Monday, December 31, 2012

A Gecko in the Bathroom

Just like most people, I prefer to shower alone, but since moving into our new house, it has not been just a matter of walking into the bathroom on my own.

Just a few days after we moved in, I found a large spider in the bathroom and began squealing like a little girl. Luckily my husband was home to rescue me.

Since that first spider, I always check the room before I undress.

Over the last few months, I have found two more large black hairy spiders, two small speedy spiders, and several bugs. They all got gently relocated except for the one that got away. One of the biggest ones disappeared into the shower frame and never reappeared.

It was bad enough knowing it was there, but then the other day I walked into the bathroom and found something else I didn’t expect or want.

A small grey gecko clung on to the sides of the bath, looking for all the world like a rubber parody of a gecko. Its little black eyes looked like little beads stuck onto its head and its light colourless skin looked stretchy and artificial.

Unluckily it ran much faster than a rubber toy. Luckily I have had lots of practice with a plastic bowl and paper lid. He got hunted down and turfed out after a few minutes of clumsy handwork with my plastic bowl, and a few more minutes of admiring him in his confined space.

If he had turned up a few months earlier, I might have been kinder and placed him gently under one of the bushes that edge our property. After visits from numerous spiders, ants, mosquitos, a snake, and a frog, I was not so patient. The poor thing got thrown from the balcony into the nearest plant, along with a lecture on the inadvisability of coming inside the house again.

I like geckos in principle and have one on my house entrance

but I don't really want them up close and personal.

I thought that was it, but there was another surprise in store.

I went into my office to do some work on my computer and a small insect landed on my desk.

It looked like an ant with wings. It turned out was an ant with wings, and, it was not alone. Looking up I saw its whole extended family swarming around the light bulb on the wall.

Thank goodness for fly spray. And thank goodness for vacuum cleaners and dustpans.

That is how I learned that when some ants want to move to a new nest, they grow wings and follow the queen as she searches for a new spot. I am grateful they were attracted to the light or I might not have found them until they had set up a new nest under my bed.

It might be time to give up the dream of an organic home and buy myself an industrial strength fly spray dispenser.

Friday, November 30, 2012

A Lizard in my Pool

There seems to be a theme developing on the blog. I have had recent close encounters with koalas, and spiders, and even a snake in my living room. There is interesting wildlife popping by to visit daily. Luckily for me, the latest one did not come any closer than the pool in my garden.

Before I go on I need to explain that our pool was designed to be a swimming pool, but the previous owner neglected it for so long, that now it is a mass of pondweed, coffee coloured water, and insect larvae.

One day we will pump it out, disinfect it, and make it all sparkling new again so we can use it for its intended purpose. In the meantime, I love watching the birds skimming the surface for insects, and enjoy seeing the ducks treating it like their own personal hotel spa pool.

And now there is another reason to love having my own personal wildlife pond; a lizard has come by for a visit.

It seemed happy enough, sitting in our waste outlet, but it occurred to me that it might be stuck. It might not be able to climb the slick fibreglass pool walls and leave.

The next day I watched it swim at the edge of the pool and then reach out ineffectively to the water outlet, little hand flailing. As I watched he began to sink. His head stayed above water for a bit watching us with beady eyes, and then his whole body sank into the depths of the murky pool.

I called my husband over for advice.

Neither of us knows much about the lizard but we decided to play it safe.

We carefully manoeuvred the lizard onto a leaf rake and deposited it under some shady bushes, where it stayed motionless, and almost invisible among the twigs, until we left.

I am not sure if we saved the life of the lizard, or merely interrupted his morning swim. All I know is that if he was playing dead, he deserves an Oscar.

Just in case it happens again, I am going to put a knotted rope into the pool. The next lizard, goanna, snake, or skinny koala that gets through the fence into the pool will be able to find its own way out.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Is that A Frog Upstairs?

A while ago, a carpet snake turned up in my living room. A few weeks before that, I had two koalas in the trees outside my door.

I thought I had had my share of ‘Crocodile Dundee’ type adventures. Then the other night I came home to find a frog in my house. I wonder what will be next. A kangaroo? A pelican?

It is all seeming a little unlikely. I knew there was lots of local wildlife, I just had no idea that it would all want to come into my home.
I had just arrived home and it was a little dark. I walked upstairs, turned on the light, and the bouncy little grey thing hopped across the carpet looking for somewhere to hide. Luckily we still have no furniture in most of the upstairs rooms and he was easily cornered and taken outside by my intrepid Aussie boyfriend who is now my husband and wildlife wrestler.

I spent the next three minutes checking the house for frog sized cracks, as my husband vainly tried to reassure me that the frog came in through the door. Since the snake incident, I have always made sure the door was closed firmly. Perhaps my husband left the door open, or maybe it came in behind us as we arrived. I worry that if the frog got in then the snake might return. Perhaps he will hear about the frog and come back inside looking for a little grey snack.

Only a few days ago, after finding the third spider in a week, I waged war on all the bugs and spread a three month insect killer all along the skirting boards and ceiling beams. Obviously no one told the frog and he assumed we still had froggy treats on tap.

It reminds me of the children’s story about an old lady that swallowed a fly, and then swallowed a bird to eat the spider, a cat to eat the bird, a dog to chase the cat, a cow to scare the dog, and so on.

Perhaps one day we will be visited by a four foot goanna. They are not common here, but Phil assures me they exist. If there are any within a fifty mile radius, then I am sure one will turn up here eventually.

Perhaps I should invite it in. A goanna in the house would be too big to sneak up on me and might keep the house snake free. It’s worth a thought.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Of big things like ... Yetis?

 One of the things I love about this part of Australia is that everything is so big. Wonderful things, like large colourful birds, fish that fishermen can write home about, and kangaroos and wallabies that look to me like a kind of large rodent.


There are also annoying things like the bulbous, fat, and persistent flies. The third time I whack my arm and miss them, I remember they won’t be put off by a loud noise or a simple wave of the hand, no matter how “karate kid” fast.

Other insects are also large and sometimes come with teeth and fangs. I have come up close and personal with giant cockroaches, and furry black spiders of joke shop proportions. I have even had a snake enter my house and curl up to sleep in my living room.

So many things have been a surprise, and some are just plain mysterious.

Today I attempted to remove some of the garden weeds. I have been wrestling with an infestation of “Mother-in-Laws tongue. A blade shaped leaf that grows up to four feet high and has spread to plague proportions along our fence.

It fights back.

As I grab one end and pull it out, the other swings around and slaps me on the face, or tangles in my legs and tries to trip me up. Sometimes it succeeds.

Next to the aggressive weeds, there is also a gorgeous large flower that has grown up all on its own. It sprouted from a forgotten and sadly neglected pot in the overgrowth of the sadly neglected garden borders.


That is a big pot and those flowers are almost six inches across.

In Far North Queensland I watched an enormous cassowary cross the road.

A cassowary crossing the road

Other large things are not as easy to identify. A while ago, I looked out my window and saw what looked like a large hare. It was three times the size of anything I had seen in my whole life. Of course the photo is blurry like the pictures of the loch ness monster or the yeti.

A hare in the garden?

As a voracious reader of one too many Readers Digest ‘survival under wildlife attack’ stories, I am understandably nervous about a four foot high rabbit or a haystack of a bird with barbed wire feet.

Are these just bad photos, or the beginning of a new legend? You decide.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

A Snake in my Living Room

The other day I was relaxing in my new comfortable easy chair and watching a little daytime TV when I saw something move out of the corner of my eye. When I looked down, I found I had been joined by a six foot long python.

The only reason I didn’t jump out of my chair in fright was because I had met him a few days before.

I was hosing my garden when he appeared from the corner of the house. I tried to chase him away with a stream of water, but instead he took up residence in my garden shed. Stupidly, I left the door open so he could leave again.

I had only just come to terms with a snake in my garden. He seemed friendly enough and quite good natured when a neighbour and I spent twenty fruitless minutes trying to encourage him out of the shed with a broom and a long handled rake. I figured he could stay there if he wanted. I knew of others who had pet snakes and I knew it would not hurt me unless I hurt it first.

I was also told on good authority that they usually slide away when they see someone.

This one was apparently much friendlier. He climbed the outside stairs to the open back door, came inside through a slightly open door, crossed the living areas, came down the internal stairs, and then deliberately chose to come into the room where the TV was blazing away and there was bright fluorescent light.

It cruised lazily past my feet as if it owned the place, ignoring my polite but insistent requests to leave, and then went to sleep in a coil in the corner behind some tools that belong to my husband.

The snake in my living room

I know I am attractive to Aussie wildlife. The mossies always go for me first, and I am loved by leeches and ticks, but this was ridiculous.

Luckily I had friends I could call because this was beyond my ability to solve. I feel more comfortable with snakes than most of my friends, but this only means that I can look at them from six feet away without screaming.

The friend picked him up using a broom handle in the centre of his coil and dropped him into a spare recycling bin I had. We then wheeled him outside and let him out in the forest across the road.

The snake in my recycling bin

It was exciting, but not something I want to repeat.

I spent my first fifty years growing up where there were no snakes. Now I have been up close and personal with several. Even people who have lived in Australia all their lives have usually not known one to come into the living areas.

I am just lucky I guess.

Monday, October 22, 2012

A Koala in my Garden (Part 2)

Last week I had a snake in my garden. This week I had another visitor. A much more cute and cuddly looking visitor. I finally saw the koala that has been visiting my back yard.

My husband, Phil, saw him first, just a shadow moving along the ground in the early light. When I arrived he had already started up the tree just outside our window, his furry body out of sight on the other side of the tree trunk. All we could see were his little claws clamped on either side of the trunk.

He climbed to a high branch and that sat there watching all around as we went outside and stared back at him. He was so cute. Koalas have round furry ears, and a surprisingly large flat black nose. Looking back at us he was teddy bear cute.

All day I kept checking on him. Apart from heading higher, he stayed in the same location and seemed to be dozing.

The next morning, I heard him growling, so I rushed out in my pyjamas. It took me ten minutes to find him just a few trees away, and then there was another surprise. A second lump on the tree, turned out to be another koala. This one was balanced on a slim branch out over the neighbour’s driveway.

As we watched, the first koala climbed cautiously down and then loped from tree to tree, down the garden, looking for the perfect spot.

Koalas are only active for a few minutes each day. They spend most of their day eating and snoozing. I feel particularly lucky to have seen this one moving.

The same day I also saw two kangaroos bouncing off into the bush and two amazing red spotted ladybugs. I often see tiny green tree frogs, and bumpy grey frogs. We have regular visits from birds of all kinds including the uniquely Australian kookaburras, cockatoos, galahs, and parrots of many hues.

Having a snake in the garden, is a small price to pay for the privilege of seeing all the other wildlife almost as close. I love it here

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

A Koala in my Garden

Last week there was a terrible racket in the garden. Something in the trees around our house was making itself heard and it sounded like a cross between a large growly dog and King Kong.

Luckily I was not alone at the time and it was easily explained by my Aussie husband.

It was a koala. A cute cuddly-looking, fluffy bear toy of a koala.

They are the sloths of the Australian bush and hardly move all day, but they sure can make a noise.

Woof, growl, grunt, growl, woof.

Tasmanian Koala
They are also masters of disguise. In three years in Australia, I have yet to see one in the wild. I have spoken to friends who have spotted one. I have been in a bush with a friend who saw one. I have missed one by minutes. But they have remained elusive so far.

Even though I know there is one in our trees, I have not been able to see that either.

Luckily, there are wildlife parks of all kinds here; including places where you can go to see koalas in trees close up.

I took the koala photo at a Tasmanian Wildlife Centre. They help koalas who can get hit on roads, stuck in swimming pools, and occasionally trapped in trees. And unhappily, that happens all too often.

Like many animals, the koala is in danger from modern civilisation. Australia has done a lot to try to protect the koala, but for an animal that is the epitome of Australian wildlife, it is sad to see it become so hard to find.

So, … I keep on looking up when I go outside.

Then yesterday, I got another surprise. I should have looked down.

As I was watering the garden snake appeared at the edge around the side of the house. Before I could deter him, he had slithered into the garden shed and made himself at home amongst the tools, the barbecue, and half a bag of mulch.

Phil is away so the neighbour was pressed into service to try and recover him.

He did his best, encouraging him onto a garden rake and then onto a sheet, but the snake was too fast and slipped away before we could contain him and move him back to the forest.

I did the only thing I could so, and that was to shut the snake in the shed until the morning when I could call someone.

The Snake in my Shed
Later I spoke to Phil, my source of all things Aussie. He is three thousand miles away at work this week and can only be moral support.

“He does his hunting at night. You need to let him out” he said

After a rather extended discussion, I put my tramping boots back on, went back downstairs with a torch, and nervously propped open the shed door.

So now, I may or may not have a snake in my garden as well as a koala. I kind of hope he slithered off back to the forest over the road. But there is a part of me that would love a tame snake in the garden; just as long as I know where he is. And unfortunately I don’t. He could be anywhere.

I scare myself by imagining him sliding in through the gap in the balcony ceiling. I soothe myself with the knowledge that he was probably in the garden all along and we have lived together peacefully so far.

I check the garden frequently for movement. I throw open the downstairs door when I go out in case he is hiding behind it. I have taken to wearing shoes just to go downstairs.

I am not really scared ... it's just that ... what is that noise in the ceiling?

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Free Events for the Financially Challenged

Just before Phil and I got married, we bought a home of our own. I have stopped house sitting and started house renovating.

Since Phil and I have both been nomads for the last two years, we have not much in the way of furnishings. The living room is bare except for the working trestle we are using as a couch and the bedroom has only a bed. Our clothes, tools, and other possessions sit in little piles around the edges of the spare room. We have a microwave, a kettle, two plates, two cups, and some cutlery. It is like camping in our own house.

Everything here needs fixing, so I spend up to two hours a day painting, scouring, and buying for my new house while Phil is at work. It is going to use up all our money for a while, but it hasn’t stopped us travelling and having adventures. We are just going to have them a little closer to home for a while.

There are so many local events. This month I want to go to an Indonesian Royal Wedding Festival, a Chinese Lantern Festival, the Brisbane Laser Light show, and the Brisbane Riverfire event. I would love to attend the Zombie walk, the superhero festival, and the Toowoomba Flower Festival, but it might be all too much.

Closer to home, I want to go to other free events like a movie night at the local library, a musical show at my church, an introduction to snakes and lizards, and a to spend a morning watching kids set up mini worm farms.

For my creative side I plan to attend a silk dyeing workshop and a clay animal making workshop. For my health and wellbeing I have applied to attend an abseiling day, an informative cruise of the local protected marine region, a cycling tour of a nearby island, and a day ocean jet skiing.

All of this and much, much more is available in my local region; most of it free, and the rest at a subsidised rate. Only the flower festival is more than 30 minutes away and some are just minutes from home.

It took me all morning to collate the activities and put them into my calendar and I haven’t even started to decide which of the nearby exercise and sport classes will suit me.

It is astounding how much there is to do here, and thanks to the mild climate, so much of it is outdoors. Even if there is nothing planned I can still walk a few laps of my local forest, wildlife reserve, or beach, or just stay home and walk around my garden.

I suspect it is going to take a little longer to get the house all set up as I want, but I don’t care. I am not old enough to settle down yet, and I suspect I never will be.

Perhaps you have some local events you love. Please share them with us in the comments.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

An Unconventional Middle Aged Wedding

People have been wondering where I have been, so now it is time to confess.

I was in New Zealand getting married to the man who is surpassing all my dreams. I couldn’t be happier.

Us with our two Best Men

Phil and I pop over to NZ several times a year to see our 16 tonne baby, and on the last visit he proposed. (While I was under the yacht painting … long story) So we decided to marry at the Marina.

Since then it has been a whirlwind of invites, and preparations, and planning that resulted in what I modestly claim is the best wedding I have ever been to.

Why? Well for one thing we played pass the parcel.

When Phil suggested it I was surprised and not particularly convinced but I decided to give it a go since he has just said yes to my plans to have several quizzes and a PowerPoint presentation.

We had just six tables of close family and local friends and it was the ideal size to have some fun.

After the short ceremony we took photos and then led a group down to see our yacht. It is the perfect yacht for making people feel okay about not having a yacht. She is sound but needs so much work. Some of our guests even took photos by a different and more photogenic yacht.

When we returned we had a quiz about our courtship. Not even close family got more than half the questions right. We asked things like what we did on our second date. The options were

A. Crashed our rental car into a taxi

B. Set fire to a boat or

C. Took a midwinter swim in frosty Wellington

Of course it was B  (you knew that right?) and we have photos to prove it.

Then we had our second quiz asking people to match our close family members with a fact about each of them. This way we achieved our objective of having my family get to know his a little better.

The only speeches were short and funny and definitely not formal. My dad told jokes and sang I am a Little Teapot (another long story). My brother interjected with funny comments and Phil and I both had a Best Man (we have only sons)

All in all it was just what I wanted.

And the pass the parcel? It was a big hit.

It ended up with Phil’s sister who won a book of humour to read in the toilet. (It was more tasteful than it sounds.)

We ended the night with dancing and the visual presentation of wedding jokes and quotes such as Rita Rudners gem “I think men who have a pierced ear are better prepared for marriage. They've experienced pain and bought jewellery.”

If you want to steal any of my ideas, please do. It was an unconventional wedding and lots of fun. I thoroughly recommend it.

And as for my travels.

Phil has been a big part of my Australian adventures and so there will still be plenty of them. Stay posted.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Pillbara Sandstone Caves

Don’t you just love it when something unexpected happens and it is really, really good?

Phil and I were on our way from Mudgee in New South Wales to Queensland and decided to check out a small spot between Coonabarabran and Narrabri in the Pilliga Nature Reserve. I have driven along this road several times but had not previously noticed the small sign saying there was a walk here.

This time we decided to stop.

There was a dirt track leading to an unremarkable looking walking trail. It said there were caves but I wasn’t expecting much.

Quite quickly the track approached a large rocky outcrop that had been invisible from the road. The rock was layered and etched into beautiful patterns of scoops and stripes. The old rock was grey but the exposed parts were so clean they looked like they had been scraped away just yesterday.

Sandstone Cave, Pillbara

We walked around the rock and marvelled at the many impressions and caves around the structure, from narrow ledges to full blown caves.

This area used to be the gathering point for certain Aboriginal tribes, and I could easily imagine groups in each cave. Here a gaggle of teenagers might have gathered to compare stories about the day. There the mothers might have gathered where the rock was lower with a sunken pit where the children could safely play.

Others might have lain in solitude or in tight pairs on the smaller ledges. Perhaps they looked out over the valley carpeted with treetops and considered their place in the world in the same way I did.

View from Sandstone Caves, Pillbara

They camped, and slept, and played, and cooked here.

In one sealed off cave there was even a large rock with several grooves, apparently made when the locals sharpened their knives here.

Cave of the knife sharpening Stone, Pillbara

One cave was the most awe inspiring of all. It was somewhat palatial with several levels and views through to other caves. I could imagine the elders meeting here to discuss important tribal matters.

There was a sense of the spiritual there. A solemn stillness as if the area was still new and unspoiled. I could imagine it untouched through the years, even as I left my own footprints among the myriads of others on the sandy floors.

I was grateful that it was quiet, remote, and not well sign posted.

I appreciated that someone had gone to the trouble of making steps and paths, but I was happy that no one had made it into a commercial enterprise. It wouldn’t be the same surrounded by coca cola signs and ice cream stands. Finding a place like this in a remote spot is one of life’s simple pleasures.

There are many of these hidden gems of geological architecture around Australia and all you can do is research the area before you go, or just be open to exploring anything that looks interesting like we did.

Or you can read blogs like this one and enjoy them vicariously.

I would like to thank those of you who inspire me with your own stories of travelling this wonderful planet. Thanks guys.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

The Bridge Guardian and Suspicious Poultry

I was going about my business, just hunting in the bush (as you do) and there he was. The most magnificent duck I have ever seen.

He lay on the bridge I wanted to cross and stared at me from among a group of regular sized ducks that appeared to be body guards (or maybe adoring acolytes)

Although he was at least four feet shorter than me, he stared me down, and then wandered off all self-important and dignified, as if he just happened to have another place to go. His entourage followed.

In my role as a house sitter and writer I get to explore a lot of country. I am still in New Zealand and travelling the windy highway from Wellington to Napier on the East Coast.

It is called Highway Two (a nod to its importance as the second biggest highway on the North Island) but it is still narrow and parochial. Despite regular road work, it regularly slows to city speeds to pass through the centre of little country towns and if you catch up with a truck you can be doomed to follow at a snail’s pace.

Some of the swathes and folds of emerald and gold hill that make it such a beautiful road to travel can also make it impossible to pass trucks labouring up a circuitous incline.

I can’t complain about the wild life along the road though.

At one park there were some rather marvellous partridges (quail?) hanging out with the ducks.

In another, seagulls played at being ducks, in a busy inner city fountain,

At one highway rest stop hidden behind straggly trees, I found a suspicious looking rooster.

 He had set up a home for his little family next to the picnic table.

New Zealand is an awesome country and well worth exploring. If you have never been here, I can recommend it, especially if you can take a road trip. You can even go bush in safety.

We don’t have big spiders, grumpy bears or any snakes, poisonous or otherwise.

Just watch out for grumpy poultry.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

NZ Earthquakes 1931

The Christchurch earthquake was devastating and continues to haunt the city. People are still living with uncertainty as many buildings remain cordoned off and aftershocks are still being felt a year later. It is unusual in length but not in strength.

As I write this I am staying on a yacht that is moored In the Napier Harbour. If you like vintage planes, old machinery, and 1950’s fashion, you would love Napier.

It is a small city on the East coast of the North Island of New Zealand and four hours from Wellington. It is slightly warmer than Wellington and more often sunny. It is a coastal city, bordered on two sides by the Pacific Ocean and the Harbour and overlooked by myriads of homes, built on the steep surrounding hills, many of them perched on stilts for stability.

It is a beautiful city and a popular place to take holidays and to retire. It is also a city built on tragedy.

On an ordinary Tuesday morning in February 1931, the city was rocked by an earthquake. If you have seen the Christchurch earthquake on TV, this was worse.

It lasted two and a half minutes; measured 7.8 on the Richter scale and killed 256 people. Many more were injured and almost all the buildings in town as well as in the nearby town of Hastings were destroyed. The Wellington Regional newspaper suggested that Napier had been “Wiped off the map.”

There were big changes to the surrounding areas too. Nearby coastal areas were lifted around two metres and about 40km of seabed, became dry land. This land is now the airport and the busy port area and shipping terminals.

The Port that used to be sea floor

It was huge and changed the region significantly.

Over the next few years, most of the city had to be rebuilt, so even now, it has a distinct 1930’s feel. All the public buildings, the parks, even the garden layouts, were designed in the style of the day, Art Deco.

Napier honours that past with museums and displays and by holding a very popular Art Deco weekend every February. I was here last year and many women wore flowery dresses and cloche hats while their men looked dapper in their suits and boater type hats. In three weeks, I will tell you all about it.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

From Gravestones to Beach Stones - Hutt Valley, New Zealand

After the last blog about local slums, I thought I had better show you some better pictures of my neighbourhood. I have been exploring and I always take photos, even on home turf.

This one was taken from a cemetery that I had never explored before. It is five minutes from home and my son works making headstones across the road. This  view looks across the Hutt Valley region to the Wellington harbour.

This is taken from the top of the main road across the hill to the suburb of Wainuiomata. In Australia this would be a mountain, but in New Zealand this is just one of the many hills surrounding the region. I guess that is why it is called a "Valley."
That is also Wellington Harbour in the distance.

 Some of the sculptures on the Petone beach. These represent oars and the place where the Europeans first came ashore to settle in the 1800's.

In the Harbour itself. Boats, jetskis and the Inter-Island Ferry in the distance. On a hot day it is a great place for water sports.
They say you can't beat Wellington on a good day. I tend to agree.
Sometimes home can become so familiar that I forget how beautiful it can be.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

The disappearing suburb and a child named Mighty

It was a rundown community for the poor and disadvantaged. It was the kind of place where children were given names like Storm or Freedom or Mighty.
Children played outside until long after dark. Yards were decorated with broken down cars, rusty prams, and old appliances too big to go in the council rubbish. It was home to gangs and drug dealers and the disadvantaged.
Now the whole neighbourhood of about 80 units has been disbanded.
The two story weather board units were built seventy years ago to help the families of soldiers returning from war. For the last few years, residents have been complaining about rats and mould. It was the seedy side of Wellington, akin to Harlem or maybe Brixton.

People have been moved into other communities, and each week another building is torn down into a huge pile of rubble that lingers for a few days, and then is picked up and taken away, leaving the area a blank canvas for new developments.

It was never a popular community, except with those who could afford nothing else, or those that were particularly proud of living in “grass roots” New Zealand. It was a community people fell into and sometimes never made it out of.

Some families lived there for over thirty years, propped up by government benefits, and subsidised housing costs. Many had grown used to be being supported in their government assisted lifestyle and were understandably upset about the change.

About twenty residents set up a tent city and stayed onsite in protest. It lasted only a few weeks. I suspect there wasn’t enough interest by the media or sympathy from the community.

Bit by bit the homes and the memories are being removed. Change is always hard, but it brings to mind the saying “Change is inevitable, misery is optional.”

I hope these families find a reason to embrace the move and welcome new opportunities. This is New Zealand and one of the most beautiful countries on earth.

I hope children like Mighty and his sibling Kingdezzy, (yes, these are real names) get a chance to live in a more beautiful and prosperous part of it.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

I have a confession to make.

I am not in Australia, I am in New Zealand for a few months.

I wasn’t going to write about it because I called New Zealand home for over 40 years and besides, this blog is called traveller in Oz.

But then I thought; there may be some of you that are as interested in New Zealand as I am in Australia. It is a fascinating country. I just happen to be in an uninteresting corner.

I am staying with four of my sons in what used to be my family home.

It is in the second cheapest suburb in the region, as it was the only place we could afford a five bedroom, two bathroom house, at a time when more than 90% of homes had one bathroom. (Most still do) We also have 6742 sq metres of land so the boys can have space to run around. Naturally as children of the 90’s and the new millennium they prefer to use just ten square meters of it to stay inside and play computer games.

There are two sides to our suburb; the “good” side, where children are picked up from school in four wheel drives, and the “bad” side where you don’t leave washing on the line at night and shoes get stolen from outside your door. We live in the good side.

One of New Zealand’s best model designers lives in our suburb, so the shopping centre boasts a wonderfully designed two seater bike with a metal man on the front who pedals along with anyone brave enough to ride on the back. Four other interactive structures were installed just before I left but this is the only one that seems to have lasted the two years since.

New sculpture
Our suburbs welcoming structure is a sculpture shaped like two worms mating. It is currently being used to display some wags collection of road safety cones.

Now they have added a new sculpture in a similar style. It seems to be designed for longevity and not aesthetic reasons. From some angles it looks like a finger in the air gesture.

I did love it here and it’s a nice community to raise a family but after twenty years, it has lost its charm for me. I am a wanderer.

If you add in the chilly winters, Antarctic winds and unreliable summers, you might see why I have chosen to move to sunny Queensland Australia.

My next post will be about the nearby suburb that is not just fading, it is vanishing. You have been warned.