Archive | October, 2012

A Day at the (Swimming) Races

31 Oct

The distant jetty and starting lane numbers

Pontoon and lane ropes

We Australians are a resourceful bunch.

Take this  example.

Mention competition lap swimming, and what venue springs to mind?

Hands up if you said:  Swimming Pools.

Sure, that’s what we routinely  see on television: and, equally certain, that’s precisely where  such competitions are generally run.  I can almost see the pristine water, the perfect tiles, the impressive starting-blocks.

However, the Club where I have swum for decades has a quite different domain: a river baths in suburban Sydney.

Close to fifty metres from the jetty at the far end of the promenade floats a slightly rusty pontoon. To it, our Swimming Club attaches unsophisticated lane ropes.

Bingo! Now we have the means to conduct in reasonable decorum a series of races, in length from twenty-five to two hundred metres. I admit the shortest races are liable to be approximate distances since their finishing line is not set in stone.

However, what we lack in exactitude is more than made up in atmosphere. For my money, its beautiful tree-studded setting wins, hands down!

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Moving House?

29 Oct

Mid-term  view of turning house

Leaving the illusion, the inside-out structure

These days,  moving house is quite a common experience. Packing cases are carefully filled, items lovingly stored: or ruthlessly discarded: in the process.  Par for the course.

But the ‘Moving House’ of this title is a house of a different colour.

Peering out of a car in a suburban road of outer Sydney, those unfamiliar may well wonder what’s going on.

As they speed across this major intersection,  do they find themselves suddenly staring?  At what? A mirage?  No: a turning house!!

Believe me, the first view of the house  turns with you as you arc around it to the left in a sweeping curve.

The  visual cues are overwhelming!

*      *      *      *      *      *      *      *      *      *      *      *      *      *      *      *      *      *      *      *

Let me reveal: it is , of course,  a mere  optical illusion: a trick of the eye.  But one so stunningly successful that an unaware visitor may well ponder : ‘Am I seeing things?’

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Roots

25 Oct

Not so long ago, Ron and I took a trip to the place where I grew up: an inner suburb near the city of Sydney. How it has changed!

Gone are so many little old houses: many the cherished homes of friends and family. In their place: towering apartment blocks.

Gone,  too,  is  our old home:  its glorious stone and wrought iron fence replaced by soulless cement blocks.

But at least the public parks remain. Long ago, I’d spent many happy hours playing within their green oases. Today, we stroll around, and I share with my husband little anecdotes of childhood. My burning memories are more of tar and cement, since even my own backyard was sparse of vegetation underfoot.

Yet, even so, I remember so vividly the purple pelargoniums that soldiered on  doggedly in our front garden. Despite stubborn weeds and equally stubborn grasses, they gave of themselves, creating cheer.

Was it just a stroke of luck that my family brought cuttings of these vivid yet hardy gems to our new address, when, in the 1960’s we moved away?

In any event, these same plants: or is it their descendants? : are still soldiering on, here at home: a living reminder of from whence I came.

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The Rose: Queen of Flowers

23 Oct

In many circles, roses are regarded as the Queen of Flowers. Notwithstanding their thorns,  some gardeners devote entire beds to them. Older homes, particularly, are likely to have still stunning examples, soldiering on if needs be.

Red roses revel in an exalted status:  immortalized by poets and song-writers. Few other flowers have achieved anything like such a high level of kudos: sadly, some uniquely pretty ones such as snapdragons and phlox seem to have missed out altogether: though daffodils and daisies can hold their heads up high.

But it is, of course, as symbols of love that give

Red rose, symbol of love

Red Roses the edge. Being what it is in the scheme of humanity: a core desire: an ultimate reward for life well lived: the honour of its symbolism is not to be taken lightly.

Don’t you agree that the charm of  red roses makes them worthy of such a tribute?

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A Springtime Sunset in Sydney

22 Oct

Silhouettes on the sunset

Sydney sunset in Spring

Sunsets have always fascinated me. Years ago,  a  superb view was ours without effort: through a back window, with a picturesque gum tree in the foreground.

Sadly, those days are long gone: redevelopment has seen to that: and what remains are mere glimpses.

Fortunately, tonight, a glimpse of red catches my eye, and I do what I’d never done before.

Camera in hand, I speed around the block to a series of vantage points,  and almost breathlessly try my luck. As a mere  onlooker, the magnificence of the sky: its colours and patterns:  is awe-inspiring.

Scientists write dispassionately about how it all comes about: through molecules, air particles, and light rays.

Somehow I prefer just to observe and admire  its glory.

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All the Fun of a Spring-time Fair!

21 Oct

White Nanny Goat in children’s display

Goat in farm display
Ponies at the fair

If crowd numbers are anything to go by, Australians love Fairs!  Whether judging by media reports or witnessing first-hand, who could fail to be impressed by both the crowd numbers and attractions?

My husband Ron and I recently visited a local Spring Fair. The warm, sunny weather doubtless contributed to their impressive display. A contagious, carnival atmosphere permeated the scene!

While motor bike rides, stalls of  what-have -you: and even a Haunted House: drew plenty of admirers, my own favourites were the animals. Impeccably presented Shetland ponies were on hand, and didn’t the kids (and their parents) love them!  One mum  I saw seemed to be videoing her child’s entire pony-back excursion!

No less popular were the farmyard animals. Their ‘getting to know you’ pen remained at or near capacity, all the time I looked enviously on. What a joy it is to see the animals and birds mingling happily with young family members!

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Flashing Jewels: Rainbow Lorikeets!

19 Oct

Rainbow Lorikeet in a tree

Two Rainbow Lorikeets in tree hollow

Australia is blessed by many delightful avian species. Parrots must surely rank as one of the most engaging.

As a child of the city, I never saw these lovely creatures in the wild. Despite the relief of an occasional park, the streets of concrete and bitumen were not conducive to their habitation.

And so, when later on we moved away: to an outer suburb closer to bushland: these often brilliantly coloured birds formed a part of my journey of discovery.

While sometimes they visit local front gardens: particularly those with native plants: they are often to be seen in bushland parks.

One of the most common in number, though not in beauty, is the Rainbow Lorikeet. As its name suggests, it’s a gloriously multi-coloured bird. Small wonder  it was the first Australian parrot illustrated in colour: in Peter Brown’s 1774 publication: New Illustrations of Zoology.

Primarily blossom feeders, these gregarious creatures fly in flocks: some very small, others of many dozens. Interestingly, they do not glide. Their calls change according to their activity: from screeching, right through to soft twitters.

As I stroll through bushland, my eyes constantly search for beautiful things: birds, flowers, even leaves.  Am I not lucky to be rewarded so wonderfully?

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Even More Wildflowers!

17 Oct

Red wildflower

Pink wildflower

It’s mid Spring , here in Sydney, Australia: what better time to feast your eyes on our charming wildflowers?

National Parks provide we Sydney-siders with an opportunity to witness first hand the wondrous beauty of nature. Just wandering around, keeping your eyes wide open, is all it takes. Within minutes, you’re practically guaranteed to stumble upon: or be overwhelmed by: a sight for sore eyes. Just watch out for other natives such as snakes, that may not appreciate your presence.

The recent warm weather has brought many

Flannel flowers

delightful flowers into full bloom. Here are some more for you to enjoy.

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The Battle of the Bath

17 Oct

Chicki in the shower

I wonder how many of us have experienced a collision between their elbow and their knee-cap.

My guess is: not many.

So, it is with some alacrity that I report that I, Margaret Sharp, have managed it. And yes, it hurts.

You may wonder how this all came about.

The answer is: Chicki!

Adorable though she is, Chicki’s  fun-loving streak can produce all manner of outcomes.

She has a penchant for turning every activity into a game: or, more correctly, a battle of wits. A battle that she is more than capable of winning!

Today’s episode involved the perennial favourite: bath time. With admirable acuteness, my quick glimpse at her bath towel, and sly positioning of dog shampoo, gave her all the clues she needed. Instantly she summed up the agenda.

And so began the great puppy chase: round and round the house she tore at breakneck speed, pausing now and then to give me hope: then flashing away again. It was during one of these hopeful moments that I made a fateful plan.

Seeing her darting towards me, I bent down in the doorway, hoping to snatch her as she sped past. I should have known better. The only result was the aforementioned contact between my bones as she tore through.

Yes, she won that battle, but she didn’t win the war, for, as usual, I cornered her and snatched her up, and delivered her to the bath.

Once there, her innate desire to please reasserted itself, and once again, she became herself: a model pet.

That is, until her bath-time exuberance re-asserted itself, and, still dripping, she sped again around the house: with myself , towel in hand,  in hot pursuit!

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Australian Wildflowers : Here’s More

15 Oct

Tiny white flowers growing near the river

Purple wildflower

A rare park flower

Unfortunately I’m not a botanist, and, since identifying plants solely from reference books is both difficult and potentially flawed, when in doubt I’ll leave it to others to put names to flowers.

Certainly, you don’t need specialist or even general knowledge of such flora to appreciate their beauty. Whether understated and subtle, or unashamedly spectacular, our wildflowers have their own appeal.

These photos have been taken during recent weeks in Sydney, Australia.

Next time you’re in native parkland, why not make a special effort to keep your eyes peeled for our charming native flowering plants? Who knows what you will find!

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