The whole plant was covered in these fast-moving jewel-like bugs! It was fascinating to see them sparkling in the sunlight in a suburban garden.
I am reading “Miss Benson’s Beetle” by Rachel Joyce, wherein Miss Benson and her assistant Enid search for a golden beetle in the wilds of New Caledonia, far removed from the comforts and safety of home, and this book has heightened my interest in insects.
The little Cotton Harlequin bugs (above) were enjoying lunch.
Scientific name: Tectocoris diophthalmus
Size: 2 centimetres
The Australian Cotton Harlequin Bug is a member of the Jewel Bug family named for their bright metallic colouration.
The males and females of the Cotton Harlequin Bug are different colours, with the females mostly orange and the males mostly blue-red.
The Cotton Harlequin Bug lives in urban, agricultural and coastal areas of eastern Australia. It eats sap from many species belonging to the hibiscus plant family (Malvaceae) including ornamental hibiscus species and cotton.
This famous duo looked mighty cosy together when they were snapped in a local barn on Saturday night. Supposedly both happy in their marriages, renowned sitcom star Franny Flamingo and movie stud Gunsynd Greyson II sat in a quiet corner, endeavouring to hide from prying eyes.
But it was too late for that, the locals were agog, all eyes on the glamour couple.
Staff reporter L. K. Wombat
Echidna Network News : Monday 22 February 2021 : 1350hrs
As soon as the long-legged bird and the grand stallion entered the wood-panelled room, a hush had fallen. The rumour mill started to grind. The celeb twosome were closely watched as they settled themselves on a hay bale and ordered drinks.
It is reported they sipped wine from a galvanised bucket and nibbled on shared apple pieces. Franny nervously adjusted the jaunty silver bow in her latest hairdo and, by all accounts, Gunsynd had difficulty controlling his swishing tail even though no flies were in evidence.
Tony Galah, barn manager and family man, was obviously perturbed by his VIP patrons. It is common knowledge that Gunsynd’s mare is due to foal within the week but this seemed the furthest thing from the superstar’s mind as he tossed his mane at a chirpy comment from Franny.
A group of hens, on a humans night, noticed that Franny’s trademark pink feathers were swept in a carelessly alluring style but speculation was rife as to whose feathers would be ruffled by this hot encounter.
As the evening wore on, apparently Gunsynd’s horsey chuckle made quite a few barn patrons go weak at the knees. His coat gleamed in the candlelight, unhindered by a saddle, and his trademark white blaze shone. Several people noticed his hooves had a mirror polish rather than his usual in-the-paddock look. Consensus was he only had eyes for Franny but one Shetland pony was heard to swoon “Oh, if only I had a lead rein right now…”
It is hoped that during this intimate rendezvous, the cashed-up couple were discussing their latest venture, a joint movie project featuring mixed animals working together to find a way to stop humans contracting Covid-19. The pandemic had rendered millions unable to care for their beloved family pets.
With a flap of her wings, Franny had said “The flight, er, plight, of every species nests, er, rests, on the whole entire world working together. Every chick deserves a clean, healthy place to live.” A profound statement and perhaps the longest words Franny has cheeped since being told her fourth series would not be renewed this season. The studio cites budget constraints while producers suggest a “younger, fresher” approach is needed.
Gunsynd, who previously fought and successfully quashed doping allegations, yesterday released a press statement saying the funds from their new movie would go towards human research. “After all,” he said “they are dependent on nature and animals for their continued survival so it is the least we can do to help them help us.”
A kangaroo waitress, busy bouncing paparazzi, refused to be drawn into conjecture but did let slip “Insects outnumber everyone so they better get them on side.” Wise words from an animal well versed in tourism, being eaten and featured on the country’s coat-of-arms.
The couple were believed to have left the barn around midnight in separate vehicles, a custom-made cage and a luxury trailer. Next day, Franny was seen frolicking in the water, eating crustaceans and molluscs with her flock, and being criticised for her unchanging wardrobe. In breaking news, it is believed Gunsynd is in lockdown at his farm hideaway preparing for another big race aptly titled “Save the Humans from Themselves Fundraiser”.
So there you have it, dear reader, a love-tryst destined to put the cat among the pigeons? Or a meeting of two creatures about to organise a world-wide campaign to save the humans before they do more damage to our shared environment?
You be the judge.
Logged by L. K. Wombat, Esq.
Lasiorhinus Krefftii Wombat has been a newsreader and journalist for 20 years, give or take time off for digging burrows, and is a celebrated carrot critic for “Veggie News”. He is reputed to be a friend of famous children’s author Jackie French and is acquainted with the wombats featured in her work. He knows he’s an endangered species and advocates State protection.
Typesetter ♥Gretchen Bernet-Ward
ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS Gunsynd Greyson II courtesy of trainer Dot Bernet. Franny Flamingo courtesy of PetBarn Australia.
Part Three of three parts over three days, this Christmas story is a semi-humorous collection of reminiscences from an adult when he was a teenager. He said it is a fictional recollection – but is it? I have retained the way it was imparted to me, with minimal alterations and formatting so readers may find it a bit unconventional. GBW.
Dad had his specs on and was reading the newspaper, to see if his shares had risen, while listening to the cricket commentary on the radio. The others had flopped in front of that boring ye olde traditional stuff on television, so I went into my bedroom. I checked my new tan in the mirror, then checked to see if the flat parcel was still there. I felt around inside the pillow slip but couldn’t feel anything. Where was it? I felt all around the area, my wooden bedhead, under the sheet, under the bed, down the back of the bed, but it was gone. My heart rose into my throat before plunging down into the pit of my stomach. Someone must have found it. When would they come forward to quiz me? I had been dreading the thought of my fingerprints being on the envelopes until I realised that my fingerprints were not on any police file. Then I grasped the next fact. They would dust the prints then check my actual fingers. Sprung so soon when it was only an hour before the bonfire, one hour before the evidence would have been incinerated. I collapsed onto my bed.
Eventually I got up from my bed and walked slowly out into the backyard, around the dusty cactus rockery, and towards Dad to help him chuck stuff on the accumulating bonfire pile. He had finished with his newspaper and was already twisting it into wicks and setting up sticks to encourage a good blaze under our discarded remnants of Christmas. That was a good metaphor and I mentally made a note. Everyone was told to stay inside as Dad lit a match and the bonfire flames licked at paper plates, wrapping paper, cardboard boxes, cellophane, plastic cartons, plastic cutlery, bonbon hats, tooters, streamers, tangled decorations and a disposable cooking apron which twisted and writhed and finally melted in the red-hot flames. A steady column of acrid black smoke rose into the sky.
In the intense heat, a molten puddle began to form, and in this inferno I thought I saw a text book shrivel into ashes. A donation from Roslyn? The high temperature would have kept us back, but we were never allowed to toast crumpets or marshmallows on sticks because Dad said the air was too toxic. I hoped our neighbours had their windows closed and I thought of Mr Bad Neighbour’s gravelly voice. If everyone burned off, I reckon the air would turn to ash and breathing would be difficult. The sun would be blocked, the rivers would turn to sludge, the trees would lose their leaves and the temperature would rise.
Shocked at my own imagination, I turned to the old mango tree growing in the opposite corner of the garden near the paling fence. Suddenly I wanted to stop the burning. It was my favourite tree and it was getting ash on its leaves. I was turning to run for the garden hose when Bitzy ran passed me. Instantly I saw what he had in his mouth but as I reached down, he veered away and headed towards the bonfire. Two awful things happening at once. It was hopeless to try and stop the blaze now, so I concentrated my efforts on Bitzy. I shouted to Dad. “Stop Bitzy! He’s got my book in his mouth!” With one sweeping gesture, Dad reached down and took the parcel out of the dog’s mouth, holding it above his head. Bitzy did a wide arch and ran back toward the house and his water bowl.
“Thanks, Dad,” I gasped, “it’s too important to be scorched.” He raised an eyebrow. I didn’t stick around to offer an explanation. The house was cool after the extra heat outside and I welcomed the quietness of my bedroom. I pushed aside Philip’s swap cards and sat down at my small student desk. With coloured pencils, scissors and glue I made a paper angel, wrote on one outstretched wing, then folded it across the body. I glued the angel to the packet and before I could think any more about it, I ran out of my room, flung open the front door, raced down the patio steps, along the crazy paving to the front gate and headed towards Mr Bad Neighbour’s dumb, er, distinctive letterbox.
I slipped the flat parcel into the posting window of the Swiss Chalet and turned away. I ran slap bang into Mr Bad Neighbour. He steadied me with one wrinkled hand. In the other he held a Christmas-looking parcel. “Here.” His face was pale, his voice was wheezy. “Save me a trip. This is for you and your family.” I stuttered my thanks, which he waved away saying “It’s only shortbread.” I smiled. “That’s my favourite.” He nodded. “Mine, too.” This was getting a bit embarrassing for me, so I muttered another thank you and stepped around him, racing back home quick sticks.
It wasn’t until I was sipping leftover eggnog and munching shortbread biscuits that I realised Mr Bad Neighbour did not appear from his front gate. He must have come down the street. There was a ting sound as Mum hung up the phone. She came bustling down the hallway full of gossip. “Well, guess what, my lovelies?” I shrugged and the others just waited for her announcement. “Mr Bad Neighbour has been delivering tins of shortbread to all the homes in the street. Francesca says you could have knocked her down with a feather she was so surprised.” Dad said “Well, that’s nice of the bloke. Maybe he’s not as bad as we think.” Mum tapped her chin and said “You know his health is bad.”
Roslyn and I looked at each other over the top of Philip’s chlorinated head. I knew from the gleam which flared in Roslyn’s eyes that she was the one who had given Bitzy the envelope parcel. She must have had her fingers crossed that the dog wouldn’t make it to the bonfire. She said “Just another Christmas miracle, I guess.” I wanted to wink at her but it seemed too corny. And how could I tell her what I had felt in the split second beside the bonfire? It was like I saw the world being choked by our own careless actions. When I go back to school next year, I know I am going to be really interested in geography and social studies and definitely telling people to think about where all their rubbish goes. Into the ground or into the air, I am sure it is going to cause long term damage one way or the other.
It was about half an hour before bedtime and Bitzy growled in his sleep, Philip picked at his flaky nose, and Mum and Dad were being mushy, hugging on the couch in front of the television with the sound turned off. We’d had a good laugh about the time Dad put the dining table directly under the ceiling fan and turned it on full blast when Mum had just finished laying the table decorations. Red, green and silver flew everywhere! Roslyn and I sat on the floor reading really old Blinky Bill comics. I bumped shoulders and said “Thanks for being a good sister, Ros.” She grinned. “Oh, I just have to be patient. You always work things out in the end.” She sounded a bit like Mum and I groaned theatrically. Holding up a bowl, I said “Care for one of Uncle Mark’s nuts?”
All in all, it was a pretty good Christmas. But that was months ago, and you know what? Since then Mr Bad Neighbour has not held a loud party. In fact, he doesn’t have parties any more. He also stopped smoking and takes healing art classes in the church hall. His speciality is angels and he is considering launching a business called Angels of Forgiveness or some such soppiness like that. I certainly hope he never talks about my note or mentions the archangel called Gabriel because that just happens to be my first name.
You know what Gabriel wrote on the inside of that angel’s wing? It was a quote he’d heard on Christmas Day And it goes something like this “Bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other.” Colossians 3:13
Part Two of three parts over three days, this Christmas story is a semi-humorous collection of reminiscences from an adult when he was a teenager. He said it is a fictional recollection – but is it? I have retained the way it was imparted to me, with minimal alterations and formatting so readers may find it a bit unconventional. GBW.
This may have been a threat but I reckon Mr Bad Neighbour wouldn’t take it further because he was mostly in the wrong, most of the time. I’ll never forget him taking a kick a Bitzy just for walking past his front gate. What he didn’t know was that he was surrounded by neighbours who pretended to ignore him while keeping a dossier and thinking “He’s a bit suss. He’ll trip himself up sooner or later.” Of course, they hoped he’d trip and fall straight into prison. There’s a slim chance that could happen. But, in the meantime, they politely pretend he didn’t exist.
I hung up the receiver and it clattered into the cradle in such a way that I hoped hurt his eardrums. As I turned, I saw a pile of white envelopes someone had dumped in the cane basket beside the telephone which usually held keys and junk. I brushed aside tiny plastic charms from the Christmas bonbons we had at school on the last day and started to shuffle through the bundle like a pack of cards. I recognised some of the handwriting and was pleased to see an overseas stamp. My brain stopped my hand. My eyes locked on the address in a long window-faced envelope. It wasn’t addressed to my parents. It wasn’t addressed to me. It was addressed to the man nextdoor. We had received Mr Bad Neighbour’s post by mistake.
Tentatively, I recommenced shuffling the white business envelopes and was amazed to see that three others had his name and address on them. I read a bank return address, a doctor’s return address, a government office return address and an investment corporation return of address. There was no way of knowing if they held good news or requests for payment. Maybe the doctor’s one said he had an incurable disease. “Oh no,” I thought, “that could mean he’s highly contagious.” I shuddered. My next thought was to toss the envelopes back on the pile and let Mum or Dad sort them out. They’d probably seen this happen before, especially at Christmastime when the post office had relief staff sorting the mail. Mum might even slip a striped candy cane in with the bundle. She would think it was a nice gesture but I preferred to think it was hinting at Scrooge, or more likely the Grinch.
My mind seesawed but my hand stayed firmly clamped. There were many things I could do with these four envelopes and they were all illegal. I couldn’t open them, I couldn’t bin them, I thought about re-posting them so they took longer to get back to him, and finally the nastiest option. I could drop them in the soapy kitchen sink, maybe walk on them, then popping them into his letterbox. He’d never know. Or would he? The postman may have realised his error and would be prepared to testify in court that he put them in our letterbox, unsullied.
The more I mulled over ways to annoy Mr Bad Neighbour by delaying or partially destroying his mail, the less grip I had on reality. The right thing to do had slowly evaporated and I knew there was no way I would simply put his mail straight into his stupid Swiss Chalet letterbox with its plastic Rudolph on the roof. I wanted to get back at him for pushing over my bicycle, puncturing my football, telling Mum I trod on his flower bed looking for snails. Well, it was for a school science project.
Re-posting mail at this time of year meant long delivery delays, quite possibly he wouldn’t get the four envelopes until the New Year and by then he may have advanced lung cancer. The rational part of my mind said “Surely the doctors have already booked his hospital bed?” No, there was nothing for it. My finger prints were all over them, they had to be destroyed. It wouldn’t be my fault they accidentally fell into the bonfire we always had in the back corner of the garden on Boxing Day afternoon. Mum liked to clear up and burn the rubbish left over from our festivities. Occasionally items, unwanted or otherwise, were accidentally broken or scrunched up or drooled on by Bitzy, so what did a handful of paper matter?
It may have been Aunt Zilla’s Christmas plum pudding and brandy custard, but I did not sleep well that night. Cousin Philip’s parents were on a grown-ups break so Philip stayed in my bedroom, snoring like a diesel train in a sleeping bag. First up, after I had wiped the envelopes down like they do in the movies, I secured them in some spare wrapping paper and sticky-taped the sides. Unsure if they would pass as useless overflow or a forgotten gift, I tucked them safely into my pillowcase. This made my pillow crackle all night and that didn’t help my sleep either. My mind replayed our Christmas Day family fun over and over, but instead of focusing on my great haul of goodies, and Dad whacking a six over the garage, it kept circling back to the hall telephone table.
Over Boxing Day breakfast, mainly leftover lychees, cheesy bread and dips, I casually asked Roslyn what she thought a person would be fined if they destroyed someone’s Christmas mail. She looked away from the sight of Philip spooning plum pudding and custard into his mouth and onto his chin. After swallowing a chunk of ham, slathered in mustard pickles, she said “Depends what was in the mail?” then took a big glug of orange juice before continuing. “If it was birthday money or bank cheques, it would probably mean a stint in the lockup.” This was not what I wanted to hear. “Er,” I groped for a reply. “What if it was an accident?” She laughed. “Then nobody would know, would they?” And I knew I had my answer.
I tried to keep the jubilant tone out of my voice, while tucking away the word “jubilant” to dazzle my next English teacher, and said “Better not work in the post office, I guess.” Roslyn gave me a funny look, as though she was going to ask if I’d got a holiday job. I quickly jumped to my feet. “Hey, Phil, wanna come to the pool with us tomorrow?” Philip nearly choked in his eagerness to accept the invitation. It was nice being a younger kid’s idol. “That would be great!” Roslyn raised her nose and said in a haughty voice “I wouldn’t come to that lukewarm pool if you paid me.” I pulled my Velcro wallet out of my board shorts. “I have moneeey.” I waggled two five dollar notes. “Ice creams are on me.” They both responded appropriately but I guessed Roslyn had worked out that Uncle Mark had been unfair and given me more than he had given her this Christmas. Should it matter? It did, and I felt bad about it. I made a mental note to buy her a packet of Smarties.
Philip’s holidaying parents left instructions while they were away; games of Scrabble were meant to be the kid’s calm Boxing Day entertainment. Yeah… At the chlorinated council swimming pool, I let Phil slide down the slippery slide into the blue water about a hundred times and eat too many jelly snakes which made him sick. Even when Roslyn forced him to wear a daggy t-shirt in the water, and he got a sunburned face which made him look like a drunk on Saturday night, he loved every minute of it. “You forgot to apply his sunscreen cream,” wailed Mum. “Don’t worry, Auntie June,” said Philip. “My skin will peel off soon enough.” She left the room still wailing but I couldn’t work out if it was because of Philip’s skin or because her own sister would skin her alive. Little did I know that I was minutes away from my own personal disaster.
Part One of three parts over three days, this Christmas story is a semi-humorous collection of reminiscences from an adult when he was a teenager. He said it is a fictional recollection – but is it? I have retained the way it was imparted to me, with minimal alterations and formatting so readers may find it a bit unconventional. GBW.
Another stinking hot and humid morning, classic Queensland December weather. Another sweltering Christmas Day lunch was coming with its overload of perfumed aunts, sweaty uncles, sweaty sliced ham, burnt potatoes and sickly sweet desserts squabbled over by squealing cousins. One year, all the aunts brought pavlova, sunken in the middle and piled high with Golden Circle tinned fruit. The cream on top had started to curdle and Mum had given up trying to swish off the flies. This year Aunt Hilda brought the sweetest dessert, a huge glass bowl of rocky road trifle. I thought cousin Philip’s head was going to explode with excitement.
The entrée was always nice. Usually Jatz crackers, cheese cubes, carrot and celery sticks and maybe olives or cocktail onions. If Uncle Mark attended, it was guaranteed there would be salted peanuts, salted brazil nuts and salted cashew nuts. Not that he was particularly generous, it was just that he liked nuts with his chilled beer. He drank a lot of chilled beer, summer and winter actually.
Uncle Lucas said what he said every year. “The person who invented the festive punch bowl was a drongo. Talk about a foolish way to serve yourself a drink.” The main reason he didn’t like it was because Mum never poured alcohol into the bowl because of the little kids. But I had to agree. For a start, if chunks of pineapple are mixed into the lemonade and cordial swill, it is very hard to ladle the liquid into your glass without splashing. If my sister Roslyn, who hated stuff in her drinks––even those paper umbrellas––spied a slice of lemon or a glacé cherry floating around, she would spend half an hour trying to fish it out with a toothpick she’d pulled out of a boiled cheerio. Of course, the linen tablecloth got pretty sticky but our dog Bitzy enjoyed his snack. On the whole, he did very well out of Christmas lunch. He’s only sicked up once so far.
In fact, Bitzy was ready and salivating when we all trudged home from the universal Christmas Day morning church service. I think it was invented to delay the opening of presents under the tree. The best present I got was Cluedo and I kept asking everyone to play it with me. Anyway, we had to walk there and back because the almost-Christians always filled the carpark at Christmas. The first thing I noticed was that Bitzy had romped through most of the gifts under the tree. Probably bidding our cat a fond goodbye for the next couple of days. Fortunately there was no food in any of the presents so he didn’t do much damage, although the bows looked a bit wonky, and I could see a skinny Barbie arm waving for help through a snowman-wrapped box.
Snowmen, holly, red robins, can’t we move on? Even Father Christmas, or Santa Claus, or St Nicholas wears a red hot thermal suit. In this temperature! Come on, those cards on the mantelpiece are weird, why would he get togged up, harness the reindeers and deliver pressies to kids in the outback wearing that outfit? And why does he fly over Bondi Beach or Ayers Rock? Most of us live in three-bedroomed houses in the suburbs. I vaguely thought of the song “Six White Boomers” about kangaroos instead of reindeer. Those reindeers are a worry, surely it’s not their only seasonal job. And what if Santa got a ute?
This got me thinking about the Sri Lankan family at one end of our street, and the Indigenous mob at the other end where me mate Gazza used to live. I will have to ask Dad if they exchange gifts and celebrate like we do with decorations and excessive food. Before school starts again next year, maybe I can ask Gazza. He’s been outback but hopefully will swing into town at the end of January around Australia Day celebrations. Well, maybe not, he burns the flag, so I’ll probably see him in February.
I tweaked the tinsel holding another load of gaudy cards and they bounced violently but didn’t fall off. Mum always wrote Christmas cards even though she said it was a chore and Dad said it was to keep in good with people. Our tree this year was a bare branch from a local gumtree, stuck in a flower pot and decorated with crafty things Roslyn and I made at school while the teachers took a break in the staff room. It was strung with twinkly coloured lights and looked good leaning forward, sort of humble, like Mary and Joseph in the cowshed. Sometimes Roslyn would make a little manger, padded with dry grass, and wrap one of her dolls in a facecloth to look like baby Jesus. She didn’t like it when I used my toy dinosaurs as lowly cattle.
In the lead up to Christmas, we always visited the local Christmas Lights display. Lights were plastered all over ordinary homes in ordinary streets, creating traffic chaos but giving everyone an eyeful of how much electricity there is to waste. Roslyn thought I was weird because I liked the plain twinkly lights in the trees, not the big bold brightly coloured ones that beamed from roof-lines in the shape of the nativity. This year a couple of families had lined their driveways in a successful imitation of an aircraft runway. I guess it was an incentive for Father Christmas to visit, reserved parking, no chimney fuss. I half expected to see a bale of hay for Rudolph and the team.
When I think of lights and decorations, I think of the time when Roslyn was a toddler, she popped a small glass Christmas tree decoration into her mouth and chomped it. Everyone went hysterical and she had to spit it out and rinse her mouth and get a lecture. It was only Uncle Mark who muttered “Damn glass manufacturers” which is probably why the world went plastic. In hindsight, it has proved to be just as dangerous.
Dad usually asked “Could we have a barbecue this year, love?” but Mum always vetoed the idea because “It’s Christmas, Merv, not Melbourne Cup Day.” He grumbled as he stirred the rich dark gravy he always made for the roasted leg of lamb. Which he always had the honour of carving right after we said grace. This meat was my favourite and I couldn’t understand why my best friend Redmond was a vegetarian when there was such a variety of food on the planet. I’d often ask “Why restrict yourself, Red?” and he’d snort and go and sit on another side of the shelter shed, muttering “carnivore” and filling his mouth with mung beans.
Anyway, on this after-lunch, over-heated Christmas afternoon, the phone rang. Due to the little kids still playing in the paddling pool, everyone lazily keeping an eye on them, their aluminium chairs sinking into the lawn as they digested the food they’d gutsed, I was the bunny. I raced towards the house, scaring a scrap-watching magpie, ran along the hallway and skidded to a stop in front of the telephone table.
“Hello,” I said and held my breath, wondering who it would be. A gravelly voice said “Would you stop making so much blasted noise.” I blinked. This was our nextdoor neighbour who always made the most noise in the street. Loud parties, squealing women, swearing men, breaking bottles, knocking over bins, and revving his Holden Monaro GTS twin exhaust pipes at one o’clock in the morning. I swallowed and composed the reply Mum had drilled into me. “Thank you for calling. I’ll let my parents know you rang.” His cleared his cigarette smoker’s throat. “You better, or else there’ll be trouble.”
In the depths of a July winter here in Brisbane, Queensland, I am sitting with a cold nose and knees, contemplating warmer weather. Our winters probably seems mild to those countries with ice and snow. We have misty mornings then clear blue skies and by lunchtime some clothing layers can be removed for a couple of hours before the cold creeps in again.
The issue is home heating. Of course, I am not talking about the hermetically sealed grey boxes of the millennium. This older house is built like thousands of others—for the heat. We don’t have a fireplace, we don’t have insulation, we don’t have ducted heating, but we do have reverse cycle air-conditioning. Problem is the unit swirls the air around at the edges so it never feels warm enough.
Brrr! This is where an old three-bar radiator and a portable column oil heater come in handy for three months of the year.
So saying, we human beings are a contrary lot—I enjoy the wintertime.
Winter is more conducive to a brisk walk before settling down to writing. Cold weather calls for cosy pursuits. In a hot, humid summer, it’s more a case of lying around gasping after foolishly thinking some physical exercise like gardening was a good idea. The lush, rampant growth of a subtropical summer is a sight to behold but right now the garden lacks happy vegetation; the leaves are brown, the grass is sparse, the earth is hard and dry.
This morning the temperature is currently 8 degrees Celsius, the sun is shining but the air is freezing. Well, maybe not. We don’t really do freezing, more on the chilly side. I am going to make a hot beverage and pull on an extra pair of socks.
Australia was once a continent graced by flamingos. These tall pink birds are more associated with Africa and the Americas, but a long time ago they called Australia home. For at least 20 million years, flamingos thrived on vast Australian inland lakes, until a drying of the outback ended their reign, perhaps a million years ago.
The Lake Eyre region in South Australia once had three species, more than Africa today. Altogether Australia had at least six flamingo species, including the Greater flamingo – the main flamingo in Africa. Australian museums have accumulated more of their fossils than of some regular Australian birds such as parrots. At some sites their remains lay near those of outback crocodiles, dolphins and lungfish.
Flamingos are still regarded as Australian birds, for a very tenuous reason. In 1988 a Greater flamingo dropped in on North Keeling Island, a remote Australian territory 2750km north-west of Perth, staying a couple of months. Greater flamingos are found in Asia and southern Europe as well as Africa and this one had wandered over from India or Sri Lanka.
In Adelaide Zoo you could have seen the only flamingo left in Australia, a Chilean flamingo known warmly as ‘Chile’. She was thought to have been imported in the late 1970s. For quarantine reasons flamingos are now forbidden imports, which means that Australia is destined to become a flamingo-free zone unless another long-legged pink nomad wanders over from Asia.
Suburban shopping centre covered in moths after drought-breaking rains. Warm humid conditions released flora, fauna and insects which burst forth in a delayed exhibition of springtime in Brisbane.
My apologies if you have ‘Mottephobia’.
INFORMATION : This activity is unusual. Could these small arthropod insects with feelers, six legs and one pair of wings be a Dry Leaf Looper Moth? More at home in leaf-litter under trees? The images shown on the website (below) are similar moths to the ones I have photographed and were found in the Brisbane area, Queensland, Australia.
The pretty embossed bookcover hides a dark and disturbing story and I would not recommend it to immature readers, or people I know with sleep disorders.
I think the apocalyptic nature of the book could have a tendency to induce fear and possibly depression in anyone sensitive to a crisis situation with unstoppable consequences.
If I was watching this as a disaster movie about a virus starting in a school dormitory, causing people to fall asleep and may never wake up, I bet most of the theatre-goers around me would be shallow breathing, wondering if it were true.
Lesser books have been known to cause restless sleep, or bad dreams.
Of course, the virulent virus comes from the fertile imagination of Karen Thompson Walker who said in a BWF 2019 panel discussion “Why we dream is unknown” although she puts forward some interesting theories in this story.
‘The Dreamers’ could just as easily die from any airborne disease and here lies the crux of the matter.
The author does an excellent job in researching and creating botched medical care, civil unrest, mass panic, and then bringing it right back down to the most helpless, two young girls and their kittens, alone in an old house.
In a clipped journalistic writing style, there are heroes, references to new life, new love and parental devotion striving against all odds yet feeling strangely hollow and disjointed. For me, the ending is unresolved.
This type of plotting is not my preferred reading, however, I respect the level of apprehension Karen Thompson Walker has created even while I think ‘The Dreamers’ could unsettle vulnerable readers. Or create mass panic similar to Corona Virus.
AUTHOR PROFILE—Karen Thompson Walker was born and raised in San Diego, California, where her first book ‘The Age of Miracles’ is set. She studied English and creative writing at UCLA, where she wrote for the UCLA Daily Bruin. An assistant professor of creative writing at the University of Oregon, she lives in Portland with her husband, the novelist Casey Walker, and their two daughters. http://karenthompsonwalker.com/
BACKGROUND INFORMATIONMoggill Ferry, a tolled vehicular cable ferry, crosses the Brisbane River between Moggill, Brisbane and Riverview, Ipswich, Queensland. It has weathered several floods since 1920s and had various replacements. The ferry was motorised in 1940s under joint control of the Ipswich and Brisbane City Councils. It can carry 20 vehicles (car AU$1.90) GVM vehicle up to 4.5 tonnes (AU$16.30) pedestrians (free) and operates between sunrise and sunset—if you miss the last ferry, you have to take the long way via Ipswich Highway. Services operate daily, except for Good Friday and Christmas Day. The journey takes approximately 4 minutes on the vehicle ferry. I think that depends on the pull of the current. During the floods of 2011, the ferry cables broke and ferry staff lashed it to the riverbank so it would not get washed away. It may look like a bygone era but it is well-used and only 19km (12 miles) from the centre of the city. GBW.
THING ONE Reading—The Chain by Adrian McKinty THING TWO Looking—A Lemon in Disguise THING THREE Thinking—Don’t Rush the Little Wild Ramblers
THING ONE—READING—The Chain by Adrian McKinty—
The Chain took me by surprise. I had no idea what the title referred to until nice normal cancer patient Rachel O’Neill turns into a desperate, frenzied, tigress of a woman ready to kill to protect her cub Kylie.
Adrian McKinty has written 14 books and I’ve read them all, so I know he can write ‘other stuff’. Guns, cops, drugs and tricky, desperate situations. But never with the strong emotion which The Chain evoked in me.
The sequence of events is based on real bandits who kidnap people and hold them to ransom until their families pay to have them released. Not very nice, and neither is what happens to Rachel and Kylie. This sophisticated version of The Chain involves snatching a child and holding them prisoner to save your own child who has been captured and the next person snatches a child and holds them prisoner until their child is released, etc…with brutal consequences for broken links.
The winners in all of this are The Chain initiators who demand that huge sums of money be paid into their off-shore account otherwise they will force the family to kill your child. The fear, panic and high stress levels are well realised and the pressure applied to Rachel and her ex-army drug addicted brother-in-law Pete (he goes into Bruce Willis mode) never lets up.
Half way through the plot, things take a sharp u-turn (Australian version is chuck-a-youie) but the reader has to trust the writer to follow-through. Trust him I did. And the result was definitely worth it. As always, McKinty writes in his own unique style. There are warnings of social media over-exposure which ring true and even though this suspense thriller is set well and truly on American soil, it holds a universal truth ‘Watch over your children’.
A poetic excerpt from The Chain, Chapter 40, Sunday 11.59 p.m. “She merges with the traffic. The highway hums. The highway sings. The highway luminesces. It is an adder moving south. Diesel and gasoline. Water and light. Sodium filament and neon. Interstate 95 at midnight. America’s spinal cord, splicing lifelines and destinies and unrelated narratives. The highway drifts. The highway dreams. The highway examines itself. All those threads of fate weaving together on this cold midnight.” Author Adrian McKinty 2019
THING THREE—THINKING—Don’t Rush the Little Wild Ramblers—
This beautiful quote from Wilder Child Nicolette Gowder struck a cord with me. I thought about young family members who were forever picking up small objects and bringing them home after school. Everything was of interest when out walking, items had to be investigated for smoothness, brightness, weight or lightness. The best treasures were those which once were alive, like a crab claw, rat skull or insect exoskeleton.
I thought about my mother who used to point out the delicate things in nature, things which tend to get overlooked. I inherited her spy-eye for detail especially seed pods. She was more of a beachcomber…but always putting those glistening seashells back where she found them ♥ Gretchen Bernet-Ward
One post in three parts, Reading Looking Thinking, a neat idea started by blogger Paula Bardell-Hedley. Check outBook Jotter her informative, interesting and book-related website!
The world’s best loved insects – butterflies. As soon as I walked into the Bribie Island Butterfly House, a sense of calm enveloped me. Founder Ray Archer says “Butterflies are beautiful and very peaceful insects” and I can attest to that.
This tranquil not-for-profit organisation was founded by Ray and Delphine Archer who sold their business Olive Products Australia and moved to beautiful Bribie Island, off the south-east coast of Queensland, so Ray could devote time to his passion for breeding and raising butterflies.
I’d like to take you on a stroll through the butterflies domain. But first we will learn a few facts from the Nursery before entering their airy, sun-filled, flower-perfumed enclosure.
A LESSON OR TWO ON BUTTERFLIES . . .
A female butterfly may lay between 100 to 200 eggs, and within a week or so a caterpillar will hatch.
A caterpillar breathes through tiny holes in its sides and will eat its own weight in leaf material every day until the final skin is discarded and the chrysalis hardens.
Inside the chrysalis, metamorphosis continues as the butterfly is formed and this can take weeks, months or sometimes years.
When the final stages of the caterpillar are complete, the newly formed adult butterfly will emerge, needing a few hours to dry its wings before taking flight.
Butterflies don’t have a mouth, they use their proboscis like a straw to drink nectar from flowers.
Butterflies have two large compound eyes which offer a wide visual field and extreme colour vision.
The two antennae on a butterfly’s head help with navigation and detecting plant aromas and a prospective mate.
AND THE ONE YOU WILL BE TESTED ON . . .
Butterflies are insects in the macrolepidopteran clade Rhopalocera from the order Lepidoptera.
Ready to go inside? You have to go slow because butterflies don’t dive-bomb you like mosquitoes. Silent wings flutter by, difficult to photograph, I marvel at their fragility.
Photos left to right—Plant-filled entry; a vine chock-full of happy butterflies; misty air rises from a vaporizer; a Common Crow, why that name?; a Swamp Tiger against the blue sky; newly hatched Monarch; oops, there’s two Orchard Swallowtails mating, best move on . . .
NEXT I NOTICED QUIRKY THINGS TUCKED AROUND THE BUTTERFLY HOUSE . . .
Hanging pot planters and gumboots stuffed with plants.
A rather clandestine bubbler and a secret butterfly door.
Inspirational quote and landing pad stocked with nutritious butterfly food.
This lady (below) had to make sure she was butterfly-free before leaving. The butterflies landed on hair and hats. Interestingly, they stayed well clear of the heavy black plastic doors, perhaps because their focus is on light, bright colours.
Before departing I visited the plant section where butterfly-friendly plants (see chart) were available for purchase. There is no cafe and no merchandising, and nobody telling visitors The Rules. The only suggestion is to leave your worries in a bin at the door. Quite a refreshing visit in more ways than one!
The Bribie Island Butterfly House exists to provide a sense of purpose and lasting friendships among their volunteers, to offer visitors an enjoyable and educational visit in a peaceful environment and to help the disadvantaged via donations to charities.
Grow a patch of dandelions! Check out Lyn’s wonderful UK Butterflies And Garden blog. Pledge to stop using manufactured pesticides! Around my area, the green tree frog and butterfly populations have severely decreased due to the rise in toxic garden herbicides and pesticides. Think natural, not noxious!
And, of course, my avatar is a hand-drawn butterfly.
Check out these camel hairstyles! Proud cameleers display their abilities in various competitions from camel racing to designer shearing. Love those patterns! Camels are versatile, thriving in harsh desert conditions similar to the Australian outback. Since visiting a local camel dairy farm, I read the blog of Dr Raziq of Communities Animal Genetic Resources and Food Security to discover more about the biodiversity of original camel country. And beautiful camel hair designs. ♥Gretchen Bernet-Ward
The region of the Indo-Pak is rich with camel culture. Camel is an integral part of the heritage of the camel keepers’ communities in the region. As a source of livelihood, a camel is also a tool of recreation and entertainment also. This picture is about the haircut competition of great Thar desert. One can see the artistic theme of the designer/hair cutter.
The barbers make different designs according to the desire of the camel keepers/owners. Such designs are made by art loving, son of the soil, and very specialized barbers. The barbers are well known and have very busy days in the season. The season of the design is usually the cooler months of the year as the camel sheds his wool in the hotter months of the year. The complete design of a camel takes 2 to 5 hours, based on the size of the camel and the design of the…
Coming out of a hot dry summer, March weather is beginning to soften the sky and offer the cooler, more gentle mornings of autumn. There is no definite change of season, just a calmness, almost a feeling of relief after the insistent tropical heat.
Apart from, whack, an insect, there’s something serene and relaxing about strolling through a garden, touching leaves, sniffing flowers, following a creek and hearing the splash of a small waterfall through the trees.
To quote Rudyard Kipling “The Glory of the Garden it shall never pass away!” so…
Here’s what I experienced one lovely morning…
Arriving early at the Brisbane Mt Coot-tha Botanic Gardens, I strolled through a cool, green gully and thought it was strange to be in a capital city yet hear no traffic sounds. I floated along, enjoying the stillness, until my personal calm was shattered when the garden crew came on duty and the leaf- blowing brigade roared into action. I had to wait until one fellow walked out of shot to photograph Xanthorrhoea australis, the Grass-trees (below; left). The atmosphere shuffled its feathers and tranquility returned.
Wooden bridges and flowing streams…
Leisurely, I followed the meandering paths across bridges and green lawns, enjoying the mild sunshine. Strolling down a slope, I came to a bracken-lined watercourse then walked up a gentle incline towards king ferns, piccabeen palms and towering hoop pines. I’ve never fully traversed the 56 hectare (138 acre) area which displays mainly eastern Australian plants.
You can spot Eastern Water Dragons (lizards) and geckos as they scurry out of sight or get a giggle watching the many varieties of water fowl, ducking and diving in the lake. Feeding wildlife is not allowed and I couldn’t entice them into an appealing photograph.
Sculptural features are ‘casually’ placed throughout the gardens and I think the most alluring is a silver fern seat (below; left) with interesting support.
Beside the pond and beneath the trees…
The Japanese Garden (below; entrance and pond) offers soothing symmetry and a waterlily’s single bloom. Nearby the concert bandstand has grass seating surrounded by trees with foliage of different patterns and colours. Around me, there’s a multitude of subtropical shrubs, cycads and flowers with names I never remember. You will notice that I do not attempted to be horticultural! A bit further along, in the arid zone, resides a sci-fi concoction of exotic cacti. The culinary, fragrant and medicinal herb gardens are pure indulgence. But if herbs aren’t your thing, the pungent eucalypt is my favourite and walking the Aboriginal Plant Trail with its edible food plants.
Biodiversity and water reflections…
The stillness of the morning created pleasing reflections on the lagoon which is fed by rainwater captured from the hills. You can choose between typical heathland or wetland regions made easily accessible for suburban folk. The Conservation Collection includes rare and endangered species in their natural habitats and I entered the steamy, geodesic hothouse (below; left) where equatorial plants are nurtured. My face beads in sweat, it’s not a place for humans to linger too long. Time for an ice-cream!
Tropical Display Dome at Brisbane Botanic Gardens, Mt Coot-tha, is a large lattice structure (geodesic) displaying plants from the tropics. A pathway winds upwards through the dome building, wrapping around a central pond with water plants.
Look outside the Botanic Gardens…
Outside the entry are several buildings of interest: Sir Thomas Brisbane Planetarium (below; saved from extinction by a vocal community uprising) large carpark, small art studio, specialist library and auditorium providing a variety of events. I have booked a place in a workshop Monoprinting Australian Native Plants, so a blog post may be forthcoming. The new Visitor Information centre offers guided walks and Gardens Café has the ice-cream. The two white-coated fellows outside the café are entomologists, surviving statues from World Expo 88.
Pandas and children have a special treat…
The Mt Coot-tha Botanic Gardens Children’s Trail is a hide-and-seek ramble through the shady rainforest garden with special works of art dotted along the way and I couldn’t resist following it myself. Check out the wacky weathervane! And a log for native stingless Sugarbag bees. Mother and baby Panda bears enjoy the bamboo; they are a special fabrication of laser-cut aluminium by Australian sculptor Mark Andrews.
Parks and gardens change with horticultural trends. The smaller City Botanic Gardens are older and more formal, in keeping with the style of previous centuries, but I prefer the softness of Mt Coot-tha Botanic Gardens. As the world becomes more populated and natural plant life decreases, Brisbane city dwellers like me need our botanical gardens to nourish and refresh our screen-dependant interior lives.
Tropical lagoon and green algae swirls at Mt Coot-tha Botanic Gardens, Brisbane, Australia 2019
Nasturtiums like to grow free-range in the sun with well-drained soil but I planted the seeds in an old hanging basket under the verandah and watched their lifespan over three months from warm September mornings in springtime to steamy January afternoons in summertime.
This post is not going to bore you.
It contains essential household information.
I’m recycling and happy to do it!
Here’s the REDcycle list of scrunchable plastics.
Biscuit packets (outer wrapper only)
Bread bags (without the tie)
Bubble wrap (large sheets cut into A3 size pieces)
Cat and dog food pouches (as clean and dry as possible)
Cellophane from bunches of flowers (cut into A3 size pieces)
Cereal box liners
Chip and cracker packets (silver lined)
Chocolate and snack bar wrappers
Cling Wrap – free of food residue
Dry pet food bags
Fresh produce bags
Frozen food bags
Green bags (Polypropylene Bags)
Ice cream wrappers
Large sheets of plastic that furniture comes wrapped in (cut into A3 size pieces)
Netting produce bags (any metal clips removed)
Newspaper and magazine wrap
Plastic Australia Post satchels
Plastic carrier bags from all stores
Plastic film wrap from grocery items such as nappies and toilet paper
Potting mix and compost bags – both the plastic and woven polypropylene types (cut into A3 size pieces and free of as much product as possible)
Rice bags – both plastic and the woven type (if large, cut into A3 size pieces)
Snap lock bags / zip lock bags
Squeeze pouches with lid on (e.g. yogurt/baby food)
Wine bladders – clear plastic ones only
Please make sure your plastic is dry and as empty as possible.
Any rigid plastic such as meat trays, biscuit trays or strawberry punnets
Balloons (of any kind)
Blister packs, tablets and capsule packaging
Blow up pools and pool toys – plastic or PVC
Bread bag tags
Christmas tinsel and Christmas trees
Disposable food handling gloves of any variety
Film negatives and x-rays
Foam or polystyrene of any kind
Foil / Alfoil of any kind
Laminated materials and overhead transparencies
Medical waste materials
Paper and cardboard
Paper post packs
Plastic/clear vinyl packaging from sheets and doonas etc
Plastic packaging that has contained meat
Plastic strapping used for securing boxes and pallets
Powdered milk packets, made of foil
Rubber, rubber gloves, latex
Wet plastic materials as mould is a problem for us
Wine bladders – foil based
Wrapping paper and cardboard, ribbons or bows
The “NO” items should be recycled in the usual way. Please note the REDcycle Program has been developed for post-consumer household plastic. Participating supermarkets are not obliged to accept large volumes of commercial plastic waste. Please visit http://www.redcycle.net.au/
Well, it might have been a bit boring but I bet it was helpful!
The Koala is a laidback leaf-muncher who gets hassled by the bad boys of the Aussie bush. Not by other native animals but tree-lopping developers and domestic pets. Koalas are a unique marsupial which needs human protection to survive. And eucalyptus trees, of course.
At Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary, an 18-hectare Koala conservation park in the Brisbane suburb of Fig Tree Pocket, Queensland, there is a new facility dedicated to Koala health and well-being. I paid them a visit to learn more…
The Koala (Phascolarctos cinereus, not a bear) is an arboreal herbivorous marsupial native to Australia. It is the only extant representative of the family Phascolarctidae and its closest living relatives are the wombats.
To quote the KOALA SCIENCE COMMUNITY dedicated to Research, Connect, Protect:
“United by a common purpose to conserve koalas across their range, Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary and Brisbane City Council worked together to build and establish the Brisbane Koala Science Institute, located at the sanctuary in Brisbane, Queensland. The Institute and this online community are further supported by Lone Pine’s not-for-profit organisation, the Research for Nature Foundation, which will help fund various South-East Queensland koala projects, in partnership with local scientists, researchers, and industry professionals.
At the unique Brisbane Koala Science Institute at leafy Lone Pine, I was pleasantly surprised at how much Koala information I absorbed in a short space of time. There are interactive (and multilingual) displays, research labs with public viewing areas and a koala observation area.
♥ Koalas have special teeth for grinding down eucalyptus leaves which ferment creating sleeping patterns which mean they can sleep more than 18 hours a day. ♥ Koalas have large, strong claws to help them climb smooth-barked eucalyptus trees. ♥ A Koala baby, joey, lives in the mother’s pouch for six months then grows up to become a big eater, consuming about one kilogram of eucalyptus leaves per day. ♥ Koalas front paws can grip small branches as they reach for the juiciest leaves. ♥ Koala lifespan is between 10 to 16 years which naturally depends on environmental conditions.
Although I focused on the Koala, there are many more unique Australian species to see here, from kangaroos to cockatoos, eagles to emus in a beautiful bushland setting. I recommend the following link and video highlights featuring all the wildlife residents of Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary:
These vivid flowers would be perfect at Christmas time. But, no, this spectacular red Callistemon, an Australian native Bottlebrush, flowers in springtime and early summer.It has long fluffy tubular flowers that look beautiful in gardens and taste delicious to all kinds of native birds, insects and other wildlife. The flower 'brushes' are so soft, not spiky at all.There were two Rainbow Lorikeets hiding in the branches, eating the nectar and chatting away, but they wouldn’t keep still for a snapshot.I saw this long row of flowering plants in an industrial-type setting in Brisbane yet Callistemon grows in every location, tall shady trees to knee-high potted shrubs and used as groundcover.Information from this website Australian Plants Online Flowering Callistemon indicates that I’ve photographed 'Hannah Ray' which is 4 metres high and suitable for streetscapes.It brightened my September day!♥Gretchen Bernet-Ward