Monthly Archives: January 2016

‘I was just sittin’ here enjoyin’ the company. Plants got a lot to say, if you take the time to listen.’ Eeyore.

garden-clip-art-855110Yesterday, as we were coming back from our afternoon walk, I noticed one of my neighbours pottering around his front garden.  He seemed to be chatting happily away to someone out of my line of sight.  As I got closer I realised there was actually no-one else around.  Perhaps he was talking to a cat hiding in the bushes?  Or perhaps he had seen me first and just assumed I could hear him from where I was?

I called out, “Oh hi.  I’m sorry, I didn’t see you there.  Were you talking to me?”  He jumped, visibly.  So . . . not talking to me then.

“Afternoon, love.  Didn’t see you there.  Just out giving the rose bushes a good talking too.  They just haven’t been trying lately, you know?  Needed a bit of a pep talk.”

Ooookaaay . . . .   “Well, that’s good then.  I hope you pull them all into line.”  I smiled, waved, and continued on down the street, and as I went I heard him resume his animated conversation with his errant roses.

By the time I reached my poor-excuse for a front garden I was already wondering when, if at all, I had ever given any of my plants ‘a good talking to’.

I myself have a ‘potted’ garden of succulents (which are, happily, extremely hard to kill) and that is enough for me.  I am very happy just to tend to my pots.  triffidI water them when they need it, pull off any dead bits, and stand them upright again if they topple over—and that’s about it.  If one of my plants puts one hairy root out of that lovingly-cared-for-pot, it’s on its own. I’m done. Once a plant makes a break for freedom into the wild ‘beyond’, I have no time for it. Now that may sound harsh, but I just don’t really trust plants at all when they start to get out and about on their own. They tend to get all a bit uppity and either turn into some huge monstrous triffid, or spread themselves liberally all about the place and get into all sorts of nooks and crannies and spots where they just aren’t welcome.

In spite of the fact that I seem to have missed out on the ‘gardening gene’, I do realise that some other people have a deep-seated, almost visceral need to get out and wallow in their gardens.  And I get that.  I really do.  I like gardens.  Other people’s gardens.  I am always very happy to sit in someone’s gorgeous garden (preferably with some lovely nibblies and glass of wine in hand) and admire their geraniums—puppy_digging_a_hole_lg_clrjust don’t ask me to help dig, prune, hoe, rake, or mulch along with you (or shout at me about the massive crater my new puppy just dug while we weren’t looking.  She really didn’t mean to dig up that gorgeous purple thing you had just managed to get established—she thought she was ‘helping’ . . . and besides, what is a garden without a couple of doggie-pot holes anyway . . . )  

And now I wonder—how many of those people who tend their gardens so passionately, also go outside and have animated conversations and ‘pep talks’ with their begonias (and do they actually listen to see if the plants answer back?)

talking_to_plantsPeople talking to their plants is not a new thing of course.  Prince Charles was widely derided after a 1986 interview where he famously said it was “very important” to talk to plants and that they “respond” when spoken to.  People aren’t laughing so much now though and it seems that ‘plant whispering’ is all the rage.  I wonder though if anyone asked P.C. after that interview— ‘What does one actually say to one’s plants?’

I assume there are rules?  Things you should and should not say to your plants?  I mean, you would presumably want to stay positive, wouldn’t you?  You know, talk about how the weather is lovely for this time of year, or that you are going out to buy them some whiz-bang new fertilizer you just came across for them to try, or ‘Perhaps you might like to be moved from here to under that lovely sunny spot over, there?’

Bee...dying(Unless of course you are sneakily using reverse psychology and surreptitiously trying to kill off everything in the rockery to make room for a new garden shed.  Then you could probably fill them in on the possible global extinction of honeybees and the devastating effect that might have on all plant life on earth.  I should think that would be enough to send even the hardiest of plants into serious decline.)

eeyore-1It does make you wonder though.  If plants can indeed hear and respond to our voices, how might it be if we could hear and respond to theirs?  What would they tell us if they could?

Maybe Eeyore has the right idea.  Maybe we should do more listening, and less talking . . .


Posted by on January 30, 2016 in Uncategorized


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‘We’ve had cloning in the South for years. It’s called cousins.’ Robin Williams.

clonesdogLast weekend I watched an older sci-fi movie called ‘The 6th Day‘. The movie was set in the ‘very near future’ where DNA cloning had been perfected and become an ordinary accepted part of everyday life. Early on in the story the family dog, Oliver, died and the family discussed going to ‘RePet’ to have him cloned.

Fifteen years ago when this movie was released, pet cloning was still science fiction—but only just. The first real pet-clone was a cat, CC (‘Copycat’ or ‘Carbon Copy’ depending on which article you read) born in 2001. Today there are commercial companies around the world like ‘PerPETuate‘ and ‘myfriendagain‘ offering pet cloning services to ‘reunite you with your best friend’ (all at considerable cost of course—anywhere between $50,000 and $150,000).  As I watched the film, I also watched my three lovely girls as they pottered happily around me and wondered whether I (always supposing I ever had a spare $100,000 anyway) would ever consider cloning any of my pets after they had passed on.

It actually didn’t take all that much thinking about.  I have adored every one of my pets and grieved hard for them when they passed away, but cloning?  Nope, not for me.

clonesI do admit that the science of cloning fascinates me—I am a rabid sci-fi fan after all—but the ‘sci-fi’ science and the ‘actual’ science of today are two very different things.  In sci-fi movies the clones (people or animals) always seem to be exact copies, down to the tiniest detail. Their mannerisms, individual quirks and memories are the same as the original.  We don’t have human clones yet (and let’s not even go there, please) but today’s pet clones are advertised as being genetically-identical-but-not-exact replicas.  So it’s still a bit of a lottery.  You might indeed get a dog or cat that looks and acts almost exactly like the one you lost—but you also might not.

Apart from the fact that I believe that just because we can do something, it doesn’t mean we should (animal medical experimentation—a whole other conversation) I can see why creating a dog clone might be considered an option if you are trying to replicate genetically gifted animalssay search and rescue dogs or cancer smelling dogs.  But if, and it seems this is mostly the case, people are cloning their pets ‘to get their best friend back’ I can only feel that they are setting themselves up for major disappointment.  We are all, every one of us, the sum of our life experiences, the people we have met, the things we have done, the places we have been.  Surely our pets are the same?  And if this is true, how could a dog-clone, no matter how closely related to the original, possibly be the same as the dear friend you lost?

dog laughingA long time ago—in a galaxy far far away—I took Harry, my first dog, out to a friend’s farm where a crowd of us were meeting up for a barbecue.  After lunch we all decided to go for a ramble around the property.  Harry, who was only about 3 months old at the time, was having a ball. There were lots of friendly people around to give him pats.  He had been eating sausages all afternoon.  And, best of all, he was running with the big boys—the farm dogs, 3 large rough and tumble kelpies—who chased him, nipped him, rolled him over and over and played with him for hours.  He was in dog heaven.

And then we got to the dam. The dam was a vast crater dug into the paddock.  It had high, rough, earthen sides which were flattened along the top, and the water was dark, deep and muddy.  The farm dogs dived in right away and a few of us sat along the top of the dam to watch them swimming and splashing about. Harry desperately wanted to join them but he was nervous. He’d never seen that much water in one place before.  My friend asked me if Harry could swim and I said he hadn’t tried—there weren’t a lot of swimming spots where we lived.  Without missing a beat my ‘friend’ picked Harry up by the scruff of the neck and tossed him, unceremoniously, into the dam. I remember being horrified, appalled and so shocked I couldn’t speak.  All I saw was Harry sailing through the air and disappearing into the dark, murky water.

BloodhoundShakingOffWaterLeft_MedSeconds later he was up, and swimming for his life.  He made it to the edge of the dam, staggered out, shook himself vigorously and, without so much as backwards glance, took off after the other dogs who were now running up the steep banks to the top of the dam.  Once he reached the top he did one excited madcap circuit of the crater at full speed and then, with no hesitation at all, launched himself into space and into the water again. (I swear I aged 10 years that afternoon.)

Before long everyone watching was cheering him on and giving his soaring bellyflops ratings out of ten.  (It took him a while to work out that he could get into the water from the bottom of the dam as well, and he didn’t actually have to fly in from a great height).  Harry continued to toss himself haphazardly and delightedly into that dam for the rest of the afternoon and it was only exhaustion (mostly mine) that eventually stopped him.  On the drive home my lovely, muddy, filthy, smelly little boy slept like a stone, with his tongue hanging out and a huge smile on his face.

dogswimmingAlthough I don’t condone the action of hurling my puppy into a dam (the memory of it still makes me shudder) that was the day Harry began his life-long love affair with water.  From that day forth Harry would, at the slightest opportunity, fling himself exuberantly into any puddle, pond, fountain or river he came across.  He would even just stick his whole head in a bucket of water if that was all that was available.  Of course, not everyone we met over the next 19 years thought this as amusing or adorable as I did and I often had a lot of ‘splaining to do, but I wouldn’t have had it any other way.

'My Harry'

‘My Harry’

Would a Harry-clone have the same love for water that my original-Harry had?  Very possibly.  But the experiences Harry and I shared over the years can’t be so easily duplicated, and that’s what makes our dogs, and cats and other pets so dear to us. I have absolutely no doubt I would love a Harry-clone just as much as the original—I am a sucker for loving any and all dogs—but it wouldn’t be because he was a replica of ‘my’ Harry.  He couldn’t be, and I shouldn’t expect it of him.

So cloning?  Not for me.  I honestly don’t think you need a clone to mend a broken heart.  Grieve for the friend you have lost.  Remember all the funny, sad, exciting, ‘oh-my-god’ moments you had together, and, when you are ready, open up your heart and home to another (perhaps one of the many, many sad, lonely, neglected or abused dogs and cats already in the world) and, over time, they will mend your heart for you . . .


Posted by on January 22, 2016 in Uncategorized


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‘I read recipes the same way I read science fiction. I get to the end and think, “Well, that’s not going to happen.” Anonymous.

reality tvOccasionally, and I stress it is only very occasionally, I get an bit of an urge to cook something.  (What was that sound?  Was that your chin hitting the floor? How rude.)  Well, don’t panic—I am not about to invite you over to test out one of my new fandabbydozy culinary creations.  Apart from that fact that I don’t think my insurance covers food poisoning, that occasional urge to cook usually only lasts until the closing credits of whatever cooking show I happen to be watching at the time.

It is a bit of a strange thing but I just love watching cooking shows. Why strange?  Because anyone who knows me at all knows that I really, really don’t like to cook.

not cooking (2)I honestly don’t like anything about cooking (except, possibly, and this very much depends on how successful the attempt was, the eating part afterwards).  I don’t like reading recipes (the ingredient list is usually enough to send me screaming from the kitchen).  I don’t like organising menus (which I wouldn’t do anyway because—well . . . just . . . why?)  I don’t like shopping for food (about the only thing I don’t like shopping for).  I don’t like the actual cooking process (ho hum), and I definitely don’t like all the cleaning up that is needed afterwards (well, der).

It’s not that I don’t know how to cook, I do.  I am an adequate cook.  I know the basics.  I can boil water.  I can scramble eggs or make an omelette.  I can cook pasta and sauce and I can even throw together a roast dinner if I have to . . .  but if I don’t have to, I would really rather not.

woman and cakeIn truth though, I did, once upon a time, like to ‘bake’ (as in cookies, cakes, slices, pies etc, which I don’t view as quite the same thing as ‘cooking’, but I am sure someone out there will have something to say about that) and, naturally, anything I baked, I ate. (Doh.) Unfortunately my clothing allowance couldn’t keep up with my ever-expanding girth and something had to give (other than my waistbands) so I stopped baking . . . although I am still more than happy to sample the efforts of others (nod, nod, wink, wink) . . .

Although I have no interest in cooking myself I have friends who are die-hard ‘foodies’ and passionate about the culinary arts.  (I’m not silly you know, I may not cook but I still need to be fed. 🙂 )  My friends will happily expound on all the different recipes they have tried, hold forth on the virtues of one particular type of utensil over another, and swap tips on the best places to buy all the ‘necessaries’ (and probably also ‘unnecessaries-but-want-one-anyways’) that go with the craft of cooking.  For it is a craft, and I do recognise that—it’s just not a craft I want to practice.  I am happy to listen to listen to all the animated conversations, nodding and smiling in agreement (like I really know what they are talking about), and I am always very happy to sample their delicious offeringsbut I just can’t quite seem to get excited about it for myself.

Nor for the life of me can I understand why someone would want to be a chef or a cook for a living.  Don’t misunderstand me, I’m not knocking it—thank God there are people out there like you or people like me might live our whole lives existing entirely on tea and toast—garfieldchairbut from what I can see the work is stressful, hot and sweaty with unsociable hoursunless you are a ‘celebrity chef’ I guess, and then the stressful, hot, sweaty, unsociable hours belong to those who work for you.  Nope.  I just don’t see the allure.  But watching other people cook?  Great.  Fabulous.  I can do that.  Cooking for me is a spectator sport.

But if I am not interested in the cooking per-se, why do I love to watch cooking shows so much?

food pornFor me it is not about what is being cooked or how it is being cooked (I don’t get to taste he fabulous creations after all and, let’s be honest here, I am never going to try and cook it myself)—it’s all about the ‘art’ of it.  I find it little different from watching a painter create a painting, or a sculptor a statue.  I love the final ‘art on a plate’ imagealthough I have to say I am less enamoured, after all that work, when the ‘art’ is then attacked and gobbled up unceremoniously by the chef or judges.  I know it is all supposed to be about the taste and if it doesn’t bother the cook it shouldn’t bother me, but it does, it does . . . 

Anyway, perhaps, one of these days I may just break out and find my way back to the kitchen and try a couple of new recipes and . . . nah . . . who am I kidding . . . can’t see it happening.  My sister sent me a plaque once (still proudly on display I might add) that reads, ‘I have a kitchen because it came with the house‘.  How right she was.

But that won’t stop me watching, and salivating.  If you want to see some of the most gorgeous images of food you will ever come across, go to The Art of Plating and enjoy.  (Food porn . . . mmmm . . . )


Posted by on January 15, 2016 in Uncategorized


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‘Which hand do you use to pick up a dangerous snake? Someone else’s . . . ‘

leaving home (2)Well, that’s it.  It’s decided.  We have to leave town.

OK.  Wait a minute though.  Big breaths.  Perhaps . . . just-perhaps-and-ever-so-slightly-possibly . . . leaving town might be somewhat of an over-reaction . . . maybe . . .

. . . but this week the girls and I had our very first encounter with a snake.  And I didn’t like it.  At all.

I know what you are going to say.  I live in Australia, so I should be used to seeing snakes and spiders and all manner of creepie-crawlies on a daily basis.  Right?  Well—yes—to a point (and you may remember from an earlier post my views on the Australian spider population)—but snakes?  Nope.  Nuh huh.  No.  Up until now I have never had a close-up real-life encounter with a snake, and quite honestly, I am absolutely, positively and most definitely sure I could have continued on and lived my life quite happily without the experience.

We all know that snakes are around, especially those of us living in country areas.  We are warned about them almost on a daily basis, and told to be on the lookout for them, especially in the summer months.  In spite of this I found myself totally unprepared.

snake waving (2)We were on our way home from our afternoon walk.  We’d been on a lovely wander along the sea wall, had cut through the bushy track and walked through the park (where there is so much leaf litter and long grass that you honestly wouldn’t be able to see a 100 snakes having a birthday party unless they stood up and waved to you) and were coming back along the busy footpath into our street.

screamingI was actually looking further down the road as I had just spotted Lenny patrolling his front yard.  (Lenny is a lovely big Boxer boy (hence ‘Lenny’—as in ‘Sugar Ray’) but he and Maudie like to give each other grief every time we go past his house so I was rallying myself for the confrontation.)  Suddenly there was a commotion at my feet and the girls all at once ran directly in front of me, tangling my legs in their leads and causing me to stumble and look down.  And there it was.  Clear as day.  It slithered right between all of our legs.  I am surprised you didn’t hear me from where you were.

Terriers are renowned for chasing down and killing snakes but interestingly (and thank you God) on their very first exposure to one my girls’ first reaction was to run away from it, dragging me with them (they are such good girls).  Just as well really, as I was pretty much rooted to the spot.  Happily, the snake seemed equally keen to escape and sped away from us across the road and into the park.

(The girls were immediately informed that we are never going to set foot into that park again.  In fact, they might be lucky to even get another walk outside this summer.)

4c9arLBcEThe snake was, I am reliably informed by a very nice man who came over to see what all the fuss was about, a young Eastern Brown Snake.  Lovely.  One of the most venomous snakes in the country.  Not that that counts for much in my mind.  Any snake in Australia that is non-venomous (so few and far between as to be not worth mentioning) is still more than likely to scare you to death anyway.

That wasn’t quite the end of it of course.  By the time I got us all home I had convinced myself that  any one of the dogs could have been bitten during all the kerfuffle without me realizing it.  I googled all the symptoms for snake bite in dogs (don’t ever do that by the way—it will give you nightmares) and then proceeded to completely freak the dogs out by following them obsessively around the house and garden for the next couple of hoursjust to make sure they weren’t vomiting or fitting or collapsing or swelling up or . . . Poor Mabel began to give me a haunted, stalked kind of look over her shoulder every time she got up to go outside for a pee . . .snake&person (2)

At the end of the day though it was all good.  No-one had been bitten and I only lost of a couple of years off my life through fright.  The snake also got away unscathed and is now free to spend the rest of its life growing to anaconda-size proportions in our local park ready to scare the life out of other unsuspecting walkers and their dogs.

Mmmmmm . . .  rethinking again . . . the possibility of leaving town is still on the table  . . .


Posted by on January 7, 2016 in Uncategorized


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