Wednesday, 29 September 2010

Betty's Wild Mallacoota Life

Try to imagine this post - the next bit of it, at least - spoken in a sort of David Attenborough whisper, if you can.

The tally of wild things continues to grow here in lovely Mallacoota. On another marathon walk into town yesterday with buddy Smack, who's passing through on his way from Tassie to Phillip Island – Aussies will get the joke there, but others will need a map) I identified a pair of Royal Spoonbills poking about in the shallows with something that may or may not have been a sandpiper, or perhaps a godwit (it was hard to tell). I also know the source of that funny 'chee chee chee wit' sound now (more high-pitched and twittery than an eastern whipbird) – it's this little fellow – a golden whistler. What a little beauty.

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A kookaburra, complete with lifeless lizard dangling from its beak, stood its ground against a pair of very indignant brush wattlebirds. I don't know why they were so cross – unless the lizard was a close personal friend.

Then there was the Shag that appeared to be mud-puddling in a stormwater drain – a sudden movement caught my eye, and when I peered over the side of the board bridge, there it was, soaking wet and paddling about in the thick mud of the drain, and evidently having a lovely time. It looked at us unperturbed, then turned around and stomped back into the stormwater drain.

The lyrebirds have remained elusive so far this trip. This morning, though, I was sitting in the flat minding my own business when a lyrebird nonchalantly made its way across the pavers right in front of the window.

I've made friends with a crippled magpie – he and his Significant Other have begun peering through the window to look for me - they take small pieces of sausage out of my hand. The king parrots are also back, and a female satin bower bird has put in a few appearances.

On the wilder-than-wild (despite being domesticated) front – there are the geese. The bloody geese.

These Chinese geese are ok. It's the cranky Euro-Geese I have problems with. No pic coz I was too busy running for my life!

Peter & Margaret have had to go away for a day or two on family business, and in their absence I have been on goose patrol and possum detail. Possums I can handle. Geese are a whole different kettle of, um, things. They have hissy fits whenever I approach.

I've heard that the secret, if under attack by a goose, is to spread your arms wide and to look bigger and more threatening than they do. That's kind of hard when a homicidal goose is rushing at your vulnerable bits with murder on its tiny mind. If Peter & Margaret don't get back this afternoon I will have another go at it. Wish me luck!

Sunday, 26 September 2010

Killing Time? WHY???

Yesterday, after my ride down here, I was dreamily looking out the window at the gathering of birds, bush rats and so on that make up the whole Adobe Flats experience, and I saw something I've never seen before, which reduced me to tears of laughter.

This is a wonga pigeon:

They seem like gormless, ungainly birds, with a small head plonked onto a big plump body. They make an irritating 'woop woop woop' call for hours on end. If they were human they'd be a bit like Lenny in Of Mice & Men, I reckon.

This is an Australian native bush rat:

(downloaded from Source: Gary Lewis)

They are cute little things that move at the speed of lightning. Generally – well, at Adobe anyway – they coexist peacefully with the thuggish rainbow lorikeets, gentle king parrots, raucous galahs, tiny fire-browed finches etc etc. They nibble at the spent husks that the birds chuck out of the seed box and generally help to keep the place tidy.

Until yesterday.

Oh I wish I'd had my camera at the ready, set to capture a video! A dopey wonga pigeon clearly felt a bit threatened by a lone bush rat which was looking for food in the same general area. I wouldn't have believed it if I hadn't seen it with my own eyes, but the wonga pigeon puffed itself up to look as scary as possible – it fanned out its tail and raised its wings – and – this is true – bopped the bush rat hard on the head with one of its wings! The bush rat leaped away at lightning speed, of course, and then crept back to retrieve its seed husks. Wonga was ready – BOP! Ratty bolted again.

This was repeated three or four times, while tears of helpless laughter ran down my cheeks – it was like a cartoon! I do hope there'll be a repeat performance today – this time I have my camera ready.

Just imagine if I hadn't been 'killing time' after my lovely ride down here...

We talk about 'killing time' a lot. Today, on a gentle 10km stroll into Mallacoota and back (which nearly killed me, by the way) I realised that killing time is the last thing in the world that I want to do!

Yes, time is often my enemy. But I never have enough of it – why on earth would I want to kill it? If anything, I would want to multiply it, give myself gobs and gobs of it so I had plenty, and never had to feel as if it was running out.

The things you think about when your feet are killing you and your bursitis is doing that thing that bursitis does, and you're not sure that you're going to make it up the final bush track back to Adobe Flats...

When I don't kill time, but instead let it drift slowly past, I find the most fabulous things. Look.

This drift of flowers was growing beside the board walk.

This lizard was poking its head out of one of many holes in a dead tree.

These kangaroos were sitting in the grass, just behind a motel and across the road from the newsagents in town! Quite large, they were, too. One was at least as tall as me, so I didn't try to get too close. It being spring and all, I didn't know whether there might be a joey near by – protective roos can be pretty scary.

And there was birdsong. The incessant 'woop woop woop' of wonga pigeons could drive a person batty, but the call of the eastern whipbird, the cackle of the kookaburra, bellbird chimes and various other assorted (and to me, unidentifiable) tweets, chirps and whistles created a symphony as I wandered along the roadside, letting my mind wander while my eyes and ears tuned in.

I spotted birds I haven't seen before, and they were kind enough to stand still long enough for me to commit their features to memory so that I can now say, fairly confidently, that I saw some grey fantails and (I think) perhaps some New Holland honeyeaters – and some others I can't quite identify – maybe later in the week.

So anyway, it took me a bit over 2 hours to get there and back – rather than killing time, I embraced it; made the most of it and loved finding unexpected things - apart from sore feet! Silly me for walking into town on a Sunday – this is a small town and it's only spring, not the holiday high season, so not much was open – I had hoped to buy a hat, seeing as I'd forgotten to bring one, and the stunning spring weather probably demands one. Will have to do it all over again tomorrow – but I think I might ride my bike instead.

Saturday, 25 September 2010

Right here, right now

School hols – hooray! Feels good to know that despite having a huge amount of work to do before next term, I have school-free time to do it. And I'm doing it in Mallacoota, my all-time favourite place to chill and de-stress.

A pile of marking is sitting on the table, next to a very fragrant jar of jasmine and daphne. Inside there is Jazz radio. Outside there is birdsong. In the flat next door, the occasional shriek of delight sounds – the AFL Grand Final is on, I think.

The light isn't yet failing, but it's that mild watery light, slightly misty. The inlet is a pale silvery blue, slightly darker than the sky, and the hills on the other side of it are two-tone. The humungous drift of African daisies that extends to the road is in the process of shutting down for the evening.

I'm in Heaven! I'm in my pjs, have a glass of red at hand, and I'm just blissing out here, watching the evening creep up on Mallacoota. It's so beautiful.

Wednesday, 22 September 2010

Intruder Kitty must GO!

Okay, I've been patient through the long winter. My house is Cat Pee Central. Miffy is a nervous wreck who pees on everything she sees. She's too scared to venture through the cat flap, and has made a pooing place behind one of the armchairs in the loungeroom (coincidentally next to – but not IN - the litter tray I was inspired to install there when she decided it was a safe and private peeing place. Omigod, my carpet will have to go... )

Oscar bin Laden is Intruder Kitty's best friend, apparently. He sat on the window sill one afternoon, blithely watching IK saunter past him up the back steps, in through the cat flap, back out through the cat flap in rather a hurry, and back down the steps, closely followed by Cranky Betty.

But my patience is at an end. A nasty, sleepless end.

There are no limits to the audacity of Intruder Kitty. He has begun toying with me – he has made me his mouse. He has more front than Dolly Parton, and I am over it.

After a 3am wake-up and a long day at school, followed by a long parent-teacher evening yesterday, I was falling over with tiredness by 9pm, and fast asleep by 9.30.

At 2.24am I was woken by the marauding monstrosity. It thundered through the cat flap, yowled loudly three times – a feline equivalent of “Nyah nyah, you can't catch me!” - and then thundered back out through the cat flap, to disappear into the night.

So much for my lovely deep sleep. My brain started ticking, whirring even – and I snatched a few brief moments of broken sleep filled with weird and tiring dreams that revolved around parent-teacher interviews and badly-behaved students, storms and wild weather, and a kindly giant. And then my alarm went off. Yay for caffeine – it's the only thing holding my eyes open, and I'm teaching a full day today with a playground duty chucked in just for fun – and tutoring after school.

Intruder Kitty is TOAST. Or at least, he will be if I can ever catch him.

Monday, 20 September 2010

Ragged Fringe Weekend

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Moto Guzzi is a marque that attracts fierce loyalty. And lots of giggles from non-Guzzi owners. The usual criticism is that the Italian electricals on Guzzis (particularly older ones) were always, um.... what's the Italian word for 'iffy'? Hmmm, apparently there isn't one (how convenient!)

This isn't about Moto Guzzis though – well, only tangentially... Mark the Miffy Friend is also Mark the Guzzi Man, and he rather fancied heading up to Gloucester on the weekend for the Moto Guzzi Owners' Ragged Fringe Rally. I agreed to it in a moment of weakness.

What was I thinking? It's about 600kms from Canberra – and on a weekend during term time as well!

We got away from Canberra a skerrick before 7am on Saturday. Cars in my street had a healthy layer of frost on them when we left. Erk.

Because we had to be there and back in a weekend, we took the boring short route up the highway – look, after being so bike-deprived all term in this wet winter, I didn't even feel bad about it – it was lovely to carve up the miles under a sunny sky – even if it was bloody cold!

The traffic in Sydney was bumper-to-bumper but the temperature wasn't too bad. I got us lost once after we got off the expressway, but we made it to the Bucketts Way and headed towards Stroud - such a picturesque town – far prettier than the occasionally abysmal surface of the Bucketts Way, I have to say. We made Gloucester by mid afternoon and found some other rally people there, then headed to Thunderbolt's Way (one of the Top 100 rides in Peter Thoeming's Australian Motorcycle Atlas).

Mark was a little way ahead of me, and by the time I realised he'd turned off to the campsite at Bretti Reserve it was too late for me to turn off because there was a silver van fair up my clacker – so I overshot the turnoff. The bastard in the silver van STAYED fair up my clacker, no matter how much I slowed down to find a place to turn around. Eventually, about 5kms later, I gave him a very – ahem – strong signal to overtake me and he got the hint. I was so rattled by that stage – I was starting to think I would have to ride all the way to bloody Walcha!

One of the best, and most important things for me about riding, is that it puts me IN CONTROL – and I was feeling very out of control at that point.

Mark had seen what was going on and had followed us. At the beautiful Pawlonia Grove - an uplifting sight at any time of year, but stunning in all its blossomy spring glory - he drew my attention to a possible turning point just a little way ahead, and we headed back to Bretti Reserve.

This pic doesn't give a true idea of just how steep the track down to the campsite is.

The gravel verge at the top of the huge hill down to the rally site almost became the repository for yet another lever bobble. I know when I'm a danger to myself, so that was it for me. 600kms from home, the last thing I needed was another broken foot or snapped ligament (not to mention clutch/gear/brake levers) – I was off the bike, leg shaking and feeling like the World's Biggest Loser. Ah, my knight in shining armour! Mark did this wonderful bike-shuffle routine - rode his Guzzi to the camp, dumped his stuff, rode back, dinked me to the camp, walked back up the HUGE hill, collected my bike, brought it to the camp (and on Sunday did the whole thing in reverse). Mark, you're a star!

The Bomber intact on the gravel verge

Nice people, those Guzzi folk. I got to meet the famous Peter Roper; saw some lovely Guzzis and quite a lot of Triumphs, BMWs and Nortons as well; the campfire gathering was friendly, and the music was the good stuff from my youth :-) The sausage sandwiches were well cooked, the tent was dry and the sleeping bags were warm – what more can you ask for?

Home sweet home - inside the tent

Sunday morning. Mark's Guzzi had been misbehaving terribly since Gloucester the day before, so he did some fiddling with it at the campsite. You know, just your basic 'off with the fuel tank, fiddle with the stuff underneath' stuff... and we were away by 9.15.

The road home seemed somehow shorter than the road there. An overcast sky meant there was no sun in our eyes, yay, and we made really good time. Home to sunny Canberra in a mere 7 hours!

We got home stiff and sore, but safe and sound – and that's the main thing. BUT – I lost count of the examples of stupid, rude, or just downright dangerous driving behaviour we saw on Sunday.

Of particular note was the idiotic pair of middle-aged women in the little red car coming out of Pheasants Nest servo. The driver was determined not to give way to me, even though she should have. She cut across the front of me – and wouldn't you know it, Instant Karma – her little car went down a 30cm pothole on the servo driveway and made a very satisfying crunching noise... heh heh. When I overtook her a kilometre or two down the road, I refrained from making rude signs, coz I'm just too nice for that sort of shit...

As for the P-plated ute-load of youngsters who were chucking stuff - bottles and so on - out of the window as we came into Canberra.... oh dear, oh dear, oh dear...

Overall though – great weekend! By the time I got off my bike in the driveway at home, I almost couldn't get off my bike. I was so stiff, and had a badly cramping shoulder. Thank goodness for Nurofen, hot baths and red wine (not all at once!). 1205kms altogether, and the tiredness factor meant I missed seeing Casey Stoner get his first win of the season in motoGP!

Monday, 13 September 2010

Day ride to Dalton

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Spring has arrived. Almost overnight, fat buds have burst and become blossoms... the temperatures in Canberra have struggled to make 15C, and when the wind drops there's actually some warmth in the sun...there's a strange scent wafting on the air (at my house, it's Daphne Odora; crossing Commonwealth Avenue Bridge it's the hyacinths at Floriade – incredible!)

A dry weekend was forecast for a change, and all the fairweather riders appeared on the roads to make the most of the great weather. And those of us who ride at any time of year smiled, turned off the heated hand-grips and gave them The Nod as we passed them on the road. Great to see the number of bikes on the road increasing!

On Sunday I took the plunge and braved a ride with the VVCMCC ACT. That impressively Alphabet Soup-like name actually stands for something, but I get my Vs mixed up. It's the ACT Veteran, Vintage (or is it Vintage and Veteran?) and Classic Motorcycle Club - or something like that. I don't have any of those things (veteran, vintage OR classic motorbike) but they let me ride along anyway, because they're nice people.

We went to the Dalton Pub (officially the Royal Hotel). Dalton is a tiny tiny little town (population 100) – it's the hometown of my dear friend Mikey A, about 11kms on the other side of Gunning, which is a little NSW town sort of between Canberra and Crookwell. Have a look on the map. There's not much there apart from the pub and the post office.

I ride like such a nanna - I was overtaken by people riding hundred year-old bikes, for goodness' sake! (that's only a slight exaggeration, by the way!) By crikey I was enjoying myself, though. So nice to get out on the road – most of my recent riding has been the commute to school and back, and I always say that commuting is to riding as Macdonalds is to fine dining...

Good weather, nice company... the VVCMCC does things in style – the BBQ trailer was all set up for us at the other end (wow!) and people milled around, talking about bikes, admiring bikes, poking fun at Mark (who was immersed in a bit of Moto Guzzi maintenance) and eating sausage sandwiches. Mega relaxing stuff.
The road home took us – well, me and Mark, anyway!- through Jerrawa. What a piece-of-poo road THAT is! Yes, it's sealed, otherwise I wouldn't have ridden it - but it's an up and down, undulating one lane road most of the way (with a 100km speed limit!) and I was terrified of meeting a ute coming in the opposite direction on one of the many crests on the road.

Mark clearly doesn't know me very well. At the junction that is Jerrawa we had a roadsign and some confusion. And Mark did utter the incredible words “Which way do you think we should go?” And then, when I offered my opinion, he actually accepted it and that's the way we went! Amazingly, my sense of direction didn't take us to some god-forsaken gravel deathtrap, and we got back to Canberra without a glitch (or a map!) Amazing!

Wheeeeee – great day!

Friday, 10 September 2010

Sayonara Shoya-san

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It's so sad. Another beautiful young man, full of life, full of fun, highly spirited and chock-full of riding talent, has gone.

Shoya Tomizawa died tragically last weekend after a shocker of a crash in the Moto2 race at Misano. The guy was 19. That's several years younger than my own son. I can only imagine how his parents must feel. No parent ever expects they will outlive their children. I've found myself getting teary about it many times over the last week – maybe because I'm a mother and I'm feeling some sort of connection with Shoya-san's mother, or maybe because it's just so awfully sad to see such passion, such potential and such promise cut short.

Shoya Tomizawa - the young man with the oh-so-impish grin... By all accounts he was a lovely young bloke. And passionate about his sport.

Mr and Mrs Tomizawa, you must be so proud of what your son achieved at such a young age. I am so very very sorry for your loss.

Sayonara, Shoya-kun. You will be sadly missed.

My heart also goes out to Alex de Angelis and Scott Redding – unfortunate and unwilling players in this terrible tragedy. I can only imagine the impotent 'what-ifs' that may be torturing them, and I sincerely hope avenues are available to them, to enable them to talk about the incident; to let out the pain so that it doesn't fester...

Guys – sometimes, shit happens. And that is one of the most awful facts of life.

RIP Shoya Tomizawa.