Thursday, October 3, 2013

In our front yard

Well the election I mentioned in my previous post is now old news.  I read one summary of the result which pretty much nailed it for me: "Rupert Murdoch won.  Australia lost."   Some of the stuff going on here would be comedy gold - if it wasn't real. Time to focus on some positives.

Spring is wildflower season in WA and people come from all over the world to see the flowers in bloom. We've been on various local walks to hunt flowers out, but without wanting to sound like to much of a skiteypants, our own front yard is putting on the best show I have seen for miles around. (Admittedly I haven't been to King's Park in Perth for a while...)  

Just two years ago our entire front garden was just horrible skanky lawn with stupid sprinklers, much like every other front yard in the street.  Now it has no lawn, is covered in native plants and it certainly doesn't get or need watering. The only attention it gets is our Sunday morning peruse with coffee in hand (usually clad in our PJs).  It is colourful and alive and the birds and lizards love it.  I reckon it is a winner.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Choose wisely

The short version of this post:
Please do Vote Compass before you vote in Australia's election this weekend. Then vote carefully and wisely.  Please.

The long version:
I don't like to bang on too much on this blog about the aspects of life in Australia that depress, exasperate, disappoint, frighten or disgust me but if I'm honest, today, after stupidly deciding to listen to some political debate and commentary on the radio, that list is feeling a bit too long for comfort.  Before I moved here I thought Australia was quite progressive.  Sadly after living here for three years I don't think that anymore.  

I've found this election campaign truly depressing and I know I am not alone as so many people I know seem to be having great difficulty deciding who to vote for.  As one friend put it "It is like choosing between a really frightening option and a truly terrifying option".  I know what she means.  After listening to the radio this morning I found myself shouting at the two supposed leaders "Big picture guys!  Just say your vision for the sort of country you want this to be in 10, 20 or 50 years time then outline the steps you think we need to take to get there!  Even the hard, unpopular steps. And base it on solid research, not prejudice and unfounded beliefs!"  (Yes, I got quite ranty.) But instead all I heard was petty bickering over minutiae and the promotion of attitudes, policies and actions that seem surprisingly outdated and out of step with much of the rest of the world.  

(And before you think here that I mean that NZ has all the answers, I certainly don't.  If you ever get 46 minutes to spare, watch this: Mind the Gap by documentary maker Bryan Bruce .  Basically a New Zealand story but with lessons for everyone everywhere.  Hope that link works.  My internet speed is so slow that I couldn't check it.  Sigh.)

Here are some of the reasons I've found this election campaign so depressing.  

One of the major parties has released almost no policies and absolutely none aimed at addressing what seems to me to be one of the main challenges for Australia in the coming decades: climate change.  Every year since we have been here numerous weather records have been broken, with this latest one being the hottest year on record.  Australians apparently have the biggest carbon footprint of anyone on the planet and as coast dwellers are extremely vulnerable to sea level rise.  Years before I moved here I heard talks from a panel of international water experts and their predictions for Australia's future in a world of changing weather patterns, sea level rise and increasing soil salinity were dire.  They predicted that within my children's lifetimes, great chunks of Australia would be so adversely affected by climate change that the country wouldn't be able to feed its population. Since moving here I've heard similar predictions many times from many different sources, yet from Australia's two main political parties there is near silence.

The Murdoch press are blatantly backing one party. News Corp Australia is by far the most dominant player in the newspaper market here so they have considerable clout among people who believe what they read in newspapers. A commonly held belief is that News Corp are doing this because the party they are backing would ditch the National Broadband Network currently being built, which would leave Australia with its current snail-pace internet speeds, which would effectively lock new players out of the internet-entertainment industry (watching TV on demand here is often p-a-i-n-f-u-l-l-y slow) which would then protect Murdoch's income from their Foxtel interests. Surely that can't be true. It's like something out of the Simpsons.

Recently I have been on my first protest march in many years because each of Australia's two major parties are trying to outdo each other with ever more cruel asylum seeker policies.  Obviously they are doing this because they think this will win them votes, but I am horrified by the measures they are promoting.  I was so shocked by the ghastly Tampa affair that I became a volunteer helping refugees to settle into life in Christchurch and I did that for several years until we left NZ.  But attitudes towards asylum seekers have become even worse here, to the extent that human rights lawyer Julian Burnside recently described asylum seeker bashing as Australia's new national sport.  

Choosing who to vote for here becomes even more difficult because of Australia's crackpot Preferential Voting System which ensures that votes get skewed and diluted; it looks to me like a system made up by a bunch of gambling drunks.  The more I analyse this system and the seats it delivers compared to votes cast, the more it reminds me of many board-games that are essentially strategy undermined by randomness.  There are all sorts of complicated electorate by electorate guides on how to vote to ensure that your vote actually has the effect you want it to.  There are better ways people.

I can't vote here but I really do care about Australia and the many serious issues it faces (or refuses to face) and therefore I really do care about the election result.  So I have been spreading the word about the most interesting thing I have seen in the whole election campaign.  The ABC is hosting an interesting tool called Vote Compass which basically compares your answers to a whole series of questions to the policies of the main parties.  Then it tells you which party you are most closely aligned to and why.

I recommend that anyone out there who can vote in this election gives Vote Compass a whirl.  Then take a deep breath and think very carefully if it gives you a completely unexpected result, as it has for many people I know who have had their entrenched voting habits challenged by this tool.  Then vote very carefully and wisely this weekend.  

Then go out somewhere nice on Saturday night as whatever the result, watching the election result unfold on TV will surely be a very grim way to spend an evening; we are treating ourselves to a night out at Circus Oz.

Hopefully by the next election Australians will be given a choice between real parties, with well thought out policies and honest, credible leaders.  Maybe that is too much to hope for, but Australia is a great country and it certainly deserves better than the nonsense they have been offered this time around. Then hopefully sometime in the not too distant future Australians will realise what a complete barking dog their electoral system is and change to a less crackerdog one.  One that actually reflects who Australians vote for.  What a novel thought.

Friday, August 30, 2013


Photo by Hanne Johnsen taken as part of the Place in Time project, 2002
Every time one of my children has a birthday I find myself saying their age over and over again in an effort to get my head around the fact that they are now that age.  I know I am not the only mother in the world who does this.  

An Adult in the Making exhibition, Christchurch, 2007
Today I have been saying "Fifteen! FIFTEEN! How can you be fifteen?"  because today my daughter turned fifteen.  I looked through some old photos, determined to finally print some off.  There she was in her preschool sheriff phase, then her dinosaur phase, then her space phase and her most recent fangirl phase.  In our photos she wears a stetson long before Matt Smith made them cool, wears a headlamp when baking in a too-dim kitchen, earmuffs when her father and brother are dancing to too-loud music, a winter hat with earflaps which she named Humphrey and a "headsock" which she invented and knitted herself.  I have photos of her with towering Lego creations, earnestly digging for fossils and grinning in the uppermost branches of trees.  She has always been her own girl and long may that last.

Matilda Bay, Perth, 2011
I loved the words Fiona Farrell wrote to go with the photo of my daughter when it was in the "Adult in the Making" exhibition as they suited her so well.  They were "the deeply serious, poignant and thoroughly delightful business of being a child".  What a thoroughly delightful privilege these fifteen years have been for me as my daughter's mother.

Monday, August 12, 2013

Kalbarri holiday: the rest

Whose dopey idea was that "Day one", "Day two" carry on?  Mine obviously while in ridiculously deluded holiday mode.  So here we are weeks later, with our holiday feeling like very old news, and I'm finally getting to finish that off - and only because the washing machine broke and I am waiting for the repairman.  And now Blogger is playing up yet again so I'll just slip in this short summary in case it all goes pear-shaped: 
You know how lots of towns have a slogan?  Well Kalbarri's is "You'll love it" and in our case they were absolutely right.

Australia has some incredible landscapes.  No surprises there.  But in many cases you have to travel a long, long, long way to see them.  Then it costs a fortune to stay there.  Then it costs another fortune if you feel like eating.  Then you have to walk for miles in the stinking heat while being used as a food source by thousands of tiny creatures to get to aforementioned incredible landscape.  Well Kalbarri isn't like that.

Kalbarri hands its amazing scenery over on a plate.  There are breathtakingly dramatic landscapes very close to the town, with great access roads then superbly maintained short walking tracks straight to the action.  We took all the warning information seriously (it gets to fifty degrees in these gorges in summer) so we wore proper shoes, took lots of water, our first aid kit, hats etc.  Then we get there and are walking alongside people in jandals.

We oohed and ahhed our way over every short walk in the park and also a couple of the longer ones.  We saw emus in the wild several times and my partner and daughter even saw an echidna.  I snapped away furiously at postcard-worthy scenes, all the while oblivious to the fact that my camera was on the wrong setting. 

We chose the perfect day for our canoe safari.  Half way through the "suitable for all ages and all abilities" safari, when our shoulders were aching with the effort, my daughter and I said to each other "whose dopey idea was this?" and I could see from the look in my son's eyes that he was thinking the same over in his canoe with his cheerily paddling father.  At the end of the safari when we were soaked and muddy but thrilled after seeing stunning scenery that we would never otherwise have seen, we said "whose great idea was this?"  The next day when we couldn't move our arms we said "whose dopey idea was that?"  I'm very pleased we did it, but I do think their "all ages and abilities" line is somewhat optimistic.

After a week we left lovely Kalbarri and headed to Geraldton.  On the way up we'd been a bit disappointed with the famous "pink lake" so we checked it out again on the way back.  This time we certainly were not disappointed as on this visit  Hutt Lagoon was fabulously and freakishly pink.

I tend to do all the holiday planning in this household.  The rule is that if I do all the research, planning and organising then nobody who has just come along for the ride is allowed to say "whose dopey idea was this holiday", but I certainly didn't hear any complaints this time.  I think Kalbarri is an excellent place for a family holiday.   It might not suit families who like theme park/shopping/blingy holidays, but for people who like beautiful scenery in a relaxed small town setting then I highly recommend it.  

It felt like we'd really been out and explored more of Australia, which is excellent, because that, after all, is the reason we are here.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Holiday day five: A holiday from Interwebland

Late on day four we discovered that the "week" of internet access I bought for while we were in Kalbarri was all used up after nearly 36 hours. Oops. Being offline was actually rather nice but we got home tonight and BOY do I have some catching up to do tomorrow.

This picture is of one of the very many beautiful plants we spotted while getting on with our lives in Realworldland.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Holiday day four: Parrot watching

Today the youngest member of our household chose the day's activities. He loves reading, likes his tucker and is fascinated by wildlife.

We all slept in late then stayed in bed and read until we were hungry.  Then we strolled down the foreshore to have brunch at a cafe. On the way my son and I stopped to chat to a kooky (but lovely) local chap about the storm brewing offshore and the fact that yet again this year's rainy season has been nowhere near rainy enough.

Next stop was a visit to Rainbow Jungle parrot breeding centre. 

It was fabulous. My daughter's favourites were a pair of enormous and gregarious macaws.

I couldn't choose a favourite but I know which one wasn't my favourite: the one that shat on me. Apparently that is very lucky but I sure didn't feel lucky.

On the way out some members of my party stuck to local custom and stuck their entry stickers on the rubbish bin and sign. (Not me. Too prissy.)

Just after we left the storm finally hit.  

My partner has chosen our activity for tomorrow: he has booked us in for a canoe safari down the Murchison River.  Yesterday when is was calm and sunny and 23 degrees that seemed like a grand idea. Tonight with the storm crashing and howling outside I'm not so sure.

Holiday day three: Whale watching

On day three we had planned to go exploring up Kalbarri's famous gorge but the road is closed until the end of the week. Lucky for us the whole town and region are new to us so there are plenty of other cool places to explore.  So instead we drove along Kalbarri's coast where there are numerous short walks to dramatic views of spectacular cliffs with the sea thrashing and grinding away below. 

And there out to sea we saw whales. Lots and lots of them. 

We are going exploring the river tomorrow. By canoe. Strange but true.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Holiday day two: Cheerio Jurien Bay, Hello Kalbarri

On day two of our holiday I got up early to go for a lonelygirl walk around Jurien Bay. Here is a beachfront house with nine tyre swans, and that is just on the balcony.

We drove north via Geraldton (quick loiter outside the public library to use the wifi) then on to Kalbarri.

I thought Jurien Bay was the ultimate Seachange (tv show) town but I have changed my mind. Kalbarri is the ultimate Seachange town. It even has some kooky locals but I resisted photographing them. Here instead is the view from our holiday digs balcony. Certainly no complaints.

Holiday day one: Hello Jurien Bay

I'm back trying to use Blogger on my iPad again but this time via what must surely be the slowest internet connection on the planet.  

On day one of our holiday we drove to Jurien Bay. It is as lovely as ever.  Beautiful flowers are in bloom. I could be wrong (it has happened before) but I think this is a Pincushion Hakea or Hakea Laurina. Nice. And notice that blue sky.  22 degrees and sunny and this is mid-winter. No complaints here.

Friday, June 28, 2013

Beware of dinosaurs

Life in Australia is not all sun, surf and jollyhockeysticks.  This week saw the shameful culmination of something that for the past three years has made me wonder exactly what century we are living in. 

The sexist abuse hurled at Julia Gillard by not just the opposition but also by sections of the media and much of the general public while she was Prime Minister was way beyond disrespectful.  Robust political debate is fine and to be expected but this was not that.  Repeated personal attacks on a person because of their physical appearance, family situation or voice are not OK - ever.  Throwing sandwiches at someone is not OK - ever! In fact according to a flyer brought home from school recently that sort of behaviour is called bullying.  For the past three years much of Australia has participated in The Big Bully, much like a scary psychology experiment on a very grand scale. It was shocking.  Big sections of Australian society need to have a long hard look at their behaviour, their frighteningly outdated attitudes and their plain lack of manners if they think that this is an OK way to treat anyone, regardless of whether you agree with their views or think they are any good at their job.

As one commenter on an online news site wrote "In its disgracefully sexist treatment of its first female Prime Minister, Australia has proven yet again that it isn't quite ready yet for this thingy we in other parts of the world call life in the 21st century".  Sadly I agree. As my teenage daughter put it "Do we really want to live in a country thinks it is OK to treat women this way?"  I'll have to think about that one.

Friday, June 14, 2013

Repeating pattern

I love repeating patterns.  I love them in fabrics, wallpaper, carpets and I love spotting them in nature and photographing them.

Yesterday a repeating pattern happened in our lives; my partner's work contract was renewed.  Phew!  Like many New Zealanders living in Australia we will have to leave at some point.  In our case that is because we can never become Australian citizens and as such our children are not eligible for student loans in Australia.  Little Miss WinsEveryPrizeSheGoesNear is also not eligible for scholarships in Australia and given that most of her preferred career options will involve manymany years of university study, that simply won't be possible here.

But anyway we aren't quite ready to leave yet.  We hope to do a lot more exploring here before we leave. One place I've always wanted to investigate is Tasmania especially since a local artist friend came back raving about the Museum of Old and New Art (MONA) and insisting that I must go there, which sadly is a tad easier said than done. 

So today I made that repeating pattern above as my entry into a competition to win a trip there.  The somewhat debauched content of that pattern isn't my usual style but the prize is a visit to Tasmania, MONA and the fabulously Bacchanalian sounding Dark MOFO festival. My winter feast pic is called "My Darkest Night Is Repeating On Me".  I've probably broken the rules by repeating my photo but MONA and Dark MOFO seem to be all about breaking rules, which is a huge part of their appeal to me. (Instagram users can help me out by liking my pic - my handle surprisingly enough is pearlequeen and you can see all the entries by searching for #abcRNDarkMOFO . If any Australian-based folk fancy entering too the details are here but you'll have to be quick as it closes this Sunday.)

It was fun to do but obviously a long-shot so in the meantime I'll just keep on keeping on with our other plan to visit Tasmania and MONA which is also a repeating pattern: scrimping and saving, scrimping and saving.

Monday, June 10, 2013

I'm there. I've made it.

As any of you who know me will realise, the "Making it in Mandurah" words on the right of this blog are somewhat tongue in cheek.  For many people around these parts "Making it" seems to mean holidaying in Bali and owning a huge house, a huge vehicle, his 'n' hers jetskis plus and various other things I am not the slightest bit interested in. 

My version of "making it" is considerably more modest and involves having time to, well, make things including our vegetable garden and good meals.  I am happy to report that in gardening terms, we have recently met a couple of criteria I set myself and have officially made it.

Late autumn and early winter are great times in the garden here as the temperature stays in the twenties or below and it rains fairly frequently and heavily. This means that we have finally got to the point where our garden is providing most of the vegetables we eat. Given that we started with a sand dune this is no mean feat.  Every morning I head out into the garden with my colander to pick salad greens for our packed lunches.  Every evening I head back out there to harvest more food for our evening meal.

I have been repeating that pattern over
and over

and over again

for several weeks now.  The big winners have been kale, chinese stirfry greens, chillies, beans, rocket, mizuna, herbs and pumpkins.

But I set myself another criteria when it comes to "making it" in the garden. Our garden must also be a great and safe place for local wildlife to live in and visit. I've been on a couple of courses about creating wildlife-friendly gardens (thank you City of Mandurah) and read about how various chemicals can be problematic for wildlife so we've given them all a big swerve.

We have succeeded in attracting numerous birds to the garden and we now also have masses of lizards. There is one creature I am not too excited about.  Here is a calling card it left us in the shed.

Yes that is a (tiny) snake's shed skin.  Our planned frog pond is still just a concept but frogs have moved in anyway.  In the evenings we hear a chorus of burrowing frogs in the front garden (put put put) and here is a motorbike frog who has recently shifted into the back garden (vroom vroom vroom). 

I woke in the night with a raging temperature to hear a Boobook owl right outside the window (bookbook bookbook bookbook) and today I'm just admiring our garden from the great indoors (and mucking around creating repeating patterns) as I have woken up with a lurgy. I've swapped my work day for tomorrow and was still in bed reading when I heard a squeeeak in the driveway then the cheery hellooo of a friend who had popped by while out doing chores. She's never popped in unannounced before and was a little apologetic about doing so.  I however was delighted and would have loved to have said "coffee?" and welcomed her in despite the fact that my house is messy and I am wearing PJs and have bedhair like a crazy chicken, but we thought it best that I don't share my germs.  

It is three years today since we left New Zealand.  I still dearly miss my NZ friends especially my closest "swing-by" friends.  The fact that I finally have a swing-by friend here means that I really am making it, at least by my definition.

Monday, May 27, 2013

Plenty of work and plenty of joy

As we all know, all work and no joy makes Mac (or Jack) or anyone else for that matter a dull boy - or girl.  There sure has been plenty of work going on around here but luckily there has also been truckloads of joy.  All members of this household have been enjoying new interests.

My swimming lessons are still in the early stages (my best stroke is still Drownstroke) but I am determined to get to the stage where swimming is actually fun.  My partner is a gun swimmer and most Saturday mornings he can be found far out to sea with many other "Masters" (while back at home I try to ignore radio news reports about shark attacks).  Somewhere in the pictures below are my partner, my swimming tutor and several of their clubmates completing this year's 3.6km Busselton Jetty Swim

I don't intend to ever join him in using swimming as a means of transportation, but the other hobby he and my daughter have taken up does look like a lot of fun.  They are having surfing lessons at a local surf school and are both doing brilliantly.  Here they are only one hour into their first lesson.

My daughter has also taken up hockey

and my son is making great progress with lawn bowls. He now trains regularly in Perth with the state junior squad who are the Australian juniors champions.  Lawn bowls might seem like an unusual sport for a boy his age but I am thrilled that he has found a sport he enjoys and is good at as that is something that has eluded me my entire life.

While he attends his day-long training sessions, I get to indulge in one of my favourite activities and explore new-to-me parts of Perth.  On the last trip I took the opportunity to finally buy something new that I have been trying and failing to buy secondhand for three years: a bike!

I use it to do chores, visit friends and tootle here,

and here.

Yup, still op shopping.  I also now have a legitimate reason to obsessively scour through Trademe as I am helping a friend in Christchurch to furnish her new office.  Our most exciting find so far is a huge set of String style mid-century shelving - for $30.

I am finally teaching my daughter to sew by working with her to create her costume for this year's Supanova Pop Culture Convention where last year we spotted the cutest Doctor Who ever.

So plenty of play for everyone but now I really do need to get back to doing some work.  I have been offered a very exciting (and a little bit scary) new role and I need to write up some ideas for a meeting. 

But I'll end with a wee skite about something that has come about as the result of absolute truckloads of work over the past three years by one member of this household and his workmates.  The Mandurah Performing Arts Centre won the 2013 APACA Drover Award for the Performing Arts Centre of the Year.  Woohoo!

That centre is certainly not run by dull boys - or girls.  There is so much happening there that so far I have had absolutely no need to seek entertainment just down the road from there ... at the bingo hall.