Wednesday, 23 August 2006

The Wedding

After significant build-up, M&M got married on Saturday. I don’t have detailed photos, but the bride looked beautiful (of course) and everyone had a lovely day.

I took Friday off, which felt a bit slack, but turned out to be the best thing. It meant that I had ‘a Saturday’, where I slept-in, did washing, vacuumed, tidied up, and generally relaxed. At 2:30 I went to see how M was doing and we had a manicure (first time for me). The nails looked great for a couple of days, but they’re a disaster now.

I had never been to Xavier before, so was surprised to find when we arrived for the rehearsal how attractive the campus is. Xavier Chapel is set on a hill amid old-style buildings, looking over sweeping ovals with a fabulous view of the city in the distance. A lovely setting for a wedding. The rehearsal was more work than anticipated, with everyone being whisked through the ceremony and me specifically being instructed in the arts of chief dress “fuffer”, at which I failed dismally.

We had dinner with the bridal party plus extras and got home to mum and dad’s at a reasonable time. In the morning, M’s other bridesmaid, Belinda, came around and we headed off to the salon for our coiffure. I ended with something that looked straight out of the sixties - big front and intricate twists created with 22 bobby pins. Everyone said it looked great, but I just thought it looked big.

The three of us transformed surrounded by champagne, sushi and sandwiches, aided by brother J. Mum also transformed, and then dad arrived with Hannah, who also transformed into the ‘red princess flower fairy’(??). The photographer was around by then, so there were many photos of bridesmaids slipping on bride’s shoes, taping dress to bride, fastening necklace etc etc. More photos followed outside, where Hannah behaved beautifully.

The cars arrived, and turned out to be London taxicabs - very fitting for M&M, who spent 18 months living in London a few years ago. Despite the fact that our cab driver bleated the horn all the way to the church (literally) it was rather an entertaining ride, although B and I felt like goldfish in a bowl. The wedding ceremony passed quickly, with M&M’s friend Kate singing beautifully and the bride entering to ‘Here comes the sun’ sung by Nina Simone. I didn’t do much dress-fuffing, but it didn’t seem to matter. The most contentious issue was where we were supposed to stand at various times. How confusing should a wedding ceremony be?

Afterwards, more lenses appeared everywhere I looked. Friends and family standing back with their digital cameras stuck out in front. Formal group photos. Many hellos. Sore cheeks from smiling. We were by this time very cold . . . More photos were taken at the St Kilda Botanical gardens with champagne. Still cold . . .

The reception was at Red Scooter in East St Kilda, where we finally warmed up. The extended canap├ęs played havoc with my tiring feet, but it was nice to see people and relax a bit, official duties completed (or so I thought . . .). The rest of the evening passed quickly, with lovely food (I had the fillet steak), good speeches, dancing with the cousins (although I was surprised by bridal waltz time, because it is of course traditional for the bridal party to join in, which I’d quite forgotten about . . .). The gifts on the table were shot glasses filled with chocolate M&Ms and dessert was a plate of multiple small delicacies: mud cake, cheesecake, apple pie.

As the evening wound to a close, I became suddenly exhausted. Mum and dad dropped me home, but Mum and I had to wait for dad to drop M&M home first (fortunately just around the corner). Unfortunately, however, I had to wrestle with my dress for 20 minutes before I could get it off, then remove the 22 bobby pins, then remove the makeup . . . it was after 1:30 before I got to bed and I truly crashed.

The following day, M&M hosted afternoon tea for family and a few extras, including the bridal party. Everyone took a plate (except for me, being still in recovery mode, not to mention without shoes, since most of my gear had been left at mum and dad’s . . .) and the festivities rolled on. I think many were in ‘recovery mode’ much as I was. Nevertheless, it was a fitting closure to a busy yet happy weekend. I hope M&M have a nice honeymoon. They’ve gone to Broome with a hired 4WD . . .

Wednesday, 16 August 2006

Words for the week - 862

Not very good.

Excuses: overwhelmingly tired just at the moment. I'm finding it so difficult to raise the energy to create. Work is leaving me drained of all but the best intentions. Tonight I want to curl up in front of the TV. Or with a wickedly fast-paced and entertaining book.

This coming weekend is the wedding, so very likely no writing. Perhaps I'll just give in to the inevitable and have a short break.

I've lost my focus. Everything I write seems trite and boring. I think I've written myself into a corner, and all I can think of is accumulating my word tally, when I should probably be assessing where I'm at and where I should go next. But I don't have the head space to find a solution. Perhaps I need someone to read it and offer suggestions. Should I just keep writing for the moment and worry about fixing my problem later? It's not really going to affect the direction of the story, just the element of surprise (or lack thereof) when a certain event takes place.

I'm rambling.

Monday, 14 August 2006

Mars like the moon?

I received information via e-mail recently that advised everyone to watch the planet Mars this month, that it was about to be spectacular! The powerpoint explained that Mars was about to come within 34.5 thousand miles of the Earth. In effect, on 27 August 2006, it was going to look as large as the FULL MOON.

Naturally, I was intrigued and rather excited, but I am afraid I have discovered it is all a hoax. The following article from NASA explains that the moon did indeed come close to the Earth on 27 August 2003 and again in October 2005, but neither of these events even closely resembled the event described above. It figures!

Saturday, 12 August 2006

Page Turners: Across the Nightingale Floor

Author: Lian Hearn
Leader: Me
Host: Ania
Theme: Japanese food (miso soup and green tea cake)

We actually discussed this novel onThursday 3 August, but I've not had time to post about it. I want to try to post a summary of all our meetings (held monthly), even if more than a week late.

Brief synopsis: Across the Nightingale Floor by Lian Hearn is a fantasy novel set in an imaginary world that is unashamedly based on feudal Japan. Takeo is the central character, a boy of 16 raised in a remote mountain village, whose world falls apart when the village is attacked by Lord Iida Sadamu. From the beginning, when he escapes Iida's sword, it is clear that Takeo has unique abilities. He is rescued (apparently coincidentally) by the passing Lord Otori Shigeru, who happens to have a personal vendetta against Iida himself. Shigeru adopts Takeo into the Otori clan and proceeds to have him educated as both a young man of the warrior class, and also a member of the 'Tribe', a mysterious group of assassins with supernatural abilities like Takeo's. There follows a plot involving feuding clans, political scheming, secret love and plans for revenge. Interwoven with Takeo's story is that of Kaede, a girl of the warrior class who is used as a hostage to ensure the 'good behaviour' of her father. She is treated like a pawn and bundled off to be married to Shigeru - only to fall in love with Takeo. The climax takes place in Lord Iida's city, where everything unravels with tragic consequences.

An interesting point of difference among reviewers of this book - and also the members of Page Turners - was the writing style. It is written very simply. Some interpret this to mean it's written for children, or by an inexperienced author. Others (including me) considered the writing elegant in its simplicity. The author herself stated "I am fascinated by the use of silence and assymetry. I like the concept of ma: the space between that enables perception occur. I wanted to see if I could use silence in writing. So the style is spare, elliptal and suggestive. What is not said is as important as what is stated."

I responded to this style, but many did not, finding it too simplistic, lacking in detail and a barrier to empathising with characters. Some in the group said they didn't care whether Takeo lived or died.

We probably didn't have the best discussion of this book, and that was my fault. In leading the discussion, I had a tendency to analysis its effectiveness as a piece of fiction, such as looking at how well the characters were defined, whether a reader believed in the character relationships, and whether certain scenes were dramatic enough. This was probably not the best angle to take, because most readers don't analyse a book in quite the same way as I do as a writer. In general they enjoyed reading it, but didn't much like pulling it to pieces. I feel a bit bad about that. It's a lesson for me on how not to lead a book discussion.

But perhaps I'm not being entirely fair to myself. As a story it is really very simple, and its uniqueness and interest come for the most part directly from the writing style and the setting. It deals with the common themes of revenge, loyalty and betrayal - plus the subjegation of women! We didn't end up talking about any of these much.

I personally found this book really powerful, and posted on it 17 July, just after I finished reading it (see Books that make you cry). I always find it interesting when others have such different opinions to mine - it always take me by surprise!

We are now reading Orlando by Virginia Woolf, and I will try to post on that sooner after the discussion . . .

Wednesday, 9 August 2006

words for the week - 1533

1533 for this past week and 1081 for the week before that. Not too bad given the madness that is my life at the moment.

I have been stuck for a couple of days wondering how to implement some flashback scenes. I wrote some scenes in January 2005 that were meant as character explorations as a means of getting me back into the novel and writing generally. They deal with key episodes in the childhood of my main protagonist. I actually rather like them as they stand and am speculating introducing them into the novel as flashbacks (in reduced form). This then set me wondering where to insert them and how much I've revealed to the reader already and how to deliver the information in the most strategic way . . .

I'm also trying to figure out the most effective way of delivering a particular scene that I'm currently building up to (a set piece?). Everything I introduce to raise the tension now will, I fear, end up reducing the impact of the event itself. This has me in a dilemma!

Not sure how much writing I'll get done this week, since there's a lot of wedding stuff on, not to mention other events . . .

Monday, 7 August 2006

A REALLY busy week

Had a lot on this past week, starting from last weekend:
Saturday - spent the day with a friend who spontaneously visited Melbourne from Shanghai on business, and elected to spend an extra day in Melbourne to say hello. Spent the evening at a 40th birthday party.
Sunday - went to the netball (mildly hungover) to witness a depressing loss by the mighty Melbourne Phoenix.
Monday - Uni reunion (see earlier post)
Wednesday - Out to dinner with friends; a lovely evening but ate far too much
Thursday - Reading group/page turners on Across the Nightingale Floor. Hope to post on this separately soon.
Friday - squeezed in a bridemaid's dress fitting before again attending the netball, this time for a much better result: a win for the Phoenix
Saturday - the hens event (see previous post)

Throw in work and there wasn't much time for anything else! Today (Sunday) has been a little more relaxing: a bit of home maintenance with my parents visiting and some fridge shopping. I plan to get a new one very soon! Hopefully this week will be a bit more in control . . .

Sunday, 6 August 2006

The Hens Event

I haven't said much about this to-date, but yesterday was M's hens event. As one of the bridesmaids, it was my self-appointed task to arrange this, and so I am glad it is now over! We had two events: High Tea at the Windsor Hotel, followed by drinks and tapas/antipasto etc (for those who could still eat) at the Longroom bar in Melbourne.

A picture of a half-eaten High Tea dish is to the right. We had around six of these for a table of 23 people, plus a side table with lemon merangue pie, creme caramel, chocolate mousse pie thing, chocolate cake, cookies . . . The food was fabulous, but TOO MUCH! I now think back to all that we left and feel like weeping, because of course today is another day and I would really enjoy another creme caramel, a piece of the chocolate cake, plus scones with jam and double cream . . .

We had a private room - "The Winston Room" - and were all seated on a single board table. The classic Windsor decor and personal waiter made it a special afternoon spent with special people.

We kicked on at the Longroom for drinks from about 6pm. This bar is a massive room with wrought iron grids separating it into 'rooms' that make it feel private while providing plenty of atmosphere. I am pleased to announce this was my choice of venue (after a bar crawl a few weeks ago) and it seemed to find favour with all. So much so that even the 'oldies' - our mother and two aunts - stayed about three hours longer than we thought they would! The music was not too loud, it wasn't too smoky, and we had a fabulous bay of comfortable couches arranged in a square. A good time was had by all, with the bride and her chief cronies kicking on at the Lounge dancing until 3:30 am. (I bowed out considerably before this!)

Friday, 4 August 2006

Book Review - "Temple" by Matthew Reilly

Finished this as an audiobook recently. Broad plot outline: US professor of ancient languages (William Race) is seconded by US army for a secret mission, which turns out to be the retrieval of an Incan idol that has been carved from a meteorite made of some element called 'Thyrium'. Race is brought in because he can translate an anicent manuscript written by Spanish monk (Alberto Santiago) that tells where the idol is. There turns out to be many parties fighting over this idol, which is greatly desired to fuel a new mega-bomb, called a Supernova, which can destroy the planet. Interwoven with the modern tale, is the tale of Alberto and his Incan prince friend, Renko, who escape from the Spanish invaders with the idol back in Incan times.

It's both a thriller and a classic hero's journey tale. Race starts off as an academic, good at sports, but not terribly adventurous. By the end of it, he has defused two supernovas (by correctly guessing the de-arming codes); witnessed the brutal murders of his brother, his brother's wife (Race's ex-girlfriend), his bodyguard/friend plus others; wrestled crocodiles; leaped from one plane to another in mid-air; survived a plummet to earth inside an army tank. . . and it goes on. There are many plot twists, both plausible and implausible, and in general it's quite entertaining. (There is a 'however' coming up in a moment . . .)

I have heard much of MR over the past few years - many people I know have read Ice Station (which I actually gave to my brother for Christmas one year). I saw him at a Melbourne Writers' Festival once - a self-professed movie buff, who tries to write like it's a film. This doesn't mean he writes like it's a screenplay; he writes as though the reader is watching a film. In an interview at the end of the novel, he said he wanted to write really long action scenes, longer than you'd get in a film . . . (well, I don't know about that!).

It is true he writes very LONG action scenes, and one particular scene in Temple went on and on - at least three walks to work and back! This was a river race - six 'good guys' take on a flotilla of 'bad guys' to retrieve the stolen Incan idol in the rainforests of Peru. Every minute action of around four main characters was described in excrutiating detail. It went on for EVER. And since I was listening to it as an audiobook, I couldn't even skim through it.

But the main issue I have with MR/Temple is the writing. I can accept that such a novel doesn't necessarily need complex character development (although Reilly does his best - and who am I to talk anyway?), and aside from some overly long action scenes, the tension, twists in the tale and pacing were pretty good. BUT the writing really annoyed me. Excessive use of adjectives/adverbs and excessive use of words like "astounding" to describe events - ie telling rather than showing. Also, rather than letting the reader put the pieces together for themselves, he tells you once, twice, three times - just in case you didn't get it!

But the thing which annoyed me most I think were phrases like "square-shaped hole" or "pole-like trees". I would be interested to do a word count of the number of times he used "shaped" and "like" in his adjectival constructions. What's wrong with "square hole"? Next thing he'll be saying "round-shaped sphere". I don't know if I noticed this more because I was listening to it as an audiobook, or whether I would have thrown the book across the room regardless. I suspect the latter.

Anyway, it was entertaining enough for my walk to work, although I did contemplate once or twice stopping in the middle. I don't think I'll be rushing out for any other MR books anytime soon though!

The 7am meeting that wasn't

Do I need to say any more?

Dragged myself out of bed at 6am (after setting two alarms) and into work, only to find said meeting had been postponed. So now I sit, staring at the screen, bleary eyed, contemplating starting work at least 1.5 hours earlier than normal.

It's not pretty.

As could be deduced from the eloquence of my post . . .