Skip to main content


Showing posts from December, 2019

Burning a hedge the safe way.

The property falls away to the west resulting in views of incredible sunsets on hot summer nights (and nights in winter, for that matter, when the sun has wheeled right around 45 degrees north). The plunging garden is terraced; twelve years ago I planted a plumbago hedge of four plants along 18 feet of ornamental lattice guarding a drop of ten feet to a garden bed below. The hedge was to prevent two small boys climbing on the lattice and risk falling, should the ornamental lattice give way. No longer required. The boys are teenagers now. The plumbago had done its job. Over the dozen years, it had grown to twelve feet in height and had moved out about 18 feet from the fenceline. That's what? 12' x 18' x 18' in volume? Whatever. The point is I had to clear it. Plumbago produces a magnificent green façade with stunning lilac foliage in late spring and is totally gorgeous all year round. But beauty is skin deep. That eighteen square foot of volume behind the green a

How blue was my valley.

The British election was decided early on Friday in the former mining region of Blyth Valley on England's Northumberland coast. ... the Conservatives took a seat held by Labour since its creation in 1950. ... And then the Conservatives took Workington, another deep red seat held by Labour for 97 of the last 100 years.... And then Don Valley fell too, and on it went, the red wall crumbling brick by red brick. ... There won't be any celebrations at The Guardian ... where its election eve editorial announced ... Jeremy Corbyn deserved to win because ... he was "progressive". That a major newspaper could endorse Corbyn, a diehard socialist who campaigned on policies so deeply regressive, tells you the danger of Corbyn's ideas lingering in the soppy brains and bleeding hearts of people who have university degrees but little common sense. (The Weekend Australian , 14 December.) Spectator Lowlife columnist, the late Jeffrey Bernard, once wrote something along the line

The original Picnic at Hanging Rock.

I'm in a room with no windows, sitting at a large table covered with old books and weathered archives, under a single burning globe. I've been here for three years . The world might have ceased to exist, except that I know it hasn't, because I go home occasionally. Hello, children. I'm hauling bits of history into the present, like dragging two grand pianos bearing donkeys behind me. Buñuel knew what he was talking about in that scene, but especially the eye-slicing bit. Un Chien Andalou, an Andalusian dog. Radio theatre. 1976. Roll it, Syd. Syd was the grey-coated elderly projectionist, and the call to action was from Doug Ling, the world's only film buff who was not an insufferable intellectual. My mind is wandering. Back to the yellowing papers. Now I'm in 1902 reading an account published in the November edition of sporting newspaper the Australian Cyclist , about an overnight trip by the North Suburban Cycling Club to Gisborne, from where its members wi

Changing of the guard.

It stood sentinel in the back garden for endless seasons. Its central pillar had the strength of a battleship's flagpole and its four radial struts could have been deck railings from the same craft. They used to build clotheslines to last. Silent for decades, it occasionally emitted a low industrial whine when a breeze might set it turning lazily, which I fixed with a squirt of oil in its main shaft's intake valve. You couldn't wind it up or down any more because its winder had seized up years ago. Eventually it developed a slight list, to the north-west, after the drought of 2010 broke. I thought the extra water had allowed movement in the subterranean concrete block in which it was set. Eventually the slight list became a noticeable slant, and by earlier this year, it was like a sinking steamship in its death throes. I dug down to the concrete block, but three inches below the surface of the earth the mast was a brown, flaky mess. Rust. At 40 degrees from perpendicu