Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Blogoff Post: Camping

I really don't like camping. I'm just not into the whole pitch-a-tent-thing, sleep on a bit of foam or inflated mattress and commune with the mosquitos. I'm even less enamoured of the communal toilet/shower block or (shudder) the toilet tent or find a tree to hide behind.

I'm a comfort kind of girl. I don't have to have five star luxury, but just the basic necessities to make me feel comfortable - a hot shower, a warm bed, and a toilet that flushes properly.

So it was probably a shock to everyone when I opted to do a three week 'rough tour' of Egypt. I didn't want to see the country from a gilded hotel room and sail down the Nile on a cruiser. No, I wanted to experience the real Egypt so I booked the tour that included camel safaris, camping in the desert, and climbing Mt Sinai. Yes, it was rough and it was dirty, but it would be a big adventure.

We climbed Mount Sinai at sunset, armed with some duty free liquor with the intention of sleeping the night on the mount. Only twenty minutes into the trek I realised that my fitness regime (or lack of) had not prepared me for the climb, so I bought a camel to carry me most of the way. However, my friendly camel had a distubing habit of walking very close to the edge of the trail and it was a long way down - it really didn't do too much for my fear of heights.

Finally we reached the end of the track and the beginning of the steep steps to the summit. Already wobbly from the inner thigh workout that the camel had provided me, I huffed and puffed up the steps thinking I was on a giant stepper machine. What an aerobics workout! I was glad that I had elected to sleep on the mountain for the night because there was no way I could've stumbled back down in the dark.

The night on Mount Sinai was amazing. Bloody freezing, but amazing. Once the sun went down and the sky turned black, we were surrounded by the light of a million stars. So far out of reach of any city lights, the sight was majestic. A little shop sits at the top of the mountain and the enterprising Bedouin stay up there a month at a time, selling tea and hiring out mattresses. (sidenote: the price of bottled water increases as you get further up at the mountain at the little kiosks on the side of the trail - wonder if that is called inflation or ascendation?) Oh, I waited. I asked. But there were no more commandments that night.

There was no chance of sleeping in on Mt Sinai. The next horde of tourists started arriving, chattering, alive at an ungodly hour of four o'clock the next morning. Soon we were surrounded by numerous languages and nationalities. But with a glorious sunrise illuminating the world.

Our next camping adventure was the Camel Safari into the desert with the Bedouin, my second camel ride in two days. We met the group of Bedouin men in a makeshift camel 'carpark' and I can't remember whether we selected our camels or if the camels selected us. I don't think I'd ever get used to a camel getting up off the ground with me on its back. Our mattresses were slung over the camels' backs and we journeyed deep into the rocky desert.

When we arrived, we slung out our mattresses on the ground and the Bedouin entertained us with camel races. That evening, they cooked us food, danced with us, and sang 'That's the Way, aha, aha, I like it, aha, aha.' yes it was KC and the Bedouin band.

I started to think of my Egypt experience as the Sunrise -Sunset tour as I was awake for every sunrise (very unusual for me) and every sunset.

Then we went on our 3 day felucca cruise on the Nile. The boat's captain was also our chef. And our mattresses on the deck were also our day beds, and our dining room. But I tell you, despite the search for somewhere appropriate to ablute when we stopped at shore, I have never been more relaxed in my life. Bliss!

Of course, I didn't mind sleeping out in the open but when I had a choice of pitching a tent or upgrading to a hotel room for 10 egyptian pounds, I always opted for the four walls and the bed.

So, if you ask me if I want to go camping in the Aussie bush, you're very likely to get a resounding 'No thanks' - but if you were to say, let's go and camp out in Egypt, I'd be there again any day. I'll even put up with the 'long drops' just to experience that amazing country again.

This blogoff post is brought to you by the word 'camping'. We are blogging to raise funds for Courtney's 3 Day Walk for Breast Cancer. To make a donation to a great cause, please click on the banner.

Sunday, May 27, 2007

Writing, shopping and addictions

Wow, I've survived another week of the Blogoff. There are only four bloggers left. This week we sadly bid farewell to Carly of With a Twist and a Turn. Our next topic is CAMPING and I will be bringing you more tales (and photos) of Egypt on Wednesday. I find each week harder and harder. Not the writing part. That's reasonably easy, especially when my writing muscles are exercised. It's the voting part - that is getting really hard, especially as we have to rank each other's posts. I don't like playing judge and jury.

I've been a bit slack in the blogging department, only blogging for the blogoff topics. I hope you'll excuse me. With workshops, AGM's and a heap of overtime over the past couple of weeks, I haven't been writing much. Now it's time to get serious. I have a competition to enter so need to polish 35 pages of Diary of the Future and write a synopsis. (yes - that bit I have been putting off.) And I'm doing a lot more than polishing the prose. I have rewritten the first scene completely to give much more power to Nicky - now she finds the diary herself, instead of her mother giving it to her. A few weeks to that deadline. I've been motivated by the writing workshop I did a few weeks ago - the tutor gave us one to one session on the Sunday, and was very encouraging about the project. So at the same time, I will be polishing the first three chapters to send to a publisher. Just have to get that synopsis done!!!

My Chickollage 365 Day Collage Poetry Challenge has stalled. It's been a few weeks since I've composed a poem. But I will get organised and I will get creative and I WILL get back to it. Just not today.

About six weeks ago, I realised I needed new jeans. My old faves are coming apart at the seams. So I went to the shops and tried many on. And got very depressed. And didn't buy a thing. At that point, I realised I was in the grip of that evil black liquid again and the sugar was not doing me or my thighs any favours. So April 24th I stopped drinking Coca-Cola again. And I havent' had one since. It's been water, water, water - with the occasional ginger beer thrown in for flavour.

On Friday, I realised I've replaced the coke addiction with a new addiction. I'm addicted to sushi. Not the raw fish type of sushi. But the chicken teriyaki, the sweet chilli prawn with Japanese mayo. Yum! I've been eating almost every work day, and the loyalty card stamps fill up very quickly. The great thing about this new addiction is that I have to walk to satisfy my craving. So I'm getting healthy food and exercise. And it's paying off. On Thursday night, after another bout of overtime, I went jeans shopping again, taking advantage of a buy one pair and the second pair is 50% off sale. I'm happy to report I took three pairs of jeans into the fitting room, and didn't need to try any more. A pain free shopping experience. At last. The jeans went on lay-by and I'll pick them up on payday.

I've become a member of Romance Writers of Australia. After winning second prize in the Mid North Coast Writers Association short story competition with my Cinderella story Beyond Happy Ever After, I decided to invest my winnings into my writing 'career'. I will be attending their conference in August in Darling Harbour. Two weeks after the Byron Bay Writers Festival. August is going to be one hell of a month for writing mojo!!

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Blogoff Post: Regrets

Regrets...I've had a few....

but then again...

C'mon. Face it. Life is too short for regrets!

I'm not going to get all maudlin on you.

Sure, there's things that I could've done differently, experiences that I might choose to leave in the past, but I can't change anything now. So there's no point angsting about it. Just get over it, move on, move forward into the future.

I don't regret spending money on a trip to Egypt rather than putting a deposit on a block of land.

If I die not owning a piece of this earth, but with the sweet memories of standing in four thousand year old tombs and pyramids, and sailing down the Nile on a felucca, I die happy.

Too many people live in the past...regretting the dreams that they didn't live, the words they didn't speak, the people they didn't love. But they are so stuck in the past, they are not even present in the moment....and life is once again passing them by.

We all have a 'sliding doors' moment. A time where we wonder WHAT IF...I'd made the alternative decision. But we'll never really know the what if.... We can wonder, we can dream, but we still chose the path that we're now on, and turning back is not an option. And every decision you have ever made has led you to THIS place RIGHT NOW.

It's something I love about writing. I can explore the 'what's ifs'. I can 'choose-their-own-adventure' and if I don't like the outcome, I can rewrite it. Funny thing is, I rarely change the ending once it's in place. It's as if my sub-conscious knows the natural outcome of the story and once it is on paper, it only needs enhancing. Speaking of which, I need to go and do some enhancing of my current work in progress.

This was another entry in the Blogoff for Breast Cancer fundraiser. There's only a few of us left still blogging, and Courtney of Five Second Dance Party is the instigator of the fundraiser. Courtney wants to hold another blogoff in July, so if you're interested step on over to her blog, and let her know.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Blogoff Post # 9 - KISS

This is Blogoff Post #9. Each week, raising funds for Breast Cancer research, we blog on a one-word topic. We then vote on each other's posts and the person with the least votes is eliminated from the blogoff.


I was 16. He was 21.

I was the props girl on the pantomime. He had one of the leading roles.

He would give me a lift home after rehearsals, which was dangerous, because I was developing a huge crush. And who could blame me? He was absolutely gorgeous. Picture Harrison Ford of the Han Solo era, but with blonder hair.

Our theatre group was staging three performances in one day at the local RSL club, the weekend before Christmas. I had no sleep the night before. I had baby-sat for my next door neighbour and she'd arrived home at 7.30 in the morning. Being a dutiful and responsible babysitter, I had stayed up all night. I went home, had a shower, got dressed and caught a train out to the venue.

It must have been my lack of sleep that made me so brazen. Between matinees, I gave the object of my desire a Christmas card. I signed it 'XXX. These kisses can be collected at any time in person.'

After the last performance, he collected.

Blame my lack of sleep. I seized the moment. I didn't let this gorgeous man get away with a peck on the lips. No way. I went for a full-on pash. Never let an opportunity pass you by!

He pulled back in surprise and said, 'Hang on! I'm sweet and innocent you know!' And I smiled. Yeah, right! Then he said, 'That was nice, let's do that again.'

Yummy. It wasn't my first kiss, but it was one of the most memorable. Probably because it fuelled my fantasies even further. He was so handsome, and a nice guy. But in the end, he was also the perfect gentleman. I would've been willing to go anywhere, do anything with him but he never once took advantage of me. So now he's just a very fond memory.

Monday, May 14, 2007

In anticipation....

Well, it seems I've survived another round of the blog-off. This week's topic is KISS, so I will leave you to wonder if I will KISS & TELL - come back on Wednesday to find out.

In other news, after a fabulous writing workshop last weekend, I am now rewriting the first couple of chapters of Diary of the Future, and polishing it for a contest. I have decided that the previous opening of a diary entry that revealed that Nicky had been given the diary by her mother was too passive. In the new opening, Nicky finds the diary herself when she's undertaking 'slave labour' in her mother's second hand bookshop. But the boyfriend Craig needs a new name. Craig just doesn't invoke images of a 16 year old hottie. Suggestions, anyone?

I'm starting to count down the days (well the months at least) to the Byron Bay Writers Festival. There are 14 of us going this year. At least we have two 2-storey cabins between us. But still we are definitely going to need rosters for the bathrooms. And I can't imagine that we'll be able to rock up to many restaurants and find a table for 14 without booking first. Even though the program hasn't been launched, I'm already excited by the name's of the confirmed authors. And one in particular. You see, 9 years ago this author taught a novel writing subject that I did as part of a writing diploma. I never did finish the course, but she set me on the writing path. It will be great to say hello again after all this time.

Now I'm going to bed to dream about the kisses I may be writing about on Wednesday...

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Blogoff Post #8: Friendship

I'm a really slack friend.


You ask my friends!

I hardly ever ring my long-distance friends because the last thing I want to do when I get home from work after being on the phone all day is to get on the phone again!!

So I'm slack. I occasionally email. Or I ring on public holidays or weekends when I haven't had a chance to develop a phone aversion.

But you know the great thing? For most of my friendships, it doesn't matter. We have such a strong connection that when we finally catch up we pick up exactly where we left off.

Other friendships have not lasted the distance because they were built on random and arbitary factors such as location and schooling. It turned out the only thing we had in common was our high school - no shared interet, nothing strong enough to sustain an enduring friendship. Sometimes I reach out to the old days and contact someone through only to find that we still have nothing in common.

Leane and I have been best friends since 2nd grade when she turned up on the swing in my neighbour's yard and I recognised her from school. Her house backed onto bush and we had many great adventures exploring the river at the bottom of the bush. Later we were to have lots of adult adventures including the time we placed an ad in the paper, and then double-dated the guys who answered. My nana had a friendship that lasted 50 years - wonder if we will make it that far?

As we become older, we can pick our friends by shared interests. My writing friends are a great bunch of people and I love spending time with them. And I also believe that every person enters your life jst when they're supposed to. We all influence and motivate each other in different ways. And every year, I really look forward to our pilgrimage to Byron Bay Writers Festival.

My friends have contributed to my development as a writer. They have encouraged me, motivated me, inspired me - sometimes they have even pushed me. Beyond Happily Ever After, my short story about Cinderella, would not have been written without Caz's encouragement. And I hope that I do the same for them - encourage, motivate, inspire. After all, isn't that what friendship's about?

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Blogoff Post: Blood

This is blogoff post #7 - blogging to raise money for Courtney's 3 day walk for breast cancer. We started with 17? bloggers, now we're down to 8 as each week we blog on a one-word topic and then vote for each others' posts. Like the concept? Support the cause. Give if you can - a donation, a comment.

They say the first time's the hardest. Well, I never really found out. I couldn't bring myself to do it. I just couldn't think about inflicting pain.

I was a teenager at an agricultural school. That education was such a waste on me. Much to my mother's disappointment, I didn't meet the son of a rich grazier (do they exist anymore?) and I couldn't bring myself to give an iron injection to a piglet. I couldn't stick a needle into an animal. I couldn't even jab a pin into my own finger to draw blood for testing. I have no idea how junkies do it. At least my mother didn't have to worry about me getting into drugs. And if it comes down to it, and I have to give my partner insulin injections because he can't do it, I don't know how I'll do it. I guess I'll have no option.

So at the age of 20, I was working for a pizza place delivering pizzas. One household ordered their second lot of pizzas for the night and that phone call changed my life. After delivering the pizzas, I drove back to the store. A familiar road, so familiar I barely remember that drive. But I woke up two days later in intensive care.

The nurses kept asking me if I knew what day it was. I thought the constant questions were stupid. There was a digital clock in plain sight with both the date and the time. I didn't realise they were testing to see if I had brain damage. There was no brain damage, but I had a broken femur, a broken pelvis, broken ribs and a hole in my tongue. I was 'lucky' to be alive everyone kept telling me. With my leg in traction, and barely able to move, I didn't feel lucky.

I'm alive because numerous kind souls gave a part of themselves to my recovery: their blood. A fantastic gift only surpassed by the selflessness of organ donation. I'm also alive because of the magnificent efforts of the emergency department where I spent five hours while they tried to find a hospital to admit me, and for the wonderful dedication of the nursing staff.

I ended up in a ward of 24 old senile women. They gave me the best bed in the house, where I had a view of Sydney Harbour. At 2am I would watch the red light on the bridge go off, and I'd block out the demented mutterings of my fellow patients with my earphones blasting Aussie pub rock. Every morning I asked the nurse if they had transferred me to the psychiatric hospital, because I truly thought that I was going insane, and that my ward mates already were. They would joke and laugh at me and assure me I was still in the normal hospital.

I craved normality. I craved my friends. I just wanted to get up and walk out of the place. My orthopaedic surgeon told me I didn't have a leg to stand on. Haha! My shoulder turned into a pin cushion as I surrendered daily for the nurses to take blood tests. I dropped my practical subjects in my degree, and finished the bare minimum of subjects by correspondence, the lectures sent to me on tape. I didn't want to defer my course because of the actions of a drunk driver. Because that's what put me there. A drunk guy had driven straight through the red light as I was travelling through the intersection. Ploughed straight into the driver's door of my mum's car with such force that my car spun around, and ended up resting against the traffic light with his car hitting the left side.

For that little adventure, I think he lost his licence for three months. I couldn't walk unaided for four months. I spent four insane weeks in the hospital before I was allowed to go home, and started the gruelling task of physiotherapy and rehabilitation. I had a pin and plate in my leg that had to be removed again twelve months later.

That was nearly half my lifetime ago. And it taught me several things. Life is short. You don't know what is going to happen any day of your life. And nurses are the most incredible and amazing workers in this world.