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The Possum

One of the things my dog, Milly, likes about this new house is the possum.

Not that she loves possums — quite the contrary — she considers them her enemy.  And who doesn’t like to have an enemy that you can bark at from a distance but never have to actually confront? It’s really a “play-enemy” of the sort we used to have as kids.

Australian possums are nothing like American possums — they’re small and fluffy and cute and shy. And they don’t have lots of babies — generally just one. Like kangaroos, the babies are called joeys, and are kept in a pouch until they’re old enough to ride on their mother’s back.

I said they’re shy, and that’s true — they only come out after dark, and though plenty of them live in the city, near parks or in leafy suburban areas, most people rarely see them. They do, however see the evidence that there is a possum visiting, because possums love fruits and flowers.

The first evidence I saw that we had a visiting possum was when the lemons on my tree had their peel eaten off. Just the peel, not the fruit. See the photo on the left. The lemons were still hanging on the tree, the entire peel carefully nibbled off.
And the first gorgeous flower of the wisteria disappeared overnight. I was glad I’d taken a photo of it (see below right) because otherwise there was no evidence that the vine had begun to flower.

Possums are protected in Australia — it’s illegal to harm them or keep them. (In NZ it’s a different story, as possums are an introduced species  there and have become a pest to the NZ indigenous creatures, so NZers kill possums and use their fur, generally mixed with wool, to make soft, warm clothing.) But here they’re protected.

They’re generally very shy, but when cornered or threatened or their babies threatened, they can be quite fierce and make this very scary noise — and that’s what sets Milly off.

And now, every evening after dark, there’s a small black dog sitting motionless in the back yard, gazing up into the trees at the back, waiting for the enemy to emerge . . . (Black dogs don’t photograph too well in the dark, so you’ll just have to imagine the sight.) 
If there’s a frenzied eruption of barking, I know the possum is there and sometimes I hear the possum growling back. (Don’t worry, I always bring the dog in before 9pm so she doesn’t disturb the neighbours.)

There’s a short video here of a possum in a suburban back yard tree and you can really hear the scary sound it can make. Normally though, they’re utterly silent..

And here’s a video of a baby possum, looking for its mum.

Do you get wildlife visiting?

 

Thai-style Salads

My spring herbs are growing beautifully and so in the last week I’ve been making Thai-style beef salads. I say Thai-style because I don’t always have all the authentic ingredients on hand. This is seared beef with various salad greens and herbs, with coriander leaves (cilantro), basil, mint leaves and rocket (arugula) with lettuce, shredded carrot, red pepper, and young spinach leaves. If I had any in the fridge I’d also use cucumber and cherry tomatoes.
 
The dressing is mashed garlic, coriander stems and roots, fish sauce, a dribble of honey, peanut oil, and lime juice. I don’t have any fresh chillis yet so I added a glug of asian chilli sauce. No exact recipe, sorry because I don’t use one. But I like this one.
 
Today I did more or less the same thing only with salmon, instead of beef. I bake a fillet in the oven — skin on, and though I know it’s good for me, I don’t eat the skin. The dog gets it instead and she loves it.
Flake fish chunks into the salad, pour the dressing over, and mix. It’s yum.
Do you like Thai food?

School Reunions

I have a school reunion coming up in a month or so, and though I’m not one of the people organizing it, I’m finding the process very interesting. We’re all well and truly adults now but it’s funny, so many of the reactions people have been having show me that though  we’re all mature-looking on the outside,  inside there’s a big chunk of the insecure teenagers we used to be.  (That’s not me in the photo, by the way — it’s my mum. I couldn’t find any photos of me — they’re somewhere in a box.)

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People have come up with all sorts of reasons they don’t want to come. One friend was saying she wasn’t going to go the reunion because “everyone else’s life has turned out so much more impressive” than hers, which from where I’m standing isn’t at all true. She’s just hard on herself,  but an old friend had told her recently “You had so much potential” — so now she feels like a failure!

Other reasons for not going have ranged from “I won’t know who to sit with” or “I don’t want to run into my old girlfriends/boyfriends” and “Nobody will remember me (or liked me) anyway.”

I understand, because I was very reluctant when the first of these school reunions (just of our year) came up. I had no plans to go —  I’d kept contact with my main friends anyway— but two friends of mine badgered me into it. And to my surprise, I really enjoyed it. And it got me thinking about, and analyzing, my youth/adolescence in a different way.

High school was a transformative experience for most of us. Ours was an academic, government high school and students were selected academically, and came from all over Melbourne and from all walks of life. We went from thinking ourselves one of the smartest in our year to just being average — some of our schoolfellows were truly brilliant — and the culture of the school was stimulating and challenging—and transformative. So after that first reunion, I realized we all had more in common than we thought. 

Since then, a small group of the women I went to school with meet a few times a year  for lunch and/or an outing — all because of going to a reunion. We weren’t all great friends at school but now we all get on wonderfully well  and are getting to know each other as we didn’t at school. And reflecting about our very different lives. (That photo isn’t of me in high school, but of me at school in Scotland when I was 8. I found it on my own website. <g>)

But finding people is hard. For a start, we came from all over a large city, and ours was a large year, so there are a lot of people to find. Since school we’ve scattered all over the country, and even the world in some cases. One guy is a music performer and teacher in London. I remember him wrestling his double bass on and off the tram (trolley car) to and from school. Luckily he was a tall guy. I guess he still is. <g> Another woman lives a good part of the year in France and pops all over Europe. And others I have no idea of.

We’ve tried FB and LinkedIn, and other on-line places, and though we have old address books from school years, only one person I know still lives where they used to.   I’ve managed to dig up a small group of the men in our year — but the people I’ve come unstuck on are the women. So many changed their names on marriage and there’s no hope of tracking them down. So it won’t be the full group, but still, past experience has shown that will be a valuable and worthwhile experience. 

I’ll keep you posted on how it all goes, but in the meantime, what do you think about school reunions — love them or hate them?