Monday, April 28, 2008


Despite the pungent odour announcing that at least one rat has met its end in the roof space, we have not yet beaten the resident rodents. This morning as I sat in the family room a handsome silver grey rat raced along the wall and in behind the wall unit. By the time I peered in, it had gone and cat and dog were both now focussed on the space behind the sofa. I pulled the sofa out, dislodging the contents of the magazine rack. No sign of the rat. Decided to sort through and discard the bulk of the magazines, making a hasty trip to the rubbish bin and back before the truck turned into our street. Coming back, I slipped on an errant magazine which is how I came to break my toe.

So that does it! No more guilt. It's bad enough having a kamikaze mouse. Now a rat is making attempts on my life with magazines. It must die. The only problem is how. So far as far as I can remember I have tried the following baits: peanut butter, bacon rind, potato peel, a macadamia nut, pumpkin seeds, dog biscuits, cat biscuits and in desperation bread. Apparently this rat is a gourmet because it hasn't taken any of them but what it is subsisting on I have no idea as there is no sign of any other eaten or stolen food. But I can wait and revenge will be sweet.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Lest We Forget

Over the past week Australia has remembered her war dead in the lead up to Anzac Day. This year the discovery of the wreckage of the Sydney, sunk by the German raider, Kormoran, off the coast of Western Australia during World War II, added another dimension giving families of those lost in that maritime disaster some degree of closure.

Today driving home from my father's house under a lead grey sky, the first drops of rain splatting on the windscreen, I was listening to the poet, Ted Egan, recounting his experiences when he visited Gallipoli on Anzac Day in a touching montage of songs, poems and reminiscences. As the Last Post sounded at Anzac Cove a squadron of black cockatoos swept across the road ahead of me, heads bent low as if in a mark of respect. The last notes died away and Egan went on to describe how the next day he went into the market of the nearby town of Chanakkale commemorated in a haunting Turkish song sung in Turkish and translated by Egan verse by verse. The singer lamented how when war was declared he and his fellows were called up they had lost their youth and all that implied. It was incredibly moving.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Life Moves On

And when it does it's quick. In the space of a week my parents' house has been sold. It's mostly bare now with only a few pieces of furniture left to go. The garden is a different matter. My parents have always been enthusiastic gardeners and Dad's collection of flowering cacti is large - very large. When they aren't in bloom they are nothing much to look at but when they flower they take your breath away. He has no room for them on the balcony in his new place and I couldn't bear to think of the new owners looking at the baskets of straggly leaves hanging on the wall and dumping them as rubbish so I have rescued as many as I can.

Pisces is not impressed. "Don't you have enough already?"
Well probably but the thought of glorious blossoms draping the otherwise drab wall along the side of the house is enough reason for me.

I've also brought home all the potted roses. They will look stunning in the bed I'm planning along the brick wall on the lower level. Pisces is happier about this. I've promised him a garden seat under an arbor where he can sit and watch the world pass by. Maybe I'll join him.

Friday, April 18, 2008

Rodent Alert.

For the second time in two days I have been attacked by a mouse! To be fair, it probably sees it as escaping but as far as I'm concerned a mouse - a large mouse - dropping on your head and skittering down your arm constitutes an attack.

This irritating little beastie has been in the house for a couple of months. It disdains all traps no matter how tempting the bait but the cat is definitely looking more svelte. This may be in part due to the strict diet he's been on for about six months - expensive vet prescribed calorie controlled food at that - but he is certainly getting the work out component via the mouse.

I think it has realised its days of grabbing a snack whenever it pleases are long gone because, now every bit of potential sustenance is removed or covered every evening, it is getting a tad desperate. It is currently busily and slowly gnawing its way through the wire of the family room screen door. We wake during the night to the sound. Puss then slowly unwinds himself from his favourite sleeping position around my feet and stalks out to investigate. He returns about fifteen minutes later swearing loudly as only cats can do.

The hole is big enough for it to pass through but it has encountered a more difficult barrier in the glass door behind it. This may be why on the last two mornings the dog has discovered it hiding in the track between the screen and glass doors in the dining room. It can get in here more easily because the plastic flap supposed to block unauthorised rodent entry has given away under the weight of years so it can slip past and rest its sore gums.

Jaz and Cadillac deal with this situation in very different ways. Jaz alternates between scratching on the wire and jumping at the door. Surprisingly given her tendency to bark excitedly in stressful moments, she doesn't even whimper. Cadillac (cat, master predator), on the other hand, sits behind Jaz, paws neatly placed together observing er ready to pounce - and miss because Jaz invariably gets in the way - once the mouse has been flushed out.

Not being completely stupid, the mouse takes all this quite calmly until I either open the curtains or the screen door. It then panics er attacks, races up the nearest vertical surface - door or curtain - so it can drop on my head, scuttle down my arm and race off to shelter, usually behind the sideboard. I might have believed this was an accident if it hadn't happened twice. So - and this is the mouse's decision - it's war. Posts from the front will be delivered as they come to hand.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Magic Moment

Early morning, the sun rising in a burst of gold and gilding the trees. On the highest point of my neighbour's roof a pink and grey galah* dancing. Wings lifted wide, crest flared, it bobbed gracefully along the ridge capping, the clear dawn light outlining it in a faint dark halo. At the end it bent and swayed, wings spread wide, out over the garden below before it pirouetted around to bow to two others stepping sedately behind. One loud screech and they took off, circled and vanished behind the trees in the next door garden. Beautiful.

Another not so magic moment this morning. Cat and dog hunting behind the curtains in the dining room. Jaz jumping, as I thought, up at the glass. Chasing a fly or moth perhaps. But no. As I pulled open the curtain something fell and, on the way down, it bounced off my head to scrabble on my bare arm before hitting the floor and scampering off, cat and dog in pursuit. Another blasted mouse! Where do they come from? Well I've an answer to that having half an hour ago discovered a neatly chewed hole in the wire of the security screen door. This is despite it being wire mesh, not the less strong nylon. Aaargh!

*Pink and grey galahs are a medium sized Australian native parrot.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008


I was having coffee with some old friends on Sunday when talk turned to our travels - recently as well as when we were much younger. I'm not sure if this a mother daughter thing but we discovered that our mothers had all kept our letters and returned them to us many years later. This started me thinking about how communication has changed in my lifetime and it's much more than just easy access to almost anywhere on the planet.

During my travelling days and later when my parents were living at One Arm Point, an isolated Aboriginal settlement the north west of the state, before they retired and went off around Australia, my mother and I wrote religiously to each other once a week. Those letters still exist and provide a record of our lives at the time. Things are very different now.

When Virgo went on her travels a few years ago we sent emails to one another with occasional phone calls when something untoward happened such as the 2005 London bombings (one took place a few meters away from where she was staying) or when she fell down a cliff and broke her wrist in Canada. There are no long leisurely letters compiled over a week about all the little things that constitute daily life and add up to a file of memories. We kept in touch and we cared but the nature of emails means they are different in structure - shorter, less detailed. With each generation we commit less personal communication to paper and I suspect this will be seen as a great loss in the future.

One of my friends is writing a book around those returned letters. Her children are scattered over the globe now and Virgo intends to travel again soon. It makes me wonder how the travels of our children will be recorded and if their lives will be a mystery to their descendants in a way that our generation's need not be. No doubt much of what we leave behind will be discarded but for an historian who wants to make the effort there are rich pickings.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Gender and Politics

At no time as I was growing up was it assumed that I would leave school early because I was only going to get married and waste all that education. My parents always encouraged me to reach for the highest level I could and would have been shocked if I hadn't gone to university although this was not as common as now. I was very lucky in this. Most of my peers did not have this luxury. Certain faculties still actively discouraged girls from enrolling - Engineering was one and although you could enrol in Law it was impossible to do your articles unless you had a family member or friend who would take you on. Women were encouraged to do 'feminine' subjects (usually Arts) and then they could work as librarians or teachers (so the holidays would fit in with the children's school holidays if you were unfortunate enough to be widowed) or you could be a nurse. You wouldn't be able to be a permanent employee once you married and had children, of course, because even if you did carelessly lose your husband you would probably go off and marry again (infrequently though that happened) but there was always work for casuals - well most of the time.

Then the world changed in the late sixties and early seventies. Women started to demand equality and in the space of ten years after I left University women were studying in all faculties and employed in a wide range of jobs that had previously been considered unsuitable for a woman. Life improved. Women no longer had to resign when they became pregnant - an enormous leap forward - along with a number of other empowering changes - and then it all slowed.

Women still haven't achieved true equality. Outside the professions, the income of many women is often less than men's for a number of reasons (part-time work, child rearing etc.) and fewer women than men hold positions of power in industry and government again for a number of reasons but largely because the structures are better suited to men's career options and interests. We still hear complaints that despite the increasing number of women in politics that the institutions of government are run as 'boy's clubs' and this is disheartening.

This is not meant as a feminist diatribe - just a reminder of how recent it is that even lip service began to be paid to equality. I have faith that the young men and women of today will realise that equality is something they should both aspire to and that they will work together to achieve it for everyone who is disadvantaged and that doesn't mean just gender.

What prompted this post was the headline in this morning's newspaper announcing the appointment of Quentin Bryce as the next Governor General of Australia. She is the first woman to hold this position and is an indication that this Government is taking seriously the fact that women form half the population of our country. We already have, again appointed by this Government, the first woman Deputy Prime Minister of Australia. Both these women are respected and intelligent and have been selected on merit.

Let's hope the Press treats them fairly and we don't see the sort of reporting that followed the audience of Prime Minister Rudd and his wife, Therese Rein, a business woman who runs a successful business bringing in millions of dollars annually, with the Queen. And what did the Press report on after the visit? What Ms Rein wore. Apparently no-one is interested in what the Prime Minister wore. This follows several reports on Ms Rein's lack of fashion flair. Why are reporters commenting on this? She hasn't been swanning around in a bikini or her underwear. She has dressed appropriately for the occasion and in what she feels comfortable with and why shouldn't she? It reminds me of when Nancy Reagan appeared in a red dress after her husband became President- a colour that suited her and which she wore frequently by the way - and the Press jumped on her for trying to upstage her husband. What rubbish.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Moving Madness

Having been involved in moving two family members in less than a week I definitely believe those who say that moving is one of the top three stresses of life. Given the stress levels this has caused - and my household isn't one of those shifting - I dread to think of having to pack up and move thirty years of stuff from here. So we're not. Ever. What we are going to do is drop off our respective perches and be carried out. Ideally this will take place in about forty or fifty years and we will both be carried out at the same time. Problem solved.

Joking aside, I have realised just how easy it is to accumulate "stuff", much of which is "too good to throw away". Once I have finished helping unpack everyone's multitude of boxes and encouraged a ruthless cull of what is revealed, I will be doing some serious culling of my own. From now on "I might need that sometime." will not necessarily be an acceptable answer. Everything is going to have to justify its presence, which will be an interesting if challenging experience, and if it can't it will go. Besides, now Virgo's gear is gone, we can start on those endlessly postponed renovations and a clear house will make it so much easier.

There is one problem. Because of all the delays what we want/need to do has changed. Everything needs reassessment and so, before we begin, we have to start on the round of brainstorming required to work out what we should do and in what order. Then it's quotes, discussion and decision time.

Before then though I have to rescue some unwanted potted roses from my father's house. I will need a trailer. A big one.

Monday, April 07, 2008

Of Hospitals, Rentals and Other Things

We've just had an eventful week including much hospital visiting among other things.
The other things include moving Virgo and her partner into a unit - after three months of viewings and being rejected. The current rental situation in Perth is dire. With house prices sky-rocketing people are having to turn to the rental market and far exceed the number of places available. An average viewing lasts fifteen minutes and the number of potential renters at the viewing ranges between 25 and 30. There are others too who can't even go to viewings and apply anyway direct to the already swamped agents. It's not uncommon for a place to be offered for rental then go off the market for a few days only to return with an increased rental.
To lessen the amount of time off work for Virgo and her partner I have been going to inspect a lot of properties. In fact they applied for and signed up for this unit on my say so and without either of them having seen it.
Often the viewings are so crammed with would be renters you can hardly move in them and you hear some harrowing stories. One young woman was nearing the end of her lease and was refused a renewal. She had been looking for a place for two months and her lease had only one more month to run. Another had been given two weeks notice to leave a weekly rental where she had lived for several years. Desperation is driving the rents higher with applicants offering higher rent than has been asked for and while I don't blame the owners wanting to make a profit I would like to see some ethical standards apply as well.
Then there's the packing up and shopping for replacement furniture for my father who is moving into a retirement village at the end of the week and I did mention hospital visiting, didn't I? My mother has fractured her other femur and has undergone surgery so that has also been a continual worry as well.
I'm just hoping that next week life will slow down a bit. A chance for a deep breath would be nice.

Sunday, April 06, 2008

And Again It Rained.

Oh how it rained! Between 8.00 am and 12.10 pm yesterday my father's rain gauge in the northern suburb of Padbury collected 44 mm. The rain actually started around 6.00 am and obligingly stopped about 2.00 pm just in time for the Eagles and Dockers clash in the AFL Western Derby so there was obviously much more. Perth's total was 62 mm. This is more than double our usual April rainfall and very welcome after a long dry summer. Unfortunately such a heavy downpour brings problems.
As I drove out to my father's, apart from the difficulties of the heavy rain and the obligatory handful of lunatic drivers, traffic was halted by a flood across a major road. To further complicate things two four wheel drive vehicles had tried to negotiate it and stalled in knee deep water blocking both north bound lanes and leaving two lines of traffic banked up and unable to turn around or reverse out of the tangle.
That was only a minor irritation though compared to others because the dreadful driving conditions caused a spate of traffic accidents leading to deaths, injuries and property damage. We can't survive without rain but sometimes the price is high.

Thursday, April 03, 2008


I have just come in from doing bit of hand watering. The rain from earlier in the week means the bulk of the garden is still damp enough not to need any water but the potted plants tend to dry out more quickly. The garden is full of the courting songs of frogs all proclaiming that they are the most virile, fertile, tuneful males in the city if not the state.
"Hello, ladies," they sing. "Come and make beautiful babies with me."
I have no idea how successful they are in promoting themselves but by the volume (close to deafening) there is plenty of choice - and since only six or seven years ago there was only one lone male something must be working. Long may they sing.