Friends In My Garden: Exotic Bird

I hope that many of you have at least one person in your life who fits this image of a good friend. Mine has been a bit off colour lately so this is a tribute to her, to remind her how much I appreciate her.

Please feel free to send this poem on to the exotic bird(s) in your garden of friends. My words are free for you all to enjoy and share. If you would like to leave me a comment that would be great, thank you.

EXOTIC BIRD

Exotic is my little bird

gorgeous her plumage

of brilliant emerald

and sapphire

and the richest ruby red.

She’s something of a loner

rather shy

and quiet until she sings,

then she leads the chorus.

Her voice fills my garden

with the sound of crystal music.

I love to sit and listen

not only to her song

her words are never wrong.

We share a tranquil moment

rest for a while on a bench

chat about friends and daily affairs.

A peck on my cheek

a feathery wave

and she flies home to her nest.

Weather Alert: Short Story Competition Winner

Late last year I entered this story in a writing competition. It’s not my best short story but when I won first prize I promised to post it once it was published. I then forgot about it, so here it is. If you read the longer version last year under the title ‘Lightning’, please ignore this repeat so that my newer followers can enjoy it.

I’ll also post a couple of poems from ‘Friends In My Garden’ today as I know that some of you enjoy them too.

WEATHER ALERT

In the paddocks around the house our cows had gathered in groups, their calves, now ready for weening, herded within the protective circle created by their mothers. Hay, almost a metre high, was ready for harvesting in paddocks around the dam and up the hill, towards the forest. November brought hot winds to much of our south west. In Europe they talk of the mistral that blows for days or weeks at a time, sending vulnerable people in France and Spain mad. Coming overland from the desert, our easterly winds had a similar effect on me.

On that particular day I’d gone out to check the water troughs in the paddock below the house and was surprised to note that, instead of lumbering towards the utility which they usually did in the hope of finding easy food, all the cows with calves stayed put. There was little movement amongst them, except for the odd shaking of a head, accompanied by a high pitched moo or a sort of snorting. I could feel their agitation.

The air was still and oppressive. Looking up, I noted thick grey clouds which seemed to grow darker and heavier as I watched. Tails flicked and ears twitched; my four-legged mob didn’t like Nature’s developments.

Then I, too, heard it – the low rumble of thunder. The first bolt of lightning pierced clouds, forking down into the forest. Walking back towards the utility, I heard the thump as a tree or a large branch hit the ground.

Driving back to the house, I felt sorry for the cattle and wondered why they stayed so far from the protective covering of the trees which were all around us. The answer was obvious when, ten minutes later, I watched through the kitchen window as lightning struck the tallest karri, near where I’d parked, shearing it in half.

As a newcomer to the role of farming, I was concerned about fire. Animals grazing near the house were my insurance against losing our home that way. Rain wiped out our first hay crop, but our simple beasts taught me two important lessons – stay away from trees in a storm and if the cattle are concerned, it’s probably time to seek refuge.

Dalmatian Cruise: Dubrovnik

Our visit to Dubrovnik was on Friday the 13th May last year. I tried not to think about the day because I am a bit suspicious about a few things; for instance, I won’t fly on a Friday 13th. Suffice to say that I didn’t have great vibes about the day, and despite not having the opportunity for a guided tour of the city, Susanne and I chose to walk around on our own rather than take an extended trip through the countryside and hopefully make it back in time to explore the city. (Which was probably a smart choice as friends who did, were delayed by traffic and road works and didn’t actually step inside Dubrovnik.)

A Turner sky as we sailed towards Dubrovnik

Looking back towards Split, early morning.

The most picturesque part of the day was as we sailed towards land at about seven that morning. The sky looked even more threatening than it had over Split, but I call these my Turners and am hoping that  an  artistic member of my family will create a painting from them.

Even from the ocean Dubrovnik seemed to be wealthier than the other ports we had visited. This might be because so many of the residences look fairly new. Everywhere I turned, up and down the coast, terracotta tiles and white or cream walls covered the hillsides, interspersed with trees.

Some houses came almost to the water, where moored boats presumably belonged to the property owners.

Rain and cloud envelop the bridge.

Our ship was turning, heading for the harbour opposite the glamorous homes when, through the rain, we saw a beautiful bridge, seeming to hang in space. With bad weather making further photography impossible, as well as threatening to give us colds, we retreated into our cabin for breakfast.

Breakfast. Even shared it was enormous.

By day four we learned to order just one cooked breakfast with two plates and cutlery as the kitchen staff seemed unable or unwilling to follow our requests for anything other than giant sized portions.

Our ship was moored some distance from the city so, after passing through the usual customs routine, we headed for one of the local buses which were lined up, waiting for us. A notice in our daily sheet had warned us that we’d have to buy a return ticket for about US$12, before leaving the ship.  Sometimes the organisation for such simple things struck me as ridiculous. Apparently our shuttle buses were supplied by the cities at earlier ports, but for Dubrovnik, a fifteen minute ride, we had to pay extra. Ship’s crew added everything else onto our bills; why not make it simple for all and just add on that fare too?

We were driven to one of the four main gates and dropped off near the Franciscan Monastery which is famous for its pharmacy, opened in 1317 and still operating today. Photography wasn’t allowed and all information was printed in Croatian so all we could do was admire and wonder about the ancient glass and porcelain vessels used for storing or measuring herbal potions formerly dispensed by the friars.

Stradun – main thoroughfare which spans the city.

From the monastery we stepped straight onto the main thoroughfare, called Stradun, which is closed to traffic but bustling with tourists. Shops and cafes line its sides and narrow alleyways run for a short distance on level ground then climb the steep hills on either side. It was close to 1pm and visitors were hungry. Susanne and I briefly investigated a few cafes but the food looked pretty basic. We had travelled a long way and I was determined to find a memorable venue and meal for this, our only taste of Dubrovnik.

The shops had nothing exciting or original to tempt us. All I brought away with me was a small book, ‘Get to Know Dubrovnik’ which would have been useful if I’d found it before landing. Unlike Rome, Florence and Venice, where quality and originality managed to entice me despite the high prices, I found goods in Dubrovnik and the Dalmatian coast in general, not worth a second glance.

Susanne and I did get a few interesting photos though.

Rector’s Palace

Windows in old buildings often fascinate me and the Rector’s Palace, which has a mixture of Gothic, Renaissance and Baroque styles used in its architecture, caught my eye. Originally used to store gunpowder, the building was badly damaged several times (and I presume restored depending on the  fashion of the day.) Now it houses the Cultural Historical Museum of Dubrovnik, after being the seat of local government for most of its life since the 14th cent. Because of the cross on the roof and the fancy windows on the first floor, I initially assumed it was a church and would have liked a quick look inside but that wasn’t permitted.

Intriguing use of roof space

 

 

Some cities and towns in Europe also make use of their roof space creating unusual and imaginative windows and what appear from outside, to be tiny rooms. In a place like Dubrovnik, surrounded by ocean, I imagine that these spaces are sort after by artists.

Now at the end of the Stradun, we realised that the crowds were vying for a place to sit down and eat. One cafe, at the end of the thoroughfare, had a couple of tables left but again, the food looked like mediocre tourist fare. Beside me, a well-dressed couple opened doors to what looked like a smart hotel. I grabbed my sister’s arm and followed them, realising as soon as we entered, that we’d found the right place. Tables were full, people were drinking wine or champagne from good quality glasses and the aromas were enough to have me salivating. What hope for a booking, I wondered. We hovered at the entrance to the restaurant and a very busy waiter suggested that we sit down on a bench in the adjoining passage.

The best spot in town for lunch

 

 

 

 

Five minutes later we were led to the front of the terrace and seated at a table for two, overlooking the water. Our glasses were filled within minutes and the food arrived soon after. Susanne had fish and chips (gourmet fish and chips) and I ordered more chips with a salad.

Very busy little bay

 

In front of us boats buzzed around, ducking into moorings and almost colliding with the previous occupants trying to get out, young lads larked about in canoes, ferries unloaded passengers, picked up the next lot and raced away again. People walked along the footpath and we were delighted to see friends from the ship who stopped to chat.

Our friends stopped to chat.

 

 

 

To our right was an ancient looking stone structure which we decided to investigate as a way of walking off some of those chips. Once we reached it and turned the corner it was obvious that we’d come across an old fort. We could see our ship on the opposite bank, so Susanne walked out along the Porporela (a concrete breakwater built in 1873 to protect the inner harbour from wind and storms.)

I took her photo then she almost got washed away by a wave breaking over the top of the wall. All she worried about was her precious camera lens which also got wet.

From there we decided to walk along paths that ran parallel with the Stradun. Most visitors climbed the famous walls that went around the old city but with a lot of tourists vying for space up there, and very few sets of steps to get up and particularly down, I wasn’t prepared to risk an attack of vertigo which can come on me at any time. As with many historical stairways, there was also a lack of hand rails. We intended to rejoin the Stradun along the way, but kept rising higher and higher with no obvious safe way down.

The path wound higher and higher

Peering into the locals back gardens

We certainly got a feel for how the locals live, peering into their tiny patios, walking along winding pathways and photographing greenery that seemed to sprout from stone walls in the Mediterranean climate. When

At last, an almost safe way down.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I’d nearly given up hope, we came to a passageway that had reasonable steps and a wall I could hold onto and part way down, tradesmen were at work. If I slipped, they would hopefully catch me.

Back on the main drag, we celebrated with ice creams and headed to the city gate for a return bus ride. I’d forgotten about my concerns with the date and we were looking forward to the second of a series of talks on the History of the Mediterranean by Michael Tunks, an Australian lecturer who seemed  to be a combined philosopher, historian, geologist, and modern day Renaissance man. More about him and his lectures later.

Men’s Shed for Writer’s Presentation

During the week I had an unusual (for me) experience, presenting my book ‘The Green Velvet Dress,’ and my personal story to a group of men who get together each week in their Men’s Shed. I imagine lots of tools, noise, dust, a bit of swearing and plenty of talk about football or other sports; maybe the grandkids,  state politics, especially our recent election, but probably not books they’ve read.

I must be telling them about the nerdy teenager that I was.

So, I happily went along to the Mundaring Speaker’s Circle on Thursday, presuming that I’d have a few men and more of their wives, as my audience. One lady arrived, followed by another one I know from  my own social groups. All the rest were men. I’m used to public speaking so that wasn’t a problem, but a bunch of guys who get together to fix and make things? Too late to adjust my talk, I leapt in, hoping to at least keep them awake. One chap gave a mighty yawn and another seemed to be nodding off, but when I got to the part about me being a nerdy teenager they all laughed and I could relax a bit.

My son is a comedian. He had warned me about adapting to the audience. I skipped a few paragraphs and elaborated on the more entertaining sections of my development as a writer. Once I got to the part where I read out sections of the novel, I could lay it on, (I’m a frustrated actress as well as a writer) and we all enjoyed ourselves.

Now I feel ready to entertain any group – old or young, male or female. They get free entertainment, I sell a few books and we share afternoon tea. Any suggestions for groups near Perth in WA wanting a speaker, I’m available. Please just tell them about me and/or ask me.

 

Dalmatian Cruise: Split

Early morning as we approach Split

Split, our next port of call, was what I’d hoped to find on this cruise down the Dalmatian coast. Having read that the scenery was spectacular, we were up and out on our balcony again early on the morning of the 12th May. I missed the sunrise, but as we approached the city, I was

Palm trees on the waterfront reminded me of Nice

struck by its

Shapes of buildings along the quay with mountains behind.

similarity to Nice on the south coast of France. Palm trees lined a boulevard that runs along the water front, the harbour was busy with large tourist ships like ours, lining up to dock, and the local fishermen seemed to compete with leisure craft bustling about on the water which really was a stunning shade of blue.

Part of the ancient palace wall used to create today’s business and living quarters

From a distance everything looked well maintained, but this is an old port city. The famous palace, which still occupies a large area, was built towards the end of the 3rd century when the then Roman emperor, Diocletian, decided to retire from his position in Constantinople (he was very unpopular, so the smart move was to return to his homeland before someone killed him) and use Greek slaves to build his palace, including a mausoleum. (More about that later.)

 

 

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