Sourdough Pete

Way out in the Gibson desert, not far from Lake MacKay, at the end of a long day crossing the desert at an average speed of 20kph, I came upon an old man sitting by a campfire . His back leaned against the tyre of an ancient troopy. He was cooking something that smelled good. It was kangaroo stew and damper.

He introduced himself as Pete, and invited me to join him for a meal, which I accepted cheerfully, bringing out some canned fruit and creamed rice from my stock as a dessert offering.

His stew was really good. His damper was unexpectedly extraordinary. It tasted like the best sourdough bread I’ve ever had. Damper is usually made from self raising flour or using baking powder. I complimented Pete on the bread, and he told me he used raisins to make a starter dough. It seems the yeasts naturally found on the dried fruit were perfect for making bread. The starter fermented all day in the hot car as he travelled and was ready to bake in the camp oven at the end of every day.

He showed me how it was done. He opened an old pack, pulled out a bag of raisins, mixed some with flour and water in an old Tupperware container, and put it on the bonnet of his Troopy ready for the next day. Then he put the raisins beside the container on the bonnet. We sat down to share dessert.

As we ate, there was a whir of wings and a large crow landed on the car. Without hesitation, it grabbed the bag of dried fruit and flew away with it.

Pete watched the bird fly away with the resigned acceptance of one who is used to the vagaries and tragedies of life. “Ah.” he said philosophically. “There goes my raisins for leavening”.

Sea Song

Sea Song

There’s water in the scuppers and the sea is cutting rough
The bilge pumps are not working and if that’s not bad enough
There’s salt water in the rum lads, there will be no getting drunk
We’ll all drown stone cold sober when the fucking ship has sunk

The skipper’s drinking brandy, for he has a private store
He says he’ll go down with his ship and what can he do more?
He ordered the abandon ship, we cut the lifeboats free
Not one of them would stay afloat. They sank into the sea

The life jackets are useless. They are soggy wet kapok
We tossed them in the ocean and they went down like a rock
The first mate said to swim for it, we’ve minutes to get clear
Before the old girl founders, and drags us down with her

The bosun said there was no point for where then would we go?
Unless there is an island near and that, he did not know
So even if we swam and swam, and then we swam some more
The bloody sharks would take us all before we reached a shore

I’ll take me chances here said he, and go down quick and clean
Just then a huge wave swamped us. The biggest we had seen
The old ship groaned and foundered, then settled on a reef
The water’s really shallow here, to everyone’s relief.

© 2020 ARF

Fun at the Pool

Every lane of the pool was fully booked today for each time slot. Which meant that for the first time while I’ve been there after reopening staff had to sound the musical bing-bong over the PA to nudge everyone to leave in time for the next 10 people to come in.

One woman had arrived about 20 minutes after the hour and despite being late, spent another 15 minutes walking round the pool talking to anyone who’d listen. She berated me for lying about how warm the water was before she had even got in. Apparently she is “very observant”. With barely ten minutes to go she finally took the plunge (literally) and started swimming. When the chimes sounded, she stayed in and would not get out. Staff spoke to her, explaining her time was up and a new batch of people were awaiting their turn. Protests followed. Eventually she left. Still complaining. Some People.

I watched as I drank my cappuccino. I buy one after every swim because I’m trying to stop the pool going bankrupt. I’m pretty sure that without those extra $18 a week the pool would have to close again and all my good friends working there would be on the dole. Today I received my ninth stamp on my loyalty card. So the next is free. I hope that free cappuccino is not the final straw.

I was swapping anecdotes with the staff as I drank my coffee when we saw a beautiful young Eastern Brown, sleek and healthy, obviously well fed, slithering across the concrete towards the children’s pool.

As you will all know by now, I get excited and protective when I see a serpent. I was delighted to find the two staff members on duty, Sue-Ellyn and Jacob, were of similar mind. Jacob and I herded the young fellow into a corner. We caught him or her in a box and I carried him or her out to the bush on the far side of the parking lot.

I was surprised to see a snake out and about at this time of year. I thought they would all be hibernating. But a quick search on Google produced some interesting information. No hibernation round here.

Unfortunately I didn’t get a photo, but here is a picture of one, just as pretty, from the Internet.

This morning I had decided today would be a walking stick and ambulatory support mechanism-free day. I walk more like a zombie than a person these days, I need to strengthen my leg muscles and not rely on support all the time. I also exercised my calf and thigh muscles in the pool with my fins.

Then I had a bit of a workout with a snake so on all counts today was a Good Day.

The Rare Queensland Quacking Frog

I was sitting quietly, reading, when from somewhere nearby I heard what seemed to be a duck quacking in synchronised time with the frogs in the trees outside. At least, it sounded very like a duck. The call was so constant I figured it had to really be a frog. Besides, there are no ducks here. I was excited. This might be another new species for me.

It was very close by. I could tell. I grabbed a torch and a camera, just in case I spotted it, and went outside. Everywhere I searched, the sound seemed to come from somewhere else. But it never stopped. The little bugger wouldn’t shut up.

No matter where I looked the call always seemed to be coming from the other side of the caravan. Then I realised it was actually inside the caravan. This was exciting. I hurried back in to search for it.

Then I realised it was a duck. Coming from my iPad. I had set the alarm to remind me to take my evening antibiotic. The alarm sound was “duck”. I had forgotten.

My mind, once as sharp as a really, really sharp thingy, is definitely slowing down.

Stir Crazy

Monday, the first Monday of the month, should have been another meeting of HELP, the healthy eating and living program, my Really, Really Fat Persons Support Group. I missed the first two of the year, because they coincided both times with melanoma excisions.

This months would have also coincided, coincidentally , but I specifically ensured the excision appointment would be on a Tuesday, so I could attend. Since my exercising has dropped off as my mobility decreased, and especially since I could not swim, my weight has remained static since my birthday. I’m managing the kilojoules going in well enough, but just not burning them as much. I thought I needed some incentive.

So it was disappointing when Lockdown caused all such meetings to be postponed indefinitely. I stayed home again, drank a couple of cans of XXXX Gold, read, and napped. I’m glad I’m inAustralia, where off-licences are considered essential services.

I was wide awake again at midnight. By two in the morning I needed to move, so I took my walker and went for a promenade around the park. I tottered around for about thirty minutes, not counting the time I rested on the walker seat and looked at the moon setting slowly behind intermittent clouds. The night was filled with noises; rustles, croaks, chirps, squawks and grunts. I saw flitting shapes in the moonlight. There were bats, large and small, and at least one night-flying bird. There was movement in the bush, both on the ground and in the canopy.

At three I took a hot shower, and returned to bed, awakening refreshed before my alarm. A coffee and a good breakfast of sausage, egg and fried tomato with toast. I’m ready once again to battle the melanoma monster. I’m glad even of being sliced up with a scalpel if it gets me out of the camp. I had to ensure I ate a good breakfast first or I might just go crazy-buying in Woodford Woolworths. Never shop hungry. Especially if you are going stir-crazy.


Tiny dinosaur head preserved in amber

Wonder of the Week
The head of Oculudentavis khaungraae

It’s exactly what those wacky scientists in Jurassic Park really wish they’d had…

Paleontologists working in Myanmar have found what appears to be a new species of dinosaur named Oculudentavis khaungraae. Among seven specimens bound in fossilized amber was a complete skull, including soft tissue. It is about 100 million years old.

Oculudentavis was about the size of one of today’s bee hummingbirds, the smallest bird. Its mouth was full of sharp teeth, and it is probably an ancestor of today’s birds.

Its small size is believed to be due in part to island dwarfism, by which diminutive individuals are selected by the isolated conditions and limited resources.

Read more.

Contributed by Brian Dunning.


I don’t think it is an olive python. I was fooled by the colour and lack of distinct pattern. No olives have been reported in this area. Their range is much further north. The only python reported on Bribie is the carpet python, Morelia spilota. That was my first guess, but I found no pictures of juveniles of a plain olive colour. So I guessed again. Probably wrong.

I need an expert to ID it.