Writing for fun

kookaburragreenweb

Kookaburra by Ria Loader 2016

My latest joy is writing a set of children’s stories set in an imaginary place in the Australian Bush. The characters are Australian animals, the situations are ones that friends anywhere might encounter, and everyone gets along. It’s comforting to write for the child in all of us. My first story will come out in a few weeks. It is the story of The Big Race.

The stories are meant to be read out loud. Along the way, I’ve picked up pen and ink and watercolor again. It has been as much of a creative renaissance as a storytelling exercise. At the beginning of the year, I said I wanted to be able to tell better stories. This has taken me to a much more fun place than anything else I’ve done in years.

I get to play with color and character, with finding the right images to illustrate my characters. It is very much my hope that people will enjoy the stories and the world.

Jolly rumble

This is a favorite song for the season. May Day is upon us and while others may think about labor unions, for me it is a time to think on summer. Long lazy days on the deck with a cool drink, the company of good friends, my sweetheart beside me. Love the version of the song I posted below too.

…Hal-an-Tow, jolly rumbelow
We were up long before the day-o
To welcome in the summertime
To welcome in the May-o
For summer is coming in
And winter’s gone away…

thQFOLLFQY

Tomorrow is the first of May and we will be, indeed, awake long before the day to welcome in the summer. We will turn off the lights and the electronics and light the house with candles.

Last year at this time, the cherry blossoms in the back yard were faintly visible as the sky was backlit with the city lights below the cloud cover. Raven and I sat and held hands as we talked about our days. Conversation wandered gently from observation of the sky to expressing our love and gratitude for each other, enjoying the light of the candles, and being on the cusp of summer. Good times.

I am looking forward to celebrating again this year, though I think french toast with maple syrup and nutmeg eggs would be a good starter. Later on tomorrow  we will picnic in the park and watch some children weave a May pole with brightly colored ribbons. May Day for us is a day to be frivolous, mischievous and to share silliness with friends. It is part of the seasonal wheel that is the cusp of spring/summer.

(Quote above is from the song Hal An Tow.)

Made with love

Making things with my hands is a simple kind of magic, the kind of magic that is all about love. I especially like crocheting as it moves along so quickly, and is something you can do while visiting with friends and family; it is something I’ve been doing since I was about eight years old.

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Tiny blankets for little people – Photo by Ria

We would gather on a weekend around a pot of tea. The adults would sometimes drink beer in the late afternoon. Someone would bustle around in the kitchen, making snacks like scones, cookies or even toast fingers with butter and jam to go along with the tea. Just two families with the parents, the kids (three from each family), grandparents, and often an uncle or aunt extra who dropped by for a visit.

The hand work would come out when we were settled. Almost everyone worked on something. One uncle would focus on some leather repair, sharpening knives from the kitchen with a whetstone and oil, or mending socks. Someone would be knitting. Nan had her tatting, and a few of us learned to crochet, embroider, and make projects with beads. My mother was almost always working on a dressmaking project, taking up a hem or measuring for a new garment; my cousin Gail would be practicing dance with swords, with her father playing music to accompany her. Weekends were for visiting and projects; to this day, I feel most productive when I am making things.

I still get the most pleasure from planning and making things for people I know. There’s something a bit old-fashioned about a hand-made object, especially one that is not easily found in a store anywhere. One of a kind things feel special, especially as they represent time, creativity and attention to all the tiny details.

This last weekend, I made little afghans for tiny people. I guess you could call them crocheted baby blankets too, made from brightly-colored soft yarn, and around two feet square, or thereabouts. Making them reminds me of the gifts from fairy godmothers in stories, made with luck and love in mind; the good fairytale godmothers, that is, and the luck all good. I like variegated yarn for this. The colors progress through a sequence, making a self-pattern without needing a join. The colors are bright and harmonious. The size is just right for a baby stroller, and light enough that a small child can snuggle up with it when they grow older for a nap or to watch tv. I tend towards acrylics for practical reasons. You can throw them into the washer and dryer over and over with no harm to the piece.

I like to present them like rolled up flowers, tied up with string. They make a fun package to give to friends who are expecting or have had a new child. Reds, blues, greens, purples and spicy orange and pink. Rainbow colors to delight a child’s eyes.

Train to Portland for WDS

This weekend I set out on a terrific adventure to WDS, the World Domination Summit, in Portland. Here I am living in Seattle, with a bunch of options to get to the event. I can catch a plane, which is quick, but means standing around in airports. I could drive, but wouldn’t be able to read a book or write along the way. A train seemed like the best choice. It took only 4 hours, and is one of the best ways to see the water on the way down to Portland. The tracks are, in some places, only fifteen to twenty feet from the shore. I traveled business class to ensure I could plug in my laptop (a Surface Pro). There is a piece of fiction I’ve been working on, and the characters were calling for my attention.

On the train

On the train

Views on the way

Views on the way

Arriving at King Street Station, I stood in a modest line, only 5 people, to wait for the conductor. I had my e-ticket in hand. He let me know to go to the ticket office for seat assignment. Another short line, only two this time, later, I had a single seat and a coupon for a three dollar discount at the bistro car. All aboard carriage one, and quickly settled down to enjoy the experience. One of the most relaxing things about trains is the rocking rhythm, together with the speed. We had a few stops along the way to wait for freight trains, but none of them too long. We arrived at Union Station in Portland right on time. A quick ride later had me at the Hotel Modera, close to where the WDS events would be held. Close, I found in Portland, was a relative term. It was about nine blocks, and flat shoes were a good thing to have packed.

Hotel Modera view

Hotel Modera view


The summit was a melange of interesting people, great presentations on the main stage, and meetups that were put together by participants. Those were one of my favorite parts of the event, the people. I met folks from different countries, had a wonderful lunch of fresh seasonal foods, visited the farmer’s market. Best breakfast ever. Fresh biscuits with brown mushroom gravy and a fried egg. Delicious. And there was a bunch of walking. Portland is a city for pedestrians. There’s a lovely green belt on SW Park Street, that ribbons down, cooler than the surrounding streets, to Director Park. That was essential this weekend as the weather turned up the heat to the 90’s. Still, we kept hydrated, met loads of excited entrepreneurs, artists, writers and performers, all making the most of the weather and the chance to swap stories. I went to parties, acquired a temporary tattoo, and ate pie at Petunia’s Pies. On Saturday evening I celebrated the full moon with cocktails at the Nines, meeting some women with wonderful creative projects, and got to brainstorm book ideas with some great folks caring for animals.

Potatoes with beet salad

Potatoes with beet salad

The food in Portland is amazing. Fresh. Seasonal. Well prepared and delicious. Can’t wait to make another train trip with my sweetie to enjoy it again.

I am already planning to go to WDS next year, and am grateful to Lawrence and Sameer for recommending the experience. Also much gratitude to Chris and all the ambassadors for making it a memorable occasion. Thanks guys!

WDS has already been a success for me. I just finished the last 5,000 words of my novel and put it in the hands of my alpha reader today for feedback. Props to the summit for getting me unblocked. Don’t know how 5,000 words happened along with everything else, but am all fired up to continue on to the next book in the series. Now on to the next thing cousins. One step at a time.

Hope everyone else had a great time. I did. Will be reaching out to folks I met and chatted with over the next few days. There is at least one collaboration I’m excited about, and likely more.

Sydney from an insider

I have been reading a bunch of travel blogs lately, getting ready for some summer and fall travel. I thought it might be fun to share some thoughts on my home town, Sydney. Later, I’ll move on to a cruise and a train journey that are coming up soon.

Sydney Gardens
One of the best things about Sydney is the gardens with views of the water. The Botanical Gardens can be entered from the St James station end, across from the New South Wales Art Gallery, or from down near the Opera House. It is a lovely planned garden, with loads of interesting and brightly colored flowers, wandering Ibis, shelters and follies. You can see fabulous views of the water from the gardens. Other fantastic views are just around the curve of the walk. Locals wander the gardens too; it’s a favorite place for lunch in the middle of the city.

SydneyGardens

Beaches of course
No trip to Sydney would be complete without a visit to a beach or two. One of own pleasant memories is going over to Manly on the ferry (a passenger one, boarded via a plank, I kid you not), grabbing some fish and chips and eating them on Manly Beach. Take a train out to some of the Southern Beaches as well. If rivers are more to your liking, the National Parks are accessible by train as well, and you can rent a row boat for an easy afternoon on the water.

ManlyBeach2

A trip to the zoo
It’s true that we have the wackiest animals on the planet. Among them are kangaroos and koalas. Locals who rescue roos will tell you that the little blighters do kick, as I learned when I was in high school. A friend rescued a wallaby, and when it had grown a bit, we got kicked if we got in its way. The cuddly looking koalas sport wicked claws too, all the better to climb the gum trees. Find both of these animals at Taronga Park Zoo. You can also get up close, though behind glass, from some of the worlds most poisonous critters, if that takes your fancy. Catch a view of the emu, the crocodile and the lyrebird with its fabulous plumage too.

AustralianAnimals

Hyde Park – green belt through the city
Hyde ParkHyde Park is a great lunch spot in the middle of the city. Visit the Archibald Fountain, with its classic Greek figures Apollo, Diana, Pan and the Minotaur, right across from St Mary’s Cathedral near St James railway station. St Mary’s is a lovely spot, and interesting for being a north facing cathedral, instead of the usual east-facing architecture. Bit of a novelty. It even has a lady chapel all the way to the north, behind the main altar. Not something you’ll find on the tourist information.

WarMemorialThe War Memorial in Hyde Park has a figure of the fallen soldier, draped across his shield, and mothers carrying the fallen. The contemplation pool reflects all the moods of the Sydney sky. A walk across the street finds you at the Sydney Museum, and along the way, stop to enjoy the enormous Morton Bay fig trees.

Catching up with friends

postcardLife offers so very many opportunities to be busy with projects, there seems less time for socializing in person.  In order to keep up with news of chums around the world, and even those here in town, I am increasingly dependent on social media.  I am often caught up in simultaneous chat conversations in Sydney, Tasmania, New York, Seattle and San Francisco. This almost takes the place of letters, though some family are not available on line, and letters are the best way to thoughtfully communicate what has happened in the last few months. I have taken to writing a letter for family members, and send it to multiple people, much like my friends can catch up on news here, or on other social media.

For many friends, we only catch up in person when I am in their city, however, as we travel more, we are meeting up in cities we all want to explore together. It makes it a bit of an expedition, and coordinating it is part of the fun. Planned enough ahead, a visit to London can include brunches and lunches, dinners and late night drinks with friends who are there from other countries. We can visit the British Museum together, wander around Covent Garden, catch the markets in St James Church, or wander through Hyde Park for a morning stroll. A visit to Forbidden Planet, the terrific Science Fiction store in London, is a treat. And Baker Street is a must for the Sherlock Holmes fan.

However, nothing is as good as a long weekend where we stay up late talking, have a lazy brunch, and meander through the day. Sitting together over a meal or three sets the tone for there being time to listen, and to be in the moment.

Experiencing happiness

Experiencing happiness seems to be helped along by not being distracted from thinking about the past or planning for the future. It seems to help to slow down to notice what’s happening now, rather than looking ahead to the next set of tasks that need to be done.

I’ve noticed that when on vacation, or when intentionally in relaxation mode, small enjoyable things are magnified. When away from home, away from distraction into tasks of fixing this and that, I can be more present in each moment. In relaxation mode, it is easier to pay attention to things like sunsets and pretty flowers, or the guessing game of watching people and trying to imagine their story. I can enjoy good meals that are eaten without rushing, and can get immersed in great conversations that have no time limit.

On weekends, I can often be in a similar mood. It may seem odd to plan for unstructured time, yet that seems to be the trick to letting go of other planning topics. If I have half a dozen things that might be fun to do, and none of them are necessary things, then the meander from one to the other is an easy flow, and I can drop one or all of them in favor of a meal, a good book, or a chance meeting with friends.  Getting away from the clock, and into the flow of experiencing the moment, seems to attract unexpected delight.

I recall an evening on our last trip to Hawaii, where we sat on a stone wall at the Hilton Hawaiian Village, and looked at the stars for a while after dinner. Soon enough, a parade of people on various bicycles came past, more than a hundred of them, dressed in celebratory garb, sporting lights and streamers on their conveyances, all of which was exhilarating, and it made us laugh out loud. They smiled and waved, and we waved right back. If we hadn’t been relaxing and taking each moment as it came, we wouldn’t have been sitting on the wall, and likely would have missed the bicycle parade altogether. It may have been as though that moment of surprise, leading to enjoyment and happiness, had never been there. The experience led to us exchanging stories with my mum about other spontaneous bits of fun. Before long, we were singing pieces of silly song lyrics on the meander back to our hotel rooms.

Copyright 2012 R Loader all rights reserved

Whimsical hats

I don’t know quite when I started enjoying hats so much. It may even go back as far as watching movies with my parents, things like Singing in the Rain or Yanky Doodle Dandy, Mary Poppins with her very proper pinned hat, or the battered fedora on Humphrey Bogart. Hat-ness seemed to indicate a certain kind of coolness.

steampunk hat

Steampunk hat from
Exotic Design Studio

It takes some attitude to wear a hat well. Some part of you needs to embrace the message of the hat, the whimsy of it. I like to use hats to get into character. When on vacation, I like to wear movie star hats, ones with large brims, so I can flirt with the sun while remaining safe from its rays. With casual beach clothing, the casual elegance of a scarf wrapped around the hat reminds me of Sophia Loren or Audrey Hepburn. It’s an accent to the clothing and accessories that adds some polish, some elan.

In the past ten years or so, I’ve thought of the metaphor of hats, of changing hats, deliberately putting on a different mood, persona or attitude. It gives me happiness to try on different looks, especially ones that are a little off kilter, just a little absurd.

I admit to a fondnes for a casual layered look with a formal hat; or a slouchy beret with a big shirt and formal jacket. To a certain extent, hats are a way of juxtaposing views, playing with creativity, getting some more whimsy into my life.

Copyright 2012 R Loader all rights reserved

Reciting silly poetry

Umbrella with bamboo

Where the rain gets in

Sometimes reading silly poetry is enough to bring a smile to my face, yet the best thing of all is to memorize it, and recite it out loud with friends. Watching their faces is a delight. Sometimes these are also song lyrics, and the best ones have a good bit of rhythm, along with places to add silly voices.  Here’s one of my favorites from Spike Milligan; it’s particularly appropriate for Seattle:

 

There are itty bitty holes in the sky

Where the rain gets in

But they’re very, very small

That’s why rain is thin

Most of the poems of Ogden Nash are fun for this game, as are Rudyard Kipling’s poetry. A childhood verse I learned has lingered in my mind. I was reminded of it when a chum mentioned on facebook that people sometimes swallow baby spiders, accidentally. It gets just a little faster and more breathless as you recide it.

There was an old lady who swallowed a fly.
I don’t know why she swallowed the fly,
Perhaps she’ll die.

There was an old lady who swallowed a spider,
that wiggled and wiggled and tickled inside her.
She swallowed the spider to catch the fly.
I don’t know why she swallowed the fly.
Perhaps she’ll die.

There was an old lady who swallowed a bird.
How absurd to swallow a bird.
She swallowed the bird to catch the spider,
that wiggled and wiggled and tickled inside her.
She swallowed the spider to catch the fly.
I don’t know why she swallowed the fly.
Perhaps she’ll die.

There was an old lady who swallowed a cat.
Imagine that, she swallowed a cat.
She swallowed the cat to catch the bird.
She swallowed the bird to catch the spider,
that wiggled and wiggled and tickled inside her.
She swallowed the spider to catch the fly.
I don’t know why she swallowed the fly.
Perhaps she’ll die.

There was an old lady who swallowed a dog.
My what a hog, to swallow a dog.
She swallowed the dog to catch the cat.
She swallowed the cat, to catch the bird,
She swallowed the bird to catch the spider,
that wiggled and wiggled and tickled inside her.
She swallowed the spider to catch the fly.
I don’t know why she swallowed the fly.
Perhaps she’ll die.

There was an old lady who swallowed a cow.
I don’t know how she swallowed a cow.
She swallowed the cow to catch the dog.
She swallowed the dog, to catch the cat.
She swallowed the cat to catch the bird.
She swallowed the bird to catch the spider,
that wiggled and wiggled and tickled inside her.
She swallowed the spider to catch the fly.
I don’t know why she swallowed the fly
Perhaps she’ll die.

I know an old lady who swallowed a horse…
She died, of course!

I think I’ll go hunt down some Kipling to share. Send me your favorite links to other silly poetry. I love finding new sources.

Copyright 2012 R Loader all rights reserved

Movies that make me happy

I get my love of movies from my parents. When I was a sprat, I’d try all kinds of strategies to stay up later and watch movies with my parents. They liked musicals and westerns, dramas and comedies, love stories and tales of swashbuckling pirates. It often surprises me how much we talked about the stories, and about the books that inspired them. Years later, what I remember most is the movies that were just about feeling good. Some were diversions created to boost morale during the Second World War; others were pure entertainment created in the era of the Hollywood studio machine. As a family, we loved the classics best.

Harvey – about a six foot tall white invisible phouka called Harvey, and his gently alcoholic and pleasant human companion, Elwood P Dowd, or is that vice versa? I loved this tale at the time, and it continues to be one of my favorite movies of all time.

Mary Poppins – I loved the books, the stage play is terrific, and the Disney movie is a lot of fun too. The wind changes, and blows in a new nanny for the children of this family. Mary Poppins is part fairy, part witch, and all about improbable circumstances. Whimsical and serious by turns, it features Julie Andrews as Mary Poppins, and Dick Van Dyke in a range of roles.

Auntie Mame – Who wouldn’t want an Aunt like Mame? Eccentric, bohemian, extravagant and devoted to her nephew. Another wonderful musical.

Singing in the Rain– One of many great Gene Kelly dance movies.One of my first leading men, I fell for his charm, his smile, and the way he was comfortable in his body, a wonderful choreographer and dancer. Another favorite with him as leading man was For Me and My Gal.

The Unsinkable Molly Brown – A wonderful tale of an indominatable woman who was rescued from a river as a child, grew into a tomboy determined to marry a rich man, and who was brassy, bold and determined to live the good life. Through various trials and tribulations, adulation and rejection, she found her way into people’s hearts as a hero who saved people from a sinking ship, the Titanic. The critics didn’t always love this movie, but we did. It’s outrageous, over the top, and delightful.

Copyright 2012 R Loader all rights reserved