Lend Me Ten Pounds, and I’ll Buy You a Drink.

There is a gentleman I pass quite regularly on my cycle ride to the pool who appears to be picking herbs from the grass on the roadside. I’ve often wanted to stop and ask what he is collecting. I almost did so this morning, but it occurred to me he may be collecting cigarette butts discarded by people using the path. I am probably wrong. He is there so often, I doubt there would be that many butts for him to pick up by now. Nevertheless the thought was enough to deter me from stopping and asking. He might be embarrassed.

Whenever something like that happens I get the feeling I am losing an opportunity to hear an interesting story. Is he picking penny royal to make a decoction to induce abortion? is there some psychotropic weed growing here that no one other than he knows of? Is he a harmless nut herbalist, or a derelict with no money for fags? Is it any of my business?

Almost as if to answer the psychotropic theory, I next came upon a much younger man who appeared to have dropped a plastic carrier bag of possessions and was bending over to retrieve them. I was about to stop to help, until I heard what he was saying, or rather the language he was using, and his tone. It was a loud, angry, incoherent rant full of effing and blinding and the colourful C word. He seemed to be referring to one C in particular, up which he proposed to insert various objects. Whoever he was talking to was not visible to me.

Nor, it seems, was I visible to him. I pedalled by on my bike with its bright yellow trailer sporting a pirate flag on its mast. His rant at the invisible person beside him did not change at all as I rode through his line of gaze. I have seen those crazed, dilated-pupil red-rimmed stares before. Not weed. Ice. Move on. Quickly. Before those eyes focus.

The clear water of the pool was warm. It did not feel particularly refreshing. The only energy burnt there today would be in propulsion, not in maintaining body temperature. It was so warm I wondered if I was sweating as I swam. How can one tell?

The MP3 player gave me a particularly good choice of random music today. My 90 minutes of laps passed very quickly. A bit of Zydeco, Sinead O’Connor, Pink Floyd, and Afro-Celt Sound System. I managed to keep up a vigorous stroke rhythm most of the time except during the more languid sound of O’Connor’s Danny Boy. Not my favourite version, nor my favourite of her recordings.

An estimated 4,740 kJ burnt, I had a cold shower and shampoo. Then, after a quick visit to Aldi for salad vegetables, I headed home, pedalling into a freshening breeze from the NNE. Practicing my long neglected nautical assessment skills, I estimated the wind to be between 18 and twenty knots, and bringing rain.

I checked my apps when I got home. 20 knots, NNE. And the radar showed approaching storms. The rain and lightning began within half an hour. It hasn’t changed the heat or humidity.

It still hurts when I pedal. More when I walk. The exercise is not helping, and may even be making things worse. I can’t keep increasing my painkillers. I need a new strategy.

On a completely different note, Richard in Quebec may be interested to hear I have been told there has been a rare (for Bribie) sighting of a small flock of Oriental cuckoos down at Buckley’s Hole. If the weather and my legs permit, I may toddle off down there tomorrow to see what I can see.

Life and Death in the Shower

There’s nothing I like more than being visited in the shower. Tonight, after a long telephone conversation with a friend in WA, I limped down to the ablution block for a midnight shower. I like late night showers. I have the place to my self and there’s always the chance of some interesting times watching the geckos hunting moths around the fluorescent lights.

I was really lucky . Not only did I see my favourite geckos doing their famous ceiling leaps, but I shared my shower stall with another gecko and the tiniest green tree frog I have yet met.

At first, I was not sure if they were hunting each other, in which case “aaaw, ain’t that cute”. Or had teamed up to get a moth, I watched as I soaped up and rinsed off under a cold shower. (Hot water is available, I just prefer cold).

The frog could have sat on my thumbnail. The gecko was five times bigger. They circled each other like Sumo wrestlers on the shower stall wall. It become quite apparent each thought the other was prey. It was also quite apparent the brave little frog was going to try and bite off more than he could chew.

When it comes to life and death in the jungle, I know that I should allow nature to take its course. But here were two little creatures I really like in a mismatched duel to the death. I had no illusions about who would lose. Had he been bigger I’d probably have watched the frog swallow that gecko just as I watched my frogs in my pond in Katanning eat their own relatives. Or vice versa, even. Fair is fair.

But this little blighter was totally outgunned, though he was not going to admit it. I am a sucker for supporting the underfrog. So I snatched him from the ravenous jaws of death and put him in my toilet bag. There were plenty of moths left for the gecko, as I most reasonably pointed out to him. He didn’t seem to mind, anyway.

After my shower I towelled off and put on my shorts. I carried my new charge with me when I headed home. On the way back to my caravan I explained the facts of life to my little green ward. I told him he needed to bulk up a bit before he took on something that size again. In the meantime he should practice on moths and flies, and perhaps, as a favour to me, he could do something about the ants that are constantly scurrying around my caravan.

I dropped him off in my herb garden. Tomorrow, when the ants come out, I’ll know whether the little bugger is grateful to me for saving his tiny green life.

The photos below are not the protagonists of this little story, just some previous encounters.

White Noise

I am a pluviophile. I love the rain. Especially tropical rain.

Walking in the rain, getting soaking wet…

My weather app tells me there is a thirty percent chance of rain. Considering it has been raining heavily for over ten hours , I consider the app to be 70% wrong.

I went to sleep to the lovely sound of heavy rain on my roof, and woke to it this morning. The kookaburra didn’t seem to mind either. He gave a rousing burst of song at 05:40 on the dot, just as I was pouring my first coffee. The frogs are happy too. I can hear at least three species announcing their sexual availability.

My neighbour’s coughing fit was without a trace of Strauss today, though I might have caught a phrase or two of Coltrane. He was soaked on his morning pilgrimage to the ablution block and back. I cheated, I went to the rear corner of my caravan where I am screened from public view, and peed into the stream flowing past my bicycle and through the fence down into the creek. I still got wet. And I still have to go to the ablution block sooner or later.

Last night I went to the Rangla Punjab Wednesday night buffet. All you can eat for twenty dollars. I tried a little of every curry as well as the raitas and pickles. Everything, from the rice and naan to the samosas and bhaji were excellent. The mango lassi was outstanding. That was extra, but well worth four dollars. I tried very hard not to overdo it, but I blew my calorie budget for the first time since I started counting them. I don’t regret it. I shall do it again, though not regularly. Perhaps only when Wednesday coincides with a special occasion.

Yesterday’s occasion was that I now have a recreational marine drivers licence (RMDL). What the rest of the country calls a skipper’s ticket. That I’ve had a boatmaster and coastal yachtmaster ticket in NZ since 1979 did not matter to Queensland Transport. I still had to pass a local course and get certified before they’d grant me a licence. Done and dusted all in one morning yesterday.

Now I can take out the tinnie I bought on line while drunk at Christmas. Kidding. I arranged to view it on Boxing Day. I agreed to buy it. Perfect for my needs, which is code for all I can afford.

Time to go fishing.

Idiots.

I see a lot of quibbling on the internet and in letters to the editor about the current bushfire crisis. “It’s not really climate change that is the cause; the fires were started by youthful arsonists; by lightning”. Yeah, whatever.

How the fire starts is irrelevant, whether it was from a badly placed barbecue or a deliberately thrown Molotov cocktail matters not one whit. There have always been bushfires. Sometimes really bad ones. Some deliberate, some accidental, some natural. The point is that the conditions are now more and more such that once a fire starts, it’s increasingly, damnably hard to put out and spreads through the dry vegetation at an alarming pace that much of the wildlife and few humans on foot can outrun. The fires spread further and faster, and it is climate change that caused these conditions. Arguing against this scientifically established fact is not expressing an intelligent opinion, any more than maintaining that the sun, moon and stars all revolve around an earth placed squarely in the centre of the universe.

When science has established facts beyond doubt and has all the data necessary to prove it, there is room only for discussing the finer details of how globing warming may affect different geographies and circumstances. No way to say it is not really happening.

So I feel free to mock the deniers just as I would flat-earthers, creationists and iridologists. Because they are provably wrong. I don’t usually resort to the ad hominem because it is an admission of failure. However, I admit freely that I fail to understand how people don’t understand how science works.

Prove me wrong if you can. I’m willing to change my mind if the evidence is there. Lay it out.

A Good Night’s Sleep

It is remarkable how much better one feels after a good sleep. I have not been sleeping well lately, something I ascribe to a combination of my state of mind and the weather. The days and nights have been hot and humid. Any slight breeze is a blessed relief. My daily swim at the pool, though giving me the exercise I need, and the heavenly release from the pain that plagues my gravity-stressed muscles and bones, is not as refreshing as before because the water has become too warm for my preference.

I have been going to the pool earlier in the morning to get there when the water is coolest, but it still feels more like a warm bath than a fresh dip. Maybe I should switch to the sea and risk the jellyfish and imaginary monsters. I’ve never understood why Australians, who claim to be so hardy in their sunburnt land, won’t swim in water cooler than their skin temperature. I still recall how astounded I was when I learned Katanning Shire would close the public pool if the temperature of the water was below 20 degrees.

On Saturday, I had completed my 90 minute swim and ridden my bike home again by 9 am. That left me nothing to do for the rest of the day but lay under my fan, nap and watch Netflix. The day was supposed to be one of my vegetarian days. I was planning to have dal and rice. On a whim I rode around to the butcher to seek out some more substantial sustenance. I’ve not had red meat in an age. I found a plump lamb shank, already marinating in a red wine sauce, just begging to be cooked and eaten. It fit perfectly into my 12V slow cooker with some celery, onion, tomatoes, and a large sweet potato, cut into chunks. By 7 pm it was perfectly cooked and ready to be deliciously overeaten.

In the afternoon the sky became increasingly overcast and the breeze cooled noticeably. The rain started in the early evening and continued all night. By Sunday morning it was still pelting down and the camp roads were all flowing streams of stormwater. The morning walk to the ablution block was also the morning shower. I had to towel off and change my clothes when I returned. I don’t have a raincoat. I should get one.

I did not ride to the pool. Nor did I drive. I spent the day reading Ursula Le Guin. I was so inactive that my self-winding watch actually stopped. I couldn’t understand why I was so hungry when it was only two pm and I had eaten brunch at eleven. But it was nearly seven. Time flies when you are reading a good book. I hadn’t even noticed how dark it had become as I lay under my reading lamp.

The rain continued. Then the wind came up. It buffeted the caravan until it rocked and creaked. It felt like being in a small boat in a storm. It felt wonderful. The breeze coming through the insect screen was cool and damp. For the first time in weeks I pulled my duvet over my body rather than laying uncovered on top of the bed under the fan. With a full stomach and snuggled in like a child, I had the best sleep I’ve experienced in a long while.

This morning, the outlook seems a little less bleak, though the weather hasn’t improved at all.

On the plus side, this amount of rain means the fire risk has been significantly reduced.

Thesis Proposal

They are strange creatures. I have studied them for some time, and still find their behaviour inexplicable. Despite almost constantly killing each other in various Skirmishes, battles and wars, anywhere, and at any time, around their planet, they rarely eat each other, even after mating. They don’t even eat their own young, although they can catch them easily.

Their genetic code differs greatly from ours. I have been unable to learn anything from those I have eaten. Thus I must learn from studying their behaviour, a task that seems dauntingly difficult.

They have no claws or ovipositors, but have developed an astonishing array of synthetic weapons with which to attack each other.   So far I have not determined the criteria on which they base their decision to attack, nor on their choice of weapon, which ranges from sharpened objects of various types and hand held projectile throwers, to extremely large mobile devices, having cooperative crews of many individuals and capable of throwing  projectiles and explosive devices over a great distance.

This interesting social construct of cooperative communities is a most alien concept, difficult to grasp. It consists of numbers of individuals, from small groups to large area-wide populations, and of any gender working together to construct habitats and also to craft these various devices with which to attack each other. In some areas, these attacks are ritual in nature, and death rarely results. In other areas whole communities attack and slaughter other communities, with devices designed to make holes in vital organs, or to disintegrate them entirely.

How they learn the skills required without eating each other I have yet to discover.

How individuals decide to cooperate with some, yet attack and destroy other groups, I have been unable to determine. It may involve territoriality. There appears to be some form of genetically coded ritual involved. They may not be able to consciously choose, despite the appearance of rational behaviour on occasion.

A difficult ritual to understand, from my perspective, takes place on designated pathways where individuals or small cooperative groups enter various forms of mobile device and ritually pass each other at high speed, apparently seeking suitable prey. These pathways cover most of the land mass where terrain permits and cross territorial boundaries.

At seemingly random intervals, somewhere along these paths one device will crash into another, or into some feature of the environment. This may result in injury or death of some or all participants. For some reason, survivors rarely attempt to finish off and eat any others still alive. In fact they cooperate to ensure any injured or damaged individuals are taken away to places where they can be repaired.

It is this custom of repairing themselves that I find the most inexplicable of all. After doing their best to kill and maim each other, they then go to great lengths to to repair damaged individual survivors, rather than eat them. Without that, how do they learn from each other?

How the individuals who carry out the repairs are able to restrain themselves from eating those damaged ones needs to be studied further. Perhaps they use some form of inhibitor to suppress the natural cannibal instinct. They may be a separate sub-species genetically primed to repair rather than attack. If their genes have somehow combined with those of the general population, it may explain the strange dichotomy of behaviour planetwide. How it helps with the continuation of the species will take considerable further study. I may be witnessing some new evolution of the Survival Directive.

I shall not return to mate and be eaten until I have incorporated a satisfactory explanation of the above phenomena into my matrix.