Sunday, May 26, 2013

not the real deal, but close

In between doggie stories, MTWaggin’s blog is always chock full of great photos of Montana landscapes, flowers and wildlife. 
Spring is sprung further north, and a short while ago she posted some shots of a Meadowlark and then mentioned how much she enjoyed their song. Naturally I had to check it out.

While listening to the meadowlark on YouTube I realised I have access to an endless number of birdsongs.

Sometimes MTWaggin shares videos of her “cruises” in search of things to photograph. While Teddy sits at the front of the kayak sniffing a million smells an hour, MT sits further back recording the sounds of lapping water, birdsongs, and a camera taking photos.

The sound of the camera reminds me a little of this little Aussie trooper: [the lyrebird, not David Attenborough]

layer upon layer

My dear cuz and ever constant friend,

It was delightful to come home and find your letter waiting for me. Snail mail is such a good invention, it’s a wonder nobody ever though of it before. What better way to wrap a gift than in an envelope?...

…Everyone comments positively on the photo used for mother’s funeral service. Perhaps I’m projecting, but to me it is just another photo in which she appears haunted and lost. It was taken at her engagement do. If you saw the whole photo, rather than the portion used for the funeral service, you would notice that she could not bring herself to look at him, even then. Not in any of the photos taken that night. Even in the wedding photos they are both looking in different directions.

I had thought there was only one photo – which I can’t seem to find – in which she seemed to be living in the moment. But I was wrong; I remember now the delight on her face when you and Z dropped in to visit her at Murchison last year. It was another rare moment captured – can we say “on film” any more?

Your thoughts, comments and memories of my mother are appreciated; they’re made more special by the spirit in which they’ve been given.

What is it like, do you think, for people without large extended families? Ours seems to have been characterised, in part, by a progressive barn dance in which children shifted their affection from their mother to one aunt or another. Is it easier to accept the foibles of nieces or nephews because the bond is slightly distant? On its own this would not be enough, of course – none of the sisters liked all of their nephews and nieces, how could they? With so many nephews and nieces that would be a statistical improbability. But as you know, she genuinely liked and admired you.

I remember your own mother with a great deal of affection and gratitude. With affection because I felt it was reciprocated and with gratitude because there was much for me to be grateful for. At the same time, it was easy for me to like her because I was free, as we all were, to pick and choose when and why to attach ourselves to alternative mother figures, and who those mother figures would be. I didn’t have to pay for your mother's affection by being her daughter 24/7.

It’s right and just that we can take people as we find them, without being blind to any parts of their character that don’t affect us too personally. Yet in all those years I only once felt a glimpse of the mother you must have seen so often. I can’t remember what I said, only that her face closed down for a split second, as if a security wall had slammed down over the tellers’ windows in a bank. It was just a tiny “aha!” moment, for me, but one that humanised her.

As for my own mother, I assure you the “forgiving” is easy. Who of us can forgive ourselves our own failings without first forgiving others? It’s the “liking” and the “feeling grief-stricken” that elude me.

I found myself in St Francis’ church a few weeks ago when I was in town with JJ. As one does, when there, I lit a few candles and for the first time dedicated one solely to my mother, only to be instantly overwhelmed by a strong sense of pity. Perhaps the wounds are healing.

After your own mother died, did you sense some shift in your relationships with your brothers and sisters? Of course, your mother was the keeper of the genealogies, and the glue that bound the larger family together. Has there been a shift in extended relations because the glue is gone, or simply because we became, long ago, our own selves with our own lives? A bit of both?

It’s also possible that the shift at this end has a different cause – that I never really got to know B1 at all until the funeral.

Now that Aunty is living here, we eat at a table each night in a true spirit of communion, and we chat. Our chats are frank and, like Aunty, non-judgmental. Topics and observations wander at random. She and your mother decided years ago about my mother that "that’s just the way she is”.

She gives clues away, sometimes, about how B1 thought and felt about mother. It’s pretty much what I always felt he felt.
When he gave the eulogy at mother’s funeral he faltered for just a moment: It was the first time ever I saw him betray any emotion – positive or negative – about her at all. About anything important, really.
So here am I on the cusp of 60; I’ve only torn away one layer of his “onion” and I doubt I’ll ever get to remove another.

It was a great relief for me that he took care of the funeral arrangements. It’s impossible that anyone could have done a better job, but so sad that she was damned with such faint praise – so much so that I felt a tad embarrassed for her. She deserved at least a little credit for sometimes trying; after all, credit need not be confused with affection. But I’ve no idea how it could have been said without implying more negatives.

B2, on the other hand, is gutted. He and mother argued at cross purposes constantly, all her life, but he visited her every month without fail right up to the end.

When B1 mentioned, after the funeral, that we must arrange a date to scatter her ashes, my heart sank a little. A week later, B2 went to collect the ashes and take them home as he felt it would be more respectful than leaving her alone on an undertaker’s shelf. 
How do I say “no”, I don’t want any part of the scattering? I'm pretty confident I can predict what B1 will say: Nothing.

Why do I feel the need to stay on good terms with B2, or even in touch? I admire him enormously, and miss the companion he was when we were kids, but when I’m around him it’s exhausting – possibly for him as much as for me. I’m worn out his habit of taking offence at or misinterpreting my most innocent statements. 
I wonder where he gets that from?

It occurred to me last week that I need a Doctor’s Certificate. I don’t need time off from work, or from home and the day-to-day stresses of home life, I just want some time off from all the other crap. From house selling and will executioning and personal obligations I'm not sure I want. Can you recommend anyone who bulk-bills?

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

surely they're joking?

If Sydney is about Spectacular Harbour views, Melbourne’s Port Phillip Bay is about lifestyle, and 264km [164 miles] of sheltered beaches.

too good to be one of my photos... mornington beach boxes

For overseas visitors, Victoria is where Melbourne and Port Phillip Bay are:

FruitCake lives at Frankston on the Mornington Peninsula

There are only 3 kms separating each side of the heads at the entrance to the Bay – [Point Nepean on the east side and Point Lonsdale on the west.]


As I mentioned in my last post, courtesy of Red Nomad Oz and Hardie Grant Publishing I am now the proud owner of this lovely book:

The closest park to home, I discovered, is at Point Nepean. I’ve been down that way many times but didn’t realise there is “stuff” there to look at.

And so it came to pass; TO, Aunty, JJ and I went trooping down to Point Nepean recently. [Green map above].


Along the way, we stopped at the Rosebud camping sites, and saw these

Not a spectacular photo, but possibly interesting. I never knew black swans [native to Western Australia] liked salt water.


There are three things of note at Point Nepean
  • rugged coastline;
  • an old fort; and
  • an old quarantine station

JJ loved the ocean. Personally it just seemed “rough” to me. It was a rather cold and windy day, and great big foaming waves were crashing on rocks but, coming from an island surrounded by calm waters [and being a water sign astrologically speaking], JJ thought the coastline impressive.

The old fortifications on the Point are a 2.5 km walk from the quarantine station. On the day, we decided against the hike. [No, the fact that I pfaffed about all morning before we headed off late was not the only reason.]

Next time.

Quarantine Station

We picked up a brochure from the information centre and took a self-guided tour of the Quarantine Station. Established in 1852, the site was last used as a quarantine station in 1980.

The site was also used by the army from 1952 til 1998 and, in 1999, it was even used to accommodate Kosovo refugees.

The buildings from the 1850s, 1890s, and 1911-19 are interesting. The army installed a hall in 1963 which is just plain ugly, totally out of place, and ought to be removed. No photo here, it's waaaay too ugly.

With the usual shared sense of shameful black humour, TO and I both tried to say "where is my stone?" first, when we saw some big buildings labelled “Disinfecting and Bathing Complex.”
The tram lines leading down to where the jetty once was didn’t help us fight our initial thoughts.

The Quarantine Station had been fairly busy after World War I when servicemen were returning with the seeds of what became a Spanish Flu epidemic, but the most dramatic and historic story it has to tell is the story of the Ticonderoga.

Who better to tell the story than Tony Robinson?


We haven’t seen the fort yet, but I have to be honest and say even though Point Nepean is hardly as impressive or atmospheric as Port Arthur in Tasmania, the Quarantine station does not deserve the development plans some knobs have come up with.


Politicians and their mates: You can’t live with them, and you can’t live with them.

it's the journey not the destination

BTW for anyone who doesn't know me well I've rarely taken a decent photo in my life. None of these are mine and if I ever do show a decent photo that's mine I'll crow about it!

As a teen I heard a chap talking about his recent trip to Europe. He was particularly excited about how he'd felt standing on a meadow in Runnymede, England, in the spot where it’s believed King John signed the Magna Carta in 1215.

For the first time in his life he had finally stood somewhere and felt an overwhelming sense of history – something no one could experience in a country as young as Australia.


A few years later I was driving through the Northern Territory and saw, in the distance, a bloody big pile of rocks.
A few miles further, the bloody big pile of rocks turned into a pile of bloody big rocks, more commonly know as the Devil’s Marbles.

[No photos can do justice to the experience, but for visitors to Australia, some hints about location, proportion and just what the heck I’m going on about:]

There was something quite surreal about the experience of approaching these – something I’ve never experienced anywhere since. Certainly, no natural feature anywhere has caused me to collapse with hysterical laughter like the Marbles did. It struck me that I had encountered something which was at once awe-inspiring and a great cosmic joke. 

Australia is one of the oldest places on earth, and the greatest portion of it is still timeless. As Crocodile Dundee himself might have put it… “1215? That’s not history – this is history.”


I’m moved to mention this sense of time for two reasons, and we can credit Red Nomad Oz for both of them.

Firstly, courtesy of one of her Amazing Australian Adventures competitions I acquired a copy of Explore Australia’s National Parks. [Next post, I’ll tell you about the Park at Point Nepean].

Secondly and more recently, Red showed us the ruins of Farina

If there is any intrepid Australian Explorer who deserves first prize for her ability to sniff out a bakery, it is Red. But the story about Farina’s working bakery left me feeling a bit sad.

If experiencing the Marbles was magic, so too was experiencing Farina in its pre-21st Century-bakery days.

Australia does not have a monopoly on ghost towns, but Farina is a ripper. The development of parts of South Australia and of towns like Farina in particular is a story of … well, hubris is too harsh a word. Let’s just call it unbridled vision and misplaced optimism.

Check out Red’s report on Farina and you’ll see what I mean – this is the landscape that was supposed to provide bumper grain crops. The crops, in turn, were supposed to support a town bigger than New York City.

The old train line from civilisation reached Farina around 1880. Further travel north involved camels. This section of railway [yellow on the map] was never finished and what had been finished had long been abandoned, so the landscape is littered with sleepers and sidings.

When my companion and I reached Farina about ten years ago, we were the only people there. It was deserted, and we were free to feel the buzz of the place; to try and sense the excitement and disappointment it must have been host to.

Now if you need proof that I love a good bakery as much as anyone you need look no further than my waistline. But there’s something intrusive about the idea of a big white tent and a bakery in the middle of such a sacred site. A little like selling gelati inside the Duomo instead of just outside in the square.

There is a line somewhere: I don’t know where the line should be, but I think it’s too often crossed.

Late Edit - 
thanks Andrew, for introducing me to something called Goyder's Line. In 1865 George Goyder mapped a line beyond which rainfall would be too unreliable for agriculture. "Here be drought" rather than "here be dragons...".

the line is a tad faint but the background is a map of the whole state and reveals just how much of the state is dry

The line certainly corresponds to the contrasts I've seen between the south of South Australia and its northern portions.

Saturday, May 18, 2013

life in the grinding halt lane

approaches to bolte bridge, morning peak

“Avoid this area at all costs”, one TV reporter sagely intoned.

I always do mate, I always do.

Of course, those travelling by train on the Upfield line were inconvenienced as well.

silver car at left clipped the truck while changing lanes

Some “authority” has suggested this incident proves we need an east/west road tunnel. Strongly disagree. What it proves is that we don’t need even longer trucks than this one on existing freeways. This was a “B Double” – a B Triple, they say, is 8 car lengths long.

Perhaps someone like Andrew might well describe this accident as a “FOX pass”?

Friday, May 17, 2013


An Englishman, a Scotsman, an Irishman, a Welshman, a Latvian, a Turk, a German, an Indian, several Americans (including a Hawaiian and an Alaskan), an Argentinean, a Dane, an Australian, a Slovak, an Egyptian, a Japanese, a Moroccan, a Frenchman, a New Zealander, a Spaniard, a Russian, a Guatemalan, a Colombian, a Pakistani, a Malaysian, a Croatian, a Uzbek, a Cypriot, a Pole, a Lithuanian, a Chinese, a Sri Lankan, a Lebanese, a Cayman Islander, a Ugandan, a Vietnamese, a Korean, a Uruguayan, a Czech, an Icelander, a Mexican, a Finn, a Honduran, a Panamanian, an Andorran, an Israeli, a Venezuelan, an Iranian, a Fijian, a Peruvian, an Estonian, a Syrian, a Brazilian,a Portuguese, a Liechtensteiner, a Mongolian, a Hungarian, a Canadian, a Moldovan, a Haitian, a Norfolk Islander, a Macedonian, a Bolivian, a Cook Islander, a Tajikistani, a Samoan, an Armenian, an Aruban, an Albanian, a Greenlander, a Micronesian, a Virgin Islander, a Georgian, a Bahaman, a Belarusian, a Cuban, a Tongan, a Cambodian, a Qatari, an Azerbaijani, a Romanian, a Chilean, a Jamaican, a Filipino, a Ukrainian, a Dutchman, a Ecuadorian, a Costa Rican, a Swede, a Bulgarian, a Serb, a Swiss, a Greek, a Belgian, a Singaporean, an Italian, a Norwegian and 2 Africans,

...walk into a gourmet restaurant.

"I'm sorry," says the Maitre D' after scrutinizing the group.
"You can't come in here without a Thai."

Monday, May 13, 2013

more energy than you can poke a stick at

More than 4 million hits, so you have probably already seen it already, and long before I did. Cute just the same.
Swap the collie for a schnauzer, the stick for a tennis ball, and the uncooperative statue for a perfectly sedentary human [i.e. moi] and you would have some insight into life in the fast lane at Franger.

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

the result

millions of years of evolution, and we have finally hit the jackpot