Phone addiction – bike rides in the ‘burbs iii

As an aging adult in my late sixties, I believe my life experiences and observations allow me the freedom to offer my humble opinion of modern behavioural trends.

One such trend which is topical and irksomely pervasive is the compulsion to pay more attention to a mobile phone than the surrounding people and environment.

I find it quite offensive that people keep their phones within eyesight and reach and scrutinise it for new surprises almost every minute, notwithstanding participation in the conversation of company.

The terrifying sight of primary school cyclists pedalling along main roads while eyes-down and thumbing text messages is not uncommon.

App allure is clearly mesmerising !

I have muttered criticism and spouted off my horror and concerns frequently.

It is embarrassing to fall victim of that behaviour which I have so soundly castigated!

On my return from a fishing trip to Fraser Island with some gabbas* and a young son of one, I was determined to work on reducing my girth which had been subject of some very pointed comments.

So I arose before sunrise and dressed, pumped up my tyre (which was nearly enough to exhaust me) and prepared to launch on my first daily exercise.

As a techno savvy modern man, I had downloaded a cycling computer app onto my phone which tracked speed, distance, time, route, pulse rate and many other such things. I had even acquired a special mount on my bike for it.

I switched it on and coasted down the drive, but had to return for my spiky helmet (protection against swooping magpies). Now fully equipped I started on my familiar route through the suburb to the creek…

With mild concern I noticed that it seemed that the computer display was not showing distance travelled.

Fortunately it was a familiar road and no travellers were about at 5 a.m., so I could closely scrutinise the screen.

Concentrating and pedalling I rounded the corner and rode Whap! into the back of a parked car. I hit the road after my handle bar thumped my ribs. The same ones I whacked before…!

Looking around, I saw no-one was about and the car was unmarked. I picked myself up, got back on and my gears worked after a few creaks, so I rode off quickly.

My wonderful computer worked for another minute then the screen died. My battery was flat.

A bruise on the ribs serves to remind me that I must learn not to throw stones at people in glass houses or better still: leave my phone at home!

Some of you may detect a cycle of suburban tumbles: others are related in the links below.

*gabbas: Afrikaans slang for mates

Island Fever

Fraser Island is a heritage-listed site and it deserves to be: 123 kilometres of beach on its East coast attract droves of campers and fishers and backpackers who zoom along the beach in 4×4 vehicles, delivered by barges or fly-ins who catch a bus. Freshwater lakes, creeks and natural woodlands add allure. The seas abound with shoal fish, sharks and whales often pass close by.

Our gang of old fogies, one in his 70’s, two in their 60’s and a mature son in law in his 40’s were joined by his 10 year old son on a boys fishing trip to the island.

We hired a tent at Cathedrals, about 70 k’s up the coast. The weather was good and most of us caught on the Friday evening fish.

Saturday proved to be a disaster: fair weather but hardly a bite let alone any fish.

The only amusing incident was a brash dingo that smiled and walked right up to me, wagging his tail. I had less confidence and stamped my foot and told it to Footsack!*

Then the Wallabies got walloped by the Poms and the AB’s humbled Ireland … and it rained.

Sunday was like a day in heaven! Beautiful calm sea and I caught a fish on my first cast. The youngster caught one too.

After that the fish went off the bite. Boredom set in so we decided to drive up the beach and see what we could see… which turned out to be miles of beautiful azure blue, flat sea with the occasional breaker.

Eagle-eyed Metroman said he saw a fin he thought was maybe a shark or a whale, maybe a dolphin.

Then we saw birds diving into a bait shoal very close to shore.

A bronzed fisherman was already in the surf spinning his lure.

Everybody grabbed a rod and cast in! This was a wonderful opportunity to catch one of the big tailor which prey on the bait fish.

There was much flailing but no result and the birds moved off. Alas!

It was hot and the sea was lovely, so we decided on a quick dip to catch a wave or two. Lo and Behold! As we got to the waves, we saw fish flashing through them and jumping out the water!

We ran back and got our rods with spinning lures and wading in up to chest height flailed at the water again and again.

Still no bites!

But the water was lovely, so we beached our rods and body surfed lovely waves. Crystal clear water and no rips, it was exhilirating!

We only remembered the fin and the horror stories of tiger sharks in three feet of water when we got out…!

That’s island fever for you and it gets worse with age as we clearly demonstrated!

*Footsack phonetic pronunciation of “voertsek”, Afrikaans for “go away

The dangers lurking in the garden…

Life in retirement has some ups and downs!

For the past 18 months I have been suffering from an itchy suppurating infection in the cleft of my left hand.

The doctor said try this cream – nothing doing. I am now at the point of suggesting surgery. (I have unusual hands and surgery could add some symmetry). Back to the doctor who showed little concern and said antibiotics (I hate them, they interfere with my innards and I think they are too easily prescribed, but I was suffering…). Antibiotics and sterocorticoid creams, extra algebra and Zambuk only suppressed symptoms.

Three agonising weeks later he said those awful words: I can do no more for you…!

The dermatologist said what have you been eating, doing that is different which may be a cause ? I said “My life was the inspiration for national groundhog day”. She prescribed another cream – no good. I am now considering amputation as a solution (itch is agony, let me tell you!) Back to the dermo – she brought out her big guns: six weeks antibiotics and six tubes of sterocorticoid cream. But I think what did it was that she said I must keep the hand dry.

I said that will be difficult as I am the washer-up! The wise doctor was insistent and even gave me a note to that effect for she who designates the division of labour in our menage!

Phew! after four months and no itch or ooze I thought  maybe perhaps …

Eina pyn, jou bliksem – spoke too soon. The itch burn, inflammation returned. What evil could be pursuing me like this, is there a witch doctor hereabouts that I have offended?

In the middle of the night I had an epiphany: Nasturtiums – my belovedest flowers almost. We use its flowers, seeds and peppery leaves in salad; the parts that grow above the ground are used to make medicine.

People take nasturtium in combination with other herbs for urinary tract infections, swollen airways, cough, and bronchitis. Nasturtium is sometimes applied directly to the skin in combination with other herbs for mild muscular pain. it contains vitamin C and might help fight bacteria, fungi, viruses, and tumours.

Apparently it is part of the mustard seed family which can cause severe allergic reactions.

Lawks!! Mustard allergy can cause anaphylaxis!!

I picked the first bunch of Spring yesterday: a creamy yellow, shouting oranges, deep crimson, brilliant yellows … so lovely!

sooo innocent and beautiful!

It turns out I have an allergic contact dermatitis. Fortunately I still have tubes of cream… at least I know now what caused it, even if it is so sad.

Apparently there is a large number of these potential killers on the loose in your flower beds, disguised as sweet smelling, colourful, joy giving blooms: sunflowers, inca lilies, jasmine, wisteria, some daisies aaand even chamomile! Life is sooo cruel!


I hope that this title got your attention. Getting sneaky is how we get buy!

This is about resurgence of my passion.

My pre-passion mulling over period came to an abrupt end when I buttered my toast this morning. I was smiling in anticipation of a great gobbet of our New Zealand made lemon curd on top. Never smile at a crocodile, it will get there first! The cupboard was bare! I had to make do with Anchovette fish paste.

This obviously called for immediate action to avoid any further disappointment.

We are blessed in Queensland by an abundance of passion fruit; so many that even friends and neighbours are full up. So I have essayed into beneficiation – Clem Sunter’s answer to South Africa’s reliance on primary industry; Australia should consider it.

I sprang into action: to Google for a recipe and the cupboard and fridge for ingredients.

Now Baby Boomers men will understand that the challenge before me was of some magnitude. Particularly we who originated in the Dark Continent were not equipped with culinary skills of any sort. The more progressives had mastered making a cup of tea and operating a toaster quite successfully.

In my retirement I have taken steps to avoid stagnation by writing blathering blogs and amazing autobiographies. But now I have experienced… YES, I will confess – a new passion which has brightened my life appreciably.

I am talking about the kitchen arts: those that our wives and daughters absorbed from an early age from their mothers and grandmothers. Whereas when Mum was cooking, boys’ focus was who got to lick the bowl and the biggest slice; girls noted utensils and spoon sizes, pot size and the advantages of butter and how to whisk eggs… the list is long.

So, Dear Readers (those who are still with me), you may agree that the challenge facing me to ensure never having to endure another disappointment in much anticipated indulgence, was great. It may even have daunted some.

By googling “passion fruit curd” I was blessed with about 4,230,000 articles… I read the first three and being health conscious, I chose the one with only 1/4 cup of sugar.

The recipe required in addition:

4 egg yolks

6 tablespoons of unsalted butter

juice of 2 lemons

1/2 cup of passion fruit pulp

What could be easier than that?

Huh! Have you ever tried to separate egg yolks from the limpid, runny stuff, without getting egg shell in the mix? … and pips out of lemon juice after it has been added to the sugar?

What’s a double boiler?

What if you have no unsalted butter AND no whisk, which you discover only after you have started mixing the stuff …

In my passion, I took the bit between my teeth and combined pulp and sugar and warmed it over a bowl in a pot of boiling water (ingenious, I know).

I managed to separate most of the yolks and whipped them with the lemon juice (only a few pips remained) and I mixed it with the passion fruit, then added the cubes of butter slowly, while whisking the mix until they melted…To demonstrate my nonchalance at my new found prowess, I made a cup of tea and sterilized an old coffee jar at the same time. Multi- tasking I believe it is called.

A prime aspect of this curdling process is whisking, which is required to be continuous. Imagine my horror when someone knocked on the front door! I had to remove the pot from the flame, attend the inquiry (can I clean your gutters ?) and dash back to resume my whisking.

New-fangled culinary technology does not faze me – I even managed to take the temperature of the cooking curd as I whisked.

Once it reached 160 deg F, I whipped it off the stove and jarred it! I tell you now whisking for about 20 minutes requires perseverance and some endurance.

But I did it … and I got to lick the bowl and the spoon.

I am passionate about cooking …

Beware! Beware! 
His flashing eyes, his floating hair! 
Weave a circle round him thrice, 
And close your eyes with holy dread 
For he on honey-dew hath fed, 
And drunk the milk of Paradise.

*Samuel Taylor Coleridge

The Flying Cane Toad

On my daily dog walks over the past year, I have been noticing a pair of Common (also known as Indian) Mynas, strutting about a field. I shoo them away or toss sticks at them. They now fly off when they see me coming. I have never liked these noisy, assertive, sly birds, but consoled myself with the notion that the raucous Australian parrots and magpies would sort them out in quick time.

Just the other day, I counted how many birds were in a different flock of these Mynas. They roost in a neighbour’s tree and sit on another neighbour’s roof ridge.

I was staggered to count twenty-two birds! Their numbers had grown over a period of about a year, from a pair I’d seen fly by on occasion. I shoo them away too, but now they don’t fly very far.

Then it struck me that I hadn’t seen any pale headed Rosellas or King parrots in my garden recently and the Lewin’s Honeyeaters were not as active. Even the Noisy Friar and the Lorikiets were fewer and quieter.

So I did some research.

Mynas have been listed among 100 of the world’s worst invasive species by the World Conservation Union. In Australia, Common Mynas are considered to threaten native biodiversity due to their territorial behaviours and nest cavity competition. 

They are now widespread throughout eastern Australia.

Despite their identification as a threat, no particular legislative responsibility for myna control/management exists in states where mynas are already established, such as QLD, NSW and VIC. Conversely, import and keeping of common mynas is prohibited and they are ‘declared’ in states/territories where common mynas have not established yet, such as NT, SA, TAS and WA. 

Indian Mynas are very aggressive and intelligent, and known to evict native birds (including parrots, kookaburras and peewees) from their nests, dumping out their eggs and chasing them from their roosting areas. Other native species such as sugar gliders which depend on tree hollows for survival are also threatened.

The Indian myna can lay six eggs at a time, and they can breed three times in a breeding season, so that’s the potential for over 13000 birds in 5 years per female bird. Whereas the native rosella will lay four or five eggs and they’ll only raise two or three chicks a year.

A scan of the Biodiversity Act of 2014 shows that Mynas are declared a pest but fobs off responsibility to local government.

My local government’s Subordinate Local Law No. 3 lists 3 categories of grass and a shrub as pests – that’s all!

Clearly we cannot expect our government to do everything for us. But it needs to consider and initiate actions which address such problems.

Surely it would be easy to mobilise local environmental care committees who could be a ground force who could identify problems and take action under supervision of course. It seems to work for tree planting and Koala care – why not spread the mantle of care wider?

*Feature Photo by Vivek Doshi on Unsplash

Bushveld Recalled

Grass is bent by dew.


Chink chink on the path;

shrouded impala, mystical fever tree;

Coffee ground sand.

Bushveld is brown …

Khaki perhaps?

Not all the time

Tim said.

See the mauve yellow lanterns

and silver web chains in sekwane;

the guinea’s blue head

with its touch of red.

Crimson glimpse of gwalagwala

and flowers of mvovovo;

scarlet slashes of msintsi;

the blue of flycatcher eye

and flash of lilac breast majesty.

The brown sand,

pierced by pointed prints,

turns to dust in the sun.

The bushveld sings too,

Tim said.

The midday mourning of the emerald-spot dove;

the ki…trrr of the kingfisher,

a bark snort warning of sentinel impala;

Hadeda KA-AKAH!

Impempe and sharp rising whistles of herd boys;

the sizzling, piercing shree of Christmas beetles.

Do you remember, do you remember?

The partridge calls as soft evening falls…

Silent stars blink from above.

Keeping My Hands Clean

( a short story)

Mods and Rockers specialised in Fifties and Sixties interior design furnishings. Modernist, plastic crap, smooth curve chairs with black ferrules on shiny spindly aluminium chair legs.

Baby boomers no doubt flocked in on Saturdays to pounce on green glass citrus juicers and exclaim rapturously over pointy nose tin openers with folded corkscrews while they sat giggling on pouffes.

The shop was a possible destination for the stolen diamonds I was tracking on behalf of a client; so I had been watching the place since early afternoon, hoping for a sign of the blonde woman who had stolen them.

At first, I had not paid much attention when the little man left the shop after locking up, just past 5 o’clock. Then he scuttled anxiously to the nearby bus stop, glancing around as if he expected pursuit. His puffy blue anorak and wilting pork pie hat didn’t quite suit him. He was short and chubby, not an athlete; a quintessential clerk.

My interest was drawn because he was not self-absorbed and inwardly projected like a routine commuter. Popping up from behind his newspaper shield to check the surrounds like a meerkat, peering through his pebble-lensed spectacles, he made me wonder why he was so apparently nervous.

When the bus came, I knew I must follow him. He did not notice me.

When he got off, I followed him surreptitiously to his flat.  As he opened the door I ran up and pushed him in, quickly closing the door behind me. He fell down and lay cowering on the floor like a stunned rabbit.

I said “Tell me everything”. This is what he told me:

His name was Hubert Philpott and he was the bookkeeper for Mods and Rockers, which was, he suspected, a money laundering operation for a local gangster, known as ‘The Tiger’. Up until today he had kept his nose to the books and never asked questions. Then that changed.

During the morning, the salesgirl Maria Fuentes reminded him he would need to shut up shop in the evening as she had the afternoon off for a doctor’s appointment. Just before lunch, a young woman appeared in the store and thrust a small package at him saying: “Make sure Bruno gets this – keep it safe until you see him” and left in a rush.

Bruno was the Tiger’s manager, a surly brute. He was away and would only return late on Friday.

Consumed by curiosity, he had opened the package and seen a fortune in sparklers. He knew then that he was in grave danger, so he hastily locked it in the safe.

As he said that he looked even more nervous, so I growled: “What aren’t you telling me?”

He started blubbering and jabbering. Eventually, he scrabbled in his pocket and produced five of the largest gems. He swore he had not taken more. I believed him; not many people lied to me.

After a little prompting he told me about the security system and safe combination. He clearly perceived that playing dumb the next day was his best bet.

Leaving him, I made a call to a friend and we arranged to meet at the Savoy where, he told me, I would find the skilled operator I needed.


Strawberry jam is not as good with Camembert as raspberry but it will do,” said Larry, helping himself to another cracker. His canary yellow waistcoat and silk cravat underlined the exhibitionist bon-vivant persona he hid behind.

In fact Larry was a thief, an athletic cat burglar who scavenged through the richer suburbs of European cities. He had never been caught, but his flagrant lifestyle unsupported by any visible means of income had caught the eye of a friend of mine in Special Branch. They have been known to appreciate risk takers with unorthodox skills. Larry was on their tab, but they owed me a favour. I needed to get the diamonds back, but could not risk doing it myself.

I had sat down at his table at the Savoy, unannounced. His finely tuned eyebrow showed he had me ‘sussed’ but he greeted me politely enough. He must have surmised that I too had him ‘sussed’.

I let him get to the point. “What can I do for you and you for me?”

“Missing sparklers,” I said. “Mine”.

“Not me – I haven’t seen much of that for some time,” he said.

“They are in a tiger’s cage and I want you to fetch them for me.”

A shadow flickered in his eyes and he shook his head. I pointed at the man leaning on the piano near the window. My friend from Special Branch

Larry looked at him then at me. Then we began to negotiate. He settled for five hundred quid.

He knew who the Tiger was and had a wise respect for him. I told him I had the alarm code and safe combination, so he wouldn’t need to ‘break’ to enter. He was to get the brown package out of the safe in the shop tonight; he was wise enough to know not to sample the product. Anything else was gravy for him. He was to leave the safe open, to deflect suspicion from Philpott.


We exchanged packages at breakfast. All the diamonds were there. I caught a plane from Gatwick to Dublin. Over a glass of champagne, I looked at my hands and smiled – they were remarkably clean.

I’d thought I might have to get them dirty.