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!

Friday, 10 April 2015

Asylum Seekers,(the telemovie) and other bright ideas

From the ‘bright ideas file’ of a government gone mad:

Don’t these asylum-seekers get it yet? The rule is “form an orderly queue and wait your turn to be processed by the refugee sausage-machine. Due process. Rules.” It’s not that hard, people.

We’ve done just about everything to stop them coming here. There was that awesome graphic novel that appeared on the Immigration department website (but is no longer there). The Guardian wrote about it though:

We’ve spent a fortune on glossy communications campaigns:

We’ve locked up the cowardly queue-jumpers (and their children) who would prefer to throw away everything they have on people-smugglers’ promises because they think that’s a better bet than taking their chances with the Taliban or Islamic State while they wait for the refugee sausage-machine to come up with their number.

We’ve made their lives unspeakably ugly in detention – so ugly that they self-harm. Some die. Still they don’t get it – what’s wrong with them? How can we get through to these people?

I know! Let’s make a telemovie! That’s SURE to work – everyone watches TV, right? – even people living in terror over there in those war-torn countries…

Imagine the excitement at the departmental morning tea when THAT idea was touted! I bet they almost choked on their sausage rolls.

A spokesperson for the Immigration Department told the ABC’s Lateline program that "television soap operas and telemovies are proven media to reach the target audience when seeking to deliver complex messages."

And they’ve picked Trudi-Ann Tierney, from Put it Out There Pictures, to produce it, by golly they have:

Ms Tierney is an experienced TV producer who worked in Afghanistan for four years making TV soap operas as well as an anti-terrorist police show called Eagle Four which was largely funded by the US embassy in Kabul and which she described as "propaganda".She also worked on Afghan programs backed by other embassies as well as UN bodies and aid agencies.In her 2014 memoir Making Soapies in Kabul, Ms Tierney wrote that: "Ostensibly I was head of drama (for a local TV company); but in truth I was nothing more than a propaganda merchant".
Here’s the whole story:

The bargain basement price tag of only $4.1m is another incentive for our government. 

I eagerly await the next bright idea from a government that is allegedly desperate to cut costs, and is willing to defund aboriginal communities and women’s refuges,  cut pensions, make the dole an impossibility for young unemployed, deregulate higher education fees while still allowing the uber-capitalists at the high end of town - the Gina Rineharts and Rupert Murdochs – to rake in the dough by avoiding their share of the ‘heavy lifting’ that our treasurer insists upon the rest of us doing.

So… I’ve been thinking about bright ideas, Aussie government, and I’ve come up with a few more to go on with in the wake of your fab telemovie:

  • Asylum seekers - the board game. A game with all the randomness and rationality of Snakes and Ladders. 
  • Asylum seekers – the phone app – race against the clock to turn back as many boats as you can. Extra points for at-sea detention or boat-scuttling.
  • Build your own Manus Island detention centre’ – a construction kit made of canvas and razor wire. Extra guard-posts available at a small cost. Comes without bathroom doors. Build your own Nauru also available.
  • Children-in-detention plush toys. Standard models come in male or female. Deluxe model cries real tears.
  • Leering guard action figures.  Pose-able action figures complete with guns and erections.

That’ll work, for sure. And if that doesn't disgust you the way it disgusts me, then nothing will.

Thursday, 12 March 2015

Musings on hypocrisy and virginity tests

I was reading a mag in the staffroom yesterday as I tucked into the lovely stuffed capsicum I'd taken for lunch, and I almost choked when I read this 'In Brief' snippet, :
 Virginity tests averted
(Jakarta, Indonesia), Feb 11 - A member of parliament on the island of Java has been scrutinised following an attempt to introduce forced virginity tests for females planning to graduate high school. Kusen Andalas, deputy head of the district, insisted that the plans will not go ahead. 'I don't think it's ethical to carry out such tests. It is against people's rights'.

Seriously, ya think?

The article made me realise, yet again, how little personal power we have - how our dignity and privacy can be stripped away by unscrupulous, unethical - dare I say in some cases twisted? - officials who truly believe they have a mandate to do whatever they bloody well like to us.

Was the official in question merely a 'dirty old man' who gets off on the thought of probing high school girls and tries to shield his depravity with a veil of religious devotion to 'purity'? The conspiracy theorist in me can't help also wondering whether it's part of a larger and far more insidious plot to deter girls from wanting to get an education - to make the prospect of even finishing high school abhorrent, a rite of passage only achievable after a shameful, irrelevant and unnecessary invasion of her most private self?

How the hell do these creeps get hold of power in the first place? What kind of morons vote them in?

When my train of thought reached that point I derailed it. After all, I live in the country that voted in a creep who has spent the last 18 months locking up children and torturing asylum seekers.

I live in the country whose government is wringing as much political mileage as it can out of pretending to be compassionate and locking horns with the Indonesian government over the impending state-sanctioned killing of two Australian drug runners who knowingly flouted Indonesian law, and whose own Federal Police actually tipped off the Indonesians in the first place, knowing the consequences of drug-running through Indonesia.* WTF???

I live in the country whose government refuses to accept any whiff of responsibility for the deaths of Reza Barati, a 23 year-old Iranian asylum seeker who was killed on Manus Island during rioting at the Manus Island Regional Processing Centre as an unwilling 'guest' of the Australian government, and 24 year-old Iranian asylum seeker Hamid Kehazaei, who died because of unforgivable delays securing urgent medical attention while he was also a 'guest' of the Australian government on Manus.

I live in the country that points fingers at other countries' human rights records, while ignoring its own deplorable treatment of its own indigenous people; whose self-titled Prime Minster for Indigenous Affairs supports the defunding and closure of remote aboriginal communities because they are lifestyle choices. Arrogant, ignorant, offensive creep.

*Let me make it clear that I do not support the death penalty. What I also do not support is the hypocrisy of a government that apparently values the lives of convicted criminals over the lives of innocent people who have fled torture and terror in their home countries.

For the Guardian story about this lowest of low acts, click  here

Monday, 9 March 2015

"52" the whale - lonely or a loner?


The very talented Kristin Rule alerted me to a fascinating story the other day about a solitary whale that doesn't sing at the same frequency as other whales. Called 52 because that's around the frequency it sings, it has never been found although its voice has been heard (by us, not by other whales).

Inspired by 52's story (and because she's a creative genius) Kristin retuned her cello to 52's frequency and composed a beautiful piece of music that you can hear on Kristin's website (the link at the top of this post) or here.

What a fabulous idea!

I googled 52 the whale and found all sorts of articles. 52 has been dubbed 'the world's loneliest whale', and Kristin contemplates this idea on her site.

Isn't it funny how humans like to assume other creatures feel the way we do about things? Is 52 lonely? Or is 52 simply alone, independent, fearlessly traversing the oceans singing its heart out for the simple joy of being alive and free?

Loneliness is a terrible thing but it's my contention that it's a lot easier to be lonely in a crowd than it is when you're alone.

I used to ride my motorbike everywhere - usually by myself - and it used to bug the crap out of me when people asked if I got lonely riding by myself. Nope. Loved every second of it. Starting when I wanted, ending where and when I wanted, stopping for a break if and when it suited me - time to have the headspace I craved to think and create, to be alone with my thoughts and to enjoy the scenery. I found it energised me, short-circuited my anxiety and made me feel absolutely at peace. I got to see some lovely places and developed a lot of self-confidence as well - bonus!

I get similar benefits just living here in Mallacoota, and perhaps that's why I don't do a lot of motorcycling any more - I don't need to (although when I get around to it I still enjoy it a lot). Living here I spend a lot of time alone but I am never ever lonely. Like 52, I sing my own song, and for me it's a very positive thing.

Thanks for introducing me to 52's story, Kristin, and for getting me thinking!

Go here to support the project to find 52.

Oh, and if you're of the opinion that maybe 52 doesn't want to be found (it remains elusive, despite first having its song recorded in 1989) then at least consider supporting the scientists who are researching the way that acoustic pollution is harming whales. Find out more here


Sunday, 8 March 2015

Mellowing in autumn

Hard to believe I live on THE road to Mallacoota when this is a pic taken in my front yard
I love autumn. There's something seriously mellow and magical about it. At about 6 o'clock on an early autumn evening my front garden transforms into a playground for all sorts of birds, and they don't care that I'm only a couple of feet away from them.

After a monster day of lawn mowing, gumnut raking, leaf disposal, gravel sweeping, catmint cutting, potato baking. dishwashing and short story judging I indulged in a well-earned bit of novel reading and hammock relaxing this afternoon. After about 5 o'clock it turned into an unexpected bit of bird watching.

There was a peculiar yellowish tinge to the light that meant smoke. Not bushfires though - now that the bushfire season is allegedly over, the season of 'controlled burns' begins, to prepare us for NEXT year's bushfire season. There were controlled burns happening out Cann River way and further west. It was a little eerie but it added a strange golden dimension to the air that had me spouting Keats in my head. Somehow, though, I don't think that Keats had controlled burns in mind when he wrote about the season of mists...

But anyway - in this 'season of mists and mellow fruitfulness I watched with delight as:
  •  An eastern spinebill sipped at a grevillea bloom about 3 feet away from me. 
  •  Half a dozen female satin bower birds hopped and squawked around my yard with a very obvious sense of ownership. The glossy male with his blue-black plumage and silvery beak deigned to put in an appearance as well.
  •  A little troop of king parrots swooped to the camellia bush that has these amazing apple-like ‘nuts’. They absolutely love to devour the large round seeds that live inside these fruits.

Nom nom nom

The king parrots' target - the apple-like nuts of this camellia (you can see an opened one on the left) that they find so delicious
  •          Tiny brown thornbills – I’ve decided they are brown thornbills and not striated thornbills as they lack the light brow that seems to be the main way of telling them apart – had a pool party in the birdbath, making joyful zizzing noises.
  •        Bronzewings and wonga pigeons browsed the surface of the newly-mown grass while a magpie with a whiter-than-white back stalked around looking for something tasty to eat. I keep hoping it's the young magpie who was chased from the nest a couple of months ago – this bird seems to have made the garden its own, and I’m glad. It looked so very miserable as it sheltered in my car-port while its parents sat sternly on the tv aerials, ready to swoop and peck to prevent it returning home. Magpies really know how to get their ‘grown-up’  kids to leave home…

Poor baby looked so forlorn
Tough love, magpie-style. For a few days the parent birds attacked the youngster at every opportunity, to make it strike out on its own and live independently.

The lightest of breezes wiffled around me in the lovely hammocky cocoon where I lay devouring the visual feast of the watery blue sky, the golden light, the multi-hued greenery and my many feathered visitors, and I felt what can truly be described as absolute contentment. Life is very very good.

Tuesday, 6 January 2015

High Summer and Mellow Cello

Mallacoota in high summer is a funny place, 
an off-the-scale high-intensity sudden-onset rat-race.
Summer lovin', beach and camp park romance, some high finance
As the town explodes with campers fishers families cyclists lycra spandex tie-dye spenders
Walkers, talkers, 
and acres of seared red flesh.
Saturday markets every week for a whole month -
now that's really a treat to wear out your feet
to meet and greet the friends and neighbours
whose labours through the year bear fruit
and soap and pottery it's such a lottery
will people buy your tie-dye before they say goodbye?
In the daze, the heat haze, you gaze and are amazed
on the stage an oasis of mellow
a cello
a live-looping muso a true virtuoso
arrives on a bicycle cool as an icicle
enchanting the crowd entertaining without straining
the lure of Mallacoota

Vagabond cellist Kristin Rule treating us to some mellow cello live-looping at Mallacoota summer markets. Like a lot of other people, Kristin fell in love with Mallacoota while travelling through, and decided to settle here. Lucky Mallacoota, I reckon. Read Kristin's story at The Unconventional Cellist 

Thursday, 1 January 2015 sands through the hourglass....

…another year slips away…
How? Where? Happy 2015, everybody!
Things I did this year –
Meet Miss Pollywobble

  • No motorcycling (whoops!)
  • Almost no blogging (whoops again!)
  • Filled out lots of forms and spent a lot of time on the phone waiting for someone from Centrelink to talk to me.
  • Adopted a three-legged kitten.
  • Became a grandma.
  • Did a little bit of cleaning.
  • Did a fair bit of teaching.
  • Did a tiny little bit of writing.
  • Did a lot of painting. My latest hobby is watercolours, and I actually sold a set of prints! Wheeeeeeeeeee!
A tail is an excellent counterbalance when you only have 3 legs.
My 'Owl & the Pussycat' series - now residing in London.

This year I resolve to
  • Make up my mind what to do about the Harley.
  • Teach 3 days a week. 
  • Keep designing, painting and making my greeting cards “Dreams of Indoor Cats” and “Pardon my Pardalote”.

As for the usual resolutions – to lose weight, drink less, keep my house tidy – all that stuff – well, I shan’t even bother with those this year (once they’ve been ignored 3 years in a row they are consigned to the rubbish heap of history, ha ha ha!)

Here’s to a fabulous 2015!