Tag Archives: rain

Season’s Greetings

So appropriate for a festival celebrating the return of the sun

It’s that time of year again – the frenetic holiday season where everybody runs around like a cut snake to celebrate… something. It’s no coincidence (as I’m sure you all know) that all the major religions have a festival that pretty well coincides with the Northern Hemisphere’s Winter Solstice. Christmas, Hanukkah, Yule, Saturnalia, Sinter Klaas, and many others. Basically, they celebrate the end of winter and the return of the sun and focus on light, food, and family and friends. So whatever your beliefs, enjoy the day however you celebrate.

Here in Australia, of course, we’re having the Summer Solstice, the longest day of the year, and although we don’t usually celebrate the height of summer, this year I think Peter and I won’t be the only ones breathing a sigh of relief. The whole world knows our entire continent has been drought-stricken for most of the year. The fuel load has built up in forests which have evolved to need fire to reproduce, and late spring and summer arrived with a fiery blast. Bush fires (far too often deliberately lit) have devastated communities in every state.

My heart goes out to those people who have lost everything – homes, pets, stock, their livelihoods – on the eve of the Christmas holidays. I have nothing but admiration for the fire fighters, many of them volunteers, who risk their lives to fight the flames. There have been deaths – to my mind, amazingly few. Let’s all hope it stays that way. Vast swathes of territory have been burned and are still burning. Only Gaia can put them out.

And at least there’s hope she’s listening.

The positive Indian Ocean Dipole is all but finished and the negative Southern Angular Mode is coming closer to neutral so we finally have a chance of normal rainfall patterns coming soon. The model below is for 31st December. Bring it on.

Copied from John’ Weather Channel on Facebook https://www.facebook.com/JohnsWeatherChannelJwc/photos/pcb.3296783437062633/3296783327062644/?type=3&theater

A large storm moved through our area overnight, bringing much-needed rain to parched areas. We’re happy for the 4mm in our rain gauge – and also happy to miss out on damaging winds and hail. In Australia it’s so often about extremes.

On a personal front, Pete and I came back home from a three-week trip to Vietnam and Cambodia about a week ago. As so often has been the case with us, we came home sick with probably a form of Asian flu. We’ve been to the doctor and things are finally starting to look up on the health front so I’ll be writing my thoughts about the journey. It was fascinating. A mix of modern history associated with the Vietnam war and the Killing Fields, and much older history with places like Angkor Wat, Hue’s Citadel, and Hoi An old city. We visited the incredible Ha Long Bay and drove over the mountains at Da Nang. And we visited villages to see how ordinary people live. It was rather like visiting a country undergoing an industrial revolution, with all the challenges associated with such a paradigm shift. Especially when you’re a privileged Westerner with all your prejudices and sensitivities. Some of our experiences at a very ordinary level were quite confronting.

I hope you’ll come along with me as I relive our journey. For now, wassail, bottoms up, cheers and all that. Merry Christmas.



The Goldilocks years

This one wasn’t too bad 2018 – sound and fury and 15mm of rain

Rainfall can be such a hit-and-miss business in Australia. I can’t remember the last time when it was a non-issue; that is, not too little, not too much – just right. Remember Goldilocks? Even going back to my childhood in Perth, we watched and waited for the winter rains to fill the hollows in the hills and set the little streams running to fill the dams. If the winter rains were late, the level of angst would rise. It’s a Mediterranean climate over there, so every year, summer is dry. There might be an occasional summer storm, usually associated with the remains of a cyclone up north, but that’s a rarity. As summer approached in Perth, I’d pack up my jeans, my winter woollies, and my umbrella, confident I wouldn’t need them until around March. Maybe. If the winter rains had failed, we’d be up for water restrictions, too.

Mind you, I remember one year, around the late seventies(?) when it rained and rained and bloody rained to the extent that we wished for a break. Every day of every week for pretty much all of July and August the skies were grey and the streets sodden. We weren’t used to it and it affected everyone’s moods. The winter blues wasn’t normally a big thing in Perth. We had our rain days but every once in a while, you’d get calm, clear, cold days full of sunshine to brighten the spirits. But not that year. It was probably one of the few years where the dams actually overflowed, a much-celebrated event.

When I left Perth I went to live in Greendale, a little rural spot in the Pentland Hills west of Melbourne. I had imagined it would be wetter than Perth, being further south and all that. I was wrong, At the time, average rainfall was around 700mm to Perth’s 733mm. The rainfall pattern wasn’t the same, either. Although most rain falls in the winter months, rain can fall any time of the year. The first year we lived in Greendale the rains were good. I don’t know if my moving over to Victoria had anything to do with it, but 1996 was the start of a long period of drought. Since we relied on tank water for all our needs, we started keep daily rainfall figures in 2003.

You’ll see back then the average was taken to be around 700mm but the closest we came in those years was 600mm in 2004. The monthly graph shows how random the rainfall was by month. Feb 2005, Oct 2004 and Dec 2006 were boom months. Those pale blue columns that form a wave? That’s the BOM averages. The actual figures are nothing like as predictable.

Over here in sub-tropical Queensland it’s a bit different. We’re supposed to get our rain in summer, or what we optimistically call the wet season. Our winters are warm and dry, and cool at night. It’s perfect for long walks along the beach, with little wavelets lapping at your feet. The tourists up here from Victoria, or from Europe, go swimming or lie on the sand sunbathing. It’s too cold for us locals to go into the water but it’s a lovely time of year.

Winter at the day. with tourists

But if the dry goes on too long, we watch the sky, or more often these days, the Bureau of Meteorology (BOM) radar maps. Being within cooee of the coast, our average rainfall here is rather higher than either Perth or Greendale, coming in it at 1,062mm. But once again, we found that the Goldilocks years were few and far between.

That’s how it is in Australia – if you’re not having a flood, you’re having a drought. It all depends on whether el Niño or la Niña is affecting the weather in the Pacific, and what’s happening with the Indian Ocean dipole index. As for this year – it’s not looking good for a decent wet season.

Here’s our rainfall graph for the last 10 years. Up and down like a prostitute’s drawers.

Here are the figures by month.

Once again, apart from saying it doesn’t rain as much in winter, what’s to say? In 2012 unseasonal rain was pretty common. In 2010 more than half a year’s worth fell in December.

It’s always interesting looking at accumulated rain each year.

I picked up the BOM average figures for our area from the website and I also calculated the actual 10-year average from our own figures, which gives a figure of 1100mm for the year.

Unless some significant rain happens between now and the end of the year, we’re looking at our lowest rainfall in all the time we’ve lived here. 2019 is the yellow line at the bottom.

But it’s all okay. The Indian Ocean index will reverse, la Niña will arrive, the rain will fall, and we’ll complain about the wet.

I’ll finish with the iconic poem by John O’Brien, SAID HANRAHAN, first published in 1919.


“We’ll all be rooned,” said Hanrahan,
In accents most forlorn,
Outside the church, ere Mass began,
One frosty Sunday morn.

The congregation stood about,
Coat-collars to the ears,
And talked of stock, and crops, and drought,
As it had done for years.

“It’s lookin’ crook,” said Daniel Croke;
“Bedad, it’s cruke, me lad,
For never since the banks went broke
Has seasons been so bad.”

“It’s dry, all right,” said young O’Neil,
With which astute remark
He squatted down upon his heel
And chewed a piece of bark.

And so around the chorus ran
“It’s keepin’ dry, no doubt.”
“We’ll all be rooned,” said Hanrahan,
“Before the year is out.

“The crops are done; ye’ll have your work
To save one bag of grain;
From here way out to Back-o’-Bourke
They’re singin’ out for rain.

“They’re singin’ out for rain,” he said,
“And all the tanks are dry.”
The congregation scratched its head,
And gazed around the sky.

“There won’t be grass, in any case,
Enough to feed an ass;
There’s not a blade on Casey’s place
As I came down to Mass.”

“If rain don’t come this month,” said Dan,
And cleared his throat to speak–
“We’ll all be rooned,” said Hanrahan,
“If rain don’t come this week.”

A heavy silence seemed to steal
On all at this remark;
And each man squatted on his heel,
And chewed a piece of bark.

“We want a inch of rain, we do,”
O’Neil observed at last;
But Croke “maintained” we wanted two
To put the danger past.

“If we don’t get three inches, man,
Or four to break this drought,
We’ll all be rooned,” said Hanrahan,
“Before the year is out.”

In God’s good time down came the rain;
And all the afternoon
On iron roof and window-pane
It drummed a homely tune.

And through the night it pattered still,
And lightsome, gladsome elves
On dripping spout and window-sill
Kept talking to themselves.

It pelted, pelted all day long,
A-singing at its work,
Till every heart took up the song
Way out to Back-o’Bourke.

And every creek a banker ran,
And dams filled overtop;
“We’ll all be rooned,” said Hanrahan,
“If this rain doesn’t stop.”

And stop it did, in God’s good time;
And spring came in to fold
A mantle o’er the hills sublime
Of green and pink and gold.

And days went by on dancing feet,
With harvest-hopes immense,
And laughing eyes beheld the wheat
Nid-nodding o’er the fence.

And, oh, the smiles on every face,
As happy lad and lass
Through grass knee-deep on Casey’s place
Went riding down to Mass.

While round the church in clothes genteel
Discoursed the men of mark,
And each man squatted on his heel,
And chewed his piece of bark.

“There’ll be bush-fires for sure, me man,
There will, without a doubt;
We’ll all be rooned,” said Hanrahan,
“Before the year is out.”


I mean no disrespect to the farmers doing it tough out there in a seemingly never-ending drought. I’m just making the point that it isn’t new.


Spring has sprung

Our side garden while the grass is still green

For those of us in the southern hemisphere, spring is either around the corner or happening now. It’s not a huge event for us. The only deciduous trees we have are frangipanis and yes, the leaf buds at the ends of the branches are starting to swell. The very coldest (for us) winter nights are behind us now and the days are warm, in the mid-twenties, and dry. Soon enough the temperatures will rise and with them, the humidity. If we’re very lucky, we might even have a wet season this year but so far, the prospects are not good. We can already see the grass drying out.

It’s that oscillation between the oceans. The west coast is getting some of the rain it missed out on in the last few years and over here on the east coast many areas are enduring another year of drought. Last year the rain expected in the wet season, between December and March, didn’t happen here. The only cyclones were right up north and thankfully not very strong, although one huge rain depression sat over Townsville causing devastation on drought-ravaged pastoral properties. I think the graziers up there are still cleaning up. But at least the rain topped up the dams, the inland rivers, and the ground water.

Lorikeets love callistemon flowers

Here in Hervey Bay the callistemons are starting to flower, much to the delight of the lorikeets and other honey eaters. The mango trees are setting fruit and we have our fingers crossed that this year the rain will come and we’ll actually get more survivors than last year’s two. That’s right; two mangoes from two large trees. Our lime tree is bearing well and we’ve frozen quite a lot of juice in ice cube trays.  They’re lovely to add to water on a hot and humid day.

One tree has brand new tiny mangoes

The other tree is still in the flower stage

This year also we’ll keep an eye on those bunches of ripening bananas. We were warned that if we didn’t collect them when they were just ripe the birds would help us. We were a day late and didn’t salvage any. But the lorikeets, miner birds, and blue-faced honey eaters (also called ‘banana birds’) enjoyed a feast.

Hopefully we’ll get to share this with the birds


Salad greens and herbs, with three tomato plants down the end. We’ve also planted seeds for snow peas and green beans

We’ve been busy in the garden planting herbs and salad greens. Come summer the plants will bolt but in the meantime, rocket (arugula) and lettuce will be welcome. So will the tomatoes. We’ve planted a large variety, a roma tomato, and a cherry tomato. They’ll go well with basil, coriander, and parsley. It’ll be lovely as long as we can keep the insects at bay, especially fruit fly.

I’ve also planted some ornamental flower seeds to fill in some corners. Who knew petunia seeds were so small? They’re the only ones that haven’t made a showing so far. But there’s time.

(L-R) allysum, cosmos, marigolds, petunias

The main thing we need is rain. If you’d care to help us by sending up prayers, magical spells, or incantations, or maybe suitable ritual sacrifices if that’s part of your belief system, we would be very grateful.

The rain has (finally) come

I’m delighted to be able to report that we have been rained upon – nice, gentle, soaking rain which can continue on for longer if it wants. Encouraged by the 30mm or so we’d had before, I planted a cutting that I’d had under shelter, developing roots. The plant had a good root ball – but the ground where I planted it was only damp for about 3mm. The water had simply run off. I was surprised but that’s what you get after a prolonged dry period. I’m hopeful this time will be better.

All the plants in all the gardens in town have heaved a huge sigh of relief and started to develop new growth. This was, of course, particularly true of the weeds, which always take advantage of any opportunity. The big task now is to keep the weeds under control and give the grass a chance. The callistemons (see above) are flush with new growth and even flowers, which have pleased the resident honey eaters. The one at the top is an Australian noisy miner feasting on a flower. That’s great to see.

The weather has had other consequences. Pete and I, like quite a few other people in town, have contracted a kind of fluey virus that makes us lethargic, hot and sweaty, and achy. The doctor has assured us we’ll get the runny nose and coughs in due course. Something to look forward to.

I’ve been amusing myself by re-reading Terry Pratchett’s Tiffany Aching books. In the first one, Wee Free Men, Tiffany is nine years old. It won an award for children’s books and I suppose an older child could read it. But I was nine about… let’s see… sixty years ago and I’ve enjoyed the book several times already. Like all Terry’s stories, it’s a mix of hilarity, mythology, and life lessons. Oh, and it breaks that Rule of Writing that states you should use dialect sparingly in novels, just enough to get the flavour. The Wee Free Men are Feegles, fairy folk six inches tall who could easily be mistaken for Scots, right down to the kilts, the swords, and the wode. They speak in broad Scottish accents. All the time. Here’s a wee example. “Rob Anybody looked offended.  ‘We ne’er get lost!’ he said.  ‘We always ken where we are!  It’s just sometimes mebbe we aren’t sure where everything else is, but it’s no’ our fault if everything else gets lost! The Nac Mac Feegle are never lost!’ ”

If you’re bored with Brexit or Orange Don, have a look. Wee Free Men.

Apart from that, I’ve had some fun creating posters for my books in Photoshop. Here are a few examples.

To find out more about the books just click on the picture.

Waiting for Oma

This “wet season” has turned out to be a pretty dry season. No, a VERY dry season. In previous posts I’ve mentioned we had 1mm of rain in January. So far in February the rain gods have managed 35.5mm, which is slightly less than two tenths of bugger all in this part of the world. I’ll show you what I mean. This graph shows cumulative rainfall per month per year over the last ten years. 2019 is that tiny yellow bump at the bottom.

Mind you, these things can change very quickly hereabouts. Townsville, which is usually a pretty dry place nicknamed ‘brownsville’ was absolutely flooded just a few weeks ago. I mentioned those floods a couple of weeks ago in the post entitled ‘a typical Australian summer‘. We did ask nicely if they’d share, and I’m sure they would have been delighted to oblige but it doesn’t work that way. Townsville is about 1,100km north of Hervey Bay, so the system would have had to come down the coast to reach us. It didn’t. It moved out to sea, where it became Tropical Cyclone Oma.

When the old lady (Oma means grandma in Dutch) started moving towards Hervey Bay we got all excited. Not that we particularly wanted all the wind and such, but we did like the idea of rain.  Mind you, Oma was a cat 3 at its worst, then downgraded to a 2, but it’s wise not to underestimate the power of a cyclone.

Here’s the Bureau of Meteorology’s (BOM) best guesses for the cyclone’s track on the 19th.

This is a very good indication of how well the weather bureau, with all its fancy computers and wonderful algorithms, can predict the path of a cyclone. In this diagram the most likely path takes it round about through Fraser Island.

We got a cyclone warning and everything. Expect over 100mm of rain per day for the next several days, perhaps more. Clean up your yard, empty your gutters, make sure you have emergency supplies in case you’re cut off and/or there are power outages.

Emergency supplies

So we bought a couple of cans of baked beans, a packet of mixed nuts, Cadbury’s favourites, and stocked up on Scotch. Then we tidied up the yard. Pete took garden refuse to the tip and we put away our garden furniture and anything else that might have turned into a projectile.

The wind picked up on Thursday afternoon, but the clouds scudding up the coast from the south missed us – and most other people’s properties.

On Friday morning the BOM’s cyclone chart looked like this. Oma looks as though she’s going to stall and then head north again, well out to sea. If she does cross, they’re guessing poor old Townsville and Cairns which have both had quite sufficient for this wet season, thanks all the same, will be in for a little bit more inundation.

So… we’ve still had no rain. Windy and dry is very hard on plants and many of ours are suffering.

If any of you are in to pagan rituals, offerings to the rain gods, naked dancing, weird chants and whathaveyou, any offerings or supplications on our behalf would be gratefully accepted.

Seems to me if all the meteorologists were given a coloured marker and then blindfolded and asked to put a dot or several on a map of Queensland, they might well have ended up with a similar result to those projection charts. And although I know ‘weather’ and ‘climate’ are two different things, if the algorithms they use to predict one cyclone’s path are in any way analogous to the climate models that predict the climate in one hundred years’ time… well, make your own conclusions.

I remember years ago watching a wonderful documentary about the Chaos theory (entitled ‘Chaos’). It talked about the development of the mathematics around fractals, and the work of Benoit Mandelbrot whose name was given to the basic mathematical formula that produces the wonderful patterns (the Mandelbrot set). In the early days, computers were used for weather forecasts. Even then, when the best of computers weren’t a match for the processing power of the phone in your pocket, a computer did a faster, more accurate job than a human. The algorithms were complex and calculated figures to nine or ten (or something) decimal points. One day something went wrong and the forecasters lost their data, although they did have the final results. They re-entered the figures, using only three decimal places. The results they obtained were vastly different to what they got from the raw figures, which led to the question ‘why’ that leads most ground-breaking science. Which goes to show that tiny fluctuations can make huge differences. The plotting for cyclones is a great illustration of that truth.

Fascinating stuff.

Oh – and I’ve nearly finished that book.



A long, dry summer

Somebody sent up an alarm call

Here in Hervey Bay we’re begging for rain. It’ll probably have as much impact as praying but at least we can feel we’re doing something. The grass is brown and crackles underfoot, except for the bits that manage to get some water from somewhere. We never water the grass. We recycle the water from our septic system onto the garden, so the bromeliads and the natives are hanging on but one of our two mango trees has a drift of dead leaves under it. The other one benefits from next door’s septic. Each evening we water parts of the garden that look particularly desperate but when it comes down to it, there’s nothing like good, soaking rain. Even 10mm makes a huge difference. This is supposed to be our wet season but over the last few years January has been dry. Let’s hope the coming weeks include some wet stuff from the sky.

The line-up at the pool fence

The dry weather doesn’t just affect the plants. Our bird bath is popular and I have to refill it every day. I usually only put out apple juice for the birds in the evening but I’ve had some of the braver parrots coming to the door asking for AJ in the morning and I’ve had to provide second sittings several times. They’re not reliant on being fed. When natural food is plentiful we don’t see that many and sometimes we’ve been completely abandoned. But never for too long.

Strange fruit

The butcher birds and the miner birds are always here hoping for a hand-out and we’re visited less regularly by kookaburras and magpies. We also hear, but not necessarily see, the pale-headed rosellas.

Our resident possum who lives in a tree log on the opposite side of the pool raised a baby, which has moved into a bird house attached to a palm tree. The hole was too small for it so it did some renovation, breaking the marine ply to make the hole larger. I think the house will soon be too small. But that’s nature.

This week we’re being changed over to Australia’s broad band network. That happens on Wednesday. We’re all ready. Let’s hope our ISP is, too.

Apart from all that, I’m working slowly on a new book. It’s SF, next in my Morgan’s Misfits series. I’ll never make a fortune from writing but it keeps my brain active.

If you’re into praying, or voodoo, or witchcraft – whatever. Could we order some rain, please?

Thanks in advance.


Just another lazy Sunday

The thing about being retired is which day of the week it is doesn’t matter much. In fact, you know those questions they ask old folks to see if they still have mental capacity? One of them is ‘what day of the week is it’? Just as well I have a computer because otherwise, quite often I wouldn’t know. The state of the shops and car parks is a bit of a give-away. Even with every-day trading, at around 1pm on Saturday afternoon, Hervey Bay shuts down. The roads empty – although there are still plenty of people in Bunnings or the Mall.

Sunday’s a bit the same.

Oh – and Wednesday is bin night, so we have to remember that one to put the bins out for collection. Still, if we forget we’ll know Thursday morning when we see the rows of bins outside everyone else’s house.

Butcher bird doing exercises

The animal life doesn’t give a damn what day of the week it is. This morning a butcher bird came to tell me he was waiting for breakfast. We give him small pieces of bacon rind. He eats the first piece, waits with the second piece in his beak, then I throw a handful out. He (and a couple of others) eat their fill then take the rest back to the nest.

Then the resident lorikeet couple  came to the veranda. The male comes up and virtually knocks on the door. “Where’s ours, missus?”

If it happens to be bath morning we get a hootin’ hollerin’ bunch of bathers in the bird bath. It’s very popular with everybody except the miner birds who still prefer the Big Blue swimming pool and the adrenalin rush of bathing in danger.

You might recall I mentioned a couple of weeks ago our mango trees were covered in fruit? Not anymore. Most of it has fallen off. Even so, there’s something out there that likes unripe, hard mangoes. The windfalls have been chewed by rats or possums, maybe both.

After another very dry month, a large storm system swept past last evening, slapping the Bay area with a sideswipe as it headed out to sea. After a bit of sound and fury it dropped 9mm of rain on our grateful garden. We’d like some more, of course. What else is new? But then, in Australia it’s boom or bust. In a month’s time we might be begging for some dry spells.

Back into life as we know it

After all the travel dramas, life has fizzled out to its pretty boring routine. Except for the rain. 2017 will go down as a ‘feast or famine’ result in the rain gauge. Was it only this year that we bolted back home from Northern Queensland with tropical cyclone Debbie on our tail? After receiving only 26mm in January and February, which are supposed to be our wetter months, Debbie dumped 390mm in March. But after she’d emptied herself, the skies dried up. Winter is always the ‘dry’ here in Hervey Bay, but this was a drought. The grass (I couldn’t possibly call it a lawn) went brown, and even my large rosemary bush turned up its toes.

After the rain there’s a rainbow – and that’s the TV aerial

The rain was waiting for us when we got home from Europe. In the space of 3 weeks in October we had 561mm, and in November we had another 235mm. That’s about 32 inches in the old measure – Perth doesn’t get much more than that in a year. La Nina has arrived and we’re looking ahead at a long wet season. We’re not really complaining – that’s life in the sub-tropics. But I’ll have a little complain. The weeds, of course, burst out of dormancy long before the grass, and mowing was out of the question – the ride-on would have sunk down to its axles in the mud in a few minutes. As soon as the ground had dried a little the mower decided it was time for a refit. New blades and new bearings were (eventually) obtained. This is Queensland, after all. And the jungle was kind of tamed.

That’s not a permanent water feature

That long drought meant we had a large contingent of birds arriving at the pool fence for evening apple juice and a turn in the bird bath, and the predator birds were grateful for some uncooked bacon rind. When the rains came, everybody dispersed to their natural food sources, although we’d always get a few locals popping in. It’s been a while since we’ve had a four o’clock line-up, though.

The possum in his house

Not long after we came home we noticed a commotion from the local birds, who don’t like seeing the possum during the day. There he was, peering out of his house while all the birds screeched at him. He lives in a large hollow log which Pete had fitted with a roof and a base, and then tied to a palm tree. I suspect he was trying to tell us something, because that was when we noticed the base of the house lying under the tree. So that had to be fixed so he could move back in.

We have a pair of pee wees (magpie larks) in our yard. They decided that the TV aerial on top of the house would be a great place to build their beautiful mud nest. (See top picture) While they’re great builders, they’re sloppy and the roof under the construction site was a mess of twigs and mud. It’s also a lousy place to build a nest – no protection from sun and rain, and the eggs would be easy pickings for a crow or kookaburra. Pete hosed the nest down several times, but the birds persevered. So he rigged up fishing line to deter them. It worked – for two days, by which time they moved the construction up the aerial. But Pete is persistent, too. The aerial is now devoid of nest and festooned with fishing line, which appears to have had the added advantage of deterring the crows.

Lorikeets and their natural food

Our lovely local kookaburra

I’m glad to say after the health dramas plaguing us in Europe we’re all better. I’m thinking about starting a new book, but we’ll see. In the meantime I’ve been amusing myself playing Solitaire, and messing about with Photoshop. I’ll leave you with my latest creation. See you next week.

I wish it would rain

The full moon in cloud. So atmospheric.

The full moon in cloud. So atmospheric.

I know, it’s been far too wet in too many parts of Australia. Lake Eyre is still full, farmers in Tasmania and Victoria wish it would all lift its skirts and bugger off elsewhere and there’s STILL snow at Falls Creek. Western Queensland is well satisfied with the precipitation, thanks very much. But here along the Fraser Coast the grass is crunchy underfoot. And up North Fitzroy Crossing isn’t the only place watching the water levels. Bring on the monsoon.

Sure, I’ll complain about the rain when it gets too much, but in the meanwhile, a few inches would be nice.

I also wish the media would stop with sensationalising natural phenomena like the moon up there. We’re all so used to supermarkets going on about super sales and super size. But the fact is, the recent “Super” moon was just our regular old full moon at perigee-syzygy of the Earth–Moon–Sun system. Which means it’s at its closest point to Earth, so being closer, it looks a tad larger. Even so, if nobody told you, I expect you’d be none the wiser. You might say, “isn’t the moon bright tonight?” but that’s about it. It’s all rather well explained here, with a nifty diagram showing the actual difference in size to a ‘normal’ full moon.There’s also a reference to the apogee-syzygy, which has been called a micromoon. It’s not talked about much. We humans prefer to talk about larger sizes in all sorts of arenas.

That’s not a super moon in the photo, by the way. Personally, I think dear old Luna is pretty special all the time.

In other news, we attended my nephew’s wedding in Brisbane a few weeks ago. What a fun event it turned out to be. Very best wishes to Jake and his lovely wife, Amelia. It was our pleasure to attend.

On the writing front, I’m getting back to my Work in Progress provisionally entitled The Stuff of Legend. It has been a hard slog for a lot of reasons. The main one is that, although I write space opera, I still like to ensure the science works. If I find myself thinking, “but why would…” or just as important, “why wouldn’t…” then something’s wrong and I have to backtrack. Some people would just say I’ll fix it later and charge off to finish the first draft, but I don’t work like that. I need to know it’s all making sense. So… progress hasn’t been as fast as I’d like, but it IS happening. I’ve even booked a spot with my favourite cover designer.

Meanwhile, I keep abreast of the US craziness via my Facebook family, where I particularly enjoy the Obama-Biden memes. Here, take a look. The coming months will prove interesting.

I sincerely hope my American friends all enjoyed Thanksgiving with family and friends. But – and I say this from the heart – you can take your Black Friday and stick it… somewhere. We don’t need Black Friday in Australia anymore than we need Halloween, or, for that matter, Thanksgiving. Huh. Yet another ‘Super’ sale. Ours (traditionally) happens on Boxing Day – the day after Christmas, which I believe is not a holiday in the US. In many respects, globalisation sucks.

Let’s see now… this week’s photo gallery. A few sights that took my fancy.

Kimberley gorgeousness - the Ord river

Kimberley gorgeousness – the Ord river


Summer at the Bay – low tide and fluffy cumulus cloud

The Chichester Range in the Pilbara

The Chichester Range in the Pilbara

Whitehaven Beach on Whitsunday Island

Whitehaven Beach on Whitsunday Island

2 – Things never go exactly to plan, do they?


The Moonie river – an unexpected sight

We left St George after breakfast and headed for the opal fields in Lightning Ridge in NSW. The plan was to take a quick look, then head on down to Bourke for the night. But things never go exactly to plan, do they?

Our first hiccough was an unscheduled stop at the Nindigully pub. Remember the issue with the GPS? Well, we figured this was all plain sailing, turned it off, and ended up on the wrong highway. About then the driver required a pit stop (if you catch my meaning). Fortunately, this pub was on the way, a short distance to the right. And it turned out to be right beside the Moonie river, which was full! As you will have gathered, seeing more than a few puddles in these inland rivers at this time of year is a rare and wonderful thing. While Pete attended to his business, I went out with the camera. Which goes to show taking the wrong road can sometimes be a Good Thing.


The Nindigully pub. Note the mud and puddles and the sign on the roof for the Flying Doctor


The (closed) bridge across the Moonie at Nindigully

But having taken the wrong road, we had to get back on track. That meant a narrow secondary road over to the other highway. There were substantial puddles on both sides of the road and a sign warning that water was across it, but we thought we’d give it a go. If we did come across a water obstacle, we’d think again – they do say “If it’s flooded, forget it”. But on the other hand, I can’t count the number of times we came across signs saying road works where there weren’t any.

We didn’t encounter any water across the road – but we did encounter drovers moving a mob of cattle along the Long Paddock. The beasts all looked fat and glossy, pigging out on the fresh green grass. It must have been a huge change for them after the years of drought. And good luck to the farmers. I hope they make a squillion in what promises to be a good year (up here in the Maranoah, anyway).

A drover moving cattle

A drover moving cattle

We had lunch at Lightning Ridge. This is another tiny town that’s made a name for itself. Opal miners work the dirt here, looking for colour and that icon of jewellery, the black opal. About a million caravans were parked on the streets, proving the town’s propaganda had done the job of persuading the growing numbers of Gray Nomads to come and visit. You can do a tour of a working mine, see an opal cutting demonstration, and get a glimpse of the town’s history. The people who live here are tough and need every bit of their ingenuity. It would have been worth a half day, but we had places to go.


Mullock heaps at Lightning Ridge. These days they have little buckets on rails to get the spoil to the surface. A bit better than ropes and buckets.


An original corrugated iron miner’s cottage. Bit hot in the summer.

The weather was changing by the minute, the brilliant blue sky streaked with plumes of high cirrus cloud. They were just the outriders: by the time we reached Bourke, cloud covered most of the sky.

Gathering clouds seen through a bug-splattered windscreen

Gathering clouds seen through a bug-splattered windscreen

It turned out that Bourke was full. There wasn’t a bed to be had. The reason was the Birdsville Races. I spoke a little about this event when we visited Birdsville earlier this year. The races are run in early September (just a few days from when we reached Bourke) and many travellers were on the move to get to the iconic Queensland town. But the rain that had filled the inland rivers had also caused floods. The roads to Birdsville were impassable, so people had diverted to Bourke. (The rain became so bad up there, the races had to be delayed. That’s a once in a lifetime event.)

We had to move on. Close to sundown in country Australia is not a great time to be on the road. Kangaroos and emus are both thick as two short planks when it comes to road sense, and both will make a nasty mess of a fast-moving car, as well as themselves. Not to mention a wandering bull or two. We headed for Cobar, 160km away. As it happened the band of cloud obscuring the sun hadn’t reached the horizon, so I could catch a snap of typical bush, white-trunked trees and red earth, lit up by the westering sun.

Late sunlight on the scrub

Late sunlight on the scrub

Cobar receives the gold star for worst motel on the trip. We came into town just after dark and decided the place on the corner opposite the RSL and a few metres from the main street would do. The room was tiny, wide enough for the bed and not much else. The bathroom was a narrow lane at the end of the room, just wide enough for a toilet, sink, and shower, for skinny people only. The sliding door was opposite the sink and it snuggled up to your butt while you brushed your teeth.

The RSL (Returned Services League) clubs in country towns are always a good place to get a cheap meal, which was one reason we chose that motel. But the RSL was closed on Monday, so we had to choose from the two pubs in the main street. We thought the food was expensive, but the meals were huge. I think Pete’s parmigiana must have come from a pterodactyl. We could easily have shared one meal between us. But one always discovers things like that too late. On the bright side, we won some money on the Pokies.

Tomorrow we’re heading for Hay, which frankly, sounds as boring as batshit.