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Hello to the Animals in my Garden

I am sitting in my small secluded back garden, the air around me is redolent with the perfume of roses, the trees and shrubs sway in a light breeze. I am watching the tiny silvereye birds joyfully playing in a terracotta bird-bath which I had just filled with freshwater. It stands between two rose bushes, which give a protective cover and an escape route from marauding cats or bossy larger birds. The birds are like small children at the seaside, jumping in and out of the shallow water. This is repeated many times.

I speak to them softly, "Go on my pretties, enjoy yourselves."

As long as I don’t move they continue to bathe and drink the water. The sun catches their shiny olive-green backs and wings as the drops of water sparkle on them.

Another day, same place, I heard a rustle from the dry leaves that had fallen from the magnolia tree, my most prized garden plant. I sat still, listening intently, leaning forward to try to see what animal was disturbing the leaf litter. A glistening scaly head, beautifully patterned in amazing geometric precision, appeared. "A snake," I thought, getting ready to jump on the garden seat.

I couldn't take my eyes away from the beautiful creature. I sat very still as it crunched and crackled its way through the dried leaves. About sixteen inches were visible now. A sigh of relief escaped me when a small leg and foot appeared. It was a wonderful blue-tongued lizard! The biggest I have ever seen.

"You are welcome to my garden," I said, "and to the snails as well."

The most frequent four-footed visitor to my garden is a small wallaby. She is a female because she was pregnant last year. and now she is quite slim, although I never did see a joey. She’s a quiet little thing, she stands and listens to me as I speak in a gentle even tone. She will sit and listen, unmoving, as I talk to her about the weather, or pruning the roses. I haven’t got a dog, so its nice to have this uncritical, quiet little companion. She sits about ten feet away from me but if I make a sudden move she turns and quickly hides in the shrubbery. But still she comes back again and again. She poos a bit but I don’t care. I like her tranquil company and she loves my garden. I think she likes me too!


I was born on Christmas Eve
A time of joy, not to grieve.

World War II had not begun
I played and danced in rain and sun.

We went to the 'flicks for a sixpenny bit
Roy Rogers and Trigger were definitely 'it.'

School was a drag, a place to endure
But home was safe, safe and sure.

High school was next, I loved it well
Though some of the teachers were bloody hell.

At just sixteen I began to work
And textile design had many a perk.

I skated on ice and danced some more
On ice and on the ballroom floor.

At just eighteen I got engaged
The beginning of feeling a little caged.

At twenty one I was wed
I walked up the aisle with doubt in my head.

The years rolled by and three kids later
I really adored being a mater.

Despite the problems rewards were great
One child in particular became my mate.

But time's a thief
Their childhood brief.

T'hey soon were gone far and wide
I felt a lonely void inside.

The marriage itself was was fall of tension
And things that were too bad to mention.

I struggled for years to reconcile
My tormented mind with events so vile.

But one day I found the strength to leave
And then I really began to grieve.

I had many fears
And shed lots of tears.

But time is healing
And gradually feeling

The child within me was bom again
And once more danced in the sun and rain.

My life is really something now
Almost every day's a wow!

It's great living in this quiet little cul-de-sac on the eastern shore of Hobart, overlooking the Derwent River. The only thing is, I can't have a pet here, as my villa is one of six and rules are rules. Anyway, I like to travel a bit, but lately, things have changed, all of us in this group have a pet to share. He's a little bit shy yet but I'm sure he will become more friendly as time goes by and he gets used to us.

He's a lovely little wallaby and he's been living here with us for a few months. He spends most afternoons in my back garden, sleeping under the tree in the corner that I call the New Zealand tree. I don't know its proper name, but it makes a comfortable shelter for him, out of the sun and rain. I leave carrot sticks and bits of celery for him occasionally, I know I shouldn't feed him, but I figure if its only occasionally he won’t become dependent on me.

He's quite small, about half a metre tall. He's grey on the back and a pale yellow colour on his belly, he has faint stripes on his sides that show when he's grooming himself. He looks so soft and small and defenceless as he crops the grass on my lawn watching me with dark shiny eyes. He's quite relaxed as long as I keep still, though I do talk to him quite a lot, I think he likes the sound of my voice. It's with reluctance that I decide I must go inside now, and as soon as I stand up, ever so slowly, he is immediately alert and heads down the garden to the gap under the fence. “Don't go," I say, “I won't hurt you." He stops and regards me from under the rhododendron. I don't mind him going, really, as I know he'll be back. He'll either go next door or up to Edna's, she lives in one of the back villas.

It's great having him around. It amazes me that he would have had to come through another cul-de-sac and down quite a lot of footpath in the first instance. What a game little fellow! or maybe she's a girl.

One of the most frightening things I have ever done was to sail on our family yacht Explorer in a 75-knot storm from the southern end of Bruny Island to Oyster Cove at the Northern end of the D'Entrecasteaux Channel which separates Bruny Island from the mainland of Tasmania.

It began when we awoke to leaden grey skies and strengthening winds on the last day of our Christmas holiday of 1972/73. We were anchored in Tinpot Bay behind the reef and after breakfast we began to ready the boat for the passage to North Bruny. We checked the dinghy, which had a snug place for our dog under the bow deck, and then stowed, everything carefully in both Explorer and the dinghy.

The wind was rising and the sky grew darker by the minute. The unfortunate thing about the trip ahead of us was that on the way down from Hobart on Boxing Day we had hit a submerged heavy object at the mouth of the Channel and sheared off both blades of our propeller. This left us, effectively, without an engine. This was not a worry while the weather was fine, as it was for most of the trip. We could use the sails and Explorer was a fully equipped ocean racing yacht, 42 feet of sturdy steel hull, strong enough for anything 40 degrees South could dish up, but with the approaching storm it was quite frightening. My husband, Jack, was undaunted as usual. The others on board were my 10-year old daughter, Jane, and my 17-year old son, Sam.

Sam hauled in the anchor and we were away in a 45-knot southwesterly. As we headed up the Channel with the reefed mainsail and No. 3 jib hoisted we picked up speed quickly. I began to feel quite afraid and I could see that Jane was feeling the same way. I got that familiar feeling of heavy doubt mixed with fear in my stomach and wished I could be on dry land, anywhere but on the boat. Jack was at the helm and my son was in the cockpit, adjusting the sails to the wind shifts as necessary, every time we changed course, which was frequently because of the narrow Channel and our unusually fast speed. I was below with Jane, reading to her about a little horse, ironically, called "Stormy".

The action of the boat became more violent and every time we changed course Jane and I grabbed for support as the 45-degree angle of the floor was suddenly tilted to the reverse angle. The floor was the only place to sit in safety.

One thing that consoled me was that the boat was very strong and safe, designed and built by experienced Tasmanian shipbuilders and fitted out by my equally capable husband. Right now though, I was too aware of the storm to take much comfort in that and so I continued to read to my daughter in an effort to keep us both calm.

Just then Jack shouted, "Helen, for God's sake look behind us" I looked, and what I saw made me feel ten times worse. At the Southern end of the Channel there was a huge pillar of purplish cloud, looking like a 200 ft. tornado such as I had viewed on TV. Behind that cloud the sky had a greenish tinge and fear struck deep inside me.

With the increased probability of the storm becoming more intense, and the winds becoming even stronger, Jack decided to take down the mainsail and sent Sam forward on the wet slippery deck to roll the sail down using our wonderful roller reefing gear, but the wind was so strong the equipment was damaged as soon as it was put to use. My son was strong and big for his age but the task was too much for him. Jack then called me to take the helm.
" I can't," I said.
"You'll have to" he replied. "Sam can't hold onto that sail any longer"
So with my heart in my mouth, I left Jane and went on deck to do my best.

The wind was screaming now, and the world around me was white, the sea and the air almost indistinguishable from each other, so visibility was very poor. Needles of spray were hitting my face in painful thousands, but that was the least of my worries. While the menfolk wrestled with the sail I tried hard to keep Explorer under control. Every time I changed tack, I over-corrected the helm and the boat went veering off at an acute angle. I don't know how long they took to get the sail off, but it seemed like ages.

It was probably about 20-30 minutes and by that time I was controlling the boat fairly well and in a perverse way, taking some pride in that. The speedometer showed us doing IO knots with only the No. 3 jib to drive us, that was really amazing. Jack took over the helm again and I gratefully went below to my daughter. I just sat on the floor and cuddled her. Wind gusts were hitting the hull with audible thumps, like a huge fist, and the whole ship vibrated from stem to stern.

As we progressed north the police boat Vigilant was under full power beside us, and as we watched she was blown around in a 360-degree turn. Amazing!
We struggled on for what seemed an eternity for me, although Jack seemed unperturbed as usual. Incredibly, as we got to a narrower part of the Channel, the storm suddenly disappeared and we were becalmed. This gave us an opportunity to pull our dinghy alongside and see if our faithful dog and gear were still with us. They were all okay, what a relief. We heaved the dog aboard and dried her off, she was quite happy and seemed unaware of our ordeal.

We finally drifted into Oyster Cove where the small village of Kettering nestles on green hills and fields running down to the waters edge. We were able to pick up a mooring, which was a blessing, and here we spent a relatively peaceful night. Though it blew 45 knots during the night, this was not a problem compared to our incredible ride from South Bruny Island.

The next day we sailed home comfortably to the embracing arms and tranquillity of Kangaroo Bay. Sam got to work on time, that being the reason why we set sail in a storm. We rang the weather bureau and were told the winds in the Channel area had been recorded at 75 knots on that day.

Fethiye is a beautiful Turkish seaside town with a majestic mountain backdrop and lots of little cruise boats, so pretty at the busy waterfront. Having done several of these very cheap and excellent trips on the blue, blue Mediterranean, it was time to move on. We, decided, my daughter Lisa, myself and friend Faye, decided to go to the famed area of Capghpadocia in central Turkey, where people lived in cave houses. We had booked into a cave house pension in the small village of Goreme and would be met at the bus by our host, Yuksel. After packing our bags once more we headed for the otogar to board our bus for the next phase of our trip.
We climbed aboard the bus which left at 4.30 pm and were looking forward to a truly amazing experience in Cappadocia. However the bus trip was something else. It started out o.k., though I wasn't keen on the back seat, with Lisa, Faye and me in a row but the seats were wrap around and quite comfortable. A young Turkish woman with a 4 month old baby girl sat next to Faye and we were happy to hold her to give Mum a rest from time to time.

As the trip progressed we drove through varied country, beautiful white-capped mountains and plains where the wheat crops had been recently harvested. The farmers live in small square houses with outside stairs to the rooftops and there they sit in the coolness of evening, chatting and drinking cai.

We stopped at several towns to pick up more passengers and the bus was now almost full. The conductor came around with cool drinks and scented spray for our hands. He also moved passengers around from time to time as the Turkish women will not sit next a man unless he is family. At Konya, a large industrial town, we picked up eight more people and this group included a fundamentalist family with the mother covered from head to toe in black robes, two young girls and two boys. The Mum and Dad and two daughters were crammed into two seats and the two boys sat on the floor in the aisle, but a young woman was told to sit on a pillow which placed between Faye and my seats, a space of eight inches. Needless to say she overlapped both of us and as it was very hot we were all uncomfortable, except for Lisa who slept at the window seat.

We couldn't believe it they had done this. "Oh my God," we all said in unison. Even the Turks said this, which surprised us. Two young men were left standing in the aisle, 'disgraceful, unsafe', we said, but this is Turkey, mostly wonderful, sometimes bloody awful. It was difficult for all of us and there were some arguments between the conductor and passengers but gradually everyone began to relax and fall asleep. This eventually caused a disaster as the young mother had the baby on her lap and when she fell asleep the baby fell on the floor under the seat in front of her. She was screaming and so was the mother "Ma bebe, ma bebe," she cried in anguish. We all became upset and were down on our hands and knees looking for the baby, with the mother still crying, "Ma bebe." She finally located the baby who was fortunately unharmed, but very upset. But with petting from two or three of us she soon quietened while Mum resumed her place on the floor, looking for the baby's dummy. Faye and I continued to tolerate the young woman's bottom on our knees. Peace was restored and unbelievably Lisa slept through it all.

Our next stop was for the promised dinner. It was almost midnight and we were glad to get off the bus, happily anticipating a nice meal. The cafeteria was huge, and like an army mess with steel tables and chairs and weird Russian sounding music tormenting us. The food was o.k. . . just, but the toilets were revolting and we paid a young man L250, A25c and he handed us one serviette (I got two).

Back to the bus, but alas it wouldn't start. Off we got again and sat on the veranda of the cafeteria chatting to a charming French couple, so it was not all bad, but we were well behind schedule. It was 1 a.m. by the time about 10 men combined efforts & finally fixed the bus. The trip was meant to take 11 hrs and they amended that to 12 hours but it actually took 14½ hours. What a bugger of a trip! The famous bus trip from hell! But as we cruised down the mountainsides of Cappadocia, the first half-dozen cave houses came into view. I woke Lisa and we gazed enraptured and incredulous at what we saw. It was like something from a fantastic movie set. Our minds could not absorb it, and on it went, more and more of this amazing 2000 years old, fabled, biblical land. Was it real?

Soon our host Yuksel arrived in his Mazda to pick us up. His pension 'Gumas' was delightful and he showed us to our lovely cave, with marble ensuite and large stone balcony overlooking the town. This place had once been a church, all dug out of the living rock, we loved it on sight. He then escorted us to the dining room for delicious Turkish breakfast and wonderful! cups of tea. Our host was so kind and charming, but we could barely wait to get to the comfort of our beds for a much needed sleep. Yes, it was the bus trip from hell but the time spent in Cappadocia was a great experience and one of the best things I've ever done.

The bus story has been the cause of much laughter among friends and family.