tray and eat some more - he was so absorbed in scoffing food that I was able to take a couple of photos, and once he'd eaten, and I'd not made any attempt to grab him, he relaxed enough to come and sit right at the edge and observe Sandy and me playing chaseys with long twigs from the gum trees.

05 January 2011

The Lives (and Deaths) of Street Cats

Lenny is still alive!

I hadn't seen him for a few months, and when I'd seen him in winter & early spring, he looked really ill with cat flu. He's very sweet natured, but somewhat unprepossessing, extremely wary of all humans, and not assertive enough with the other cats to get his fair share of any food that's going. So I was totally surprised and delighted to hear him caterwauling today in true tom-cat fashion (shame I didn't manage to trap, desex, release him back in the days when I fed him every night, and he'd come within touching distance of me). I was in the backyard of the Korean guys' house, feeding Sandy and Tabby when I heard him. I called; he peered over the fence at me; I waved an open sachet of smelly fishy cat food enticingly; he came a little closer; then one of the residents came home with much banging and stomping, and Lenny fled. the returning worker and I bowed to each other. The current Korean guys mostly seem to be neutral about cats, but very tolerant of the Mad Anglo Lady who comes into their backyard to feed the cats (who lived there before they did).


Sandy and Tabby had eaten about a third of a 400g tin of cat food each, plus had a handful or two of dry food, plus Sandy drank some lactose-free milk (I took the milk away before she went pop - small, skinny cat with bulging sides from wolfing down food as fast as poss).

Sandy in playful mode

I went back along the road to the park beside the Jungle House (the garden is a jungle; the house is actually quite nice in the middle of all the chaotic plants, stored construction materials and bits of motorbikes) and called again, and Smoky turned up - yay! so she got the remaining third of the tin, plus some dry food (and I gave wee bits of the tinned food to Sandy so she'd leave Smoky to eat in peace).

Smoky rolling, Tabby looking wary (photo taken by Rebecca Green in December 2010)

Lenny hadn't reappeared, so I went back to the Korean house, left the fishy sachet on the side gate at the back of the house, near where he'd been before, hoping he'd eat it soon and that it wouldn't piss off the residents by sitting stinking for hours. (Sandy's habit of using their lovely vegetable garden as a toilet undoubtedly and justifiably does annoy them, but that patch of ground was her toilet before they went and planted vegies there)

then I went to put the Street Cat Food Bag back in my car, and get the shopping bags that I planned to use at Woollies after I'd picked stuff up from my PO box and bought chicken from Lefkas Chicken. I checked down the side of the Korean house as I walked past, hoping to see Lenny eating the smelly fish, but instead saw a white duck. or possibly a goose. I'm not very knowledgable about waterfowl. Sandy looked like she wanted to take the duck/goose on, but it rose up and flapped its wings menacingly, and she thought better of it.

As I got back to the car, Shadow turned up, and dashed around hopefully, wanting food and/or stroking, so I got the last sachet out and gave it to her, fending Sandy and Smoky off with tiny bits of wet food so they'd let Shadow eat in peace. (Tabby is much less assertive, and made do with more dry food) So the four female felines had all eaten, and Lenny had some food that he could eat, if he could get over his urge to spend all his time caterwauling, his understandable fear of humans, and possibly some competition from the goose (or duck).

I stayed at the park a while to make sure that the cute but mangy dog that wanted to eat the cats' food and/or the cats did neither, then finally set off to pick up parcels (ooh! parcels :-D) from my PO box, buy a nice roast chicken for me and my cats-at-home, and buy some groceries at the supermarket. Cute-but-mangy turned out to have an attendant human, who turned up some time after the dog, so I exchanged greetings with her, said how cute the dog was, and how well-behaved he was, not chasing the poor hungry cats, who'd been abandoned through no fault of their own (always good to get in a plug for the cats' abandoned status, work up some sympathy).

My parcels at the post office included a batch of t-shirts from Threadless.com (ooh, I love interesting/beautiful t-shirts! Must. Keep. Within. Budget!), a book I'd ordered from Book Depository (Silver Screen, by Justina Robson), a book I won in an online competition from FableCroft Publishing (The Way of the Wizard, ed. John Joseph Adams), a book sent by my friend Heather in London (I Had a Black Dog, writ & illus by Matthew Johnstone), and a very heavy parcel for my sister (a bunch of doll collectors' magazines, now out of print). what bounty! what joy!

then I toddled off to Lefkas Chicken, where they had No Chicken Left. :-[
however, I'd not only been able to feed & smooch & play with Sandy, feed & stroke Shadow, and feed Tabby & Smoky (boy, I'd love to stroke or preferably brush those two - they have beautiful long fur, that gets so tangled & full of leaves, and must give them awful fur-balls), I'd seen Lenny! so it was worth spending the extra time with the Street Kittehs, and I could get some chicken from Lefkas another time.

shopping at the supermarket was quite straightforward - get enough yoghurt, bananas, salad vegies and double choc muffins to last for the next week (i.e. until I've moved to my new home - eek!), and several rolls more packing tape (even though I'm two-thirds packed, you can Never Have Too Much Packing Tape), and then push the wobbly trolley back to where I'd parked by the park. (Woollies in Campsie is very civilised, and allows shoppers to take trolleys to their cars, even if they're a few blocks away. this is very convenient for customers, and provides a job for the Trolley Man, who drives around collecting the shopping trolleys & returning them to the supermarket)

I gave Sandy, Tabby and Shadow some more dry food (I'd seen cute-but-mangy finishing what I'd left for them as I came back from Woollies), and peered hopefully past the waterfowl down the side of the Korean house to see if the smelly fish had been eaten, but couldn't really tell.

Still no sign of Henri or Sibby (not sighted for a couple of months), or Dragon or Shelly (not sighted for at least five months) - they might just be avoiding me, or be eating elsewhere, or may have sadly met their end on the road, as several others from their extended family have.