Monthly Archives: October 2016

‘When witches go riding, and black cats are seen, the moon laughs and whispers, ’tis near halloween.’ Author Unknown.

halloweenI have just come back from the supermarket and the place is positively heaving with Halloween—halloween sweets, halloween balloons, halloween decorations and halloween masks.  I don’t really know how to respond to it all except to note that at least Halloween seems to have pushed the Christmas stock back off the shelves for another week or so . . .

stranger-dangerIt’s not that I have anything against Halloween—it seems, for the most part, like harmless fun and if you want to spend your money on all that paraphernalia, go for it.  It’s just that I find it all a bit odd that we have suddenly started celebrating Halloween in Australia at all.  It’s not like we have ever had a tradition of celebrating it before.  Not until the last couple of years at least.  We certainly never went ‘trick or treating’ when I was a kid.  (Knocking on a complete stranger’s door and asking for lollies? Are you out of your mind?  My mother would have grounded us on the spot.  For.Ever.)

We always knew about Halloween of course, even if it was mostly from Hollywood movies.  I imagine many of us even believed that Halloween was purely an American invention, although that is not actually the case.   The real origins of Halloween date back some 2000 years to the ancient Celts and their festival of Samhain.

ghost1The Celts celebrated their new year on 1 November, and they believed that on the night before the new year the veil between the worlds of the living and the dead was at it’s thinnest and the ghosts of the dead could pass through into the living world. The people would light bonfires and wear costumes to ward off these roaming ghosts.  Much later, in the eighth century, Pope Gregory III designated November 1 as a time to honor all saints and martyrs—All Saints’ Day—and some of the earlier traditions of Samhain carried through. The evening before All Saint’s Day was called All Hallows’ Eve (later Halloween) and it is from these early beginnings that Halloween evolved into the more child-friendly (and commercial) celebrations of today.

So from it’s Celtic origins, why the tradition was then taken up and celebrated with such enthusiasm by the Americans and virtually ignored by Australians (until now) is anybody’s guess.  But although Halloween may well be growing in popularity here now, I am still not sure whether I should be expect an influx of trick-or-treaters to my door on Monday night.  It has not been so in the past.

frightened-trick-treaters-10781279In fact, I can only recall one time, a couple of years ago, when I had anyone come to the door at all.  It was a warm Spring evening and I had left the front door open, with just the screen door locked, and the girls were all dozing on the tiles in front of the door, where it was coolest.  The first I knew anyone had come to the door was when the dogs all leapt up as one and sent a deafening volley of warning barks out into the night.  By the time I got there all I saw was the back end of a several tiny ‘ghoulies’ fleeing for their lives . . .

But you never know.    Commercial enterprises have gone into overdrive promoting the festivities—and the lure of free ‘candy’ can be very strongso perhaps I will be inundated with witches, fairies and superheroes looking for the ultimate sugar high.

And there’s the rub.  Should I succumb to the pressure myself and stock up on Halloween goodies just on the off-chance that some revellers turn up?  (Because, sure as eggs, if I don’t buy anything I will be overrun, and will come across all ‘Mr Mean’ if I have nothing to give them.)bonbons3

Or, the other hand, if I buy all these treats in readiness for the screaming hordes and no-one turns up, what then?  I could find myself left with bags full of sweeties which I would then be obliged to eat myself, because . . . well . . . just because . . .

It’s all a bit of a dilemma really . . .




Posted by on October 28, 2016 in Uncategorized


Tags: , , , , , ,

‘I thought I was smart until I had to figure out how to eat a pomegranate.’ Anon.

Stories from my Sketchbook . . . 

Pomegranates are amongst the healthiest fruits on earth.  They are nutrient rich, can have incredible benefits for your body, and may lower the risk of all sorts of diseases.

So you would have thought that if someone made them so good for us, they might also have thought of a way to make them easier to eat . . .


1 Comment

Posted by on October 25, 2016 in Uncategorized


Tags: , , ,

‘The world is mud-luscious and puddle-wonderful.’ e.e. cummings.

northhavenparkThis is a photo taken at the park across the road from where I live (and yes, I do know how lucky I am to live here).  The girls and I walk there most days, often twice a day.  Although, sometimes I don’t walk.  Sometimes I just sit on the grass and listen to the birds or the sounds of the river or watch the girls as they potter happily about (crowding around an interesting smell they have found, then weeing on it, repeatedly)—just chillin’  . . .

Although it might be hard to believe looking at this scene today, last week we were virtually housebound for two days due to inclement weather.

The wind howled and the rain hammered and it was cold.  I did tentatively enquire once or twice whether the girls might like to go out for a quick walk but was met with stony stares from Maude and Molly and the sight of Mabel’s bottom disappearing hurriedly under the couch.  Well, okay then.  But by Friday the weather had started to clear, and this time when I asked ‘Anyone want to go for a walk?’ I was nearly trampled in the stampede to the front door.

As we made our way across the park we passed an area often referred to locally as ‘the swamp’—a low-lying area wedged between the park and the Breakwall.

swamp1At high tide water from the river seeps under the Breakwall and starts to fill this space, turning it into a kind of shallow lagoon.  There are always ducks, herons, plover and other waterfowl, and even the occasional pelican floating idly about, and in the drier areas there are plenty of little lizards and tiny crabs scuttling about around the rocks.  (There are also rats and snakes down there but we don’t talk about those. Shudder.)  But at low tide, the water all drains back into the river and all that is left is a muddy plateau with a few salty puddles scattered about.

snoopyexploringIt was obviously very low tide right then and this area was the driest I had ever seen it. There was virtually no water to be seen and a dry crust seemed to cover the whole area. Because it was so dry and there were no birds to be seen (and I thought it was still too cold for the snakes to be out) I figured it might be fun for the girls to go down and do a bit of exploring.

I don’t know what I was thinking . . .

After two steps I suddenly remembered why it was called ‘the swamp’—the crusty surface was actually only about 1mm thick and I immediately sunk up to my ankles.  The whole place was like quicksand.  I looked up to call the girls back but . . . too late . . . Molly and Maude were already off and running.

quicksand-11Well, at least Maudie was running.  Molly, who is . . . how shall I say this . . . somewhat rotund, got about ten feet before she crashed through the thin surface and ended up bogged up to her shoulders.  She turned to gaze at me pleadingly.  Sigh.  I picked my way slowly over to her, losing my shoes three times in the process, and, just as I got to her, she heaved herself out of her muddy hole, staggered three steps and bogged herself again.  Again I got close, and again she released herself.  And again.
Little ratbag.

I decided I wasn’t going to play that game and started to make my way back to where Mabel, the most sensible among us, had decided to wait out the madness.

muddy-dog-2Sure enough Molly soon made it to a point where the ground would hold her again (as I knew she would) and they all spent the next 30 minutes delightedly thundering to and fro—chasing penny lizards around the rocks or noses buried deep in the undergrowth—knee deep in doggy delight and delicious oozy smells.  By the time they all came back to me, ready to go home, they were exhausted, filthy up to their eyeballs . . . and the happiest I had ever seen them.

Not wanting to spoil their day I decided not to bath them as soon as they got home (that just seemed mean) so I wiped them down as best I could, fed them their dinners, and watched on as they fell into deep, exhausted (and river-mud stinky) slumber.

three-bugs-in-a-rugThe next day was a whole different story, of course.  They were all bundled into the bath before they could even think to complain (or run and hide) and I then spent the rest of the morning washing their doggie towels, doggie blankets and anything else in the house that they, or the swamp, had come into contact with.

What the hell—it was a very small price to pay for a day of  ‘mud-luscious and puddle-wonderful’ fun . . .


Posted by on October 21, 2016 in Uncategorized


Tags: , , ,

‘If this is coffee, please bring me some tea; but if this is tea, please bring me some coffee.’ Abraham Lincoln.

Stories from my Sketchbook  . . . 

coffee-and-tea-clip-artThe most popular drink in the world, bar none, is water.  The second most popular drink in the world, depending on which set of on-line statistics you believe, is either tea or coffee. (I don’t quite understand how red wine is not in the running, but there you go . . . )

Anyway, during the day at least, I am (unapologetically) a tea drinker, and green tea at that.  I drink vats of the stuff.  That doesn’t mean that I don’t like coffee, I do—my special treat when I go to the movies is a large flat white coffee (and a bag of maltesers)—but, to me, coffee is coffee is coffee.  I am, in no way shape or form, a coffee aficionado.  It doesn’t make much difference to me what kind of roast or blend my coffee is.  As long as my coffee is hot, it’s fine.  (I can hear coffee-lovers heads exploding all over the place after that comment . . . )

However, it appears that even my special once-in-a-while coffee treat could now be in jeopardy—apparently there is a coffee crisis looming.  In September 2016 the Australia’s Climate Institute released a report which predicts that by 2050 global warming will have made at least half of the land currently used for coffee production unable to produce quality beans.  And by 2080 hot temperatures could make wild coffee plants completely extinct.

As I am only an occasional imbiber (along with the fact that I will be 91 years old in 2050 and 121 when wild coffee plants eventually become extinct) such a coffee crisis is unlikely to affect me much personally, but I thought I should probably make mention of it . . . just a kind of ‘heads up’ to some of my coffee-addicted friends and colleagues to let them know that their beloved brew is in peril, and they might need to do a little forward thinking—a little pre-planning (start hoarding now folks) if they want to ensure they continue to receive their daily hit of their favourite beverage . . .


I’ve just had a thought.
If I took my own pretty coffee mug into the cinema with me, no-one would really know what was in it would they?
It could be coffee . .  or tea . . .  or red wine . . . 


Posted by on October 18, 2016 in Uncategorized


Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

“What’s Plan B?’ ‘We all die now.’ ‘What’s Plan C?” Joss Whedon.

Earlier this week at the college we had all sorts of dramas processing Credit Card payments.  In the first instance a lady came in to pay her course fees and the dreaded response from the Credit Card machine came back—’Declined. Contact Issuer.’

empty purse flyingTwo hours later the same thing happened with another student, and again a little later on.  By this time we had realised that the problem was at the bank rather than with the students’ cards, but knowing that didn’t really help those people who were unable to pay their fees—or do anything else that required a credit card or bank transaction for the rest of the outage. (One student only had a few dollars in her purse and still needed to go and get groceries for that night’s dinner.  Without access to her any of her money that was a somewhat difficult proposition.)

broken-computerAnyone who works in business . . . or in an office . . . or a school . . . or a supermarket . . . or for the government . . . or, well, anywhere else at all really, will be well aware of the frustration that occurs when the computer, phone, printer, scanner, or ‘whatever’ isn’t working properly—or even at all.  I know that when the technology goes down at the college (or the power goes off altogether as it has done several times lately) I might as well just pack up and go home for the day (or sit outside the office in the sun and read the paper which is what I did last time it happened.) 

Now I have nothing against technology.  Technology has made my own life safer, healthier, and easier to manage.  And, in my working life, although the newer technologies can bring with them their own set of frustrations (and they do, they really do) there is no way I would want to go back to ‘the way we were’.



(I have vivid memories of retyping whole letters or documents several times a day (on a cranky old typewriter) because my boss had decided, just as I finished, to re-write the last paragraph . . . or using messy carbon papers for duplicate or triplicate copies . . . or worse, stencils for (hand-cranked) gestetners or . . . OMG . . .  that godawful flouro-pink-stencil-correcter that used to make your eyes water and bring on a searing headache.  Okay, showing my age here, but I bet there are a few of you out there that know exactly what I am talking about . . . )

Although I have no inclination to return to those earlier (dawn of man) days, it does concern me slightly at how much we take it all for so very much for granted.  It seems that it is only when all the whizz-bang technology stops working that we realise how powerful our technology is, and how very much we depend on it.

plan-b‘They’ (the ubiquitous ‘they’) say it could never happen, and they are probably right (although the sci-fi geek within me definitely screams otherwise)—but what ifjust what if one day all our technology comes crashing down . . . and never comes up again?
What then?  What do we do then?  Is there a Plan B?  Do you have a Plan B?

It’s worth thinking about.

And for those readers-of-a-certain-age (and friends who may now be reminiscing over long-ago experiences with telex machines and ‘ticker’ tape) here’s a little poem I found that you might find amusing . . .

Remember When

A computer was something on TV
From a sci fi show of note.
A window was something you hated to clean
And ram was the cousin of goat.

Meg was the name of my girlfriend
And gig was a job for the nights.
Now they all mean different things
And that really mega bytes.

An application was for employment.
A program was a TV show.
A curser used profanity.
A keyboard was a piano.

Memory was something that you lost with age.
A CD was a bank account.
And if you had a 3 1/2″ floppy
You hoped nobody found out.

Compress was something you did to the garbage
Not something you did to a file.
And if you unzipped anything in public
You’d be in jail for a while.

Log on was adding wood to the fire.
Hard drive was a long trip on the road.
A mouse pad was where a mouse lived.
And a backup happened to your commode.

Cut you did with a pocket knife.
Paste you did with glue.
A web was a spider’s home.
And a virus was the flu

I guess I’ll stick to my pad and paper
And the memory in my head.
I hear nobody’s been killed in a computer crash,
But when it happens they wish they were dead.

James S. Huggins.


Posted by on October 14, 2016 in Uncategorized


Tags: , , , , ,

‘Laziness is nothing more than the habit of resting before you get tired.’ Jules Renard.

Stories from my Sketchbook . . .

couchpotatoDo you want to know what I did last weekend?  Nothing.  Nada.  Zip.  Zero. Naught.  No.Thing.

Well—when I say nothing, I mean nothing ‘productive’.  I didn’t do any ‘chores’.  I didn’t do anything I ‘should’ have done.  I didn’t do anything I didn’t have to do. And I enjoyed every minute of not doing any of it.

There, I admit it.  I’m a lazy, lazy person.  I know we aren’t really supposed to admit that sort of thing about ourselves, but there it is.

I walk the dogs every day, twice a day, because they need the exercise, it is good for them and because, quite honestly, they make me crazy if I don’t.  Would I bother to go out walking twice a day if it were just me?  I very much doubt it.

I also exercise myself every day—but only because I would be the size of a house if I didn’t.  (How do I know?  Well, I’ve been there folks.)  Do I enjoy exercising every day?  Nope.  I would 100% prefer not to have to do it.  (I do enjoy not being the size of a house any more though, so it’s a means to an end.)

I go to work because I need to pay the rent, and the bills, and feed myself and the dogs.  Would I give up working full-time tomorrow if I could afford to?  Absolutely.  (Don’t worry.  My boss and I have already had this conversation and she knows it isn’t personal.  She also knows I can’t afford to give up working any time soon.)

So, if I had my choice I would be ‘resting before I got tired’ much more often . . . and I’ll bet I’m not the only one out there.  Why don’t you put your feet up and join me?  Go on.  You know you want to . . .


We’re busy doin’ nothin’
Workin’ the whole day through
Tryin’ to find lots of things not to do
We’re busy goin’ nowhere
Isn’t it just a crime
We’d like to be unhappy, but
We never do have the time

I have to watch the river
To see that it doesn’t stop
And stick around the rosebuds
So they’ll know when to pop
And keep the crickets cheerful
They’re really a solemn bunch
Hustle, bustle
And only an hour for lunch

. . . 


Posted by on October 11, 2016 in Uncategorized


Tags: , , , , , , ,

‘No man needs a vacation so much as the man who just had one.’ Elbert Hubbard.

daily-routine-clipart-39291I have mentioned before how much my little family runs on routine.  We get up at the same time every day.  We go out for our early morning walk, have our breakfast and watch the morning news together.  While I shower, dress and put my face on (a la Eleanor Rigby), the girls potter around the back garden, watch the birds at the bird feeder or (in Molly’s case) sit by the food bowl in a not-so-subtle attempt to remind me to throw a few more ‘goodoes’ in there—just in case starvation sets in sometime during the day . . .

Picking up my handbag and keys is a sign for the girls to immediately retire to their favourite sleepytime places (Mabel on one end of the couch, Molly on the other, and Maudie in amongst the pillows on my bed) and to have one last cuddle each before I head off for work.

dog-tv1(There appears to be no such thing as ‘separation anxiety’ in my house.  My leaving for the day doesn’t seem to bother the girls at all.  In fact, I am pretty sure they quite look forward to seeing me out the door so they can have the rest of the day to themselves to do whatever it is they do all day—after seeing ‘The Secret Life of Pets‘ I think I prefer not to know . . .)  

Weekends and holidays are different of course.  Everyday routines are inevitably disrupted and for some reason the girls feel the need to keep a more watchful eye on me at these times than they would during a normal working week.  Basically they stalk me . . .

dog-spyWhen I am reading they will all settle happily with me and soon be fast asleep, but if I need to go to another room I will get up (ever so quietly so as not to disturb them) turn around . . . and find they have all, as if by magic, resettled to that room. On returning to the living room, sure enough, they are all right back where they were before.  If I get up to make a cup of tea they will all follow me into the kitchen (although that’s not so very special—they would follow anyone into the kitchen.)  I will barely step out of the back door before they have found themselves several sunny vantage points in the garden from which to track my every move.

For three little dogs who usually seem to spend most of their time napping, it must be absolutely exhausting.

And last week of course, not only was I not well and housebound for most of my ‘holiday’, but we were also ‘puppy minding’ a four month old Cavoodle named Cinder.  If my girls thought having me home all day for a week was exhausting, having Cinder thrown into the mix just about finished them off.

Cinder was adorable, sweet, gentle and hilarious (as all puppies are) and I thoroughly enjoyed having her come to stay, but it is a long time now (6 years) since we have had a puppy in the house and you forget how much time, energy and space a puppy can take up.

puppyIn between (over)dosing myself up on various cough, cold and flu medications I seemed to spend most of the week constantly searching for one of my slippers (always the left one) which mysteriously kept going missing, checking that whatever Cinder was chewing on now was actually a doggie chew-stick and not just some random object she had found lying around the house, or cajoling Molly to come out from under a bush in the garden which she had decided was her new home.

And poor Mabel and Maude.  How could they be expected to keep up their ever-protective surveillance of me whilst also constantly looking over their shoulders in anticipation of one of Cinder’s playful (and unrelenting) ‘blitz-bombs’?  They were both starting to look somewhat frayed around the edges, to say the least.

But, you know, it’s all good.  As I explained to the girls yesterday, sometimes being jolted out of our routine every now and again is a good thing as it makes us realise just how happy, calm and easy a life we normally lead.  (The girls listened carefully but their unblinking stares made me think perhaps they needed a just little while longer to process this point of view . . . )

backtoworkAnyway, Cinder was delivered back to her mum earlier this week, happy, cheerful and, thankfully, undamaged.  The girls have dropped straight back into their usual routine almost as if the last week never happened (they barely looked up from their beds as I left this morning) and I am (at least I hope I am) over the worst of my cold, and back at work again.  Although I am perhaps not as relaxed and rested as I hoped I would be before the start of a new term, I am consoling myself with the fact that it is not all that long until the next term break and my next ‘holiday’ (11 weeks, 4 days, 5 hours . . .)  

Hopefully we will all have recovered enough from this holiday to enjoy the next . . .


Posted by on October 7, 2016 in Uncategorized


Tags: , , , ,

‘ ‘Tis healthy to be sick sometimes.’ Henry David Thoreau.

Stories from my Sketchbook . . . 

This was my week.

If Henry David Thoreau were still around I would happily slap him . . .



Posted by on October 4, 2016 in Uncategorized


Tags: , , , , ,

%d bloggers like this: