You don't have to understand the world. You just have to find your own way around in it. - Albert Einstein

Sunday, 5 January 2014

the Neighbours at My New Home are a Bunch of Cows

Most of the neighbours at my new home are the non-human variety, which is just lovely. A lot of them are cows.

The land we live on sits behind the road from another block of land, with a right-of-access road running through it to get to our home. This land is owned by a cow farmer, so we have to pass through a cow paddock to get in and out. I just love it. Unusually, there seem to be a lot of different breeds of cattle all together in one paddock. I wonder if the farmer just really likes cows and wanted to collect lots of different kinds, like I do with vintage crockery and suchlike. I'm not sure when the official cattle breeding season is meant to be but these cows seem to be producing young regularly. Every now and then there will be a new tiny baby cow in the paddock, following its mother and finding its feet. There's always a mixture of the young ones that stick by their mothers, and the older, more sedate and mellow mothers, and some feisty half-grown adolescents that we call the 'teenage cows.' These ones are confident and lively and playful and often seem to want to play with us. Sometimes they try to organise little races with our car. I think the very cutest thing about cows is the way their long ears flap as they are running. Quite often there will be a band of cows resting lesuirely right in the driveway, and they just don't seem to understand what a car is or how they are supposed to respond to it. I have to stick my head out the window and yell at them. Then they realise that we are humans and that it's time to get out of the way. This always has the effect of making us laugh all the way to the gate. Usually I try to do my best, deep-toned impersonation of an Aussie farmer when I'm urging them to get out of the way. Then as we pass them by, I say nicely, "Thank you very much ladies, sorry for disturbing you."

Yesterday was a stupidly hot day. It's completely unbearable. So rather than go out and spend the day somewhere with air conditioning, we set up a little day camp down at the creek which separates the cow paddock from the residential block. This was absolutely an excellent idea. I just spent the day sitting in the creek on and off, and sipping cold drinks in between, thanks to my impromptu version of a Coolgardie safe. I took a big plastic tub and sat it in the shallow water at the edge of the creek. We filled it with ice and cold drinks, and then I covered it with a wet sarong, with the edges of the sarong sitting in the water. It worked a treat. All the ice melted quite early on, but the temperature of the water and the drinks stayed icy all the way til the end of the day. You can see it here at the edge of the creek. The creek with a cow in it. Of course. The cows were really hot too, they were all hugging the shady edges of the paddock.

And of course at some point they got a bit curious and had to come and check us out. Apparently a committee of teenage cows was selected to approach us as an initial reconnaisance. They came slowly towards us.


...and closer. This one was the most brazen and confident of the lot. She got right up close and personal and sniffed all over my head. I think she was trying to work out what kind of a cow I was.

At this point I suddenly realised that I was sitting surrounded by at least a half dozen animals that were all bigger than me, and one of them was nuzzling me like a baby. I realised that a lot of people would be terrified to be in this situation. It's amazing how many people are scared of cows. I understand it sometimes, like this moment right here. They are massive and powerful. I am relying on generations and centuries of breeding that has taught a cow to be afraid of humans. I know that they are more scared of me than I am of them, so I don't find cows intimidating.

Not like one hapless courier who came up here to deliver a package one day. Funny, they ask if you have a dog in the yard, they never ask about cows. This poor bloke was so scared. I tried to reassure him but I don't think he really believed me. One cheeky little teenage cow in particular was really hassling the poor bloke, trying to tease him. The next day, when we were passing through the paddock, I noticed that particular cow and pointed it out to Mr CJ, saying, "That was the cheeky little bugger that was hassling the poor courier yesterday." And, just as I was pointing and saying this, I swear to god, this cow winked at me.

I often think about how in this part of the world, the really scary creatures are little ones, the deadly snakes and spiders and so on that can crawl right into your boots, or into bed with you. I must admit, the creatures that do freak me out are the ticks. And they are really so tiny you can sometimes hardly see them.

One cow seemed much more interested in the back of the chair than in the person sitting in it.

The initial sniff must have pleased Miss, because she thought she'd quite like to play games with this interesting creature, and began making little run-ups and head-butting into the back of the chair, just enough to give Mr CJ a nudge each time. This was absolutely hilarious until a big, solid mama cow with a pair of very impressive twenty-inch horns thought that looked like a fun game and she'd like to play too. At that point I had to stand up and shoo them away.

One person I know who really loves cows is my mum. I keep thinking how when she comes to visit one day, she will be able to just sit in the paddock all day and watch the cows and be so happy. You'd think it would get boring, but they manage to move around and keep doing cute things and pulling cute faces and keep it interesting. I really love what my mum says to people who want to argue the point of vegetarianism. She says, in the cutsie-poo voiced reserved for babies, kittens and cartoon characters, "I love cows so much I could just eat them."

Wednesday, 1 January 2014

Lady Demelza's Year in Books 2013

Happy New Year, everybody! Cheers!

I meant to spend the New Year's Eve putting this post online, but instead, I spent the evening socialising with Loved Ones over drinky-poos like a normal human being. I'm so pleased with myself. So here we are with my Year in Books for 2013.

1. Tiny Homes: Simple Shelter by Lloyd Kahn 2012
2. The Joy of Less: A Minimalist Living Guide by Francine Jay 2010
3. The Dispossessed by Ursula K. Le Guin 1974
4. The Pickled Pantry by Andrea Chesman 2012
5. Wild Women edited by Sue Thomas 1994
6. Ignorance by Michele Roberts 2012
7. The Daylight Gate by Jeanette Winterson 2012
8. European Mythology by Jacqueline Simpson 1987
9. The Stone Key by Isobelle Carmody 2008
10. Miss Peregrine's Home For Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs 2011
11. The One Hundred Year Old Man who Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared by Jonas Jonasson 2009, English translation 2012
12. World Made By Hand by James Howard Kunstler 2008
13. Precious and the Mystery of Meerkat Hill by Alexander McCall Smith 2012
14. The Witch of King's Cross by Nevill Drury 2001
15. This We Can Say: Australian Quaker Life, Faith and Thought by the Australia Yearly Meeting of the Religious Society of Friends (Quakers) Inc. 2003
16. The End of Mr. Y by Scarlett Thomas 2006 (my review)
17. The Virago Book of Fairy Tales edited by Angela Carter 1991
18. The Witches' Book of the Dead by Christian Day 2011
19. A Visit From the Footbinder by Emily Prager 1993
20. The Earth Path by Starhawk 2004
21. The Lover's Path by Kris Waldherr 2006
22. Musicophilia by Oliver Sacks 2007
23. An Anthropologist on Mars by Oliver Sacks 1995
24. Uncle Tungsten: Memories of a Chemical Boyhood by Oliver Sacks 2001
25. Her Fearful Symmetry by Audrey Niffenegger 2009
26. The Magic Toyshop by Angela Carter 1967
27. Tender Morsels by Margo Lanagan 2008
28. A Wizard of Earthsea by Ursula K. Le Guin 1968
29. Sweetbitter Love: Poems of Sappho - A New Translation by Willis Barnstone by Sappho ca. 600 BCE, English translation 2006
30. The Gate by John Connolly 2009
31. Cosmicomics by Italo Calvino 1965, English translation 1968
32. A Quaker Book of Wisdom by Robert Lawrence Smith 1998
33. In My Skin by Kate Holden 2005
34. The Curly Pyjama Letters by Michael Leunig 2001
35. The Second Virago Book of Fairy Tales edited by Angela Carter 1993
36. Becoming Sister Wives by Kody, Meri, Janelle, Christine and Robyn Brown 2012
37. Darkly Dreaming Dexter by Jeff Lindsay 2004
38. Anne of Green Gables by L.M. Montgomery 1908 (re-read)
39. The Secret Lives of Sex Workers by Krystal Smith 2012
40. You Are Here by Thich Nhat Hanh 2001, English translation 2009
41. The Red Chief by Ion L. Idriess 1953
42. The Gypsies by Jan Yoors 1967
43. The Music of What Happens by John Straley 1996
44. Tom Bedlam by George Hagen 2007
45. Pippi Longstocking by Astrid Lindgren 1945
46. London: The Novel by Edward Rutherfurd 1997
47. The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman 2013
48. The Sending by Isobelle Carmody 2011
49. The Astonishing Life of Octavian Nothing: Traitor to the Nation, Vol. 1 - The Pox Party by M.T. Anderson 2006
50. Dublin: Foundation by Edward Rutherfurd 2004
51. The Lacuna by Barbara Kingsolver 2009
52. Dearly Devoted Dexter by Jeff Lindsay 2005
53. PopCo by Scarlett Thomas 2004

I'm really struggling to pick a best book this year, which is how it should be. I try to read only the best books to start with. But I know you want to know, so I forced myself to whittle it down to a shortlist. My top picks for 2013 are -

Uncle Tungsten by Oliver Sacks. This is the story of Sacks' childhood and his obsession with science and chemistry, and also the single best book on the history of science I have ever read. This is one for all the science geeks out there. You will wish that you had had Sacks' childhood.

The Gypsies by Jan Yoors. I found this book randomly on the shelf in the library and reading it was such a surprise. I never knew such a book existed. In the 1930's, a twelve-year-old Belgian boy ran away from home and joined a Roma tribe. He lived with them for many years and later in life wrote this book about his experiences. I believe it is the only published text to report such intimate knowledge of the life of this closed society. It's an extraordinary story, and depicts a stunningly beautiful way of life that is all but lost in this modern world. I am so very thankful that this man took the time to write this book, and that I found it.

PopCo by Scarlett Thomas. Thomas was my great New Discovery of the year. I just recently read PopCo, and I loved every minute I spent with that book so much. I am working on a review on it now and I will post it soon.

I want to give a special award for the funniest book I read this year, which was The One Hundred Year Old Man who Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared by Jonas Jonasson. Absolutely laugh out loud, do not read this in a public place unless you mind making a spectacle of yourself. And why not, I say. It would be a great thing if people engaged in spectacular laughter more often.

The crappiest book I read all the way through this year was The Secret Lives of Sex Workers by Krystal Smith. It's a bit of sad story, I'm afraid - not the sex workers' stories, but what happened to that book. I have never in my life found a book with such blatantly terrible production values. They couldn't even spell the same word the same way twice. Not even the author's name, which appears with different spelling on different pages. The punctuation appeared to have been sprinkled on like confetti. Nobody even bothered with any fact checking. A footnote tells us that Rohypnol is cocaine. I just can't even begin to tell you how bad it all was. On the dedication page, the author made the unusual choice of dedicating the work to the people who worked on the book with her, her editor, proof-reader, even the typist. If I had been involved with such a dismal atrocity I wouldn't want anyone to know about it. At least the sex workers got to use assumed names.So why did I get all the way through to the end of such an embarrassment to the publishing industry? Because, just as promised on the cover, the stories were intriguing and fascinating. There's a reason why this subject is such a publishing goldmine.

I'm happy to report that I finally got around to re-reading a favourite book this year, Anne of Green Gables by L.M. Montgomery. I got around my hang-ups about spending time re-reading books by reading it aloud to my goddessdaughter. It's been so wonderful to share it with her.

I'm linking up with Click Clack Gorilla's Book Lover's Blog Hop.