Recently at the Home by the Sea, I met a new friend. So that he can remain anonymous, I’ll call him, ‘Old Mate,’ (as we sometimes do in Australia).
Most people who met Old Mate, thought him brash and cocky, but I was utterly charmed by his youthful exuberance. He’d entered my world uninvited and I’d welcomed and even encouraged him to visit me whenever he liked. “My door is always open. Come over anytime,” I told him nonchalantly.
Perhaps that was my mistake? I can be naive about such things.
Being a good neighbour, or so I thought, I’d offered him food and refreshments whenever he rocked up. He really did like that. So much so, that he brought his partner over to meet us. We were chuffed.
Both Old Mate and his partner were talented singers and would regularly entertain us when they popped in. It was obvious they were planning to settle nearby and start a family. I was looking forward to sharing their world and continuing our wonderful friendship.
I had no inkling that Old Mate would take liberties with our friendship in a way no one else has done before.
It came to a head this week.
Jumping around on my Dining table was, to say the least, extremely unsettling, so I was forced to do something I’ve never done before: I told Old Mate he had to leave – ordering him out of my house.
He didn’t take my announcement well: becoming angry and flustered, making excuses to check out several rooms in the house, before finally agreeing to leave.
That was the final straw. I abruptly terminated our friendship.
I feel bad. I miss him, but it has to be this way.
So often we walk around in nature failing to notice the details, the grass under our feet.
Subtle changes in colour and appearance indicate the passing of the seasons. Many varieties of grass remain invisible, yet are an integral part of the natural landscape.
The theme for this week’s Friendly Friday challenge is:
‘Splendour in the Grass’
Using Grass to Frame a Landscape in Photography
In photographic terms, grass can be used to frame the shot or make an interesting feature in the foreground.
This ‘Moon viewing,’ photo captured during the Tsukimi festival in mid-Autumn, in Japan.
Japanese Senga Grass Fields at Mount Fuji
The Japanese find Splendour in the Sengakuhara Pampas Grass, by strolling along a walking trail, at the western side of Mount Hakone. For it is here that the changing colour of the tall grass offers stunning vistas. In November, the grass turns a shimmering, silvery gold. Wedding proposal and selfies abound at this time of year.
In Australia, a country fringed by blue oceans, you will find grass the colour of sunburnt earth, which often makes me yearn for the vivid fluorescent green grass of wetter climates.
Australian deserts display different kinds of saltbush grass.
In the arid conditions of the Australian landscape, plants have adapted to grow under extreme conditions, such as the grass tree.
Grass Trees in Australia
A relic of the Age of Dinosaurs, Xanthorrhoeas, also known as the Grass Tree, grow very slowly and are resistant to bushfire. In fact, fire helps the grass tree produce its flowers. They also have a unique symbiotic relationship with the soil. The presence of a mycorrhizal microbe in the soil around their roots allows them to flourish, even if the soils are nutrient-poor.
Grass Trees are highly sought after in Australian horticulture and as such are often illegally removed from their natural locations. They fetch high prices as ornamental plants. Little do the owners realize that if the soil in their garden does not contain the mycorrhizal enzyme, the grass tree that they paid so dearly for, will wither and die.
Imitating Nature in Growing Grass Trees
Here’s a secret that an old-timer once told me. Take a cup of brown sugar, put it in a bucket of water and water your grass trees once a month for two years with that mixture. The sugar feeds the mycorrhiza and gets it going and your grass tree will survive.
Many people claim their animals understand them: both the words they speak to their dogs and their meaning. It is claimed that Schnauzer Dogs are so intelligent, they may have a vocabulary of over 50 words!
However softly I say to the Moth, “Shall we go for a walk now?” – the Schnauzers will hear this and come running from the furthest reaches of the house, signalling their excitement and concurrence, with short high-pitched barks of excitement, the older one ballerina dancing on her hind legs then executing a quick Downward Dog Stretch any Yoga teacher would be proud of, as if to say – “I am ready to go too!”
The Schnauzer is Emotionally close to its Owners
Not only would I propose my Schnauzer is in synch with my body’s biorhythms, but the Schnauzers have extraordinary hearing.
Even though her doggie bed is located in the neighbouring room, she hears when I roll over in bed to wake up, even before I have opened my eyes! I have said nothing, done nothing and she hears all!
How does she know I am awake?
She hears me inhale a deep breath as I begin to wake up!
As soon as I take that breath, I hear scratching at her door a millisecond later! This dog is linked so closely to me she knows that I am awake and scratches at the door telling me she wants to come and say ‘Good Morning. Of course, it must be time for her Breakfast.
They KNOW Every move you MAKE, every Breath you take…you know the rest…
Schnauzers are renowned for being food-obsessed and I see no evidence to dispute that claim.
Standard Schnauzer’s Instinctive Intelligence
The Standard Schnauzer may have the highest instinctive intelligence out of the three [sizes of Schnauzer]. That’s because they were bred for many things, making them some of the most versatile working dogs you can find! They really did it all.
There is no doubt pets bring a special element to your life, but a schnauzer, is so human-like, it even regards itself as human.
I had a Standard Schnauzer some years back. That Dog could tell the time.
When I was working on the desktop computer, writing a post on my blog, and the clock passed 4.59 pm, she would enter the study, put her head underneath my arm, (which was invariably positioned on the computer’s mouse), and flick my hand off the computer mouse, with her powerful neck muscles.
She was letting me know it was time to start arranging or cooking dinner for the evening. Until I cooked my own dinner, she would not get hers, so there was a definite incentive for her to assist in this timely reminder!
In the early years, she would be in the habit to get up from her slumber and come and tell me it was 2.40 pm which meant it was time to down tools and go and pick the kids up from school. Without fail!
What is it about pets that can turn the most unemotional, stoically, clinical person into a blubbering, child-like swooner full of soft and fuzzy ga-ga baby talk?
I have not worked out what their magic is, but I know that I was infected with this obsessional ‘bug’, the moment I laid eyes on a schnauzer.
WordPress recently told me it was my Blogging Anniversary. Really? What of it?
It has been almost ten years since I first created Something to Ponder About, after trying for a few miserable months with the Blogger platform. I never really got how you connected with other people on that platform, so quickly moved to WordPress, as a penfriend in Norway recommended it.
Purpose of Blogging
I really had to think about whether I should celebrate this Anniversary, or commiserate that I haven’t done better over the years? Some Bloggers have used their blogs as a venue to receive all kinds of free gimmicks, products and even discounts on holidays. What have I been doing?
Contemplating my navel in a semi-public way?
Don’t be misled into thinking I have been writing solidly for ten years. I have taken many a blogging break, here and there, when I have been on extended vacations and for the first three to four years, my frequency of posting was ‘hit and miss.’ That is, it wasn’t really conducive to comment conversations, or consistent readers.
In all honesty, I wasn’t a serious Blogger early on; merely posting interesting information to do with nutrition or D.I.Y. Craft that I might reference later, or using my blog to document my travels to, what I thought, were special parts of the world.
But then, something happened.
I began to connect with people worldwide. I started using my words in a way that was more constructive, ostensibly I wished to share information that might help others. The Blogger community responded with kindness and open arms, enveloping me on a truly wondrous journey that I am happy to say, continues to this day.
Connecting with Other Bloggers
Many of the early Bloggers I connected with have now left the blogging world. A few remain, including Leya, Tina and Cyranny. In the early days, Christian Mihai ‘liked‘ every one of my published posts, but never ever did he post a comment. He is a huge Blogger now.
Strangely, I noticed I have only recently connected with fellow Aussie bloggers, but rather most of my readers were in locations around the world. That may be a comment on where my interest is directed, perhaps? I am not sure.
Ineke, in New Zealand, but from South Africa, has been a blogger friend and reader of mine from the start. She was the first Blogger I chatted with and the first Blogger I met, in person. When we met up in her home town, it was like we were already old friends.
It seemed easier to communicate with her over the blogosphere, as we were in a closer time zone, generally speaking. She was always, always supportive and assisted me in various Blogging challenges and joint projects in the blogging community. I thank her for her friendship and hope we will meet up again someday.
Living as I do in this far-flung corner of the earth, the long delay in sending and receiving comment replies on blog posts does hamper the flow of conversation, at times. Thus, it was highly unlikely that I would sync with Snow, in Finland – yet something clicked between us. After a time, I discovered she had a similar childhood to me, growing up in Australia! We could share memories and she seemed to understand my typically Aussie ways.
Together, Snow and I launched the Friendly Friday Photo Challenge, which I now run with the extremely resourceful Sandy, in Canada. I love the Global connections blogging affords from all corners of the world!it is a truly multicultural phenomenon.
A pivotal moment in keeping my Blog active was starting the now-defunct ‘Monday Mystery Photo Challenge,’ which ran for close to three years. I had a lot of fun interactions and learnt lots about blogging, in general. Photography was definitely a major way I found and connected with other like-minded folk.
Motivation to Keep Blogging
A key to maintaining my motivation for blogging is to write about things I am passionate about.
If you really are passionate about something, your writing comes alive and your Blog will be interesting for others to read.
I like to use humour or satire in my posts, although I cannot claim to be any good at that. Keeping posts topical to some extent, seems to me, to be a way of starting and maintaining a conversation with readers.
An early criticism I received from another Blogger was that my Blog lacked focus. The comment was that I had, “a lot going on,” at StPA. Back then, travelling was something I posted frequently about, but I also wrote about craft painting, nutrition, mental health, traditional sayings, quotes and cooking. Given the current global situation for Travel Bloggers, I am very grateful my Blog was diversified in its focus.
So, somewhat embarrassingly, I am still here, ten years later, at Something to Ponder About, prattling away to anyone who will listen. Blogging still provides me with a great deal of satisfaction. As more Bloggers fall away or take an extended break due to Covid or Blogger fatigue, new Bloggers begin their journeys with WordPress, filling that void. That bodes well for WordPress and for Bloggers, in general.
I hope to still be around in another ten years, but who knows? What will WordPress and the world itself, be like then?
Start a Conversation
What about your Blogging journey?
How did you start Blogging?
Have you ever considered giving up, and if not, why did you perservere?
I leant out the car window this morning and had a conversation with a road cyclist at the traffic lights. I wanted to know why so many cyclists appear to choose NOT to ride on the outer or footpath side of the road, but position themselves on the inner side, dangerously close to where the cars travel. Ordinarily, this wouldn’t concern me, but it’s been a hot topic of whinging and conversation in the community, so I was a tad curious.
A simple enough question that had a surprising answer.
Road cycling is the most widespread form of cycling. It includes recreational, racing, commuting, and utility cycling. Road cyclists are generally expected to obey the same rules and laws as other vehicle drivers or riders and may also be vehicular cyclists.
Upon hearing my enquiry, this rather brash, lycra-clad rider put up his hackles. His stood tall on his bike, puffed his chest out, and his body language indicated he was ready for battle.
“It is not a dedicated bike lane back there,” he spat. “Read your road rules, love.”
I will admit Australia is slow to join the party when it comes to accommodating cyclists. The vast majority of major roads have no bike lanes, so cyclists must compete with trucks, cars, buses and all road users. Cyclists pay zero registration costs to contribute to the upkeep of the roads which earns the ire of the driving community. Rules vary from place to place but here we must keep 1 metre away from the bikes, when driving on the roads, due to the many cyclist deaths in commuter traffic.
Keeping 1 metre away would be simple if the cyclist kept to the outer or even the middle section of the emergency stopping lane, or roadside verge or bike lane, where there is one, but almost all seem to prefer to stick close to cars, which means the cars need to veer into the next lane, in order to comply with the 1-metre distance rule.
But I digress. Let’s go back to the discussion with the lycra-clad cyclist. As my intention wasn’t to debate the road rules, I clarified that I wanted to understand the motives behind the cyclist’s choice, so I persisted and, the traffic light was still red.
“On a Sunday morning”, he continued, “there’s so much glass on the road after Saturday night, that if I was to ride on the left (footpath), side of the road, I’d get nothing but flat tyres. So we all ride on the inside near the cars.”
– Road Cyclist in Red Lycra
As the traffic light then changed to green, I thanked him for the explanation and wound up my car window. His body language relaxed and he took off in another direction.
Yet, I was still left wondering – could there really be so much glass on ALL the major roads in our city? It just didn’t seem plausible. Is a flat tyre less preferable than safety?
Is this a problem in other countries without bike lanes?
Less than 30 minutes later, I was walking with friends along the beach with our dogs and recounted my story about the cyclist. We were all in agreeance, questioning the validity of the flat tyre argument, when one of the girl’s mobile phone rang.
On answering it, my friend let out a hearty laugh.
Her daughter had called to say she was on a bike ride on an inner city road and had just got a flat tyre!
Sometimes strange coincidences are not that strange after all.
In the 1800’s in Victorian England, scores of children under the age of 20, roamed the streets in a Dickensian world, eeking out an existence made famous in the 1968 movie, Oliver.
In the day, Britain feared a French revolution might erupt within the lower classes and so wished to contain this potential political menace by executing or shipping any trouble-makers off to North America, or Australia. In those times, to commit a crime of any sort was seen as a character flaw which could not be altered through rehabilitation.
Why did Victorian Children Live on the Streets
Street children were often the progeny of delinquent parents, or who had parents who’d abandoned them or were sitting in a Debtor’s prison. A child could take its chances living on the streets, working in a dangerous textile factory or remain in squalid conditions in a poorhouse, if they were lucky.
Child Workers and Conditions in Textile Factories
In 1851, more than 500,000 of Britain’s children sometimes as young as six, were working in the textile mills.
Being small, children were used to crawl inside textile machinery to clear blockages in the spinning frames. It was extremely dangerous and many were killed or injured, as the machinery was slow to stop if a worker got caught.
The machines were very loud and they thundered relentlessly all day long. Workers could be fined. beaten or sacked for falling behind. In cotton mills, dust from the yarn covered the workers and got in their throats. To make the cotton strong, factory owners kept their mills warm and damp. This meant that the workers suffered from lung and chest infections.
With these options, it was no surprise that many children took their chances living on the streets.
Penalties for Child Criminals in England
In Victorian England, a child caught stealing would be sent to reform school or sentenced to hard labour. Once they had amassed a record of over 200 crimes, the child would hang from the gallows. If the magistrate was kind, a death sentence may be commuted from hanging to transportation, for life, to a convict colony, in Australia.
Sometimes, these children were the lucky ones, and other times, not.
Steve Harris’ book called,”The Lost Boys of Mr Dickens,” recounts the real-life story of two young boys, in the 19th century, sent by the British Government, as impoverished and unwanted juveniles to exile to Van Diemen’s Land, now Tasmania, in the world’s first prison built exclusively for children.
Prejudice, moral panic, harsh justice and expedience saw unwanted boys condemned to severe isolation, solitary confinement, hard labour in chains and thrashings in a juvenile version of notorious Port Arthur, a ground-breaking chapter in the history of juvenile crime and punishment. Some quietly endured in the hope of salvation through rudimentary trade and Biblical instruction, but others became relentlessly defiant and mutinous in a brotherhood of resistance and bullying, inexorably slipping from hope to hell.
A Convict in the Family
Ironically, having a convict ancestor in one’s family history is now seen as an asset to a Genealogist. Not only is there widespread documents and history related to convicts, but many times, there are details of their physical description and life story, sometimes even their words, letters or deeds they performed.
John Martin, although not a child convict, was convicted of stealing a sheep’s carcass, at 24 years of age. His sentence of life imprisonment aboard the convict hulks moored in British harbours was commuted to transportation, for life, to Australia. Therein starts our Australian family adventure as John was my 3 x Great Grandfather.
John Thomas Martin was indeed one of the lucky ones to escape the gallows or a potential life in the textile factories. John went on to become a convict overseer, gain his ticket of leave and later marry into one of the first free settler families in Australia, having a large brood of 11 children, one of which was Eve Martin, his daughter, my 2nd Great Grandmother.
I wonder why Eve wore her heart brooch upside down?
Their farm near Paterson in country New South Wales was called ‘Forest Wood,” and the small town of Martin’s Creek now bears the family’s name. From the inscription his free settler wife, Jemima had inscribed into his tombstone, one might think she was determined that history would know of his true character, more than his criminal past.
“He was an affectionate husband and a kind father.”
‘The Big Scrub’, Northern New South Wales, Australia
The Big Scrub is located in Northern New South Wales, Australia. This vast area of subtropical rainforest was cleared by European settlers from the 1840s, firstly for its valuable cabinet timber species, in particular red cedar, and later for agricultural selection, primarily dairying and agriculture.
This region is of special significance to me, as my Great-grandparents were some of the first pioneers to select and clear this land along the Coopers Creek, a perennial stream of the Richmond River Big Scrub, later to be called the township of Eureka.
Early Exploration of The Big Scrub and ‘Red Gold’
In 1842, the original cedar cutters were attracted to the area by the the enormous stands of ‘Red Gold,’ or Red Cedar trees that stood dense and tall on the river banks.
Red cedar was one of the first export products for the fledgling settlements of convict NSW. Cedar exports continued to rise, coming third in significance to wheat and wool, during the 19th Century. Being a slow-growing tree, the Red Cedar produces beautiful soft timber that was used for furniture and, (wastefully), flooring, in Australian housing. The abundance was greater than anyone had experienced before and the quality of the timber was exceptional so more and more settlers and cedar cutters flocked to the district. Before long, all the cedar had been logged out.
Selection of the Big Scrub and Land Clearing
As a condition of receiving land grants, the selectors had to clear all the vegetation. Not the 15 per cent along the streams or anything like that, “clear it all,” they were told.
Settlement of the Big Scrub had commenced in the areas around Alstonville, by 1865 under the Conditional Purchase provisions of the Robertson Land Act of 1862. The Act meant clearing was compulsory in order to maintain your ownership of the land.
Great Grandfather, Samuel Russell, would have had to clear-fell several acres of land each year or forfeit his claim to the land. In addition, each selector had to build a house and make other “improvements” to maintain his title. This was how the Government would encourage settlement of particular areas, and by so doing, displace Aboriginal people and many animal and plant species.
The demand for good grazing land fed a steady flow of settlers into the region. Even as late as 1908 at Jiggi Creek, just north of Lismore, clearing a site for a hut was still a major undertaking; clearing an entire selection would involve months of back-breaking effort for the settler and any of his children able to help.
The Forest Disappears
This Government clearing and settlement initiative was responsible for 99 per cent of the Big Scrub being cleared. 99 % of the original forest has gone. Remnants of, ‘The Big Scrub,’ remain in National park and State Conservation areas, but most of it was burnt by early pioneers as they considered it useless to farming. The botanical diversity was not seen as valuable as it was, “just scrub”.
It is hard to be critical of early cedar cutters and settlers who contributed to this destruction; the evidence of their hardiness and enterprise, their spirit and their willingness to endure harsh conditions and to pull together is too great not to feel some admiration, notwithstanding various incidents of cruelty and worse towards the Bundjalung and other Aboriginal peoples of the region.
Now only small scattered remnants of the original rainforest remain, many of them less than five hectares in area and covering less than 700 hectares in total – less than 1 per cent of the original area.
One man and his brother were able to shoot 102 wompoo pigeons now extremely rare and potentially extinct, from one white cedar in one morning and, on another day, filled two chaff bags with topknot pigeons and four brush turkeys; brown pigeons were too small to waste the powder on but, on the way home, one casually thrown stick killed six of them. These birds were destined for salting down as the family’s food. At the same time, previously uncommon cockatoos, parrots and lorikeets descended on the pioneer settlers’ crops “in clouds”. Pademelons, [a type of small kangaroo], proliferated and became a scourge to crops and pastures; bandicoots were more numerous than ever before and the brush possum appeared in numbers, driven out from the cleared forest areas. The abundance was short-lived and the forest habitat was replaced by dairy cows. Today, there are few remaining native mammals and dairy farms have largely been replaced by macadamia nut and tropical fruit plantations.
Inroads into the wildlife were heavy but in the long term may have had less drastic permanent effects on animal populations, had suitable reserves been created and maintained. But as axes rang through the forest, trees crashed and the smoke drifted through the canopy, wildlife had no hope; its habitat was almost totally erased.
Despite the loss of such rich sub-tropical rainforest, the remnant areas remain important for migratory birds and bats, who disperse seeds of a number of species on their movement northwards. The remnant forest provides important stepping stones for birds and bats which seasonally migrate between the forests of the coast to the south. As the birds and bats are the major vehicle for dispersing seeds far and wide, the remnants are important genetic pools for seed diversity in north-eastern New South Wales.
Some early property owners preserved small parcels of their less accessible ‘upper country,’ out of appreciation of the forest’s natural values. Other patches were deliberately retained as firebreaks, (although rainforest is susceptible to fire and does not regrow from it as does eucalypt forest).
The main remnants of the Big Scrub today include Uralba Nature Reserve, Booyong Recreation Reserve, Andrew Johnston Big Scrub, Victoria Park, Davis Scrub, Hayters Hill, Boatharbour, Minyon Falls Nature Reserve, Big Scrub Flora Reserve and Wilson Nature Reserve. The only sizeable areas left are in the northeast of the state, in the Border Ranges.
Pioneer Families in the Richmond River District
Great grandfather, Samuel Russell and his wife, Sarah, were Pioneers selectors of the Eureka and Coopers Creek area, a tributary of the Richmond River. My Grandfather was born at the family farm along with about nine other sisters and brothers.
Samuel Russell, my Great Grandfather, died prematurely, of heart disease, and one could imagine the physical toll of heavy work such as clearing the thick rainforest may have contributed to his early demise. Sarah remarried and left the district. The children were spread out amongst older family members. My Grandfather moving to Wondai, to live with his sister, Annie Sheather.
It is difficult to locate the original Russell selection now, as boundaries and access roads have altered over time, but the area remains primarily agricultural grazing land.
It makes for a wonderful place for a day trip from Lismore or further north and makes one ponder about what it was like in the early days.
I am a bit late with posting my Sunday Sayings quote as it is now Monday afternoon, in Australia. I don’t want writing a regular blog post to become a chore, for then I feel sure my writing would lose spontaneity and appeal, so if I can’t think of anything useful to write, I won’t post at all. Just so you know.
Today’s inspiration resulted after a long walk along the beach with a friend.
Being on the beach at sunrise is fantastic and I feel extremely fortunate to experience it. With little accompanying wind and a mild air temperature, (given it was a winter’s morning in a sub-tropical part of Australia), the sun bid good morning through the low level cloud, hugging the islands across the bay.
That fire breathing star of atoms we all depend on for life, shone over the lapping seawater like a spotlight on a runway carpet. A beam of golden light that stretched across the ocean from the horizon to the shore line like a path to eternity. Magical.
As we walked, my friend and I chatted about life’s dramas, past experiences and the week ahead. She told me about a gentlemen on a UK TV show, who faced enormous challenges in his daily life, and who had seemingly had more than his share of devastating family tragedies, with one cataclysmic life event following another.
In chatting about the TV show and these experiences, I remembered a quote I had read some time back.
Life Challenges and Adversity
After our walk was done and I was at home sipping a cup of tea, I pondered some more about life and facing adversity.
We have all experienced some level of adversity in life.
Everyone has challenges, sooner or later. There wouldn’t be one person on the planet that hasn’t faced some kind of adversity.
Given that such challenges and adversity are omnipresent, or a natural part of life, aiming to live a life without them seems a tad unrealistic and even far-fetched.
Yet how often do we yearn, and sometimes expect, life to be challenge free: wishing for an easy life.
I guess it is in our nature to want life to be trouble free and have free time to pursue hobbies, sport or leisure pursuits. Devices, gadgets and the latest electronic inventions promises itself as a panacea to our time-poor existence.
So I ask:
Why are we looking to save so much time?
In doing so, are we living in the here and now, or looking forward to a mythical ‘down’ time, failing to notice our lives, passing by?
Why do we Want More Leisure Time Anyway?
To make life more meaningful
To experience more relaxation and peace
To conduct leisure pursuits
To stop working in a job that bring us joy
What is it that gives us a sense of satisfaction in life?
If the Covid pandemic has any lesson, it is that some folks become completely bored without work, with nothing constructive to do, and a few even create mischief for others.
Is it in the facing of challenges that we come alive?
In overcoming adversity and challenges, even if painful or sad, we can learn and grow. This, in turn, might lead to a greater sense of satisfaction and contentment. Right?
You tell me.
What is it that you are seeking in wanting more leisure time?
Would you prefer a life completely free from challenges?
Join the Discussion
Everyone is welcome to comment, well except for spammers, of course.
I am not that fond of social media, but I do use it. Sounds a bit hypocritical, doesn’t it? I rather like the Facebook ‘Memories’ feature. It reminds me of what I was doing on that same date, in previous years. They are always happy memories. (I generally don’t post sad ones).
Last year at this time, for instance, I took a road trip with an old friend. We stayed overnight at an Eco-resort, a first for me. It was sublime. In the morning we took a walk through the forest and there was a surprise waiting for us, one that I wasn’t so fond of:
Instead of taking the highway home, we opted to follow some back roads. An unscheduled stop in a rural area, to check on a noise in the rear boot, (read: trunk if you are from the USA), led me to discover a surprising panorama. One that only the farmer and the cows might have shared:
However, a bigger surprise was to come a few miles north.
In a park prone to flooding (?!), a kilometre outside of the small country town of Kenilworth, Australia, a town known more for its prize-winning cheese, is a prize-winning Dunny, or public toilet facility.
180 people submitted their designs in a competition, run by the Town’s Council, for the creation of a new public – ah – monument. It was a local architectural illustrator, Michael Lennie, whose design titled Canistrum, Latin for a basket, that was selected.
At a cost of $600,000, the ‘Dunny’ was supposed to represent a basket – the basket being the history of the town and the unfinished basket supports the future history of the town, yet to be written.
But why yellow?
On pondering the glorious throne, of which I did not deem necessary to try out first hand, I pondered whether the artist was having a go at us, or maybe he was a ‘basket case?’ Lol.
The folks up that way do seem to have a wry sense of humour as the next surprise seemed to indicate.
This was spotted on the back road across the mountain.
Jurassic Park anyone?
If you haven’t already guessed, the theme this week for Friendly Friday is:
Show us a Surprise photo or two, or three in a Friendly Friday Post?
Because everyone likes Surprises, don’t they?
Even if they are a prize winning public toilet facility.
How to Join the Friendly Friday Challenge
To participate in the Challenge this week, you need to:
Create a Friendly Friday Post titled: ‘Friendly Friday – Surprise’
I think we all are aware that brands and stores may not survive the financial hiatus resulting from the pandemic. Together with the shift in the popularity of online shopping, the enforced elimination of in-person appointments and alternative home delivery methods, what if shopping malls could become a relic of the past?
Shopping malls might become ghost towns, abandoned places left to rack and ruin, post-Covid.
Might it be possible that abandoned locations such as those could undergo a phoenix-like transformation should the worst happen in a post-pandemic environment?
A Silver Lining
With a little alteration, abandoned malls could become emergency shelters or accommodation for the homeless or disadvantaged folks. The infrastructure exists – services such as lighting, electricity and plumbing etc could be re-connected.
Small stores might easily be converted to residential rooms and larger stores to dormitory or dining areas. The homeless or troublesome graffiti artistis will infiltrate abandoned places anyway!
There could be retraining and shelter facilities, hardware stores could become areas for learning trades or sheltered workshops.
Is it pessimistic to think that this might unfortunately come to pass, or that a rejuvenation in a humanitarian form even possible?
All is Not Lost
There are reports and discussions occurring about opening up society again and how our Government could gradually do it.
The process has started, with parks and playgrounds re-opening, as our Covid new case rate is relatively low, compared to some other countries. Travel between Australia and New Zealand might even be allowed in the coming months.
Mortgages in abeyance will still have to paid. If the employment is there, can they play catch up when income has been severely restricted or absent for several months? If not, then more emergency shelter accommodation will be needed.
Time will tell.
Hopefully, your shopping mall an small business will survive and rise to the challenges of online business.
Things are never so bad that they are not good for something.
When the internet came along, it was suggested that everything would be done online, from shopping to employment and communications. Individuals would not need to leave home to live their consumer lives.
The public however, has shown that we are primarily social creatures and are reluctant to embrace a completely virtual lifestyle.Whilst online shopping has undoubtedly increased, it wasn’t the tidal wave envisaged by the tech industry, until Covid 19 came along.
Our lives have become more virtual, whether we liked it, or not.
Getting takeout or takeaway doesn’t seem to give us the same experience as dining in at a restaurant or cafe. Neither does the online shopping experience feel quite as satisfying as the benefits of browsing in person at a store, feeling the fabric in a garment, physically trying on clothing, or chatting to another shopper, seeing what is around.
Because it is not just the objective alone, that is important.
It’s the whole consumer experience.
The atmosphere at the cafes and shops is attractive to us through our senses: the watching of people; the smells, sights and sounds; (overwhelming for some), or the conversation with friends you meet whilst shopping; the interaction with Cafe staff and fellow diners; the inspirational decor on the walls, or from the books on the shelves in a bookstore; even the art on the walls.
All of this, together, gives us a pleasurable sensory experience that is clearly important to us, as a comment on my second blog alluded.
“We human beings are social beings. We come into the world as the result of others’ actions. We survive here in dependence on others. Whether we like it or not, there is hardly a moment of our lives when we do not benefit from others’ activities. For this reason, it is hardly surprising that most of our happiness arises in the context of our relationships with others.”
Benefits of Covid and Virtual Lifestyle
During the Covid lockdown, skies, streets and air appears cleaner and we have more time on our hands. None of that horrid sitting stuck in traffic on the way home from work, or rushing to catch a crowded train with a million other commuters at 5pm.
Other people discover there is time to get to know their kids, becoming involved, by choice or necessity, in their education, or generally engaging with them more because there is little ecternal events to absorb their time. (Albeit for some, this could be far more stressful and family life might suffer from a lack of outside exposure, stimulation or influence).
All wonderful benefits of an enforced, semi-virtual life.
Yet, it seems even introverts or socially phobic individuals have struggled with being cooped up during the Covid pandemic.
We, as humans, seem to value social interaction above any virtual experience.
Cafe Society Lifestyle
Prior to the appearance of Covid, the Cafe society was a popular lifestyle choice in Australia. When cafes closed down in lock-down, no one knew what would happen. Aussie Cafes/Diners and Restaurants were legally allowed to operate only on a takeaway, (takeout), basis.
Many chose to close, temporarily, or permanently and the alfresco cafe dining experience came to an abrupt end.
The Beach Esplanade, near my home, is lined with popular cafes and restaurants of all persuasions and cuisines. Being smaller businesses, most have closed completely, but some remain open. Last night, I placed a phone order for a ‘Quarantine Pack’, at one of the restaurants. Being a Friday night, I wondered what I’d find when I arrived for the meal.
At the Italian restaurant itself, a makeshift pick-up counter was laid out with social distancing markers in the formerly packed out al fresco dining area. Customers awaited their order in silence, or hushed in conversations with their partner, spaced well apart from each other. This was a very different picture to the regular Friday night.
On the opposite side of the road, overlooking the sea, couples and small family groups sat on benches or rugs, at the required social distance, eating their takeaway meals and watching the moonlight filtering over the waves, lapping the shore.
It was another life, but it was okay. Not ideal, but it had a beauty all of its own, even a little nostalgic or romantic perhaps.
It begs the question as to how much of a virtual lifestyle we can lead?
Is it possible for human beings to live like this, at all?
My mind drifted to thinking of resolution referring to the conflict between two people or nations and as I was looking for a suitable photo to add to this post, I found this, in my photo library.
It’s a museum poster at the Beaconsfield Mining Museum in Tasmania, spoken by theminer who was trapped with his mate and a dead colleague for 14 days, 1 kilometre underground after an underground gold mine collapsed. The incredible story of survival and careful extraction by the Recovery team led me to contemplate what resolution might mean in circumstances where all hope appears completely lost. What would resolution look like, then?
Todd Russell and Brant Webb were 900m (3,000ft) below ground, in a tiny space four and a half feet square. They couldn’t stand or sit and had to take turns lying either on their backs or their sides, as sharp rocks cut into them from below. They had a small amount of light, but it was a hot and humid 29C (84F), in their bunker.To keep their spirits up, Russell and Webb sang songs and told stories to pass the time. Their only food was a muesli bar.
On the sixth day, they were found by thermal imaging cameras and a microphone. Yet for the rescuers, this was the start of more frustration. “We were struck by the psychological trauma that affected everybody,” the miner explained. One driller told me that it was easier when he thought we were dead and he could convince himself he was just doing a job, breaking rock.” Fourteen days of painstakingly slow and careful drilling later and the men were brought to the surface.
How would you survive for fourteen days in a tiny space, not knowing if you were going to die at any minute? When there isn’t any other choice?
Todd Russell explains, “I made the effort to go back underground only a week after we got out,” he says. “You fall off a horse, you get back on it. I get quite uncomfortable at times, but I’m not spending 12 hours a day underground.
An amazing story of resolution. What was that trivial thing we were complaining about in relation to a Corona lock-down, a minute ago?
A final word from Jack Nicklaus
Resolve never to quit, never to give up, no matter what the situation.
We live in a designated Koala area as the new house is located within a known corridor and adjacent to a protected Koala habitat. Yesterday, we spotted a Koala on our way home from essential shopping at the Hardware store.
This is not our first Koala sighting in our area. Several months ago, a male Koala was spotted resting in the lower branches of the same tree. See my post on Koala spotting here.
The Gumtree in which the furry marsupial was sitting, has a flourish of succulent new growth towards the crown, due, no doubt, to the recent rainfall. This has attracted another Koala occupant and this time it was a female with a Joey, (a baby Koala), in her pouch.
According to a neighbour living directly opposite, the koala had been in this tree for a week or so, I contacted the Koala Rescue to report the sighting.
The Rescue group has a number of volunteers who attend Koala sightings to perform a visual health check, as almost all Koalas in our State, are known to have a number of health issues, primarily Chlamydia infection. This is a particularly painful infection that can lead to Koala infertility, blindness and death. Along with Chlamydia, habitat loss has led to a significant decline in Koala populations to a point where they remain vulnerable.
Surveys have shown that some wild populations demonstrate a 100 percent rate of [Chlamydia] infection, which frequently leads to blindness, severe bladder inflammation, infertility and death. And treatment with antibiotics could create further problems for the marsupials, upsetting their gut microbes and making it difficult for them to digest the eucalyptus leaves that are a staple of their diet, researchers recently discovered.
The Moreton Bay Koala Rescue is an organization staffed by knowledgable volunteers who drop everything and run to aid a Koala. Marilyn and her able assistant used a set of binoculars to assess the Koala’s health from the ground, as the animal was too high to conduct a full-on assessment and rescue. In the video, they tapped the base of the tree with a stick, in order to assess her ease of movement and to get a better view of her as Koalas generally sleep during the day.
She may well be the Koala, known to rescuers as Barty, as she had a tag in her right ear, meaning that she is a female, (as women are always right!) and she did have a Joey in the pouch.
The Rescuers told us the Koala Mum has likely been carrying her Joey in the pouch, for around 6 months. In a few weeks time, this Joey will move out of the pouch and travel about on the Mum’s back for several months, until it is old enough and clever enough to live independently. If the Mum has chlamydia, she will, unfortunately, pass it on to the little Joey.
Koalas Killed on Roads in Breeding Season
Breeding season is when Koalas are on the move, crossing roads and hunting for a mate. This usually starts in July; perhaps it will start earlier this year, as daily temperatures have been higher than expected.
The Rescue stated that in the first 8 weeks of the breeding season in 2019, they received and cared for 22 injured Koalas, mostly as a result of being hit by cars. It is heartening that their numbers are still high in our region, but tragic that so many are still accidentally killed by motor vehicles when crossing the road.
Koalas are harmless creatures, they basically just want to eat their gum leaves, find a mate and sleep away most of the day. If you only ate one food, you might also sleep 18 hours in every 24 too! They are not endowed with speed and often travel at night when they are difficult to spot on the road.
Slow down if you drive through a known Koala Habitat.
Kangaroo Island Koalas
South Australia’s Kangaroo Island had the only population of Koalas in the country without Chlamydia infection. Sadly, it is believed up to 30,000 perished in the recent bushfires. 90 % of their food trees on the Island were burnt, so any surviving Koalas actually died from starvation, unless they were rescued. One resident claimed that you couldn’t walk ten metres in any part of the forest, without coming across a dead Koala carcass.
Why do we need to Protect Koala Habitat?
As incredible as it may seem, the Government still seems reluctant to protect Koala habitat. Koalas are specialised feeders; they are only able to eat four species of Eucalypt leaves and are thus, highly vulnerable to extinction. Ensuring that remaining Koala habitat is protected is a critical factor for their survival.
The Koala is an iconic symbol of Australia that brings millions of tourists and their dollars to our shores, yet it receives little recognition in the way of publicly funded support in return. After the recent bush fires, a new strategy to protect some realms of known Koala habitat in my own state, has even been criticised for not going far enough to cover many known Koala corridors.
It is absolutely essential to protect any remaining Koala habitat. We have been blessed with a responsiblity for this beautiful creature and it desperately needs our help to survive.
In order to maintain viable populations, the Koalas must be free to roam within their range and interbreed to remain healthy. Protecting Koala populations with Koala fences may actually prevent males from finding a mate to breed with.
Report Koala Sightings
It is imperative, therefore, that all sighting of Koalas are reported and documented, so that their movements can be tracked and the data collected and shared with Government bodies. This will assist in protecctive planning decisions that aim to preserve the Koala and its habitat for future generations to enjoy.
May 3 is Wild Koala day for the Moreton Bay Koala Rescue – a major fundraising event had to be cancelled, due to Covid 19. They are a not for profit organization dependent on donations and community support.
May the Rescue continue their great work. Thanks to every one of them.