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Tag Archives: Spring

“. . . and remember, the next scream you hear may be your own!” The Birds. (1963)

Well, it’s definitely Spring—the girls and I have just been ‘swooped’ by our first cranky magpie . . .

For the average Australian that statement needs no further explanation.  Australia—Land of deadly snakes, humungous spiders, man-eating sharks . . . and homicidal magpies.  September and October is swooping season for the native magpie. This black-and-white bird with the spooky red eyes can become highly aggressive during the nesting season, attacking anything it feels poses a threat to its chicks. The fact that anything that isn’t another magpie is usually blissfully unaware there are even any chicks in the area is obviously totally irrelevant to the average man-of-the-house -magpie . . .  

Signs are already appearing around the place warning people of aggressive birds and I daresay it won’t be long before we also start to see people parading about wearing ice cream containers on their heads, bike helmets with long wavy plastic antennae sticking out of them, or hats with eyes drawn on the back . . .  (Spoiler alert . . . )

Magpies belong to the family Corvidae, which also includes ravens, crows, jackdaws, and jays. They display a range of intelligent behaviors that not only surpass that of other birds, but most mammals as well.  They mate for life, can live up to 20 years in the wild (which I guess is why the ‘teenagers’ stay goofy for so long), form close knit communities and they have the ability to solve complex problems (like how to still get at you in spite of the fact you are wearing a silly hat, a mask, or are hiding under an umbrella!)

Magpies and I have always had a bit of a love-hate relationship.  I love them because they are inquisitive and hilarious (especially when still babies), they sound fabulous when they come and sing to you, and they are wicked smart.  And magpies remember.  That much is clear.  They remember people who have been nice to themand they also remember those who haven’t . . .

You may recall I wrote once about my little magpie family who regularly came tap-tap-tapping at my office door to get their daily treat.  Occasionally, if I saw them before they saw me, I could go outside and call them and Mum and Dad would immediately come gliding gracefully down and the two babies would waddle on their fat little legs towards me, squarking and gurgling with their mouths agape.  They would all four sit happily at my feet as I fed them their treats. Those babies have already moved on but I fully expect Mum and Dad to be back at my office door when their next batch of babies arrives.  (Sally = Food)

But then there was that other incident which happened, not at the office, but in my front garden—the attempted murder of Little Bird.  There is no doubt in my mind that those two magpie youngsters would have killed that little injured bird without a moment’s thought if I had not got in their way.  They were mean and vicious and it took all my courage (and one of my shoes) to face them down and send them screeching on their way.  I can still remember the look one of them gave me as I made off with his prize. That ‘I’m-gonna-get-you-for-this . . . ‘ kind of look.  (Sally = Food-thief and shoe-wielding lunatic . . . )

Remembering that look got me thinking—perhaps the magpie that attacked us today was that same youngster I chased so unceremoniously from my garden and he is now all grown up and bent on revenge! Perhaps he has never met his magpie relatives who live near my office and so they haven’t had the chance to tell him that I really am quite a nice person (‘No—you must be wrong.  Sally’s lovely—and she feeds us.  You must have just caught her on a bad day . . . ‘ ) 

Worse still, perhaps he will never meet them and so never change his mind about me and continue to see me only as a dangerous shoe-tossing mad woman for the next twenty years!!

Gulp.  Suddenly some of those silly head-gear options aren’t looking quite so ridiculous . . .

 
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Posted by on September 15, 2017 in Uncategorized

 

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‘O, wind, if winter comes, can spring be far behind?’ Percy Bysshe Shelley.

Stories from my Sketchbook . . .

Every year I look forward to the cooler months of autumn and winter.   As we come to the end of another long hot summer I always start to think how nice it is going to be when the temperature drops a little and I will able to get back into wearing something ‘with sleeves’ . . . and the girls and I will be able to go for longer walks again without fear of Molly ‘overheating’ (and me having to carry her home) . . . and we can spend our evenings cuddled up on the couch together, all warm and snug in front of the heater . . . 

And then the cooler weather finally does come in, and I pull all my jumpers, jackets and scarves out of the wardrobe, and the air is crisp and clean and fresh, and it’s great.  For about a week.  And then I start to remember that I never actually really liked the cold weather much.  (Or ever.)  I have even moved cities (and countries) because I didn’t like the winters.  Sigh.

But there’s always a silver lining.  Tomorrow is the winter solstice (Australian Eastern time)—the shortest day of the year.  Yay!  That means it is downhill now all the way to Spring . . .

So until then I am going to do as my Maudie does—find a cosy spot (and my own hot water bottle) and hunker down to wait for the return of the warmer months.

It’ll be nice to not have to wear ‘sleeves’ again . . .

 
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Posted by on June 20, 2017 in Uncategorized

 

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‘The secret of your future is hidden in your daily routine.’ Mike Murdock.

Well I am not sure what that quote says about my future . . .

routineI admit I like my routines.  I always have.  And I’m pretty sure the dogs like them too.  We all know where we are meant to be, what we are meant to be doing, and when. We can handle the odd disruption of course, life tends to get in the way sometimes, but generally the girls and I are creatures of habit, and our routines are kind of comforting. Well, they were . . .

I have had a three day-mini-break this week.  Three days off work to get some jobs done at home that needed doing, to do some writing, some sketching, (some shopping—ssssshhhh—don’t tell anyone), and, hopefully, some relaxing before the new school term kicks in.

Sounds great, except that today is Friday already (how did that happen?) and I haven’t done any writing, or sketching . . . (okay I did do a bit of shopping) . . . I still have those jobs to get done . . . the nasty head cold that I have been fighting off for the last week has again kicked in with a vengeance and . . . oh yes . . . the girls and I are currently playing host to a 4 month old (absolutely adorable) Cavoodle pup called ‘Cinder’ . . .

So routine? I don’t think so.  Not this week . . .

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Cinder.

 
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Posted by on September 30, 2016 in Uncategorized

 

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‘When the flower blossoms, the bee will come.’ Srikumar Rao.

Stories from my Sketchbook . . . 

And not only the bee—apparently every other bug, grub, creepy-crawly and eight-legged beastie known to man as well . . .

antsIt’s early in the season yet but it’s already starting to feel like a scene from A Bug’s Life‘ at my house. It started on Saturday when I was cleaning out my pantry (oh joy).  All was going well until I noticed a packet of oatmeal which seemed to be taking itself for a walk towards the back corner of the cupboard.  Looking more closely I realised said packet was being carried aloft by hordes of tiny black ants.  Sigh.  What should have been a fairly easy tidy-up job turned into a major ant-eradication program.

And it didn’t end there.  While out walking the girls I had my first sandfly bite of the season, which means I am now going to have to slather myself in ‘Rid’ from head to toe every time I go out to the letterbox or hang washing on the line for the next six months.  So much fun.

scaredMabel also encountered this year’s first ‘blowy‘ which sent her into complete tailspin.  (Mabel got stung by a bee when she was a tiny puppy and she has never gotten over it.  Her little face blew up to twice it’s normal size and she looked a bit like a freaky cartoon character.  (I didn’t tell her that though, she was traumatised enough as it was.)  Now any time anything buzzes past her she has a bit of a meltdown. Spring and Summer can be very exhausting times for Mabel.)

Add, to that the fact that we have now come into ‘tick season’ which means I will have to be hyper-vigilant with the dogs medication and daily checks and . . . wait for it . . . best of all . . . I am now also anticipating (with barely concealed terror, I might add) the arrival of the first monster spider (and I say first, because I can guarantee there will be others), which is bound to appear in my bedroom any day now.

Ah yes, the joys of Spring.  It’s just as well the flowers are so pretty . . .

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Hibiscus rosa-sinensis

 
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Posted by on September 27, 2016 in Uncategorized

 

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‘Decorate your home. It gives the illusion that your life is more interesting than it really is.’ Charles M. Schulz.

cleaningLast weekend with the weather as gorgeous as it was and being able to have all the doors and windows open again for a couple of days I found myself grappling with a serious urge to Spring-clean.  I wanted to take down all the heavy curtains and haul up the rugs and beat the winter out of them.  I wanted to scrub all the floors and clean all the windows and get into all the nooks and crannies.  I wanted to pull the heavy doona off the bed and throw on the summer linen.  I was even thinking about repotting some of my plants . . .

Happily, common sense prevailed and I did nothing of the sort. (I went out sketching and then to the movies instead.)  Spring is still (officially) a whole month away and the short burst of warm weather, although fabulous, was not quite enough to fool me into making any rash or impulsive cleaning decisions.  (Just as well.  The weather flipped overnight and the last two days have been non-stop torrential rain and howling winds. I would have been seriously pissed off if I had spent that whole precious weekend ‘de-winterfying’.  As it turned out all I felt was a bit smug—like ‘I knew that was going to happen’ . . . )

thinkingThe sudden bout of Spring Fever may not have lasted long enough to send me into a cleaning frenzy but it did get me thinking about how I was going to redecorate my house this year.  Because I redecorate my house every year.  Not by painting the walls, or resurfacing the floors or retiling the bathroom (I hear landlords can be a wee bit tetchy if you start doing these sorts of things to their properties) but by changing over winter curtains for lightweight floaty ones, rolling up and hiding away rugs, swapping dark cuddly cushions for summer brights—and just a little bit of general ‘titivation’.

piles-of-fabric-clipart-1I have always kept several (as in ‘more than two but fewer than many’) sets of curtains, ‘throws’ and cushion covers (not to mention doona covers, bed linens and towels) in varying colours, styles and patterns (the wannabe ‘minimalist’ in me is now banging her head silently on the wall) so changing over the whole look of my house can usually be done quickly and at minimal cost.  All it takes is an afternoon of delving into cupboards and drawers, dragging out things that I had forgotten were even in there (so much fun) and then swapping things over and moving things about—with possibly only the tiniest little bit of shopping involved.  (You know—just to fill in the gaps to pull a new look together . . . )

If I sound like a person who might like to watch the odd lifestyle or home renovation program on occasion, you’re absolutely right.  I love them.  Everything from the 60-minute-makeovers, all the way up to those shows where they spend weeks and weeks renovating and rebuilding properties.  You can learn a lot from these shows—including a lot of what not to do.  But although I love these programs I also struggle to understand why someone would willingly hand over the keys of their home to someone they barely know and say ‘Go ahead.  Make over my house.’   The actual building or renovation work maybebut the decoration?  That I don’t get.

img059I am a homebody, I admit it.  I like my home.  I like spending time at home and I like having my own things around me.  My things. Things that mean something to me.  The furniture and furnishings that I chose (ever-present dog hair notwithstanding).  The photos of people I know and the places I have been.  The artwork on the walls.  My books and ornaments.  Harry and Frank’s old dog collars hanging on a hook . . .

I am sure somebody with more design flair and an eye (and credit card) for more hi-end furniture and decor might well be able to turn my humble little house into a much flashier abode.  They could also probably (okay, for sure) make me appear much more interesting and exciting than I really am.  But then it wouldn’t be my home would it?  It would not be a true reflection of the person that I am.dogonrug

And when it comes down to it, surely that is what your home should be—a reflection of you, your family, your friends and the things you love.

Who better to decide on its decoration than you yourself?

 
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Posted by on August 5, 2016 in Uncategorized

 

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‘When birds burp, it must taste like bugs.’ Bill Watterson

birdWe have just been attacked by a teeny tiny bird. The teeniest tiniest bird on the planet (well, probably not, but he was very teeny). A little black and white blur. Seriously. We were wandering along, minding our own business, on our usual morning walk along the path by the water and, out of nowhere, he was upon us. Swooping and diving and shrieking, barely an inch from my face. And swooping again. And shrieking again. He was really pissed off.

Birds_attack_2071I imagine he was trying to drive us away from some hidden nest but his vicious onslaught had the exact opposite effect, at least initially. He took me so much by surprise that I just stopped dead, flung up my arms and madly tried to wave him away. This only upset him even further and he redoubled his efforts to be rid of me. From a distance I must have looked like I was having some sort of mad fit (or practising my secret kung fu moves . . .)

Dog__Play_DeadThis totally unexpected (and unwarranted) attack also had an instantaneous effect on the girls. Molly and Maude immediately sprang into action, trying valiantly to protect me, leaping and barking and running in circles, but really, as they both only just reach the level of my knees at full stretch, their efforts were mostly in vain.  Mabel, on the other hand, is a sensitive soul (also a bit of a sooky-la-la) and got so upset by the uproar that she just lay down on her side, closed her eyes and pretended to be in a coma. Also not terribly helpful.

old-man-dancing-taps-footAnyway, once I realised the wee bird was not going to give up any time soon I put my head down, scooped up Mabel, and cried, ‘RUN’, and the four of us fled down the path as far and as fast as we could to escape the tiny tormentor. When we stopped to catch our breath (in truth we didn’t run very far—I am not built for running) I turned and looked back to see an older gentleman now performing what looked to be some kind of manic break dance in exactly the same spot we had just left. On the path not far behind him stretched a long line of other unsuspecting walkers—all heading straight into the firing line. That little bird was in for a very exhausting day.

After all that excitement I was half inclined to go straight home (Hitchcock’s ‘The Birds’ immediately sprang to mind) but the dogs had forgotten the drama already (they have very short attention spans, except when it comes to food, then there is no diverting them) so I decided to keep goingalthough I do admit to looking back over my shoulder more than once.

rainbow lorikeetsThe path we walk along continues on directly down to the sea with the nature reserve on one side and the river on the other—and I was sure I could feel thousands of beady eyes boring into me—and that wouldn’t be far from the truth. (I really want to say here that where I live is a ‘haven’ for birdlife, but the ‘pun police’ would be on me like a flash, so I won’t. 🙂 )  Suffice to say that the Camden Haven is teeming with birds of every shape and size—magpies (scary even when they are in a good mood, which doesn’t seem to be often), ravens, wrens, Willy WagtailsRosellas, Rainbow Lorikeets, Wattlebirds, ducks, herons, gulls, Pelicans and Plovers to name but a few.

(Personally I think Plovers (also called lapwings) are a little bit spooky. plover-with-chicks (1)They produce an ear-splitting shriek when they are cranky with you, and they are usually cranky with you before you even know there is one in the area. They can be found not only in the parks, but also openly nesting on street corners or busy roundabouts around town. Their babies look like little cotton-wool balls on stilts—very cute—but you will not get a chance to get near enough to get a good look at one. A plover will think nothing of standing in the middle of a busy road and staring down a four wheel drive while its partner moves its babies to safety. Best to give them a very wide berth.)

In spite of feeling a tad nervous about them when they gather in large numbers, I really quite like birds—although I am also quite sure that they could care less whether I liked them or not. Except for the odd incident like the kamikaze ‘budgie’ today (and the occasional rabid plover) most of our feathered friends spend their birdy lives doing birdy things and pay very little attention to you or me at all. That’s fine. I don’t feel the need to directly interact with them (not like I do with puppies—no puppy is safe from interaction with me). I am happy to watch birds from a distance.

black cockatooAnd watching from a distance is what I doing every morning at the moment as a flock of about 30 black cockatoos has taken up residence about two blocks from my house. They turn up about this time every year, stay for a couple of months and then move on. On my early morning walks I will often just stop and watch them as they lift into the sky, one by one, screeching and calling to each other, flying in wider and wider circles over the river as they gather up the members of the flock from their night time roosts. They soar and wheel and roll, shrieking the whole time (maybe deciding on where to meet for breakfast?) and looking like they are just glad to  be alive. They have ‘attitude’ and  I think they are pretty fabulous—although anyone who wants to sleep past 5.00am every morning wouldn’t necessarily agree.

Cockatoos aren’t the only birds with joie de vivre around here. 01kookaburra-face1There are also the big fat kookaburras who line up in rows along the tree branches and gaze, unblinking, down upon you. One will start to chuckle, followed by another, and then another, then they will all start giggling and then laughing uproariously, and although you can’t help but feel that you are the butt of the joke, you end up smiling too.

And there are the rosellas and lorikeets which swarm the trees, feeding off the acacias, constantly squabbling, and sqwarking, flashing their feathers at each other and then dropping from the trees and performing acrobatic manoeuvres at such a low altitude that you have to duck your head as they whiz past.

Pink and grey galahs hang hapazardly off telephone wires or gather in groups on lawns to feed, waddling about on their fat little legs and are a delight to watch (and so much fun to scatter if you are a dog).

mineAnd at home a cheeky little family of (very) Noisy Miners visits my front verandah every afternoons to commandeer the seed dish, toss insults at the other birds and take turns to dive bomb the birdbath and throw water all over my lounge room windows. (The girls line up in the window in anticipation, barking out scores out of ten, as the birds dive and tumble and generally just show off.)

We are really so very lucky to be surrounded by such wonderful creatures (yes, even the cranky ones), and yet for all their incredible variety, their beauty and their humour, when I find myself watching them I am not so much thinking about them, but more the fact that birds just always remind me my Frankie.

Frankie

Frankie

Frankie was a dear, sweet, goofy boy, with not a mean bone in his body. He has been gone 5 years now, but we were together fourteen years and I still miss him every day (he and his older brother Harry, who was with me for for 19 years). Frankie loved birds. He was fascinated with them since he was a tiny boy, and was the only dog I ever knew who seemed to be always looking up. On our daily walks his legs would follow me, but his eyes were always skyward. He would often just stop, dead in his tracks, and follow the flight of bird until he could see it no longer. I have very fond memories of seeing him out in the backyard in the fading afternoon sunshine, smiling and wagging his tail happily, surrounded by a little group of lorikeets and pigeons who pottered and scratched about in the grass around at his feet, totally unconcerned by his presence. 3birdsHe always looked so wistful when they eventually took flight and left him alone on the ground.

I don’t know whether it is possible but I have always hoped that if Frankie ever got a chance to come back from doggie heaven, that he got to come back as a bird. I think he would really have liked that . . .

 

 
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Posted by on November 20, 2015 in Uncategorized

 

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‘Spring is nature’s way of saying, ‘Let’s party’!’ (Robin Williams)

green succulentAs I write Spring is only 2 weeks away.  The mornings and evenings are getting lighter; there are teeny tiny buds on my frangipani tree; a hopeful little pigeon daily struts daily around my garden in full display (although the object of his affection really doesn’t look at all interested), and bright little spots of colour are starting to appear through the winter foliage.

I am actually a little bit excited about my garden this year.  This is surprising to me considering my long history of being a totally abysmal gardener. What’s changed?  Well—I blame my landlord.  Let me explain.

I used to have a monster melaleuca tree in my back yard—a massive tree which took up at least half of the yard and was both beautiful and ugly in equal measure.  It was big, old and gnarled and gave great privacy from the neighbours.  It threw fabulous shade all summer and deep dark gloom all winter.  It dropped sticks and leaves and acorny things all year (and they all ended up in my living room), but it also kept the equally old wooden paling fence upright for much longer than if it had been left to its own devices.  It contained a myriad of wildlife—several families of birds and their yearly offspring; but also bugs, beetles and a huge population of shimmery white orb spiders which would constantly freak me out in the evenings when I would find the whole tree laced with webs and dozens of them all out and about having a street party.  (Want to know what freaked me out even more?  The fact that they all completely vanished without a trace every morning. Shudder.)

Anyway—one day I got a call from the landlord saying that the tree was to be cut down.  It took two men nearly three days to climb, cut, hew, hack and haul that tree away and when they had gone I was left with a massive raw stump 6 feet around and 2 feet high, several inches of sawdust covering every inch of the garden and a first class view of the over-the-back-neighbour’s rumpus room.  Mmmm.  (Luckily, not long after the tree came down we had a big storm which also took down most of the no-longer-propped-up wooden fence and the landlord replaced it with a brand-spanking-new green colourbond—and the neighbours were free to rumpus about in private again.)

But now—no shade.  At all.  Dead, sawdust-drowned grass.  And that stump!  After staring at it in despair for several months I decided to cover the whole back yard in pine bark.  At least it looked tidy, if a little stark.

Then one day, wandering about the shops (as I am wont to do), I found a strange funky looking plant (‘will grow in full sun’!) which took my fancy.  I took it home, put it in a pot and put the pot in the middle of the bark ‘lawn’.  To my surprise, not only did it not die, it tripled in size almost immediately, spewed out ‘babies’ all over the place, and I had to repot it.  Woo Hoo!  It was an ‘AHA’ moment.

Succulents (see, I even know what they are called) soon became my new best friends.  I now have them in all sizes and shapes—low growing, fat and fleshy, tall and spiky (the dogs give that one a really wide berth), hairy, furry, smooth, bumpy, green, brown, yellow, multicoloured—you name it.  There is even one which, after doing nothing at all for six months, then overnight  threw out a tall spike of flowers almost as tall as me, and if it sprouts legs like a triffid anytime soon I am moving house.

‘Pig-face’, I discovered, was especially invented just to cover ugly tree stumps!  Who knew?

And—best of all—it seems to me that the only way to actually kill a succulent is to water it! (well, okay, over-water it—but as that is not likely to happen with me I think I’m covered).

So, long story short—if my landlord (thanks Bob) hadn’t had that tree taken down I might never have discovered a love of (succulent) gardening.  So, roll on Spring.  Do your worst.  I am ready for you.  Unless, of course,  that really tall spiky thing actually is a triffid  . . .

 
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Posted by on September 6, 2015 in Uncategorized

 

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