And once again we have been out and about. We were late getting away so we only drove about an hour into the hills to the north.
We went to a spot called Island Creek Reserve in the Kinglake National park.
Kinglake was one of the towns all but destroyed in the 2009 Black Saturday bushfires (173 people died in the fires-many in Kinglake).
The bush here was devastated by the fires. Yet the Aussie bush is amazingly resilient. Eucalyptus trees usually survive fires.
This piccie was taken from the picnic area; around one in five of these mature trees have perished in the fire. The rest are struggling and hanging on. I expect some will recover while others will perish over coming years.
But the bush has a strategy for jumping back. Many species seeds germinate after a fire.
As you can see from this piccie literally thousands of saplings have sprung up from the ash. It is barely possible to move away from established paths here. These young trees will grow like mad for the light, gradually thinning themselves out as the larger ones shade out the smaller.
By the time we finished our picnic we had time only for a short walk because dark was threatening to close in.
We saw a number of little delights.
My guess is some kind of fruiting body of a fungi but honestly I have no idea. Click on it to enlarge it is the strangest thing.
When we got back to the car this little fellow was arguing with his own reflection in our wing mirror!
Sorry about the bad photo but it was really bad light under the trees. By the way he is little native known as a “Scarlet Robin” (Petroica multicolour)
On the way home I paused to look down into the valley.
If you click on the third sunset piccie you might be able to see some distant lights twinkling. They are part of the northern suburbs of Melbourne.
Now in case I don’t get to it tomorrow (it’s been one of those weeks) an extract from my WIP. And by total coincidence it is kind of fitting this gets posted this weekend.
It follows straight on from last weeks post. Valentina is still hidden in a hanger on a Berlin Airfield and still recovering from shock…
'What's going to happen to me?’
'I'm not quite sure, Ronnie is trying to organise travel documents for you. To get you home to England. The fact that you're a Major defecting is worth something, but they aren't jumping with excitement because you are a medic, not a field commander, or in intelligence. He’s having to make a few phone calls and wake people up.'
'Won't he get himself in trouble?'
'No, plenty of people owe Ronald Chesterfield favours. He'll just call some of them in.'
I was dozing on one of the chairs when I realised she'd gone again. A different guard was sitting by the door. The mattress was empty Natasha was gone.
Panic gripped me, I barely remembered to speak English. 'My little girl, where is my girl?'
He smiled reassuringly, 'It’s all right Luv, she's gone with Mrs Parnell.'
'Who's Mrs Parnell?'
'The lady who was here before.'
I relaxed, a little. He explained, ‘She, meaning Mrs Parnell, said she was taking your daughter to find some breakfast.’
‘What’s the time?’
‘It’s just coming up to eight o’clock.’
I dozed again, still sitting in the chair. Somehow I felt I would be too vulnerable if I lay on the mattress.
Some hours later a car rumbled into the hanger. I waited expectantly, Natasha burst in followed by Penelope, ‘Valentina we brought you some flowers.’
I smelled the roses she thrust under my nose. ‘Thank you, but some breakfast would have been more useful.’
‘But they do smell lovely.’
‘They do but they aren’t as lovely as you.’
Penelope frowned, ‘I was planning to take you for something to eat. But you’ve slept on wet hair.’
My stomach rumbled at the thought of food. ‘Do you think it will be safe?’
‘Safe enough, we’ll go to an army canteen. Now let me help with that hair.’
I didn’t mind being spoiled. But I drew the line when she suggested makeup. ‘I am going to eat breakfast not to the Bolshoi.’
‘With a little practice you could all but cover that scar on your cheek.’
‘Why? I’m hardly husband hunting.’
Natasha burst out laughing, ‘What is so funny?’
Her laugh continued, we had tickled her fancy. She giggled breathlessly, ‘Husband hunting!’
I sat low in the back of Penelope’s Volkswagen. It didn't make me invisible but I definitely felt less exposed. Berlin felt as hostile to me now as it had in April and May 1945. As dangerous now as when we fought our way in to root Hitler out of his lair. I did not look twice at the building where we stopped, like so many in Berlin it was pockmarked with bullet holes and still had its windows boarded up.
Natasha skipped happily across the footpath and onto the step at the front. She stood with a self satisfied smirk. 'Valentina hold these for me.'
Obediently I took them, and then looked, 'Why on earth did you bring the flowers?'
I did not realise what the building was until I stepped inside. An aisle ran down the centre, lined with benches along each side.
At the far end sat half a dozen uniformed men.
In front of the altar Fred who had been our armed escort the afternoon before.
And a priest.
And Ronnie, smiling the happiest smile I had ever seen.
I never expected to cry at my own wedding, but it passed through a blur of my tears.
The words meant little to me, I repeated what I had to repeat. What mattered was the man standing so tall, opposite me and smiling the smile that had enchanted me six years before.
But then consternation, 'The ring...'
Ronnie's smile evaporated there was no ring. In Ronnie's rush the obvious had been overlooked. 'Bugger! Oh, sorry padre.'
'I have a ring.'
Penelope struggled with her finger and passed the ring to her brother.
'Danny's ring? Are you sure Pen?'
She smiled, tears in her eyes too. 'Danny wouldn't mind.'
Her next smile was for me, 'See Val? I said I was your friend.'