Time-keeping for seniors

Back when we used to be working people we used to get up before six in the morning and get on the road to Melbourne before seven, and we’d get home again by about seven in the evening. That meant we had the weekend to Get Things Done. You know – washing, ironing, house-cleaning and the like. We often did our shopping on the way home from work but if we didn’t then that was another chore for Saturday or Sunday.

And it all got done, every weekend.

These days, when we don’t have much in the daily calendar at all, it’s not quite so clock work. Most of the time we don’t even know which day of the week it is. We tend to know when Wednesday ticks around because we have to put the bins out, and Saturday’s when the paper gets delivered. Apart from that, the day of the week is whatever it says on the computer. As for the jolly little people at the checkout who ask us what we’ve got planned for the weekend… um… kick tyres in the mall?

Since we’re not sure what day it is, vacuuming happens… when we get round to it. Washing’s a bit more regular, though not always on the same day of the week. We do that when the knicker drawer starts to look a bit sparse. And shopping, I have to say, has become something to do to get out of the house.

What it boils down to is you can do all those jobs in your own sweet time and fit in fun things, like reading, taking photos and travel.

Speaking of photos I’ve been trawling through my pictures of late, so this week I’ll share some of my favourite bird shots. I hope you like them.

Pelicans at Burrum Heads

A young grey butcher bird blending perfectly with a frangipani

A welcome swallow at the harbour

A noisy miner bird sucking up nectar

Our local male magpie

A pair of kookaburras

A pale-headed rosella perched on a garden stake

Australian ibis cruising down the beach

It’s early morning and an osprey is catching some sun

Brahmani kite has just caught a fish

Osprey checking the scenery

Rainbow lorikeet confrontation. See those RED eyes?

A crested pigeon

A mini-break at Cairns

The waterfront at Cairns

It was supposed to be an all-girls chill-out – just my best friend and me, but the boys decided they wanted to come, too, so we booked flights and headed off to meet in Cairns, FNQ (Far North Queensland). Pete and I left on a respectable 10am flight. We had a slight scramble at Brisbane when we discovered our flight to Cairns was in ‘final boarding’ pretty much as soon as we got off our flight from Hervey Bay. We made it – but our luggage didn’t. This was all about mis-communication – the flight had been changed but we presented the piece of paper with the original flight, imagining that Qantas’s flight system would have had the correct details. Oh well. Luggage was delivered to the hotel in due course.

Sue and John had a rather longer flight from Perth, up at 3am to catch the plane to Sydney, wait for several hours, then fly to Cairns, arriving around 5pm. Dinner that night was pizza.

One of the fun things to do in Cairns is to take a ride up into the tablelands on a the historic railway, and come back down again on a Skyrail cable car after you’ve pottered around at the quaint little town of Kuranda. (or vice versa – here’s all the info) Kuranda is one of those very touristy places, with cafes and restaurants, and markets filled with didgeridoos, T shirts, postcards, artwork, tea towels, stuffed kangaroos… you get the picture. But it also has some other attractions, such as a bird sanctuary, a butterfly house, and a wildlife exhibition where you can get your picture taken holding a koala (for a price, of course). Here’s the Kuranda website.

On a warm humid day we caught the train up to Kuranda. It’s an old train with antique carriages where the air conditioning is you opening the windows. The train laboured up the steep gradients, passing through hand-dug tunnels and over bridges spanning deep gullies, the track curving so much several times we could see the end of the train from where we sat in carriage three.

Cairns from the train

We crept past Stoney Creek Falls thundering down the mountainside to the Barron River far below.

We also stopped for ten minutes at Barron Falls, which was just as disappointing this time as it had been on the other occasions I’ve been here. I think those waterfalls from close-up would be pretty spectacular, but they’re dwarfed by that mighty chasm. I expect that after heavy rain when the whole gorge is full of churning, roaring water, anyone standing on that viewing platform would get wet. All the way, we learned about how this railway line had been built in the 1880’s, opening in 1891. Here’s a little of the history. OH&S hadn’t been invented then. All the tunnels (there are fifteen) were dug by hand after initial blasting, and the workers were expected to bring their own tools. Many men died of disease, snake bite and accidents.

A close-up of part of Barron Falls

After we reached Kuranda we pottered around the markets for a while, then Sue and I headed for the bird sanctuary, a large, free-fly aviary with an assortment of native and exotic birds, many of them very friendly, especially if you brought in food (sold by the sanctuary). We were warned before we went in that the birds would be attracted to jewellery, buttons on caps and the like.

Here’s a selection of pictures.

Female eclectus parrot

After the bird park Sue and I wandered through the butterfly house. The enclosure is warm and very humid, the setting a beautiful tropical garden surrounding several pools. It was worth the admission just to enjoy the garden. Butterflies flittered around, sometimes settling on a leaf or a person, sometimes performing graceful duets in the air.

I’m pretty sure that’s a Cairns bird wing, largest butterfly in Australia

Later we found the boys (or they found us)  and we took the Skyrail cable car back down to sea level. There are several places on the way down where people can get off and look over the rain forest. It’s interesting comparing what you see going up in the train with the very different views from the cable cars and the board walks over the forest.

We hopped off the cable car at Red Peak, the journey’s highest point, and took a walk along a board walk through the top of the rain forest. Tour guides take groups along and explain the ecology, and you can admire the view for as long as you like before you jump back into a car to continue the journey to the viewing platform for Barron Falls.  I’d seen some pictures online from just a few weeks before, showing the falls thundering down into its gorge. It wasn’t doing that now. Still, there’s a weir at the top and the water is used for hydroelectricity, so not all the water comes down in normal circumstances.

Barron gorge. That’s the train on the opposite side to give context.

It had been a fairly long day for tired people. That night we relaxed over a few drinks,

 

The birds down the beach and other things

Ho hum. The Football World Cup is coming to its conclusion and many of the people I know who are interested in the round ball game were hoping for a France-England clash. I must admit there would have been something historically satisfying about a France-England clash. The Poms might finally have got their own back for the Battle of Hastings.

Oh wait. That was Agincourt, wasn’t it? The French were probably hoping to get their own back for the Battle of Waterloo.

The Frogs and the Poms are best mates these days, ever since WW1, which ended slightly fewer than one hundred years ago. But they were bitter enemies for many centuries before that. Alas, it is not be. The last semi-final has now been played, and it seems England will have to wait for a few years more. Croatia beat the Poms 2-1, so the grand final will be France vs Croatia, which does not have the same weighty historical significance. I expect the Croats won’t care.

To be honest, I’m not very interested in the round ball game. There’s far too much tiggy-touchwood passing and histrionics from overpaid players who roll around screaming when somebody clips their ankle. In the men’s game anyway. The women tend to just get up and get on with it. Of course, they don’t get paid as much…

The Australian team made its expected exit early in the piece, beaten by the French. Somebody pointed out that the fellow who scored the winning goal for France was ‘worth’ more (in terms of salary) than the entire Australian team. That says something. Personally, I don’t like it. It’s no longer sport, it’s an overpaid circus. Yes, I know cricket players and rugby/AFL players get paid a lot, too, but not in the millions and millions paid to these fellows.

The best football news I’ve heard lately is that 12 Thai kids and their coach are back above ground. Such a wonderful thing to get some good news for a change.

Oh – and in the State of Origin Rugby League (which is a HUGE thing in Queensland and New South Wales)  the Cane Toads (Qld) beat the Cockroaches (NSW) in the third of a three-game series. NSW had already won the series – but Don’t. Call. It. A. Dead. Rubber. (I wonder why they call it a rubber?)

If football’s not your thing you can always watch the tennis at Wimbledon. Sorry, I’m not a tennis fan, either. But even I think it’s great to see the oldies doing so well. Carn Roger, carn Raffa, carn Serena. (‘carn’ is Australian for ‘come on’.)

I was delighted to see that the officials at Wimbledon have refused to move the mens’ grand final to accommodate the football world cup final. After all, it’s tradition.

And now for something Quite Interesting – birds at our beach.

This Brahmani kite is one half of a couple of pairs who hang around the beach. It has just caught/found a sea snake for supper and is carrying it off.

Pelicans are often seen around the Torquay area or at the pier. These three are in perfect formation, flying low across the water.

There’s a couple of pairs of ospreys with territory on the beach, too. They’re often seen around the pier, on the rocks, or in their favourite beachfront trees. This one has just taken off after a bath. The ospreys and the kites seem to exist quite equitably together. They’re often seen in fairly close proximity to each other.

An Australian white ibis comes in to land amongst its fellows foraging at low tide. They are the local scavengers, rummaging around in bins for scraps and hanging around people trying to eat their fish ‘n chips. But they come down here for their natural food, too.

Of course we have the ubiquitous silver gull. This one’s just landed on the shore. Unlike pretty much everywhere else in Australia, our gulls don’t mob people for food. There’s usually plenty for them to eat, what with fishermen leaving fish carcasses on the beach.

And that will do for this Saturday. Enjoy the sporting blockbuster of your choice, and I hope your team/player wins.

 

Birds in my backyard

After last week’s post about a newcomer bird in the garden, it occured to me it might be nice to show you some of my regulars. So here they are, in no particular order.

A young blue-faced honey eater. The green around the eye goes blue as they age

Adult blue-faced honey eater

A magpie lark, also known as a mud lark, or a pee wee

Scaly-breasted lorikeet – smaller but bolder than the rainbows

Crested pigeon. Dumb as a brick

A baby butcher bird begs for food

An adult butcher bird fans his tail

An adult magpie ignores the baby’s begging

A baby galah tries his luck with mum (who’s not very interested)

A long-billed corella. We get the other variety, too

Gee, and that’s just a handful. I’ll show you some more another time.

 

 

Here we go again

We the Australian consumers are being shafted again. I have to admit we should be used to it. We pay soooo much more for just aboout everything, really, than people in the USA or UK. Cars, ride-on mowers, computers, TVs, books, DVDs. This is not just the exchange rate. Major items like cars and mowers cost TWICE as much as what they do in the US, even allowing for exchange rate, and shipping. Books have always been much more expensive here than overseas etc etc. Even Netflix costs. Oh yeah, Netflix. Higher costs and crappy choices, not a patch on what’s out there in the USA.

This particular rant is the result of Amazon’s (understandable) decision to not collect GST for the Federal Government. Here’s a quote from The Australian newspaper.

“Earlier today Amazon announced that it would block Australian consumers from having access to hundreds of millions of items and forcing them to choose from a slimmed down offer on the Australian Amazon site.

Australian shoppers will be locked out from buying their favourite goods on Amazon’s US and UK platforms — which offer hundreds of millions of items for sale — after changes to the GST on online purchases forced the online retailer to partly quarantine Australia from its international network.”

And you can read all about it here.

“Slimmed down” is damn right. Amazon’s new Australian store is a joke. We buy online for a lot of things, both for price and availability, but Amazon (AU) doesn’t have the range we need. Living in a small town is nice, but the downside is choice of retailers. For example, apart from the limited offerings in Big W and Target, there is one bookstore in the Bay. One. Guess how much shelf space is allocatd to SFF? I buy my ebooks from Amazon Australia because I have no choice (that is, I can’t buy from any other Amazon store). The exchange rate plus the GST means I pay much more for books than I would through Amazon US. Yes, we can buy through other vendors. But (you’ll love this – we did) we cannot buy ebooks from B&N because we live in Australia! Can I have another ! please? I mean, really, WTF? It’s an ebook, delivered through the ether. Kobo, at least, has grabbed a brain and will take our money AND deliver a book, and Smashwords never embarked on such silliness.

GST is a good idea. It places the tax burden on everyone on a pay-as-you-spend basis. BUT… if you’re going to ask a multi-national to collect tax for you, then the option to withdraw service is there. It would cost Amazon a fortune to collect tax for the Australian Government. I’m not suggesting the company shouldn’t pay tax. But I think it’s important to remember that Amazon doesn’t actually manufacture anything. It’s just a shop front. People who actually make the stuff (like me when I write a book) already pay tax if we make a sale. Amazon’s profits come from providing that shop front. If all the highly-paid accountants and financial advisers got together I’m sure they could come up with an equitable solution, like asking Amazon to pay corporate tax as (say) a percentage of revenue made through the Australian online store. Or something. That way, the long-suffering Australian consumer wouldn’t have to be shoved into the backwoods yet again.

Back to local news.

I had a new visitor to the Magic Pool Fence the other day, a bird I’d never seen before. Having taken pictures, I went through the bird book and discovered it was a spangled drongo (true). This one seemed pretty happy around the humans and was pleased to pick up a piece of the meat I threw out for the butcher birds. A very handsome creature, mainly black with iridescent blue-green tail, and the same colour ‘spangles’.

I’m not sure why they called it a drongo, though. Seemed quite bright to me.

We’ve also had a solitary kookaburra hanging around for most of the day. That’s unusual. They’re gregarious birds that notmally hang out in families. I suppose he wanted to chill by himself for a while. He certainly wasn’t injured or ill – happy to eat morsels thrown out for him and could fly well enough. He disappeared at night fall but returned mid-morning. That has happened for several days.

We get a lot of different birds in our yard. It’s always a pleasure to see them.

And let’s end with the ever-present rainbow lorikeets.