Tuesday, 29 September 2009

The desert's come to town, now we're going to the desert

My eldest daughter Precious Princess (PP) and I are heading to to outback Australia for five days.

We are going to THE ROCK.

It's a first for both of us. After this trip to Alice Springs and Uluru, we can truly claim to be deadset dyed-in-the-wool, I've-been-everywhere-man Aussies.

PP will be sacrificing at least three nights of clubbing at Kings Cross and Darlinghurst with her BFFs. This will probably nearly kill her.
Fancy having to get up at dawn each day and be in bed before 3am!

She asked me if she could take the laptop so she could do uni work. Unbelievable. We're on a friggin' journey into the Red Centre and there's PP on Facebook, or catching up on late assignments as the sun sets over Uluru.

I made it clear there will be no laptop.

This trip could swing both ways - huge mother daughter bonding success or massive failure.

"OMG, a dingo ate my 18-year-old!"

PS: This blog will return on October 6. Thanks for your continued support.

Sunday, 27 September 2009

Some people just can't write

When I don't aspire to be the world's fastest ocean swimmer (chortle) and the world's most successful author (double chortle) I have a day job. And it involves teaching the noble craft of print journalism to tertiary-level students.

Each year the students I teach are required to produce a feature story for a student magazine. My role is to vet the story topics and guide students through the writing process. I edit their work and give positive, never negative, feedback.

I spend the better part of the year gently explaining the principles of journalism 101 before I set the students free to pursue their story topics.

But each year is the same. There's always a significant number who just don't get it. Some of it's laziness or they're just not interested - their goal is to host Getaway or become a fashion magazine editor - and who needs to be able to write to do that?

Then there are those with attitude. They see themselves as the next Kerouac or Hunter S Thompson. Hunter comes up a lot - I tell them to go and get a habit and an arsenal of guns... just joking!

Many have no knowledge of grammar, punctuation or syntax. They don't see a good quote when it stares them in the face and they don't value the facts.

They can't write and no amount of explaining, guidance or mentoring helps.

From experience, I have learnt that my better students already have a flair for words. Mostly, they are modest about their natural talent and eager to learn more. In their learning, they apply good journalim skills - they listen, they only interrupt where necessary and they realise that practise makes perfect.

They are the rare gems.
(Guess what the cartoon guy is saying: "Geez, how do you spell that big word?" or "I should've become a tradie. At least that'd help me pull chicks.")

Friday, 25 September 2009

Shark shields in the news as summer approaches

In anticipation of a bumper shark season, the media is already revving up the public imagination with its reports on shark shields, which will be worn by rescue divers this season.
The shark shield is a repellent, but you don't spray it on (how cool would that be). Rather, it emits an electric field that 'induces spasms in sharks snouts'. Apparently, it doesn't hurt the shark or the environment. I read that it only works when it's stationary - I take it that 'it' means the shield is stationary and not the shark.

You'd need nerves of steel to resist the urge to flee with a shark bearing down on you with a toothy grin. But I suppose you've got nothing to lose (or should that be win) either way.

If you've been following my blog as thousands around the world have, you'll have read my numerous shark posts from last season. In February through to April there were many shark sightings and several serious attacks in Sydney waters - in the harbour at Woolloomooloo, at Bondi Beach and at Avalon on the northern beaches.

Two of the attacks took place before dawn and the Bondi mauling in the evening, which is when sharks are hungry.

Simple solution: don't swim at dawn or at dusk when sharks are on the prowl for tucker.

Expect more shark posts as the days grow warmer and crowds of potential shark bait flock to Sydney's beaches AND THE OCEAN SWIMS SEASON GETS UNDERWAY...
Never smile at a crocodile and don't swim in the dark with a Great White Shark.

Wednesday, 23 September 2009

Red skies over Sydney

It's just after 6am and the air in Sydney is thick with red dust. Gale-force winds have blown it across the drought-afflicted interior.

I woke to the acrid smell of dirt in my nostrils.

Someone on talk-back radio called it 'orange fog'. But fog is still.

The wind isn't blowing this red fog away, it's bringing it in.
Apparently, it's raining mud in the Southern Highlands.

It is eerie. Apocalyptic.

I have to go to work. There'll be havoc on the roads.
The two photos were taken from my upstairs verandah.
Days like these... I'd rather forget!

Monday, 21 September 2009

Could this be the perfect kiss?

I am reading Music & Silence by Rose Tremain. The book won the 1999 Whitbread Novel Award.

I discovered Tremain through my friend Mrs Onyabike (Oyb) who, when not cycling like a bat out of hell along Sydney's hazardous roads, is an avid reader of all things literary.

I had suggested to Mrs Oyb that maybe she should write a novel because she's very clever and once had a short story published.

Mrs Oyb was instantly dismissive. She said she would never attempt it unless she could write like Rose Tremain. And that was impossible, because Tremain's writing was perfect. And Mrs Oyb could never beat perfect.

Fair enough. No one ever wins an arguement with Mrs Oyb.

Curious, I bought a copy of Music & Silence from the second-hand bookshop.

I'm only half-way though it, but to attempt a summary of the plot would take too long. Tremain is a historical novelist and the book is probably loosely based on the life of Denmark's King Christian IV and is set mostly in Copenhagen in 1629-30.

Mrs Oyb is always right, of course. Tremain's writing is flawless, ie: perfect.

Here's a snippet, but I'll just set it up for you - the handsome English lutenist at the King's court, Peter Claire, has fallen in love with the King's Consort's attendant, Emilia Tilsen. Peter has declared his love and has, in a letter, asked Emilia to meet him at the King's Aviary.

The following is the tiniest excerpt from their first kiss as the doves 'wheel and settle on the aviary top and look down on what is taking place':

'His lips are dry, hot as the burnished skin of his face. And when they touch hers, the kiss is like a sleep into which she falls and from which she would like never to wake, but only to go deeper and deeper into this repose. And the lutenist understands that this is what she wants, not a kiss of tenderness, not an insubstantial caress, but the kiss which is all-consuming, which marks an ending of all that has been and the beginning of all that is to come.'

Could this be the perfect kiss?

Thursday, 17 September 2009

An 'entire' male doesn't make the cut

I was down on the oval walking my dog Karma the other day when we encountered a Borzoi and its owner.

This dog is huge, but not in terms of weight. Underneath its long flowing mane, the Borzoi appears to be almost skeletal and reminds me of another-worldly type of creature. Its frame is large and it has the height of a pony. Freakish.

The Borzoi's owner is just as unusual. He is around 60 and wears neatly pressed cream trousers and shirt. His silver grey hair and healthy yet ruddy complexion evoke images of the English country gentleman with hound. And get this - the guy smokes a pipe! (I bet he wears a cravat on more formal occasions).

Anyway, the Borzoi leaps gazelle-like towards my dog, a medium-sized Kelpie cross, who cowers behind my legs. My poor old nothing-but-a-pound-dog is terrified of the Borzoi.

In an attempt to diffuse the tension, I ask the owner: "Is it a male or a female?"

To which he replies: "It's an entire male."

Entire male? Who gives a toss? I just wanted to know if it was a boy or a girl dog.

If I had been quick on the uptake I would've responded with: "Karma prefers them un-entire."

Or asked: "Does that mean you haven't had its balls cut off?"


Some men are wankers. Entire or un-entire.

Sunday, 13 September 2009

What are words worth: word of the day is snarkful

I love words - I suppose I should since one day, before I am being force fed mush in an old people's home, I plan to be a published writer.

I used to keep a book of words and everytime I discovered a new word I would write it and its definition in the book. I haven't looked at it for a long time, but here we go. Under 'H' are the words hyperbole, hebetude and harbinger.

My youngest daughter's flavour of the year in words is 'sublime'. Whenever I proof-read her homework I notice she manages to slip it in somewhere!

And isn't it just such a rich, voluptuous word? Roll it around in your mouth and get a feel for it. Yum.

Five of my personal faves are sanguine, languid, insousiance, serendipity and desultory. Lush (that's one too).

But today I discovered a new, fun word. I had seen the term 'snarky' used in the past, but never 'snarkful', which seems to be a new take. Snark, says www.urbandictionary.com, is a combination of 'snide' and 'remark'.

So, now when you're in conversation try dropping in the word snark, snarky, snarkily or the best of all - SNARKFUL. There's also snarkster, snarkasm, snarkalicious, snarkenfreude(!) and snarkalec.

Here' another variation just invented by me - snarkoholic (noun); A person addicted to snarkful comments.

Friday, 11 September 2009

The blowflies are back

There's a bloody blowfly beating itself against the window and then buzzing around the room like a crazed World War II bomber pilot.

The blowfly reminds me of a NSW politician. The blowfly lives on leftovers and faeces, while the pollie bludges whatever he can to fill his personal coffers.

The blowfly is fat and full of maggots; our politicians are fat and full of bull****. The blowfly doesn't understand boundaries, it flies up noses and into ears. The politician gets up our noses and is always in our ear with some rant about how he's working with our best interests at heart...

Both are annoying and we're never rid of them!

Now that rant is over, I must say life is pretty damn good (apart from W-O-R-K) and the sky is pale blue.

More stuff on romance and swimming soon. In the meantime, I'm off to get the swatter.

Friday, 4 September 2009

Down at 'Drummy' the seasons turn turn turn

Drummoyne Swim Centre is one of the best-known outdoor pools in Sydney. You can view it from the Iron Cove Bridge as you travel from Rozelle to the other side of Parramatta River.

On my regular bus trips home from work in the city, I observe the pool as the seasons change.
On a hot summer's day it's packed with sunbathers and families; in the evenings under lights the water polo team trains there.
In January and February it's booked out during the day for school swimming carnivals.
By autumn the numbers of swimmers have dropped off, but early in the morning the pool Nazis (mostly boofy blokey ocean swimmers) brave the chill to do their laps.

'Drummy', as the locals call it, closes after the summer season in April. This year the filtered salty water pumped in from the river went a little green before the pool was emptied, worked on and refilled.

Four months have passed in the blink of an eye and it's open again!

This is a personal call to attention. I need to get back into the swim.

*Turn turn turn - to everything there is a season.

PS: The sad thing about this pool is that the new bridge lane now under construction will overshadow it, and the constant drone of traffic will compromise the ambience of the place.
Turn turn turn the other cheek...
*Song title borrowed from the Byrds