August 5, 2021

Still alive, still writing

Hello, once more!

Before I start, I’d like to alert you to a few videos of speeches and readings of individual books. I had to record them for Covid reasons, because I couldn’t be at those particular events at those particular times. The videos can be found here on my YouTube channel.

To those of you still living and still showing an interest in my rare blogs—although why should you, at a serious time like this, be caring about the update of my website?— I thought it might be wise to mention, in this fraught time of Covid, that I too am still alive. I’m fully vaccinated against both Covid and the flu. I wear masks with religious fervour, sanitise and wash my hands constantly, and avoid crowds of any kind. As a chronic asthmatic in her mid-seventies, I’m hyper-vulnerable to the new Delta variant, so much so that I’ve begun choosing the hymns for my funeral. Seriously. I haven’t been to church for years, but I still have a trusty old Methodist hymn book that I love to trawl through. There will probably be only five or ten people attending, given the various Covid restrictions, but I’d like them to sing out loud anyway, for example: ‘Guide me, oh thou great Jehovah’, a hymn that used to lift me to the ceiling of the mission church in my childhood, when the majority of the congregation was Africans, with the men sitting one side and the women on the other, making the harmonies absolutely heavenly. Singing lifts the spirits. No one at my funeral will be allowed to sing the dirge-like, droning, depressing Amazing Grace. Anything but that! On the other hand, my paternal grandfather lived to be 96 and I’m still lifting 6kg (13lb) weights 20 times each morning, so who knows?  I might pull though and out-live all my friends. But the thoughts keep coming, with all the bad news around.

In in my State of South Australia we’ve been fortunate with lockdowns: only two, both of which were very strict and very brief. Everyone obeyed the rules, knowing that to disobey would mean a longer lockdown. Here’s a photo of our beach during the most recent lockdown, during which we were allowed to walk with only one other person, who had to be a family member. We had to stay within 2.5 kilometres of our homes, which kept the beach emptier than usual. Most people stepped out in the morning. This was taken at 2:30 pm in mid-July, the very dead of winter, on a day that wasn’t freezing, wild, rainy, windy or gloomy, which most days have been. That’s our dog, Mitzi, in her own empty kingdom.

Talking of dogs, this week I’m ecstatic to report the arrival in my house of the first copies of Cat Dog, my latest book. The photo below was taken by my husband without any warning soon after the book arrived. (So that’s what I really look like. Arrgh!) It’s due for sale in October in the USA, its original country of publication, (Beach Lane Books/Simon and Schuster) and in Australia (Penguin RandomHouse). The out-there, hysterically wonderful illustrations are by Mark Teague. It’s the shortest book I’ve ever written at 134 words, but my editor, the sublime Allyn Johnston and I have been working on it on and off (and often in desperation, due to the importance of the page-turns), for over ten years. Happily the work paid off. So far it’s received starred reviews from Kirkus and Publishers Weekly. Publishers Weekly called it ‘a giddy, rhetorical dance that promises to leave audiences’ heads spinning’. My husband takes credit for the fact that his confusion over some of the the page-turns meant they were then corrected, and our eleven year old grandson called it ‘adorable’ when he read it yesterday, so there we are. It’s on its way.

In between lockdowns, I have been to schools: CRAZY, but safe at the time, for the Premier’s Reading Challenge, an organisation I applaud. I don’t go to schools any more, unless it’s for them: too old, too tired, too busy. However, I do step out for the annual Welcoming the Babies event, run by Amanda Rishworth, a federal Labor member of parliament, whose electorate is close by. I love to give a burst of my read-to-your-baby sermon, because many parents fail to realise the benefits of reading to young children, let alone to babies and new-borns. Also, I happen to be Labor voter and a member of the party, so it feels good to help in any small way. And also (!) Amanda happens to one of my daughter’s closest friends. She’s a tireless workaholic. I wish she were my member of parliament. Notice my exquisite tact in not mentioning my own member of parliament…

Anyway, that sums it up for the moment. I’m sorry it took so long to make contact. Life is full of more important things, like living, as I’m sure you’ll agree in the current circumstances. So stay safe, and if possible, stay sane as well.

Much love,

Mem xxx