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And while it's really nice to have the nurturing sound of rain (there were some fab thunderings and lightnings earlier as well), what's particularly groovy right now is the frogs, who have started up their peeping near the creek (or stormwater channel, I suppose). It's amazing how they can get themselves out of their aestivation (or whatever you call what the frogs do when it's dry) state so quickly and start greeting each other with such optimism within an hour or so.

In short, too cute for words.

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I went up to the Hippo Bar this evening, because I am over this week, over this month, and over this fucking year, already. So a margarita was definitely on the agenda. For all the queer-orientated and andro/butch-appreciating ladeez in the audience, there is a very cute new (in the sense I hadn't seen her before, but I haven't been for months) bartender who knows how to make a damn good margarita with Herradura tequila and Grand Marnier. There was no fucking about with blenders or fruity additives - just the pure rendition in a chilled martini glass with salt. She reminded me of a thin tomboyish combination of Stan Campbell and Dayna from Blake's 7, and looked just right in a waistcoat. Alas, about 20 years too young and not girly enough to be true eye-candy for me, but it's nice to see appealing potential members of the sisterhood about.

And it really is useful that alcohol cheers me up in general. It'd be horrible to be one of those people who got morose when they were slightly squiffy. After the margarita, I had a pleasant walk home, despite the humidity (more on that shortly). Up at the IGA in Lyneham, I found some new beer, by Knappstein. They're a winery that does a very tasty riesling (and other wines), and it seems they're branching out. I'm pleased to say that this is the best beer I've had in ages. It says it's a "distinctively fruity and floral beer" (and slightly wankily), with a "distinctive wine-like balance". It's not nearly as sweet as it sounds, although it does have a kind of honey note, and it contains enough alcohol - 5.6 percent - to carry off the rich, but not cloying, flavours. The good hop balance gives it a fairly clean finish. It's reminiscent of good Belgian beer, but not in the slightest bit fungusy or as over-powering as many of those can be. The website says it's a "Bavarian-style lager", but honestly, it's more flavoursome than most of those. So, yum. Yay.

I also found some fun things today about temperature averages - yes, I know I'm obsessed by this topic - since the relative level of humidity today reminded me of Auckland at this time of the year. In fact, the temps and humidity (70-ish percent) were very similar there and in Canberra. I also found the Beeb site that gives a nice rundown on average temperature ranges by city across the year.

blah blah blah city temperatures )

So, yes, I'll be sticking to my cool sub-tropical/moderately-warm temperate climates where I can, thank you very much.

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... with wonderful gold and crimson lights against the dark fluffy clouds, and the temperature has dropped to 18 degrees.

Both of these things are very pleasing.
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I'm being very bad, spending oodles of $$$, but since it tis the season, and I've only bought one Xmas present, and haven't travelled home to NZ, what the hell.

So, a sunny day out in Canberra, and a very pleasant 20-something degrees with a moderate breeze - perfect for riding one's new bike around the lake. Eee!


Of course, it blends in perfectly with contemporary design elements:

(I buggered up seeing what the lighting was doing here - the bike looks kind of grey here, where it's just as shiny as the sculpture.)

Most comfortable bike I've ever ridden. I'm a wee bit saddle sore, but I just need to toughen up a bit.

Also, while Canberra has its drawbacks with a kind of innate small-c conservatism, lack of cultural variety or interesting (to me) events/venues, combined with a higher level of bogan presence than I generally prefer, one of the best girlfriends evar lives here, working here is good, and it certainly is pretty around the lake here on days like these. It's fun checking out the sculpture garden by the NGA every once and a while, and the swamp hens had chicks! *squee* I feel grateful for days like these.
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This is where I lived in one area of Auckland (out of the many). Our house was to the right and behind the grey roof in the right foreground. All that area beyond there is bush, which I'd disappear into for hours. The dip in the hills to the rear is where the beach is.
piccie )

This is the wee estuary just before the beach. There are mangroves, cabbage trees, and what I used to call toetoe (pronounced toi-toi), although it's actually non-native pampas grass, alas (toetoe is very similar, but has droopier fronds - the pampas grass is pushing it out of its niche). I would have had some piccies of that, but bloody hands again. The greens in the shot are unaltered, by the way. My camera is crap at washing out highlights when it's dark, but those greens really are lurid. There was a tui (bellbird) hanging around having a chat while I was walking to the beach - I tried to record him chirpling away, and I'll have to see what I ended up with.

another one )

And here's one of my favourite parts in the bush - a stand of young kauri trees. That bushland was all logged off in the late 19th Century (for house building, furniture-making and ship spars), and what is there now has been regenerated from that. The kauri trees there are just 70 or 80 year old tiddlers, not much wider than my own body. Mature trees can live for several hundred years (over a thousand is not unknown), and achieve diameters of up to 4-5 metres. These ones have a little way to go. Again, the quality of the photo is not good - the greens of the bush have been washed out due to the lighting "correction", and it should all look much darker.

trees )

Oh, and this is all right in the middle of suburban Auckland. It's a 15 minute drive to the central city (not during rush hour). As a kid, I was lucky to be able to spend time in such a place.
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You know, how ages ago now, I went home for a week and then came back and planned to post a nice blurb about how wonderful it had been to see my fucking awesome friends and drink great cocktails and hang out in my old stomping grounds, which mostly just get better, and here are a couple of pics of some of my favourite things (like puppies, noses on kittens and things tied up in string)...? Well? I didn't think so.

Notwithstanding, I hereby have a couple of pics to post:

Fish n chips at Muriwai beach )
It was compulsory for me to have good f&c while I was there. Alas, the paper blows out the detail of the f&c a bit, but it was exquisite. The batter had herbs in it, the fish was melt-in-your-mouth, while the chips were perfectly crispy on the outside and floury in the middle. Yum. Must do it again if the weather's not too vile next time.

Another shot of Muriwai beach )
I like the clouds and the sand and the sea being varying shades of each other - except with Mr Chartreuse Towel wandering into shot. Heh. Muriwai Beach sand is naturally that black colour. It's iron bound up with the silica, so it doesn't oxidise. They smelt the iron sand from further down the coast, so it isn't quite as black as it was when I was a sproglet. It also burns like hell in summer if you don't wear shoes!

Brazil cafe on Karangahape Rd )
This is my favourite cafe in the world. It used to be a fruit shop that I walked past on my way to school; now it's the coolest of cafes. They have a fully manual coffee machine with levers and they do wonderful things with Havana coffee.

I have especially fond memories of the place, because that was where I realised a g/f-to-be of mine and I could actually get on. N insisted that we'd hit it off if we just talked to each other - we had spend months scowling at each other across various rooms - and, looking at each other over the rim of the espresso cups, it turned out that N was right. As usual. I blame the coffee, however. It does things to me. :-)
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It's no secret that I have my issues with Canberra, not least the fact that I don't consider it to be a real city, more a conglomeration of four shopping malls connected by suburbs and roundabouts. (Actually, I like roundabouts. Whee!). While it's well-served by museums and galleries, it's by virtue of the fact it's the national capital, not that there is a particularly lively arts scene here. But my biggest issue is the fact that the people are so homogonised. It's been a bit of an adjustment living in such a white-bread city.

Anyway, enough of the gripes. Canberra is, however, spectacular in the autumn. The city is fairly flat, but has substantial greenbelt (mainly eucalyptus and scrubby shrubs - it's too arid for ferns or podocarps) areas and conical tree-covered "mountains" which pop up from the landscape at semi-regular intervals. Canberra is an artificial city, kind of like Australia's version of Milton Keynes, but, it must be said, a lot more attractive.

In the 1910s, the city was designed (complete with circles and roundabouts), and the Molongolo River was finally dammed in the 1960s to form Lake Burley Griffin. The actual building of the city started shortly after its design, with brickworks being built in Yarralumla, as well as the Yarralumla Nursery also being founded at that time. Now, the nursery is crucial, since they grew all the trees which are currently showing beautiful colours, especially in the inner (lakeside) suburbs and around the lake itself.

There are gorgeous reds and purples and yellows and golds, with the leaves in huge drifts in the parks. There are still enough trees with bright green leaves to provide contrast, and there is always the dusky purple/green/grey of the eucalypts as the underlying note. The weather is cool enough that you can actually walk around for more than 10 minutes without expiring and engage in other vigorous physical activity, ditto. I went for a nice walk by the lake on Sunday morning, and happily quacked to the ducks who were fossicking around on the shore. (The two joggers who went past gave me googly-eyed looks, but if they don't want to quack at contented ducks, that's their problem). The sky was dark with imminent rain, but there were shafts of sunlight through the clouds which highlighted the leaves against the dark backdrop. Quite spectacular, really.

The other useful thing is that the Yarralumla Nursery cultivated the "Canberra Gem" Grevillea, which I am going to plant for my girlfriend as a hedge this weekend. The bushes grow 2m high by 3 wide (which is sufficiently hedgelike), are drought-resistant, love full hot sun, prefer low-nutrient acidic soils, and happily resist frosts down to -10 deg, as well as attracting nectar-feeding birds. I got out there with the soil-testing kit a few weekends back and ascertained that the soil pH is between 5 and 6, so we're good to go. I did think of camellias, but they tend to be more disease-prone, want more water, and aren't native or so bird-friendly. Also, grevilleas are just cool. Anything to avoid the dreaded conifer-hedge blight. If you live in sub-Arctic regions, great, or if you're surrounded by native varieties, also great. Otherwise, I hate the buggers. Anyways, with a 30m long frontage, I'll need to get 20 plants. I think they'll fit in my car boot (if I lie them down).

Eee! I like digging things. And pruning. And it's apparently the perfect time of year to plant the grevilleas. Yet another reason to love autumn.
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Since I won't be there for Xmas/New Year, here's another pic from my holiday a couple of months back:

Read more... )

I forgot to burble about mangroves. Aren't they cool plants? Ok, where they live is normally kind of grotty, since they like nice shallow mudflats which normally stink to high heaven when the tide's out. But they're awesome filters and great places for incubating wee fish, as well as providing a food source for lots of shoreline birds as well. Mangroves around Auckland tend to be about a metre or so high. They get taller as you head north, so the ones around the Hokianga were about 3 metres high. The biggest mangroves I've seen so far are in Cairns. They were about 5-6 metres high, I think. [/end burble]
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Have I mentioned lately how much I love my country? Heh. And, I totally love my friends, they're marvie. What a soul-restoring few days I had.

It rained almost the entire time, except Sunday, the day I was leaving. It'd apparently been totally gorgeous for the two weeks preceding. Of course, I get back to Canberra, and it's still raining.

Even so, here's a nice piccie of the Hokianga Heads, the top of the harbour I spent most of my time driving around "up North" (of Auckland). Hokianga Heads )

The whole northwestern coast of the North Island is festooned with sand dunes. South of Auckland, you get the black iron sands at Port Waikato. The currents bring the black sand to the west coast beaches of Auckland, and I have tons of memories of not being able to stand on the beach due to the heat generated by the iron deposits. Literally foot-frying. Also, there can't be too many places in the world where kids take magnets to the beach for fun (who knows if they do now, but we certainly did then). The black sand beaches aren't so black these days, since they finally found a process to extract the iron for smelting in the late 70s - as you can imagine, getting iron out of the silica it's bound up with in the sand isn't a trivial process.

Anyways, this post is just for starters. I'm happy with my new phone/camera, although since the shutter speed isn't too fast, I have problems holding it steady enough with my wobbly hands. Since I totally overdosed on the yummy coffee to be had at home, they were even less steady than usual. Never mind.
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Shortest day of the year, here, and yes, my body wants to be sitting by a flaming yule log, quaffing mead and eating lots of rich fatty food. A plum pudding would go down well right now too.

The earth (in the Southern Hemisphere) is at its quietest time, but I can see the tree outside my flat is just staring to produce the nodules that will turn into buds, then leaves. So we have the turning of the year, with the new growth in potentia.

And it's a good time for reflection.
This is how I "save my soul" by accomplishing a pure relationship between me and another person, me and other people ... me and the animals, me and the trees or flowers, me and the earth, me and the skies and sun and stars, me and the moon; an infinity of pure relationships ... that makes our eternity for each one of us... This, if we knew it, is our life and our eternity; the subtle, perfected relation between me and my whole circumambient universe.

Lawrence may have been a tosspot in so many ways, but he got one or two things right.


Jan. 25th, 2005 12:35 pm
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This is a kauri tree:

(That one is Tane Mahuta, by the way, the largest tree in NZ. Kauris are second-only to redwoods in terms of height, but have more wood volume than any tree.)

There were lots of them around where I grew up as a kid. I'd go off into the bush for hours, with my flask of mushroom soup, sit under them, read, hug them, and make up stories about the gods of the forest, before going on an expedition up a creek (the days I remembered to wear my gum boots).

I haven't seen one of these trees in nearly 7 years. I spent 5 years in London (nearly), and just over a year back in NZ, in Wellington, which is too far south to grow these trees. And here I am in Australia... I just want to touch the bark and break off a small piece of gum, so that I can rub it and have the smell of the bush wherever I go.
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While we're on the topic of the wonders of the 'verse, it seems that the Hubble telescope will no longer be maintained. That's a sad thing. Spending zillions on trying to get people like Richard Branson into space seems to indicate that some of our priorities are screwed up.

I'm downloading some wallpaper pics from the Hubble site right now (I know it's not going to fall to pieces right away, but still). Awesome, awesome pics.

Ranting some more about the pantheism thing again, I've discovered one reason why the word hadn't really entered my consciousness in the way it has NOW. A secondary meaning is that of a belief in ALL gods. I can kind of see how that meaning came about (if you see god in everything), but that's not where I'm coming from....


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