Category Archives: Uncategorized

#53 Encourage Native Birds into the Garden

Who doesn’t have fond memories of the Rosella logo on the ubiquitous bottle of tomato sauce that was a staple of growing up in Australia?

It was the only brand my mother ever entertained using. In her case, it was for the taste: in mine, for the gorgeous crimson Rosella on the front.

So since childhood, I’ve cherished my tiny, brightly-coloured enamel rosella pin which the company used as a promotion back in the day when children didn’t expect their favourite toys to be endlessly interactive or need batteries or gigabytes to function properly.

Rosella Pin close up

And what a marketing ploy. More than fifty years on
and I still balk at using any other brand
!

But imagine if these pretty birds could be enticed to come into your garden every day. There’s a challenge:

#53 Encourage Native Birds into the Garden

So there I was recently, sitting on my front verandah drinking a mug of hot chocolate, when who should flutter by for a quick drink but this little beauty. 

Sorry, starling, but I don’t mean you…

One brief glimpse was not enough though. I wanted him to visit regularly, and I figured that the best way to do this was with food.

Mind you, an article published in The Conversation last Spring suggests that the jury is still out on the virtues or otherwise of feeding and watering wild birds. Do they become dependent on our largesse, resented in the bird-working world as seed-bludgers, expecting handouts on a platter? And does the bird population implode due to a lack of resilience should you go away leaving them with no food and water for a time?

Notwithstanding this debate, I raced out to my favourite hardware store and purchased a small bird feeder, filled it with wild bird seed and placed it close to the backyard bird bath. There was a lot of fluttering around it, but no takers. Was it because the treats weren’t being served on a platter for easy access?

No worries. There’s a waterproof material that can be cut to shape, spray painted and rimmed with clear plastic tubing to keep the seeds from falling off. Good old corflute.

Enter bird feeder Mark II and a lot of interested birds, first watching and hovering…

…before landing and enjoying:

It’s a magnet for sparrows, starlings and spotted doves who empty the feeder in no time.

Based on this early success, I bought a second feeder for the front garden this time, which is where I’d spotted the young beauty in the first place.

A kind friend made a real wooden base for it before I perched it on an upturned pot and waited for the flurry of activity and the return of my lovely rosella….

…and waited

and waited…

It’s been filled with wild bird seeds for over two weeks now, but not one taker. In fact, no interested party has gone so far as to land and inspect it.

What’s going on?

It is too wooden? The wrong colour? Too square? Not far enough off the ground? Does the fact that the seed is Homebrand® offend the birds’ sensibilities?

What must I do to entice you back, gorgeous Rosella?

I don’t want to sound needy, but I’ll do anything, buy anything, make any changes you desire.

But please come back.

 

#50 Find the App of Your Dreams

apps-header-2Looking for the perfect app isn’t that far removed, I suspect, from finding the ideal partner on a dating website.

A lot of trial and error, then just when you think you’ve struck gold, a flaw is found that’s significant enough to lead you to think, ‘No, you’re not the app for me.’  But the search can be fun, and you get to go on lots of app dates as you try and:

#50 Find the App of Your Dreams

I came to the app dating scene quite late. The truth is, in the early days, I didn’t understand what an app was for and why I’d need one, and I dreaded the thought of investing in something that turned out to be a dud. But when I discovered that heaps of apps are free, and that a pointless app or even a less than perfect one can be banished, no questions asked, by applying a little pressure to its logo before giving it the Flick! from your screen, I turned into a serial app dater. And unlike partner interactions, it’s okay to keep several of them on the go simultaneously, toying with them and using them only as long as they remain useful.

So here’s a run down of some that I’ve tested.

instagram-logoINSTAGRAM

A young friend told me Instagram was essential, though I was reluctant to give it a try, due in part to attending a filmmaking course once where the teacher kept interrupting the session to say “I’ll just put this on my Instagram feed.” Already I’d judged it a tad narcissistic, endlessly gazing into the mirror with admiration and pride at its own reflection.

Then I came across this Instagram post about a breakfast prepared by a famous chef for his young daughter:

insta-prat

I LOVE breakfasts, but as John McEnroe might have said “You cannot be SERIOUS!”

How could I join in the Instagram game and keep a straight face? Time to Flick! this one.


So I moved onto

pinterest-logo

PINTEREST

I’ve had this one for a while now, but to be honest, apart from being a mild diversion during times of boredom, I’m not sure that it does anything useful. Maybe I don’t understand it well enough, but I’m finding it a bit repetitive. How many times do I need to see a cute puppy? I’m tempted to give it the Flick! toobut then again, I’m a sucker for cute puppies…


shazam-logo

SHAZAM

Who hasn’t heard a piece of music they love and wanted to identify it? If so, Shazam may be the app for you, but be prepared for disappointment. Without doubt, it will let you down one day.

By the time you’ve opened the app, clicked on the start button and waited for it to ‘hear’ the music, it will tell you “we didn’t quite catch that. Please get closer to the sound and try again”, the music will have stopped and you’ve missed your chance. I call it the Sloth app. Too slow to be considered the dreamboat you’re after.


cluckar-logo

CluckAR

This is Choice’s clever little app that tells you, after you photograph the carton, if the eggs are truly free range. But as I can hear them being laid in my back garden, it’s not quite the one for me, though I’ve talked it up to my friends suggesting it may be a real keeper.


vivino-logo

VIVINO

This app’s very impressive. Ever walked into a bottle shop and been overwhelmed with choice? Just photograph the wine’s label and receive instant feedback on its rating.

vivino-1

In my dreams….

They’ve added an even more impressive feature lately – listing the best wines available in a certain price range.

vivino-2

 Too easy

Bit worried spending too much time with this one might lead me down the path to alcoholism, though….


snap-send-solve-logo

SNAP SEND SOLVE

Finally, an app that sits slap bang in my demographic. An app whose logo tells me EXACTLY what it does, so I don’t have to look at it and think “What’s this one for again?” But even better, one that has the word SOLVE in its name.

Have you seen something in your local area you’d like fixed? All you need to do with this app is snap a photo of the problem, send it to the relevant authority from the list it provides and sit back and wait for it to be solved.  Probably too good to be true, I thought, but worth a try.

Crossing a small footbridge recently with the dog, I discovered loose, rotting boards underfoot crying out to be repaired before they gave way and injured someone.

dog-on-bridge

But I was in a hurry and didn’t have time to send the photos off that day, so I returned shortly after to verify the address for council, only to discover:
fixed-bridge

THEY’D READ MY MIND AND FIXED THE BRIDGE ALREADY!!

This app was definitely looking too good to be true.

So shortly after this spooky event, the aforementioned dog was being walked in a dog-off-leash park adjacent to a fenced children’s playground when he found a space beneath the bars and shot inside. This wasn’t good. It took some coaxing for him to return…

dog-returns

Time to test the app for real, so I fired off the photos with this message:

snap-complaint-2

I kid you not, three days later I received a call from council to explain that although fencing in children’s playgrounds is strictly controlled by a number of inflexible by-laws that prevents netting being added, they’d work on a solution.

The very next day, here’s what I found:

dog-block-2

Try getting through that, Ziggy!

I’m smitten.

Of all the apps I’ve spent time with, this might just be THE ONE.

#47 Revel in a Post-adult Period

It used to be that adding the prefix ‘Post’ to any word meant ‘after’. Think ‘post meridiem’ for after noon and ‘post mortem’ for after death.

But then along came postmodernism and suddenly, that harmless prefix took on a deeper meaning. Sure, postmodernism came after modernism, but it came with its own definition too, that is, epistemological and moral relativism, and pluralism. These are apparently rejections of the old-fashioned tenets of modernism like rationality, absolute truth and progress.

And I ask you, is there anything more embarrassing than being caught with ideas that pre-date postmodernism?

So when I heard last week that the Oxford dictionary now includes the term post-truth to mean not lies, but the irrelevance of factual rebuttals in preference to emotion and personal beliefs, it awoke in me a freedom I didn’t realise I was craving. The freedom to:

#47 Revel in a Post-adult Period 

The Post-adult period is the time after your responsible adult years have passed but it also confers an additional meaning whereby you can take on any behaviour or habits you want.

As to exactly when this commences, it begins the day you realise you’ve lost your relevance to society. That moment of shock on hearing or reading in the news that an ‘elderly [insert-your-own-age] woman was today found …’.

When they use adjectives like ‘elderly’, ‘old’ or ‘senior’ to describe people like you, it’s time to fight back in the best way possible. Become a card-carrying member of the Post-adult period and revel in it.

So here’s my list of pleasures that those of us celebrating this special time may now embrace for the rest of our lives. Do feel free to add others.

After all, we’ve earned it.

*Avoid anything that doesn’t give you consummate pleasure.

I’m thinking activities like having a job. Or sitting through a meeting that has minutes and an agenda. Or ploughing on with a book that you realise, by page 20, is boring you witless. Or watching a silly film to the very end.

screenshot-2016-11-22-12-33-16No offence if you loved these, but I might have a mere 30 years left on earth…


*Have a snack immediately before dinner, even if it spoils your appetite. Especially if it spoils your appetite.

Longing for some paté on toast in the late afternoon? Go for it! Can’t resist a whole bowl of guacamole and corn chips at 7.00pm? Be my guest. You’re in your post-adult years. You get to set the rules.


*Discover wicked new tastes you love – and take them up with gusto.

I recently tried fried pancetta as an alternative to bacon. It’s magnificent. Why didn’t I know about its crispy deliciousness before now?

Have an egg and pancetta roll instead. Or try it with tomato on toasted ciabatta:

pancetta-and-toms-on-toast

…yum


*Replace bad things with alternatives (that might be worse)


Are you over margarine and the whole worried-about-your-cholesterol chorus? Longing for some cholesterol-rich food? Switch to butter and store it in a stylish dish on your bench top so it’s always available and always spreadable.

butter

Butter’s natural, tastes marvellous and chances are scientists will discover in the not-too-distant future that it has life-prolonging properties. Just like they’ve now realised that toddlers who drink full-fat milk end up slimmer than those given low fat milk.

And take honey. It’s natural too, but for some reason I’ve always found the flavour a little … disappointing. Then I remembered something that tastes the way I’d wanted honey to taste but doesn’t involve any part of it being transported on the legs of insects.

I’m talking Maple Syrup. Now available in BIG, BEAUTIFUL one litre jars, especially for Post-adults.

maple-syrup

…and it always flow smoothly, even in winter


*Use buttermilk in recipes

I know, buttermilk sounds evil; probably is evil.

Deliciously evil in pancakes making then fluffy and puffy and soft:

buttermilk-pancakes

And you’re right. That’s not honey.

Tenderly evil as a marinade for chicken or pork, such as when making your own version of ‘fried chicken with 11 secret herbs and spices’ at home.

chicken-recipe

 

 

kfc

almost as good as you-know-what…


*Play with fire

Like running wth scissors, playing with dangerous equipment is also on the agenda in Post-adult years.

fire-2

 

So if you’ve always had a hankering for creme brûlée with that lovely crunchy toffee topping, now’s the time. Blast away to your heart’s content. No-one will tell you to be careful.

creme-brulee


*Outsource the stuff you don’t like doing.

Post-adults can outsource anything they don’t like.

Here’s why: if you read that ‘an elderly [insert-your-own-age] woman was today found scrubbing the floors’ you’d rightly feel sorry for her. She shouldn’t have to do that any more, poor old thing. So vacuuming, washing floors, cleaning bathrooms and whipper-snipping are out and no-one will think less of you.

But if you say coyly, ‘I like to keep active,’ you’re able to continue using the electric lawnmower, (such fun), gardening (no digging expected), cooking (no catering for more than two; four tops) and exercising the dog (but never undertaking a ‘fun-run’).

And as for the front yard makeover you’ve been thinking of doing yourself for years and years, forget it. Once you hit Post-adulthood, just ask friends who’s the best-priced paver in town (never spend hours organising quotes yourself – only adults do that) and the recommended one will do a far better job than you could ever have achieved.

img_2297


There’s only one caveat to life in the Post-adult lane.

All things in moderation.

Except maybe chocolate…

 

 

 

 

 

 

#40 Create a New Word

It wasn’t until 1977 that two psychologists introduced the phrase ‘Flashbulb Memory’ to explain the vivid and enduring recall many of us have of the circumstances in which we first heard stunning and emotionally arousing news.

While it’s since been debated whether Flashbulb Memories are any different to normal memories, it’s been a helpful term to use when referring to momentous events in our lives.

‘I’ll never forget the moment I heard about Diana’s accident that Sunday morning…’ or ‘I was in my parent’s bedroom, when my father rushed in announcing President Kennedy had been assassinated …’

So the idea that we haven’t always had the perfect word for every occasion interests me, and it sounded like a worthwhile retirement activity to:

 #40 Create a New Word

The perfect opportunity arose with David Bowie’s death in January this year.

Such was the outpouring of grief around the world that it was impossible to ignore. The tributes, the expressions of angst, the replaying of his greatest moments, the documentaries, the wall to wall news coverage were pervasive.

But it struck me that I couldn’t join in because I wasn’t in any way grief-stricken. My knowledge of the deceased was – well –  miniscule. Sure I knew his name, knew he was a performer but somehow, David Bowie’s talent and flamboyant showmanship had passed me by.

I was hard pressed to name even one of his songs. Was there something about Ground Control and a Major Tom? Or was that another artist’s song? When someone asked me years ago if my whippet, Ziggy was named after David Bowie, I’m sad to report that my response was, ‘What do you mean?’

Ziggy and Ziggy

…we are not related

I soon realised that there was no term in existence for my inability to join in the collective grief.

So I turned to someone who could cut to the chase instantly, someone with a sharp, witty, legal mind who’d find a solution.

I sent a quick text message to my sister:

Screen Shot 2016-04-24 at 8.24.25 am

Quick as a flash came the reply:

grieflosst

Yes!

A perfect concoction that borrows from the marvellous German concept of expressing a complex idea with one clever word – think doppelgänger or schadenfreude.

Grieflosst simultaneously captures both the grief and loss experienced by people around the world as well as the lost experience from an inability to share that grief by those who wander through life oblivious to what’s happening around them.

But could it ever have a serious place in the English lexicon?

It was time to road test it. I awoke recently to news of the death of Prince, an artist whose music I’ve never heard. Seriously, never heard. When I confessed this omission at lunch that day, a kind friend forwarded a YouTube link for his performance of When Doves Cry, assuring me I might remember dancing to it. I didn’t. I’d swear on Ziggy’s life that the song evoked nothing. Zilch. Nada. Nor had I ever heard of Purple Rain. In fact, my sum knowledge of Prince was that he’d once called himself a symbol. Whatever that was about.

But so many people are devastated by his premature passing that the new word was able to establish a solid hold in my vocabulary. I sent a text message to the only person who’d understand:

Screen Shot 2016-04-24 at 11.50.50 am

She replied with her only memory of Prince:

Screen Shot 2016-04-24 at 12.04.21 pm

(…courtesy of the brilliant J C Duffy, The New Yorker)

So here it is: a brand new word which has been tested, found perfect and is now available, at no cost, for anyone to use:

Grieflosst2

 

 

 

#38 Find your Favourite Museum

Notice anything special about the picture below?

Screen Shot 2016-02-23 at 4.33.22 pm

It looks like the entrance to a children’s adventure world, doesn’t it? A fun place to be if you’re young, but not really a site for adults.

I think they’ve got it all wrong. At this stage of life, I’ve finally realised how important it is to

#38 Find Your Favourite Museum

And I’ve now discovered that Science Museums are definitely my favourite museums, despite the implied suggestion from that banner at Scienceworks in Melbourne’s Spotswood that they’re not catering to my demographic.

But I’ll let you in on a secret: when we arrived there mid week – without any children in tow –  we were welcomed warmly, albeit with surprise, and ushered in for free like some honoured older statespeople!

IMG_1928…and Science certainly works for me

I’ve visited several of the finest museums and galleries around the world:

The Louvre             √
Uffizi                        √
The Guggenheim  √
The Tate                  √
MONA                     √
MCA                         √

Yes, they’re all wonderful, but finding something clever to do and to experiment with rather than something clever to look at and admire is my kind of museum.

Even our own MAMA knows that if you want to get them in the doors, it helps to provide fun and activities for all ages.

Look what the clever folk of Albury recently constructed with nothing more than a big pile of white lego over a few weeks:
Lego

and this wasn’t just built by the littlies…


I’ve revelled in visits to the Powerhouse Museum in Sydney’s Ultimo several times, but had never quite made it to Melbourne’s equivalent. Could it be because the name Scienceworks at Spotswood doesn’t have quite the same cutting-edge, futuristic sound as Powerhouse at Ultimo?

For starters, where is Spotswood? Is that the same Spotswood of Anthony Hopkins and Moccasin fame?

Turns out, it’s a mere six train stops on the Williamstown Line from Southern Cross station:

To Spotswood


The first delight on entering – after finding out that it’s free for honoured older statespeople, of course – was discovering that the next time someone says to me, ‘You’re worth your weight in gold,’ I can put an exact figure on it:

Worth my weight in gold

3.03 million! Who’d have thought?

 Then there was an opportunity to look into the future. By asking you to choose your interests, skills and preferred work sites, a computer attempts to predict where you’ll fit into society in years to come, and then provides you with your work ID.

My companion discovered she’ll be a teacher – but as a hologram rather than a flesh and blood one – whereas my future job sounded much more exotic:

Screen Shot 2016-02-24 at 4.23.46 pm

…move over Homer Simpson

And we’ll all be conveyed in smart little electric concept cars like this GM Holden En-V. It has 2 wheels and self balancing gyroscopic control and drives itself:

Electric car

if only they’d let us have a go in this little beauty…

Then there’s the fun experiment of using a cunningly designed room to create the optical illusion that a person can change size as they walk across it.

Alas, it didn’t translate as well in the photographs as it did in real life. Perhaps it’s true that the camera never lies…


You can be timed racing against a virtual Cathy Freeman for a few seconds, too, to see how your acceleration rate compares to hers.

The short answer is, it doesn’t.

Probably the biggest surprise was doing the ‘height to armspan’ test. This ratio is supposed to be about equal in adult humans, meaning you’re almost as tall as you are wide when your arms are fully outstretched. This seemed to be the case for all the people who tested themselves in the museum that day. Except for one.

With a height of 157 cm and an arm span of 171 cm, I can’t help feeling I’ve been cheated somehow.

But then, there’s always someone worse off. Consider this hungry seagull, who came to visit us as we sat in the outdoor cafe shortly before departure.

Screen Shot 2016-02-24 at 6.14.42 pm

…not happy


So much to experience, so much to ponder. Where did the time go?

Now I’ve found Spotswood, there’s no doubt about it.

I’ll be back…

#37 Cancel January

This may seem rather drastic, but as I began to look at potential activities for January, it struck me that this is a month that always disappears in a hurried blur. Blink and January has gone.

With the New Year break at the beginning of the long summer holidays, and the Australia Day longer weekend at the end, there’s no time for anything to develop. My best option for the month was clear –

#37 Cancel January

It’s not like it would be missed. Nothing happens in Australia in January.

No one goes to the shopping centres:

Screen Shot 2016-01-27 at 12.13.17 pm


Schools are locked, abandoned, unloved:

Screen Shot 2016-01-27 at 12.16.12 pm


It’s too hot. It’s too dry. Paradoxically, it’s even too humid.

The long languid days are filled with the sounds of a few highly paid sportspeople on television thwacking balls with racquets or balls with bats while the rest of us sit and watch. And wait. Wait for January to fade.

Favourite shops go on holiday:

Screen Shot 2016-01-27 at 12.19.55 pm…notice the sign implying 2016 will commence at the end of January?

Even trying to buy something as simple as milk from the corner store on the day before the day of the holiday is thwarted:

IMG_1868… January 25th is a holiday now? 

Where on earth has Australia gone for the month?

The television networks take away their real shows and replace them with… not another interminable episode of QI.

Four Corners?

Screen Shot 2016-01-28 at 10.51.39 am
…gone until February!

Insiders?

Screen Shot 2016-01-28 at 10.53.52 am
…gone until February!

Q&A?
Screen Shot 2016-01-28 at 10.53.13 am

…gone until February!

So I went looking…

and I finally found us:

IMG_1878 - Version 2Who’d have guessed?

There is one massive upside to cancelling January though. With a birthday late in the month, I’ve been able to avoid getting another year older.

#35 Unearth Buried Archaeological Skills

We have a brand new Art Gallery in town, but it’s no sedate country gallery any more.

Known by the acronym MAMA – for Murray Art Museum Albury, it’s a stunningly designed exhibition space with an entrance that excites the moment you step inside – soaring spaces and wonderful use of light on the ground floor…

MAMA ceiling 2

… with an impressive staircase beside an elegantly curved wall leading to more spacious exhibition rooms upstairs:

MAMA stairs

Its new name is an inspired choice to attract locals and visitors alike, because we can now be exhorted to ‘Love your MAMA’, ‘Come to MAMA’, ‘Meet your MAMA’ and all the other combinations of warm motherhood emotions that can be evoked:

Screen Shot 2015-11-24 at 10.44.41 am

 and the real clincher…

Screen Shot 2015-11-24 at 10.45.04 am

But the one I found irresistible wasMAMA needs you!’

Yes, MAMA was looking for volunteers. I was looking to get involved. It was a win, win situation.

So this is how I’ve ended up behind the scenes in the curating section at MAMA helping sort through the buried artefacts unearthed when the new foundations were being laid last year. I’m now officially one of ‘MAMA’S Little Helpers’. Bliss!

After a morning’s training session – admittedly quite a bit shorter than a university archaeology degree – I’m able to pretend to be an archaeologist; and isn’t delving into past civilisations a childhood dream shared by many of us?

Together with two other industrious volunteers, we sit in companionable silence – occasionally broken by one of us pointing out an interesting discovery – cleaning, sorting, grouping, bagging, tagging and recording memories from times past, which in this context, means life around Albury’s main street in the1800s.

Here’s how it works:*

Step One: Take large tubs of clumpy-looking, dirty detritus, which in this example, are called the contents of Spit 1. (A Spit, I can advise, is ‘a unit of archaeological excavation with an arbitrarily assigned measurement of depth and extent’.)

Under no circumstances mix the contents of a Spit with the contents of any subsequent Spits that will be coming your way  (which are of course named Spit 2, Spit 3 and so forth).

Step 1 piecesExhibit 1: Could this ever divulge hidden secrets?

Step Two: Transfer pieces of this unloved material into tubs of warm water and scrub gently with a soft toothbrush. Take particular care to clean the broken edges too, as these will often help identify the material:

Screen Shot 2015-11-24 at 10.30.36 am

Step Three:  Rinse the now-clean items in water then leave to air dry on paper resisting the urge to place the artefacts in the sun or use a hair dryer to speed up the process.

This is where it becomes exciting as ancient Albury civilisations emerge before your eyes. (They do appear to include populations who use a lot of bottles):

Step 3b dryWho’d have thought a tub of dirty bits and pieces would end up like this?

Step Four:  Sort the pieces into matching colours or material groupings:

Step b sort

Step sort

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Then reconstruct some of the pieces like a jigsaw puzzle!

Step 5a match

Step 5b Match

 

 

 

 

 

Step Five:  Become excited when you find a piece of pottery with an identifying mark on the back such as this portion from the blue platter:

Step 4b identify

Become even more excited when you magnify this to realise it reads “Jabez Blackhurst– Asiatic Pheasants, and discover that Jabez Blackhurst (1843 –1914 ) was a well known Staffordshire potter.

Step Six:  Commence bagging and tagging all the matching pieces of Spit 1 before moving onto Spit 2, the next layer down in the archaeological dig and which may expose even older artefacts than the contents of Spit 1:

Step b Bag

 

Step Seven:  Um … I haven’t been taught Step Seven quite yet, but I’m sure it will be just as satisfying as Steps One to Six.

Here are some great pieces the real archaeologist uncovered earlier, displayed like rare jewels at MAMA:

Step 6a display

It was Agatha Christie who, being married to an archaeologist, famously quipped ‘An archaeologist is the best husband a woman can have. The older she gets, the more interested he is in her.’

Volunteering as an archaeologist when you’re retired is not so different. You keep hoping you may discover some old artefact among the pieces you’re cleaning that will evoke memories of a long gone childhood…

*****
*You can try this at home – but it helps to be under the supervision of a real archaeologist…