Saturday, 16 December 2006

Sunburnt Country

Despite the huge campaign urging Aussies to "slip on a shirt, slap on a hat and slop on the sunscreen", nobody's doing it. In the city, men are sweltering in dark suits and ties, but no hats. In the suburbs, young women are wearing pretty, sleeveless sundresses, perhaps with sunscreen, but again no hats. It's the schoolchildren who are paying attention, or more likely being required to. Younger ones of both sexes wear broadbrimmed cotton hats in yellow, green or navy; high school girls wear flattering panamas with a band bearing their school crest; high school boys wear.....haven't noticed what boys wear yet. All of them wear school uniform of course - none of that freedom to wear jeans and skimpy tops, just like all of the other kids, that so characterizes Canadian schoolgoers.

Wednesday, 6 December 2006


Agapanthus is the universal choice of plant for roadside, boulevard or driveway edging. Or any other place that the Australian homeowner wants to decorate with easy-care vegetation. The leaves are strong, structural and evergreen. When the flowers bloom as they are doing now, their huge heads float gracefully above the foliage like explosions of blue or white fireworks. They grow so well here, standing twice as tall as their feeble relatives in Vancouver gardens, that it’s no wonder they are so popular. I saw an ad in the local newspaper offering divisions for $1 a plant, cheaper for a bulk purchase. Hard to resist!

When I went out to photograph a swath of them around the corner from my sister’s house in the leafy northern suburb of Turramurra, I noticed this dramatic spider strung between two sturdy stems. Rising from deep memory comes the name of golden orb spider, although it’s so hazy a recollection that it may be partly, or even entirely, wrong. (February 17, 2007. I am wrong: it's called a St. Andrews Cross spider. This is a female. The males are much smaller and hang around on the edges of the web, waiting for a chance to mate. Sometimes the female will atttack a male who then drops to the ground, sometimes shedding a leg to create a distraction.)