Saturday, June 30, 2012

Silver Linings?

Deb and I have shot away for a weekend alone together.

Perhaps a bit perversely we have headed to a beach house owned by a friend in Gippsland.

I say perversely  because it is winter down this way and the warmest we have had since we got here is 7 degrees C.

And it is raining so heavily they have issued flood warnings for the region.

But even if every cloud doesn't have a silver lining some of them have:
Rainbow at the "Eagles' Nest" taken this evening

Friday, June 29, 2012

100% Effort

Well I am frequently  guilty of using piccies that I have posted on the blog for my What is it Wednesday?

This week’s WIIW was no exception..

So let us wend our way to an answer.

Linda G guessed, ‘Definitely claws. I'm going to say duck-billed platypus.’

Yep, they are definitely claws, so you are half right 50%

Mel said  ‘A creature from "Where the Wild Things Are" trying to use chopsticks!’

That has to be one of the most creative answers in WIIW. So it is definitely worth some marks, not quite sure how many though.

Susan, being nearly as ham fisted as she accuses me of being :-) said ‘ "Claws!" I thought, all excited, thinking no one else would pick up on it. HA! Right. Okay, so what kind of claws, you probably want to know. Beats me. Big ones’
Okay, they are claws, and they are definitely big so I will say 60%.

Michelle ‘I'd say it looks like claws...but the straight brown stick in between? Don't know.’

I guess you have earned yourself 50% Michelle.

But the winner is Jennifer (AKA Old Kitty) with her answer ‘Ooooh they're claws!!! Koala claws?!’

They are claws and you are bang on the money. 100%

Koalas are really hard to spot in the bush. Usually if you are lucky enough to see one at all it will just be a slumbering figure high up a tree.

But this guy I ‘caught’ in the Otway Ranges put on a brilliant show.
Actively climbing around browsing on eucalyptus leaves.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Eastern Yellow Robin

Late home again!
I'll post an answer to WIIW tomorrow.

 My piccie of the day is somewhat more delicate than the answer to my WIIW.
Eastern Yellow Robin (Eopsaltria australis)

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

What is it Wednesday

I am home really late (10:00pm) so with no further ado, What on Earth do you think this might be?

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Running fast to stand still

Just over a year ago I posted about my WIP. At that point I was saying my word count had crept past 100,000.

A year on and I have shared my WIP with a couple of readers.

I cut it from one book into two (which left me with two incomplete books)

Now the first half has grown until it is just over 100,000 words again.

I am enjoying the writing but boy does it seem to inch along sometimes (my day job seems all consuming much of the time).
I feel like the end is in sight but I have been here before.

With the change to two separate books, I suspect I will dump the title. Or rather I will swap it.
My working title has been Veiled in Storms, which followed on from my first book Veiled in Shadows.
The third book in the series was to be Veil of Iron. But the second half of the WIP fits better with Storms.
So I suspect I will have to borrow the third title for number two. So my WIP is now wearing the working title of Veil of Iron.

Which kind of fits because of the subject matter and 1946 (when Churchill made his Iron Curtain speech) falls squarely in the book’s chronology.

Now because I don’t want to disappoint, a piccie of the day
Abandoned Railway Trestle Bridge, Gippsland, Victoria

Monday, June 25, 2012

Pink Fingers

This tiny native orchid (the whole flower is not much larger than my thumbnail) is widespread, but hard to spot in the bushland where it grows.
Pink Fingers Orchid (Caladenia carnea 

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Piccie of the Day: Aussie place names

A street sign in Beechworth, Victoria

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Heron and Sea Spray

It is still cold an wet here. So my piccie of the day is another with a more summery feel.
I 'caught' this heron hunting along the rocks at low tide at Merimbula in NSW a couple of years ago
Eastern Reef Heron (Egretta sacra) (sometimes also called a Pacific Reef Egret)

Friday, June 22, 2012

A near miss and spot on.

Well there weren’t many guesses to this past week’s What is it Wednesday?
Linda G tried her frequent Bush Lawyer’s approach with “black splotch”. Well unusually I can’t award even part marks for that effort. Splotch is a stretch and it certainly isn’t black.

Kitty was half right, it is a hole, but not in a tree.

Kristen M, earns full marks for one of the two possible answers. It is a hole in an iridescent shell. Also Kristen obviously noticed the swirl pattern in the hole and guessed “wooden table” for the other half.

The background is actually one of my fingers.

Not a great piccie really because I was holding this half grown abalone shell in one hand and my camera awkwardly in one hand. With my usual lens it weighs just over 1.5 kilograms (3lb 5oz). It balances nicely in two hands, but not one!

I have seen literally 1,000s of abalone shell in my life, but they are just so nice I can never resist a look.
Oddly, I love seafood but I have never tasted abalone. It can only be collected by diving and is a very tightly controlled fishery. There are huge fines for unlicensed collecting (repeat offenders can face fines of up to $88,000 and corporations $440,000 per offence). With prices for Oz abalone fetching about $50 per kilo it almost all goes straight into export to Singapore and Hong Kong. 

As a post script I would like to say thank you for the kind words people said over Patrick.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Piccie of the day

Patrick's Funeral was today.
Very sad, but uplifting too, a lot of shared memories of a very full life.

I'll post the answer to What is it Wednesday tomorrow (one of the guesses is half way there)

This is what it feels like outside at the moment (we just had our coldest June day since 1993).
Snow Gums, Mount Baw Baw Victoria
This is what I wish it felt like
Summer Day, Ben Boyd National Park, NSW

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

What is it Wednesday?

It’s big news down here, Victoria had its worst earthquake in over 100 years last night!
Now that was really not fair of me.

It was a 5.4 magnitude shake. But no one was hurt, the worst damage the media seems to have been able to get footage of is some collapsed shelving in a Gippsland supermarket.

Here in Melbourne we certainly felt the quake, there was a bang and the whole house rocked back and forth for maybe 30 seconds. But to be honest it took me a moment to even realise what it was.
My first thought was “Gee the spin cycle on the washing machine is really wild.”
Then I realised it was just too much shaking to be the washing machine. There was a glass of water on our bench with wave in it for maybe five minutes and then the excitement was over.
If that was our worst in over a century it just goes to show Victoria is tectonically stable.

Now here is my What is it Wednesday?
Perhaps by coincidence this piccie was actually taken in Gippsland, but that is not really any kind of clue.
One clue I will give is there are two correct answers!

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Silos at sunset

Ruined Farm Silos in the Yarra Valley

Monday, June 18, 2012


Common Bronzewing (Phaps chalcoptera)

Sunday, June 17, 2012

More grey skies, and reflection

I took this photo this afternoon under a winter sky. It suited my mood really.

But by the time I was taking the images off my camera this evening I felt much better.

Beauty is uplifting,

Light, stone, shadow and water combining into a visual poetry.
Malmsby viaduct opened in 1860 to carry a railway line from Melbourne to the Bendigo Gold-fields

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Sydney Harbour under grey skies

A grey photo today. 
For Patrick 1925 -2012

We had some rather shocking news last night. An elderly relative passed away suddenly.
Patrick was 87, and was playing his violin with his orchestra when he had a massive stoke.

He was well advanced in years, but he was one of those people you would imagine would live for ever.
Although he moved into a retirement village a few years ago, he still cooked and cleaned for himself. He drove himself everywhere, volunteered at a local tree group nursery, and acted as secretary for a couple of clubs of which he was a member.

Last year he had to admit that he couldn't keep the pace up and stopped playing in one of the three amateur orchestras he still still played with every week. It was at a practice session playing his beloved violin that he collapsed.

I guess if he could have chosen that is the way he would have wanted to go.

Friday, June 15, 2012

When one thing leads to another.

My piccie of the day has a story attached to it. If I hadn’t taken the piccie I am about to share the image I used for this week’s What is it Wednesday

would never have been.

Back in May last year Deb and I were down on holiday in Tasmania. One day we went across to Bruny Island which lies just off shore of Tasmania’s south-east coast. We drove from the northern point of the island down to the southern tip.
On the way back across the island I just had to pause to take my piccie of the day…

The strip of water reflecting the sunset colours is the D'Entrecasteaux Channel which separates Bruny Island from the Tasmanian mainland (which sounds absurd to an Aussie ear because Tasmania is an Island off the coast of the Oz mainland).

Anyway, because I stopped for the piccie we just missed the 5:30pm ferry back to the mainland.
Now after the 5:30 ferry there is only the 7:00 ferry. Miss that and you are on the island until the following morning. So we waited by the ferry terminal to make sure.

In the dark.

Now what is a boy with a near new camera going to do?
He’s going to experiment.

So I set up my camera on my tripod, pointed it at the ferry terminal and took a long exposure of 4 seconds.

“Nice”, I think, “but I could get a bit more light in the piccie.”
So I double the exposure time to 8 seconds, a long, long exposure.
This time while the shutter is open a fisherman in a powerboat shoots through the shot.
His navigation light draws an almost straight line 2/3 of the way across the frame before the shutter closes.
Bingo a WIIW puzzle is born!

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Al Provides a Clue

There were some very interesting guesses as to what this mystery piccie was

Jennifer (Kitty) kind of had the right idea, it is a sort of trail.

Linda plays the Barrack Room Lawyer card again. I can’t exactly say it isn’t a thin blue coloured line, so you aren’t exactly wrong.

Great guess Jen, but you are way, way off!

Marcy, you have part of this exactly right. This was a very long shutter speed. The Camera was on a tripod and I had the shutter wide open for 8 whole seconds. That is about 1,600 times longer than I would use for most day time shots. Setting shutter speed and aperture and a whole pile of other things is quite easy on a DSLR camera like I use. Bonus points to you for even knowing about shutter speed!

Dawn was stabbing wildly in the dark again. They were pretty interesting stabs, but none of them exactly in the same ballpark!

So apart from what I’ve already said my clue is:

 This image is taken from another part of the same piccie!

Answer tomorrow.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

What is it Wednesday?

None of my rest subjects managed to pick this one.

So what on Earth do you think this is?

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

An Echidna deciding if I was scarey

My Piccie of the day is a fellow I "caught" one afternoon a couple of summers ago. 
Echidnas (Tachyglossus aculeatus) are entirely innocuous, very gentle retiring creatures.
Their main diet is termites and ants which they get at by tearing nests apart with those amazing claws.
Their defensive tactics are very passive too. If the ground is soft enough the literally dig in leaving only their spiny back exposed. If they get stuck on hard ground they will either hang on for dear life or roll into a ball.
When I found this fellow he/she dug in and waited for me to go. But I was more patient, I stood quietly and waited until he/she came out. He she rolled around to see if I had left which is when I got this shot.

These guys are quite common and can be found almost everywhere in Oz from the high snow country to hot, hot deserts. They are common but hard to photograph because if they are aware you are around you get a piccie like this an echidna in "go away and leave me alone mode."

Monday, June 11, 2012

Green Cape Lighthouse.

My Piccie of the day was taken in 2009.

Lu, my youngest, kindly acted as a scale for me.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Still Water

My piccie of the day was shot on my way home this evening.

Deb and I went up the Yarra Valley for a walk. Alas it was raining so we did not manage our stroll.

In the tradition of clouds and silver linings, as we headed for home they parted allowing me to catch the  reflections in this pond just before dark.

Saturday, June 9, 2012

A glimpse of the Australian Alps

Deb and I were out and about again today.
It is a long Weekend down in Oz (for the Queen's Birthday).
We shot up into the high country in central Victoria.
From a high point called Power's lookout you can see clear across into the Alpine National Park and catch a glimpse of the edge of the Australian Alps.

Friday, June 8, 2012

Hell on Earth

A few days ago I posted about Walhalla with the throw away title of “Al goes to Heaven”.
Well tonight I am talking about another spectacularly beautiful place that was once quite simply hell for those who lived, worked and often died there.
Down in Tasmania on the spectacularly beautiful Tasman Peninsula, not far from the world famous ruins of Port Arthur lies another set of Convict Era ruins.
Approaching the ruins today, you walk through peaceful bushland, then quite suddenly you come into open ground and up on a mound to one side you see this.

Following the path around you come up onto the platform that once formed the parade ground of the settlement that was here.
It is eerily beautiful, and I had a great time catching angles:
From inside the bakehouse

Across the ground to a barrack house
And looking through the remains of the hospital you get a hint of just how spectacular the scenery around here is.
But just a short stroll up the hill beneath what was a brick built guard house is a pointer to how terrible this place was.
Because, you see, this location is known as “The Convict Coal Mines”
The prisoners here had been sent from England, Ireland, Scotland, and Wales to the far ends of the Earth.
For some convicts life in Oz was not in the end too bad. Once they served their sentence they really did have a chance at a new life.
But the prisoners who came here came to a real hell.
Coal mines anywhere in the 19th century were terrible. But to add to that these men were not skilled miners, but in most cases unskilled prisoners from the slums of the UK.
They slaved underground in the most abysmal conditions driven on by the usual punishments of the day, floggings and the like.
But there was an extra punishment for those who the system chose to break.
I am guilty of misdirection with my tales of treasury vaults last night.

Those of you who said a vaulted ceiling were right.
Because under that guardhouse were the punishment cells
This passage gives a hint of how dark this space was. Bear in mind that where the light is pouring in today was once below ground in a prison cellar, the ceiling at the far end has collapsed.

Here is a piccie of one of the cells. It is just long enough for me to lie down. I had to duck to get under this ceiling and the width is just a little more than my shoulders.
It only looks light because I had to use a flash to get this shot. Without it I could not see the end even with the light from the hall. The only positive thing about them is even as a ruin they are dry.
As a punishment, men were locked in these spaces for days and sometimes weeks at a time in the pitch dark. And when they were let out it was only to face another round down the mine.
Above is so beautiful today it is quite sobering to see this evidence of just what a hell this place was.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

The Old Treasury, Melbourne and a clue.

The Old Treasury Building was constructed during the Victorian Gold Rush to house the (then) colony's gold vaults.

The building once housed the Treasury Department Victorian Government, but is now a museum focussed on Melbourne history

Built between 1858-62 the building was designed by an architect called J. J. Clark who was just 19 years of age!

I will post an answer to yesterday's What is it Wednesday tomorrow. A clue, Kitty and Linda G are half right.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

What is it Wednesday?

I have scratched my head over finding an image for tonight's What is it Wednesday?

So what on Earth do you think this is?

Tuesday, June 5, 2012


Well by chance, and I guess it was chance because there wasn’t much to go on no one guessed my Mum.
Mum, her name is Joan, is the little girl in the circle. 
I know it means absolutely nothing to most, but I have also added the names of the other children.
I met most of them when I was younger (on visits to the UK). Charlie died in the war, but I knew all the others except Graham, John and Betty.
Perhaps because they are the youngest those who are still alive are: Fred, Glenn, my mum Joan, and Joyce.

I thought when I posted yesterday that Eric was still alive but Mum corrected me.
They were a close family, and most of them spent a lot of time on my Grandparents’ farm where this piccie was taken.
Mum was particularly close to Charlie.

Joyce and Eric (their mothers were sisters and their fathers were brothers, so I guess they were double cousins if there is such a thing) lived on the same farm in one of the worker’s cottages. Ted also spent a lot of his teenage years living and working on the farm.

Of all the cousins (other than mum) I know Glenn the best. My Grandfather was the twin of Glen and Fred’s mother. I have seen Glenn every time I have been to the UK, at 80 he is still hale and hearty and lives in a cottage on part of what was his grandparent’s farm in a little village not far from Stratford on Avon. I still talk to him on the phone several times a year.

Monday, June 4, 2012

Window on the Past

For a total change of pace my piccie of the day is one of the few that was not taken by me.
The elderly couple are my great-grand-parents Charles William and Mary Ann. The occasion was their Golden Wedding anniversary in about 1935. 
He was about 78 and still rode his tricycle everywhere, she was about 67 (looking at those numbers she married very young).
The photo was taken on my grandparent’s farm near Alcester in Warwickshire, England.
The children are their grand-children, my mother’s generation.  As such only five of the children are alive. One, Charlie (extreme left) was killed in WWII but the others lived for many more years. One of them grew up and moved to Oz (which is lucky for me).
Anyone care to hazard a guess as to which of the girls is my mother?

Sunday, June 3, 2012

In which Al goes to Heaven?

Yesterday after stirring out doors very late,( hey if I can’t sleep in on a cold winter’s morning when could I?) Deb and I headed off for one of our weekend trips.
This time we headed for Walhalla named for the heavenly residence of the old Norse gods.
Walhalla is a Gold-Rush Era town that sits in a deep, narrow valley between the mountains of Gippsland in eastern Victoria.
Like many of the gold rush towns Walhalla all but melted away after the mines closed in the early 20th Century .
But what remains gives a hint of what was and is quite charming.
The Walhalla Star Hotel still serves it original purpose.

These old shops now cater to tourists - the Grey Horse which looks to have been a stable once is now a café.

A word about the trees, the tree still in autumn colours is what we loosely term an “exotic” in Oz. That is a plant native to foreign shores. Most Oz trees are Eucalyptus and so evergreen. The mountain slopes  in the background look much the same all year.

This is the vault of the old Bank of Victoria in the town.
When the mines closed the bank was demolished and relocated to the town of Moe away to the south. The Vault itself was not worth removing.
 Despite being only one of the banks in town the amount of gold that was stored here was staggering.

The bottom figure is based on $600 per ounce. What is gold now $1600 per ounce?

As I said Walhalla  sits in a narrow valley, land was so short that the old fire station

 was actually constructed across the creek.