Mysterious Ways

Skinners Footwear (Product Placement)

My arthritic knees and spondylosic spine (oh the assonance!) continue to cause me mobility distress.

Pain.  Lots of pain.   Osteopanadol and Pregabalin help somewhat.

pain.

I discovered some time ago that my knee distress was minimised most when I walked  round barefooted.  It was not too bad if I wore flat soled sandals, and was barely tolerable for a short while if I wore trainers.  Pain and distress became impossibly uncomfortable in a very short order if I wore “normal” shoes or boots with heels.

I go barefooted now whenever I can, wear sandals when I need to, and cross-trainers when I must.  Shoes with any significant heel are no longer an option for me to wear.  I guess I might wear them to a job interview if I had one.  Not that intend looking for another job ever again.

Though my young aboriginal friends seem to manage quite well, going barefoot outside the house is not really an option for me and my relatively tender feet.   Here in the rough outback country everything is out to get you;  the rocks, the flora, the fauna.

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I postulated to myself that the footwear I need most now is a rugged pair of socks with a sturdy leather sole sewed onto them.  Simple slippers.  What the Dutch call ‘pontoffels’.  I had some when I was younger.  But I need something a bit more rugged now.

Well the FSM works in mysterious ways.  Not long after deciding I had better make myself some pontoffels I became aware of a new start-up called Skinners Footwear.  Here was a rugged pair of socks with a rugged sole, touted as neither shoe nor sock, but both.  Literally the answer to my problem.

So I have invested in the start up and ordered a few pairs.  I am looking forward to receiving them as soon as our mail system returns to normal and the greyhound bus deliveries to Halls Creek resume after the flooding.

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More information here.

 

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Stir Crazy

I have been back in the community for just over 6 weeks now.  Since I returned I have been very reluctant to leave even when I had the opportunity.  Despite the fact I now have a lockable steel cage plus a locking security screen door and three deadlocks on the solid door to my donga, I have not forgotten the trauma of last year.  A day or two away is not distressing, but now The Wet is setting in I get a little angsty about the possibility of being caught out of town by the weather once more.

On Friday I was to have attended our team planning meeting in Halls Creek. They booked me into the SPQ for Thursday and Friday night.  I was actually keen to go because I have a small pile of parcels to collect from Halls Creek and also I wanted to do a run to Kununurra on Saturday to stock up on groceries and essentials.     Plus a break away from here would be good for me.  I may be going a little stir crazy.  Had I gone I would have come home again today,  Sunday.

However.

A severe weather warning was issued just before I was about to set out.  I phoned the boss to ask if I should come in anyway or should I attend the meeting by telephone conference instead.   Just as well that was the decision, because the road was closed on Friday, and judging by the downpours since it will likely not reopen for a few days or a week or more.

Margie suggested jokingly I was a “pussy” for not wishing to come into town.  On the contrary, if I was permitted to drive through the mud and floods I would be happy to do so.  It is not travelling in the weather I worry about, but not being permitted to travel through it.  Getting stuck in mud is a challenge, and fun.  Being stuck as a supernumary in Halls Creek is no fun at all.   I’d rather be here while all my stuff is here.

Rescue

It is goanna hunting season.

Just over a year ago I wrote about a goanna hunt with some of my boys.  Trips like that out to the bush were a good way to get some  engagement time with the lads.

Unfortunately I can’t do it any more since the troopies were declared unsuitable for transporting people.  Once we were advised that insurance wont cover us unless passengers are wearing lap+diagonal seatbelts, facing forward, the CEO had to prohibit us transporting passengers in the troopies.   It was stressed that apart from being sacked, the driver will be personally liable.  Until we get more suitable vehicles I can only transport one passenger in the front seat with me. No more group trips out bush.

However, those same young men are a whole year older now, and they now have access to a vehicle.  So they have been out hunting by themselves.  The other afternoon one of my young friends turned up unexpectedly.   He needed assistance, he told me, as the vehicle they were using out bush had got stuck, not far out past Lake Stretch.

We headed out there.   “Not far past Lake Stretch”  turned out to be about 30 km or so out in the bush.  It must have been about an 8 hour walk to come and get help.  I asked when they had got stuck.

“Yesterday”.

They had been out overnight, and no-one had raised an alarm.

I saw they had caught a goanna, but it had spoiled and was no longer edible.  I asked why they hadn’t cooked it while they were waiting.  They hadn’t taken a lighter with them.

Snatch straps are pretty amazing things and we got the other landcruiser out of the mud in no time.  The boys had not taken any water with them of course, so they soon drank my supply.  They piled back into and onto their tray back landcruiser and set off home.   I followed them out in mine.

You can see from the condition of my troopy what the bush tracks are like at this time of year.  The only reason I was game to go in to where my young friends had got stuck was that I have the training and experience, plus a better equipped vehicle, with better tyres, and most importantly I carry a spade and recovery tracks.

 

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These very expensive ($250) pieces of plastic are worth their weight in gold out here.  They virtually guarantee I can get myself out of anything I manage to get into.  Unless the car floats away.

 

Next afternoon, my young friend turned up once more.  They had done it again.  This time the trip out to where they were stuck was through mud and creek bed, and shallow lake most of the way.  And it was getting dark.  I have no idea where we ended up, but I remembered passing through one area I had been before.  This shallow lake was dry last time I visited it.  Yesterday it wasn’t.

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Those white dots on the horizon are brolgas.
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A Brolga

I sincerely would not have thought we could actually get to where we ended up.  Without my young companion’s assurance that the other Toyota had already got through, I would not even have ventured in there by myself.  It beats me how he knew the way and remembered the areas to avoid.  It also impressed me that he had walked all the way out to fetch me.  Again.

It was well after dark when we arrived where their Toyota had bogged down.  It seemed to me that the place they got themselves stuck was not any different to anywhere else we had already been.  This time extracting the other vehicle took a little more effort, particularly because I had to be very careful not to bog my own in the process.  But there were over half a dozen youngsters willing to help.   A bit of digging and manouvreing, and some enthusiastic pushing and out she came.  I love these kids’ cheerful confidence, which seems only to manifest out in the bush.   Out here they never doubt themselves.

“Bililuna people don’t help each other”, the driver, and oldest of the young men confided as we were tackling the problem of moving his Toyota without bogging mine.  “No one else would come out.  That’s why we had to ask you.  You always help”.

I didn’t know what to say.

This was the best bonding time I have had with my kids for quite a while.  I really need to get back out bush with them.  It’s where they open up and tell me things.   They really are different people out there.  More open, less shy.

Again they needed water, and again I lectured them on preparedness when setting out into Country.  It seems very strange indeed to me that I, a gardia, should be lecturing young aboriginal hunters about survival in the bush.

Once again they all piled into and onto their Toyota with complete disregard  for all the safety rules that I must stringently apply in the use of my vehicle.   I took one with me as a passenger and guide to be sure I did not get lost in the dark on the way back.  This time we had ventured way off the tracks, and in some places I might not have been able to follow my own tracks back where they were under water.

They got stuck twice more on the way back, crossing muddy creeks, but each time I was able to get past and get them moving again.   We were all covered in mud by the time we were back on the “road” to Bililuna.

They had caught three big goanna, so it was all worthwhile.

They  even remembered to say “Thankyou” before they rushed off to cook them.

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If you are wondering how goanna tastes:  check it out here.

Here There Be Dragons

I have been under the mistaken impression that the dragons running around my home were Lophognathus gilberti or Gilbert’s Dragon, commonly known as the Tata Lizard.

Turns out I have a small herd of Long-nosed Water Dragons – Gowidon (or Amphibolurus) (was Lophognathus ) longirostris.   Their cousins.

I will just call this one Eric.  He is the largest of them.  Probably the Dad.

At last I have been able to try out the new Sony camera on some real wildlife.  I am quite pleased with the result.  But a lot of these were the result of luck and having a subject that posed patiently for me.  I am pleased how sharply the camera focused when at the full 600mm telephoto zoom.

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I still have some learning to do to master this camera.  And I still need to get out to where the wildlife is.  I notice that like the Sony cameras I’ve had before, this one tends to saturate the red and magenta end a little.  You can see the effect in the warmer photos above compared with the cooler ones that I have used the “autocolour” adjustment on.

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Bridie

Feb 1 is St Bridie’s day.  In the Middle Ages, the goddess Brigid was syncretized with the Christian saint of the same name. According to medievalist Pamela Berger, Christian “monks took the ancient figure of the mother goddess and grafted her name and functions onto her Christian counterpart,” St. Brigid of Kildare.
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Irish Medieval History·

Happy St. Bridget’s Day (1st February) – There are many traditions associated with the day but perhaps the best known is the making of the iconic St. Bridget’s Cross. The following article explains some of the traditions…

Saint Brigid’s Day – Beliefs and Customs by Sile Healy.

In ancient Irish folk tradition St. Brigid’s day on the 1st of February heralded the first day of spring and thus of the farmer’s year. It is a festival which honours our venerated second patron saint, as well as that of dairy work and cattle. Tradition states that the saint promised fine weather after the harsh winter. Farmers expressed their wish for fine weather for ploughing and digging by turning over a few sods in the tillage field. People who lived in coastal regions were of the belief that the spring tide nearest the festival Rabharta na Féile Bríde the great spring tide was an occasion for gathering and cutting seaweed to fertilize the crops. The days lengthened and the day was used by many as an occasion to do stocktaking on the farm.

The housewife used the occasion of St. Brigid’s eve to ensure the house was respectable and tidy, a festive supper was also prepared consisting of apple cake, dumplings and colcannon irrespective of the financial situation of the household. Allied to this all farmer’s wives made what was known as a báirín-breac, neighbours were invited around and engaged in drinking and merrymaking. On St. Brigid’s eve it was generally believed that the saint travelled around the countryside, bestowing blessings on the people and livestock. Various elements were used to indicate that her visit to the house was welcomed. A common practice entailed the placing of a cake or pieces of bread and butter on the window-sill outside. Often this offering was left to be collected by a tramp or impoverished person. In other areas it was brought in the next morning and shared between the members of the household. Often a sheaf of corn was placed beside the cake as a refreshment for the saint’s favourite cow who accompanied her. Other households placed a bundle of straw or fresh rushes on the threshold on which the saint may kneel to bless the house or on which she could wipe her feet before entering. Further traditions include that dishes of water, salt, pieces of meat or butter being left outdoors as an offering for the saint, after she had passed by these would have acquired medicinal properties and were used to ward off illness.

The most common custom associated with St. Brigid’s eve was the making of the cros Bríde or bogha Bride, which was hung in homes and often in the byre also. Tradition states that crosses were made for protection against fire and lightening as well as illness and epidemic disease could be held at bay. If the cross hung by the door evil spirits couldn’t enter. The residue left over after the cross was made wasn’t thrown out but placed on the floor by the hearth, often covered by a white cloth to form a bed for saint. In other areas the straw left from ‘Brigid’s bed’ and from the making of the crosses was believed to have healing powers. Strands were preserved and tied around an aching head or limb at night. The following day the wearer would place the strands on the fire, where if they burned quickly there would be a rapid cure. Some put the straw under the pillow to ward off disease and in Donegal fishermen used it for protection.

Many young people going from house to house with a symbol of the saint, ‘The Brídeóg’ this was an effigy supposed to represent St. Brigid and made according to the local custom. It was usually a straw doll, dressed to portray a human figure. Often small children went to the neighbours houses and were given money. In some areas unmarried girls carried the effigy bestowing Brigid’s blessing on the house, often they handed out crosses to the head of the houses they visited. It was accepted that the girl who carried the effigy was the most beautiful and modest of all. In other regions no effigy was used, the girl dressed in white and carried a locally made cross to represent the saint. Those who carried the ‘brídeóg’ were called ‘brídeóga’, ‘biddies’ or ‘biddy-boys’.

This Brat Bríde consisted of a silk ribbon placed on the window sill at night to honour St. Brigid. It was said to lengthen during the night and was used as a remedy against headache. The general belief was the saint on the eve of her feast went around the country would touch the brat and endow it with healing powers. Some said it healing power was strongest after 7 years. The brat could be a ribbon, a piece of linen or cloth like a scarf or handkerchief, thus touched by the saint would keep the wearer safe from harm especially on a hazardous or long journey. In Munster it was tied to the doorknob so the saint would touch it when entering the house. It was said to cure bareness, help women in childbirth, to ward of magic, the evil eye and fairies. If a farm animal became ill the sign of the cross was made with the brat over it which was then laid on the animals back to ensure the saints intervention on its behalf It helped animals to give birth and have a plentiful supply of milk.

The residue from the crosses was often added to the bedding of the horses and cows to ward off illness and danger. The crosses were often taken down from the byre to bless an ill cow or one who was producing little milk. Another custom was the making of spancels and cattle tyings on St. Brigid’s eve into which portions of Brigid’s bed or the threshold sheaf were woven. They were often used to lead animals to the fair and to calm fidgety animals as well as to ward off danger and evil magic.

Marriage divination was practiced. Imitation ladders and spinning wheels were woven from the rushes. The men would sleep with the spinning wheels under their pillow and the girl would sleep with the ladder under hers. They would see their future partner spinning the wheel or at the top of the ladder. Later the man and woman exchanged them as tokens and if they dreamed of each other they were sure to marry. If the lark or linnet should sing on Brigid’s day then it was a sign of a good spring. The dandelion was known as St. Brigid’s flower as it is one of the first wild flowers to bloom after her festival. It has medicinal value and forms the base of a potent wine. The saint entertained in a regal way and was known for homemade ales which she gave to all visitors regardless. Others gathered hoare-frost from grass on the morning of St. Brigid’s day as an infallible cure for headache. Many people got water from a well dedicated to Brigid and sprinkled water on their fields, livestock and homes to invoke the blessing of the saint

Sile Healy,
http://www.kilmurry.ie/newsletter_2011/st_bridgits_day.htm

Approximate pronunciation guide

Rabharta na Féile Bríde –- rav-arta nah faye-ah breed-ah
Brídeóg –- breed-ogue
bogha Bríde –- bug-ah breed-ah
báirín-breac – -baur-een brack
cros –- krus
Brat Bríde –- brat – breed-ah

Stormy Weather

Zeus got his swim today.

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See Zeus swim.  Swim Zeus, swim!

You can see the creek is somewhat deeper than yesterday.

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Day 3

Tomorrow it will no doubt be deeper still.  There is a storm brewing.

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Day 2

Now that the water is rising, the creek is the main attraction here.  Only three youngsters at the youth centre today, everyone else was already at the creek.   My three young friends only wanted to be taken to the creek too.  Unfortunately I am no longer able to do that as the Troopy has been declared unsuitable for transporting children, or adults for that matter, except one only in the front passenger seat.  Not just my troopy, – all troopies with sideways seats in the back are now classified unsuitable.  Not being able to take a group of youngsters out bush rather restricts the activities I can plan these days.  Getting out of the community and into nature is the best thing to do with the kids.   Fortunately we found some mums and dads heading down to the bridge so everyone was able to go.  Some of the young people were fishing already which surprised me but they reckon the fish have been stuck in a billabong until the river started flowing again and will be hungry.

On coming home from the youth centre, Zeus and I found Sadie the camel firmly settled on the deck of the donga.  She seems to have interpreted the darkening sky and rising wind as a storm on the way and has clearly decided she is staying here until it passes.

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Sadie

When she puts her head on my shoulder and looks imploringly at me with those big brown eyes, how could I kick her out?