Monday, March 29, 2010

APOLOGIES TO THE PLANET

I somehow don’t think my participating in the Earth Hour switch off of lights on Saturday night is going to make up for the guilt I feel today. I did extend it to eating dinner by candlelight and spending the entire evening without electric light, but yesterday I did a dastardly deed. I chopped down two trees in my backyard, two perfectly healthy oxygen producing carbon dioxide absorbing specimens which I would love to have allowed to continue to flourish, but common sense prevailed after two years of deliberation so out they came.

So why was this environmental vandalism perpetrated? Unfortunately, my late husband in all his wisdom, well, really he should have known better seeing as his horticultural knowledge was a darn sight better than mine, planted these two trees when they were just wee babes a few centimeters high, and we happily watched them grow over the years. What he hadn’t taken into consideration was that they were Blue Gums, and sweet baby Blue Gums have a habit of growing into Tyrannosaurus Rex size Blue Gums, not the things you want hovering close to your house.

So, I reluctantly thought it best to sacrifice them now at 6 metres high instead of waiting them for them to reach 30 metres and have them fall down of their own accord in one of our 100kph gale force winds we get every now and then. The last big storm we had a few months ago felled 14 trees on the golf course here, as well as several in the village, so I didn’t feel like being a future statistic whose shocked face is plastered on the TV screen with a monster of a tree occupying half the house.

Do I sound like I’m trying to justify my actions? Too right I am. My plans to replant a profusion of native shrubs of various sizes which won’t grow into monsters are already underway, so here’s hoping the void I just created will get filled up again with all the right things and I won’t feel like such a pariah.

To do penance maybe I need an Earth Month, or Earth Year, I’m happy to comply, starting with turning off this computer and going and having dinner in the dark again with the TV as the only illumination. There’s an oxymoron if ever there was one, though the idiot box can turn out some illuminating and inspiring offerings at times. Don’t think The Mentalist qualifies though.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

EQUINOXICALLY SPEAKING

My body clock is out of sync, my timing is all off. I had become quite skilled at waking in the morning, opening a bleary eye, and judging by the light peeping round the edge of the blind, guessing the time. A check of the clock would verify I was usually around five minutes out, never more than ten, but having reached the autumnal equinox three days ago that has suddenly changed. I woke up this morning, figured it for around 6am so was prepared to attempt to doze off again, only to find it was 6.55am and no chance for more snoozing. The only signs of autumn so far are the leaves starting to turn yellow on the poplar trees, always the first to succumb to the change of seasons.

I wonder if any research has been done into people’s connections to the season in which they were born. Afraid I’m too lazy to find out, but I was born into a late English autumn, and have to admit the temperate climate suits me down to the ground. After eight years living in Brisbane’s steamy humidity where you really do go troppo and the urge to peel off your skin as well as every piece of clothing is a daily occurrence for six months of the year, I much prefer living 40 degrees south and far happier to put on an extra layer to get warm rather than running out of layers to discard because it’s too hot. Five or six months of a roaring fire every evening always ends with a sense of disappointment when the spring weather decrees that the lounge room fire is no longer needed, for the cosiness disappears along with it.

Beautiful autumn day today, but I guess I’ll have to start thinking about firewood soon, the one and only drawback of a wood heater. Both the cost and the fact trees are being sacrificed for my comfort, but I’m afraid an electric reverse cycle heat pump just doesn’t cut it for me. No atmosphere, nothing to gaze into on those long winter nights, nothing to toast your marshmallows in front of, nothing to cook spuds in when you get a power blackout and it’s the only option left for cooking. Give me a fire any time.

My body clock will probably just start getting used to readjusting, then comes the next hurdle, the end of daylight saving.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

PRIDE AND PREJUDICE REVISITED

Colleen McCullough’s journey back in time to revisit the Bennet sisters of 200 years ago with The Independence of Miss Mary Bennet proved to be an interesting read. Re-reading Pride and Prejudice to familiarize myself with the Bennet family before I got too far into her book was a worthwhile exercise, even though the language can get you a bit bogged down at times.

With the twists and turns of the relationship between Elizabeth Bennet and Fitzwilliam Darcy being central to Pride and Prejudice, both characters also occupy a place of importance in McCullough’s novel, but it is a relationship far from what we would have expected after Austen finally got them together. The twenty years that have passed between the end of Austen’s novel and the beginning of McCullough’s have seen some strains in the relationships between the sisters and within their respective marriages.

Going back to the original brought to light just how minor a character Mary was for Jane Austen. She barely rates a mention other than to inform the reader she spends the majority of her time engrossed in her books and music and has a distinct lack of interest in the niceties of society life or pursuing the accustomed female occupation of finding a husband.

I wondered if this was why McCullough chose Mary, the unconventional sister, to flesh her out and allow her to come to life within a story which did her strong character justice. No shrinking violet was Mary, and liberated from the burdensome duty of caring full time for her mother once she dies, the prospect of doing something useful with her life energises her and galvanizes her into action.

I was picturing in my head what was in store as the story started to unfold and Mary’s intentions became clear, and I was quite prepared for a suffragette type zeal as she took on the plight of the poor and needy. That would have been fine, but I was delighted when McCullough surprised me with a plot which took an almighty twist to show the reader just what this woman was made of.

With more pride, prejudice, lies, deceit, jealousy, child exploitation, despair, broken relationships and even murder, there finally comes a satisfactory ending where Mary triumphs and in the process gets her man, dark secrets are revealed, and the prim and proper finally become more pragmatic. A good read, though I do recommend reading Pride and Prejudice first to acquaint yourself with the Bennet family and all their goings on.

The final word goes to Mary, one which I reckon we would all echo.

“I want to be useful. Just that. To have a purpose.”

Sunday, March 21, 2010

SO WHO'S THE PREMIER?

Well, as predicted Tassie is in a state of flux, with no one knowing the ultimate outcome of yesterday’s State election which ended with a hung parliament. 10 seats to Labor, 10 to Liberal, and 5 to the Greens holding the balance of power. An interesting position for all three parties, and probably the only ones really pleased are the Greens, for neither major party will be able to rule in its own right. Wouldn’t like to be in Nick McKim’s shoes as all the wheeling and dealing, er, I mean negotiation with the other Party leaders goes on behind closed doors.

Far be it from me to be cynical, but I don’t imagine all the boys and girls are going to play nicely in the sand pit before this thing is done and dusted. Should be an interesting week or two as everything unfolds, as remaining votes are counted, preferences dispersed, and politician’s futures, for this term anyway, are secured or dashed. Thank goodness we only have to do this every four years.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

POLLIES IN A STATE OF LIMBO

With only 4 days to go, never have I been so undecided coming up to an election. Sick to death of the pollies zotting here, dashing there, promising this, deciding that, shaking hands and kissing babies here, there and everywhere. Posing for those photo opportunities while trying to look genuinely interested in the whole shebang, jumping through hoops in their last ditch effort to sway us one way or the other in their favour. Do they really think all this last minute frantic activity is going to convince us Tasmanians of their worth and their Party’s ability to deliver the goods? Surely by now they would’ve learned we don’t have a whole lot of faith in them at the best of times, let alone in the lead up to an election.

Wish they’d simply do the job they were elected to do and run the State, fulfil the requirements of their portfolios and represent their electorates responsibly instead of all the wheeling and dealing and slinging off at each other and dragging out every bit of dirty laundry to justify their positions, as well as felling the forests they vow and declare they want to protect in order to get out all their annoying letter box literature. When all is said and done, the muck raking and scare mongering has a negligible effect on the result.

I don’t doubt that those who stand for public office have good intentions, even the best intentions in a lot of cases. It’s a thankless task, and once you’re successful in claiming the most votes you immediately become the person to blame if things don’t work out right. But even the best intentions don’t guarantee performance, and being part of a bigger whole means you have to live with constant ambiguities in the process of trying to get the job done while also trying to avoid offending this lobby group and that bunch of protestors or another group of activists who will continually call your policies and efforts into question.

Everyone has their own agenda when it comes to the political process, be it personal, social, environmental or whatever. In the end, the facts speak for themselves. We either believe them or we don’t, their track records are either complementary or found wanting, we decide to vote down Party lines or throw in a few independents for good measure, and by Saturday night we either have the same guys ensconced for a few more years or we don’t. Some would say it makes no difference which Party holds power, but whatever the outcome I think there’s going to be some definite shifting of the deck chairs come this weekend.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

NATURE'S ANOMALIES

Amazing what you find, especially when you’re not looking. Have been back in the garden, trying in vain to reclaim the garden beds from the weeds and grass which believe it’s their rightful place to thrive wherever they wish. From the village green to next door to my place, the recycling of newspapers has been brought into the arsenal to cover up any new menacing traces of new growth before being topped with a variety of types of mulch in the hope that will prolong the need for a repeat performance of such arduous work.

In the process however I’ve come across a couple of striking specimens, neither of which I’ve seen before. Never one to venture out into the garden without the protection of garden gloves, I was thankful I had them on when trekking towards me across the garden bed I was weeding came a Monstrous Bull Ant, no ordinary bull ant mind you, but one looking altogether like he was suited up with a coat of armour ready to go into battle. He had a shiny metallic dark blue body and red legs, wonderful to look at, I was so fascinated I watched him for ages. I had visions of the hierarchy of the ant colony portrayed by the characters in the animated movie Antz, and the selection process which would have culminated in the sending out of this brave scout, leaving the safety of the colony to check out the lie of the land for any danger, intimidating all in his path with his display of bravado. It worked. I wasn’t going to mess with him.

Not to be outdone, several of us were working in the village green garden when we discovered an orange spider happily sitting on a shrub. Very bizarre looking thing, and my attempts to Google orange spiders has not enlightened me any. He, or she for that matter, was about 6cm across including legs with a shape similar to a Huntsman spider, with a light orange body and legs, and intricate black markings under the belly. No one had a camera at the time so its identity will probably remain a mystery.

How many creatures are out there which we may only see once in a lifetime? And countless thousands more, never. There are obviously many we would prefer not to confront, either the tiny bitey, smally crawly, or the big bitey variety for that matter. The unexpected encounters I do appreciate are the moments like a few nights ago when I went to close the bedroom window, and there on the window sill was a tiny native frog. We chatted for a while, you know, all the normal things you’d ask someone who dropped in unexpectedly. I told him he was rather handsome looking, he blinked at me, I asked him what he’d been up to for the day, he was a bit shy though, stuck around but wasn’t very talkative. In the end I let him know he was a very welcome visitor and could return to any window sill anytime. Hope he understood.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

QUARTER OF THE WAY THERE

Here I am, 3 months into this little project of mine, still no clearer what I’m really doing apart from sitting here clacking away on the keyboard a lot more often than I used to. Hmm, shouldn’t finish a sentence with a proposition, sorry, preposition, I do remember that. Maybe I should have been a proof reader instead of trying to write my own stuff, I’m ok at pulling apart other people’s writing and putting it back together, seems to be a job I’m asked to do frequently.

I did take a positive step today though, enrolling for an Adult Ed course of two sessions in writing and illustrating children’s books. As the tutor is a children’s author/illustrator, and seeing as I have the rough drafts of the stories I had written for my granddaughter, it might be a step forward in getting them closer to the finished product.

By the way, the People’s Choice award for The Glover Prize was announced today, and it was no surprise Peter Gouldthorpe took it out with his oil on linen painting Gondwana Rococo, apparently an overwhelming majority choice by the public. At first glance it could easily be mistaken for a landscape photograph, such was the intricacy of the detail and brush stroke. Though an unremarkable piece of forest which could be found anywhere according to the artist, its depiction of pristine beauty in the depth of winter gives it a magical, ethereal quality. A worthy recipient.


Sunday, March 7, 2010

A LITTLE BIT O' CULTURE

For the third year in a row I headed to historic Evandale just out of Launceston, a beautiful little town, not for the annual National Penny Farthing championships which were held a few weeks ago, but for my annual dose of culture at The Glover Prize, an Exhibition of the 43 finalists in this year’s Tasmanian Landscape Prize now valued at $35,000.

Queensland indigenous artist Ian Waldron took out the prize with his entry Walach Dhaarr (Cockle Creek) a striking oil and acrylic on Tas oak depicting (and this is my interpretation) significant aboriginal sites and tribe totems. The public get to vote over the few days of the exhibition, something I really enjoy, and the People’s Choice winner is announced this week. Going with friends it’s fascinating to see how everyone’s perception is different, how what appeals to one does nothing for another.

I have a tendency to be drawn to paintings which evoke a strong emotional response, so I voted for Rock Face with Storm Debris 1 by Nicholas Blowers, a dark and somewhat foreboding representation of a rock face just out of Hobart near where he lives and frequently walks. At 1.2m x 1.2m it was an imposing and dramatic painting, but at $8500 was obviously something never going to adorn any of my walls.

Unfortunately, if I want to hang an original I’m going to have to create it myself. Underneath my bed (so it won’t get damaged, not because I don’t want to use it) is a blank canvas given to me as a gift two Christmases ago so I could have a go at my own visual masterpiece for the bedroom wall. I’m not a complete perfectionist, but if I can’t do something really well I tend not to have a go at all, and testament to my hesitancy at trying something new, the canvas, brushes and paint are all still in their packaging.

I’m about to embark on a painting project of the more mundane kind, namely the hallway, laundry, toilet, bathroom and study. The undercoat, paint and what have you have been sitting in the laundry for several months. I’m not a great self starter when these sort of jobs come along, but I had an idea that while I’m painting the walls I could drag out the canvas and attempt to do something creative with the same colours. If I succeed I might even include the picture somewhere down the track.





Friday, March 5, 2010

ALFRED HITCHCOCK'S "BIRDS"

I was more than a little suspicious of the enormous black crow hopping along the path a few metres in front of me on yesterday’s early morning walk. Throwing a glance over his shoulder now and then he kept on hopping, I thought maybe he was injured, but it wasn’t until I almost caught up to him that he finally took off and landed on a lamppost. Observing me keenly as I approached, those steely eyes followed me as I walked past the lamppost and continued on. I couldn’t resist looking back to check his whereabouts, I didn’t trust him, and although he was still watching me he obviously had no evil intentions, as no screeching missile came my way to attack the peacefulness of the morning.

We have quite a population of them round here with peckers big enough to take your finger off I reckon, let alone pluck your eye out or terrorise you en masse Alfred Hitchcock style. Ever the master of suspense, my first viewing of Hitchcock's The Birds as a young teenager scared the living daylights out of me, don’t think I’ve looked at a crow since without a healthy sense of respect and a decent dose of mistrust.

Very different scenario from this afternoon’s coffee at an outdoor café. Brushing the crumbs from my plate on to the ground, not the usual thing I would do in a café but in this case quite warranted, I waited to see which sparrow was the bravest as they darted in and retreated at a great rate of knots in their attempts to pick up every tasty morsel on offer.

Brought to mind another bird feeding episode some time ago in which I came to the conclusion birds like junk food just as much as any other species. Tossed out some stale bread for the locals, both white and multigrain (must’ve been a while ago as I haven’t eaten white bread for years), broken up into sparrow sized pieces. Well, they do only have little biddy beaks. Was sitting at my desk in the study looking out on the back yard when down they came, one by one, and what did they head for? The multigrain bread with all the seeds and grains you’d expect birds to naturally gravitate to? Nope, every single one of them went for the white bread, and only later in the day did I notice the multigrain was finally gone.

I guess we humans are not the only ones who don’t always know what’s good for us.

Monday, March 1, 2010

FIRST DAY OF AUTUMN

DAY 84

Right on cue, a definite nip in the air this morning greeted the first day of Autumn. Even donned shoes and socks as I find it very difficult to work efficiently if the little extremities are suffering. Turned into a glorious day, but seeing as we’re actually 3 weeks away from the autumnal equinox I guess it’s not really surprising. Not sure why Northern Hemispherians start their seasons at the turn of the equinoxes and solstices while we Southerners choose the beginning of the month, maybe we’re a more pragmatic lot and figure people would forget the date and have difficulty remembering what season it is. Wouldn’t be a bad exercise checking out who uses which system, whether it’s a North/South thing or whether it’s even more random than that. Sounds like a good school project for someone.

Mowed the grass within an inch of its life on the weekend in the hope I’ll get a bit more mileage out of its haircut before having to do it again; with cooler weather just around the corner maybe it will finally slow down and give me a chance to plant or propagate or prune or hack or dig, anything else but mowing.

1st of the month weigh in and measure up brought some good news. Have lost not even a smidgin of a kilo, but 5cm of my pot belly disappeared somewhere. I must admit to not trying very hard, so that’s encouraging, spurring me on to make a bit more effort. Only power walked on 11 days during February (commitment is slipping already), covering almost 34km, and burned up a few more calories with 9 hours of hard labour in the garden. So, the goal of losing 5 kilos is still there, in the hope I’ll manage to fit into all the jeans I wore last Winter (seeing as I had to go on an Op Shop crawl to get some Summer pants I could fit into).