Immigrant Song

Alphons is on the loose

Australia is jam-packed full of spectacular native birds. My wife and I have identified and largely photographed over 130 species, just in our little corner of the island continent.

So why, oh why, would I bother writing about the Common Blackbird – a stowaway from the Northern Hemisphere? An avian anomaly? An incongruous interloper?

Perhaps out of fellow feeling. I too come from a northern land of damp weather and leaf mould, of burgeoning hedgerows and dewy lawns. I too sometimes wonder how I got here.

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Getting Read

My output of stories has been prolific over the past months. Clearly, a world-record series of lockdowns here in Victoria has been good for something!

However, ‘Write it and they will come’ isn’t proving to be a sensible way of getting my writing to readers.

I ruefully recognise that I only started reading some of my favourite contemporary authors after an obituary in the media. That’s a little long-term for this writer. I’d rather be read alive than dead.

So, how to get eyes on pages?

Here are some thoughts:

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Tower Hill

Photo essay on a volcanic wildlife haven

The volcanic plains of southwestern Victoria sweep down from the craggy Grampians and Victoria Ranges in the north to the Bass Strait coast, where they are abruptly truncated at sandstone and limestone cliffs or hemmed by soft dunes and marshy lagoons.

From east to west, the Newer Volcanics Province extends 400 kilometres from Melbourne to the South Australian border. It contains over 400 volcanoes, of which Tower Hill is one of the newest, having erupted as recently as 5,000 years ago. Tower Hill is one of the world’s largest maar (cinder cone) volcanoes.

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Lake Connewarre

Sketch of a hidden gem

The Bellarine Peninsula juts between Port Phillip Bay and wild Bass Strait like the knobbly head of a monstrous sperm whale, toothy jaws agape.

Our northern shores are nibbled by the choppy waves of Corio Bay and Outer Harbour; our southern beaches are thrashed by the big surf. In the jaws of the whale lies quiet Swan Bay. The chain of sand islands which almost close the mouth are the whale’s teeth.

Under the whale’s chin lies the fearsome Rip. All vessels that enter and leave Port Phillip Bay must run this gauntlet.

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Down by the Creek

My morning walk

The little creek near my house is my favourite walking route. Once it was an important thoroughfare for the Wadawurrung people — from the Bay to the waterholes which are the only permanent fresh water in the area. They called the creek Gurnang.

After ‘settlement’ (i.e. theft) of the lands around Port Phillip Bay (Narrm Narrm) by British colonists from 1835 onwards, our peninsula was largely cleared of native vegetation and became an important agricultural hinterland for the bustling port city of Geelong.

When my wife and I came to this area in 2002, the creek, now known as Griggs Creek, was a weed-choked seasonal trickle of water on the edge of town, bordering low-grade pasturage with a few cattle dotted across it.

I’m no great fan of urban sprawl, and was concerned to discover that plans were afoot to build 3,000 dwellings on the other side of the creek — in effect, a brand-new township.

In the event, this well-planned development has brought both recreational and environmental benefits to our community.

Where there was once a gullied cow paddock, there are neat streets of houses — but also wetlands teeming with life. A walking and cycling track winds through parklands planted with indigenous shrubs and trees to the Bay and a perfect view of the You Yangs peaks on the opposite shore.

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The Patch

A Permaculture Adventure

Permie in the Patch, 2016

When I was a kid, growing up in the 1970s on the outskirts of London, there was a TV sit-com that I adored. A quirky, optimistic show with wit and warmth, in the best tradition of British comedy. It was called The Good Life, with Felicity Kendal and Richard Briers.

It was the story of an irrepressibly resourceful couple in a snooty middle-class suburb of London, who absconded from the rat race in pursuit of self-sufficiency. How I loved that show, and the curiously romantic idea of ploughing up one’s lawn to grow potatoes and keep a brace of pigs …

Australia-bound for the Good Life

When my wife and I moved to Australia in 2001, we finally had the space to pursue our own Good Life (sans porcine companions). We were keen to grow a significant proportion of our own fruit and veg.

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Read All About It!

My fiction on coriobay.blog

Writing fiction is my favourite creative outlet right now. Although I’ve been a professional writer for many years, I’ve only recently started writing stories for my own and others’ entertainment. I wish I’d started sooner, because it’s a lot of fun!

I’m even kicking around the idea of getting together a collection of short stories for formal publication as an anthology. It will have to wait until I’m less busy with the ‘day job’, so probably next year, but it’s something I’d love to do.

I’m slightly daunted by the inevitable but complex question: to self-publish or to seek an agent and a conventional publisher?

In the meantime, while I’m figuring this out, you can find a selection of my stories for free, here on this site. Please have a read and leave a comment.

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Medium: the first 7 months

How well does the platform perform for fiction writers?

I started publishing stories on Medium back in February of this year. So far, I’m pleased with my time as a Medium writer. I thought it was time to reflect on some of my experiences. If you’re considering publishing your work on Medium, you may find these observations useful.

I see myself primarily as a writer of prose fiction, with occasional memoirs and essays thrown into the mix. I’m a minority writer on Medium, therefore, and inevitably limiting my readership.

Readership is heavily genre-dependent

Factual pieces seem to get the most traffic. If you write how-to articles about starting a business or making money, opinion pieces about feminism or sexuality, commentary on current affairs, you’ll be tapping into Medium’s core readership and, with persistently good writing, could build a steady following.

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Procrastination

The increasing difficulty of getting a round tuit

It’s not that I’m a lazy bastard, honest. Maybe I’m just an optimist, perpetually looking forward to tomorrow, when stuff will actually get done. And if not tomorrow, then there’s always tomorrow’s tomorrow. Übermorgen (‘overmorrow’) as it’s called in German.

procrastinate (vi) — to put off or defer action, [C16: Latin procrastinare from pro- in favour of + cras tomorrow]

‘Procrastinate’ is first attested in English in the sixteenth century, so I wonder what they did until then. Probably they just ‘putte it offe unto the morrow’.

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Useful (?) Things I Learned as a Kid

Ancient male wisdom from 1970s England

Chemistry

It’s more difficult than you’d suppose to mix potassium nitrate and sugar in the right proportions for an explosion. Twisted toilet paper is not a good fuse system.

Social studies

Bullies don’t back off when you stand up to them. They thump the crap out of you. They choose smaller and weaker victims for a reason, and when you’re a kid, there’s always a bigger kid.

If a smaller boy is a bully, he’s probably a psychopath. (Lookin’ at you, Dave. Scary little guy. That high-pitched giggle when a fight kicked off …)

Physics

Laws of physics, dude. You ain’t gonna beat Jeff. He’s six feet tall and has fists like half-bricks. He likes using them on kids two years younger and half his size. The best defence is pretending to be a harmless, babbling fool. Easy when you’re scared shitless.

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