Wednesday, 30 June 2010

Charlie Bit My Finger

Just in case you've never come across what may be the single most-viewed under-2-minute home movie clip posted to YouTube, here it is. It's called Charlie Bit My Finger - Again! Filmed by dad, its stars are Harry, 3, and his kid brother Charlie. The clip spawned a whole mini-industry of parodies, but this is the original contender which has clocked up ... you will hardly believe ...over 205 million hits.

Retaining walls and rainbows

I can't believe today is Tuesday (or Wednesday, depending on where you are relative to the international date line; here it's Wednesday) because only yesterday was Friday. That is how it seems. The case of the evaporating days.

People ask, "What have you been doing?" and I never have an answer that doesn't sound lame. "I hung out two loads of washing and chopped wood." The wood cutting might pass muster, but I detect the subtle body language, the raised eyebrow. "You don't have a clothes drier?" Yes I do. It's called sun and wind. Defensive but true, apart from it being winter and we've been having a cold wet spell.

So I spent the weekend finishing construction of about five metres of curved garden retaining wall to slow down the erosion of my neighbour's orchard by degrees into my driveway. It merely continues the twelve metre strip which runs along the foot of a new steel-posted Colorbond fence, made necessary a while back after removal of the giant Tuart tree which beetle-activity did for. Another tree of that species, on the opposite side of the garden but on that other neighbour's side of the fence (also a replaced or rather repaired strip, completed  last week) has died from the same cause and is becoming a danger. It will squash his house when it falls, as I tactfully pointed out. I said, "It will squash  your house and your tenant when it falls."

Note that most of the jobs I refer to are done by other people. This is the best sort.

As for my new garden bed, this morning I visited Lee-Anne at the  Garden Centre and bought four punnets of border seedlings which I will plant after priorities such as the next cup of coffee. As part of preparation, I already (pre-coffee) "planted" some limestone rockery rocks salvaged from other parts of my block where they had become overgrown and invisible to the passer by. The reason for the choice of limestone rocks is that there ain't any other kind around here. Good choice. The house, 100 years old, is built of them. The early settlers just called these field rocks, and a big chunk of pioneer farming labour was devoted to gathering the smaller surface stones into vast cairn-like heaps, to make way for ploughing.

Singing rehearsal on Tuesday was productive and especially pleasant with Denis returned and looking well, if slowed down from his normal very  active self; almost the whole gang present; and enough constructive bickering to keep things interesting. Next week will be unusual with Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday all accounted for by this one music-related activity: namely the rehearsing day, a performance, and then Don's 86th birthday bash. We'd a collective card of appreciation from Aileen for the chocolates and the DVD of the mock wedding event about which she enthused. In fact, the appreciation was due from us to her as the (real world) marriage celebrant who conducted the ceremony with lively Irish humour.

There was a spectacular rainbow as I drove eastwards and home from Warooka. What characterized the experience was that one end of the rainbow seemed to be only about 50 metres from me, and a tree was visible just beyond, viewed through the (double) rainbow. Nice to see. Maybe there was a crock of gold, but I left it for the leprechauns. Didn't you know that we have immigrant Irish leprechauns in this part of Australia?

Saturday, 26 June 2010

The Crop Circle Connector

Crop Circle Connector-dot-com is probably the very best website for monitoring the appearance of each year's crop formations in England, in near-real-time: well, by that I mean within 24 hours of the first spotting of a new formation ("circle") usually in a canola or barley crop, but can also occur in wheat, hayfield, maize (as the Brits call corn) and even beans. The site is maintained by Stuart Dike who takes much of the aerial footage from his ultralight aircraft, and Julian Gibsone who is responsible for producing the DVDs of each season's documented phenomena.You might agree that the old term "crop circle", which entered the language more than forty years ago, is now wildly inadequate.

This elaborate formation appeared yesterday:

The formation is too new, at the time of this posting, for there to be field reports or comments shown. Such data and commentary usually is submitted over several days by serious researchers from around the world.

I include the above direct link by way of my mini-review (i.e. "It is mind blowing") because of course the images are copyrighted to their authors and to CropCircleConnector, to which you can subscribe, as I do, by going to the host site.

Friday, 25 June 2010

Red Hair Wins

The excellent news is that our pal Denis is home from hospital in Adelaide. His scans reveal some damage but the decision was for non-intervention, that is, no surgery. Good onya, Denis.

A word of praise for the Aussie soccer players back from South Africa and the FIFA World Cup, where they narrowly missed progressing to the knock-out rounds despite the late victory over a technically clever Serbia - also skilled at taking dives and ham-acting! For some reason the referees were going easy on this tactic in each of the games I saw, despite stupid penalty decisions in other areas. But enough.

At Wimbledon, a new record tennis set, for this level of tournament, was won 70 games to 68.

In Australia, since yesterday, we have a new Prime Minister, Julia Gillard, who replaced ousted Labor Party leader Kevin Rudd to whom she was deputy. The party leader of the government of the day becomes PM as a matter of course (apart from ratification by the Governor General who represents the crown). Ms Gillard is much noticed in the media for three reasons: 1) she is the first ever female PM in this country 2) she is of Welsh origin, and 3) she has red hair. I will add that she is highly intelligent, ambitious, and probably as ruthless as required when push comes to shove. Mark Latham today warns her to watch her back. The red hair is good, however.

Tuesday, 22 June 2010

Back to Mount Hardwicke

Mount Hardwicke is the offical name for the rise on which the Warooka Uniting Church stands, in whose adjacent hall our singers rehearse every Tuesday. Nobody actually calls the location Mount Hardwicke - and many wouldn't even know. But it does have a pleasant view to Hardwicke Bay, three kilometres distant.

The group of us sent good wishes to the absent Denis, now in hospital in Adelaide, still awaiting key test results. He did suffer a stroke, but is in remarkably good spirits and holding his own. Isobel has just had a birthday but not the worry-free one she deserves. And she kindly played piano for us, in between journeys to the city to be with the patient. Denise their daughter not only prepared an afternoon tea but presented a top-notch poem which documented her observations of the group from these past weeks. She said only the nice things, applying extreme tact. Clever girl. Oh, we also got to admire the new computer. Gwenda asserts that HER new computer is scheduled to arrive the day after tomorrow, but I said I'll believe it when I see it.

In the soccer World Cup in South Africa, New Zealand the other day astounded by achieving a one-all draw with current champions Italy, hardly noted by Australian media. And those weird horns, which collectively sound like a stadium full of buzzing bees, are called, I think, vuvuzela.

Saturday, 19 June 2010

Wet and cold ... more to come

I know the weather's wet because after heavy rain one roof-gutter overflows inwards and sends a significant dripping onto my bedroom windowsill, on the inside. Until the roofing and guttering fixer shows up (he promised) lots of mopping up towels will be in use. It's a nuisance, but on a scale of minor pest to life-threatening ... it's, well, not the latter. Unless I catch pneumonia, and so far I am staying cosy.

Today I lopped some modest-sized dead branches from the blue gum for firewood. Also I messed around with a bit of DIY concreting for the footing of the retaining wall of a curved garden bed adjacent to the driveway. Nothing much - more trying to turn an eyesore into something reasonably attractive.

Yesterday Isobel and Denis, driven by Denise their daughter, called in on their way to the local hospital for Denis to have further attention after the less than the best results from his scans; we are all waiting to hear more news of his progress.

Another friend is hospitalised in Canberra; we had a telephone chat last night. Fingers crossed for a good outcome there.

The mice are still around! Accounts abound of who caught what and how many. My tally yesterday evening was two. Mice make nice children's storybook characters, but unfortunately the reality is unhygienic and messier. I suppose we could say that they show good sense and taste by preferring to come indoors when the weather turns wintry.

Wednesday, 16 June 2010

The Next Cornish Festival

The Copper Triangle's two-yearly Festival - the Kernewek Lowender, meaning Cornish Festivity - will next be held early 2011. Meanwhile here's my 30 seconds worth of slides from the last Festival, taken during the street parade in Kadina. The two other towns of the Triangle are Moonta and Wallaroo.

Kernewek Parade.

Create your own video slideshow at

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It's definitely winter now. The weather's turned windy and chilly.

Too bad about the Socceroos' first match in South Africa (the other SA) losing to 3-times world champion Germany. Have you heard those horns the fans play? Blooming heck!

Monday, 14 June 2010

Swamp Oak versus She-Oak

O.K, O.K. already. Problem solved. There's the she-oak. Or ironwood. That's it. Casuarina family. It has a zilliion names around the Pacific nations. The swamp she-oak is just one variety (swamp oak to some, such as the informant who looked at my wild back yard and said something like "I see you've lots of swamp oaks"). No. She-oaks, and the ones I've seen mentioned most, in a quick googling and Wikipedia-ing, are River She-oak and Beach She-oak.

I did its wood an injustice. It does burn well (hot, little ash residue) but it needs a good fire going to feed it to as fuel. In other words, not so flash as kindling, and the first lot I put on my log fire was particularly fresh-cut and damp, and all I had at the time. Swamp she-oak, all is forgiven. I have decided against wearing a placard saying 'Ask me about swamp oaks'.

More Freediving, and Murphy's Haystacks

I was blown away by that Guillaime Nery deep freedive - no scuba gear, just himself. Fifty odd years ago I joined a "sub-aqua" club in the U.K. That was before we'd even heard the acronym SCUBA for self-contained underwater breathing apparatus, and before any of us got hold of wetsuits either! We were impecunious university students. Anyway, it gives me a small insight into how challenging it is to go deep, something I never attempted: I have swum 70 metres underwater unassisted, no breathing apparatus. That let me begin to appreciate certain techniques of the freedivers, including careful but thorough ventilation (abdominal and thoracic) which is logical, and - which does NOT seem logical - the suppression of the breathing reflex.

The theory is that, once you KNOW the body has enough oxygen in the bloodstream to last you for, say, the next five minutes, who needs to breathe? Right? So, breathing is simply an addiction. Stop it!

Well, I SAID it was a theory.  Me, I enjoy lots of air. Best time I recall in South Australia was exploring cliff-foot caves on the north side of Wardang Island in the '70s along with Year 12 students from Adelaide's Scotch College - camped on Goose Island - using hookah gear. With this system, an air pump on an accompanying boat serves several swimming divers through long skinny clear plastic tubes, which after a while the swimmer scarcely notices.

Now, to view swimming with dolphins as you never saw it before, spend a moment with this freediver: Umberto Pelizzari.

Don't forget to click your screen's back-arrow to return to this page.

I made another 30 second video clip, this time all pix of the famous Murphy's Haystacks on Eyre Peninsula. Here 'tis. These rock formations are said to be 1,500 million years old. Who believes THAT? And they have been underwater many times in their geological career. On the day of my visit, they weren't.

 Who knew?

Sunday, 13 June 2010

Enjoyed a perfect-weather day with lunch - vegetarian curry - at Ballywire Farm Tearoom. It's only a fifteen minute drive. Gwenda joined me and we caught up on news. Since I didn't have any it was all her news, of  her grown sons and their adventures, and then of her trip on Friday driving Denis and Isobel to Wallaroo Hospital at the top end of the Peninsula (two hours each way).  Denis had scans following the minor-stroke scare of 12 days ago. Small drama involving the departure in the morning, but all was well.

The other insight from today was the discovery that I do not know the difference between a swamp oak and a she-oak. I know neither is an oak. Will I ever learn the difference? Will anybody care? If I learn, I can walk around carrying a sign reading, "Ask me about swamp oaks".

Truly the world is a puzzling place.

To prove it, here is that pic from yesterday's slide show, the four wee crabs I met at Flaherty's Beach. Now that I look at it again, I am not so sure that the crabs are expecting to open the shellfish (mussel?) although they might well be happy if they could. Are they maybe nibbling the soft tissue around the lip, and possibly attacking the anchoring "foot"? It's as well that I have no intention of sitting any exam in marine biology.

If I was a betting bloke I'd put a  buck on the big fella on the right. But the little guy at the bottom deserves marks for trying. The smallest crab's carapace is only 7 millimetres across. Water depth, 50 millimetres. This was not in a rock pool but the actual shore line, near high tide.

New Zealander Paul Cato; French Freediver Guillaume Nery

Artist Paul Cato contacted me to affirm that he is a genuine New Zealander born and bred. I apologise for a careless reading of my reference-source, and have removed the mis-information from Thursday's blog post where I accused him of being "originally from England". He was good-natured about it and didn't even ask for any correction or apology. A perfect gentleman. Sorry and thanks, Paul.

I've never had the pleasure of visiting Queenstown where Paul is; the nearest in my travels was Dunedin, circa 1992, where I thought from the accents that I was back in Scotland.

Now to another artistic link: this link takes you to an extraordinary vision based on - hey, that's a pun - a short art-film of supposed "underwater base-jump diving", performed by real-world champion FREE-DIVER,  Frenchman Guillaume Nery. Free-diving is a recognized extreme sport (no problem, simply hold your breath for several minutes and descend vertically into appropriately deep water): Nery goes to 109 metres, which frankly should not be possible for a human. For the REAL record dive go here.  For the fantasized and very beautiful edit from many filmed sequences by Julie Gautier, go to the link at the start of the paragraph, or here again.

Saturday, 12 June 2010

Yorke Peninsula Coast

Here's your link, below, to a 30-second slide show of several coastal views I took on my little Nikon Coolpix camera. These were still images but they have been mixed and cross-faded to a music background (legally acquired).

Only so much can be done in thirty seconds: watch out for more to come soon. YP has a lot of coastline! Thanks to the neat software from Animoto. You can get it too, not a cent to pay for the basic program. I am planning to upgrade to their no-limit program, after I play around some more with the freebie.

Here's the clip, which I've just called Yorke Peninsula Coast:

Watched it? What did you think? It was a try-out, really. After all, you got only the briefest of glimpses of the south bay at Edithburgh, then Coobowie causeway, one shot of Ardrossan's loading jetty taken from the BHP lookout, and Chinaman's Hat island in Innes National Park. Actually, the close-up shot of four tiny crabs attempting to open a shellfish was at Flaherty's Beach, on Hardwicke Bay. They were in about five centimetres of water. I did not wait to find out who ate whom, but left them to it.

Here's my link to the Animoto website.


Thursday, 10 June 2010

Paul Cato NZ artist - and LOTR

It was a delight to find this website of a first-rate artist, Paul Cato, working from his studio in scenic Queenstown, South Island. [ Oops. I wrongly had thought and written that Paul had come to NZ from the UK.  He set me straight. Red face, Will.]

Take a look:

Read his account of being in the first two of the three Lord of the Rings movies from the JRR Tolkien epic yarn. The films' outdoor scenes were shot in several NZ locations, some of them right at Paul Cato's doorstep.

What's more, he was hired as a 'big body double'. Why? He is six feet eight and a half inches in height! (I won't bother converting to centimetres.) It's TALL. You'll recall that the hobbits in the tale are meant to be about three feet tall. The human star-actors were NOT that size, and one of many tricks to make them seem small was to film them next to oversized doubles who dressed as the normal-height humans in the story. This works for shots where the audience isn't looking at the normal-height human actor's face.

But Paul tells his own story:

Chainsaws and rain; Alice in Wonderland

Now I have a heap of logs from dead branches of the biggest of my three almond trees. Don't use your chainsaw in the rain - but there was a break in the weather, so I got some outdoors jobs done.

Sun's out, but the temperatures are heading for our southern hemisphere winter. OK, so Antarctica is southern hemisphere, but I'm talking about our balmy South Australia where it very seldom gets to freezing. I mean - once in every ten years around here, anyway. Is that balmy enough for you.

Yeah, I saw Johnny Depp's cool Mad Hatter in the recent Alice in Wonderland movie when it hit the big screen. Now you can get it on DVD, so I've added a link to our friends at Amazon. I buy DVDs and books online now as much as in an "offline" store; you know - the kind you can walk around in. The nearest real bookshop is a three-hour drive from my place.

Here's a personal bit of nostalgia. Once upon a time I owned a copy of The Nursery Alice which the author - the Reverend Mister Charles "Lewis Carroll" Dodgson himself - had inscribed as a gift to a friend for his kids: and he'd inked a small drawing of a cat, BUT sadly Lewis Carroll didn't SIGN IT. Darn. Would have been worth a lot. I sold the volume years ago to a dealer for a few hundred dollars, or double what I paid. But, ah well, we always wish we'd hung on to such gems.

Tuesday, 8 June 2010

Minlaton once More

Yes indeed, earlier today our singers rehearsed for July and August concerts, and not only was Denis back with us courtesy of a borrowed wheelchair (he can  walk but gets dizzy) but he sang in two or three numbers with me and Don.

In contrast to our full strength male voice number, namely, THREE, on Sunday afternoon in Minlaton Town Hall  the Metropolitan Male Choir fielded over fifty grey-uniformed stalwarts all the way from their Adelaide base. Local man Neil Forrest acted as MC as well as singing: he travels weekly to rehearsals in the state capital. They were great. The concert was in aid of the Stansbury aged care nursing home Elanora, where our little group performs every three months. John Hill the lead tenor was splendid and did a couple of solos, but everyone did brilliantly.

Also on the stage for two sessions was Sassy, a classy group of three female singers who all reside on the Yorke Peninsula, known personally to several of my friends but not to me. We were privileged to hear such high quality vocal talent. And imagine, twice to Minlaton in under a fortnight for cultural purposes!

The Mays kindly took me with their small party, but unsurprisingly the audience - a full house - included others from our own singing group. Clearly we were there to offer advice, had anyone asked us. No-one did. But no matter.

Looking Brighter

The spell of pleasant early winter weather lifts the spirits: sunny days and overnight rain.

The best news is that Denis was allowed home from hospital at the weekend. He is using a walking frame but a good recovery is on the cards. The medical consensus appears to be that his stroke-like first symptoms reflected a "transient bleeding"; and the bleeding ceased before more serious damage was done. I expect to see him in about an hour's time.

Yesterday I was pruning dead limbs from an old almond tree. The wood burns a treat - unlike the wet and smoky swamp oak. Hardly a surprise.

Friday, 4 June 2010


June has not begun well. Our friend Denis was taken ill on the morning of June 1st as our singing dozen gathered for weekly rehearsal. He's in hospital and will undergo further tests in days to come. Isobel and daughter Denise have spent much time with him. Denis is one third of our male voice section, and is a well-known and respected man, with a great sense of fun. All our thoughts are with him. In his absence the rest of us did the monthly concert at the Minlaton nursing home in the showbiz tradition - the show must go on, etc - including extravagant dress-up items involving Elsie and Joan and Wendy, and Maureen whom I did not recognize at first in the wig - but there it is, captured on the DVD - and of course the irrepressible Don in a kilt of sorts ("Donald Where's Yer Troosers?") despite his not having a drop of Scots blood. Correct me if I'm wrong, Donald.

The gloom continued with word of a former colleague's recent death from motor neurone disease. Very rapid. Just three months from onset to the end. Another colleague rang to tell me this, or I would not have known because I don't read the obits ... well, I don't buy the paper. My main reason for avoiding obituaries is the usual one: scared of reading my own name there.

And three other letters or emails from old acquaintances within the past two days have held news of reverses in health or fortune. What's going on? Jeez.

Of course, international events (move over, Iceland volcano) include the Near East mayhem we come to expect. The story of the moment is of that flotilla running the Gaza blockade, soldiers from helicopters, people dead. The deaths are real and indeed tragic. The circumstances intractable. Spin from all sides. Yet how sanctimonious is the wide condemnation of Israel which, beyond question, needed to find a different formula. Were there armaments aboard some of those vessels? Very likely. Did the Israeli side, as claimed, express willingness to allow through any genuine humanitarian aid? And did they mean it?

If our Australian boarding parties from border patrol boats are opposed with force, is armed response allowed? You betcha.  Bit of a reality check is in order here, guys. Would YOU want to whack a commando, down the bloke, take his weapon, and NOT expect his mates to open fire? Not me.

This morning the Turkish Prime Minister is quoted saying his country "will never forgive" Israel (the boats carrying supplies to Gaza were organized mainly by Turkish-based groups). Umm. Never is a long time. If long memories are OK then I am heartened to think the world may now expect imminent acknowledgment, apology and reparation from Turkey for the twentieth century massacre of a million Armenians.

But you get the picture. We as political animals get ourselves locked into hate crimes forever. Two wrongs make for ... more wrongs. Heaven help us all.

One small mercy. I also heard from Julie again. She and Shin the teacher from Korea enjoyed their trip to the South East (the S.E. of South Australia, that  is: that's what we mean here when we say "the South East", where they actually get reliable rainfall and can grow radiata pine for the building industry).

On the way back Julie and Shin visited Monarto Open Range Zoo after I had raved about it. Shin liked the meerkats. Monarto, you owe me a commission for two discount entry fees: the girls used their Youth Hostel cards for child-price admission.