Ep 12: Magic cures & snake oil with Petronella McGovern

In episode 12 of James and Ashley Stay at Home, we talk to bestselling author Petronella McGovern about her new novel The Good Teacher.

Petronella is a domestic thriller author and editor who grew up on a family farm outside Bathurst, NSW. After living in Canberra for a number of years, she moved to Northern Sydney where she now lives with her husband and two children. Petronella’s first novel, Six Minutes, was published in 2019. Her second book, The Good Teacher, came out in September.

Set in a beachside suburb of Sydney, The Good Teacher centres on a young girl undergoing treatment for a rare form of cancer and the school teacher who dedicates herself to helping the girl and her widowed father. It’s a fast-moving, unpredictable plot that urges readers to think about the motivations for compassion, and the desperate measures some people take to improve their health.

While researching, Petronella learned that the original snake oil didn’t contain any actual snake oil.

We discuss alternative healthcare, Petronella’s writing process, her decision to set the book in a fictional suburb, and the challenge of setting the next book in the post-covid world.

Plus, we ask Petronella about her new puppy, Oakley! James and I are big fans of dogs, as we shared on our episode with Kate Leaver, the author of Good Dog. It took Petronella and her family much longer to get a dog than they anticipated – another consequence of the pandemic was a shortage of puppies and dogs.

You can listen to episode 12 of James and Ashley Stay at Home here, or your favourite podcast app.

Ep 8: Talking good dogs with Kate Leaver

Toddler and two shih tzus

Ted and Tiffany.jpgI’ve been a fan of dogs basically since I was born. Ted, the handsome furball on the right, was my parents’ first baby – I came along a little later. I guess they decided they’d rather have a second dog than a second child, because for a while, this was their little menagerie. (Eventually they added a second kid too.)

Ted and Tiffany were purebred show dogs, which meant their coats grew down to the floor. This photo is from off-season. I was raised with the pronunciation sheed-zoo, as per the American Kennel Club. I don’t know when people saying shit zoo, but I’d like to officially campaign for a rebrand.Kate Leaver on James and Ashley Stay at Home podcastMy love of dogs is why I’m especially excited for our latest podcast guest, author Kate Leaver. Kate is a journalist and speaker from Australia, and is also the author of two books. Good dog cover, author Kate Leaver, Bert,I’m been a fan of Kate Leaver since I reviewed her first book, The Friendship Cure. In it, she examines how friendship can help to alleviate the epidemic of loneliness, which competes with mental illness and sedentary lifestyles to be the worst health crisis of our time (pandemics aside). Friendship has powerful health benefits, as many scientific studies show.

Good Dog is an extension of that idea, exploring how our furry friends enrich our lives while providing numerous health benefits that researchers are only beginning to uncover. Along with the 11 stories of especially good dogs – including her own shih tzu, Bertie – Leaver explores research into the impact of dogs on human health. You can read my full review here. Kate Leaver on James and Ashley Stay at Home podcastJames also happens to be a fan of dogs.

James lives with Bonnie, an Irish wolfhound/dalmation cross. Bonnie joined James for our interview with Kate. The one downside of podcasts is their lack of visual component, so James snapped this shot of Bonnie nudging her way into the audio action. James and Bonnie.jpg
This shot allows you to better appreciate Bonnie’s spotiness. Dalmation Irish wolfhound cross dogJames, Kate and I probably could have talked about dogs for, conservatively speaking, 17 hours.

But we had so much more to talk about! Kate lives with bipolar disorder and her experiences with depression, and Bert’s intuitive ability to comfort her during difficult times, inspired her to research other good dogs.

She also speaks about the challenges her health has presented in her career. “I always found being in an office difficult, because you can’t really schedule in time to deal with your mood or your energy levels.” This led her to try freelancing.

“I wanted to give myself the opportunity to take care of my mental health,” she says.  Freelancing means being able to give herself more days when she needs them, work to a schedule that works for her, and go outside for a walk in the middle of the day.

Kate’s coped with chronic illness far longer than I have, so I asked her how she manages to have such a successful career. I was thankful to hear her say she doesn’t know how she manages it. She just keeps going as best she can, which is sometimes not very well at all.Kate Leaver on James and Ashley Stay at Home podcast
This was a huge relief , because after four years I certainly haven’t figured out any way of managing my illness either. Kate Leaver on James and Ashley Stay at Home podcast
You can listen to episode 8 of James and Ashley Stay at Home here, and find Kate’s book online and in bookshops across Australia, as well as in the US and UK in early 2021.

How to cook and eat your pets

Hello and welcome to the collapse of modern civilization! NASA was right on the money with that one, it turns out. I suppose accidentally blowing up a couple trillion-dollar space shuttles teaches you something about accuracy.

One relief is we can finally update that old saying to something more modern, such as ‘How come the government can accurately predict the end of life as we know it but can’t deliver a letter to the right mailbox?’ (Ha ha, remember when we had fixed addresses? Those were the days.)

To increase your chances of survival, you need to learn some post-apocalypse DIY. Don’t worry, I’m here to help.

A pug wearing a lei: comedy from Ashley Kalagian Blunt

How to cook and eat your pets
Step 1. Select the pet you like the least and/or is the meatiest. (You’ll eventually have to cook them all, but you may as well save your favorite for last.)

Step 2. Bash its head in with a large rock (if you have bullets, save them for self-defense. Remember, all supplies are precious and finite). Aim for the temple to get it over with in one blow.

Step 3. Remove fur/feathers. Fur is most easily removed with a knife – hopefully you have one. If not, remember: teeth are nature’s knives!

Step 4. Cook your pet as you see fit. I recommend boiling older pets into stew, but spit-roasting over an open fire of defunct electronic equipment is another easy option.

Step 5. Serve with a handful of whatever greenery is in season – tree leaves, etc.

Step 6. Reflect on any psychological counseling you may have once received.

7 furry highlights of the Dog Lovers Show

1. Samoyeds forget to charge at the Kissing Booth (this breed isn’t known for their accounting skills)
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2. Are these Irish setters? There’s really no way to tell. img_5473

3. The Tibetan terrier, a breed known for not having any eyeballs. img_5332

4. This pug is famous on the internet but still pretty down to earth, you know?  img_5440

5. Rocking the same hairstyle as this wheaten terrier.  img_5354

6. Irish wolfhound = my husband + 23 kg
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7. This one’s name is Nimble! img_5450

(The other dogs thought Nimble was a bit of a show-off, frankly.)
nimble-shows-off