Happytown

UnknownWhen my nephew turned three, I gave him a book called The Chimpanzees of Happytown, by one of my favourite children’s authors, Giles Andreae.

It is a magical, rhyming tale of a Chimpanzee who moves to Drabsville, plants a forbidden seed and eventually transforms the entire city into a colourful, carefree Happytown.

I never knew what an apt story it was for this happy little chap, until last weekend, when he visited Melbourne town for his 10th birthday.

It was his first interstate trip as an unaccompanied minor, for two nights and an unspecified outing with his Aunt.

Melbourne being known for its gloom, we were expecting another week of rain. But by the time J got off the plane, the sun was out and the forecast had been changed.

“You brought the sun with you!” we said, not knowing how true that would turn out to be.

It was a perfect Sunday.

After a bike ride to the local skate park, where I was instructed to record every jump until he got it right…

…we took a one hour ferry ride to the city.

His exuberance at the sights was unexpected.

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“Has Dad seen this?!” J wanted to know.

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Before long, he had wrestled the camera from my hands.

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I think he hoped to do a direct transfer from his brain to Dad’s.

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We pulled up outside the Arts Centre just as my camera battery died…

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…and then we were off to see the Flying Fruit Fly Circus, a theatrical production by kids aged 8 to 18, about a girl with a circus hidden under her bed.

Following the show, filled with wonder and ice-cream, J was ready to dance all the way home to Happytown.

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Aunty Larns, have you seen the movie Dumb Ways to Die? (click the pic to see it)

Debriefing on the way to the airport the next morning, I was surprised by the vision he had of my city.

If you had asked me, I would have told you it is dark and gloomy, and everyone wears black.

That Melbourne has forgotten its roots in a drive for glamour and opulence. And other less flattering things.

But my nephew saw a city full of colour and art, nice historical buildings mixed in with interesting new ones, factories, ships and lots of different things to see and do.

He left me with a smile on my face, and a resolve to get out more and find the colour in my world.

Have a Happy Easter, everyone!

What colourful things do you have planned these holidays?

Känguru Hop

This week I was tagged in a blog hop by Rita, the crafty almost-Australian French Canadian writer and rose whisperer over at Crafty Expat. (Have you ever seen roses like these?).

I’m pretty impressed by Rita’s commitment to the path less travelled from criminal lawyer to tortured writer. Hop over here to learn more.

But for this week, here are my answers on all things writerly:

What am I working on?

HP Titles clusterGood question. Given my relative silence on the matter, you’d be forgiven for thinking I’m having you all on, that the first three books of Hello Pepi were just a ruse, a means of tricking you into believing Toy Dogs Are For Real.

But it’s no ruse – toy dogs demand to be taken seriously! All of last year until now I have been working with an illustrator to complete the final four books in the series – a fictionalised account of the real life Pepi, in verse.

How does my work differ from others in its genre?

I could tell you about the things it does and doesn’t have in common with Tales of Peter Rabbit. Or how the illustrations evoke the classic feel of Alice in Wonderland.

I could say this is not a children’s story, but rather a story for kids of all ages. And I could tell you how Pepi would object to being used as a device for a human centred tale.

Or, I could simply show you one of the songs in the Hello Pepi inspiration soundtrack. A song that tells about a day in the life of Schnappi the Krokodil.

(How could you Not fall in love with this creature?)

Why do I write what I do?

I wrote this series because Pepi taught me many things. He taught me how to love, how to listen, how to speak. His greatest gift was that he taught me how to live.

Most importantly, I wrote this series because small dogs, and by extension, small creatures, are so often misunderstood, misrepresented and overlooked in the greater human narrative.

But they have their own stories to tell. Stories that not only need to be told, but need to be heard.

How does my writing process work?

PepiDaneWriting is a mysterious thing. I hardly know how this came into being. Except that Pepi somehow linked his synapses with my brain waves and transmitted a story in lines and images that surprised us both.

I’d write solidly for half a day, a combination of scribbled lines that were then shaped and reworked on the digital page.

Sometimes it was linear. Sometimes the end came before the beginning. Possibly, there was a little bit of Rhymezone involved (ahem).

Always there was an animated sequence in my mind that somehow made it to the page.

When I was done, I would read it out aloud to Pepi. And he would jump up from his bed and dance for me.

Since this blog hop came to me from the land down under, I thought it only appropriate (in the spirit of Schnappi and his hopping Känguru friend) to extend the hop to another Australian writer.

Kath Unsworth is new to my blogging world, but I was immediately taken with her magical illustrations of miniscule moments (and other creatures), as her knack for making a story out of almost anything.

Here’s her bio:

manny2Kath Unsworth is an artist and writer who lives down the far south coast of Australia, her dream is to create, illustrate and write happy hopeful picture books for children. She takes her inspiration from the world around, remembering what it was like to be a child. She hopes to inspire others to follow their dreams.

Kath blogs weekly about the journey of a writer at Minuscule Moments, using her photos and art to give her readers a personal view on the journey. Learning the craft of writing and illustrating picture books, whilst balancing every day life as a mum with two children.

What’s the most child-like guilty pleasure you enjoy?

Possum Tales

Change, for me, is always slow. Before it arrives, I’m already there in my mind, just waiting for the physical components to slide into place.

When I came to this happy little hovel by the sea, it was like stepping into a well worn slipper.

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Common Ringtail Possum by David Cook

The oasis, marking with finality an end to years of complicated share house living, long past due.

I didn’t care about the shabby paint job, or the brown brick walls, or the fact that my neighbours could stare straight through my kitchen, into my living room, and out the other side.

It was my home. Where I could be myself, with the only other person on the planet who’s ever seen what that really means. And asked to stay.

Six years on, why am I so restless?

I’d like to blame it on the screaming single mum, and the fact her kids have finally found their voices, too.

Or the retiree who, bless his knee-high cotton socks, still manages to get excessive joy from pruning the wildlife out of the trees.

Or the fact my house is now bursting with skerricks of unfinished things – ointments and clothes and discarded trains of thought.

“This place is too small!” It screams, everywhere I look.

But that’s just an excuse.

Recently, during a rare afternoon spent cleaning up my garden, I heard rustling.

High up above, from within a thorny hideaway, I glimpsed a gleaming bit of tail.

Possum Tail

My little Ringtail Possum has moved house!

That evening, I placed a pear on the fence by Lady Possum Tail’s home. A goodwill offering to the gods.

She took a bite, and hurled it at the ground, I discovered the next day. Shame on me, for insulting her sense of self determination!

A few nights later, when I was washing up the dishes, I spotted her sitting on the fence. A little garden sentry, looking at me, looking at her.

And I realised, it’s not the neighbours, or the house. It’s me.

This home was only ever a holding pattern. A place to go underground a while, to find strength to face the world again, on my own terms.

In her ever gentle way, Lady Possum Tail came to tell me. It is time.

What’s the longest you have stayed in one spot?

Short, Sweet and Tangy

Some of you will have noticed a change around here. It was time for a new look, one that properly reflected the spirit of Go Wild. Quietly.

It was also time – past time – this chick got her scamp back on, with a return to weekly posts.

If you’re unsure what any of that means, check out this post, wherein I explain this blog’s reason for being, including its ancestral link to all things Fraggle ;) .

With any luck, this blog will start to get a little more creative, now.

It’s like those tomatoes I was telling you about.

Fraggles, living under rocks as they do, aren’t known for their stellar gardening skills.

But when faced with green tomatoes, any self-respecting Fraggle would first consult the great oracle, Madame Trash Heap (otherwise known as Google) before letting them go to waste.

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Green Tomato Chutney

They’d add a bit of this or that:

400g green tomatoes
100g ripe tomatoes
1 pear
1 red capsicum
1 Spanish onion
100g brown sugar
100ml apple cider vinegar
50ml malt vinegar
1 clove garlic
1/2 red chilli
1/4 tsp peppercorns
1/2 tsp cummin seeds
1 tsp yellow mustard seeds

Throw it all together in a pot.

And after an hour or two have turned a raw, bitter fruit into a tidbit shared by the whole clan.

Short, sweet and with a hint of tang, just like this post ;)

So, without further ceremony, welcome to my new pad! Feel free to take a look around and enjoy the quiet.

While you’re at it, if there’s any feedback you’d like me to hear, let me know in the comments. Navigation issues? Aesthetic likes or dislikes? Topics you’d like to see more (or less) of? Hit me with it, I’m all ears this week.

Or, if you’re perfectly happy…

What’s cooking in your world today?

Raw

There’s a standing joke in my little household about how, if I were forced to fend for myself in the wild, I’d never survive.

Something about the cruelty of having to fight over scraps of raw meat and berries just doesn’t appeal to my slothful sensitive nature.

But now that I’ve seen The Walking Dead and freaked myself out with the likelihood of an impending apocalypse, I thought it time to put that to the test.

Across town is Yong Green Food, a vegetarian café where the vegetables are practically jumping onto the plate.

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There’s an array of raw food options, and I’m not talking salad.

Rawsagna. What’s that, you say?

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Rawsagna. Layers of RAW zucchini, mushroom, avocado, cashew cream and walnut bolognese.

For the less raw inclined, there are slightly more cooked options.

Oyster Mushroom Calamari.

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Quinoa Fritters.

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Buckwheat Crepes. Hang on a minute.

This menu is starting to sound suspiciously familiar.

Back in rural Tasmania, when vegetarianism was most definitely not on the ‘cool kids’ list, ‘Yuckwheat’, cashew cream and ‘Quin-oh-ugh’ were staple parts of the diet.

Along with many other weird and wonderful things. Like brown rice and corn bread and gluten steaks, goat’s milk and soy cheese and almond ice-cream –

Well, anyway. I should be feeling right at home by now. Except I think that I’ve regressed.

The Dragon Bowl with soy beef slices?

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I don’t know. Fake meat doesn’t have the same appeal it used to have.

And although everything looks and tastes way better than I ever knew raw food could taste…

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Tiramisu with cashews and coconut cream just can’t compare to the real thing.

Back at home, with my gardening skills being, well, what they are…

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…I’m now more convinced than ever I have no chance of surviving in a raw food, post-apocalyptic world.

Of course, I’m dreaming. If zombies really took over, we’re more likely to be eating cans of cat food than cashew cream…

Zombie fodder, here I come!

What are your chances of surviving in the wild?

Cancer is a Bitch

A silent, mysterious predator, She lies in wait.

An ever tightening coil of despair that closes in with age, and the cries of another one down.

Cries that echo all the evil things you’ve ever done and not done, as She eats the person next to you alive.

Then turns to you.

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Alien – H. R. Giger Pitch by Dan LuVisi

Cancer is a Bitch.

She makes you wish for a past you never valued, because the promise of a loved one’s future is now gone.

Then hate yourself for knowing if tomorrow came again, it would probably look the same as it did yesterday.

And there She has you, paralysed in a pool of poisonous regret.

Tracing back to the precise moment She showed up. Only to realise it was probably a moment just like the one you’re having now.

Right there with her ugly, unhatched spawn.

Where’s Sigourney Weaver when you need her?

(Barely two months out from her 70th celebration, my mother’s twin was diagnosed with a massive, malignant brain tumour. The prognosis is not good. There were few signs, apart from what the doctors thought was a debilitating depression. Turns out there was a reason, after all.)

If you knew how you were going to die, would you change anything?

A Sentimental Thief

The perfect book for me is one that reads like a film. But I should preface this by saying that my tastes in music, television and books are all pretty similar. I like to be taken to dark places.

front-cover-9780778315865-copyAveril Dean’s debut book, Alice, Close Your Eyes is aptly titled, because there are things in this book that will make you want to close your eyes.

If it were a movie, it would be an erotic psychological thriller in the tradition of film noir, and Lana Del Rey’s Born to Die would be the soundtrack.

Stay with me.

Alice presents as a woman who has everything. She’s financially independent in her own right. Street smart. At ease with the night and, admittedly, nursing an odd break and enter obsession.

We’re gripped from the first page as she runs her gloved fingertips over the well placed furniture of her latest target’s house, looking for the box containing treasures “of no value to anyone but me and the guy who collected them.”

A guy, we soon find out, whom she intends to seduce.

But what would drive such a woman to seek out a liaison with someone she already knows to be a dangerous man?

The need for an answer to this question drives us, along with Jack, into a rapid spiral of darkness that has us hooked to the last page.

There’s a sense of detachment as you read, that gets ever more chilling as you realise the reasons why Alice does the things she does.

Del Rey’s lyrics haunted me all the way through this book.

“You’re not good for me, but baby I want you, I want you…”

From the James Dean figure in Blue Jeans, to the crazy Ride Alice takes with him, it’s all there. The need to self-destruct.

A ceiling high painting of the raven on its perch, the rabbity pink of the albino’s blue eyes, the strawberry red spots of blood in snow are clues along the way, to a story unfolding like a Del Rey clip.

A chic, gritty, twisted paradise.

Alice may not be the one who pulls the trigger, but she is certainly the one holding the gun.

She is far from passive. She is a woman so much in control that even she doesn’t realise how much she craves letting go. Handing it over to someone bigger and more powerful. And she has good reason to want to.

She has the kind of history you like to think doesn’t happen to real people. Though you know it does. And that in itself is disturbing.

Alice is not just a woman on a mission for revenge or scary kinky sex. She’s a woman seeking to reclaim what was lost in childhood. A sentimental thief, in more ways than one.

The things Alice does are not pretty. But they are understandable. And this book neither redeems, nor judges. It simply bids us take a ride in Alice’s shoes.

Her story taps in to the nihilism of our present day world – the one Del Rey inhabits. It’s what happens when you get the dream that you’ve been living for, only to realise – too late – it wasn’t quite what you imagined it to be.

Alice’s world is a microcosm of what ails our society – the things we like to close our eyes to, which is another reason why this book makes for a compelling read.

As Del Rey says in the opening to her clip, “it takes getting everything you ever wanted, and then losing it, to know what true freedom is.”

Alice, Close Your Eyes is a film waiting to happen. You can picture every frame of it. And you can’t stop yourself from looking, even when you know it’s going to hurt.

If you want to take a ride on the dark side, then this book is for you.

Do you read to escape, immerse or be confronted? What does it for you, as a reader?

Different kind of Buzz

Two weeks after the event, the only person left who’s interested in what I did for New Year’s Eve is my hairdresser.

Why on earth would I choose to spend a sober New Year with my nephews, niece and their father? She wants to know.

Fair question. I wondered the same thing when we got to the family fireworks only to discover there WERE NO RIDES. Followed by sulks and ungracious moans of boredom.

Unfazed, even, by the upturned hearts that kissed the sky.

“I’m going to send the little shits home after breakfast,” I complain to Ms over coffee the next morning.

She gently tells me how I CAN’T DO THAT on New Year’s Day. More sulks.

Instead, the offer is to take them to Scienceworks. As long as they eat all their breakfast. Which, luckily for them, they do.

But when it comes to getting dressed, anyone would think this is a new concept.

“I don’t want to brush my hair,” says one.

“I want to wear my onesie,” echo two.

“You can’t wear your onesie to Scienceworks, and we won’t be going anywhere without your hair brushed,” proclaims Almighty Aunt.

Long pause.

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Hey look! Is that Dad’s head on a platter?

The middle one pipes up.

“But why? Sometimes, it’s nice just to be messy,” he says, one leg aimlessly kicking the air from the length of couch he’s claimed.

No denying he’s my nephew, I think, as Ms embarks on a long explanation about how, when we’re at home with people who know and love us, it’s okay to be messy. But out there, where people don’t know us, all they have to go on is how we look. And if you’re messy and smelly, they might not like you.

They might even be mean to you.

Silence.

“I’m going to go get dressed,” he says. And they all shuffle off to find the hairbrush.

And therein lies the answer. Make the most of them while they still want to be socialised (plenty of time for drinking after that…).

What’s the worst thing you’ve ever done on New Year’s Eve?

2014. Let’s Go!

So 2014 has powered on, oddly indifferent to my wish to turn back time.

I feel like I am starting off where I was last year, and 2013 was an anomaly, a jump in the track, one giant *bleep* to

‘Let’s start over, shall we?’

This is a year for coming to one’s senses. Starting with a resolution to combat a certain DVD addiction by reading one book for every program watched.

My inspiration for this comes from Nina Badzin, who reminded me that, once upon a fairytale ago, I used to be a member of the “Society of Late Night Readers”. I wanted in again.

But, as she so rightly pointed out, new year resolutions take more than a vague intention just to ‘read more books’.

In the spirit of ‘doing’ instead of ‘dreaming’, let me introduce you to a deliciously irreverent Australian writer.

Mr Harry Pants (or iPants as he’s known on the blog) promised me “a crazy, stupid love story”.

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What I got was a swift trip through the divorce induced midlife crisis of a tragically endearing Wallace.

He’s an old dog who doesn’t really want to learn new tricks, or meet bald rats, or encounter the sharp end of his gardener’s… Well anyway.

Life has a funny way of making us do things we don’t want to do, to find out what we DO.

The story is LOL funny in an Aussie, oh-so-wrong, politically incorrect way.

But if you can (ahem) swallow all of that you will find a vulnerable, honest, touching tale of humanity in a world designed for cyborgs.

Three words.

Irreverent. Uplifting. Life-changing.

When I read Midlife, in Wallace’s words, “I had that feeling I was falling behind, too slow for my life as it unfolded before me”.

That was right before we both threw back a large shot of scotch.

And decided – time to wake up and get on with it!

There’s a video nearing completion (sing hallelujah), a blog somewhere in the imaginary phase of a major design overhaul, a toy dog size series yelping at me to be freed from digital dust mites.

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You may find me a little quieter than usual while I do all that. But in the meantime, I hope you will be brave and take a little trip with Wallace.

You can find Midlife here, and word has it the price has been reduced to 99 cents just for you.

Ready. Set. Let’s Go!

What’s in store for you in 2014?