JENNI'S OFF-GRID NEWSLETTER, NO. 35 (JUNE, 2018)
June 27, 2018Lessons from Life
Well, here we are back in Australia in our place in Far North Queensland where in midwinter the sun always shines and the the sea is warm. Except lately when it seems to have reverted to the rainy season. Never mind, the rain feels softer somehow than elsewhere; big soft warm drops. Feels like home, our other one, after 10 years of coming here every winter.
We came via Canberra (very cold in winter), which is a long detour, involving 4 flights, one bus-ride from Sydney to Canberra in a freezing bus as the heating had broken down, and one longish car trip. We lived in Canberra for five years when we were very young and our children even younger. Two of them were either born or acquired while we were there (acquired = adopted). It is said that the friends we make during the stage of our lives when we are young parents are and remain the best friends of our lives. Not sure who said it, but it has the ring of truth for us. During this return visit, two of these friends had a glorious celebratory lunch at the best place in town, with the best wine anyone of us has every tasted or are likely to taste again; their 150th birthday. A joint affair for this long-together couple, one who is 70 and the other 80. They are as crazy now as they were 40 years ago. Other friends as dear were reconnected with, and we were pleased to see that our old house, very modest and rather boring-looking, was still standing, one of only two originals on a street now taken over by apartments and town houses. John wondered if it was one of the few relics that had been officially preserved as a museum piece.
When I think back over the houses I have lived in, whether one that my parents owned (three), or a house I and my husband owned and lived in (six), none of them have been torn down to make way for progress. I feel this must mean something; perhaps that the memories made in them are worth saving. This nostalgia may have something to do with our current project; building a new home on our off-grid NZ island and having therefore to say goodbye to our old, much-loved home. There is no doubt that the old house will still be standing in 100 years, barring a massive tsunami or earthquake. The new house is revealed above in drawing form. Whether it will survive for as long as our old one will, who knows. But if cost is anything to go by it damn well should. Note wide bull-nosed verandahs, the better for dreaming on. Watch this space for pic of the real thing; possibly next April/May… Good things take time. Meantime we get to stay in our old home and say goodbye very gradually.
I have been mildly obsessed with the continued good performance of ‘A Drop in the Ocean’ of late, which is creeping lower on the US Amazon ranks now but still around 1000 of all Kindle books after being in the top 200 for 12 straight weeks. This should translate to lots and lots of sales, and early figures are looking pleasing. One should not care about royalties (read ‘money’) of course, but one could be excused for feeling rather pleased that one’s years of slog are finally seeing some actual dosh. Of course if divided by the number of years of small pickings, it would be a ridiculously feeble hourly rate, so let’s not do that; just enjoy the buzz! Of course the tax department doesn’t take the long years of slavery into account when shooting up one’s tax rate. Some folk are never satisfied, as my mother-in-law would have said.
And a bit more good news on the novel that keeps on giving, I have signed a contract with Tantor Media, a giant Audio book publisher, to produce the audio book of 'A Drop in the Ocean.' The scheduled date for its release is 14th August. It will be read by Cat Gould, an Australian actress and narrator who now lives in the US. I listened to some samples of her reading various books in various accents and she is fabulous. It will be very strange to listen to it read by someone else. I think it will truly make my mind think Anna and Tom and Pat are real people who I once knew.
If you have got this far through this newsletter and are new to it, welcome, and thank you for joining. One of the very best outcomes of selling lots of books is getting lots of new reviews, and lots of new newsletter signups. Truthfully, the best thing about publishing a novel is discovering that so many people have found it worth reading, often commenting that they found themselves thinking about it long after they closed the last page. Also so nice when readers report that they learned a lot about turtle conservation and Huntington’s disease.
Third manuscript assessment is back and wouldn’t you know it, it needs more revision, rewriting indeed, than the other two. But that is OK, and I think I have sorted out how it needs to change. How hard can it be? (see book review below!) Now I must be strong and put it aside until later and focus on my first manuscript which I am part-way through revising.
How Hard Can It Be by Allison Pearson
UK writer, Allison Pearson, made it, literarily speaking, when her novel I Don't Know How She Does It hit the best-seller lists. It was a Bridget Jones-style romp of Kate Reddy, hedge-fund manager, wife, and mother of two small kids. Funny, irreverent and a bell-ringer for any mother who has juggled work and mothering (of kids and husband). The incident where Kate remembers, at 1.37 am, that she has to produce a homemade pie for her daughter’s school, is a turning point. Also brings back memories for every working mother. Mine as follows: When commanded to produce a homebaked cake for the school fair (I was already deeply disliked by the school for my tendency to send a child to school with grumbling appendicitis simply because my PhD oral exam was scheduled for that day), I informed the teacher that I would give them hard cash—what the cake might, if it was very lucky, be sold for— instead. I went on to point out that their fund-raising alternative and apparently preferred strategy was faulty; that is that I should bake a cake (chemically impregnated cake mix variety) late at night when exhausted, go to the fair on Saturday instead of having a well-deserved lie in and stand behind the cake-stand and try to sell it, then at the end of the day buy it myself, knowing that my family woud never eat a cake made by me. This concise explanation didn’t go down well, but I stood my ground. A year or so later I was partially forgiven when I agreed to give a talk to a class of five-year-olds about brains. The question I remember best from the kids was “How long is a brain?”
“Depends on how many cakes you bake,” I answered. The kids thought this perfectly acceptable as an answer and didn’t even ask me whether more cake baking or less was better for the length of the brain.
ASIDE: Congratulations to Jacinda Ardern, New Zealand's fabulous Prime Minister and her partner, Clarke Gayford on the birth of their baby. Perhaps one day Jacinda will pen a memoir about work-life balance. She worked up until the birth and says she'll take six weeks off before immersing herself in leading the country and doing good stuff on the world stage again. (Unlike Kate Reddy she does have a hands-on partner who will be the stay-at-home parent.) New Zealand has often 'led the way' on equality issues. Perhaps attitudes and policies are genuinely changing in many countries and cultures?
In her latest novel, How Hard Can it Be, Allison Pearson returns to the life of Kate Reddy. Kate, we find out, succumbed after the cake-baking episode and gave up her high-flying job as a Hedge-fund manager in London so she could work on being a better mother. But now, Kate is about to turn the dreaded 50. With two ungrateful teenagers and a husband who after being made redundant decides to train for two years as an unpaid counsellor (who cares about income), and is obsessed with bike racing, including wearing lycra at all times and shaving his legs to shave a millisecond off his racing speed, Kate needs to become the breadwinner once again. After seven years out of the workforce this ain’t easy, esecially in London’s finance sector. Who knew? She has to lie about her age and is finally employed as a junior under a young upstart (male) who is now the head of the fund she set up and which has since failed.
Another laugh aloud novel, and like all good comedy with a few serious messages. A mid-life version of 'Bridget Jones Diary'. It made me very glad I was past having to deal with children of the teenage variety with their social media bullying, self-absorption and selfies/belfies. (A belfie is a selfie of one’s bare backside.) The serious teenage issues, the personal and institutional sexism in the workforce, and the ending of Kate's long marriage, were rather lightly treated, but if one reads this primarily for enjoyment and a lot of laughs then it works well. The ending seemed to lose steam, almost as if the author was over it all and just wanted to find the quickest way to tie up all the loose ends. And why not? She deserves a lie in.
My latest two Psychology Today posts
1. ‘Playing the Game; Do You Care If You Win Or Lose? —Happiness is linked to the values of love and family, not money and status.’ (Inspired by my the latest book of my friend and colleague, Niki Harré.)
2. ‘Find Yourself a Mentor for Life And pass on what you have learned to your mentee.’ (Inspired by mentors and mentees we reconnected with in Canberra).