Deep in the Jungle

Deep in the jungle, in the rainforest at Springbrook, which is down the coast from Brisbane, beyond the Scenic Rim, and past Canungra (famous for its pies and hangover cures), there are all sorts of strange and marvellous sights to behold. Here are some of them…

And now my “Tarzan” is back in frosty England, probably yodelling from the cold!

Hapless in London – A Tale of One City

It may not have been the best of times but it was certainly almost the worst of times. It was the season of Darkness alright…

But yesterday began well. I awoke in darkness (not so bright but early) in Brighton to the sound of Penelope cooing and laughing. She was soon out of her cot and into my bed for a bit more sleep and cuddles; and when she awoke again my baby granddaughter touched my cheek and smiled. What at darling! Yes it was a good start waking up at Jaimy and James’ place. 

We all kissed goodbye at Brighton Station. I knew I would probably arrive at Australia House on The Strand well before my three-fifteen appointment but I thought it best to leave plenty of time and maybe they would let me in early. Chris’s excellent maps and timetables made for a trouble-free journey into the city and, indeed, I had a couple of hours to kill. First stop Australia House to see if they could fit me in… Buzz. Please? No? But I could enter a half an hour earlier and wait inside; my appointment would be at exactly three-fifteen.

No problem. I’d buy a chocolate milkshake at McDonald and have it for lunch in Trafalgar Square, right down the other end of The Strand; and en route I’d pass the Strand Palace Hotel where I worked for a couple of months as an accounts clerk when I was seventeen; and I’d talk to the doorman. Richard the doorman was rather impressed that I was so interested in the place and he informed me that employees may still have their breakfast, lunch and dinner there if they wish. 

The first sign that all was not going to go to plan was the long wait at McDonald only to find that they were all out of any milkshakes. I took my McDonald “coffee away” down to Trafalgar Square and I took photographs in spite of the grey day. It was nevertheless exciting to be in “town” with the tourists, the city folk, the pigeons and the street performers; the air was alive with the music from a violinist playing electric violin in front of the National Gallery.

I was just standing in the square with my mobile phone camera poised when a handsome man, possibly Egyptian, walked down the steps. He wore a smart navy woollen overcoat and a red scarf. He broke into a beaming smile when he saw me and I smiled back. What a lovely greeting from a stranger! We didn’t speak, though I thought he wanted to (you can tell), and he gestured that he’d take my photograph for me. I waved my “No thanks” and he understood. He walked to the fountain and lingered there a long while, perhaps hoping that I would join him. Instead of joining him I took his photograph when he wasn’t looking. He didn’t look quite as handsome without his winning smile (which didn’t exactly work this time, but only because I’m married). I stayed the other side of the fountain and eventually, I was drawn by the music up to the road. The sun came out while I watched the musician and the crowd, and the man dressed up as a Star Wars creature.

At length the time came for me to wander back leisurely to Australia House.

I was number 84. Numbers 85, 86 and 87 all went before me while I waited. I had a feeling that the Chinese Australian young lady would be my clerk.

“I don’t like these photographs,” she said, looking at the multiple choices from slightly grim to extremely grim. “You appear to be smiling!”

Oh no!

“What about these?” I handed her more.

“I check,” she left and returned. “No, the quality of the paper isn’t good enough and one is slightly blurry, you’ll have to get some more done and be back by four o’clock – we close at four.”

“But it’s half past three nearly…”

As soon as I stepped out of Australia House I was hit by a bucket of rain. It continued to pour in torrents as I raced down The Strand to Charing Cross Underground Station, which is where I had to locate my specified photographer – the closest to Australia House. The pavements ended in puddles that wet my socks and my smart cerise coat was soaked.  I entered the subway from the wrong way and had to ask a couple of hobos if they knew the photo place; they seemed surprised to be asked such a question by a drenched, panting woman. They wanted to help but didn’t know. At last I met a railway man who pointed me in the right direction.

Like a whack in my face, the shop was closed! I had visions of spending the night with my hobo friends and was about to cry when the railway man turned up with the photographer. Hurrah! But could he open up, take my photos, print them and take my eight pounds in less than seven minutes?

Yes, he could. He kindly gave me a tissue to wipe away the streaks of mascara all down cheeks and suggested that I look in the mirror. Wet hair stuck to my head, no makeup and water still shining all over my face. But time was running out! 

“They want me to look ugly,” I said defeated, “they can have me just as I am.”

And the nice photographer took me at my word. A few minutes later I was running through the puddles back up to Australia House; in my pilot case (Chris’s) were six of the ugliest photos I’ve ever seen of myself.

The clock at the end of The Strand chimed four o’clock. It was quite a long chime and I wondered if I could make it to the Passport Department door, like in the films… where they always make it in the nick of time. The chimes ended two seconds before I buzzed. the receptionists were still there.

“Go to the Consulate door around the corner,” the bearded receptionist suggested.

 

“Calm down, Sally,” said the nice older Aussie gentleman who received people into the embassy.

And he gave me a tissue to wipe off the wet black ink that had got onto one of my new photos. And he called the Chinese Australian girl to pick up my gorgeous photos. She pulled a face and so did I. But she accepted them. She had to after all her previous objections… and all I had been through.

I arrived home at eleven-thirty at night. Some trains had been delayed, some were too full to squeeze any more into – there were problems at Waterloo, a very appropriate place for battles of all sorts. Some people were extremely kind and rallied round, as you might expect from people on the same side. Richard the audio man from Chichester was lovely and helpful – he has three brothers, one of whom is an ascetic minister who spends two months a year in a Swedish retreat (so interesting, the things people tell you on trains). And Nigel, the civil servant from near Salisbury, was my constant companion when I needed one most – after the packed train departed the station without me. He was an interesting chap, too; a world traveller who had worked three hundred miles “out west” from Brisbane when he was in a different profession – something to do with gas deposits. My Chris, too, was one of the stalwarts. He picked me up at Exeter St Davids and bought me a chocolate milkshake before driving me home.

My new Australian passport should arrive on Saturday. When I arrive at airport Customs in less than three weeks I guess I shall have to joke about the photograph. I know what to say – it’s what a Customs officer told me many years ago:

“If you look like your passport photograph, you’re not well enough to travel!”

Vis-à-Vis

“Have you got me a visa yet?” I inquired of my better half just last week.

“Oh,” Chris pondered for a second before the look on his face confirmed what I had been thinking, “no!”

My Aussie passport had expired in March and Chris had told me very confidently that I need not worry about applying for a new one until we’re actually in Australia – ” no point in going up to London when it’s so easy to nip into a post office over there” – and I could travel over on a visa, as Chris does. Being an agreeable and dutiful wife, I went along with this idea, even though it rather went against the grain; it’s a bit strange having to obtain a visa to enter one’s own homeland.

It seemed a bit odd, too, when I couldn’t enter my citizenship of Australia on the E-visa application form. My computer didn’t like it either and it played up all the long while that I filled out the form and filled out the form again… several times.

Apparently Chris’s visa had taken only a matter of hours to appear (months ago… when he had applied and forgot about me!). I waited and waited for the good news. In the evening of the second day I received the email – “Terribly sorry but we don’t give our citizens visas; they have to renew their passports.” (Or something like that.)  But I’m supposed to be going in less than three weeks! Or perhaps not?

“Do you want the good news or the bad news first?” my beloved asked bringing in our morning cups of tea. 

The look of horror on my face was not to be borne and Chris hurriedly explained. Passport applications normally require up to four weeks to process… Oh no! But it should be alright because they have a priority service. Thank God! Good old Australia house!”

No doubt feeling guilty, Chris had been up for hours ahead of me finding out all the information I needed from the Internet. However, I was still feeling sick to my stomach with anxiety.

“How can I help you?” came the reassuring voice of a middle-aged lady with a familiar sing-song accent.

I must have been the first person to call her; it was one second past nine in the morning.  From that first moment I knew that I was in safe hands and I could breathe more easily.

So tomorrow I shall be off early on the train to Brighton to see my darling Penelope Sweet Pea (now over six months old) and on Wednesday I’ll break the journey home by calling into Australia House on The Strand ( or is it Memory Lane – I used to be an accounts clerk at Strand Palace Hotel when I was seventeen). You have to make an appointment and apply in person. Getting an Australian Passport in England is strictly “Vis-a-vis”! But, hopefully, there will be no unpleasant confrontation. And Chris avoided that by arranging my whole trip beautifully. Bless him!

And here are some photographs of my friend Reuben’s new gallery in Teignmouth where I did a bit of drawing last week…

 

 

What is This Life…?

W. H. Davies

Leisure

WHAT is this life if, full of care,
We have no time to stand and stare?—

No time to stand beneath the boughs,
And stare as long as sheep and cows:

No time to see, when woods we pass,
Where squirrels hide their nuts in grass:

No time to see, in broad daylight,
Streams full of stars, like skies at night:

No time to turn at Beauty’s glance,
And watch her feet, how they can dance:

No time to wait till her mouth can
Enrich that smile her eyes began?

A poor life this if, full of care,
We have no time to stand and stare.

Many times through my life I’ve thought of those first two couplets (and the last) from the poem “Leisure” by the Welsh poet W.H.Davies. (The “W.H.” stands for William Henry, the same as my son’s middle names but I didn’t know that at the time – James was named after my brothers.) I think we learnt “Leisure” at primary school, like all little Aussies who had to learn poems by heart in the Sixties, and I daresay I could recite almost every line if prompted by my sister Mary. It’s not a long poem.

Naturally, you must be at your leisure in order to think of “Leisure”, otherwise you’d be too busy to consider it. This year has been exceedingly busy for Chris and me, too busy this summer for cycling to our favourite field near Exeter Canal, where we like to take a picnic and lie “beneath the boughs”, and stare quite long at herds of cows… Too busy to cycle up to the ford of a sunny evening and sit on the wooden bridge, and dangle our hot feet into the running stream “full of stars…” Often too busy “to turn at Beauty’s glance” – this year we didn’t go to Brittany, France… Our car whizzed by many woods and, even when we did stop for a quick walk up to the Obelisk, we saw no squirrels hiding nuts in the grass as we passed. We were so “full of care” we had no time “to stand and stare”.

But earlier this week we – Mary, Henry (my brother from Australia), Chris and I – found some time and went to Cornwall. We stayed in Rosie’s charming holiday cottage set in a pretty garden with a babbling brook. We must have had sea fever for we went “down to the seas again, to the lonely sea and the sky” (even though we live by the sea in Devon). We dallied down at Doc Martin’s Port Wenn (Port Isaac) and had a lingering lunch at The Golden Lion. We perused Padstow Harbour against a background of pink clouds, and windows reflected gold in the calm water as the sun went down; we sauntered across the sand at Mawgan Porth, then danced with joy at the edge of the running tide (“a clear call that may not be denied”). The clouds flew in the wind and the sea sprayed and spumed in a sparkling mist along the shoreline. In the evenings we impostor “vagrant gypsies” had merry yarns beside glowing fires.

And now it’s nice to be home. Back to work.

 

Now We’re Being Told That It’s Immoral to Have Children

For a long time I’ve hated watching the news on television, or even listening to it on the radio; I’m sensitive to the sight of dead bodies and suffering so I “turn off” – in more ways than one – and glean my news of the world from the Internet, newspapers and conversations with others who force themselves to keep up with it regardless of the personal consequences. Lately, even those people have been saying, “The news was so awful I just had to switch it off!”.

For some time now it has been hard even to read the paper without feeling worried or angry. On the same day I read about the campaign to ban the word “fireman” being used in Britain I read also that the toy manufacturer Mattel was overhauling Thomas the Tank Engine to make it become “more gender balanced” (it’s a toy train for God’s sake!); homosexual rights groups (is it alright to use that term?) want doctors to ask every patient over sixteen about his/her/it/zie/zit (or whatever pronoun) sexuality, and male students exploring their gender at Gordon’s School, Surrey, are welcome to wear skirts, use gender-neutral toilets, be known by gender-neutral pronouns, and sleep in a girls’ boarding house. Lucky boys! Surprise, surprise, one person was brave enough to speak out: Andrea Williams, chief executive of Christian Concern, said, “Encouraging children in their delusions is immoral and dangerous.”

In the last few days I’ve heard that we shouldn’t use the term “pregnant women” in case it offends transgender men who have kept their reproductive organs. That transgender issue again!

To cap it off I read this morning that “Having children is not life-affirming: it’s immoral”(David Benatar| Aeon Essays). That was a dreadfully negative read – Professor Benatar, philosopher at Capetown University, must be one of those nihilists that nice Professor Jordan B. Peterson (psychology lecturer,Toronto University) keeps talking about. Nihilists believe that life is meaningless. It seems that there are plenty of them around, trying to break down the values and integrity of the majority… What for? For nothing.

If you don’t agree it’s immoral to have children there’s a good chance that, like me, you believe our hopes for the future of humanity rest with our children but we have to wake up, listen, read and speak up. Some people “turn off”, or turn to drink or drugs, but if we care about the future we are going to leave behind us we must be a little brave. Jordan Peterson is the bravest man I know of. His brilliant lectures are free on YouTube. Follow the link below:

Biblical Series III: God and the Hierarchy of Authority – YouTube

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=R_GPAl_q2QQ
6 Jun 2017 – Uploaded by Jordan B Peterson

Biblical Series III: God and the Hierarchy of Authority. Jordan B Peterson … I didn’t mind, because it is …

Strawberry is hope for the future – my granddaughter!

A Story

Before I go to sleep I’d like to tell you a true story. Actually, I am in bed writing this post on my Kindle. You see I’m staying a couple of nights with James, Jaimy and Penelope Sweet Pea (my four month old baby granddaughter) in Brighton. This afternoon I arrived bearing a few gifts, amongst which there was a lovely big book of Hans Christian Anderson’s fairy tales. Jaimy loved the book for Penny, as did I when I found it on Saturday; like me, Jaimy used to be an avid early reader and lover of fairy tales. The mere mention of fairy tales takes me back to grade two or three. at Manly West Primary School and “Fifty Famous Fairy Tales”.

I can’t remember my teacher’s name but my mind’s eye can still see the book in her hands and the way her red varnished nails and gold rings reflected on the glossy cover as she read to us wonderful stories about a golden goose, spinners of gold and dancing princesses. How I wanted to read all fifty stories at my own faster pace.  So great was my yearning that one day I overcame my terrible shyness and plucked up the courage to ask my teacher if I could borrow her book.

“No,” she said, “you wouldn’t be able to read this at your age. The words are too big for seven year olds!”

What a cheek! I knew I could read it, if only I had it.

Some months passed and still I longed for the impossible. Occasionally our teacher would bring out the treasured book and taunt me with the words she said I couldn’t read.

Then I became sick with bronchitis and had to take time off school. My mum, who always liked to buck us up with tasty morsels and delicacies when we children were sick, asked me if there was anything I fancied. I couldn’t think of food. There was only one thing I fancied….

“Fifty Famous Fairy Tales!”

And despite it not being my birthday, and it undoubtedly being an expensive book (probably too good to lend to seven year olds), Mum made my dreams come true. I read that book so much that the spine became worn and thin in the creases, though the rest of the cover retained its glossy surface.

Then one day, years later, when the book was a cherished memory rather than reading matter, a younger child admired it and I couldn’t deny her the pleasure of owning it herself.

Now, of course, it’s not so much the wonderful stories that come to mind when I think of that book… but the heart of my devoted mother. We had so little and she loved us so much.

 

A Golden Sea

Because our house faces south-east we have beautiful sunrises rather than sunset skies but occasionally on summer evenings we, and our neighbours, are drawn out onto our balcony by some atmospheric magic that brings the pinks and gold of the setting sun into our skyscape. Last week there was quite a gathering of folk, either on their balconies or stood at their windows or French doors, all looking in wonder at the golden sea.

A few days later an enormous cloud, first so pretty and vivacious, became enraged before our very eyes and soon flashed and spat with vexation. It was the same night that, farther down the channel, parts of Cornwall were lashed and flooded.

This morning brought gales… and a lone windsurfer scudding, streaking and sometimes flying over the incoming waves. I took a video (a bit noisy owing to the wind). We don’t normally have windsurfers here in the sea off Dawlish – it’s not a surf beach – but we don’t usually have golden seas either.

And now it’s just raining… heavily, but I won’t have to water the flowers tonight!

1 view

Chipmunk?

Image result for chipmunks photosImage result for chipmunks cartoon photos

 

“How do you spell chipmunk?” I asked Chris. (At the time I was writing my blog.)

“Chipmunk?” Chris queried. “Is there any other way to spell it?” and he started to spell it out to me, “‘C-H-I-P…M….”

Suddenly, it dawned on my husband that there might indeed be another way.

“Yes? Go on,” I urged.

“M…U-N-K!” he finished.

“I thought so,” I said (not wishing to sound stupid).

The other spelling would indicate something quite different…” he said laughing, “the chip-fat friar! (fryer). We could all Tuck in!”

“Forgive me for being so bald but I thought it was patently obvious,” I chipped in (in a high-pitched voice not dissimilar to the chipmunk voice on the little video I put on my blog a few days ago).

 

Image result for pics of friar tuck

Friar Tuck with Robin Hood (Richard Greene – the real Robin Hood!)

Correct spelling!

A Real Chipmonk – Correct spelling!

An Hour at Cockington Village

We left Dawlish under clouds and a mist at sea but when my brother Bill and I arrived at Cockington (Torquay) the sun came out. We had a wonderful hour (dictated somewhat by the ticket we acquired in the car park) wandering through the village and walking by the lakes. We were pricked by the memory of last time we came to Cockington together – when our dad was ill near the end of his life – but we lingered not and walked on through gardens with flowers and live music. We drove home in the sunshine, with the top down on my sporty little Peugeot, and we smiled all the way; we were so glad that we went to Cockington for an hour. My neighbour Martin said it had been miserable all day in Dawlish.

Just Call Me Princess

“What’s this?” Chris asked, picking up a bookmark which must have fallen out of a book onto the top of a bookshelf.

“It’s my personalized ‘Sally’ bookmark,” I said. “I think Mary gave it to me years ago.”

Sally (3)

“Meaning Ladylike,” he said, raising his eyebrows, as he began to read down the list of meanings for the name Sally, “‘Originating from Hebrew. Elegant and refined you are often called Princess.”‘

“That’s me,” I confirmed. (It’s so good to hear nice things, no matter the source.)

“But I don’t call you Princess – who calls you Princess?”, my husband feigned jealousy.

“Well, I don’t know but I’m sure that someone has called me Princess,” I said, keeping to myself a name that sprang to mind instantly (you have to keep some things to yourself!).

“‘Comfortable in your own company or with others’, and ‘A joy to be with you are liked by everyone.’ That’s true,” Chris conceded with a smile and we went to bed.

I hasten to say it was bedtime when we had this conversation.

A short while later in bed, when Chris was reading yet another “Reader’s Digest” and I was checking my smart phone for messages before closing down for the night, I discovered a “friend request” from an unknown name. The name appeared to me to be Indian and the small profile icon was an image of a vase of flowers. I clicked on the icon to find out more before making the decision to reject or accept the request. The message read:

“Take good care of yourself Princess!”

“Look at that!” I turned to Chris excitedly, “Somebody called me Princess.”

“Funnier still,” Chris said pointing to the line he had been reading, “at that very moment I read the word Princess!” (The article was about Japanese Princes and Princesses.)

“Synchronicity!” we said together.

And if there is any meaning to this, I think that something is trying to tell Chris to call me Princess. That will be the day!