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Dear MasterChef – What is it with you and PROTEIN!?!?!

Dear MasterChef,

MasterChef judges and food


Look, I love a reality tv show as much as anyone else. Remember Bollywood Star Australia where Australian performers had a chance to travel to India and become a Bollywood Star? Fantastic show.



Or if you prefer your reality online, Penny Arcade produced a lovely, fun and genuine search for a new cartoonist called Strip Search. This series is notable because the contestants were super nice to each other and the judges were positive, constructive and just plain generous.

Strip Search picture


We’ve all watched a few, haven’t we, but in Australia, at least, the biggest of all must be MasterChef. When we had a Brazilian student from Rio stay with us for far too long, our family all sat down to watch MasterChef because it combined sport (Brazilian kid’s love) and food (my family’s love).

But I can never go back to MasterChef. But I’m sorry, MasterChef. I’m so over you.



It’s finished between us


What is it, MasterChef, with the PROTEIN?!??

To listen to you bang on EVERY SHOW, beef or lamb is a protein. Eels are protein. Little helpless milk-fed baby cows are protein. As if protein was only available in animals.

Do you not know that protein is in EVERY living thing? Proteins are the building blocks of life!!

Well, MasterChef. It’s true. Think about it for just one moment. You really need to eat dead animals to grow big and strong? Like horses? Cows? Camels? Elephants? When you think of big boofy creatures, like bulls, for instance, what do they eat? AND did you know, thinking of big and boofy, that gladiators were vegan? Why, even bodybuilders today can be vegan!

Gladiator mosaic


In the old days everyone read Diet for a Small Planet. That’s where I learned the facts of life and many, many other people did too.

cover of Diet for a Small Planet


Apparently, so Frances said, proteins are made up of twenty amino acids and nine of those are essential – that’s what we have to eat every day. If you kill your food, it’s easy. Just take an axe to the cow or strangle your chicken for your amino acids. Or you could eat vegetables – you just have to mix it up. Complement your proteins. Beans on toast is a complete protein meal. Lentils and rice. Dahl and bread. It’s not rocket science.





A few years later that same author of Diet for a Small Planet, Frances Moore Lappé admitted in the 10th anniversary 1981 version of the book that sufficient protein was easier to get than she had thought at first:

“In 1971 I stressed protein complementarity because I assumed that the only way to get enough protein … was to create a protein as usable by the body as animal protein. In combating the myth that meat is the only way to get high-quality protein, I reinforced another myth. I gave the impression that in order to get enough protein without meat, considerable care was needed in choosing foods. Actually, it is much easier than I thought.

“With three important exceptions, there is little danger of protein deficiency in a plant food diet. The exceptions are diets very heavily dependent on [1] fruit or on [2] some tubers, such as sweet potatoes or cassava, or on [3] junk food (refined flours, sugars, and fat). Fortunately, relatively few people in the world try to survive on diets in which these foods are virtually the sole source of calories. In all other diets, if people are getting enough calories, they are virtually certain of getting enough protein.”[3]

In 1981, this is. Over thirty years ago!! Award winning and Foundation founding Ms Lappé recognised she’d made a mistake and she apologised and put the facts straight.

But the complementary protein myth still exists. Not only that vegetables don’t have enough protein but that it’s necessary to mix it up. When it’s not!!! It’s worth repeating that about eating enough protein, ‘ … it is much easier than I thought.’ In fact, you just have to eat food!

All food contains protein!! Wake up MasterChef!! You are so far behind the eightball you haven’t even debunked the first myth! Or are you so far enamoured of the meat industry that you can’t even see the truth for the steak?

And, finally, MasterChef, here’s where the television star meets the meat: did you hear about the hunter who thought that the locals would like to eat a tough old giraffe when they could have had some tofu and rice? Go, Gervais. Just get ’em!!

I wish you well, MasterChef, but mainly I wish you’d get your facts straight.

Lots of love,


Spanish flag with bull image


“It only takes one person to bear witness. One to share what they have seen.” Animals Australia Facebook page

Once upon a time I worked for a tv show. One day my boss called me in to her office to see some footage. She had obtained it from Spain to be included in an episode of the show. It was a bullfight. Her name was Lyn Bayonas. She learned about the bullfight from her old boss, Orson Welles. Mr Welles was an aficionado, up there with Hemmingway with his passion for things Spanish. I had absolutely no interest; rather I felt revulsion for the ghoulish spectacle on the screen. Lyn insisted, as only she could, that I sit down and learn something. She explained the bullfight is a ritual. It’s about our relationship with nature. Our relationship to death. Our relationship to meat.

cover of Death and the sunHer lecture came back to me recently when I found a copy of Death and the Sun; A matador’s season in the heart of Spain by Edward Lewine. It’s a great read. A page-turner. Will the matador die in the bullring, like his father before him?

wild bull free


There’s no doubt about the bulls, of course.

“Bulls suffer and die in the bullring. Either you believe this is justified, or balanced somehow by the supposed beauty, history, and cultural significance of the corrida, or you don’t. Cattle and other animals suffer and die in the food industry. Either you believe this is justified, or balanced somehow by the human desire for nourishment from meat and by the tradition of meat-eating, or you don’t.” pg 188

steers in feedlot


The Spanish don’t have a word for bullfighting, instead they use words such as, “the fiesta de los toros (festival of the bulls) or fiesta brava (wild festival) … What the matador (killer) ” … does with the bull is usually translated in English as “to fight” but the Spanish word for this is torear, which takes the word for bull and makes a verb out of it, “to bull”. The art or craft of bullfighting is called toreo — “bulling”.’ pg 25


bull turns around man


He explains that, ‘A single bullfight involving full-grown bulls is called a corrida de torros” … ‘The act of holding a corrida is indicated by the word celebrar, as in, “Yesterday they celebrated a corrida.’ pg 26. It’s like saying we celebrated mass or morning matins. It’s a ritual. It’s not a fight. The bull has no chance to live. The bull will die. The bull becomes meat. He represents all cattle, all meat. However, he does have a chance to take the matador out with him or at least give him a few weeks off and a decent scar to remember him by. Lewine again:

‘Bullfighting is easy to dismiss as an artefact of humanity’s savage and uncivilized history. But in its bloody way the bullfight is the essence of civilization, if by civilization we mean humanity’s subjugation of the natural world and the development of custom and ritual to replace violence as the governing principle of human interaction. A society that can mount a corrida is an advanced society, one that has tamed nature, met the basic needs of its people (to the extent that entertainment is a priority), and channeled the bloody impulses of its populace into ordered ritual. There is nothing more civilized than a bullfight. It is the sum of humankind’s fears and wordless needs contained in a spectacle of rigid control and elaborate ceremony.’ pg 227

Activist human packed into meat container for PETAThink about it. It’s too easy now to pick up that shrink-wrapped flesh from the meat aisle and sizzle it into some processed sauce and slap it between two calcium enriched buns without giving a second thought to the life given. It’s too easy to ignore empathy as the cows are stripped of their skin and twitch in their chorus-line of death on the way to their disembowelling. No. We must turn the spotlight on our food. We must face up to our responsibility. You must look. You must see.

‘Aficionados say there is a special feeling that comes when a great matador passes a bull low and slow around his body and the bull responds, charging hard at the cape and lending solemnity and danger to the matador’s movements. Hemmingway described it as a lump in the throat. Garcia Lorca called it “man’s finest anger, his finest melancholy and his finest grief.” It is an electric mixture of fear, pleasure in beauty, sadness, anger, horror, joy, tension, the feeling of victory over death, and the viewer’s relief that he or she is safe and not facing the bull.’ pg 32

man subjugates beast


This is far more than a cat playing with a mouse. Lewine describes the matador’s use of a bull as the painter’s use of a brush or a trumpet player’s use of the trumpet. The man makes art with the vanquished beast. The man is an artist, seeking beauty in the subjugation of the other life. The art lies in the domination. The wildcard is the bull. It may toss, gore or kill. But it will die in its turn. Certainly.

the bull dies


Of course it’s cruel. Of course the bull suffers. Right in front of your eyes.




Consider the conspiracy in modern farming. What is locked away behind hedges and walls? How many cows suffer every minute of every day in feedlots? How many pigs are shut up in sheds unable to move for their entire life? How many chickens were kicked to death in the last hour? All far, far away from the public gaze?

pigs in sow stalls


Today in most affluent countries, farming animals for meat is done out of sight. Billions of invisible creatures are bred and fed in close confinement and slaughtered on a conveyor belt. Their lives are lived in darkness, pain and terror. Humans peruse their hermetically sealed plastic packages of flesh without the faintest glimmer of awareness of how that beast lived and died to become a product. Now the agriculture industry seeks laws to protect their secrecy even further, laws known as ‘Ag Gags’ where it will be illegal for activists to visit and photograph factory or experimental farms or indeed any animal abuse. Sign a petition against them here.

Activists protest Ag Gag laws


This is the horror. That humans can have so little regard for life that they slaughter millions, nay, trillions of creatures (created by ?) to slice into pieces because they like the taste when it is no longer even necessary to eat meat. That the meat industry can seek protection to continue to devolve their systems is hideous. Dishonest. Deceitful.

man taunts bull


If you see the bullfight as a ritual then this modern denial of death seems weak. We become insipid and deceptive, hiding, cowering from the facts of life. We watch hideous news every day, rubber-neck at bloody car crashes and see extreme violence surrounded by fumes from chemical-laden popcorn and rumbles of high-performance Dolby. Pretending. Playing.

watching film


That six bulls should die in an afternoon in the full glare of the sun, witnessed by people who are at least emotionally sensitive to their existence, seems just and fair.



Bear witness to your meat.


Or, you know, you do have a choice …

El Retiro's Lake and monument, where you can row or sunbake on the steps

Shy and Retiro – the parque to be in Madrid!

The Prado is one of the most important, and popular, museos in the world. Here are some queues on the first of May to prove it!

Here are the queues I walked right by because I bought my Three-Museo Pass (Prado, Reina Sofia & Thyssen) the day before!!

The Prado is filled with history, not only of art, but also of humans and their relationship to nature. There are gods, of course, love, sex and death all captured by the male gaze; Goya, Velazquez, El Greco … It is an overwhelming place of virtuosity and glory. One needs to have a break. Go to the Parque, perhaps?

The Gate on Calle de Alphonso XII - put your back to El Prado and walk right in!

The Gate on Calle de Alphonso XII – put your back to El Prado and walk right in!

I sat under this tree and ate my bocodillo for lunch. It is a cypress.

I sat under this tree and ate my bocodillo for lunch. It is a cypress.

Remember when Babar the Elephant got to be King? One of the many kind things he did for his people was to make a lovely park where they could promenade and play. I’m quite sure Jean de Brunhoff modelled the King’s park on this one.

Imagine having an apartment over looking this park!

Imagine living in an apartment over-looking this!

El Retiro, or Buen Retiro Parque, in Madrid, used to be the Royal playground until it was given to the people in the nineteenth century. Like Babar’s park it’s formal, organised into different areas of play and people use it all the time. Lots and lots of people. It was known as the great art wonder of the world and is jammed full of buildings and sculptures. Even a Crystal Palace!

Amazingly there were hundreds of people walking around on this day but not in this photo!

Amazingly there were hundreds of people walking around on this day but not in this photo!

It’s a reasonable size, 1.4km squared or (350 acres in old measurements, which considering the Imperial nature of this place, is probably suitable). While there are other parks around Madrid (the biggest is Casa de CampoEl Retiro is the most formal, and the most central.

Fuente del Ángel Caído - perhaps the only sculpture of the devil in the world?

Fuente del Ángel Caído – perhaps the only sculpture of the devil in the world?

One of the highlights of the park is the statue of the Fallen Angel. The Devil, writhing in agony, was built by Ricardo Bellver, while the base, with the cheeky devils and creatures, was added later by Franciso Janero. They say it really is 666 metres above sea level.

Cheeky Devils!

Cheeky Devils!

Dappled shade for a quiet moment

Dappled shade for a quiet moment

There were people everywhere! Rowing on the ‘Pond‘. Picnicking. Canoodling. Walking, running, skateboarding, practising their swing dancing … There were folks chucking frisbees, bashing balls with bats, kicking balls and there were dogs. Lots and lots of little dogs. Some big ones, some running about chasing a ball and a white pit bull pulling her owner. And some cats.

Not the only cat in the park

Not the only cat in the park

Imprisoned rose garden

Imprisoned rose garden

At the foot of the Cuba memorial, the fountain plays

At the foot of the Cuba memorial, the fountain plays

The base of the Cuba memorial

The base of the Cuba memorial

Monument to Cuba

Monument to Cuba

There is a House of Cows (not open) and Velazquez has a palace! (Also not open), both exhibition spaces.

The rotunda not good enough for this band!

The rotunda not good enough for this band!

Buskers busked, cafes sold pizza, coffee and coke. The smell of sweet chestnut blossoms mingled with flying balloons and everyone seemed to be having a really good time. Perhaps they’d enjoyed the puppet show or one of the playgrounds?


The competition to have your show run here is fierce

The competition to have your show run here is fierce

I approved of some unkempt areas where quiet souls lurked in shady nooks.

Gone to seed

Gone to seed?

It's not possible to escape battles and warriors, this is Spain.

It’s not possible to escape battles and warriors, this is Spain.

The atmosphere hummed. If there was shouting it blended into the happy relaxation burble that was Madrid’s Public Holiday.

It was the 2nd of May.




Three Fountains in a Paseo

Madrid is full of sculptures. You might remember these from ‘La Comunidad’ by Alex de la Iglesia.cranesI’m obsessed with Madrid’s roof top sculptures generally. I have no idea how they got them up on the buildings. Nowadays, clearly, they wrap ’em in bubble wrap and stick ’em on a crane. But, then, how? Slaves? Stood end to end? How did they hold them steady when they put the cement under them? Built scaffolding? These things are made of iron! There’s a horse, rearing, with his legs full of lead, down by the palace. That’s only a couple of metres but these things are ENORMOUS! On four or five storey buildings!

So much art in Madrid one must visit the Golden Triangle of Museos, The Prado, the Reina Sofia and the Thyssen. I bought a three Museo pass and went every day of the long weekend. Here is my brain after three Museos. 3-museo-confusionSo I went for a walk. What did I find?

Three big fountains; all in central Madrid, all in a line in the Golden Triangle of Art, or the Paseo del Prado, and two of them have magical powers. For football teams. Now, I’m sorry, I can’t go into details about teams and football stuff but given the theme of this blog we will explore earth, sea and fire. Let’s start with the sea.Neptune01The first big marble guy is Neptune, the God of the Sea. He’s in front of the Prado, the Thyssen and the Ritz. Location, location, location! Traditionally, if his team (whatever) won, all the fans would jump in, climb up and celebrate with him. After the enthusiasts broke bits of him off – trident ? – the powers-that-be now protect the sculpture, allowing only one fan to get in and wind their favourite scarf around the king’s neck. Neptune‘s got some traffic going on around him, quite a nice flower garden and generally high regard.cib-wideOn the further side of the Paseo is the Goddess of Earth or Nature, Ceres, or Cibeles, with her own plaza. She represents fertility and the lions represent our relationship with fiery nature. She’s got the big traffic roundabout. A lot of traffic. She’s also suffered at the hands of her football tribe over the years. They even found one of her hands when they drained the ‘pond’ at El Retiro. So she gets big protection, with just the one scarf, after a big game as well. cibmidshotCibeles has got some major company in the location department with the magnificent, highly ornate Communications building (art gallery, post office and town hall combined), America House (furthering Latin American relationships), and the Bank of Spain. Myth has it that the Bank’s gold vaults lie under the sculpture. Apparently, if an attempt is made on the bank, the fountain’s waters will flood the corridors and drown the burglars. Our tour guide is reasonably sure that’s why the fountain is currently under repair. He reckons there’s a few drowned robbers under there RIGHT NOW!cib&missile-buildingThe other thing about Cibeles is this weird missile building. I think you’ll agree there’s something a bit unsettling about it.

Finally in our tour of three fountains, is the least important to football fans, ApolloApollowidePoor Apollo. Stuck in the middle. The lost one. At least he’s got the Four Seasons so he won’t get lonely but he certainly sees very little traffic. He represents fire. He’s also supposedly the God of Art, Music and Beauty, but, according to our tour guide (Ramon from Sandeman’s Majestic Madrid Walking Tour), Carlos III, the king not exactly known for his well-balanced features, decided the face should be modelled on him. The sculptor (apparently Alfonso Giraldo Bergaz) did his very best but we all agreed it was probably ideal the head is far from the ground. Apollo-very-CU

All these elemental sculptures are in the Paseo del Prado. You can see the lot in 7 minutes. Originally designed as a promenade for wealthy people, this is now a Paseo for Tourists and very lovely it is too. That’s just three sculptures. Imagine what glory is in the three Museos? I just can’t tell you.Screen-Shot-fountains

Both walls at the CaixaForum, a bank, of course!

Three gardens in Madrid

The golden angel sculpture is on top of a bank.

The golden angel sculpture is on top of a bank.

The centre of Madrid is a brilliantly-lit, highly-decorated, antique dreamscape. There’s people everywhere but let’s ignore them for the moment. Let’s look up. The buildings are ornate, very grand and to Australian eyes, very old. The sky seems close, I suppose because there are no tall towers, or even trees, blocking out the clouds. When you do look up, it’s to sculptures. It seems every building is topped by some grand beast or muscular god holding a weapon, wrestling with their own mythology. And nearly every building that appears to be a majestic castle, turns out to be a bank or the Department of Agriculture!

Ornate government building in Madrid

Ornate government building in Madrid

Over the centuries there’s not much that untrammelled nature can do in these city streets. Potplants cling to tiny balconies tesselated along the walls of the thinner side streets, the angular stalks of the spider’s web that is Madrid’s traffic structure. Eager trees lean into light that strikes into plazas or sidles into thin one-way alleys. There are, of course, many parks in Madrid, most central and famous being El Retiro, a royal retirement haunt featuring a large pond, a Crystal Palace and a statue of the Fallen Angel at 66.6 feet above sea level. It does seem on first glance that Madrid has successfully tamed and trained nature!

Botanic influences abound

Botanic influences abound

But three different gardens in just one small corner of the city captured my imagination. The first is the formal Royal Botanical Gardens, a kind of zoo for plants.

Orderly formal displays

Orderly formal displays

It’s on the Paseo de Prado and it’s structured into formal parterre on three different levels displaying plants from all around the world.

Tiny hedges for tiny plants

Imagine having to trim the hedges?!

Tiny hedges box in neatly planted varieties that sometimes, like banksia roses, do their level best to explode out of their cages.

Escaping plants?

Escaping plants?

The Botanic Gardens are surprising for the tranquil atmosphere in the centre of a busy highway. Joining the motos and the sirens, marching just a little further down the Calle, past that Department of Agriculture, one comes to another ornate building. Par for the Madrid course, it’s not a castle at all, it’s a railway station.

Atocha Railway Station

Atocha Railway Station

Inside this amazing hangar is a jungle. Known as the Greenhouse at Atocha Station, there’s a pool of turtles clustered together like insects at the foot of the ferns. TurtlesMist sprays over the plants and it’s possible to see some of the palm trees must take a beating in the summer. What a great place to come to the restaurant or one of the bars before heading for a trip on a very fast train!Atocha-int

Finally in this botanical tour of a very small section of Madrid is a vertical plant wall outside the CaixaForum.longshot-wall


Looking down

From a distance this looks like a painting or a carpet. Close up it smells lovely.


Looking up

Rows of plants buoyantly fly into the sky. A pleasing way to spend an afternoon. And on the way home, why, what’s that building?

The Department of Public Administration.

The Department of Public Administration.




Oh, I love a good book club!

And, as I’ve mentioned before, the first evs Ceres Bookclub was a GOOD bookclub! CERES is a sustainability centre in the suburbs of Melbourne. There’s a cafe, nursery and education about renewable energies. What a cool place to get reading!



Our bookgroup centred around a feast, much intense, amused discussion and lots of inspiration. Three books were featured, Atmosphere of Hope by Tim Flannery, The Future, by Al Gore, and Don’t Even Think About It by George Marshall. Tim was there in person with his reflective book and his science mind all filled with notions of mitigation. Of course, the mirror-like quality of his cover is supposed to reflect YOU – you are the hope for the atmosphere.



Each of these books were presented by smart, highly qualified speakers, experts in climate change, education and entertaining in their own rights. After an able introduction from the bookgroup organiser, Lorna Pettifer, Tim Flannery spoke about Hope, describing technical and scientific suggestions to prevent serious damage from climate change.



The second tome was Gore’s vision of The Future: Six Drivers of Global Change and Sarah Houseman was kind enough to distill that enormous amount of research into a digestible titbit.



The final book was the only one I’d had time to read properly (it being shorter!). Kirsty Costa presented Don’t even think about it, Why our brains are wired to ignore climate change.



As George Marshall was unable to join us in Melbourne (he lives in Wales) he created an affable video, welcoming us to the bookgroup and introducing the major themes of his book. As we munched our delicious Tamil fare we warmed to his main theme, which I think was ‘share’. Here’s a basic primer:

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George is far more sophisticated than that, proposing tangible strategies for activists. He’s all about cooperation and converting the UNCONVERTED in a non-threatening manner. He took a tea caddy to a parley with the Tea Party in Texas.



He sat and chatted with a gun-toting woman, her family and friends for hours. He visited with survivors of a wild fire and toured New Orleans with survivors of Katrina to discover that the last thing survivors of disasters want to think about is climate change. As a general rule, folk don’t want to think about climate change at all. He notes that climate change is described by various thinkers as a ‘perfect’ or ‘wicked’ problem, in that there are so many reasons us human beings find it difficult to come to terms with.

George collects contrary thinkers. He discovered that denying climate change doesn’t mean denying all possible threats to the planet.



One of the biggest funders of an Information Centre warning of potential collisions with meteors or asteroids is a global warming denialist, Benny Peiser. This particular fellow even has an asteroid named after him, 7107 Peiser, officially listed on NASA’s website. ‘Peiser’s own website, meanwhile, routinely savages NASA’s climate scientists.’ (Interestingly, I can’t find Peiser on NASA’s website.)

George Marshall also examines funding difficulties faced by museums.

Smithsonian: David H. Koch Hall of Human Origins www.washingtonpost.com

Smithsonian: David H. Koch Hall of Human Origins www.washingtonpost.com

The Smithsonian is the biggest museum in the world. Its exhibition exploring climate change through time is ‘directly funded by those nefarious Koch brothers‘. That’s ‘twenty million dollars for the David H. Koch Hall of Human Origins.’ The Science Museum in London has an Atmosphere Gallery. The primary sponser is Shell Oil.



Mr Marshall observes that writer Michael Crichton was invited to present scientific evidence at a US Senate Committee hearing, resulting from his eco-terrorist novel, State of Fear. Dr Crichton held a Bachelor in Science and he was a medical doctor. Hard to know his qualifications in atmospheric science. Certainly knew how to create a page turner and make a PILE of money!



Don’t even think about it is such an interesting book, I really encourage you to find it in your library. George writes about interviewing young folk at the coz play convention, Comic Con. He assumed these kids would be tech savvy, informed and interested. He asked them what they imagined for their future. He points out that we all knew what the future held when we were kids 50 years ago – it was Tomorrowland! But youngsters today? Go on, ask some for yourself.



Another aspect he explores in the book is personal culpability. Are YOU to blame for climate change? Did you DRIVE to work? FLY across the world for a HOLIDAY? Take a good long hard look at yourself (in Tim’s book perhaps!) George Marshall points out that conservatives particularly HATE being told what to do, particularly by governments and ideologues and GREENIES – conservatives REALLY hate environmentalists – BAH to turning off water! HUMBUG to switching light globes!



Don’t even think about it is an easy, entertaining and persuasive read. If nothing else, herein you will find strategies for dealing with rich Uncle Dan over the port after Chrissie dinner. George suggests listening to Uncle, trying to understand what his fears are, sympathising with his grief and stress co-operation rather than unity. Be prepared to learn from religions – they’ve managed to keep followers for centuries. Drop over-used environmentalist culture such as polar bears and Save-the-Planet type slogans. Mr Marshall describes his surprise when he recognised the Tea Party Activists had much in common with his own tribe of environmental colleagues.

What have we in common?

If nothing else, I’m guessing we ALL love a good BOOKCLUB!!

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Goodreads Giveaway!

If you would like a free print copy of Man of Clay then head to Goodreads at the end of February!

(There are some really thoughtful reviews there, too!)

Cover of Man of Clay showing a sleeping baby surrounded by green and gold frogs

cover designed by Risa Liu featuring sculpture ‘Small Things’ by Sam Jinks

This is going to be interesting …


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by <a style=”text-decoration: none;” href=”https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/13583033.Victoria_Osborne”>Victoria Osborne</a>

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EKTEK Goodreads Giveaway!!!!

It's Leadbeater's Possum awareness week March 28th - April 3rd 2016! http://leadbeaters.org.au/

It’s Leadbeater’s Possum awareness week March 28th – April 3rd 2016! http://leadbeaters.org.au/

When you win a copy of EKTEK through the Goodreads Giveaway – get in there – you will also win one of these extremely cute badges!

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Ektek by Victoria Osborne


by Victoria Osborne

Giveaway ends March 31, 2016.

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Bush rats

Native bush rat photographed by Philip Millar

Native bush rat photographed by Philip Millar

Our courtyard borders a revegetated bluestone quarry, Cruikshank park. It’s with some sadness I have to report the death here of a native bush rat. Given its proximity to the water we suspect it may have been poisoned. I understand most popular rat poisons dehydrate the small creatures and drive them to seek water at all costs. This beast was in the open, vulnerable to inspection by a small dog and for a nocturnal creature, awake at the wrong time.

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We could tell immediately it was a bush rat by the round ears. Although the long tail does give the impression of being rattus rattus, imported from Europe, and the scourge of human habitation around the world, this animal is closer to a possum. When you look at that adorable little face …

What is amazing about the presence of the creature is that they are not normally found in urban areas and we live 7 km from the city centre. So the revegetation is working. Up to a point, of course, for whoever bought the poison to knock out the population of rats they thought were dirtying up their precious lifestyle, couldn’t have been aware they were actually being visited by someone all too rare in our city life.

Is it a rat?

Had a fun chat with Leisa at Ratsak. I uploaded the above pictures and she agreed bush rats were lovely and ate insects. So, perhaps if you live near a park or reveg site consider the rats you are about to kill, in a painful and tortuous way, might be shy, nocturnal native creatures contributing to our environment by pollinating flowers and nibbling on insects. Our bush rats are probably not to blame for scuttling in the roof, climbing vines or stealing food from your cupboards.



A study at the University of Sydney is trying to see if by building the community of bush rats in an area they can keep the black rat numbers down, as competition between the two species is pretty even. So long as their playing field is level to start with!




I COULD NOT PASS THIS UP!! A Southern Corroboree Frog! Rob!

Melbourne Arts Centre Sunday Markets Fundraising Efforts

Not sure if you can read the sign? It encourages by-passers to kiss and or hug the large stuffed frog for the chance to donate money. Who would not want to kiss this gorgeous creature?

Here are the organisers and I was remiss in that I did not find out their names. I’m very sorry for they were devoted to their task. They told me they had raised over a hundred dollars! That’s pretty good going for 50 cents a pop. The frog is somewhat bigger than the real creature but that’s okay. Look at their cheery faces!!

The Three Frog Fans!

As readers of Man of Clay will know, Chapter 14 is imbued with the corroboree frog and what a delightful little creature it is. The colours and pattern influence Connie’s party platter. But my main relationship with a corroboree frog is in Ektek. Bash, a determined pilot, is one of these fancy chaps. (See, party platter? Bash? All about the corroboree, eh!)



Tim Flannery has a new book. It’s called Atmosphere of Hope; searching for solutions to the climate crisis. I’ll have a bit more to say about this next time because I went to a Book Club where the man himself spoke and it is full of interesting hopeful ideas. However, this quote is worth noting:

‘There is one facet of the sixth extinction where climate change is not the sole culprit. Among the most dismal catastrophes to have struck the natural world in recent decades is the disappearance of many species of frogs and toads. About one third of all known 4740 species of frogs and toads are under threat, and in 2010 the International Union for the Conservation of Nature red list reported 486 species as critically endangered. Up to 122 species are likely to have become extinct since 1980. Back in 2005 the cause of this calamity was unclear. Today, courtesy of new research, we know the spread of the chitrid fungus, which attacks the skins of amphibians, was the primary cause of many, but not all, amphibian declines. In The Weather Makers, I said that the extinction of Costa Rica’s golden toad (Bufo periglenes) resulted from climate change. The latest studies support this, indicating ‘medium confidence’ (better than even chance) that climate change was the prime cause in this instance.’ pg 54

Couple of things about this quote. The uncertainty of science is a language matter. For Tim Flannery to talk about an ‘even chance’ does not mean there’s much debate about it at all. In fact, according to my research, the fact that chitrid spread so quickly is not only due to a feral species being introduced to waterways – probably a frog commonly used for human pregnancy testing – but also the conditions were nice and warm for the fungus to grow. So, we can trace frog disappearances back to humans which ever road we choose.

Of course, for the corroboree frog, it’s climate change that will get the survivors now. They are mountaineers, nestling into spagnum moss, needing snow and ice for their lifecycle to keep spinning. A few of them have gone because of ski resorts but that whole global warming thing, well, doesn’t bear thinking about it, does it.

As far as EKTEK goes, you can find it on Amazon. Thank you to the very kind readers who have supplied reviews. I am so grateful for your feedback. I’m working on the print version – the cover might have an issue so I’m waiting for a proof copy from Createspace before it’s clear for you to buy. While you wait, however, Bash has a number of adventures in his short life. Here’s an exerpt from ‘Out of Spite, Out of Mind’ you might like:

Gidday, Bashy boy, came a deep, greasy voice from the dim low shadows of the tunnel—Long way from home, aren’t you? All alone in the dark, poor little creature… It was Spill, the diamond python. Spill was large for his size and Bash stared into his glittering eyes as though he’d been pinned to the ground. Bash wasn’t scared of many things but pythons were up there with the most scary things of all. Well up there. Pythons were never conducive to a frog’s feeling of good health, especially when that frog had recently been staring into a dark pit of despair. Suddenly Bash’s pit seemed very deep and very dark and there was absolutely no way out—Hi, Spill, didn’t see you there, in the dark… How have you been? How’s the family? Busy?

—Not as busy as you, Bash, from all accounts. I hear you’ve been very busy, Bashy boy. You’ve been up to some particularly interesting dealings, young Mr Frog, haven’t you, hmmmmm?

Bash nodded, following Spill’s every head sway, every movement, gently hypnotised into staying put while Spill slid just that little bit closer … —I admit, I did make a banner to encourage everyone to vote for the corroboree frog. We’ve got a lot of friends and I thought I could do my bit for the family but I haven’t done anything else, I swear, just the banner and I know that wasn’t right but corroboree frogs are in with a good chance, don’t you …

—What did I hear? Old growth forests, wasn’t it? Pulped? Was that you, Bashy? Pulping habitat. Ummm … That’s a naughty no-no, isn’t it. I would have thought you’d know better … Spill moved closer to the little frog who, in turn, moved back hard into the wall of the cave. So hard he could feel grit cutting into his thin frog skin. Spill was so close, Bash could feel the breath puffing out of his mouth. He turned his mouth to the side to suck clean air into his froggy lungs—Nothing to do with me, Spill. I swear …

—Swearing’s a nasty habit. Those poor little whales. I really feel for them. Gone for munchies. Makes me hungry just thinking about them. All I’d need would be one little morsel, maybe a little dorsal morsal, and I’d be satisfied …

—You were listening …

—Hey, froggie, the walls have ears around here. You should know that. Just happened to be passing. Fascinating the titbits that fall in one’s path, ain’t it.

Bash swallowed hard.

The things you learn, continued Spill—Makes you think, don’t it. Makes me think; that’s for sure, about all sorts of things; like, you. I’ve been thinking about you, Bash, ol’Basheola, Bashy boy; do you think you deserve to live? Or would you say I deserve a snack? A little Bashy-nashy snack?

—Spill, I didn’t do it, I really didn’t do it, whatever you’ve heard, Spill, honestly, it’s all lies. Bash became louder and louder as Spill got closer and closer. Bash was shouting for his life—Really. I don’t know what’s going on. It’s complete fabrication and I can’t imagine why anyone would want to ruin me like this. I’ve never done anything to hurt anybody …

Who is to say what might have happened if, suddenly, like super heroes, Torque and Spark had not flown down the tunnel towards Bash and Spill at that very moment with Bash stuck, hard and squealing, in Spill’s hypnotising eye beam.

Hi-ya there, Bash, all right, then? said Torque cheerfully—Evening, Spill. How’s it hanging?

Come to see you home, Bash, said Spark—Need a lift?

Without waiting for discussion, Torque and Spark flew down to either side of the little frog and lifted an arm of black and yellow each. They flapped their flight wings as hard as they could and, before the amphibian had any idea of what was happening, got purchase and winged that little black-and-yellow corroboree frog out of there as fast as they could carry him.

Spill slid round and watched the bizarre trio fly erratically down the hallway. He sneered and had a quiet little chuckle deep down in his long scaly throat before moving quietly on his way.


Balloons! Why are they still a THING?




So pretty.



Such trouble when they are released into the atmosphere. They eventually fall down, perhaps whole or in pieces. They can end up on land or in oceans. They might get eaten by a bird or by a fish fooled into thinking it looks like a jelly fish. They might trap a bird and strangle it.



But balloons are biodegradable! They are made of latex! Rubber! From trees! Foil balloons are notThe ribbons and clips are not.



Many people are realising that balloons are not so fun after all.



Keep Australia Beautiful considers balloons litter. Some councils in Queensland are trying to ban mass helium balloon releases. Sunshine Coast Council banned the release of balloons into the atmosphere about five years ago.

And there is some debate about helium. Perhaps it is a scarce precious element. Perhaps it is running out. Perhaps it is not. Some say there should be reserves (which there are around the world but the US Government sold theirs off too soon and too cheaply!) Some say it may be a renewable resource and it doesn’t matter anyway because there’s just tons of it around anyway. Some point out that as the planet/universe is finite, so any minerals by definitions must be finite too.



Helium is used by humans for many interesting things, not just party balloons. Welding, medicine (cooling MRI machines) and testing for leaks in containers are quite important activities that may or may not be able to use another gas in helium’s place should the unthinkable happen. Is it too valuable to use in trivial party balloons? Or do balloons only use a tiny percentage of low quality helium? As opposed to the 30% used in scuba tanks!



Maybe we can err on the side of the environment. What no balloons? Oh, Good Grief! Why are all greenies such party-poopers? The British Marine Conservation Society has some ideas which they’ve gathered together under the title ‘Don’t let go.’ Why not consider lighting candles or planting trees or bubbles or kites or …



Butterflies! Nope. Don’t use butterflies, you’re endangering local populations with diseases, parasites and possibly altering local ecology. And apparently wedding planners don’t like them because they tend to turn up dead on arrival!

Why not chuck some rose petals around – left over roses from the florist might even be a bargain!



For a fundraiser idea or charity work racing a virtual balloon is only as environmentally damaging as the cloud is!



Or plant sunflowers!

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Uh oh! There’s a vulnerable creature on the menu!

Settling into the restaurant. Over by the window? Charming wait staff. Comfortable? Open the menu.

zomato but anon restaurant because why?

zomato but anon restaurant because why?

Something a little bigger? Something a little endangered! ‘Grilled roughy – crumbed and grilled new zealand orange roughy fish fillets w cartarni chips, dressed salad + tartare sauce’. Delicious. (What’s a cartarni chip?) Although by any other name, slimehead for instance, maybe not so marketable?



Greenpeace points out orange roughy is known by quite a few other names:

Orange roughy. ‘Orange roughy’ (Hoplostethus atlanticus) is very sensitive to overfishing and has been overfished in the past. Environment groups advise against eating it but conscientious consumers can’t do the right thing because it goes by a number of names on restaurant menus, including ‘deep sea perch’ and ‘sea perch’.

You’re comfortable. Nice table with a pleasant vista. Jolly company. We’ve seen the roughy. Now, are you going to make a fuss? At least ASK about the roughy?!!

Um. No. WHY NOT?

The NZ Forest and Bird folk have put orange roughy on their ‘Worst choice’ list! It’s on the Seawatch avoid list! The UK Marine Conservation Society have a Goodfish Guide. Orange Roughy rates 5 – in the red zone. Avoid.

Don’t buy the roughy.



Greenpeace are behind a new movement called ‘Label My Fish‘ which was due to report late last year. Greenpeace quotes this chef:

Gourmet Farmer, chef and former restaurant critic Matthew Evans said, “Imagine a menu that offered ‘mammal and root vegetable’, or ‘bird and green leaf’. It would be considered ridiculous. In Australia you can simply write ‘fish’ on a menu, without much of a problem.

This menu only features the one fish option. The menu hasn’t changed for a couple of years. Can it really be orange roughy? And what of others? We’ve all been to restaurants that celebrate the tuna. Could be yellow fin, could be blue fin. Why don’t we say anything about that? Is it just because it’s tasty?



Tuna. Oh yeah. Mmmm mmmm mmmm …



How many scrumptious things can you do with this baby? Only, when they (WWF) say rare, they don’t just mean the cooking style.



You know they’re one of the last ones evs. Having written a book called Last Chance to Eat, I’ve got an interest in these matters. Just in case you’re interested in all things EKTEK, you might like to know I’m putting the three books together as one.

EKTEK It will be called, of all things, EKTEK! It will be available on Amazon as an ebook and in print (730ish pages!) and it will be on Smashwords as well if you’ve got a Nook or something outlandish. The process has begun!

And now back to our menu. This restaurant smells fantastic. You are really hungry. So what are you doing? Did you point these delicacies out to your dining companions? Are you shifting uncomfortably in your seat?

Did you check out Sustainable Seafood to find an alternative?

For what it’s worth, I signed the pledge.

Greenpeace asked me to do the following to help. Maybe I can encourage you peeps to do the same? And next time we go to that restaurant, maybe we might just ask about the roughy.

Dear Victoria

Thanks for sending a message to the Federal Government urging a reform to Australia’s seafood labelling laws.

The more people that email the Federal Government today, the more likely we are to make a real difference. Can you help once more by bringing your friends and loved ones on board? Here’s how:

  1. FORWARD the text below the dotted line to your friends by email
  2. SHARE this link on Facebook: http://on.fb.me/1sGlBg1
  3. TWEET this: http://bit.ly/1QAjxDN
  4. Ask your local seafood retailer to support clearer seafood labelling: http://bit.ly/1rtR7bP

Thanks for being part of this.

From everyone at Greenpeace Australia Pacific


Tell the Australian Government: I want to know what seafood I am eating – and demand accurate labelling.

Australian seafood labelling laws are weak. They do not provide adequate information that tells consumers exactly what seafood they are purchasing.

We are calling on the Federal Government to develop new laws which require labelling of: what fish it is, where it was caught and how it was caught or farmed. Improved labelling laws will help consumers make informed choices about what seafood they eat and support sustainably caught fish from Australian fishers.

Take action: http://bit.ly/ZYGhoV



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