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Monthly Archives: October 2015

‘Spiders so large they appear to be wearing the pelts of small mammals.’ Dave Barry

House-RulesThere aren’t many rules to abide by in my houseI reckon there are enough rules already in the world to deal with so I like to keep those at home to a minimum.  Apart from those two listed on the right (which should be obvious anyway) there are only a couple of others which I do at least try to enforce:

  • nobarkNo unnecessary barking. (You may bark if there is actually something to bark at—like letting me know a visitor is at the front door, or there’s an intruder at the back door, or to warn me about a big dog sneaking up on us when we are out walking (but then you must stop when I tell you to).  You may not bark just because the dog next door is barking and you feel like joining in, or if you hear a car door slam three blocks away, or the neighbours cat is sitting in his own front yard across the road, or even just because it seems like a good idea at the time.  No.)
  • dog-bone-No ‘lollies’ (i.e. dog treats) in, on, or anywhere near my bed.  (Yeah, right.  I have been fighting that losing battle for years.)
  • No fighting over food. (Well—no fighting at all really but especially not over food.  There is enough dog food in this house to sink a battleship. Any arguing over food will result in it ALL yummies being taken away until table manners are completely restored.)
  • No spiders in the house.
    (Nothing else to add here.  I think that statement speaks for itself.)

Spiders-Keep-Out-300-x-300Three out of four of these House Rules are broken on a semi-regular basis (two of them just this morning before I left for work—sigh), but the breaking of Rule Number 4 really upsets me.  I do not like spiders in the house.  I’ll say that again—I do not like spiders, at all, ever, under any circumstances, in the house. And that applies even more to humumgus ‘Aragog‘ type spiders.  Now I know that Dave Barry was not talking about Australian spiders when he wrote the above, but, I assure you the quote is appropriate. For those of my overseas friends who have never lived in nor visited Australiaall those stories you hear about huge hairy arachnids large enough to carry away babies and small dogsabsolutely true.

Halloween-SpiderNow, I’m not totally ignorant of the good that spiders do.  Spiders eat lots of other insects (even other spidersyay) and without them whole crops might be decimated and consumed by pests. Research suggests that chemicals harvested from spider venom may actually hold the key to alleviating chronic pain. If science can manage to find a way to make artificial spider silk, which has proved to be the strongest natural material (“tougher than Kevlar and stronger than steel”) it could be used to make everything from artificial tendons to bulletproof vests. And that’s all good. Great. I am happy for all the good that spiders do—they just don’t have to do all that good from the comfort of my home.

scary-spider-vectorI could not swear to when my real fear and dislike of spiders started (although eight hairy legs, eight eyes each and the tendency to scuttle really quickly up your leg when you are not looking is possibly reason enough) but I can make a pretty good guess at it. I vividly remember a day at school when I was about 10 years old and a boy who, we were told, had been bitten by a spider, was paraded into each and every classroom in the school to show us ‘what happens when you mess about with spiders’. I can still ‘see’ the raw weeping sores on his chubby little legs.  Now it may not even be true that he was bitten by a spider at all (it could have been any number of other creepy crawlies that Australia is famous for) but that doesn’t matter. That image stuck. Spiders were bad. Spiders were dangerous. Apart from the poor wee boy himself, I am sure I was not the only student traumatised and having spider nightmares from that day forth.

Spider-Dog-Costume(Before I go on you will note that there are no real photos of spiders in this article.  I did attempt to find some relevant images but all that did was give me a severe attack of the screaming heebie-jeebies and ensure that I am going to be seeing spiders in every nook and cranny for at least the next week. So instead I have put in links to pictures of the the spiders I mention, which you can go and look at for yourself if you really feel you must. Oh and just a heads-up—never, ever google the words ‘spider-puppies’ in an effort to find a cute picture of a dog dressed in a Halloween costume. You will instead be confronted with a whole page of pictures of spiders as big as puppiesimages now indelibly burned on my retina for all time. I am never going to be able to un-see them ever again. Shudder.)

Most Australian children learn very early on to give spiders a wide berth. I never really got the hang of which ones were poisonous and which ones weren’t, and I still can’t really tell any of them apart.  Well—that’s not quite true. I could tell you it was a Redback Spider if I saw one, ‘cos ‘red-back’ kind of gives it away (although I have just found out that a ‘similar species’ to the Redback is called the ‘Cupboard Spider’.  OMGthat is not going to freak me out much next time I open my wardrobe door.)  

spiderdisappearOh, and the Huntsman because everyone knows what a Huntsman looks like. They are very worst rule breakers of the spider world and live in every house in Australia. Even if you have never actually seen one in your house there really is one there, living the Life of Riley behind the curtains, or in the linen cupboard, or under the sink, or in your favourite shoe. Guaranteed.  Huntsman spiders are not poisonous. They can, however, almost scare you to death, much to the amusement of other family members not in the immediate vicinity.

To illustrate, I’m going to do a Max Bygraves here—’I wanna tell you a story”. . .

dustcloudWhen I was a kid, our house, like every other in the neighbourhood, had an old metal postbox nailed onto the front fence and I always checked this box when I came home from school. One day I gathered up the mail as usual, flipped a letter over to see who it was fromonly to find a huge huntsman spider clinging desperately to the back of the letter.  Mum, hearing the shriek (from me, not the spider—although you never know . . . ) came running out of the house to find letters fluttering gently down around the yard and a dust cloud forming in the general direction of where I had headed. When he heard the story Dad laughed until he cried (and tormented me mercilessly about it too I remember)—until the same thing happened to him a couple of weeks later (my sisters and I having resolutely refused to bring in the mail ever again). It wasn’t quite so funny then. Dad went out and emptied a can of Mortein into the letterbox (while standing as far back from it as his ego would allow). On asking whether the spider was dead now he replied ‘Not yet, but I can hear him coughing’.

spider in the bathNow my Auntie Norma always told us that you if kill a spider you really need to look around for his partner, because they always travel in twos and the one you don’t see is the one you really have to worry about. (And people wonder why spiders freak me out—to this day I still do a quick check around the house for the ‘other’ one.)

Anyway, after the demise of the letterbox spider his best mate (let’s call him Bob) decided to move into our house to avenge his pal.  Bob had been spotted briefly once or twice high on my bedroom wall (why my wall?  Dad was the one who killed his friend . . . ) but vanished just as quickly.  I was sure Bob had taken up residence behind one of the posters on my wall. That was kinda sorta okay with me—as long as he stayed behind the poster (out of sight, out of mind) but he started to get a bit full of himself and poked his hairy legs out from behind the poster once too often (and OMG was he growing too big to stay completely hidden?) It was too much. Tears and tantrums and ‘I’m never going to sleep in here again’ finally wore Dad down and he promised to get ‘rid of’ Bob for good (as long as the dog came with him).

killthe spiderI remember watching (from the safety of my position standing on the bed) as the dog danced excitedly around the room and Dad valiantly wielded the broom about trying to knock Bob down. Bob was having none of it. He ducked and weaved, and zigged and zagged and, then, when it looked like Dad might finally be getting the upper hand, Bob turned and ran down the broomstick handle. I remember the broomstick hitting the floor and the door slamming behind Dad as he, and the dog, vanished as if by magic, leaving a very irate Bob alone in the room with meMy heroes.

I have absolutely no memory at all of what happened next (it is a well known fact that the brain will block this kind of trauma out) but I am pretty sure it was probably Mum who eventually saved the day.

SmallSpiders_bWell, I am not a kid any more and it is a long time since I have run screaming from the room after just spotting a spider (well—there was that time last week, but he totally took me by surprise) and I am willing to admit that other people don’t experience the same horror of spiders that I do.  In fact, many cultures believe spiders to be incredibly lucky and therefore it is very bad luck to kill one. That’s okay. I can still rarely get close enough to them to actually kill them myself anyway and have to get someone else to do it for me, so reckon I am covered there.  As to the other ‘lucky spider’ superstitions I have read about—I’ve listed a few of them below for you—make of them what you will!

For myself I don’t think there is anything convincing enough there to tempt me into a re-write of Rule Number Four just yet . . .

A spider is a repellent against plague when worn around the neck in a walnut shell.
(What happens if it escapes the shell?  How ‘lucky’ would that be?)

A spider with syrup cures fever.
(I think I would prefer the fever.)

All spiders except tarantulas are omens of good luck. The larger the spider, the bigger the rewards.
(Note:  The other name for ‘Huntsman’ is ‘Tarantula’—which is not scary at all.
I no longer feel any guilt about tossing Huntsmen from my home.)

Finding a spider at midday – Anxiety
(Only at midday?)

Finding a Spider on the Wedding Dress is an Omen of Good luck!
(You try telling a bride that.)

If a spider crawls into your pocket, you can forget a business cash advance as you will always have money.
(If a spider crawls into my pocket the very last thing I am going to be worrying about is money . . . )

 Kill a spider, bad luck yours will be
Until of flies you’ve swatted fifty-three.
(???????)

 
3 Comments

Posted by on October 30, 2015 in Uncategorized

 

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‘Nine out of ten people like chocolate. The tenth person always lies.’ John Tullius

chocolate roseI’ve been thinking about chocolate a lot today. (Don’t look at me like that—I can think about anything I want to.) Chocolate. Mmmmmm. Just saying the word out loud can make me start to salivate.  Everyone knows (or at least they should know) that there are four major food groups—dark chocolate, milk chocolate, white chocolate, and anything else chocolate covered—and I try my best to include all these major food groups equally within my diet (you know, for the health benefits, like the flavenoids and antioxidants—which, by the way, are also found in red wine. 😉)

i_could_give_up_chocolate_greeting_cardAlthough I really do love chocolate (and I absolutely like to keep my flavenoids and antioxidants up) I do not consider myself a bona-fide chocoholic. I can actually go without eating chocolate for quite a long time. (I heard that. Don’t be rude.)  Well, in fairness, I guess ‘a long time’ is a relative term, but, honestly, I am talking weeks. I can actually go for several weeks without eating chocolate . . .

hearnoevil. . . if I don’t think about it at all, if I don’t have any in the house, if it isn’t offered to me in any way shape or hidden form at morning tea in the office, if I stick my fingers in my ears and close my eyes when the oh-so-many-deliciously-decadent-ads come on TV, and if I walk really, really, really fast past the confectionery aisle at the supermarket—it’s really not an issue.

countsassaladAnd even if it was an issue (which, again, it isn’t) I don’t think that people should get all ‘judgey’ with me anyway. There are worse things than being addicted to chocolate. At least you can’t get arrested for being addicted to chocolate. Well—yes—okay—I guess if I broke into the local Darrell Lea shop in the deep, deep, dark of night and loaded my little red car with boxes and boxes of chocolate covered bullets, or chocolate covered licorice, or chocolate honeycomb or rocklea road or caramel snows or . . . sorry . . . lost my train of thought . . . where was I going with this . . . oh yes  . . .

Cherub Chocolate_full (1). . . as I was saying . . . even if I did become a full blown chocoholic, it wouldn’t really be my fault—it’s been at least 2000 years in the making. That’s how long it has been estimated that chocolate has been around. Maybe not chocolate as we know it now—but chocolate nevertheless. Both the Mayans and the Aztecs believed the cacao bean had magical, even divine, properties (and who am I to disagree? It has a heavenly effect upon me). Apparently it was also used in their most sacred rituals and it was even thought that Aztec victims were given it before they were sacrificed (possibly in an effort to cheer them up a bit before their more-than-likely-horribly-painful demise?)

moctezumaLegend has it that the Aztec king Montezuma welcomed the Spanish explorer Hernando Cortes with a banquet that included drinking chocolatehaving unfortunately mistaken him for a reincarnated deity instead of a conquering invader. Oooops.  (Just in case you were wondering, the term Montezuma’s revenge alludes to this Spanish incursion and doesn’t appear to have anything to do with the actual consumption of chocolate. Phew.)

When the Spanish took the original bitter chocolate home with them they mixed it with honey or cane sugar and by the 17th century it had become a fashionable drink throughout Europe (for those who could afford it of course). Over the next few years the taste and texture was experimented with and it was a relatively short step to the creation of solid chocolate.  Then in 1847 Joseph Fry discovered he could make a molded chocolate paste, et voila, the first modern chocolate bar was born.  (Three cheers for Mr Fry!  And, on a side note, the modern-day Frys Cream Bar—yum.)

zombieeatingchocolateSince then the there has been a constant and relentless push to addict the whole human population.  And it’s working. How could it not? There is something out there for every taste.  Bitter, sweet, dark, light, smooth, rough, liquid, solidand everything in between.  And we have embraced the choices with alacrity.  Here’s a fun factevery ten years or so, a typical adult eats their own body weight in chocolate! No word of a lie. Typical chocolate consumption ranges from about 5kg a year in the United States to 9.5 kg a year in Switzerland.  That means you could eat a person’s worth in about ten years. (My apologies to those three (or four  . . .  or possibly even five) poor souls I have eaten over the years.)

chocoholic_homeSo, even if I were to become a full on, raging, rabid chocoholic, unable to go a day, or even an hour without tasting it (not gonna happen, ‘cos I can go weeks—honest—weeks) I would be in stellar company.  And more and more people join the chocolate-lovers-of-the-world-society every day.  Welcome!

 When I started doing some research for this article (and by research I mean actual research—not just taste-testing) I found lists and lists of holidays dedicated solely to the veneration and adoration of chocolate.  (They may not be holidays where we get an actual day off work yet, but surely that is something we can lobby for.)

Below I have listed just a few of these fabulous chocolatey holidays for you.  Pick your favourites and plan your treats.

And for those lonely few out there for whom the taste of chocolate does absolutely nothing at all —

mouse and cheese1. How weird are you?    and  

2. I bet I could so a similar search and find just as many holidays devoted to all the exceptional wonders of cheese . . . .  how does that sound?

Jan 1       It’s a Brand New Year
(excuse enough to eat any amount of any kind of chocolate as far as I’m concerned)

Jan 8       National English Toffee Day

Jan 10     Bittersweet Chocolate Day

Jan 27     Chocolate Cake Day

Feb 5       National Chocolate Fondue Day
(also World Nutella Day)

Feb 14    St Valentine’s Day
(any kind of chocolate day)

Feb 19     National Chocolate Mint Day

Feb 25     National Chocolate Covered Nuts Day

Mar 6       National White Chocolate Cheesecake Day

Mar 19     National Chocolate Caramel Day

Mar 24     National Chocolate Covered Raisin Day

Mar 28     National Black Forest Cake Day

EASTER!!
(Chocolate Eggs, chocolate bunnies, chocolate bilbos—
and Hot Cross Buns—’cos you can get chocolate ones of those too you know . . .)

Apr 3       National Chocolate Mousse Day

Apr 21       National Chocolate Covered Cashews Truffle Day
(cashew-truffles?  I didn’t know there was such a thing.  I’m feeling deprived.)

May 2      National Truffles Day

May 12    National Nutty Fudge Day

May 15    National Chocolate Chip Day

June 7     National Chocolate Ice Cream Day

June 11   National German Chocolate Cake Day

June 16   National Fudge Day

June 22   National Chocolate Eclair Day

June 24   National Pralines Day

July 3      National Chocolate Wafer Day

July 25    National Hot Fudge Sundae Day

July 28    National Milk Chocolate Day

Aug 4      National Chocolate Chip Cookie Day

Aug 10    National S’mores Day
(Mmmmm . . . s’mores . . . )

Sept 13   International Chocolate Day

Sept 22   National White Chocolate Day

Sept 27   National Chocolate Milk Day

Oct 14     National Chocolate Covered Insects Day
(seriously????)

Oct 18     National Chocolate Cupcake Day

Oct 28     National Chocolate Day

Nov 7      National Bittersweet Chocolate with Almonds Day

Nov 30    National Mousse Day

Dec 8      National Chocolate Brownie Day

Dec 16    National Chocolate-Covered Anything Day
(way to cover all your bases)

 and then there’s Christmas . . .

and then it’s New Year. . .

and then we can start all over again . . .

😀

 
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Posted by on October 23, 2015 in Uncategorized

 

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‘There were five in the bed and the little one said, roll over, roll over . . .’

Ruffles

Ruffles

This is Mr Ruffles.  Ruffles is spending his holidays with us while his mum and dad are away in Queensland.  Due to unforeseen circumstances Ruffles didn’t get to meet my girls before this visit, which made me a little apprehensive.  You know that word they call girl-dogs sometimes?  Well, I love my girls dearly, but sometimes that word really applies. I figured it was going to be an interesting couple of weeks. Ruff arrived on a Wednesday evening, bringing with him his own little bed, his blankie, his medication (not quite sure what that is for and hope I don’t actually get to find out) and a little bag of food and snacks to ensure he wouldn’t starve to death during his visit.

dog-biscuit-clip-art-690442(Note to all future doggie visitors: there is absolutely NO chance of you ever starving to death in my household.  You will always find goodoes in the bowl in the kitchen, or schmackos under the couch, or rawhide chew sticks under the cushions of the doggie beds—along with no end of other deliciously smelly, half-eaten and saved-for-later treats in a myriad hidden locations around the back garden.  And that, of course, is apart from the real food that you will actually be fed by me at proper mealtimes.  Starve?  Never going to happen.)

Maude, Mabel, Molly

Maude, Mabel, Molly

Anyway, when Ruff arrived I shut the girls inside the house and let him come in through the back gate to have a bit of a wander around the garden before I unleashed (see what I did there?)  the howling hordes upon him.  I was pretty sure I knew exactly how it would go. Molly would barrel on up to him in full voice, puffed up to twice her usual size in an effort to appear as big and scary as possible.  Given that she weighs just 4 kilos this is quite a feat. Molly would lay down the lawher house, her rulesand she would continue to enforce those rules on a daily basis. Mabel would give me one of her ‘Dear God, not another one’ looks (she’s only just getting over Molly coming to live with us 3 years ago) and would then retire regally to her favourite chair to disdainfully ignore him for the duration of his visit.  And Maudie—well Maudie would just love him to bits, because Maudie loves everyone.

Boy did I get that wrong.

tassie devilMolly came hurtling out like a tiny black version of the Looney Toons ‘Tasmanian Devil’, pulled up short, sniffed him once and immediately dismissed him as being of no interest whatsoever (way to prop up a guy’s ego there Mol).  Maudie growled at him—actually growled!—and continued to growl at him every time he dared walk past her for the next couple of days. And then Mabel. Turns out Mabel is a bit of a tart. Who knew? She stood nose to nose with him, primped and preened, grinned her silly grin and wiggled her bum at him until the poor wee man was so embarrassed he didn’t know where to look.  Animals and children, they’ll make liars of you every time.

Cartoon-puppy-dog-with-knife-fork-Meal-timeAs with any new addition to a family, even for a short time, adjustments have had to be made.  The first meal time, usually such an orderly affair, quickly descended into a free-for-all melee when, for whatever reason, everyone all at once decided that everybody else’s meal was better than their own (they were all exactly the same for heaven’s sake). Pushing and shoving and snapping and snarling ensued until I eventually had a hissy fit of my own and took all the food away and made them sit there and watch me eat my own dinner while they had a good think about their manners. (Shouldn’t let the power go to my head but sometimes it feels great!)  The second attempt at feeding them was a much more orderly affair. Funny that.

Sleeping arrangements are always tricky with guests.  I knew Ruff slept on his mum and dad’s bed at home, but I thought it was asking a tad much of my girls to let him sleep on my bed with them that very first night so I got him all cuddled up in his own little bed and put that next to my bed and he seemed quite happy with that.  Until about 1.00am the next morning.  Maudie woke me (‘There’s someone moving about the house,’ rumble, rumble).  Ruffles was gone. On investigation I found him out the living room, sitting on the tiles, shivering, with his nose pressed hard up against the front door‘I want to go home.’ Poor boy. So I put his bed on the tiles by the front door, settled him down again, tucked his blankie round him and the next morning he was still there snuggled up fast asleep.  Bless.

Toy Box Treasures

Toy Box Treasures

The toy box has been another bone of contention (Ha—I didn’t get that one myself until I read it back).  Apart from the ball being played with most evenings by Maudie, the toy box has for years been largely ignored.  But, of course, once Ruff discovered all the long-forgotten treasures within, there was all of a sudden a  ‘mine, mine, mine’ scuffle every time he even walked past it. On threat of the same treatment being doled out as happened with their dinner this tension now seems to have abated.  Ruff has chosen himself a favourite toy (a Santa elf which merrily continues to sing ‘Santa Clause is coming to Town’ even when it is getting its left leg chewed off) and the girls have deigned to let him keep it.  Very magnanimous of them I thought.

h15So, having the food, sleeping and playtime arrangements largely under control the last big hurdle was ‘walkies’.  Being used to walking three dogs I didn’t think one extra little one would make that much of a difference. Sigh. You’d think I’d learn. Initially I thought I’d be clever (always dangerous) and tried to do it in shifts of two at a time, but the two that were left behind (and it didn’t matter which two I left) set up such howls of distress and despair that I couldn’t bear it (and I didn’t think the neighbours would bear it for long either), so I gave up on that idea pretty quickly.  I soon discovered that getting them all organised and out the door was actually harder than walking them.  My first time trying to put a harness on Ruffles when he was absolutely beside himself with excitement nearly broke me.  When I finally got the harness on him I had to sit down for ten minutes and have a rest. Swear to God. pugpeeingBut once we were all outside and all going in the same direction it wasn’t too bad, except— and OMG it’s a biggie—I had forgotten that it takes a boy dog at least twice the amount of time to walk the same distance as a girl dog.  Walk, walk, stop, sniff, pee.  Sniff, pee. Walk. Sniff. Pee. Pee some more. Backtrack two steps. Sniff. Pee again.  Aaaarrrgghhh!

'See you after work'.

‘See you later’.

So now Ruff has been with us just over a week and seems to have settled pretty much into our routine.  He sits at the front window and watches me leave for work and when I come home he shoulders his way through the pack as they all swarm to meet me, intent on getting his own ‘Mums home’ cuddle.  He joyfully (and loudly) joins in the mad romp around the house that invariably follows.  He lines up quietly with the others for his dinner and, if I get him in a bear hug before he realises what is going on, I can get him in his harness to go walkies in under 30 seconds.

Ruff has also, of his own volition, abandoned his bed by the front door and is now sleeping on my bed with me and the girls and everyone seems fine about it, although it does bring to mind the final lines of the nursery rhyme . . . ‘and they all rolled over and one fell out . . .’

I’m just hoping that the one that falls out isn’t me . . .

 
14 Comments

Posted by on October 15, 2015 in Uncategorized

 

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‘I would like to die on Mars. Just not on impact.’ Elon Musk.

Sorry—I couldn't resist.

Sorry—I couldn’t help myself. 🙂

This week NASA announced that they’d found evidence of liquid water on Mars.  Wow.  That would have been really handy for Mark Watney (The Martian’, Andy Weir) to have known.  He spent a good portion of his time on Mars struggling with the problem of creating water—even blowing himself up once before he got the process right.

Then again, perhaps just knowing that water was there might not have been enough.  Unless something dramatic had changed between his time and today, he might not even have been able to make himself his early morning cup of tea (“I started the day with some nothin’ tea. Nothin’ tea is easy to make. First, get some hot water, then add nothin’.” Andy Weir), unless he checked his paperwork first.  The internationally ratified Outer Space Treaty of 1967 (not making this up, honestly) has very strict rules about who, or what, can be allowed in the vicinity of any water source on any other planet for fear of contaminating it with life from Earth.  Again. Wow.  Way to think ahead.  (It’s a shame we can’t be as thoughtful in our considerations of what we contaminate our water supplies with closer to home, but that’s a whole other blog.)  

alienthinkerBecause of this discovery of water on Mars scientists are now even more excited about the prospect of finding life there, but, sadly, it would likely not be the kind of life that could have given Mark directions about how to get home. Arthur C Clarke wrote “Two possibilities exist: either we are alone in the Universe or we are not. Both are equally terrifying.”   I have absolutely no idea whether there is life out there in the vast dark reaches of unexplored space, but I have to say I really truly hope there is.  How cool would that be?  And how sad if we ‘puny humans’ (as the Hulk likes to call us) are the best that the universe has to offer.

I am well aware of course that there don’t appear to be hordes of other-worldly beings lining up at the local spaceport to pop over for a visit to our blue planet.  And now our ‘fly-bys’ of Mars have given us a much better idea of what is actually down there and what is not, it appears that ‘Martians’ at least will not be among those likely to drop by Earth in the near future.  It seems we are going to have to look further afield for our first off-planet visitors (that’s always assuming ‘they’ haven’t surreptitiously visited us already of course).

marvin_the_martian_by_calamitykangaroo-d8ubfegShame really.  Don’t misunderstand mesciencefact is pretty fabulous these days.  No end of wonderful discoveries, breakthroughs and possibilities, but it is not nearly as much fun as science-fiction.  It seems to me that we had much more enjoyment out of Mars before we knew so much about the reality of it.  We fantasised about it, wrote books about it, made TV shows and blockbuster movies about it—we even had our favourite Martian cartoon characters (mine is Marvin, not in small part because he has a dog as a sidekick.  A green dog.  And that’s weird—not the dog, who wouldn’t want a dog for a sidekick—but the green thing.  Why would we ever have thought that Mars, the ‘Red Planet’, the colour of blood and fire, would generate a population of ‘little green men’?  Do we really imagine Mars, the Roman God of War to be a little green man with wobbly antennae??)

Anyway—maybe the reason we have not yet been visited (if indeed we have not) is because any prospective interplanetary callers are already well aware of how they would be received.  They would only have to take out a three-month subscription to Stan or Netflix and watch ‘War of the Worlds’, marsattacksbanner‘Independence Day’, ‘Battlefield: Los Angeles’ or ‘District 9’ to see that many of us would automatically assume that any unearthly visitors would surely be out to rape and pillage our planet, take over our brains and bodies (although that might be enough to send them back screaming from whence they came) and rain wave after wave of horror and destruction down upon us.  And, after becoming aware of our propensity for do-unto-them-before-they-do-unto-us thinking (They don’t come in peace!) it is hardly surprising that they probably decided to make a lucrative deal with the next solar system over to the left and spend their annual holidays where the host beings are much more hospitable.  Our loss.

moonNow having said all that you might think that I have a problem with sci-fi movies.  And you would be absolutely wrong.  I adore them.  Even the really bad ones.  Even the really old and really bad ones (with the really dodgey alien maskswhere you can see the fingers moving the plastic monsters and the wires holding up the spacecraft as they wobble past).  And, yes, even the ones where we are all mortally terrorised by marauding invading aliens and, after two hours of unrelenting mass destruction and millions of deaths, we the underdog, send them all packing back to where they came from with their tails (antennae?) tucked firmly between their legs (tentacles?), and rise triumphant from the ashes to rebuild our shattered world. (Cue the epic music.)  And if there is actually some kind of story lurking amongst the myriad special effects . . . well that’s just a bonus.

I am perfectly aware that this makes me sound like a 14 year old sci-fi geek trapped inside this 56 year old body but, you know what, that’s OK.  If a ticket to the movies can make me feel like a 14 year old anything again I’m all for it— and it’s a whole lot cheaper than other options out there. 😉    I wish I was clever enough to be considered a real geek.  It is the sci- and sci-fi geeks that got us to Mars in the first place, and with luck and a whole lot of talent and far-reaching imagination, they will will be the ones to get us a lot further out there.

live-long-and-prosperBut until that day, and until my kind of science-fiction become science-fact, I think I’ll go fix me a Pan Galactic Gargle-Blaster (considered by the ‘Guide’ to be the “Best Drink in Existence”. Its effects are similar to “having your brains smashed in by a slice of lemon wrapped round a large gold brick”. Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy, Douglas Adams), and cruise the channels in search of some wild and woolly space pirates cutting a swathe aross ‘a galaxy far far away’.  

Live Long and Prosper . . .

 
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Posted by on October 9, 2015 in Uncategorized

 

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Someone once asked Somerset Maugham if he wrote on a schedule, or only when struck by inspiration.

“I write only when inspiration strikes.” he replied.
“Fortunately it strikes every morning at nine o’clock sharp.”

caveman novelI think, until recently, I just assumed that natural writers always had something to say—that they were chock full to the brim with stories, characters and plots, and that the words just spilled out of them and onto the page.  Then, surely, it was just a simple matter of rearranging the words on the paper in the right order to ensure that the reader got the general gist of it all.  (I can already feel pencils sharpened to lethal points being sent airborne in my general direction—by those who still use pencils of course …)

But wait—I say ‘recently’ because I have been reading up on the subject, and it seems that this is just not the case.  At all.  It appears that for many of our most esteemed authors (and plenty of our not-so-esteemed)  writing is (or was) a real, desperate and constant struggle.   (‘No pen, no ink, no table, no room, no time, no quiet, no inclination.’  James Joyce.)   Well, thank God for that.  What a relief.

writers-block-cartoonWriting does not come easily to me.  Up until now I have only ever written short pieces for the local community college brochure—and that only comes out once every 3 months.  If I had any sense (and I obviously don’t) I would have at least attempted to write something during the in-between months so I might have had the possibility of several articles to choose from when the time came for the next publication.  Of course that didn’t happen and I would find myself with the brochure two days away from going to print and me having written not a word and not one idea in my head. Well—to be fair, I probably did have a couple of ideas, but there are only so many stories you can tell about your dogs before people (at least those oddly strange non-doggie people that you still find lurking about the place) get fed up with you and go elsewhere.

So as the next deadline loomed I would spend days wandering about muttering to myself,  ‘Well I guess I could write about . . .  or maybe I could do something on . . . well, no, that’s not really going to work,  but perhaps . . . ’ until I drove the people around me mad enough to start offering me their own opinions on what I should write about in the fervent hope that I’d just go away and do it.  Eventually I would decide on an idea, sit down and get myself all organised—because, of course, everything had to be organised (computer all charged up, seat just right, cushion behind the back, wine glass within reach).  I’d sit deep in thought (honest) for a little while—and then—perhaps I should just go and put those drops in Mabel’s ear before I forget . . . and did I remember to fill up the bird-feeder this morning?  Maybe I’ll just go and put another load of washing on before I start.  Procrastinate?  Me?  I learned from the best.  (‘Never put off till tomorrow what you can do the day after tomorrow.’  Mark Twain)

feeling pressureAnd when all these must-do-now jobs had been done and I couldn’t put it off any longer, I would settle myself down to start again and—nothing.  Nada.  Except—what on earth was I thinking?  Why would I want to write about that?  Worse still, why would anyone want to read it?  Square one.

So, knowing that this always happens, what do I do?  I start a blog.  Am I stark-raving mad?  Here I am only a couple of weeks in and I am already babbling about having no idea what to write about.  I’m feeling the pressure.

Do you know, in the short time I have been doing this I have already had spam comments telling me that my blog is ‘lacking fresh content’ and that if I am ‘too lazy to add to it regularly’ I should go to http://www.something-something-something.com to get more interesting input.  Rude!  Now I know in my head that this is just a marketing ploy to get more hits on these other sites but  $&(*%!   The ‘lazy’ part stings.  Especially as I seem to have been at least thinking about writing (if not actually writing) almost full time lately.  I was quite ‘miffed’.  However, after a few choice words and a very good grumble I thoroughly enjoyed the delete—delete—delete of my spam file that followed.

notebook-clipart-notebookSo you may be pleased (or perhaps even horrified) to learn that I have started a ‘Blog Book’ in which I am jotting down notes about things that have piqued my interest and that may, or may not, turn into something worth writing about.  (Today on the telly I saw a bit about ‘Sky Running’.  Heard of it?  Me either.  My first thought was that these people were, quite obviously and without a doubt, all absolutely bonkers, but the more I watched the more interested I became.  Not going to try it of course.  Never.  Not ever.  But I digress . . . )

And there you have it.  This is what you are going to get when I can think of nothing else to say.  You are fair warned.  This blog experiment of mine could go absolutely nowhere—or it could go all overSitStayDog the place (which, I must admit, does sound a lot more fun).

I am practising my ‘mini-habit’ of writing at least a couple of sentences a day in the hope that I will be able to string those sentences together into something coherent and interesting enough for you to read, but if all else fails, I think I can absolutely promise you one thing—there will definitely be more doggie tales . . .

 
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Posted by on October 2, 2015 in Uncategorized

 

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