We in Western Australia –bordered by the Indian Ocean–have been benefiting visually from the Tonga volcanic mid-January eruption in the Pacific, 7000 thousand kilometres distant, and we are still getting brilliant post-sunset glows high in the sky after the setting sun has disappeared below the horizon.
I’ve had a lovely message from a reader who read The Isles of Glory in French, and wrote to tell me so. In French. Happily, I didn’t have to resort too much to Google for a translation. I did learn French in high school and then lived two years in Tunisia in 1991-92, so managed to dredge up enough memories to read a touching review. Here’s a little of it:
"A feminist story that I loved. You carried me with them" (the characters) "and I'm going to look into your other stories because I'm truly blown away. It's been a long time since a story had been so captivating to me as to make sleepless nights to read, read and read again!"
Unhappily, of all my 13 books, only the three books of The Isles of Glory were translated into French…
In other news, over the weekend we went down south with family. Alas, it rained. A lot. The good news was the rain sent us into one of the regions most glorious attractions: The Jewel Cave. And here’s some photos:
I am trying to have some investigative medical procedures done, but it is difficult to get a place in the hospital queue without something going wrong due to illness of staff, or absence of beds, or something. I have not have had Covid yet, and am still comprehensively wearing a mask to avoid doing so. As an immuno-compromised person, I could find Covid to be fatal in spite of my four innoculations.
On the writing front, I have finished my last book and sent it off to a publisher who has expressed an interest. We will see what happens. Watch this space.
On a personal front, my husband and I spend a lot of time at home. Our elder daughter is visiting from USA, and as it is three and a half years since we saw each other, this is a very valued overdue and cherished meet-up, and not nearly long enough.
We do get out and about, usually in open spaces and wild places…
It has been a long time coming as a lot has happened in my life since my past published book.
The story is now in search of a home. It is a standalone fantasy novel, set in a new world I have not visited before…
This cover may not be the final one…and the title could change too!
And in personal news (this really happened):
Husband has been prone to terrible dreams, night terrors, almost every night since he had open-heart surgery several years back. (Apparently there’s even a word for this: the “pumphead effect” named after the bypass pump used during the surgery.)
So the other day he wanders into the kitchen after waking up in the morning. “I just had a horrible nightmare,’ he says. “I dreamt I was in charge of a small army camp in the jungle…”
I adopt a sympathetic expression, bracing myself to hear a horrific nightmare tale of blood and gore and grief.
Says he, “I couldn’t get anyone to do the washing up.”
Today we celebrate our Australia Day, with a date that upsets many of our first citizens. Which doesn’t sit well with me. (Why on earth would we want to do that??) But quite apart from that , it really annoys me for quite a different reason.The original date — 26th January 1788– has nothing to do with Western Australia. There was no W.A. then. (In fact there was more of a chance we’d be settled by France not Britain at that time.)
There was a bunch of Brits over on the eastern seaboard, flying a British flag, being governed by a British Governor serving British interests, and longing to retire back to Britain.So here we are celebrating a date that marks the beginnings of a British invasion of someone else’s land a couple of thousand miles from where I now live, by a bunch of people who mostly didn’t want to be there. We certainly weren’t a country. We weren’t even called Australia back then!! January 26th.
How inappropriate can you get?
Well, even more. That date was later the date of a massacre of an indigenous group by settlers.So I don’t fly a flag, especially not one with a Union Jack in the corner.
I wonder what my grandfather’s dad would think of it all. He was transported to Van Dieman’s Land for stealing a brass tap…
We are about to have a week of temperatures around 100f / 39c so I’m posting a photo of me taken on our back porch around this time of the year in Vienna, Austria. In the 1980s or early 90s. From Malaysia to this. We didn’t own a winter coat between the four of us us, or a closed-in pair of shoes, or a woolly jumper, or warm underwear, or a warm hat or a single pair of gloves, or a solitary blanket for the beds… Shopping kept us broke for months. But oh, Vienna, what a wonderful place to live for the next 6+ years. We could dine where Beethoven once lived down the street, or walk out of our house into the Vienna Woods along Beethovengang, or ride our bikes along the .Donauinsel (the island in the Danube River), just down the hill. And — to an Australian, the whole thing about being able to holiday — by car — to the border of the USSR, or Scotland, or the northernmost point of Norway…or just drive for the day to Yugoslavia, or Germany. We did it all.
Just had my half-year statement from one of my foreign language publishers. This is for 3 books published quite a few years ago, now only being sold as eBooks, so virtually not costing the publisher much at all at the moment. They sell for about 5 to 10 Euros each. In the past 6 months they sold 35 books and I earned the princely sum of 22 Euros which is 34 Aussie dollars. That’s .6 of a Euro each. Or 97c Australian per book. Gee, Authors earn a lot, don’t they? (This is not really a complaint; just a statement of fact. Most published writers earn very little from sales.)
Today I listened to Beethoven’s 9th. Back 32 years ago, in 1989, Christmas Day… there was a pivotal moment in my life that I remember mostly for its symbolism. I was born during the latter stages of WW2, but I grew up under the belief that we were always just a hiccup away from nuclear war. That 1989 Christmas day I was sitting with my family in front of the TV to listen to Leonard Bernstein conduct Beethoven’s 9th symphony. We were living in Vienna at the time, and had just observed the fall of the Berlin Wall and its ramifications — on our doorstep so to speak. And when the Ode to Joy was sung that Christmas Day, we unexpectedly heard the choir change the words from Freude (joy) to Freiheit (freedom)… I still remember the way I felt. That glorious music, written by a deaf man, conducted by a American Jewish terminally ill gay man, sung in a city so torn by war and division … To this day, I can’t hear that movement, that choir, without the tears welling up.
We had such high hopes. Alle Menschen werden Brüder… Everything seemed possible just then, even that.
Among other things (like working on the copy edited MS of my latest book), I have been sorting through the photos and letters that record bits and pieces of my father’s war history.
That’s the First World War, not the second. Not that they called it that…they had no idea they were fighting for nothing, rather than gloriously battling “the war to end all wars” as they were told. The photo of him was taken in France. He was about 27 y.o.
Here’s an extract, written to his sister in W.A. in pencil on a tiny piece of paper now brown with age: “I can tell you it is a great consolation to one and all of us when we get good news from home…Of course I don’t get letters very regular on account of so much shifting about…” He goes on to mention two friends from the wheatbelt of Western Australia where he owned a farm with his brother. He writes, “Reggie Parker was lucky getting out with a wound; I only wish Alec Waterhouse and all the other lads were as lucky…”
The Alec he mentions was English-born. They had both embarked with the Australian forces in January 1916, but Alec went missing, believed killed, at Pozieres in France in August of that same year.
But more than a year or so later, having been a German PoW, and having recovered from a chest wound, Alec escaped — walked through enemy lines and turned up in Holland… Back in England he sent a message to his mother, who still lived in Kent:
A happy story? Yes — and no. I believe Alec found it hard to deal with life after returning to Australia.
NEWS : my new book — a standalone — is now with the editor. Not long to wait…
In the meantime I’ve been digging into family history, and today came across a newspaper cutting pasted into my mum’s 1988 diary — a reprint of something written Feb 1919 at a time when my dad was trying to get home from a war in France, and my mum would have been 15 years old, living in Melbourne. She wrote in her 1988 diary: “How well I remember this!” and described how several of her classmates died at 14 y.o. and everyone was wearing masks soaked in eucalyptus oil — and her family all went and got the innoculation against pneumonia. She says, “It seems to have worked with us, though we were all very ill, none of us got pneumonia. This I think happened when I was 13 or 14.”
I HAD NO IDEA UNTIL TODAY THAT SHE’D EVER HAD THE 1918-19 FLU.