Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Birds From Hell

It is really time to resuscitate this blog. I have been busy the last few months with work and university (that's no excuse, I tell myself sternly), but now I'm going to get back into it. Otherwise I will have no record of my life, and there's a good chance that I'll forget everything.

So I have been thinking about blog posts, and what I could put in them, and have created a list of possible topics. The first topic is the Escalators of Doom. The second is my weekend out of Sydney, up the coast with the Pirate Pianist (who has returned from Germany, and is living there with Pirate Boyfriend. And I'm really not kidding about the pirate bit. He has a cutlass), and the third is Birds From Hell. Then there's also probably the International Fleet Review, and Oktoberfest on the Beach.

I think I shall start with Birds From Hell, as you may have guessed from the title of this post.

So I was minding my own business, walking to university one day, when I passed under some trees and was hit quite hard on the side of the head. I jumped and ducked and looked around, but couldn't see anything that might have hit me - no pinecones, no balls. I'd walked past a girl a few weeks before who'd just been swooped and who warned me about magpies, so I guessed it might have been a magpie. When I put my hand up to my ear, it came away with a spot of blood, so I walked the rest of the way to uni and went into the library to ask where the nurse was.

One of the librarians was very enthusiastic and got out her first aid kit and patched me up, and I went up to the research room and decided to go a different way next time.

Five days later, I walked a slightly different way, which would take me on the other side of the road to the trees. I wore my hair differently. I wore different clothes. And I had just turned onto the footpath on the opposite side when something black hit me on the side of the head.

This time, it was definitely a bird. Right, I thought, if I can't go on the opposite side of the road, I'll go through the park next to the trees, and follow the guy on the bike who isn't getting picked on by magpies.

So I followed the guy on the bike, rather quickly, but I had only just entered the park when something hit me again. I began to run. Something hit me again. I ran faster, covering my head with my arms. When I thought I was far enough away from the trees, I slowed a bit, but the magpie hit me again.

I ran right to the other side of the road, and here it seemed I was no threat to the magpie, and it stopped attacking me. I went, rather shaken, to uni, and as it was quite early in the morning I couldn't find anyone who knew where I could find a first aid kit. A lovely lady who volunteers for ambulances finally appeared, took a look at my ear and said I should go to the medical centre.

At the medical centre, a doctor looked me over, cleaned up the blood, patched my two cuts with special plasters and gave me a tetanus shot (I can never remember when I've had tetanus shots. So now, here, a record! September 2013!). She said it was the only time she'd ever seen magpies actually draw blood.

Yesterday, for the first time in months, I went underneath the magpie tree. I had an umbrella, and I was not attacked! A slight victory (probably because the magpie didn't know it was me).

And then last week, we had a party for Melbourne Cup day that I was late for, because I was doing a presentation for university. The presentation went well, but everyone else had had a good brunch and I needed food. I stopped at the Hungry Jacks (aka Burger King) at Circular Quay, which does two-for-one Whopper Juniors on Tuesdays, and decided I'd get the deal even though I didn't think I could eat both. Someone else was bound to be pleased with one.

I was a few bites into the first burger and walking along the quay when a seagull swooped down and tried to steal my burger, raking through the bun and dropping lettuce everywhere. I promptly dropped the rest of it in a bin and got out my second burger, then ate it under a roof with my shoulders hunched up.

I'm pretty sure Australian birds hate me.

Apart from the pigeon I saw the other day which looked like it was wearing spats. I don't think it hates me... it didn't try to attack me, at least.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Nightingale Floors, Cats and Excellent Books

My flat has a nightingale floor (there's an awesome book called Across the Nightingale Floor by Lian Hearn. Go. Now. Read it.). Around the front door and entrance hall, the floor boards creak and sing, I imagine to warn of any intruders - the boards don't creak anywhere else in the house. I have made it my task to cross this nightingale floor without it squeaking. Haven't managed it yet. Possibly my flatmates think I'm a bit weird, treading back and forth, back and forth and grumbling when I still can't find a good non-creaky spot.

I will succeed!

I have made friends with a Siamese cat called Jazz, who looked pretty confused when I followed him down our driveway and along the road calling here kitty kitty, but came around the next day when I managed to pat him in the back garden. I still haven't witnessed any rain in Sydney, and it's great to be able to sit out in the garden in the warm sun and not get sunburnt (this is what I like about early spring - warm but not 8min sunburn warm).

On Friday I found out that Untold (sequel to Unspoken by Sarah Rees Brennan), a book I was resigned to waiting for until late September, had actually been released in my territory. Having little to no self-control, I immediately got it for my Kindle app, made dinner (some self-control!) and sat down to read it into the night. It was excellent! It's fun to see characters and their relationships change over time, especially when they go the way you want them to (mostly). I knew there would be some Terrible things happening (that's what makes a good book), but those events were balanced out nicely by the good things. I can't really tell you anything about the plot because it's a sequel, but the first one is about an intrepid girl reporter in a sleepy village in England, who happens to have an ever-present imaginary friend and a long-suffering best friend who hates people in general and only wants to take naps. Good stuff, in other words.

I should probably get back to looking for jobs and studying (I'm enjoying being back studying. Learning things is good!). Have a good week!

Friday, August 23, 2013

First ten days of Sydney: organising and wildlife

So I have a flat! I have a nice little almost-routine going with my university work and my looking-for-work work. I have a membership form for the library. I am waiting for my tax number. All those little things are slowly coming together.

I spent the first few days with my friend The Angel, and made great use of my unlimited travel card. I took the ferry out to Manly and sat in the sun to do readings, as well as check news sites to see exactly what had happened in Wellington with earthquakes (I'd heard some people on the ferry say 'earthquake' and 'Wellington', so thought I should check it out). On the way back the captain said to look out to the right of the boat, and there was a spout from an orca.

I found my flat over the weekend. It's not too far from the beach, and has lovely flatmates who make things like cauliflower-base pizza. On Monday I had a nice meetup with my friend the Pirate Pianist (complete with cutlass), last seen in Germany, and had dinner with Fifties Filmstar on Friday evening.

I've been on the lookout for wildlife - not because I want to see anything (you may remember my squirrel obsession in the UK), but because I don't want to see anything. Anywhere else, I'd pay the barest attention to ants. Here, I know that some ant species bite you really really badly, so I'm terrified when I see any. Ditto for spiders. And snakes? Urgh.

So far the worst I've seen is a dead cockroach (on the footpath) and a dead skink (also on the footpath).

Hopefully it'll stay that way. Not much wildlife in the big city, right?


Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Sydney Sydney Sydney

So I'm off again! This time, not so far away - Sydney, which is really just a quick hop from Auckland. Three hours rather than thirty, which I appreciate. I'm now sitting beside a large sculpture of an erupting volcano, listening to birds and tinkling water. Ooh, some chanting too. The lava changes colour from blue to purple to red and green. I have my suitcase-I-found-on-the-side-of-the-road-two-years-ago, which I predicted two years ago would not last much longer. Ha. It's been to Sydney, Tokyo, North London, Other North London, Greenwich, North London, Greenwich, North London, Greenwich, Auckland and back to Sydney (I used it to move house).

I should probably make my way to the gate, and see what China Air planes are like :)


It turns out that China Air isn't PRChina China, but Taiwan China. My plane was full of people going to Taipei via Sydney, and I'd checked in early enough to get a nice window seat (though of course by the time we lifted off it was dark and you couldn't really see much). After some trouble with my headphones (I was plugging them into the wrong armrest), I watched How to Train Your Dragon and Suits, and then we were landing through some pretty rough turbulence in Sydney.

My awesome friend The Angel picked me up and I found out just how terrible I am at passing along directions in a car. After a bit of circle-driving, we got back to her place and had a nice evening with movies and I tried to get used to Sydney time.

On Tuesday I took a few buses to university and enrolled, then wandered round the campus figuring out where things were. Enjoyed the weather, which was sunny and warm after the hail in Auckland. Later I ended up in town and we went to see a scary movie called The Conjuring, which did its job pretty well.

Hopefully sleep will come tonight....

Monday, June 10, 2013

Winter and the Fragrance of Georgie Pie

I've just realised that it is technically winter now. Time to wrap up warm, time to get out my blue coat and gloves and hat, time to-

Hang on, it's not actually that cold.

I thought I'd re-acclimatised to Auckland weather, but I still can't quite believe this is supposed to be winter. Sure, it's still early (and we did have a few cold days last week, and they had SNOW last year), but the sky is blue and I only need two layers. I remember it being faaaar colder in Sydney.

I guess I should go and see some snow at the end of the month.

In other news, the beloved Georgie Pie has returned at last. It was NZ's own fast food restaurant (with BALL PITS, as my bro keeps reminding me) until it was taken over by McDonalds and closed down in the mid-nineties. After a lengthy Bring Back Georgie Pie movement and Facebook group, McDonalds are testing bringing back the pies in selected restaurants, starting with the steak mince and cheese flavour (yes, MEAT pies).

Bro suggested a mission to obtain one of these long-lost pies on the opening day, so we sat in afternoon traffic, found a park and joined the line (which had been much longer when they first opened that morning, apparently). As soon as I smelled that special pie smell, I was taken back to eight years old, giving my order for a small mince pie and a latticed apple and blackberry.

It's funny how easily smells can trigger memories and the feel of a place or time. What if you could capture those scents in bottles and have a library of them, labelled according to time and date, and you could transport yourself back just by smelling one? Transport metaphorically, of course, within memories.

Hmm. Or literally. I can see that turning into a very strange story.

The pie was good, in any case.

Friday, May 31, 2013

Book #21: Brazil - The Summer Prince by Alaya Dawn Johnson

Round the World Wednesday! Is it still Wednesday anywhere in the world? No? Oh well. Today is Honorary Wednesday.

The Summer Prince is another of those books that evokes a place so viscerally that you think I want to go there, even if the 'there' is a few hundred years in the future, a parallel world or some undefined historical time. So, I'd like to go to Brazil now. I want to see Palmares Três, the jewel on the bay, the pyramid city of lights. Though possibly not with the bloodshed that goes with it.

The book is set in Brazil at least four hundred years in the future, where everything is life and death, love and hate, moving forward and holding back. The main character, June, is a young artist in a city ruled by grande women, where anyone below the age of thirty is not taken seriously. Every five years, the populace elects a king, and after a year of his rule, he chooses the next queen and is sacrificed. The system is quite logical, really - someone who is about to die is less likely to be swayed by politics.

It's an election year, but not just any election year. This year the king will be a waka, under thirty, and his sacrifice will serve only to continue the reign of the incumbent queen. He will have no true power to choose another queen, but for a year he will be the most priveleged of the youth of Palmares Três.

June votes for Enki, and is ecstatic when he wins. She's already half in love with him, but Enki falls in love with her best friend Gil and she's not quite sure where she stands. She throws herself into making Art, recognising that Enki is as much an artist as she with the way he moves and influences the crowds. They become collaborators on sensational projects, and Art is at its best when it creates a sensation. Or a revolution.

Enki is hurtling headlong towards death, but he is the most vital character in all senses of the word. He helps June understand what's important, and the reader along with her.

Palmares Três is most desperately, incredibly alive, with its dancing wakas and ritual sacrifice. I love the way Johnson communicates that, with the blocos and the graffiti and the secret ninja art projects. I also love the way she weaves Portuguese into the text, making it clear that English is a foreign language to her characters.

Any books you know and love that are set in Brazil?

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Auckland Writers and Readers Festival

...and on that Friday, the heavens opened and the rain fell in great fat splotches and ran in rivers through the streets, and umbrellas were nothing against the onslaught, and Kathmandu jackets were soaked and clingy and hair plastered wetly against the face...

The rain wasn't quite that bad, but it was definitely a relief to get inside and walk around the Aotea Centre in the dry. My Friend Who Rocks and I decided to go early and see Words Out Loud (mostly because we wanted to be sure of getting a seat for the following YA writers reading event), but really enjoyed the poets performing their visceral, thought-provoking works. There's something incredibly engaging about the spoken word, and ideas coming straight for you from the mouths of passionate speakers (Courtney Meredith, Miles Merrill, Ken Arkind and Carrie Rudzinski).

After we'd been blown away by poetry, we were treated to readings by Paula Morris, Kate de Goldi, Libba Bray and Patrick Ness. Paula Morris read some very creepy scenes from her ghost books Ruined and Dark Souls, set in New Orleans and York. Kate de Goldi read a few passages from her ACB of Honora Lee and had everyone giggling, and then Libba Bray demonstrated her amazing ability at accents and voices with Beauty Queens. Lastly, Patrick Ness read the first chapter or two of a very new book that didn't even have proofs yet, and left everyone hanging, knowing we can't find out what will happen until the book's published.

And then it was back out into the rain, which was more drippy than pouring by then.