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    winston @winston

    @pedant  Those pics are great and I will google the place later to learn more. Thanks for posting them.

    As for the ospreys, it looks like spring has sprung. As for the tee shirts, I wore one in the 70s and my brother had a poster. Sooooo tacky it makes me blush.


    Paging @mudlark, paging…

    Any idea what this is (in woodland)?

    Not sure...will check

    Mudlark @mudlark


    Judging by the photo I’m pretty certain that it’s Ground Ivy (glechoma hederacea) which is fairly common in woodland and shady places and flowers April-June (no relation of hedera helix, obviously)


    @mudlark (and not madlark, as I just accidentally typed and nearly didn’t spot!)

    Many thanks. Have had an alternative id of dog violet, but I think the sheen on the leaves supports your conclusion.


    Mudlark @mudlark


    The way I’ve been feeling lately, Madlark wouldn’t be entirely inappropriate.

    It’s definitely not Dog Violet, although that was my first thought until I took a closer look.  Ground Ivy was the next thing that came to mind, evoking memories of my rural childhood, but considering how long it is since I last saw the latter I did check in Keble Martin’s British Flora to make sure. The leaves of the two species are superficially similar but there are considerable differences in the form of the stems and the manner of growth and the flowers are also different except in colour; dog violets don’t have that lobed lower petal, and the form of the calyx also differs.



    Many thanks! And here’s another(growing beneath a blackthorn hedge that backed onto a garden). A friend suggests lesser periwinkle.

    Another id mystery - possibly a garden escape

    Mudlark @mudlark


    Periwinkle certainly, but without a measure of scale it’s difficult to be certain whether greater (vinca major) or lesser (vinca minor).  Judging by the shape of the leaves alone I suspect that it is probably vinca major. The leaves of vinca minor are narrower and more lanceolate and the plant as a whole, needless to say, is smaller. One tell-tale difference, according to Keble Martin, is that in vinca minor the lobes of the calyx are glabrous and in vinca major they are ciliate. The location under a hedge is fairly typical of either, whether planted as a cultivar or in the wild as a garden escape.

    winston @winston

    Happy Earth Day to everyone! I hope you all got a chance to get outside and enjoy the little piece of earth that is yours. My little corner is filled with song birds and ducks and turtles and even a local beaver (we call him Justin) living in our creek. The earth is truly a marvelous place to be. We showed her our love by picking up a big bag of garbage from our creek. @pedant  I checked out a few local nesting platforms and spotted 4 pair of osprey taking advantage of them. It was good to see them back. @mudlark  I have crocus aplenty in bloom all over my garden , I am so thirsty for colour and they are trying their best to satisfy it. Spring has come to Ontario.

    Mudlark @mudlark


    Scrub my tentative identification above; it’s evident that my visual memory is becoming less reliable. Yesterday, working in the garden, I came across some Greater Periwinkle lurking at the back of the shrubbery – it rarely flowers, which is why I tend to overlook it. With that as a more immediate basis for comparison I can confidently confirm that your friend is correct; your photo is of Lesser Periwinkle (vinca minor).


    Crocuses are always a welcome harbinger of spring and it is good to know that it has finally arrived in your corner of the world. By all accounts you have had a particularly brutal winter. And how lovely to have your own local beaver! Beavers have recently been reintroduced to Britain in a few selected places, seemingly with beneficial result to some local ecosystems although not everyone thinks it is a good idea. At least they were once indigenous to this island, which cannot be said of coypus which were at one time farmed here for their fur, escaped, established themselves in this area and became a pest. In the 1960s when we lived next to a river our cat, a Siamese, once caught a young one*, and very proud of herself she was too; doing her best to re-establish the local ecological balance.

    Here the crocuses blooms are long past and I am currently engaged in clearing the shaggy foliage which is now beginning to die back, so as to give the emerging herbaceous plants some space and air . It’s weird to think that we here in East Anglia are further north in latitude than you are, but then that’s the effect of the Gulf Stream and a maritime climate. Over the Easter holiday we have been enjoying unseasonably summery weather, with blazing sunshine and temperatures in the 20s C, though here, near the North Sea coast it is cooler than inland. Lovely, except when you reflect that it probably another indicator of climate change.

    As regards tadpole watch, my pessimism was unfounded. There are squillions of them, and the surface of the pond is now in constant bubbling motion as a result. Only a small fraction of them will reach maturity as froglets, alas. I doubt if there are any dragonfly or damsel fly larvae to predate them this year, but they do tend to develop cannibalistic tendencies as they get bigger.

    * I was not at home at the time but by all accounts it was as big as herself. An adult would have been quite beyond even her predatory capacity, of course.

    janetteB @janetteb

    @mudlark I had never heard of a Coypus before so looked them up. They remind me of an Australian native the Poteroo, a Kangaroo-rat only the later are far cuter. They had one in the petting area of the Zoo and the R.2, when he was young and cute himself, bonded to it. I suspect they would make good pets.

    Your post reminds me of spring in Sweden. As soon as the snow melted the ground was bursting with shoots and by Easter there were crocuses (which are rarely seen here), flowing amidst a dusting of late snow. I am also more than a little envious. Your garden sounds so green and alive. Mine is turning into a dust bowl. We went for a drive yesterday up “The Valley” and the paddocks now are also turning into dust bowls. The earth is brown and parched and there is no sign of relief. We have not had rain for months now. I fear it is taking a toll of our struggling wildlife too.




    syzygy @thane16

    @janetteb @mudlark @winston

    Did someone mention “vinca”  ??

    Part of my gardening work (motive: helps with pain relief; as the garden sits VERY close to the footpath & we have a large tuckeroo,  judiciously taken care of, – but presenting a tendency to naughtiness: it doesn’t like to share the water) was to double dig & work on my soils For those who didn’t know this, Mudlark Manor demonstrated all sorts of gardening tips & horticultural ideas which I’ve implemented. They’ve had a tremendous impact on my little cottage garden. Many drinks from the multiverse of The OA (cue @pedant who administered this fantastic series into our lives) are owed to Mudlark.

    One of the plants I purchased in early March were vincas. I hadn’t seen them before but assumed this was all ‘new’ stock at Bunnings. For those who don’t know this gardening/outdoor/hardware store, Bunnings bought up many traditional hardware shops, whilst others continued on, sadly, for many years & eventually had to close as the competition was impossible to beat: “Bunnings has it all. Don’t go anywhere else.”

    Even small nurseries, passed down from great-grandads, toppled. So.….at Bunnings you’ve people who know little about horticulture, potting mixes, alkalinity etc. For any decent knowledge I pulled out my late father’s gardening books &, as one often does,  consulted Mudlark.

    I had several vinca punnets (with 6 inch seedlings) planted under the tree & whilst other perennials flourished & end of stock annuals continued to flower, only 7 of the original  24  seedlings/individual plants survived.

    Naturally,  my first thought was “the dreaded possums” so I used  hefty doses of chilli powder near the sweeter plants these possum devils like to barricade whilst cheering along their buddies in shrill & rousing chorus of revolutionary songs about Jean Valjean. They are to be guillotined if the chilli powder has gotten around their defences (seriously though, I can’t even kill our fat, silver & green caterpillars which turn into lawn grubs & decimate an entire lawn in under eight weeks).

    Anywaaaay, none of the sweeter plants have shrivelled or escaped over mountains sound-of-music style. Just vincas. I’m getting obsessed with keeping the remaining ones alive. I just KNOW the happy, dog walkers who chirp: “oh, you have such a beautiful garden” whilst muttering on another day (when they think I can’t hear them) “yez, she has SO much time on her hands, huh, heh, heh heh.”  Others have long, fruitful discussions with me, saying “LOVE the lavender….erm, is it?” I say, patiently, “Nope, that would be rosemary” And later, “this, what is this here?”

    I sigh, “that would be soil, mate, just regular dirt.” *

    More sighing.

    So. How do we solve a problem like a vinca?


    syzygy @thane16

    @winston indeed the pix! @pedant is a brilliant photographer & if I’m miserable about not going further afield -beyond my fence, in other words -I look at the photographs. It’s real mastery of the craft.

    Thane & Puro

    janetteB @janetteb

    @thane16 I have grown Vincas, a long time ago. they did not flourish. The only plant that does flourish here, other than Bougainvillea, which other members of the family consider to be a weed, is Rosemary. My Rosemary supplies the culinary needs of the street however even my poor Rosemary shrubs are looking dry and sad at the moment.

    I share your frustration regarding photography. I don’t get many opportunities to flex my photographic muscles, (not well developed ones, it is very much a hobby) these days. We keep talking about going camping for a couple of days but have yet to get it organised. there always seems to be too many other commitments getting in the way.







    No, hang on. That would imply that I have shame…

    Mudlark @mudlark

    @thane16  @janetteb

    I have a strong suspicion that we are not talking about the same plant. The vinca minor in @pedant ‘s photo and the vinca major which lurks at the back of my shrubbery – aka lesser and greater periwinkle – are the common varieties in these parts, native to Europe and adjacent regions,  and they are low growing hardy, evergreen perennials with long trailing stems which readily put out roots themselves so that they spread over wide area and form excellent ground cover where ground cover is needed.  The flowers of the common varieties are bright blue, like those in pedant’s photo,  but there are cultivated variants with purple, pinkish and white flowers, and there are other varieties with variegated foliage. They prefer partial shade but flower best where they get some sun – which is probably why mine never flowered much, so that I felt no compunction in hacking them back when they threatened to strangle some of the adjacent plants, but in general they are tough as old boots and are no trouble to grow.

    Then there is vinca rosa aka Madagascan periwinkle – now restyled catharanthus rosea by the botanical experts.  This is a sub-tropical perennial with bushy growth and pink or pinkish-white flowers with a darker pink centre. Does that ring any bells? I gather that it is grown widely in Australia, either as a perennial or a bedding plant, but in our climate could only be grown as a summer bedding annual or a conservatory plant since it won’t survive temperatures below 5-7 C.  I don’t recall ever having come across it in garden centres here.

    If you are talking about our common periwinkle, puro, I’m at a loss to explain why it isn’t thriving unless conditions are too dry – but then you wouldn’t need to start with more than two or three plants in the first place because of the ease with which they spread. If I am right in thinking it is the Madagascan periwinkle you are talking about, then I’m not qualified to advise.

    I sympathise with you about the loss of local, independent plant nurseries and hardware stores. To some extent the same is true here, though perhaps not to the same extent. My local garden centre, about a mile from where I live, is owned by a regional chain, Nottcutt’s and is OK for general garden supplies but offers nothing out of the ordinary when it comes to plants. One excellent nursery about 25 miles from here was sold to a Dutch conglomerate a few years ago and is no longer worth travelling the distance to visit, but there are still several wonderful independent nurseries in the region, as well as other specialists further afield from which plants can be ordered on the internet.  Most of the local independent ironmongers/hardware stores have gone within the last 30 years, but there is one which still survives and flourishes in Norwich – Thorne’s, in which it is my delight to browse. I love hardware stores and this one is special – a crazy Aladdin’s cave labyrinth of rooms on multiple levels and half levels in what I suspect is essentially an early post-medieval building, or more probably two buildings knocked into one. They still sell screws, nails, nuts and bolts, washers etc. loose, out of drawers, and in all possible sizes, plus cleaning products available nowhere else and just about everything one might need in the electrical, plumbing, house decorating, furniture restoring, DIY and gardening line without going to a trade wholesaler.

    @janetteb  Coypus are not very cute and I doubt they would make as good pets as Pottoroos. They look rather like giant rats with bright orange teeth, and were at one time a real menace here in Norfolk where they bred prolifically and the population grew to around 200,000. They are semi aquatic, burrowing into and undermining river banks, trashing local drainage systems in the low-lying areas and ravaging sugar beet crops to which they seemed particularly partial.  The father of one of my brother’s school friends was an eminent naturalist who owned an area of fenland in the Norfolk Broads* (now owned and maintained by a wildlife trust).  They had a freezer full of coypu they had trapped and apparently the stew made from these was very tasty, though I’ll take my brother’s word for it. A campaign in the 1960s and 70s to eradicate the pest was successful and, as far as I know, there are no longer any in the region.

    *For the uninitiated, the Norfolk Broads are large areas of open water formed by flooded medieval peat diggings   and connected by a network of rivers in low lying fenland on the eastern side of the county near the coast. Not to be confused with the Fens which extend into Cambridgeshire and Lincolnshire on the west side of the county.  My father (in all innocence I think, although knowing him I’m not entirely sure) once shocked a visiting colleague from the USA by enquiring whether he had taken the opportunity while here to visit the Norfolk Broads (and if the point of that is not immediately apparent, I refer you to old style US slang).

    Mudlark @mudlark


    How do you solve a problem like a vinca? On the assumption that your problem plants are catharanthus roseus and you grow them as annual bedding plants I was sufficiently intrigued to look up the recommended growing conditions and possible problems. In its original habitat it grew on sandy and limestone soils in woodland, grassland and disturbed ground, so presumably it isn’t particularly fussy. In general it is heat and drought tolerant but, as I mentioned above, not frost tolerant.

    For best results it should be planted in well drained soil which is not too rich and fertile and the plants should be set about 35 cm apart. It needs full sun to flower well, although some shade is necessary during the day or it will tend to get a bit frazzled. Once established it needs only moderate watering, preferably round the roots and not from overhead, and it doesn’t need much fertilising – a once monthly feed with a balanced liquid fertiliser at most.

    Overwatering can leave it vulnerable to fungal disease, but the only pests mentioned were slugs and snails and I’m not sure if these are likely to be problems where you are (hereabouts they certainly are, and if the hedgehog and the frogs don’t deal with them I am ruthlessly molluscicidal).

    syzygy @thane16


    That was silly of me wasn’t it! “Oh yeah, terrific photos.”  So, Puro LOOK at it before commenting on the vinca!

    My response: “euw.”

    they look kinda weedy?  So, I’ve learned all about botany today & appreciate it mudlark. Thank you.  I’m attempting to grow more bougainvillea @janetteb & definitely, rosemary thrives in the dry doesn’t it?  But it does need some water.

    Our water bill is waaay higher than the local average 🙂


    syzygy @thane16

    @mudlark looking at what you recommended, and then checking the one local nursery still hanging on by its roots, we don’t appear to have it -or rather, they don’t. I’ll have another look around, though, thank you.

    Also, the small ‘violets’ -for want of a better description are easy to grow, even here, strangle everything if not snipped back (I use nail scissors) & flourish in our winters.

    I have plenty of that. I’m wondering if the violets are strangling the vincas (a pretty standard annual of a cheap variety & the original name has completely left me -I’ll meditate on that -failing this a link or photo should come your way but now I have clinic which means very bad TV with talking heads about our upcoming election. Blech).


    janetteB @janetteb

    @thane16  I feel for you. Being subjected to “talking heads” TV in reception rooms is torturous enough without the added horror of the upcoming election. We have been known to turn of screens when nobody else is looking, (Right now I am deploying a “head in the sand” tactic to the upcoming election. There are so many right wing horrors emerging that common sense seems to be thing of the past in politics. But that is me lifting my head from the sand for a moment. I would do better to go and water the Rosemary bushes, with toes and fingers crossed for rain and for a change for the better.



    Mudlark @mudlark

    @thane16  @janetteb

    TV in reception areas is a menace, but in the clinics and outpatients departments in the hospital here (as far as my experience goes – six different clinics and outpatient departments and counting) the TVs in reception and waiting areas are generally tuned to the BBC News channel and have the sound off and subtitles only, so that those who prefer to read or do crosswords or chat while waiting can do so in peace, and here the wait is usually not very long in any case. In the pharmacy waiting area they have a CCTV monitor showing the robots buzzing up and down the aisles extracting the drugs to order, which is quite entertaining for a while.

    Elections: a depressing topic these days. We have local elections coming up in a week’s time and then the European Parliamentary elections in which it wasn’t expected we would participate so that nobody has had much time to prepare.  Frog Face Farage with his newly minted Brexit Party has leapt in with enthusiasm and has a head start which is ominous. Norwich South is securely Remain territory and fairly securely Labour as far as the local elections go, with the Greens and Lib Dems as runners up and Tories nowhere, but it in the current political climate and faced with an array of mostly incompetent has-beens, wannabees and charlatans it is difficult not to feel pessimistic.

    Reverting to the subject of periwinkles

    they look kinda weedy?

    Depends what you mean by ‘weedy’. Etiolated and spindly? Only if growing in unsuitable conditions and deep shade. ‘Weed’ as in plant growing where it isn’t wanted? Possibly. Periwinkles (vinca major and minor) were introduced to Britain as garden plants but some have jumped the garden fences and hedges and are now occasionally to be found naturalised in the wild. If you mean straggly and unattractive, that comes down to what you find attractive in a garden plant. In the right place they can be very attractive, providing good ground cover and pretty flowers, and since blue is my favourite colour and a clear blue isn’t all that common in garden flowers I tend to like them. The only trouble with the one in my garden is that I didn’t plant it – it just appeared in an unsuitable place in deep shade,  so that it just straggles through the shrubs around it and rarely flowers.

    Violets do tend to be a bit thuggish, I agree. I have two varieties: the common dog violet (viola riviana), whose flowers tend to be so shy they are barely detectable, and which quickly get very unkempt and straggly, and viola labradorica, which is rather more attractive, with purplish leaves and rather more prominent flowers. Both seed themselves prolifically and I just dig them out where not wanted, otherwise leaving them to do their thing.

    winston @winston

    @mudlark and @thane16   We have periwinkles here and they are sold as ground cover and tend to grow in shady areas where nothing else wants to grow. I love the dark shiny leaf and the purple/blue colour. I don’t have them here because I am afraid they would get loose and invade the creek banks as a few other plants have done but the in-laws have some and I like it. @janetteb I had to look up coypus too and I knew them as nutria (sounds like a food supplement) and they are free in the southern USA because of fur farms. They look like a big muskrat which is an aquatic rodent we have in here. Now I get to look up Thanes tuckeroo and learn something new.I love that!

    Right now water is our  problem because it won’t stop raining and many areas around me are flooding. So far our creek has turned into a river and has broken its banks but we are on high ground so we are good for now. I really wish it would stop raining because many people have lost their homes or have had damage done to them. Climate change means once a century floods coming every 6 or 7 years.

    We have 2 good old Canadian canoes so we can just paddle away with the dog if we have too.

    winston @winston

    @thane16    A tuckeroo is a flowering tree!  They look like nice shade trees.

    janetteB @janetteb

    @winston I do wish you could send some of the rain down here. Last night we washed the car windows and laughed because the car is now so dusty that the clean windows looked like gaping holes in the dirt. We might have to stop relying on the rain to wash the car.

    @mudlark and @thane16  I love violets. They do tend to come up in unexpected places but our climate is so dry they have not as yet taken over. I have started gardening in the hope that it will rain soon.

    The rise of the far right worldwide is alarming. We were talking about this in our most recent podcast. One of the younger people was surprised when I said that the late 80s early 90 felt “safer” than today, given that the Cold War was still happening but the nuclear threat is no less present than it was then and overall the world today feels far less safe. It felt as though Human Rights were beginning to really come into play in International politics then, now I fear that all the progress of the last fifty or so years in that regard is under threat.

    We have fingers crossed down here btw that Brexit will be overturned yet.



    syzygy @thane16

    @mudlark yes, weedy, here. In my garden. 🙂  It’s like “muh-fashnik”

    I like weeds, actually -grassy weeds, though.

    I have a gardenia which, foolishly I added Dynamic Lifter to. The woman at the so-called nursery said “oh, ah” & it explains bright yellow spots a week later. I know it will die. I just know it. An arborist planted one next door assuring my neighbour with snotty-ness “it will LIVE.”

    It died.


    Craig @craig

    I guess this is some sort of Public Service Announcement. So it’s a bit dull, but I wanted to get it out there – for my own good, if not anyone else’s. I live near a well-known suicide spot and in the past two weeks I have talked two people out of killing themselves. Both had travelled for about an hour to get there – so they really made an effort and were serious.

    And you know what I do? I just go up to them and say hello, then take it from there. It turns out people really like having someone to talk to. I’m not trained, I don’t have a map to follow, I just talk to them.

    I guess my point is, if you have anyone you’re concerned about, pick up the phone and say hello. It does wonders.


    What @craig said. Absolutely, every time.

    Superb work fella.

    And on the hour’s travel: you only have to read a couple of well known suicide notes to see that the sufferer sees it as supremely rational. They are often very organised and meticulous in how they go about it.

    Suicide is almost never capricious.

    janetteB @janetteb

    @craig. That is about the most worthwhile thing it is possible to do. Well done. I imagine that it is also emotionally taxing for you too so take care of yourself.

    Talking is so important. I have always stressed the importance of talking about issues to my boys, whether to us, (parents), friends or just sympathetic strangers. Talking enables us to put problems into perspective. We worry most about our youngest, not for any specific reason but because he does not confide.



    Whisht @whisht

    @craig – you’ve helped individuals and their friends and families a huge amount.

    There was a time that a friend and I were due to have one of our ‘meet up for a few pints’ every 3 or 4 months. We’d done it for years.
    This time it drifted and I didn’t drop him a note.
    And yes, then it was too late. I don’t ‘blame’ myself but… but. Its easy to drop someone a note.

    Also (unrelated) I remember taking a call from someone I didn’t know (met for 5mins and was a friend of a friend) who decided I was exactly who he needed to talk to while having a very disturbing episode, as he believed that the book Good Omens was true and written about him.
    I didn’t know him, didn’t know the book and was wet (I’d got out of the bath to take the call), afraid and worried. Not sure which led to the shivering on the stairs the most.
    He jumped off the call mid-way through and I tried to alert the person I knew him through. Luckily he was ok.
    But I remember how much it affected me. I can still recall the feelings 27 years later.

    Take care of yourself and this may sound weird, but if you want to call the Samaritans – even just to say “this has happened – what should I say??” then I’m sure they’d understand both advice to give and the need for you to talk to someone.

    Mudlark @mudlark


    I just talk to them.

    And that, and above all listening, is the first and most important thing and what the Samaritans are trained to do – not to counsel or comment or advise, just to listen. Because in many cases it seems to be the lack of someone to talk to who will actually stop and listen to them which drives people to that desperate point.

    I have had two or three depressive episodes in my life; not to the point of being suicidal, but in one case enough to have me signed off work for several months, and what enabled me to navigate these is down to a school friend who listened when I was going through a bad patch at the age of 17/18. Not that family and teachers weren’t sympathetic and supportive, but they didn’t have the same empathic link or the time to listen. The friend in question wasn’t even one of my closest school friends, all of whom had left after taking GCE ‘O’ levels to go to the local ‘Tech’ to study science subjects (in which our school wasn’t particularly strong). Until Sixth Form I had scarcely known her except by sight and by name, because coming up the school she was in a parallel Form, but somehow she was there for me when needed and she listened to me, even though she must often have thought me a right pain in the arse.

    Immediately after our ‘A’ level year (Summer 1961) she went into hospital to have an open heart operation, at that time a new and risky procedure, and though I visited her at the time I lost touch afterwards. Since then I have often wished that I could track her down and tell her how grateful I am for all she did and meant to me; but I have tried, however clumsily and inadequately, to provide a listening ear when it seemed to be needed.

    winston @winston

    @craig   Your post really hits home as I lost a friend of 40 years to suicide a few months ago and it is devastating to those left behind. So many questions and so many ifs. While we thought he was fine, his world was crashing down on him.We would have listened and helped but he never talked to us, in fact he seemed to be a fairly happy person because that is what he wanted us to think. So if you are feeling helpless or sad or anxious talk to someone about it. People really do care about you and what you are feeling they just need to know. It is kind of you for caring.


    syzygy @thane16


    Absolutely. You did a wonderful thing. A necessary thing. I think @whisht‘s idea of speaking with the Samaritans yourself -if you feel you may need to – is top advice.

    Also, what @pedant said -it’s rarely capricious.

    It must have been difficult to do & you could’ve looked the other way. You turned towards them, Craig.

    Puro and Thane.

    syzygy @thane16
    syzygy @thane16

    @janetteb @blenkinsopthebrave @craig @pedant @missy @winston

    Paging anyone anywhere..

    mate of mine is taking a last minute contract at university for 1st years where the topic is, basically, modern Australia. She’s wondering if anyone can add ideas as to what concepts or items are icons for Australia (forgive my bad gramma but it’s “Australia Votes” so my focus is as split as the Greens and the ALP on climate change).

    Other than vegemite (not Australian anymore but still associated with it.

    Thanking you, Puro

    janetteB @janetteb

    I guess it depends on what time span “modern Australia” actually covers. I am just heading off to the polling booths but will have plenty of time to think so may be able to list some when I get back, in four hours time. Will be wearing a black arm band.



    syzygy @thane16


    Yes, what was meant was: as an exercise, what things “Australian” pop to mind?  You know, like vegemite (despite, yes, it aint Australian) but meat pies, pavlova, wattle tree, ANZAC biscuits..

    Black Arm band for Bob Hawke or Australia in general?

    blenkinsopthebrave @blenkinsopthebrave

    @thane16 and @janetteb

    Oh, crikey. Where to start?

    I started writing, but realized (a) it required a lot more thought, and (b) it is close to midnight where I am. So I will respond properly when…well, when we might know who  is the new government.

    But before I go to bed I do want to say that in my lifetime, three Prime Ministers changed Australia for the better: Whitlam, Hawke and Keating. What followed was part of the reason I am now living in Canada.


    syzygy @thane16

    @blenkinsopthebrave @janetteb

    Dear Mr Blenkinsop at the Blenkinsop manor. I love that phrase. Someone else used the phrase and mum really liked it. I haven’t been on the site in all year.  ANd I agree with what you’re daying. Mum used to say that if she had the lottery she would move to Canada or the US -but she changed from mentioning the US about 2 decades ago. Or more.

    We are also watching the election coverage. Pretty dismal stuff for a Saturday night.


    janetteB @janetteb

    @thane16 Today it was for Bob Hawke though I was at uni when he brought in HECS and felt utterly betrayed. Tomorrow I should be wearing it for Australia in general and for the future of my children.The first election I voted in was 1983. I was travelling and went into the embassy in Dublin to vote. (not a service available at embassies any more). That was the election Bob won. The next day, hitching through Ireland I was continually told that Australia had a new Prime Minister. That was a good day.

    I don’t watch election night coverage. Too depressing. Been watching GOT instead. I am not a fan, got put off by the first couple of seasons but follow the episode blogs and now enjoying these final episodes which are all story focused.

    After handing out “how to vote” cards all day I did not have much hope. so right now my opinion of Australians is at an all time low. Words that come to mind are, “stupid, ignorant, brain washed, and utterly undeserving of the suffrage which our ancestors fought for. So many people were walking in saying, “I don’t know who to vote for” and I wanted to say, “then don’t vote, for the sake of this country and those who care, don’t vote.” What really scares me though is the rise of the lunatic far right. There were so many crazy parties running and almost no sane ones. But if you actually ask people what they want, they mostly want fairer wages, protection for the environment, free health care and education while supporting the very people that will take that all away. There was a teacher handing out how to votes for the Liberals, talking about protecting public education. I just shook my head, rolled my eyes. The stupidity is beyond belief. Ugh.

    Sorry venting. Been a horrid day. Going to concentrate on GOT now. Take my mind of it.

    We will survive,



    blenkinsopthebrave @blenkinsopthebrave


    Well, that was depressing news to wake up to.

    Although, entirely predictable.

    Anyway, here are a few thoughts on what are essential to know about to get a handle on what is distinctively Australian. (In light of the election, the following tend to be oriented towards politics in the broadest sense.)

    Compulsory voting: the single most civilized thing about the Australian political system, in my opinion.

    The idea that no matter what the outcome of an election, Australians “abide by the umpire’s decision”: the single most civilized thing about Australian political culture.

    And now for the bad:

    The White Australia Policy: it may be gone, but it continues to hang, like the ghost of Hamlet’s father, over every aspect of Australian life. As far as I am concerned, it is impossible to understand what modern Australia is without understanding the role that policy has played in Australian history.

    Time for another coffee, to wash away the taste in my mouth in light of this morning’s election news.


    syzygy @thane16

    @blenkinsopthebrave @janetteb

    thank you for your responses regarding ‘icons.’

    Agreed: depressing to wake up to but entirely predictable. The notion that a LNP would support and invigorate teaching and education is nonsense, isn’t it? LNP politics argue for continued & increased funding for private education and with fringe parties I’m sure they’re all thinking “if we can just remove state schooling from government oversight and corporatize it, think of the surplus, think of what else we can do…..”

    I watched Shorten’s concession speech and it was ….odd. Not sure whether it was rambling drunkenness or channelling Whitlam: “my friends, my friends. now, now, my friends.”  Maybe he was looking for other phrases but his brain was “ghosting.”

    Sad fucking day, that’s for sure.


    janetteB @janetteb

    @thane16 and @blenkinsopthebrave

    Indeed. Afraid I am loosing faith in compulsory voting too. A vote becomes worthless if the voter is ill informed and has no clue who they are voting for or why. Sorry always feel bitter after elections, and feel for the younger generation who are having their futures stomped on by the clowns that run this country of Australeros, soon to ruled by king Clive, staunch upholder of all things, “white” with the notable exception of coal of course.

    Icon for Australia, a lump of coal. The trouble is that most of what was iconic is now gone or forgotten or soon will be, Medicare and the Great Barrier Reef for instance. Yes there are still some foods that are Australian including the Dim Sim, created in Melbourne, and chicken salt, created in Gawler of all places, but Australian culture is fast being washed away by U.S. cultural hegemony. Most young Australians know far more about U.S. history and culture than they do their own. Even language is being “americanised”. Young people refer to “gas stations”, rather than “servos”, “bangs” instead of “fringes”, “dudes’ instead of “blokes” or “mates”. “Tracky dacks” and “thongs” are still favourite items of attire however, much favoured by Liberal (and “king f****n Clive) voters I noted. (one would expect that to be the attire of Labor voters but not where I was anyway but then there was such a lack of the later that I guess it was hard to judge.)









    syzygy @thane16


    Compulsory voting: the single most civilized thing about the Australian political system, in my opinion.

    Agreed. @janetteb losing faith in this is easy, keeping the faith with it, is the harder struggle.


    syzygy @thane16

    @janetteb I like Waleed Aly’s response to compulsory voting, actually:

    In a compulsory election, it does not pay to energize your base to the exclusion of all other voters. Since elections cannot be determined by turnout, they are decided by swing voters and won in the center… That is one reason Australia’s version of the far right lacks anything like the power of its European or American counterparts. Australia has had some bad governments, but it hasn’t had any truly extreme ones and it isn’t nearly as vulnerable to demagogues.”[21]

    Puro & Thane  (we’re thinking of changing our name to Syzerggyzy….well, one of ’em “syz’ers.” )

    janetteB @janetteb

    @thane16 Interesting words. There seem to be more and more right wing nutters gaining traction in our system though they maybe did not do as well as I feared. The problem, and it is one with democracy in general, is that so many people have no clue as to whom they are voting for or why. They are now totally alienated from politics. There is so much apathy and indifference and ignorance. (I think Australians, having had life “easy” for so long are particulary prone to apathy.) Standing outside polling booths for ten hours (over two weeks) does not do much for one’s faith in the political system. Democracy depends upon the quality of information available. So it all comes back to media.. A theory of mine, is that those with power and vested interests did not want democracy, they gave in over the course of a century, kicking and screaming, but then realised how to manipulate the electorate to still win out in the and. Power never really lets go.

    (I am in a negative mood today. The usual post election blues. Tomorrow I will  watch Dr Who and in time my normal optimism will reassert itself. The fight goes on.)

    One positive note is the Greens have done so well in the Senate, thank goodness we have proportional representation, that is a massive plus, and Abbot the idiot lost his seat, another gain for common sense. Though I thought Bill Shorten a bit conservative, he was a safe choice for Labor leader. Wonder if Anthony Albanese will finally get a shot at the role. Tanya Pliberseck would also be an interesting choice, though after the mauling Julia Gillard received from media I would not blame her for keeping her hand down at the moment.





    blenkinsopthebrave @blenkinsopthebrave


    Hello syzygy! (it is always exciting to be at the birth of a new voice–time will tell whether the views of the new syzygy are different from those of the old Puro and Thane…)

    Where does the Waleed Aly quote come from?

    syzygy @thane16


    I thought it was from (cough wik…edia). Having scoured that & not finding the reference, I have the …other one saying “na na ni nar nar, you should always reference” (in that sing song voice & it’s only 8.30 am!).

    Shall I sing “We are one, & we are meeehney, the lah, la, la lah la lah li lah?”

    @janetteb me too -on Plibers, she’d be great but she needs more grunt. More personality. They’re all so scared to show personality that no-one votes for those who could do the most good.  Somewhat of a 12 year old’s view, but heck we’re writing a monologue for Piggy in Lord of the Flies and a D- was the drafting mark. Piggy’s only 12.

    How do people put their kid thru year 12, Janette? How do you DO it? I got a terrified (actually more sleepy) call saying “where’s my money, mum, Where’s the $3?”

    I had no idea how to answer that question. He then said “I’m coming home, I’ve missed the [expletive] bus.”

    Then 5 mins later, “I couldn’t hear my coins jangling in my pocket. On my way.”

    Great. One up for maturity!


    blenkinsopthebrave @blenkinsopthebrave


    Hi Syzygy,

    well, yes, it’s true, you should always reference (said not in a sing song voice, but a sententious disapproving voice…)

    but I am pleased to report the the blenkinsop archival skills revealed the source as the NY Times, Jan 19, 2017. (It’s a good article, as well.)

    And if anyone on the right in Australian politics starts arguing against compulsory voting, that is the time to man the barricades, as far as I am concerned.

    syzygy @thane16

    @blenkinsopthebrave  @janetteb

    Thank you again for the icons -and yes, the White Australia Policy was “covered in class, Mum, only for 20 minutes, Mum.”

    Great 🙁

    And now we’ve a monologue by Piggy. The teacher (new & on rotation) is one of those who’s read Thane’s draft and hilariously ticked exactly ONE  box which red: “time limit met.” Except she THEN wrote “not when you take out the ridiculous stuff on Neptune, you wrote.”

    Ah, so we have work to do. Anyway, this teacher has 22 “don’t do” things which are from 2018. Then, she’s written on this ticked box thingy (“Thane got no ticks” -I think it’s important we all start talking like Piggy, to be immersed in it, you reckon?)

    The draft has only negative comments to the point of rage at his evident stupidity. She then has another piece of paper in Size 6 or 8 font telling students exactly how there must be 3 sections called: RECALL, ANALYSE, EVALUATE. But there’s more:

    A student must have an introduction, rising action, climax and resolution. My question would be this: how do you tie in the he Recall, Analyse and Evaluate with the rising action and climax etc? Syggers was so tired last night he could barely make sense. Unfortunately he thought Piggy was the product of a private school in 1950s England -all Etonian arrogance and Ancient Greek. So, in doing the monologue, and I’m giggling at this, he wrote:

    Oh, grandfather of the sea, great Neptune, let me tell you my secrets. You roll on, saying nothing, but watching always. How many lives have you seen lost? The Wicked Traitor, Jack, has stolen my glasses. I have never seen the sea before, and now all I can see IS the sea, you formidable, domineering being.

    There should be some points for getting it completely wrong and for laughs, surely. I’ve no doubt teacher read this aloud to all the English teachers with much mirth. Gawd.

    I’ve actually drafted myself in and written down pretty much every phrase sad Piggy ever says and I’m sure he wouldn’t know (or care about) Neptune and mighty Zeus.  He’s about order, correct?

    Syggers actually wrote that: “we need order, we must impose it” to which she-teacher wrote, “what are you? For order or dictatorship?  Piggy aint no totalitarian.” There’s really no wiggle room for this teacher..


    The Wise One.

    janetteB @janetteb

    @thane16 urgh. I hate those criteria sheets. They scare me and I have an hons degree in English. No wonder kids are suffering increasing rates of depression these days. The education system seems intent on intimidating them rather than encouraging them. Re’ essays. Our second son, (R.2) did really well because he worked out the formula. The content was less important than getting the formula right. He wrote what he knew the teacher wanted and yes he got the grades but that is not what education is supposed to be for. (Interestingly I always got higher grades from female lecturers because, my theory anyway, they considered content over construction)

    We are having a bit of a yr 12 breather. R.3 was not making class and falling behind so we said, “up with this we will not put”, and decided to pull him out, give him a gap year then put him through public school for the final year. The catch is that the public school in question is about 40 km away so hopefully he can do it by correspondence. Our “local” has issues, not helped by a government intent on destroying the public education system and pouring all the funding into privates like the behemoth that is taking over education in this district. (Our neighbour/teachers used to joke about the golden T.s)

    I am venting again. You might have noticed. Anyway the upshot is that R.3 is now doing yr 12 part time. We did not tell the school that he won’t be continuing there ie they have had more than enough money from us. We are all enjoying the lack of stress. Yr 12 puts enormous strain not just on students but on the entire family and that is not acceptable. It is also something of a relief to know that Yr 12 is not the “be all and end all” that schools make out. After two years it counts for nothing and the “stat test” is the Uni entry criteria. We knew quite a few people who had gone to Uni through that route including R.1 whose Yr 12 became irrelevant after a four year gap.

    Anyway all the best. I feel for you.

    And today the sun is shining, the hibiscus is blooming just out the window and somehow we will survive, and keep fighting.




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