On the back burner


So this is what the back burner looks like: not-very-often blog posts. For the last two months, as I’ve worked to a couple of story submission deadlines, I’ve had to make a rule not to spend any ‘prime’ time on this blog. So that means no blogging during the day, while the kids are at school, but only after-hours, weekends and evenings, if I can be arsed. Which lately I can’t.

We had a couple of hours of excitement this week when we woke to a Hawea-wide power cut, which meant PITCH BLACKNESS – no streetlights, no starlight, nothing – until 8am when the pre-sunrise sky began to lighten. So it was breakfast by candlelight and tea on the billy stove and thanking heaven for the woodburner. We feared another school closure, but were assured that the schools have generators for civil defence reasons, so we cheerfully packed the boys off as usual.

The outage was probably caused by the usual formula of car + black ice + power pole. We don’t have much occasion to drive at night, but when we do, we’re disconcerted by the utter, utter blackness of the unlit country roads. It takes a particular type of courage, a pure leap of faith, to pull out of an intersection when you just can’t see whether there’s anything coming or not. Fog adds an extra level of discomfort, as you search long, undifferentiated stretches of smoky-dark road just metres at a time for your turnoff.

The unusual Hawea snowdump (which left Wanaka completely untouched but thoroughly blanketed our little corner of the world) ended up staying on the ground for at least 10 days, to the point where we almost got sick of it. The boys tobogganed themselves silly for four days and then got over it, especially Firstborn, who worked himself into a series of frustrated rages because he couldn’t ride his bike in the snow, or do his assault course tarpaulin belly crawl. Then the once-in-20-year snow gave way to one-in-20-year rain, which it did for two solid weeks, melting all the white stuff, including most of the pretty stuff on the hills.

Now we’re having another run of overnight minus sixes; this week there has been ice all over the insides of the bedroom windows, which remain frozen shut until lunchtime. The concrete driveway is too treacherous to negotiate on foot, so we scramble down the frosty bank to the letterbox. (One of those country letterboxes with the flag, which we put up if we want the nice Rural Delivery driver to pick anything up for posting.) We’re chewing through the firewood; stacking and bringing in a daily supply has become Hapless’s least favourite chore. Ten cubic metres suddenly doesn’t look like much at all.

Hapless has turned into an official ski bore, whose conversation ranges widely over any subject as long as it’s skiing: from ski conditions and speculations on the forecast, through to ski technique videos on YouTube, to ski gear and all its infinite possibilities. He watches the weather obsessively and sneaks away in work time for solo ski missions; we’ve already taken the boys a few times, and indulged in one AO day while the boys were at school. The wind has been the worst thing so far, taking temperatures down to miserable and scouring all the lovely powder off the mountain, but we’ve lucked into a couple of calm days too. The boys are oblivious to the cold, and have to be dragged away protesting by their chilled-to-the-bone parents when the chairlifts are finally closed.

But this is all just peripheral distraction from my core mission; my ‘real’ writing has finally started to feel like that. I begin to accumulate a satisfying stash of finished-ish short stories, which feel like they deserve their own collective noun: a clutch of short stories? A smugness? A relief? As I finish each one, I experience a brief, ecstatic high, followed by a kind of post-coital lassitude, which on sending them off sometimes curdles into clammy morning-after regret.

With the latest round of submission deadlines met, I’m being saved from myself by the onset of another round of school holidays and the welcome distraction of visitors. But come the new term, I’ve got a clear mental map of what I want to write over the next couple of months, and I can’t wait to get stuck in. So don’t expect this blog to be on the front burner any time soon…

One thought on “On the back burner

  1. Boo! Hiss! I love reading these blog entries. Keep them coming! Real writing? Pah! Who is going to keep me entertained with by proxy accounts of other-worldly gap year antics?

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