more rain

rainy bush

More rain today. That’s a picture of some of the bush we see from our living room window. A wet day, and the little ’un at kindy. I met my new writing friend Mark at our local cafe, and we wrote for a few hours. We both write in completely different ways, totally different genres and approaches, but it is really cool to meet someone who wants to write as much as you do, and who finds the experience of writing across from another person inspiring and motivating.

So – I got some work done. :) More to do later – perhaps after pizza and movie night, which we’re starting to do regularly at home, even though most of the time we wind up watching Frozen or something similar. Last week, though, I got to sneak in an old favourite of mine, The Sword in the Stone. Neither Steve nor Leila had seen it before, so it was cool seeing it again with them. I’d forgotten how scary the moat pike is though, when Wart’s been turned into a minnow! Poor Leila – she only just got through that scene.

Puy lentils in a shallot vinaigrette for lunch today, with mixed salad, tomato, olives, big capers, and some chopped up Noble cheese. Rather good. I’m a big fan of lentils. :D I’m trying to really up my greens and non-meat protein uptake these days, but that’s pretty much as far as I go on diet fixations.

I’m currently reading Nemesis Games by James SA Corey (fifth in the Expanse series), and far out, am I really enjoying these books. OK, there was the one with the naff scientist that was just SO IRRITATING (which number? title? Can’t remember, I think I’ve blocked it) but Bobbie Draper is my #1 favourite character, followed up by Amos, and so this fifth book wins big time on that front. Naomi has got some personality in this one too, instead of being defined by her hair and the fact that she can do calculations really fast. So a win there too. Plus there’s something so conversational about the tone of these books – they just sweep you away, in spite of yourself (especially when you are reading about simpering xenobiologists), and I find myself rushing through the endings, desperate to find out what happens next.

School holidays start up in just over a week, and I’m a bit worried about all of these nice writing habits that I’ve been able to get going. I won’t be able to meet Gina & Mark on Mondays at the cafe to write, and those hours I’ve been enjoying (such a luxury) when Moo is at kindy will be gone, for two weeks! I am planning on biting the bullet for these two weeks and doing my very best to go to bed really early, and get up early (4:30) and fit my writing in there. I just don’t see not writing for two weeks as an option – not when I’m at the final third of the book.

After that, I’m considering putting it aside for a month or two, and starting up some new projects, before I come back to it for the bush-whacking. Tossing up ideas for some novellas (I rather like the idea of something short-ish), and I’m quite keen to have a go at the outlining approach that’s detailed in Take off Your Pants! by Libbie Hawker. I’m not really one for mega-outlining, but I also like the idea of challenging myself to try something new for the next piece of writing.

blustery weather

Over the last couple of days we’ve had a huge drop in temperature. Loads of rain. Hail (or as Leila calls it, “ice rain”). Gusting wind. Even thunder. All very usual for spring (the first of September’s officially the first day of spring), but odd when considered with the insanely warm August we had, long days and weeks of sun, still-cold-in-the-shadows but summery all the same.

This weather now, well it’s bitter. Brutal. Curtains are all closed tight in non-essential rooms; the indoor cat spends her time either in bed (under the covers) or wedged under one of the radiators in the lounge. The child, on the other hand, is still insisting on wanting bare arms, and bare legs, and beautiful dresses, because that’s what princesses wear, don’t you know.

I never went through a princess phase as a child, so this part of things is very strange to me. I never know if I should just go with it or try and gently steer her elsewhere. I’m going with it, but can’t help cringe at how insidious it all is. Unless of course it’s all just a phase and something else will be cool tomorrow. Probably something worse.

When I was little I wanted to be Laura Ingalls. Anne Shirley. Dorothy Gayle. (And Ozma too.) But I do remember all the Disneys (and have a bit of an encyclopaediac knowledge of so much of the tv I watched as a kid – and I did watch heaps), so maybe when I was really little Cinderella and her ilk were just as captivating.

(Here comes another downpour – bucketing down on the roof with a roar. I wonder about the little birds outside, the waxeyes and sparrows, and the friendly grey-footed seagull who I feed daily but who I haven’t seen since this bad weather started. I also wonder about the wee’uns at kindy. Are they wrapped up warm? Or wandering about with bare arms?)

The novel progresses. I am around the 75,000 word mark, and although I am on the speeding crest of the wave I’m still proceeding more cautiously than I would like. Odd things are happening there, in novel-land, and I am sure that once I’ve finished the hatchet will have to come out. The first thing on my mind will be the shape. And the desire for a spine to peg things along. But later, later. For now, it’s still the stock-take. Figuring out what’s in that box over there, blowing dust off things, opening drawers and seeing what parts we have to make a story out of. I am still very unhappy with dialogue, and can’t wait to get out my needle-nosed pliers to pluck and then the scalpel to perform the delicate-work. But other things please me, so I suppose it’s par for the course, for a first draft.

It feels good to be working on it though, and with Leila currently going to kindy three days a week I’m now able to predict a bit of a routine, and book in hours to write. It has taken a long time to get to this point. We have a writer’s group here in Eastbourne, a few of us at similar points in our writing lives (with one leaping ahead but giving us all encouragement), and it’s brilliant to meet up to write at our local cafe, and watch our stories live, and grow.

I’ve been reading a lot, too. 32 books so far this year, which is good for me. Some trash, some classics, and some in the middle. Stand-outs so far have been several by Tanith Lee (Biting the Sun, The Silver Metal Lover, Night’s Master and Cruel Pink), Helen Macdonald’s H is for Hawk, I Am Legend by Richard Matheson, my friend Mark Brewer’s book Regan’s Reach, The Expanse series by James S.A. Corey, The Rest of Us Just Live Here by Patrick Ness, and Persuasion by Jane Austen. I’ve wanted to read Persuasion for a good long while now, and found it quite satisfying. I’m really drawn to sensible characters, these days.

Here and Now

Learned words

Added to my mac’s dictionary file tonight:


…obviously a grand old time at my house tonight! Love the inclusion of “slavemasters”, “Rightio”, and “naptime.”

Musing on notes and things


I’ve always been interested in different ways people take notes, save notes, retrieve notes, and synthesise notes into their daily, er, practice. (OK, that sounds wanky, though “daily life” sounds just as bad.) I am a particularly awful note-taker, with my scribblings taking the form of various notebooks, diaries, small notepads (field notes), index cards, and now a loose-leaf binder in which I’m attempting to bring together all of my random “writing notes” in the hope that I can file them away in a box somewhere and forget they all exist. There’s also my reading notes (on paper, via kindle notes, and also via intstapaper notes), most of which wind up being shuttled off into Evernote, which I do actually review from time to time.

Needless to say, I’m a bit overwhelmed by it all. And I’m not convinced that it’s necessary, or that Evernote really is the best place for it all to go.

The index cards are a bit of an anachronism, really. I love writing on them, and flicking through the stack, but I’ve never put them into the “chaotic practice” I always envisaged for them, ie throwing them all up in the air to see if strange combinations result. I write all sorts of things on them, but the subjects are all so disjointed and random that I’m not convinced I will be able to form any connections between them. I also spend a lot of time, apparently, pondering note-taking, and index cards, which isn’t really useful for much apart from generating more index cards.

At one stage I transferred them all to nvAlt, which is great in that you can create links between entries there. I do love the ease in which you can link notes in that app. But, again, without a master index (or something similar) I feel like too much time is really wasted (is it wasted? I guess you could argue it’s not, the filtering) just flicking around wondering where everything is. (Although nvAlt has a great search, which makes it somewhat more useful than the index cards, for me.)

Potentially they could be useful to me in a more directed way – ie just as a fiction repository (ahem, dumping ground) where it would make sense to periodically throw cards around and see where they fall. I’d also be able to leave out the indexing (currently YYDDMM-HHMM), as why would it matter?

Maybe the indexing could use revamping, to something more like a pure zettelkasten, with subject forks and, again, some sort of master topic index.

As I said earlier, I probably spend too much time thinking about this.

A digital format is also problematic, in many ways. I’m not convinced I like tagging things, but I’m also not convinced I enjoy many different “buckets” for my notes. Recently I consolidated all of my Evernote notes into just one notebook, when it got to the point that I was spending too much time thinking about which notebooks to file notes in. The result is many tags, which also requires maintenance (checking which tags have no notes, or which can be consolidated, split off, searching for notes with no tags, and the like).

It’s all more work than I really want to be putting into all of this information. I feel like I need a degree in library science just to organise all of my thoughts and notes at the moment, and I wish I had an answer, or a report I could give you to sum up my learnings, and perhaps make some recommendations.

Some observations, however:

  1. Having one repository (or fewer repositories) is better than having a large number.
  2. I like the concept of randomness more than having everything totally locked-down.
  3. I like the idea of being able to link different things together, as they suit me.
  4. I like being able to write down quick notes with a pen and paper.
  5. Regular reviewing of notes seems to be essential, as otherwise you can get just as swamped with your own information as you can with information from other sources.

I guess that’s as good as I can hope for, at the moment.

That said, I have recently downloaded a few new apps that I intend to bring in to my, er, practice, and see how they go. One is the possibly-not-still-in-production, but still very cool SlipBox, which I’ve always been quite interested in, but never really knew how to use.

The other is Day One (2), which I’ve had on the iPhone for several years, and which has been great for capturing snippets about my daughter as she’s grown up. I think I’d like to use the multiple journals feature to set up another one for me to talk about my readings and thinking, piecing things together. Maybe it would be a good fit for my writing journal too (which I use to agonise over the progress of various writing projects), but we’ll just have to see how that goes.

edit to add:

Oh, I knew there was something else! I’ve also finally managed to get wikidpad installed on the mac. Maybe a personal wiki is more what I’m looking for. I’ve tried out a few different ones (TiddlyWiki, among others) but I want something that’s fast, with little clicking about (i.e. text-based, and local). Wikidpad looks like it might tick those boxes, so fingers crossed it turns out to be a winner.)



DSCF2877Last weekend we had a great trip across on the ferry to the South Island. After stretching our legs at the playground in Picton, we rented a really crappy car and drove to Kaikoura!

I was pretty crook the whole time (in fact, I still am – my sinuses are killing me tonight), so I got to sleep on the sofa bed, while Leila and Steve slept in the bedroom. (Seems so unfair, and yet, I didn’t have to contend with a wriggling small person during the night…)

We stayed in South Bay, in a wee bach we booked through Everything everywhere is set up for fishing, or diving, or swimming with dolphins or whale-watching. It isn’t fancy, but it’s rugged and interesting, and really, really friendly.


Best part of the trip? Walking 10 minutes into the bush to see a baby seal nursery at the foot of an incredible waterfall, where tourists and locals alike stood and gaped at what must have been thirty baby seals, all rolling and frolicking and chasing one another.

It was pretty tough driving back up to Picton on Monday, and even harder trying to get back into the swing of things on Tuesday.

It’s been quite a long time since we’ve had any real holiday, so even a long weekend has been amazing. Leila was a great traveller, and we keep kicking ourselves about how easy it really is to just hop on the ferry and head south. The traffic in the South Island is so light, it’s just a pleasure to drive around and look at amazing scenery. Compare to the nightmare it is in Wellington to head north over any holiday period!

I chose not to bring my laptop down with me, and it was great to just read and write in my diary in the evenings after Moo had gone down. I finished Nnedi Okorafor’s Who Fears Death, which was fantastic. Brutal African speculative fiction. Amazing. Next up is finishing Tanith Lee’s Night’s Master (also incredible), and the copy of Neil Gaiman’s Odd and the Frost Giants that I picked up yesterday at the library.

On being a diarist in the digital age

I was hoping I would be able to find more about being a diarist, when I googled it just now. After all, this is the internet we’re talking about here. There should be everything about everything. But strangely, all I can find are links to pages about keeping medical patient diaries, webster-merriam definitions of “diarist”, and various articles all about Michael Palin and his diary habit.

Nothing about, you know, regular people who write to themselves all the time. And usually in notebooks. Is that strange? Or has the word ‘diary’ suddenly become rather old-fashioned? ‘Journal’ still seems to hold relevance, and ‘logs’ and ‘logging’ are appropriately common to their digital medium. People talk about commonplace books and bullet journals and all the other systems that help us GTD, but the good-old diary doesn’t seem to get a look-in.

Once considered an honourable, even distinguished pasttime, being a diarist in a pre-computer age had a certain cachet, didn’t it? You had your Pepys, your Wordsworth (Dorothy, not William; and she was known for writing about her brother, but oh well), even your Marcus Aurelius. Anne Frank. Harriet the Spy. Even bloody Adrian Mole. (And let’s not forget Anaïs Nin.) Well-worn books, secreted away. Confided in. Confessed to.

It’s really not like that now, is it. We plaster our faces on blogs, register our domain names (of our actual names), set up newsletters so we can further inundate a mysterious reader with every last detail of our so-very-important lives. It’s like Proust on steriods. Everything’s about the sale these days. Commodification of our inner selves. As long as we can monetize it, and generate “passive revenue stream,” it’s all good. We are our ultimate product. (Baudrillard, anyone?)

I really hate that part of our digitised culture.

When I was a kid, I was totally obsessed with my diary, to the point where I was always trying to foist the habit off on to other people. I think I would even go so far as to make little blank books and give them to my sister. I definitely remember buying my mum a blank journal for her birthday one year (she never used it, as far as I know). My ultimate birthday or christmas present? A blank book.

My first diary was one that mum brought back for me after she and dad went away on some work trip to Reno. I still have it downstairs in my crocodile-skinned (possibly fake? but who knows. It was my grandmother’s) suitcase where all my old diaries live these days. Purple, with Little Twin Stars (by Sanrio) theme. Most importantly it had a lock, which gave me an incredible sense of freedom. Even though what most of what I wrote was, well, kid stuff, there is still some pretty personal stuff in there. I was seven.

I can’t say I’ve ever been the most reliable of diarists. This is my output over the last ten years, by example:

Photo 18-05-2016, 19 20 48.jpg
(Yes, those are Frozen stickers on top of the most recent one. They were snaffled from my child, Devo excepting.)

As I got older I always felt myself writing for “someone.” Often I imagined reading aloud to a current boyfriend, or daydreamed about unknown children or grandchildren discovering certain truths about their grandmother. These days I often write directly to my daughter, knowing that one day she’ll probably pick one up and have a browse.

But that aside, I don’t think I’ve ever let those imaginary someones censor the way I write in my journals; and there’s some fascinating things in there, especially now I’ve started putting in an index in the back of each one:

Photo 18-05-2016, 19 53 49.jpg

One day, who knows, I may look at creating some sort of ‘master index’ that I can use to reference and look back on the times in my life. Totally egocentric? Who knows. Possibly. But at least I’ll be the only one to criticise.

It’s definitely an ongoing process though, I’ve found. The Moleskine mania that siezed the planet also exerted its hold on me, though I’ve got to say I’m pretty underwhelmed with the limited pens I’m able to use when I write these days. I’m considering trying out some new ones, but I do like how the current gang of four look on the shelf.

And strangely, I’ve never found that writing in a paper diary has ever felt constrained by or in competition with my regular blog (one that is threatening to become as everlasting as my diary habit, now I’m up to thirteen or so years, plus the several years I wrote at diary-x, until the administrators of which confessed to us users that they had NO BACKUPS for all of the data they’d managed to lose).

I still have no idea what all of this is for. Posterity, perhaps, or a strange internal conversation that has been going on for most of my life. I think it would be difficult for me now to not have a diary, in some shape or form, in my life. I think it’s why I write, generally. Why I am drawn to written narrative so strongly.

If I’m troubled, I turn to my diary. If something momentous happens, it has to go in. (Twenty-plus pages on the actual birth of my daughter, something I would never subject anyone to, online.) Ranting about work, family, rather than chewing my husband’s ear off. (No fear of saying too much about an employer or irritating work colleague.) Travel. Ideas for stories. Dreams. Quotes.

And, possibly also strangely, they have, over the years, accreted to the point where I feel like they are a significant part of who I am. A reflection of me. Who I was. Who I am today. Thoughts of tomorrow. But also physiologically (?) some sort of build-up. A by-product of my existence. Like phlegm, or sleep-crust in the corner of the eye. Analogue, physical, tactile, expression of thought and emotion.

Whimsical. Self-reflective. Self-obsessive. Tangental. But also necessary.

New apps, meditation update, and novel woes

I’ve been trying out a few new things with the new laptop over the past week, having fun exploring but trying not to go overboard! So far I’ve downloaded and really like Ulysses, and now Byword, which both use Markdown. I always struggled in the past with making Markdown work for writing, but Ulysses thankfully has some great exporting options, including making your writing look more like something you’d submit to an editor, rather than a blog post full of marked-up text.

I’m still pretty new to using Markdown, though I’ve got to say I like the sort of writing where I can keep my hands on the keyboard. No faffing too much with styling and the rest, once I manage to figure out the syntax and internalise it.

Not too sure about photos workflow either. Was hoping I could get some iCloud syncing working – seeing as my Dropbox is slowly filling up – but the available free space is pretty meagre with iCloud, and so I’ve still not found a satisfactory online option.

Waiting for the bus
Waiting for the bus

Some people have been talking about Google Photos, but I don’t know. I think I’m all Googled-out, these days.

Meditation’s still going really well. I’m up to 49 days now for my run streak, and according to Headspace I’ve done 90 sessions overall, with a total time of 23 hours. That feels intensely awesome, and I wonder how much of an effect it is all having.

I certainly wasn’t feeling calm this evening, what with the cat meowing 45 minutes early for its dinner, child barking for “peanut butter and jam samwich!” half an hour before her dinner, people from the part time job wanting to chat about software release best-practice, and me trying to think about the tiny bits of spare time I try to carve out during the week.

I’m not complaining. I’m not. I even sat down in a cafe yesterday and wrote for about twenty minutes before I picked up the child from kindy. That felt amazing, though I did realise I now have about five notebooks where I am rabbiting on about the novel. Plus here.

I’m at the point with that where I now positively KNOW that I can’t stand the beginning and am convinced I need to go back and rewrite it. Everyone, everyone says that you need to finish before you go back. And then there are a few who say they edit as they go. I have not done either of these two things, and as a result I have a big, fat, mess of a novel slobbing all over my laptop, driving me to take refuge in notebooks where I write things like

She would never do something like that! This is not what I wanted to write about when I started this whole thing!

and so on.

Threads for characters, back story for bloody everything and everyone, giants that should be on the rampage but who instead just want to sit around and talk.

Seriously, my organisational skills with this thing suck big-time. I’d give either of the two lower appendages for the chance to mind-meld with a mentor (whoops, almost wrote mind-melt there) and just have someone looking over my shoulder going, “you know, it’s ok if you want to go back and throw all that stuff out now,” or “don’t you dare, keep going!” Someone who could, with x-ray eyes, look into the novel and go “there’s your story,” and point to something else and go “chuck it.” I seem completly incapable of anything resembling rational, editorial thought.

I’m just going to go with it. Save it for the re-write. It hurts my brain too much right now to think about the edit. For now, first-draft completion: ho!

New goodies

Apologies for the weird media mosaic above but I’ve only just realised wordpress lets you do strange things with your photos. Circles, anyone?


I had a bit of an exciting few weeks on Trade Me, New Zealand’s online trading site. Since I’ve started back doing a few hours of contract work every week I’ve secretly been pining after a couple of things, despite my honourable intent to first pay off my credit card (that crept up during my period of maternal unemployment).

Admittedly the spinning wheel wasn’t one of them, though after my mother-in-law said she was interested in having a spin (my Ashford wheel was originally hers), my mind started racing. I could get myself a new wheel! But after doing some research, I decided I wasn’t keen on getting another Ashford, nor did I really like the look of the Majacrafts (though apparently they are dreamy to spin with).

My brain seized upon the Louët. Cool, Dutch, and totally different to my traditional wheel. But not many of them in NZ (and the closest sellers are in Australia). Plus a price tag in the vicinity of $1,000. I’d pretty much resigned myself to a period of saving for the rest of the year (saving up for the wheel, plus a replacement laptop for the one that’s starting to get pretty creaky), when I spotted this one on Trade Me. Starting price…$70!

I wound up paying $230, after the auction had run its course, but compared to the cost of a new one, I reckon I’ve scored big time. After putting it all together (everything breaks down to make for quite a small parcel), the wheel spun smoothly, and with the exception of the footman that seemed to slip off too frequently, everything seemed good. Louët sell spare parts online, so I had braced myself to buy a new footman assembly and actual footman (the bit that connects the pedal to the wheel), but after a day or so found if I peddled with my foot slightly off the pedal everything stayed together!

So already I’m getting used to the new wheel’s quirks and personality. I’ve abandoned the idea of the new footman and am just sticking with my quirky wheel.

After that I got a sort of secondhand mania – why not look for a replacement laptop as well? (There’s a certain buzz – I think I’m still riding – when you get something you want for much less that you’d anticipated.) I spotted one that looked great – 4 years old, 500 GB drive, a 1 month warranty, battery life pretty good (300 cycles, which I know is what Apple says is the beginning of the end, but for a secondhand one apparently it’s acceptable), running El Capitan (key!), an i7 quad core with 15 inch screen.

It was going for a bit more than I could afford, so I saved it to my wish list and then forgot about it. Then it didn’t sell and the seller made a fixed-price offer of $899 NZ. I did a bit more research, looked at the seller’s feedback and other listings (he looked to be a bit of an Apple guy, with lots of people saying he was good at honouring any tweaks or fixes if they had problems), and decided to go for it.

I did a fresh install and set up the new accounts, ran hardware and battery diagnostics and the rest, and I’m happy to say that things are feeling pretty good in computerland here!

There’s enough that’s different to make exploring and using the computer a really great experience, but enough that’s familiar to make it all a really quick process to get set up and going again.

I did splash out and get myself some new software – Airmail 2 for my mail, and Ulysses for my writing. I’ve still got Scrivener going on here, but I think I want to change it up a little bit. Ulysses feels fresh and clean, and in keeping with the new workspace and computer. It feels less cluttered, which I’m finding does matter for me these days.

So that’s what I’ve been up to over the past few weeks! Spinning and writing (I’ve been editing an old short story that I wrote several years ago, thanks to the encouragement I got from my writing group), and I’m still meditating. Now up to a 38-day streak on Headspace!

Keeping on

The last week has been pretty surreal, I’ve got to say. Even though I think I’m at peace with putting Soots down last Monday, I still find the house feels empty without him, despite the three year old running all over the place! Fat cat Pippi spends most of her days in our bedroom, or upstairs mooching around for scraps (which are not forthcoming, now that the picky eater has passed on). Tink basically lives up at the pool, which is set in to the bush up behind the house.

It’s weird. And weird too, that life seems to be continuing on; part of me is really frustrated that I haven’t had the chance to just wallow in my sadness, but at the same time it’s sort of a relief to be busy and distracted with having to respond to things and keep the house going.

Keep the house going. That feels weird to say too. But I guess that’s me these days, the keep-the-house-going person. (I am not going to say “housewife”.) Keeping things turning over.

I have plans to write a longer piece about pets, and death (oh fun times!), but I’ve also got to try and keep up with the blog a little better than I usually do, plus post a reading over at my tarot blog, edit a short story that’s been stumping me for the past week, and keep up with my new 10 hours per week software testing job.

And juggle my “textile fever” that seems to have hit – probably as a result of Steve’s mum expressing an interest in having a go on the spinning wheel she gave me close to ten years ago. She’s got a really bad hip, and is pretty stuck in her chair these days. She’s booked in for a hip replacement operation, but I can imagine how nice it would be to have a wheel to spin nearby.

But now I’m thinking about the wheel leaving, I suddenly want to use it. Typical. I’ve spun some of the wool (hand-dyed) that I once had up in my Etsy shop. A white merino dotted with orange, blue and green. It’s spun up into some sort of orange creamsicle colour that I can imagine turning into some fingerless gloves. Or perhaps one part of a hodgepodge sweater I’m slowly starting to envisage. Or part of a knitted log cabin blanket.

I’ve also got a quilt to finish tying, and then binding to apply, a sweater to knit (grey, with this really cool geometric cable going up the front and back), washcloths to continue to knit, shirts to finish sewing, books to read…

My life feels like an endless to-do list these days. And that feeling of never catching up, and more and more things piling up on the list, is kind of overwhelming.

I have still kept up with my meditation though, and I’m up to 20 days in a row now. That feels really good. REALLY good. Not just because I’m sticking with something new, but because I love how it makes me feel. I love how it feels when I’m doing it, and love having done it. It gives my days wonderful clarity and focus, even on days when I don’t feel like I get much else done. At least I meditated today, I can say.

Meditation was really helpful on those first few days after Sooty, as well. Just to be able to put my emotions on hold for twenty minutes, was a great relief. To stop re-running the mental movie of his last moments. To stop imagining where he would be if he was still alive. What he’d be doing. To just stop.

Funny how you can feel most grateful for the thing that makes you do less.

Farewell, Mr. Fang

It’s been a really tough few days around here. On Friday, I took my cat Sooty to the vet, because he was starting to look really skinny and frail. He’s getting on, so we thought that he was just ageing, plus he’d had some thyroid issues last year that we thought had been sorted out.

Turns out he had a large tumour in his intestine. The vet suggested I take him home for a weekend of cuddling, but then bring him back on Monday. For the final visit.

I’ve got so much more to say about him – what a great cat he was, how he was seriously so refined and gorgeous – but it’s all a bit too soon. The weekend was just a wash of tears and guilt and a pit in my stomach.

Instead I’ll post a couple of photos of him during happier times. (The tuxedo cat is Pippi, who has since become gargantuan from eating all of his abandoned dinners.)



Liebster award


So shiny!

So the very lovely Alicia nominated me for something called a Liebster award. From what I understand it’s a really cool way to pat a web-buddy on the back and say “hey, I like what you do!” And then hopefully spread the love around a bit more. For the record, this is a really cool idea, and I really appreciate the thought that anyone (apart from me, heh) enjoys reading this thing. So thanks!

In order to accept the award though you don’t just get to go “cheers luv,” and be done with it. There are STEPS that must be completed. I don’t mind steps, generally-speaking though there seem to be quite a few involved here. But it’s my first time being nominated for anything like this, so what the hey.

Let me see if I’ve got this:

  1. Thanks the person who nominated you, and link back to their blog. check. (Thanks again, btw!)
  2. Display award banner/icon/badge (spangly! shiny!) check!
  3. Answer 11 questions about you from the person who nominated you. (See below!)
  4. Provide 11 random facts about yourself (see below)
  5. Nominate 5-11 blogs that you feel deserve the award (with fewer than 1,000 followers) (see below!)
  6. Create a new list of questions for your nominated bloggers to answer (ditto).
  7. List these rules in your post. (in progress!)
  8. Let your nominees know about your nominations, and link back to your post!

Questions from Alicia (and my answers):

  1. Favorite Toe: Ummm, maybe my big toes? Gotta say I’m not a fan of my little toes; they curl under and look weird, and the toenail is a little sliver of nothing that’s always awkward to trim.
  2. Mushrooms — Yay or Nay? Yay, but I’m embarrassed to admit that I really only like button mushrooms or those large brown ones. Oh, and ceps. Other, wilder, mushrooms I have some difficulty with. I suspect this may be due to the fact that growing up, my mother was really into mushrooms. She was a member of the local mycological society and used to bring us along on mushroom forays. We’d help identify them, and the fear of imminent death as a result of a mis-identification was always drummed into us. A bit of a psychological can of worms, or something.
  3. Do you judge people? I used to do this more, but I’ve noticed that I notice when other people judge others. Of course you make quick judgements about the guy who cuts you off on the motorway, or other acts of random rudeness, but more than likely they are just people having a bad day. And I know I’ve had plenty of those.
  4. How many clocks are in your place of residence? Two.
  5. Parlez-Vous Français? Un petit peu.
  6. Scars — How many and where? Mostly on my hands – cat scratches and things like that.
  7. Why do you write? Because it’s a compulsion. And this blog has been around so long it has its own momentum and gravity carrying it forward.
  8. Favourite line from a book you’ve read?  Not my favourite of all time (what could that be? the mind boggles) but a recent favourite was this, from H is For Hawk: “It’s all happening at once, the man pulls an enormous, enormous hawk out of the box and in a strange coincidence of world and deed a great flood of sunlight drenches us and everything is brilliance and fury.”
  9. What is beauty to you? Wild, dangerous, fleeting.
  10. Would you consider eating a cricket covered in chocolate? I’d consider it.
  11. {…}?

11 Random things about myself:

  1. I don’t really like jewellery, perfume, and makeup. I go through stages where I’ll buy it, and feel all “grown up” as I put it on, but eventually the habit dwindles and I go back to my usual mode.
  2. I wish I was more stylish than I am. Though I really hate heels with jeans, swingy cardigans with no buttons (random examples of “middle age female fashion”), and tend to favour jeans and t-shirts. Sometimes I still feel like a kid who hasn’t learned to dress itself (see above).
  3. I’m an INFP. This makes me happy.
  4. My grandfather was friends with Humphrey Bogart. They would go hunting together. He left a pair of boots behind at my grandparents’ ranch and my dad used to wear them. We have a painting he gave my grandparents as a wedding present.
  5. They also had several pet cheetahs. There are photographs of my grandmother going grocery shopping with a cheetah on a leash that the local paper took.
  6. My family are all cat maniacs. Going back at least three generations on both sides.
  7. I wish I owned all of the John Bellairs books. I wish I could live inside them.
  8. I’m really bad at housework.
  9. Favourites to play on the piano: Beethoven and Chopin.
  10. When I walk around the neighbourhood I’m always mentally judging which house could barricade itself the best against zombies.
  11. I never used to like Hydrangeas; I thought they looked like “old lady hats.” But recently this has changed and I’m really into them.

My nominated blogs:

I’ve nominated all of these blogs because I think they’re really great! Some are funnier, some more poignant, more heartbreaking – but they are all really well written and have given me a wonderful window into others’ lives. Exactly what I love blogs for. Thank you, everyone, for what you do, and what you share.


My new list of questions:

  1. What are you reading right now?
  2. You have one day with no demands of you. What would do with it?
  3. If your house was on fire (or you had to leave the country in a hurry) – what five things would you take with you?
  4. What’s on your bedside table?
  5. What was your top obsession when you were a kid?
  6. What was your favourite book as a child?
  7. Describe what it’s like where you live in less than six words.
  8. What was the last song you listened to?
  9. Are you a pet person?
  10. What’s your drink of choice?
  11. What’s your favourite piece of clothing?



(warning: semi-coherence follows…)

Tonight: a little breakthrough after feeling stuck. After feeling like I was treading water (so to speak) with two characters stuck inside a tunnel (don’t laugh – oh, go on, go ahead. It does sound ridiculous) and me with no idea of what would happen when they got out.

Finally something just snapped in my brain. Just write a damn outline. Who cares if it’s not what gets written.

And so: index cards. One per 2,000 word scene (totally arbitrary). Turns out I’ve got 22 more scenes to write. Spread across one major and three minor characters. That’s only a handful each. All of a sudden that feeling of “what the hell am I going to write?” has become “oh crap! How am I going to fit it all in?”

Already there are new scenes. New major events. How can this be? Brain, all this time we were sitting around banging futilely on the blank screen (metaphors are out the window now), doing weird Peter Elbow-esque freewriting sessions, going out to sea (that’s his metaphor) and then looking for land, what my brain really wanted were piles of index cards. And only a few of them.

Who knows – maybe it was just The Magnetic Fields playing in the background. The cup of chamomile tea. My tired state. Getting so fed up with the lack of progress that any forward momentum is feeling ok right now.

I just so want to get this done now. And the weird bit? I want to get it done so I can turn around and write it all again, but better.

I think there’s something wrong with me.

And with that, I bid you goodnight.

66 days

I have a morning off today while Steve and the Moo head over to Masterton. I had an uninterrupted shower (oh bliss!), and meditated on the couch while the rain hammered the roof overhead.

I’m doing the Headspace app/programme, and finally made it past level 3 of the core recordings. That means I’m now free to delve into any of the different packs I choose. I decided to try the Creativity Pack (surprise, surprise) and the focus looks to be on visualisation and expansion. I’m on day 2 of 30 so far, and it’s been really enjoyable.

The meditating has come about after an impulse purchase of one of those Kikki-K habits journals, after I decided I was sick of just thinking about all the things I’d like to do differently. After a bit of workbooking on your goals and dreams, I found myself thinking about what habit, if I took it up, would help me put all of the other changes into play?

I suppose I could have chosen exercise, or yoga, or something else, but meditation, I’ve found, just puts me in the right space to make other good things happen in my day. I’ve got more time for the Mooster, have a better humour, feel more desirous of being productive, eating well, and making others feel good. Every time I’ve done it in the past I’ve thought “I should really do this every day.”

And then I wouldn’t. Cue the 66 days thing. Apparently that is the magic number. Apparently. In any case it’s neat and easy to pick a number and set that as a goal. Ideally I will keep going with meditation far past this date (June 2nd), because I can’t really see any downside to doing it. I love how it feels, love how I am when I do it, and love the idea of making some positive change.

(Other things I’m trying to do this month, and am doing reasonably well at: flossing every night, drinking more water, and eating healthier snacks.)

The Guardian had a really interesting article this week about a band I’d never heard of, The Sound, who were sort of at their heyday in the 80s but got overshadowed by Joy Division and Echo and the Bunnymen. Apparently Adrian Borland wasn’t edgy enough looking (though supposedly no one could top them live for intensity), and the music was too ‘samey’ (though as is pointed out in the article, that Joy Division flavour only feels ubiquitous now because of everyone who tried to do it in the 00s). But seriously. Listen to that track above. Awesome, no?

And Borland looks like a badass in my books:


And their almost-but-not-quite story is even more tragic when you read that Borland killed himself (at 41!) in 1999, and Max Mayers died of AIDS in the early 90s.

Just people, trying to make it. Trying to do what they love.

And these are the ones we hear about. How about all of the other people who have lived, who had a dream, and tried, and failed?

And then gave up?

I see them in black and white, walking around in the rain in wet overcoats, no umbrellas, collars turned up against the cold. Soggy crumpled paper in their pockets. Holes in their shoes.  I’m over here, alive, in colour, sitting at my desk. My heart wants to reach across that wide expanse and clasp their hands in mine.