Schools start again next week, and I’m basking in the last days of a long break from teaching, enjoying the quiet of my home in the country. I thought a recent trip to Melbourne and Sydney was going to feel like a visit to ‘The Big Smoke’: the big buildings, fabulous eateries and historical sites. It was enjoyable, the best part was seeing relatives and having quality time with my husband and son. But I think I’m over it as far as big cities go.
These days, nothing beats my garden in the very early hours, when the Queensland sun begins to light up the world, the air is crisp and everything is soft with dew.
My neighbours are used to seeing me lurking in the plants, looking for signs of new growth, I swear I’m well on my way to becoming a Nora Batty, living in a little village, but pulling my UV hat down on my head rather than pulling my stockings up.
It’s a world so far removed from concrete, motorways, noise and traffic jams. My son was driving around the other day and we passed St John’s Catholic church in the Kerry valley. Without knowing anything about this place, I had romantic ideas of early Irish settlers establishing this church. I wanted to send my husband a GPS location, but none of us had any internet reception on our phones, that’s how remote it was.
I shared this picture on social media, saying it felt like stumbling into a fairy tale. In a bizarre coincidence, a parent of two of my piano students posted:
This is where we were married Joanna. It’s one of my favourite places in the world. The further you drive the more magical it becomes. There are some hidden delights in the areas called Darlington and Lost World.
I’d like to introduce a local hero. He’s a Plover. He’s not just a Plover, he’s a one-legged one.
Before I went to Melbourne, he had two legs, but one was obviously broken and sticking out at an odd angle. Ouch. I thought he’d had it.
When I came back, my neighbour Michael came over. I said:
“I saw the plover, it’s leg fell off!”
“Yep, it fell off a few days ago,” he replied.
Then the local gardener Steve rocked up.
“The plover’s lost its leg,” he said.
This bird is heroic. Watch how he bends down to get his worm, he collapses because he can’t balance or support his weight on one leg, but he manages to struggle up again.
Apparently these birds make their nests on the ground, not in the trees. Steve said he drives the mower carefully around the nests.
“The mother’s really brave. I’ve seen her stand by the nest, shaking while I drive around and just miss her, rather than abandon her eggs.
“Sometimes the father will be at the side, and scrape his wing on the ground, pretending that he’s broken his wing, to try and distract you away from the nest.”
Here’s an action shot of Steve when we were clearing debris after some recent storms.
Well, it is Australia and everything’s a little extreme here – poisonous spiders, snakes, toads, big storms, and plagues. I took this picture a few months ago, not sure if they’re locusts, but my other neighbour Jenny said she hoped a plague wasn’t on its way.
Jenny told me she’s been in a truck when it went through a swarm of locusts with a top window open. Covered. The two of them and everything in the truck. Ugh! But there was more…
I think it was in 2008 when I drove across the state to meet up with my husband in St. George, in south western Queensland. There were no mobile phones then, and I turned up around two in the morning. It was so dark! It looked – for as far as I could see – like the ground was moving slowly, up and down. I parked and opened the car door. Underneath me, the ground was thick, crawling with mice.
My neighbours have a lot of stories. I’ve shown Jenny WordPress and encouraged her to blog. She’d be a great blogger. Jenny wrote this historical piece about Kooralbyn which was published in a local newsletter. She should write more.
Meanwhile my little Australian adventure continues.