Tuesday, 13 February 2018

For the Hoodies

For the Hoodies
On learning of the deaths of MK’s chicks at Betka Beach, Mallacoota.

There’s something about these tiny courageous creatures,
Some imperative of instinct, some inescapable miracle of persistence.
Year after year they come to the beach. They scrape, they lay, they sit
At the mercy of the tides (which are incapable of humanity).
In the flailing fists of storms and the beating of the summer sun they sit bravely
Between the trampling feet of tourists and locals alike and
the thundering paws of all those dogs who “never chase birds”.
They hatch, defend, almost inevitably mourn
The tiny souls whose lives they cannot protect.

They can be forgiven for following their bird nature,
The pull of place each season, however hopeless it turns out to be.

And we?
We who are capable of change and choice, who choose to ignore the signs,
Who choose not to leash our dogs,
Who choose not to walk somewhere else for a brief, life-giving time -
We who pat ourselves on our highly-evolved backs, full of civilised self-regard -
We will never have half the courage and sweetness of these plucky little birds
Who struggle in the teeth of adversity.

We cannot be forgiven.

(c) Sue Hines 2018

Wednesday, 17 January 2018

Littering over Summer


In the midst of tourist season I’ve a most compelling reason
To put forth a proposition to the people of this town
To avoid the awful bummer that confronts us every summer
We could bring in prohibition just to keep the litter down

Almost every can and bottle scattered freely through the wattle
And the Mallacoota beaches and the Mallacoota streets
Was once full of beer or bourbon and it’s messing up our urban
Grassy verges and the reaches of the natural world so sweet.

Tourists spend a lot of money but it isn’t very funny
When the trade-off is a heap of litter halfway to the sun
It seems the summer drinkers are the dirty rotten stinkers
Groups of bottle-dropping creeps with no respect for anyone

Every year when they’ve departed, groups of locals, broken-hearted
Get together to clean up the filthy mess that’s left behind
It’s our home, we want to share it - but we have to then repair it
After boozy litter-droppers of the grubby thoughtless kind

This harsh message I should soften, for the folks that visit often
Love this place for all its wild and pristine loveliness, it’s true
It’s the litter-chucking scum who should feel free not to come
Back to the places they’ve defiled – and take your litter back with you!

© Sue Hines 2018

Thursday, 23 November 2017

Air Mail - the new snail mail: A Rant

Apparently Australia Post has done well enough to pay its CEO squillions, while reducing the efficiency of services and increasing the cost of those increasingly inefficient services. What a business model - it says so much about the times in which we are living.

That CEO, Ahmed Fahour, has quit AP now - check out this fat golden handshake as you bemoan the increase in the price of a fucking stamp: http://www.abc.net.au/news/2017-08-25/ahmed-fahour-walks-away-from-australia-post-with-$10.8-million/8841226

One of the cost-saving measures touted as a possibility by Australia Post a few years ago was not, as you might expect, reducing the astronomical six figure salary of the CEO, but reducing the number of postal deliveries from one per weekday to 3 per week. Poor Australia Post was losing money hand over fist. Nobody writes letters any more (although everyone sends parcels, it seems, and I'm quite certain that is a very very lucrative part of Australia Post's business.)

The three-deliveries-a-week thing, thankfully, did not happen here, and now that Mr Fahour has taken his money and ridden off into the sunset, the new Australia Post CEO, Christine Holgate, will take home a considerably smaller six-figure salary, saving Australia Post several million dollars per year. That is a Good Thing.

BUT (there's always a 'BUT', isn't there?)

Across the ditch, our Kiwi cousins have not been so lucky. NZ Post delivers thrice weekly. What that means, for anybody who posts anything from Oz, is that delivery times have slowed. A lot. I'm not altogether sure of the finer details, because really, you'd think it'd only mean a one-day delay, wouldn't you? (No delivery on Tuesday? No problem - deliver on Wednesday instead.) Instead, it appears to have added more than a week to the delivery time. Yes, I'm serious.

Once upon a time, posting something via Airmail - which used to be the speedy option - took just a few days to get from Canberra to Christchurch - add a day, perhaps even two if you're posting from Mallacoota, because Mallacoota mail takes a day or so to get to Melbourne before it can fly to NZ.

This year, my Dad's birthday card arrived late. I made sure I posted his Fathers Day card earlier than usual - it still arrived late. I posted another card  MORE THAN TWO WEEKS before a special event AND IT WAS FUCKING LATE!

It would appear that our postal non-services would like us to pay extra for "EXPRESS AIRMAIL", adding several dollars to the already high cost of airmail. It's true - your letter/parcel to NZ can now fly cattle class, just like you, or you can pay through the nose for it to fly (probably on the same flight) the equivalent of First Class. Unless its getting a bed to sleep in and complimentary in-flight champagne, they can shove that up their inefficient bums!

So - I posted a SMALL STANDARD item AIRMAIL WITH TRACKING to my Dad on 14 November.  It weighed about 320gms, went in an A3 sized tough-bag and cost me $17.76 to post. I've been tracking it - you bet I have - to see why it takes so bloody long.

So..... looks like it's been cooling its heels in Auckland since Monday morning after being cleared through Customs. And now it's Thursday.

Why, NZ Post?

I know that Thursday is not a delivery day, but does every single person involved in the postal process only work on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays as well? Even if that were the case, why wasn't my item happily whizzing from Auckland to Chch on Monday, which IS an NZ Post day? Or even Wednesday, which is also a delivery day? Why is it still in Auckland on Thursday?

In Chch, a private document delivery service has sprung up to fill in the gaps left by NZ Post. We Australia Post customers, however, are stuck with AusPost and NZ Post's abysmal non-service. I'm angry.

I'm thinking of getting a carrier pigeon. Or learning to swim. It'd probably be quicker.

UPDATE: Dad texted to say a courier had delivered his article around the middle of the day on 23 November. Something in the "tracking" was evidently awry, with no notifications between Auckland and Christchurch. So - 9 days to travel airmail from Mallacoota to Christchurch. This article arrived more quickly than cards I have posted - does this mean parcel post is taken more seriously/quickly? (for all values of 'quickly' equal to "not very quickly" or "pretty slowly, actually, but it's all relative"?) You're still not off the hook, Aus- and NZ Post.

Tuesday, 4 April 2017


So.... New look for the blog to match the New Me. I'm going to have to do some tweaking and rejigging of everything, including the 'about me' stuff. Maybe.

It's official, and now it's about to be public - I've given up motorcycling. I am an ex-motorcyclist. I just need to get rid of all my motorcycling stuff. Like the Harley. Yes, the Harley still sits in the shed, where it has sat for the last 4 years. It's ventured out about a dozen times and I need to sell it to make everything REALLY official... end of an era. It's kind of hard to let go though.

I am now - well, exactly what AM I? I'm not retired exactly - but I'm not quite what you'd call 'employed' in a real sense - I do about 14 hours a week casual work in the town library and shire office. I've become quite involved in Community Radio. I spend a little time volunteering at the local gallery. I do a bit of voluntary data entry for a bird project. I keep chooks. I dabble in watercolours and turn some of my paintings into greeting cards.

I get angry at the government. A lot.

I despair of the goings-on in America.

I walk and watch birds.

It's a good life, actually. I haven't changed completely - I still love chillies. I'm still scared of spiders. My 'occasional adventures', however, are pretty rare these days and nobody ever calls me Betty any more -  so I feel the title of the blog is a bit, well, fraudulent!  Can I change it? Is that possible? If so, what should I call it now? Should I even bother with it? Do I have anything to say any more? I've been pretty silent for the last few years, taking up cyberspace for no good reason....

I think maybe it's time to say sayonara. Perhaps I shall return in a whiz-bang new incarnation at some stage. Dazzle you with my art, ha ha! To the folks who've followed my adventures - friends near and far - thank you.

Over and out.

Sunday, 9 August 2015

Roadkill makes me cry

Kangaroos on the school oval - a potential road risk for all of us (and especially them!)
Gosh, it's been a while since I felt inspired to write anything apart from anti-government rants. You'll probably be pleased to know I won't be mentioning anything about politicians rorting their 'entitlements'  to fly their families Business Class on holidays - and I'm staying well away from the topic of helicopters.

My topic this time is the unbelievable sadness I feel when I see roadkill.

I'm a crazy cat-lady, an animal lover and a campaigner for animal rights. I'm also getting older, and the older I get, the more upset I am by some things. One of these things is roadkill.

It's always upset me to see the remains of beautiful animals by the roadside. As a motorcyclist I have always been extremely aware of the likelihood of animals leaping out in front of me, because that could spell disaster or death for me as well as for the animal. As a car driver I am more sheltered from that fear, which is a Very Bad Thing as far as I'm concerned. People who've never ridden a motorcycle have ALWAYS been sheltered from that fear.

The reality for Aussie car drivers is that if they hit an animal, their likeliest worst case scenario is a hefty bill for panel-beating (and perhaps towing) . For most drivers it will mean some inconvenience and a minor insurance claim.

Between Cooma and Canberra at the moment there must be a LOT of tow-truck operators and a shitload of panel-beaters making a SHITLOAD of money!

On a return trip to Canberra yesterday I was saddened - no, saddened isn't strong enough.... horrified? devastated? shattered? to see roadkill about every 50 metres on the Monaro Highway between Cooma and Canberra. Wombats, foxes, little roos, medium roos, giant roos with hands the size of mine, their clawed fingers splayed...

Ultimately, though,  what I saw wasn't just corpses of animals twisted into the undignified shapes of sudden, violent death. It wasn't the misery of motorists who'd totalled their cars whacking them. I felt a horrible sort of vicarious pain.

Sometimes I think I must be going mad - but what I saw when I saw the contorted wreckage of vibrant native wildlife (and the odd introduced fox!) was suffering: awful, lonely, bellies-exposed suffering in the depths of winter. Sad, lonely, uncomforted deaths, unrecorded and unreported. No ambulance comes to help you. Nobody sits with you and holds you till the ambulance or the Grim
Reaper arrives. Nobody cares. They care instead about the damage you may have done to their car or truck as they sped to the ski-fields, or home. You are the cause of their misery; their collateral damage.

Nobody cares.

Well, I care.

I spent a good part of my drive yesterday in tears, passing roo after roo after roo. I couldn't turn off the thoughts I had of their final moments - or hours. In shock, cold, hurting - how long did they have to wait for Death to end their pain? How many more cars and trucks and bikes sped past their dying selves, oblivious as they bled out or died in agony? Did they have a mate or a family feeling their absence but not understanding it?

Look, I know that roos have zero road sense. They're not very bright. They're sort of like enormous, muscular jumping sheep. But still...they are beautiful, graceful, wonderful living creatures with their own mob, their family. No policeman will ever knock at their doors to explain why they haven't come home. No ceremonies will be held to mourn their passing. There's just a sort of blank and uncomprehending void.

I could say 'well, that's Nature, it's how it works, it's only humans who get hung up on that sort of shit' except for this - it's us humans who are CAUSING this unbelievable amount of suffering and death. And we do it without a second thought. Mostly.

Several years ago I was on that Cooma-Canberra highway and I passed the corpse of a very large kangaroo. Its enormous hind legs, stiffened in rigor mortis, were sticking up in the air, and over the frame they created was draped a checked blanket.

I cried and cried. To me, that checked blanket meant that somebody had noticed. Somebody had cared. Somebody had tried to make that poor dying roo's passing more comfortable somehow. It was naive, but it was beautiful in such an incredibly sad way.

Had the blanket-owner been the killer or a compassionate passer-by? Had they been unable to put the roo out of its dying misery/pain*, and only been able to offer it warmth as its life ebbed away?

On my drive yesterday I came to the Imlay Road at "Rooicide" time. Late afternoon with the light about to start failing. After losing count of the numbers of roo corpses earlier in the day I was driving with a heightened awareness of roadside critters, especially at that late-afternoon time.

I noticed eight little wallabies, three kangaroos, a wedge-tailed eagle and two lyrebirds as I drove that road. None jumped in front of me, but I was very aware of them, and made sure I slowed down as soon as I was aware of them.

Drivers - please, PLEASE be careful - and remember that you and your cars aren't the only beings out there.

* What DO you do if you hit a wild animal? You don't want it to suffer. We tend not to carry guns in Australia - so - what is the humane way to end its suffering? This is something everybody needs to know!!!!! I've googled it and googled it and live in fear of being in this situation!