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I am spoiled for choice for watching movies and tv programmes at the moment – not through TV channels, oh no – that’s the usual crap which I avoid. I’m sick to death of My Kitchen Rules and other shit shows full of people slagging each other off.

Through my daughter I have access to Netflix and Stan. I also continue to watch SBS On Demand. Occasionally there’s something worth watching on ABC iView.  And then I see the occasional DVD which I take home to watch, so there’s actually too much!

I had a list from H about what to watch on Netflix. Some I enjoyed and some not so much. I watched the first series of a couple of them but may not bother with further series, e.g. The Frankenstein Chronices, which I found a bit slow (despite the attraction of Sean Bean) with a disappointing ending. I’m not sure I want to watch more of it. I watched her recommendation of American Gods too but just found it rather weird. I watched Stranger Things, another of her recommendations. It was ok. I may watch a further series at a later date. I tried watching Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency but found the first episode so bizarre, I didn’t want to continue. Instead, I started reading the book, which is completely and utterly different to the TV series – I think they only share the title.

So anyway,  a list of TV programmes and movies I’ve enjoyed recently:

Unforgotten, a British cop drama which I watched on DVD;

In the same vein – Shetland (really enjoyable);

Das Boot, TV series, on SBS. Thoroughly enjoyed this;

The Plague (Peste), a good historical Spanish drama;

Damned, a British TV comedy about social workers;

Locke, an enjoyable movie, starring Tom Hardy, who I had only seen in Taboo;

The Team, two series on SBS, a European drama (Europol) involving cops from Denmark, Belgium, Germany coming together to solve a case (different cops and different cases in each series) – really enjoyable;

The Foreigner, an enjoyable Jackie Chan movie – unpredictable (which is why I dislike so many American shows – too predictable);

Trapped, series 2. I loved series 1 and was delighted to find there was another on SBS. If there are any “The Bridge” or “The Killing” fans who have not seen this Icelandic drama, see it. It’s just as absorbing (and I love the language).

Borderliner (Grenseland) – a good Norwegian drama, starring Tobias Santelmann from The Last Kingdom;

Norsemen, talking of Norwegian. I preferred this comedy (sometimes lame) to Vikings.

After Life – Ricky Gervais’ latest. It will make you laugh and cry. I really recommend this one, on Netflix.

Upstart Crow – a British comedy about Shakespeare. I only happened upon this one when browsing Stan. I’m not a huge fan of David Mitchell, but there are some funny moments and good actors.

What I haven’t enjoyed:

Vikings – really annoying, with characters that never age (Lagertha). I loathe the character of Ivar and disagree with their portrayal of him as a cripple who more often watches battles than participates in them. Ragnar’s sons, apart from Bjorn, seem weak and effeminate.

Star Trek Discovery. I was a Star Trek fan from the original series, but only liked TNG in the later series. I did not like Deep Space Nine or Voyager. This latest series takes itself too seriously and is waaaayyyy too sentimental – so much so that I either have to fast-forward or vomit. A big NOPE.

Miracle Workers – really, really awful. I cannot emphasise enough how awful. I watched one episode only, enough to see it was truly pathetic as if written by a child, with no humour (presumably it’s meant to be a comedy) at all.

I’ve probably missed out a few. But the above are ones that are memorable (for good or bad reasons). There are a lot of series on my list which I’ve yet to see. I have to finish watching the ones I currently am (and stop getting DVDs from the library) before I’ll start on them. I also try to read books and look at genealogy (failing at that lately). Too much to watch/read/do and not enough time.

What are your recommendations?

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Birds

I re-joined the local bird society, Birdlife Melbourne, a few months after aquiring a car. I had joined before but could not get to their monthly Beginner outings which were quite far from public transport. I’ve since been to three (having missed two). They’re well worth the effort 1) because I get to see places I wouldn’t otherwise visit,  2) I see new birds I haven’t seen before and become more familiar with others, and 3) I love taking photos of birds, even though the camera’s autofocus lets me down quite a bit. I’ll start with an annoying example:

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There it was – a beautiful Crimson Rosella, just sitting there waiting for the perfect photo, and what does the camera do? It focuses on the bloody tree behind it! WTF? I did get the chance of a better photo after it flew further away.

I could go back to the older camera with manual focus but the zoom on this one is great. Often I just see a bird in the distance with no idea what it is. It’s only after I’ve zoomed in and taken a shot, that I can later identify it, like this white-plumed honeyeater.

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The sheer number of birds in Australia is just amazing so there’s always a bird I haven’t seen or heard before. I’m always learning, surrounded by the experts, who can spot a bird as easily as I might find the fridge. Numerous times there’ll be birders focussed on a point in the distance with their binoculars and scopes and I try to find it with the camera zoom and see nothing at all. I’ve thought about buying a pair of binoculars with a greater field of view, but they’re not cheap.

So the first outing I went on was to Banyule Flats to the north of where I live. Lack of preparation meant that the camera battery died out quite quickly, which was annoying to say the least. However, I did get a shot of the tawny frogmouth just sitting in a tree above the carpark!

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And I got my first view of the weirdest duck I’ve ever seen – the pink-eared duck.

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It was spring, so there was no shortage of babies.

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I also, unintentionally (I hadn’t see them), got a shot of tortoises!

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The next outing I went to was a hot, sunny day at Yan Yean reservoir, further to the north than the last outing. I was rewarded again with a bird right next to the carpark – a white-faced heron.

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I was not too happy with my photos from that day. A lot of the birds were quite far away on the water and my zoom was not up to scratch. I got blurry photos and headless bird photos (they will preen when I’m taking the shot). I did get a nice trio of wood duck and some other duck I haven’t identified. It looks the colour of a male chestnut teal but the head is the wrong colour – a female?

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The good ol’ black swan

We saw a black-fronted dotterel and a common sandpiper (not so common, it seems).

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It took me ages to spot the sandpiper on the far shore.

Flying in the sky was a darter (I had never heard of or seen one before).

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It was an idyllic spot for lunch.

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Nearby in a tree were several Nankeen night herons.

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The last trip I went on was to Lilydale Lake to the east. It was a wet morning but we seriously needed the rain. We didn’t see as many water birds as we’d hoped but still some good sightings. The afternoon was bright and sunny.

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A female darter waiting for sunshine to dry off

There were some young purple swamphen, or what I will always regard as pukeko.

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Look at the size of those feet!

A few white ibis were around.

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It was nice to see it in a more natural environment.

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A little pied cormorant

I got a better look at female darters with their long necks,

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and then we saw the very handsome male.

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We saw a few corellas, sulphur-crested cockatoos and rosellas, and a few galahs.

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As a bonus, from the lizard family, I saw a skink and a water dragon but they were too quick for me to get a photo. Another great day out.  I’m thoroughly enjoying the monthly opportunity to go bird watching.

By the way, if you care about birds, or wildlife in general, do sign this petition.

Racism

“This is not New Zealand” is the sentiment expressed everywhere on the internet after the horrific shooting of muslims in Christchurch. What do they mean exactly? True, such an abhorrent act has never been seen in New Zealand before, but the motivation should not come as a surprise considering the anti-muslim rhetoric spewing forth from america since 9/11.  Every muslim is regarded as a terrorist. I’ve heard anti-muslim remarks from New Zealanders. New Zealanders are not immune to racism. Even though the perpetrator was Australian (and I’m sure there have been many anti-Australian comments made as a result, or should I say even more), the views the man expressed are shared with many within New Zealand. Racists are everywhere, including among Maori.

My daughter has olive skin. She was working in a shoe shop in Palmerston North when a man verbally attacked her, saying she should go back to where she came from. Because she was not “white” he assumed, wrongly, that she was an immigrant. My daughter was so upset, she had to go home. She was born in New Zealand. Her mother is a New Zealand citizen. Such racist attitudes are not unheard of at all. Just because many educated New Zealanders do not have racist attitudes, they seem to think that all New Zealanders share that view. They do not.

On a nearly daily basis in New Zealand, I heard anti-Australian remarks at work. It was racism, pure and simple. I was sick to the back teeth of the negativity – any excuse to put down Australia. This article, appearing in Stuff in 2017, puts it so well:

https://www.stuff.co.nz/stuff-nation/92030101/dear-new-zealand-what-did-australia-ever-do-to-you

“Any chance to knock down Australia is seized upon, even the most tenuous of chances to criticise us is grasped eagerly. When someone has the audacity to stand up for Australia they get told Australians are much more vitriolic, so it’s okay.

I have lived in Australia for 33 years, I have worked with Kiwis, and at no point have I heard an Australian turn as venomous towards a Kiwi as I have heard Kiwis turn towards us.

We do enjoy banter and maybe we take it too far sometimes, but I’ve never heard an Australian say they hate New Zealanders – there are so many of you over here you’re part of our country.”

I have now lived in Australia for three years. Not once, ever, have I heard an anti-New Zealand sentiment. To be perfectly honest, Australians don’t even think about New Zealand except as a travel destination, but praise our scenery and lifestyle and even the current prime minister. What did Australia ever do to earn New Zealanders’ animosity?

I was pleasantly surprised that many commenters agreed with the article, while others, of course, disagreed, uttering remarks based on ignorance. Usually, you read any comments section of a stuff article (or any social media forum) and you will read small-minded bigotry and real hatred. Note the name of the author was withheld – for good reason. The person was probably in fear of receiving death threats and I kid you not. Why such surprise that one such wanker acted on his ignorance and moral ineptitude, fed by american media?

Before 9/11 no-one really thought about muslims. Blame the yanks. The official story surrounding 9/11 is all false and since then any terrorist act has been blamed on Al Qaeda, Isis, or some other named group we’d never heard of before 2001. Any muslim, mentally unstable or otherwise, acting alone or otherwise, is labelled a terrorist for any act whatsoever (such as stabbing one person). Any non-muslim is not. At least the Christchurch act is being labelled as terrorism. Frankly, I’m surprised there have not been more anti-muslim terrorist acts before now. Sadly, I think there will be more.

Brief trip to NZ

I was yearning for my brother’s place and decided to fly over in January (rather than in December when the fares are horrendous). H picked me up from the airport. For a change there was no problem. (When I say she picked me up from the airport, she actually parked down the road, avoiding overpriced parking fees.) Unfortunately, it was just before the “5 o’clock rush” (actually an hour before). I thought we’d be ok, but it took forever just to get to the centre of town. Wellington’s traffic infrastructure is ridiculous. In short, it took two hours to get to Upper Hutt. Was great to see bro, and I spent several days there.

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On the way to secluded beach

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I accidentally hit a camera setting I don’t normally use. Amazing the different effects for the same place – one looks tropical and the other looks quite ominous.

I stayed briefly in PN. I didn’t have a car so couldn’t visit people and had no real desire to visit Massey or advertise my presence. I only met a close friend for dinner one night.

For the rest of the time we travelled to Napier and surrounds and returned to my bro’s on the way back to Wellington.

I got a bit of bird-spotting in.

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Yellowhammer

Bertha, the goose, was still overseeing her flock.

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I spent some time with my grand-kitty.

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She was adorable and affectionate as a kitten but has grown into a rather aloof cat (not a lap cat at all).

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Cider tasting in Napier

A pleasant trip overall.

Back to work it was. Last I wrote, I think I mentioned going full-time at one job and ditching the other. Sadly, the place I wanted to work full-time can’t guarantee they’d have enough work. However, the good news is that the hourly rate has gone up $6. Since then, a law has passed allowing casual workers to apply to their employers to go permanent. The hourly rate would be less, however. I worked out the difference allowing for time off, paid and unpaid. I’m better off staying with what I have. In the meantime, I’ve decided to cut back on the hours worked at the other place, taking more Saturdays and weekends off, so I can actually do stuff. I just had a three-day weekend and enjoyed it tremendously, getting out on a local bird trip, going to the Escher exhibition and generally relaxing and enjoying myself.

I’ve booked a holiday in the Cook Islands for my winter getaway. It’s a difficult place to get to from Australia. Although there is a direct flight (one day a week) from Sydney, it arrives at something like 2 am. My friend in Auckland wanted us to travel together, so I’ll be travelling to Auckland both ways, which, unfortunately, involves an overnight stay as the flight times are not conducive to safely connecting to my flights to and from Australia. The Cooks being on the other side of the date line doesn’t help. Anyway, something to look forward to however brief the stay.

I’m sad that summer is coming to an end. Even though it’s often in the 30s, I enjoy the sunshine. Already it’s getting dark in the morning. Last week we had a cold snap (20 deg only) and I hated it.

That’s all, folks.

Healesville

I hadn’t been to Healesville sanctuary (for Australian native animals) for several decades, so I thought it was time to visit again. I had intended to do so on my birthday but the weather forecast for the day was pretty shit. I therefore changed it to the day before. Luckily I had no work on.

It was about an hour’s drive and the first time I’d driven the new car at 100 km (you can tell I don’t get out much) for a short part of the journey. I think I was one of the first arrivals for the day. The first animal to come into view was the cassowary in a wire-fence enclosure, which wasn’t great for photography (or for the autofocus).

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However, the koalas made up for that. There were about seven or more, easily seen.

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What struck me was that they all looked so different – their characters showing up in their faces.

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Such a gorgeous animal, and so sad that their habitat is being destroyed.

While I was admiring the koalas, a little bird was flitting around freely. It was a spotted pardalote and I found it difficult to get a good picture (autofocus problems or moving too quickly, or both).

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Nearby were a small group (a mob?) of kangaroos lazing around.

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Further on, a wombat, actually visible. Mostly they’re hiding in some burrow and I never get to see them properly, but this one obliged.

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The day had started out well and there was much more to see.

One of the highlights was seeing a baby tree kangaroo in its mother’s pouch.

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The next bird spotted (unspotted, haha) was a white-browed woodswallow.

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(By this stage I was thanking myself for having emptied the memory card before the trip, as I had already taken dozens of photos.)

In an enclosure which you could walk into was a very striking bird with large eyes which just gazed at me.

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Bush stone-curlew

Further on, in another enclosure was an echidna. My daughter had been lucky enough to see one in the wild. I couldn’t remember seeing one before at all (unless it was when I was a child).

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Among the many birds I photographed was the purple-eyed Satin Bowerbird,

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the Chestnut-breasted Mannikin,

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and the very tame white-headed stilts.

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Actually, I took a lot of bird photos (too many to share).  There were several walk-in aviaries dotted around the sanctuary.

The rock wallaby was cute, posed on a suitable rock.

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The pelicans were being fed as I passed by them on the way to see Tofu, a Tasmanian devil.

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I listened to the keeper give a talk about Tasmanian devils. They don’t actually deserve their reputation of being aggressive (like a wolverine). They are when it comes to food and mating, but they’re mostly solitary. They’re always pictured with their mouths open showing their teeth in an aggressive fashion but it’s more likely to be defensive. Sadly the facial cancer has killed off about 70% of the wild population. Tofu was pretty chilled.

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I thought he was pretty cute and he’s popular with the keepers.

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The sanctuary breed devils with others from fresh stock who are not diseased. They’re tested before they’re released to the wild (and are not displayed in public). I didn’t listen to the rest of the talk as I headed over to the bird show (rather like the show in Singapore’s Jurong Bird Park).

A couple of birds of prey flew around overhead, and also a sulphur-crested cockatoo. Then a young wedge-tailed eagle entered. He was supposed to open up a fake egg but didn’t co-operate.

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We waited and waited as the handler seemed to think the bird would do as expected. He was more interested in sitting on a branch nearby.

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It was obvious he wasn’t going to do anything and I’m surprised they couldn’t get the bird back and bring out another, so the rest of the show was cancelled, sadly. Knowing that he was young and inexperienced, they should have had him come out at the end of the show.

No Australian animal park would be complete without snakes and lizards.

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Probably the highlight for the day was the lyrebird. I entered a bird enclosure and was looking round, having spotted a superb fairywren, when I heard some sounds. I thought it was a recording of the lyrebird (never expecting to see it or hear it perform). It wasn’t. I spotted it under some ferns but couldn’t get a good view as I recorded sound. Among the sounds it made was currawong and kookaburra as well as a weird space gun-type noise. Instead of uploading my videos, I’ve attached one below with the lyrebird in view. (These people were lucky enough to see its tail feathers displayed.)

 

The bird came out after its performance.

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Small birds flitted around, including the Eastern yellow robin.

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Next up was the water birds (after the parrots). On the way, a skink was on the path.

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There was a wide variety of graceful wading birds, many of which I had not seen before,

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Pied heron

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Eastern cattle egret

and others I had, including the Royal spoonbill which I had seen in the wild in New Zealand, but now I got a closer look.

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The aptly-named blue-billed duck, was swimming around.

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The last animal I saw was a dingo, just lying in the dust, looking off somewhere. Autofocus did not like the wire fence.

I had a late lunch before heading off home. Not to be outdone, the white ibis (known colloquially as the “bin chicken”) got in on the act. It was very interested in my sandwiches. I had to shoo it off several times before it could snatch a piece.

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So, a wonderful day.  I took over 300 photos, so the above is just a fraction. I would recommend it over Melbourne zoo, which I personally dislike and would never go back to.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A new year

Things will change this year. I’m over having two part-time jobs. I’ve applied for another and in the likely event that I won’t get it, I will try to wangle five days a week out of one of my part-time jobs, which seems possible, I’m glad to say. I want my weekends back, my evenings back, my time to be my time. Bugger this working all hours at the drop of a hat, having to make excuses if you don’t want a shift, spending way too much time doing administrative stuff on their secure website (which takes ages to load), keeping up with pathetic goals, doing inordinate amounts of training in stuff you’ve done several times before. It’s all just a bit too PC. I’m sick of it. I haven’t had time to do what I want to do.

So, this year, as soon as possible, I’ll get rid of the weekend/evening work and then can actually do stuff, like blog, take photos, plan trips out of Melbourne. I feel like I’ve spent my whole time at work with just one day off a week. I had to forgo the walking group and the Welsh dancing in the weekends because of work. I had to turn down voluntary work because I didn’t have any spare time.

First up is a trip to Ballarat next Saturday. Normally I’m working on Saturday but I got rid of the shift. Then a trip to NZ to see bro. I haven’t told anyone in PN as I won’t have a car this time, and am uncertain whether I’ll be in town long enough to visit. If I do it can be a surprise. In the meantime I don’t want to commit to anything. Then in July I’ll head over to see my friend in the Cook Islands. Then C is talking of spending Xmas in NZ this year which would mean another trip. And while the weather is good M and I must get out and about and explore Melbourne environs. The summer goes by so quickly.

Ok, time to get ready for a shift this arvo. How exciting – not.

Merry Christmas

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I hope to blog more in the new year.

Relax, seek solace, go out, enjoy company.  Forget the consumerist nightmare.