Writing Archives

Back To The Future

Guess what? It’s OUT! I’m now officially a sci-fi author!

Earthwarden Cover

But DON’T PANIC! As the legendary Douglas Adams would have said. If you’re not a fan of science fiction, you don’t have to buy it. In fact, I’d rather you didn’t! Here’s why:

Amazon is pretty much SkyNet. It knows what you’ve bought, and when – and it uses this to predict what you’ll want next. Then it throws that stuff in your face as often as possible, like the worst kind of enabler.

What happens when a huge bunch of memoir readers buys a sci-fi book is, Amazon starts recommending that book to other memoir readers. And when those people don’t buy it – because why on Earth would they? – Amazon deems the book a failure, and stops recommending it to anyone.

But for anyone who does have at least a passing interest in exploding spaceships and the like, the book is here:

Earth Warden on Amazon

And it’s currently available for just 99c/99p!

Now, I’m not gonna lie – there’s a lot to like about this being-a-fiction-author-malarky. For starters – and I can’t overstate how much easier this makes life – you get to MAKE SH*T UP!!!

Book getting boring? Roll out a car chase! Need more explosions? Why, there’s a hidden stash of C4 just around the corner…

Instead of having to live through a whole bunch of incredibly harrowing life experiences, survive them, and then spend a year re-living them whilst desperately trying to scour my failing memory for every detail… oh, and at least TRYING to make them funny! Also, much as I hate to admit it – making sh*t up is a hell of a lot cheaper 😉

Don’t worry though – I haven’t quit writing travel memoirs for good, I promise! I’m just taking a break. A break which rather sneakily aligns with a potential shift in my personal circumstances… Yes, that’s right – I’m becoming a woman.

Drag Hiking Bluff Knoll

WHAT? But… (sigh!) No, you’re right. My nose really IS too big for that. Here’s what’s really going on:

Despite looking (and acting) like a twelve year old girl, in fact Roo is rapidly approaching that age where, if she were a horse, I’d be paying someone for a jam-jar of stallion sperm and a two-foot-long syringe.

This may be the only time in her life when she’s glad she’s not a horse.

But she’s started dropping random, casual hints, like, “I think family is very important,” and, “My biological clock is ticking,” and, “I’ve decided we’re having children next year.”

Roo ice cream dress

It was either this, or a pic of her dressed head to toe in My Little Pony gear…

So… My new career as a fiction writer ties in quite well with this development, as it doesn’t require vast amounts of extended travel. If all goes according to (Roo’s) plan, we’ll be able to travel quite a bit once we do have babies (twins, she’s already decided). At which point, I feel another crazy memoir is kind of inevitable…

But until then, there’ll be a bit of a gap on that front. And I do feel bad about it. I know there’s a whole bunch of you eagerly awaiting a new travel book, so I’ve been thinking about how to fill that gap.

As you know, the America trip didn’t result in a book, for a whole bunch of reasons. Basically, I just didn’t feel that there was enough material for a book, and I didn’t fancy spending a year stretching and padding it out, struggling to make it funny, only to release a steaming pile of drivel that readers gave up on after five chapters.

BUT – the trip DID produce SOME materiel, and whilst it’s not enough for a book, it IS enough for a whole bunch of blog posts!

Tony Licking Gum

Oh yes… this happened!

So, my plan over the coming months is to get a whole lot more active with this blog.

Relax! I’m not gonna be posting every day or anything! I reckon I should be able to squeeze something out roughly once every two weeks (still talking about blog posts here). There’s the USA trip, and a load of random things going on here in Perth that I wanted to write about…

And then there’s a threat I’ve been making for years now – ever since ‘That Bear Ate My Pants!’ was released in 2011. You see, in order to make that book saleable to the agents and publishers I was courting at the time, I had to cut about a third of the chapters I’d written out of the book.  The traditional book publishers just won’t touch long-winded rambling nonsense like I write. For some reason.

So, knocking around on various hard drives are those missing chapters – the ‘cut scenes’, if you will – for not only that book, but for all of them! Because for some reason, I seem incapable of writing a first draft under 150,000 words…

Missing Files

A few to be going on with…

So, my plan is to tweak those chapters one at a time to make them readable, and publish them on the blog as I go. Between them, the USA trip and other random stuff, I reckon we’ve got enough to keep us occupied for a bit. And who knows? If it turns out there’s more material than expected, perhaps another book will emerge from the melee?

And if not… Well. Just imagine what’s going to happen when Roo and I have kids. It’ll be absolute carnage. And I’ll definitelyget a book out of that!

Meanwhile, I’d like to take this chance to thank you all, so very much, and from the bottom of my heart. Without readers like you, I couldn’t do what I do. Hell, without you kind folks, I couldn’t eat! Not without getting some kind of ‘real job’ anyway, and you’ve seen what happens to me just standing around in a garden, so… Yeah. Probably best I don’t find myself working in a factory. Heavy machinery and me do not mix well.

So thank-you, once again, for everything! For your emails and Facebook messages, for blog comments and book reviews, and most of all, thank-you so much for reading my books. When I started with ‘That Bear,’ I had high hopes – but even so, I never dared dream of how well it’s gone. To have books I’ve written, in the hands of people as far apart as India, Japan and Brazil…

Granted, I’ve only sold one book in each of those countries, but that counts, right?

And that officially makes me an International Author. I reckon. And you did that! You lovely, lovely people.

Thanks again!

Tony in Leaves

This… also happened. Unfortunately… 😉

USA Trip Update no. 2!

Hiya folks!

It’s time for another USA Trip Update!

First up, I’ll admit I’m playing catch-up here. This trip has been so much more awesome, and so much more demanding, than I could have imagined. I’ve been hiding from Facebook lately, as even without posting anything I find myself drowning in over 200 notifications per day. I know what you’re saying! Somewhere there is a tiny violin playing just for me…

In all seriousness though, the mountain of emails and messages I put off daily is keeping me from my real job – which is putting off writing blog posts! So in an abrupt turnaround, I’ve taken a day off to do all of the above.

(Incidentally, Roo is also taking this day off. Only she gets to spend hers sunbathing by the pool!).

To make you all feel better, I will be drinking THIS intriguing concoction:

Cheap Booze

So don’t feel TOO sorry for me. And apologies in advance if this blog gets a bit weird by the end…

Read the rest of this entry

USA Take Two!

Hi folks!

So, some of you may have noticed that I have a new book out!

Shave My Spider Cover

I know, I know. FINALLY! Yes, well, after taking me almost a year to write, ‘Shave My Spider!’ turned out to be a monster at over 180,000 words. That doesn’t seem to have deterred people though, and at the moment, over a month after its release, ‘Spider’ is still hanging in there at no.1 in all its Amazon categories.

Read the rest of this entry

That Feeling Of Release…

I’m sure it hasn’t escaped your attention that this is my first blog post in some time. How much time is some time? Well, about six months in this case… oops!

But I do have an excuse. Some of you might have noticed that I’VE GOT A NEW BOOK OUT! I’ve been crazy busy since October, putting the finishing touches to ‘Kamikaze Kangaroos!’ – and I finally stopped obsessing over every sentence, cutting them out, re-writing them, deleting them, and adding the original bit back in again – and released the damn thing on Valentine’s Day.

Kamikaze Kangaroos Cover

Click above to see Kamikaze Kangaroos on Amazon!

It’s done pretty well, selling 500 copies in the first two weeks, and should break the first-thousand barrier any day now. As you can imagine, I’m doing the jellyfish dance. (This is my happy dance – also, my only dance. Its name originates from a comment that I apparently ‘just stand in one spot wiggling my whole body like there’s no bones left in it’.)

By way of celebration, I thought I’d say a big thank-you to someone who the book literally couldn’t have been written without: my baby sister Gillian!

Gill with dogs

Check out THOSE puppies!

Not only did Gill participate in all the adventures in Kamikaze Kangaroos (well okay, not ALL of them :0) – she also made the supreme sacrifice, and actually lent me her own journals to help me write the thing! Imagine letting your big brother or sister read your private diary – and then letting them include its juiciest contents in a comedy book for all the world to see! Pretty terrifying, eh? Luckily for Gill, I only expect to sell about 20,000 copies of Kamikaze Kangaroos, so it won’t be the entire world that learns her secrets…

Bra Strap Diaries

Gill called them her ‘Bra Strap Diaries’!

Anyway, I’d like to take this opportunity to thank her for being such a good sport.

She hasn’t complained once about what I’ve written in the book. Of course, she hasn’t read it yet, but I feel I know her well enough to know she’ll be understanding.

And if not, I now live five thousand miles away from her, so I reckon I’m safe in saying, “Unlucky, dude!

So, by way of… celebrating her uniqueness, here’s a tiny snippet that never made it into Kamikaze Kangaroos. Enjoy!

 

Gill’s Jar

Gill lost three drinking mugs in the first two weeks of our travels with Rusty. She kept leaving them behind in campsite kitchens, and every time she had to buy a new one. Finally, she bought one she didn’t lose – but only because she drove Rusty over it. It’s fair to say she was a bit pissed off about that.

Her fifth mug was a really nice one – so when she returned from the kitchen  stomping and swearing, I already feared the worst.

“Bollocks! Some arsehole’s robbed my brand new mug!”

She pulled open our plastic rubbish bag rummaged through it furiously.

“It won’t be in there,” I told her. “You left it on the sink again, didn’t you?”

She didn’t bother denying it. Instead she pulled something from the bin bag and brandished it in my face.

“Screw it. I’m going to drink out of this jar.”

“Gill, that’s a curry jar.”

“I know. At least no bugger will steal it.”

“Yes, because no-one in their right mind would drink out of it.”

“Well, I’m going to. And sod the lot of them.”

“Fair enough. Are you at least going to wash it out first?”

“I’m thinking about it.”

Gill's JarShe drank tea and coffee out of it every day (and burned her fingers on it every day too, because it didn’t have a handle). In the evenings, she mostly drank goon out of it.

Fruity Lexia, the sweet white wine we’d been drinking since we first discovered you could get four litres of it in a cardboard box for $10, was a delicate, pale yellow in colour. Poured into a wine glass, it was indistinguishable from something far more expensive. But when Gill poured into a clear glass curry jar with the label washed off, it looked… well, it looked like she was on her way to the hospital with a urine sample. She never noticed the disgusted looks she was getting from people, eyeing her jar as she carried it down the street. Why would she? She was too busy drinking from it.

Being a particularly generous individual, Gill often asked people around the campsite if they’d like a sip of her drink.

Not a single person ever took one.

They were more than happy to take the piss, of course, but they seemed to draw the line at actually drinking the stuff…

I don’t know if you’ve ever tried to play Sod’s Law at its own game, but this is what happens: that frigging jar lasted Gill for nearly two years.

:0)

The Next Big Thing

My good friend Joe Cawley, author of the brilliant (and mega-successful) book ‘More Ketchup Than Salsa’, has nominated me to answer a few questions about my current Work In Progress, as part of ‘The Next Big Thing’ blog hop.

So, if you’re looking for something to read, please do check out Joe’s book – it’s the story of how he gave up everything in England to go and open a bar in Tenerife. With no language skills, no experience – no clue, really! It’s awesomely funny and completely true. I loved it.

And now without further ado, here are the questions, and my answers…

What is the working title of your book?


Currently it’s called ‘The Kangaroo Suicides!’ – though I’m hoping to pull a wittier remark from the book’s dialogue once I get to writing it. Something that makes you go “WTF? What the hell is this book about?” It’s a strategy that seems to have worked so far. By which I mean, no-one knows what the hell my books are about.

Where did the idea come from for the book?

The idea came from ‘The Adventures of Rusty’ – a book my sister always wanted to write about her adventures around Oz, in a van, with her best friend and me. I have now stolen it.

What genre does your book fall under?

Crazy travel comedy! It’s a genre I coined to fit my books. In this one I’ll visit about 7 countries, take up several hobbies very unsuitable to my skill-set (including climbing without ropes, parkour and snowboarding) – and injure myself fairly consistently in the process. That’s the crazy – the comedy derives from the fact that I was never quite clever enough to see it coming…

Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie
rendition?

I think I would have to be Michael Cera – he seems stuck in the same perpetually-awkward adolescent phase as me. I can just see him struggling to lift my big hammer… I think Gill (my sister) would benefit from the sarcastic poise (and stature) of a young Janeane Garofalo. As for the lovely Roo… well, I think Scarlet Johansen would do a fine job! Especially if I got to play myself… No, not with myself!

Ahem.

What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?

Three fools in search of Adventure – one sister, one sister’s best friend, and me – all wrapped up in a knackered old van, and bound for the remotest parts of Australia… what could possibly go wrong? Ha! See how I used punctuation to make all that into one sentence! I’m learning. But better take a big breath before reading it

Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?

Self published – unless anyone rom Amazon is reading this…? I’m ready to deal, honest! How’s about this: everything stays the same, but you put my picture up on the Amazon.com homepage. Possibly with my bum out…

How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript?

It doesn’t exist yet! But the last one took me 10 months. I reckon I should have this one surrounded in six… but then, I AM planning on spending most of those six months pony trekking across Mongolia, so it’s hard to say for sure :0)

What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?


‘Round Ireland With A Fridge’ is what opened my eyes to the possibility of writing my stories down. I figured my adventures were at least that amusing… An Idiot Abroad (the TV show) is the closest in terms of style – but everyone in my game loves to be compared to Bryson, so why not? Though I think he’s a little more… erudite than me. At any rate, he makes less poo jokes. So, my book is like all of Bill Bryson’s books – but with the cleverness removed and replaced by an endless procession of toilet humour. Wow, can I over-sell something, or what?!

Who or What inspired you to write this book?

Well, I lived (just about) through the adventures! So it seemed crazy not to write about them. It was, after all, one of the most significant – and peculiar – times of my life. Plus, I tell these stories all the time. Everyone I know is heartily sick of them. So, it seemed like a natural progression – to go from waffling at a few close friends, to waffling at the whole world. At least most of them can’t hit me for it.

What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest?

Um… tough one. Because it’s set in Australia, and no-one is really interested in Australia, are they? And it’s full of mundane, everyday occurrences, like getting lost in the desert, and being hosed off the side of gigantic national monuments. Suicidal kangaroos aside, I’m not really sure what this book has going for it. So, for now I’ll just say ‘the sex’. Because there’s quite a lot of it in this one…

:0)

That Feeling of Release…

Well, whaddaya know? We all survived! Looks like December the 21st 2012 will always be remembered for… absolutely nothing. Ah, well. At least we’re still around to appreciate the delights that December 22nd will bring us…

Like my third blog post this week!

I know! I’m so sorry about that. After this, I promise you won’t have to read any more of my crap for ages.

Well, apart from one little bit.

That little bit, incidentally, is my second book, which I am releasing TODAY.

In fact, if you look out of your window… no, not that window! The magic window. The one looking out on the invisible and electronic world. Point your broswers at Amazon.com, and you’ll see… well, you’ll see the Amazon homepage, I guess.

But if you go here:

http://www.amazon.com/Dont-Need-The-Whole-ebook/dp/B00AP3R2Z8/

Or here, if you’re still living in the UK:

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Dont-Need-The-Whole-ebook/dp/B00AP3R2Z8/

You might just find THIS:

Book Two Cover Picture

After a lot of internal debate, polling both of my rabid fans, checking with my Mum and then going back and second, third and twenty-sixth-guessing myself – I decided to call it:

‘Don’t Need The Whole Dog!’

Because that fitted on cover.

And also, there’s a story about a dog in it.

But I have to mention, that this book is NOT about animals. Not really. So PLEASE – don’t buy it expecting it to be, and then get all annoyed when it isn’t! I get enough bad reviews because my grammar is so shockingly poor (and because I have been known to swear on occasion…).

So, yeah. The book is about everything that happened after I got back from Ecuador. Some of which was painful. Most of which was my fault. It had always been my dream to steal Toby’s dream (of going to Thailand and becoming a diver). But it’s never quite that easy, is it? Not when you’re me, at any rate.

So, this is the story of what happened while I was trying to pursue that dream – and, of course, what happened when I finally achieved it. (That’s where it gets a bit messy…

I do hope you have a look, and enjoy it, and say lots of nice things about it to your friends and family! But I fully understand if you don’t buy it. Or if you buy it, and hate it. Or if you borrow a friend’s copy and feel kind of ‘meh’. It happens.

And as you all know, I LOVE feedback of any sort. So if a waffley bit bores you or offends you – please do let me know! I always see my stuff as a work-in-progress, and I’ve made several corrections in my first book based on what readers have told me.

If it’s not very good – you can help me make it better!

Because I’ve been working on it for a year, and to be honest I’m getting quite sick of it… :0)

Enjoy!

And from the bottom of my heart, thank-you – all of you – for reading my stuff. I LITERALLY couldn’t be doing this if it wasn’t for you!

And to celebrate that fact, I have decided NOT to put a picture of my bottom on this blog post. You see? I do do requests… :0)

*** NEWSFLASH *** NEWSFLASH *** NEWSFLASH ***

Fear not, faithful readers! There IS news in here, but no flash – so, no animation that upsets your iPad, no strobing photography, and no pictures of my arse.

Okay, maybe one picture of my arse.

But the point is – I have NEWS!

This week I had an exciting delivery. Several actually, which is one of the benefits of buying all your own Christmas presents – no, don’t feel sad! Trust me – it’s better this way. I get exactly what I want, and friends are over-rated anyway, and… and… *sniff*

Um, where was I? Oh yes. A delivery.

I received the FIRST EVER PAPERBACK COPY of my book ‘That Bear Ate My Pants!’

paperback copy in package

Now, I was tempted to do a proof copy unboxing video, like the very awesome, uber-succesful indie author Hugh Howey does for his amazing ‘WOOL’ books.

(NB – if you haven’t bought the WOOL books already, you’re freakin’ crazy. Go get them ALL – right NOW. No! I meant after you finish reading my blog p… oh, what’s the point. You’ve gone already, haven’t you?)

Echo…?

ECHO…

But. No video. Because I’m too damn ugly. Plus I’ve spent the last week pulling 18 hour days trying to get my second book edited, so I’d look like hell even if I wasn’t damn ugly.

Instead, here is a pretty picture – of the book itself!

Paperback copy

Oooh! See, I told you it was pretty!

Here’s a less-pretty picture of what happened to me last night during the editing process. I nipped to the toilet, and when I came back to my computer the ENTIRE FILE of Book 2 had been overwritten with bold asterisks?!?!

Screen shot of computer error

If I hadn’t just been to the loo, I’d have shit myself on the spot.

To cut a long story short, my trusty MacBook had spazzed out – probably because I haven’t turned him off in the last three months – and he was fine again after a reset. The document, however, was ruined, and I had to find my most recent back-up (from the night before) and re-do all that day’s edits.

So remember kids – ALWAYS back-up!

If I hadn’t, they’d be talking me down from the top of a tall building right now.

Anyway, before this gets too long, let me reiterate: ‘That Bear Ate My Pants!’ is now available in paperback! So for all those technophobes in your life, who refused to read it no matter how much you whined at them – now’s the chance! Get one for Christmas. If nothing else, the paperback version makes considerably better fuel for the fire than the electronic one…

Hm. I might start an ad campaign based on that. Buy my book – burn it – save a pensioner! (From the cold of course. I’m not suggesting you normally burn pensioners…)

Burn my book - save pensioners!Sorry! I’ve got lost again. Oh yeah. Buy my book! Because at long last, it’s a real book :0)

Amazon US: ‘That Bear Ate My Pants!’ Paperback

Amazon UK: ‘That Bear Ate My Pants!’ Paperback

And now that’s all done, I hate to leave a promise unfulfilled. So we might as well end on the bottom; literally, metaphorically, and in terms of tone. Not that it is particularly toned…

My bum!

Oh, sorry! I meant to say: Look away now if you’ve got a weak stomach. Too late now, I guess…  :0)

A Day In The Life Of A Writer

People keep asking me why I haven’t written a blog post recently. I’m well prepared for this question, with a whole raft of defensive answers citing how busy I am finishing off my second book whilst trying to keep the first one afloat. I rarely mention that my intense laziness plays a part in all of this…

But it inspired me to write about my typical day, and publish it on The Displaced Nation, an expat blog I regularly write for (see? Busy, I told you so!).

So for those who can face the inanity of a look into my life – well I guess that’s most of you, as that’s what this blog is generally about :0) – here it is!

As you can well imagine, it’s an extremely glamorous life, full of high-octane car chases, explosions and pithy one-liners… in my head, anyway.

My Writing Desk

The reality:

I wake up at 6:40am. I’ve no choice, because that’s what time my wife wakes up. Much as I would love to moan at her about it, she’s doing it for me – in fact she gets up, gets breakfast and goes out to work, all in the name of supporting me while I lounge around at home, pretending to be a writer.

So, yeah, I figure it’s best not to grumble.

Even though it’s bloody freezing at 7am!

It continues to surprise me that it can be this cold in Australia. Who knew?

At random intervals throughout the day I receive instructions from the wife via text message.

‘It’s sunny out! Go for a walk.’

‘It’s raining – bring the washing in!’

‘Don’t forget to clean the bathroom today’

‘Eat something!’

It’s because she loves me, but also because she’s lived with me long enough to know that I’m an idiot. Without these helpful prompts she’d get home to find I’d Tweeted my heart out, emailed everyone I know in this hemisphere and written thousands of words of my new manuscript – but that I hadn’t eaten anything since breakfast.

Then, when she takes me to the gym I end up fainting halfway through the class.

Australia is an amazing place, for such a wide variety of reasons that I could fill this blog post waffling about them; but there’s one stand-out fact that makes a real difference at this point.

The wages here are good. Very good. So good in fact, that my wife, working part time as a cleaner, can comfortably support both of us! Now, we’ve been backpackers long enough to know how to live frugally. We rent a room in a share-house for example, rather than splashing out on our own flat. But other than that, I’d say we do okay. We eat out plenty, go to parties and the cinema, and have a gym membership so ridiculously expensive I sweat more thinking about it than I do using it – but we manage it all quite comfortably, on one part-time wage.

I’ve never found another country where this is possible.

 

A Good Morning!

After wading through a mountain of emails, Tweets and Facebook messages – some of which aren’t even spam – I finally get to start on the real work. And then…

  • 10am – check my sales.
  • 10:02am – shout “WOOHOO!” unnecessarily loudly, pissing off my student friend in the next room, who doesn’t have to be up ‘till 12.
  • 10:05am – celebrate with a coffee.
  • 10:10am – back to work, until…
  • 10:30 – check sales again – just to be sure I wasn’t imagining things.
  • 10:32am – Wake up students again with another cry of ‘Woohoo!’
  • 10:35am – celebrate with another coffee…

I like my coffee like I like my women… industrial size! And witty…

As you can imagine, I also spend a lot of time on the loo.

There is a compulsion amongst self-published authors to constantly check our sales and our Amazon rankings. This is because, unlike ‘properly’ published authors, we have access to this information in real time. Watching sales tick up one by one – or watching them stubbornly refuse to do so – is a highly addictive (and utterly pointless) pass-time.

I DO NOT suffer from this.

I check less than five times a day – except on the days when I check more often. Which is quite often.

But I don’t suffer from the compulsion. At all.

I also don’t do denial.

 

Message Received

So, we’ve reached lunch. Or rather, we should have. By this time I’m usually quite deep into the world I’m writing in – which for me is my own torrid past. Having to nail it down so completely, with colours and gestures and remembering what people said, sends me into such a vivid re-living of the event I’m describing that I lose all track of time. If I don’t get that text telling me to eat, I don’t eat.

Which is one reason why I’m so skinny, despite sitting in front of my desk all day.

When I do get the text, it scares the hell out of me.

I’m usually sitting in silence. I can’t work with music on, or else I end up listening to the lyrics and, inevitably, singing along with gusto. As the student in the next room can attest, I’m one of the worst singers in the entire country. Maybe even the world.

So all is calm, and quiet, and focus – only the rhythmic clacking of keys disturbs the air. Then my phone screeches at me and I jump three feet off my chair, in a move that amazes anyone lucky enough to see it happen.

“How the hell do you jump that high while you’re sitting down?” they ask.

“You must have some potent muscles in your arse!”

“Why thank-you,” I tell them. “It’s all the practice I get, talking out of it.”

My wife gets home and takes me out to the gym. I rely on her because I can’t drive – at least, I can now. I took a test in December (my first, at age 33), and passed with flying colours. But I haven’t driven since, so I tend to rely on her – not just for money, but as a taxi service too.

Poor woman.

But anyway, we only have one car. Or more accurately, about 2/3rds of a car; it’s gotten considerably shorter since she crashed it into the back of the taxi a few months ago. But it still works, so what’s the problem?

Although I do have to put my hand under the bonnet to start it.

Damage to our carAfter the gym – assuming we’re not going straight out for dinner with friends, to pile all the calories we’ve just burnt back on at Nandos, we wend our weary way home.

 

Chores

She cooks, and I clean up afterwards – because a) she’s been cleaning all day, and b) I can’t cook for toffee. Seriously – beans on toast is the pinnacle of my culinary ability. And I usually burn at least one component of it.

While she cooks, I finish off whatever piece of writing was rudely interrupted by the end of her working day.

I only cook on special occasions…

After dinner I Tweet, and Facebook, and email – but from the comfort of our bed, where we sit with our legs up watching a movie.

And eating ice-cream, because if you’re going to go to the gym four times a week, you might as well make it worthwhile  :0)

And then it’s 10pm: well-earned sleep time for the wife. After all, she’s got to be up at 6:40 the next morning.

So I tuck her in and sneak downstairs, where I carry on Twittering, writing the odd guest post, sending out review copies of my book to bloggers, replying to emails from readers, making posts on forums and indulging in my two main vices: a glass of wine, and allowing myself to write a bit of a sci-fi novel I one day hope to publish. Ah, good times!

At around 2am I generally remember that I’ll be getting up at six as well, as it’s impossible to get back to sleep after seeing the wife off to work; it’s also usually around this time that someone living in a far more sensible time-zone strikes up an interesting conversation on Twitter…

But I try to be in bed by 4.

I don’t always make it.

Y’see? I told you! Pure, unadulterated glamour…

SerenDIPity

I’ve entered a contest run by Cherie and Chris of Technomadia, where they’ve asked travellers (like me!) to write about how serendipity has influenced our lives. If you want to know why I’ve written SerenDIPity like that, check out this post about the contest. If you’re already here via Technomadia, welcome!

And if you’re not? Well, we can’t all be perfect. Welcome anyway :0)

This is my story.

 

Paradise Lost?

I left England for Thailand, intending to spend three months volunteering in an animal clinic. I had visions of a tiny paradise island – and I was dead right! Koh Phangan had everything I could have asked for – postcard-perfect beaches, dense tropical jungle and a party scene so wild I very nearly didn’t survive it.

It was so good, I couldn’t even think about going home.

Actually I missed my flight.

It was accidentally-on-purpose. I’d sort of seen it coming; I hadn’t bothered to check my ticket for a long time, and I wasn’t exactly devastated to find the flight had left without me. I just climbed back into my hammock and appreciated one more fiery sunset over the ocean.

I ended up staying for nearly a year.

I had no desire to go back to England at all – I was taking people Scuba-diving for a living, still working at the animal clinic in-between times and still loving life on that tiny tropical island.

Every day was different; whether guiding customers through shoals of brightly coloured fish, nursing stray dogs back to health at the clinic, or rescuing irate monkeys from places they really shouldn’t be (like restaurants); as far as I was concerned, my life there was perfect.

Palm Tree ClimbingThai BeachEventually though, I began to run out of money; I’d spent everything I could, then borrowed more and spent that too. My diving wages had all gone on dive gear and I was fighting the realisation that my trip was nearly over.  The final blow was when a thief broke into my bungalow and stole the last of my cash. I was getting desperate. Being suddenly penniless 6,000 miles from home, in a country where no-one in authority speaks your language, is pretty scary. Home would be boring – it would certainly mean the end of my adventures – but it would be safe.

Then I got a phone call from my sister. She was on holiday in Australia, staying with a friend she’d met whilst traveling, and the two of them were planning a grand trip around the country. She’d called to see if she could convince me to leave Thailand, fly to Australia, and come with them!

I said I’d have loved to, if only I could afford it.

“No worries!” she said. Her friend Krista had a place I could stay while I looked for work.

It all seemed likely to end in tears – my sister and I have had a volatile relationship in the past, and being dependant entirely on her friend’s charity would be the total opposite of the freedom I’d become accustomed to.

Plus there was paperwork, and visas, and… that ever-present fear of the unknown.

But sometimes you’ve just got to go for it.

Trust to fate, I thought.

I went for it.

I flew into Perth on a maxed out credit card, arriving with nothing but the clothes on my back – the animals had destroyed the rest! My entire luggage allowance was taken up by one huge bag of diving gear.

I couldn’t even afford a cup of coffee in the airport.

But then, who can these days?

Gill and Krista came to pick me up in a crumbling van they’d bought and decorated with multi-coloured hand prints! Appropriately enough, they’d called it ‘Rusty’.

Krista had set up an interview for me with a local job agency for the following day.

I started work the day after that.

She drove me in to work herself, and picked me up afterwards, every day for the couple of weeks it took me to get back on my feet. Sometimes she’d even bring me cookies or cake! I had so much fun hanging out with her, I decided to risk joining the grand adventure after all; as soon as I had a bit of cash saved up we all piled into ‘Rusty’ and set off for parts unknown.

Six years later, Krista and I are still travelling.

In that time we’ve hardly been apart, despite being residents of two countries on opposite sides of the world. We’ve had a lot of adventures and done a lot of crazy things – and we always trust to fate, or to Serendipity, to get us where we’re meant to be.

We were married last year in an English castle, with guests from seven different countries helping us celebrate.

I was a bit scared of marriage, at first.

But like with anything else, sometimes you’ve just got to go for it.

Wedding photo

The Great Perth Storm of 2012…

We heard it first on the news.

A storm was coming for Perth. One of epic proportions.

WA StormAfter a week of wild weather, winds bringing down trees and power lines alike, this was set to be IT. The Big One.

Batten down the hatches – we were in for a rough ride.

Word spread from TV and radio, from person to person – it was a storm – no, it was a tornado! Category 2, whatever that means, or worse – is there worse than a Category 2? I don’t know!

People panicked.

Facebook lit up with concerns about power outages and house damage.

“I have to park my car underneath a huge tree,” one friend explained. “I can’t do anything to stop it getting crushed!”

There was talk of flooding.

There was talk of snow.

Surely we weren’t in for a blizzard? I mean, I know it’s winter, but this is Perth! Right?

People hurried home from work.

We could hardly believe it – the traffic at 4pm was like rush hour. Businesses and shops closed early, sending staff home as soon as they could to avoid them being caught on the road when The Storm hit.

By nightfall the roads were empty. It was eerie, as we drove home from the gym, speeding unopposed down streets we normally had to queue down.

Empty StreetsThe cafes and restaurants of the popular Vic Park district were all empty; occasionally a terrified pedestrian darted across the street, desperately seeking shelter, cursing the cruel fate that had left them stranded outside in the face of the advancing storm.

At just after 8pm, Western Standard Time, it hit.

The noise of the wind was intense – well, probably. We didn’t hear it as we were inside eating schnitzels.

The storm surged around the house, making us occasionally remember it was there. Plans were abandoned: “We’ll have to put the bins out tomorrow,” I said gravely.

“We’ll have to close the bedroom window!” my wife informed me.

But we didn’t. We’re just that fearless.

Outside, the storm raged unabated.

Perth resisted with all it’s strength – but how could it possibly survive the night?

For minutes at a time we were battered by the rain, sheeting from the sky with enough force to make you really, really wet.

Then there would be a brief lull – then rain would pour down once again, flooding into our drains like… well, like it’s supposed to do.

The aftermath was one of subtle devastation.

Branches were down.

Leaves were down.

Hell, leaves were everywhere. It looked like Perth had been caught in the grip of a… big storm. Well, big-ish.

Across the region, fences were slightly damaged.

A garden gnome was seen to be unmoved in the hilltop vicinity of Roleystone, having narrowly survived the same terrifying ordeal that his friends had also narrowly survived.

Slowly, life returned to normal. People came out of hiding, glancing fearfully at the sky and counting the signs of destruction all around them.

Some of them needed more than one finger.

But long after the boards had been removed from our windows, long after the children had been rescued from beneath tables and under beds, long after 10am, when the sun had dried all remaining traces of the deadly rainstorm – Perth was still there.

Thankfully no-one lost their lives to the deadly downpour, though it is believed that a few weather forecasters lost their jobs.

Our thoughts and prayers are with their families, and with the idiots themselves.

United in their defiance of the storm, Perth residents have vowed: ‘We shall rebuild!’

Picture by The Brow Horn Orchestra

Unfortunately, nothing was destroyed, but the sentiment remains important. Never again will this brave city feel as threatened by Mother Nature.

Never before, in the field of human-weather activity, has so little been done to so many by such a vast load of bullshit.

So now, wear this badge with pride:

I survived banner