Sunday, November 13, 2011

Blue Bottle Tops, Blue Bottles, Blue Skies, Blue Petals

Things I like about Sydney No. 65: Blue Bottle Tops, Blue Bottles, Blue Skies, Blue Petals and All Things Blue

Everything is a little hectic at the moment. My prolonged absence from my right and proper task - creating entries for The Reluctant Sydneysider - has been the result of some momentous decision-making here on the home-front. To cut a long story short (as Tony Hadley once intoned, back in the days when Spandau Ballet proudly wore frilly shirts on BBC1's Top Of The Pops) my days in Sydney are numbered...

My reluctance will shortly be no more. On the 21st December I leave these shores and return to the harsher climes of Islington. At least for a while...

I have put off this moment of committing the truth to computer for many weeks. Our imminent departure has somehow prevented me from being able to write anything recently. It is only the fact that Allied Pickfords are arriving in two days time to pack up my computer as part of our freight consignment to London that has enabled me to consider this final entry at all.

Well, that and the very blue weekend I have just spent down South in Berrara with our friends Karilyn and Tanja.

Berrara is about three and a half hours away from our house here in Greenwich if you take the Prince's Highway (No.1) directly South. Escaping the confines of urban Sydney takes up most of the journey but the final hour's driving rewards you with some lovely green and rolling hills which are dotted with grazing cows and shadowed by the occasional hovering hawk. Berrara itself is a draw - a ramshackle little village perched on the coast supplied with a plethora of spectacular beaches and lakes. Once there life slows down and the sound of traffic is replaced with the sound of birds endlessly arguing over who gets the best blossom of the day.

Our first blue experience was on the beach. As soon as we arrived we were compelled to take Sniff down to the one nearest to Tanja and Karilyn's house - it has just the right consistency of sand to turn him into a sprinting maniac (and ordinarily there is nothing that can induce Sniff to run: a greyhound he ain't). Once there we discovered that, thanks to a storm the day before, much of its length was scattered with dying Bluebottles: poisonous blue sacs of fun trailing deadly streamers filled with more venom able to whip by your legs if swimming with unnerving accuracy. Some of these Bluebottles had been carefully encircled on the sand with a warning mark by other passers-by but the further up the beach you went the more there were and the less warning.

Conveniently Daniel is wearing a nice shade of blue himself here to compliment and enhance my theme.

I think we need a close-up of one of our little evil friends.

They're like a brightly coloured bagpipe aren't they? One with the entrails still attached.

Despite the proliferation of these strange sacs of vituperative nature we managed to negotiate the entire length of the beach without falling foul of them, reaching Mermaid's Point with ease where we once more failed to see the oft-promised dolphins...

We returned to Tanja and Karilyn's to find them both embroiled in an adventure of an even more serious nature - a garden infested with deadly Paralysis Ticks. Karilyn had been happily gardening away at the bottom of their lawn only to realise that she was covered with larger than normal ticks. We soon learn through the neighbourhood grapevine that there is a veritable plague of the bastards - the weather conditions having been ideal - and that several dogs have already succumbed (ie. been killed...) Fortunately, I dosed Sniff with anti-tick medication before we left for the coast but their overwhelming presence did mean much checking of his fur throughout the weekend. He eventually got none. I managed to get one (walking to the beach at night with Sniff after rather a lot of wine), Karilyn about twenty five (gardener extraordinaire) , Daniel and Tanja none (chefs extraordinaire - obviously a tick-free kitchen).

Our second blue experience was uncovered not far from Karilyn's garden, haven of the predatory ticks - at the bottom of the next-door neighbour's garden. We were taken round there in order to see, brazen in all its crazy glory, the following:

This is the local male Satin Bowerbird's bower.

As you can see, his extraordinary structure of sticks, each carefully placed to create a structure that out-Gormleys Gormley, is furthermore surrounded by pieces of bright blue plastic - old pegs, bottle-tops, broken bits of files - anything blue, in a visual dance that out-Emins Emin.

For me this was as exciting as it gets...Bowerbirds are things you see on David Attenborough programmes not at the bottom of someone's garden. And although I knew (from Mr. Attenborough) about the construction of bowers and the crazy mating dances and of the Bowerbirds' superior intelligence, I had no idea that Satin Bowerbirds collect ONLY BLUE THINGS. How refined! How crazy! How extraordinary! And here it was!!!

Whilst we sat outside, eating lunch or breakfast, basking in the sunshine, we all saw the male bowerbird frequently criss-crossing the garden. Occasionally he would settle on the garden fence and watch us just as we watched him before setting tirelessly off to find another blue treasure. He gleamed brilliantly with his satiny sheen in the sunlight. The females were equally spectacular - two of them afforded us the opportunity to study them by fighting each other on the lawn. Their bright purple eyes and green-hued feathers that shone as brightly as the male's purple-black ones made them far prettier than our bird handbook implied. I felt as mighty as David Attenborough must have done in that infamous Gorilla episode he filmed years and years ago when I managed to snap a photo of the females:

My final blue moment of the weekend (and keeping to the blue theme has necessarily bypassed such excitements as the finding of stranded sharks and the duelling of Goannas and Currawongs) happened once we'd returned to our house in Greenwich and I took Sniff out to re-acquaint himself with the neighbourhood's doggy doings. This is a blue moment that everyone in Sydney is having at this time of year, one that involves intense carpets of lavender-blue petals....A moment otherwise known as The Falling of the Jacaranda....


  1. Is Sniff coming back to London with you? Do you have an Australian accent by now? Are you going to miss Sydney? All these questions - I think we're going to need a London blog now - The Ecstatic Londoner perhaps?