Posts Tagged ‘Council’

Our Garden is an Opera

September 20, 2016


The way out for discontented souls, is to settle in a beautiful garden. The sustenance that greenery gives, is at times preferable to other contacts. Respite from turmoil and Executive Committee Meeting trauma, needs again to be sought. Emanuel Kant knew that. “We have to be the active originator of experience rather than just a passive recipient of perception.”

Temporary relief might be given by a good discourse with dogs and in some cases even cats. But a good garden is for most cases the only way to regain composure and the soul becalmed. Some peace has returned in our living compound and Body Corporate front. No more thefts but we did notice the instigator of all the turmoil, the Chairperson, talking to the gardener. She was waving her arms about, perhaps in support of more residential parking embargos. Who knows and is it important compared with the beauty of our flowering Clivias?


A lovely silence since. The little sparrows are twittering about in anticipation of some breadcrumbs. The local Council has put posters up on telegraph poles warning people of diving magpie birds. Some children are wearing helmets with large angry faces painted on the back of them. Some adults look angry enough and don’t need helmets. Many also swing branches about or umbrellas. Life is not dull if you know and are perceptive to the things that might go around you.

This is why an outing to shops can just be as exciting as going to the opera. It doesn’t necessarily have to involve shopping or buying things. Nor does going to the opera needs music to be heard in exclusion to other sensational things. In my case, it is my hearing impairment, whereby I have to improvise and make sense of whatever else is going on. This sense at times might have to move away from the auditory factor. In fact, with imagination and some deft improvisation one could say, all around us is opera. Opera is a dramatic work in which music plays some role but not all. Thinking of some of Gustave Mahler’s music I am right now hearing his famous Adagietto from Symphony no.5 and it sounds as beautiful as when I had my full hearing.

That is not to say, hearing the music played live would not be even better, especially with a nicely dressed audience within the splendour of the Wiener Staatsoper.

Of course, if we accept that opera is al around us, including even, or perhaps especially at Aldi, one really needs to ramp up a willingness to let wonderful experiences be absorbed, wash over us, and take on board that even the little things can grow into big things. Last week, I think it was Friday, we were patiently waiting for the conveyer belt to bring our goods to the cashier who was seated on the special ergonomically designed seat. All cashiers at Aldi are seated on those chairs. (Please note that the personal at Woollies and Coles stand up all day behind the cash register.)

When it came to my turn, the previous shopper presented me with a mauve coloured walking stick. ‘Is this yours’, he asked? ‘No, not mine,’ I replied. It was one of those walking aids that had a four pronged foot at the end of it. I suppose it gives greater balance and security to those not so confidently fleet footed!

Now, what the drama or opera of this story is that it begs understanding and a great deal of musings, on how someone in need of this special walking aid could leave the shop, continue his/her normal live ( the mauve colour might indicate a female, but ….?) and be unaware he/she lost a vital piece of medical equipment. Did his disability miraculously got cured after paying the cashier? Did he /she walk out risen from the near lame? A more cynical person might well surmise it could be a case of someone claiming an invalid parking license, giving it convenient parking spot permits near shops.

Now, this story goes a full turn. The Chairperson, responsible for the mayhem about non problem parking issues is pretty good footed, but…I did notice she has now a disability sticker on her car.

Who knows?

The spirit of Christmas.

December 5, 2015


My dad did not like garlic nor plastic flowers. Any devon sausage infused with garlic was not for him. Worse were the plastic flowers. Already then, plastic flowers and even plastic plants were a normal occurrence in people’s homes. ‘They last forever and look so pretty, almost like real flowers,”  many would say. Dad despaired about the country that so loved gardening, yet so accepting of that which wasn’t real. Is there anything else that is not real, he felt like asking?

Years later I worked for someone who had a holiday house at Palm Beach, North of Sydney. Avid readers of my blog might remember, my ruminating over my first visit to Palm Beach noting a total absence of waving palms. How  could anything be so blatantly wrong? Was this legal?

While in Palm Beach working, I came across a garden where the owner had actually planted plastic peace lilies (Spathiphyllum) in the garden. They were in full flower (perennially), a bit faded, but none the less flowering profusely. They weren’t real but that did not seem to bother the owner at all. I find that terrible. What else is accepted that is not real?


Recently, our local council has e-mailed all those with e-mail  asking residents for input about planning the future of this shire. This includes the planting of trees along streets. In the past many cherry blossom trees were planted which looked out of place. The profusion of pink cherry blossoms in Spring at odds with the beauty of the native Eucalypts and fiery  Callistemon.

This area is very dominated and historically been peopled by many from England. Ireland and Scotland. The highlands with its much cooler climate reminded many of the ‘old’ country and subsequently many tried to make their houses and gardens a bit like Sussex, James Joyce’s or Oscar Wilde’s hair,  or Edinburgh castles. Some  gardens have little rose covered arches. Cute white painted cement-cast angels keeping watch over equally cute cement toddlers reading a book together in dappled light of an aged oak. You can’t help but take out a Thomas Hardy book and then try find a yeoman…, a Timothy the Thatcher or perhaps do a tempestuous Pride of Erin at the local food court.

Yes, the council plants year in year out the same plastic Christmas tree. A large one in the middle of a cosy town square. It doesn’t  even look real. It’s plastic shimmering in the baking sun.    My dad would have written a letter  to council, back in 1974 but now it is 2015, almost on the cusp of 2016!

With all the love of gardening and asking for input, council puts up an artificial tree?  What has changed? Surely a live tree could have been put up or even a cut-down pine or spruce? Something real. Christmas deserves that. What an example to the children!


The Christmas tree isn’t the only plastic greenery council has put up. The shopping streets in the small towns have all been decorated with cute little baskets of petunias, but…they are plastic. Of course in cold winters one would not have petunias, so…it makes it worse. And…council is employing town-planners…asking for input from locals…? What is going on here? They know better in Bali or Thailand. Nothing plastic flowering there.


This year we bought a small tree made from small slats of sun- bleached driftwood. It isn’t real but it does not pretend (to be real).  Each year we normally take in a real conifer that we have growing in a pot. This year we thought it just too heavy to drag in. On the front door we hung a garland of intertwined wooden sinewy twigs which could also have been made from flotsam found along a Balinese beach. It is artistic and honest, unpretentious. In the middle of this garland is suspended a little wooden star ringed by very small electric little lights that go on as soon as it gets dark. Both look so nice and more real.

We will look at our driftwood decorations together and enjoy the Christmas spirit.

Of Dalliances and Dunny Men

September 25, 2012

Of Dalliances and The Dunny Men.

Not having sewerage connected was normal in Australia during the time of European immigration from early days till the 1960’s. The enormous distances between houses and suburbs and the sheer spread of just a few hundred people over many kilometres of land made the provision of infrastructure such as a sewerage system too expensive for many suburban areas at that time. The way out was for the local Council to provide a ‘dunny pan’. This pan was a heavy metal container coated with pitch or bitumen and actually smelt quite fresh and spicy when just delivered. A bit like an industrial harbour foreshore, with moorings and thick ropes, tarred anchors and pylons. This pan would be used in a small outside room of about a couple of square metres and called the ‘dunnee’. An outside toilet, sometimes politely called by the upper shore, ‘the outhouse’. You have to go sometimes, don’t you?

The dunny pan would be covered by another outer metal shell with a hinged wooden lid. With some imagination this could then be seen as a toilet. However, when lifting the lid, no matter what it looked like from outside, the smell and darkness from inside was broodingly brutal and left nothing to imagination. Not many would linger reading poetry or Thomas Hardy.

The pan would be collected once a week by burley blokes in blue singlets and verdant armpits, who would come before dawn and summer heat, to heave the sloshing but lidded pan on shoulders and put on the truck with the driver having a Lucky ciggie. Coarse oaths would be renting the still morning air and heavily shod feet would crunch the concrete path along the side of the veranda.

This dunnee pan would be capped by a lid secured on top with a metal band that would lever the lid tightly around the container, not unlike some preservatives such as sour Kraut or apple sauce of the present day. This was a job purely reserved for the dinky-di locals and much coveted. It was well paid and had all sorts of lurks, including dalliances with lonely women and early ‘knock-off’ times when finished. I am not sure if the smell added to their appeal, but rumours had it that many a woman, widowed, single or even married, was left happy after an early visit from the ‘dunnee man’.

Large families were given a ‘special 2 pan treat’, this usually meant giving very generously at Christmas time.( A couple of crates of beer would suffice.) Any large family that were too stingy at Christmas would soon find a lonely single pan again. Those dunnee men were often kind rogues but a law onto their own, revered and respected by many, but feared by some. The ‘dunny man’ is now part of folklore and Tamworth Country music, but long gone since.

Our family was more than large and dad had to make some adjustments to a down pipe outside the dunnee that would carry rain water from the roof to the open storm water drain at the front of the street. Despite our generosity towards the Shire’s dunnee men at Christmas time, we never had more than two pans a week. For our family this was not enough. I never did find out how our neighbours coped, they had six children as well. We were on friendly terms but not that friendly that you could ask; what do you do with your poo? In any case, their concern was more focussed on the fan tail pigeons’ shit on their shiny new roof tiles, all caused by my brother John’s flock of sixty birds… It would be unwise to mention anything to do with poo!

It was not as if our family were too copious with ‘solid stuff’, no, it was the sloshing around of the liquid waste that was the problem. Of course, being right next to neighbours it wasn’t as if one could go outside at any time and urinate in the garden. This is what happened though. When the height in second pan became critical, and the dunnee man still a day or so away from collecting, that the boys were told to do as much as possible at school or wait till late at night and then in the garden in the dark.

In the summer this caused some olfactory concerns and when this ammonia like stench could no longer be hidden or blamed on Dad’s fertiliser for the veggie patch, that Dad did a piece of engineering that is still admired until this day, alas without his presence.

As I already said before, there was a metal downpipe running on the outside of the dunny that carried rainwater from the roof to the trench at the front of the house. Dad simply cut a small hole in the fibro on the inside of the dunnee directly abutting the downpipe and conveniently next to the pan. This hole was also made on the inside of the downpipe, accessible now from within. Both holes corresponded and synchronized brilliantly. This hole was then used by all the males (six in total) as a urinal taking the piss straight down the downpipe and to the front of the house in the open stormwater trench. This trench was usually overgrown with weeds. Generous rains would wash it downhill and finally into concrete stormwater and into the Georges River. Council used to come along three times a year to get rid of the weeds and mow the grass around it.

Well, our trench was the most luxurious green and lush looking of the whole street. It would have won a blue ribbon for excellence if that nature strip could have been entered into the Royal Easter Show. It wasn’t till some years later that sewerage was connected and my mother’s dream of ‘own bathroom’ with inside flushing toilet was truly fulfilled.

My father was a genius. With the toilet indoors, the dunny man receding into history; we were all riding high in the achievements wrought so hard by this migrant family of six children and parents.