Camellias of Mount Cootha


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It was a cold day today in Brisbane, but after putting on a few layers of clothing I took my mother Freda (pictured in the centre) to visit my close friend Marina (far left) in her garden.

Marina cares for the temperate garden in the Mount Cootha Botanical gardens in Brisbane. It is located 7 km from CBD. Winter is the time when the temperate garden shines because the camellias are blooming, and the red ones are exquisite. I took a few pictures of different colours, but these red ones were burning to be shown. There are also dark pink and a red and white camellia in these pictures. The botanical gardens is opened every day.

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Camellias are easy to  grow and can survive for a long time. They are hardy and relatively trouble free. With a little care, they will give many years of pleasure with their attractive evergreen foliage and beautiful floral displays. Camellias are known to grow 100 and 200 years – the oldest recorded planting that is still living today is in the Panlong Monastry in China – planted in 1347.

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Contrary to popular belief, Camellias thrive in a wide range of conditions – from the cooler climes around the hills of Sydney and Melbourne to the hot and sometimes humid conditions that we experience in South East Queensland and further north. A particular Camellia variety that does well in cooler areas may not perform as well in a warmer region – and of course the opposite applies. The best results will come from selecting varieties that are suitable for the area and position.

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Camellia Glen

Mt Cootha Botanical gardens

Kaz Plays the Thief – Bird Life Photography


Kaz the rainbow lorikeet checks the coastline before he breaks into  the bird-cage to steal food and hang out.

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Kaz plays a thief, checking all around him before he checks into the cage to eat Boz’s food. This pet lorikeet grew up in this cage and while our house is still his home, he lives in the palm trees in the wild. He knows he is welcome anytime at the Bellbowrie house. The rainbow lorikeet gets his own food, but he prefers to bully his younger rivalry Boz who is waiting to grow flying feathers while living in Kaz’s old cage. The funny thing is, Boz, the scale-breasted baby lorikeet is not afraid of Kaz at all. Sometimes, he would climb out and let’s Kaz play in the cage.

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Kaz starts of with his own food on the deck chair. JK.Leahy Picture©
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However, he really wants to get into the bird-cage and see what is there. Kaz tries Boz’s water. JK.Leahy Picture©
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A very annoyed Boz waits in the bottom corner for his older aggressive visitor to do whatever he wants and hopefully get out of his home. Sometimes, we have to chase Kaz out and close the cage so Boz can relax. JK.Leahy Picture©
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Sometimes, a neck scratch is called for, just to assure Boz – he is the boss of the cage after all and everything is fine.

 

Madrid’s Don Quixote Tapestries~


These intricate tales in tapestry and such a beautiful collection. Thank you Cindy.

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The Royal Palace of Madrid,
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has a special exhibit,

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honoring the 400th anniversary of the death of Miguel de Cervantes, the author of, “The Ingenious Gentleman Don Quixote of La Mancha.”

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These tapestries were commissioned by Phillip V who lived from 1683-1746,
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and depict in detail the life and adventures of Don Quixote.
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I included a close-up so you could see the intricate stitch detail in these remarkable tapestries.
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They were woven sometime in the early 1700’s by the Madrid Tapestry Factory which was founded by King Phillip V. Goya worked for a time in this factory creating designs.
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Cheers to you in honor of Don Quixote who taught us so much about the subjective nature of our perceptions~

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Things My Mother Obsesses About – Story


Obsession JK. Leahy memoir

The kitchen in Bellbowrie house was marvelous. It’s Wednesday today, but the kitchen also looked marvelous on Tuesday and Monday.  I simply wanted to make chicken soup tonight, but I was afraid to dismantle this piece staring at me.

I looked at the stacked white cups, plates, and silver bowls that made this strange beautiful body and then the cutlery that made its arms and legs. Each item was part of another. It was a tidy dishwasher look without all the sections, except it was arranged to come together as one piece. If I had built a kitchen sculpture like that myself, it probably would have already unraveled when I got to stacking the spoons and the forks. And right now, if I tried to remove one cup or spoon to use, the rest would come crashing down like a dismantled sculpture. My son Nathan washed our dishes sometimes, but this was not his work of art – it was clearly my mother’s. My mother is obsessed about cleanliness and obviously tidiness. She has her own unique way of doing it.

Our kitchen has been so clean and different in the past six weeks since my mother has been with us in Brisbane that I’m inspired. I made a promise to myself; I could live up to this new expectation after she leaves. May be I could cut down on writing, art, a job, the garden, birds…It was not that we lived in a dirty house, but when my mother does something, especially cleaning, she takes it to a higher level, and makes you feel really good about it.

I could not have made this kitchen any cleaner in the past five years. Mother was not only obsessed with cleanliness, but getting any job done. Her gardening was the same and she began early and worked long hours. She was determined to clean the whole area and I reminded her some parts of our place was meant to be bushy for the animals. My siblings had asked me to bring our mother away from PNG to rest – but you think she would listen to me – no. She loves working hard. She attributes her strict work ethics to her parents, nursing, and her early learning from the Germans and Americans after the war.

I was grateful for her help now, but I fear when her holiday ends, this kitchen would return to the way my sons always left it; filthy with empty containers, piled up dirty dishes, peeled purple onion shells and spilled beverages. I clean it but it was never easy to maintain that pristine state for more than two days.

I took out the thigh fillets and started making chicken soup for my mother, my younger son Chris and I. Nathan had cooked his own meals for nearly a year and since he started a special fitness programme.

Across from the kitchen, my mother was folding the clean washing. Her knitting was on the dining table, colourful and laid out in neat bundles of colours. Mother folded all our clean washing like the way a machine would have done. We did sit and tell stories while we folded, but I soon gave up folding with her because she tended to unfold and re-fold the clothes I folded. And, if I told her she wasted her time because the clothes were meant to be worn again, she just giggled and said she preferred they were ‘properly folded’.

As I watched the boiling pot of chicken soup, I pictured Mother laying out all her medical tools on the shiny trays and pushing them from ward to ward on her tall shiny trolley. She is staring ahead with her white cap and apron crisply ironed and sitting in the precise position on her green uniform. She walks with her head held high and exuding a presence of authority when all around her is turmoil. I wondered if anyone had ever messed up her display of shiny metal pieces on the trays when she was a nurse. I once asked and she told me – never!

I think Mother’s cleaning and folding obsessions started from the hospitals and later, H.C. Leo a Chinese clothing manufacturer in Port Moresby hired her to fold completed garments. She was so precise with her craft that customers thought the cellophane packed and sealed shirts were done by machines.

My mother’s dedication to what she loves doing is second to none.

(To my regular readers – I wrote this draft/story yesterday, a part of a longer piece for Isabel D’ Avila Winter and our last Creative Writing Workshop group next Tuesday in Kenmore). If you expected drama while reading this – well there is, but it is in the rest of this story in the memoir – thank you for reading).

Michael Kiwanuka – Music for the Soul


Thank you Slipper Edge for sharing the music of this fantastic talent, Micheal Kiwanuka.

Of Ugandan parentage, who escaped the Amin regime (1971-1979), Kiwanuka (born May 3,  1987) grew up in Muswell Hill, North London. He attended Fortismere School after completion of A-levels and studied in the School of Media, Arts and Design at the University of Westminister.

Kiwanuka acknowledged that his music has influences of great musicians such as Otis Redding, Bill Withers, Bob Dylan, Jack Johnson and Eric Bibb.

Official website and tours.

The Honey in the High Hollow – Bird Photos


I went to watch my son play rugby with my mother this morning and this pair of young rainbow lorikeets got my attention. The game had not started yet, but I could hear them quietly chatting in the trees while honey-hunting. The pair was after the honey more than 20 feet high in the  hollow  of this large gum tree at University of Queensland rugby field, Brisbane.

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Reality versus Fiction


Reality versus Fiction
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Watercolour image courtesy of haruki-murakami.com

You have not posted on this blog for ten days, (Oh my! Was it that long?) How time flies when you are pursuing reality; trying to get as much out of my mother for a memoir after 50 years or so of your life and finding that you still can’t get her to talk about EVERYTHING, applying for many jobs and getting no response and it is ok when it should not be (because you are worried about your mortgage and your bills and what your family is going to eat), trying to stay positive while the news about how your country (PNG) is going to waste away at the hands of politicians, university students being shot by police because they want to voice what is right, and another bright young student loses his life to Malaria when he could have been saved, receiving sad news that one of your heroes (Mohamed Ali) has died…and the list goes on.  

Many writers are faced with reality versus fiction every day. Sometimes it can be hard to separate the two, and it makes you think hard on what is real and what is not. I also found it interesting that my perception of some important things I remembered when I was a child was different from what my mother told me today. Sometimes, in our recent discussions, I even realised it was not even the reality versus fiction, but a different or two conflicting points of view – hers and mine. Perhaps I found myself thinking too hard about this topic in the past few weeks that I needed to write something about it. 

Anyway, I’m rambling, but glad to be writing here again and I have a piece here from my friend Teresa Buisman about 1Q84 written by Haruki Murakami which I think is relevant to what I am writing about. A few days ago, Teresa watched the documentary I posted on tribalmystic blog about Haruki Murakami and his work of fiction. 

I was surprised to learn that Teresa had read 1Q84, a trilogy I bought for my son Nathan two Christmas’s ago, but he never read the book so I read it myself. The only complaint I have about this book is that, it really strained my finger muscles while reading it in bed, (it is of 1300 pages and heavy) and if you are into this kind of story, be prepared to lock yourself in a room where no-one can disturb you for five days. If you ask me if I slept at all – I probably didn’t, but I can’t remember anything else except the story. This piece on reality was written two years ago as Teresa was reading the book.

On Reality by Teresa Buisman

I’m reading a book called 1Q84 by Japanese author Haruki Murakami – I love his writing; it gives me food for thought. One of the things that he’s making me think about this time is the perception of reality. The book is set in an alternative 1984 and whilst some things are the same as “normal” other things are completely different.

For instance, there are two moons in the sky – one is the regular moon as we know it, the other is a smaller green moon that sits beside it.  You would think that people would notice such a change in the night sky but it seems that the majority don’t.  They keep living their normal lives, going to work, doing the shopping, moving through their days as they always have.  Our heroes, however, are experiencing changes at the core of their reality. I don’t want to spoil the book for those of you who want to read it but it struck me that reality is perception just as much as perception is reality – does that make sense? What is real for some people is far-fetched and out of reach for others.

Look around you, there are examples everywhere. Take the lady on Hay Street this morning: a very chilly morning for Perth at around 2oC.  She’s there on the street with her little sign asking for your spare change. The sign tells you she’s homeless, suffering with MS and has no money. She’s got a blanket over her knees, she’s shivering and dishevelled. Her eyes are dim pools of hopelessness, she’s given up. This is her reality.  Does she ever see that there could be another reality for her?

As I pass I drop a few coins in her collection box, hoping that other people will also be kind and that she’ll find warmth and comfort to help her through the chilly days ahead.  I don’t know what to say to her, she’s from a different world to me as I head off to my corporate job in a swish glass and marble building with warm drinks on tap and wonderful views down to the Swan River.

Do I feel guilty about the relative affluence of my reality? Perhaps I think I have worked hard and deserve my good fortune? Or perhaps I feel bad for only giving her enough coins to buy herself a coffee instead of slipping her a quick $50 that I probably wouldn’t even miss? Or maybe I just take it for granted and don’t think about it at all?  But whichever way I look at it, the MS lady and I live in very different realities – in the same town – working in the same street.

Do we make our luck, our own reality, or is it fate – destiny? Those of us who are fortunate enough to live in the affluence of the western world have the opportunity to make our own reality.  But what about the MS lady? What’s her story? She’s from this same westernised affluent society isn’t she, so what makes her reality so different?

Reality is very subjective.