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Saturday, 5 October 2013

And home again

I got back in last night after driving about 750 km, mainly on freeways.  It was leisurely on Wednesday as I made my way to Goulburn.

I was on my way to Canberra to offer two workshops in two ACT  libraries, related to my Australian Backyard Naturalist, which, as attentive readers will be aware, was joint winner in the Children's Literature category of the W A Premier's Book Awards.

The workshops were actually planned for the start of the year, but I injured my back working on the latest book, seen above right.  Not, not in lifting it, though The Big Book of Australian History weighs in as a hefty 1.7 kg or 3 pounds 12 ounces.

Basically, I was sitting the wrong way and doing exercises to strengthen a dodgy knee, but doing the exercises the wrong way.  So the workshops were delayed.

I know the road fairly well, and I had a number of target locations along the way, where I planned to collect wee beasties and some leaf litter and vegetation to use in the workshops.  I also got some good geology shots, like the above cutting, not far from Berrima.

I also stopped to buy a few books at Berkelouw's Book Barn.  I have been dealing with them for more than fifty years, starting with old Henry, who was a rogue. The family say he would never have been naughty, but he offered me good money for a document that I was about to return to public hands.  He backed off sharpish when I said "Henry, I think you'll finds this comes under the Archives Act", words he had not expected to hear from a naive stripling in his early twenties.

I had established to my satisfaction that the object, a large ledger, had been stolen in the 1930s, and had come to me as part of a deceased estate.  I had only showed it to him as a matter of interest as I headed for the Mitchell Library to put it back.

That's a side issue.  I got to Goulburn, gathered some spiders with a sweep net, and rested up. Thursday morning, I drove on to Canberra, a bit over an hour away.  Driving along Lake George, I saw this storm coming:

No matter, I got through the mixed rain and slushy hail, and got to my first workshop and set up at Erindale.  Some writers see book tours as a way of promoting sales, and while my publisher probably has that in mind, I am largely indifferent to sales, because I am paid a fee to do these books, and no royalties.  So my aim is to promote ideas and ways of thinking.  If my listeners buy my books, that's good, because they will acquire more of the ideas, but that's as far as it goes for me. Forget the dollars, I want their hearts and minds.

So for me, the trick in workshops like this is to show young minds things they can do, adopt, and use in their own ways.  The materials I use are deliberately homely, mainly discarded jars and containers, along with rubber bands, flywire, sticky tape, cheap plastic tubing, plaster of Paris: all stuff you can get at the local hardware shop.  Notice the bucket with the rope above: that's a collecting tool!

What I show and teach is grass roots science, where you can satisfactorily make your own equipment. For examples, see The Collector's Art, A home-made rain gauge, Thinking about slugs and snails, Close-up photography, Adventures in the leech trade and Leech-wrangling—and follow the tags on those articles (or on this article, for that matter)to find more of the same.  I plan to add some more of these.

 It was cold in Canberra, as this shot of my car's rear window on Friday morning attests:

My hand-writing is definitely getting worse!  Anyhow, it warmed up, we did another workshop at Kippax Library, and then it was off  home.

The trip had a number of pluses for me, the main one being that I have rejigged and greatly my plans for Not Your Usual Science. So now I'm getting back to that.

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