Tag Archives: grandparents

Seeing Stars in the Outback

4 Dec

The curving edges of Wilpena Pound, a gigantic geological depression.
Weather doesn’t get more biblical than droughts, floods and plagues of locusts. And that precise trifecta has hit the South Australian outback this summer.

The great salt lakes, which sit dry for decades on end as brilliant mirrors of pinkish white, oscillate between aggressive blue and muted brown. The impossibly ancient mountains have turned from the iconic outback red to green.

In fact, looking out from the ridgetops of the Flinders Ranges, it’s easy to see how the ridiculed explorer turned prescient surveyor, George Goyder, decided the mountains were ringed by an enormous inland sea.

It’s easier still to pity the poor sods who slogged in his wake through almost a thousand kilometres of spiky acacia, spiny wattle and savage spinifex, amid flies so persistent that the diagonal motion of the hand in front of the face to clear them away for a second or two is known as “the Aussie salute”, carrying (yes, carrying) a wooden boat to traverse the imaginary sea… Continue reading

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So Long and Thanks to (All) the Fish

5 Aug Z in orange lifejacket in longboat en route to Mulu National Park with his grandparents.

[tweetmeme source=”@mummy_t” only_single=false]Yesterday was a rite of passage for the nine year old. And one that I can, with hand on heart, say that I am glad to have missed.

He caught… Drum roll… His first fish!

And who was there to share the precious moment? The triumph of the successful bite? The joy as the catch is, finally, reeled in? The squirm-inducing process of torture by which one rips the hook from the soft palate of a living, suffocating, flopping creature, exterminates the last vestiges of consciousness and transfers it to a receptacle to await its ultimate fate?

Granny and Grandpa! Continue reading

Mega-Malls

15 Apr

Yesterday we said goodbye to Granny and Grandpa, who are off to Hong Kong for a week of sybaritic luxury with an old friend, then back to sunny England.

To ease the parting, Z and I made like Manileños. That is, we spent the day at the mall, shopping, scoffing junk food and abusing the free aircon.

Though I guess if I were really going native, I’d have stocked up on diet potions — enriched with L-Carnitine to help burn fat! — too. Or perhaps a diet coffee to accompany my chocolate brownie? That is, a calorie-burning coffee. Not a coffee with low-fat milk.

The Philippines is a nation where Kraft Cheez Whiz can feature on the health pages of a major newspaper –- as a recommendation.

And where Kraft’s chief nutritionist for Asia can tell a hack, presumably with a straight face, that said product, though packed with calcium and undoubtedly beneficial, does not quite contain every single ingredient required for a healthy diet. Continue reading

Under the Volcano

10 Apr

View of the crater lake, with island, Taal Volcano, Philippines

An island within a lake, within an island, within a lake, within an island in the South China Sea.

“You can’t swim in the crater now,” says Michael, our guide, as we negotiate the bangka across Lake Taal to the serene, petite volcano at its heart. “Taal Volcano is Alert Level 1, going to stage 3. You heard about Mount Mayon?”

We have heard about Mount Mayon. A few hundred kilometres north of here, on the island of Luzon, the Philippines, it’s been sufficiently active for folk to be evacuated, with vulcanologists on red alert.

“Mount Mayon is Alert Level Five, now, but going to stage 1,” he says. “And they say that Taal Volcano is Mount Mayon’s daughter. When Mount Mayon acts, the Taal Volcano follows. They are connected, below the ground. Taal erupts, they say, every two years.” Continue reading

Starfish and Shells

7 Apr

Blue starfish from Gaspar Island, off Marinduque, the Philippines

A present from a fellow guest. Much more beautiful alive than dead.

Easter Monday, and Marinduque is back into election mode. Banner-fluttering jeepneys pump out the Pilipino answer to Things Can Only Get Better in clouds as toxic as their diesel fumes. Mewls of karaoke waft down the pebble beach. Local party honchos gather over coffee, cigarettes and sweet ham sandwiches in the guesthouse convention room. And Rose pours Klaus his first beer of the day. 9.30am.

So we chip out on a banca, a tall, narrow outrigger with scarlet bamboo poles extending like stabilisers on a bike, to Gaspar Island, one of the three kings which nestle offshore from Marinduque.

This is sufficiently unpopulated to have not an aspirant councillor, Botoxed congressman or optimistic anti-corruption campaigner in sight. It also has one of the nicest beaches ever. Continue reading