Idle Notes from an iPad

A strange place to put a gate? Rather like the internet, many of us don’t know which gate to go through, if we should go through it or what to do when we get to the other side. At present I am still using igate -I mean iPad orMePad…. and I don’t trust it with too many words….

So let’s go underwater for a change. I know there are bloggers who actually go underwater, but I just listened to BBC Radio 4. Book of the Week in five parts and I only needed to listen to the first part to learn something about an amazing creature…

Picture may not be accurate representation of the ocean floor.

Philosopher Peter Godfrey-Smith explores what is known about octopus intelligence in ‘Other Minds: the Octopus and the Evolution of Intelligent Life’. The first part concluded with the words ‘Your best chance of meeting Alien Intelligence is to meet an octopus.’

To protect its identity octopus is played by an actor.

The gist of what I have heard so far is this. Octopus seem to be very intelligent, even when assessed by our limited land based human perspective. Our common ancestor was a very basic tape worm living at the bottom of the sea many trillions of years ago. Since then humans and octopus have evolved along totally different lines. So intelligent life has evolved in more that one totally different species; all life on earth has not been totally about aiming towards a human pinnacle of excellence. If any of you have met an octopus or perhaps just eaten one please add your enlightened comments. If any reader is actually an octopus it will be very interesting to read your comments.

Happy Floralia

Floralia, the festival of Flora, the Roman goddess of flowers, was held from 27th April to 3rd May during the Roman Republic era 509 BC to 27 BC. I think we should resurrect this fun week, so my Chreastermas Tree has become a Floralia Tree. I tied a ribbon on for everyday of Lockdown and I am now taking one off everyday. Welcome to the famous Gardens of Tidalscribe.



Friday Fantasy Fiction – Meeting The Dragon

Today I woke up excited as it is Saint George’s Day; Saint George is the patron Saint of England. Then I remembered nobody is quite sure why he is our saint, or what we are meant to do to celebrate. Fortunately it is also William Shakespeare’s birthday and we can all celebrate that. In honour of our great poet and playwright here is a not very good ballad I wrote years ago, still relevant…

From the molten depths of the Iceland peak

Many gathered to hear their lord speak.

‘Centuries under the mountain we’ve lain,

centuries passed since my brother was slain.

Now is the time to return to the isles;

my son must fly across the miles.

Now is the time to forgive and forget;

the wingless, cold creatures may need us yet.’

Now with the day longer than night,

the prince bade farewell to all at first light.

With heavy heart he heard them roar,

as up into the sky he soared;

sun glinting on scales, colours unreal;

emerald, indigo, turquoise and teal.

Below, icy peaks turned to ripples of green;

Many miles he flew before land was seen.

Crowds cheered to hear the outsider had won;

George Saint now the new mayor of London.

The whole of London he wanted to reach,

Embrace the millions in his speech.

‘Tomorrow we celebrate the greatest city on Earth,

Tomorrow we remember Shakespeare’s birth;

On the South Bank on St. Georges Day

We’ll celebrate London in a wonderful way.

George worked late that night in City Hall,

Plans for tomorrow, he reviewed them all;

At the Globe, a prize winning play

Written by young Annie Hathaway,

How the dragon rescued the beautiful maid

From forced marriage, kept her safe in his cave.

At Tate Modern, in the great turbine hall

Meeting the Dragon installation art for all.

From City Hall’s glass walls George looked out

As he left the building, descending round about.

Saw the shining city, Thames at low tide,

Alone by the river his heart filled with pride.

Beneath Tower Bridge saw a fiery glow,

Strange shape moving down below

On the river bank, heard a sighing,

Amazed, George saw a dragon lying.

No one in sight, down the narrow steps he trod,

Heart pounding, saw the giant head nod

In greeting, snorted flames and then it spoke

I have come to visit the wingless folk,

Whom do I have the honour to address?

His father had told him politeness will impress.

On hearing George’s name the dragon trembled,

But no fierce knight did this puny being resemble.

Misunderstandings soon swept away,

George and Dragon talked, soon it would be day.

Many thoughts tumbled inside George’s head,

The magnificent dragon must be sheltered and fed.

As dawn came at Tate Modern, the young artist paced,

His new creation could not fill this vast space.

Suddenly a long shadow fell upon the hall,

He heard the Mayor’s voice urgently call.

Turning he gazed up and up with awe,

Was the most wondrous creature he ever saw;

Though he trembled with fright he just had to gaze

As rainbow scales shone in the Sun’s first rays.

Together they planned how to care for their guest,

Vegetarian food was what he liked best;

That’s lucky quipped the artist, for my art installation

Is made entirely of fruit and vegetation.

As people swarmed to the South Bank that day,

From the Wheel to Tower Bridge, all the way;

Musicians, magicians, jugglers, living statues,

At the Festival Hall free concerts to choose.

On T.V. the Mayor promised finale at Tate Modern,

Broadcast to the nation, Londoners surged in.

Crowds made the Dragon nervous but he bravely stood his ground,

The Mayor stood beside him and spoke to all around.

‘Today London welcomes a visitor unique,

no city ever will enjoy such a week;

but first pray silence from everyone I ask

for I must perform a very solemn task.

On behalf of all England, new bonds let us forge,

Pray forgive us for your uncle’s slaying by the wicked knight Saint George.’

The Dragon’s voice enchanted all, with his speech urbane and witty,

The Mayor of London thanked him with the freedom of the city.

Each morning Londoners thrilled at the sight

Of the Dragon soaring gracefully in flight.

But not just for fun, he was on a mission

Reporting to George on the City’s condition.

Spotted Battersea power station derelict and sad

Had an idea to make George glad.

No fossil fuel needed at a dragon power station,

At Battersea restored, his flames could heat the nation.

At City Hall George held his press morning,

TV and papers full of dire warnings.

The Mayor refuted the wicked claims

That the Dragon’s father had issued the flames

That started the Great Fire of London.

‘I trust completely this fine dragon,

he wants to help us of his own free will

and his carbon footprint will be nill.’

Elections for Mayor of London take place on 6th May; as one of the candidates is Lord Binface, a self-proclaimed interplanetary space warrior, who has challenged both Boris Johnson and Theresa May in general elections, George Saint probably stands a good chance.

London mayoral race 2021: The candidates standing in this year’s election – BBC Newshttps://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-london-55748037

The House of Windsor

We never lived in Windsor, but the town, in the Royal County of Berkshire, was one of our favourite days out when we lived by Heathrow Airport. As the American tourist said ‘Why did they build a royal castle so close to the airport?’ – old joke. Along with many tourists and local families we enjoyed all it has to offer. ‘Long Walks in the Great Park’ – From the Castle gate to the foot of the statue of King George III (The Copper Horse) The Long Walk measures 2.64 miles in length. But the Windsor Great Park extends far beyond what you can see from the castle.

Walking at Windsor Great Park | Windsor Great Parkhttps://www.windsorgreatpark.co.uk/en/activities/walking

Windsor also has a theatre, a swimming pool, good shopping and the River Thames. A foot bridge takes you over the river to Eton where the famous school is spread out as part of the little town. You can also take a peaceful walk along the riverside very different from the bustle on the Windsor side.

You can go by train from Waterloo and arrive at Windsor and Eton Riverside station, or take the little line built for Queen Victoria, a one stop ride from Slough station  ( direct line from Paddington ) which takes you into the heart of the designer shopping centre and exits opposite the castle.

Tourists the weekend after the wedding of Harry and Megan!

Windsor Castle | Windsor Castle Tours and Tickets

Before the terrible castle fire in 1992 more of the castle grounds were free to the public to wander. We used to take our young children for a walk and show Australian visitors around. Under the archway, past the chapel, stroll up the hill. Our two year old once dashed into the guard room and was chased out by the guards. One side of the castle faces the town, but walk downhill to the river and the castle is high above you on a steep bank. When our daughter was a toddler she nearly gave a Japanese tourist a heart attack; he gasped in horror as she raced towards the turreted wall on the steep side of the grounds. She didn’t topple over, it was a safe height. Another time we peered through a gate and saw Princess Diana bring her two little boys out to watch the soldiers parading.

When we moved away from Heathrow we still visited Windsor on mini breaks to see our friends, usually staying at The Windsor Trooper, a great little old pub with bed and breakfast; bedrooms slightly crooked with sloping floors. 

‘In 1917, the name of the royal house was changed from the German Saxe-Coburg and Gotha to the English Windsor because of anti-German sentiment in the United Kingdom during World War I. There have been four British monarchs of the House of Windsor since then: George V, Edward VIII, George VI, and Elizabeth II.’

Windsor Castle made the perfect setting for the Duke of Edinburgh’s funeral, especially for the many of us who know Windsor well. The Duke apparently did not want a fuss and got his wish as the long miles of procession and crowd lined streets had to be scaled down to a ceremony within the castle precincts; a dignified walk down the hill with socially distanced military bands lined up with precision on the immaculate green.

The Band of the Grenadier Guards led the funeral procession and family members followed, Princess Anne in a long black coat and the men in morning suits. Following a coffin on foot seems dignified and respectful and it’s always good to see men smartly dressed. The Queen followed in her limousine.

I get nervous when I see The Queen walking unsteadily by herself, especially that day as she stepped out of her car and I wondered why she could not have formed a new bubble. Any other very elderly lady with strapping sons and grandsons would surely have been offered a strong arm to lean on. The Duke was her bubble, but she still has HMS Bubble, the loyal staff who have been on duty three weeks on three weeks off at the castle looking after the royal couple. Dog lovers will be glad to hear that The Queen, despite deciding a while ago not to breed or acquire any more dogs, has done what lots of people have in covid lockdown and acquired two puppies, a corgi and a dorgie, which she enjoys walking.

Inside the chapel were the regulation thirty guests and the emptiness perhaps enhanced the beautiful singing of the choir of four and the playing of the trumpeters. The royal family stuck by all the current funeral rules; we cannot compare their splendidly choregraphed event with bleak funerals at the local crem., livestreamed from one camera, but like other grieving widows The Queen sat by herself. After the service the family all strolled up the hill in the sunshine, ignoring the unnecessary fleet of cars lined up for them, though of course The Queen returned in her limousine. I like to think that once back in the royal apartments they all ripped off their masks and didn’t bother with social distancing!

Whether you watched the funeral avidly live on television and followed the highlights in the news later, or avoided all mention of it, there was more to the Duke of Edinburgh than most of us realised. The blanket comprehensive coverage of his life revealed a refugee from a broken home who saw real active service in the second world war. A life that did become privileged, but how many of us would want their whole life mapped out? Unlike lots of rich people he used his position to make a difference. He highlighted the plight of wildlife long before others were interested and created the Duke of Edinburgh Award to give ordinary teenagers the chance to take on all sorts of challenges. Those from a variety of countries who have spoken about meeting The Duke and how the award changed their lives will remember him and not the many politicians and world leaders who come and go.

Did you watch the funeral? Have you visited Windsor? Have you met any of the royal family?

Good Friday Flash Fiction – In Jerusalem Tonight

                      

…and welcome back to In Jerusalem Tonight. We are talking to the youngest brother of a man arrested just hours ago by the authorities. He claims his older brother is completely innocent, but what about his political involvement?

No, he is interested in people not politics; that is why the crowds are drawn to him.

But what is he really like, do the public see the real man?

Yes and no. We’re just an ordinary family and I guess you’d say my brother is a chip off the old block. A real carpenter; like our father he has a feel for the wood, for the rest of us it’s just a labour. He is most like our father; strange that some gossips still say our mother tricked him into marriage, when she was carrying another man’s child. Maybe it’s because he is the eldest, but he does have the same wisdom and compassion our father had; qualities that not many people possess.

You paint a picture of a warm, loving family, why do you think your brother never married?

That’s a personal question only he could answer, but I think he knew he was never going to stay in the village. Travelling around, leaving a wife and family behind, he knew that would be wrong.

But he gets on well with women.

Yes he knows how to talk to them, as if they were equals, they appreciate that.

And yet in some ways he’s a loner.

I wouldn’t say that; he is a thinker, very deep. Most of us couldn’t take the solitary life, but he has the inner strength.

Would you describe him as highly intelligent?

Oh yes, it has always been a joke in our family that he held forth on theological matters when he was a child. But he never forgot how to talk to ordinary people. He was the perfect big brother; playing with us, making toys and of course he worships our mother.

So surely this is a man who will be able to talk his way out of this current little difficulty.

Yes, I’m sure he will see this is not the time to be humble.

Demolition and Development

In 1955 Queen Elizabeth officially opened new buildings in the centre of what was then London Airport; the Europa Terminal ( which later became Terminal 2 ) and The Queen’s Building with its offices and roof gardens. In 2009 they were demolished to make way for a new Terminal 2. The Queen has outlived her own historic buildings. In the meantime, in the nearby historic Harmondsworth Village mentioned in the Doomsday Book, The Great Barn built in 1426 still stands.

The Queen opens London Airport terminal, 1955 – BBC Archivehttps://www.bbc.co.uk/archive/queen-opens-london-airport-terminal/zdvd92p

‘Built by Winchester College as part of its manor farm at Harmondsworth, the oak-framed barn is an outstanding example of medieval carpentry and contains one of the most intact interiors of its era. At nearly 60 metres long, 12 metres wide and 11 metres tall, with 13 massive oak trusses holding up the roof, both its size and aisles evoke the space and shape of a cathedral.‘ It is now under the care of English Heritage; when we lived nearby it was on private land and only open to the public occasionally, but one visit was enough to stand inside and be awestruck. It was heart breaking to hear that Harmondsworth Village could be demolished to make way for a third runway. There was ridiculous talk of moving the barn and in 2015 our future Prime Minister famously said, as MP for the Uxbridge constituency near the airport, that he would “lie down with you in front of those bulldozers and stop the building, stop the construction of that third runway”.

Harmondsworth Barn | English Heritage (english-heritage.org.uk)https://www.english-heritage.org.uk/visit/places/harmondsworth-barn/

The barn is still there and there is no third runway yet, but Heathrow Village must be the most changed and continually changing patch of grade A agricultural land in Britain; perhaps not in the whole world, Dubai and China might compete for that honour. There will still be people who remember a few tents being put up by the Bath Road in the 1940s; many years ago an old lady told me they looked across the road from their house and thought those few tents would not make much difference to them…

When our family emigrated to Australia in 1964 we left on a chartered migrant flight from London Airport on a Saturday afternoon. We walked across the tarmac to the steps of the plane and waved to our relatives standing on a balcony; just as well we could wave as we had arrived late at the airport ( that’s another story ) and had no time to chat to them. So there was no time for pictures, or perhaps Dad had no camera till he bought one in duty free during the trip.

Pictures from my father’s album.

In the late 70s, early 80s you could still go up on the Queen’s Building roof gardens; there was a playground for the children and it was a playground for plane enthusiasts who sat with their sandwiches and radios listening in to the control tower and incoming aircraft. But Heathrow has always been a continual building site, constantly adding bits on or demolishing. I occasionally worked in the old Terminal 2 and as you went through and down into the staff airside area, the ceilings seemed to get lower and lower, a security chap told me they felt like pit ponies… so perhaps this building was ready for demolition.

While I was working at Terminal Three it was being modernised, yet again. In Singapore business lounge our passengers went out on the last flight of the night and when we locked up and walked through the main departure lounge it was totally deserted, very different from what the passengers experienced. As we went out through the staff exit the builders would be coming in, nearly decapitating us as they wielded planks and all sorts of equipment.

One day going into work I got off the bus as usual, down to the subway and moving walkways, up into Terminal 3 Arrivals, turned left to step on to the up escalator that was there the day before and nearly fell over, it had disappeared. Another night our late flight was delayed and I was the only one heading for a particular staff exit… but when I got there it wasn’t there, it wasn’t just closed, there was no sign that it had ever been there in the first place. A story idea for sure, I was suddenly trapped in the no man’s land of Airside, would I ever see my home again? Luckily I saw a security bloke and said ‘I know you won’t believe this, but I can’t seem to find the staff exit.’ Luckily I wasn’t going mad, he directed me to the new exit.

One of my colleagues told me that he had a job in the ‘Irish Pub’ in the departures lounge. He went on holiday back to the Philippines for three months, returned, put on his uniform for work, went in and couldn’t find ‘the pub’ – restaurants and bars had five year leases and were always disappearing to be replaced by something completely different.

We moved away in 2004 and only a few years later we went to meet someone at Heathrow and parked in the Terminal 3 multi-storey car park. I had this feeling I could not get my bearings. Absolutely nothing looked how I remembered. It turned out the original car park had been demolished and a new one built further back, creating a pleasant plaza effect. If you ever want to know how to find your way round Heathrow, don’t ask me!

Have you had a Heathrow experience, good or bad?

My short story ‘Fog’ in my Dark and Milk collection was inspired by the third runway controversy and a few thoughts on what might have been…

My novel Quarter Acre Block is inspired by our family’s experience of being Ten Pound Pommies.

Beautiful Bird

Concorde was like a beautiful bird when she took off… and noisy, but that was part of the thrill. If there had been frequent flights taking off I’m sure the novelty would have worn off and there would have been plenty of complaints about the noise. Teachers in local schools automatically stopped talking at 11am when the morning flight left for New York. Once, I was taking the children to the police Christmas party being held at the BAA club on the airport side of the Bath Road. As we got off the bus Concorde landed on the northern runway and my youngest burst into tears. That close the noise made your breast bone vibrate.

Our last home at Heathrow was the nearest to Heathrow and on the edge of Harlington Village with fields and skylarks on the other side of the hedge. Our daughter had the end bedroom and her wardrobe vibrated when Concorde took off. On winter evenings at 7pm I would abandon the cooking and dash outside to see her afterburners, bright in the night sky.

Concorde was the future.

A Puffin children’s book!

Air France Flight 4590 was an international charter flight, from Charles de Gaulle Airport, Paris to John F. Kennedy International Airport, New York, flown by an Aérospatiale-BAC Concorde. On the afternoon of Tuesday, 25 July 2000 at 16:44:31 local time, the aircraft ran over debris on the runway during take off, blowing a tyre, and sending debris flying into the underside of the left wing, and into the landing gear bay.  A terrible omen perhaps that the 21st century was not going to be what we hoped for.

Following the accident, all Concordes were grounded for almost a year with the introduction of new safety improvements such as Kevlar-lined fuel tanks and better electrical controls. But spiralling maintenance costs for the 30-year-old aircraft, led to British Airways and Air France’s joint announcement on 10 April 2003 that the planes would be retired that year.

The last French plane touched down in Toulouse on 27 June, while BA’s fleet left service on 24 October, with three aircraft landing in sequence at London Heathrow.

Concorde was about to become history and we remembered the proud and happy times.  My younger son says there was a lot of pride in having your windows rattling and everything falling off the shelves when Concorde took off.

Cyberspouse spent his entire thirty years with the Metropolitan Police at Heathrow Airport. One time when he was on the Airside Traffic Unit they visited Concorde in her hangar and he asked the pilot if he could take  pictures of the cockpit. He was invited to take a seat.

In 1996 Heathrow Airport celebrated its fiftieth anniversary with a flypast that included Concorde. The planes had to take off from Stansted Airport and children from local schools were invited to have a ride on Concorde to Stansted, but home by coach, they were not allowed to stay on board for the flypast. One child from each year at each school was chosen and our older son got the lucky ticket. Parents were told they were not going supersonic, but they did. These are his impressions of the flight.

I remember it being a lot smaller on the inside than you would think. The windows were tiny. And when it takes off, it goes really steep and then they cut the afterburners and it feels like your belly drops about 100 ft. Apart from that it was very smooth and pleasant. Going supersonic was not like anything really, it was just a number going up. The only jumpy bit was the take-off.

One time Cyberspouse and I decided to cycle to Windsor and we were just cycling through Colnbrook Village when Concorde took off right over our heads – that was the closest I ever got.

In Concorde’s last years I was working in a British Airways Business lounge with a perfect picture window view of the southern runway and the highlight of the morning was of course the 11am take off. Raymond the cleaner, our resident grumpy old chap, loved Concorde, said she was his baby and the only time he came to life was at 11am. As soon as he heard her he would race across the lounge to the window, sending passengers flying… But we never tired of seeing her take off.

Heathrow Airport 50th Anniversary Flypast 1996 (Full programme) – Pt 4 of 5 – YouTube

On The Radio

What can any blogger write that doesn’t involve mentioning Covid, Brexit, The White House or the fact that a new year has started? Let us retreat to where most of us are at the moment, home. Home comforts, or what I now call Covid Comforts are keeping us going. If you are reading this it is unlikely you are in a refugee camp, an intensive care unit or a war zone; for that we should be grateful. If you look around your home I wonder how many modern wonders provide your life support system? The internet obviously, books, television, central heating, on line shopping, computer games. Before any of those was The Word, okay so radio came quite a while after the beginning of the Old Testament, but the first modern invention in my life was the radio, long before I could read, even before I could walk or talk music was seeping into my bones thanks to the BBC. Before I was born my parents were listening to programmes that are still being broadcast; The Archers, Desert Island Discs and Woman’s Hour.

Woman’s Hour has just had its seventy fifth birthday and received a letter from The Queen. When Dame Jenni Murray ( a national institution ) announced she was leaving after thirty three years, followed soon after by a similar announcement by Jane Garvey, who has been with the programme for thirteen years, my immediate thoughts were You can’t do this, not in the middle of a pandemic and my mother and husband have just died… As I have been listening at least since our first baby was born forty one years ago, there have been other favourite presenters, the programme will survive.  The modern mother can listen on her iPhone while breastfeeding in the dark watches of the night. Many men also listen and people of all ages can hear the programme in the car or when out jogging. Very different from the early days when it was broadcast at 2pm and mothers were presumed to be sitting down for a rest after lunch while their babies were having their nap. There is fun, but there are dark topics. I imagine there is no controversial issue that has not been covered on the programme, Woman’s Hour is where we first heard about FMG. The final quarter of the hour is a serial, there is always something for everyone.

Woman’s Hour: The Queen sends ‘best wishes’ to show on its 75th year – BBC Newshttps://www.bbc.co.uk/news/entertainment-arts-55527576

In that 2020 strange sunny spring and summer of isolation, Cyberspouse listened to Woman’s Hour every morning over our leisurely breakfasts in the sun lounge. BBC Radio Four in the mornings is packed with interesting programmes and three different serials. Thanks to Amazon I bought two more digital radios to add to our collection.

There is much more to say about radio; such as why are we fascinated by the shipping forecast… but that’s for another blog. For now here is something cheery, one of my early memories that I just heard on the radio. Light music is what we all need at the moment and there have been memorable tunes composed on both sides of the Atlantic. This is one for writers by Leroy Anderson, though I don’t think he could have written a piece about computers…

The Typewriter Leroy Anderson Martin Breinschmid with Strauß Festival Orchestra Vienna – YouTubehttps://www.youtube.com/watch?reload=9&v=g2LJ1i7222c

What are your Covid Comforts? Do you have favourite radio presenters and programmes?

Pipe Dreams

Today I welcome another guest blog by my sister in Australia. When our family first emigrated to Perth in 1964, going up in the hills to see Mundaring Weir overflowing was a regular outing…

Pipe Dreams by Kate Doswell

As a child, I was both fascinated and saddened by the story of Charles Yelverton O’Connor – always referred to as C. Y. O’Connor. As Western Australia’s Chief engineer at the turn of the last century, he was responsible, amongst other things, for the design and construction of Fremantle Harbour, WA’s main shipping port and – more famously – for the Kalgoorlie pipeline.

Kalgoorlie was the scene of WA’s massive gold rush and by the early 1900s was a busy town; the engine for much of the wealth and development of the fledgling state. The drawback was that it was in an arid area 560 isolating and harsh kilometres from the capital city of Perth. Supplies of water were a major stumbling block to further development and an answer needed to be found.

C. Y. O’Connor had the audacious idea to build a pipeline to take water from Perth to Kalgoorlie, a feat never attempted before over such a large distance. It would involve construction of a large dam at Mundaring, in the hills above the swan coastal plain. The project would require pumping stations at Mundaring and along the route, and steel pipes big enough to carry sufficient water.

It is ultimately a story of triumph – a brilliant idea, carefully planned and skilfully executed, a triumph made even more incredible considering its achievement by a small, isolated European settlement transplanted into an ancient country only 70 years before. But it is also a sad story. C. Y. O’Connor never lived to see its success; he committed suicide. The story I heard as a child was that the tap was turned on at Mundaring, but due to a miscalculation the water took longer than expected to reach Kalgoorlie. C.Y. O’Connor thought he had failed. He rode his favourite horse out into the surf at a Perth beach and drowned himself. The timing wasn’t quite that poignant, but the fact remains that he was driven to a state of despair by the critical and unrelenting attack mounted against him by the foremost (and possibly only) newspaper of the day, The West Australian (still the only state based newspaper in WA). His other major critic and tormentor was the Premier of the state, John Forrest, though he was happy to share in the credit once it was a success.

I recently visited the weir for the first time in many years, and it was an occasion for reflection on its place in our history. Completed in 1903, it was the longest freshwater pipeline in the world at the time, the first to use steel pipes and fed by the highest dam in the Southern hemisphere. In 2009 it was recognised as an International Historic Civil Engineering Landmark by the American Society of Civil Engineers, only the 3rd in Australia and 47th in the world to be awarded, alongside the Panama Canal and the Golden Gate Bridge.

On a more personal level, I remember as a child we visited the weir often, as a family and as part of a youth group with a campsite nearby. I always found it interesting and it has a beautiful setting, surrounded by hills and jarrah forest. As a teenager, my family moved to a wheatbelt town, and the water we drank came from the pipe. The pipe ran under our front garden, though I hasten to add we didn’t have a tap connected directly, since the size of the pipe means it stands as tall as a person when it runs above the ground.

 Not only had the pipe delivered water to the miners, it had also allowed the opening up of agricultural towns along the route. It is a constant feature running beside the roads, dipping underground to go through towns, then re-emerging on the other side. It is a guide; I can remember doing a walk-a-thon to raise money, and the route was simple. Just follow the pipeline, you can’t get lost! You can even walk on it if you feel adventurous and have good balance.

My recent visit also gave me pause for thought about our current environmental crises. Perth has traditionally relied to a large part on water from our various dams, but with climate change our rainfall has fallen considerably in the past 20 years. The last time the weir overflowed was in 1996, and visiting some years later it was sad and worrying to see the sloping gravel sides of the dam exposed by the falling water levels, a raw wound running around the circumference of the dam. It was a relief to see a much higher level last week, the water lapping the edge of the forest, but I was disillusioned to discover the pipe that pumped water into the dam from our desalination plant. I reasoned that it was necessary, as the weir still supplies Kalgoorlie and the towns on the way, but to me it was a tangible reminder that we in Australia were failing to take seriously the dangers of climate change. On the driest continent on earth, predicted to suffer most from a warming and drying climate, our politicians and right winged newspapers are happy to sabotage any efforts to address this urgent issue, preferring instead to criticise and lampoon scientists and concerned citizens, and to wilfully ignore the changes we see around us.

As I walked away from the weir lookout it occurred to me; things had not changed much since C.Y. O’Connor’s day.

My novel was inspired by our experiences when our parents emigrated with three children in 1964.

Advent Calendar – Wednesday Twenty Third of December

Today’s window peeps into one of the most famous Christmas stories. A Christmas Carol, is a novella by Charles Dickens, first published in 1843. It recounts the story of Ebenezer Scrooge, an elderly miser who is visited by the ghost of his former business partner Jacob Marley and the Spirits of Christmas Past, Present and Yet to Come. After their visits, Scrooge is transformed into a kinder, gentler man.

The story has been filmed or inspired films many times and as you are probably busy getting ready for Christmas, why not watch this five minute Lego version?

A LEGO Christmas Carol (In 5 Minutes) – YouTubehttps://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QWnMapyZi-k