Friday, 30 April 2010

Bemoaning habit (or lack thereof)

This is going to be another of those "I'm going to get back into writing -- yes, really!" posts. I know I've lapsed into a lamentable TV habit and am showing dangerous signs of MasterChef addiction, but all I need is an immersion weekend . . .

OK, I probably need more than that. I probably need to throw a brick through the TV -- or, better, use the new PVR (hard disk recorder) to record the things I actually want to watch, rather than sitting like a sloth in front of the idiot box for hours on end. I am the idiot.

So, I now have a plan. And while I'm at it, I need to figure out a new exercise regime as well. Can't walk to work anymore, and it's impractical to continue at Contours Balaclava, so what am I to do?

This is me at a crossroads. I feel like I've turned into a completely different person and I have to go find the me that writes every evening and thinks about her characters all day, every day. I seem to recall I was a writer once.

What were their names, again . . .?
(And why does MasterChef have to be on EVERY night?!)

Monday, 26 April 2010

Book: Life of Pi

Life of Pi is one of the few Page Turners books that I have actually completed after our group discussion (which was nearly a month ago). Normally, if I haven't finished a book before the meeting, I abandon it half-read, because I obviously wasn't that excited by it in the first place. But I couldn't do that with Pi. Here, I felt compelled to complete what was both a fascinating voyage of discovery and unique literary experience.

I embarked on this novel knowing almost nothing about it. I didn't even read a blurb to start with, since I had it in audio book format. And although I didn't know what to expect, I was surprised by what eventuated: the novel opens with the narrator Pi, a 16-yr old Indian boy, telling us about his boyhood in India. He tells us about his father, a zookeeper, and what it was like growing up in a zoo, complete with numerous animal anecdotes; he tells us of his three religions -- hindu, christianity and muslim; and he tells us what persuaded his family to decide to emigrate to Canada. But this is all laying the foundation for the main part of the book, in which he is shipwrecked in a lifeboat with a Royal Bengal Tiger.

I will reveal no more of the story, because this is a book where to know the ending is to change the ultimate experience. I won't say 'ruin' the experience, because I had the ending revealed to me when I was about half way through, and I still felt the power of the book. But it was certainly a different experience than if I had not known.

We felt this book is largely about the need for humans to search for meaning and understanding through story. In the first part of the novel, Pi is fascinated by the different 'stories' associated with his three religions. In his mind, there is but one god, and all that separates the different religions are the different stories used to exemplify them. But although others have described this novel as an exploration of religion, it is only so in that context: in how religion is defined (and possibly created) by story. Religion plays no great part in the novel, other than as a foundation element to establish the premise.

In fact, the entire first section of the novel exists entirely to establish the context for the second and main section, in which Pi is stranded adrift in the lifeboat with the tiger. And that main/middle section exists entirely to explore the overall premise: the importance of story in enabling humans to interpret events that cannot otherwise be interpreted. (OK, I'll stop being cryptic.)

While fascinating, this novel wasn't perfect. I felt it dragged on in several parts, which made it a bit of a slog, even for an audio book. And the opening section gives no hint of what's to come, which turned me off at first, because I wasn't too interested in a whole book in that vein. Particularly when the allegorical tone resulted in a series of passionless accounts of events and fairly superficial characters. We don't even really ever plumb the depths of Pi's character, despite spending months with him at sea, but for the most part it's OK, because the exercise is fairly academic and intellectual.

It's certainly a book I would recommend widely, because it's so different, and is an interesting take on humanity and what we need to survive. It's also a book that leaves you thinking and wanting to discuss it.

Tuesday, 20 April 2010

Hanging up the boots

And so the journey ends. We Footsloggers have hung up our boots (or shoved them in the laundry for dealing with later), rested our weary limbs, and sagged with relief that the ordeal is over. I feel calm satisfaction at my efforts in completing the event, if vaguely disappointed that despite all the training I still found it really hard! Having said that, I've pulled up extremely well - almost zero aches & pains.

For a full and detailed account of the event itself, see my post on Footsloggers Log.

Since more or less all I have posted about for several months has been trailwalker, I am going to keep this final entry short. I have blogged heavily thus far as much for my own records as anything, and I'm not sure there's too much more to say.

I did it. Walked 100km. Time 35h 44mins. Funds raised for Oxfam (to-date) $6751.

Thursday, 15 April 2010

Trailwalker is tomorrow . . .

There's nothing more to be done now, except walk.

I am well rested, my feet are looking OK (except for some dead blisters), and my box is packed with all the stuff I'll need for the ordeal. The weather looks as though it's going to be nice too, which is a bonus.

I feel strangely calm -- or am I numb? Apprehension gilded with excitement.

More after the event . . .

Thursday, 8 April 2010

TW minus 1 week - The final stretch

It's the proverbial calm before the storm. Nothing much is happening and I actually feel like I have my life back! Emma and I walked approx 15km from Port Melbourne to Elwood & back on Friday morning as a taper walk, followed by brunch with Helen and Allyson. My first brunch in months, or so it seems. That was followed by a relaxing Easter weekend down at the island, where I did not much at all.

The calm is weird. After weeks of intensive training -- gym, walks, long walks, excrutiatingly long walks -- it is odd to feel so relaxed. But we are told to allow our bodies to recover strength, not to mention protect the feet. So I'm keeping walks short and returned to the gym tonight for the first time in about 2 weeks -- just to keep the muscles lubricated.

On the fundraising front we've had a bit of a flurry of donations in the last few days, with various family members and friends pitching in to take us over the $5K mark, which was our target. I'm really pleased that we're starting the walk having met our pledge.

There is little now to do but wait. We have one final team walk on Saturday morning -- about 10km -- followed by another brunch, which will be our final team gathering prior to the event. That will be our last opportunity to fine-tune the system, fill out the medical and mobile number forms, and confirm meeting times & places. The pointy end is rushing closer and I'm getting very nervous.

Wednesday, 7 April 2010

To be, or not to be . . .

I am reminded yet again that I am a writer as I print out a bunch of stories to be read and thoughtfully critiqued before our writers group meeting on Sunday. That I have to remind myself!

It is a while since I've attended a workshopping session, having decided some time ago that I am far more interested in novel talk than short stories. However, it seems the right time for me to venture forth once again into the realm of snappy prose and punchy endings. The timing is good, being in the midst of my training taper, and for pretty much the first time this year I have headspace to contemplate the exercise. With little more than a week to go until 'the great event', it is not long before I will officially run out of excuses for not writing. Perhaps Sunday's gathering will inject me with some inspiration.

Alas, however, my problem is just as much due to the fact that I am completely out of the habit. I need to claw myself out of various TV shows and Buffy DVDs and chain myself to the computer and embrace the words of an evening instead. My discipline dissolved around six months ago (shame!). I will probably need an immersion weekend down at the island to get me going, and then hopefully I can pick up where 2007 (best of years) left off. Right now I don't really deserve to call myself a writer.

Saturday, 3 April 2010

Best orange cake ever

The Island Food Store on Phillip Island is a fairly well kept secret, although you'll always see plenty of traffic from those in the know. It's hidden at the end of a small cul-de-sac of a carpark, just next to the Coles carpark in Cowes, and specialises in gourmet made-on-the-premises salads and cakes. The lemon tart is famous. I am also partial to the enchiladas (vego & non-vego) which, served with some of the wonderful salads, make a delicious lunch -- either eat in or take-away.

They also make good coffee, which is how I discovered the foodstore, the coffee having been recommended to me. Always keen to find the best coffee anywhere, I checked it out with pleasure. It may not have the ambience of one of the cafes on the main street, where the outside tables overlook the passers-by, but it's not an unpleasant place to sit for half an hour with a large skinny latte and the cake of the day.

Such is how I spent a delightful half hour this morning, on this occasion with my parents. And this is how I got to taste the best flourless orange cake EVER. It was the cake of the day and came with a coffee package deal. Normally we might have shared a single slice, but today opted not to, and boy am I glad of that! The cake was moist without being sludgy, incredibly flavoursome, and included the added crunch of almond pieces. The chef herself came our to clear our plates and said that grinding the almonds in the food processor, rather than using shop-bought almond meal that is much finer, is the secret. Absolutely delicious. Want more!

Thursday, 1 April 2010

TW minus 2 weeks (the taper commences)

It's all downhill from here. Until the actual event, that is. Our final long walk was a resounding success, with our spirits markedly improved. We had to adjust our route a little owing to more trail burns, but we managed a ~44km walk from CP5 (Mt Evelyn) to nearly the end then back to CP7. It wasn't the 55km we were originally (weeks ago) planning to do for our longest walk, but it was still a 12h 49m marathon of endurance.

My new eating plan seemed to work. And when I tugged on my skins for the evening session I was amazed at how much better my leg muscles felt, almost immediately. I am now seriously considering wearing skins for the entire event. The thing I am most apprehensive about is my feet, which are blistering. Hopefully I can figure out some way of preventing the most painful of these.

It took a full day to recover on Sunday from the exhaustion, but at least I wasn't dehydrated. By Monday I was feeling pretty good.

So now we taper, which means I don't actually have to do much of anything. I haven't been to the gym in a couple of weeks, nor have I walked anywhere since Saturday. Emma & I have a 15km walk planned for tomorrow morning, after which Helen and Allyson will come and 'support' us for brunch in Port Melbourne. I think I have a few breakfasts to make up for there!

I will probably do some walks over Easter while I'm down at Philip Island too, although nothing too strenuous. It will be really nice to do some relaxing! And then next week I intend to get back into the gym a couple of times.

2 weeks to go . . .