Stories

Working surrounded by writers prompted me to do some writing this year and the last. Lacking discipline, I found that the best incentive was a submission opportunity. So I wrote a few pieces in response to calls for themed submissions, sent them in, and was thrilled to find that editors actually wanted to publish my stories. They’re both memoirs, but highly subjective in the way that memoirs are.

Searching for Borges was published in Dec 2012 in the Stilts Handbook of Adventure and Pilgrim has been published in Feb 2013 in The Lifted Brow: What Even Is Perth.

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Verandah Garden

The rains have finally come to Brisbane. After a long hot dry spell that saw our windows swollen shut with humidity and us sleeping in the lounge room in search of a breeze, the rains have finally come. The overcast skies feel liberating after the heavy sunshine; pleasantly cool without the chill.

Our verandah garden is loving the cooler, wetter weather. And yesterday I found this little guy hanging out on the basil plants – the perfect hiding spot!

verandah garden

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A Selection of Books I Read in 2012…

IMG_5266The Casuals by Sally Breen; The Girl Who Kicked the Hornets Next by Steig Larsson; Inspector Singh Investigates: A Curious Indian Cadaver by Shamini Flint; Cotillion by Georgette Heyer; Coraline by Neil Gaiman; Inside Out by Robert Adamson; The Price of Life by Nigel Brennan; Jeff in Venice, Death in Varanasi by Geoff Dyer; Grace Beside Me by Sue McPherson; Praise by Andrew McGahan; Narcopolis by Jeet Thayil; Behind The Beautiful Forevers by Katherine Boo; The Blogging Revolution by Antony Loewenstein; Madlands by Anna Rose; Broken Republic by Arundhati Roy; India Becoming: A Portrait of Life in Modern India by Akash Kapur; A Free Man by Aman Sethi; Nine Lives by William Dalrymple; We Wish To Inform You That Tomorrow We Will be Killed With Our Families by Philip Gourevitch; Dance, Dance, Dance by Haruki Murakami; The Last Moghul by William Dalrymple; The Moor’s Last Sigh by Salman Rushdie

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Ubud, 2012

In the 8th century a Javanese Hindu priest by the name of Rsi Markendya came to Bali. At the place were two rivers met, campuhan, he sat and meditated. Soon a temple was built to mark the holy site, and so the beginnings of what is now known as Ubud. The name of the town comes from the ancient Balinese word ubad, which means medicine, and was once a place renowned for its medicinal herbs and plants.

These days Ubud is all bright green rice paddies and visceral tropical air; worn stone and welcoming Balinese smiles; travelling hippies staying awhile and tourists bussed in for the day; fast scooters and endless offers for a taxi; steaming plates of nasi goreng and organic raw food restaurants; wireless internet in cafes and street shutdown for the funeral procession of a member of the royal family.

Walking back through the rice paddies at night is walking in a sea of upside down stars, the grasses alight with fireflies flickering on and off, on and off.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Book Spine Poems

Having found out about this idea from Another Lost Shark ages ago, I have been meaning to have a go at creating some book spine poems for quite a while now. Finally, inspired by a cold Sunday afternoon and a belly full of cookies, here goes:

Rainswayed night
Little gods
Coming up for air

 

 

 

 

 

 

Poems of the Night:

Ariel
In her strapless dresses
The shadow of the sun



 

 

 

 

Tales of ordinary madness
The captain’s verses
Drawn and quartered

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Abortion and Rights

“Access to safe, legal abortion is a fundamental right of women, irrespective of where they live. The underlying causes of morbidity and mortality from unsafe abortion today are not blood loss and infection but, rather, apathy and disdain towards women.Unsafe Abortion: The Preventable Pandemic, World Health Organisation

“Without reproductive health and freedom, women cannot fully exercise their fundamental human rights, such as those relating to education and employment.” The Right To Reproductive and Sexual Health, United Nations

For those of us living in Australia, it is easy to take our right and ability to access safe abortion and reproductive services for granted. Millions of women in the developing world cannot say the same, and increasingly, conservatives and fundamentalists in the US are stripping their own citizens of the right to access abortion…

In 2009 President Barack Obama overturned the conservative and dangerous anti-abortion ‘global gag rule’. The ‘global gag rule’ is a law that prevents US funds for international development going to clinics or organizations that perform abortions, provide information or counseling about abortion, or even mention abortion as an alternative to women with unplanned pregnancies. The flow on effect of the rule is significant and far-reaching, restricting access to family planning advice, HIV/AIDS clinics, birth control, gynecological and a host of other women’s health services, endangering the lives and health of hundreds of thousands of the poorest women across the world. Originally passed by Reagan in 1984, the ‘global gag rule’ was overturned by Clinton and then reinstated by Bush before being overturned by Obama.

For thirteen years, Australian had it’s own brand of the ‘global gag rule’. In 1996, in return for Senator Brian Harradine’s support for the sale of Telstra, Australia’s Howard government instituted a rule preventing Australian foreign aid going to non-government organizations or clinics that offered abortion or abortion-related services, even if abortion was legal in that clinic’s country. It wasn’t until 2009 that Australia’s Labor Rudd government overturned that particular rule.

It should be noted that the ‘global gag rule’ directly contravenes World Health Organisation guidelines on women’s reproductive health. Importantly, studies show that legal restrictions on abortion and prevention of access to safe abortion practitioners do not reduce the incidence of abortion.* According to the WHO an estimated 20 million unsafe abortions are done each year, resulting in the death of 68,000 women and complications in millions more.** 97% of these are conducted in developing countries, but if American conservative senators have their way, perhaps that percentage will start to change…

Just a couple of days ago Michigan House passed an extremely anti-choice bill, after only 20 minutes of debate. Amongst other things, the bill bans abortion after 20 weeks, mandates how a fetus must be disposed of, and imposes exorbitant insurance policies to be purchased by businesses conducting abortion, which will result in numerous clinics closing their doors restricting thousands of women access to a service that they have a constitutional right to.

This comes on the heels of the Mississippi House passing a bill that requires doctors to look for a fetal heartbeat before performing an abortion, a requirement that will likely require women to have an invasive transvaginal ultrasound before an abortion. An invasive and medically unnecessary procedure, it is essentially state-sanctioned rape. The other by-product of the Mississippi Bill is that it will essentially shut down the only abortion clinic in the state, forcing women to travel outside of Mississippi to have an abortion. Too bad for those who don’t have the means or ability to travel.

All of this is, of course, less than 40 years after the landmark Roe vs. Wade case that, for the first time ever, deemed abortion a fundamental constitutional right. So it seems that in the US, as conservative elements lose the power to restrict women’s reproductive rights overseas, they have been turning to their own backyards, endeavoring to restrict their own women from accessing their constitutional right.

Tony Abbott, the pro-life Leader of the Opposition, once called the amount of abortion procedures performed in Australia a “national tragedy”. Let’s make sure that the trend towards restricting our reproductive rights doesn’t follow in Australia.

To take a cue from Rep. Lisa Brown in her speech to the Michigan House: And finally Mr. Speaker, I’m flattered that you’re all so interested in my vagina, but no means no.

And if you haven’t seen this video, you should most definitely give it a watch.

* ‘Unsafe Abortion: Global and Regional Incidence, Trends, Consequences, and Challenges’ Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology Canada by Iqbal Shah and Elisabeth Ahman, December 2009

** ‘Unsafe Abortion: The Preventable Epidemic’ World Health Organisation Journal Paper by David A Grimes, Susheela Singh, Mariana Romero, Bela Ganatra, Friday E Okonofua, Iqbal H Shah, October 2006

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Sunsets and Eggplants

Brisbane at the moment is full of lazy golden autumn afternoons. Warm enough to pad about the garden in bare feet, cool enough to start thinking about cosy cooked dinners. From our front verandah, sunset unravels in coloured spools across the sky, turning the evenings momentarily technicolour.

The changing season also brings with it the goodness of early autumn produce. We recently joined a fruit and veggie co-op, where everything is organic, seasonal, and locally sourced. Lately we’ve been getting big round red tomatoes, green and yellow squash, bright orange persimmon for dessert, aromatic mushrooms, and sweet sugar bananas.

The great thing about getting produce you might not normally cook with is it prompts a little creativity in the kitchen. The busier I get with work and other life things, the less varied my cooking becomes. So the arrival of unexpected produce in my kitchen has inspired me to try out new dishes and different flavours, to play around a bit.

Last Friday night, all we had left in the fridge was two eggplants, a bunch of basil, some chillis, and a whole lot of tomatoes. I decided to make an eggplant and tomato sauce, from scratch. Because all of the veggies I was using were organic and picked less than a week ago, they were bursting with flavour. There was no need to overpower the sauce with spices to make it tasty. In fact, in this dish I seasoned only minimally and it was delicious.

This sauce is all about using super-fresh seasonal veggies and letting those flavours sing. Together, the eggplant and tomato were tart and tangy, a perfect combination. And the best part? It made a delicious pasta sauce, and leftovers made for a great Sunday lunch…

Eggplant & Tomato Sauce

2 medium sized eggplant / 8 – 10 medium sized tomatoes / 3 cloves garlic / 2 – 3 birds eye chilli / handful basil leaves / 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar / generous pour of red wine / olive oil / salt and pepper, to taste

Chop the eggplant into cubes, lay out flat on an oiled baking dish, and cook at 200 celsius for approx. 30 minutes. In the meantime, heat a pot of water on the stove deep enough to dunk the tomatoes in. Slice an X into the top of each tomato, and when the water is boiling put the tomatoes in for about 10 seconds, then remove. When cool enough to handle – but still hot – peel the skin off; it should come away easily. Dice the tomatoes, reserving the juice. In a heavy-bottomed pot, heat your chopped garlic and chilli in a generous splash of olive oil on a medium heat. Once the garlic starts to soften, add the diced tomatoes along with their juice, the red wine vinegar, chopped basil leaves, and salt & pepper to taste. Cover, bring to a simmer, and cook for about 20 minutes, until the tomatoes are starting to breakdown. At this point stir through a generous pour of red wine and add the roasted eggplant. Cover again and simmer for another ten minutes. Check the sauce at this point and add some extra water if it is sticking. Simmer uncovered for another ten minutes, or until the tomatoes have broken down and the sauce is nice and thick.

And now, what to do with the sauce:

Sicilian Eggplant Pasta

200 grams penne or short pasta / approx. 1 1/2 cups Eggplant & Tomato Sauce / 100 grams fresh ricotta / handful chopped parsley / cracked pepper

Bring a pot of water to the boil. Add pasta, and cook according to packet instructions. Once cooked, divide between two bowls and top with generous spoonfuls of the sauce. Crumble some fresh ricotta, chopped parsley, and cracked black pepper over the top.

Eat steaming hot on an autumn evening, with a glass of red wine. Serves two.

Eggplant Shakshuka

2 large silverbeet leaves, or other green leafy vegetable (kale or spinach would both work) / approx. 3/4 cup Eggplant & Tomato Sauce / 2 eggs / 100 grams fetta / chopped parsley / cracked pepper

Thinly slice greens, and stir through Eggplant & Tomato Sauce. Divide sauce & greens mixture evenly between two individual oven dishes, and crack an egg into the centre of each dish. Slide into a warmed oven, and cook at 180 Celsius for approx. ten minutes, or until whites are firm and yolk is slightly runny. Top with crumbled fetta, chopped parsley, and cracked black pepper.

Enjoy for Sunday lunch, with crusty fresh bread to mop up the sauce. Serves two.

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