Saturday, December 18, 2010

Notes and Observations

Things I like about Sydney No. 40: Peeling Trees

All the gum trees on Berry Island are shedding their skins for the summer exposing shiny new reddish trunks. They are putting their winter furs away (I've been re-reading Nancy Mitford, it's all about furs). The floor of the walking trail is strewn with strips of multi-coloured bark which look like large pieces of puzzle waiting to be put back together again. When the sun comes out and strikes the tree trunks they look remarkably beautiful, a burnished reddish-gold.

Things I like about Sydney No. 41: The return of the Southern Leaf-Tailed Gecko.

The screams emanating from our bathroom are frequent enough these days to elicit a mild inquiry rather than an urgent response from those hearing them. Even when they occur in the middle of the night. The latest cry for help resulted from Daniel standing on another Southern Leaf-Tailed Gecko. As it was dark at the time he had no idea what he'd trodden on, only that it was alive and that it moved and that it felt disgusting. Fumbling for the light he then saw that the Gecko was back. With a new tail.

To tell the truth, this was a new Gecko. Much livelier than the last. It motored around the bathroom and evaded all our rescue attempts. Daniel left the window open (letting all those pesky mosquitoes in) and this time, in the dark of night, the Gecko vanished. We have no idea how they get in in the first place...

Things I like about Sydney No. 42: The magpies.

Australian magpies make the most extraordinary noises - they have a bubbling, chortling fountain of a song. When several of them get going at once it is quite joyful. Here is a link so you can hear it for yourselves:

When I came to Australia back in 1970-something the first Australian creature I saw, on opening the curtains on that first morning in suburban Melbourne, was a magpie, sauntering across the lawn. I remember being amazed at seeing this bird - the same but so different to the British equivalent. It was so large. It had a very pointy beak. It was a weird variation on a known theme.

Two magpies have begun to join in the feeding frenzy at our house in Glenview Street. Despite their size they are wary of the lorikeets and steer well clear of the cockatoos. So the current pecking order is:
1. Cockatoos
2. Lorikeets
3. Magpies
4. King Parrots
5. Crested Pigeon

Some mornings it is complete chaos on our balcony. And one of our avian friends has systematically destroyed my frangipani, plucking off new leaves as they arrive and eventually pecking off entire branches just for fun...

Things I like about Sydney No. 42: The second folly at Tambourine Bay.

Sometimes you don't see things because you are looking too hard.

At the far end of our walk around Tambourine Bay (described back in  March) Sniff and I arrive at a small beach, the end of the road for this particular walk. There is a jetty here belonging to St. Ignatius College (St. Ignatius had repetitive visions of serpents which had many things that shone like eyes, but were not eyes, whilst living as a hermit in a cave in Catalonia so he sounds like a very sound role model for young schoolboys) and we usually walk out to the end of it and whilst Sniff sniffs around reading the doggy news of the day I stand and stare at the far shore, at the lines of houses, at the yachts and boats, at the pelicans, into the water, at the crabs scuttling to safety under rocks. I then turn around, look back to our favourite folly and start the walk home.

Except the other day, I turned around and looked upwards, away from the water, the boats, the pelicans, the houses, and discovered....ANOTHER folly. Perched high up on a hill, half hidden by trees. A companion to folly number one.

Sniff and I began to scramble up a very overgrown and disused path to get a closer look. The path soon disappeared and we had to climb over bushes and up rocks (Sniff being rather better at this than me), expecting to find the folly in complete disarray. But when we reached our destination, it seemed freshly painted, cared-for and serene. A secret hideout affording a great view of the city in the far distance. I have no idea who uses it - now I know it is there I look out for evidence of inhabitants but never see anyone in it. It's all very mysterious and charming.

1 comment:

  1. I read - have forgotten where - that the number of times we look upward falls dramatically after we become adults. Children look up, down, all around, but when we grow, we stop doing this. The statistics on this were dramatic - again I have forgotten them - but I remember being startled by the tightness of the blinkers that apparently descend after the age of innocence.

    Thank you Jonathan for reminding me to cast my gaze about. Who knows what secrets we are missing...