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Archive for the ‘Outdoor life’ Category

smallglowYesterday we awoke to find Sydney bathed in a seriously eerie orange glow. Gale force winds had blown this dusty soup in from the west of our state. The day before, despite little water, this dirt had been trying really hard to grow our vegetables, so this colourful gift from mother nature pleased neither us nor our farmers. It was estimated that about 4000 tons of top-soil sprinkled down on Sydney alone and caused much mayhem as it did so. Planes and ferries were all cancelled, air-conditioners blocked up and many asthma sufferers rang 000 (our emergency number) to report severe breathing troubles. Even indoors you could smell and taste the dust and today the big clean up begins. Yes everything is covered in a red haze.

I took these photos in our street at about 7.00am and they show precisely what it was like yesterday morning. The last dust storm like this to hit Sydney, was back in 1939. As I pulled open Rodent Boy’s curtains and let the weird orange glow wash over his room, he leapt to his window, and noticeably struggled to make sense of this once in a lifetime event. In response to the inevitable “What the..?” I teased him it was ‘the revenge of the Rangas!’ Rangas is an Australian colloquialism for red-headed people, short for Orangutans. For a second he believed me.

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If you’d like to see more pics taken by other people in Sydney click here

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bsp‘WHAT ON EARTH HAVE YOU DONE?’ shrieked Princess with enough venom to take down a herd of cattle.

There was less than four hours to go before her guests were due to arrive and the central focus of the party, namely our lovely blue spa, was currently doing a fantastic impression of that river in Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory.

‘Well…’ I hesitantly begin to explain. ‘I suppose the heater must have gone a bit rusty over the winter, and when I turned it on just now, it all flushed…’

SLAM!

…the back door was closed on me ‘teen style’. The dog who didn’t see that coming, now stood trembling by the edge of the spa having nearly fallen in after an acrobatic 360° leap. I understood exactly why she was cross – I was cross too, for the very same reason. I just had a slightly different concern for not having the spa functioning. Her concern was that the ‘Bon Voyage Spa Rave’ would now be downgraded to just a ‘Farewell Rave’. My concern was that the twenty or so gorgeous female teen guests would no longer be parading round my back garden in their bikinis. There was nothing for it, I’d simply have to clean it out, and fast. I needed at least three hours just to heat it up.

As the clock struck 7:00pm, I appeared to have worked a miracle. The spa was crystal clear and a very tempting 35°C/95°F. As more and more girls arrived, the back garden blissfully transformed into something resembling the Playboy Mansion. Banned by Princess (metaphorically speaking) from playing any kind of Hugh Heffner type role, I decided to help serve the food and top-up their non-alcoholic drinks instead. At one point, suspicious of all the help she was getting, Working Mum fired me a cutting look from the kitchen as if to say ‘If-this-was-our-party-you-wouldn’t-be-doing-a-bloody-thing’. I just shrugged and mouthed back ‘These canapes aren’t going to serve themselves, are they dear?’. Over the shrieking teens, she replied something about her wanting to have a cold shower, so I just waved her off and carried on enjoying my role as waiter.

Muppet Dog was also having fun mingling with the girls. He however, was noticeably ahead of me on the getting attention points table. I put this down to the fact that Soldier Boy had dressed him up in Rodent Boy’s black ‘SECURITY’ t-shirt which made him look very funny.

All too soon though it was time for them to all go home. Much hugging and kissing went on as they departed leaving Princess feeling suitably farewell-ed. She leaves Australia to stay with her French exchange family in just over two weeks time. It will be so very strange not having her (or her friends) around for a whole seven weeks, not to mention the first Christmas we haven’t all been together. Still, with the magic of Skype we should still be able to see and talk to her on the big day – we’ll just be a lot warmer!

Mother update
Thank you for your messages of concern. The good news is that she ended up keeping her spleen and while she still remains in hospital, she is now out of intensive care. The bad news is that she killed two of her fish.

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Working Mum will be pleased… I actually remembered to get the washing in this afternoon before the refreshing Spring shower came tumbling down. Taking the dry clean linen straight upstairs, I then made the bed. This tiresome chore took me much longer today as I insisted on carefully scrutinising every spec of dust I came across. A friend of ours is in hospital at the moment having simply put her clean sheets on the bed and jumped in. The following morning she awoke to find her eye as big as a tennis ball… oh alright… a golf ball. Anyway, to cut a long story short, a tick had set up residence in her eye. It was touch and go whether she’d lose her sight, but it looks like she’ll be okay.

A timely reminder (like I needed one) that with the return of the warm sunny weather, our little nasties are back too. Spring has well and truly sprung here, and suddenly the trees are all wonderfully green again. Congregating in bunches of optimism, the tender new leaves remind me of groups of school children in neatly pressed uniforms on their first day. [Is that poetic or just weird? Probably the latter… Anyhow…]

Through the Winter in Sydney, you barely see an insect, but as the weather warms up and the days get longer, back they come in their squillions. Spiders, ants, flies, cockroaches, wasps, ticks, fleas and of course mosquitoes, all hell bent on invading my personal space and limiting our enjoyment of the outdoor life we’re famous for.

Sydney is a wonderful city but even after twenty years, I am still coming to grips with sharing it with such annoying and toxic neighbours, (and I’m not referring to Greg and Sue over the back). Growing up in England, the nastiest thing you might encounter when racing through your back garden or the countryside, was stinging nettles or a grumpy badger. Here though, you might run into all kinds of venomous flora and fauna, not least some very unfriendly snakes. While these are not that common in suburbia, I did pull a drowned juvenile brown snake out of our swimming pool last year.

Much more likely however is to see a Funnel Web or a Redback spider in your garden, a White Tail spider in your mailbox, or a Huntsman spider in your kitchen. While the latter two arachnids will make you ill, they aren’t overly dangerous but the first two can be lethal. To keep it in perspective though, while many people have been bitten then treated with antivenom, there have only been twenty six recorded deaths in Australia in the last hundred years from Funnel Webs and no-one has died from Red Back bite in over fifty years. We’ve learned to live with them I guess, for example, we never leave our shoes outside overnight. Trivia fact #276 Although one of the top three most toxic spiders in the world to us, the venom of the Sydney Funnel Web is totally harmless to cats and dogs. Strange but true.

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