Groundhog day: Who let the cats out?


, , ,

As the little girl next door came seeking her missing kitten the other day – the one that apparently keeps climbing the fence into our garden – I am reminded of a previous post.

Theirs is a new cat, my old dog has since moved on to Rainbow Bridge, but some things stay the same….

Here we go again.

An open letter to cat owners

I love animals. Just about all animals, especially dogs. I like cats too. But I don’t like irresponsible cat owners, and I don’t like their cats in my backyard, especially when they embark on a terror campaign against my dog and my garden and impede my enjoyment of my own space.

When your cat appears – every day, several times a day – daintily tiptoeing along the fence, swaying its tail proudly in a one-eyed salute, it sends my dog just a little crazy. And when it propels itself suddenly from under a bush, teeth barred and hissing at my sweet, shaken and suffering dog, she is driven into a frenzy. With shackles raised and heart racing, she suffers a brain explosion and momentarily forgets she is not allowed in garden beds. Completely disregarding 10 long years of diligent and, to this point, successful training, she races over flowers and darts behind hedges in a vain attempt to chase that teasing menace. Of course, she will never catch it (even if she did, she would badly lose any battle and wear the scars sorely), but the garden bears the brunt of the unsuccessful chase, while your cat smirks nastily, now safe back on top of the fence preparing for its next onslaught, likely to be only minutes away, as it continues its cruel day-long sport.

We have been cultivating rows of ridiculously slow-growing hedges for a decade, and countless hours (days, weeks, perhaps months) of my existence is spent gaily snipping and trimming and shaping. Imagine my joy when I observe patches of hedges slowly browning and shrivelling away after continually being pissed on, by YOUR CAT, in some feline territorial display, or possibly act of spite. I place objects in front of the ailing sections and cut back dead material hoping it will recover. Occasionally a patch is saved, but sometimes a whole plant is lost to the toxic virulent cat pee and a gaping hole in my hedge remains as evidence of the power of the feline poison. It’s akin to someone knocking out one of your front teeth. It just doesn’t look attractive.

And let me be clear about your cat’s defecation. I do not enjoy discovering and disposing of little cat turds from my yard. Even less do I enjoy discovering them underfoot or lurking surreptitiously in garden beds as I weed. And I am angry at the disease threats posed by these cat turds.

That is because, as all cat owners should be aware, cats are the primary host for toxoplasmosis, a parasitic disease which can have significant health risks. Humans become infected through contact with cat poo or the soil it’s been in. It’s particularly dangerous for those with suppressed immune systems and pregnant women as it can cause birth defects. For those with small children and neighbourhood cats, be especially wary if you have a sandpit, because guess where wandering kitty-kats love to poo? Yep, in that same soft sand your toddlers love to play in.

Now Cat Owners, before you reciprocate with tales of ill-behaved and raucous dogs in your neighbourhood who bark incessantly at day and howl at night, that doesn’t cut it. Uncontrolled dogs annoy everyone (with the possible exception of their irresponsible owners) and there is no excuse for uncontrolled, dangerous dogs – ever. But other irresponsible pet owners and their ill-behaved pets don’t excuse your wandering cat.

I don’t even care if you do keep your cat in at night (thank you – that’s commendable and the wildlife much appreciates it, because make no mistake – your cat is also a finely tuned killing machine and night time is when it is particularly effective and dangerous) but it is still your responsibility during daylight hours. And it’s not enough to say it’s in cats’ natures to wander and impossible to keep them in. It’s not impossible – it’s your choice. You just need to accept it’s your responsibility to do so.

The RSPCA agrees it is entirely possible to keep cats contained successfully and healthily, but you need to embrace the challenge. You can’t rely on just asking your cat nicely to stay in the backyard – work out some serious strategies to keep it contained. Maybe that will be as simple as keeping an eye on your cat when it’s outside with you and taking it in with you when you go in, or maybe you need to build a suitable structure yourself, rather than expecting your neighbours to invest their weekends in vain attempts to cat proof their yard. Oh – I mean my yard.

I can’t lay all the blame on cat owners. Some I save for local legislators. Why is that cats are so often the only domestic animal that don’t need to be kept under the control of their owners? Why don’t cats need to be registered in most jurisdictions? Dog owners are required to have their dogs registered and restrained in public areas, unless designated an off-leash area. If I take my dog on a walk, I am expected to clean up after it (and I do), yet cats are allowed to pee and poo wherever they like. Same same but different.

In my home town of Canberra, there are now a number of suburbs where cats must be ‘contained’ at all times, and a couple more new suburbs will soon join the lists. Fabulous idea! While this is excellent news for the local wildlife, the non-cat owners of the neighbourhood must be equally delighted. Now the authorities just have to enforce the rules.

At the risk of sounding like a cat-hater, let me assure I’m not. I agree entirely cats can be gorgeous and cuddly and wonderfully loving. If I’m visiting your house, I will be the first to cuddle your cat and make silly, gooey noises to vie for its attention. I understand cats are great company and you love them a lot. I just don’t want your cats at my place.

Enough, cat owners – enough. Get a cat, keep it home with you. If I wanted the company of a kitty all day long, I’d get my own.

Oops – there he is back again!




Gumtree etiquette


, , , ,

There’s a whole world out there of buying and selling possibilities on Gumtree, and if you haven’t already discovered this free Aussie online marketplace, where have you even been?

I’ve been having a fine time there recently selling a few bits and pieces. Because … too much stuff. Way too much. Perhaps I’ve been spurred on by the recent experience of cleaning out my mum’s place (still ongoing) and am trying to cull all the stuff here, ever so slightly, so my kids don’t have to do it further on down the track.

Generally speaking, I love Gumtree but I do have one beef: the ignorance of a small proportion of Gumtree users.

Perhaps it’s the anonymity of the Gumtree transaction that leads some people to exhibit bad manners, or maybe we just live in a world of with an increasing number of dicks. But just because the person at the other end of the interaction or transaction can’t see you and you’re not talking on the telephone, the rules for being polite and for generally being a decent human being still apply.

Here’s some examples of poor Gumtree etiquette.

And if any of these apply to you, dear fellow Gumtree users, maybe have a think about whether you need to modify your behaviour just a tad.

  1. Making ridiculous offers. Here’s a real life example. I list something for $100 and someone sends a curt message to say they’ll give me $20. That’s so far away from the price it’s laughable. Why wouldn’t you actually be embarrassed to say that? No. Go away. Imagine if you made an offer like that on a house?
  2. Sending rude messages. A message pinged through to me the other day (about an item listed for $35) that just said ‘10’. That’s it. Just two solo digits. Perhaps full punctuation or correct spelling can’t be expected, but hell, a greeting, a sentence or even a phrase would be nice. I didn’t sell it to them. Against my initial inclination, I did respond. Clearly my tolerance for rudeness is lower than theirs.
  3. Not turning up as agreed. This actually happens. People agree to buy something and make a time to collect. Then you make sure you’re home, or go home specifically to meet them, perhaps cutting short some fabulous social occasion elsewhere, and then … they don’t show. Not even a text or message to warn you. They don’t even respond when you query if they’re coming. Just disappear into the ether. Rude.
  4. Abusing the seller, even when they’re giving something away for free. I’ve had people complain I didn’t give the free item to them, even when they weren’t first in line. It’s free, peeps!

It’s a marketplace, so a certain amount of bartering is expected. But, like being at an actual market, or in cultures where bartering is the norm, you’re best to do it with some manners or even a bit of good humour. And more than just two characters.

Of course, most people are lovely – they do what they say they’re going to do, turn up, have a chat, go away happy, just like normal people do. I’ll keep using Gumtree because it’s a great way to move on unwanted items and also reduce resources by passing on usable free items you no longer have need for. Win wins all round.

Another good option is to give away the whole lot to a charity – that’s a good option too, and you get more feel-good vibes for that.

An end, and a beginning …


, , , ,

I went to a funeral last week. I didn’t know the woman personally – she was the mother of one of my daughter’s dearest friends, and part of a huge loving family. She wasn’t old, not even mid-fifties, yet her life had come to an end. It can never be a question of fairness, but it’s always a matter of deep grief.

Throughout the heaviness of loss and the helplessness of being cast adrift, and the longing that it somehow could have been different, there was a fine thread of comfort for her family and loved ones to cling to among all the sadness. It was so fine it was invisible, but it was strong.

It was in fact a lifeline.

While her own body had suffered in many ways, at the end this woman was able to willingly donate her healthy lungs to breathe life into someone else, someone who otherwise had only weeks to live themself. As we were told of this greatest of gifts during the eulogy, and learnt that the person was breathing by themselves with this rare, parting gift, the feeling of comfort was palpable in the church. Somehow, there was joy and a celebration somewhere else. Not a balance, but something good to cling to.

This lovely mother, wife, sister, aunt, cousin and friend is sadly gone, but a part of her will live on in another. That last part is amazing.

Usually families are asked to make the choice about donating organs in a time of unexpected crisis and devastation, so it helps if they know what the deceased’s intentions were and it makes the decision easier. Even if a person has made their intentions clear about organ donation, the family has to agree to the donation. Registering your intent with the relevant authority further increases the chances of a family supporting a donor’s decision , and it makes it easier for them.

This graph from the Organ and Tissue Authority illustrates the difference it can make, and that’s a difference of life or death for someone at the other end.

You can find out how to register to be an organ donor in Australia, and read some of the amazing tales of new life, here:

Vale, Angela. May you fly high and be in peace.



A decision has been made: the world awaits


, , , , ,


Some months back, I wrote of our deliberations of whether we should buy a campervan. Be free spirits, belated hippies. Join the grey army. It’s something we’d been considering for some time, much to the surprise of some of our family and friends. Like, most of them actually.

And we considered, and researched, and imagined, and then we got close. Then we agonised.

Finally, a decision has been made. As there were some interested parties who queried our progress re the campervan, here’s the decision – and the reasons for it.

First up, yep, we backed out. All that promise. All that talk. And it went nowhere in the end.

Eventually, after finding an amazing second-hand van that was in beautiful condition and clean and sparkly with ALL the things, and which was exactly what we thought we wanted, we decided no, we’re not going to do that after all. Cue sound of gnashing of teeth. Actually, Mr T eventually made the call by himself, largely to put me out of my misery because I’m incapable of making decisions sometimes. (I blame it on being Libran.)

And for those with the slightest of interest, here’s our reasons for the decision.

  1. Money. Let’s be honest – if money is never a consideration, you could just do whatever you wanted, anytime, without even an ounce of consideration, just as the Hollywood celebs do. But most of us mere mortals have to be at least a bit pragmatic. This little beauty we found was fantastic, but bloody expensive, because our aspirations kept growing. While buying a campervan isn’t just a financial decision, we kept doing the sums – purchase cost, running costs, additional camping costs, interest lost or paid on that money, blah blah. And even the cost of renos to the garage door to accommodate the beast, because of course it wouldn’t fit in and you couldn’t leave it out. Take all that money you’ve invested, and you could do just about any holiday in the world, or spend quite a number of nights in fancy-schmancy apartments up the coast, in the hinterland, across the country, in fact, anywhere you wanted. To make a camper purchase worthwhile, you have to use these beasts a lot – some say several months a year. We didn’t think we’d get anywhere near that.
  2. We wouldn’t have slept in it every night (because, you know, ….Princess). We’d probably stop every so often to stay somewhere nice in a hotel to have a breather and stretch our legs a bit, have a good tub, so you’re doubling up on cost.
  3. We didn’t really want to go too far off road (Wolf Creek has a lot to answer for), so it didn’t make sense to have a vehicle all souped up for that – just in case.
  4. There’s a world of discovery to be had in NT and WA, but it’s such a loooooong way to drive over from our neck of the woods. We’d be more likely to fly to the far-away places to then spend more time exploring when we got there. Means it’s a bit silly having that spanky campervan sitting idle at home while we’re forking out for airfares.
  5. There’s still way too much of the world we want to see – which simply can’t be reached with a camper. Those countries still flashing brightly on the bucket list become a bit more unlikely with the beast burning dollars in the garage.
  6. While we jaunt in other regions, perhaps a straggly line of friends and family wanting to borrow Mr Campervan would grow. I mean, it’s just sitting there idle otherwise, crying out for companionship? Friendships could be marred. Or maybe we could rent it to strangers to recoup some cost, but what if they scratched and damaged the shiny lady, or left it yucky inside. Ah, the stress…
  7. I’m not known for being tidy (I’m more of a spread things out everywhere over every horizontal surface kind of girl) so no doubt I would replace what’s impeccably neat at the outset with mayhem within a very short space of time, and drive us both crazy. And where would I put those shopping purchases picked up on route, surely the foundation of any holiday??

So, we decided perhaps we’re not the best fit for this caper after all.

There it is. Decision made, logic and rationality applied. Sigh.

I have no doubt it’s a fantastic life and decision for others, but it’s the end of the camper dream for us. It was a lovely dream and I did want to try that ‘getting away’ and forced sitting around with a book or, in my case a computer, with not much else to get in the way.

But in the meantime, we have some new adventures planned to compensate – and I’m very excited!

The world’s our oyster…

Watch this space.


The bells, the bells: 5 things you didn’t know about Canberra’s Carillon


, , , , , , ,


If you’ve seen many tourist snaps of Canberra, you’ll have no doubt seen the distinctive tower of the Carillon featured prominently, shooting majestically from Lake Burley Griffin – a Canberra landscape icon. It’s there in sunrise shots, sunset shots, night time shots. It features quite a lot. Check it out on Instagram if you need convincing.

For those unfamiliar with the term, a carillon is a set of stationary bells hung in a tower and sounded by hammers or some other mechanical action, controlled through a keyboard.


Here’s a few things you mightn’t have known before about Canberra’s carillon. And new knowledge is such a good thing.

  1. Canberra’s carillon has 55 bronze bells. To actually rate as a carillon, you have to have at least 23 bells, so it makes the grade easily. They’re heavy things, weighing in at between 7 kilos and 6 tonnes each.
  2. The Carillon was gifted to Canberra by the British Government to celebrate our 50th anniversary.
  3. You can get married at the Carillion, or have a party there. Contact the National Capital Authority for details. But don’t expect to be allowed to drive your horse and carriage onto the island – no vehicular access allowed.
  4. The Carillon sits on its own little man-made island – Aspen Island – which you can access by a little (also photogenic) footbridge, named after the man who played the first recital in the tower.
  5. It’s more than just a pretty face/landmark – this is a working tower. It chimes every 15 minutes, plays a tune on the hour, and there are regular recitals on Wednesdays and Saturdays from 12.30 to 1.20pm so you can hear all those bells in action. Christmas carols also get a gig each Christmas Eve, and you usually get a chance to do a free guided tour for an hour beforehand.

Must be about time for me to actually walk out on to the island rather than just take photos of it.

Anyone know if the British Government got us anything for our 100th anniversary??

Addendum – Confession: I can’t stand it any more – I have to fess up. The sixth thing you mightn’t have known about the Carillon, which I didn’t know, is that it’s spelt Carillon – not Carill – ION as I have always thought. Because that’s how we say it, and it apparently comes from a French word and that’s how the French spell words like that, and it looks right. I had to look it up and checked about 10 different sources because I couldn’t believe I had it wrong all these years. So there you go – CARILLON!!@@***  Clearly we’re all saying it wrong though. emoji-facepalm-shrug[1]



Moving on – and hanging on


, , ,

img_9721I’m in a quiet, empty house in Newcastle – my Mum’s place. Mum’s in hospital, again, and Dad’s been gone for years, so the house is mine alone for the moment, for days at a stretch, to sit and reflect. It’s quiet, but it’s comforting, and it’s giving me the space to breathe it in and think about the changes taking place.

The furniture, and so many of the ornaments and bits and piece, are exactly the same as they were when Mum and Dad was first purchased them nearly 60 years ago. Most of it was assembled when Mum went out and purchased a whole household of furniture and decor in virtually one fell swoop, dividing her attention and cash between David Jones and ‘Goulds’; lounges, buffets, tables, lamps and even ornaments. Who does that? Some of the small stuff and the multitude of paintings have been added over the years. Some of it is heavy with dust, some tucked away, but almost all is still in remarkably good nick. And those red marble grapes and the trio of black vases still nestle together just as they did half a century ago on the buffet.

I’m sitting at the dining table. It’s the one from my childhood, and teenage years, and all the years after, because it’s the only one they/we ever had, the one from the ‘good room’. Although it wasn’t for daily use (the six of us squeezed around a small round one, also still here, for that), it was the table we sat around for many occasions and big events. That’s when the buffet would be cracked open and the Wedgewood and the heavy Stuart crystal glasses would be allowed to come out to grace the equally heavy lace cloth, and the laughs and red wine would flow. It’s also the table I studied fervently on for my HSC while Billy Joel played My Life on the radio somewhere, in the days when few of us had studies or desks in their rooms – they were too small for that, and often were shared by more than one person. But I must have been considered trustworthy with a pen by the time I was 17, though no doubt I’d have been under strict instructions to put a magazine under what I was writing on. I still say exactly the same thing to my (grown) kids, and now to my granddaughter as well. But it’s a discipline that protects the furniture, as the table’s most excellent condition attests.

Tonight I’ve put on a CD of music, classical of course, because that’s what always filled the house. Beethoven was the CD in the player, Beethoven’s 5th, so Dad would have been pleased.

Sometimes I sit in Dad’s big, black chair, and soak him in through the leather, and sometimes I swap to the yellow one on the other side of the room, the one Nana used to sit in on a Sunday afternoon long, long ago when the chair used to be turquoise, with her ramrod-straight back, and take in the world through her steely blue eyes.


This afternoon I curled up on the feathery heaven of the lounge, just as I did as a teen and later when I’d left home and would come back for the weekend, and took a long, luxurious nap. It’s ridiculously comfortable, and for a vertically-challenged person like myself, still offers plenty of scope for an adequate sleeping pose in the foetal position. If Mum was here, she’d have immediately puffed it up furiously the minute I’d got up and made it perfect again. One of her many, many obsessions is to keep the feathers pumped up just so. I never had the same discipline with the feather lounge we had once, and hence it was usually flat and never felt the same.

I don’t think she’ll come back here. She loves this place, with its original lead-light windows and dark, timber doors and picture railings. I’ve always found it dark and a bit oppressive, but I’ve worked out when I’m here alone, I can open up all the blinds and fling open the doors to let the breeze in, and it’s a house transformed. She’s often told me it’s her favourite house she’s ever lived in, so that’s all that matters, even if it is dark and musty under her watch. It’s a hard choice to make, to stay or go, and an even harder place to leave. It’s her home.

For some months I’ve been wearing a path out between capital cities – visiting Mum in various hospitals and talking to an endless array of doctors and medical staff, trying to peer into the future and investigating options as she battles various ailments and crises, and then goes back home to try it again with a bit more support added in. But it’s looking bleak in terms of staying here. The more I pry into papers and piles and poke into cupboards and potter about, the more obvious it is how tenuously she’s been hanging on – even though she’d say she was doing perfectly well. It’s a fine balance to know when to intervene, and it took a crisis for a catalyst.

Working through some of the paperwork is easy enough – though laborious; what’s rubbish and needs to be discarded is reasonably clear, as is what’s official and needs to be kept. But what about the myriad of stuff in between?

Delving into the cupboards means peeling back the layers of history. Not just her history, but the history of her generation before her, still buried in the bowels of the linen cupboard or revered in the musty aroma of an untouched bookcase. It’s daunting stuff, and it’s huge. Much is trash – bra receipts from a decade ago, for example, or doctors’ appointment cards from before that, but there are treasures. Like old photos or the first locks of baby hair. Or your Dad’s boarding pass he kept spirited away in his tall boy from his one and only European trip that that you took him on nearly 20 years ago. Ah, the sights we saw and the toilets we stopped at!


Even though it’s taking hours, and days, and weeks, I’m just chipping away at the edges. There’s hardly a dent inside, even though the bins keep going out full and the pile in the hall for charity is becoming a mountain.

And oh, the books, the books! And then there is the abundance of fake flowers, not to mention the piles of recent acquisitions from mail order catalogues. Soon I will have to enlist the support of the broader family, to sort, and discard, and clean, and no doubt horde some for the next generation. The pain of hanging on: I do recall I’ve written about that before.


There’s still so much to dislodge. For a chronic hoarder and a die-hard sentimentalist, it’s a recipe for agony.



Historic Lanyon Homestead: where pastures preceded politics


, , , , , , ,


It’s hard to remember sometimes, but this adolescent planned city of politics and politicians we now call Canberra actually has a history longer than we might imagine, and like much of our nation, it too is steeped in rural and convict beginnings.

A visit to historic Lanyon Homestead sprawling peacefully in the foothills of Tharwa on the outskirts of Canberra is an entry into a time gone by, and a revelation into what once was.IMG_9300

Inhabited by Indigenous peoples for eons before, the Lanyon property began colonial life with squatters and was purchased as a rural property by James Wright and his mate John Lanyon, for whom the property was named, in 1835. John went back to England leaving James to manage Lanyon, with the help of convict labour. It supported a community of 60 for some time, but financial problems resulted in the bank foreclosing on him, and he moved across the river.

Enter the Cunningham family who purchased the property in 1849. After the very first home there was demolished (the excavation of that remains), the current homestead itself was built by the Cunniningham family in 1859, where they raised a family of eight. 1859 is pretty bloody old by Australian standards, especially in Canberra. The homestead and property underwent a number of changes and ownership over the years, eventually being compulsorily acquired by the ACT government in 1971 as the urban sprawl spread outwards towards Tuggeranong and more land was required for housing. That made the then owners, the Fields, pretty unhappy and a long legal battle ensued, ending in the High Court. The Fields lost the property, scored some money which undoubtedly wasn’t enough, and the ACT government picked up a wonderful historic asset.  Somehow Lanyon escaped suburban development and instead was turned into a national treasure now maintained by the ACT Government through ACT Historic places.


I’ve visited Lanyon decades before, when the large collection of Sidney Nolan paintings he donated in 1974 specifically for the property were still housed there (and before they were moved to their current home at CMAG under another furore). I attended a wedding there and even participated in an enthralling treasure hunt aimed at the kids as we ferreted our way around the property solving clues and seeking out treasure. (I’m not sure there was actually to be found but just the thrill of the chase.)

But it was fun to go back with a local group of instagrammers (read chronic photo-takers) to be guided through the homestead and its various outbuildings, dating from convict days, by a team of dedicated and knowledgeable guides to explain some of its past. The homestead building is original, and charming, while the furniture and fittings inside have been re-imagined with items from the era, allowing you a peek into times gone by. It’s really quite lovely.

Outside the main property is a collection of all those outbuildings any self-respecting homestead should have: a kitchen, cooks’ quarters, stables, cellar, etc. There’s even some wonderfully alliterative hand-hewn hexagonal hardwood to hoo-hah at on the floor of the stable, a whole foot deep.

A little meander away, just on the edge of the Murrumbidgee River, there’s a little white hut that once housed the convicts overseer to make sure the convicts were all in place after the days’ work. The residents there could look out just across the river to the spot where William Farrer, of Australian wheat fame, used to reside and experiment with rust-resistant wheat strains suitable for Australian conditions. History at your backdoor indeed. Thirty years I’ve lived in this city and I’ve never twigged that the suburb Farrer was named for that man.

Once you’ve had your fill of history, you can enjoy a picnic from the gardens with the blue hills of the Brindabella Ranges as your backdrop, or grab a coffee or lunch in the cafe if you prefer. Hell, you can even get married at Lanyon if you want.

Some of the property is still leased as a working farm, and the smattering of black cows and a still working Southern Cross windmill from the 1930s render it as truly authentic.

I missed the famed vegetable garden and I didn’t get time to photograph the cows, but here are some resident ducks and their babies instead.


Too much to take in. Too little time. Perhaps I’ll have to go back again.

With thanks to the IgersCanberra team for organising and the lovely ladies @ACTHistoricplaces, Kate, Sally & Clare, who showed us the sights and explained the history, and even put up that timber sheep ‘hurdle’ (above) as they used to do in days of old. Impressive.

The virtual world meets reality – Insta-happenings


, , , , , , ,


My dear better half despairs of the time I devote living in my ‘other world’ of social media, lurking for hours in a virtual reality behind a small screen. It is somewhat addictive, but recently I proved to him that it can sometimes be more than cyber-stalking and that there are actually real people involved. And sometimes you get to meet them in person.

Enter stage right: IgersCanberra, a local community of people who like to take photos and share them on Instagram. The Igers mob (there’s a core group of organisers) recently put out a photographic challenge on the theme of Feather, fur and fins, sparking a frenzy of clicking and posting activity across Canberra, and which culminated in an exhibition of a selection of images hosted by the Tuggeranong Arts Centre.

I was chuffed to have one of my images selected: a beautiful peacock taken from a different angle. (This fine fellow turned out to be quite the model, very cooperative and almost stationary while he preened and posed for photos, feathers expanded in full glory. Look at me, look at me. I met him at the marvellous Blackbutt Reserve in Newcastle – more of the peacock glory and the tale of Blackbutt is here. )

Who knew a bottom could be quite so attractive?

tail feathers

How great on the opening night of the exhibition, wine glass in hand, to see all the images displayed on a gallery wall and actually printed in full detail, quite different to seeing them flashing quickly by on a tiny electronic screen. And then, we got to meet some of the faces behind the insta-handles – in full three dimensional person.

If you want to catch the exhibition, it’s on until 28 October, and if you want to read more, the ABC featured the event in a little write up here.

The Canberra Igers group is part of a much wider Igers movement that consists of geographically-based communities around the world, all happily snapping away and sharing their images digitally – and sometimes meeting up!

I’d met a couple of the people before when I attended an ‘instameet’ several months before when a group met up to learn a bit about painting with light in night photography, under the guidance of a few people who knew what they were doing. A bit of shared knowledge goes a long way.


And this weekend I’m off to another one, this time to take a behind-the-scenes peek at rural Lanyon Homestead, one of the oldest buildings we have around these parts, guided by ACT Historic Places. Of course, we’ll have our phones in hand to click madly as we go.

See. It’s really not anti-social at all.

PS Thanks to the Igers team for your work, the excursions, and the cupcakes!


Photo credits for images in top photo: L-R: @millicentrussell; @boomingon; @Daisyduds; @meeklay; @dkolsky

Holiday travel: how to pack like a boss


, , , , ,

packingThere’s a multitude of helpful advice about the smartest and leanest ways of packing for holidays. But it wasn’t until Miss Sunshine (3) came for a sleepover with her carefully packed ‘Trunkie’ that I twigged that’s there’s basically just one rule: pack what’s important to you.

Her packing clearly identify her priorities. Array of soft toys for night time cuddles; choice of foot wear; just-in-case pull ups for night time. I especially loved that she packed food, just in case Marsie and Dude didn’t have any at their place.

There’s a lot to be gleaned from the ‘holiday’ packings of a small one. It’s interesting that after several sleepovers, the packing has reduced somewhat as she’s become more practised and relaxed about the whole process and worked out what’s absolutely key.  (Shoe choices remain a priority, as does toothbrush and toothpaste, I’m pleased to say.) She’s also worked out Marsie and Dude do in fact have food at their house and are likely to share it with her so she won’t starve if she doesn’t bring her own.

That’s what happens. We evolve, and get better with working out what we need and what we don’t. Well, that’s the theory.

So, herewith my suggestions for sensible holiday packing. I wrote it for women, but guys – hell, if the shoe fits…

And lookey look, no long list of affiliate links to each separate suggestion!! Just tips. Just saying.

Think about where you’re going. Hardly rocket science, but think through the days. Somewhere tropical means it’s likely there’ll be lots of rain, so rubber thongs might be handy for the beach and puddles in sudden downpours. Won’t need them in Europe in autumn though. And you won’t need any sort of wool in Asia.

Coordinate, coordinate. Choose one basic colour, maybe black or navy, and make sure everything can go back to that. It means lots of matchy matchy stuff will be happening and it will seem you have heaps of outfits even with limited items. That  helps with the ‘don’t take too much’ thing. The better you plan, the less you need. A colour-consultant-colleague would be screaming in anguish about the lack of colour, but that’s what accessories are for, and feature items, and scarves (see below).

Try on your stuff before you go  It’s amazing how clothes can mysteriously shrink in the wardrobe between seasons (is that just me?). Make sure it all works together and omit items which want to star by themselves. Travel packing is about team play. Keep in mind layering for cooler days or dressing up for evenings.

Plan your travel outfit. Start with what you’ll be wearing on the way and put that aside. Comfy pants are a must, and layers as it gets hotter and colder. No, it’s not just you. Planes can do that too. Wear your heaviest comfy shoes to wear on the plane to lighten your load.

Take a scarf. My absolute must-have item. What a multitude of purposes it serves! Wrapped around your knees or neck, it keeps you warm, or snazzy; around your head or shoulders it keeps you appropriate in mosques; draped in the evening it makes you glam and gorgeous; and during the day it protects you from sunburn (unless you’re British in which case you’re likely to want to maximise your sun exposure and turn bright red and blistered to demonstrate you’ve been on holiday). You can even wrap it around your head as the locals do in Morocco and protect yourself from heatstroke in the Sahara. So versatile! Hell, go crazy – maybe take two! I like cotton longish ones – super versatile and easy to wash – rather than small silk ones that slip off.


Shoe choices. These things can overload your case, but are key to get right. If you’re going to walk a lot, take comfy walking shoes, and ones you’ve worn in.  And do you really need those heels? Last trip I managed to take just flats. I am at peace with my vertically-challenged body, and a pair of pretty flats can look dressy. Just don’t take too many. Daughter Moo once tried to take 13 pairs of shoes to Hamilton Island for a week. With effort, I whittled her down to eight.

Pack clothes that are warm enough. This one’s sooo important. If you’re cold, you’re miserable, and likely everyone else will be too, because you’ll complain all the time, especially at your partner. Or again, is that just me? Personally I’d rather carry a jacket and not wear it rather than be cold. Just got myself a lightweight down one which ticks all the boxes for changing weather. Bliss bliss bliss.

Allow time to sort out your technology – and test it I swear it almost takes longer to pack all the techo things than the clothes things, just so you can stay ‘connected’ to all those things and people you’re trying to have a break from. Phone, laptop, tablet, chargers, spare batteries, camera, lenses, memory cards, USB, blah, blah, blah. Here’s my big hint: if you’re going to buy new gear just before you go (because you get the GST back as you’re leaving, remember?), allow yourself time to transfer your stuff and TEST IT WORKS before you go. Go into your apps and online accounts to check passwords etc from any new devices. Such a pain when you can’t access them from overseas if they require a phone connection for passwords and you’re relying on free wifi. Yep, I still do that.

Remove those gym clothes you packed. Who are you kidding? If you’re really dedicated and you do perchance get to the gym instead of cocktail hour, you can just wear the shorts and t-shirt already packed. The runners are okay – you’ll probably use them.

Store your travel bibs and bobs together. I’ve got a permanent little box of travel stuff ready to pull out and go when needed: travel purse, suitcase locks, adapters, plastic zip lock bags, sewing kit, mini shampoos and so on. Boom.


Do the Chanel thing – When you think you’re done, take something out (instead of off). Maybe that extra jumper, or that other black top that looks pretty much the same as the first one. It’s black. No one will see it’s dirty—#thebeautyofblack.

I’m sure I’m getting better all the time, but hell, it still takes a while.

What are your fave packing tips?