Top End

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In Darwin during the wet season it’s hot, humid and wet. People melt and turn to puddles like the Wicked Witch of the West in The Wizard of Oz. Hands and feet web, skin scales and slimes. Some grow gills and evolve into walking fishy things like the monster in that old black and white horror film, The Creature from the Black Lagoon.  Listen carefully and keep a sharp eye. You can hear them coming, their feet slap like a scuba diver’s flippers over a flat rock.

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Australians call it the Top End.  It’s a big place. There are cattle stations up there bigger than Texas. (Okay that’s not quite true…but there are some mega-big cattle stations, and I bet the cattle guys in Texas are eating their hearts out.) There are two seasons in the Top End, the wet and the dry.  The Capital of the Top End, aka the Northern Territory, aka N.T., is Darwin. You should go there, but not during the wet season.

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Dot, that’s Australian derivative for Dorothy, travelled to Oz via a cyclone.  Cyclones are not a safe method of travel. Darwin has an airport and real planes fly into it. Darwin has already had its fair share of cyclones and I’m sure they’re not keen on another, but it will happen in time, whether they’re keen or not.  And when you see what those fuckers can do when they hit a place like Darwin, the last thing you’d want to do is throw a saddle on one and take it for a ride.

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During the wet, storms are so fierce that you daren’t walk out in them because lightning will seek you out and turn you to a carbon husk like a spitted pig left too long over coals. Rain will come down and wash you into a drain.  There will be no trace.

Such things are said.  They may be true. Or maybe, I’m just fucking with you. But seriously, if you come to visit, and you should, don’t come in the wet, you won’t like it.

The end of the wet is a time for celebration and joy.  The harbinger of this is the coming of the dragonflies. Top Enders don’t do anything too weird during this time. They don’t sacrifice virgins to crocodiles or anything, but there are a lot of nice restaurants in Darwin and the weather is mild enough so that you can enjoy them al fresco.

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In Darwin there’s a museum that showcases their history, their tragedies and hard times, like the devastation of Cyclone Tracey and the Japanese bombing during World War 2. More people were killed in that attack than were killed in Pearl Harbour, but they didn’t get the same press.

 

People in Darwin are like the Dragons Teeth in the stories of Cadmus and Jason. You can’t keep them down. They rise from the earth like warriors and rebuild.

 

Dragons teeth reminds me.  They have crocodiles in the Top End, big bastards. They swim silently on the surface or just beneath without a ripple. You don’t see them but they see you. So, don’t go picking water lilies.  Don’t kick back on the banks of waterways for a nap or you will never be seen again and I reckon it would be a damn sight more painful and terrifying than being hit by lightning.  Lightning is known for its quickness.  Crocodiles are known for their death roll. You see them sunning on the banks, slow and sluggish. Don’t be fooled. Everything with them is a ruse, they’re cunning bastards.  Crocs eat lots of stuff.  They’re good at it. They’ve been doing it for 200 million years and that’s a long time. Hell, I’m not even sure rocks have been around that long.

 

In the offshore waters, they have box jellyfish. They aren’t cute and cuddly either.  If they don’t kill you, they’ll sting you with so much pain, you’ll wish they had.

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The museum has a stuffed crocodile named Sweetheart. He was a bad tempered bastard and was prone to attacking outboard motors and fishing boats and scaring the shit out of people who’d gone out for some peace and quiet on the water and giving them heart attacks.  The Northern Territory Parks and Wildlife tried to take him alive but he wouldn’t have a bar of it. He was an ornery bastard and fought to the very end, got tangled up in a log and drowned.  Being an old guy myself, I rather favour the cranky and curmudgeonly and Sweetheart had plenty of that going for him.  I think I would have liked him.

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In the Darwin Museum they have little room you can go into and when you shut the door you can experience the sounds of Cyclone Tracy running rampant outside and tearing things down and being a real asshole.

 

In Darwin there’s a street named after the great Aboriginal warrior, Nermaluk.   I like him too.  Now days, we’d call him either a freedom fighter or a terrorist, depending on which side you’re on.  They don’t have anything about Nermaluk in the museum, which is a shame, because he was even tougher and more bad ass than Sweetheart.

 

In the museum you can see examples of Aboriginal Art.  It’s is beautiful and unique and records the land and messages in ornate patterns and brilliant colours.  These guys have a culture that goes back more than fifty thousand years.  Suck on that China. Suck on that Europe.  Suck on that Egypt. They get a kick out of we white folks dating things back from 2,000 years ago, but they’re polite about it.

 

Come to Darwin. Go to the museum.  It’s fun.  And unless you’re a complete dullard you’ll enjoy it and learn neat stuff.  And while you’re there rent a car and drive up to Kakadu where the Aboriginal people have managed to get a World Heritage Listing to stop the white folks from fucking it all up.  You can take a trip on the river and see crocodiles bigger than freight cars, thousands of different birds and water lilies, and flowers, and golden winged dragonflies, all kinds of neat things.  You can hike up to cliff faces where there is Aboriginal rock art that goes back thousands of years and tells the story of their Dreaming.

 

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Most people come to Australia and go to Sydney and other big cities like Melbourne, Adelaide, Brisbane and Perth and I’m not knocking them. I’ve been there and they’re cool but, meh, they’re cities. If you want something really unique and exciting, come to the Top End.  You’ll like it.  Just don’t come during the wet.

 

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On Full Moons, Willie Wagtail and Early Mornings.

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Moonrise over the Corindi River.

When there’s a full moon, Willy sometimes sings through out the night.  He twitters and scrapes in the backyard outside our window, a sweet song that reminds me of cold clear water washing over stone.

Lately, in the early morning the butcher bird joins in.  The butch is further off, his song is clear melodious fluting…startling pure piping tones off in the distance.

This morning a wattle bird breaks the tranquilty with its rusty hinge screech…something has disturbed it.  Maybe a cat foraging through the early morning…

Willie Wagtails are one of my favourite birds.  I love their song.  I love the way they dance and spin above the ground to flush out insects.  I love their black feathers and tail and their white breasts.  I love the little white eyebrows above their gleaming black eyes.  They remind me of a little old men dressed in a tuxedos.

I hate it when I find a pile of black and white feathers on the ground and it pisses me off that people don’t keep their cats in at night.  Willies often hunt at night and flutter close to the ground flushing up insects to eat.  Like much of Australian birdlife they are exceptionally vulnerable to marauding  cats.

 Mr and Ms Willie are living in our back yard.  We’re pretty certain they’re nesting in one of the golden canes that line our back fence.   We know this because Mr and Ms Willie sing their soft little song early in the morning.  They often start just before 5:00.  They wake Shadow, and she tromps noisily around the house and bangs through the doggie door announcing that she thinks it a damned good time to get out of bed and go for a walk.  Julie and I think it’s a damned good idea to start Daylight Savings a bit earlier.

Willie Wagtails are exceptionally active and vocal when there is a full moon.  I don’t know why.  I can only think that bug hunting is more productive on a full moon or maybe Willie is just celebrating because there’s more light.

The last few days Mr and Mrs Willie have been fluttering around one of our large terra cotta lanterns that hangs from our verandah.   We haven’t lit the lantern in a long time and every opening is  filled with spider webs.  I thought at first they were stealing the packaged insects caught in the web.  I even remarked to Julie one morning when we were sitting out on verandah having breakfast that Willie managed to get her beak all covered in sticky web.  It occurred to me a few days later that Mr and Mrs Willie probably weren’t really into eating desiccated insect husk but were collecting the sticky web to assist in building their nest.  The terra cotta lantern is totally web free now.

We often have wattlebirds nesting in our yard.  In fact sometimes they nest in a wicker lantern that hangs from the ceiling on the veranda, but this is the first time we’ve had Willie Wagtail nest in our yard.  I’ve yet to see the nest and I don’t really want to disturb them by trying too hard and despite their early morning singing, we’re just glad they’re here.

The Starting Point

I’m not certain what this was intended to be…but  I know what I want it to be.  It’s to be an eclectic mess of ideas, happenings, politics, books, films, television, food, booze, nature, the environment and whatever makes me feel good or pisses me off, what gives me hope and what leads me to despair…a dog’s breakfast of ideas, events and issues…an olla podrida, a salmagundi, a gallimaufry,a hodgepodge.  A place to celebrate, communicate and vent.  A place to share things that may be interesting or useful or different.

So my mission statement is that I don’t have a mission other than to write, record, photograph and video things.  Sometimes I’m overwhelmed by the beauty of things and I’m keen to share them.  I’m old enough to know that I’m not going to change the world but am too stubborn not to try.  I’m old enough to know you can’t dictate to people what to think but would be satisfied with people just thinking.

So this is my first entry.  It’s abstract and loose.  It’s a start.