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Monday, 30 November 2015

I made it!

Last post on Fireys for a while, I promise.  I'm very proud, though. I made it through the courses and since I'd already completed the other prerequisites, as soon as my own personal protective equipment arrives, I'll be able to join the team at Sawyers Valley Volunteer Bushfire Brigade properly.  I'm still waiting to see what form that will take, but at least I'm one step closer.

One of the fun things we did, with a very serious reason, was Burnover Drill.  As they stress over and over, you never, ever, ever want to be in a burnover situation, but if you are, you need to be able to get set for it very fast and very efficiently, and that takes practice.

Inside those heat shield curtains, we are hunched down under special fireproof blankies. 

I got to have my turn with Andy, who is the husband of a lady who is already a full member of the brigade, Nikki.  Nikki is a very cool lady and her Andrew was really helpful and stayed calm, even when we were both crouched down under hot, stinky blankets in the cab of the Light Tanker, in the pitch black because we had all the reflective curtains down fully. Part of my job was to do the radio communications, and I realised I hadn't brought the radio head under my blankie with me. I said, "Oh oh, I should have the radio with me," and a hand almost instantly appeared under my blanket and handed it to me. What a guy!

Anyway, the drill goes; set up your hose and have one person at vehicle and one using hose.  I'm not kissing it for luck, I was blowing dirt off it before connecting!

Siren goes off to warn you to return to vehicle immediately.  Andy hears the siren and shuts off the hose and drops it. This is an emergency, fire is about to come right over us and no time to escape, so bugger the hose!

We scramble into the Tanker and I use radio to communicate our emergency (Fairly badly I might add, need more practice!) while Andy begins getting the curtains down and opening the fire blankets.  Then we close it all down and get under our blankies inside.

Oh oh, think I left a tiny bit of a gap! No good if it was the real thing!

We wait for the fire front to 'pass over', and while we do, Heather very kindly gives us a little air while she checks to see if we're tucked in properly.  Yep, feet and bum in!

It was good being short.  Apparently it's quite hard to fit in the driver's side of the light tanker, but I am so stumpy I fitted nicely.  Have to be some advantages!  :)

Once the fire front is past, you can check windows for heat, then poke your head out and have a look, and if it's safe, you get out, still wrapped in the blanket to protect yourself from radiant heat until you know it is safe. Awww, felt like the morning after a rough night of camping!

After that we put it all back together ready for the next people to have a go.

I hope I never have to use it in real life, but it was kind of fun to do just for practice.

These three guys were so nice and made the course more fun. Steve and Andy, on the ends, are fellow Sawyers Brigade people and the one in the middle with me is Neville from the Comms Brigade, Darling Range.  Thanks guys!  We all made it!


Thursday, 26 November 2015

A year of blogging!

Golly, that year went fast.  :)  Guess that's because in a few weeks I'll be fifty. Time definitely moves quicker the older you get.

Biggest news this week is that I've finished the first draft of my tenth novel, Heroic Plans.  As usual, I'll put it away now for at least six weeks and come back to it freshly after that.  That's my favorite bit; getting to read the book as if it was written by someone else, before I've gone over it so many times I know it to death.

I'm looking forward to doing that with Freya and the Hairy Goddess, my ninth book, but I won't begin until next week.  I've got my second full weekend of Firey training starting tomorrow and I still haven't finished my pre-reading for it.

Cyrano kitty says, "Whatever, as long as you have time for smooches and much admiration of my wonderfulness."

Nobody does contented like a contented kitty!

Andrew's crew of office amigurumi, bunny, batty, puffin and Cthulu, came home this week, along with his kneeling chair, since he is home now on sabbatical for three or four months before he begins another contract. 

With Andrew home all the time, every day is going to feel like the weekend!  He deserves a good rest, but he does plan on fighting fires, doing a lot of amateur radio, and doing plenty in the workshop too, so will be interesting to see what comes of all that.  If not a rest, then at least he won't be having to commute!

The vegie garden is going great guns.  We have tiny baby burpless cucumbers on the vines, and the tomatoes have already got away from me a few times, with rather large extra side branches having to be snipped off.  Keeping them going up and not too bushy helps them avoid fungal issues later, but if one of the extras avoids me long enough to put out flowers, I leave it be and just tie it up with the rest.

I know I said I wouldn't show any Christmas Amigurumi, but I had to show you this guy.  I won't say what he'll be become, or who he's for, but this middle stage is rather funny!

Now that Andrew is on hols, he is going to come to drumming circle.  They got some more video this week.  If you have a facebook account, you can go watch.  Fun!

I played my lyre for them a bit too.  Scary, but not as scary as it would be in front of strangers, and good practice for me.  Andyroo has bought me some better recording equipment (Intimidatingly good for a plinky-plonk amateur player like me.) so hopefully will record some more songs soon.  Right now all is geared to getting through this coming weekend of Firey training. After that I'll be able to think of other things.


Sunday, 22 November 2015

What I did on the weekend.

Yes I made it through the first weekend of Volunteer Firey training! One more weekend to go!!

I was the only woman on the course of 19, so I had the lady's toilet all to myself.  Woo hoo, private change-room! :)  I think I was also the shortest by at least a head, as you can see from this photo, which amuses me no end.   I'm the one in orange, just in case you were wondering. 

A lot of time was spent in the class room, being taught by two local Brigade Captains, who were both experienced and entertaining. As if being a Volunteer Captain isn't enough dedication, these guys and ones like them also give up whole weekends to teach newbies.  Brett and Michael, you rock!

After class time, we also got out into windy 36 degree heat (about 85F) to do some practical stuff, and on the second day there was relevance added to our training by the addition of smoke from several fires in the Perth Metro area, with a little ash actually falling on us at one point.  Even more relevant was the recent death of four people, including a Firey, in very bad fires that are still burning down near Esperance in the very south of our state.  So sad. They drill you on safety for a reason, but they also remind you that what you get back is vastly more valuable than the risk.  I'm already learning that.      

Anyway, first we did hoses.   Roll it out:

Make it up:

It was bloody hot on that oval in all the gear!

Must admit to being a bit of a piker. I only rolled out the shortest hose.  Still, no point in actually keeling over on the job.  I didn't say anything about being a Lymie, but I did be careful not to overdo it all the same.  I was just glad to be there and handling it at all!

Time in the shade while the next guys have a go.  

Then we practiced using standpipes to fill a tank, and the below ground hydrant soon got full of water, making the next person's turn a bit more difficult.  I didn't mind how long I had to fish around in there, it was nice and cool!

I've already done quite a lot of this sort of thing because we've been in the brigade doing routine stuff for quite a while now, but using the proper combo of signals was new to me and is needed for less visible or for hard-to-hear situations.  "Water on!"

 After all that it was good to get back in the relatively cooler classroom!

Andrew very kindly came and took pictures for us, including this group photo! (Yes I'm the short-arse front and centre. Thanks for coming along and sweating for the cause, Darl!  It's good to have a reminder of these sorts of moments.  One day I'll be a rickety old lady and will find it hard to believe I ever got up to such shenanigans.

Thanks also to the two other members of my brigade who are training with me, Steffo and another Andrew.  You make it fun, and I'm glad we're in the same team!

I wonder if one day I'll write a book set in a Volunteer Fire Brigade?  As Stephen King says, write what you know, and in the genre you like to read. Hmmm, lets see, Fireys and Fantasy.  A Volunteer Fire Brigade set up to put out dragons' and wizards' accidental fires perhaps?  :D  That's ok, use the idea if you like, what ever I wrote, if I ever did, would be totally different. That's the beauty of fiction!


Thursday, 19 November 2015

Musical this and that.

Got this atmospheric pic of Andrew playing his Ukulele in the screened pergola. We're using it every day. So nice to be able to play your instrument and not dodge mosquitoes or flies.

I'm still having a ball at the community drum circle.  Now I'm thinking I need a bigger djembe like the ones they have at the circle.  They're better for playing while seated on ordinary chairs.  Ah well, you can never have too many musical instruments!

Am very proud this week to have been able to transpose my first song from other instruments/voice onto my Anglo-Saxon Lyre on my own.  Only a simple one, but very exciting for me anyway.  It is "Ah! Robin," an approximately 15 C song by William Cornysh.

There are some lovely versions of this song on youtube.  This one is by Vox Luminus.

And listening to that one led me on to this one, "Susanne Un Jour": 

Glorious!  I've said it before and I'll say it again: Music, and the beauty and communality of making and listening to it, is a redeeming feature of humanity.  I I love how much they use their bodies while they sing this one.

I'm off to Firey training this weekend while Andyroo holds the fort and keeps the dogs company.  Wish me luck.  I had a bit of a health crash last night.  Shitty timing!  Think I'd better take a pillow so I can lie quietly up the back of the class for a while here and there!

My tenth book's first draft is getting so close to finishing.  I'm leaving it in a good place for the weekend and am looking forward to getting back to it next week.  I think Ill be having a rest for new writing after that.  I need to get the Freya sequel edited, and I need to do research for the sequel of Land of Fire.  We all need rests sometimes, even from doing things we love.

May you have all the rest you need this week, and may it contain all the things you love too.           

Sunday, 15 November 2015

Horses I've loved: Chubby

Technically, Chubby was my second pony.  Pippi was my first pony, but we had him when I was 8 and then a long gap until Chubby came along when I was 11.

Pepe was not that tall but I was very short.

Anyway we had Pippi for a little while when we lived out in the wheatbelt but a return to Perth saw us go back to riding lessons for a few more years.  Then mum bought me Chubby.  He was three, newly broken in, and no pony for an inexperienced owner or family.  I can still remember mum saying, "Are you sure? He might be too much for you," but he was grey and beautiful to my eyes,  and oh I wanted him!

This was taken soon after getting him home. It was not long after then that he broke my arm, when I was riding him bareback to show my grandparents and he shied at wind in the bamboo and I slipped off and used my arm to save myself.  Oops!  Not a very good way to make my non-horsey grandies feel better about me riding horses!

He was quite the firey young fellow at times.  Still, we got on together, muddling along.  We took him to pony club, but had no float of our own, so if we didn't hitch a lift or hire one, I had to ride to get there, and I got nervous at times and used to lead him.  Mind you, these days no-one would even think of letting an eleven year old ride miles along the side of busy roads, but in those days it was a different time.

We'd been told his proper name was Chibasco so that was his show name. I never knew what it meant but on googling it just now, it might have actually been chubasco, which is Spanish for a storm or hurricane.  Quite apt really!  He might have been named for a racehorse of the same name though.  We were told he was a stock-horse that didn't grow, and at 13.1hh he really was more horse-like than pony-like.   

At pony club itself we did ok.  He liked to jump and we won some ribbons in that and in hacking at novice level.  I don't remember doing games (what we used to call novelties) with him.

You can see from his neck shape and attitude that he was no lazy pony.  Heh, I seem to remember that in that second photo I began a hacking class with a saddle blanket but it slid out half way through and flew off.  Saddle fit wasn't the science it is these days!

After a while mum put him at a full agistment place quite lot further away from home.  I had to ride my bike there halfway through the week if I wanted to visit him, and then she would take me up on weekends.  That bike ride seemed like a hundred miles, but I did it!

For a while, Chubby got out of hand as they were feeding him way too much for the amount of exercise he was getting. Between that and our inexperience, things didn't go well.  I was leading him out of a yard one day when he rushed past me and kicked up his heels and got me in the ribs, and off to hospital I went again.  This is why they say, "Green on green makes black and blue." It's not a myth!

After that I lost my nerve a bit and so mum sent him off to a horse-breaker for some retraining.  We were told he was not a bad pony, just a bossy one, and I reckon you can see that in this photo.  That is one knowing eye!

We were fine after he came back with his manners restored. We were advised to cut his feed, and I began to really enjoy him.  We rode many miles in the bush, often bareback, with me pretending to be a scout, or Harry Butler the naturalist.  Many a dead grass tree was knocked over in the search for interesting wildlife in the base while Chubby patiently waited. Then I'd have to find a rock or log to get back on with. I was never much good as a vaulter!

After that we moved to a place with acreage and of course Chubby came along. We extended our range and rode even further together. My sis and I got pretty feral around then. Barefoot and wild, we were. Poor mum would try to get us to wear helmets, and we'd ride off in them, then hang them on the first tree out of sight and pick them up on the way back.

Jenny says she remembers getting up one morning and looking out of the window, to see me riding Chubby bareback and halterless, cantering in the paddock, and him coming to a sudden stop in a corner and me flying off, my coat flapping.  (I had this black corduroy coat that had belonged to a grown up before I snaffled it. It was huge and soft and I loved that coat to death. I wore it whenever I could, all winter.  I'd still be wearing it today except that it mysteriously disappeared. Mum says it wasn't her but I do wonder.  She hated it as much as I loved it.)  Anyway I must have looked rather like someone from a vampire movie, enveloped by my vast, black, flapping coat, as I flew headfirst over the head of my pony that morning and it has stayed in her mind ever since. I can't remember it at all.  I fell off a lot in those days!      

My stepdad of the time would buy horses he felt sorry for when he saw them at the saleyards, if they were on the way for meat.  Some were duds and there for a reason but a few were really nice. Duchess was one of those. A very tall, unusual grey for a Standardbred, she was the gentlest horse.  Jen didn't have her own pony yet, so she would sometimes ride Chubby while I rode Duchy. She was a very quiet mare, but she must have been a good racehorse once, because if you got her going on a trail she'd barrel along in a pace like a steam train, snorting with every step.

I think I must have had to climb her leg to get on!  The thongs (flip flops) on our feet were there because the sand would be too hot to walk on when you got off!  Eventually Duchess was given to some farming people my stepdad knew, where she turned pink in the red sand of the wheatbelt, and Jenny got her first pony, a cheeky rascal we leased, called Coffee.  Coffee had every trick in the book, but Jen was a match for him.  Every school holiday we could, we went off to riding camps with our ponies.  I still remember them as some of the happiest times of my childhood.

That's Coffee and Jen in the foreground.  I always smile to think of the time he took a sudden ninety degree turn and flung her off, and she was too determined to let go of the reins and swung round in a perfect circle in the air until she hit a post of the hitching rail. I think she got her first nose bump then, though she's gained plenty more since! (Quite the adventurer, my sister.)  It wasn't funny then, but very indicative of both of their determined natures and something I still admire in Jen today. :)

At some point, Mono came into my life, and I had a pony and a horse for a little while. Spoilt, I know!  We broke Chubby into harness and he was a great harness pony with his amazing extended trot and forward attitude.  I can't find any pictures of that, though I know I had some. 

He was eventually sold and I lost track of him.  I hope he went on to a good life. We certainly had a good time together for quite a few years.  It's sad that you grow out of ponies.   


Thursday, 12 November 2015

A Bit of Twitching

It's a birdy time of year, here.  The first baby magpie of our local tribe is out of the nest.  I am pleased that she managed to stay put there until she could actually fly a little, unlike last year's second child who fluttered around the ground for ages, which was very worrying for us all.

The newest member is currently fluttering from tree to tree and having the whole family at her beck and call.  She is actually very quiet when no adults are nearby, which is wise since calling might draw unwanted attention from predators. I wanted to get you some video of a parent  or other relative feeding her and the racket she makes, but when they did, they were right in the middle of the tree so nothing to see.  I did get a little footage of her sitting very quietly waiting, and I'll post it because I managed to capture the sound of a Twenty-eight parrot doing the true Twenty-Eight call in the background.

It is a stressful time of the family so they are doing a lot of territorial calling.  This singer, by the way, is last year's late baby, who is still a little grey rather than true black.  As you can see she is now taking her turn being a protector instead of the protected.  I took one step out of my back to door film this, and you can hear the dogs crunching bones at my feet.  :)

I did get this bit of video out of our window a few years back of a slightly older baby hassling the parent, so you can hear what it sounds like, except right now the noise is moving about the trees as she isn't really coming to the ground yet.

Magpie parents have the patience of saints.  :)

 When I hung washing out yesterday, the Silvereyes were singing their heads off and flitting about the tall trees.  You can't see them, as they are tiny and green, but their song is so beautiful and I managed to capture it quite well.  

I admire Silvereyes very much as they are truly tiny little mites, and yet they migrate vast distances, are very adaptable in their feeding habits, and seem to always stay cheerful with it!

I did this watercolour of one years ago for the logo for our OBOD Seedgroup, which we named for these birds. I guess for me they take the place of the Wren, who is so esteemed by Druids in Europe. 

Birds, I love 'em!


Sunday, 8 November 2015

Bracing for Summer

Andrew is, anyway.  I'm liking this back view of him in his new Firey's pants and braces.  I'm especially loving the red braces.  They're fireproof too, though as we've joked, if your braces are in a position to be on fire, you have more problems than just your braces!   

His helmet is here too.  It's a new kevlar one and it weighs a tonne.  Still, we've heard about one guy who had a tree fall over and pin his head between the tree and the truck, and he walked away thanks to his kevlar helmet, so here's to kevlar!  We'll just have to build neck muscles like rubgy players to wear them. 

Andyroo is still waiting for his own new fireproof coat to arrive.  You can't go on the roster to go to bushfires until you have all your own new gear. 

On Saturday, we popped into the local communications brigade to see what they get up to.  Andrew, being a radio nut, is interested in joining them too. He's got a bit of a sabbatical from work coming up and I think he plans to fill it with all sorts of interesting activities.

The local guys have a brand new vehicle. It's very high tech and comfy.   It looks a bit like this one from South Australia, and inside it reminded me of some high tech surveillance vehicle from an episode of X-Files. 

 As the folks there said, if you don't feel up to fighting a fire, you can still be of great help.  If they ever even see the fire, then they are too close, and they even have air conditioning in the new truck, so you could be doing your community a great service in comfort.  :)   They seem like a nice chatty group too, as you might expect from people in a communication role.

With things gearing up for summer here, our own Brigade is really coming to life.  On the weekend, nine of us went to a local dam and practiced drafting water out of it to fill the tanks of the vehicles.  They're a nice crowd to hang with, and it was very interesting.  It certainly is helping my brain to expand to be learning all these news things, and it will have to expand even more in the next few weeks, as I have a radio course to do this coming Saturday, and then the two weekends after that will be spent at the intro to fire fighting courses. 

It's worked out well, really, as Andyroo will be home to mind the dogs. I didn't like the idea of them being alone for two long days in a row.  They're too used to having me home nearly all the time.

In non-Firey news, I would guess Heroic Plans would be about three weeks, mabe a tad more, away from completion of the first draft.  I'm over the highest plot peak and coasting down the other side to a happy ending.  After that I can get into the first edit of Freya and the Hairy Goddess.  I'm looking forward to that! 

I'm having all sorts of fun making Amigurumi for Christmas, but I can't show you, and it's killing me!  I have such cute new characters here now, just waiting for their time to go to new homes.  Ah well, here's Red Riding Mouse and her Granny.  I made them a good while back but it was before I started blogging so I don't think they've ever had an outing on here.

I couldn't bear to part with them, so they sit on my windowsill by the kitchen table and watch me make more cute critters.

Not sure how blogging will go in the next couple of weeks, but I'll do my best to post twice a week as usual, even if it gets a bit hectic. I'd love to play you a tune I have recently learned on my Lyre, but need to check with its composer first.  It's a pretty personal bit of music.

For now, may your life be filled with purpose and may you find many things to do to keep your mind bright.  As Heinlein said, specialisation is for ants!       


Thursday, 5 November 2015

My Favorite Books: Thread That Binds the Bones by Nina Kiriki Hoffman

Well, actually, I must say, not only has Nina Kiriki Hoffman written one of my all time fave books, she's also one of my all time fave authors.

I own nearly all her books.  I think I still have a couple to collect.  Like so many authors you end up loving, I found the first one of her books in a secondhand bookstore.  It is also my favorite of all her books that I've read so far.  I couldn't tell you how many times I've read it.  I read it whenever I need a little magic and warmth in my life. 

It's called, "The Thread That Binds the Bones."  

The blurb on Amazon is rather bare bones itself!  All it says is:  "Tom Renfield, a drifter possessed of extraordinary powers, and Laura Bolte, the equally gifted daughter of an ancient family, are wed amid a supernatural tumult that threatens the thread that binds the bones."

I guess that's the crux of it, but the book is so much more. It has magic, honour, bravery and love in scads. It looks at issues around trust, tradition and family.   The two main characters are very likeable and I really enjoy the warmth of their relationship, oddly begun though it is.  Hoffman is fantastic at creating odd characters that you love, and at building magic into what at first seems the ordinary world.   

Like all Hoffman's books, there is a lot of wonder and mind stretching and, "Wow, I wish life could be like this!" about it.

Read it!

Hoffman writes a lot of books that are considered to be for young adults, but I found them long after that age and still love them.

Two of my other particular favorites are:

She has some better known books, but these three are my favorites.

And if you've read all her novels and want more back story for some of her characters, and to meet some more that I hope one day get their own novel, this book of short stories is fantastic, even though I'm usually not a big fan of short stories, as I've said before!

Thanks for all the magic and inspiration, Nina!