Sunday, October 28, 2012

Knitting on The Frankston Line

Swaying on the cracked leather seat of the old red-rattler*, 
clickety clacking along the Frankston Line,
knee to knee with fellow passengers 
trying awkwardly not to touch or intrude on their space.

Tedious, irritating commuting.

Then watching with fascination, a garment growing.  
Rhythmic knitting, rhythmic swaying.

She’s untroubled with the jolting stops and starts between stations.
Content in creating.
Bringing something into being from a strand of yarn, unfurling from her bag.

Day after day I watched it grow.

Now, I too create and often pause to watch in wonder the single strand of yarn evolving, impossibly, into something new.

*red rattler is a train which used to run on the Melbourne rail network. They were uncomfortable, the windows never seemed to close properly, but they had style!

A drabble is a story told in 100 words. No more. No less.


Friday, October 19, 2012

Zombie Granny

Small children hide behind their mother’s legs as I shuffle past, 
stumbling on minute cracks in the paving.

Hesitant, cautious steps; arms reaching, fingers clasping at railings and walls, indeed anything that is reliably stable. Marshmallow eyed and miserable, I hear:
“Look mummy, there’s a grandma zombie. Her eyes are leaking from her face”.

University students, not generally known for their squeamishness, give me wide berth and glance furtively from a safe distance. Perhaps they’ve taken this zombie-craze belief to heart? 

Pomegranate red eyes, my right eye dribbling vivid orange tears, is not an attractive look, and perhaps my attempt at a reassuring smile is interpreted as a zombie ploy, to feign friendliness, but with a sinister ulterior motive?

Such is the result of a scratched cornea. Variously referred to as an ulcer, an abrasion or a tear. Forget the terminology, it’s bloody painful and debilitating.

My eyeball feels like it’s been studded with sharp pebbles, exploding with effervescent liveliness at every infentisimal movement.

The Emergency Department doctor – the third I’ve seen in two days, which makes sense in the circumstances – compares the photographs taken on my trusty phone the previous day, and declares confidently he can see an improvement.

Sadly my eye hasn’t caught up with this happy news and I continue to flinch and weep with every painful, grainy blink.

A few things I didn't know about having a scratched cornea, which I pass on as a public service, particularly if you're travelling and your regular optometrist is a few thousand kilometres away.
- phone your own optometrist first thing for advice!
- don't try to flush your eye with water, it could harbour germs
- don't immerse yourself in a swimming pool or spa, apparently they're teeming with all sorts of bacteria which would find the open wound in your eye a very attractive breeding ground
- when showering keep your eyes shut, stray drops of water not only hurt like the blazes, but they can also harbour bacteria
- an eye patch loosely applied brings some relief, not only from light, but helps prevent blinking which is excruciating
- the anaesthetic used prior to the drops to make the abrasion show up provides blissful relief for up to an hour
- if possible (in Australia at least) go to an optometrist immediately. I had no idea you could drop in unannounced off the street, and they'll make time for you. They have the expertise and equipment to confidently assess the trauma and treat it. As this happened in the early morning we went to the local Emergency Department where I queued with other patients. Even though I was assessed as being high priority, naturally enough heart attack and road trauma patients take precedence. Whilst the doctors were professional, efficient and caring, the first wasn't perfectly at ease with the basic optometric equipment and diagnosis and I was pleased he asked for a second opinion. I'm not being in the least bit critical as, of necessity, they're generalists. In hindsight I could have waited (in agony and fearful that something horrendous was happening) till an optometrist opened the doors. But as I noted I wasn't aware that was an option.
- there was apparent disbelief that I wasn't aware I'd scratched my cornea. The comments "that's huge, how could you not know it happened" weren't encouraging. I honestly didn't know how it happened. I woke up at around 3am in excruciating pain and had trouble going back to sleep. I assumed an eyelash was irritating by eye, and that allowing my eyes to water copiously would remove it.
- the optometrist I eventually saw on the insistence of my regular, trusted and ever reliable optometrist was fantastic. Reassuring, informative, helpful and he added some more reassurance for good measure - just in case the first amount wasn't enough. Apparently what can happen -it's rare but possible - is for a scratch to happen during the day that's not too bad. When you sleep the wound begins to heal and creates scar tissue which sticks to the eyelid. Then, when you open your eye, the scar tissue can rip off making the original tiny tear into a more dramatic wound.

I'd like to thank the doctors and staff at both the Tamworth Base Hospital and Coffs Harbour Emergency Departments for their professional assistance and follow up phone calls.


Sunday, October 14, 2012

"50 lashes" at Blinman

"I'll have 50 lashes please!"
Old graves at the Blinman cemetery
It's not my typical order I'll admit, but in the town of Blinman it was perfectly appropriate and my request was delivered with speed and charm from a smiling, friendly barmaid.

50 lashes was a very welcome James Squire beer after a hot and dusty walk around the town. What a great way to remove the dust (temporarily) from the vocal chords.
The old 'pug and pine'* hospital built in the 1860s. 
I don't remember the dust affecting my voice any other time I've been in arid and desert country, but this time it was playing havoc with not only my skin, now dry and flaking, but my voice had a distinct husky quality. Not in a good way either - it hurt.

The barmaid (I hope her employer realises what a gem she is) easily persuaded us to stay in town for a couple of days rather than scampering through with the hit and run, 'been there done that', rushed visit. She enquired with apparent interest about where we were camping and heartily approved of our choice bush camping at the lovely Alpana Station.
Looking towards the Flinders Ranges from a hill
on the 6000acre Alpana Station
She then enthused about the famous Friday Pizza Night at the Blinman Hotel.

Whoohoo, a night off cooking! No washing up! Cold beers on tap! Perfect.

The pub is very popular with locals and tourists alike - no surprises there! The pizzas weren't humdrum, bland, commercial mass produced gunk, but were generously mounded with the fresh toppings and  extremely tasty. It was way too easy to overindulge, but with a long walk planned for the next day, a bit of overindulgence seemed to be in order.
The excellent trail notes provided in the brochure (readily available from the tourist centre and the Pub) tell me that the photo above is of acacia tetragonophylla aka Dead Finish. What a great name for a stunted scraggly bush with distinctly sharp, spiky, unwelcoming leaves.
The track to the war memorial on the top of the hill overlooking town was dusty, and in parts seemed to have been bordered with long lines of tilting rocks. But these are natural and give some of the surrounding hills the appearance of the back of a stegosaurus.
This part of the Flinders Ranges is somewhere in the vicinity of 800 million years old. It's easy to say those numbers quickly, but that's an extraordinary amount of time considering that aboriginals are only known to have come here in small groups from about 60,000 years ago.

Millions of years ago, this land was covered in a shallow sea, and there are areas where fossilised sea creatures embedded in ancient rock have been pushed to the surface by the immense force of uplift over many millennia.
The war memorial on top of the hill overlooking the town was built to honour the ANZACs (Australian and New Zealand Army Corps) who fought in WW1. "It was built in 1918 by the children of the Blinman School and stone for the monument was carried up the hill in the side car of the teacher's motorcycle".

When I look at the rough rocky track and steepness of the hill, I can't imagine how anyone got an old motor bike, let alone a sidecar filled with large rocks up this hill. They must have been a small, but dedicated group and were no doubt encouraged by the local community, many of whom lost too many family members in that war.

The monument can be seen from the town, and it's sobering to visit other tiny towns dotted throughout the country and see family groups remembered. Those left back home would have suffered extreme hardship attempting to continue farming in this harsh, unforgiving environment without much needed manpower.
The dramatic, geologically rich landscape now inspires artists of all types, and we were able to travel down the Flinders Ranges to see some beautiful art for sale at different locations. Before we left, we attended the opening of the "Flinders Ranges - a brush with art" exhibition at the Blinman Memorial Hall. I thoroughly enjoyed wandering round dreaming of spending oodles of money on the outstanding art, while enjoying good SA wines and delectable nibbles!


Sunday, October 7, 2012

Misunderstandings about frogs at Farina

Industrial sized tap on the outer wall of the sturdy sleeper toilets at
Coward Springs.
"There's a frog in the nearest toilet."

"So? There's a frog and a lizard in the far one."

"Er, so how did you go?"

Wrinkling of brow and extremely perplexed look. "What do you mean?"

Seems like we're talking at cross purposes here and my questions are considered a bit too personal.

"I had no problem"

"But ... what did they ... how did you ... didn't they ... aaargh ...
Where did they go when you went?"


The light goes on.


"There's a frog in the toilet bowl and it's staring at me.  I don't want to put my hand in and get it out. Is the other one ok to use then?"

"Yeah, I think they scuttled off when I opened the door, you should be fine."
Toilet in the historic women's jail at Burra. SA.
There's now the obvious temptation to make ribald jokes about sitting atop said frog, it seeing its means of escape being removed with the darkening of the exit by the lowering of the buttocks, and somehow incorporating the phrases "kick arse" and "kiss my butt" - but I'll resist the temptation.
Disused long drop. Burra. SA.
The toilets (surprising to see flushing ones at this not entirely urban camp ground) were the only place we saw much wildlife at Farina. Lots of birds evident, and their glorious, amazingly loud and varied morning chorus, but very few animals other than emus.

Farina is a historic town in outback South Australia which has been preserved by a group of committed volunteers. There are helpful, well presented information boards, giving details of the old, often crumbling buildings, how they were used as well as some insight into the people who lived in the thriving town in the late 1800s and early 1900s.

It's dry out there, the land is harsh and unforgiving and whilst the pioneers wished for rain, choking dust storms were far more frequent. The cemetery shows that even in death there are some dividing lines that aren't crossed and the graves of each ethnic and religious group are neatly and respectfully separated.

Reminder to self: in these days of not needing to get film processed ... TAKE MORE PHOTOS!

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Springtime birdsong

By five am
birds stir in their slumber,
restless with the merest hint of pre dawn light.
Begin to cough away the threads of sleep;
remember their designated song and hesitantly give voice in a desultory way.
Rainbow Lorikeet

Some time later, a full throated cacophony wakens me fully -
seamlessly evolves into a more harmonious chorus
rising and falling as more and more birds join in, like a well rehearsed springtime orchestra.

Little corella
The full throated warbling of a lone magpie is my favourite this week - he’ll hop to the back door later in the morning and treat me to a private serenade.

A Drabble is a story told in 100 words. No more. No less.