Mar 25, 2015

Emerald Springs




You may remember that almost exactly one year ago, I was in hospital recovering from surgery, with Fleur McDonald's new novel keeping me company when I couldn't go back to sleep after the 2am obs checks. Or 4am. Or 6am.

Fleur's latest novel, Emerald Springs, nearly became all night company again...not because I was in hospital, but because I COULD NOT PUT IT DOWN! Yes, I was so engrossed in it that it barely left my hands unless it was absolutely necessary. In related news, I must apologise to my children and pets for refusing to feed, or even acknowledge them for about 24 hours, but, you know the rules...


Clearly, the kids' and pets' survival and wellbeing were not deemed 'absolutely necessary'.

With Emerald Springs, Fleur has produced yet another cracking novel with a strong female protagonist, a lot of action and mystery, and a strong focus on relationships, all with the backdrop she knows so well...beautiful rural Australia.

********

Amelia (Milly) Bennett finishes university with a degree in Commerce and returns to her family property to look after their finances, as well as those of several other farming families in the district. When she lands the job of treasurer of the local rodeo committee, her fierce desire to prove herself results in the most successful rodeo the town has ever seen. 

Amelia's triumph is short-lived when she becomes the victim of a terrifying crime, leaving her physically injured and emotionally wrecked. Her devastation intensifies when gossiping locals begin to doubt the innocence of Amelia and her always-broke boyfriend, Paul. Even the rural detective investigating the crime is unconvinced by her story, despite his connection with Amelia's family.

As Amelia struggles to remember exactly what happened, she too begins to suspect everybody around her, including those she loves, and realises she must investigate the events of that fateful night herself....despite the possible danger.

********

Once again, Fleur has drawn inspiration from her own experiences of rural life in South Australia and Western Australia (and those of her Dad, who really was a rodeo committee treasurer!), and woven a brilliant story that will keep you turning pages. Fleur has the ability to make me see what she is seeing when she writes...I can visualise her settings and characters perfectly. You don't need to be from the country areas Fleur describes to understand the surroundings and the people because she'll help you understand them with her words. (Although I do get excited whenever there are mentions of places I know and I can say "I've been there!" Yes, I know, I'm such a city slicker)

I had the opportunity to catch up with Fleur in Adelaide last night in the midst of her current book tour. She spoke about identities, in particular of women, and how we can often lose ours when we are "someone's wife" or "someone's mother", and how she likes her female characters to grow and strengthen as they discover their own identity. Just as Fleur herself, I believe, has grown and strengthened as an author.

Emerald Springs is Fleur McDonald's best work yet. 
And yes, I'll probably say that about the next book too. And the one after that. And the one after that.
Seriously, it's another winner from the Voice of the Outback.

The beautiful Fleur, me, and Fleur's lovely publicist, Amy




Check out all of Fleur's books and where you can see her in person during her book tour on her website. She is in South Australia for two more days, before moving on to the Eastern states. If you get a chance to meet her, tell her Cate sent you. But don't try to drink her wine.







PS. For some strange reason, a nine month old blog post was randomly emailed out last week, probably to all my subscribers. No idea why, I can only think that it was lonely and wanted attention.
This seemed to prompt a few people to unsubscribe for whatever reason. Just know I wasn't spamming you with old crap, there must have been a weird glitch in bloggerland. Or Cateland. Whatever. You have to laugh or you'll go nuts.


Mar 14, 2015

Reading Is My Superpower

It is. It's probably the only thing I do well. I'm not a career woman, or a domestic goddess, or anything inbetween. I just faff about daily, stuffing up regularly, until I can make an excuse to retire to the sofa, or the garden, or bed, with a book.

If you are like me, and constantly looking for reading material to advance your superpowers...or at least prevent them from getting rusty.... here's a couple you might like.

Wife on the Run by Fiona Higgins


Paula McInnes' marriage, and life, has become stagnant...only she hasn't noticed yet. It takes two technology-related crises to occur closely together to rouse her from her inertia and take action.

Firstly, her teenage daughter is the victim of vicious rumours and trolling on social media. Then Paula makes a surprising discovery about her husband, Hamish, via his smartphone, and suddenly her safe, suburban world starts to crumble around her.

What to do? Run away. Paula decides an immediate escape is necessary, along with her two kids, her dad and his caravan, with one simple rule.....NO TECHNOLOGY.

The plan is to travel across Australia and get back to the basics of family life. Learn to communicate with each other again, without a device in their hands. Get fresh air, eat healthy food, exercise, and clear the head, so Paula can think about what comes next.

Of course, running away isn't all it's cracked up to be. Adjusting to an altered family dynamic in a confined space is problematic, and the group run into new complications along the way...some exciting, some dangerous. When Paula's trust is shattered again and her choices threaten to fracture her family, she realises she will have to return home and face her problems before she can make any decisions about her future...with whoever that may be.

********

It Started With A Kiss by Lisa Heidke


Friday Jones is shattered when her husband, Liam, packs his bags and moves in with his bachelor brother, saying he needs a break from her and their twenty year marriage. Their teenage daughters struggle with the separation, Friday spirals downwards, and the stress begins to show in her dealings with clients, and on her face...not a good look for a naturopath.

When her boss offers her a week of respite at a health spa, Friday knows she needs to take the opportunity to pick herself up and look after herself more if she wants to save her relationships with both her daughters and her husband. But the spa begins a new, different spiral of behaviour for Friday when she meets an attractive man who restores her battered self-esteem.

Friday's best friend, Rosie, takes Friday's love life into her own hands through the world of online dating, where a simple online 'kiss' can lead to either humour, horror, or hotness. But Friday's confusion continues....does she want to live Rosie's preferred lifestyle, or does she want her marriage back? How can she make her marriage work if Liam doesn't know what he wants either?

When a worrying situation arises and a health crisis brings things to a head, Friday and Liam know it's time to put their distractions and disagreements aside and focus on sorting out their lives, together or not.

********

These two novels have a lot in common; contemporary settings, long term marriages in trouble, distressed and disgruntled teenagers, how modern technology now plays a defining part in our lives, and the need to reassess and reboot ourselves every now and then as we age, or risk stagnancy. 
Both stories are told with honesty and humour, and not just from one person's perspective; the husbands' thoughts and motivations are examined too.
You'll love some characters, hate others, laugh at some, get frustrated at others, feel sorry for some, and hope some get exactly what they deserve, whether that be good or bad. And those feelings may shift; your sympathy and empathy may ebb and flow back and forth....JUST LIKE REAL LIFE. Because reality isn't always black and white. There are fifty shades of.....purple....inbetween. (I do NOT want to mention that OTHER book!)
And both Fiona and Lisa have captured the uncertainty of mid-life purpleness rather well.


If you like women's contemporary fiction with a bit of drama, romance, sass, humour, and conflict, these two novels will make great Easter reads.








Mar 10, 2015

Tom Rob Smith - Adelaide Writers' Week


When I discovered a couple of weeks ago that the author of some of my favourite books was coming to Adelaide for Writers' Week, I made sure my whole Sunday would revolve around that one precious hour when I would get to hear Tom Rob Smith speak. I even made sure the architect who is doing our renovation plans had a deadline to be out of our door by a certain time - he was visiting to show us a first rough draft....yes, this architect makes housecalls on Sundays! - so I could get a decent seat at Tom's session. 




And the author of Child 44, The Secret Speech, Agent 6, and his newest novel, The Farm, certainly lived up to my lofty expectations. Exceeded them, in fact. Tom was articulate, intelligent, warm, and funny. Not only is he extremely talented with the written word, he is also a fascinating storyteller in person. I could've listened to him for hours. My daughter tells me I was so enthralled, my mouth was hanging open a little. I just hope I didn't drool.

I had received a message just five minutes before Tom's session began to tell me my mother-in-law had passed away after a long battle with Parkinson's disease and its associated struggles. An hour listening to Tom speak was the perfect distraction - especially when he talked with such warmth, honesty and sincerity about his own family dynamics,  and the mental health crisis, struggles and feelings of betrayal which became the premise on which The Farm was based. Heartbreaking and heartwarming, in equal parts.

I am so grateful to a friend who, a few years ago, said, "I think you'll like this book..." That simple recommendation saw me devouring Tom's first three books back to back, and more recently finding The Farm unputdownable. Is that a word? It is now. While my 20 year old daughter was attending Tom's session with me as a requirement for her Creative Writing degree and not just as a fan (like...ahem...me), she too was thoroughly interested in the session, and was very pleased to hear Tom's advice for writers; "Be wary of advice!" 

And when we got home, I heard the words I was waiting for from her mouth..."When I've finished my reading for this semester..." (She has EIGHT novels to read) "....I think I'd like to read Child 44".

And I grinned. A convert. Good job, Tom.

Me, fangirling, with a very obliging Tom Rob Smith



Feb 25, 2015

Renovation 2015: Part One


We bought this renovator's delight in 2003. It took us a while to find the delight - the 'renovate' part was much easier to spot - but find it, we have. Gradually, over the 11 and a bit years since, we have transformed our 1906 unassuming, unmodernised villa into a warm, colourful home.




I knew what I wanted to achieve right from the start, I had a grand vision, but of course finances, time and energy levels play a big part in making it happen. Our kids were 10 and 8 when we moved in, and we all know what those years of school and sport and commitments are like. We did what we could, when we could. We painted and updated room by room, put in a new kitchen, new bathroom, replaced weeds and concrete in the garden with plants and paving, re roofed the whole house, new fences, and built on a huge family room. Inside and out, we finely tuned every aspect to suit us.



Except for one area... the laundry and back porch. This area is basically a tin shed attached to the back of half of the house. There are no foundations, all plumbing and electrical is above ground and exposed. It was just an add-on many decades ago. To be honest, I reckon I could give it a few good whacks with a sledgehammer and it would be gone. If I can still lift a sledgehammer....



 I always figured this would be the last area we tackled as my vision included enlarging the area, turning the old porch zone into a study, brand new laundry, and adding a much needed second bathroom (we are now a family of four adults, sometimes five, so we NEED another shit, shave & shower room) so a great fistful of dollars would be required. It finally looks like this will be the year it might happen.

So, the ideas I had swirling in the back of my head for 6 years, and which pushed and shoved their way to the front of my head 5 years ago when we finished the family room, and the tin shed eyesore was the only thing left standing between us and a completed home..... well, those ideas are now spewing out of my mouth, onto paper, and into my builder's head. Luckily, our builder has said Yes to every idea. So far. Smart man.

We haven't costed much yet... I don't want to be disillusioned just yet, please let me hang onto my dream a little longer.... but we are not naive. It won't be cheap. And possibly won't go perfectly...does any reno go perfectly?? But it should make for some fun blog posts.

I'll keep you posted.


Jan 29, 2015

My Aged Care Plan, Bowels Permitting

I missed out on writing a birth plan. I think I had my kids in the days just before it became uber cool to give your doctor/midwife/birthing partner/lawyer a list of demands as to how your labour was to be conducted, what intervention was allowed, which dolphin/rainforest sounds CD was to played, and how best to prevent your mother-in-law from being within 50 metres of you and your child.

Though, to be honest, if I had written a plan, it would've been quite simple.

1. Give me drugs.
2. The baby inside me is in control. Not me. Do whatever the baby wants.
3. Give me more drugs.
4. If you try to play soothing dolphin/rainforest sounds, I will hurt you. INXS is fine.
5. I apologise in advance for swearing, don't take it personally. You are probably not really a bitch/arsehole/fucking nazi sadist.
6. Seriously, just give me all of the drugs.

So I've decided to look ahead and write an Aged Care plan instead. Maybe I couldn't control the birthing hours, but surely I can have some control over my twilight years...assuming my bowels let me. Please see that my husband/children/grandchildren/carers/housekeeper/legal guardian/parole officer/cruise ship activities director/whom it may concern get these instructions.

1. Give me drugs.
2. I was nice to my children because I knew they would choose my nursing home. If I don't like it, I want to change my will and leave everything to the Asparagus & Brussels Sprouts Growers Association.
3. Do not serve me asparagus or Brussels sprouts.
4. Do not attempt to wake me up to check if I'm dead or alive before 7am. If you do, you will shortly be having people check if you are dead or alive.
5. If my body is failing me but my mind is sound, don't treat me like I'm a child. If it is the other way round, I like play-doh and colouring-in books and puppies.
6. If anyone forces me to play Bingo, I may regurgitate my dinner over their shoes. Seriously, fuck Bingo.



7. Do not sit me at the dinner table with anyone who complains their food is too hot/cold/lumpy/mashed/bland/spicy/stale, who takes their dentures out, or who has a reflux problem. I realise this substantially reduces the number of dinner companions available to me, so I'm happy to eat alone. That way I can complain, burp, fart, and take my teeth out in peace.
8. If you do sit me at the dinner table with anyone I don't like, it will probably be best if I'm only allowed plastic cutlery.
9. I will not apologise for swearing. It is probably personal. You most likely are a bitch/arsehole/fucking nazi sadist.
10. Give me more drugs.
11. If I can't swallow the pills, crush them into a vodka cocktail.
12. When I start telling crazy stories from my past which may or may not be true, don't correct me or disagree. Just smile, nod and ask relevant questions. I may just be having dementia fantasies. Or I may be drunk.
13. My bladder and bowels are just fine, thank you. Stop making me go "just in case". I can control myself.
14. Ok, I accept that, on occasion, my bladder and bowels will let me down. This is why you should've fucking well listened to number 3.
15. If it can be avoided, I don't want to wear a nappy. Pretty sure I didn't enjoy them the first three years of my life, can't imagine I'll feel any different during the last three.
16. I know all the residents tie personal things to their walking frames to recognise them and avoid the infamous Edna vs Hilda Frame Stealing Incident of 2010. Nobody wants to relive that slow-motion chase. So if I want to tie a purple dildo to mine, let me. To be honest, by then I will think it's just a foot massager anyway.
17. If I start to go deaf, do not yell at me. I'd prefer hand signals. I've always been proficient at flipping the bird and, arthritis notwithstanding, I'd like to continue.
18. I'd like whoever ends up showering me to know a few things.... they were once perky, large, and magnificent; it was once a neat, dark, well-groomed triangle; and both areas functioned brilliantly.
19. I believe in dying with dignity. So if I look like I'm about to take my last breath, put chocolate in my left hand, wine in my right hand, and make sure my pants are ON. 
20. Seriously, just give me all of the drugs. At once.






Jan 12, 2015

From the Soundtrack of "Sound of Menopause"


PERI-MENOPAUSE THINGS
(To the tune of Favourite Things...with sincere apologies to Julie Andrews and Rodgers & Hammerstein)


Night sweats in winter and flushes so sudden
Weight gain that makes you feel like you're a glutton
One word misspoken, oh how your mood swings
These are a few peri-menopause things

Anxious and nervous, irregular heartbeat
Sweating so much that you stick to the car seat
Scratching and rubbing your hot itchy skin
These are a few peri-menopause things

Vaginal dryness, erratic libido
Fantasies of James Bond in a tuxedo
Remember you're wearing a Libra with wings
These are a few peri-menopause things

Brain is so vague, so damn tired
The insomnia's bad
Just simply remember they're hormonal things
And know you're not fuuuuuuuu-cking mad

Hair loss and headaches and huge memory lapses
Take off your bra and your cleavage collapses
The mirror shows you now have four extra chins
These are a few peri-menopause things

Fingers are tingling and knee joints are creaking
Uterus cramping and bladder is leaking
Too swollen to take off your old wedding ring
These are a few peri-menopause things

Groaning and farting, your stomach so bloated
Wet yourself laughing, you hope no-one noticed
Flow is too heavy for products with strings
These are a few peri-menopause things

Think it's over, think again now
Still can't wear white pants
Just simply remember they're all normal things
And know you're not fuuuuuuuu-cking mad







(I hope the tune isn't stuck in your head for too long...three days for me...)



















Dec 11, 2014

Cate's Christmas Crafts

Don't go buying expensive Christmas decorations. Make them yourself.

Every year this message is thrust at us from Martha Stewart-esque types, who seem to be able to turn a piece of twine, a jar of glitter and some florist's foam into a one metre diameter sparkling wreath with leaping reindeer and twirling angels who sing O Little Town Of Bethlehem.

I can do that.

And every year, these are the famous last words I utter before I am found, two hours later, rocking in the corner, with crushed green foam under my fingernails, knotted twine glued to my hair, and a glittery cleavage which is heaving as I sob to the tune of Grandma Got Run Over By A Reindeer.

KISS.  
No, I don't mean smooch. It's an acronym.
Keep It Simple, Stupid.
I saw a simple decoration this year that made me say I can do that with swagger.


How cute.
It's just a stick and ribbons, right? 
I can do that.

I raced out into the yard to find a stick (to be honest, I mean I wandered outside to put an empty wine bottle in the recycle bin a few days later and happened to tread on a stick which looked like it needed decorating) and raided my box of ribbons.

This was the result...



Ok....so it needed work. So did my nails.

Look, I admit I didn't try very hard. I used the lengths of ribbon as I found them without any cutting and I had started the next bottle of wine. The stick wasn't even straight, for fuck's sake.
I showed it to my Facebook friends and we all had a good laugh at me. I figured that one day it would make a hilariously pathetic NAILED IT meme, along with all the other numpties who try to make things they see on Pinterest, like these...



 I decided to try a bit harder. That meant putting the wine away and finding some scissors. I kept the same stick though. Because I didn't need to go out to the bin again.


Come on, it was an improvement.
Mostly.
A bit.

So I quit fiddling with it. I decided I needed to build up to it slowly and not rush. I needed to approach it sensibly, methodically, and soberly. 
And fuck it, I needed a straight stick.

Eventually, I had to venture out to the bin again, and hunted for a new stick. I calmly and quietly redid the whole thing, I even ironed the fucking ribbons (that was a chore, I hadn't touched the iron for months), and finally....

I actually nailed it. Properly.
With added partridge. You know the song...a partridge in a ribbon tree....



I was so chuffed with myself.
Totally.
Until...jeez....it's a STICK. And some RIBBONS. 
Whoop de fricken doo.

So tune in next week, and I'll show you how I'm taking a coat hanger, two ping pong balls, and a roll of faulty aluminium foil, and making THIS*.......




(*rest assured, I'm bullshitting. I'd need more than two ping pong balls)




Nov 14, 2014

Coz I'm 50

I turned 50 last month.
Momentous occasion, apparently.
It didn't seem momentous though. Nothing cataclysmic happened. I didn't suddenly feel different. I felt exactly the same as I had the day before, and the day before that. Probably because I've been a grumpy old fart for some time now. Considering that in the last 18 months my sister died, my mum died, my dad could've died (broken hip and surgery, aged 91), and I could've died (burst appendix, infection, etc), I was just glad to wake up on the day and breathe. Unassisted.

The day was no more, and no less, than what I wanted. It was exactly right. Perfect, in fact. A quiet day at home, with dinner at one of our favourite beachside pubs. The Husband, the kids, and ten close friends were with me to celebrate being alive. In the warm stillness of a magnificent spring evening, we stood and chatted, drinking wine and eating dips and bruschetta, while we watched the sun turn the sky orange as it set over the water. We then sat down to some lovely food, more wine, more chatter, and laughter. So much laughter. I'm not sure I even remember everything we talked about. The wine flowed as freely as the conversation, so it's not surprising. I know my boobs were quite popular; hot flushes were a topic, as were family gossip, baby news, sport and holidays; birthday parties and New Year's Eve plans were discussed; and I vaguely remember telling everyone the Rolling Stones would be joining us after dinner to entertain us. I don't think I fooled anyone, as they hadn't drunk enough at that stage. I'm having flashbacks of standing in a suburban street at the end of the night, hugging and kissing one of my oldest friends, marvelling at the fact we've known each other 37 years. I think "37 YEARS!" was yelled with incredulity several times. Miraculously, we all managed to walk steadily out of the pub at closing time, and all of my flowers and gifts made it home intact. Just don't ask me how my citrus flavoured Chapstick ended up in the men's urinal at the pub. That's a story best left untold.

                                          Lovely night, lovely view

Anyway, the only difference to my life since turning 50 is that I now end many of my sentences with "coz I'm 50".
Where once I may have said, "coz I'm grumpy", "coz I'm hormonal", "coz I ate too much", "coz I feel like it", "coz I said so", "coz I'm fat", "coz I drank too much", or "coz nobody will know", I am now finding "coz I'm 50" covers most situations.

"I need to pee."
"Didn't you just go?"
"Yes, but I need to go again COZ I'M 50."

"Let's use the elevator."
"There's not many steps, you can make it."
"No I fucking can't, COZ I'M 50."

"I'm so tired."
"I thought you said you had a good night's sleep."
"I did, but I need even more COZ I'M 50."

"I feel sick."
"You shouldn't have eaten all that chocolate."
"Idiot, it's not because of that, it's COZ I'M 50."

*sings loudly*
"Mum, stop singing."
*sings even louder and throws in some dance moves*
"MUM, WHY??"
"COZ I'M 50!"

*puts on track suit pants*
"I thought we were going somewhere today?"
"We were, but I've been out for 3 out of the last 4 nights and it's all rather exhausting, so I can't be bothered even putting make-up on and doing my hair, let alone choose a decent outfit, put shoes on, and leave the house, then possibly have to smile and speak to people, because today I think I really, truly would hate all of the people and possibly want to stab them, COZ I'M 50."



And then there's this.



Testing my poop.
Coz I'm 50.






Oct 27, 2014

I know it's only rock'n'roll but I like it...

The Rolling Stones came to Adelaide, stayed for over a week, put on a magnificent show, and left. And I am glad I witnessed it all.

I have never been a massive Rolling Stones fan as such - I've never bought one of their albums or been to any of their previous shows, I never had their posters on my wall or fantasised about being swept off my feet by Mick Jagger's lips - but we figured this was a once in a lifetime event for us Adelaidians and we should be part of it. 

The concert was meant to be held back in March and was to be the official opening of the revamped Adelaide Oval. It was postponed due to the tragic passing of Mick's girlfriend, and although it was no longer going to be the Oval's first big, exciting, capacity event (there has since been a full season of Aussie Rules football), we held onto our tickets and said, "What the hell, let's see the Stones anyway."

And I'm so glad we did. It was a perfect October night, warm and still (see photos below). As Mick said, the delay meant "the concrete in the stadium had more time to set", and I think it also meant the band were fresh and sharp after a relaxing week in Adelaide, rehearsing at Glenside Studios. Or as Mick described it, "the grounds of a mental asylum". (Yeah, it was a mental hospital....my great great grandmother was once a resident there, but that's another story...)

Anyhow, the Stones delivered an energetic, mesmerising, crowd-pleasing show for almost two and a half hours. From the opening of Jumping Jack Flash to the finale of Satisfaction, they did not disappoint. When a lot of blokes their age are buying caravans and learning lawn bowls etiquette, these ageless dudes are wearing glittery jackets, prancing around on stage like teenagers, and thoroughly enjoying themselves, and GOOD ON THEM. Fan or not, you have to admire their staying power. To not implode, as a band, in the dog-eat-dog world of rock is a credit to them, and their die-hard fans.

They've still got it. Whatever 'it' is. And you can now add me to their list of admirers, who appreciate good music and a good show for exactly what it is.

I know it's only rock'n'roll but I liked it.
Yes I did.

The walk to the Adelaide Oval from the city, across the river.

I spotted Richard Wilkins' hair from thirty metres away.

Despite a few early vertigo issues with our high, steep seats, we were pretty happy with the view.


There was a social media selfie competition for a prize...can't even remember what for...

We got to watch the sunset as Jimmy Barnes played a set and the stadium filled up.




We waited a bit....and then it was on....














It was a gas, gas, gas.




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