We have been in Far North Queensland for three weeks and will be here for another seven before leaving for the US and Mexico. Since 2008 we have spent some winter months here and this is the first year we have had rain (apart from the occasional isolated rainy day). The wet season we are told didn’t come when it was meant to (in the summer) and now it seems to have arrived. So it is humid, and as only tropical rain can be, very warmly wet. Still 28 degrees though and even warmer than usual in the sea. In past years we have stayed in our apartment at a small seaside settlement north of Cairns, but for these first three weeks this year we are house-sitting for friends. They have a ‘Queenslander’ in a beautiful, green and tropical suburb of Cairns.
For those of you who do not have an immediate vision of the romantic Queenslander, here is a description:
1.Timber construction with corrugated-iron roof;
2.Highset on timber stumps;
3.Single-skin cladding for partitions and sometimes external walls;
4.Verandahs front and/or back, and sometimes the sides;
5.Decorative features to screen the sun or ventilate the interior;
6. Windows permanently open (and screened) to let the air flow through;
7.A garden setting with a picket fence, palm trees, tropical fruit trees.
Because we are closer to a city, we get to go to a few shows without having to drive far. We were even seduced by the friendly Kiwi in the Cairns ticket office into purchasing tickets for more shows in July and August that we will need to drive to from Trinity Beach (only 30 minutes!), including ‘Shadows of the Past’. This is an event? show? put on by the Cairns & District Family History Society in the Pioneer Cemetery, where we sit on the grass around ye old tombstones and learn about the lives of the bones that now lie below. I hope for ghosts although I have just noticed on the ticket that ‘Cairns Brass’ is featured. How trumpets will blend with ghosts is intriguing. Or perhaps Cairn’s Brass refers to the important people of Cairns? That would make more sense as the ghosts are likely their ancestors. I asked the friendly Kiwi if it would be cancelled if it was raining heavily (as it was that day, and is today) and she looked at me with a distinctly puzzled expression on her face and said, “This is Cairns. Take an umbrella.” She has lived in Cairns twenty years…
It is eight years since we stayed more than a night or three in a suburb, and what is most noticeable to us is the NOISE. This, I suspect, is what is thought of as a quiet suburb, but to us it is anything but. Partly this is a factor of being in a tropical suburb where stuff grows so much that diligent council workers are forever cutting down branches, large fruits that might fall on heads and kill someone, and mowing grass verges. The manager at our much quieter apartment at Trinity Beach, when we queried his tree pruning policies, told us in his Aussie way (with colourful language that can’t be repeated here) that if you don’t keep on top of it, it will bury you. The garden of the house we are living in has a delightfully wild tropical garden, which has grown over the sides of the washing line so that now only a section of it can be used, but as it is always raining that doesn’t really matter. The other NOISES include building (the house over the road) and the most unbelievably montrous diggers and rubbish removers and bottle removers and breakers, and always the noisy 4WDs that most people drive here (as half the roads in the Tropics are not sealed and either red dust or mud). During the day especially (and day begins at 6am) noise is constant. The worst NOISE of all is the incessant barking of dogs. I think at the back of us somewhere there must be a kennel for abandoned dogs. Big nasty sounding dogs and little yappy dogs; on they go especially at night after the diggers have gone (from 9pm until 4am at least). Where are the people who are meant to be looking after them? Perhaps they are packs of wild dogs? Immediately outside the bedroom windows in the garden, every night there is the noise of some significant sized animal mooching about. It could be a big bird, or a wombat or a numbat or some such thing; too dark to see. I like it or them; natural noises are soothing and interesting for some reason. The mournful and very loud mewing of clusters of stone curlews (large birds that I thought hung out nearer the sea but seem to be everywhere) are every bit as loud as dogs but don’t cause any irritation. Perhaps this is because they are meant to be here, and they are not meant to be controlled by humans. When we were camping in Africa two years ago, I loved hearing lions roaring near our camp, and even (sort of) hyenas making their blood-curdling howls. (John tells me not everyone would like these particular natural noises).
So we are looking forward to being back in our relatively quiet apartment in a few days. Traffic noise there is minimal as the resort is away from a road and surrounded by large, very well tended(!) tropical gardens. We have lots of stone curlews, and the occasional hour or two of tree pruning noise on perhaps one day a month. Three metres from our patio is a beautiful and very large ‘lagoon’ swimming pool with a white sand beach which is frequently empty of people. In the school holiday season families enjoy it mainly in the late afernoon (they are all away doing tourist things during the day). On the whole we enjoy this, especially the dads playing with their kids while the mums have a rest (I imagine these dads are dressed for the most of the year in suits and are lucky to see their kids for a hug in the morning and night), and the seven-year-old girls having earnest conversations as the sit in the bubbling spa (which in tropical pools is the same temperature as the main pool next to it) about serious matters like their big sister’s latest boyfriend and do you think she has actually kissed him? They are unaware that we are sitting not far from them on our patio behind the verdant tropical vegetation that gives us privacy, even surrounded by so many other similar apartments around the pool. Around 10am the young mothers appear, usually in pairs, with their cute babies and toddlers. Dad and the older kids have gone off doing the tourist thing. They are always fun to watch; healthy beautiful youth, both mothers and babies. And who can find happy kids and chuckling babies anything but delighful? As long as it is for a limited time each day, as it is in our pool. Fortunately babes and mothers need to go inside in the cool to have naps. There is one noise in the pool that is as bad as a dog barking, and that is the SCREAMER. These are usually small girls, although the odd small boy can scream as well. They are not screaming as in a tantrum, but screaming because they like to scream. The most annoying part of this is that their parents, lolling about in a lounger at the end of the pool, talking to their friends, take no notice at all. I have been known, after an hour of unrelenting high-pitched screaming, to go for a swim myself in the pool, come right up to them, and tell them to stop it, NOW. Their parents look up from their book or conversation and glare at me, but the kids are shocked into silence for a while and usually the parents slink off shortly thereafter, dragging their kids behind them—even the innocent non-screamers. The manager of the resort is happy for me to take on this responsibility. He would otherwise have to do it himself, and as already mentioned, he would not say simply “NOW’.
Back home on our isolated bay on our remote island, there is blissful silence most of the time. The occasional vehicle, but the road is high above our house and cars unobtrusive, and the occasional generator or mower (usually ours!). We can hear the sea at night, the wind in the trees, the rain on the iron roof (OK as long as it isn’t too frequent!), the sea birds clacking as they fly overhead, the owls calling. It is bliss, pure bliss. Here’s the thing: humans have become gradually adapted to horrible, man-made noises, and most who live in populated areas seem to have forgotten what silence is. “We live in a very quiet suburb” they say.
We love it here anyway and will put up with the noise for a while each year, especially as it doesn’t usually rain and is always warm and the sea, in the more remote beaches is beautiful to swim in. And the signs are always interesting to read (and of course heed). At a northern beach we fled to the other day to get away from the diggers and concrete makers, we spotted a large poster with photos of eight stinging jellyfish found in the sea here (usually in the hot summer sea, not in the ‘cold’ 25 degree winter sea!). Irukandji was the best: after contact with this little beauty, it warned, there may be no immediate symptoms, no nasty sting, but one symptom was that 5 to 40 minutes after, you could get a feeling of impending doom! The various symptoms for each of the eight jellyfish stings were listed (paralysis, excruciating pain, inability to breath, etc), followed by a list of treatments (soak in vinegar, get medical help urgently). The final ‘what to do’ piece of advice listed was “Do not re-enter the water”. Why ever not, we wondered.
A Drop in the Ocean
Thank you for all the nice feedback and reviews from those of you who have read and liked the novel. And if you haven’t read it, I would love you to, or to ask your library to get it (I’m pleased to say it is in over 100 libraries, most in the US, some in Australia, and perhaps one in NZ (the Great Barrer Island library!). Tell your friends if you like it, or think they might, and refuse to lend it to them so they have to buy it! If you love bookshops, order it from one of your favourites. This will be good for me as this encourages the bookshop to stock a few copies. In the US, bookshops can order it from Ingram Publisher Services, in the UK and NZ from Baker & Taylor, in Australia from Dennis Jones & Associates. You can get it at all the online retailers as a print book or an e-book.
Reviews mean a great deal to an author; for example, Amazon promotes books with lots of reviews. So if you like it, please, please review it or even just give it a rating, on Amazon (preferably post your review on both Amazon US and Amazon UK), Goodreads, Fishpond and where-ever else you can. It is easy-peasy to do; a couple of sentences is fine, no need to write a newsletter!
On Amazon.com (you can review anonymously, with a pseudonym, or your own name): Go to this link (http://www.amazon.com/Drop-Ocean-Novel-Jenni-Ogden/dp/1631520261?ie=UTF8&fpl=fresh&redirect=true&ref_=s9_simh_gw_g14_i1_r ), click on ‘customer reviews’ by the title. This will take you to the beginning of the customer reviews. Click on “Write a customer review.” Rate, write and save!
Same for Amazon.co.uk Here is their link (https://www.amazon.co.uk/Drop-Ocean-Jenni-Ogden/dp/1631520261/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1464322868&sr=1-1&keywords=Jenni+Ogden). It would be great if you would post your review on both Amazon sites, as they are separate sites in terms of their secret promotion algorithms etc .
Goodreads. You need to be a member to review here, but go on, join up! They don’t spam you and it is a great book site. Go to https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/27037952-a-drop-in-the-ocean and under image of book cover click “Read” and a review form pops up. Ignore all the bits about what date you started, etc and just rate the book and write you review, click “save” and you’re done.
by Corie Skolnick
(Amazon link http://amzn.to/28XBUzQ)
This debut novel is a delight to read, and unlike anything I have read before. The central character, Jimmy Deane (JD), was adopted at birth in 1969, at the height of the Civil Rights movement in the US. His new white Florida parents didn’t care that their beautiful new son was half black, but by the time he was five his father and mother were dead. From there on life threw everything bad imaginable at him (especially his selfish, racist, alcoholic adoptive grandmother). His saviours came in the form of his imaginary protector, (the real James Dean), Gillis, the old fella next door, his love of music and especially the drums inherited from his father, and his exceptional intelligence. These and a few other memorable characters gave him the resilience he needed to stay true to his inbuilt generosity and charm.
It is a fast-paced book, and a page turner, with JD, Gillis, and occasionally other characters telling the story. It is chock full of coincidences, usually advised by editors as a big no-no. But in this novel, they are perfectly right, perhaps because of the fantasy aspects of JD’s relationship with the long dead James Dean. This is a story resonant with moral lessons told with warmth and fun as well as sadness for the ‘orfan’ as little JD saw himself. JD entered my heart before he was even fully born, and stayed firmly in place until the last sentence. I’m sure he is out there somewhere (now aged 47!) still with dreadlocks, playing his drums, and loving his family and friends with all his very big heart.
(ORFAN is currently in development to become a full-length feature film by Ron Shelton Pictures/Hermit's Glen Productions in Los Angeles, California. It will make an amazing movie if it is done well.)
Article of Possible Interest
My most recent Psychology Today post https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/trouble-in-mind/201606/when-fear-and-facts-collide is about the recent Australian research on the effects of their Gun Reform twenty years after it was implemented. As you can imagine I have had a few comments not in agreement from US readers, which is fine and appropriate (but some I didn’t ‘approve’ because of the extreme racist language, and therefore are not shown).
So goodbye for another month with thanks for your support, and carry on conning some more mates or enemies into subscribing to my e-newsletter! http://www.jenniogden.com/newsletter.htm