I knew I was going to die/ Bike rides in the ‘burbs II

Yesterday was a lovely cool morning and I set off for a quick ride. Up the hill to the cycle track, down the hill to the river. There is a curve around and on to the bridge.

I havecycle crash had an accident here before

(see: https://sillysocksonfriday.com/2016/09/18/bike-rides-in-the-burbs ) when it was dark and I narrowly missed a man and his dog and his other dog, but hit the third one, (thereby hangs a tail). Consequently, I always have a good scan of the wooden bridge which is visible through the trees.

 

The reason for this is I love speeding down the hill and swooping round the curve onto the bridge. The planks rattle and the occasional moorhen squawks and flees – exhilarating for a 65 year old!

All clear -no sign of movement – down I went, grinning with joy! I swooped round the corner and looked ahead…

What the…! You are going to die! At least it will be quick! WHUMP!!

I came round on the bridge planks under a tree and just wanted to lie thetree on bridgere…

A tree which grew next to the bridge had fallen onto the bridge, lying lengthways along the walkway. That’s what I hit, like a parachutist hurtling into a forest, sideways.

After I realised I was too sore to be in heaven, I checked if I could move and got up with some difficulty from under the tree and on top of my bike. My head felt very thick and my back ribs were talking in very spiky language.

I managed to disentangle myself and the bike, replaced my helmet and set off back up the hill to home, which was about 600 yards away.

The resident nurse suggested I should go to hospital for a check-up and kindly drove me there.

X-rays showed no fracture and head scan no concussion (over 65  and loss of consciousness requires scan).

They prescribed painkillers (thank you thank you) and said I would be very sore, which was spot –on.

Strange – I had a bleeding scratch on my leg which they totally ignored.

Reasonably pleasant and efficient experience. Even the nurse who asked me which arm I wanted the tetanus injection in and I suggested hers.

Quite sore as bruised ribs can be but otherwise all well, if a bit older and wiser.

Talk about karma or serendipity or whatever … I hit the tree at the exact spot I had hit the third dog, three years before. And on my shamble back home who should I see in the park with his three dogs? You guessed it!

Lessons:

  • I really thought I was going to die and was relieved it would be quick
  • Bicycle helmets are fit for purpose – I have “tested” mine four times; flying over handlebars into solid items and not even been concussed!
  • Never accelerate unless you can see the road ahead clearly
  • It’s good to be alive!

 

Fishcakes

Even though I say it myself, I regard my culinary talents as adventurous, even challenging!

I only married in my 30’s, so had a fair bit of cooking experience in my bachelor days, despite living in Africa where cooks were often employed for most meals. Of course being an African male, I am an experienced vleis braaier, which is Afrikaans for ‘meat guerrilla’.

braai-vleisThe braaivleis, known as barbeque in many parts of the world, is a cultural practice which involves the cooking of piles of meat. The cooking often takes place after a few drinks and is not really that important; the meat just has to look cooked. It often does in the evening twilight, after a few beers…

But I am not here to talk about meat, of which, I have realised, I eat too much. Accordingly, I have resolved to give up meat for Lent in accordance with older traditions and instead of beer.

My wife is perturbed as I said that I would eat more fish, which she is not fond of. So I have set out to show her that there is no need to fear, by cooking some fishcakes as a surprise.

In order to ensure a special dish, I used my pilchards in chili sauce, which I had been saving pilchards-chilifor a treat. I combined it with some bread crumbs of the nutty, seedy bread she prefers. To make the mixture more special and because she doesn’t like raw onion, I used sliced pickled onion, which I thought was quite innovative. To add some colour, I added a couple of sliced pepperdews, small red capsicums in a sweet syrup. I mixed in an egg for binding, salt and pepper seasoning and some finely chopped parsley from the garden. Simple!

Please note, this was my own recipe!

The mixture made six and a half cakes, which I fried in olive oil. Even though I say it myself, they were delicious! (A couple fell apart, so I had to eat them for lunch).

To my consternation, my wife turned down the fishcakes without hesitation – she doesn’t like tuna, chili or my cooking, especially when I try different ingredients…

Looks like I’ll be cooking for myself for the 40 days of Lent.

P.S. I had a nibble of half a cake before I went to bed. I must confess I had a very weird dream about riding a brown ox which was chased by a lion past a lion reserve full of identical lions following each other, holding the tail of the foremost one in their mouths…

afrikaner-ox

If I was King of Australia

… I would decree that all homeowners would be required to have rainwater tanks, solar energy, groparsley sage.jpgw vegetables and fruit in their garden and keep chickens.

In this little garden, we have a few basic herbs: parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme (I feel a song coming on)  as well as chives, lavender, garlic and turmeric.

We will soon have a sufficiency of lemons and the yellow guava tree has a score of fruit. I cut down my first paw-paws for not producing enough fruit, but one has re-sprouted and the sprout has two fruit. Hopefully, it will be a lesson for my two new-fangled, self-pollinating red papayas, which are really shooting up. Our fig tree should bear next summer and our solitary pineapple is nearing fruition.

Our raised-from-seed granadillas gave us a score of fruit in their first year; if we are lucky we will get a second harvest.

The chubby maroon cherry guava looks likguava-cherrye it’s perfect for harvest. Sadly, it’s too late – it is already over-ripe and will have a rotten, fermented fruit taste and smell and likely a number of lively fat grubs.

I have never seen such a bountiful crop. I munch one or two green-yellow skin ones which are at the safely edible stage of ripeness; I don’t see any worms, but then I don’t look.

The rainbow lorikeets add their greens, reds and yellows to the tree and at night the flying foxes squabble over them. I bet they can smell the fruit from a mile away.

I think of my grandmother, who we called Gogo (pr: gawkaw) in the Swazi way. She would boil them up and strain them through muslin to make guava jelly – the perfect accompaniment for the impala roasts of the winter to come. We got to lick the wooden spoon and the bowl.

Now that I have become old and fat, I have become an anti-sugar Nazi, so can’t make the jelly which requires pounds of the sweet poison. But it saddens me. I am happy when my friend Grant comes and noshes a few of the fruit, recalling his childhood too.

tamarillosWould you like some tree tomatoes! Called tamarillos here, they are bountiful on my tree and I can’t eat them all. Flying foxes and possums find their smooth waxy skin too difficult, so I have to dispose of the whole crop. Lots of giveaways, to protect me from gout, caused by too much tomato. (Definitely not beer!). What will I do when the second tree comes into fruit? – I may have to go commercial!

Our bountiful garden gives me great joy. A hydroponic system is under consideration but may be too finicky; chickens have been vetoed. I am not yet King of Australia.

Nevertheless, go forth and cultivate!

Toned down

'I think I'm going deaf - I can't hear the horse whisperer.'My deafness began 35 odd years ago when I parted my hair with a rifle bullet. Not deliberately of course, but carelessly, following the dictates of my empty belly and breakfast waiting on the table.

During the Rhodesian bush war, it was the norm on farms to carry weapons in case of terrorist attack. In my haste I had left my loaded G3 rifle next to my bed, then remembered, so went to make it safe.

Sitting on the bed, I followed the usual process:  unlatching the magazine, I cleared the round in the breech, released the safety catch and leaning forward with the barrel next to my head, pulled the trigger to ease the tension on the spring.

The magazine had not properly detached and a second round had fed into the breech, unnoticed.

The detonation was very loud and I looked up to see a hole in the roof, then down as the farmer’s wife came screeching along the passage from her bath, thinking it was an attack!

I had felt the bullet blast through the hair on the left of my head and could only hear a loud ringing, which continued for some time. We had a nervous laugh and finished breakfast. The farmer’s lady got dressed.

My hearing returned gradually and I was a star turn at the club that day, demonstrating my ability to whistle through my ears. That was the beginning of my gradual deafness.

Being hard of hearing made Ursula every pharmacy customer's worst nightmare.In about 2002, my children and wife’s complaints sent me to an audiologist and a set of hearing aids, which I used desultorily. They rusted up and were useless by 2010.

When we moved to Australia, I sought work in a call centre, so felt the need to get new aids – very expensive. But I lost the job and didn’t get another one, so petulantly ignored my hearing aids.

My friends with characteristic kindness speak up when addressing me, but I miss a lot of the asides and others’ chats; I also turn the TV sound way up. So I have started to use my hearing aids again.

They are not perfect despite 2 settings, and some 'I'm really beginning to feel my age, Lou. Irene used the can opener today and I didn't even hear it.'sounds are piercingly sharp, while others remain indistinct. One of my children and two of my daughters’ partners mumble, another lisps, my wife and the other two children are soft spoken.

A much more serious aspect is that I am an easy sleeper, my wife is not. We have a new puppy who wails in the night. Sometimes our blue ring neck parakeet shrieks for seeds and I miss that too. It’s all tinnitus to me, but my wife gets up. I would if I heard, but I don’t. I have asked her to wake me to attend to our little princess.

I have tended to withdraw a wee bit of late, which has alarmed my children as I usually have plenty to say. It’s just that I am uncomfortable continuously seeking repetition.

Quite naturally people forget or find coherent conversation difficult … and so it goes.

As John Milton put it, it’s a mild yoke.free-state-drakensberg-evening

In compensation, I find that my appreciation of colour has increased immensely: sunrise, sunset, plumage, flowers and autumn leaves all make me gush – that really makes people smile at my foibles.

So that is why I am a wee bit quieter these days.

The little joys of life

I have been moved lately by the little joys of life in my garden. As I lift my head I see five white butterflies flying by in close formation.

0b4fa-galahsTwo metres away from me a pink and grey galah has swooped onto the hanging basket which serves as a seed feed for our avian visitors. The first visitor of the day there is usually the beautiful 8410b-blueindianringneckIndian blue ring-necked parakeet, obviously an exotic escapee, who stridently whistles at us to replenish the dish with sunflower seeds.

We stand guard otherwise he is chased away by the numerous outrageously a7c32-rainbowlorikietcoloured rainbow lorikeets who perch in the nearby cabbage tree like Christmas decorations shrieking and murmuring. They are tough characters: I saw one back down a magpie on our lawn, hop-charging it until it moved on. They have just chased off the galah which is a much bigger bird too!

After the lorikeets have scarfed every remaining seed, they depart shrieking raucously, sometimes skimming close past me to show their lack of regard.fiona-lumsden-king-parrots

Then, if we are lucky, the beautiful King parrot arrives, usually the scarlet headed male, but occasionally his beautiful shamrock green lady.

 

At my feet, I hear an indistinct squeak, squeak – Lulu is dreaming in her bed. She is our new puppy. Although when our beloved Schnauzer Mooshoo died, we said never again, we couldn’t last without a dog, so we found Lulu. Such a grinning delight! She is cute and feisty, demanding and energetic. Quite a challenge for 60+ year olds!

Finally, more joy: we had four of our five children together for Mum’s macaroni cheese dinner last night, along with puppy, grandchild, two cats and three partners.

They live spread out across Australasia, so it was a rare opportunity to check out our big babies and introduce them to Lulu. My heart is full.

lulu-22-oct-2016

*King parrots painted by Fiona Lumsden

P.S. Last night we were honoured by a visit from a slighter longer joy than usual: a carpet python hung about a tree above a fence line hoping for an engagement with a possum or a rat. Isn’t it a beauty!

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Just another tequila sunrise

nasturtium-hybrid-colour

There must be a price to pay for a balmy spring, tequila sunrises, arrays of visiting parrots  and the clear, bright colours of the nasturtiums in our garden. I can’t get enough of the scenes, sounds and scents of this Spring.

Maybe my sense of awe is exacerbated by the banality of the national news. Last night we were treated to some variety  from the usual house fire, convenience store robbery and road crash,  – a story on the condition of city roads, which required 86 000 potholes to be fixed last year!

Spice is also provided on occasion with the mandatory attempts at courthouses to get a response from head shaven, tattooed bikies … are you sorry for what you did?zenasturtiums

I suppose it is a reasonable counter to the 20 odd years sprinkled with bombs and bodies before I left Africa

This sort of karma thinking is unsettling. How can life be so good for me when there are people being washed away in South Australia, blown away in Syria and unable to get any money to buy necessities in Zimbabwe.

Ice cream anyone? I’m afraid there’s only vanilla…

Please let there be no payback – I’ve been a good boy, really!

Let us give thanks and praise.

The Death Of A Tree

 

When I see a tree cut down
whose life was not yet done
I look upon it with a frown
and then look at the sun.
For the sun that nurtured every limb
and every leafy branch
has one less tree to care for
that never had a chance
to say to man
‘Don’t cut me down.
Don’t let me die.
Don’t let the sap
within me dry.’

For every tree that’s been alive
that’s grown upon this earth
is a gift from nature to us all
that’s always known its worth.
The problem as I see it
is man who cannot see
just what it probably feels like?
To be the cut down tree.

It took less than 20 minutes. A man with an orange vest and a chain saw climbed the 30 foot tree next door and sawed it down into mulcher size portions. I heard it grinding up all the good green stuff.
I also heard a sunbird trilling shrilly in dismay. Two other birds whose names I didn’t know, had to veer off in disarray after flying up to land and take a rest at a familiar spot,  then found it gone.
Where will bluebird hide or the pheasant coucal skulk?
It was evergreen and bore delicate mauve trusses of flowers which attracted honeysuckers and lorikiets.  I regret I didn’t know its name.