March 19th, 2012

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I've examined my coming week with a close and relentless scrutiny. Two half days lost to medical stuff, two lots of teaching, two meetings, two dinners with visiting friends, two review books and study. Study refuses to pair up and make two afternoons of study or two books or two anythings. It stands resolutely alone, reminding me that it must be done.

Speaking of books, as part of my close and relentless scrutiny, I have denuded my fiction library of its last duplicates. Most of them will go to CSFG people on Wednesday (first come, best dressed - and two are already spoken for) but the two books by Patricia Wrightson were intentional duplicates and are able to be posted to people who need more books by Australian women in their lives. Call it part of my WHM celebration.

If you would like a book by Wrightson, tell me about your favourite Aussie women writers below and I'll haul out the magical purple sparkly sorting hat again. I have two.

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I've just come back from the hospital and I'm waiting for the police. The hospital is less exciting than it sounds - it was the first followup after last week's intersting event. So far I'm clear of retinal detachment but not out of danger yet - I have to go back in 2 weeks.

I just got in and my place was a mess. Even for me my place was a mess. Stuff thrown everywhere. The only closed cupboards were in the kitchen. When the police comes I'll have a better idea of what's actually gone (if anything - it looks as if my DVDs are not of the sort anyone wants - but why? Isn't Zorro's Foreign Legion the stuff of dreams?) and I am really not one for valuable jewellery (I can't tally the jewellery yet because it's all over the bed, but the most valuable is probably gone, which is my grandmother's engagement ring - I'll find out soon). The fumy thing is that it took me a few minutes of walking over boxes and things to realise taht I had a problem, not because the place was in any way the way I left it, but because I can't see a d* thing. Eyedrops and eye combine and make my home a hazard. I can't wait to see what the team of police (for they are sending a whole team) makes of this sudden junkheap.

After this has been sorted (and insurance if insurance is needed is done, I intend to have a *very* quiet day.

And I suddenly realised taht something *is* missing - my netbook. For certain. Damn. May I please hate thieves?

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My very exciting day - next episode.

It could have been worse. It could have been better. It would be really nice if it hadn't happened at all.

A suspicious looking person was identified near my place at 2 pm, so while I was at the hospital. He stole my netbook, my camera, my most valuable jewellery (except my grandmother's unengangement ring, which he missed because it was in probably the only container he didn't open and fling across the floor), a bunch of chains and pendants, and some other small stuff including, oddly, half a box of whiteboard crayons. The forensics expert (I asked him lots of questions!) said that the crayons were probably for graffiti and I pointed out they were whiteboard and easily erased and he said good, that makes it easier for the cleaning crew. He and the two police reps and the three insurance bods were really reassuring, very helpful and very professional. I was apparently calm but talkative*.

The insurance bods have taken many details and walked me through the process.

My place was definitely broken into - there was clear evidence on the door. The police said that there's a lot of this activity around right now, but that this person wasn't the same person as the one they were looking into earlier. We talked about his modus operandi. I know a lot more about theft that I did and can now build up a personality from a style of operation if I ever want to use it for a novel. The police and the forensics person were happy to explain to me, when I told them this.

I switched to research mode because it was the only way of remaining calm - I couldn't see properly because of the eye drops from the hospital and my flat was a wreck - I had someone who was looking for certain valuables, but also took a joy in flinging things around. The oddest thing - apart from the crayons - was the violin. He pulled out everything from under the bed (mainly author copies of books) and opened the violin case. He left everything in the case, but he loosened the horsehair from the bow so it entirely needs restringing.

*I'm learning I react differently to different crises. I was not calm but talkative after the molotov cocktails, for instance.

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PS Thank you all for being so wonderful and supportive. (And my camera is also gone, so when I was asked if I had taken pictures before I tidied up, I got to say "With what?" Jenny M - your mobile was left alone, entire and untouched.)

Women's History Month - guest blogger, Mary Victoria

Once, there was a little old wise woman who lived in a hut and knew the secret names of birds and brewed up magic spells in her cauldron. Actually, she lived in Oregon and brewed up stories. Her name was, and still is, Ursula K. Le Guin.
I loved, and was deeply influenced by many women writers of fantasy and historical fiction growing up: Mary Renault, Rosemary Sutcliff and Mary Stewart, to name only a few. But Ursula K. Le Guin went one step further than the rest. She reached into the heart of nine-year-old me, her magic seeping through those black marks on that white page – reached right in there with that word-magic of hers, right into my very soul, and flipped a switch. On.
Think, she said. Think about life. Think about good and evil. Think about all you take for granted in your childish way. Are all the things you accept as true, without thinking, really and absolutely true, always and everywhere? Is there a truth that goes above and beyond them, holding them inside, still valid in their own way, but ridiculously small and unimportant when you look at the bigger picture?
It sounds a little teacherly when put like that. But the way she did it, keeping her philosophy beautifully embedded in her story, never preaching, never pedantic, made all the difference.
The tale in question was ‘The Wizard of Earthsea’, arguably one of Ms Le Guin’s most beloved works, and for good reason. It is psychologically, dare I say spiritually, absolutely sound. After following Ged the hero in his quest for popularity and power (yes, I can relate to that) and seeing him crash and burn as a result (yes, I can relate to that, too,) there is a final chase. The dark thing Ged has released into the world first hunts him down, then is hunted by him in turn. The story culminates in a struggle between the two forces. Ged and the dark Thing wrestle in a state between land and sea, life and death, waking and sleeping.
Except that they aren’t two. At the climax of the struggle, Ged names his nemesis: it is himself. He doesn’t seek to banish the darkness or deny it any longer. He claims it and so has power over it. He takes it back into himself, becoming a wiser and more complete human being as a result.
It’s a teaching story, in the best tradition of myths the world over. It holds a nugget of truth about life told in metaphorical terms. And for the little nine-year-old reader, whose whole being leapt and thrilled with that discovery – “It’s him – of course it’s him – that was the only way he could deal with it!” – it was a watershed moment. She has never gone back to a dully divisive world view in the years since and has always, doggedly, tried to name her darkness.
It may be out of fashion to imagine one can teach through stories. Market forces yell otherwise: “Entertain us!” they cry. “To hell with all the meaningful stuff!” But I suspect that’s a passing craze. People have always been curious about the universe and how it works, and the human soul is a piece of the universe, after all. It needs exploring.
Thank you, Ursula, for helping me discover mine.

Note from Gillian: I have lost Mary's bio! I blame living in far too interesting times. You can find out more about her here: