Ants are people, too.

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Ants are people, too.

Welcome to what I hope will be the first of many newsletters keeping you up with my thoughts and travels – not to mention every day life.

Of course I’m not the only one on Facebook. Every now and then Jonah jumps on line and adds to his blog “I Am Not a Cat”.

Which reminds me to check Jonah’s food bowl for ants. They’ve been so dire this summer I googled “Ants how to get rid of”.

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Professional poisons can be dangerous, apparently. Far better to locate and kill the queen. As if she’s going to come waltzing into the kitchen when she has two million foot soldiers at her beck and call. Alternatively, it said, find the nest and pour boiling water over it. As far as I can work out the ants’ nest is buried in a mineshaft under the house. Even the butch-est workmen refuse to go under there.

Ants do have their uses. I’ve forgotten what they are. Then there are the Buddhist/Vegan theories about not harming animals of any size. In the end I conceded to live alongside them, fighting back with mops and bench spray every day.

As you probably know, I’m an introverted writer with extrovert tendencies. I adore meeting readers, and Facebook has brought some wonderful opportunities to do just that. I’d never have visited the exquisite German island of Sylt in the North Sea last year if it hadn’t been for a Facebook invitation from the librarian’s wife, Michaela Sangkuhi.

This photo was taken at 10.30 at night. People were still swimming!The thermometer was low, but Michaela and her family gave me the warmest welcome. Maybe Sylt can feature in my next book?

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I never know who’s going to turn up at the house. Once it was a French television crew filming a segment for the iconic “30 Millions d’amis” a program for pet lovers.

Just before Christmas, Jonah was delighted to entertain his first Italian fan, Danijela Obradovic from Tuscany.

A couple of days ago, Stephanie Perrott dropped by. Stephanie has been reading my stuff since column writing days back in New Zealand. This amazing woman is singlehandedly organizing my trip to Tea Gardens – yes there really is a town called that – in northern New South Wales, where I’m giving a talk on March 4th. With stunning efficiency, Stephanie has been posting fliers, arranging press interviews and linking up with local book clubs.As Stephanie and I said goodbye on the front doorstep, I was reminded of the unbreakable connection I feel with many New Zealand readers. Through my years of column writing we went through so much together – marriages, births and deaths. I’ll always be grateful to these huge hearted people for their generosity and loyalty.

After Tea Gardens I’ll be catching the train to Sydney. Thanks to another Facebook connection, Kerry Richardson will be picking me up from the hotel to meet her book club on the evening of March 6th.  She says the group is excited but will be stopping short of offering me a bath and massage (Remember “that” scene in Cleo?).

I adore travelling and there’s a fair amount ahead this year. I’ll be in the US in May to launch Tumbledown Manor there. After that it’s a couple of weeks in London followed by a month or so in Vienna. The city has become a bit of a soul home. It’s not just that I have great friends there, including my German language publisher Martina Schmidt…

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I’m planning on setting much of my next book there. So it’s research!

Right now I’m working on character development. It’s fun molding people out of thin air. Writing fiction is liberating after depicting “true life” in my columns for so long….though my family would say the stories I wrote about them always were made up.

Bye for now. Must go check those damned food bowls.

Helen Brown.

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Cake with resident flute player. Happy birthday, dear Kath.

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