Calling To The Void (and an echo returns)

Writing can be a lonely job. You work at your book, fretting and fiddling, and you launch it out into the world, and it flies away.


Is anybody reading it? What do they think? Is anybody out there? Hello?

I know I'm not the only author who googles her own name for some faint hint that someone, somewhere out there in the wild, has reached up and caught my book in their hand.

The very nicest part of being an author is when a reader takes the time and trouble to actually write and tell you that they've enjoyed your books. ("loved," "adored," "LOVED IT!!!!" "my favourite book EVER!!!" is, naturally, even better.) But then you also stumble across weird little acts of appreciation like this...

...which led me to a lovely You Tube book review of the Chanters of Tremaris trilogy, by Kate (no relation). I smiled wryly when she says that no-one she knows has ever read these books. She speculates that they may be really huge in Australia (sigh!).

But the best part was when she says that she liked the hero, Darrow, because he "acts like a MAN." No one has ever said that before. Kate likes it that Darrow doesn't sparkle. He's not sensitive. He can be difficult, and moody, and uncommunicative, even though he clearly cares. Because, let's face it, men can be hard work sometimes.

But they're worth it.


Changing Spaces

We're building (or rather, paying other people to build for us) a big new living/dining room at the back of our Californian bungalow. As extensions go, it could hardly be simpler - it's just an box of an addition, no demolition, no plumbing. So for the last few weeks, we've enjoyed a succession of new spaces.

At first it was a dance floor outside our back door, a stage, a platform for performances.

Then, when the frame went up, it became a patio, open to the sky, where we could sit in the sun and read and drink beer, paint pictures and set damp towels out to dry in the fresh air.

As the walls closed it in and the roof was laid, it became a magical cave, where we could peer out at the garden through the gaps where the windows would be.

And today, as the last of the big windows was manoeuvred into its frame, it's become almost a real room. We can see where the TV will hang, where the couch will go. We can stand in the nook where the window seat will be and gaze out at the riot of bouganvillea just beyond the glass, and imagine the days when we can curl up with cushions and a book. We realise that there will space for a sideboard along that wall after all.

Living with the new space as it grows every day, we're getting to know it gradually, learning how the light falls, discovering new views. It's only one room, but it will change the way we use the rest of the house, too. The present cramped living-room will become a quiet, darkened study and library, a room for adults to retreat to and children to hide away. The kitchen will open out. We'll have room to build railways and cubbies, a long bench for jigsaws and model castles, storage for games and blankets, and a table where we can eat and be warm and see the TV all at once (yeah, okay, we're bogans, get over it).

It's not a new house. It's better than that.



Just one more player to mention - I can't believe I forgot Jarrod Harbrow! Sorry Jarrod.

40. Jarrod Harbrow
Geez he's good. He played up forward until last year, when they tried him up the back as an emergency and he took to it like a duck to water. He is stunning - quick and creative. See that blur in the backline? That's Harbrow.

Sadly that blur may disappear over the horizon as the new Gold Coast team are very keen to snaffle him next year, and he has family up there so he's quite likely to be tempted. Enjoy him while it lasts.


How To Tell The Bulldogs Apart, Part The Last

The final installment of our (very) rough guide to the Western Bulldogs. Today, players 36-44.

36. Brian LakeSo laid-back he can seem catatonic. A top-notch defender who had us all on tenterhooks last year when he took forever to re-sign his contract and we were scared he was going to go elsewhere. Seldom smiles. Even on his wedding day he looked bemused rather than happy. Every so often Bri-bri makes a mistake so spectacularly stupid it puts even Wilbur in the shade. Not often though. Rodney Eade loves to yell at Brian; they have some weird love/hate thing going on.

38. Dale Morris
The other pillar of the backline. Known as "The General," his organising ability was sorely missed when he was out with the flu in Round 1. Played with a broken leg for six weeks last year. How tough is he??

42. Liam Picken
The fairy-tale success story of last season, the overlooked son of a Collingwood star was picked up as a rookie by the Bulldogs and instantly cemented his place in the side as a hard tagging midfielder who could shut down opposition players for a whole game. Very useful.

44. Brodie Moles
Looks as if he might become this year's Liam Picken. Picked up from Geelong where he couldn't manage to break into a strong side, he seems to be fitting in nicely with the Bulldogs. From Cat to Dog? Stranger things have happened.

And last but not least -- the coach!

Rodney Eade has coached the Doggies since the end of 2004 and has turned the team from bottom-scraping stragglers to a proud and (more) confident squad. "Rocket" doesn't hold back his emotions and is always a treat to watch in the coaches' box, especially when things are going badly. But he's refreshingly upfront with his opinions, tells it like it is, is often funny, and is a supremely clever football tactician (even a genius) who has shaped the way the game is played. We love Rocket. But we're glad he's not around to give us one of his famous sprays when we stuff up.

So there you have it -- the individual parts that add up to the whole team that is the Western Bulldogs. One of the things I find fascinating about football is the way that players and coaches come and go, but clubs somehow retain their own over-arching personality. Do players learn how to be a Bomber or a Blue, or is the personality of the club composed of the sum of the individuals who reside beneath its roof? I'm inclined to think it's the former.

So if the Western Bulldogs was a person, what would they be like? I see him (yeah, it's a bloke, get over it) as the shy, self-deprecating guy in the corner of the pub, perhaps a tradie, from the rough end of town, very good at what he does but wary of big-noting himself. He's used to being put down by the flashy blokes with more cash, and the boofhead blokes with more muscle and swagger, and he's learned to keep quiet and keep his head down. He might be clumsy, he might say the wrong word at the wrong time, but he means well. If he lets you down, it's because he's trying too hard. He's had a hard life, he's known disappointment and betrayal, and he doesn't trust easily.

But maybe, just maybe, this is his year to find some cash in his pocket. Maybe, come September, he'll be shouting us all a beer.


How To Tell The Bulldogs Apart, Part 5

I'm going to focus on the senior players now and knock this thing over.

21. Jason AkermanisCome on, even you must have heard of Aker! Everybody knows Aker. Limelight-seeking, goateed player who has signed on for one last year with a massive pay cut, because he knows the Doggies are this close. Always controversial, refreshingly honest and a very smart footballer who can pull a goal out of thin air. Used to play for Brisbane, where he'd perform a handstand at every victory. The Dogs have put a stop to that, but we still love him. Guaranteed media career after retirement.

22. Dylan Addison
Other players love DFA because he's so hard at the ball. Fearless, even when he's not skilful. Known as Dylan ****ing Addison because when Johnno presented him with his jumper before his first game, he gave an expletive-riddled speech of encouragement to the new player ("You've earned this ****ing jumper, Dylan ****ing Addison!") not realising he was live on national television. Ha ha ha.

25. Ryan Hargrave
Michael's favourite player. Known as Shaggy. As in Scooby Doo. Occasionally very, very good goal-stopper, but again, inconsistent (think I might be onto something here...)

27. Will Minson
Ah, Big Will. I could write a whole blog post about Big Will and still not fully explore the paradox that is, according to his coach, the "dumbest smart man in football." As someone else pointed out, most footballers are clever on the football field and stupid off it. With Big Will, it's the other way around. He speaks German, plays the saxophone and possesses an eclectic fashion sense; not only does he have chiselled cheekbones and sculptured pecs, he can speak in whole sentences. And yet at least once a game he does something totally dumb, like walk across the mark and give away a free kick. But he is turning into an excellent ruckman.

28. Barry HallYou must have heard of BAZZA!! At least if you live in Melbourne, you must have. Big Bad Bustling Barry Hall became a Bulldog this year in a blaze of publicity, after being sacked from Sydney for thuggish behaviour on the field (ie he couldn't seem to stop punching people). Will the Bulldogs be his salvation? Will he be the salvation of the Bulldogs? The signs are promising so far. He is the big marking forward that the Bulldogs have conspicuously lacked in the last few years. And Barry looks happy, getting much more of the ball from the free-flowing Dogs than he was allowed to enjoy with the defensive, stop-start style of the Swans. A match made in heaven? Let's hope so. Everyone says he's a lovely guy. But gee, he looks scary. I'm glad he's on our side.


How To Tell The Bulldogs Apart, Part 4

Players 16-20

16. Ryan Griffen
Another player who is due (overdue?) to reach his great potential. Looks cross-eyed to me, surely that can't help. Mid-fielder.

17. Adam Cooney
Ginger mid-fielder. Has new tattoo all over his lower leg. Unexpectedly won the Brownlow Medal in 2008. Certainly he wasn't expecting it, and his acceptance speech was quite entertaining as a result. Famously proposed to his girlfriend with a Burger Ring. This guy is all class. Bulldog fans love to yell Cooooooon when he gets his hands on the ball, which the uninitiated can confuse with booing.

18. Brennan Stack
Only played a handful of games. Don't need to worry about recognising him yet.

19. Liam Jones
Look at him! He's a baby! Hasn't played at all yet.

20. Josh Hill
Ah, Joshy, Joshy. I love Josh. He's quick and graceful and he has flair. He can very exciting to watch when he leaps up to take a mark or boots a goal that looked impossible. Okay, sometimes he looks as if he's not concentrating and he's a bit of a whippet -- definitely not a bullock -- more of a gazelle. I'm prepared to forgive his lapses because he has that indefinable something that you just can't train into players if they ain't got it. I'm sure that's a great weight off his mind.