Monday, January 29, 2007


Those mice have a lot to answer for. We've trapped and released nine of them so far, but there are still plenty of them. I spent a lot of time on Saturday re-organising the kitchen and bringing in a big plastic crate to protect the bread and baked goods from rodent teeth.

It didn't seem like I'd done that much work, but I got up the next morning and went to feed the chickens outside the back door. Leaned over to get some feed out of the bin.


"Oh no," I groaned. "Not my back again." Yes, after many months without any back problems, I was now hobbling about like an old man.

After 24 hours, I reluctantly let my sister dose me with some of her pills.

"How's your back?" she asked a couple of hours later.
"It feels a bit better," I replied.

"So it should with that amount of pain-killers," she said drily.

The postman staggered in this morning with two packages. There was a big envelope of CDs from the First Generation Radio Archives (mostly Fibber McGee and Phil Harris shows) and a box from AV Deals in Sydney.

The second one contained a Philips MMS430 speaker system. I bought this over the Internet without seeing it in real-life and for once it was bigger than it looked in the photograph. The main speaker was as big as a breadbox and I haven't decided how to fit it into my living space yet.

Anyway, I don't think I'll be moving any furniture around for a while..

Listening to The Idlers on ABC radio on Saturday night, they opened with Lisa Miller singing "On the road again". I haven't heard this before; sure, it's light-years away from Willie Nelson but it's a lovely version. I must keep an eye out for Lisa Miller in future.

The Idlers and The Coodabeen Champions were both pre-empted for sports broadcasts this weekend, but I've discovered in recent times that the shows do still go to air for those tuning in on the Internet. All you need to do is go to the ABC Gold Coast website and you can listen to them regardless of what's coming over your radio set.

Saturday, January 27, 2007

Australia Day

Australia Day dog

It was Australia Day and even Julie's dog was celebrating the occasion. (No Photoshop tricks here!) Julie and I shared a special dinner to mark the day -- a meat pie with sauce followed by a lamington. The only thing missing was a cold stubbie but I'm not a beer drinker.

The mouse plague hasn't quite reached the alarming degree depicted in some science fiction tales (for example the 1961 potboiler by R.L. Fanthorpe depicted above) but so far we've managed to trap and release five of the little critters.

Field mice are very tiny and very cute but we're heartily tired of them running around the place as though they owned it. I've had to learn to lock up the bread every time I leave the kitchen so as not to find that somebody has been sampling it when I pick it up next time.

We won't mention the ants. That's a story for another time.

A couple of interesting items on Thursday night television. The Archive Project on ABC was about the Melbourne Realist Film Unit. It wanted to spur political action by showing what life was like for the working classes after World War II. "This inequality must end," urges the film A Place to Live, about Melbourne’s housing shortage. But the Melbourne Realists were not fundamentalists and became increasingly sceptical about Stalin’s cult of personality.

The group believed first and foremost in film’s potential for social change and they soon broke with the Communist Party. This didn't stop them from being kept under surveillance by the security agencies. Indeed, that will be the most interesting part for many viewers; earlier parts of this special featuring footage rescued from the cutting-room floor set to sombre classical music will bore most laymen.

Keenly anticipated was the documentary on SBS titled In Search of Bony. This looked at the remarkable story of Arthur Upfield, dubbed by one critic Australia's forgotten bestseller. Starting in the 1920s he wrote a successful series of detective stories about Inspector Bonaparte of the Queensland Police. The unique thing about the character was that he was of mixed racial background at a time in history when the "half-caste" was routinely the villain or at best an unsympathetic bit-player.

Upfield's achievement in making this character not only acceptable but fascinating to the mass audience is mostly forgotten today. Those who remember the character automatically dismiss him because they are books about a black man written by a dead white male. This skips over the fact that at the time many aborigines were fascinated by the depiction of an educated professional black man.

The character of Bony was idealised, of course. But it's a tragedy that Australia is about the only country in the world where Upfield is out of print. In many countries, his are the only books about Australia that most people will have read.

Time to bring Bony back into print.

Monday, January 22, 2007

The Rains Came

the creek SundayJan21

Little did we know what was in store that Sunday. My sister and I went to church, came home and ate lunch. It was warm and humid outside. I had few plans beyond possibly taking a nap for a few minutes.

Then one of us looked up and said "I think it's raining..." and the other nodded, vaguely approving.

What we didn't realise was that northern winds had swept air from the monsoon areas up north; as it collided with the cooler winds from the southern oceans, the result was spectacular.

Accompanied by rolls of thunder, the heavens opened and rain bucketed down. Standing at the back door, awe-struck by the sudden change in the climate, I saw that the drain by the back of the house was partly blocked and water was spilling over.

I plunged out into the rain and struggled to clear the drain and prevent the back of the house being flooded. Almost instantly I was soaked to the skin. I had to discard my trousers because they were so heavy they were threatening to fall down around my ankles!

After a few minutes, the water was draining away and the rain had eased just a little. I came back inside and changed. I was so wet I had to take off everything except my glasses and my watch!

My brown suede shoes will never be the same again.

The goose was notable by her absence. She apparently didn't like the rain drumming on the roof and took refuge outside the laundry where conditions were less extreme. A contrast to her behaviour during last week's power cut when I thought she was going to join us in the house.

the deluge

After the worst of the deluge was over, we drove over to Julie's house to check for any damage there. It was better than we expected, with few problems.

The creek, which had just barely been running that morning, was now a raging torrent. Julie (above) tried to get some pictures of it, but it wasn't easy. "That rock in the middle of the water looks like a loaf of bread surrounded by snow," she sniffed after looking at the snaps.

The next morning I inspected the boxes on the front and back porches for signs of water damage. Half a dozen books had to be thrown out; the rest seemed all right. The carton of Country Life magazines was more of a dilemma. The top half were OK, the bottom half were slightly damp along the edge with a couple on the bottom completely sodden.

I was less disturbed than I would have been once. In the last couple of years I've digested the fact that I simply have more books and magazines in the house than I'll be able to read during the remaining years of my life. OK, I do still have some volumes I would be very upset to lose, but I no longer feel the urge to buy as many books as possible wherever I go.


As the free world grows stronger, more united, more attractive to men on both sides of the Iron Curtain--and as the Soviet hopes for easy expansion are blocked--then there will have to come a time of change in the Soviet world. Nobody can say for sure when that is going to be, or exactly how it will come about, whether by revolution, or trouble in the satellite states, or by a change inside the Kremlin.

Whether the Communist rulers shift their policies of their own free will--or whether the change comes about in some other way -- I have not a doubt in the world that a change will occur.

Harry Truman's farewell speech in 1953, showing remarkable good sense.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

a hot time in the old town

Shadow and friends

I slept through the thunderstorm last night, though my sister reported her whole bedroom being lit up by lightning flashes. Wednesday morning was sultry and overcast. Even after a cold shower the weather soon felt unpleasantly close to me.

But it could have been worse. According to this morning's news, parts of the city Melbourne had their electricity supply cut by bushfires while suffering heat-wave conditions of 40° -- that's about 104 degrees in the old scale. I don't know that I could stand those conditions.

We had a black-out here last week but it only lasted for an hour. Just as well we still had those candles on the mantlepiece, left over from when we had a series of power cuts a few years back.

The weirdest part about it was that Zelda (the goose who lives in my yard)panicked and started running about as though she wanted to force her way into the house. Maybe she was freaking out because of the sirens from some burglar alarms that had been set off by the black-out.

This afternoon we stopped for petrol and while I was inside my sister was fascinated by the passing parade. First two girls on bicycles called in and let their golden retrievers have a drink of water. Then a dapper middle-aged man at the wheel of a big sedan drove in and got out to fill a bowl of water. He placed this on the floor of the car next to his dog and drove off. I hope he didn't have to make any sudden stops on his way home!

The hot weather makes the pest problem worse. The new screen door has kept out most of the flies, but there are ants everywhere and the mice are always sneaking around (they're very cute but there's a limit!)


The neighbours at Julie's place have a high proportion of animal-lovers among them. The woman at the top left corner of the paddock feeds the horse regularly. He enjoys the attention (and the food) -- in fact I think he's starting to put on weight.

Thursday, January 11, 2007

gurgling on

creek dry 31-12-2006

Water restrictions mean that I can only water the garden every second day. Over at my sister's house, the creek that runs through her property usually has some water in it, even in the middle of summer. But in the picture above it is as dry as dust at the end of last month.

Fortunately a few days with some rain saw it start running again. But January is the middle of summer in Australia (it hit 33° today - the equivalent of 91.4 in the old scale) and I don't guarantee that the water will stay around.

creek with water

Some things that are amusing in retrospect weren't so funny at the time. This evening I finished watching something on television and reached for the remote control. Not there.

I looked around me. No sign of it. I moved things around, while the television chattered away to itself on the other side of the room. I suppose I could have gone and turned it off manually, but so many functions nowadays can only be accessed through the remote control.

And why, oh why, do they always make these small and black? They're almost designed to blend into the background -- a sort of stealth remote. Next time I have a new one, I'm seriously considering decorating it with some of that fluorescent yellow tape.

I fetched a flashlight and looked around to see if it had fallen down next to the armchair. Finally I racked my brains and recalled that I'd had to feed the cat in the middle of West Wing. I wandered out into the kitchen and there it was, sitting on a box in front of the spice cupboard.

It was, as my sister consoled me, out of my eye-line and in a place I never have the remote.

This has been one of a continuing series of anecdotes in the series "How I knew I was losing my marbles."

Saturday, January 06, 2007

Taste of Tasmania 2006

Taste of Tasmania

The end of the year is always the time for the Summer Festival and the jewel in the crown is the Taste Of Tasmania. For several days a gloomy old warehouse on the waterfront is transformed into a culinary wonderland, with stalls selling an amazing variety of food and wine.

My mother used to put a little money aside every month so she could indulge herself at "the Taste." We come from a less frugal generation, but we managed to make a few visits to this temple of the gourmandizers.

We feasted on such items as hare, ostrich, buffalo, and even Senegalese Calamari. A large choice of wine, coffee and soft drinks was available to wash it down with.

Taste of Tasmania interior

The normally dark and dour interior of the building was festooned with wall hangings painted by local school-children, and the colourful signage of the stalls brightened up the place. Sitting inside, we could see out across the waterfront and watch yachts and boats coming and going.

In fact the Taste started 18 years ago as something to keep the public amused between the start and finish of the annual Sydney-to-Hobart yacht race. Today I suspect it is as big an attraction as the race is, perhaps even bigger in some circles.

The weather was good for the festival, but became a bit oppressive later in the week. The temperatures soared to around 30 degrees (about 86 fahrenheit)and my sister Julie had to resort to hanging wet towels over the cages to keep her poultry from suffering heat stress in the sultry afternoons.

One night the humidity was still at 73% at 2 a.m. I found it difficult to sleep as you might imagine and stayed awake late reading and listening to the radio. And wouldn't you know it, the following morning I was woken first by an early-morning phone call then by a visitor ringing the doorbell.

It was after midday before I felt human again. Not an experience I'd care to repeat again.

It was a relief when a change came over at the end of the week and we were able to enjoy a cooling breeze while light rain pattered down on the roof.