Scenes from Seven Springs on Cannock Chase
Saturday, October 23, 2010
Scenes from Seven Springs on Cannock Chase
Wednesday, October 20, 2010
It never rains but it pours. I had intended writing this summary of our UK trip a day or two after our return but… the best laid plans of mice and men… Back in the 1990s, when we travelled overseas fairly extensively, jetlag rarely reared its ugly head. It was one of those urban myths that effected only old ladies and those of a more fragile disposition. Welcome back Kotter!
When it came, it came with a vengeance. We had late Saturday afternoon and all Sunday in which to recover before we both reported back at the coalface on Monday morning, 4 October. Given previous experience it was going to be a piece of cake. Heaps of time to unpack, settle down to the old home routine and be ready for work.
I first noticed that all was not as was well as it could have been when about half way through our mid-morning English lesson. I began to repeatedly drop my chalk [or rather, whiteboard maker]. When I set the lesson’s short piece of writing I sat at my desk to catch up on some of the work the relief teacher had given the class in my absence during the last two weeks of Term 3 [when Fay and I were in the UK]. One of the students eventually tapped me gently on the shoulder and asked if I was okay as I’d been snoring for the past few minutes.
Kids can be surprisingly good that way. They could have grasped the opportunity to run riot but had instead sat quietly in their places, working, while Mr B had a snooze. They understood jetlag.
It took more or less the rest of the week to readjust to Australian Eastern Standard Time – and of course in that week the rest of the eastern seaboard put their clocks back an hour while Queensland [ever fearful that milking cows may cause their curtains to fade] remained on standard time. We found ourselves wide awake at 0200 hours and knackered by 1800 hours. Driving back and forth was a nightmare. Thank God for I-pods and Pink Floyd’s “Dark Side of the Moon.”
By the end of our first week back home I felt fit enough to grapple with the “Trip Reflections” blog. Had the first couple of paragraphs sketched out and decided to test them for visuals on Microsoft Word. Looked promising. I tapped out a few more words, extended some of the sentences, switched a few paragraphs around, dotted a couple of “i’s”, crossed a “t” here and there and then sat back. Time for a drop of the Barossa’s finest red.
Shortly thereafter the computer crashed. Cables and leads were hastily unplugged and the moribund machine taken to the local technician. His wife, a whiz with computers, smiled, suggested it was probably dust on the terminals [or some such disease these technological contraptions suffer from]. She did unspeakable things to the machine, blew here and there, tweaked this, poked that, squeezed a little and sure enough the machine came back to life. Another resurrection to set the Evangelists abuzzing.
The less than heartening prognosis was, however, that my computer was so outdated that should I ever be in need of replacement parts it would be neigh on impossible to find any anywhere this side of Cyber Heaven [where all good electrical appliances go when the last amp leaves their battery].
And yes, you’ve guessed it, that weekend [the weekend before last] the computer crashed again, only it was obviously a mite more serious this time. Last rites were administered; a Requiem Mass celebrated and where possible data rescued. The old desktop was no more.
Long live the desktop!
It took a few days to put together the new computer: Windows 7; Office 2010; cordless keyboard and mouse; new external speakers and that curious pale pink button, bottom left, which, once fully understood, will pour me a glass of wine on demand!
In the meanwhile I kept myself from fretting by backing-up trip pix onto CDs [via the Government-issued laptop].
And all this in a background of rampant fleas. That was a side issue that made sitting still in any one spot not only uncomfortable but also very irritating. Whenever Fay and/or I sat in the “office” for any length of time, the lower half of our legs became covered in fleas! I am assured that it has something to do with the excessively wet conditions while we were away –the rain gauge registered in excess of 100mm of rain. One of life’s little ironies really. During those last few days in the UK, when there had been some drizzle, kith and kin, and the occasional oddball, would come up and say something to the effect that they were sure we would be glad to be back in sunny Queensland.
The thing with excessively wet weather is that it drives the humble house mouse Mus musculus indoors seeking shelter. The thing about mice indoors is that they tend to nibble here and there and occasionally that “here’ is a computer cable, the “there” a wad of important bird notes and so to prevent these calamities, as much as we both dislike the practice, we leave poison baits lying around in strategic spots [under the settee, on the lowest bookshelf, etc.]. The thing about dead mice is that the fleas they hosted leave to seek fresher pastures. The thing about homeless fleas is that they remain hidden in minute dust mounds awaiting some unsuspecting warm-blooded creature to attach themselves onto.
Having a huge English Mastiff die of old age did little to deter the influx of fleas under the house – and of course some inevitably found their way upstairs into the main living quarters.
And so here we are, where we should have been almost a fortnight ago.
Sunday, October 3, 2010
Not that there was much to report, a flight back home is, well, to all intents and purposes, a flight back home and the norm is that nothing much worth reporting occurs on such journeys. In avian terms this is probably the case in this instance. We did pick up our only, to date, Middle Eastern tick, a humble, if rather invasive, Common Myna. There had been a small number of other birds flitting around, visible from the transit lounge of ABU DHABI airport but it was late, the light was dimming and the birds never approached close enough for anything but the most cursory diagnostic peek.... a pipit type, something akin to a swallow… The Myna hung around on the edge of a nearby aero-bridge to afford us the opportunity to view all its tale-telling features. Indeed, there were three of them at varying distances and angles of view.
What did have me almost totally gob-smacked, surprised beyond speech, was that for the first time since the knee replacement operation [22 July 2008] my bionic part didn’t trigger the metal detector as I walked through the arch at the airport security area. You probably need to have an artificial, metallic, bit to fully appreciate the difference between a lion leaping through a loop and the same creature leaping through a lighted loop. Having become accustomed to the lights flashing and the alarm resounding I had in fact stopped and pointed down to my knee to indicate the source of the problem. I think I had even started the now almost inevitable stoop to untie my bootlaces- just as I had done on the outward journey. An armed guard bearing nothing more disarming than the most friendly of smiles beckoned me on with a kind “It’s okay, sir.”
In true Shakespearean style I offer the following brief aside: never judge an entire nation by what you might see/hear via various forms of the Media. Not all Arabs are bomb-toting terrorists, just as not all Christians attending weekly church rites are Christian. Until back in 1997 I think I had a rather jaundiced view of North Americans; loud and brash with little sense of humour or at least a sense of humour too cryptic for the likes of me to fathom. It was of course a cynical opinion based on too many hours of American television programs in which the cops only ever chased villains in high speed cars and, again almost inevitably, shot them dead at the end of the chase. The Arizona café owners and the Pittsburgh widow shattered those illusions.
To cap off the Abu Dhabi experience, on returning through security at Singapore’s Changi International Airport, where on the outward journey the metal detector had clanged its dire warning to all and sundry that a potential terrorist was passing through, nothing happened, not so much as a lowly grind or metallic gnashing of electrodes. And again, I hesitated, already pointing my right index finger towards my right knee. I was waved on.
Since the knee replacement in July 2008 I have passed through ten airport metal detectors and in 80% of those instances the alarm was raised and I was more carefully scanned by the hand-held detector and pat searched. What was different on these two last occasions? Is it a sign of better things ahead?
We arrived home mid-afternoon, Saturday 2 October, pleased to find the house still standing, the two dogs and three cats still alive and looking well and the Sacred Kingfisher back on its old limb surveying the area which Fay and I, in our more foolish moments, believe belongs to us.
Sometime in the near future I will analyse the trip in avian terms and put down some reflections. I will of course blog the essentials here but the full version will appear on my soon-to-be-revamped website: http:/members.bordernet.com.au/~osprey/birds.
Meanwhile, for those interested in following the birding exploits of a “Staffordshire Stray” on his local patch, the South Burnett region of Queensland [approximately three hours by car NW of Brisbane] , I invite you to glance across at http://www.birdingsouthburnett.blogspot.com/. Indeed, given a little more spare time I hope to create a blogspot with an even narrower focus – provisionally to be called Backyard Birding: Allen Road.