Learning to read

Lyle Krahn is an awesome wildlife photographer. He is not, however, a very sensible man. How do I know this? Well, the other day he set off into the frozen Canadian wilderness, on his own, on foot, to follow the trails of some animals because I told him it would be easy.

Lyle Krahn following some bad advice

Lyle Krahn off to follow some bad advice

Continue reading

Advertisements

Serpents in the Garden of Eden

I am going to have to start this post off with an apology. If you followed this blog in the hope of watching the slow but inevitable collapse of civilization at the hands of my family, you will have to wait until the next post. I’m trying to write a book. As part of my research, I am plagiarising an entire ecosystem (yes, I’m afraid it’s sci-fi. It’s going to be about a planet of mutes, because I can’t write dialogue). The ecosystem I am stealing is that of the Lowveld. For those of you who are not from South Africa, that’s where we keep all the proper animals.

Anyone from South Africa who has spent any time outdoors while growing up will have some experience of snakes. For those of you not from here, whose idea of Africa comes from wildlife documentaries with names like “Africa’s Twelve Most Murderous Death-Beasts”, it’s not like that at all. Put anything you have learned about Africa from the Discovery Channel out of your mind (after calling the producers and telling them to stop being such dicks.) Continue reading

This is the third part of what was supposed to be a quick post on the creepy crawlies of the lowveld in South Africa. I need to create an ecosystem for a book I am writing, and in the absence of any genuine creative talent, I’m plagiarising one that I already know. In my first two posts, I covered the “cute and cuddly” (https://23thorns.wordpress.com/2012/07/29/226/) and the “terrifying but harmless” (https://23thorns.wordpress.com/2012/07/29/this-is-the-sec-9/) categories. Now we can move on to the really fun stuff; the tiny little creatures that can hurt or even kill you. Continue reading

It’s the small things that count (part 3)

It’s the small things that count. (part 1)

I’ve got it! I’ve finally worked out why I haven’t been able to settle down to writing about the denizens of the bush (I’m trying to write a book. In the absence of genuine creative talent, I’ve decided to plagiarise an entire ecosystem. They’re not copyrighted. I checked.) I’ve been trying to start in the middle. Today, I’m going to start with the little things. The insignificant things. Bugs. Continue reading

Oprah lied!

If you had asked me before I was ten, I would have told you that I was an underprivileged child. Not because I was cold, or hungry, or unloved. I was none of those things. Ever. It was because of the A-Team.

I grew up in the golden years of TV shows designed to drive boys wild with excitement. There was MacGyver, there was Knight Rider, there was Airwolf. And there was the A-Team. Play the theme tune from any of those to an entire generation, now pushing forty and trying to work out whether the Jonas brothers are a band, a TV show, or a family owned furniture removal company, and they will stop what they are doing, just for a moment, while a slow, goofy grin toys with the corners of their mouths. They will zone out for a second while they try to dredge the names from the depths of their minds: Hannibal, Murdoch, Michael Knight, Stringfellow Hawk. And then they will carry on with their lives, saddened a little that their own kids will be doing this themselves in 30 years. For the rubbish on the Disney Channel.

Not me though. MY parents thought it would be good for us not to have a TV in the house. It was certainly character building. I went to an all-boys school, and had to learn to negotiate a complicated daily greeting ceremony which involved gangs of small boys in huge grey shorts shouting “Jeeeez! Did you guys check what BA did to Murdoch last night?” I learned very early on that the appropriate response was not “No, but I listened to a fantastic BBC radio play!” To this day, one of my most useful social skills is the knowledge that, if you have absolutely no understanding of what everyone else is talking about, smile and nod. It makes them very happy- not only do you agree with them, you’re not trying to muscle in on their valuable spot in the limelight either. Continue reading

Write about what you know.

“Why are you writing a book about thorns?” I hear almost no-one ask. Well, since you have brought it up I will try to explain. With pictures.

They say that a first book is almost always semi-autobiographical. In order to be selected for the journey he must undertake, my protagonist must be both extremely clever and extremely athletic. So that door is closed to me. I’m going to have to fall back on that old schoolteacher standard: “write about what you know about.” I know about thorns. Continue reading