Christmas Bells

Christmas Bells
Christmas Bells - Blandfordia nobilis

Thursday, September 28, 2006

Climate Change - Put yourself "on the map"

Our farmers are crippled by drought. Bush fires are breaking out earlier every year. We're facing record-breaking heat waves, increasing water scarcity and intensifying cyclones and storms. Each of us with hopes for our future, or with children and grandchildren who will be left with our mess, must act now.

We are redrawing the map of Australia to make the climate crisis personal. Politicians at all levels of government need to see the writing on the wall, and realise this is not an issue for somebody else to solve - it's the issue in their backyard.

Australia emits the most planet-changing carbon dioxide per capita of any industrialised country in the world, but our Federal Government has its head too far down a coalmine to sign the Kyoto Protocol, price carbon appropriately or encourage genuine large-scale investment in renewable energy.

To learn more about our climate crisis, go see Al Gore's film, An Inconvenient Truth and tell as many people as you can to join you.

To find out more, check out

Follow the link above, to put yourself "on the map" - as someone who cares about global warming.

You can also read Anni's recent blog on the same topic.


The foregoing is lifted from the website of the Get Up organisation - a movement for social and political action. To find out more about the people behind "Get Up!" click that link.

Make up your own mind.

PS: if you don't like them, or have your doubts, let me know.
Use the comments section below.

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

The Nature of the "Tree of Life"

Readers will be aware of the recent trip to "The Nine Mile" at Broken Hill, in which I accompanied Miss Eagle on a desert spirituality retreat - "God Outback".

This photo was taken by Miss Eagle. It shows a "tank", a typical Outback dam, with high sides, raised up above the surrounding countryside, and is filled by a pump or windmill. Tanks are important for stock, and also for birds and other animals. The trees are "Peppercorn Trees", a very common tree in the Outback, although introduced to Australia.

On the first day out at "The Nine Mile", I pointed out to Miss Eagle that one of the local shrubs growing near this tank, was absolutely buzzing with the sounds of insects.

The shrub, a form of Emu Bush, or Boobialla (Boobialla montana), was heavily in flower, with insignificant looking white flowers, with purple spots.

I should say "tiny", not insignificant - for we humans tend to view things from the human perspective only - a sure way to underestimate the true importance of things.

"Lady Bird" Beetle
The flowers were far from insignificant to the thousands of ants, wasps, "Lady Bird" Beetles, flies and other insects which were crawling all over the bush. Also there were birds flitting in and out of this tree.

That's when Miss Eagle dubbed it the "Tree of Life" (not original, but perfectly apt).

The whole tree was literally "humming" - you could hear the noise from metres away (if you listened). I guess, the point is those last few words.

Note the eyes on this Fly.
As with most things in this harsh outback landscape (lets call it "desert"), one has to be "tuned in" to realise what is going on around you.

Life in the desert gets on with doing its own thing, when circumstances are right for it.

Clearly, just now, after an inch or so of Spring Rains in the district, was the right season for the Boobialla to flower, and the insects responded to that "invitation".

Ichneumonid Wasp
hanging upside down
Some insects would get nectar or pollen from the flowers. In turn, they would (hopefully) pollinate the flowers. That action is necessary for the plant - that allows the plant to set seed for future generations.

Other insects, such as hover flies and ants would be there to keep the plant free of damaging sucking insects, which otherwise would weaken the plant. The Ichneumonid Wasp (left) would be there looking for caterpillars to capture (or other insect larvae (grubs) inside hollowed out stems), in which to lay her eggs. Her long "spike" is an egg-laying device (an "ovipositor"), not a stinging device. The Lady Bird beetle (above) would be looking for aphids.

Later in the season, if the insects have done their job of pollination (and they were surely working on it when I was there) this bush will produce succulent berries. Those berries will attract Emus, and other birds, and probably small marsupials, to eat the fruit, to disperse the seeds away from the base of this plant, and to help germinate them elsewhere.
A bush meditation
The whole circle of life was laid out before our eyes, in this one single shrub. It gives one plenty on which to meditate - on the interconnectedness of things, on their dependence one upon another, and on their bounty - even in an otherwise harsh desert environment.

Life keeps on giving - even in the desert. It is a great and wondrous paradox.

Sunday, September 24, 2006

Waratahs in the bush - the real burst of Spring

3 flowers on a small bush
In Robertson, one tends to measure the real flush of Spring by the arrival of the Waratah flowers, in the bush. They grow on the sandstone country around Robertson, not strictly in Robertson itself. They do not occur naturally on the red basalt soil.

Waratahs thrive in Robertson, as garden plants. But their natural range is an evolutionary thing - they are products of the sandstone forests, dominated by Eucalypts, and a whole range of other related Proteaceae plants. The rich red basalt soils of Robertson were "taken" by the rain forests, dominated by Sassafras and other more primitive rainforest plants. But I digress.

Red bracts surround a developing flower

The Waratah "flower" is actually a head of a myriad of individual flowers, surrounded by the red bracts (modified leaves) which protect the individual true flowers until they are developed enough to swell, and protrude, in the classic shape of the Waratah "flower"

A perfectly developed flower
I have previously reminded readers that the Waratahs in the bush are protected, and the flowers ought be admired whrere they are, and not cut. The plants need to flower in order to set seed, to perpetuate their species. So, give them a chance. After all, they are our most spectacular flower. Leave them for everyone to enjoy.

These plants are growing close to the roadside, in Kangaloon, but similar plants grow in the Sandstone forests near Belmore Falls, Fitzroy Falls, Carrington Falls. Just look out for them.

Individual flowers
developing within the "head".

Click on the image, to view the individual flowers.

While I was taking these photographs, a cyclist, a visitor from Sydney, as it turned out, saw me in the bush, and called out "Aren't they great?" He was enjoying being amongst so many wonderful Waratah flowers
- and he could see that I was too.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

"Let there be light"

As you will be aware, I have recently visited "The Nine Mile", near Broken Hill. This is Outback New South Wales. Here are some of the spectacular sunrises and sunsets which we saw while we were at The Nine Mile.

Not only is light an artistic inspiration, it is quite literally, the power house of life on earth.

I like to think of sunrises as a rebirth, a daily renewal of the gift of life to all creation. So, I thought I would start this blog with the old Biblical quote "Let there be light".

"In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth. And the earth was without form, and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters. And God said, Let there be light: and there was light. And God saw that the light was good." (Gen. 1:1-4)

Sunrise on Day 2 - our first sunrise.

late afternoon light bathing the hills to the east. Immediately prior to the sun setting behind us.

Sunset - the earth's shadow.
As sunset rages in the west the eastern sky gets "washed" with blue light, which literally is the shadow cast by the earth on the dust particles in the atmosphere. I love this "reverse sunset" effect. One can observe a similar "reverse sunset" from the top of Macquarie Pass, just out from Robertson, looking out over the ocean.

First sunrise was a good one.

Last Sunrise, before we left. A nearly clear sky gives little "colour".

And now for a "confession" - digital cameras can record the light from a sunrise and a sunset in a different way from the way the human eye sees things. Our eyes adjust to the light, or lack of it - as the sky brightens, our eyes "wash the colour out", as they adjust to receiving more light. The camera focuses on the brightest spot of the sky, and adjust as if the entire image was as bright as that point. This "adjustment" results in a darkened area in the foreground. This is not how our eyes see sunrises and sunsets.

So, these photos are more "intense" than we might remember seeing them (in real life).

They have not been digitally "faked up", but it is just one of the joys of using a digital camera.

Monday, September 18, 2006

Are Bunnies allowed to be so cute?

Here is a Bunny - a mere Kitten - being "Oh so Cute", over at George's place, at South Ranelagh, yesterday afternoon.

Just testing if this place is "safe".

Oh, this fresh moss is so nice.

What joy, a Japanese Maple seedling!

What a delightful "find".

Now I'll pose for the guy behind the window, with the camera.

At my place, the Bunnies are more timid, and do not disport themselves so shamelessly.

Probably because they know Lena the Attack-Dog is on duty.

Saturday, September 16, 2006

Crescent Moon over the Nine Mile

Here is a photo of the Crescent Moon, just after sunset.

The Nine Mile, Broken Hill. Outback New South Wales

Sunday, 26 August 2006, 5:47 p.m., (Central Time)

Friday, September 15, 2006

The SCA has acted "in bad faith".

I have today written to the SCA accusing them of acting in bad faith in their "consultations" with the local community, over the Kangaloon Aquifer proposal.

Today I learnt that the SCA has just slashed the open grassland areas along Tourist Road. Sure, these areas have been slashed on a regular basis, but to do it in the first weeks of Spring is outright environmental vandalism.

Right when the community has had its last chance to "comment" on the proposal to drain the Kangaloon Aquifer, they have gone ahead and prepared Tourist Road for clearing, as if it is a deliberate bare earth policy, so that there will be no obstacle to them hacking their way along the length of Tourist Road, to lay pipes down, or to put up power lines along that road, to power their bores and pumps. It is totally pre-emptive of any last vestige of consultation.

That patch of land is home to literally millions of small "perennial" plants, little native plants such as Ground Orchids, which nearly all flower in spring. By slashing now, the SCA will very likely have chopped off the flower heads of these plants, preventing them from flowering this Spring, and importantly, preventing these plants from setting seed this year, in order to try and keep on perpetuationg their species.

This is an absolutely barbaric, insensitive, stupid and ignorant act on the part of the Government body which is charged with management of this area.

Prasophyllum appendiculatum
(amended ID by Mark Clements in 2012)
One of these plants is the Wingecarribee Leek Orchid (DJW EDIT: Identification subsequently confirmed on 7 March 2012 as Prasophyllum appendiculatum). At the time I originally published this blog, it was believed that this plant was so rare that the National Parks and Wildlife Service has listed it on the Endangered Species List, and it is protected by legislation. Obviously it is meaningless legislation.

An appointment has been booked with the Endangered Species Officer of the NPWS to visit Tourist Road in mid-October, to join in a search for the Wingecarribee Leek Orchid. (An ID as Prasophyllum appendiculatum was received on 7 March 2012) Well, after today's news, that will be almost certainly a futile exercise. The chances of this plant flowering this year are miniscule.

The SCA has been aware of the presence of several Threatened Species along this section of Tourist Road. That has been made clear to them throughout the "consultative process". Yet they went ahead and slashed the area anyway.

This is NOT justifiable as a reasonable bushfire prevention act. That would have been appropriate in the depth of winter, when there are no plants flowering in the area. But that would not do for the SCA. No!

They have been so totally stupid as to slash the area right at the critical growth period for the millions of small flowering plants. Short of actually bulldozing the area, they could not have chosen a more damaging action to take.

It is environmental vandalism.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Back in Robbo - with my Sense of Wonder.

It is a good thing to be able to report that I am safely (and happily) returned to Robertson.
What does that mean?

Happy to be home? Yes.
But not just that - I am happy to be home, because I am happy.

And I am happy because I have been having a lovely few weeks, firstly, out in the desert (well, Broken Hill anyway) and then visiting Miss Eagle, in her eyrie, in Upper Ferntree Gully, in outer suburban Melbourne.

A miniature fungus
- perfect in design
Then I flew home to Robbo, via Canberra, today, and saw my father, and told him about my trip. Somewhere along the way, I managed to thank him for introducing me to seeing the world, with a Sense of Wonder. That is the very essence of why I started to write the Nature of Robertson - to try and help share my own Sense of Wonder about Nature.

In case you have ever wondered, the N (capital "N") in the "Nature of Robertson" is entirely deliberate, in just the same way as traditional religions capitalise the personal pronoun He, when referring to God. (Feminists are welcome to use the capital S, but in truth the tradition started out with God the Father.)

I like to attribute a capital to Nature, to include every aspect of the Universe, of Nature, and of Reality, which I find totally awe-inspiring. From the miniscule gems of the world, such as tiny fungus (above), to the perfection of the design of the wing feathers of a Barn Owl, to giant trees and far greater mountains and valleys, such as the Illawarra Escarpment, above Macquarie Pass (seen at left).

It all spins my mind out. That is the start of the Sense of Wonder.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

More about the Dandenong Creek Parks

This morning I visited the Shepherds Bush Park, one of the linking sections between the Parks I visited yesterday - Jells Park (downstream) and Koomba Park (upstream).

This section of the Dandenong Creek Parks was very well maintained, in terms of pathways, signage, etc. In particular, the extensive wooden "board walks" with their wire netting (non-slip) surface were very impressive. Clearly in such a wet and shady gully this is a necessary precaution, but it is good to see it being used. And obviously the park is heavily used by the public, which is good to see.

In fact it is a pretty good section of bushland, with a nearly continuous canopy of trees and undergrowth. The dominant trees are the Yarra Gum (apparently). The understorey is mostly Silver Wattle, and Melaleuca scrub in the wetter areas. The ground cover is almost entirely composed of weeds unfortunately, "Wandering Jew" (Tradescantia) and Ivy and Honeysuckle, and the ubiquitous Onion Weed. In the warm spring morning air, the smell of the Onion Weed was almost overpowering.

The problem with the dense ground cover is that it excludes small native plants, such as Ground Orchids and small ferns, from getting any light, so eventually they will die out (locally), leaving only the green mat of introduced weeds. Still, I do not envy the "Friends of the Dandenong Valley Parklands" their task of coping with the legacy of over 160 years of of introduced weeds, since first settlement of this area.

The Silver Wattles and many of the tall Eucalypts are showing severe stress. Huge numbers have died, apparently from insect attack (notably the wattles, which all have the obvious marks of moth larvae having bored under their bark, and ring-barked the trees).

There were plenty of birds in evidence: Brown Thornbills, White-browed Scrubwrens, Grey Fantails, Yellow Robins. I also came face to face with a female Spotted Pardalote, who was at least as surprised as I was to find herself sitting just a few metres from me (too close for the camera to focus!) Up in the tree tops, the large Honeyeaters fought it out for dominance. The aggressive Bell Birds (a type of Honeyeater, related to the Noisy Miner) challenging the larger Red Wattlebirds. Then there are the Rainbow Lorikeets. These aggressive birds fly, screaming, through the tree tops, and compete for nesting sites against other Parrots, especially the Crimson Rosellas. However, as they are predominantly nectar feeders, they would compete (for food) with the Honeyeaters.

Large White Egret
Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting Once I had seen most of what I could expect to see there, I crossed over High Street Road (Only in Melbourne would one find such a street name.) This took me into Bushy Park, which turned out to be almost totally devoid of bush (at least in its southern section), which is where the main area of Wetlands is located. Here there was a "Hide" (a "bird hide" is a shelter where the bird watcher can go and sit quietly, and observe waterbirds - without scaring them). Once inside the "Hide", I could clearly see a number of White Ibises, A White-fronted Heron, a Large White Egret (which caught a fish while I was watching it), Grey Teal and Chestnut Teal, and Black Duck. This pool was much more active with wildfowl than a similar facility at Jells Park.

Incidentally, many of the birds I observed were collecting nesting materials. I was surprised, I would have expected them to be have eggs or young at this stage of the season, but their behaviour was very obviously nest building. A White-plumed Honeyeater was raiding the fluffy seedheads of reeds in the creek to line its nest in the top of a Melaleuca overhanging the Dandenong Creek, right beside the footbridge beside Drummies Bridge, on High Street Road. Other birds which were obviously nesting were Welcome Swallow, White-browed Scrubwren, Red-browed Finch, Blue Wren, and all the Parrots.

This was a pleasant morning's outing for me. Congratulations to Parks Victoria for their on-going work in this series of parks, in an important wetland environment.

Monday, September 11, 2006

The Nature of the City of Knox

Photobucket - Video and Image HostingSouth from Boronia Road, the Dandenong Creek runs through flat country which was once farming country, but which is now being used as an "easement" for enormous lines of "War of the Worlds" creatures (as Brigid calls them) - huge power pylons, striding towards Melbourne from the coal fields and power stations of the Latrobe Valley, in Gippsland. "Transfield" a huge industrial corporation is a major shareholder in this power supply system. This "green belt" is also being used as a corridor for the "Eastlink" toll road, of which Mr Bracks may yet be brought to book, over a broken promise to make the road a free-access highway (literally a "free" way).

Fortunately, Parks Victoria has at least tried to save some of this environment, by creating a chain of parks running for about 10 Km, from Boronia Road to Wellington Road, along the course of the original Dandenong Creek.

Knox City Landscape Architect, Christine White, posed (1999) amongst introduced weeds beside the muddy Dandenong Creek, in a photo published by Melbourne Water's "The Source".
Why she agreed to this stupid posed photograph amazes me.

It is not all peace and tranquility in these parks. Seldom have I seen such out-of-control weed infestation in a "Park".

I will acknowledge that this chain of Parks is a much better option than it being totally turned into "industrial precincts" as is happening on the east side of the creek, along Ferntree Gully Road. There one is confronted by a solid wall of warehouses. That is a frightening sight. This wall of warehouses, noticeably, starts shortly after one enters the territory of the "City of Knox", whose Economic Development Unit (at Council) is clearly out of control, lacking any sense of balancing economic development with the needs of the environment, or even social development principles. I would bet that most of these factories and warehouses are merely assembly or distribution points for Chinese manufactured goods. The EDU may be building something, but at what social and environmental costs?

Jells Park, accessible from Waverley Road, has been developed as a conventional park and "recreation" area. It is what city people would think of a popular picnic area. But there is also a conservation area, where activities are restricted and people are asked to keep their dogs out. For more interesting bird watching, try accessing this line of parks, from Boronia Road, at "Koomba Park", or the "Bushy Park Wetlands", accessible via Highbury Road.

Sunday, September 10, 2006

St Martin's Community Church, Collingwood

This morning I accompanied Brigid to St Martin's Community Church, Collingwood. This is a real church, in a real inner city environment, with real people who have real issues to face. Get the idea?

The Church is the headquarters of Concern Australia, an inner city Christian Mission operation, which strives to focus on mission, advocacy and welfare issues. Read more (at the link above) to find out for yourself. If you are in Melbourne, go along to the Church at 215 Wellington St, Collingwood.

If you are, as I am, from a Catholic background, this is almost too real, too hard core to absorb. These people really believe that Jesus speaks to them, through the Gospel - and they take him very seriously indeed. None of your Gentle Jesus hocus-pocus here!

Fortunately, having had a few weeks introduction, courtesy of Brigid. I was prepared (almost) for this intensity of faith and commitment. Today's service was lead by Ann van Leerdam (and a most impressive person she is). Rev'd Dr John Smith preached the sermon, based upon the readings of the day, especially the Epistle of St James 2: 1 - 10, and 14 - 1 7.

My dear friends, don't let public opinion influence how you live out our glorious, Christ-originated faith. If a man enters your church wearing an expensive suit, and a street person wearing rags comes in right after him, and you say to the man in the suit, "Sit here, sir; this is the best seat in the house!" and either ignore the street person or say, "Better sit here in the back row," haven't you segregated God's children and proved that you are judges who can't be trusted?
Listen, dear friends. Isn't it clear by now that God operates quite differently? He chose the world's down-and-out as the kingdom's first citizens, with full rights and privileges. This kingdom is promised to anyone who loves God.
Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting
John Smith is experienced in the non-wearing of "expensive suits" in his church, for it is directly opposite some of "The Towers" (high-rise apartments) in Collingwood. He is also the founder of the God's Squad - Australia, a Christian Motorcycle Club.
Today the congregation was mourning the loss of Peter Brock, who was the patron of one of their Outreach Services: Hand Brake Turn (HBT), which is a program "giving young people at risk the opportunity to get their life on track through an automotive training program".
It was quite an eye-opening morning for young Denis, in Collingwood.

Friday, September 08, 2006

Teasing the "Wog" in School.

This morning I went down Memory Lane, Melbourne style.

Surrey Hills (where I was born) is unrecognisable. There were a few familiar sights in Box Hill, and Mont Albert. I found a house where my Uncle Laurie lived, In High Street, Mont Albert. I then had a very nice coffee break in the Mont Albert Village. Very fancy indeed.

However, I then set off to go the full length of Warrigal Road, which runs from Surrey Hills to Mentone, and goes past Birdwood Steet, South Oakleigh, where my family lived when I was between the ages of 4 and 9. (1953 to 1959). Those are critical years - the memories of my childhood start there.

Firstly I drove past the dominating facade of the Sacred Heart Church, Oakleigh, and the Sacred Heart Primary School next door. This was a school full of dread for me.

I loved Sister John, my "Bubs" teacher, but how she found time to care for me, as one of 101 kids in her class, I shall never know.

But the Headmistress, Sr. Alexis was a terror. We lived in fear of her.

The School Principal's Welcome Statement on the website proudly proclaims: "Families are drawn from a large range of ethnic backgrounds. We value and respect this diversity." Not in my day we didn't.

In about 2nd Grade (1954 or 1955) we were given a new classmate, a girl from Italy, a migrant, a "New Australian". This girl had no English, so was dropped back to a lower class than her age would warrant, so she could pick up the language - there were no ESL classes then. The population of the school were 99.5% Irish Catholic Australians. We knew straight away that this girl, who was so much older than us, who was already showing a trace of a delicate moustache on her upper lip, was not "one of us". And we teased her unmercifully. Eventually, Sister Alexis stepped in and told us that this girl was not a "Wog", nor an "Eiteye" (however that word is meant to be spelled), but that she was a Roman, and was to be respected for her family's culture and heritage.

Nice try, Sister, but hadn't the Romans crucified Jesus? And anyway, we soon worked out that the Romans had all died out long since. So we went back to teasing the poor girl. My memory fades after that incident. Perhaps her novelty wore off, and we stopped teasing her. I do hope so. We might very well have traumatised the poor girl to within an inch of her life. I hope she learnt some English along the way, other than Wog, Wop and "Eiteye".

I owe her a profound apology, as one of a group of kids who made this girl's welcome to Australia so difficult for her. Welcome to Australia, under Prime Minister Menzies, and Dr Mannix.

I truly hope that the Principal's statement is true, today. But when I look at the politics of John Howard, our current Prime Minister, I see little reason to believe that modern day migrant children are made welcome in our society. Indeed, I know they are not (especially if they are Muslim kids). The only saving grace is that the Muslim kids probably don't go to Catholic Schools like the one I attended. It was a disgrace to the Education System (in 1955).

Thursday, September 07, 2006

More from Melbourne

Today I drove into the Dandenongs, from Upper Ferntree Gully. I decided to go to Emerald, a pretty village which is on the Puffing Billy track.

Indeed I drove under a wonderful old wooden railway bridge which is much photographed by steam train enthusiasts (for whom Puffing Billy is the most iconic train in Australia).

The Wikipedia site tells me that it is a 2 foot 6 inch track (ultra narrow), so I am sure that it travels very slowly up the hill, and across this rickety looking bridge.

I wanted to find Menzies Creek, as this is a place where my favourite Daffodil growers, JN Hancock and Co grow some of the very best cultivars of Daffodils available to the general public in Australia. They run a very good Mail Order service. Hancock's range of daffodils completely outclasses the much larger and more commercial and much better known "Catalogue Bulb Nurseries" from the Dandenongs. I don't want to be sued, but if you think of names starting with Tessel... or Broers... you would not be far wrong.

Anyway, I did find Menzies Creek, recogisable by the wonderful fields of golden daffodils, growing on steeply sloping hillsides, with a wonderful backdrop of swards of green grass, and trees. Millions upon millions of daffodils. A wonderful find in the green Dandenongs. My photo will be posted after my return to Canberra (I promise).

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Melbourne insults its grey-haired visitors.

Melbourne - it is raining (or rather drizzling). However, I have spent the day on trains. I went from The Eagle's Nest (in "Upper Gully" - such a cute name for a village, not so nice for what turns out to be outer suburbia, however...) to Flinders Street Station, right in the heart of Melbourne.

I spent the day at "Federation Square", a refurbished area built over what used be the Jolimont Railway Yards when I was a puppy.

Melbournians are extremely proud of Fed Square, but they don't have a harbour to sit beside, (or sunshine, in which to enjoy the outdoors) do they?

The complex includes ACMI (the Australian Centre for the Moving Image). I did enjoy the trip down memory lane, watching old TV commercials. Isn't it funny how commercials which generally I cannot abide in their modern form, take on a sacred form as childhood memories. For the record, I first saw TV when it was introduced to Melbourne, just in time for the Melbourne Olympics in 1956, when I was 8 years old. My family did not buy a TV (it was suspected to be an agent of Satan, of course, but there might have been some economic realities involved in my father's reluctance to sign up. I would not have been aware of such niceties, at the time.) Anyway, today I had the chance to relive some of those memories of more innocent times. I managed to by-pass the less innocent images of recent years, especially the entire section devoted to "Reality TV" (a less appropriate name I cannot imagine! There is nothing "real" about "Big Brother")

I also visited the Ian Potter Centre which houses the National Gallery of Victoria's Australian Art collection.

What is it with Victorians and their naming of things? How is the National Gallery of Victoria meant to be understood? Is Victoria a nation? Clearly NO, but they do not seem to have noticed yet. Nice gallery, though. The Charles Blackman "Alice in Wonderland" series is being featured there at the moment. These paintings are suitably weird, to match the seemingly "substance-inspired" original poetry of "Lewis Carroll", the pseudonym of the Rev'd Charles Lutwidge Dodgson. However, I did enjoy seeing them all together for this exhibition. For the record Wikipedia clears Dodgson of abusing drugs. His penchant for photographing little girls is a little more problematic!


For the very first time in my life, I was given a Senior's discount at the door (I paid $7:00, and the listed price was $10:00). I did not even know that I was granted the "Seniors" rate until I saw the full price listed on published notices. I certainly did not ask for it. That is the first time such an insult has been handed out to me. Ageism in Melbourne, working to my advantage. Still, just because I look like a bushie, with my blue tennis hat masking my chemo-therapeutically abbreviated hair, they don't need to assume I am "Old"!

Maybe I need to get more sleep! I shall talk to Brigid about that. Seniors indeed! Little do they know what we "teenagers" have been up to!

Monday, September 04, 2006

Back from "The Hill", now climbing the Mountain

Regular readers will be aware that I disappeared for a few days.

I went to Broken Hill for a "God Outback" desert retreat. It was very fulfilling, and a very challenging experience. Along the way, I met up with "Miss Eagle", a fellow blogger. One of the sights our group saw at Broken Hill was the "Living Desert" sculptures. We stayed at "The Nine Mile", as guests of Greg and Mia. We toured around the property on the first day, with Greg, and tried to take in what it means to be a farmer in an area with an average of "5 inches" of rainfall per annum. Saltbush farming. Coming from Robertson, an area of 60 inches of rainfall, on average, this is an eye-opener.

On the second day, our group visited the Mutawintji National Park. There Ranger Bill, our guide, showed us some of the ancient carved images made by his ancestors. These carvings may be as old as 30,000 years, a thought which is totally awe-inspiring. The remaining days, we visited various parts of the property. Each area of the property was different. In some areas, dry hillsides dominated, the landscape. In others, particularly the creekbed, the huge old River Gums dominated, being the source of life and of nesting holes for hundreds of birds, especially Corellas and Galahs, but also many other smaller birds.

I drove back from Broken Hill, to Robertson, with Miss Eagle, where she met a few of my friends. We helped Celeste launch the Pathway at the CTC in Robertson. The launch went off well, with the Robertson School kids participating, along with many volunteers who had helped Celeste with making and laying of the "Potatoes" (They are ceramic potatoes, by the way, Leo). It is fantastic to see this project come to fruition, having talked with Celeste about her "vision" of the pathway, over such a long time. Congratulations to Celeste and to all the volunteers, and helpers whose assistance made it possible, and also thanks to the Wingecarribee Shire Council.

Special mention is made of the participation of "Aunty Val" Mulcahy, a representative of the Gundungarra people, who not only welcomed visitors to the launch of the Pathway, but who had been involved with Celeste in the design and making of many of the special Aboriginal motif tiles incorporated in the pathway.

After our brief visit back to Robertson, Miss Eagle suggested that I ought accompany her to Melbourne, to see her part of the world. Being a reasonable chappie, I decided to agree. So here I sit, on Miss Eagle's computer, composing my "late note" for the blog.
The "mountain" to which I referred in the title, is of course, both metaphorical and real. Miss Eagle's nest is underneath Mount Dandenong, on the eastern edge of Melbourne.

Eventually I shall return and post a few of the hundreds of photographs I took at the Nine Mile. Be grateful that I am not undertaking to post more than a few. As the group leader, Ian Robinson said at the time, we should regard this experience as being a spiritual journey, not just a tourist experience. And indeed it was, (and continues to be).