Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Back to basics

I have had an ongoing power situation here, which dragged out over a week. In the beginning the power went out, something that happens quite often in this building. It was repaired, or seemed to be. However the power went out again, and when it came back it was only the lights. It went out, came back in one power socket, went out, came back in half the apartment, went out, came back in the other half. Finally it was restored to the whole apartment but at a significantly reduced rate - lights were dim, air conditioners wouldn't run, fans would barely turn, the fridge was just ticking over and the lift gave up altogether.

I expected that the issue would be resolved, but found out that the power company, seeing lights on, had decided all was well and went home. We limped along with reduced power, the router cutting in and out as the power we did have ebbed and surged, and the fans likewise springing into life before saying no, it's too hot, can't move. The fridge threw a tantrum and defrosted all contents so that I had to throw out everything. The lift sulked and stayed off. Lights were so dim I may as well have used candles - except that there was no danger from the dim lights of my cats turning into shish-catbab. The air conditioners sat silent on the walls, mocking us as we sweated and drank litres of water to stay hydrated. No fans or air conditioning in 40C heat is no fun.

There were repeated phone calls to the power company by angry residents, the doorman also tried to get things happening. The building owner got involved and much angry shouting ensued. A lawyer was contacted with more shouting. Finally, after several days of misery, the power company came back. For almost seven hours the power was cut while work was carried out. Finally power was restored - the same as it was before.

More angry phone calls, the lawyer stepped in again - I suspect money changed hands - and the next day they tried again. Power was out for five hours, but when restored it worked! Everything was back, fans, air conditioners, fridge, router, and lift (although I am still too scared to use it in case the power is cut again). Yesterday the power went out for five minutes so I'm not convinced all the problems are solved, but at least we are functioning, electrically wise.

How did we pass the time while we waited? While I had charge in my computer I wrote, and read ebooks. When electronic things went flat I drew. Gamer son pulled out his Japanese books and started studying - his school and most of his lessons are online. The time would have passed quite pleasantly, but the heat made things uncomfortable. I believe I have a faulty thermostat as I cannot tolerate continued high temperatures. I develop headaches and feel ill, no matter how much water I drink.

As I struggled to deal with the heat I was reminded of my childhood. In my home we didn't have air conditioners - we didn't even have fans. In the heat of summer, when I was not at school, I would run a cold bath, take my book and sit there for hours (unfortunately in this apartment I have only a shower). Or I would take the dog to the river, find a shallow spot and sit there with my book. At night I remember long sleepless hours, turning the pillow over, and over again, looking for a cool spot. One Christmas my grandmother hung a wet sheet in the doorway, in an attempt to cool the air down.

I hadn't thought about those times for years, not until I was experiencing similar conditions. While frustrating because it has put me behind in my work, certain aspects were enjoyable. It's freeing to know that I cannot do anything else so drawing is not an indulgence. And I am fortunate because for me it was only temporary. Now the power is restored I have air conditioning to protect me from the heat, and fans to circulate the air if the air conditioners are not needed. I have a fridge so that I have a supply of cold drinks and ice. I have water that is safe to drink and I don't need to ration the quantity. There are millions of people in this country who do not.

Just for a week I was inconvenienced, yet there are people who live in worse conditions, people who are dying from heat stroke. It has served as a reminder to me that even though by many standards I am poorer than your average church mouse, in reality I have all that I need. I have a roof over my head, clothes and shoes, food so that I am not hungry, water that is not contaminated, a cooling system so that I can easily cope with the extreme heat. I am fortunate, in all the ways that matter.

This is my drawing - it's entirely black and white because I am experimenting. I plan to colour it in and see how it looks. In the back of my mind there is an idea for a colouring book.

It's hot!

Monday, August 24, 2015

Cassie's story - Letters To Myself

I had a disturbed week last week, which is why there have been no blog posts. I had a power issue which took almost a week to resolve, so a lot of the time I had no power and no power means no internet for me. I’ll write a blog post later in the week about that, in the meantime it’s Monday and time for Cassie. We left off with Cassie wondering who Saffron has in mind as a driver/barista for Cassie’s new van.

The rest of the week passed uneventfully. Unfortunately that extended to my advertisement for a driver. I was disappointed that there was no response – admittedly it was classified part time, at least to begin with. However I made a point of saying that it was only part time at first. Surely there was someone for whom the hours were good?

“Me, that’s who wants your job.” It was Friday evening and Saffron had come over with her two girls for a dinner/movie night.

I stared at her over my wine glass, so surprised that I could find nothing to say. All I could do was raise my eyebrows above what I am sure were bugging eyes.

Saffron was looking militant, like she thought I was going to argue. Putting down her glass she leaned forward across the table. “Ben has his own life, and I am supposed to be the good wife and stay at home to look after the kids and keep a nice house for when it suits him to be a family man. And I have had enough.”

All I could do was blink. Yes, I knew that Saffron wished Ben would be at home more often, and that he was around for family events. Even on her last birthday he was away on a golfing trip. At the time she had said that he had forgotten her birthday and couldn’t cancel as he would lose his deposit. I knew she was lonely, and felt unimportant. But I had no idea it had progressed past loneliness to anger.  

“Well? I’m great with people, I’m a good driver, I can work around the school hours like you do, I’ve gone on that run with you several times. I’ve learned how to use the coffee machine so you wouldn’t have much trouble teaching me the finer points of coffee making. I’m perfect for the job!”

I stared at her, she was serious I could see. But I wasn’t sure it was the best move. Reaching for the bottle I refilled both our glasses to give myself time to think.

“Saffie, I know you’d be great at the job, and you are fantastic at customer service. But do you think it would work, combining our friendship with an employer/employee relationship? I’d be lost without our friendship if something went wrong. Have you discussed this with Ben?” As soon as I said that I wished I could press a rewind button. Sure enough, she exploded.

“Well maybe I would discuss it with my husband if he were ever home for long enough that we could talk about anything. Honestly Cassie, I could take this job and he wouldn’t even know I was doing it. It’s none of his business, he’s so busy enjoying his life that he doesn’t have time for his wife and children. So his wife is going to make a life for herself.”

Oh dear. I was at a loss about how to react. On the one hand I wanted to support her, of course I did. I wanted to give her the job and to hell with the consequences. But it was not so simple. For her, there was the potential fall out when Ben found out. For sure, he was nothing like Nathan and would probably encourage her. How Saffron would take it if that was his reaction was debatable. I worried that she was motivated more from a desire to get back at her absentee husband than a wish for something extra in her life. If so, I was not sure she would stick at the job if it became too difficult to juggle.

It was different for me, it was my business and my livelihood. Plus I loved all the aspects of the coffee van, from cooking the food I sold and making the coffee, to serving customers and driving around the city each day. But Saffron hadn’t worked outside of the home since the kids were born. Would she stick at it on days when she didn’t feel like going out? As much as I loved my friend, and treasured her wisdom, I was not sure she was being objective about this. I took a big swallow of wine while I considered my response.

“Saffie, I have no doubt that you would be perfect at the job. As you said, you know the route and you’ve used the coffee machine. But have you thought about this objectively?”

She stared at me with big wounded eyes. “You don’t want me?”

Damn. “That’s not it. I’d love to have you, you’d be an asset to my business. What I’m worried about is the effect on our friendship. I would be your boss, do you really want that?”

“You think I couldn’t handle you being my boss?”

I stared at her, not saying anything, just giving her time to think it through.

“Well, you do have a point. I do kind of take over a bit sometimes don’t I?” She smiled, a small smile, but a smile.

Before she could add any more, and I could see that she had more to add, the kids all trooped into the kitchen.

“When’s dinner, are you going soon?” This was Mark, who was having a growth spurt and was perpetually hungry. As we used to do in the days of my marriage, we were getting McDonalds and were going to have a picnic in the lounge room while we watched the movie. The kids still loved doing it even though the rules in my house here were more relaxed than they used to be in that life.

“Saffie and I are going now. You kids won’t burn down the house while we are gone will you?” I got up to fetch my bag and car keys as I spoke.

“Althea and I will be sure they don’t.” Emmerson had put on her grown up voice and I smiled. “So we get a sundae and they don’t right?”

The look of outrage on Emily and Mark’s faces was enough to make Saffron laugh, for which I was thankful.

“We’ll see.” Saffron and I went out, with Emmerson’s voice trailing after us. “We’ll see means no.”

I laughed, and Saffron grinned. We hopped into my car and headed off to get dinner. I was driving which was why I had only taken a sip of my wine. I would finish it later while we watched the movie the kids had selected.

The drive through at McDonalds was almost empty, so it was not long before we were stopped in the car park and checking the order. I had learned a long time ago to check that what I was given was the same as what I ordered before I left the carpark. It’s a real pain having to drive back because somebody’s meal was missed or we were given a completely different order.

This time everything was correct, so I drove to the exit. We had not even left the carpark when Saffron came back to the subject of the coffee van.

“So, I understand your point about employer/employee versus best friends. I can see that it may cause a tiny problem every now and then.”

I snorted at her take on the issue. “Just a tiny problem?”

“Well of course, I’m sure we will work it out. So, what I’m suggesting is this. Don’t look at me, look at the road!”

I swung my gaze back to the front. “Go on, tell me your proposal.”

“What if you continue looking for a barista/driver, and I just fill in until you find one? That way I will learn a new skill, get out of the house, and make a little bit of money that is entirely my own.”

I cut my eyes sideways at her, taking in her serious expression. Her statement about making some money of her own resonated with me, and made me wonder about the true nature of her marriage. I knew some of it, but just like me with Nathan, I was sure there were aspects to their marriage that Saffron was keeping to herself.

I drove in silence for a few minutes, considering her words. “That could work. I would be your employer, but on a less formal footing as you are helping out rather than depending on me for a job. It gives you time to see if this is what you really want too.”

“So you agree?”

“Well the new van is ready, just sitting at the garage waiting for a purpose in life. I guess we may as well give it one.”

Saffron thought for a minute. “That’s a yes right?”

“That’s a yes. Welcome to Coffee My Day.

“Woohoo! This is so exciting! Do I get a uniform? When do I start?”

I couldn’t help but smile at her excitement. I still wasn’t sure whether this was a good idea or not, but as her closest friend I was happy that I had made her happy.

“We can work out the details over the weekend, ok?”

“No problem, I can’t wait to tell the girls.”

Pulling into my garage I turned to smile at her. “I’m pleased I could make you smile.”

Saffron took my hand and squeezed it tightly, before turning to open her door. Her voice was a bit muffled but I still heard her say, “You have no idea what you have just done for me Cassie.”

My smile faded, what did she mean, what exactly was going on in her life that I didn’t know about? I resolved to try to find out in the next few days. But now, it was McDonalds and movie night. 

Monday, August 17, 2015

Cassie's Story - Letters To Myself

And it’s Monday again. Do the weeks go as fast for you as they do for me? Before we continue Cassie’s story, I wanted to share with you some wonderful feedback I received yesterday which humbled me. It’s not a review, it’s a response generated by how much this reader identified with Cassie. I’m not going to share the whole thing here, just a few parts.

I can't believe how I connected with this book on so many different levels. I identified with different aspects, but it also helped me see the dance that I do with myself and with 'Y'. I know that I have to break the cycle in order to move forward. Thank you for pointing me in the direction of this book. I do believe that I will read it more than once, and it will help ground me.
Thanks X
PS I do feel this book has shown me I'm not alone which gives me strength and comfort 

I cannot tell you how touched I am by this response. I wrote Letters for this reason, to reach out to people in a similar situation as Cassie, and to show that there is a way out. To have had such an effect on someone is the best feeling, validating my decision to be a writer – it even makes me feel that I may be a little bit good at this.

So, on with Cassie’s story – did he kiss her?

“He kissed you right? Tell me he kissed you, with depth and passion. I bet he’s a great kisser, he’s got perfectly shaped lips.” Saffron leaned forward in her seat, her cupcake sitting untouched on the plate in front of her. I sighed, thinking not for the first time that she really needed to read fewer romantic books.

“Saffie, really. Of course not.”

She sat back, so visibly deflated that I felt I had pricked her with a needle instead of recounting the previous evening. “Then why did you wind me up like that, telling me his hand was on your skin and he was looking into your eyes and your heart was racing. I mean, what else follows a scene like that than a world rocking kiss!”

“An over excited BamBam smashing into Mark’s pushbike and knocking it into the side of the fence, hitting the rake which fell and hit somebody’s cat which was walking along the top of the fence and made it yowl at police siren decibels which caused all the dogs in the area to go into a barking frenzy.”

Saffron made the sound she makes when she’s surprised into a laugh, kind of a cross between a snort and a chuckle. “Seriously? Well I can see that would be a mood breaker.”

I grinned at the memory. “That it was. The cat jumped off the fence and ran across my front yard, BamBam was so traumatized by the noise that he hid behind my legs, Pebbles ran after the cat but of course with her short legs she had no hope. The cat jumped the fence and disappeared, all the dogs around were barking hysterically, lights were coming on in the nearby houses and all in all it was an excellent time to go inside.” I paused, “I should find out who owns the cat and make sure it’s ok, poor thing.”

Saffron took a sip of her coffee and began to break the cupcake into pieces. “So was the mood retrieved once you went inside?”

“No, what mood there may have been was gone, and really I’m not sure there was anything to start with. It was probably just my imagination.”

Saffron raised her eyebrows at me over her coffee cup. “Cassie, I understand that you still have self esteem issues, but I’ve seen Matt look at you, and it’s not a ‘just friends’ look.”

I stared at her, shocked at her statement. “Really? When? And why didn’t you tell me?”

“I’m going to tell you something like that when you’re already in flight mode? And he’s been looking at you like that forever.”

“Get away, he has not. Not forever.”

“Well maybe not forever, but for a long time. Like for as long as I’ve known him.”

I stared at her as I thought back. Was it possible she was right? Nah, Matt was a wonderful, supportive friend and protector. I still had nightmares sometimes about what might have happened if BamBam hadn’t jumped the fence and fetched Matt that last time. But Matt didn’t think about me like that – well not then anyway.

I sighed, and reached for another cupcake. It was a new recipe that I was trying for the coffee van – chocolate vanilla swirl with a custard centre. I had to admit they were delicious, even though I had made them myself.

“Saffie, I don’t know what I want. I like Matt so much, but what if it doesn’t work out, I’ll have lost a great friend. What if we get close and he finds out I’m not the person he thinks I am?”

Saffron leaned forward again and took my hand. She stared into my eyes, the intensity of her gaze not letting me look away. “But Cassie, what if it does work out, and what if you find out you’re not the person you think you are? What if you find out that you’re better than you think?”

I blinked a few times, taken aback by her words. It was typical of Saffron, the best friend anyone could hope for. I shrugged. “Well, maybe so. Anyway, there was no kiss and no sign of anything when Matt left either.” I admitted to myself that I had been disappointed when Matt left after another cup of coffee without even a hint of a goodnight kiss, or any sort of intimacy. “So maybe the moment has passed, never to return.”

Saffron snorted her patented Saffron disbelieving snort, but said nothing more on the subject. “So, got a driver yet?”

“Nothing yet, but the advertisement only ran yesterday so I expect I won’t get any replies until tomorrow.”

Draining the last of her coffee Saffron stood up and carried her cup to the sink. She paused beside the tray of cupcakes. “Can you spare some for the girls?”

I rose as well, going to a cupboard and digging around for a container the right size. “Yes of course, they are all for you. I’ll make some more tonight after Nathan drops off the kids. Mark will want to help bake since it’s a new recipe.”

“You’re a gem, thanks Cassie. Mark seems set to be a chef doesn’t he?”

“A pastry chef anyway, unless his ideas change with puberty. Do you want to take some coconut slice for Ben?” I knew her husband was fond of the sticky treats.

“Oh he’s away remember? But I guess I could put them in the freezer and he can take them back to work with him.”

“Is he working away this week?”

“Yes, won’t be back until Friday night. I’m beginning to forget what he looks like!”

I smiled, even though I knew that beneath the joking was a bleakness she did her best to hide. Finishing packing up the cupcakes I pulled the coconut slice out of the fridge and added it to the small pile. “There you go, hope the girls like the cakes.”

Saffron got her things together and I walked with her to the door.

“Always great to see you, but do try to give your self esteem a boost hmmm? Perhaps another letter?”

I gave her the cockiest grin I could muster. “Hey look at me, did you think I’d make it this far?”

Saffron gave me an awkward one armed hug, the edges of the plastic containers digging into my side. “I never doubted it for one minute. You’re a lot stronger than you know my dear.”

She started to walk down the footpath, turning back halfway there. “Let me know how you get on with finding a driver, I know of someone who might be interested.”

“Really? That would be great. I’ll see how I go with the advertisement, surely tomorrow there will be a response.”

Saffron gave me a thumbs up and got into her car. I watched her drive off before going back inside, turning our conversation over in my mind. Was I still too hard on myself? Should I just relax and let things develop with Matt, or not, without worrying so much? I gave myself a smack in the head. Well duh, of course I should, the question was could I? Pouring myself some more coffee I went outside to my little back patio to drink it. The dogs rushed up, BamBam dropping a ball in front of me.

“You might have interrupted a ‘moment’ you know you clumsy oaf. I might be sitting here contemplating a world shaking kiss if you hadn’t knocked over Mark’s bike. Of course he should have put it away too. I guess it just wasn’t meant to be, last night anyway.”

BamBam stared up at me, and down at the ball, his eyes shining with anticipation.

“And you don’t care do you. Well you’re right, I should lighten up, I’m growing tired of myself. It was just dinner and a maybe almost kiss, no need for this introspection.”

I picked up the ball and threw it into the corner of the yard, away from my herb garden. The dogs raced after it in an unequal race. With his longer legs BamBam always got there first, but Pebbles often stole the ball off him before he got it back to me. I watched them running, my mind going back to the last thing Saffron had said. It was curious that she had not mentioned a potential barista/driver to me before now and I wondered who it was.

Sunday, August 16, 2015

Simplify your life

I had an astonishing number of views yesterday - did you all tell your friends? In honour of that I thought I'd better write a post today before I start working on the second book in Zora.

I'm developing something of a theme, or a lifestyle choice perhaps is a better way of saying it. Living here I've learned a great deal about myself and what is important in life, and I want to try to explain in a way that may make you rethink your own lifestyle choices.

Simplicity is the key to a good life. I've read multi-millionaires say that and snorted in disbelief. After all, it's easy to live a simple life when you can afford to have people do everything for you and you can buy whatever you want right? Hop on your boat, board your plane, smuggle your dogs into Australia (sorry Johnny), it's all simple when you have the money. Of course that's not the type of simplicity I'm talking about and I'm sure not what those people mean either.

I love shoes, adore them. I love nice clothes. There was a time in my life when I owned almost 100 pairs of shoes. I'd buy shoes for no other reason than that they looked amazing in the shop window. Some of those shoes I wore only once, some I never wore, they just cluttered up my wardrobe. I had clothes I had never worn, impulse buys that made me feel great at the time, but that type of pleasure only lasts a short while.

I know I've written about this before, but the longer I live here, the more I see of unhappy dissatisfied people cluttering up their lives with stuff, the deeper my belief entrenches itself. You don't need stuff, you don't need to fill your home and your life with things. Simplicity is the key. When I have the funds I will buy the things that I need and I will choose things that are visually appealing. But I will not buy just for the sake of buying. If I need a new outdoor table so that I can fully appreciate and enjoy my balcony I will do so. I will buy something well made and attractive, but I will not go and buy the most expensive table I can find.

I will never again be that person who goes shopping just for something to do, who fills her house with things in an attempt to fill an empty soul. This is exaggerating I know, but I do believe that if we all stopped being materialistic and instead became more spiritual, and looked for ways to help others, we would be happier and the world would be better balanced.

Materialism is out of control, running rampant and fueled by a media that encourages it. Materialism runs the world, big business depends on consumers who believe that they must upgrade their televisions, cars, phones and wardrobe yearly. The world's resources are being used up and huge quantities of non-recyclable garbage is being produced in their place. We are making ourselves a rubbish dump to live in and for no real reason.

One person won't make much of a difference, but you have to start somewhere. So, when I am once more financially viable I will for sure be improving my standard of living. However I will also be doing whatever I can to help those in need. There is a charity here that donates clothing and supplies to the poverty stricken locals - I will donate clothing and cash to that charity. I will donate what I can to the BlueMoon Animal Shelter, which is always in need of funds to help the animals. I will do more for my outdoor street cats - move somewhere that has a walled garden and put them to live in there. I will look for ways to help others.

And I will live simply. You don't need gadgets, not in any part of your life. It's important not to confuse want with need. You may want that flash new television with all the bells and whistles (that you will probably not use once the novelty wears off) but you don't really need it. You might think you need that fancy whizz-bang kitchen gadget (I'm a basic cook, I couldn't think of an example!) but unless you are a chef or your passion is cooking - and perhaps even then - you don't need it. If it's going to spend most of its life sitting in a cupboard you probably don't need it.

As a writer I see a lot of advertising for all sorts of things that apparently writers need. Of course you don't. There are gadgets galore that all purport to make the writer's life easier. They probably do, but most of them have been developed because the savvy and the unscrupulous have noticed a market and have rushed to fill it. Writers, especially new and indie writers, are being wooed by all kinds of ways to streamline their writing and note-taking. Things that cost a substantial amount of money, and which will change the way we write - apparently. I haven't tried any of them so I can't say how effective they are. The more popular of them I am sure are very useful, but the most important thing a writer needs is his or her own head. It doesn't matter how many gadgets you have, if you don't hone your craft you will not be a good writer.

Get rid of your clutter, think before you buy any more. Clean out your belongings, re-use, re-purpose, recycle. Don't throw it away because you don't want it any more, find it a new home or a new use. It can be painful to declutter, I know, I've done it in a big way. Those of you who have followed me for a while know that I lost everything. I took all that I owned to an opportunity shop, an embarrassing amount of stuff that I was emotionally attached to. It broke my heart to lose my things and to lose my home. I won't lie about that, I thought it would kill me. But it didn't, and a year later do you know what I miss the most (apart from my books)? I miss the planter pots that I made with broken pots. I miss the little bit of creativity that my old life allowed me. Or that I allowed myself in that life.

In this new life, unconcerned as I am about possessions, an up-to-date wardrobe, how I look to other people, I am more creative than I have been since I was a child. And what about childhood is similar to how things are now? As a child I didn't care about possessions, clothes, or how I appeared to others, and I was always making up stories in my head, drawing pictures and making things. I was creative as a child, we all are. The creativity gets sucked out of us by adult responsibilities.

We all have adult responsibilities and sometimes those can be overwhelming. Been there, done that, will undoubtedly do it again. So why make your life more complicated than it has to be? I was forced to declutter and I did it to an extent that I don't recommend. But, having done it, I realised that none of it was important. Family is important, and friends, and being kind is important. We should all endeavour to be kind to each other. Everyone has a story to tell - it's a trite cliche but it's true. Nobody is as together as they may appear. Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. I can't stress enough how important I believe this to be.

This world is full of hate, frighteningly so. People are offended by everything it seems, and are so full of hate and anger. Be kind - kindness spreads just like anger does. Spread kindness, declutter your life, focus on helping others, and watch your life become rich in all the ways that matter.

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

It's on the internet, it must be true

Today I’m going to rant a little. Sorry guys, as you all know I try not to rant about things here, except myself of course. But sometimes it just niggles away under my skin until I have to write about it. I have said it here before; you can’t change the mind of someone who wants to hold onto their belief. You can’t reason with someone who wants to stay unreasonable. You can’t tell someone something when they want to think something else.

That, I am sure, is why so many erroneous posts fly about the internet on various social media platforms. Sometimes I am sure they are started by people with nothing better to do than to stir the pot, sometimes I think perhaps they are started by people with their own agenda, wanting to get traction and validation for their beliefs. Some are relatively harmless and others are frightening in the message of hate they transmit.

I am shocked, surprised, amused and saddened daily by the gullibility of the general public when it is something in which they want to believe. I’m going to stay away from the frightening posts – my goal is not to change anyone’s political or religious beliefs. I just wish that people would check their facts, even if they want to believe what they see it does not necessarily make it true.

I’m going to give you a few examples of the small stuff:

First, this is a meme that comes up over and over again on my timeline on Facebook and never fails to irritate me. It purports to be the Inari fox. It is, as you can surely see, a stuffed toy.

The maker of the toy can be found at this link: Santani Deviant Art

The Inari fox does not exist in real life. In Japanese mythology it is the Japanese god of rice, and the fox is the messenger of Inari.
Image courtesy of Encyclopaedia Brittannica

The second one I have been seeing at regular intervals for years:

 On 27 August Mars will appear as big as the moon 

Mars to appear as big as the moon? Really?? This is another hoax that keeps on popping up every year. I don’t know if it’s shared by so many people as a joke or if they really believe it. You are welcome to stare at the night sky on August 27th, you can do it every year if you want but you’re not going to see it. This hoax is based in fact though. In 2003 Mars was the closest it has been to the earth in something like 60 000 years. Only thing was, to have them appear as the same size you had to have looked at the moon with the naked eye and Mars through a telescope.

Next, this fantastic picture of lenticular clouds over Mt Fuji. Sadly, this is a photoshop hoax. Here is the photoshopped photo:

And here is the original, not as amazing but still spectacular.

Another one: sunrise at the north pole with the moon at its closest point…or not

 It’s a photorealistic painting by the artist Inga Nielson. The image is titled ‘Hideaway’. The sun and the moon appear to be the same size wherever you are on earth.

The one that motivated me to write this post however is a short video. Now this video is shared in good faith by thousands of animal lovers. It’s oohed and aahed over, comments like how animals have souls etc. abound. This is a dog and her puppies rescued from what I do not know, I can’t find an explanation that states what they were rescued from. I have no doubt whatsoever that the dog was grateful for her rescue. I have no doubt that she is full of maternal love for her puppies. No doubt at all. However, this is a dog. In the video it sheds tears which all the people who share it attribute to gratitude.

That is what I find so annoying and not because of the sentiments of sentimental people. I’m as sentimental as they come about animals, I adore animals. But I know that dogs do not cry out of sentiment. People do, dogs do not. Dogs feel emotions, dogs feel love and loss and faithfulness. But they do not cry. When a dog sheds tears it means that there is a medical problem, which can range from blocked tear ducts due to a local infection or a more serious physical condition such a corneal ulcers or glaucoma. A dog that sheds tears does not need cooing over, it needs a vet. I just hope that the rescuers of this dog, once they had stopped oohing over its tears, took it to a vet. This video is everywhere because people want to attribute human behaviour to pets. Again, I know dogs have deep emotions, they love their people. But they are physically unable to cry from emotion. They show it in other ways, in dog ways not people ways.

We are all so quick to leap to assumptions, jump to conclusions, throw caution to the winds, or any number of idioms when we see something that we want to believe. That’s the dangerous thing about these hoaxes and the people who believe them without a shred of evidence. If enough people believe it, it won’t go away, it will become an urban myth, an idea that is so entrenched in the collective mindset that it becomes fact in the minds of the majority. And that can be a very dangerous thing.

Monday, August 10, 2015

Cassie's story - Letters To Myself

Sorry guys, I haven’t been here, even though you all have. I’m writing the second book in the Zora series, so I’m focused on that. I do have a blog post in my head though, and I’ll get it written this week. Not today though, today is Monday, Cassie day. Let’s get into it. You will remember we left Cassie last week preparing for her date with Matt.

I stood in front of my open wardrobe. Really I had too many clothes, and none of them were right for tonight. I couldn’t remember the last time I had been so irresolute about my clothing. Oh wait, yes I could. It was the night I had dinner with Nathan, the night I thought he was going to tell me he was moving back in and instead… I shook my head, refusing to allow the memories in. It was also the night I met Matt, and it was Matt I was going to dinner with. It was not going to end like that other dinner.

I ran my fingers through my feathery strawberry blonde hair, noting that I should get a haircut soon. That was the only problem with shorter hair, the frequent trips to the hairdresser. Sighing, I focused again on my clothes. Flicking through the hangers I slid the one with the green shirt to the end of the rail. I hadn’t worn that shirt since the dinner with Nathan, and I wasn’t going to wear it tonight. I pulled out a pencil skirt and studied it before putting it back. It was too business like for a casual dinner.

A flash of blue caught my eye and I pulled out a deep blue blouse. It had a draped neckline and was the type of shirt that could be dressed up or down. The colour made my blue eyes darker and was flattering against my pale skin. Decision made I tossed the shirt onto my bed, and dug out a pair of black jeans. There, that was a good compromise between casual and dressy. On impulse I chose a pair of stiletto pumps and held them against the shirt. They were unrelieved black except for a thin blue line that ran up the middle of the heel. I had bought them several months ago and never worn them, and was pleased to see that the two shades of blue matched almost perfectly.  There, outfit selected and it had only taken about half an hour.

Half an hour! I needed to get ready or I would be late. Rushing meant that I didn’t have time to stress any further about this evening, and that was a good thing. I still felt a jolt of adrenaline when Matt knocked on the door and chided myself on acting like a foolish schoolgirl. The stunned expression on Matt’s face when I opened the door made me rethink my clothing choice.

“What, too dressy? I can change.”

He blinked. “No, not at all. You look beautiful. I mean you always look beautiful, but tonight, well you are even more so.”

I looked down at myself, seeing nothing but me as usual. Standing back to let him in I glanced at my reflection in the hall mirror and still saw nothing but me as usual.

“Have you been sampling some wine?”

Matt grinned. “No, do you think I need to be drunk to consider you beautiful?”


He laughed. “Come on you goose. I’ve got us a taxi so we can both have some wine.”

I preceded him out the door, seeing the waiting taxi at the roadside. “How very thoughtful of you officer. No breath tests for me tonight!”

He laughed again. “Well we would never have met if I hadn’t pulled you over for a breathalyzer test that time.”

The reference to that disastrous dinner with Nathan made my insides sink a little, coming after my own thoughts about it but I shook off the feeling.

“Yes we would, I just would have been sure you were a robber in the park that morning instead of a kind police officer.”

Matt paused in the act of opening the taxi door. “You thought I was a robber? Not a man out for an early morning jog, but a person with bad intentions?”

I shrugged, sliding into the taxi. “Well you know, a girl can’t be too careful.”

Matt followed me in, shutting the door and leaning forward to give the address to the driver. Then he turned to me. “That is very true, and I suppose you were right to be cautious. But still, I’m a policeman, recognizable in or out of uniform.”

I snorted. “That is a fact, you do look like a policeman no matter what you wear.”

“What about tonight?”

I studied him. He was wearing jeans and a dark red button up shirt and looked as amazing as he always did. Not that I was telling him that.

“You look like an undercover policeman.”

Matt laughed again, and I smiled. The evening was starting out well, I felt light and happy. It had only been my silly imagination thinking that things were going to change.

That thought stayed with me for most of the evening. Matt was his usual self and I enjoyed his company and humour as I always did. The restaurant was a converted art gallery, with large murals of orange groves painted on the walls and a castle painted on the far wall. The food was excellent, the wine list extensive, and I relaxed and enjoyed myself. As the evening went on and Matt remained perfectly normal I relaxed even more, enjoying the ambiance of the place. It was a busy night, lots of people out testing the new restaurant.

It was only when I stood up to go to the bathroom that I realized I had drunk a little too freely of the wine. The room was swaying slightly, or maybe it was me. I steadied myself by holding onto the back of my chair until the feeling passed.

“You okay there Sunshine?”

“Yes, I just stood up too quickly. Do you know where the bathroom is?”

Matt pointed to the back of the room, where a large sign pointed the way.

I threaded my way between the tables, my heels making me feel clumsy. Perhaps that was why I hadn’t worn them, they seemed to be affecting my balance. Back at the table Matt proffered the dessert menu and suggested coffee. I stared at him suspiciously.

“I’m not drunk! I don’t need coffee.”

“Of course you don’t, but we usually have coffee after dinner.”

“Oh, yes I guess we do. Well ok, coffee and this.” I stabbed at the dessert menu.

“Strawberry cheesecake?”

“Yes please.”

Matt poured me a glass of water while we waited and I drank it, feeling quite thirsty. The dessert arrived first, a delicious looking concoction complete with a dollop of cream and a scoop of ice-cream. I looked at Matt’s dessert, it looked decadent.

“What did you get? It looks pretty good too.”

“Chocolate fudge cake, want to try some?”

I nodded and offered him some of my cheesecake. He startled me by eating it off the fork I proffered instead of taking said fork from me, but I decided that he was just keen for a taste. I took his forkful of chocolate cake from him, ignoring the slight disappointment in his expression.

“How was the chocolate?”

“It’s good, but I’m happy with my cheesecake, how about you?”

“Same, I like yours but I felt like chocolate tonight.” I handed back his fork and dug into my dessert, happy for no reason at all with such a trite exchange. The coffee came and I drank some, it was also excellent. The world was a bit steadier by the time I finished, and Matt’s face – which had begun blur a little – had come back into focus.

“I am so full, I ate too much.” I leaned back in my seat, feeling like I would burst.

“Me too, but it was great food wasn’t it?”

I nodded agreement. “We should come here again. Maybe we can come with Saffie and Ben?”

Matt looked surprised, but agreed. Then he leaned forward. “You’ve got some cream on your cheek.” He brushed my cheek with a gentle finger. “There, that’s got it.”

He didn’t lean back straight away, just stared at me. I stared back, my mouth gone dry. This close I could see the differing shades of brown in his eyes.

“You’ve got gold dust in your eyes.”

Matt leaned back in his seat. “What?”

“Your eyes, I never noticed before. You’ve got gold flecks in them, it looks like gold dust.”

“Really. Well yours have little bits of green in them. Like islands in the blue sea.”

I snorted. “I like my description better, much more poetic.”

Matt shrugged. “I’m a guy, what do you expect? Ready to go?”

I drank the last of my coffee and stood up, a bit disconcerted when the world again swayed. I really must have had too much of the wine. Or maybe it was the shoes.

“Who’s turn to pay?” We had resolved the issue of payment by taking turns.

“It’s mine, you paid last time.”

I thought about it, and I was pretty sure he was right. We had eaten at the marina and brought the kids along.

“Okay, I’ll wait at the door.”

“Good idea, get some fresh air.”

It wasn’t long before Matt came out and we wandered up the street to the taxi rank. Surprisingly, there was a taxi waiting so we were soon on the way home.

“It’s been a good night hasn’t it Cassie.”

“It has, it was nice to relax and not have to cook. And you’re always good company.”

“You too, we should go out more often.”

“We should.”

Matt had given the driver my address, and helped me out of the taxi when it pulled up outside. I opened the gate and walked up the drive while he paid. He came up while I was fumbling with the house key.

“Damn thing, won’t go in the keyhole.”

Chuckling, Matt took the key from me and opened the door to a rapturous greeting from Pebbles and BamBam.

“Okay okay, we’ve only been gone a few hours, not forever.”

The dogs settled down after some pats, and I let them out to run in the yard. Going into the kitchen I turned on the coffee maker.

“Want some more coffee before you go?”

Matt came over to where I was standing. “I don’t think so Cassie. I’ve got work tomorrow so I think I’ll head home.”

Stifling a stab of disappointment I said only, “I’ll walk you to the door.”

Matt followed me and stopped in the doorway. I felt nervous again, but forced it down. Matt had acted no differently all night, it was only me being silly. So when he reached out and touched my earring I jumped.

“This is beautiful. What is it?”

I reached to touch my earring, but dropped my hand when I touched Matt’s fingers instead.

It’s a star sapphire, same as my necklace. My mother gave me the set a long time ago.”

“A sapphire? I didn’t know they could look like that. It looks like a part of the galaxy.” 

He slid his hand lower, picking up the pendant and studying it. The back of his had was warm on the skin of my neck and my heart started to beat faster, my skin to prickle. All the air seemed to vanish from the room as he lifted his eyes to mine.