hill and dale and this place we call home


Not a day goes by, on my drive to school that I don’t consider how lucky I am to have been born in this country. Okay, maybe not every day, most days. Well, maybe not most days even, but often, lots of days.

Today on my drive to work I contemplated how lucky I am to have been born in Australia.

I was driving over the and through the hills, a mix of heavy rain clouds and fog hugging hills, snaking low into and along ridges. It was a delicate and beautiful countryside and I get to live within it.

Just by an accident of birth, this is my land, this is where I can live safe and secure. I don’t have to fear that at any moment my life will be turned upside down and perhaps my family torn from me.

I wish others would remember this when they label others “illegal immigrants” or “boat people”. There but for good fortune could go any of us.

finding pen and voice


Since moving to the country I have noticed a slight change in my mind set in that I am becoming more community minded. Not just in our endeavours to shop locally when we can, but also in adding our voice to other initiatives.

This morning, I was at a nearby shopping centre where the local council had set up to canvas opinions on what the community considered important for the future. In the city, I probably would have walked by, not probably, I would certainly have walked on by. Today, I set my groceries down, took up marker pen and added my comments to the paper boards they had set up.

A young woman who was staffing the area came over and asked me more questions about what I had written. I was advocating wifi and fast reliable internet access, and I explained how it would be  of benefit for the local hospital to have access so that patients could have time online with specialists instead of having to travel to the city for some appointments. The government is committed to a national broadband system, but they are picking and choosing areas, and their plans go right to the end of our street and miss the local high school and the small regional hospital that is in the Village. Stupidity at its governmental best.

I have no expectation that anything will change, but it did make me realise that our sense of place and belonging does shape our thoughts and actions. I expect that growing older also makes me more community conscious, and I did hear myself declaring a double barrel comment, “The older generation will be able to stay in their homes longer if they have reliable and affordable internet access, and I am a teacher I know how important the internet is to education now!” I almost looked over my shoulder as this public voice was so not me – was someone actually speaking behind me and it wasn’t in fact me? Nope it was me.

I’ll be carrying a soap box next! An elegant, one of a kind, soap box, of course.

eye to eye with the Flamingo Files

This is the Old Windmill is a heritage-listed tower located in Wickham Park, on Wickham Terrace in Spring Hill, Brisbane, Queensland, Australia.  It is across the road from where my eye was crafted!

This is the Old Windmill It is a heritage-listed tower located in Wickham Park, on Wickham Terrace in Spring Hill, Brisbane, Queensland, Australia. It is across the road from where my eye was crafted!

We brought the new eye home, and a very nice new eye it is too. It was a little too big at first and gave me a startled look even when I was trying to pretend my eyes were closed in a sleeping position, so a little grinding, polishing and buffing was called for. Well, it was called for three times, before the mirror in my hand told me I was the most glamorous in the land. So with old eye in my handbag, and new eye in its rightful place, and $2150 poorer ($500 to be repaid by medical insurance) I met Mr FD in the downstairs coffee shop where he had been waiting. I fluttered my eyelashes and rolled my beautiful green eyes at him, but he just thought I was having a brain conniption , so I gave up trying to impress and ordered coffee and apple pie instead.

I have the solution for America’s gun problem! Sticks. Give every man, woman and child a four foot long stick in place of guns and I am sure that very shortly the death and injury rate will fall. I mean, if you are going to the movie theatre and have to carry a 4ft stick with you, you are going to think twice aren’t you? Also, a 4ft stick can’t be concealed, so everyone is going to know that you are packing one.  As protection, no one will need a bullet proof vet, just a good quality helmut. These could come in a range of decorator colours, basic black for those sophisticated moments.  Sure an arm or leg might get cracked but no one is going to die, and everyone has an equal chance. Plus you can run away or make sure you stand a good six feet away and no harm can be done.  Geeze, I really should run the world.  Now, world peace…

Grade 8 students are so gullible. I was teaching them how to access their school email (many of them don’t even know what an email is! Does that make you feel old?) and I told them that once they had read an email and decided that they no longer needed it to delete it so that they didn’t end up with 4967 emails by the end of the year. I added that of course they should delete everything, except my emails as they were the best and most important. Instantly a look of terror flew across the face of one young student who confessed, “I just deleted one of your emails!” Oh the fun playing with young minds. I told her I forgave her… and then told her I was joking. Damn teacher honesty.

It is amazing how where you live shapes your life. Last week, I was driving through the Village when I felt something drop under my feet. It seemed to fall from under the dashboard. In the city I wouldn’t have thought twice about it, but now that we live in the country, all those media stories of snakes crawling into cars and dropping onto drivers instantly came to mind, and so I hastily pulled over. Turns out it was my sunglasses case! It did make me aware of how much our life has changed in the last eighteen months.

The real thing, a snake, did eventuate though. Mr FD found a green tree snake had made its way through a hole in the screen door in the laundry and was slithering its way down the hall way today. It was a monumental battle as Augie Dog wanted a piece of the action, or rather snake as well. So Mr FD had to hold Augie with one hand and dispatch the snake with the other. Snakes are protected in Australia, but if they come into my house they are an endangered reptile in my opinion. Just to prove his bravery, Mr FD left the blood smear on the floor near the main bathroom. When I arrived home I handed him the antiseptic wipes to finish the job ( sometimes the fragile female act really is the only course of action!) New screen door being ordered tomorrow.

The Old Windmill, Brisbane http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Old_Windmill,_Brisbane

Flamingo files 2014 style

bird Mary & Dove, Paris 1957

When do we start talking about weather, or even notching the weather? As a teenager I know that I never paid the weather one moment of thoughts, except for rainy days when I would really want to skip school to stay home and read books in bed. I have numerous memories of going out on a winter’s evening  wearing  a feeling light and flimsy blouse or dress. No matter that my teeth might chatter, my skin turn blue and pneumonia would set in by morning, if I had a new outfit without sleeves, and meant for 30C days, and it was 9C outside, I was going to wear it – I had to dress to suit the me I was that night -young and sexy, of course!

I looked in my car’s rear view mirror to see a 1970s model Ford Falcon painted a faded orange colour following me. Inside the orange car was a man, well someone had to drive it, at least for the moment! The man was wearing a faded orange safety vest. All I could think of for the rest of the journey, much of which the orange safety man in his orange vehicle followed me was, why?Does he suffer an anxiety issue, so won’t leave home without all safety elements intact? Has he been involved in one car accident too many (is there ever a suitable number of car accidents to suffer though?) and now wants to warn everyone that he is coming? Does his wife not want surprise returns to home and so makes him wear orange, drive orange? Is he colour blind and thinks he is wearing green? Important need to knows.

The birds around The Village are getting traffic savvy. I noticed a  car approaching a bird pecking in the middle of the road, and when the bird failed to fly away as the car neared I expected a splatter of bird body and feathers to ensure. Nearing the last moment of escape the bird merely moved to the centre road line of the two lane road.

It stepped back to eat its minuscule road meal as I approached. I slowed expecting it to make flight this time, but it merely did the same, stepping to stand on the centre road line as I drew level. Obviously it has learnt it is just a step to the right!

Don’t you think it is a worry though, that our birds have more street smarts than some of our children who have to be escorted across the road after school even as teenagers?

I find my daily road trip a fountain of interest some days. On my way to a doctor’s appointment, I changed lanes on the highway and fell behind a hearse with the words “legend funerals” emblazoned across the back of the car. Legend funerals, doesn’t it just make your imagination race? Visions of Rocky type music blaring as your casket is jettisoned from the rear of the church, paparazzi flashing as your remains roll by. Then I started to wonder about the language itself. Was it really funerals for legends, or was it legendary funerals? Either way I tried not to think of it as an omen as I drove into the car park at my doctor’s office – I am a legend and oh so legendary after all!


Australia Day

Today is Australia Day, and I guess I should write something about that.

Today is Australia Day. On Friday night, someone graffitied Captain Cook’s cottage that has been so painstakingly taken apart and transported from its original Yorkshire site in England to the city of Melbourne.  Saturday morning I woke to read a text message from a colleague that referred to Muslims. It linked Australia Day, Muslims, naked Australian women and beer drinking Australian males in a manner that was racist towards Muslims, but also, and perhaps this did not occur to my colleague, beautifully illustrated the “ugly” Australian image that so brings on more than just my cultural cringe.

Cooks' Cottage graffitied

I am not sure what either action means ultimately, but at the very least it shows that there is a lot of anger out there. Australia Day seems to bring that out in our hordes.

Australia Day when I was a child was largely ignored, except for a few communities where, if they had access to a beach, or a creek bank would dress up in replica British uniforms and before 1967 when we started thinking that hey, the indigenous actually do have some rights,  force some unlucky local indigenous to play startled and welcoming conscripts to the British Empire as Governor Phillip claimed the east coast of Australia for King and Country.

For a while after that, during the seventies and the division caused by the Vietnam War, I think we tried to forget Australia Day, except for the holiday part. Don’t ever try to part an Australian from their right to a public holiday. Not if you don’t want your kangaroo tied down, mate!

Then we wrestled the America’s Cup (yachting) from the Americans and somehow there was a gradual revival in the big day.

Every year, we are reminded by actions such as the graffiti that many indigenous people call our national day, a day of mourning, or for mourning. Who could blame them? The wide open country is yours, your culture is flourishing, your civilisation quite sophisticated, and along sails a flotilla of boats stacked with smelly, criminals, the great unwanted of the British elites, and illiterate soldiers to take away your world as you know it.  Disfranchised is the new black.

A couple of years ago, there were race riots, but not between white and indigenous, but with some of our more recently arrived immigrants, the newly disfranchised.  The news showed bare chested Aussie males wearing rubber thongs on tanned feet, Australian flags draped over their shoulders having a stoush with various ethnic groups on a city beach.  Add alcohol as it always is, and violence erupted.

What I remember most is feeling intensely ashamed of who and what, we as a nation are. We brand ourselves as multicultural, one of the “best experiments” in multicultural; as if we could return to “before” if the lab results weren’t favourable .  Or better still, develop one multicoloured pill and accept each other in the morning.

So, this Australia Day, as I wait to watch the evening news to see how it unfolded. I can only hope that this year the ugly Australian will not dominate. This year, I hope that we can progress in accepting each other, tolerating each other, learning about each other, and being a true multicultural nation. Though with Indonesia lining war ships up along their sovereign ocean borders to fend off those refugee boats that we Australians voted to turn back to Indonesia, where they also do not belong, I doubt that much will change.

And my colleague’s email? I would have hoped that they knew me well enough to know that I wouldn’t find that so humorous. Obviously, they don’t, or they didn’t read the hate and the harm in the context.  My action has been to ignore it. No LOLs.  It is a response that ever since has left me feeling less like the good guy. Does my not saying something actually seem like a form of acceptance, or agreement? But then again, if I say something, I could harm a very important work relationship. It is like that story that goes something like, “they came for the village next to mine, and I did nothing, they came for my neighbour and I did nothing, and then they came for me…” Where do I draw my line – for me or the other guy?

Am I nothing but an ugly, or at the very least, a weak, Australian as well?

Up close and personal with the “culture change” genre.

Our House is Not in Paris

I am reading a biography that I really looked forward to starting, after reading a couple of very excited reviews. The book is “Our House is Not in Paris” by Australian, Susan Cutsforth. It follows the tale of Susan and her husband buying a “unique fixer-upper” in the French countryside, while keeping their day jobs in Australia. Susan is a teacher librarian so it added an extra dimension for me, being a TL myself.

Sadly, I have been very disappointed by the book. 77 pages in and I am quite certain that the rapturous reviews can only have been supplied by close friends of the author. It is written with beautiful language, and a smattering of French words in the hope of giving it some French essence, but it is filled with repetition and little story. This is frustrating, I mean just 77 pages and I have lost count of the number of times I as the reader have been informed of the French ritual of a two hour lunch, how most French people are hostile to strangers, but everyone and their dog opened their very sophisticated houses to them, and how she ran around using mime to replace her knowledge of French. What passes for chapters are down to a page and a half of what I would guesstimate as a size 14 font style, and that is irritating the teacher within me. I feel that the short chapters are often repeating what we were told only a chapter page and a half ago, also. The book is 256 pages long so maybe my opinion will improve…

I adore this genre of biography, the “culture change” as I title it, slightly different to the sea change, or the tree change that Mr FD and I have embarked upon, alas not in France, but in our dear Australia. My disappointment and frustration with this particular example led me to lying wide awake last night and analysing the genre of the “culture change” biography, or memoir.

1.The protagonist, usually a woman, buys a rundown house/villa/farm on a whim in a foreign country/or the protagonist returns from a foreign country to buy said house/villa/farm in their homeland.

2. Having too much money and no common sense they do not get a builder’s inspection, even after being told the house stood abandoned for 75 years, and so shortly afterwards discover that they have major structural problems on their hands. Sacre bleu!

3. The real estate agent, who fobbed the ruin on them in the first place, stays in close contact, offering “help” by pointing the way to local tradespeople to assist in resurrecting the ruin. The cynic within of course suspects that a. the agent will be receiving a kick back from the tradespeople, or they are family; and b. they hang on just in case the crazy newbie puts it back on the market and they can get another round of commission selling it again. The newbie declares them wonderful and they get a free plug.

4. Lo and behold, a friendly older couple, though sometimes just an older man, takes the floundering newbie under their/his wing and starts to sort out all manner of problems from plumbing to goats in the garden for the newbie who has just spent an entire chapter informing the reader of all the reasons why they had decided to put it all down to “it was a good idea at the time” and sell the place to return to sanity.

5. This couple, or person, then become a conduit to local antique stores where everything is more than the budget which we are repeatedly told is miniscule, but the proprietor shows the newbie, ( who can’t speak the local language except to ask for wine, and say “yummy” when they are given local delicacies at cafes and restaurants in hidden alleys that only “real” locals frequent, thus signifying that the newbie is accepted by all and sundry), their secret antique horde which they allow newbie to buy at prices way below what they would have paid in the swanky antique stores they frequented “back home”. Thus explaining how farm machinery ends up decorating the walls of their “villa”

6. The newbie either hires, borrows or buys a car with the same sound common sense that they used to purchase their ruin, and then hurtles around narrow mountain roads, barely staying on the road while goats and shepherds head for the cliff edge. Oh what a lark! A car means visits to more antique stores, cheese shops, and vine yards, and a visit or two to exciting arty types who also bought ruins but had the sense to hire an architect and decorator to make it “just darling” for them.

7. About this time, when life is all sunny and they have just got the roof off the house, the first cold snap arrives so that newbie wakes under a layer of frost on her bed, and the antique water heater that she has named Horrid Horace, and needs a kick and a whack to start each day, packs it in. No water, no heat! A day and a half of freezing and wearing three layers follows before one of her new sophisticated friends (did I mention that all locals are given pseudonyms, while the arty, cultured rich and famous that apparently live on every rue or above narrow picturesque alley are named in full, often and with full Debretts’ bio and title? Well, they are).

8. The tradesmen either go slow until they are aware she is about to go bankrupt then finish the house overnight, or down tools until the spring when they return, nail in a coat hook and voilà the house is completed just as her best friend from that oh so now strange previous life arrives to stand in awe at polished wooden floors and the obligatory long wooden trestle kitchen table. Oh the fun!

9. This friend, who just happens to be an editor, suggests the newbie write a book of her trials and tribulations, as well as of the budding romance with a handsome local man who just happens to be either an up and coming artist, writer, or entrepreneur who has banked his millions and now spurns the plebs to bake bread while trading sweet almond oil futures.

10. This leads us to book 2; which will include details of how crazy life was during her book tour for book 1 and how she fell into her rustic pallet bed with its French linens exhausted at the end of a long flight from New York after an appearance on Good Morning America.

And I am a sucker for book 2 every time.