On a Boat in a French Canal

Well, well, well, I came to my blog to perhaps write something about our fantastic stay in Croatia and realized I had forgotten to post up one from months back in France. We had such a great stay in Narbonne that I’m going to post it now (even if it just for my own future reference) and I will post something on the magnificence that is Split, Croatia, in due course . . . As I post, I remember that WordPress has changed (probably why I abandoned it first time around) and I’m finding it a little difficult so who knows what I will end up with!

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A few years back, I sang ‘On a Boat’ (an R-rated song by ‘Lonely Island’) with a Canadian gynecologist on the top deck of a boat on the Danube. I’m on a boat again – being a little more subdued this time – on a French canal, and it is another great experience.

The Nubian is a stationary boat on the canal in Narbonne, kitted out with all the mod cons but in the surrounds expected aboard a vessel listed on the National Historic Ships.

Amidst the nautical accoutrements of historic sailing are such modern-day luxuries as touch lighting and handy phone charging stations. There’s a full-size Italian shower, coffee machine, egg cooker, microwave, fridge/freezer, and it is a short walk to the indoor food markets and the old town itself. My pics don’t really do it justice so check out their website for yourself.

Your hosts (The Captains) are Eric and Franck and these guys really know their stuff. Communication online was excellent and instructions for arrival perfect (free shuttle from the train station, keylock entry). Every detail in the onboard rooms has been attended to. We were pleasantly surprised by the welcome bottle of wine, with snack biscuits and chocolates. And the breakfast! You could feed yourself for the whole day with the breakfast. Beautiful home-made pastries and jams, fresh juice, the works.

Eric made sure we touched base with an ex-Aussie Rugby player who runs restaurants in Narbonne. In non-covid times, we could have had a hell of a party.

The town of Narbonne is a cornucopia of history and stunning architecture but it was our (far too short) stay on the Nubian that really made for a perfect experience and I just can’t throw enough positivity at this accommodation experience without gushing.

I did miss singing bawdily with the Canadian though.

Onwards I go, gathering grist for the stories, always.

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Christmas . . . The Big Issue

If you’ve never read The Big Issue, do yourself (and others) a favour by going out of your way to grab a copy of this crackin’ Christmas edition.

“[This edition includes] interviews with author Jackie FrenchThe Witches director Robert Zemeckis and electronic dynamos The Avalanches; a gorgeous chopped salad recipe from Bill Granger to brighten any Christmas feast; a hilarious festive farce from writer Karenlee Thompson; and some much-loved teddy bears in The Big Picture.”

You can find out more about The Big Issue here. Look out for a vendor near you and spread some Christmas cheer.

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Hysteria Anthology

What a lovely cover. Pleased to have a little flash fiction piece of mine included.

Hysteria 7 anthology book cover

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Cheers from Bonnie Scotland

With apologies to friends and family who may still be struggling with lockdowns (especially Melbourne, Australia, which has seemed brutal), I thought I should do a small pictorial post on my Scotland adventures.

I have posted pics spasmodically on my personal Facebook feed (please send me a friend request if we are not already connected there) and have been asked why I felt the need to travel at this time. First of all, I want to say that everything in life is a trade. A friend recently posted something along the lines of ‘Choose your Hard’ with a message that everything can be hard, you simply choose which path to take (which hard). 

Whilst many of my friends and acquaintances are happy to hunker down in their homes (or at least, not too traumatized by the thought), surrounded by the familiar – books, DVDs, gardens, nearby walks – I no longer have that opportunity, my Bloke and I having sold or given away everything we own, from the family home down to the very smallest keepsake. We did this – pre-Covid – because it was the only way – coupled with housesitting and helping friends with their projects – that we could afford to travel. We have covered almost every square inch of our home country – by car, rail, train, bus and motorbike – in our youth, so what does one do? One (or two, as it so happens) goes forth into the world.

As we travel, we take very good care of ourselves and we are conscientious of caring for the health and wellbeing of others. Masks, sanitizer, social distancing. Always.

So now, let me tell you about our travels in Scotland . . .

With so few visitors and so little open, we have had country roads and tracks and lochs and hills almost completely to ourselves. We do not eat out and we have never been keen on the pay-a-fortune tourist attractions. So, just imagine how it is for me to be able to wander the grounds of castles and ruins without another soul in sight, to be able to lap up all the history, to touch my trembling hand to centuries old walls. To trek the moors with only my thoughts for company. For a writer, this is bliss!

I’ve peppered some of my favourite photos throughout to stop you getting bored with my ramblings. There’s more on Facebook.

In amongst all this, I was delighted to be shortlisted for the Scottish Arts Trust Story Prize and, although I didn’t make the final three, I felt like a winner amongst some very fine writers. For my writer friends – if you are interested – please check out the award ceremony (this year, a Zoom event) on YouTube.  

I will be even more isolated for a few weeks in the beautiful highland country overlooking a loch. Lots of ‘stuff’ will be written! Keep well everyone. And choose your Hard.

PS – there have been some WordPress changes and I have no idea how to resize pictures.

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Scottish Arts Trust Short Story Award Shortlist 2020

Thank you to Lisa Hill at ANZ LitLovers for helping me to blow my own trumpet.

FINAL+2020+cover+COMING+SOON+CROP

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Our Inside Voices: Reflections on COVID-19

The weather is looking mighty fine for Brisbane on Sunday 23rd August so, if you are in the area and looking for a fun, safe, event. . . here’s the perfect outing. AndAlso Books are holding an outdoor launch event for this fabulous collection of essays, memoir, poems and short stories.


I am pleased to have my short story ‘Meg and the Margarets’ included. Here’s a little snippet:

I’ve had a shower, she says, and I’m all disinfected.
Why are you disinfected?
She rambles on about stuff I don’t understand but my ears ring when she says COVID-19. So at least now I know it is not quite an army. It’s not a couple either. There are nineteen of these Covids.

I have singled out a few favourites in the collection and will post about them later. In the meantime, here’s the launch deets.

ORLEIGH PARK
West End
(‘Area 3’)
SUNDAY
23 August
10.30 – 12.00

 

 

 

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Flaming Squirrel

Long time between posts but – hey – COVID-19. Long story short for those who don’t know, we are back in the land of Oz temporarily while we wait for the world to open up.

Did I mention Flaming Squirrel? I think I did and now that I’ve caught my breath, I want to elaborate.

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We writers are always on the lookout for somewhere inspiring to put pen to paper (or more likely, fingers to keyboard) and I did promise to post on any extra-special places in Canada. I found a fabulous place on the outskirts of Oliver BC – the delightfully named Flaming Squirrel Guesthouse.

There is a quirky story about how the guesthouse scored its name and I’d never do it justice. Certainly it involves squirrels, electricity wires and a substantial brushfire and if you are lucky enough to hear it told by guesthouse owners Brad and Cindy, it will have you in stitches.

Can’t resist sharing this wind chime pic. Cindy made it from bells and wine corks and rattlesnake tails (I kid you not!). EDIT: no rattlesnakes were harmed in the making of this windchime; found, dead snakes only.

Flaming Squirrel windchime (2)

Flaming Squirrel is the perfect private spot to write and, if the pen won’t flow, you can head off to explore the wineries of the South Okanagan. Should you fancy some company, do yourself a favour and share a glass with Brad and Cindy. You could fill a book with their stories.

wine pump

 

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Hello Australia

An eventful week of liaising and coordination saw us waving welcome-back and farewell to a masked home owner, from our vantage point in the international departure lounge as we started our journey back to Australia. Whilst our plan had been to remain in Canada riding out the storm in isolation, away from hotbeds like airports and planes, it soon became clear that we would have no choice. We were given some forward indication that even local travel would soon be shut down which did not auger well for travelers with no fixed abode.

Given that all the predictions were accurate, we feel very lucky to have made it back. We are self-isolating in style at one end of [son] Dylan and [daughter-in-law] Jo’s home and they have thought of absolutely everything . We have tea and coffee making facilities, and everything we need for whipping up a snack. Through the outdoor servery, we are to be delivered a bento box with our daily supplies and then, at night, we pick up our prepared gourmet dinner from the same place. We have equipment outside to help keep us fit – boxing gloves, yoga mat, etc. We have Wifi and TV and games. We even have our own dog! Sammy is here to keep us company and she seems pretty chuffed to play the only child for a while. She enjoyed sitting on the bed with us last night as we ate dinner and Skyped with Dylan and Jo next door.

We are all well. Keep safe folks and hopefully we will all come out the other end of this soon.

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Birds, Bees and Buttercups

I just can’t believe how lucky we are, perched high up on a hill above Oliver in the Okanagen Valley BC with two horses and three adorable dogs as our companions.

Once again, the accommodation has surpassed any expectations we might have had. Warm, quiet, peaceful, comfortable. Books. Piano. A gourmet kitchen. Magnificent views. And did I mention our four-legged companions? Three distinct personalities, all well-trained and loving.

Check out the view, which is proving to be an ever-changing symphony of whites and subtle greys that leaves me speechless.

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We have been hiking in the snow-covered hills but haven’t managed to reach the highest peak yet. We got about two-thirds of the way up before the depth of the snow made it a little too tough. Coming back down was a doddle, especially considering I spent most of my time skiing (without skis) or tobogganing (sans toboggan) – in other words out of control and mainly on my bum. I’m sure the pups had a good laugh. Did I mention the pups already?

Spring is springing early and the snow is melting fast around the house and over the lower hills. G is living up to his ‘bird-whisperer’ reputation and he’s communing with Steller’s Jays, Black-capped Chickadees and the odd Red-winged Blackbird. Bees are venturing from the hives. Buttercups are knuckling through and the horses seem to have an extra spring in their step.

We took a run down to the border so we have sighted the good old US of A without actually stepping foot on it yet. On the way we visited a fabulous miniature train museum (not something we would normally think of doing but so glad we did). A nineteen-year labour of love for the owners, it was a delightful way to spend an hour or so. The work is intricate and the pics don’t really do it justice but I particularly wanted to share one of the skate park as a nod to my roller-derbying son and daughter-in-law.

 

We also checked out Penticton, with its stunning lakes and walking paths and we wiled away an hour in the gallery there. Paintings by Corinne Theissen were particularly memorable; beautifully grotesque? Grotesquely beautiful, perhaps. They will haunt me for a while.

Meeting locals is one of the greatest joys of this house and pet-caring life. We had coffee and muffins with some uber-cool neighbours and got to ogle some stunning craftsman-built guitars. We are hoping for a return visit soon to hear said guitars played.

This is wine country, folks, (in fact it reminds us of Stanthorpe in Queensland) and, although many of the wineries are still winter-closed, there are a few we have lined up to visit. We have already sampled a couple of the local reds. Mightily impressed.

If it seems as though I haven’t a great deal to share, I can only say just look at the pictures. And I refer you to these gorgeous new friends of ours … did I already mention them?

L to R: Suki is an adorable bundle of energy and she gives good cuddles, Tandi loves her special song and warbles ever so softly when I sing to her, Bear is our official guide, constantly checking to make sure the Aussies aren’t getting lost.

Life is good.

For those of you who have asked about purchasing ‘Flame Tip’, perhaps the easiest for Canadian and US readers is to download the eBook. You can find links here on the Hybrid Publishers website.

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Where are all the Calgarians?

It wasn’t until our third trip into the city that we found the answer to our question. Where were all the people? Turns out Calgarians have a whole other life inside the buildings. There are maps (just like the outdoor street maps) that you can follow so that you spend the whole time inside the heated shops and walkways. In retrospect, I’m glad I didn’t find this out until later; if I’d known, I might not have seen so much of the stunning city architecture. Here’s a little sample.

Now, I may have hinted on my last post that we’d be tubing. Unfortunately, that did not come to pass as the tubing paddock was not open. But Olympic Park did not disappoint as we sat drinking hot chocolate and marveling at the skiers jumping and racing their way down the slopes.

We faced a similar situation when we worked up the nerve to try ice skating at the plaza (free in the city, apart from skate hire). Due to recent rain and snow, the surface had gone quite powdery and was not ideal for complete novices like us. Instead, we spent a few hours at the Glenbow History Museum and Art Gallery. Well worth the visit. Then, today, in better conditions, we went back to the plaza and . . . what can I say? . . . let the picture do the talking?

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Yes, that is like a wheelie walker. Yes, that is as good as I got! No, G will not allow me to post a picture of him.

One of the highlights for both of us was seeing our first ice hockey game. We had decided on a university game thinking (quite rightly) it would be more affordable ($5 ticket) and (wrongly) that it wouldn’t be heavily populated. As it turned out, we had stumbled our way into the Annual Crowchild Classic at the Saddledome Stadium which was an absolute blast. Packed to the rafters and so much noise! It was a very exciting night.

It was funny to see – just outside the stadium – a herd of rabbits (I had to look up their collective term, discovering in the process that a collection of mice is called a mischief). Huge, fluffy, white rabbits. All happily munching, impervious to the crowds. Reminiscent of the goose that sauntered up the city sidewalk just days before.

 

 

We have had some magnificent walks in the nearby Glenmore Park. We saw a herd of deer (yep, I googled to check that too and discovered a group of skunks is called a surfeit – not surprising!). I was too stunned by the beauty of the deer and couldn’t manage a pic. Of course, we saw lots of birds and the ubiquitous squirrels (never get tired of their antics). PS, the squirrels are collectively a scurry, which suits them perfectly.

Oh, I should mention the most beautiful and superbly functional and busy library I have ever seen.

We have an art-gallery-crawl day planned but not too much else as we really adore spending time with the two gorgeous pussy cats (especially when it is well into the minuses outside). Whilst the female is rather self-sufficient and sometimes aloof, she has warmed to us on her own terms (sitting at the window with Gary watching the snowfall or whispering sweet nothings into my ear). The male, arthritic and not too mobile, is a soft old smoochy and he has the most beautiful singing voice which he warms up in the early hours. In the end, it is all about the pets, and we are going to miss them heaps.

A couple of notes . . .

The jackets we purchased have been fantastic. We have seen other jackets that take up much more room but they are no warmer. This is how small our macpacs scrunch up (next to my computer mouse for sizing). jacket size

The only thing I would suggest is to see if they come a little longer to cover the thighs and also get one with a hood. Definitely don’t get thicker ones though, if luggage room is an issue.

Cat-owners and carers. Spruce wood pellets – fantastic to use as kitty litter!kitty litter

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