Archive for the ‘Australia’ Category

Brisbane storm – some emails

December 4, 2014

Dear Ross
Sounds like a disaster movie! I’m just reading about the storm this morning and really hoping that your roof stayed on and that none of you was out in it. Would love a reassuring email if you have a moment.
Love from Jill

Nov 30 (4 days ago)
to me

Hi Jill

Wow, that really was some storm! We are fine, no damage to selves or property, but it was a somewhat harrowing experience. I was stuck in a train, fortunately in the subterranean station at Toowong, where there was no indication of wild weather. The train was stalled due to lack of power (and, as we later discovered, due to a house having blown onto the tracks), so I launched forth in search of a bus. When I climbed to ground-level, I was met by the most ferocious wind and rain I have ever seen, including, I think, the Chennai typhoon of 1987. The rain was such that to venture into it would have been like swimming underwater. There was absolutely no prospect of vehicular traffic, so I returned to the comfort of my train and my Kindle.
Vanee had a tougher time of it, because she decided to make a run for home in the car. She was caught in the thick of it, but luckily the car stood up to the hail, so all she had was a frightening experience without any real incident.
Our former stamping ground of Yeerongpilly, Fairfield etc looks like a battle ground. The ground is strewn with shattered trees (and I mean shattered), and houses have grown canvas carbuncles where there used to be rooves. If you want your window fixed, you have to wait until next year. I hear there was one fatality, but I don’t know any details of that.
Our mother was fine throughout the storm. Delphi Court with its solid masonry is one very a strong structure. And the up-side of that is, she feels vindicated in her claim that she should have jetted off to somewhere (anywhere) to escape all this devastation that the comet is causing. The comet puts pressure on the atmosphere, you see.
Unfortunately the Courier Mail assures us that we can expect a similar weather-event as early as this week. The upside of THIS is that I feel vindicated in my claim that we should all move to Tasmania now in order to beat the rush. (No rush as yet, but wait til news of the comet gets out. I should tell Mum to keep mum.)

Astronomically yours,
Thank you for that marvellous update. I’m so glad you are all ok. (I had an immediate response from mum so I knew you were safe but none of the details.) May I blog your finely-tuned prose? Everyone in the family here will want to know about it.
We are promised a ‘snow event’ later in the week. Or maybe later in the month.  I wasn’t paying attention.
Isn’t it cold in Tassy?
Lots of love
Dec 1 (3 days ago)
to me
Blog away! And yes, Tassie is cold in winter, but not as cold as NZ. And in Tassie, the ground doesn’t shake, housing is cheap and the locals speak English. (Not what the English call English, of course.) But our children and friends live in Brisbane … (I mention NZ because it is the only viable antipodean alternative to Tassie.)

SNOW! Really? It’s barely winter! Brandy is an excellent anti-freeze. (No, I don’t mean for the car.)

Speaking of cars, our venerable Toyota developed a minor but seemingly unfixable fault, so I sold it for $150. Boy, did I see them coming. Panic-struck, I set off to buy a cute little Honda Jazz, but it was just too twee for a bloke. With one toe I could simultaneously apply throttle, brake and clutch, while changing gears with the passenger’s knee. What I took to be clashing gears turned out to be a warning growl from the crusty, brilliantined car-salesman. (They all daub their hair with muck now, as if it were the 1950s.) So I accidentally bought an old Camry instead. Much too big and thirsty, but low Ks and owned by an elderly couple who only drove it to the letter-box. You have to watch the extremities, though, the steering is seemingly effected by bungie cords.

How are the dogs? And the boat? It occurs to me that one expensive survey doesn’t necessarily mean that all surveys will be expensive. Whereas vet bills! Well!

Love to all,

Some sights of Canberra

May 21, 2014

We are used to seeing the beautiful side of Canberra.  Of course, there is another side right next door which is either dark, or incongruous, or both. But always interesting and sometimes charming.

Big trucks - more like the US than like Britain.

Big trucks – more like the US than like Britain.

We parked in Fyshwick – Canberra’s industrial suburb, where you go for computer repairs, car wreckers and such like.  For knitting wool, though, you go to Spotlight, over the border in Queanbeyan.  (That’s in the foreign border territory of New South Wales.)

Annabel has wonderful local knowledge.  She knows, for example, that there is a great coffee shop in Fyshwick:  Dream Cuisine.

luxurious lunches

luxurious lunches and pastries

Koala Tea blog has reviewed the tea.

It is thriving – local workers pop in for lunch, but so do the cognoscenti of Canberra.

glowing pastries - always different

glowing pastries – always different

And it has been written up in the papers:

in the paper - it won't be a secret for long!

in the paper – it won’t be a secret for long!

Opposite, however, is a symbol of how Australians perceive their economy.

2014-05-02 02.37.59

And a thought-provoking name for a business:


‘Trojan Hospitality’ it said – a bit hard to see here, but the red lettering stood out in real life.

It should be reassuring, as long as you remember that the Trojans were disastrously hospitable towards the horse the Greeks sent them.  But we do tend to think that  the Trojan Horse  represents betrayal.  (Would you stay at the Dunsinane Bed and Breakfast, run by Mr and Mrs Macbeth?  Then again, Leamington boasts a street called Banquo Approach.  It’s a more desirable address than you might expect.)

On another day we went to visit Brian, who lives on a farm with his three dogs.  He showed us a trick in which they jump into his bed.

into, onto - happy dogs.

into, onto – happy dogs.

A real farm, but just not his.

a puzzling sign in Adelaide

a shiny tractor and lovely pigs – like illustrations in a kiddies’ book

Canberra’s Cockatoos

May 14, 2014

I wanted a good photo of a cockatoo.  They are almost my favourite birds – especially in Canberra.  When I say that, I am reminded of a lecturer at the University of Warwick who began every seminar with: ‘Ahh. [name of play for that week] My favourite play!’  It took some months for us to tumble to him, but it was an excellent way to start a seminar.  So – cockatoos are my favourite birds.  And magpies.  And kurrawongs. And of course kookaburras.  Let’s not forget crows, either:  they are really wonderful.

Oh heck!  shall I start again?  I wanted  a  photo of a cockie – I just did.  OK?

It should be easy in Canberra, where they flock by the score and salute the evening with raucous joy.  Maybe in my next life I can be a cockatoo: I could float through Canberra, screaming greetings, and perching in the tall trees with all the roosting crowd.

Captain Cook Crescent was overcast and grey, darkening already towards four-thirty in the afternoon.  I would have to be quick to get a photo.

Captain Cook Crescent leads out of Manuka

Captain Cook Crescent leads out of Manuka

The birds had gone quiet.  Oddly, today there were  few cockies around.  One or two scudded away from high in the tall trees.

This one was moving off rapidly to the north – towards wherever the sun might have gone.

flying alone

flying alone

The light darkened unnaturally quickly.  My eyesight felt dim and the air dense: somehow curdling not just in the sky, but all around me.

another loner

another loner

Actually, I think this one might be a photo of a cockie that has moved briskly out of shot. Wow! I thought.  I’d forgotten how early it gets dark in Canberra in the Autumn. Winter will be here soon.  I may have to try tomorrow, a bit earlier in the day.

dusk, and the grey darkens

dusk, and the grey darkens


Fed up with impossible cockies, what is there left to photograph?  My first ever selfie?

They are really hard – you can’t just point and click. I tried smiling.

worse and worse

worse and worse

I look like my father – and this is the better of the two.

I’d given up on the cockatoos by now and was just photographing any old thing that came along. Here’s a doggo – the only one available on my walk.

Just after I took the photo he decided to do his duty and bark at me.

Just after I took the photo he decided to do his duty and bark at me.

A thriving protea loomed out of the dimness.

A thriving protea loomed out of the dimness.

Then: a clear view of a cockatoo perched in a tree, in the middle of the central reservation.  Relief for me, but quite far up and still a dimmish shot against the slurry of grey.

2014-04-29 07.42.14


Are two poor photos twice as good as one, or just twice as bad?


It lingered there long enough for me to get a second poor photo.

It lingered there long enough for me to get a second poor photo.


Finally – back to Annabel’s charming house.  In the gathering dusk of my point-and-click even this looks somehow sinister and buried in the wood, like a cottage in a fairy tale.

A classic early Canberran build - originally for a civil servant - and largely unchanged over the years.

A classic early Canberran build – originally for a civil servant – and largely unchanged over the years.


Annabel arrived a while later, after dark.  I was chopping up vegetables for ratatouille (my signature safe dish when cooking for a host).

“Did you see the eclipse?” she asked. “About four thirty?”

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