Friday, May 25, 2012

Education Week

Part of the Education Week festivities in Victoria is Grandparent's Day, where the younger students can invite their grandparents to the school to see the work they do. With eight grandchildren, it's been a busy week for us. Fortunately, the schedules of individual schools did not clash and we managed to visit each grandchild's school and enthuse about their work.
At one school there was a concert, with each group of children presenting a short item and I was amazed at how confidently most of them took the stage. I would never have managed it at their age.
At another, the senior students ran the assembly, ably assisted by their juniors, while, at the third, we were invited to share lunch with our grandchildren and be shown through their class rooms and the work they are doing.
One grand-daughter (9) sang solo at assembly (she is already part of the Australian Girl's Choir program)
Education has come a long way since the authoritarian, lock-step days of my childhood and, if my generation still has doubts about some aspects of its journey, there are times when it seems amazingly successful.

Monday, May 14, 2012

My personal Tardis

Like "Coasting", my current WIP, "Offshore" is proving that time travel is possible.
 It was first written in 1982, when I was sailing on Supply Boats not unlike the Sapphire Sea and recalls some moments of that time with absolute clarity. Others I had to think the lookout system for night steaming.
With such a small crew, nine men, the Skipper and the Mate had to do six-hour watches and it was important to ensure that at least two men are awake during the hours of darkness (radar is an aid, not an answer to safe night steaming) With two engineers and only five ABs, one of which is committed to the engine room while another acts as cook, that leaves three men to cover the hours of darkness on the bridge. Logically, each man should do four hours as lookout and have eight hours to sleep, but it didn't fit with my vague memories of the time and the manuscript written in the period contained no specifics.
I went back to friends from those days, largely engineers, and found I wasn't the only one whose memories were vague. Worse, everyone remembered the system differently.
My next source was the personal journals I kept at the time (records not so much of daily events, but of thoughts and conclusions it was rarely politic to express aloud. A form of lightning conductor that kept me out of trouble more times than I can remember) Their inconclusive nature and the variance of other peoples' memories convinced me that the system must have varied from ship to ship and from crew to crew (we normally swung on and off the ship as a group, some crews staying together for years).
Talking about something so specific with friends who shared the experience, generated some marvelous tales of the times and characters (A skipper everybody called "Fruit Box" because he was so short he had to carry a wooden fruit box to see over the wing of the bridge when manoeuvring alongside a rig).
The other element of interest was the different ways others recalled the same incidents, some because they were on different supply boats, others because of different perspectives.
It was a great interlude from writing.

Friday, May 04, 2012

Mitchell's Run

Whiskey Creek Press have accepted "Mitchell's Run" in it original Australian setting and will release it as an e-book. There's no cover art or release date yet, but this fulfills a promise I made to myself when Saltwater Press folded and my first five books went out of print with them. They were all paperbacks released only in Australia and I was determined to give them a wider audience, both for my own satisfaction and as a tribute to Diane Colman's faith in me at the time.
The writing has been updated and the final question about Andrew Mitchell has been answered in this version, satisfying the most common query about the story from readers.