Zesty Mumma's Words

A life lived without passion is a life half lived

Archive for the tag “Humour”

Andy Deagon Blah Blah Blah

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Below is the cover blurb for my new book – available through smashwords and kindle/amazon. Very proud of it.

Andy Deagon Blah Blah Blah is a story of summer, surfing and freedom. It will draw you in, make you laugh and sometimes make you cringe with embarrassment, but most of all it will simply make you happy

ANDY is angry, her last year of state school hasn’t gone well, definitely not what she had planned and the looming prospect of High School has her almost paralysed with fear. She hasn’t grown, in any way, the whole year, unlike most of the other girls in her class. Her sister Emma is her worst nightmare and out to ruin her life every chance she gets, while her mother just doesn’t seem to understand how desperate Andy’s predicament is.

After an excruciating road trip to the small town of Commerong, Andy’s plan for the holidays is also dashed. Her long-term friend Laura deserts her for two new friends. Andy’s insecurities and fears seems to have become reality. While Emma, who doesn’t like Laura, makes matters worst by hitting her in the head with a ball covered in water and dog slobber. In a state of pure anger Andy accuses Emma of intentionally creating havoc. Andy and Emma’s relationship sinks to its lowest point with a huge fight, leaving Mum no choice but to ground the two girls and force them to spend their whole time together.

The first day at the beach however, is nearly the last for the family, when Andy, Emma, their dad and twin brothers are swept out to sea. Andy is force to keep Emma calm during the ordeal as the situation escalates to a frightening level. Much to Andy’s surprise Emma’s gratitude sees the beginning of a thaw between the two girls.

A chance opportunity to explore Commerong leads to a meeting with a local boy, Pat, a boy the same age as Andy. At first Andy mistakes his quiet manner and she thinks he doesn’t want to be friends, but Pat has a secret that has almost destroyed his family,

Thanks to Pat, Andy learns to surf and her joy helps her forget all about her worries. Much to Andy’s surprise, Emma feels the same way and the girls bond over their shared love of surfing. But will this new found peace last? Not if Laura can help it!

Below are the links to smashwords and Amazon

https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/612806

http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B01BEPM6JM?keywords=andy%20dragon%20blah%20blah%20blah&qid=1454839674&ref_=sr_1_fkmr0_1&sr=8-1-fkmr0

Gardening – Monica Style

Monica, a seventy seven year old who just happens to be my mother, is unique in oh so many ways. Up until two months ago when she had knee replacement surgery she was still playing tennis three times a week, riding and walking kilometres a day as well. There is so much more I can tell you about her exercise obsession, needless to say though you now see why a knee replacement was necessary.  As you will see not all excersise was welcomed by my mother.

When our family home was sold fourteen years ago Monica chose to down size and purchased a unit. Three bedrooms, two bathrooms plenty of room for all the kids, grandkids and great grandkids to visit. Like many retirees of her generation she had absolutely had enough of gardening.  Our particular property was approximately half an acre in size and other than the percentage of land used by the house and shed, most of it was lush green lawn. All of which was mown by Monica, in her gum boots and lycra leggings. She could be observed most weeks pushing that lawn mower up and down the length of the yard cause she couldn’t bare to have a blade of grass out of place.

When Monica finally moved into her new unit the first thing she did was rip out any blade of grass or garden that existed in her long “L” shaped court yard, replacing the offending greenery with terracotta paving stones. No living thing was spared, never more was she going to be tied to the upkeep of a garden and the regular mowing it required.

There was however one aspect of gardening that she did actually like,  Monica really loved her strawberry plants and thanks to the horses that lived in the paddock beside our house, were the biggest, juiciest and sweetest strawberries that anyone had ever tried. Monica perfected the art of composting horse poo so that the stimulating effect on the strawberry plants had to be seen to be believed. There was no match for her strawberries, they were legendary.lawn-mower_17497_600x450.jpg

When she took her one year old lawn mower back to the shop for repairs, they mower mechanic was stunned at the poor condition of the machine. He had never seen a lawn mower disintegrate the way hers had or as quickly. He said he simply didn’t have an explanation for the state the mower was in.

He may not have know how it had happened but my mother certainly did. She never actually admitted to the mechanic but every week she ran over piles of manure collected from the paddock. Back and forth, breaking up every last nugget of horse poo gold to spread on her beloved strawberry plants.

Boys Need Strong Mothers, Otherwise They Will Never Grow Up to Be Good Men

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I listened with delight to a news report today about an Australian Rules football player being left in Jail for four days because his mum refused to bail him out. If you are a younger person (or maybe someones son)  you may be thinking that was a bit harsh but believe me I am sure the decision by his mum was a long time coming. Most mothers love their sons and come to the tough love decision after more than one infringement by that same child.

It starts very early with your son, they nick the chocolate frogs from the fundraising box your daughter has been asked to sell for her ballet class and they swear that they didn’t do it. You know quite well that it is them but they snuggle up to you and there is nothing you can do.  They learn very early to wrap you around their finger, but eventually you wise up. My son moved to Mackay when he was twenty two. He and a mate went to North Queensland for a change. They spent the first couple of weeks sleeping in the back of a ute, chasing crocs and eating crabs and fish they caught. They were broke and being just after christmas none of the local builders had started back to work so they were stuck. It turned out however,  to be the best thing that could have happened to them. They literally had no money so they weren’t able to touch alcohol or any other stimulant that they may have previously resorted to.

Then a cyclone came and I had to help them out with a roof over their head. For some months after that there were any number of reasons why I should help them out. They were working but there always seemed to be an excuse for why they needed a little bit of help. That is until I did something that put a stop to it, stone cold dead.

My son rang one day saying he was totally out of food and wouldn’t get his pay for a few days. Poor starving child I thought but wasn’t going to be stupid enough this time to give him cash. So I negotiated with a large supermarket in downtown Mackay to allow me to buy a gift card over the phone, which for some reason they found to be a very hard thing to do. Anyway, once this was organised I rang my son and told him what I had done. To say he wasn’t happy would be an understatement to be sure. The coup de gras came when he tried to buy cigarettes with his groceries and discovered that I had imposed a limitation on the items allowable with that gift card. He was incredibly embarrass and because boys being as shame phobic as they are, it goes with out saying that he never asked me to give him money again.

In the case of footballers there doesn’t seem to be a week that goes by without some incident with a player from one or more of the codes played in Australia. I am sure this is the same in most western countries, footballers headlining the morning news because of trouble with alcohol, fighting and women (usually all three together).  I think they should sack the managers and employ mothers, we’d fix ’em!

The Great Ocean Road – A Road Well Visited But Always Surprising

Thirty years ago I drove a quiet back road from Port McDonald in South Australia over the Victorian Border to Port Campbell and on through to Torquay so we could be on hand to watch the Bells 25th Anniversary surf comp. By the way when I say I drove that wasn’t exactly the case, Craig my ex did all the driving, I didn’t get my license for another decade, but I’ll leave that  story till later.

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So back to the story, I called it a back road but it was in fact the Princess Highway and  the Great Ocean Road, which most people have heard of even if you don’t live in Australia. In those days it was little more than a country road but the scenery was no less amazing.

On that occasion we got to the Twelve Apostles (now it is 8 ½ Apostles) late in the day then drove on through the night, only stopping somewhere near Lorne because we sadly hit a Tawney Frogmouth Owl. Sleeping in the back of our 1968 Holden Kingswood Station wagon with stainless steel mud flaps and white metal venetian blinds was very squishy. We had a cat, my brother, surfboards and luggage but when you’re young you just handled it.

What I didn’t I didn’t realise until I recently travelled the same road with two friends (but from the opposite direction) was that because it was night on my previous trip I had missed out on so much.

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The Torquay stretch is actually a well worn path for me. When we arrived thirty years ago our stay extended to about three months so I got to know the area quite well. Since then I have travelled back on a few occasions, my son was a pro junior surfer so surfing comps at Bells were a part of my life. It hasn’t changed a lot in all those years. A few more shops, but not as many as you would think, more houses but not much else.

Bells Beach however was as mesmerising as ever, the pure power of the waves demands respect. On the day we were there a rescue helicopter had landed on the beach just before we pulled up in the carpark, I never found out why but I can only imagine. Standing at the lookout staring out to the horizon you can’t help thinking about the massive waves that are generated in the Southern Ocean and propelled at the Australian coastline. Dark and ominous it is easy to feel the icy embrace of water that originates in the Antarctic.

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The trip from Torquay to Lorne along a road that hugs impossible cliffs and runs beside exquisite sandy beaches  is only about an hour drive in distance. However, there are numerous places you will want to stop so it should take you  quite a bit longer. We stopped for a late lunch in Lorne, very pretty  but I found it a bit too commercial.

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Our next two nights were spent in Apollo Bay and gladly a lot different to Lorne. It is a lovely little town, with beautiful beaches, a great boat harbour and amazing pub meals, really huge. Most importantly it is a perfect distance from the Apostles. Stay the night, then make your way to the apostles the next day. On the way back visit The Otway Lightstation and get more that you bargain for. The road to the lightstation is about 12 kilometres and the only place in Australia I have found that seems to be riddled with Koalas, no joking. They were hanging out of the trees everywhere along the road. The koala in the picture is literally only two metres above the ground.

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The light station itself is fantastic and full of history. The most famous of the light house keepers had an amazing wife that cared for shipwrecked people and others in wretched situations. Commended for her spirit, she was described as being the “nicest of all women having only nine children” beat that all you earth mothers, lol. Who would ever describe someone as ONLY having nine children. Times were definitely different one hundred and thirty years ago.

 

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Dunedin is Not a Sunny Place – But Who Needs Sunshine for an Interesting Holiday

Dunedin is not a sunny place, but having said that, it is quite possible that the Scottish Farmers that were the founding fathers of the city probably thought it was in comparison to what they left behind in Britain. To put this in perspective when you are planning your trip, the average maximum temperature in January is 18.9 degrees Celsius where as Sydney (also in the Southern Hemisphere) has an average maximum of 25.9 for January. Trust me, this is not a place you plan on visiting for a beach holiday

But here in lies a certain amount of contradiction. The photo below is taken at a beach on the eastern side of the Otago Peninsular. During my first visit I sat on a log eating my lunch, the warm sunshine super heating me through my jeans (it was November and the only sunny day during my three days in Dunedin (the other two being drizzly and cool) and I was overwhelmed, as I often am, by the desire to swim. Maybe it was the fact that I hadn’t been in the ocean for a few weeks or the beach looked so much like home that I just had to try it.

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After changing in to my swimmers I made my way down to the shore, the squeaky alabaster sand ran through my toes as I walked. The same clear blue Pacific Ocean water that I had known for most of my life rolled in lovely shore breakers towards me, I was feeling very positive.

When the first wave touched my toes it was a bit of a shock. Like little needles really and very, very, sharp ones at that. By the time the water had reached my calves I think my legs were about to change from fire red to vivid purple and I ran from the water just like all the “cold-a-phobes” I’d always bemoaned. I did eventually manage to get to the point of lying in the water, but the moment the wave rolled over my back I was out of there, never to return.

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But the Otago Peninsular is a visually splendid place. The road hugs high cliffs most of the way around and presents amazing, “to die for”views, which doesn’t take too much imagination to believe to be quite possible. Such is the height of the hills on the peninsular, one minute you can be driving along admiring the view and the next thing you are driving through low-lying cloud as thick as any London pea soup fog.

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Things were no different on my second visit to Dunedin. The gothic nature of many of the churches and other buildings seems extremely fitting in respect to the weather. Otago stone is a renowned building material in New Zealand and has been used extensively in and around Dunedin giving the entire city a solid, stoic feeling. One of the best things to do really is looking at the architecture, built on incredibly steep hills this can be quite a physically demanding thing to do, but fantastic “old everything” is everywhere.

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If you like good food, make sure your visit includes a Saturday. The farmers market held at the world famous train station (also made out of Otago stone) is an awesome place for breakfast. You also have the chance to wander round the station, which really does deserve its notoriety. My second visit also coincided with the Thieves Alley Market, which sees the Octagon (centre of the Dunedin CBD) and surrounding streets closed for the day. On this particular day many of the Artisans from Christchurch were there and it made a fabulous market.

I stayed in the Manor House Backpackers on my first visit and it was fine, great old house close to the Octagon. Unlike the place I am too embarrassed to mention (Penny Backpackers) on my second trip and would advise you to avoid like the plague.  One of my fondest moments for the first trip was watching “500 Days of Summer” with an American Girl, two German Girls and a Chinese Student at The Manor House. The American and I may have been the only ones laughing but you knew the other girls got it they just weren’t as loud as us.

I have watched that movie many times since then and I always think of Dunedin. It helped me realise that a good chick flick can break down even the biggest language barrier.

Tips and Extras

• Port Chalmers, where the cruise boats dock has some interesting quirky shops and is a nice drive, well worth the trip, and good coffee.

• Also visit the entrance to Port Otago

• The Otago Gallery in the Octagon is great art gallery.

• Dunedin has the best op shops

Functional Dysfunctionality – Families Where Would We Be Without Them

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Families are complex and I don’t think there are many people  on the planet would disagree with that. Just navigating the intricate labyrinth of internal relationships can be a mine field and can make your mind bleed at the same time; brother sister, mother daughter, husband wife, father son, then lets add aunts, uncles etc etc to the mix. I believe that most of our families work on the basis of functional disfunctionality.

Which brings me to my mother, Monica, a spritely impish woman in her seventies. She is incredibly active, still playing tennis and riding her pushbike many times a week, looking after grandchildren and great grandchildren on a regular basis and walking everywhere she can. Born during the Second World War she lost her father while he was a soldier in the British army. Her mother, having four children, had to find work and placed three of those children in an orphanage. Like so many of the children of that time loss was just part of her life and just like the English do so well, she just got on with life.

As you would imagine security to my mother is a very important thing. She doesn’t understand the waste she sees constantly in society today. People have far more disposable income than ever before but use it far less wisely. I tell you all this to explain what happened on my first trip to New Zealand and Queenstown in particular.

Even before we left Australia, in the planning stages of our trip, my mother told me that the main thing she wanted to do was visit Milford Sound. It wasn’t a trip I had envisioned for myself but as the tour guide I knew I would have to find out a little bit about about it. The first part of that trip saw us spend ten days in the North Island before taking the ferry to Picton. We stayed in Wellington for a few days, where I picked up some brochures. When I read the price of the trip I knew I would have to be skilful when breaking this news to my mother. After dinner the night before we left I sat down next to Monica, who was happily watching the television, drinking a cup of tea and nibbling on chocolate, perfect I thought, her heaven.

“So mum” I say, carefully as you go, “I’ve been looking up about your trip to Milford Sound”.

“Yes,” I could tell by her tone she was excited; phew I thought this is going to be easy.

“Well from what I can see, you take a bus from Queenstown all the way to Milford then on to a boat ……” I went through the whole scenario with her.

“This trip here” I held up the first brochure. “Is $159 NZ” I heard a squeak come out of her mouth but I ignored it thinking I could finish her off with my secret weapon.

“But look at this one, it’s on special for $144,” who could argue with that I thought. Monica that’s who, I think she nearly had a coronary.

“Oh that’s too much I can’t afford that,” Mind you this is the same woman that wouldn’t hesitate to buy a $200 dress if she really wanted it.

Eventually I had to let it go cause there was just no reasoning with her and the argument was getting heated. Even the fact our exchange rate at that time gave us $1.25 NZ for every $1.00 AU, could not sway her.

On the South Island things calmed down and I didn’t mention the trip to Milford again. A couple of days before we arrived in Queenstown out of the blue my mother says.

“I think I will do the trip to Milford Sound, I was just being silly.” I remained calm; I’d kind of expected this about face. Generally it is just the unexpected that people react to, when their brain has time to process the information they’re usually ok. So I didn’t say too much, not wanting to gloat.

“That’s good mum, I know you’ll enjoy it”.

“We’ll see,” she said ominously.

The day we arrived in Queenstown was a cool day, so once mum was settled with her cup of tea I went to reception to use the Internet. Deciding that I probably needed to book the trip to Milford while I was there I made it for Tuesday, two days away.

When I got back to our accommodation mum had found a couple of young backpackers to talk to so she was in a great mood.

Waiting till we were alone I said in the brightest voice possible, “ I booked our trip to Milford Sound.”

Monica nearly choked on the marmalade toast she was eating, “what did you do that for, I can’t afford that.” She proceeded to huff and puff, working herself into lather. I thought at that moment that my mother might have been suffering from either Alzheimer’s disease or Schizophrenia.

It was my turn to “WHAT” her.

“Excuse me. Didn’t you tell me the other day that you had changed you mind and wanted to go”?

“Oh, you shouldn’t listen to me,” to say I was flabbergasted at that moment was an understatement.

I won’t bore you with anymore details; needless to say it was very tense for a while. I did take the trip to Milford and had an amazing time, while my mother stayed in Queenstown. As I say families are not for the faint hearted, you possibly may need a PHD to understand them.

Deer Wars – Only in New Zealand

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New Zealanders are a resourceful bunch. Historically there has never been a huge manufacturing base in that country so most products were imported. Funnily enough most of the western world is now in the same boat due to our dependence on the monolithic Chinese industrial juggernaut, but that’s another story.

So out in backyard sheds and farm buildings all over the country, with only Mable the Sheep for company, Kiwi inventors for generations have found answers to the most vexing of life’s problems. Using only a few bits of wire, a solder iron and some gaffer tape they have created and built every tool and device they ever needed. If you don’t believe me, watch “The World’s Fastest Indian and you’ll see what I mean.

These ingenious people are the same ones that gave us the bungy cord, Jet boats and my personal favourites, eggbeaters and hairpins. The contributing factors to this resourcefulness are simple. They are situated a long, long way from anywhere (other than Australia) and have a very, very small population (most of which actually lives in Australia).

Deer hunting in the Fjordland of the South Island is likewise a good example. These crazy men perfected the hunting of feral red deer from helicopters. At the time the government had decided there was a need to cull the deer due to their great numbers and the damage they were doing to the environment. The terrain as you would imagine was beyond rough and it became a time consuming activity. That is until the idea of hunting with helicopters became a reality.

During the 1970’s crews of three; a pilot, a spotter and the shooter, ranged through out the mountain country searching for the prize. At first the deer were plentiful and the money was good so it drew men from all over the country. They were hungry for work and adventure, just like the gold rush times of old. This was not an easy occupation by any means and death was a common occurrence. Approximately 80 hunters and pilots died during the time that has come to be known as The Deer Wars.

As the years rolled by the deer became scarce and smart. Just when the industry was on the verge of collapse the demand for live deer to stock new farms saved them. However, this became an even crazier time. Instead of shooting the deer’s, once they were spotted the helicopter would hover as close as it could above the startled animal.  Once the chopper was in place a hunter would actually jump out on top of the animal. As you can imagine accidents and misses were not uncommon, contributing greatly to the death toll.

Apparently there is a global job crisis, anyone thinking about retraining? I have a couple of suggestions, travel, adventure, what are you waiting for!

 

 

 

 

Haast and Beyond, with Whitebait for Sustenance

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Heading south to Haast, the last outpost on the West Coast, you realise just how stoic the early European settlers must have been to eek out a farming existence in that verdant land. The bush closes in thickly around you at times and the ever present, misty rain implies a prehistoric past that is still very much present. This trip was my second on that road and no different the first time I travelled it.

Whitebait is a delicacy you may not have heard about but is so important to nearly every New Zealander that a love of them is almost a prerequisite for citizenship. What is it I hear you ask, actually Whitebait are tiny little fish, much smaller that sardines with a gigantic head (in comparison to their body). Every single kiwi I have met has at least one story about going “whitebaiting” when they were young, much increasing its legendary status. As you approach Haast a small hand written sign on the side of the road advertising whitebait fritters can be seen, make sure you stop. The fritters are a simple affair, prepared and cooked on a make shift bench in front of you and consist of beaten eggs, whitebait, salt and pepper, buttered bread and sauce if you want but well worth it.

South of Haast is the truly wild New Zealand, Milford Sound, Doubtful Sound and onto Antarctica. The main road turns east at this point and heads up and over the Alps. If you don’t have a convoy of Motorhomes breathing down upon you make sure at some point you stop on the side of the road to marvel, slack jawed at the beauty you are heading toward. It is scenery that no amount of words I could ever say would do justice to.

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This road will take you all the way to Wanaka and on to Queenstown, it is quite narrow in places but that is never a problem because there just isn’t that much traffic. Once you are over the top it follows a route around amazing blue lakes. This is sheep country and very high so the vegetation is sparse. This trip we chose to keep going through to Queenstown but Wanaka is a nice little town with lots of accommodation. Both towns are quite modern and generally busy in all seasons. Winter bringing the skiers and late spring, summer and early autumn the travelling tourists.

It takes about an hour to get to Queenstown from Wanaka along the highest public road in the country. Just before you begin your decent into Queenstown you come upon gravel clearing on the side of the road. Make sure you stop at that spot, the view looking down the valley and into Queenstown is a must see. Late snow was still clinging to the hills around the valley on my first trip but this time it was late summer so it had all melted, still beautiful but the snow made it spectacular.

 

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It is a 300 km bus trip to Milford Sound from Queenstown and I took it the first time I was there. Unfortunately, the only trouble with that is if you’re on a bus tour you have to take 300km trip home that day as well. Actually I am only joking when I say unfortunately because the trip there was nearly as good as seeing the Sound. After Te Arnau the road takes you through vast empty valleys that had once been farmland but are now part of the National Park. The drivers are well trained and have lots of interesting local knowledge to bring the trip to life. It makes it a long day but not one you would regret. To get down to Milford you have to pass through a long tunnel. If you are a nervous driver you would be best to take a bus trip like me. I’m not a nervous driver but I was very glad I went on the bus.

My favourite thing in Queenstown is the botanic garden. After you walk through the garden there is lovely little French café down on the lake that finishes off the visit nicely. The walk up Queenstown Hill is also great. It starts at the end of some extremely steep streets but becomes less so once you are up about a third of the way.

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Arrowtown is a quaint little town about 5 km from Queenstown, It is renowned for cute little stone cottages and other old buildings but it is heavily commercialised and really not my cup of tea. Having said that I had a venison pie at the local bakery was the best pie I have ever tasted.

 

Tips

  • Top up your petrol take at Haast.
  • Try Pine Lodge for budget accommodation. The room I had on my first visit was spotlessly clean. I booked it on a last minute booking website and managed to get a twin room for four nights for $200 NZ.
  • There are two supermarkets in Queenstown – a smaller one right at the end of Shotover Street in the CBD. The second, a large New World, is just a few blocks over, just out of the CBD.
  • Unless you know you have a bargain I wouldn’t really buy any souvenirs in Queenstown, very overpriced and all made in China.
  • The bus trip to Milford costs around $150 NZ

Never Give Up, You Just Never Know What is Going to Happen Next

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Huge walls of hydraulic energy thundered down on the helpless coastline, Cyclone Joan had done her job well. On the beach the surf contest continued attracting spectators all morning. The wide expanse of sand in front of the surf club resembled Central Station at peak hour. Rubber duckies bounced high in the air as they jumped over the surging white water, then roared with intensity up the beach. While hovering helicopters fought for supremacy with loud speakers narrating the progress of each competitor in piercing tone, the confusion was complete. Out of the activity, a little way up the beach, Gail swam alone all the time wary not to venture beyond the shore break. The destructive power of the thunderous surf made survival for anyone caught in its iron grip impossible.

Where the girl came from Gail didn’t know but there she was a tiny figure alone in a sea of white water, screaming in terror as the surge tried to sweep her out to sea. The human instinct to help rose swiftly inside Gail and fought valiantly with her logical brain that accurately concluded she too would be fighting for her life if she did. The minutes ticked by like hours; scared she would loose sight of the girl if she went for help she desperately tried to attract attention. Gail’s frantic cries for help fell unheard below the roaring Jet engine of the raging surf. Desperation tightened its grip as she watched the girl’s tenuous grasp on life slipping away.

Out of nowhere a surfer appeared from under a monster wave.

“Do you need a hand to get in” he called in an amazingly calm voice. Gail’s compunction to laugh was almost unbearable. Didn’t he realise there was a ferocious beast hell bent on devouring her life and that of the other swimmer?

“I’m Okay, but there’s a girl in trouble out there,” She yelled back to him.

It wasn’t till the girl was safely on her way to shore that Gail realised the rip had taken hold of her and it wasn’t letting go.

Between breakers the ocean became a cauldron, as the sweep took her she was pounded by wall after wall of white water. Screaming until she was hoarse her voice was no match for the malevolent surf. As each new wave approached Gail steeled herself for the pounding she was about to receive, there was only enough time to gasp for air before being dragged down again. Sound no longer came from her open mouth.

A brief glance through the tumult revealed ants on the beach that used to be people.

Having reached the point of hopelessness, death seemed the inevitable next step.

Out of nowhere the surfer appeared beside her again, having taken the other girl to the safety of the beach he then realised Gail was the one in trouble now. Making his way back out through the treacherous conditions, he knew there wasn’t a minute to loose. Though the fog in her brain was thick, Gail felt herself lifted across the board and then blackness.

Gail opened her eyes and an ocean of water ran uncontrollably from her mouth. Coughing and spluttering she tried to sit, encircled by a crowd and totally unaware she was naked, her string bikini no match for the gigantic surf.

Inexplicably, after thanking her saviour Gail began crawling up the beach to where her husband and friend sat watching in oblivion. It was an unexplainable truth but fact is no one offered her a towel or help back to her family. She collapsed on a towel beside them. Feeling the thud as she hit the sand, Darren turned his head and asked in total innocence, “Where have you been?”

With all the strength her battered body could summon, she said in a gravelly whisper,

“You’ve got to be joking!”

Sheena, Queen of the Jungle – I’m Not

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Ì love animals, you name it, love them all, especially frogs. Not that frogs are animals but you get the idea. Magpies though, now that’s a different story or at least it was. Being totally traumatised during childhood I always considered magpies one species of wildlife that I would I never say that about. I spent most trips to and from school during magpie breeding season carrying a piece of wood and behaving as if I was walking down a dark alleyway at midnight. The ever present stalker ready to attack the moment I let my guard down. I’m an “excellent ducker and weaver” to this day. It’s just a pity that I didn’t have better athletic ability where this highly developed skill could have been of more use.

We had two magpies living in our yard, just young birds, not a whole year old. They had no fear of our human presence in their lives or that of our domestic animals. Not even the constant staring of our old orange cat perturbed them. Our maggies had their first litter in late winter and the babies were ready to leave the nest in early spring.

Craig found the first baby in the small Banksia tree near the garage. Stunned by the fact it didn’t move when he patted it he couldn’t wait to show the kids when they came home. Being Sheena, queen of the jungle my immediate diagnosis was “Its fallen out of the nest, we’ll have to look after it”.

My husband and his brother both tried to assure me that the parents were looking after it. Of course I didn’t listen and managed to course he poor thing to fly into a tall sapling, safely out of arms my arms reach, there it stayed all afternoon. The beautiful day that had been Sunday had been disappear in a torrential downpour, complete with howling wind, trees nearly doubling over as the southerly hit. I looked out my kitchen window and stared at the helpless baby sitting perched in the tree, with its sparsely covered, needle like foliage offering no protection. The night rolled in the wet and the blackness was almost unbearable. I couldn’t stop worrying about the tiny bird and succumbed to my mothering instincts

Standing under the tree it didn’t take long for the rain to penetrate my clothes but I couldn’t reach the bird. If I tried to climb up to it I’d probably fall into the creek which the tree overhung. There was nothing else to do; I’d have to force it down. The long stick that held up my washing line would do. Being cruel to be kind is a thing we humans do well, and I was no exception. The rain and darkness made the task even harder. There were times when I was sure I’d shish kabobbed the poor thing, but still I pressed on through the driving rain. Finally I managed to push the frightened baby far enough down the tree so I could grab it. Clutching my prize I hurried inside.

It was soaked to the bone. Sitting there with it the snuggled in to my chest I was quietly confident that interfering with nature was the purpose of mankind but after spending the night with the bird in a box next to me I wasn’t so sure. The bright morning sunshine poured through the window and I could hear the parent magpies warbling in the yard and knew what had to do.

Out in the yard I found there was actually not one baby but two. The second sitting patiently on a branch the way my charge had been before my interference. Placing the bird next to its sibling I was quietly confident that I was setting the world to right. Alas, the last time I saw the fledgling that day it was stuck in a thicket of long grass along way from the other baby. Sleep didn’t come easy that night. Having the parents reject it because of me weighed heavily on my conscience. Watching the parents and the other baby for the week, my guilt had to some degree subsided. Suddenly a miraculous turn of events, my son Jack came running in with the news there were two baby magpies in the wattle tree and sure enough there they were.

It seems that magpies separate their babies into different trees until they can fly properly. They probably do this incase some marauding predator like an Eagle, Hawk or interfering human decides to steal a baby, then they wouldn’t get both. Only at night do they bring them together into the same tree.

Apparently Magpie parents know what’s best for their babies, who would have thought!

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