Saturday, February 13, 2021


My skills at growing vegetables seems to be rather less than growing catnip and yellow lantana. I bught a tomato plant in spring and another late in spring, but neither flourished.
The garden does what it wants though and a large robust plant has grown up beside the compost bin. I carefully bagged some of the flowers on this plant as tomatoes here tend to get insect eggs laid into them early which cause the tomatoes to rot just before you want to pick them. Later I discovered that this verdant getting-enormous plant has tiny tomatoes, the type that are not bitten by bugs, so I took off the bags. Now I am wondering how to encourage more fruit and less foliage.

Saturday, January 16, 2021

Exercise is oh so boring

We are told repeatedly that exercise is good for us but the problem with exercise is that it is so boring. Keeping up an exercise routine is, or has been for me, almost impossible. I would much rather do other things.

However, three years ago I bought a pair of decent walking sandals when I was in Europe which made walking so much more comfortable. I walked everywhere and returned feeling so much healthier that I decided to try to keep walking. I discovered the only way I could make walking a regular thing was to start walking before I was fully awake. By the time I woke up I was already a block away from home and it was easier to keep going.

I walked 20-25 minutes to the beach and back, long enough to make a difference but not long enough to get too boring. I did often miss days, I confess. But I kept walking when I moved to Carlton and then when I arrived in Arncliffe. I live on a hill in Arncliffe and any walk means going down the hill and up again. Very different from the Umina flatlands.

My walk nowadays takes me about 20 minutes and I have become so used to it I walk every day without thinking. I walk to the lookout over the airport to take a morning photo. I send it to a still slumbering friend who likes getting a weather report.

Winter morning airport lights.

Then I walk down the steps to the bottom of the hill and up again past the house with the yellow flowering bush (last post)

I discovered the other day just how beneficial these walks are. In 2019 I was told that my blood pressure was bordering on the problematic and if it continued to increase I should be on medication. Last week when I had a check up I rather reluctantly reminded the doctor to check my blood pressure.

He looked at his notes and commented, “Oh, its more than a year since you were checked. You have been avoiding me I think because you don't want to take pills!”

He was half way through a lecture about pills being necessary when he paused to take my blood pressure.

Pump pump pump. Then pause. Then pishhhh as the air escapes.

“Oh,” he said checking the measuring gizmo. “Your blood pressure has dropped 10 points!”

He didn't continue the lecture. 


Botany Bay in summer

Ship leaving Botany Bay

Friday, January 01, 2021

Garden rescue in covid times

I have lived here over a year now. When I arrived the garden was lawn and the patch of ground between fence and path was weeds. 

Early very morning I walked down the hill and back up. At the bottom of the hill I discovered a pretty garden with a yellow-flowered bush growing right over the path. When I saw the house occupant there one morning I asked if I could take a slip. She turned out to be an avid gardener and said: 

"Why yes, take a big piece, or several, so it grows. It will grow in difficult ground so councils plant it. It is a type of Lantana, but not the one that takes over."

So I took slips and stuck them in pots over summer to see if they would take. 

They all survived and I planted them in the inhospitable soil between fence and path. They are thriving there and now I have yellow flowers right along the fence. 

On the other side of the fence the lawn is slowly being replaced by flowering plants, two blueberry bushes and  last week, a rhubarb plant. Gardens are a marvelous tonic in Covid times.

(The bush in the photo is a Hibiscus, the only plant in the garden when I arrived.)

Monday, December 28, 2020

2021 awaits

It is 28 December, a Monday but the streets hereabouts are quiet as it is a public holiday. At 8am it is already warm, over 25C but it is overcast, threatening to rain and very humid. You can feel the predicted afternoon storms in the air.

Normally the sun would be shining and the beaches full but I haven't heard a single complaint. Last season's dreadful bushfires are still uppermost in our minds and we know we are lucky not to be mired in waves of virus. 

The political environment feels much like the weather, with storms building, still suppressed but increasingly volatile.

They say being resource rich is a recipe for unhappiness in this world as resource owners are so easily able to pay off those who want power while they pillage unrestrained. We have watched environmental destruction by unrestrained multinationals in developing countries and we watch it in Australia. 

How do we get our recalcitrant government to take climate action? They look away as our youth becomes depressed and suicidal. They look away as we loose our Great Barrier Reef. They have practised looking away for a long time as the Aboriginal community would attest. 

But pressure is building. Governments around the world are looking at our government with increasing distaste, and finally they are beginning to act on this distaste. This may be the only way we can be saved from ourselves. 

I found a large sheet of paper that didn't quite fit in the cupboard, so I took out my pencil to make a new years greeting picture.  This was who popped up on the page.

Happy 2021 everyone!


Monday, December 21, 2020

A NSW Christmas 2020

It's a couple of days until Christmas, but really, who would know? One of the effects of the pandemic is that it has messed with our internal measurement of time. Or at least, it has with mine. Time has flowed along with days overlapping, months disappearing and now suddenly, it is almost 25 December. I am making stollen so I know it really is Christmas. 

With a new Covid flare up, Sydney hovers on the edge of another lockdown. People are unsure what to make of the information provided by the NSW state government who seem just as keen to 'keep the economy going' as they are to beat the virus.  They are also being a bit secretive about how the virus escaped quarentine. We are suddenly discovering just how many people have been granted quarentine exemptions (the wealthy, LNP mates, Airline crews among others), and because of the secrecy,  people are making their own minds up. Perhaps a wealthy donor to the LNP Government? Perhaps a Hillsong mate of the PM? (The Hillsong religious sect suddenly has several cabinet members in Federal Parliament).  

Having a Premier whose integrity has been has been questioned by the Independent Commission Against Corruption but who refuses to step down doesn't help.

One thing NSW does have going for it is an excellent health department with a good contact tracing capability.  The chief health officer does look rather uncomfortable at the press briefings (which are invitation only, so no uncomfortable questions) so there is speculation at what is being hidden. After months of very clear and open communication from the Victorian Government (who allowed all journalists into press briefings and answered every question), NSW politicians are looking less than admirable.

Not only the NSW public, but other state governments have noticed the  deficits (like NSW refusal to mandate masks) and have quickly shut their own borders. NSW politicians are not happy, but they really only have themselves to blame. As a result of the closures people from other states are racing back to their home bases


 and many NSW families (including mine) looking forward to reunions with far flung members are having to change plans. Fingers crossed for the days ahead.

Thursday, November 12, 2020


 I planted Sweetpeas last autumn so I had something to watch grow through the winter. They have been flowering since September and the more flowers I pick the more they flower. 

The Latin name of Sweetpeas is  Lathyrus odoratus and they are true to their name. If I could attach their scent to this blog post I would do so. 

Thursday, September 10, 2020

The Albatross book for kids

Hard copies of my book arrived today and they are much brighter than I imagined. It is so exciting to see them in the flesh.
Yes, I agree with my London reviewer. I think kids will like it! 

 I still don't understand why they are so much cheaper to buy from the UK Amazon store than the US Amazon store. (They are also available from other stockists! )


A friend just texted to ask RUOK? reminding me that it is RUOK day in Australia, a day meant to promote mental health by asking people to reach out to see if others are ok. 

The first item I heard on the radio this morning was an interview with Suzanne Smith who wrote the book The Alter Boys . It is about sexual abuse in the Catholic Church in NSW and Suzanne's stories have left me wondering how anyone who lived through such trauma can be okay. Homosexuality was illegal so it is no wonder many homosexual men were drawn to an organisation which forbade heterosexual sex. The shame was that this sect had no accountability under the law, and still hasn't under most jurisdictions.

Then on the news I hear that the National Party of NSW is threatening to split from the ruling Liberals because they want developers to be able to bulldoze koala habitats for housing. Poor Koalas, if the fires don't kill them, the developers do.

In Australia at the moment the stand-out politician for ethics and responsibility is the Victorian Premier Dan Andrews. His daily press conferences have become a 'must watch' and are a real eye opener for those of us who don't habitually have access to such events. Day after day we listen to  Murdoch Press journalists ask questions that can only be designed to catch him out. Andrews stymies them, giving patient, thoughtful and honest answers. Andrews has become so popular there is a trending  #IstandwithDan hashtag on twitter. After he outlined his strategy to get Victoria Covid free there was such a combined Murdoch Press and ruling Liberals/National Party pile-on that you wonder how politicians are ok in Australia at any time. There is pervasive talk of PM Morrison being so jealous of Andrew's popularity that he would stop at nothing. 

Internationally there is Trump, Boris, Bolsanaro, Xi JinPing.

I don't know. Are we OK? 

A bright spot: the Sweet Peas are flowering.

Addendum: today the Australian newspaper attacks Andrew's wife. Gutter politics, gutter journalism. 




Tuesday, August 18, 2020


Stations in NSW have become the focus for high rise buildings in Sydney. Since regulations were loosened by our neoliberal NSW state government the quality of high rise buildings has become so poor that not even investors are enthusiastic about buying them. There are still some suckers out there like the young woman who featured in the newspapers early in the year. She had spent her fortune on an apartment and was faced with a huge bill for replacing the cladding even before she moved in.  She was quoted as saying ' I didn't even know what cladding was, I had to look it up!' Buyer beware.

These highrise buildings are (or were before Covid) spreading relentlessly along highways as well. A piece of publicly owned land on the Princess Highway in Arncliffe was sold (given?) to developers last year and a  row of buildings rose out of the ground, ever higher. I have watched it's progress with fascination as it slowly blocked the sun from all around. Late last year the developer went bust and all the investors lost their down payments. The newspapers were full of stories of investors and those who had sold the apartments on commission. The building was eventually restarted and resumed it's climb to the heavens.

Now the buildings are finished and when I go for my early morning walk I marvel at how they dominate the landscape. A lot of apartments in Sydney are vacant now and rents are falling in line with decreasing immigration and non existent students. Not all the lobbyists in Canberra can force the borders open at the moment so the refrigerator salesforce will have to change their sales settings. The second tranche of buyers (if there was one) might be regretting their purchases by now. Houses that have had the sun stolen will be feeling equally disenfranchised.

Thursday, August 13, 2020


I have acquired a rescue cat, third hand. Frankie was originally rescued from a cat rescue place in Melbourne. After several years her rescuer moved and Frankie came to live in Sydney with rescuer's sister. Then several years after that  rescuer's sister acquired a dog and poor Frankie was cast into a state of anxiety, so she came to live with rescuer's sister's mother. 

 Frankie is a sweet little cat, loves a piece of cheese occasionally and a cuddle always.

Monday, August 10, 2020

#blogger: how to ruin a useful tool

Dear Google, 

You have changed blogger so much it is possible to make considered blog posts from a mobile phone. The new version has all the bells and whistles but is impossible to use  Perhaps it is ok for adding a photo on the fly ( I haven't tried that) and (I am assuming) from a PC but why don't you get your developers to use a phone to add a blog post with a picture? 

It was all so easy before and all so difficult now. It is impossible to add labels easily, impossible to add a title to your photo and in general very difficult to operate.  So difficult I suspect your user base will sink considerably.

Why don't you let the people who prefer the old model keep using it instead of pushing all your users to this new user unfriendly version.  There would be many that thank you and you could check the stats and see for yourselves how many people find it useful.

Yours sincerely

Disgruntled User

Orange Hibiscus

The Art Gallery of NSW is helping their members stay sane in lockdown by organising art challenges. There are prizes to be won, like the box of Faber Castell pencils offered this week. for the drawing challenge titled 'Orange'. You have to use drawing tools, not painting.

I suspect their members would enter with or without a prize as anything to keep occupied and interested is welcome when you can't go anywhere due to circulating virus. 

Here is my Orange entry, a Hibiscus from my still flowering bush.


Friday, July 24, 2020

Iso pants

What you do in isolation. Make warm trousers from that drab (but woollen) material you've had for years but brighten them up with whatever material scraps there are in the cupboard.

I am not sure where either bits of lace came from. One was from the edge an ancient doily, the other is lace from a long forgotten project.

The first photo was taken before I tidied up the doily lace with a band of material.

Friday, July 17, 2020

Review: On the Wings of an Albatross

On the Wings of an Albatross - an A-Z of Australian and New Zealand Birds

Amazon is not sending books to Australia at the moment so I had a copy of my new children's book sent to a friend in London, an ex teacher and avid reader. She just got the book and here is the text she sent me this morning: 

'On the wings of an Albatross has arrived. The paintings, the colour and the playful text all are exquisite. Wow, it's an amazing book, which will be much cherished.  I think you will be really pleased by the quality of the print - the whole thing is great.'

Wednesday, July 01, 2020

On the Wings of an Albatross

Woo hoo .... Just published! A children's book, suitable for kids from 3-8.

Children's book: suitable for ages 3-8

This book is available as an ebook or as Paperback. 

This is an iso-book, unplanned but fun to do and here is the back story.

In May I joined an online art group that decided to draw an animal a day. I drew birds. At that stage of the pandemic it was very comforting to join others in a regular occupation. We shared our artwork  for comment and although I didn't know any of the participants personally, by the end of May I felt I knew some of them quite well.

As the month progressed I learned quite a bit about the birds I was drawing and I developed a particular affection for some of them ...the New Zealand Robin for example.
New Zealand Robin

One thing led to another and by mid June I was busy developing this children's book. It took a while to learn how the publisher software worked, in particular how to format for print editions.

But now it is done and I have just heard that the Paperback as well as the eBook versions are available online. I have linked them, but perhaps it takes a while to update the links so you can see both versions from the same page.

I tried to order a couple of copies of the print edition but Covid 19 has led Amazon to suspend deliveries to Australia for the time being, so I will have to wait.

In the meantime, if you have a young friend who would like an A to Z of Australian and New Zealand birds, it is available as an ebook ...and as Paperback in the USA, UK and other places with a local Amazon publishing operation. 


I have just looked at the price of the paperback on the various Amazon sites.
The price of you buy in the USA is extraordinary, even without postage. IIt is much less expensive elsewhere. (USA) :
Paperback Price: USD 24.68 = £19.76 =€21.91
eBook: USD 3.43 (Germany)
Euro 5.33 ebook
Euro 13.84 for paperback (Taschenbuch)

£11.75 Paperback 
£ 4.83 ebook

Thursday, April 30, 2020

Pink roses, white roses and Salvia

The multiplier effect. If you have a few flowers you can turn the vase and imagine the rest.
Roses and Salvia, 40 X 50 cm
Covid19 Isolation painting

Wednesday, April 29, 2020

Nearly two months of isolation.

It is nearly the end of April and I haven't blogged nearly as much as I thought I would during this lockdown. I thought I might track changes as they happened, but instead one day has slid into the next and I have been consumed by painting. I look back at what I blogged and find that life was normal on 14 February and abnormal by 15 March. Actually the change happened in Sydney during the second week of March. On 1 March I had no idea that by 14 March I would be avoiding a big birthday bash I was planning to attend. On 7th I decided to self isolate. By the 13th I was no longer alone. By 23rd everyone was self isolating (or at least, everyone who had been watching the calamity unfolding elsewhere). The reaction of the Australian public is what had helped us avoid a major catastrophe here because we acted more quickly than our governments.

I had to do something to stop myself becoming obsessed with the virus and painting became my escape route.  I woke a couple of times this week, trying to solve painting issues on very large canvases, so I must paint through the night as well as during the day. Painting problems aren't the stuff of nightmares luckily. I suspect I am making up for a year of forced painting abstinence while I was house selling/buying as well.

Now I look back at 2019 and thank my lucky stars that I sold when I did and that I was obsessive in looking for a place to move to. I had a lease that was going to expire on 5 March. Instead I moved in November and now I am glad that I made the decision to break my lease, even with attendant difficulties.  I found a successor immediately, and that helped.

There is a little patch of garden here where I am now living which is worth gold during lockdown when even a few steps outside feels like freedom. The few plants I had time to plant before lockdown like their new home and have been flowering I picked all the pre-winter roses in pots or the garden (that was easy as there were not many) to paint and once I started painting them, it was hard to stop. There is something so charming and ephemeral about flowers.

Saturday, April 04, 2020


This is such fun in times of Coronavirus I will post it here. I copied it from twitter. 

Once again The Washington Post has published the winning submissions to its yearly neologism contest, in which readers are asked to supply alternative meanings for common words.

The winners are:
1. Coffee (n.), the person upon whom one coughs.
2. Flabbergasted (adj.), appalled over how much weight you have gained.
3. Abdicate (v.), to give up all hope of ever having a flat stomach.
4. Esplanade (v.), to attempt an explanation while drunk.
5. Willy-nilly (adj.), impotent.
6. Negligent (adj.), describes a condition in which you absentmindedly answer the door in your nightgown.
7. Lymph (v.), to walk with a lisp.
8. Gargoyle 👎, olive-flavoured mouthwash.
9. Flatulence (n.), emergency vehicle that picks you up after you are run over by a steamroller.
10. Balderdash (n.), a rapidly receding hairline.
11. Testicle (n.), a humorous question on an exam.
12. Rectitude (n.), the formal, dignified bearing adopted by proctologists.
13. Pokemon 👎, a Rastafarian proctologist.
14. Oyster (n.), a person who sprinkles his conversation with Yiddishisms.
15. Frisbeetarianism (n.), (back by popular demand): The belief that, when you die, your soul flies up onto the roof and gets stuck there.
16. Circumvent (n.), an opening in the front of boxer shorts worn by Jewish men.

The Washington Post's Style Invitational also asked readers to take any word from the dictionary, alter it by adding, subtracting, or changing one letter, and supply a new definition
The winners are
-Bozone (n.): The substance surrounding stupid people that stops bright ideas from penetrating. The bozone layer, unfortunately, shows little sign of breaking down in the near future.
-Cashtration (n.): The act of buying a house, which renders the subject financially impotent for an indefinite period.
-Sarchasm (n): The gulf between the author of sarcastic wit and the person who doesn't get it.
-Inoculatte (v): To take coffee intravenously when you are late.
-Osteopornosis (n): A degenerate disease. (This one got extra credit.)
- Karmageddon (n): It's like, when everybody is sending off all these Really bad vibes, right? And then, like, the Earth explodes and it's like, a serious bummer.
- Glibido (v): All talk and no action.
- Arachnoleptic fit (n.): The frantic dance performed just after you've accidentally walked through a spider web.
- Caterpallor (n.): The color you turn after finding half a grub in fruit you're eating.
pick of the lot
- Ignoranus (n): A person who's both stupid and an asshole
Daisies on my walk this morning

Wednesday, April 01, 2020

Entitlement and community

Wealth changes people, that is now clear.  Some of the entitled have been too entitled to take precautions against this virus. Think of Boris boasting about shaking hands. Many put others at risk without qualms, like the golfing couple whose names are circulating on social media.  They knew they were infected but travelled to south Australia and took to the golf course anyway.  The entitled seem able to subvert normal processes with apparent ease, like the well connected folk on the Ruby Princess cruise ship. They didn't want to be locked in quarentine so the whole ship was allowed to dock and passengers disperse without any restrictions, resulting in the virus being spread far and wide in Australia. Under duress themselves, this sort of process corruption enrages people.

Sometimes it is odd comments by friends that cause one to do a double take. A friend who is newly wealthy (not super rich but well off enough to be able to stop work) commented that he is put out by having to change his plans for the winter.  I didn't have much sympathy.

On the other side are those who have never been entitled. As time goes on and people recover from the initial panic, there are signs of community caring everywhere. I was looking out the window just now, watching a neighbour (or perhaps their employee) maintaining the verge  in front of their house. He saw me watching and waved. I waved back. Normally people might nod and look away. I looked again and saw him making for my side of the road. We spoke though the window ...he wanted to know if I was ok and was I enjoying it here in my new home. Turns out his home is down the road but he is often at the house of the neighbours - probably family I would think.  so now we know each other's names - that is a good beginning to neighbourly relations. The interaction left me feeling very positive about the world.
On my walk this morning. : Tibouchina - Purple Glory Tree.