Yes, the cry of the native key-bird, which hops, shivering, from branch to branch crying, “Key-rist, it’s cold!” is being heard all over South Texas this weekend. So help me God, I am so thankful that the new windows were all installed a week ago Saturday, since it was mild, and breezy and fair, and the work crew got it all done in a day. And just in time, because the normal weather for the upper Midwest has come south for an unexpected visit to places which just are not administratively set up to handle it, and where most people are not terribly experienced when it comes to dressing, for walking on, or driving through severe winter conditions. I was myself once so accustomed to such – winters in Northern Japan, Greenland, northern Utah, and in South Korea where the winter winds came straight off Siberia, but am now quite out of practice, and the winter things are packed away, if they have not been nibbled to death by moths. The Daughter Unit and I consulted on Friday, when it was already quite chilly, and decided that we would run the shopping errands … and absolutely not leave the house save to walk the dogs until the cold front eased up, sometime on Tuesday.

We got the biggest wire crate out of the shed, put our surviving hen, Betty, into it with food and chicken feed and brought her into the house. The patio cats are going into the other wire crate, as it’s predicted to be in the twenties tonight. We walked this morning, and it was quite exhausting, as many stretches of sidewalk were already glazed with ice. Benjy-dog has a nice time slipping and sliding on one part of it, and the Daughter Unit slipped and fell, catching herself fortunately on one knee and both hands. No, we’re not going to walk the dogs tomorrow – not that either of them will want to go outside. Nemo abominates cold and wet, and tomorrow is guaranteed to have lashings of both conditions. The tender plants were already in the pop-up greenhouse, and the four poinsettias are sheltered in the garage – I am pretty certain that the cold and ice will pretty well cut a swath through the garden as it is. The nectarine and the two lemon trees in pots had already put out blooms and tentative small leaves, too – although the plum and peach, as well as the grape vines haven’t. We’ll see what survives, if anything.

Again – I am so glad that the windows were installed when they were. The inside of the house is tight and warm. A bit crowded, but cozy and warm.

Now that the outside skin of the house – the siding and all the windows but one have been replaced and upgraded, the time has come to do some work this year on the inside – specifically the front bedroom, a space approximately 11 x 11, with a double window facing to the front of the house. This has been the Daughter Unit’s bedroom since we moved in, in the spring of 1995, and eventually it will be my home office/work room and library. However, this spring, it will also become a nursery in addition to being a bedroom – and this will require almost a complete revamping. The vintage double bed (which the Daughter Unit bought for a song at an estate sale in the neighborhood a couple of years ago, along with a matching chest of drawers and dresser will have to be disassembled and moved to the garage and replaced with a single vintage-style twin (gotten for a couple of verses of good review through Amazon Vine) and a small crib for my coming grandson, Jamie (full name James Alexander Page Hayden, who will make his debut into the world around the end of May. The C-section is all but scheduled, so the Daughter Unit has that going for her.)

Well, as long as we’re swapping around furniture, what better time to repaint the walls, cover the ghastly popcorn texture on the ceiling and put down nice vinyl flooring? The company who did the new windows still owes us the replacement French door, and as part of that element, we’re going to install the same kind of shelves between the wall studs that we did in the hallway. It’s another small space, so why not take full advantage of that three and a half inches of space otherwise wasted? I already have a new ceiling-fan/light fixture (again, Amazon Vine) and we can reuse the lengths of shelving previously installed along that wall, plus the stray lengths of trim and baseboard left over from previous projects so … we started on that today, after patching a great many small holes in the wallboard. The Daughter Unit favored a pretty and neutral gray for the walls – which so far seems to have more of a pale blue hint to it. This will be accented by ice-white trim on the closet door and surrounds, the baseboards, ceiling and cornice, and vinyl flooring with a likewise grey finish. I think this will be the last home reno project for the year – aside from messing about in the garden, I will be paying the bills for it all over the next couple of years.

At least now the outside of the house is right and tight, and essentially sound-proofed, when the windows are closed. No more leaking windows and rotting window and door trim. And I cannot say how marvelous it is to have a sliding patio door that opens and closes without the use of full-body strength and a crowbar.

We inherited her from my mother – the last in a series of pedigreed ‘apple-head’ Siamese cats owned by my parents – when Mom fell catastrophically one morning in the kitchen of her house in Valley Center, California, and fractured sufficient bones in her upper spine to render her essentially a paraplegic. The house which Mom and Dad had built (the second on that site in Northern San Diego County), in which Mom had lived alone after Dad passed in 2010, had to be sold. There was practically nothing left of the original family relics, after the first house burned in the Paradise Mountain Fire in 2003, so all the furnishings went without a pang of regret from us. Ancestral bits and scraps which meant anything to us all had already been parceled out before the fire anyway.

But that left Mom’s pets; the dogs, which went to my sister Pip – and two cats, Davy and Isabelle, whom my daughter obediently hauled back to Texas from California. Davy was a stray, a bridle and white specimen, fairly elderly at the time when we took him in. He had been dumped in Mom and Dad’s remote neighborhood, escaped being eaten by coyotes, and scraped sufficient acquaintance with Mom and Dad and their next nearest neighbors to be considered for addition to either household. There may have been a coin-toss involved. Anyway, Davy was added to Mom and Dad’s pet collection – I don’t know whether they won or lost the coin-toss. Davy, having remembered starvation and escape/evasion was determined never to be hungry again, and was a hefty chunk-o-cat by the time he passed away of natural old age a year or so ago.

But this is about the other cat-inheritance, Isabelle.

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I’ve just finished and released into the wild a WWII novel, My Dear Cousin, for which the concept came to me in a dream last July. Since the current year-long plus covidiocy demolished nearly every fall market and holiday event which would otherwise have taken up my time, I set to work and finished it in six months.  As much as is possible, I did my research – and the internet makes the kind of information I needed available at my fingertips: a detailed 1930s map of Singapore, a hand-written diary of a woman who escaped Malaya in early 1942, a breakdown of what constituted the tents and facilities for a frontline Army hospital in 1944, and the newspaper archives of the wartime Singapore Straits Times and Brisbane Courier Mail. All that and more went into an account of the war, as seen through the lives of two cousins, on opposite sides of the world.  Accuracy is what I strive for – and most times, I think I come very close. The rest of this entry is what I felt obliged to include in the notes at the back of the book.

In the interests of fidelity to history and racial attitudes of the 1940s with regard to the Japanese and to a lesser extent, the Germans, the current social climate requires me to add the following caveat; yes, the general attitudes of American and Australians towards the Japanese were by current standards, viciously and unrepentantly racist. However, this book is, as nearly as I can make it, written with an eye to fidelity to the historical record. I will not cut and tailor my fictional cloth in accordance with current fashion. ‘Presentism’, wherein the accepted fashionable attitudes and conventional opinions of the current day are retrofitted, however unsuited and historically unlikely, onto those characters living in past decades and centuries, is a grim transgression against the art of bringing a past era into life, warts and all. Writing a so-called historical novel merely by placing 21st century characters in different costumes and strange technological shortcomings is a disservice to the past, and a hampering to complete understanding. It’s the past – they did things differently, back then.

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19. January 2021 · Comments Off on “My Dear Cousin” · Categories: Uncategorized

A novel told partly in letters is now available for pre-release orders on Amazon! Another author friend, who has a sideline in doing covers worked up a cover for me, using a picture of my Great Aunt Nan, who was in the Army in WWII. (I always wanted to see Nan as a cover girl, as she was tall and elegant.)