Friday, February 25, 2011

Two in the hand

 After several weeks of will they/won't they, two of the mini capsicum turned a distracting shade of orange and stayed that way, no further blush to hint at a red capsicum to follow.
Three others have stayed firmly green. What mixed-up little plants they are. The other plants seem to be doing well, although the beetroot is still straggling behind. I suspect they'll take off, come winter, and be a welcome burst of red and green when everything else has died back.
 The cucumber plants aren't growing quite as fast as the ones I had in pots on the balcony of our last home. Those shot up and out and pushed their pig-tailed tendrils around the stakes and into the window frames. I'm blaming the cooler weather and the lack of a proper summer growing season, but it may actually be the infestation on the underside of all the leaves. The little mites don't seem to be chewing at the plants, like whatever is eating my basil without asking, but perhaps they're stunting the cucumbers' growth.

Monday, February 21, 2011


After the winding coast road, we took the even more winding road into the hills. Just outside Dean's Marsh we wandered through a small olive grove, where they seemed to have escaped the flooding rains. After harvest in June or July, they take a load of olives down to the private press an hour and a half away and press their own olive oil. The rest they keep and marinade and then sell on to people like us.

Lorne Pier and poetry

Beside the local club-house at Lorne Pier sits a reeking fish co-op that they'd dandified it with a cafe and al-fresco dining. On the back wall, next to the loading dock is a blackboard with haiku poems.

Last dregs of summer

Left town after lunch on Friday, hoping to fly north but the flights were all full. Instead, we headed for the south coast, hoping to catch the last dregs of a disappointing summer. It was cold and wet driving down, and the wind picked up as we took the winding Great Ocean Road into Lorne. The wind picked up when we arrived and the whole weekend was covered in a fine mist of rain, even when the sun came out and the skies cleared, the misty rain stayed.
 The same beach in different directions; my first beach all summer. Normally, we spend the warmer months up north, sunning and body-surfing our way through January. This year, we stayed at home and it was never warm enough to venture to the coast, never tempting enough to go and float in the bay without waves when the pool is closer.
On the sheltered side of Lorne pier, after the wind threatended to rip the thongs off my feet, I dipped my toes in the ocean for the first time in over a year.
 The view from Teddy's Lookout, above Lorne, with the gentle spray of rain creating rainbows and the blue of the ocean drawing me down, down, down to the water. This colour seems so impossible in the middle of a Melbourne winter.

 The beach at Apollo Bay, where long, straight lines of swell form perfectly choreographed breakers. The lifesavers' flags were placed further down the beach, inevitably right where a rip was dragging the water back out to the ocean.
 The dunes at Apollo Bay and the trees at Lorne seemed to glow with the backdrop of heavy grey clouds.
In 1891, bushfire smoke obscured the coast and lured the Barque WB Godfrey onto the rocky shore. The wreck is here, just below the surface, revealing its capstan winch, its anchor and sometimes its iron bones at low tide.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Six-word memoirs

I've been captivated by the idea six-word stories since I read this one by Hemingway, the master of the carefully selected and edited word: "for sale: baby shoes, never worn". This little video carries on in the same theme, but focuses on memoirs of ordinary (and some more than ordinary) people.
It's funny and sad but always reminds me of a quote I wrote down, and now can't remember the author or where I found it, about being captivated by strangers.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Suburban warfare

Some days this feels like a prison, a detention centre of some sort or a scene from a (post)modern warfare flick like Tomorrow When the War Began or Red Dawn.
 Some part of it, though, is strangely beautiful. These quasi fleur-de-lis spikes flash in the afternoon sun.
 And close-ups of barbed wire remind me of the country and cows coming up to the back fence of my Grandmother's place up north.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011


I finally got sick of this mess in the front yard, the only bed without any roses. It's sat like this since the end of winter when the bulbs of jonquils and daffodils bloomed briefly then faded out. The bulbs are still there, lying just beneath the surface, but they've been overtaken by these reedy, weedy bits of nothing. And yes, the moss. The soil is heavy with clay and quite damp, but gets more sun than you'd expect.
It took me two and a half hours to pull out all the bolting grass and churn up the soil into something manageable. I have a blister on my trowel hand as proof.
Lavender isn't the best choice for this bed, given the clay soil, but I've always wanted some. So, I dug incredibly big holes, filled them with broken bits of pots and brick, then layered in a mound of fresh potting soil, tucked in the new lavender and hoped for the best. It could have probably used a bit of lime to help break up the clay but we'll see if this keeps their feet dry long enough to get them growing. It worked with the rosemary by the door.

I replanted the bulbs in the empty space behind the peak there. Come late winter, I'll probably be desperate for any hint of spring to come.

First blush

I hadn't been sure what kind of miniature capsicum these plants were growing. Are they going to turn red or are they meant to stay gree? When do I pick them?
Nown I have my answer. One of them is blushing an orangey-red. The others are still solid green, but this one, this one is leading the way.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

After the storm

The torrents of water that got dumped in about an hour of the storm a few days ago flooded the roads, made cars float away and thoroughly saturated Lovely Husband on his way home from work. Our neighbourhood suffered its own destruction, although compared to other places, we got off fairly easy.
The public golf course lost some fences and has a hell of a mess to clean up. Several of the greens are now water traps.
 And then the path just disappears. This is one of the taller bridges along the creek and I have less than no clue what caused it to collapse.
These are the sheafs of bitumen (or asphalt?) that used to cover the footbridge. Now they're strewn up and down the creek, looking like abandoned carpet.
It'll take weeks for the smell of all this debris to fade. Here, at the kids' playground, there are still garlands of SES tape around the swings and the slide set. The council's work trucks have gouged tyre tracks all over the marshy grass. The mosquitos are lingering.

Christmas lingers still

I can't bring myself to dismember it with the handsaw. Instead, it's been laying, dying, in the driveway since New Year's Eve. In its former glory, it was perfect.

Water works

Our water company hand delivered a letter last week, outlining the works they were planning to do in our street. On Monday, two large trucks delivered a zippy little bob-cat and a larger window-rattling one on tank-treads, lengths of pale blue pipe, mounds of dirt and gravel and five orange-vested workmen (three of whom seem to have Irish accents).
 Yesterday they cut a slice in the road and gouged out enough to lay new pipe. They blocked off our driveway without telling us beforehand but filled it back in within an hour.
Then they attacked the nature strip in front of the house and drew an arrow on the brand new concrete so they wouldn't forget where where the hole was.

The council's shivery gum seedling stands watch over the hole. During summer, council workers have driven around at least once a week to water these baby trees up and down the road. If the water workmen kill it, I won't be very impressed. 

In the early afternoon, when the workmen knock off, they place tall orange poles and cones around the mounds of dirt, the abandoned machinery and the holes, and unfurl this safety ribbon. These tiny, fluttering strips snap and cry in the wind at night.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Year of the rabbit

Chinese New Year celebrations in the city. Wandered along the river and through the hawker's market, sniffing and nibbling at all of the food stalls. Hot spring rolls and prosperity salad with radish cake and egg. Tofu skewers and flat squares of warm honey beef jerky.
 With all the rain, the organisers had laid down huge sheets of this vibrant red matting over the muddy grass. The chinese dancers performed with lanterns, fans, knives and ribbons of gorgeous hued fabric, smiling through a crust of stage make-up as the rabbit, with white playboy bunny ears, tricked the emperor into eating a persimmon instead of her heart.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Not letting another library of Alexandria burn

Young people are joining hands and forming barricades to protect Egypt's library's from damage while people riot throughout the cities. The librarian of the Library of Alexandria put out a message on the library's homepage

"The world has witnessed an unprecedented popular action in the streets of Egypt.  Led by Egypt’s youth, with their justified demands for more freedom, more democracy, lower prices for necessities and more employment opportunities.  These youths demanded immediate and far-reaching changes. This was met by violent conflicts with the police, who were routed.  The army was called in and was welcomed by the demonstrators, but initially their presence was more symbolic than active.  Events deteriorated as lawless bands of thugs, and maybe agents provocateurs, appeared and looting began.  The young people organized themselves into groups that directed traffic, protected neighborhoods and guarded public buildings of value such as the Egyptian Museum and the Library of Alexandria.  They are collaborating with the army.  This makeshift arrangement is in place until full public order returns.

The library is safe thanks to Egypt’s youth, whether they be the staff of the Library or the representatives of the demonstrators, who are joining us in guarding the building from potential vandals and looters.  I am there daily within the bounds of the curfew hours.   However, the Library will be closed to the public for the next few days until the curfew is lifted and events unfold towards an end to the lawlessness and a move towards the resolution of the political issues that triggered the demonstrations." - Ismael Serageldin

A T-Rex in the library

I've been getting all Homer-Simpson-and-the-donut about Bookshelf Porn, a website for those who *sparkly heart* books, libraries, bookshelves and general nerdery. Perhaps it's the arrangements, the books themselves, the projection of myself into those spaces but mostly I think it's the delight you can sense from the other side of the lens.

This picture was taken in the Natural History Museum, by way of Matt Cox (of It delights me.

It also reminds me what fun nerds can be.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Where the roses grow

The front garden is full of roses in varying degrees of bloom and decay. The beds need mulching, the bushes need dead heading and I never water them, but somehow, miraculously perhaps, they survive. They grow, they flower. They smell lovely.

These photos were taken in the dying light of a 30 degree day. At a quarter to eight, the wind was blowing and a cool change had swept a bank of grey rain clouds across the sky.
 There are three of these underneath the loungeroom window, in ascending height order. The smallest one rarely flowers and probably needs mulching desperately. I don't actually think they're roses at all.
 These big blowsy roses sit underneath the bedroom window and have sent up huge thorny tendrils that keep switching on the sensor light in the slightest breeze. A few days before Christmas, one of these, a tight tiny bud, appeared in a plastic water bottle on my nightstand.
I love these yellow roses but they've always bothered me after hearing that they imply jealousy. Stupid to worry about Victorian flower messages but deep down it curbs the joy somewhat. I'm fairly sure the white specks on the closed bud are bugs of some kind that I should spray. But I won't.
 This isn't the colour of this flower at all. This photo makes it seem lipstick pink but it's richer and layered with orange. I just couldn't capture it.
These coloured roses remind me of my stepmother. I think there's a photo of her somewhere holding one.


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