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Posts Tagged ‘anecdotes’

The move from Byron Shire to Brisbane was a horrendous affair.

I had lived in the shire for forty years, twenty years in the same apartment. The only way I could get out of there was to have the movers pack for me. Unfortunately, these local movers did not unpack at the other end, and so I arrived with a two-bedroom house’s worth full of furniture and twenty-three tea chests.

What I did not arrive with was my fifteen-year-old cat Tim.

Tim

I had lost my loyal, doglike companion of fifteen year just six weeks before to chronic kidney disease. He died in my arms. At home, at the hands of a vet he knew and trusted. Although his end was very peaceful, I did not take it well. But reflecting on it later, when I was saner, I realised this was a mercy for him. He would have hated to see his home torn down around him and be transported to a strange place where his comings and goings would be seriously curtailed. Although the apartment I landed in had a courtyard, it was a postage stamp compared to the area in South Golden Beach that he’d had to roam in. Still, his loss hit me hard and, although I went on with plans for the move, I was dispirited.

Prone to anxiety, depression and wild despair,

I took to looking at pictures of Abyssinian cats online. (A number of vets had told me over the years that Tim was part-Abyssinian.) This was the only thing that could bring me to tears, and I feared the bleak, grim, tearless place into which I was sinking.

One day, as I was sniffling my way through the Brisbane Abyssinian breeders, I came across a website with a sign that read:

HELP SAVE KIRSTEN’S CATS!

An Abyssinian breeder named Kirsten had died just before Christmas 2017 (it’s now April 2018 in my tale of woe), and although the other breeders had swooped in to take her cats temporarily, they needed to rehome them.

Help Save Kirsten’s Cats! I began to look through the photos of the cats still needing rehoming. Most were the usual silver Abyssinians, but two were a strange golden tan, the colour Tim’s belly fur had been. Apparently, these two had been a breeding couple; now they had been desexed. My heart went out to them, stuck in their nine-foot-square breeding cage. People were prepared to take one cat, but no one wanted two. And these two were very devoted. They’d been separated accidentally in the chaos of the move after Kirsten’s death and the male had become frantic with loneliness. They couldn’t be separated.

I agreed to take the cats when I arrived in Brisbane in May, and sent Marie, who was holding them, some money for their keep in the meantime.

I didn’t know what I was letting myself in for when I took those cats.

I’d never owned rescue purebreds before. The Siamese cats I’d had in the distant past I’d had since they were twelve weeks old, and they’d run free like ordinary moggies. When I finally arrived in the New Farm apartment and checked out the courtyard, I realised at once that it wasn’t suitable for two cats who’d always been caged, and didn’t know about dogs, cats, cars, etc. The fence would need to be increased by a height of three-quarters of a metre and netting put over the whole lot if these cats were to be kept safe.

By now, it was June, and the nights were reaching two degrees Celsius where the cats were, and the seven-year-old male had a bad cough. So I took the cats before the fence was increased in height and the netting was up — at least, they’d be warm at night, and the male would have a chance to shake off his chest infection.

I brought the cats home on 24th June. Because of various delays, the courtyard wasn’t finished until 11 September. The cats and I spent the winter locked in the apartment, which had three doors and four windows to the outside, any one of which could lead to their doom if they escaped. It was a difficult time. The little four-year-old female cat was like Houdini and seemed determined to see the rest of the world — like that barefoot girl from Arkansas who’s sure she’d be a star if she could just catch that bus to LA.

Slowly I unpacked the twenty-three tea chests and tried to get my health back, which had taken a battering from the move; having moved many times in the first forty years of my life, I’d overestimated my ability to bounce back. I returned to walking, and found a nice over-50s yoga class in town. I was afraid of Brunswick Street, the busiest street in New Farm, an inner city suburb (when the wind blows the right way, you can hear the Brisbane city hall clock strike the hour), so I always walked away from it. The walk I took was uninteresting; there were few trees and the houses lacked charm. Many times, as I slogged doggedly along, I bemoaned the fact that I no longer lived near the water.

One day in November, I felt well enough to brave Brunswick Street (I hadn’t seen a traffic light in forty years), cross over and walk in the opposite direction. This is what I found:

 

 

 

 

 

 

I was three hundred metres from the river! Okay, this wasn’t the ocean, (I’d been three hundred metres from that in NSW), but it was water. And a walkway ran along the river from what I later discovered were the Howard Smith Wharves to the centre of the city less than 1.8 kilometres away.

I took stock of the situation. The courtyard was finished.

The netting above isn’t showing up well, but it’s there.

The cats were safe. I had my 98,000 word Brisbane novel to finish.

Well, well. Maybe I’d survive after all.

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When I first came to the Northern Rivers of New South Wales, brush turnkeys were not protected. Consequently, a sighting of them was a rare thing. Sometimes as we were driving along we’d see one making its way stealthily through the bush. The kids would be excited. “Look, a brush turkey!” Now, with the advent of their protection, all that has changed. Today they stride confidently around the suburbs, chortling to themselves and ripping up domestic gardens. Nothing is safe. They will even hop up into pot plants and rip them up, too — just for the hell of it.

Brush-Turkey-001

Brush turkey

After losing my little vegie patch twice this year to brush turkeys, I went online to see if there was anything, anything, that might deter them. The web was full of the cries of irate gardeners, and not just from areas close to nature reserves and bush. Apparently the birds are striding around city suburbs as well. Fences don’t work; in spite of their heavy, ungainly appearance, the birds can get over fences ten, eleven feet high — ours like to fly up onto the carport port roof and walk about up there, their claws making nerve wracking sounds on the corrugated iron roofing.

Some people tried scarecrows, with differing results. The people across the road from me tried teddies.

Yard 15X8.5@72

Mostly, though, the consensus on the web was that nothing could be done. I liked my little herb and vegie patch; it provided a nice change from sweating over the content editing of my Brisbane novel. I liked to go out there when the going got tough and pull a few weeds, or just admire the silverbeet plants. Eventually I hit upon the idea of covering the patch with pieces of old aluminium fencing, which a neighbour kindly gave me. The turkeys still prowl about, but at least the parsley is looking healthy, poking up through the gaps in the fence, but something (not turkeys) is eating the silverbeet. And the marigolds.

Consensus on the web is that the only way of dealing with brush turkeys is the catch-and-remove method. You catch them and take them many miles away to the bush or a nature reserve, whichever comes first. As I don’t drive, this option is not available to me. Natural predators? They don’t seem to have any. The cat is no use; the birds are too big, you’d need a cougar to bring them down. As I watch them pacing around the garden in the late afternoon, my heart is full of trepidation. These birds breed every year. If we think it’s bad now, what’s it going to be like next year? And the year after that.

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Does anyone out there know of a kind person who could give a good home to Jack, a four-year-old, neutered, part-eastern cat who’s currently residing in the Cat Protection Home in Billnudgel.

Jack

(If you think he’s looking a bit wild-eyed in the photo, it’s because he’s never been in a cage before.)

Jack’s tale is a sorry one. He was living a gung ho life quite happily with a girlfriend of mine for about two years. Then, alas, she fell ill and had to move to Woollongong to be closer to her only surviving son. Her son and wife already had two dogs. They were kind enough to take my friend’s dog, whom she’d had for over ten years. But not the cat.

Which is why Jack now resides in the Billinudgel Cat Protection home.

I would love to have taken him myself, but I am the possessor of a feline thug named Tim, who, though fifteen-years-old and neutered, will attack anything that comes inside our fence line — dogs any size, other cats, etc.

A few years back, I tried to give a home to a beautiful blue-eyed cat someone had dumped, but Tim would not accept him.

I really felt for that cat, and kept him going for over three years. By the time he’d found me, he was wild; we could not touch him, let alone take him to a refuge. I fed him outside, and managed to keep the two cats separated – he knew to vacate the yard when the thug was released for the day. Eventually Old Blue Eyes was injured by a car and had to be put down at the vet’s. So I can’t take Jack, much as I’d like to.

I wonder: is there anyone out there who could? He’s been in the home for three weeks now, and my heart really goes out to him. Please ring the big hearted Bailey, who does such good work for these animals, on 0497 442 623 if you think you can.

Here’s hoping.

 

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three-snakes

I had another snake in my little 2-storey apartment the other day. It’s the weirdest thing. For twenty years I’ve lived here and never had a problem with snakes — except for the night the python came looking to make a meal out of my old cat, who was sleeping near the back door. https://danielledevalera.wordpress.com/2012/12/11/quoth-the-raven-nevermore/

To have two in six weeks is strange. See: https://danielledevalera.wordpress.com/2017/01/11/snake/ This one I found at 4 o’clock in the afternoon at the bottom of the internal staircase. I’d locked the cat in with me from 2 -4 to prevent him hunting and bringing them in while I was having my cuppa-tea-and-a-lie-down. I can only conclude that I must have inadvertently locked the snake in with us when I came back from the beach and shut the doors at two.

A sobering thought.

Whether it was the same snake, come looking for more skinks (they live under my stove), I’m not sure. It certainly looked the same. Same size, six feet, same colour, black. Fortunately, he eventually slid out just the way the other one did, sailing out through the front door, which I’d opened wide for him. But I had a few bad moments before that: I’d lost sight of him when I went to look for a bucket to catch him in. That’s the hard bit. You come back, the snake’s disappeared and you don’t know where it is. All I could do was sit on the sofa in my living room and wait, like the woman in Henry Lawson’s short story, “The Drover’s Wife”.

Henry Lawson

Henry Lawson

In that story, which appears in his collection, While the Billy Boils https://www.amazon.com/While-Billy-Boils-Henry-Lawson/dp/141919383X the woman, seeing a large snake go into the slab hut she and the four children live in (her husband is away six to eighteen months at a time, droving), sets down a saucer of milk and waits through the night for the snake to appear so she can kill it.

Compared to the drover’s wife, I had it easy. But I’m faced with a quandary now. I’ll have to start keeping the front door closed when I’m out and keeping the cat flap closed, even when I’m home. The old cat has been coming and going through the front door for fourteen years. It worries me that he might be chased by one of the many loose dogs in South Golden Beach, run for the safety of his door and find it shut. But I don’t like the idea of six-foot black snakes sailing around the place whenever they feel like it, and I hate the idea of encountering one at night. I seem to have no option. The snake repellers on the internet have opponents and proponents. I’ll probably try one. In the meantime, I hope to retrain the cat to use the back door only, but I don’t like my chances.

(For reasons I can’t explain, this post is showing up strangely, even though it’s written as usual in 12 pt TNR in the original document and nothing untoward is showing in the WordPress menu. Another internet mystery. These little things are sent to try us.)

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droppingout_e-cover

Sitting here waiting for my son and his wife and kids to wake up. They leave to return to the UK today. I hadn’t seen my son for ten years, and I’d never seen my grandchildren, who are nine and five. They’ve been here for three weeks, on and off when they weren’t exploring the countryside in their rented campervan, and it’s going to be a wrench, I know.

I sit here sipping coffee, trying to fortify myself for the ordeal to come. Fortunately, my daughter, who’s up from Melbourne, will be here until Monday, so I won’t have to lose them all at once.

Attachment. The Buddhist masters have always talked of the evils of attachment. Not that it’s evil in itself, but that it causes us humans so much pain from loss, or even the fear of it. But then, I wonder, how would we care properly for our young if we weren’t attached to them? Attachment seems to be hardwired into us, with all that it entails.

There’s one being in my household who won’t be sad to see the whole caravan go. That’s my cat Tim, who’s spent the past 14 years in the peace and quiet of my solitary existence, and who’s never had to deal up close with little people.

timmy-p-72

He had to be taken to the vet yesterday afternoon with nervous exhaustion. The vet gave him a B shot. I could’ve done with a B shot myself.

I’m still recovering from the book launch last night, which turned out to be a comedy of errors. The first night I chose at the hotel for drinks turned out to be too close to my daughter’s arrival from Melbourne. So I moved the night from Wednesday to Thursday — usually a quiet night for pubs. To my horror, after I’d notified all the people concerned, I discovered that the pub was holding a huge band night with a $30.00 cover charge that Thursday. So I moved the night to Friday.

I had envisaged a nice quiet book launch on a quiet night in a peaceful garden setting. Some food, some drinks, nice conversation; a good way to put a full stop to the book I’d just completed.

loud-singer

We could hear the music blocks away as we parked the car. After that, it was all shouting, as we tried to make ourselves heard over the din. More than half of us were well over sixty, and we had a particularly hard time. “What was that?” we kept saying to one another. “Say that again.” I envied the cat, at home watching TV and enjoying his newfound B status, nerves all nicely taken care of.

Anyone reading this who was invited but couldn’t come, you didn’t miss anything. But as they say, it’s all part of growing up and being human. And these things have a habit of being funny later on.

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Frightened woman

I’m afraid to open the parcel containing the Amazon proof copy of my short story collection. I’ve had it since Tuesday, it’s now Saturday. When I got the proof of the 1st novel I put up on Amazon (http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00H0ORWQY, I fell on it like a famished wolf. Why this sudden turnaround? Perhaps it’s got something to do with the cover, which was unfinished when I sent off for this particular proof, and feels to me as if it will ever remain so.

Let me explain. You see, when I wrote my weird cat fantasy novel, which caused people to think I had finally lost the plot (though they were all too nice to say so), I had the image for the cover before I even wrote the book—a marvellous black & white drawing by US artist Marty Norman.

Marty Norman's cat illus'n 75 dpi copy No cats on pedestals

This time, I had chosen another of his works, a wonderful, hard-edged painting of a businessman on a tightrope, see below. (Sorry I’m too much of a luddite to know how to make the image bigger.)

man on wire

But beta readers from here to Timbuktu all agreed that to use an image like that on the cover of my collection was to mislead people into expecting a book about the problems of Wall Street suits. And that, my little short story collection set in the Northern Rivers of New South Wales definitely was not.

What to do? I had no idea. In the end, I settled for a very ancient image (no, I’m not going to show it to you at this point), and hoped like hell it would work. To open the package from Amazon, even though I know the cover is unfinished and will make the necessary allowances, is to expose myself to immense disappointment if this cover idea hasn’t worked.

Now it’s all very well to say I’ve got time to think of another and still get the book out in October-November of this year, but you see, I can’t. Having been dragged from one fixation (which in my heart I still prefer) to another, something in me has said, This is it. Further than this, I’m not prepared to go. In other words, I’m stuck with this cover, no matter what. So the parcel feels very threatening to me and just sits there on the sofa, accusing me every time I walk past. Thank heavens I’m going out today. I’ll be out all day – so there, parcel!

This state of affairs could go on indefinitely if I don’t so something, so I’ve set myself a deadline of Monday morning. On Monday I must take a deep breath, rip open the parcel and take it on the chin, come what may.

Am I scared? You bet. But will I keep the deadline? Oh yeah; I’m a creature of deadlines. I’m not really happy unless I can see one looming somewhere on the horizon. So Monday it is. Meanwhile, I give the sofa a wide berth.

 

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A few days ago I paid one of my biannual visits to friends at Dyraaba in northern New South Wales, about half an hour’s drive out of Casino. They have a 240 acre property there, where they run 30-40 head of cattle and half a dozen horses.

IMG_7623

It looks idyllic, but the beauty of this photo belies the amount of work it takes to keep a property like this running smoothly. To add to the workload, when the couple moved here four years ago, the paddocks were overgrazed; fireweed, blady grass and lantana were rampant.

Lantana 2Lantana – hell to eradicate

Four years of hard yakka has pulled the property back into shape, with improved pastures on the flatland, hardly a fireweed in sight, and very little blady grass. One more year should see the last of the lantana.

That’s the extra work, of course. Just everyday running of a place like this involves so many things that owners have to keep on top of. There’s worming, earmarking, drenching, dipping and hand feeding of stock during drought, the keeping up of miles of fences, sitting up nights with calving cows, saving stock from wild dogs, etc. etc. Some winter nights when the dogs are bad, you can hear them howling in the distant paddocks like something out of Dr Zhivago.

Some people on a neighbouring property have filled in the wetland where black swans used to come every year. Now my friends have swans gracing their biggest creek.

DSCF4402

It all looks very idyllic, as I said, but the work required would stimey most people. In summer you need to be in the paddocks by 4.30 a.m. at the latest, so you can get in a good six hours toil before the heat hits. From noon to four, the fields are impossible. However, work can recommence at 4.30 and go onto until night falls. Winter is different, of course, but those early mornings are mighty chilly; it was 6 degrees C when I was there.

All in all, it’s a beautiful place to visit, but not a place to live if you shy away from hard work. Fortunately, both my friends are tigers for punishment and thrive on the lifestyle.

_MG_7403

Having worked with animals all their lives, they understood when they bought how it would be, and so didn’t suffer the fate of many tree changers who move from the city to the bush, chasing the dream.

 

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