Thursday, January 31, 2013

Philosophy of the hunting kind

I was working on the current book today (which I suspect will go down like the proverbial lead brick with the publishing establishment. Oh well. Sometimes we just do these things) and working on the scene where the city-reared kid spears his first flounder out in the dark water with his grandmother.

Josh did, and his grandmother worked the fish over the prongs with her knife. “Yer first fish. You done good, young man,” she said.
She’d always called him ‘boy’ before. “That was just like… amazing!” He meant the way it had stayed still, and that really odd feeling he’d had when the spear struck home. He was still shaking from it.
And for once his grandmother seemed to understand without him trying to explain. She put a hand on his shoulder.“It’s in yer blood, Josh. My people have always done this. Always and always. This is our place. This is what we do, this is what we are. Without it, we’re leaves in the wind. I’m glad yer here to carry it on.” Then she shook herself, and said gruffly. “Well, don’t just stand there. Get on with it. We need another one for our tea.”


For those of you who don't understand this... we walk in two separate worlds. You are welcome to yours. Leave me in mine, where food is not something from a supermarket.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

How not to get a trailer to the water

Don't back it over a sand-cliff, even a 2 foot high one. And if you must do this, for heavens sake don't bring the ute too close to the cliff.
We did not go over the edge, but we did basically collapse to diff height. We then had to get the ute out and it's front wheels were not strong enough to haul us up. Much effort was expended. Then when we'd stopped swearing we actually had to start digging. Getting another vehicle, hauling, putting wood under wheels, letting air out of tires... and eventually the ute was free. had we had a rough sea too, it would have been a right royal circus, instead of just a usual beach launch epic. I can see why people use slips. This, in theory meant we had a 10 minute run to good fishing, instead of 50 minutes to mediocre fishing. As it was good fishing was... non-existent. We traipsed about looking for flathead, and finding bluehead or nothing. And to celebrate Australia day, a Sergeant Baker - possibly one of the first fish caught by Sergeant William Baker - Governor Phillips Orderly.

We did eventually go to the mediocre - and catch 6 flathead, but a great day at sea it wasn't. And then we had to extract the trailer and boat...

Sunday, January 27, 2013

We had dry lightning strikes last night which apparently started two fires that the local fireys saw to. We had about 6 mm of rain, which for the fury of the storm was rather little.

I had a very tame little dive today, trying to use an underwater camera, so I hope there will be some pictures. Unfortunately I had it switched off when I was harassing the leatherjacket (well, paparazzi harassment, having a camera thrust at the peaceful snoozer in a tuft of weed. And at the little weedy whiting trying to eat Helen's bait.) And at the stingray I did not harass in any way. My cold is receding rather than gone, so I was being very tame on water front. Barbs is coughing spluttering and not well.

Today was the maiden voyage of the good ship 'Did not bounce Helen about too much' - which is an odd name for a boat, but at least unique.

Friday, January 25, 2013


Well, this morning started as quite a nice day, but it rapidly degenerated into wind and rain flurries. The ground is very dry at the moment, but it is supposed to be Australia Day celebrations at Trousers point tomorrow. Australia day on the island is very special and all the kids and families come and have a lot of fun.

The cats have been letting us know we've been away. A day and we're bad staff to be treated with lofty disdain. 17 days and we're to be guarded like errant mice lurking under a dresser. We've cats on top of us all the time, despite them having had cat-sitting attention. Duchess decided to do the acrobatic leap last night from the sideboard to the dining room table. During our tea... A long jump with the potential of landing in a pot... so she put her crampons out into the table cloth... Which went ski-ing with her. Nothing landed on the floor, no full glasses were spilled, and the plates survived. So did the cat, bu only by keeping moving :-).

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Aussie Salmon on the move

Photo courtesy of my friend Mark. A huge school of Aussie salmon basically at wading depth, vacuuming littler fish. I gather they were once a very common sight in these parts, before being fished very hard for canning. They're not the most delightful eating (being quite strongly 'fish' flavored, and not having great keeping quality) but they are fun to catch - jumping all over the place and very aggressive takers of small fish imitations.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

The proliferation of boats

It appears that the famous cowboy character two gun Charlie has now been eclipsed by two boat Peter (My friend Peter just bought a second boat) and Norman has just been given 'custody' of a nice Zodiac and a dive compressor while its owner is away. And Mark is over here with his boat. And the weather is lousy and my body is still somewhat battered from the cold/flu, but it seems that temptation is out and doing its best to lead me astray, even if I still need to find an outboard and some bits for the trailer for the Zoo (my elderly Zodiac). The dive compressor has a lot of potential for extending our underwater time too. We're coming into the season for prawns, and there are huge shoals of salmon about.

And I need to fit some writing in. Good thing I have been sick and the wind has blown.

Monday, January 21, 2013

Harvest starts

Well I am somewhat better, and Barbs is far sicker than I ever was. Thanks to Kelly we still have a garden on our return, and various things are now being harvested.

tomatoes, capsicums, chillies, strawberries sugar snap peas, beans a few - carrots are just two of those in the ground. The patty-pans are steady in supply. Unlike the Zucchini - which... got out of hand while we were away. The small fruit is the right size. There is an even bigger one outside.

The stupice tomatoes are about golf-ball size, and have tough skins. On the other hand, we're getting some and they taste good.

unlike the sweetcorn which has been attacked by I think rats or possums

Sunday, January 20, 2013

There and back again.

Well, no magic rings or treasure. Some Orcs. No Dragons. The trip took we worked out 42 hours door-to-door, and somewhat more back.

We flew from here to Lonnie (Launceston)and then on to Melbourne on New Year's Day, and then on Singapore with a seriously hungover crew, and food that seemed to believe chile peppers were life's little essentials. I am not afraid of low level chiles like this, but did wonder if this was the catering staff's revenge on the blokes who don't have to work. We had to get out at Singapore while they cleaned the plane. It looked very like an airport in the dark. So much for foreign travel. Then we flew on to Dubai (or, if you're like us, fairly broke, Don'tbuy)where if you had the courage to push your way through the throng (at 4 AM in the morning it was packed) you could buy all sorts of stuff that wasn't fish-finders, or dive gear. I am sure for rich urbanites into luxury shopping it was paradise. I do carry a Gucci handbag for my fishing trips and little stiletto Manolo Blahniks to dive in and always douse myself in Glivency scent to make myself more appetizing to sharks, so I should have loved it. Instead I was really claustrophobic, and glad to fly out on an elderly plane (with a buggered seat for your truly) for Lusaka.

At Lusaka they sprayed the plane with bug spray, which made my eyes water, but otherwise left us sitting there. And then there was Harare airport on Wednesday evening... On the plus side Harare Airport has rather few working lights, because there is a vast picture of Bob Mugabe peering benevolently at you. Apparently it can go better and be sans power entirely. There is also viewing deck which lets people watch new arrivals getting through customs and collecting their luggage. There is not a lot on TV, so this is good family entertainment. Our younger kid and his wife were there waving. We did see them, eventually, and very happy we were to see them. As a point of reference you need a precise address to fill in a form to enter the country. Do not try to come without it. We had the address, and had a smooth passage into the country as a result, albeit totally exhausted.

But it wasn't over. Outside the airport the first thunderstorm of summer broke to welcome us. The roads in Harare have not seen any real maintenance in what looks like 30 years but may only be 10. The average driving speed is about 35km as it's leaping with fairy-like elegance from one piece of tar to the next, or at least picking your potholes (only a blind drunk driver drives straight in Harare). Only now the potholes were full of water, and their depth impossible to judge. Traffic - baring manic 'taxis' - minibuses that make South African ones look like the model of decorum, slowed to a crawl. It's a city of 5 million + people and has, despite the situation, a lot of traffic... and no working streetlights, just rusty poles. The final leg, which should have taken 20 minutes took near on an hour and half.

Harare, well, Zimbabwe, proves that down is a long way. Life has a semblance of normality despite the problems. If you're very rich (and oddly that is quite true of a lot of people)it's very close to normal. It wasn't as much of a shock to us as it would be to other islanders, but 6 foot walls, with electric fencing on that, and houses done up like Leavenworth with bars and motion detectors an alarm systems were something we'd forgotten. The gardens are manicured - manual labour is cheap. The people are friendly and welcoming, but I prefer life without bars. I look like I belong in a zoo anyway.

We stayed with my son's Mother-in-law, and they were frantically busy preparing for the re-affirmation ceremony, which was the whole 9 yards with a slew of maids of honor and groomsmen down to the ringbearer. Oh more like the hobbit... he wasn't fond of wearing shoes either. Neither was I. The temperature was high, the humidity higher, and the rain very frequent. We basically had about 2 sunny mornings and maybe 3 afternoons in which it only rained part of the time. It's hot enough that being wet is no hardship and it did make the place very green. Zimbabwe is very verdant and beautiful at this time of year - where the trees have not been cut out for firewood. This is a private garden venue hired for weddings.

Public parks and wetlands and even sidewalks are planted with maize. There seem - weird for me for Africa - no cows, goats, or even chickens. The grass is long. There are satellite dishes on the huts.

I think the livestock got eaten when hyperinflation nearly killed the country. They got to trillions for a loaf of bread, but after this there was no more sign printing...

Everything is in US dollars now and the notes are used to filthy rag at times. There is no change smaller than a dollar. Everything is very expensive, more than Australia. Most of the it is imported into what used to be the breadbasket of Africa. There is still a lot of money... from mining and expatriates sending cash home (Zim education was once very good. They used UK exams. Their nurses and pharmacists staff hospitals all over the world.)

The city shows how people adapt. Power is erratic, with load-shedding outages for 8 hours or even days for whole areas. Those who can afford them have generators. Water, if it runs at all is only on even more occasionally, and has to be boiled. So people get by on private boreholes and buying water from tankers. The sewage system... well, yes. How long the boreholes can remain viable is another question. And yet, you can go shopping, and if you have the money, buy anything. You can go out to dinner. Booze is very cheap.

We did briefly make it out of town to two separate small-holdings, both of which have had their threats of eviction and forced seizure, with horrible stories that make you wonder how they can remain sane, nice kind people. One them produces more food than 90% of the land that has been stolen, put together. The other defends itself by being stony and not farmable, and with a very unobtrusive house. Next door the stolen farm lies empty, looted, then rented to some tenant farmers, who have been evicted for failing to pay the rent the thief wanted, growing weeds, which at least limit the erosion. A palpable sadness hangs over the country - which is still very lovely in prospect.

Like Peter Sarstead sang of Beirut - 'crumbling stone by stone'. It could be a good place again, but first it will have to come to accept the theft and racism - which isn't a one way street. And the damage to the infrastructure and environment is horrific.

A strip road through what used to be forest.

Still, we got to see some old friends and Barbs relations, some of whom are still battling along there. And if you don't look too closely they have a good life.
This is on the stony place where the cousin has a few pet zebra, and wild flame lilies.

Which were also Alana's bouquet flower, and though weddings are less important than being married to me, she did look very beautiful, and her family did their best to make us welcome.

And then, it was over and to my relief, we got past the evil eye of Bob Sauron at the airport, and onto the plane, and flew all the way back with less chillies, and then got to Melbourne, where dear Jetstar's staff thought telling us AFTER we'd checked in, that they were running FAR too late for us to meet the connecting the flight over to the island. So that stretched our return from Monday evening to Thursday morning. If only I'd had this cold then, I would have sneezed on the bastards, who though upset customers very funny. They're cheap - but that is literally the only good thing you can say about Jetstar. They would not lift a finger to help, not even to point us to a pay-phone (mobile was flat). Unlike Sharp - our Island airline who are expensive, but cheerfully shuffled us onto the next flight, without charge.

And so I am back here in the shire. I have a cold. Thag you very buch.

Saturday, January 19, 2013

From the land of the galloping snot

Yuck. I am full of it, and in this case I mean streaming thin snot. The worst of course is knowing that if I have it, Barbs will come down with it in 2-3 days - but far worse. All those stories you hear about Man-flu? Speaking as the guy who has spent a day and a half in bed in the last thirty years (with Malaria), they're not something that applies to me much. I have been finally following up on my royalty statement and various other unpaid bits, so a grumpy long day of wading through numbers.

Zimbabwe will have to wait another day. It's been waiting for years, poor country.

Friday, January 18, 2013

I'm getting nagged to write 'there and back again, a monkey's tail' but it will just have to wait for morning - I had BAD jetlag - I got to sleep about 3.30 AM, with Duchess the kitty returning home at 1.30 AM much embarrassed to find us in, and me much relieved. I think, to add to my joys I have Paddy's flu (he had it when he arrived about 10 days ago) and I also have my Royalty statements which I am going to have to query (its a good thing I had low blood pressure before I read it).

Thursday, January 17, 2013

I'm back

As Arnie warned... I am. Thank heavens. We are finally back, jetlagged, exhausted - after 45 hours of travel and one complete cock-up - thank you Jetstar, my vote the least reliable airline in Australia, we are finally home, and so, so, so pleased to be here.

More tomorrow when the brain catches up with the body.

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Checking in from Zimbabwe

Well,I hope Flinders is surviving our absence. We miss it! We arrived after 42 hours travelling to a real African thunderstorm, and the trip to Alana's mum's home was nightmarish, with a water on the road, a lot of cars and no street lights. We got stuck in a traffic jam around a crash for over an hour. The local taxis are a law unto themselves in a way that makes the South African ones look quite sedate. Anyway we're safe here, and being well looked after. The heat and humidity are quite something though!

Pctures if I can figure how to get them on next post