Adjusting

Technically I am on annual leave until 8 May, my final day of employment at the Shire of Halls Creek. But I have already handed in my credit card and completed my last return. I have performed my last duties. I will not be returning to work. In real terms I am a retired person. When I awake in the mornings my only obligations are to matters I have decided to attend to. I am still adjusting to this concept. The freedom of being on holiday always had a time limit until now. A future that depends entirely on what I choose to do is difficult to contemplate. It also has some uncertainties. Where will I live? How will I manage my health and mobility issues? What unexpected snags and costs might affect my plans, when I get around to making them?

So far I have mapped out my next steps in the most general terms; take a week or two to show Dave around my part of the Kimberley, triage my stuff and pack what I can take with me, and head for Kate’s place in Queensland. From there the plans are still flexible. But they include visiting 91 year old Mary in NZ as soon as possible, shipping my car and contents over, finding a place to live. I may be returning to Oz to do that after a quick visit home, in which case a Queensland vacation may be in order.

I must sort out my future medical and medication needs.

I also have to access my superannuation and get myself onto the old age pension, or whatever pc term is used to describe it these days.

And I must keep my fingers crossed that I will not need another job in order to eke out a living. The things I want to get on with do not involve paid employment.

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Seven Years

Flashback five years:

I can ask the same thing of myself another 5 years later, with probably even less to offer in response, particularly in terms of professional or personal accomplishment.   A year and a half after asking myself that question, I left Katanning and moved to Halls Creek and a new job at the Halls Creek Shire.  A year and a half after that I changed roles and relocated to Billiluna.

Today, the 23rd of March represents the completion of seven years service in Western Australia Local Government.  Which means I am eligible for 70% of my long service leave entitlement of twelve weeks paid leave.  That is around 8.4 weeks.  I have 15 weeks accumulated leave as well.   That is almost half a year’s pay to collect.

My boss has recently gently hinted I should give some thought to the matter of my future, and whether I want to continue this existence in a remote community.  Though I am sure she is primarily concerned for my own wellbeing in my advancing age and deteriorating condition,  I believe I may have good reason to suspect that I, and my way of doing things, may no longer fit comfortably into the long-term strategic view of youth services in East Kimberley.

And probably quite right.  I am not sure I have made any difference at all.

So, perhaps it may now at last be time to take the money and run.  My health and mobility issues probably mean I should get out and have some fun while I still can.

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I must go down to the sea again.

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The Lonely Sea, and the Sky

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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Weather, and Ruminations on Crocs

The weather is at last beginning to live up to the name of the season; “The Wet”.

77 mm total of rain since Saturday, and 24mm this afternoon alone.  It is raining again now.

I make a daily pilgrimage down to the crossing over Sturt Creek but so far the main channel under the bridge is still dry. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

It won’t be too long now, I suspect, until the bridge is under water and the creek is a kilometer wide.  When I returned to Bili last year, once the road reopened, I was just in time to see the creek still over the bridge, and about 300m wide on either side.  Families were swimming and fishing for the small fish that abound at the time.  No big ones though. It seems barramundi can’t get this far  inland.  I suspect that may be because all the rivers in this vicinity never go anywhere near the sea.  They all flow down into Lake Gregory which is landlocked.  Water then sits there until it evaporates over the dry season, which means that lake Gregory is therefore quite salty.  The lack of an outlet to the sea may explain why there are no crocs, either freshwater or estuarine (salties) in this area.

Yet.

Crocs are known to travel overland quite a coinsiderable distance under population pressure so it is not at all beyond the realms of possibility for them to end up here and in lake Gregory at some time in the future.  We know there are freshies in Marella Gorge, and it may well be that salties have already made it there too.  My aboriginal friends believe they have made it there already.  They can easily come up the Nicholson River from Lake Argyll, where plenty are known to hang out.  If they have not yet, it is probably only a matter of time before they do as the population is steadily increasing, and crocs are very territorial.   They will not tolerate close neighbours.

It is not a long overland walk from the Nicholson River to the bed of the Sturt, which runs in the opposite direction from the Nicholson down past Ringer Soak, across the country to Billiluna, and on to lake Gregory.

Whereas the Nicholson has water flowing all or most of the time, for much of the year the Sturt is a dry creek bed with a few permanent billabongs.  However, if a croc were to set out from Marella across country in the Wet, and found itself in the Sturt, it could quite conceivably eventually end up near here in our little lake Stretch, just 15km from Billiluna on the back road to Mulan.  They could possibly hang out during the dry season in one of the many  billabongs along the bed of the Sturt, surviving on the wildlife that come to drink.

Since estuarine crocodiles have been pushing steadily west and inland since hunting stopped when they became protected, it is not unreasonable to expect them to continue to search further inland for new territory.  The changing climate may either exacerbate or scotch this.  Which, yet remains to be seen.

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I for one will welcome our reptilian overlords.

Ghost in the Screen

Sitting here waiting for the page to load, the screen a white blank,  I notice a faint, fuzzy shadow move across from right to left.  I watched for a while as it traversed the screen then moved up and down.  Even now as I type the shadow meanders about.  It did not take long to figure out the cause. An insect is inside the monitor, wandering around on the back of the screen. It must be carrying a slight static charge, enough to affect the display.  Another phenomenon probably exclusive to the tropics.  but what to do about it?

Everything is going slow again.  I have used up my monthly quota of gigabytes with about a week to go.  I ran out last night in the middle of a not particularly worthwhile offering on Netflix.  It was almost a case of “Thank heavens. Now I don’t have to sit through the rest of this rubbish”.  I should have quit as soon as I had the gauge of the show.

I really need to be more discerning.  If I had bailed out sooner I might have been able to watch something else for a while.  There is actually quite a lot to choose from at present.

A very good western that is not quite what one might expect from the genre was “The Homesman”. Tommy Lee Jones emulates the darker side of the Coen Brothers quite effectively.  He can direct and act.  Not often I don’t foresee the plot twist these days.  That one took me by surprise.

Guardians of the Galaxy 2 was just as silly, and just as enjoyable as the first.  But then I think I may have a thing for gorgeous green girls.  Or am I thinking of frogs?

Speaking of green, I am pretty sure I have located Eric.  He was not here in the donga when I returned after the Christmas break.  However, it sure sounds like him under the house. I am pleased to hear him under there.  For one thing it means he is safe and happy, and for another it probably means I probably don’t have a snake.

The new clinic nurse, who recently moved in across the road does.  She found a shed snakeskin yesterday and has put me on alert to catch its owner when it next shows itself.  Happy to help.  I am not crawling under the house to find it though. It will have to come out.

I wouldn’t really mind having a snake around, but I don’t know if Zeus will be all macho if he sees one and try to catch it.  And the locals would want to kill it.

Anyway that was not what I was intending to write about.  The insect distracted me.

I shall start again.

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The Bonny Earl O’ Moray

Believed to be the first assassination of a head of state by use of firearms, the story of the Earl of Moray became a timeless ballad.

It is also the song that coined a word.  Mondegreen.  In 1954 Sylvia Wright wrote the famous piece for Harper’s Magazine; The Death of Lady Mondegreen.  Still entertaining all these years later.

There have been some good examples of Mondegreens since.  Excuse me while I kiss this guy being very famously misheard by fans of Jimi Hendrix.

In my opinion, the very best version of the song The Bonny Earl ‘O Moray is this one, sung by Bobby Eaglesham with Dick Gaughan in the band Five Hand Reel.

Ye Hielans an’ ye Lowlans
O whaur hae ye been?
Thae hae slain the Earl o’ Moray
An they’ve laid him on the green
He wis a braw callant
An he played at the ba’
O the bonnie Earl o’ Moray
He wis the floer amang them a’
Lang may his ladie
Luik o’er frae Castle Doun
Ere she sees the Earl o’ Moray
Come soundin’ through the toun

O woe betide ye Huntly
An whaurfore did ye say?
O I bade ye bring him tae me
But forbade ye him tae slay
He wis a braw callant
An he played at the ring
O the bonnie Earl o’ Moray
Ah, he micht a’ bin the king
Lang may his ladie
Look o’er frae Castle Doun
Ere she sees the Earl o’ Moray
Come soundin’ through the toun

Ye Hielans an ye Lowlans
O whaur hae ye been?
Aye they’ve slain the Earl o’ Moray
An’ laid him on the green
He wis a braw callant
An he played at the glove
Aye the bonnie Earl o’ Moray
Ach, he was the Queen’s true love.
Lang may his ladie
Luik o’er frae Castle Doun
Ere she sees the Earl o’ Moray
Come soundin through the toun

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Great song, based as they say, on a True Story.

Child Ballad No. 181.

Janus and Ourobouros

The old, the new, and the same old same old.  It is that time of year again.  Time to look back, time to look forward, and time to reflect that in the long run nothing really changes except our age and, with a bit of luck, our outlook.

My facebook header and profile pictures currently reflect that attitude.

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This time last year I had already been burgled once, and was about to be burgled again.  The year since has not been one of great achievement for me, party due to circumstances and partly due to my response to the circumstances.  The coming year will see renewed effort in my current chosen profession and I hope to see some progress that I may, perhaps, be able to point to eventually with pride.  I have also pretty much come to the conclusion this will be my last working year.  Age and disability gradually encroach on my good intentions and ability.  I increasingly feel a need to return to the country I know and love best. And I want to be idle.  My own man to pursue whatever whim I may have. And can afford.

In the meantime I have a new camera to master.  The new Sony RX10 Mark IV  has arrived and it is a technical marvel.  There is an excellent review of it here.  It makes me realise that I should never have strayed from the brand, even for the Nikon.  Over the last year my Nikon photos got worse and worse but until I replaced my glasses late this year with a new pair I could not see how bad they had become.  The Nikon’s focus is badly out of calibration, something I put down to rough travel through the Kimberley.  I now have a nice padded Pelican case to keep my cameras secure and safe.

I am learning to drive the Sony step by step.  But I am mostly still in auto point-and-shoot mode. Even so, it does better than one might expect.    I bought it on recommendation of a Canadian bird watcher, photographer and blogger friend.  He warned me there would be a learning curve.  It is a sophisticated toy with a lot of features to master.  One thing it cannot do however, is infra red photography using the nightshot mode feature and IR filters which I enjoyed playing with using my old Sony 717 and 828.  I may resurrect my ancient 828 and dedicate it to that purpose if I can get the batteries to hold a charge.

I am also keen to investigate HDR more, using the real technique of bracketed exposures rather than the ersatz method of software manipulation.

So here I am in Halls Creek, house and dog sitting with a month of idle time that I must try to use creatively.  With five cameras at my disposal, counting the drone,  I hope to produce a few images worth looking at.  Here are a few practice shots;

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Wide angle shot with the Sony. The circle shows the location of the next.
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Shot at full 600ml Telephoto (cropped).
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Another full tele shot. 

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Lainie, the girl I am babysitting.  She has a broken leg.  

 

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The local Bowerbird in a Poinciana tree. 

And finally, a belated greetings card to everyone. Not my photo, but the same bird as above, at his home (via FaceBook).

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Bowerbird Christmas Greetings. Photo Credit: Debbie Dicks.