Over the past few months we’ve visited dog shows, breeders, friends, dog parks and websites, all with a view to finding our Nunzio… and ended up with an overload of information, too many choices and high levels of indecision. Eventually I had to resort to a spreadsheet, entering size, weight range, temperament, grooming, exercise requirements and common ailments of each of the breeds we’d shortlisted.

We ranked them out of 10, based on our original criteria of size and disposition. Then we discarded all but the top four breeds and had another think. We could immediately rule out two of the four contenders: we already have one (but need something calmer for a second dog) and aren’t prepared to risk a repeat of the other (because of health issues). In the end it came down to a choice between a German Short Haired Pointer and a Welsh Springer Spaniel.

More discussions ensued. A decision was made.

Finally after all the procrastination, we have a puppy in our sites. Sometimes it’s good to simply go with what you know.


Based on how quickly they learn and respond to commands, Welsh Springers are only ranked #31 on the smart-dog scale. However, this still means they tend to obey a first command 70% of the time or better. This is good enough – and a lot smarter than a most other breeds.

Besides which, we’ve realised that we’re not looking for clever. We’re looking for a good companion dog for our Doberman, one that will keep up with her but not be as wildly excitable. In this arena, Welshies score very well. Their temperament is predictable, they’re good fun without being super boisterous, and are very loving. Our Honey (above) really was a Honey 🙂

So, we have confirmation that one of these little cuties is our Nunzio. They’re only three weeks old at present, so we won’t know which one for a few weeks yet.
Talzon girls_3weeks old_29Feb16

She’ll arrive in Perth in early April, flying across from Quamby Brook (Tasmania) with another puppy also destined for Perth. You can keep an eye on their progress via Talzon’s website or email me for updates.

spider and rosie

Spider and Rosie, the parents. (Images courtesy of Talzon Welsh Springer Spaniels.)

I’m often met with puzzled looks when I mention that I’m involved with a group called GenghisCon. “What on earth is that?” or “Did you say Genghis Khan?” or “Say what?” are fairly standard responses. Despite the relative frequency with which I get those responses, I’m always slightly taken aback. After all, it’s been part of my milieu for about 16 years…

So what exactly is a GenghisCon and how did it start?

Essentially, it’s a low-cost, max-fun 3-day geek annual convention. GenghisCon provides a range of activities from table-top gaming/roleplaying/LARP/console gaming to panel discussions on technology/gaming/geek culture/science/etc., as well as hands-on creative workshops. There’s even a one-day marketplace with traders and stalls, selling a wide range of geek loot, books and handcrafted items. We sometimes have water-balloon and water-pistol fights (because we can), tend to eat junk food and have been known whack each other (gently) with foam rubber swords 🙂

It all started in 2001 with DaughterDearest. A science fiction enthusiast and, at that time, a member of MARS (the Murdoch Alternative Reality Society), she’d become increasingly indignant at the cost of the then one-and-only science fiction convention in Perth.

“It’s iniquitous!” she ranted. “How do they expect students to afford those prices? And it’s not like it’s even fun anymore!”

As the annual convention drew closer, her litany of irritated exclamations escalated. Dinnertime conversations centred on the topic long enough for the parental unit (me) to eventually find it tedious. We’d thrashed the topic to death, we all agreed on the basic points and I was over it. So I suggested that instead of complaining, perhaps she should do something about it – perhaps start her own (low cost, max fun) convention…

One thing about DD – she does rise to a challenge – and this time she did so in spades. The next day she thrashed the idea around with some friends at MARS, several of whom were very keen to roll with it, and invited a few of them over to the old homestead to take the discussions to the next level. Before we knew it, we’d been invaded by a flurry of students and our whiteboard was being colonised with ideas, strategies, timelines and possible convention names.

deej at gcon1_2002This group included Danielle Linder (aka DaughterDearest), Mark Turnley, Douglas Linder (aka Boychilde), John Blahusiak, Wendy Macdougall, Colm Kiely, Mike Fineberg and Dean Caruana. By the second meeting they’d been joined by Zara Astle, Robyn Creagh and Msquared – who also thought the idea of an all-new max-fun convention rocked. Together, this happy band made up the first committee.

A lot of brain storming later the name GenghisCon emerged – a nod towards Genghis Khan, who’s empire changed the face of the world…logo_gcon banner3Having a name anchored the convention as a reality, after which things rapidly gained momentum. Robyn drew a Mongolian horse-shield/UFO logo, which remains the identifiable GenghisCon image. Grant Stone  agreed to be our Patron Saint and his tacit support of the new convention helped it to gain traction with the broader SF community. An affordable venue was found, a programme of events – with a strong focus on interactive fun – was devised, and some fundraising was undertaken to pay for the venue and to keep costs down.

A Brains Trust was set up: Himself had attended the very first Swancon (back in 1976), Sibling#1 had served as Treasurer on various Swancon committees, DrMark – a regular visitor and a long-time Swancon-er – had been on the Board of WASFF, Boychilde had uber computer skills, and I had helped to establish a couple of not-for-profits in the past. Between us we could offer suggestions on incorporation, insurance, finances and venue options when needed.

From there it was a relatively short step to the realisation of DaugterDearest’s core idea: a small, student-and-impoverished-fan oriented science and speculative fiction convention, with a strong emphasis on interactive fun. GenghisCon is now a Perth institution, with successive volunteer committees keeping to the basic premise of providing a small, friendly, fun, and inexpensive annual event.

It goes to show that a small group of people with a cool idea can make things happen. If you have an idea, why not start a club, build a convention, join a committee – get involved and create the culture you want to enjoy. If not you, then who?

GenghisCon 15 runs from 15-17 January 2016. Bookings are open now.genghiscon2004_M2pie2

Every household has a list of mundane tasks that need attention each week. These are the ordinary, every day things that are repetitive, usually pretty tedious, appear unproductive, are largely thankless – and yet are necessary. They’re the time consuming little tasks that move our lives along, such as grocery shopping, mowing the lawn, writing reports, vacuuming, blitzing the shower, laundry, making appointments & paying bills, feeding & exercising the dog, updating spreadsheets, cleaning the pool… The list seems endless once you start and, whilst no one activity takes up all your residual enthusiasm and (notional) free time, they do sneakily combine to eat great chunks of it. Sometimes what’s left is a you that’s simply run out of available energy resources or, as my family calls it, ‘spoons’.

flynetSadly, there’s no magic fix to the list or to the probable exhaustion – not unless you have staff that will see to your every whim. I don’t – so I was out in the noonday sun last week, mower and edge trimmer to hand, sunhat and fly net in place – this is Australia, so the last two are mandatory. Weeks of ignoring the lawns had left them shaggy, unkempt and potentially dangerous for foot traffic (we have a dog). It was well past time for action.

Despite the ultra-light electric mower, trudging up and down behind it across the ankle-deep grass and then thrashing the trimmer around to tidy up the edges was hot, sweaty work. The combination of a 30-degree day, dry easterly winds and puppy that, unable to get to me to save me from the apparent horrors of mowing, took to impersonating an entire pack of howling hounds, was mind-numbing. Thank goodness for the fly net, since that at least kept the bomb-diving flies at bay!

Like many repetitive tasks, however, mowing the lawn doesn’t require much active attention, so my mind was free to wander around and consider plans for my rapidly approaching dog-and-lawn-free holiday.  I started listing the things I needed to do, to get, to pack, to arrange before I leave and to slot those into my mental schedule. Doing so provided the following epiphany with regards to more mundane chores:

  • Make a to-do list
  • Don’t ignore it
  • Prioritise the tasks
  • Chunk them into things that can be done at more or less the same time
  • Schedule as many of them as you can (Monday is often my mundane-day)
  • Set calendar reminders so that you remember what needs to be done when
  • Remember that even if you only do one small thing on the list it’s one less thing still to do
  • Stop before you’re exhausted
  • Out-source where possible – to family spouse, kids or hired help
  • Accept that not everything will get done every week

It’s actually surprisingly sensible advice and I’m going to try to follow it myself from now on, which goes to show that doing mundane tasks can have unexpectedly good results. There is one more thing I’d like to add, though, and that it to remember to acknowledge the tasks you conquer. Tick them off your list and allow yourself to feel satisfied at having completed whatever it is – no matter how long your list may still be.

I must admit that ticking ‘mow and whipper-snip lawns’ off my list felt pretty good and, once I’d cooled down and settled the howling hound, it was gratifying to note that the (quite tiny) front and back lawns actually looked darn fine!


I was up at the crack of dawn yesterday to do some baking for an event at our place. I test-baked an apple/hazelnut cake a couple of weeks ago, replacing hazelnut meal with macadamia meal – because that’s what I had in the pantry (doesn’t everyone?). It turned out pretty well (the texture and taste of the macadamia meal simply delicious) and I was pretty confident that it’d work out okay the second time around too… but, just in case, I prepared a simple vanilla/apple teacake to pop into the other oven as a back-up plan. It never hurts to be a bit over-prepared – and the guests usually eat every last crumb anyway 🙂

I find baking very relaxing – particularly when the house is quiet – and my mind soon drifted onto other things as I pottered away. I measured and mixed, stepping over and around the ever-hungry scrounge that is our puppy and thought about my daughter, fast asleep in the back bedroom. On Friday she received notification that the house that she and her partner have been working towards and dreaming of for so long is finally theirs. From land purchase though design, planning approvals and – most particularly – bank shenanigans, it’s been a long haul for them. The past week in particular had been fraught with anxiety as to whether the house would pass muster, resulting in the funds being released to the builders (by the ever-nit-picky bank). It did – and they both positively glowed as they gave us the news that night – and many spontaneous happy dances of bouncy joy and group hugs ensued. Such happiness all round.

After camping in two rooms at our place for the past 10 months, with a minimum of personal belongings to hand (the rest being in storage), they’re more than ready to move into their own space again. Unpacking all their belongings, sorting through them and rediscovering things they haven’t seen in months will be a bit like Christmas morning. They’ll be able to move their kittens into a whole house (instead of a small cat run), set up chook pens for their gaggle of poultry and plant out the vast array of trees and plants that have waiting in pots outside our front windows. It’s going to be great fun to watch the next stage of their Gallifrey dream take shape and to help out where we can.

Thinking about their unfolding adventure made me reflect on my own dreams and aspirations – and to contemplate where I’m up to with those. Just over a year ago I attended a workshop entitled How to Become a Must-Read Author. The rather ambitious title set the expectations of the attendees fairly high – and  Rachael didn’t disappoint. She entertained and inspired the crowd of writers and would-be entrepreneurs very effectively, telling her personal rags-to-riches story in an inclusive and forthright way, tossing in random humorous anecdotes to lighten things up and to retain audience attention. It was a very polished performance and went a long way to showing why she’s so successful. My friend Karen and I were both quite impressed and came away determined to move forward with our respective book projects, utilising Rachael’s write-a-book-in-12-weeks as incentive to do so.

Part of this 12-week process was to focus on our key objectives for the next couple of years. There are any number of ways to undertake this sort of exercise, but I found mind-mapping worked surprisingly well as a first stage. I wrote down all the things I could think of that I’d like to do, see, be or achieve – no matter how implausible. Then I grouped them into categories and looked at those in an attempt to see what bigger picture I was trying to paint for myself. From there I moved on to hunting down some pictures to represent the various categories and put together a vision board, printed it out and stuck it up in my study to act as motivation to achieve those vision board 2014objectives.

I’m not sure that having the print out on the back of my door helped in any real sense, since that sort of affirmation isn’t generally something that spurs me on. What was valuable, however, was the exercise of creating the vision board. It focused my attention on my wants and needs in a positive and proactive way. It made me actively consider how I could achieve the outcomes I wanted, rather than just dreaming about them.

So what have I achieved since then? It doesn’t feel like an awful lot, really – not until I stop and take an objective look at the past year. In reality, each of the key objectives on my two-year vision board has been addressed to some extent. From saving money to kitchen renovations, exercise to travel, hobbies to getting a puppy, completing my memoir to spending more time relaxing with people who matter to me – the current round of hopes and dreams is well on the way to being realised. Perhaps now that our house will be a little quieter, it’ll be time to set about a new round of mind-mapping and to come up with a whole new round of hopes and dreams to aim for.

I was sitting outside the other day and I noticed just how many passionfruit are hanging on the vines. There are more than many – perhaps even many-many! I’m starting to think along the lines of passionfruit sorbet and pavlova and suchlike and really looking forward to harvesting some of the garden produce. Actually, come to think of it, the plum tree is also pretty laden down with fruit and so is the grapefruit tree and at least one of the olives trees. It’s only a matter of time before we’re knee deep in preserves, pies and chutneys – again.

Little did we know when we planted our first three fruit trees just over a decade ago that we’d end up with our own urban orchard. A quick count tells me that we have somewhere around 20 productive trees or vines: blood orange, calamondin, finger lime, three passionfruit vines, a bay tree (in a half wine barrel) and two grapevines (just planted) at the back. Then our original three: the ruby blood plum, Tahitian lime and pink grapefruit around the side of the house, along with an ornamental(ish) plum (which appears to fertilise the other plum), an olive tree and a blueberry bush. Moving to our (not very large) front garden, we have a black cherry, a lillipilly, two miniature apple trees, another olive and a cumquat. Oh, and a pear tree (also in a half wine barrel) and another bay tree (ditto).


What were we thinking? Or, more to the point, what was I thinking?! Every time we’ve done any serious work in the garden (redoing reticulation, putting in a small retaining wall, replacing the fish pond), I seem to have  had a rush of blood to the brain and headed off to the local nursery / purveyor of fine fruit trees. Sometimes I just wandered in there to  pick up some essential item relating to the current project… but the outcome is always fairly predictable: we suddenly need to find a space for yet another fruit tree!

Since we also have three raised garden beds for growing vegetables – and since I find seed propagation only intermittently successful, this also requires the occasional stop to select seedlings and, since I’m there…

I guess some people shop for yet another pair of natty high heels, others for that perfect piece of jewellery or technology… my weakness appears to be plants, specifically fruit trees. As long as I don’t go near the nursery section of the local hardware store or – even worse – happen to stop in at the more well stocked nursery, conveniently on my way home from work (if I take the long way home), then all is well.

So what is it about gardening, about planting a tree and watching it grow and, in time, become productive that has such appeal? Part of it is that work/home life tend to be busy, time is perennially at a premium and stress piggybacks all too easily on top of all that. So I find it relaxing to actively take time to potter around in the garden, to plant and trim, prune and mulch. The simple acts of watering the veggie garden and picking and eating a cherry tomato while I do so, of throwing the windfall fruit to the chickens and of noticing how much things grow day by day – these are amongst my meditative practices. They replenish my chi and make my world a better place.