What better way to celebrate than to say it with braaaainz?
Wishing you a very happy birthday and an exciting year of renovation and relocation xxxooo
Sorry it’s taken so long, but here she is. Our brand-new, eight-week old Bandog pup. Called, depending on who you ask, Sari, Mojo or Puppy-puppy Moi-moi.
The cats despise her, but do sneak up to me for cuddles when she’s not around, so they don’t seem to be holding a grudge. Unless they also do the revenge-served-cold thing in feline society, I suppose.
It will soon be Halloween. Much of our culture is now Seppo, why don’t we make a big thing of it? On the one hand, I love lollies and scary things, but I’m glad not to have to come up with two costumes a year, I suppose.
I really wanted to post some pix from Q’s Ekka Extravaganza, but the computer wouldn’t extract them from my phone. Instead, gaze in wonder at the Turkish Charcoal Burner I purchased from a garage sale for no good reason. It used to be at Peter Hackworth’s “The Cat’s Tango” in St Lucia.
Australia is a nation chiselled from its indigenous inhabitants for and by criminals. Our anthem kicks off by celebrating that most of us have since been released on our own recognisance. It’s hard to think of another country where malefactors are such rock stars – sure, English Great Train Robber Ronnie Biggs made it onto a Sex Pistols’ cover, but I’d like to see him front Ned Kelly or Chopper Read in a prison exercise yard. With the intriguing Australian characters who share their stories in Crime Factory’s new anthology, Hard Labour, we all have more reason to rejoice.
Book-ended by smash-hit stories by two greats of Australian crime fiction, Gary Disher and Peter Corris, the guts of this selection need no propping up. Leigh Redhead’s “Grassed” is an authentic slice of the Northern NSW hash brownie, featuring her trademark pitch-perfect ear for dialogue and a sense of creeping paranoia resonant with the context. In “Killing Peacocks”, Angela Savage’s signature lyricism sings the murder ballad of an authentic, empathic character. Andrew Prentice builds a world as crystalline – and as empty – as the breakers his characters surf, in “The Break”. In Helen FitzGerald’s “Killing Mum And Dad” cosy, slightly addled domesticity chills to horror. JJ DeCeglie’s “Death Cannot Be Delegated” features a philosophical hit man wielding Occam’s razor, style cunningly morphing to reflect both narrative and character arc. With sparse economy, David Whish-Wilson depicts a career criminal and junkie as cold as the Ice he cooks – “In Savage Freedom”. Andrew Nette’s “Chasing Atlantis”, where crims take on cultists in hippy country, is a bar-room brawl of Australian noir where the twists will king-hit you if you don’t watch your back.
The individual contributions to Hard Labour are unified by Australian flavour and realism – and the recurrent theme of stuffing up. Narrators tell their stories: some in the clear dispassionate tones of hardened Narcotics Anonymous confessors, others in deceptively breezy voices or pleading laments. They draw the reader closer before slipping a knife between their ribs, with a smirk, a wisecrack or a gentle kiss.
Jittery and seductive as a strung-out whore, Hard Labour is highly recommended. Sampled one at a time or devoured in chunks, I’m sure you’ll want to book repeat visits with these characters. Now available from Amazon, here.
If you’re not already addicted to these talented authors’ longer forms, check out their rap sheets here: http://www.thecrimefactory.com/
Well, that was fun. We enjoyed a relatively uneventful trip up to visit Uncle and Aunt and all the tiny horses at the miniature stud, earlier this week. Well, you know, I still had to drive through Gympie but since we were enthralled by a game of ‘I Spy Something That’s Not A Gun Shop Or A Redneck” I was too busy to even wince.
The journey home was strange, though, at a bare minimum with surreal flashes. There was debate at the gate, which I won with my “If it’s shut when you get there, leave it shut” argument.
Rarely do I taste victorious vindication at all, let alone almost immediately, but less than 30 metres down the track we encountered a heifer who was reluctant to share the road.
“Lucky I made you shut the gate.” I observed, smug as a cat with a mouthful of budgie. I crawled the car up, to ease past her.
“See, Mumma – I told you there were feral cows!” said Elf Boy, who’d spent a chunk of the day chasing the neighbours’ cattle out of Aunt’s mini-horse paddocks.
“Arrgh! It’s got horns! It’s going to charge the car!!” screeched Magic Man, who has inherited his Great Uncle’s distrust of large livestock.
“Blow the horn!” cried Elf Boy.
“Don’t blow the horn!!” countered his brother.
“My paintwork!” said Mother.
Maybe it was the horns on my radiator grille (Toyota symbol on Mother’s wagon), or perhaps the steely glare I fired at her through the windscreen, but the heifer grudgingly shuffled to the side so I could pass.
All good through the level crossing and past the pub, until we got to a stretch between farms, about halfway to the highway. It was wettish from the showers, and the usual narrow, patchy, soft shouldered goat track, but conditions were no worse than usual and I know the road pretty well. Round a gentle bend, four scrub turkeys seemed to be having a union meeting, right on the verge. Well, that or they’d heard about vultures and thought they’d give it a try – there was a lot of road kill scattered about.
Having learned not to underestimate the ability of the scrub turkey to annoy – and destroy – I slowed down from 80 odd clicks to just over 60 to pass the . . . what’s the collective noun for scrub turkeys: a scraping; a cabal? I think I’ll go with “devastation”. Three of the turkey’s high-tailed it for the paddock, away from my vehicle, but the forth, either braver or much, much stupider than his mates ran out under my wheels. He fluttered up in a flight attempt that was more like something you’d see from a septuagenarian gymnast trying to relive the glory days. He achieved just enough of a twisting leap before I hit him full on, that he smacked into the windscreen dead ahead of me. I hunched down, sure he’d shatter the glass, yanking my right foot back to resist the urge to slam on the brakes on the wet.
The score: No skid, no screams, not even time for me to curse, no damage to Mother’s car, journey continued without further incident. And our feathered friend? According to Magic Man, who watched his dismount through the rear screen, he shook himself to settle his feathers back into place and wandered off, not only unharmed but seemingly unperturbed.
Maybe it was just a random event. Perhaps this turkey’s turkey was just a very dull example of a species known more for persistence than intelligence. Or his acquired taste for carrion caused a strain of Mad Bird Disease to express itself in suicidal behaviour. I can’t escape the gnawing suspicion that we survived a deliberate – hell, orchestrated – plan by Greybeard and his evil minions to wipe out, not only me but all of my offspring and even the Mother who bore me. Revenge for a certain Medieval Archery Incident of more than a year ago, a vengeance so cold they probably hired Ötzi The Glacier Mummy as a consultant co-conspirator. Try again, big fella.
Strange day yesterday, ladies and lurkers. I had a lovely day’s Brisvegas Holiday Excursion planned with MM, EB, a BFF and her two kids. Started off instead by having to: grief counsel my father through his dog’s terminal illness (progressive spinal cord stenosis) as I ate my egg on Vegemite toast; guide him through the decision-making process, i.e. that he needed to man up and have the dog put down because it had reached the suffering stage and had no prospect of remission, let alone improvement; and then drive them both to the vet when I was so successful he decided to do it. Right then and there.
EB is a big animal lover and also his Grandpa’s favourite, so when he said he wanted to come too I thought it would be doubly good: for EB to have up-close experience of death before it was a much-loved person involved, and so that he could console his Grandpa.
As you will have guessed, I was wrong. We ended up that Grandpa did the male-of-his-generation thing and pulled a strong, silent act, while EB spent the next hour or more sobbing uncontrollably.
I was correct about one thing – it was best I was there to drive them both home.
So I returned to my parents’ house to race through the preparations for our day out. All the while EB was insisting that he needed to do a Great Garbo (I vant to be alone), with me trying to nurture him while he grieved, but equally adamant that we had to proceed with the outing and he had to come with us. We had gorgeous clear, sunny but not too hot weather and the excursion went fabulously well for 6 hours – fun ride in on the ferry, lots of fun in various South Bank water features, great company, awesome Lego robots, kids even behaving beautifully.
And then, just as we were about to pack up the remains of afternoon tea and make our tired but happy way home, MM’s BF-in-the-world slammed his head into a post while running in the playground. Straight away, a lump the size of a small avocado and the colour of hailclouds swelled on his forehead. Naturally enough, his Mum panicked. The helpful staff at the cafe next to the playground gave me a cup of ice without hesitation – thanks Steam Cafe- and then the South Bank lifesavers gave us a plastic bag full of ice. By the time we were on the ferry home, the lump was down to a third of original size and Mum had stopped hyperventilating. Mostly.
The evening turned out well, with a lovely BBQ with my cousin and his husband. If anyone wants a recipe for marshmallow and sour-cream salad . . . much nommier than it sounds. . . I now have one.
And an odd footnote: my horoscope advised that my day would start well, but unavoidable complications and difficulties would ensue.