he’s true blue



My wishing well thing can be traced back to the late 60s and one of those drear junction towns that exist only as truck stops on the highway of life.

Every year we’d stop at the same town and stay in the same motel.

The True Blue Motel was the newest in West Wyalong back then and ergo, mum believed, the cleanest.

I don’t know who first devised the fiction that disused mine shaft in the forecourt of the motel was a wishing well.

But, after eight hours in the car with two kids and a dog, my parents were probably hoping desperately for peace and quiet at very least.

And that steel mesh covered hole surrounded by concrete delivered. It was a well of enchantment.

I’d beg dozens of one, two and five cent pieces and toss them one after the other; each coin carrying the small aspirations of child.

The last time my husband was fit enough to leave his bed we sat in the hospital coffee shop next to the fountain. 

Eyeing all the coins in the bottom of the pool, I reached for my purse.

OK,” says he, before adding judiciously “but not a gold one.”

There wasn’t time to pack up his room before he was transferred to a bigger, noisier hospital with more machines that go ping.

After he was safely installed in a $57,000 bed in ICU, I went back to collect his belongings. 

Passing the fountain I tipped the entire contents of my bulging coin purse into its waters.

What I wouldn’t give for my beautiful man so true blue.


you’ll never never know …

loo roll

Black-shouldered kites wheel and cry overhead as red-kneed dotterels bob for bugs along the swampy shoreline. But it’s when two majestic silvery-grey birds intersect this picture that it really becomes a postcard. “Aha, brolgas,” comes the delighted exclamation from behind binoculars.

Are we adventuring in NT’s Top End you ask? No my friends. Welcome to Victoria’s own Kakadu – right here on Melbourne’s doorstep.

World-best environmental practice has transformed the Western Treatment Plant into a wetlands of international importance.

Werribee’s “big stink”, as I knew it as a child, is no longer on the nose. In fact it’s become destination in its own right, attracting both birds and bird lovers from all over the world.

A third of all the bird species that have been recorded in Australia – including the critically endangered orange-bellied parrot – have been spotted on this 10,500 hectare site.

The Western Treatment Plant treats around 50% of Melbourne’s sewage, but also generates almost 40 billion litres of recycled water a year and produces its own electricity on site through the capture of methane gas.

As soon as you come in here your perception of what a sewage treatment plant should be changes,” Melbourne Water education programs coordinator, Chris Lunardi, says.

I think every one who uses the toilet should come to this place and just see what we can do to turn something so long considered just waste into something really valuable on an international level.”

You’ll never, never know if you never never go.

NB: Schools and community groups can tour the Western Treatment Plant. To book a tour or register interest in the next open day visit http://www.melbournewater.com.au and follow the links to the WTP. Access permits are required for birders with details available on the same site.


re-built this city on … what exactly?

darwin homeless

Dateline, Darwin: There are probably more subtle ways to let it be known you’re on holidays, but frankly I’m in shock.

Walking along the main street of the NT capital we’ve witnessed, quite literally, the descent of man: the free fall from proud indigenous culture to glassy-eyed beggar in a block.

The first true local we encounter at a prominent corner near the start of the Mitchell Street tourist precinct has the demeanour of a professional busker.

Coins trickle steadily into his wooden bowl as he chants and wields a pair of handsome, hand-painted clapsticks.

Further down the block a second man has improvised. But substituting traditional instruments with twigs proves less successful and little money drops into his plastic cup.

A few doorways down the third man has no sticks at all. He sings lustily, but by now visitors have the tunnel vision of old Darwin hands and most side-step him sightlessly. There’s 60 cents on the filthy T-shirt before him.

The fourth man – encamped in a greasy alcove between fast-food shops – has no hope, but will not let people ignore him.

He lunges angrily at passers-by, thrusting out his hand and cursing when they fail to give.

It’s not just about alcohol or drug abuse. The long-grassers, as these homeless folk are known, are symptomatic of a much wider socio-economic problem in the Territory.

To start with the homelessness rate there is 15 times higher than the national average.

With three-bedroom houses now costing an average of $700 a week to rent and a median of $630,000 to buy, it really is the Top End.

PS: Pinched the photo from ABC may possibly be Alice Springs, but Darwin picture depressingly similar

sign language


To get their L-plate driving hours up the twins were taking it in turns to drive from their home in central west NSW to Geelong for a family reunion.

It wasn’t long after they crossed the border they noticed a marked change in scenery.

While Victorians have arguably become conditioned to strange admonitions which proliferate along our highways and byways, interstate and overseas visitors have not.

At first the twins were bemused: “Yawning? Take a powernap. Got sore eyes? Take a powernap.”

Then they started gleefully reciting each new sign. “Feeling drowsy? Take a powernap. Open your eyes. Fatigue kills. Take a powernap. Powernap now.”

Their father, fearing the twin at the wheel was paying more attention to the roadside than the road, ordered her to pull over after “Police enforcing speed” sent them both into paroxysms.

Really officer? I have to go that fast?” the non-driver chortled.

Now, we should take road safety seriously and obviously this was the Transport Accident Commission (TAC) intended, but the twins’ response raises an issue.

Is there a chance that roadside visual clutter can actually overload the driver or cause distraction.

Nearing Geelong the twins – now in the back seat – added “Crawl Low in Smoke” and “In the Bay Keep Clear of Big Ships” to their dossier of weird Victorian roadside safety signs.

Sadly they’d missed my seasonal favourite: “Pull over if locusts impair your vision.”

Like why stop at locusts? What if you a blinded by bees or bedazzled by bats?

Now that would be a sign.


seeking judith


The reception can be a little patchy going through the Macedon Ranges. We were nearing Woodend when I checked the phone and found I’d missed three calls – all from the same unfamiliar mobile number.

On the last attempt the caller had left a message. “I’m trying to reach Sarah. If this is your phone please call me urgently.”

This is a call I half-expect every day. Is it my mother? Fallen again, or perhaps worse, in the nursing home. Is it my dear old dad – who has a A4 list of ailments, several of them life-threatening, including an aortic aneurysm?

Heart pounding, I call back. “Oh Sarah, thank heavens! What colour handbag do you have?”

It’s sort of beige I guess. But who are you and why do you ask? “Sorry, it’s Rebecca. Do you … do you have Judith … ?”

Now, having just come from an interview and photo shoot with The Seekers, I can attest Judith Durham is tiny, but not that small.

Her PA Rebecca continues through crackles. “Do you have Judith’s phone? I think I accidentally put it in your handbag instead of hers.”

Forget the autograph, I’ve absconded with the original pop princess’s cell phone. Kumbaya, my lord indeed!

As we turn the car round and head back toward the city with a perky little Nokia perched on the dashboard, I’m giddy with relief at having escaped a more serious summons.

Ring, ring, why don’t you give me a call.

Whoops, sorry, wrong number.

The husband groans.

There’s still a long, long way to go.

the noodle moodle

Photo by Family Circle Australia Aug 14, 2012

Photo by Family Circle Australia Aug 14, 2012

     IT’S true that in life there are those more inclined to use their noodles than others.

For example Ben, 11, uses his whenever possible to wallop his brother.

I love it because you can fight with them and you don’t get in trouble because it doesn’t hurt a bit,” he says.

There is something simultaneously both completely ridiculous and utterly zen about the pool noodle.

To start with, the notion that – without them sniffing it – a tube of non absorbent extruded polyethylene could keep kids transfixed for hours is pretty amazing.

Then there’s the fact that one noodle, 1.8m long and 70mm in width that weighs almost nothing itself, can support a 90 kg person.

And, the noodle is so versatile.

You can sit astride it or ride side-saddle; place it behind you neck and float backwards, tuck it under your arms and paddle forwards or latch several together as a raft, and that is just if you are unimaginative.

But for all its many applications, for all the elegant simplicity of its design, its ubiquitous appearance at merest sight of a puddle – no one has recorded the history of the noodle.

Unlike the hula hoop, yo-yo or pet rock it apparently has no place in great pop culture collections of the world.

No one even seems to know who invented it.

My own research efforts drew a blank before 1995 when a company called Nomanco began making a product called Funnoodle in Zebulon, North Carolina.

But, I’m clinging on for dear life. The hunt for the originator of all this fun may have me treading some murky waters, but I’ll keep noodling for facts.

swallows & amazons


Mindful of the real estate mantra “location, location, location” our friends chose the site for their brand spanking new home carefully.

The views are truly superb. It’s small wonder that Angus would literally puff with pride as he stood on the deck gazing across the valley. As for Claudia, that girl gave a whole new meaning to the term nesting.

The young couple not unreasonably believed their home, being sturdy mudbrick, would withstand anything.

Imagine, then, everyone’s utter surprise and their absolute horror when they returned one day to find their home had gone – summarily demolished, leaving behind only foundations.

To say Claudia was distraught was an understatement.

Yes, it’s true they had not sought all the necessary building approvals from the local council, but to level the place seemed extraordinarily heavy-handed.

My husband, who witnessed the whole thing, tried several times to intervene. Bravely he put himself between Angus and Claudia’s property and the determined home-wrecker.

But eventually he had to leave his post and go to the bathroom.

He returned just as the magpie made its assault.

Angus and Claudia’s home crashed to the deck, sheared off by the force of that vicious beak.

At first our friends were in total denial with Angus actually finding a way under the eaves and into our loungeroom in his frantic search for the lost property.

But, 24 hours on, construction has began again – this time on a beam less accessible to marauders.

They say one swallow does not a summer make, but it seems when you are in love, it takes more than one magpie to wreck a spring.