Archive for the 'General' Category

The man and the sea

Waitpinga Beach, South Australia

The man and the sea.

No – not the famous novel written by a far better writer than I’ll ever be. (Hemingway: The old man and the sea.)

This is about a strange man I saw a few months ago. What this man was doing has puzzled me for months, and I’m no closer to discovering what he was doing. My wife and I were at the beach having a late picnic lunch. Nothing unusual about that. Actually, we were not dressed for the beach and so we sat in the car to eat our lunch. It was wild and blustery, threatening to rain at any moment, not like the scene above. That photo was taken at an entirely different beach on a much better day. But I wander off topic.

We were parked in the car park a few metres from some wooden steps leading across the sand dunes and down to the beach. An old rusty station wagon pulled up alongside of our car and a rough looking unshaved man emerged from the driver’s seat. Next, a woman, presumably his wife, and another older woman, possibly his mother, also alighted from the vehicle. They were not well dressed; in fact, they certainly didn’t look attired for the beach at all.¬† The wind¬† whipped their bedraggled hair as they gathered about ten plastic water containers from the rear of the car. The kind that hold about twenty litres.

They carried these down to the water’s edge, depositing them just clear of the waves. The man had no shoes and we watched as he waded into the shallows and proceeded to fill each water container from the sea. As each was filled he placed it beyond the reach of the waves and filled the next one. When all ten were full of sea water, he started carrying them up to the car, struggling through the soft, squeeky sand and grunting with effort up the steps and to the car where he placed them in the back. Five times he made this trip, two containers at a time.

All three then drove off in the car carrying about two hundred litres of salty water in the back. How strange. Why would anyone want to collect sea water – and so much? I’m lost for an explanation of this strange behaviour.

Can any of my readers throw any light on possible reasons?

Of course I was so puzzled I didn’t think of the obvious course of action. I could have asked him! But I didn’t, so I’m left with this conundrum; why?

A writing lesson from the rose

Rose flower

I feel stiff, sore and rather tired after a busy day in the garden. In fact, I’ve had quite a few busy days in the garden in recent days. The soil is nice and damp from the rain we’ve had making it easy to dig. The rain has also seen rapid growth of weeds, so weeding has been a high priority. Consequently this blog has been a little neglected in recent weeks.

One of the projects we’ve been working on is renovating our bed of rose bushes. It now boasts a new border made with recycled railway sleepers. These sleepers are ungoing a third life. After many years holding together the rails somewhere they were recycled as a rainwater tank stand in our backyard. This was made by the previous owner of our home. Last year we emptied and moved the tank to a more convenient location, so the sleepers were surplus to needs until this last week. They are now entering their third useful life. I never realised how heavy those sleepers were until I had to move them.

Today we planted another eight beautiful roses, adding to those already in the bed. It looks great and well worth all those aches and pains this evening. Now I have to be patient, waiting for them to come out of our cold winter, grow plenty of foliage as spring comes upon us, and then wait for the blooms to emerge.

In the meantime I’ve included a photo of one of the roses taken several years ago.

It’s a bit like waiting for a publisher to accept a manuscript. You put all that hard work writing that story or novel, weeding out unnecessary words, preparing the manuscript and sending it off. Then the patient wait to hear from the publisher.

Good writing.

Good grief – watch the words you use

“Good grief.”

I heard someone use these words only a few days ago. They made me pause and consider them. Funny how those words had never before made me stop and think (well, not that I can remember). They were spoken as one of our many idioms, expressing surprise or irritation, the normal use and meaning of the expression.

What made me think, however, was the fact that this expression is something of an oxymoron, two words with contradictory meanings. When has grief ever been good? Although, I suppose in the sense that grieving leads to dealing with a loss and moving on with life it could be said to be good for you.

The point I am trying to make is that sometimes we use words in our writing which can convey the wrong ideas, communicating the wrong message to our readers. We need to be careful in the ways we use words and expressions, especially idioms and slang. Of course, the use of idioms and slang, used with discretion, can enhance our portrayal of certain characters in our stories. Overused they can become tedious. Always make every word count and make each word or phrase earn its place in your story.

Interestingly, a web search with the term “good grief” turns up about five million results. At the top of the search I did was an Australian group called “Good Grief“, an organisation dedicated to assisting people dealing with trauma, grief, loss and change.

My message today: choose your words carefully.

Good writing.

Colour me green

Warning: This post has nothing to do with writing.

We’ve gone green in our household.

Let me explain. Three days ago we had a series of solar panels installed on our roof. It’s something we talked about for many years, probably as much as 20 years ago. At the time I even did some serious research into the matter. Trouble was, I didn’t have the ready cash to install such a system. Besides that, in those days there were no government rebates available to offset the enormous cost.

Prices of solar panels have plummeted in recent years due to competition and their efficiency has vastly improved. Add to that the very generous Australian government rebates at present and the whole exercise becomes relatively affordable. Under present conditions the panels should pay for themselves in about 5 years. This is due in part to rapidly increasing electricity prices here in Australia, estimated to rise about 60% over the next few years; we’ve already had one big rise recently.

Talking about power costs, one of the motivating factors in getting the panels this time around was the power bill I received last November. It was about 20% higher than anything we’d had ever before. After the initial shock, the motivation to do something about it created its own momentum and we did our research and chose a good company in the forest of companies offering installation. We also changed providers because we discovered we were being ripped off big time.

The day after installation we kept checking the readout on the inverter to see how much energy it was generating. It was like having a new electronic toy to play with. Most of the time it was generating about 90% of capacity which is about as much as one can expect. It did briefly rise to 97% (3.2Kw of a potential 3.3Kw) but that was short lived when cloud came over the house. On our first day we exported a nice amount of energy back into the power grid so we are actually making a little money. Making money on it is not our intention; we just want to break even and save money. Avoiding rapidly rising energy costs is also a reason.

On the down side, yesterday was 100% cloud cover for half the day and today it’s been raining all day. You get that. I guess we’ll have to be content to only make hay while the sun… let me rephrase the old saying: we’ll only make a lot of energy when the sun shines.

Now back to writing.

Writing a novel is a marathon event

I am in the last stages of finishing my work in progress, a novel for children set in Nepal. This 40,000 word novel, and the accompanying 10,000 word exegesis essay, is the final stage of my Master of Arts in Creative Writing.

I’ve been working on the novel for over 18 months and finally it is getting near to ready to submit to examiners in the coming weeks. Then I plan to start it on its journey around the various publishing houses, so fun continues. This novel writing game is not a sprint, and more of a marathon. In fact, sometimes it feels like having to run a marathon every day.

Despite the weariness, I am pleased with the final product and I’ve learned so much along the way. With the help of my critiquing group, friends who are critical readers, and my supervising lecturers, my skills have been honed and my writing has improved way beyond what I had thought possible.

I have learned, above all, not to be precious about my words. I have learned to be ruthless and to cut anything that does not work, anything that is repetitious, redundancies, passive voice, switches in POV and many other stumbling blocks placed in the path of writers everywhere.

Must get back to the finishing touches.

Good writing.