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Category: Slices of Life

A snippet of Christmas past

When I was seven, we went to live in Scotland, just for a year, because of my father’s job.  It was a magical year in so many ways for me, with a lot of “firsts” — snow, deer, Scottish schooling, and much more. I will never forget my own “secret garden” moment — I wote about it on the word wench blog and you can read it here

We lived in a small village with a Pictish tower, and the house had an attic, which I thought was magical. Attics had featured in a lot of my childhood reading but nobody I knew in Australia had one — most of the houses in Australia back then were all on one level.  So to have an attic, possibly with a ghost, definitely with all kinds of dusty treasures, and with slanting windows set into the roof, was very exciting. (BTW in Marry In Scandal, when Galbraith as a little boy used to stand and stare out over the rooftops — that was me, in my house in Scotland, drinking up the magic of being in an attic.) 

We did a lot of travelling that year. We had a caravan and every second weekend Dad would hitch up the van on Friday after work, and we’d head off to some part of the British Isles. Australians are used to driving long distances, so it seemed quite normal to us, but the local people were quite stunned that we’d been to Land’s End, or John O’Groats (which are on the southern and northern end of Great Britain) or somewhere in between — just for the weekend.

At the end of that year we were returning to Australia. Our school year starts at the end of January, so we left Scotland at the start of the Christmas break and headed for London, where my mother’s uncle and aunt were living — Uncle Neil and Aunty Ella — to join them for Christmas. 

I’m sure we had a wonderful Christmas — my grandmother was a superb cook and I’m sure Aunty Ella (her sister) was too, and they had a beautiful house, and would have had a lovely Christmas tree and decorations, but I have no recollection of any of it. Not one thing.

For me, aged almost eight, everything was eclipsed by one present — a pair of roller skates. They weren’t “white boots” — the ice skates from a Noel Streatfield book I loved — they were the strap-onto-your-shoes type, and much more practical for a growing child and one, moreover, who would never see ice for skating in small town Australia, where we would be living.

That Christmas day in London was damp and drizzly, but that wasn’t going to stop me. There were footpaths all around and I was itching to try out those rollerskates. So out I went, with my older sister to catch me when I fell, as I did often. But I lurched and swayed and stumbled along those wet footpaths until that magical moment when suddenly I “got it” and I was off and speeding along. Utter bliss.

There are photos of that day, but they’re slides, and I have no idea where they are.  Still, the memories are still very fresh.  I suspect I had to be dragged inside when it started to get dark, and I do remember I was drenched and muddy and was thrust into a hot bath and scolded for letting myself get into such a state.

But did I care? Not a bit. I could roller skate!

A slightly batty post

My neighbors — two kids and their dad — knocked on my door the other day. Their uncle had sent them a microbat box for Christmas. It needed to be mounted on a tall tree, but they have no big trees. I, on the other hand, have a Very Big Gum tree (eucalyptus), so they asked if they could attach the microbat box to that.

Of course I said yes, adding, “But I don’t know how you’re going to get up there to put it in place. There’s no ladder long enough.”

“No problem,” the dad said. “I’ve got climbing gear.” 

So yesterday morning the kids and dad arrived in their hard hats, dad with ropes and pulleys, and the installation process began. 

Unfortunately I was running out the door to meet up with a bunch of old schoolfriends. But I grabbed a few snaps. You can see how tall the tree is — and you can just catch a glimpse of the dad in the tree with the kids below.

Before you get anxious about bat bites and rabies, these bats only bite insects, and I wasn’t planning to handle them. In any case, we don’t have rabies in Australia—that’s one of the reasons for our strict customs laws — though bats do carry a virus that is dangerous to humans, and shouldn’t be handled.

I’ve always seen fruit bats (flying foxes) around, gliding out at night, dark silhouettes against the twilight sky. They used to come to feast on the fruit from my old plum tree and my dog used to go bananas, barking at them. That tree split and had to be chopped down, so I don’t see them as much now, unless I’m walking the dog near the creek at twilight

In the daytime the fruit bats (flying foxes) sleep in bat colonies in dense clumps of trees high up, looking a bit like lumpy old black umbrellas. 

But microbats are a whole new thing to me. As you can imagine, they’re tiny — here’s a photo of one. (Terri-Anne Kingsley – ABC Local)  And while fruit bats live on fruit and flowers, microbats live on insects — they say just one microbat can eat up to 1200 mosquitoes in an hour. I love the sound of that. I hate mosquitoes.


Here’s some info about microbats from this site:
“These tiny creatures generally live in colonies of half a dozen. They are excellent insect controllers, consuming at least 50% of their body weight in insects every night.Their droppings are not known to be a source of disease and will dry quickly with little or no odour. Microbats are clean and sociable animals that will not gnaw wood, wires or insulation.”  So I’m looking forward to living with my tiny new neighbors — whenever they move in, that is.

If you’re curious and want to learn more about microbats and microbat boxes, there’s a good site here and another one here.
Would you install a microbat house near you? Or do you dislike bats?

 

Cloisonné

I often make jewelry  — not from scratch; I’m no craftsperson. Really, I just enjoy threading beads to make necklaces and bracelets and earrings, not to sell, just to wear and also give to (foist on) friends.  As well as making something pretty, it helps me with my writing, believe it or not. I’ve found that fiddling with something small, concentrating on something that has nothing to do with my writing but is also creative, often helps me work out a knotty plot or scene problem. So, in the middle of making a necklace or a pair of earrings I will have a “Eureka!” moment about my current wip (work in progress.)  

In general I like my accessories on the plain side, but my mother loved cloisonné, and I think I’ve inherited her cloisonné gene, as I find it hard to resist also. Cloisonné is an ancient technique where a design is outlined in gold or silver or copper wire and then inlaid with precious or semi-precious stones or colored enamel. Mum fell in love with it when she and Dad lived in Penang (Malaysia) and Mum started collecting Chinese antiques. She came home with lots of beautiful Chinese cloisonné bowls and vases and ginger jars and dishes.
Cloisonné also comes in beads, and the other day when I was browsing through a bead shop, I came across these cloisonné beads. Pretty, aren’t they? So I strung them together, and while I was doing it I realized what I needed in a scene I was revising. So as well as fixing my scene,  I have a pretty new bracelet. Double the reward!

If you’d like to know more about cloisonné, click here.