Monday, December 31, 2007

Travel Sickness

Well here we are in merrie olde England, for the first time in three years, and I've got to say I'm loving the cold. Of course, it doesn't hurt being told that back in Oz the temperature's cracked the 44 degree mark ...

We're all over the jet-lag now - although the dark-until-8am, dark-by-4pm scenarios are confusing the hell out of the kids. Better yet, we all seem to have got past the various ailments we picked up since leaving.

Take a long-distance flight anywhere and there'll always be someone coughing up bits of lung and infecting everyone else on the plane by spreading their germs through the recycled air system. I'm sorry to say that this time, that person was me. As I've come to expect, I was ill within two days of finishing work - it's as if my body acknowledges I have a shedload to do and develops superhuman powers of immunity to ensure there's no missing the deadline through sickness. But the second the job's done ...

The rest of the clan have fared little better. My wife and daughter have both copped gastro and only this morning were we all reasonably fit to leave the house.

So if you're wondering why we've not been in touch, that's why - I'm hoping to start arranging to meet people soon. Don't be shy if you want to get in touch with me first and bump yourself up the queue - just be aware my mobile's not working now I'm in a different hemisphere.

Oh, and Happy New Year to everyone - it's already 2008 Down Under, dontcha know.

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

38 Degrees of Separation

Christmas Day kicked off at 5.30 this morning when my son woke up and started into the presents. Within a couple of hours we were at the beach, not just an Australian Christmas tradition, but also, it turned out, an absolute necessity. Today was the second hottest Perth Christmas in the last 100 years, peaking at an infernal 40.7 degrees.

Did the rounds with the family and returned home to finish preparations for tomorrow's flight to the UK. We leave here at 4am and aim to be at Gatwick by half six on Wednesday night. Where they reckon it's going to be 3 degrees ...

I hope your yuletide's proving to be a little less extreme.

Friday, December 21, 2007

Conclusive Proof: Toymakers Hate Kids

Picture the scene: it's Christmas morning, and the children bounce from their beds, finally unleashing excitement that's been pent up inside since the shops started putting up their festive displays (August).

They're barely able to control their shaking, faces aglow as they tear at the wrapping paper to see the toys they've wanted for oh-so-very-long. Delerious with happiness, they open the boxes, desperate to play ...

And have to wait a further four hours while their parents untwist all those sodding bits of wire that fix the toy to the packaging.

It's a mistake I made a couple of years ago - since then I open up all the boxes before wrapping the presents and remove all the pleasure-killing twist-ties ahead of time. Which is what I got up to this afternoon.

Here's what I got off ONE TOY:

Now I sit typing this with bloodied fingertips, muttering darkly. Because, you see, once I finished all that untwirling, I plaited all the ties together into one long, wire loop. I'm saving it, in the event I ever meet one of the manufacturers. And then ...

Ho ho ho.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Small Acts of Mercy

A strange moment today, when I found myself having to explain to my kids why I'd smashed in the head of a small creature with a house brick ...

We were walking back from the shops when I spotted the pavement up ahead had acquired a crowd of crows. I've chosen that collective word carefully, fully aware of the correct one, and knowing how appropriate it is under the circumstances.

As we got closer, the birds flapped off, settling a few feet away and waiting for us to pass. In the middle of the path there was a rat, lying where where the crows had been eating it.

It was still alive.

I'm not the biggest fan of our rodent friends, not least because of the twitching metropolis they've formed in our attic. But looking across at the black birds waiting patiently on a nearby lawn - well there was no question they'd be back for seconds as soon as the kids and I moved away.

So what else was there to do? The rat was beyond saving ... so I took a brick off a pile outside a nearby house renovation and took care of it.

I walked past again a couple of hours later, off to buy something I'd forgotten earlier. There was nothing left.

To their credit, I think my son and daughter understood why I'd done what I'd done. Perhaps they've acquired the necessary coping genes from their mother, who grew up on an outback farm where such incidents happened with a regularity that's still alarming to someone who grew up in the 'burbs. My daughter, certainly, nodded sagely and hasn't mentioned it since. Maybe it was easier for her to grasp the logic of it, having struggled so much with news reports of the death of Steve Irwin and its comparative randomness.

There's no point to this post, or clever message as such (although by a huge coincidence I've just watched the final episode of the espionage show Spooks, where someone found themselves in a similar position, on a larger scale). It's just something that's stuck in my mind today.

So there you go then.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Calls and Effects

Very chirpy today, largely because someone phoned me at 1.30am and stayed on the phone for half an hour.

No, I'm not being sarcastic.

Some of you may recall the friend of mine who could usually be relied on to email regularly (even when she was travelling the world solo and roughing it in all kinds of dodgy countries) yet who dropped off the face of the earth around 18 months ago. Well, she was the late-night caller, who had finally got one of the messages I'd left and who instantly got on the blower to me (miscalculating the time difference horribly).

She had, coincidentally, been trying to find me for over a year (cos we moved from Sydney, didn't we?).

Long story short, she's safe and she's well, and I'm absolutely overjoyed. I was really very worried there for a while. Better yet, she'll be in London in January.

As will I.

Yup, the final obstacle to the family trip to the UK was hurdled the other day, when I got the little bit of paper stuck in my passport that allows me to return to Australia, should I ever leave.

I'd started looking into getting my visa renewed a few weeks ago, getting on the phone and being told by a helpful woman that it was the easiest single task you could perform at the immigration office. Just rock up with your passport, fork over some cash and bosh, new visa.

Then I found out there were a few checks that needed to be made. Nothing serious, just confirmation of my residency and the like. I could fast-track this by filling in all the forms online, apparently. Doing that was, I was informed, faster than queuing up at the passport office with all the forms and getting them assessed on the spot.

Which means that the average queuing time at the passport office must exceed NINE DAYS - no wonder everyone there looked so bloody miserable.

Anyway, that's how long I had to wait before getting the email saying it was all fixed up, and that I could pick up my magic passport sticker from the local immigration office.

So long as I was alright waiting for another hour to be served.

[Aren't British people supposed to be good a queuing? I've definitely gone native ...]

So if you're one of the people I've been trying to set up visits/meetings/drinks with, drop me a line and bag a time now, or hang on a couple of days and I'll get in touch.

Either way, we're now definitely on.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Writes of Passage

So there you have it then - today I finished my first ever script, and my, does it feel good.

I've banged out around 12,000 words in the last six days to get to the end, so it's bound to have a few clunkers in it. One more pass tomorrow and I'll be happy with it.

Meantime, another first - seeing something I've written for sale in a proper bookshop.

While I've got a couple of books out now, I've not been able to point anyone who's asked where they can buy them in the direction of a high street seller. It's not unusual to see Big Finish books for sale in UK bookshops, but I can only think of a couple of places that sell them here in Australia - and I've never seen anything I've done in either. Most people down this way buy them over the Internet, I suppose.

There's a new sci-fi and fantasy bookshop in Perth's Carillion Centre, however, and while I didn't spot any BF books in there, they had a sample copy of In Bad Dreams prominently displayed on a table for people to ... well, sample.

So if you're one of my WA readers and you fancy a look, you know where to go.

Or you would, if I could remember the name of the place.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

The State I'm In ...

Hurrah! The end's in sight for so many things that I've finally got a spare couple of minutes to blog again.

The least impressive stat I have to share is for DVDs reviewed. That's currently standing at 19 remaining with 11 days left on the clock. Considering 13 of those haven't even arrived from the distributors yet, you can see why they've been pushed to the back of the queue.

Meanwhile the end of my regular engagements on various Sydney-based gossip magazines (for now at least) left all of last week free. It's the first completely clear block of time I've had in months, and I've been using it to finish various fiction projects.

The shortest - but by no means the easiest - was the last task on a short story I finished earlier this month ... the Author Bio. Now I've not done too many of these - four, I think - but the time you take, staring at the screen in a bid to come up with a paragraph about yourself that's somewhere between shameless self-promotion and forced-funny ... I really need to get out more and get some more interesting things to say about myself.

The other project in progress has been that long-gestating script I've been working on. Actually, if it really were a baby, the gestation would be long over and it'd be crapping its nappies and keeping me up all night by now.

Those who are up to speed with the saga will know the synopsis was finished in January - but with no deadline to work to and no money at the end of it the job's been pushed from pillar to post, set to one side every time something with a pay cheque attached hoved into view.

Well, I set myself Christmas as a cut-off point to complete it, and I've astounded myself. In just a week, I've gone from two semi-finished episodes to three in the hole and the fourth more than halfway through. It doesn't sound like a lot, but I'm turning out 1500 - 2000 words a day, making me wonder how much sooner I could have had all this done if I'd got a clear run at it.

Nine days to Christmas ... and it's finally all coming together.

Sunday, December 02, 2007

Back Burning

Still absolutely nuts here with The Working, I'm afraid, so there's just time for a quick check in and I'm off again.

The big news is that I only have one piece of paperwork to sort out and we're all systems go for a trip to the UK at the end of the month. I've already spoken to a few of you up there in the north about meeting up, and I'll be in touch again once I've got the required sticker in my passport and the dates are 100 per cent fixed.

In the meantime, here's a quick list of projects being shuffled from front-burner to back, back to front and back again. So little time!

  • A 1000 word magazine story hanging over from last week.
  • 32 DVDs to watch and review in the next 24 days. Actually, assuming Christmas Eve and Christmas Day are written off, make that 22 days. Oh, and I've only actually received eleven of the discs so far ...
  • That never-ending audio script, which has taken on more of an urgency in the last week or two - got to have at least half of it finished in the next couple of weeks, but I'm aiming for more.
  • A short story about maps. Had it rattling around in my head for a while now, pending submission to an upcoming anthology, but just can't find time to get it on paper.
  • Another short story sparked by something I read in the paper and concerning a personal problem that's far more widespread than I realised. And no, I don't do it myself ... Again, intended for submission, but with less time pressure.

And that's about it. The good news is that there'd be another project on that list but for my kids vanishing to a pirate-themed party this afternoon and giving me the space to finish it.

And for those that missed them, here they arrrrrr:

Keira Knightley had better watch her back ...