JENNI'S OFF-GRID NEWSLETTER, No. 48 (DECEMBER, 2019)
December 3, 2019
Finally, A New Home!
First an apology for not sending an e-newsletter for the past couple of months. I do, after all, say it is a monthly e-newsletter! I think I will re-word that as a mostly monthly e-newsletter! Of course the only person who has noticed this is me (and a few others—thank-you for checking to make sure I was still here!)
My reasons were multiple; but in short we finished, more or less, our house and moved in; I had nothing of interest to say; and I spent a couple of weeks in Hawaii at the K'auai Writers' Festival.
So the house completion is the primary thing that has happened. We are now in the landscaping stage (well this is John rather than me!) but the house, except for a few last bits and pieces, is complete after a two year 'journey' from first signing on with the Oz company who designed it (with our help) and sent most of it from Australia to NZ and thence to our off-grid island, to getting the pictures on the walls. Was it worth it? Yes. It is stunning and way more beautiful than I had even imagined in my most optimistic moments. For those of you who haven't been victims of the progress reports, it is an off-grid house, so solar power systems, wormsmart waste water systems and the like are pretty essential. Our solar system which we put in first was powerful enough to support the entire build without using the generator, and now without even denting the power supplies I can put an actual dishwasher on every day, as well as all the lights (instead of only one at a time as in our last house), a hair dryer and microwave (really?), and just about anything else a normal person would use on-grid in a city. We are in the midst of selling off all the excess building supplies which still fill up the garage and various sheds. They tend to sell easily as it costs a fortune to get stuff over to this island.
One of the best parts about building in a small community like this is getting to know the builders, painters, electrician, plumber, plasterer, tiler, retaining fence-maker, digger drivers, and other tradesmen and their families. They all know each other (mostly went to school together and are often in some way related) and live here because they love the lifestyle. This does mean that getting some of them to actually show up is 'like herding cats' as one of their partners said. When they do show up it is at 7am when they put on their radios, loudly, (our local radio station which some of them also DJ a regular program on; eg "Music from the 80s", "Blues and Jazz" etc) and start their power tools and begin singing, also loudly, sometimes three of them all singing a different song simultaneously.
Then there is the lunch break. The painters, a team of four (and I must say an exception to the norm when it comes to showing up on the day -- or week -- they say they will) establish themselves in the garage between the paint pots and spare rolls of insulation and get out their stove and pre-prepped meals. For example, on their last day they began with Crayfish Mornay, followed by chicken curry and giant salads, and then fried eggs! All caught fresh from the sea, plucked from their gardens, and the chicken, well who knows where they grabbed that. Bottom line; these guys are all fabulous. Who cares if they occasionally prefer to go fishing or surfing, or don't come in to work because it is their birthday? (I can say that now that they really are pretty much done.) I have no doubt we have made some friends for life, and as they are young, fit, generous, and great huggers, what could be better for two old fossils living by the beach, their own children and grandchildren a long way away?
Went to the wonderful Kauai Writers' Festival where I was a participant in two workshops, each running for three or four half days. Christina Baker Kline, Paula McLain and Meg Wolitzer, three of my favourite authors, (do read their novels… biographical/historical fiction) took one of the workshops and Josh Mohr the other. All inspiring. Then the Festival itself. So away two weeks in all. K'auai is beautiful and the people lovely but island somewhat spoilt by the terrible traffic along the coastal road and of course the high-rise hotels. The tracks up into their Waimea Canyon are shockingly maintained and dangerous. Giant cruise ships coming in each night. I feel sorry for the long-time residents, and even more determined to do whatever I can to make sure our equally beautiful island does not some day become like this. We think it couldn't possibly happen, but of course it could.
Another sort-of-about-writing story is the name of our new home. Killara. It is an Aboriginal word meaning "Always there" (obviously it hasn't been but will be in 100 years!) Why this name? Because it is a Queenslander surprisingly similar to the Queenslander in my latest manuscript (which may or may not one day be published…) , also called Killara.
The Last Train To London by Meg Waite Clayton.
I have read quite a few good books lately but will review this one as I think it will be a best seller, and Meg Waite Clayton is a generous and lovely writer friend (well, a friend on FB and e-mail, and one day we shall meet in person.)
It is based on the story of a real woman hero in WWII, Truus Wijsmuller, a member of the Dutch resistance. Beginning in 1936, Truus begins to rescue small numbers of Jewish children, and continues her ever more dangerous mission after Hitler's annexation of Austria and the closure of borders across Europe (exceopt for England) to the masses of refugees deperate to escape. In all she smuggled to safety in England over ten thousand children from the German occupied areas of Europe. But the story also has at its heart two 'fictional' teenagers who live in Vienna: Stephan, the 15-year-old son of a wealthy and influentual Jewish family, and Žofie-Helene‑‑the love of his life‑‑a Christian girl whose mother edits a progressive, anti-Nazi newspaper. We see, from their scary place, the horrors of living in a German occupied country, where their families are torn apart and they too rely on Truus to get them out. The novel is meticulously researched and written with passion, and a great example of a fictionalized story of a real person and actual events.
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