Bits and Pieces
Bombing of Darwin Print E-mail
Tuesday, 04 February 2014 00:38

In 2011, the Governor-General declared 19 February as a national day of observance, to be known as Bombing of Darwin Day. The day's events start at 9.30 at the Darwin Cenotaph with speeches, wreath-laying, a re-enactment and a gun salute. Throughout February, Casuarina Library will be hosting a Bombing of Darwin commemorative display.

In Print 20/20... Print E-mail
Tuesday, 04 February 2014 00:37

is the title of the current exhibition at CDU Art Gallery (Building Orange 12.1.02 on the Casuarina Campus) which celebrates twenty years of prints and printmaking in collaboration with renowned artists, both Indigenous and non-Indigenous. The show features more than 100 works ranging from lithographs, drypoints, etchings, to woodcuts and screenprints from the University Art Collection displayed together in one exhibition for the first time.

It encompasses work by artists from remote area Indigenous communities and centres including the Tiwi Islands, Arnhem Land, Wadeye, Tennant Creek, Hermmansburg, Yuendumu, Alice Springs; Balgo, Kununurra, Broome and the Kimberley coast, as well as work by non-Indigenous artists from the Northern Territory and interstate. The exhibition runs until 21 February, and is open on weekdays from 10am to 4pm.

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Tuesday, 04 February 2014 00:36

Part Twenty-three: Weather and all that STUFF

Well, here I am, writing this in the nice new year of 2014, mid-January, and once again I pose the question: WHAT WET SEASON? But I guess that I must back-track and elaborate on notes I made in November and December last year in hopeful anticipation of the coming WET.
"This build-up time, before the wet season fully descends on us, seems different from last year, the previous year, and even the last dozen or so years. It seems more like the pre-monsoonal times we experienced 30 or 40 years ago. The air is inert and heavy with moisture. After midday the humidity rises alarmingly and the indoor temperature gauge reads 34.9?, and you feel you could slice it with a knife.

"This rising, heated wetness hovers sluggishly in the absolute stillness and is like a solid entity, filling all available space. Rather like a guest who has outstayed his welcome, pervading every nook and cranny in every room and pushing ponderously against eviction. The effort to find a cooler spot sends my small dog into paroxysms of loud panting as she tries hard to draw enough oxygen from the static atmosphere to sustain her life until the next climatic phase hopefully beneficial and not too far away.

"Even our youthful resilience has evaporated over the last 40 odd years so all we can do now is reminisce about earlier times when movement and activity was so much easier for us. Even so, this quasi-return to real wet season conditions is welcome. Sudden thunderstorms and embryonic monsoon-type rains interspersed with hot, dry, sunny periods, with steam visibly rising from the heated bitumen, recall to many the frequent wet, windy, spontaneous rain squalls of yesteryear.

"Who knows maybe the 'government rain' (4.15pm without fail, every working day, designed to drench all government workers at knock-off time of 4.21pm) will make a return as this wet season progresses."

As I continued reading the notes I had jotted down for the latter part of December, I decided that this was, perhaps, extreme wishful thinking. It was not quite the FULL ON wet season I had hoped for. Even so, periodic drizzly rains, overcast skies and distant thunder rolls, with the odd dry lightning storms appearing just tempting us to believe that the monsoons had arrived, were a notable feature at this time. My wee dog doing double duty as a thunderstorm barometer hearing far-off thunder long before I could would give me early warning to clear the clothes line if I wanted to avoid a wet re-wash.

Continuing last year's notes......"Nearing Christmas, the intermittent showers had rinsed the dry season's dust from roofs and leaves; the accumulated oil and rubber had been sluiced from the road surfaces, and a tinge of anticipation drifted almost imperceptibly in the air. The brilliant orange-flowered poincianas and African tulips, the yellow peltophorums, the purple and pink pride of India trees and the many coloured and white temple frangipanis have slowly shed their blossoms, often creating colourful carpets at their bases. Rapidly replacing the fallen petals was a new intensity of glossy green leaves; but this evidence of annual regrowth has been somewhat tempered by the forecast of an approaching low and the expectation of a wet and windy Christmas Day.

"And then came the media's constant use of those should-be-forbidden words (to us 'oldies' anyhow): Cyclone Tracy! It is almost forty years since Tracy wrecked Darwin, yet every year at this time, they manage to dredge up someone else to tell how they happily survived the 'night of terror' crouching under a bed with a bottle of rum or some such. When will the media (collectively) realise that most of Tracy's victims would prefer NOT to be reminded of that traumatic night, and just have a 'bad-memory-free' time at Christmas? I vote for NO MORE TRACY STORIES! Maybe we should register a new political party named NMTS."

Anyhow, that is my rant for 2013, and now a few words about January. After Christmas, the rain petered out and we were once again left with a faux wet season. The temperature climbed even higher; the humidity reached dizzying heights, and we all cursed a parallel rise in PowerWater costs as we perforce had to turn on our air conditioning during the daytime solely for survival. It was horribly hot and even the birds reacted to this rise, rise, rise with no rain relief in sight.

The bar-shouldered doves slouched around the yard almost too hot and lethargic to move. The crimson finches, prolific visitors to my patio bird feeder prior to Christmas, ceased to come, fewer peewees were to be seen and the ibis disappeared totally, searching elsewhere for food and water. And in the second week along comes 'will-he-or-won't-he' Dylan, the pretend cyclone. Poor Dylan prematurely named and categorised, the over-excited meteorologists soon reclassified and downgraded his description to a 'low', a 'depression', a 'trough' and other belittling words. Dylan still managed to masquerade as a 'what could happen' warning for the cyclone season, but couldn't quite get up enough steam to do any real damage. But at the very least, he dumped some much-needed rain and brought cooler conditions.

Enough of my cynicism for now, though. I hope you all had great Christmas and New Year festivities. Next month will be an update on bird news, and I'll try to forget the weather aspect.

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Friday, 01 November 2013 00:11

Part twenty-two : Doggie do's - This month is also about the "Other things"!

In this small community where I live, observing nature is as much about noting human behaviour as it is about the wildlife, plus the interaction between humans, domestic pets and the native birds and animals.

For instance, the daily routine of dog-walking not to be confused with simply exercising and dispersing the fat from our pampered pets, but also as a means of keeping the knees and hips in working order for the elderly mutt owners, with the added advantage of keeping up-to-date with the latest news and state of affairs affecting the other community residents ! Being nosy ? Oh no just interested !

First on the scene between 7 and 7.30 am is a sprightly little white poodle/Maltese cross aptly named "Whoopi" whose equally sprightly white-haired owner strides confidently around the criss-crossing roads and pathways of this enclave, large stick in hand ready to beat off any lion or tiger that may suddenly spring out from between the neatly mown blades of grass. With tail held high and wagging lickety-split, Whoopi lunges at all and any ground-feeding birds, with a special joyous whoop on encountering an ibis. This routine is repeated at 5.30 pm. Twice a day without fail. Rain, hail, snow or excessive heat and humidity. On the dot. No exception. Lucky little mutt !

Next comes Cyril, a hippity-hoppity grey Raggedy-Anne type dog whose mishandled cross-breeding has left him looking all skew-whiff, with his hindquarters at least six inches higher than his head. His owner, Victor, walking stick tucked neatly in the crook of his arm, ambles contentedly along, towing Cyril behind him rather like you would drag a pompon on a piece of string waiting for the cat to pounce. This little procession is often repeated three or four times a day and beware any other dog who may be out and about at the same time. Despite his amiable appearance Cyril has a moody and sometimes vicious disposition he hates other dogs and humans with equal ferocity. Placing a friendly hand on Cyril's head is akin to patting a man-eating crocodile. Just don't do it !

When the rising sun delivers adequate warmth, Albert issues forth from the confines of his unit with his small aged, dachshund-type mutt leading his small, aged owner on a painfully slow measured stroll as far as the entrance gates end back again. The slight possibility of a repeat performance in the afternoon keeps this poor little mutt living in the "land of hope". Perhaps they both are...

Next on the scene is Bruiser, a large Rotty cum Doberman cum Mastiff cum Ridgeback-type dog, who gambols ungainly in the parkland behind my back fence. He happily chases balls and frisbees, drags crackling palm fronds around and manages to irritate every other dog whose fence allows visions of this longed-for freedom. And so they voice their disapproval and envy in loud discordant yapping until Bruiser's owner gives in and takes him home.

Meanwhile we all keep our fingers crossed that the three small, toy, champagne-coloured poodles from No 33 don't make any of their customary "escape from prison" sorties while either Cyril or Bruiser are on the loose. Imagine the mayhem !

Then there is Bubbles. Fourteen years ago she was an exuberant Foxy/Airedale/What-have-you cross puppy. (In fact she is a good example of the true Darwin Heinz breed the whole 57 varieties). Medium-size, no discernible inherited diseases or faults, just random genes thrown together in an attractive configuration. Now, with "parents" unable to take her for walks, she relies on the Hot Dogs Bathmobile for a shampoo every fortnight, followed by a sniff reconnaissance around her youthful stamping grounds. After a token spurt of pretended aggression towards a languid unfazed ibis she reverts to her memories of faster days and the nostalgia of past conquests. Go, Bubbles !

My turn for "walkies time" is just before dark when the westward sky is painted in beautiful pastel shades, the birds are chirping wearily on their night-time perches while the flying foxes (fruit bats) wing silently overhead on their nightly scavenging hunts. The last shift of robber ants are scurrying back to their underground nest and the delicious aromas of home cooking drift on a light breeze ; tantalising cuisine from the many different cultures and nationalities that make up this community.

P.S. All names have been changed to protect the mongrels !

P.P.S. Hope you have a Happy Christmas.

Bubble & Squeak Print E-mail
Friday, 01 November 2013 00:11

When my sister's husband died I invited her to come and spend her first Christmas alone with me. We are not close as we hardly saw each other during our childhood years, but you know how it is, you want to do the right thing!

On the surface all appeared to be "all right", with snippets of previously unknown information being exchanged, and we shared in that year's festive offerings but I sensed an unidentifiable undercurrent of discontent/sadness or what?

This surfaced as I waited with her in the airport lounge as she left on her way to her home. I said I hoped she had enjoyed her stay. She replied in the affirmative but added that she had no idea I was such a control freak!!

As I sat pondering this new insight into my character her plane began loading & her parting words were "There are never any leftovers in your fridge to make bubble & squeak!"

Since then I've given the matter considerable thought. OK I'm used to cooking for one, so logic suggests that cooking for two, just double it.

WRONG. Always add a bit more. Not everyone eats like a bird.

However, look on the bright side, it has given me cause to think about other areas of my life where I might need to consider creating in such a way that there are "leftovers" for other than culinary kinds of bubble and squeak.

I recently created a 'Fantasy Bird' using that technique and it can be fun.

PS; Since then my sister and I keep in contact with fairly frequent chatty phone calls, but bubble and squeak is never mentioned.

PPS; Another thought: She and her husband were together for 26 years and I often invited them to come for a Territory holiday. They never did, but I have never been invited to stay at her place either, so I'm searching for the right phrase to describe her characteristic: 'Isolationist' or what?

Fran Wickes

Christmas Lunch and Raffle Print E-mail
Friday, 01 November 2013 00:09

Our Christmas lunch will be held on 28 November at Kantilla's Function Room in Marrara stadium. Attached to this Newsletter are a reservation form for the lunch and a booklet of Raffle Tickets. The sale of these tickets helps boost U3A funds which are used to subsidise our various activities such as the 'fifth Thursday' outings and, of course, the Christmas lunch.

There will be five draws at the lunch, and each winner will receive $50, and there will also be a door prize. Each booklet of five tickets costs just $10. Please let Sue Donnelly have the counterfoils with the names of ticket purchasers on them together with payment - by 21 November.

If you do not wish to purchase tickets, it would be appreciated if you could return the booklets to Sue as quickly as possible so that they may be re-allocated.

You may not have noticed yet Print E-mail
Friday, 01 November 2013 00:08

But, last month, Australia Post scrapped the separate overseas postage rate for post cards and greetings cards. This means that sending a card to most overseas destinations now costs $2.60 a hike of 90 cents, though there will be a reduced rate for the Christmas period. If you have access to a computer you may like to consider sending free electronic greetings cards in future through a service such as

On Show Print E-mail
Tuesday, 01 October 2013 09:00

The 30th Telstra National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Award Exhibition is currently on view at the Museum and Art Gallery, and runs until 10 November.

The 2013 Portrait of a Senior Territorian Art Award opens on 7 October in Parliament House and closes on 18 October.

World Solar Challenge Print E-mail
Tuesday, 01 October 2013 09:00

Forty-two teams from twenty-four countries have signed up to take part in the 12th edition of the biennial solar-powered car race from Darwin to Adelaide.

The World Solar Challenge was the brainchild of Danish environmentalist Hans Thostrup who built the world's first solar car in 1982. Since then there have been constant technological advances in design and performance, and this year's vehicles which leave from State Square at 8.30am on 6 October include, for the first time, a four-seater solar car.

Tuesday Talks Print E-mail
Tuesday, 01 October 2013 09:00

This month brings another batch of interesting topics and speakers.

On 1 October, Judy Boland, teacher and historian, will be speaking about her visit to the Antarctic.

Then on the eighth, John Bloomfield will give us a timely warning about the rising incidence of tuberculosis, the stealthy killer.

Emma King, speaking on the 15th, will tell us about non-conventional gas extraction or fracking and where it may occur coal seam gas exploration actually places 90% of the Territory under threat.

On 22 October, former ABC presenter Annie Gastin will be sharing some of her life's little stories.

Finally, on 29 October, Jenny Bloomfield (and maybe Gayle Carroll) will be giving us another instalment in the 'Words' series.

Leichhardt Anniversary Print E-mail
Tuesday, 01 October 2013 09:00

This month marks the 200th anniversary of the birth of Prussian naturalist and explorer Friedrich Wilhelm Ludwig Leichhardt who arrived in Sydney in 1842 with the intention of exploring the inland of Australia.

He undertook three major expeditions: a privately-funded overland expedition from the Darling Downs to Port Essington (1844 to 1845), an unsuccessful attempt, in 1846, to cross the country from east to west; he repeated this attempt in 1848, but this expedition resulted in the disappearance of Leichhardt and his entire party; no remains have ever been found.

Leichhardt Crescent in Fannie Bay recalls one of the most authoritative early recorders of the country's interior.

Do you receive a pension from the UK? Print E-mail
Tuesday, 01 October 2013 09:00

Earlier this year, the Queen signed The Charter of The Commonwealth which places particular emphasis on the principle of inclusiveness and 'implacable opposition to all forms of discrimination'. With this in mind, Sheila Telford, Chair of the International Consortium of British Pensioners, wrote to her Majesty at the end of August to point out that the UK government 'refuses to address the policy of continued discrimination by freezing the pensions of over half a million UK pensioners almost all of whom are resident in the Commonwealth who are treated as second-class citizens'. The pensioners affected do not receive the annual UK pension increase as their pensions are frozen at the UK rate which was in force at the time they moved overseas in some cases that could have been decades ago.

Mrs Telford concluded her letter by writing 'we respectfully request that your Majesty instructs your representative at the forthcoming Commonwealth Heads of Government meeting in Sri Lanka in November to support a motion calling for the suspension of the United Kingdom from the Commonwealth. The United Kingdom, which discriminates against its own pensioners in persistent violation of The Charter of The Commonwealth, has no place in the Commonwealth'. So far, there have been no official reactions to this letter.

To find out more, you can contact British Pensions in Australia on 1300 308 353 (

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Tuesday, 01 October 2013 09:00

Part twenty-one : Possums again

Just a further note about Percy Possum. He did reappear for a few days and this time he was prepared to look me in the face. Previously, perhaps because his chosen "day-recliner" was only about 12 ft. off the ground, he very deliberately kept his rear end facing the patio. Probably in the hope that if he couldn't see me, I wouldn't see him ! This time, however, he curled up in the V of the branches facing me so I could see his little pink nose, black sparkling eyes and his sensitive twitching ears, which he seemed to spend half his daytime hours scratching at and washing, just like a cat does.

During the time of Wurrgeng, the Northern Brushtail possum is usually in romantic mode and I wondered whether Percy had been away making whoopee. This genus of possum normally inhabits and spreads itself between mangrove and forest (with the occasional foray into suburbia) but its circadian clock is often dictated to by the tides rather than by the day/night clock. This is because the tide could easily bring in tasty morsels which the possums will salvage with glee as a supplement to their normal hunting of nectar and fruit.

I didn't know whether to be glad or sad when Percy returned because I knew he would just love my bananas and pawpaws and devour them during some midnight spree before I had a chance to pick them. Although I don't mind sharing on an equal basis, I don't think possums actually understand that concept !

However, even though I did not issue an eviction notice, he finally disappeared for good after the next visit of the lawn-mowing man. Maybe he was required elsewhere for nursery duties ? Or maybe it was because, as the leaves continued to fall from the tree at an alarming rate, he realised it would not be very long before he was exposed to all and sundry as well as to the hot noonday sun.

Mango season may see him return as there is a mango tree just next door, The Tree will be fully clothed again and the far end of the garden will be too soggy to mow. And yes, I did manage to have my pawpaw untouched by possum paws and teeth ; the bananas are still to ripen.

A while ago I wrote about some human residents here in the community who regularly throw out bread and scraps for the animals and birds. And now I must tell you about one memorable occasion two wet seasons ago that still gives me a slight shiver. The extra rations provided by these generous people are more than welcomed by the Sacred Ibis who, from their perches high up in the gum trees keep beady eyes on the movements of their benefactors ! But most times their inner clock tells them when it is chow time and so they fly down and just wait patiently for the food to appear.

This particular day the rain was heavy with a monsoonal storm ; windy and cold. The ibis, about seven of them, were lined up on the back fence of one such food-giver, shoulders hunched, heads hanging low, feathers wet and dripping. To me they resembled a bunch of evil, grotesque gargoyles that were once placed on the corners of European buildings as part decoration and partly as an assist to drainage. They looked really creepy on that dark, thundery afternoon and although not especially superstitious, I felt they were not a particularly good omen.

Next month : Doggie do's.

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