Thursday, September 26, 2013

A Small, Sad Ending

So this is the nest the doves built on top of the verandah clothesline. At this stage it was a few days off completion.


Below is the completed nest now abandoned. Not a particularly pretty sight but, while it mightn't look much, by dove standards this is a veritable mansion. It has tall sides, a securely built floor of twigs and grass and the long bits apparently just trailing untidily actually anchor it to the ledge it's sitting on. Doves don't go much for fripperies - you won't find any feather linings here - but when the hen settles on her eggs, her feathers spread out to cover them and protect from any draughty gaps.

By last Friday I knew the babies had hatched. Pisces found some broken egg shells that had been dumped away from the nest and, although I couldn't see the babies, there was feeding going. This kept on all day Friday and Saturday and we seemed on track for a successful chick rearing.

Then tragedy struck. On Saturday night south west Western Australia was hit by a fierce cold front bringing with it gales, rain and hail. There was widespread damage. I was woken at one time certain the roof was going to fly off. Luckily it didn't but Pisces found his way to work blocked by the roof of a block of apartments that had been deposited on a major highway so not everyone was as fortunate.

The gales and rain kept on most of the day, easing a little in the late afternoon, but the nest was still in place with the little hen sitting tight. Good, I thought, they've survived. Then a second front hit. More gales, more hail, more rain all night.

Next morning the hen was very distressed, standing on the edge of the nest, calling and fluttering her wings. The male kept coming and going, calling loudly, as agitated as she was. This went on most of the day and then they were both gone shortly before dark. I hoped they'd be back for the night but next morning there was no sign of them. So I got the ladder out. The nest was empty.

What happened I don't know. Maybe the hen was blown off the nest and the chicks went too. I looked around and eventually found one tiny corpse. A small tragedy in the scheme of things, I suppose. The thing that got me, though, was how distressed the parents were. We are inclined to underestimate, I think, how creatures other than humans feel. Watching them it was obvious they were desperately affected by what had happened. The male seemed to be persuading the hen that it was over,  that it was time to go and when they eventually left, they went together.

It made me think. We talk about dumb animals and we're anthropomorphising if we talk about them having feelings. They don't feel things like we do, we're told. They have limited understanding. People are the special ones, those who feel. Well, after watching this small tragedy, I've been asking myself this question: how do we know that?

When you think about it properly, it really doesn't make sense. We know how strong the maternal instinct is. So why do we only dignify it with the word love if it's to do with humans? I'm sure emotions work differently in other creatures - it must given their experiences are different from ours - but one thing I'm certain of having watched those two doves is that they were grieving. Maybe they got on with their lives more quickly than human parents would have but that could be because they live only a fraction of the time we expect to. Because I've seen these things happen before I know they won't come back to this nest and what does that say about them and how they feel?

Maybe we should try to look at these issues less through the prism of humanity's eyes and instead try to be more objective. Then, perhaps, we will begin a whole new relationship with our fellow creatures.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Repairs - Otherwise Known as Aaaaargh!!!!!!!

We had some serious water damage in our garage during a recent storm and, when we contacted our insurer, they agreed to do the repairs but - and there's always a but, isn't there - they want us to install an additional down pipe before they'll tackle the repairs.

While I agree an additional down pipe is probably highly desirable exactly how we're to get this done I'm not sure. Pisces, while a wonderful man in many ways, is not a handyman by any standard you might like to apply and I'm disabled so that means we're unable to do it ourselves. If our recent experience in trying get quotes for another much bigger job (costing around $1500-2000, we think) have been unsuccessful - we have so far approached seven tradespeople for quotes and of those only one has turned up and then he only gave us a guesstimate on the back of a card - what chance do we have of getting someone to come and install one down pipe?

Doesn't look hopeful, does it.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

It's R U OK? Day

R U OK? is an initiative of the R U OK? Foundation and stands for "Are you okay?". It is held on the second Thursday in September and is meant to encourage us - all of us - to think about and support those who might be overwhelmed with what life is throwing at them or struggling with mental illness and suicidal thoughts by asking them "Are you okay?" Combined with Suicide Prevention Day earlier in the week this is an important issue that we should all be aware of.

R U OK? is a reminder that we need to check in periodically, not just on this one day of the year but often, with our friends and loved ones and listen - really listen - to what they are saying. It's so easy to get caught up in our own lives and forget to do this and it's a major mistake. We can't necessarily solve people's problems but we can be there for them and support them. That's what family and friends are supposed to do, isn't it.

Saturday, September 07, 2013

Election Distraction - Dr Who Cast and Crew 'Five Hundred Miles'

I was reminded about this video when Five Hundred Miles was one of the songs featured on a Celtic Thunder video I was watching a week ago. Then it was linked to on Hoyden About Town so, for all my fellow Australians who would like to block the election out of their minds but have to vote, I give you this - a joyous celebration of Dr Who with David Tennant and the cast and production crew singing along to The Proclaimers' classic Five Hundred Miles. Enjoy.

Thursday, September 05, 2013

It's Definitely Spring

There's much activity taking place on our back verandah where the doves are nest building. One pair is busily setting up home in the box on top of the cupboard - always a popular place. It's so popular in fact that we have completely given up using the box for any other purpose and just clean it out once the nesting season is over.

The other pair has been entertaining me  - and the cat and dog, although their interest isn't as benign as mine, I suspect - for about a week. It began when the male arrived and made a close inspection of the property - the flat cover of the retractable verandah clothesline just outside the family room window, which makes it nicely visible. He marched around, viewing it from all angles and came back, calling loudly, a short time later. His lady friend wasn't in too much of a hurry and his calls got increasingly loud and agitated, accompanied by much head bobbing. Eventually she decided it just might be worth checking out and did her own investigations. She wasn't rushing into anything though because it was another day before they arrived to start building.

Then the fun really started. Obviously having her own very definite views on appropriate division of labour, she waited on site while he went off and brought her what he considered appropriate building materials. After a fairly unsuccessful start, when she rejected a large number and tossed them down to the ground and he, heading out for more, would fly out and see this pile of wonderful twigs and grasses and take them back to her - I imagined her rolling her eyes and muttering under her breath as she dumped them again - he seemed to get the hang of it and this morning there was a vaguely nest shaped pile in place.

Given dove's nests are notoriously messy and badly made I began to think that was going to be it. Even when they're completed I look at them and wonder how the eggs ever manage to stay in place. In fact quite a lot of them don't and it's not uncommon to find the shattered remains on the ground below the nest. Still, as the day progressed, the little hen continued to work and she seemed to be doing a better job than many who have built there. Then I noticed the male was taking longer and longer to find suitable material and I had an idea. I collected a large handful of twigs of the sort they were using and scattered them where I could see them a short distance from the building site.

The male was ecstatic. He flew down from where he had been watching me and ran around in circles, stopping every now and then to investigate a particularly fine piece. Once he had calmed down he began transferring it to his mate. I'm pleased to say the nest is now looking almost finished and pretty much all of my offerings have been used. I expect eggs any day.

Tuesday, September 03, 2013

The Hugos

Congratulations to all the Hugo Award 2012 winners. Especially exciting is that of Best Fan Writer awarded to Tansy Rayner Roberts. She's the first Australian woman to win a Hugo. Congratulations, Tansy.  I'm betting there was much squeeing on the other side of Australia yesterday.

You can see all the awards listed here.

Sunday, September 01, 2013

AWWC 2013: Stormlord's Exile by Glenda Larke

Stormlord's Exile was originally reviewed by me for the now defunct e-zine The Specusphere. This is an edited version of that review.

In Glenda Larke's Stormlord's Exile, the conclusion to her latest trilogy (released as Watergivers in Australia and Stormlord elsewhere) much has changed in the world of the Quartern but not the essentials of life. Without a Cloudmaster to capture clouds and bring rain no-one will survive and the aftermath of the Reduners' destruction has made life even harder.

Jasper and Terelle are all that can keep the Quartern alive and they have other problems to deal with, both personal and political. With all sides pulling at them and making contradictory demands they are being forced into choices they don't want to make. At the same time, Ryka and Kaneth now lead the rebellion against the Reduners and their new leader, Jasper's brother.

Larke again takes us out of the parched lands of the Scarpen and the Red Quarter, still at war with each other and with some deeply personal enmities at work internally, into the White Quarter, home of the Alabasters. Here water is just as scarce and the inhabitants make their living – and their homes - from of the salt they mine or by crossing the salty border marshes to work in Khromatis. This mysterious land is fabled as a place where water is everywhere and repels all visitors except the Alabasters but, to save her life, Terelle must go there.

In Stormlord's Exile Larke goes beyond exploring the politics of water. She raises questions of personal choice and how, while we are in part the product of what happens to us, we also have to take responsibility for our actions. She also looks at issues of exploitation and privilege as the various groups with different beliefs struggle to co-exist, often clashing because each believes it is right and its beliefs must be enforced.

Thought provoking as this is, there is no preaching and none of it detracts from a gripping story told by a master story teller. Her characters are human, sometimes making mistakes and poor choices and having to live with the consequences. Whether they are heroes or villains - or something in between, they are wholly believable. 

With its complex, unpredictable plot, engaging protagonists and rich world building this is a satisfying climax to the trilogy. Those who loved the previous two books will, I'm sure, find this one just as appealing but anyone who enjoys a well written fantasy should find it a satisfying read. 

One of the outstanding Australian fantasy writers currently in print, Glenda Larke has been shortlisted in the Aurealis Awards on numerous occasions, most recently for Stormlord's Exile.

Glenda Larke blogs at and you can find out more about her and her work at