Good morning sunshine….

 

Catching up….

And just like that, spring has gone and in its place the season of bleached skies and scorched earth.  On the last day of spring, Sunday, the aerial water bombers flew low continual circuits over our home as the sirens of CFS trucks wailed.  To the west and just beyond my neighbours natural boundary of grey mallee, stringybarks and pines, verdant towering sentinels planted by the early settlers in the 1800’s, the smoke plumed.  This gives your stomach cause to lurch as I had not, but an hour earlier been outside preparing for this seasons bushfires.

Too soon I thought.  Too soon!  I stood on the deck and watched the planes, so low overhead I could clearly see the pilots.  I raised my hand and waved.  The pilot gave a nod and I knew from that one small gesture everything would be okay.

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Of late, I wake each morning to a day of brilliant sunshine and these days often end with an unseasonable thunderstorm.   They remind of my years of living in Queensland where almost every afternoon, the humid sultry summer days of bare feet, chocolate paddle pops and mangoes gave way to an afternoon storm.   A lone storm bird would signal the tempests impending arrival as the big clouds gathered low and bruising.  They would suddenly burst with so much rain the gutters could do little to hold it.  Fat green tree frogs croaked in the down pipes, steam would rise up from the roads and the air smelt sweet and clean.    

During the last big thunderstorm here in SA, the lovely old Grevillea, planted well before we purchased this home was lost. With sadness I watched its heavy flower laden branches split and drop but in its death keel, I appreciated the shade and the joy this gnarly old tree had offered families of tiny New Holland Honeyeaters, pollinators and myself.   

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It has been a busy time with so much afoot but as summer breaks, I will endeavor to get my shitzen together to catch this blog up 🙂  There are road trips and rich offerings to write of.  The chasing of rainbows, a snowbird, sunrises in silent gratitude, the gift of isolation and a garden update to come.

Until then, take care.  Be strong, be kind, be good to yourself and be good to all others……. x

Footnote:  CFS – Country Fire Service.  A wonderful volunteer based fire fighting service in Australia.

 

The need for the invention of an alarm clock called ‘A Rude Awakening’ and Story Time……..

My favorite Aunty died last Thursday.  There were an awful lot of 'Aunties and Uncles' where I came from in Queensland.  It is a term of respect and endearment used for an elder whether you be related to them by blood or not.  Some I have loved dearly and some have barely received a second thought.  I had been thinking of her the day before she died.  I thought of her often.  I had a trip to Queensland planned during June (de-railed by Covid 19) and I had arranged to spend time with her.  She turned 93 in April and she was still bright and JOYful and beautiful.  Beautiful in the way some who age with spirit and grace are.  I have felt intense sadness in her passing and the aftermath of that sadness lingers. 

Some profess the passing of time to be the greatest of healers and that eventually, some form of closure will come but I really don't follow that line.  I believe death just as grief (and grief shows itself in many ways) is never finite and nor do we ever fully recover from it.  It stays on with us simply because we adjust our lives to slowly become accustom to bearing its weight.  

I know people have said she had a good life but that is not entirely true.  Just because your life is long, that does not equate to it being good. She had a bloody harsh life yet she of all people deserved so very much more.  Her husband was a violent, snake mean drunk.  One night, after many years of abuse, he beat her so badly she was barely able to flee.  She did however, manage to put a few good miles on foot between her and her abuser.  Unable to go any further, she collapsed and hid in a patch of pumpkins.     

So badly beaten, the farmer who owned the patch did not realise she was human, let alone a small woman when he found her huddled there the next morning.  And so good and kind was this man, he refused to let her return to her home.  Instead, she lived on at the farm with her remaining children in possibly the greatest happiness and gentleness she had ever known with this dear man and his equally dear brother right up until their deaths. 

This happened in the 70's.  A time when domestic violence was a more neglected, silent and hidden pandemic.  We would go to the farm for holidays and often on long weekends.  I remember the farm house was a big old Queenslander sitting on thick wood poles.  It was white and it always looked as though it needed a coat of paint but it was a home and it felt really, really good to be there.  

In the middle of the kitchen, which always smelt of sunlight soap and lamb fat, was a huge scrubbed wood table.  A big enamel tea pot and china cups and saucers permanently placed there in its centre.  From the wood beams underneath the house, small calico bags filled with a wad of what I do not know and the colour of deep violet hung.  These small magical bags somehow eased the sting and itch on our feet and legs from the wild stinging nettles which grew in lush profusion around the farm. 

My Aunts husband had taken to living in a small shed of sorts made of corrugated iron.  We would pass by it to go to the river and my eldest cousin would always make us stop there.  She would go in and clean up, make him tea and oftentimes leave food.  We would always wait outside, probably whining and impatiently shifting from foot to foot because all we, my other two cousins and my elder sister wanted to do during summer was to get to the river.

I went inside only once.  It was dark but there were tiny beams of light coming through from the rust holes in the tin.  I remember the floor was dirt and the place smelt of stale piss and that the sheets on the metal bed were stained a light amber.  I could never understand why she swept the floor just as I could not back then, understand why she wanted to care for him.  When I last saw him he was sitting on a chair in the mottled dark, his head in his hand while hawking up phlegm. After a while he looked up at me and I saw that the  whites of his eyes had yellowed.  I think he died not long after.

When 'the boys', as they were affectionately known sadly died, my Aunty moved to a little low-set weatherboard house on the outskirts of the town. Surrounded by scrubby bush, she lived there with her beloved fox terrier named Lady.  She always had a black and white foxie.  The house was located along the road from a place called Goodluck Farm.  My Nan had pointed out the direction of the farm many times as this was the place she and her only beloved brother and another sister were sent to live and work when they were very, very young.  

When Nana had too much to drink, which was often, she would sometimes speak of Goodluck and of the events that happened there.  On one occasion, my beautiful Great Uncle was bullwhipped by the owner of the farm and my Nana and her sister witnessed the horror of it all.  Huddled together crying they tore up rags to make bandages for him.  Once I said that my Great Grandmother must have been a terrible person to have sent them away especially when they were so young but my Nan defended her saying her mother was a wonderful woman and she had loved her children very much.  My Aunty also dearly loved my Great Grandmother.

When my Aunty moved out of town, and although she was deeply loved and respected by most in the town, a hateful and vindictive gossip of her previous 'living arrangements' followed her.  And I think we all know it only takes one but usually two miserable and very nasty calumniators to destroy another!  

I haven't been on my laptop for a good while and by 'a good while', I mean since my last post about Bali well over a month ago.  I've just been a bit overwhelmed by things.  Things which are designed to wound which you have no control over and nor are you able to change.  Matters such as these will often consume me and sit like a stone weight upon my chest.  Injustice, inequality, racism, animal cruelty, bullying and that ill perceived belief of entitlement and privilege some have which is bred through sheer stupidity and ignorance. But hate speech fuelled by malicious gossip, well that one always has me buggered.  

For some reason, the voice of maligned hate has the ability to travel far too well.  Over land and sea from one big mouth to bigger ears and from there, more mouths to ears and so on and so on. With each discreditable telling, gossipy hate speech gathers speed as fast as a fart all while growing with poisonous ferocity.

As our world folds in upon itself, I cannot help but wonder why some do not have the mindfulness to be kinder.  Why compassion, tolerance and basic human decency is always such a hard fought commodity. 

In spite of all this, or perhaps simply because of it, I remain eternally optimistic that the alarm bells, which should ring so shrilly to some, will finally awake them from their blissfully ignorant slumber. 

I have been thinking a lot lately.  Thinking of those no longer with me, of those still living who I care about and miss because I have lost touch and thinking of so very much of that which has come to pass.  It's okay to say you are not okay. It's okay to say you are hurting and it is perfectly okay to be solitary when hermited by grief just as it is okay not to bake homemade sourdough.  To love someone be they human or animal and to pick your battles well is one of the small joys of humanity and for the moment, that may well be enough.  

Story Time.......

Once, there was a small hateful group.  So unhappy and unfulfilled with their lives they did nothing but complain, cause trouble, criticise and gossip.   They found no happiness and no beauty in the world and they lived their lives in a thankless and ungrateful manner.  One day, the group received the gift of a beautiful horse.  This horse was the most magnificent animal ever imaginable but the women complained and complained and complained of the gift. 

Another woman, ostracised by the group but who lived by believing in kindness, grace and optimism received the gift of horse shit!  There was enough horse shit to fill a football field twice over.  But instead of whinging and complaining this woman grabbed herself a shovel and she began to dig.  She dug and dug and dug.  She dug because she knew beneath all that horse shit there had to be a beautiful majestic horse in there somewhere......x

CROCS!!…..and I don’t mean those unattractive items of footwear!

I began this post a couple of days ago.  It was a time when the state of South Australia had been plunged into a catastrophic fire danger rating with no part of the state rated lower than severe.   By 10am on Wednesday, the temperatures in the area where I live had already hit 41 degrees (106 Fahrenheit) with the hot north wind reaching speeds of over 50 km/h.  It was long day with record temperatures broken across South Australia and by evening, the sky appeared to have been bleached of all colour.  There was no sunset that night.  Just an eerie sky which almost looked like a faded black and white print.

I was up early on that day.  Threw a little water around, looked hopefully at the 100 year old pines, gums and peppermints which surround and dug up some of the garlic I planted during winter.   Its my first crop of garlic, an Australian variety known for their small, sweet pungent cloves.  I’ve tied them with jute and they are hanging to dry.  The rest of the garlic will be harvested over the coming weeks.

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After that, there was little more to do other than close up the house, draw the blinds, hunker down with the cats and wait it out.

The following days, and the temperatures have dropped by around 20 degrees.  Drops like that are so welcome during summer in Australia.  There was no big cornflower blue sky on Thursday though.  Just a canvas of smoky pale grey and the unmistakable smell of scorched earth.

My heart and thoughts are with those who battled Wednesdays fires and to those in Queensland and New South Wales who have endured such heartache and loss over the past few weeks.  We are indeed a country of extremes and it is during these times you realise what is most important to you.

Crocs of the top end……

The sun was still rising as we left Darwin and headed out along the Arnhem Highway to Wak Wak, a tiny dot of a place located near the Adelaide River.

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Home to one of the largest concentrations of saltwater crocs and a haven for birdlife, the Adelaide River really is a beautiful part of the world.

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You know life is truly grand when you get to watch these great birds soar above and swoop down along the surface of the Adelaide River……..

Mornings in the territory bring such serenity especially when out on water in a flat-based tinny with a knowledgeable, passionate and funny as hell top end character who doubles as a croc guide.  His love and incredible respect for these huge apex predators so apparent.

The hum of the outboard, the prolific birdlife, the sun warming your back while skimming across the top of the chocolate milkshake coloured water as it unfurls like a silky ribbon is pure bliss.

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You think it can’t get any better than this.

But it does.

Because within moments of being out on the river.

You encounter your first croc.

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And they keep coming…….

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Some of the crocs we saw were absolutely massive!  Majestic powerhouses of strength and might.  Up close, they reminded me of weary, battle-scared warships yet I found these reptiles to be incredibly beautiful.

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During the morning, we happened upon a very plucky little juvenile croc.  The guide called him ‘Little Man’ but I like to think of him as ‘Lion Heart’ solely for his incredible courage, resilience and determination.   According to our guide, Lion Hearts’ chances of surviving to reach the maturity of the big crocs we had already seen were slim at best.  I often think of Lion Heart and hope he is still out swimming, out witting and out charming his bigger rivals.

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Lion Heart, cute as a darn button…….

Being on the water with those great birds swooping down and those enormous, profoundly fascinating apex predators stalking the boat was so good for my heart and my soul.

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And stalk the boat he did………

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The top end is absolute beauty and wonder.   I returned home to South Australia with a grateful and very happy heart so thank you for the stunning sunrises, the best laksa ever, the crocs, the humble no-bullshit people, the gin-clear swimming holes, the crocs, the sunshine, the markets, the amazing street art and the crocs.

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Go see the top.  If you never, never go you will never, never know…….x

We’ll take a cup of kindness yet……..and a Martini

Its that odd little week between Christmas and New Years and it will also be my last blog post for 2013.  I Know, can you believe it is the end of another year.  While writing this I am remembering some good new years of past.  Those spent camping at Tallebudgera beach as a child were usually pretty good but maybe that’s because I was seeing it all through the eyes of a child.  As a kid on new years you got to stay up late….really, really late (no doubt the adults around us were coerced into staying up) and you got to do things you usually couldn’t do.   And just like Christmas, everything seemed a little bit more magical then too.  We had a Scottish new years once while camping.  I still remember parts of that night even though I was probably only about 8 at the time.   Auld Lang Syne, Cold Duck (if your a child of the 60’s you’ll know what that is), bungers and tom thumbs (fireworks were legal in Queensland back then), haggis, sipping alcohol from unattended glasses, coloured paper streamers and the Gold Coast highway.  Actually except for the haggis, the above was our usual new years at the coast!

At those same campgrounds (we camped there every year for about 7 weeks from December to January and this was in the 60’s and 70’s), we  would also listen to the artists at the ‘Playroom International’ as their voices would filter out of the venue, across the highway and down to the camp ground.  The Playroom was a bit like a rock venue which attracted some of the biggest artist around of that era.  We would lay in our bunks and listen to Johnny O’Keefe (I know, pinch me – J OK, how lucky were we), Lovelace Watkins (I had a serious girly crush on this man for a very very long time), Frankie Davidson to name a few that I can remember.  Thinking of the Playroom has also made me remember Santa Land, The Pink Poodle, Jack Evans, the Burleigh Heads pool, Meter Maids, The Birdwatcher Bar, Surfers Paradise when it was actually a surfers paradise, the Miami ice building, the Queensland Hotel, the Iluka and Ten The Esplanade etc.  Talk about showing my age!  All this has also made me think of my sister Tracey, Dad (our grandfather) and I driving off into the bush surrounding the Gold Coast (yes it was a very different place back then – there was lots and lots of bushland around……..and we didn’t wear seatbelts either) to find our Christmas tree.  Once chosen, Dad would cut it down with his tomahawk which was kept in the car.  We would put the slain tree in the boot of the Morris Major and drive back to the tent feeling pretty chuffed then Dad would stick the tree in a bucket of wet sand.  We decorated the tree with really lovely old ornaments made of glass, paper chains we hand-made and little paper Chinese lanterns which you could actually put lit candles in – all very beautiful and very dangerous given the tree was also highly flammable.  But who cared back then as the tent flap was also left open during the night.  I know, it just makes you want to run through your house with a pair of scissors in your hand now doesn’t it.

I don’t know if the Playroom is still there.  I am hoping with all my heart that it is but I am afraid to google it just in case!  Just in case meaning I’m afraid it may have been demolished by now to make way for some god awful food chain or worse!  If it has been demolished please don’t email me or leave a comment to break the bad news.  Just let me live with the idea of it still being there.  It’s all I ask……..well that and world peace!

Anyway, back to new years which is what my blog was originally going to be about.  As I got older I spent less time with family and more doing my own thing.  My own thing over the years has involved a very dodgy taxi ride, a kebab and a bathtub!  A Village People Policeman look a like, a park bench and a kebab in King George Square (is there a theme happening here!).  Illegal fire works in Canberra, a monkey in Hatton Vale, a fire extinguisher (nothing to do with fire works or the monkey), Champagne, a priest and unattainable new years eve resolutions made and broken within two to three days……..ah, happy memories.

This new years I am surmising the night will also involve some form of time travel.  Travelling back in time is not for the faint of heart and it should come with a warning label due to the unwanted sided effects:

1)  One may lose consciousness

2)  One may suffer temporary memory loss

3)  One may suffer a headache

You see my time travel comes courtesy of Gin and did you know more classic cocktails are made of gin than any other spirit.  And by the way, London Gin is not necessarily always made in London.  I know, I was as shocked as you when I found that out!    Anyway, my evening will begin with my usual Martini’s (it makes me feel very ‘Rat Packy’) and I am after all living in the USA now.  And it is not a correct statement either that you must be a melancholic 55 year old with bad bed hair sitting on the stairs in a semi dark house with mascara stains down your face or a sultry smoker voiced jazz singer to drink gin.  That’s all just a big myth!   As is the other big myth about gin – it makes you depressed!  No studies have ever proven that gin is more of a depressant than any other spirit so stop sulking (because quite frankly a little self deprecation is good but self pity is just plain annoying) and go make yourself a Martini.  You don’t know how!  Well here is my recipe:

4 x 25ml of gin (I prefer Bombay Sapphire), 1 x 25ml of dry vermouth and a strip of lemon peel (I like mine with a twist rather than an olive).   Add ice to a shaker and add wet ingredients then stir (I also like mine stirred and not shaken) then strain into a chilled glass.  Twist the lemon peel until it leaves ‘a slick’ of oil on the top of the martini.

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Here’s one I prepared earlier…….cheers xx

Around the stroke of midnight and at the start of a brand new wonderful year I will raise my glass once again.  Have a wonderful safe and very happy new year.  Thank you for reading the blog.  See you all next year xx