Sunday, December 25, 2016

Merry Christmas!

Wishing you and yours a Very Merry Christmas!!

I hope Santa finds you and showers you with gifts - even if you've been a bit naughty :)

May your Christmas be filled with good food and family/friends - just like these Christmas Beetles :)

Friday, December 23, 2016

Phallic Friday - words

Today's word from The Wordsworth Dictionary of Sex is:


I almost skipped over this word thinking it was the constriction of the airways...but it has a sexual meaning too. Here it is...

a type of phimosis (ie a narrowing of the opening of the penile foreskin so that it cannot be retracted easily) that occurs mainly in young boys who insert the penis through a metal ring or other hard metal object, after which swelling occurs so that the penis cannot be withdrawn. If the device is not removed, usually with a jeweller's saw, gangrene can develop, requiring amputation of the affected part of the penis.

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Wildlife Wednesday - Giant Clams

These are from ages ago (2015) when I went to Cairns. I've been saving them so I could gather a lot of info on the clams - but I'm slack and so that hasn't happened!

Giant Clams have always been one of the 'things' I've wanted to see, so it was a thrill to bump into them when snorkelling and diving. I had an idea that they weren't as prolific as they seemed to be, I've no idea why!

I love the top photo with the red starfish on the edge of the clamshell.

They really were a beautiful creature, and I was exceptionally excited to see them :) Childhood dream!

Friday, December 16, 2016

Phallic Friday - words

Today's word from The Wordsworth Dictionary of Sex is

French abortion

I've heard of French kissing (open mouth kiss with tongues) and French letter (condom) but never a French abortion and it's kind of cool...

A slang term for spitting out the semen after having performed fellatio.

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Wildlife Wednesday - Sharks

Just a timid black-tip reef shark
Over the last few years, particularly in WA and the north coast of NSW, there have been a higher than usual number of shark attacks. It's caused quite a lot of rather hostile discussions and a lot of media coverage.

Only a few of the victims of these attacks have died, which to me indicates curious sharks rather than vicious man-eaters, especially with Great White Sharks, those responsible for many of the attacks.

When I was a kid, a friend of my father's was killed by a Great White. We heard about it on the radio in our kitchen one morning when having breakfast. This chap had a very unusual name, so there was no mistaking the victim. We were stunned, mostly because he'd visited not long before and given us health products and not chocolates, and we'd complained - which now made us all feel guilty. The vivid images in my mind when I heard about his attack, were nothing compared to an eyewitness account that I overhead later. When a Great White is after a feed, you don't get away - or at least Dad's colleague didn't. All they recovered was some wetsuit material.

Random attacks have always occurred - we're prey in the predator's ocean after all. But these higher number of curiosity attacks have me puzzling. I hope that there are people doing some big picture thinking on this issue.

For shark behaviour to change, or to have seemingly changed, something must have changed to cause it. So I've been puzzling over a few things that may have lead to these changed patterns:
  • Are there more surfers in the water, thus more opportunity for attacks?
  • Are the surfers/swimmers moving into areas that haven't typically been used, so young/juvenile sharks aren't used to these targets on the surface?
  • Has something happened to the young/juvenile shark's usual territory to make them move out?
  • Have fish stocks depleted so sharks are looking in different areas for food?
  • Has water temperatures/currents changed, thus changing shark movements?
  • Have shark numbers risen?
  • Have sharks lost their usual habitat, or has the area shrunk? 
  • Have board shapes/colours changed mush recently? Are they more attractive to sharks?
  • Has fish behaviour changed, affecting shark behaviour?

I know on social media, there's been a huge increase in drone photography and footage, and many people are shocked at the number of sharks sighted, the numbers of bait balls, the proximity of sharks to the shore. I'm not sure that these are indicative of any oceanic changes. I think a lot of this is just that people have never seen these phenomena for themselves before, and so they're startled to see it. They share it, causing a heap of people who may never have seen this all to panic. Bail balls, sharks close to shore, dolphins herding fish, are all things that you can see from shore, if you know what to look for and spend any time looking. I know people who do plane shark spotting and they don't think numbers on the south coast are much different - but I think people's access to seeing this has hugely increased.

But photos and social media aren't what I'm thinking about for WA and northern NSW. I'm thinking more of a scientific approach where a whole heap of aspects are looked at and a big picture is created to see if we can work out why these changes are occuring - or possible reasons for the changes.

I don't think there will be one answer. I think it'll be a multi-faceted answer. But if we had some idea of what had changed, we might be able to find some way of minimising risk, without using bandaid solutions like drum lines and shark nets.

Just my two bob's worth!

Friday, December 9, 2016

Phallic Friday - words

Today's word from The Wordsworth Dictionary of Sex is:


a person who is incapable of a full sexual response with anyone other than his or her spouse. The term is primarily applied to a man who is impotent with anyone except his wife or someone resembling his wife.

Hmm...interesting that it extends to people resembling his wife! That's kind of like serial killers having a 'type', isn't it? You could write a book about a man's adventures with women all of similar appearance!

Thursday, December 8, 2016

Wildlife Wednesday - Christmas Beetles

I got excited yesterday and put these guys on social media and forgot Wildlife Wednesday - well, I forgot it was Wednesday yesterday.

Yesterday I walked down to the local shops. I've been reading a book called The Bees by Laline Paull, which is amazing because it's written from the viewpoint of a bee. So, my mind was on hives and finding flowers for nectar and pollen, and I was looking at my feet at the flowers and pollen when I noticed swarming animals in the grass heads. I'm allergic to bees, so I made sure they weren't bees before I walked through. They were tiny Christmas beetles.

When I returned, they were still there. Not to pass up this opportunity, I went home and returned with cameras. What was more amazing, was they were still there.

I had to lie in the grass in the public walkway, but it's a quiet town, so who would see me, right? Unfortunately, peak hour seemed to happen at that moment, even if it was lunchtime!! So, yes, a few people saw the derelict lying in the grass. Only one man came to ask what on earth I was doing, and rather than be fascinated, he just looked at me as if I was peculiar! Gosh, doesn't everyone lie on the grass to get up close to amazing sights?

These guys weren't thrilled to be photographed. They had far more pressing things to do - like crawl all over everything and each other, but I got a few shots. (Who knew they were so hairy!?)

Here's the info from the Australian Museum on Christmas beetles.

Here's a bit more info from Burke's Backyard.

None of these look like the beetles I saw...and they all say they eat eucalypt trees and not grasses. *sigh* I probably call them Christmas Beetles and they're something else - what a shock! LOL.

Friday, December 2, 2016

Phallic Friday - more rambling thoughts

I've been rambling on with thoughts about women and society for a few Phallic Fridays now. It's all because of the Dangerous Women Project posts, and Emmanuelle's interviews, and so many other things happening in the world and my life!

I don't understand my thoughts, or where they're going, so I'm rambling to work it out.

I read a Dangerous Woman post about the colour red. The author was Nepalese. In the post, she spoke of widows having to be stripped of the colour red, which they had adorned at marriage. But not only were they stripped of red, but they were not to wear colours, were not to participate in society or religious events, were not to wear jewellery. They were pushed to the fringes of society because they no longer had a husband, and therefore were no longer existing in their own right.

So many societies do this - the shunning of the widow. It's one of the things that really made me not want to get married - the fact that it's seen that the woman becomes a part of the man. It's in biblical references, a part of many religions, and even exists in society itself. I have ended up married, but I refused to change my surname because I would not be owned. That's caused some consternation in my family and friends. I get mail address as Mrs 'husband's initial', 'husband's surname'. He gets mail addressed as Mr 'my surname' but never my initial. Family don't know what name to call me.

Why should it be so difficult? I have a name, he has a name. Just because we married, doesn't mean we have to be grouped and classified as one entity. We can remain separate entities and still exist together. (Don't get me started on boxes and classifications that the world is so damn fond of! Linnaeus has a LOT to answer for.)

This male 'ownership' thing irks me no end. It's still so prevalent in society, although I hope it's improving. Twenty-five years ago, when I looked at getting a home loan, I was a single women and no bank would loan to me. They would loan to single men. When I complained about this double standard, I was told that women could end up pregnant and unable to pay the mortgage, whereas men couldn't have this happen. Dear God! I was appalled. They could default on their loan in myriad ways, except this one, and that was held against me - even though good, easy to purchase contraception had been around for years!

There are so many little discriminatory things we overlook, which all add up to big things in my head. Even the title of my Friday posts, I use "Phallic" because that denotes sexual. But hey, it's related to the male sexual organ. If I wanted to use a similar word that related to the female organs, is there one? I googled, and found vulvic and vulvate, which I have never heard of outside of scientific descriptions. In other languages there's Yonic (Sanskrit) and Pudendal (Spanish; although, in high school, without the 'l', this was a swear word meaning cunt, and puta/puda meant bitch, so maybe google is tricking me here!). Maybe I should be using one of these terms instead of the handy male term.

I worry too that the alt-right, or whatever they're called, are quite adept at putting women in their place. They may use women to help them, but they're kept in the background for the most part. I don't think this is something they address, just something that's a part of their psyche. Look at the President-elect and the way he referred to Hilary Clinton throughout the campaign - Secretary Clinton. It was said with just the hint of a sneer (in my head) which made it more the 'sitting on the bosses knee' secretary, and not a high powered political position secretary. That really got up my nose.

So I'm worried about the world. About society. About the place of women. The role of sexuality in society. I'm worried that women are making gains, but that's rocking the male-dominated bedrock of society, which is in part, causing this social backlash. And I'm concerned that I don't know where it's going, how it will affect me, or how I can fight it.

Anyway, maybe I'll go back to sex posts. Find some interesting sex terms and post about them. I have a Dictionary of Sex. Maybe I'll start opening a page and picking a random word each Friday and discussing that. It might stress my brain less :)

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Wildlife Wednesday - who lives here?

These mud nests are right at the very top corner of the garage door. They're only small, maybe 5 cm long by 1 cm diameter. I spied them today, which makes me wonder how long they've been there!!

No one seems to be at home right now, and I suspect it might be paper wasps' nest. (If so, Mr E will be out with the bug spray drowning them in it, so I might keep it quiet for a while).

Oh no. I'm wrong! What a shock!

I think the nest might belong to POTTER WASPS. I was so close! Thank goodness for the Australian Museum website, here's their info on potter wasps.

Paper wasps make nests that look like quills of paper. Potter wasps make mud nests. Gees, you'd think I'd be able to remember that now! I've never heard of potter wasps before. Now I'll know.

Potter wasps are only 1.5 cm long and are solitary. So no colonies forming with these guys. And they're not aggressive and rarely attack humans (Mr E will be so happy; I still might keep quiet though!).

The mud nests are filled with caterpillars and grubs that they stock in there, cover in mud, ready for their larvae to eat them, live! It's like a living larder. Right. I'll remember not to knock that down on my head :)

Pretty stoked about learning something new today. I'll have to keep my eye out for the wasps.

This is why I love Wednesday's posts. I would have gone on believing they were paper wasps, and never even met a potter wasp without having to look this up!

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

After the Author Talk

L to R: JA Low, me, Donna Gallagher, Cassandra Samuels, Diane Robson
I did my first author appearance on Sunday, at the Wollongong Writers Festival, on a panel sponsored by ARRA, called Sex on the Beach.

The panel was chaired by Diane Robson, and had 4 of us to talk - Cassandra Samuels, Donna Gallagher, JA Low and me.

Here are some photos from the event.

See, I talked!
I've had no voice for over 3 weeks, but this panel was something I thought I had to do. Speaking at a Writers Festival is on my bucket list, no scratchy voice was going to stop me doing that! So off I went.

We had microphones, so that was really good for said voice. It was a fabulously organised event. The room was at the end of the Illawarra Brewery, which is on the eastern terrace of WIN Entertainment Centre (right next to WIN Stadium where I watch most of the live the footy games now days). The venue is close to the beach too, so perfect for a sunny afternoon!

Anna Simons, Cate Ellink, Sheridan Kent
I digress. There were a dozen or so ARRA ladies, a couple of writers, and about 20 others I didn't know. I was expecting a handful, so this was fantastic.

Diane asked us a lot of questions about our writing, the genre we write in, our characters, how we write.

Donna and I made a little foray into rugby league, but then we kept on track! She's the reason I write rugby league stories - she has a rugby league series (a team of books!) but she didn't have my favourite players in there, and I had to remedy that!

A couple of friends popped down from Sydney to surprise me, which was fantastic.

People asked questions from the floor. They laughed, seemed engaged and seemed to enjoy the event.

At the end of the panel, someone even asked me if I was interested in collaborating on an idea they had for something quite outside the box - but really intriguing! I hope I get an email about that. I love writing challenges.

In all, my first outing for Cate Ellink was a lot of fun, and I'd love to go out again! Diane was a fabulous host and moderator. ARRA are great supporters of authors. And now I can't wait for the ARRA Convention in Melbourne in February...where I'm really the other me, but Cate might have to sneak in too.

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Author Talk This Sunday

I'm going to leave this post up all week.

AUTHOR TALK at Illawarra Brewery, next to WIN Stadium, Wollongong.

Sunday 27th November 2016
1 pm - 2.30 pm

Tickets at the venue


Wollongong Writers Festival and Australian Romance Readers Association

Monday, November 21, 2016

Random Footy post

An old photo of the Australian Team

The last Aussie rugby league game for the year was on in the early hours of the morning - the Four Nations Final, live from England. Yes, of course I sat up and watched it! Although, there's something really crazy about watching football at 2 am!

I wanted to write a post about it - mostly because I have no voice at the moment and can't talk, so you'll just have to put up with my words!
Another old photo

The Four Nations was between England, Scotland, NZ and Australia, over in England. I have fond memories of late night games back in the 80s when Australia toured England then, so it's a little like revisiting my childhood, which is fun! Now there's a lot more NRL players playing in these teams, so more 'familiar' players to watch. I think it's great that guys get to represent and play at a higher level than the regular NRL games, as it often makes them much better players. They grow up somehow, take on a greater leadership role, and grow in confidence themselves. I love seeing that.

I also love seeing the bonding in the Aussie team. The first few games are always a bit of a mash-up with players not connecting and not reading each others' games. There's often a bit of one-up-man-ship, depending on the players.

Last night, I was so incredibly proud watching how much the team had grown, not only in their football but as mates (and yes, I do know it's dumb to be proud when I have no connection to it - but anyway!).

You know I have favourite players, so let me look at them first. On Cooper Cronk's side of the field, Josh Dugan and Blake Ferguson play outside him. The first game was a big disjointed. I could see they were working together but it wasn't quite coming off. The next game, which may not have had all 3 of them now I think of it, had the defense a bit lacking. I noticed after one try words were spoken. Last night. OMG! That combination was dynamite in attack and defense. Not a player got through their wall, even when Dugan was down in the last panicked seconds of the game. In attack, man, they were incredible. There for each other unfailingly. Ferguson would be running out of space and throw a pass in field, Dugan would be there, catch it and get it out to Cronk and the attack would go on. Not once, but 3 or 4 times. Brilliant. They just knew where each other would be and knew they'd be supported. God, I love football like that.

Cronk and Thurston are masters. They'd be swapping sides of the field depending on the play and how each other was situated. It's incredible to watch these two reading the game so spectacularly and working together so seamlessly. And when Cronk took a big hit early in the second half, the play all came off JT. To have the ability to shift the attack like that is a mark of a fantastic team.

Which comes down to the captain's incredible skill at commanding the game. Cameron Smith is amazing. He seems indefatigable. He makes the most amazing calls and has everyone around him calm and professional, always.

And there were no thugs, no showboaters, no one above another. When a try was scored, the team were all there to congratulate not only the scorer but those who worked hard to make it happen.

I wasn't a fan of a couple of guys in the team before the Four Nations...I'll have to eat my words and go back on my impressions. In the Aussie team and this campaign, they grew up and became people I liked to watch play football. They still hit hard, didn't lose their toughness, but they lost the shitty dirty stuff that pissed me off. They dropped all the bullshit and played football...and to me, that made them so much better players. I love seeing that, and I hope that in 2017 it stays in their game.

I'm so excited for the NSW Blues team next year. Some of the guys in the Aussie team will be in that team, maybe even in the leadership group, and they'll be all the better for this England tour. Oh, I'm excited for State of Origin. One of the Blues forwards said a few things that made me excited. David Klemmer said he was shocked to be picked for Australia, and was then worried about meeting the Qlders and the coach because he'd been aggressive in the State of Origin. Then he got in the team and realised he had nothing to be worried about. Later on, I heard him say how much respect he had for the coach, and how much he'd learned, and I could see that. He's out to show his football skills now, no need to prove anything to anyone any more. God, I love seeing that.

I love watching Darius Boyd play a fullback that plays in the line, knowing that his wingers will have his back if things don't go as planned, and knowing the cover defense if strong. It gives a greater dimension to his game, and to the team.

I love watching GI run off JT. I love the forward pack's dominance and belief in each other. How the interchange happens almost seamlessly, with one hard man replacing another without major changes to the game.

I like watching Michael Morgan play from the bench and develop his skills in the game, and in reading the game. I think this roving reserve role makes a better halfback because they not only watch the game, they're playing it from various positions so they know the game better. I'm going to enjoy watching him develop as a player.

I like watching Boyd Cortner and Tyson Frizell develop more. They're such great talents. I like the "older" guys working with the younger ones, like Matt Scott and Sam Thiaday with Shannon Boyd and David Klemmer.

I better stop going on. I have my newest story to finish up. Yep, another footy player one...but not exactly one that would happen anywhere but in my mind!

Go The Roos!!!

Sunday, November 20, 2016

Sunday Story - Author vs Author

Through the Erotic Readers and Writers Association Call for Submission page, I found a thing that interested me. It's a writing tournament.

Author versus Author

The idea is that 2 authors are paired at random and write a story, chapter by chapter. Then when the story is complete, 5 judges choose the winning author. The book is then released on Amazon and everyone can read the story and see if they would have chosen the same author.

I think that the winning author goes on to the next round, to do the same thing again.

Anyway, it sounded like fun. A way to find readers. Plus sometimes I like to challenge myself! The Naughty Ninjas have done these kinds of things on a small scale and they've been interesting, challenging and fun. So why not!

If you're a bit keen, check out the Author versus Author website for more info and then drop them an email.

I'll let you know when my story is finished - even if I lose :) I'm in an erotica tournament.

Friday, November 18, 2016

Phallic Friday - extremes

I seem to be surrounded by extremes at the moment - maybe it's just the bubble I live in, or maybe the media I'm looking at, so if it's not affecting you, just ignore me!

In domestic and world politics we have the extreme left vs the extreme right - and maybe the extreme left and the extreme right versus everyone else as well as each other!

In various countries, we have extreme religious sects trying to enforce their views.

I'm not one for extremes. Even in sex, I don't go for the softest or the harshest of anything. I like being somewhere in the middle - happy to try most things, but feeling most comfortable when I'm in my safety zone.

I'm all for people trying extremes. If that's what you want, go for your life. Just don't try to force these things on me, or anyone else for that matter. Sure, offer your extreme views, but please accept my decision when I politely decline.

Humiliation is something I really struggle with, as I've discussed before. I also don't really want to participate in serious flogging, or cutting, or knife play, or scat, or necro, or piercing, or tattooing. I'm not into pain in a big way. I'm not really even into Alphas. I'm not a very good Dom or sub, I'm a better switch. See, I like the middle-ground. Those extremes worry me. I'm not cut out for it.

So, while the world is struggling with extremes, and while extremes in erotica is still quite a trend, I'm here on my middle ground feeling decidedly uncomfortable.

While I'm happy for you to live your life, and let me live mine, many times people who like extremes seem to feel the need to force these on others. That makes me squirm.

I worry that as extremes take over the world, will I be silenced? Will erotica/erotic romance be stopped because it offends some extremists' taste? I hope it won't ever come to that...but I'm worried that it will. And if it does, will I have the strength of conviction to write in my prison cell as the Marquis deSade did?

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Wildlife Wednesday - Super Moon

This week has seen the November full moon, which is also the closest the moon will get to Earth until 2034 - and it hasn't been this close since 1948.

Monday was the 'best' day. I'm pretty experienced at 'failed' natural phenomena due to unforeseen circumstances, so I figured I'd go Sunday and Tuesday too, just to see if I could get a good look.

Sunday - I was running late. And there was cloud cover, so that was a failure.

Monday - cloud cover. But I sat, freezing, waiting. There was a big crowd at the beach (more people than I usually ever see on the beach!). About 10 mins after the moon rise time, I saw this weird hazy shape that looked like the moon. I took a photo. Then thought I was hallucinating because it was pale, hardly visible. In the end I told myself that we only have 1 moon, so it had to be it. As it went behind clouds, I left the crowds on the beach who were still waiting for the super moon!

Tuesday - later arrival of the moon, which would mean it was dark at moon rise. I was thinking this would be the night. Trundle down to the beach. Once again, there was a decent crowd. As the sun was setting, the crowd made a nice silhouette on the dunes (photo). Then I waited. 8.18pm was moon rise. At 8.20pm I sent a text to Mr E saying I was coming home. And then, an orange glow lit the Eastern sky over the ocean. Snapped a shot (photo) and sent it to Mr E, who wasn't very impressed. And then I watched the beautiful orange ball rise above the ocean, streaming golden light towards my feet as I paddled in the waves.

My photos are crap, but my heart was full. As full as the glorious super moon! :)

Sunday, November 13, 2016

Story Sunday - heroes and heroines

I attended a friend's wedding recently and I mentioned to a couple of people that this friend had been a revelation to me and had helped create "Cate Ellink" - the bold woman who writes about sex :)

They hadn't been aware of this, and so I guess my friend isn't either (bloody slack me). So I have penned her a letter, and I'm writing this blog post.

I'd led a very sheltered life and so was quite naive right into my 20s. Add to this low self-confidence, and a girl more used to being mates with guys than sleeping with them, and that's me.

A few things happened within a short period of time to change me, or at least find another side of me. One of those things was going out with a bunch of confident girls. They changed me, and how I saw myself - even though a couple of nasty people had said they only went out with me so they looked more attractive. Sometimes friendship can overcome nastiness :)

One of these confident girls was, well, let's call her Samantha because she was one of the people in my head when I created Sam in Deep Diving. My friend Samantha is not a small girl, definitely no size 8. But she needed to be her size for her chosen sport, at which she worked hard to succeed. And she did succeed, winning an Olympic Gold medal, as well as other Aussie and world championship medals, etc. Sam, my friend, was confident - with her work, in herself, with men.

In the opening scene in my book, Sam wolf whistles at Cooper as she follows him along a beach. My friend would do things like that - sit down and start talking to a famous sports star at the airport bar, pick up the male model at an event, spend the weekend with royalty. Fame, fortune and looks are no barrier to her. She treats everyone alike, and well.

With her, sex wasn't something to be ashamed of - it was to be celebrated. Something that everyone does and should do - and should do well!! She exalted in it - and telling the tales to her friends. She was never embarrassed. It was fun, an adventure, an awesome moment in time. Even bad sex was discussed and laughed over.

She was a revelation. I was in awe.

Years later when I began writing, I told her that I'd write her as a heroine. She laughed and told me she just needed her happy ending. She wasn't embarrassed that I wrote romance, she thought it was awesome.

When I began writing a sexually active, kick ass heroine, the romance world wasn't ready for that. 10 years ago, we were told that heroines had to be virginal, or at least not proud of being non-virginal. That wasn't any heroine I wanted to write. My heroines needed to be proud of sex, proud of themselves, and enjoying life. So I branched into the erotic...I felt better here.

And a couple of books in, I had the confidence to weave a story where the heroine was somewhat similar to my friend. A confident women who wasn't afraid to have sex. A woman who understood sport, competition and striving to be the best. A woman I wanted to have as my friend.

Sitting at my friend's wedding, I was so moved by all the confident kick-ass women there. Women who were having fun, celebrating with her, teary-eyed that she'd achieved her happiness and another of her goals. It was one of the most inspiring weddings I've been to...and I think that's because of the bride - my friend.

And damn, I was so proud to be there. To be among those she called friend.

Do you have a friend who's your hero?

Friday, November 11, 2016

Phallic Friday - no words

I have no words.

I've lost my voice with some virus. 

Plus, the world seems to be so loud and excessive at the moment, with extreme views everywhere. It makes me want to curl into a ball and hide.

So words are all jammed up inside me.

Let's see how next week goes.

Cate xox

Sunday, November 6, 2016

Sunday Story - A Little Life

I've spent the last (maybe) 6 weeks reading A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara. I've had to read it in little bursts, reading other books in between (like my book club books because they had to read before discussion, but also lighter books to soothe me, and also ebooks because the paperback is too huge to hold in bed), but it was well worth reading.

There is nothing LITTLE in this book. For a start, it's a door stop at 720 pages. It's an epic story of life. Ostensibly it's the story of four men who meet at college and we follow their life into their early 50s...but we have their backgrounds, their childhoods, plus the lives and childhoods of their many and varied friends.

Malcolm, JB, Willem and Jude are the 4 main characters, yet the book's main focus is Jude. Jude has had an awful life. Until the age of fifteen he was constantly and horrifically abused - sexually, mentally and physically. He's tried to obliterate those memories by compartmentalising them...but they haunt him.

There's nothing little about Jude's abuse. It's everything abhorrent that you can imagine. There's systematic abuse in private institutions and the public system. There's abuse on a personal, one-on-one level. There's power plays. Relationship rape and abuse. Self abuse. It's horrific. Yet, in all this awfulness, Jude is a somewhat admirable character. You can't help but love a man who goes through so much, yet is still a decent person.

There's nothing little about the men's lives. They all have different starting points, but each man reaches incredible heights in their careers. It's somewhat unrealistic in reality, but it's a nice countermeasure in the story.

There's nothing little about the secondary characters - there are a bazillion!! People who make random cameos throughout. Others who come for a short time and then vanish. Others who always remain. Keeping track of all these people was difficult, especially after a reading break. But it's life - or at least my life. There are many and varied people involved in my life.

There's nothing little about the emotional journey of the book. It's a roller coaster. The last 60 odd pages, I read while sobbing my heart out. I do cry in books, but this was gut-wrenching sobbing where I was worried I'd wake hubby (luckily he sleeps like the dead!!). And yet, I had to keep reading. I had to get to the end.

There's nothing little about the writing. There are sentences, paragraphs, whole sections that are exquisite. There are beautiful depictions of scenery, emotion, life, relationships, family, death, art, architecture, medicine, movies, culture, food. In some ways, the book takes a look at the little every day beauty of life and love. But that's not all because it looks at the big picture of life too.

This book is haunting and horrifying, but also beautiful. It shows the very worst of humans, and the very best of humans. It shows the worst and the best sides of characters - that remain loveable/likeable. It shows the horrifying impact of abuse in any form. It shows the healing power of love and acceptance and friendship...but also how fragile and fleeting that can be. It depicts the power of sex without love, and the power of love without sex.

It's a powerful book. A haunting piece. A huge mammoth read. And I really don't have any idea how to explain the impact of this book. One part of me thinks that every person in the world should have to read it; yet another part of me wants to shelter people from the harshness of the story.

Maybe the telling thing is that I bought it in paperback thinking that Dad and Mr E would also read it - but now that I have, I'm not sure that they will. I might leave it sitting around and allow people to pick it up if they want to.

Friday, November 4, 2016

Phallic Friday - women

This summary is not available. Please click here to view the post.

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Wildlife Wednesday - Grasshopper

There was a grasshopper nymph on my (very dusty) front door the other day. He wasn't very big, maybe 2 cm long. I took a few photos of him.

Then yesterday I saw a larger grasshopper hiding in my backyard, and I wondered if it was the same one, now further along in life and growth stages - but he vanished before I could get a photo.

Here's a webpage with the lifecycle of the grasshopper, ( if you're interested.

Thursday, October 27, 2016

Slack Me

I've been slack lately - sorry! I've lots of excuses - like writing, visitors, critter minding, days out.

I'm off to a wedding this week, which is exciting because my friend who's getting married has wanted to be married ever since I've known her. She's done a bucketload of things, and now she gets to tick off another.

I just love it when people achieve their goals! It makes me giddy with excitement for them.

Do you have goals you tick off through life?

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Wildlife Wednesday - pelican

I had a friendly pelican (he was waiting on a feed from someone else) stretch his wings out as I walked past the other day.

Yes, I know, another blinking pelican photo! But really, you should see the hundreds I don't post :)

Friday, October 14, 2016

Phallic Friday - Madonna/whore again

It seems that lots of things are putting this Madonna/whore discussion front and centre for me at the moment.

I've been following two blogs with brilliant posts, Dangerous Women and Emmanuelle de Maupassant, and then there's the Donald Trump escapades in the presidential campaign in the US. Everything at the moment is making me question women's role in society and how true I am to myself.

This latest Dangerous Women post is about Eve, and it reflects a discussion I had a while back. I love this post, especially at the end where Lilith is introduced. How I'd love it if Lilith was more widely known. I think she's my new heroine :)

The fact that Lilith, in the story quoted, refused to sleep with/submit to Adam, and then leaves Eden, voluntarily, is fantastic. That she runs off with demons makes my heart sing! She did what she wanted, bucked the system, broke away from what was 'required' of here - as punishment, she's struck from records. In my mind, that's what seems to happen if you buck the system - the world tries to obliterate you, or at least forget about you.

If you want to stand up for women, stand up for what you want, you're howled down. Society tries to push you away, shove you down and keep you quiet.

I'm not saying that everyone does this - there are people who don't. There are men who like strong women and can respect someone making their own choices.

But as a whole, I don't think this is true. Look at the whole US presidential election. Donald Trump is like so much of society - he has to climb over others, shove them away by belittling them, to make himself mighty.

He is standing against a woman candidate, and his treatment of women is appalling (not to mention his treatment of other minority groups too). He has no respect for anyone. He is selfish. But watch how he tries to put Hilary Clinton in her place over and over again - he drags up her husband's affairs to smear her, as a woman who can't keep her husband happy. If the male has an affair, it's not wrong, it's the female's fault for not doing everything to keep her man beside her. I find that appalling.

I don't find affairs appalling. I find blaming anyone for them, much less the 'outsider' in the affair, appalling. Affairs are conducted between two consenting adults. They're a choice made between the people involved. Those extraneous to the arrangement are not involved. To blame a woman for a husband's actions disgusts me.

But it's the double standard for women - again. She has to be beyond reproach, not having the affairs herself. A Madonna. Yet, she has to privately be a whore, so she keeps her husband satisfied. And if the husband strays, then she's failed as a whore and we'll proclaim that to everyone...because just being a Madonna is not enough. Although, heaven help her if she's a whore elsewhere!

I'm so furious about the treatment of women in general society. I loathe double standards.

I don't know what I can do about it, but I'm going to try to write stronger women who won't accept society's double standards for their gender.

What else can we do?

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Wildlife Wednesday - Orchid beetle

I wrote a post about Orchid Beetles in April 2014, which seems such a long time ago, and I've another cool photo of one to share today!

I had a tiny orchid growing on my tree fern and it captured my attention, so I was out taking a photo every day.

One day, much to my horror, I found the orchid beetle on it. They suck from the flower and kill it. I had them on my spider orchids and they ate every flower. So, I didn't want that, but I hate killing things.

While procrastinating about the murder I had to commit, I took some photos, including this cool one of the beetle on his back.

And then the bugger flew off! So my procrastinating meant I had to keep being vigilant. Eventually I got the beetle and transferred him to another plant away from the orchid (I still couldn't kill the cute thing!) and I haven't seen him again - yet the flower died, so maybe he'd done his damage.

So Bug 1, Cate 0!

Sunday, October 9, 2016

Sunday Story - heroines

Do you have friends who ask you REALLY good questions that stump you? I've got one today. It's about heroines - our female lead characters.

Heroines in erotic romance (or romance in general) have to be relate-able to the reader - they either have to want them for a friend, or want to be them - or so says the general 'writing guidelines'.

Which I've always tried to do.

Then with Deep Diving, a friend asked me why, if Sam was an elite athlete and sexually competent, did I make her second guess herself with Cooper? Yeah, good point. When the question was raised, I was doing the early draft, so I made her more confident...but not completely. She still had to be someone women would like, right?

Lana is confident. In Secret Confessions: Sydney Housewives Lana she's the 'aggressor' in the sexual encounters with young men - but I gave her a fantasy (a need) that she'd never done that made her vulnerable, for just a moment. But again, I've given her a fear, a lack of confidence, to make her more relate-able.

So, this time I'm writing a MMF (male-male-female) story. One of the men is inexperienced in sex, the other man and woman are experienced, and older. The woman is independent, knows what she wants and goes about getting it. She's a sports journalist and has 'made' it in a largely male-dominated industry. But when I've sent bits to my friend (same one who's kicked my butt before!) his response was - why is she second guessing herself all the time? That's such a turn off. She's strong, confident, knows what she wants, why don't you keep her like that?

Which makes me stop and think.

I'm making her relate-able to women. So I give her fears. Plus, if I'm honest, they're my natural fears too. But...

Shouldn't I also be true to womanhood? Shouldn't I be showcasing a woman who men find attractive, who turns men on? Shouldn't I be creating a character who shows that women can be confident and a 'whore' (as per Friday discussions lately; not in a negative way) and still likeable, lovable and relate-able?

Would you read a heroine who is sexually confident, knows what she wants and goes after it?

How about a woman who loves sex and revels in having a relationship with two men?

Why aren't I writing that woman? Why am I even having this discussion? Why am I portraying women as lesser to ensure other women read their stories?

Damn, I hate that my lack of female-empowerment is pointed out to me by a man!

What are your thoughts?

Friday, October 7, 2016

Phallic Friday - public sex

Okay, so I'm not exactly having sex in public... just talking about sex in public, which is slightly terrifying!

I'm honoured to have been asked to join a panel of writers for a romance panel at the Wollongong Writers Festival. This is the first romance panel the festival has had, and ARRA (Australian Romance Readers Association) have organised it. So I'm thrilled, and excited, and humbled, and terrified.

Diane Robson, from ARRA, will be moderating and she'll be asking us about the sex scenes in our stories, which should make for a great discussion. The other panellists are: Donna Gallagher, who writes rugby league romance (and goes for the warriors, but I don't hold that against her - much!). Cassandra Samuels, who writes historicals. And JA Low, who writes erotic books (or 'stuff' as it's called on Facebook!).

And then I told a few people. Me, all excited, a bit scared. Them - yeah, not so much excitement. Here are some of the comments (to be fair, some were said in jest, while I was panicking): "You're going to talk about sex in public?" "She has Lana to read? OMG. No. How can you talk about that?" "You'll have to invent someone's life and say they've told you all these stories." "I hope you don't expect me to attend." I've yet to find someone (in my real life) who says, "Oh, how fantastic. I'll be there."

And this brings me back to the Madonna/Whore discussion I began last week. I feel like I'm being called a 'whore' by doing this event. What's wrong with discussing sex? What's wrong with Lana's foursome? Why shouldn't Lana have younger men? Why can't I get up and say it's my imagination that created these characters and their sex scenes?

Why can't I say, "No, I haven't had sex with 3 men, but I have thought about it." or "No, I haven't had sex with 3 men at once, but I have had 3 different partners so I can imagine how that might be all at once."?

Is it so terrible that I have sexual fantasies? Is it so terrible that I put them to a story where others might enjoy them too? Is it so terrible that I have gone beyond my own fantasies and pushed towards what my characters might want to do (or what my editor required/suggested)?

I'm going to be a Whore. I'm going to tuck those butterflies away and be proud of what I write. I haven't killed anyone. I haven't harmed anyone. I've created word pictures. And that should be celebrated.

Any tips for calming butterflies? :)

Sunday, October 2, 2016

Sunday Story - women's sexuality

There's a great post here about a book called, Doing It, which is a compilation of stories by women about sex, edited by Karen Pickering.

There's a paragraph that's really stuck with me, mostly because it's a reflection on some of the thoughts I've been having (see Friday's post). But here it is -

"Pickering hopes that a teenager or young woman experiencing her own sexual awakening will read Doing It and ‘take away that her body is her own.’ The act of silencing women, or only permitting them to speak when what they have to say both aligns with and indulges the male gaze, is rife in a society where women have historically been categorised as, in Anne Summers’ words, either damned whores or God’s police. Many of the individual women telling their stories in Doing It are marginalised for their failure to conform under patriarchal structures, and are rendered not only silent but invisible. The most important principle underlying the collection, Pickering says, is that ‘however your sexual self is constructed, it should at least be constructed by you.’ As a reclamation of that ownership, Doing It is radical for the multifaceted nature of the desires it reveals."

There is so much in this post, that it makes me want to go out and grab this book!

Friday, September 30, 2016

Phallic Friday - Madonna/Whore Complex

At the 2016 RWA Conference, I attended a day at the Academic Conference where papers were presented by students and staff working in the areas of popular culture and creative writing. I heard papers on varying topics, but the theme that was most interesting to me was the one where women experience a Madonna/Whore complex. It was a thread in a few of the papers presented.

I've been spending a lot of time thinking about this dichotomy - where women are expected to be like a Madonna (is the Virgin Mary one, not the pop star one!) on the one hand - virginal, meek, mild, non-questioning, nurturing, full of mothering, loving goodness. Yet, is also expected to be a whore - being true to her needs, getting what she wants, wearing what she wants, doing what she wants.

This complex isn't necessarily confined to sex, but it's a constant push-pull for many females just in regular life decisions.

Family and societal pressures create it the most within me. Let me give you a very simple example: My aim in life was to move to the country and own a horse. I worked towards doing this, and when I finally got a job in the country, within the next few weeks death and ill-health affected my family - the one I'd left behind in Sydney when I moved. I was 23, a month into my new job, just striking out in my career. Not from within my immediate family, but from the wider family and friends, I was subjected to quite a big push to 'come back home and care for the family'. I'm the eldest, so I could see why people expected me to take on this responsibility (ie be the Madonna) - but damn it, it was my life to lead my way (ie be the whore) and that was to live in the country.

Thank goodness Mum, who was very much a Madonna, was quite adamant that I should follow my dreams and do what I wanted to do, because I would have caved. If she hadn't kept me propped up in my beliefs, I would have given into the pressure to look after everyone else. I would have hated myself, I would have been a miserable bitch, but I'd have done it (grudgingly).

So many times, I get pushed into being the Madonna that I'm not. And it really really bugs me when I realise what I've done.

On the other hand, when I stand my ground and be the whore I want to be, sometimes that hurts because you're exposed to criticism and ridicule, ostracised or excluded.

I think I'm going to spend many many weeks exploring this theme - maybe I won't bore you with it every week! It's got me completely fascinated.

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Wildlife Wednesday - bird baths

We have a tap in the front garden with a concreted "bowl" beneath it. It came with the house, but it seems that the previous owners used it as a bird bath, so I have continued the tradition.

Throughout the day, birds seem to take their turn at bathing. Around the 4 pm mark, the Rainbow Lorikeets have their turn. They have an all in, very noisy, very splashy bathing routine. It's like family groups come down for a swim!

The rosellas come earlier in the day and they're so much more dignified. They bathe singly, with others standing guard. Sometimes it's just a pair, but often a few stand guard and wait their turn. Should anyone come, there's a call from the trees or the fence, and bathing bird is away. They each seem to spend roughly the same time bathing, which is cute :)

The Masked Plovers don't really bath. They splash water on themselves, drink, and preen.

The cockatoos, corellas, and galahs seem to prefer a bird bath on a stand that is wider as well. It also came with the house and is out the back. Koels have also bathed in the larger sized bath.

I like a bathtub that fits me. I like to sprawl out and soak. Relax my shoulder muscles as I sink into the depths. I'm not terribly fond of the tubs where your knees are under your armpits and you do a quick splash without the joy of soaking! So I completely understand the birds needs for a suitably sized bath!

Do you like a good soak in the bath?

Friday, September 23, 2016

Phallic Friday - limits/taboos

I read a very interesting post (here) on the Erotica Readers & Writers Association blog, written by Lisabet Sarai. She always writes thoughtful, thought-provoking posts.

Her post was about taboos and limits in erotic writing. She's questioning what taboos and limits should exist, or should there be any? Is it a personal decision, or one that should be made for people?

She lists some taboos, which are becoming more commonplace in published erotic writing - rape, incest, bestiality - and gives reasons for and against, asking if they should still be 'banned'.

Then she explores a few taboos that aren't common in published erotic writing - sex with minors, violence, physical harm, death.

She makes some very good points about how 'rules' have changed in recent times, or how they've been bent to include different fads. Then she has this beautiful paragraph, which I love -

"In my view, erotica should not only turn readers on, but should also expand their perspectives. Sex is inextricably intertwined with so many other emotions—love, guilt, ambition, shame, anger, and compassion, to name just a few. Erotica derives its singular power from this psychological complexity. It’s not a safe genre, or at least it shouldn’t be. Sometimes the most arousing stories are the most disturbing."

There's something in those words that clangs a big gong in my chest. That's why I write erotica, to explore, to expand, to question, to understand. I want to dig into those emotions through story, to help unravel the giant mystery of emotion and sex and connection.

Erotica isn't safe. That's what I find thrilling.

It's not safe reading it, or writing it. I learn things about myself as I read and write - I can be shocked at my own double standards, my lack of critical thinking of issues, my lack of understanding of another's perspective or life choice.

Sometimes I can be writing and my words pull up as my brain can't take me any further into the topic. It's where my thinking has stopped, or where my limit is, or where my knowledge fails. It's always enlightening to reach that point, to see where/what it is.

Sometimes when reading, I may have to stop a book, or put it down until later because the topic has slapped me in the face, or I just can't handle the scene. Finding that point in myself is intriguing. Niggling at it to work out why, or why not, is fascinating.

In a completely non-erotic example, when I was in high school we had to read John Steinbeck's The Red Pony. The opening scene is horrific with a horse being cut open and dying (I vaguely think it was a caesarean, but maybe I'm wrong, it was a long time ago!). I loved horses and longed for my own, so this hit a wall inside me - I wanted a horse and they were 'wasting' them in this book. I also have a vivid imagination and Steinbeck's description was rather gruesome, creating vivid images in my mind which became recurring nightmares. I've never read that book (I bargained with my teacher and read a couple of others instead). In truth, I have never picked up a Steinbeck book or even wanted to. No matter how much people tell me of his genius. That's my limit. It may have changed - I'm sure it would have - but I haven't gone back to test it out!

I'm not fond of violence, horror, torture, humiliation, degradation. But I understand that other people like these things. I don't think because these are my limits, they should be banned. I think I should be entitled to choose. It should be a personal decision.

How do you feel about 'rules' in erotic publication?

Do you have limits/taboos you can't read/write?

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Masked Plovers

We have Spur-winged Plovers (also called Masked Plovers) around all the time. Each year, we have a pair lay eggs in our yard, but the last few years, it's been on our roof. One year a chick ended up being swept down the guttering and dying in a rainstorm. They don't have much luck keeping chicks alive even though the parents are fiercely protective and move their chicks regularly.

Anyway, this year they gave a me rough time when I went out to the garbage bin - and I guess it was the day the chicks hatched. So I had stern words with the swooping pests, telling them it was my yard and I wasn't looking for chicks to feed. Gosh, I hoped the neighbours didn't hear me negotiating with birds!!

A couple of days later, the parents brought their brood to visit me. I'm sure that's why they were in the yard making such a racket!

Here's Mum and Dad and the 4 chicks. I think the chicks are cute bits of fluff on stick legs :)

Sadly, I haven't seen them again. I'm hoping some of the chicks have managed to survive. At least none were washed away in rain this year, so that's one less threat.

The local pets, cats and dogs, are the most serious threats but wildlife too. One year I saw the parents chasing a hawk/eagle away from the area above my house, which was quite spectacular. I wasn't sure who'd win that, but the bird of prey left after about 15 mins.

Friday, September 16, 2016

Losing Your Virginity

I found this article online, which I thought was interesting. You can find it here. It's pretty much a book promo, but the interesting thread they've taken on it is 'losing her virginity at 30'.

I thought it'd be saying 'how old' she was, or how unrealistic that is, because I've read similar sorts of articles with those themes. Strangely enough, they're saying that it's cool to do it when you're ready. That sometime oddballs have to wait until they're right.

At the start I was worried it'd be a blame game, but it kind of wasn't.

This whole article is rather refreshing. It's light-hearted, a bit goofy, but it still gives a great message that you should be your own self, do things when you're ready, not get caught up in what everyone else is doing. I think that's awesome.

There seems to be some high-profile personalities coming out and showing their strength by being different. I guess there's always been some who promote this, but they're often labelled 'different' anyway. Now it seems more mainstream people are embracing their 'differences'. I think I'd like to see a world where different was celebrated.

I'm sure there'd be problems too, but I'm going to leave my rose-coloured glasses on for now!

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Kennedia rubicunda

I was wandering the streets the other day when I went to take a photo of a tree and this little flash of red caught my eye. I knew it was a plant from the pea family, but I wasn't sure what sort of a pea. So I took a heap of photos and came home and dug out the books. And it's a native, Kennedia rubicunda.

It was a little vine twining up a fence, with the flowers only about as long as your finger.

Peas (Fabaceae family) have quite distinct flowers. They have flashy big 'banners' that sit up the top and attract attention. Then the centre of the banners is where the wings and keel sit... or you know, if you're an erotic writer with a mind that runs to sex, it's like a big bottom and female genitalia - labia and a large clit. I know, sorry, you'll never see sweet peas the same again, will you? :)

Peas produces pods (like fresh pea vegetables you buy for shelling and eating) with seeds. So I'm hoping that I might be able to grab a few of these seeds and grow myself some beautiful flowers. Here's hoping no one else in the neighbourhood has the same idea!!!

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Married At First Sight Week 3 Ep 2 Final

Tonight's show was the Final. After the 4 week long experiment, there were a compulsory few days apart, before they decided where the relationship would go post-experiment.

Nicole and Keller
After his drinking binge, which caused him a great deal of remorse, things were a bit rocky but these two decided to stay together.

He told her he was 'head over heels' for her. She said she had doubts but wanted to keep going.

Michael and Bella
I thought he seemed like he was pulling back. He made a few comments about Bella making the 'not moving in together' decision without discussion. He also said that he as really angry. But then when it came to the big question at the end of the experiment, he agreed to stay together.

I'm not sure what he was angry about. I took it to be that she was selfish, but I must have misread that.

Also, she says in the discussion with the relationship experts that sex is a very big part of a relationship and that once the sex has gone, the relationship is over, which is why it's so important to her. Being an erotic writer, I should definitely be agreeing with her, but being a person too, I struggle with this. I think a relationship can also be about friendship, companionship, mutual respect, enjoyment, and if the sex wanes, I'd like to think there was more to a relationship to keep it going. But, let's put it down to editing!

Monica and Mark
There was some intimation that he was goofy and she was worried that it meant he didn't trust her and that the relationship wasn't working - but I'm pretty sure this was editing/required. These two look sensible and solid. Sure there aren't fireworks going off for them, or not that they'll show on TV, but they seem to have progressed a lot over the 4 weeks and their relationship seems to be built on respect and shared experiences, fun and developing trust. I hate to say it, but I like that the foundation doesn't appear to be sex.

Sadly, the episode finished there. I thought the last ones had shown the couple after 3 or 6 months, but not this time. I was disappointed. I wanted to see if they'd lasted outside of the experiment. I guess that gossip will be on social media in the next few days.

Monday, September 12, 2016

Married At First Sight Week 3 ep 1

Tonight's episode was with the 3 remaining couples. It's post dinner, meeting up with families and a week before the 'end of the experiment' so decisions need to be made soon.

Nicole and Keller
It appeared like they didn't speak after the dinner but I think this was just editing. It looked like they spoke the next morning. Keller thought he was defending Nicole. She said she didn't need protecting. So there's a difference in values, as well as reading of the atmosphere at dinner.

He apologises and says that he'll do anything to be with her, and that he'll change to suit her. I found this unrealistic and a really silly promise to make because it's almost impossible to keep. But she accepted it, said if it was broken she'd be heart broken (I'm feeling really cynical and jaded!!).

At Keller's family, his mother and Nicole seem a lot alike - laugh a lot, same attitude towards him (he's like a kid). His mum says that he's usually commitment-phobic, so she's seeing a huge difference in him (she says that she thinks Keller must really love Nicole, but this isn't said to Nicole).

Then Keller goes out with Navy mates. Gets rotten drunk, comes home still drunk with a new tattoo (which he's socked to discover). He keeps drinking and she's really shitty. She goes to stay with friends. Next day, he's remorseful but still wearing the same clothes! He's self-sabotaging and he knows it.

These two are both big-hearted people. Keller has some real issues which I hope he gets help for. If he gets help and works on these, I could see them lasting, but I don't know that he'll get help.

Michael and Bella
After the dinner party, Bella says, "I know that whatever I did, he'd have my back." I found this a strange comment - almost like she'd put him to a test. But again, it's editing of the show which takes this out of context, so who knows what else she said. This is where I find analysis of the show frustrating. I don;t think I'll do it again. I can't tell if I'm reading things into what's being said because of the way it's skewed for TV.

Michael is noticing her walls, and even when he tries to talk about this, she doesn't seem to drop them - even for him. He wants depth and intimacy; she's not giving it. I'm suspecting that he might walk away from this relationship (but again...editing!).

When meeting Michael's mother, Bella is still all handsy with Michael. But she's all bubbles and not a lot of substance, even with his mother.

Then Bella catches up with her mate. He asks if she's fallen in love, she says yes, and he asks who said it first - and is relieved when she hasn't. This is kind of odd - does she fall in love often/easily? Then she tells him that at the end of the experiment, she and Michael aren't going to move in together because they both have their own places to go to. He's stunned and says that's weird - but she doesn't find it odd at all. When she tells Michael, he has the same reaction as her friend - stunned.

I think this relationship has never got past the surface. I don't have much hope for this pair.

Mark and Monica
After the dinner, Monica sees that their relationship is quite different to the other ones, so they sit and chat about that. Then they chat about what they feel about their relationship and where they see it going in the future. He says he feels more for her each day, he likes her more, and wants to keep spending time with her. She's the same.

They go to spend time with Monica's mum, and it seems like they get along well - easy going and fun. Then we see Monica telling Mark about her childhood (being one of 8 kids, her dad dying young, her mum having to work, all the kids working too). He's asking questions (gently) and he's really listening (turned to her, head down, eye contact, moving closer). There's not a lot of touching while they talk, but these two aren't touchy feely. Then there's a big hug.

I think these two have the most in common and have gone about their relationship slowly and without being pushed by TV. I hope they make it beyond the show.

So, there's my latest predictions! See how I go tomorrow.