Slices of heart wood

Hola from Spain! I am currently living here, working as an auxiliar de conversacion de inglis in a small secondary school, in a tiny town on the Costa Brava. I’m very lucky. I’ve visited much of the country, especially the North when I walked the Camino del Norte y Primitivo. I’m still trying to process my impressions of the last few months but here’s a little taste of the Camino – all 876km.

Now that I’m feeling more settled in my little flat overlooking the hills of the Parc del Montnegre y el Corredor, I have time to return to this blog. I am learning how to be an English conversation assistant and hopefully, along the way, be better able to teach English. In between days at school, and typing, I am still restless. There is much to see locally, of course, but I do feel the need to tick off some of the big towns of Spain. I visited Valencia on the recent long weekend. It is a wonderful town of history together with a heady vibrant energy of rejuvenation. But one visit really tumbled me and it was La Memória dels Arbres, in the University of Valencia Botanic Gardens.

sun strikes Toi Toi in the grass section

sun strikes Toi Toi in the grass section

I wandered around these gardens, a formal zoo for plants that was established in the sixteenth century, with no great aim. It is a lovely oasis. Living in one of the flats overlooking these neat and tidy sections would be idyllic. Birds flittered about. A sweet little grey bird with a pale orange chest chirped away above me as I sat on one of the many shady benches. It sounded like a little metal hammer tip tip tapping on a tiny fragile stained glass window. Or a miniature suitcase, wheeled along tiny cobblestones, tirruping along. The parrots came alive later as the sun rayed into the tops of the trees. I couldn’t see them but I thought they would have red heads and green bodies like the ones I’d seen earlier flying around the Palace. Strange how some of the flats face away from the gardens. And in this Botanic Gardens there are many cats!

cats listen to 'Imagine' by John Lennon sung lustily by a school of English learners

cats listen to ‘Imagine’ by John Lennon sung lustily by a school of English learners in the school nearby

Finally I came upon an exhibition building where I found:

poster for La Memória dels arbres

Suddenly the world was coloured by layers of music and the smell of freshly sawn timber. The building itself has a beamed ceiling of heavy wood but it was the languorous guitar that took me down through the circles of time into this extraordinary exhibition.

Silhouette of tree in Valencia, Jardī Botanic

Created by two men who apparently went into the forest, hewed, carried by backpack and arranged the pieces:

Miguel Ortega & Jesús Julio Camarero, the men responsible for the memories of wood

Miguel Ortega & Jesús Julio Camarero, the men responsible for the memories of wood

I tried to think why I was so greatly affected by this selection of lumber CAT scans. Partly because I am recently from Prague, where I learned to carve wooden marionettes with Mirek Trejtnar of Puppets in Prague. Often Mirek would encourage us to respect the wood, respect the grain, feel the timber.

Pieces of Puppets carved by Mirek Trejtnar from Puppets in Prague

Pieces of Puppets carved by Mirek Trejtnar from Puppets in Prague

The wood memories selected showed the rings of ages. Clearly some were very old indeed and, given the changes and torments wrought over the land of Spain, had stood while many human lives had fallen. The slices showed the effects of insects, cold, drought and fire. They looked soft and so like medical specimens that once again I was reminded how human beings have much in common with other species. Even plants!

Slice of sabina

Slice of sabina-negra

Although this looks bumpy it is in fact as smooth as silk

Although this looks bumpy it is in fact as smooth as silk

Almond wood

Almond wood

Heart wood

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?

Retiro_balloons

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.

http://marcaespana.es/en/culture-and-singularity/arts/paintbrush-and-chisel

http://marcaespana.es/en/culture-and-singularity/arts/paintbrush-and-chisel

 

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

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

Looking down

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

wall-cu

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!

http://ceres.org.au/tamil-feasts/

http://ceres.org.au/tamil-feasts/

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.

https://www.textpublishing.com.au/books/atmosphere-of-hope

https://www.textpublishing.com.au/books/atmosphere-of-hope

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.

https://www.algore.com/library/the-future-six-drivers-of-global-change

https://www.algore.com/library/the-future-six-drivers-of-global-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.

http://www.climateconviction.org/

http://www.climateconviction.org/

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.

http://www.climateaccess.org/blog/don%E2%80%99t-even-think-about-it

http://www.climateaccess.org/blog/don%E2%80%99t-even-think-about-it

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:

<iframe width=”420″ height=”315″ src=”https://www.youtube.com/embed/IHyH3MPgZDo?rel=0″ frameborder=”0″ allowfullscreen>iframe>

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.

https://in.pinterest.com/pin/419749627748518988/

https://in.pinterest.com/pin/419749627748518988/

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.

http://whyfiles.org/106asteroid/3.html

http://whyfiles.org/106asteroid/3.html

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.

http://www.wired.co.uk/news/archive/2010-12/03/science-museum-climate-change

http://www.wired.co.uk/news/archive/2010-12/03/science-museum-climate-change

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!

https://en.wikiquote.org/wiki/Michael_Crichton#/media/File:MichaelCrichton.jpg

https://en.wikiquote.org/wiki/Michael_Crichton#/media/File:MichaelCrichton.jpg

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.

http://www.cbc.ca/radio/thecurrent/a-special-edition-of-the-current-for-november-30-2-degrees-1.3343179/our-brains-are-wired-to-ignore-climate-change-says-george-marshall-1.3343261

http://www.cbc.ca/radio/thecurrent/a-special-edition-of-the-current-for-november-30-2-degrees-1.3343179/our-brains-are-wired-to-ignore-climate-change-says-george-marshall-1.3343261

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!

http://www.theguardian.com/profile/george-marshall

http://www.theguardian.com/profile/george-marshall

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!!

<iframe width=”560″ height=”315″ src=”https://www.youtube.com/embed/Dy68L5jglAg?rel=0″ frameborder=”0″ allowfullscreen></iframe>
ceres


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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<a href=”https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/28288727″>Man of Clay</a>
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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!

Goodreads Book Giveaway

Ektek by Victoria Osborne

Ektek

by Victoria Osborne

Giveaway ends March 31, 2016.

See the giveaway details
at Goodreads.

Enter Giveaway

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.

File 7-03-2016, 09 20 02

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.

http://sydney.edu.au/science/biology/becr/research/sydney-bush-rat.shtml

http://sydney.edu.au/science/biology/becr/research/sydney-bush-rat.shtml

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!

http://www.abc.net.au/catalyst/stories/2981267.htm

 

Corroboree!!

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!)

http://www.corroboreefrog.com.au/corroboree-frog

http://www.corroboreefrog.com.au/corroboree-frog

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?

Balloons.

http://www.aliexpress.com/item/NEW-High-Quality-Oversized-3-D-Hello-Kitty-Foil-Balloons-Wedding-Decoration-Balloon-Party-Balloon-Cartoon/1711988033.html

http://www.aliexpress.com/item/NEW-High-Quality-Oversized-3-D-Hello-Kitty-Foil-Balloons-Wedding-Decoration-Balloon-Party-Balloon-Cartoon/1711988033.html

So pretty.

http://balloonsblow.org/

http://balloonsblow.org/

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.

http://www.mcsuk.org/what_we_do/Clean+seas+and+beaches/Campaigns+and+policy/Don't+let+go+-+balloons+and+sky+lanterns

http://www.mcsuk.org/what_we_do/Clean+seas+and+beaches/Campaigns+and+policy/Don’t+let+go+-+balloons+and+sky+lanterns

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

http://balloonsblow.org/impacts-on-wildlife-and-environment/

http://balloonsblow.org/impacts-on-wildlife-and-environment/

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

http://balloonsblow.org/impacts-on-wildlife-and-environment/

http://balloonsblow.org/impacts-on-wildlife-and-environment/

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.

https://bcachemistry.wordpress.com/tag/helium/

https://bcachemistry.wordpress.com/tag/helium/

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!

http://www.elitedivingagency.com/articles/scuba-tank-gas-mixture-divers-use/

http://www.elitedivingagency.com/articles/scuba-tank-gas-mixture-divers-use/

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 …

http://www.wishuponabutterfly.com/weddings/butterfly-packages/

http://www.wishuponabutterfly.com/weddings/butterfly-packages/

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!

http://www.greenbrideguide.com/blog/diy-rose-petal-confetti-your-wedding

http://www.greenbrideguide.com/blog/diy-rose-petal-confetti-your-wedding

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

http://www.purepages.com/work-examples/marketing/lmc/

http://www.purepages.com/work-examples/marketing/lmc/

Or plant sunflowers!

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