Saturday, May 28, 2011

Among the Mountains of the Moon

Adventure playground for big kids. That's a rock climber three quarters of the way up at 11 o'clock

I visited a disused quarry the other day. Truly, it was a lot more interesting than it sounds.  There had been a bit of rain and Landcare had been busy, so the approaches were looking green and and almost pretty.

Fresh plantings
A touch of green covers old traces
Mostly though it was dramatic rather than beautiful. This is a harsh country with massive dolerite outcrops.  The Aboriginal word “Boya” the name for this area, means rock and there was certainly plenty of that.

This was the place where in 1901 the  giant blocks were excavated for C.Y. O’Connor’s Fremantle Harbour, which made Perth the state's centre of gravity displacing Albany in the south. One hundred and fifty families made their hessian and iron homes here during the life of the quarry, though how they would have survived the summer without aircon beats me.

It is still dry on the upper reaches but nature perseveres
Grass Tree (Blackboy )
Tiny plants that break rocks
There are magnificent views of the Perth skyline from the top

Scale - the car belongs to abseilers
Visual Geology lessons

Today its exposed cliffs challenge and delight abseilers, climbers, picnickers and bushwalkers. Geologists would have a field day too. It’s a great place to see intrusions, the convulsions of the earth and weathering in action. On the ground you can see sparkling grey granodiorite, black magma, white and pink quartz and  metamorphic stone like scoria. Nature battles on.

Friday, May 27, 2011

In the moonlight garden

It’s midnight and there’s a full moon. Ghost gums raise smooth sepulchral arms to the sky. A warm soft breeze carries the pungent scent of exotic plants from the back garden -the white flowering fiddlewood from the West Indies and the mysterious hibiscus tree from Africa. Perth seems much closer to both places than to the rest of Australia.
I think of that long ago song by Joni Mitchell  that begins... 

“The Wind is in from Africa. 
Last night I couldn't sleep..."  

At least they can be imagined from here. More so than from Tasmania. I've been reading about the last of the Mughals and about the Silk Road. The last Mughal emperor had a moonlight garden until  Dehli was destroyed in the Indian Mutiny of 1857.  Magical names leap from the pages  - Kashmir and  Kashgar, Tashkent and Samarkand, or perhaps Havana and Port Royal from the last book I read.
A friend writes that she is on her way to Uzbekistan.
Dream on. There are bills to pay...things which must be done, but dreams are better than nothing, better than emptiness and I have found that song.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Nice Thought

Have been feeling rather Eeyorish lately - you know that depressive donkey that hangs out with Pooh Bear - always moaning and looking on the dark side.
Thought I had fifty-five new readers in Western Australia, but it turned out that it was just the little girls replaying the Cat and Cello over and over again.

Given that my audience is somewhat younger than I thought, here is a great little animation by Joaquin Baldwin who does other lovely stuff as well. See for example Papiroflexia

The Windmill Farmer from Joaquin Baldwin on Vimeo.

I'll play it myself when I feel the whole world is going to hell in a handbasket.

Cheers for now and thanks Joaquin!

Saturday, May 14, 2011


Heh. Heh. Rang my youngest son yesterday although I swore I wouldn't ring him till he rang me, but you know how it is. Mothers immediately think their offspring must be lying bleeding and amnesic in hospital, not just being slack.
There was a long slow pause. Then .. " er..Happy Mother's..... Week?"

Apologies if the blog is bit scrambled at the moment. I don't get let out very often and only the cat is lower than I am in the pecking order when it comes to the computer. Even worse there have been outbreaks of Whooping Cough in the state and we've all had to have triple antigen shots which make you feel like merde. I don't remember them being this bad the last time I had them, but then again, Chickenpox was ten times worse as an adult too. I got them on the way to Tasmania while seriously pregnant with my daughter and thought I was going to have to be buried at sea.

Meanwhile, I have found the delightful Ikea video for the Doggie High Chair reported on April 1. The black carrots also mentioned on April 1, apparently have more antioxidants than orange ones and are supposed to be very effective against macular degeneration. I think I read that in Mental Floss, but can't find the post. Finally got the new glasses though (one of my non -New Year Resolutions), in case the carrots don't work.

Mental Floss also reports on a number of much more creative ways of disposing of your mortal remains and if none of those suit, there is always Tibetan Sky Burial (definitely environmentally friendly) and having your remains dissolved and poured down the drain - being done in the US but not yet legal. Obviously those chaps in Snowtown were way ahead of their time, but should probably have waited until their clients were dead.

Lastly, re children not having a childhood, I see someone has written a book about letting your kids play with fire and fortynine other dangerous things you should let them do if you don't want to blunt their curiousity and confidence. Read the full story and interview by Veronique Greenwood at the Atlantic.

Ikea are not the only ones creating flatpacks and thinking fondly of your pets.

 Suck. UK makes play houses for Cats -

Really like the instructions!

folded cardboard - flat packed
Fun for cats!  PLEASE NOTE - cats may need your help to build the models ...
click for...Plane , Fire Engine and Tank instructions.

design by SUCK UK

They have a number of other highly original products too. Love the mirror with the windscreen wiper, the  umbrella that changes with the weather, the bungee bird -feeder and the flower grenade to name a few, but it's the prose that really floats my boat. Read for example the product information for the Musical Ruler.

"If your attention tends to stray for even a second, why not master a musical instrument - courtesy of Suck UK - at your desk?  A musical instrument that doesn't involve heavy breathing, or co-ordination, or timing of any kind.  You needn't even leave your chair. You'll impress others - and maybe bring your office together in an impromptu, team-building singalong.  And then you can use it to underline your ever-growing To Do List.

Plastic ruler with printed finger markings and note positions.  Sliding the ruler up towards the edge of the desk alters the note, enabling you to play anything from
Abba to ZZ Top, just like this young gentleman...

This may be the only product in the world you can use to draw straight lines in your diary, and then to play House of the Rising Sun on the edge of your desk.
(We've tried ... you just cannot draw a straight line with a tuba!)
Pack contains 1 musical ruler and 1 guide to ruler playing."

I had no idea a ruler could be such a versatile instrument! I will never look at mine in the same way again.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Rewriting the Script - reinventing Grandmotherhood

What should the new Grandmothers be like? Certainly not sweet, old and doddery  or cranky like the one in The Velveteen Rabbit  was  at the beginning. And while I long to be Funky, I am not sure I want to be parading in swim suit in the Hot Granny Pageant like the one in Brazil either.


True, I would like to retain a semblance of sensuality and keep my body in reasonable  working order but I would also like to retain a little mystery and possibly dignity as well. Imagine the upkeep and the surgeries! I’d rather spend the time on retaining my mind.

I do have the greatest admiration for Grandmothers who take on bigger issues such as the Mothers of the Plaza de Mayo of Argentina who did not allow the military regime to forget the thousands of children they 'disappeared’ or those in Israel who stood between Israeli soldiers and Palestinians on the West Bank or those feisty Aboriginal Grandmothers who have taken a stand against alcohol, violence and sexual abuse in their rural communities, but I don’t just want to be noble either. I want to have fun too.

In that regard, I do applaud The Red Hat Ladies for fighting invisibility by being outrageous and having a good time, but somehow that isn’t quite enough for me either. Nor do I want to be completely self absorbed like those who go on SKI  (Spend the Kids’ Inheritance) holidays or those who retire fully to Lifestyle villages dedicated to “you – your health and wellbeing, your security, your desire for a stimulating environment and social companionship – as well as all the traditional facilities you expect in a quality resort, including: fully equipped gymnasium; heated pool and spa; lounge bar with billiards table; several lounge areas; beautifully landscaped gardens; BBQ and outdoor entertaining areas and much more.” Or promise a lifetime of shopping and coffee.

I want to stay and be part of the full spectrum of life – see young people, play with children, help others out if I can. I also want adventure and variety with each day not just the same as the last. Maybe I am being too greedy.

So far children’s literature offers the most promise. Roland Harvey’s Granny Appleby is more my style. [This is not the whole poem, which I still have at home, but a couple of excerpts to give you the general idea]:
The supermarket proved to be
A trial for Granny Appleby
The shelves were high and she was low
A featherweight, as grannies go.

"Ah, rats", she grumbled to herself
"The birdseed's on the highest shelf.
Unless I gain some extra height,
my Charlie won't get fed tonight".

The manager, who lingered near,
said, "having trouble, Granny Dear?
The problem is, you're much too small,
a tiny speck, a ping-pong ball.
A monkey would be bigger than you,
and somewhat better looking, too".

Insulted, Granny left the store
But came back with a mighty roar.
Windows smashed, alarm bells rang
and in burst Granny's bikie gang.
The last verse ..
The manager, who'd been so rude
was knocked into the frozen food.
And there he lay in cold repose
with two fish fingers up his nose.

I would be a female pirate if it didn’t involve robbing and killing – I have just been reading about Henry Morgan and his band of Brethren who changed the balance of power between Empires in the C17th. They were remarkably egalitarian and knew how to enjoy themselves as well. They even had the equivalent of worker’s compensation and extra brownie points for being brave.
In the absence of more concrete role models,  I’ll just have to keep being myself and hope I'll still have the energy to hitch across Iceland and sleep on trains if I have to, until I find something that fits. Just don’t expect me to stay home making jam.

I'm with Oscar Wilde:
"To get back my youth I would do anything in the world- except take exercise, get up early, or be respectable."

Sunday, May 08, 2011

Mother's Day Thoughts

Nice change - a big bowl of coffee and croissantes in a French Restaurant

Thanks Guys!

I have never been a great fan of  Mother's Day. I am over white toasters and domestic appliances. Besides it seems to me that having and raising three children is a big price to pay for a bunch of  tatty flowers and a sickly sentimental card once a year. I've always disliked tokenism.
My personal preference would be for my dear ones to shower me with attention, appreciation, love and respect on the other 364 days as well. No, I 'm not holding my breath! I did actually hear from my oldest son. I fear the youngest has joined a silent order. Even when we lived in the same house he only communicated by SMS and now I don't even get those, not even when I leave pleading messages on his message bank.  It reminds me of that advertisement where a young man removes his headphones and angel choirs begin to sing. The voice over says something like," Hallelujah! Mrs. P. has just got her son's attention by mentioning someone or other's fast food for dinner."

What I really need on Mother's Day is a stiff drink and a good laugh.
Demetrius has got me at least halfway there with his Mother's Day post which combines several of my recent interests such as death and taxes. His blog also has some fascinating insights re British politics and the medieval state of our washing these days.

Confessions of a Reluctant Grandma

Homemade butterflies

Some people are born to grandparenting. I am sure that my  mother would have been great at it,  had she lived that long - she was clucky for ten years before I even thought of having children -and my son -in -law's parents must come close, but I am not one of them.
OK I try to be available for emergencies, new babies and the occasional mad outing, but I struggle constantly with myself. Don't get me wrong - the girls - all three of them -are lovely, but it's not a role that I would chose for myself. For a start it's not something you have control over. Like greatness, it is just sort of thrust upon you.

All of a sudden you are expected be all -wise, all -knowing, ever -patient, mature, responsible, selfless and sexless, while at the same time never criticising or interferring. I am done with that. A few nappy changes and sleepless nights, fractured mealtimes, day care and school schedules and I am reduced to a gibbering wreck.  I have nightmares about the four years without sleep I had with my own children and my brain exits left. I can't remember what it was that I actually wanted to do or where the intervening twenty plus years went.

Nothing makes you feel more redundant than being asked to move over by the next generation. This must be how heirs to the throne feel when another royal sibling comes along who has precedence.Your needs, your desires, indeed your relevance dwindles away to nothingness. It is even worse in some other countries. In Russia for instance, the Bubushkas, or grandmothers are so revered, that no one comes near them. There I was having a romantic encounter with a young Russian lawyer, when I stupidly mentioned my cute granddaughters. The poor chap ran a mile, all thoughts of vodka fueled passion forgotten. Thereafter I was  treated with utmost deference and awe. It was terrible. It's really hard trying to act like a cougar when everyone treats you like the Virgin Mary.
I have a secret plan to change all that - I was after all the first female "Counterboy" in the insurance industry many lifetimes ago and look what is happening with Yummy Mummies.

Meanwhile, though I do miss adult conversation and the odd glass of wine, there are compensations. There is is the warm fuzzy smell of the new baby and the laughter and immediacy of young children doesn't leave much time for working yourself into a tizz about the past or the future.  Since I didn't get much of a chance to play with my own children - just staying alive seemed to take up all our time - it is also rather fun making fairy gardens, having mock royal weddings  and being a princess all day.  I am pleased to see that my paper windmill technique has improved immeasurably since the last time I tried it
There are fairies at the bottom of our garden.
If you Double Click on this you might see one

Saturday, May 07, 2011

A Foreign Country

Western  Australia is even drier now than the last time I came. While the rest of Australia has been drowning,  the drought has continued here. Even the usually resilient native plants are looking brown and dead with only the primeval looking zamias and grass trees still poking up their heads. There are no wild flowers now and only the screech of brightly coloured parrots breaks the silence. Except that I speak the language here, this is  as strange a country as any I visited last year.

Even the usually resilient native plants are showing signs of stress
The gardens  are very different here too. With few exceptions it is not about flowers and prettiness. It's about structure, texture and grand statements. The few gardens lucky enough to have abundant water look like tropical oases, lush with their palms, but with prolonged water restrictions, many people have give up. Front yards are bare brown earth decorated with rocks rather than lawns or perhaps the occasional cactus, peppercorn tree, eucalypt or olive. A strange mix of natives and exotics, desert and Mediterranean. Much more sensible really in a water poor environment but it makes me feel nervous and insecure. I want to see veggie patches and fruit trees. 

Jumgliferous. What a difference a little water makes

Mostly though, gardens look more like this -(double click on these to get the effect!)

 ....bare earth behind ornate gates and high fences

                                  It's about structure, texture, foliage and contrasts
Add caption


Almost Mediterranean

Succulents, natives and rocks



Temple of the Four Winds? I fully expected to find a Greek temple at the top of these stone steps    
where cypresses whisper, but no, it was BBQ equipment and outdoor furniture.
WA is a hedonistic kind of place.               
Occasionally there's a dazzling burst of tropical colour
 From desert -hardy Bougainvilleas

Or more occasionally still, a touch of humour or whimsy
(Double click on the terra cotta sign to see what happened here in 1857)

Public Service - This dog's dish is on the footpath outside for the benefit of passing dogs
(there are a lot of dog walkers here).

You may wonder  why I have included this picture and the humble dog's dish.
These things wouldn't be significant anywhere else. It's just that WA generally strikes me
as a hard -edged
materialistic place, that they come as a surprise.
There is certainly wealth here, but it usually doesn't translate into much public spiritedness.
  There doesn't seem to be  much soul.   I suspect most people are too busy working,
wresting those riches from the earth

Friday, May 06, 2011

Recant, recant!

Having just watched  a couple of episodes of the TV Program Hoarders with abject horror and fascination, I want to retract that bit I said about saying "Yes to Mess."

 In fact, should I ever be tempted to save another jar or  piece of pretty wrapping paper or small scraps of silk, velvet, newclippings or interesting buttons, feel free to show me these programs again, lest I too disappear under eight tonnes of garbage or can't find my way to the front door. I do come from a long line of hoarders and have always resisted this impulse in myself  but I also had the misfortune to marry a Grand Master of  the art and now watch anxiously for similar traits in my offspring and their children. They say there is a genetic component.

There is absolutely no storage in the new place and it feels crowded if I so much as hang a picture so I need all the help I can get. I do find it rather ironic though, that just as I have managed to part with my old knitting patterns - it took me three children to finish the little jacket I started while pregnant with the first one - the tennis racquets, the various redundant cameras and computers, the National Geographics and my Dad's old leather suitcase, these things start turning up in trendy shops and home decor magazines.

I confess have just borrowed a Brownie box camera from another great hoarder because it looks so right on the bookshelf, but I hope the good Lord will keep me from further temptation.