Tuesday, June 17, 2008

It almost was ...

Ironic how, after I put up a make-believe post about my 'last post' for Blog Like It's the End of the World (BLITEOTW08), it almost was my last post.

Here's why.

(NB: Mum, if you're reading this, stop reading now...)

Two nights ago Lesley Reece and I were flying in a 50-seat Fokker 50 from Perth to Albany to run a writing workshop day for 65 young people. Problem was, we flew into a storm in the south-west that in fact (we found out later) flattened trees, caused major flooding and claimed a life at the exact time we were trying to land. Twice. I've flown in some wild conditions before, but this was something. I don't usually get frightened in planes, but I was frightened. Similarly, I never throw up on planes, but this time I went perilously close to joining the dozen or so others who were emptying their guts into little bags. Loudly.

As I say, the pilot had two gos at landing, but with the plane bucking, weaving, yawing, pitching, rolling, dropping metres at a time, it was a terrific relief when the pilot came on the PA and told us that we were heading back to Perth. My main cause for relief was that my last meal wasn't going to be the rather ordinary chicken casserole served in a very small plastic bowl.

Cue forward a few hours. It's 4:15am, and Lesley and I are catching a cab back out to the airport to catch our replacement flight to Albany. And this time ... a perfect - and I mean perfect - three-point landing.

Mental note to self: never tempt fate by blogging about disasters, even in jest.

Until next time, and the time after that, and the time after that, this is James signing off.

Friday, June 13, 2008

My last post?

I don't have a lot of time to write this, because the battery on my laptop has almost expired. The power went out in our entire street, so I grabbed my computer, jumped into the car and headed into town, looking for any kind of signal. Hell, any sign of life would have been good.

I found a weak signal where I'm now stopped, which was weird, since there's no power anywhere in town. Streetlights, traffic lights, shop fronts, houses, all dark. And no people.

Once I found the signal, I stopped the car and started browsing for news. There isn't any - not on the local sites, the overseas sites, newsfeeds, anywhere. Oh, I have a signal, and I'me getting through to the sites, but none of them have any news from today. Everything just stops at June 12. Weather, sport, stock market reports, horoscopes, everything, frozen on yesterday.

Speaking of things that have stopped, my car has just died. Completely. I've tried to call for help, but there's no phone signal. Internet, but no phone - go figure.

It's creeping me out just typing this, sitting here in my dark car, in a darki street, and the little red cross has just appeared on my battery icon. It's a fair walk back to my place, so I wonder


Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Death of a Salesman

Last night my friend Phil and I went down to Penrith to the Q Theatre, to see Sean Taylor and Jacki Weaver in Arthur Miller's classic American play, Death of a Salesman. I've seen some great theatre in the Q over the years, and I've seen some lousy theatre as well, and last night was definitely in the former category. With the exception of a couple of slightly uneven New York accents, this was a very well directed production of a wonderful play by a great playwright.

Sean Taylor played the deluded, angry, decaying-before-our-eyes Willie Loman, and Jacki Weaver played his wife Linda (Weaver and Taylor are real-life partners, by the way). But the standout for me was Anthony Gooley as Biff. The big kitchen scene at the end had me feeling breathless and claustrophobic, thanks mainly to him. Fantastic, goose-bumpy stuff.

Most interesting to me was the rustle that went around the audience when the character of Uncle Ben walked on-stage. Ben was played by Norman Coburn, who for many years played the part of grumpy old principal Don Fisher on Home and Away. A number of the audience were Yr 12 students from a local high school, who are studying the play for their HSC, and of course they recognised Old Flathead Fisher straight away. Which they then proceeded to point out to one another. It must really suck to be forever defined by one role.

PS: Judith Ridge, you're a slacker for not going. Seriously. Call yourself a literature expert, and you've never even seen Death of a Salesman. Hah! You've been outed!

Sunday, June 8, 2008

Vietnamese spring rolls

Last night's dinner...

This is too easy. You'll need:
  • the meat from a barbecued chook, shredded up with your fingers
  • a couple of carrots, grated
  • a cucumber, grated
  • half a smallish capsicum, grated or chopped up very finely
  • a couple of handfuls of sprouts (watercress, mung bean, snowpea, alfalfa, whatever you fancy)
  • a good bowlful of thin rice noodles, soaked in boiling water until they go soft
  • a small chili if you like a bit of zing, chopped super-fine
  • a couple of glugs of soy sauce
  • a generous handful of chopped mint
Mix it all up in a big bowl.
Now soak round rice paper sheets one at a time in hot water until they go soft. Lay the sheet out on a damp tea towel, or it'll stick to the table.
Plop a big pinch of your filling on one edge, fold in the sides and roll it up. Voila, a spring roll!
Make a big stack of these bad boys on a plate.
Grab your favourite sauces - soy, sweet chili, satay, whatever you think will go well.
(Note: now's not the time to get all precious about cultural authenticity - they're your tastebuds, after all. If you think barbecue or tomato sauce will work, go your hardest. I mean, I don't think they will, but if that's wh at you want to try, who am I to stop you?)
Finally, sit down with your big plate of rolls, your dipping sauces, a good friend and something crisp, like a James Boags Premium. Enjoy, guilt-free.

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Voices on the Coast '08

Just back from the excellent Voices on the Coast festival on Queensland's Sunshine Coast. Sunshine Coast? Yeah, right. More like Cyclone Coast. I was there a few years ago, and they've really let the place go, at least as far as the weather goes. On Monday the rain was falling sideways, and all of us ended up with smaller audiences because a large number of schools couldn't get through the flood waters to get the the venues.

Than there was the fire alarm late in the day, which led to most of us standing in the drizzle while people in fluro vests and helmets looked confused.

Oh yes, if nothing else, Voices '08 going to be memorable.

Despite the problems of the Monday, it was a really well-run festival, thanks primarily to Kelly Dunham, who was running the show for the first time. Kelly is unflappable. I think anyone else would have crumbled, but Kelly just kept smiling. She's a star, and she did such a great job. We are all very grateful, and I'm not just saying that because I want to be invited back. Even though I do...

The weather was much better on the Tuesday, so it wasn't a complete washout. And all the usual festival fun was had; the best thing about these events is that we get to hang out with other writers and illustrators, and talk shop. It's like our AGM, or staff meeting. It's just a shame that we couldn't have enjoyed a bit more of the Coast's legendary fine weather, especially since we were being accommodated at the lovely Seaview Apartments, which are across the road from the beach in Mooloolaba.

But hey, writers like it when things are a bit out of the ordinary. It gives us something to whinge - I mean write about.