Saturday, October 27, 2012


Not spiders this time.  Nope.  Sorry.  This is the stuff nightmares are made of - although spiders do that to me too.  So does deep water - and heights for that matter.  Flying has much the same effect and small spaces.  But this - this was different.  I had a horrible - the most horrible nightmare the other night.  And it wasn't even after watching a horror movie - which I admit that I do enjoy.  They are usually too unrealistic to believe and I generally laugh throughout.  Even those suspense ones that are supposedly modelled on real stories - real events that took place.  Even that I can handle - simply by brainwashing myself to believing that - nahhh - it's all fake.  It might not be fake but telling myself that is the only way I can relax about it.  

But the other night - oh no.  The difference - this one sprang from reality.   MY reality.    Damn it.  And it could happen again.  But that's not stopping me.

As is well known I am fighting bullying.  And again as is equally well known I am a past victim of this.  My book 'Bullseye' is to do with my fight.  And just last year I did an article for one of Australia's national magazines about this - a tiny bit of my own experience was mentioned, but apart from that, I have never really said anything about my own nightmare. 

Recently, I had the wonderful honour of befriending another author in Australia - I am actually establishing contact with quite a lot of authors world wide, some very well known, others new to the business.  All are absolutely fantastic people.  One in particular, when I mentioned her successful debut novel and that I stick to non-fiction as my imagination and creativity usually fail badly if I try to write using those.  This wonderful lady then stunned me and mentioned that her book is based on her life experience.  She then suggested that I do the same thing with my bullying experience.

So I am.  I have begun a novel based on my own experience.  And have realised this is the first time I have really opened up about it.  About the whole thing.  Everything will be revealed in this book which I am hard at work on - a huge labour of love, believe me.  I am currently writing the introduction - taking a walk through my few visits back to the school - and the memories are zooming back.  Some of them really surprising and scaring me - a few incidents which I had completely and absolutely forgotten.  And they didn't necessarily involve my bullies........

Thursday, October 18, 2012


I can still remember Mum coming in for breakfast and sporting a monster on her shoulder.  My seat was next to hers and I was the idiot who noticed it - Mum immediately swept it off her shoulder and realising I was in direct firing aim I reversed in one hell of a hurry, knocking down anything and everything in my path.  I was safe though - so was the spider.  It was taken outside and given its freedom.  In summer I was always too scared to move a picture, a curtain, almost anything for fear of disturbing spiders which were probably only hiding cos they were just as scared of me as I was of them.  

I think the first time I noticed another spider away from the station, was, believe it or not, when one was sitting fair in the middle of my bed at boarding school.  It was in a building that I had always felt was new enough not to have spiders anywhere near it - still not sure about my logic with this theory.  But just to deviate momentarily - I realised some years ago that this is one very strong consideration I have always taken into account when looking at possible new homes.  Which, to many, would possibly be very correctly labelled as paranoia - but so what!  Anyway, back to this scenario.  In those days there was a large lack of vegetation around that building and, to my way of thinking, only buildings that are surrounded by lots of vegetation or similar are those that attract spiders - these big, horrible, hairy ones.  So sorta got the fright of my life (OK - another fright of my life) when I walked into that dormitory and saw that - thing - standing in the middle of my bed.  I don't remember anything more than going into a complete 'spaz attack', the sort of which would normally have me committed.  To this day, knowing how well I was liked among my peers (ie I wasn't) I do suspect that the spider was actually planted.  I'll never know.

Stay tuned.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012


Believe me these Huntsman spiders could grow to be the most gigantic sizes.  Another I recall was on the ground just outside our then station office.  It was my favourite day of the week - Saturday - mail day - YES.  The long awaited mail bag had arrived and I was about to enter the office when I saw yet another - thing - right in front of me, on the ground.  It was one very pregnant spider - well, it was either pregnant or dangerously obese.  Poor thing (make the most of the sympathy, spider) could barely move and was trying to make its way to the nearest pole or wall for safety.  This sympathy got the better of me because I was actually prepared to allow it to find its haven of safety - OK so I was too scared to move - but did keep an eagle eye on it and didn't move until it stopped.  But the whole problem was suddenly 'solved' when one of my brothers came up behind me and asked what was wrong.  He hadn't seen the spider (he must have been blind - how in the hell could he miss it) and as he didn't actually stop walking, stepped right on the mother to be.  Now I have never witnessed anything like this before - what seemed like thousands and thousands of teensy weensy spiders just spread out like a great black blanket.  And up everything in sight - including my legs.  Not exactly a pleasant experience but at least they didn't scare me anything like their mother would have had she tried that and I got rid of many of them, accidentally on purpose, just by stomping around.  In hindsight I realise this was actually incredibly cruel of me but at the time all I could think about was the fact that they were only little babies and would eventually grow up into monsters, like their mother.  And their father - now where in the heck was he?  No thanks.  While I did kill many of them there was not a chance in hell that I killed the lot.

But wait - there's still more - stay tuned -

Sunday, October 14, 2012

'THE THING'.........

I can vividly remember 'making' a deal with one spider (hereon known as 'the thing').  The scene?  My first bedroom on the station.  I was going to bed and was about to turn off my lamp when something caught my eye - on the wall opposite me, above my dressing table.  I looked up and - holy heck, it was huge - ABSOLUTELY MAMMOTH.   It was moving around a bit - not that it needed to to catch my eye - it's size was enough to cause nightmares - actually just being a spider - any spider would have been enough to make me vacate the room completely, no contest.  They would win on sight.  But this night I must have been incredibly brave, or stupid, or tired - or - something, possibly a mix of the whole lot.  Instead of very quietly edging out of bed and the room (trying not to disturb it with my movement - I mean, hell these things could leap tall buildings in a single leap - I'm sure of it) for some reason which will always remain a mystery to me I found myself 'bargaining' with the thing.  I told it that I would not get someone to remove it as long as it stayed away from me - yea right.  In fact I think my reason was simply the fear that it could leap tall buildings - or at least across my room and land on me - if I dared to try to move.  There was just too much space between that door and me and I really could not take that chance.  That there were three times that much space between the thing and me was irrelevant.  And with that deal firmly (no hand shaking - no thanks) in place I very stupidly turned off my bed light and went to sleep.  Not quite sure how I slept with the knowledge that I was still in the same room as the thing.  All I can think is that in this deal making bit I must have successfully brainwashed myself enough to be able to relax - or I am incredibly stupid.  Well, something worked because next thing I knew it was next morning, sun was up and - wow - lo and behold - there was no sign of the thing.  YES.  So, feeling very happy and proud of myself (not really occurring to me to try to find the thing) I bounced up, dressed and started making my bed - which was against a wall so I had to move it out in order to make it.  Now I think anyone and everyone else in the world would pretty well have guessed what happened next - but not me - oh no.  I was patting myself too much on the back for my bargaining powers.  I had almost finished making the bed - and it still hadn't occurred to me to try to find the thing - when I suddenly looked down - and - no prizes for guessing - there it was.  With the bed pulled away from it it was stretching out a couple of its hideous legs trying to find something to grab on to.  I must have been brushing it every time I went around to make the bed - how I hadn't seen it is absolutely beyond me - I mean it was just tooooo big and waay too ugly to miss - surely?  Another blood curdling scream.  Sheer terror had me rooted to the spot this time - I could not move - not a muscle.  When my legs finally did decide to move of their own accord there was no stopping them - they took off - straight into the closed door.  I cannot remember any pain whatsoever - all I could think was that the thing was somewhere behind me, either leaping tall building or at least through the air - or just hiding.  Damn thing had not kept its part of the deal and for that it would pay - provided I could find it again.  We did - eventually.  And many will be pleased to know that whoever my saviour was picked it up with dust pan and broom and took it out into the garden - and put it down, just in time for a nearby bird to swoop and grab it.

But wait - there's more - stay tuned - 

Saturday, October 13, 2012


Another incident occurred during my childhood, still up on our station.  This one occurred in 'nextdoors' loo'.  Our own two loos must have been in use.  My uncle used to have a pile of magazines (questionable nature - downright dirty actually) kept next to the loo.  I remember sitting, minding my own business, 'reading' one of these magazines, when over the top appeared one hideously horrible, long, hairy, brown leg, followed by another, then another.  Again I screamed blue murder and just - ran.  I did have to open the door to get out but for the life of me I cannot recall doing that, so I have often wondered whether I didn't just run straight through it - like they do in cartoons.  I don't really think so though but I know I would have run like the devil again - down the path and was half way when I suddenly realised that - again - I was not quite correctly dressed.  My top half was fine but everything from the waist down was in a heap around my ankles.  While I didn't exactly worry about that at the time, since then I have to wonder how the jolly heck did I run like that, with both my pants twisted around my ankles.  No audience this time though and I do not believe I screamed - as much.  I did scream but not as much.  

Stay tuned.

Friday, October 12, 2012

SPIDERS - hmmmmm....

More new and exciting things happening every day - life continues to be so great.  But I am gonna tell all about my confrontations with spiders - my arachnophobia.  Such horrible things, in my opinion.  While I do abhor unnecessary cruelty to animals, spiders are one -thing - that I am not friends with.  Huntsman spiders in particular - I will vacate a room for these huge, horrible, hairy things.  I have always been reassured they are actually completely harmless - but I have to question that - how can something possibly be harmless when they give me a heart attack every time I see one?  And we used to get them in abundance up on the station.  But several of my encounters with these things occurred in places other than the station, but I'll start up there.  This is possibly a good time to get a cuppa (or something stronger), put your legs up and settle in - or walk away.

I remember this little scenario as though it was yesterday.  I was riding happily ('happily'?  The temperature would have been well over 40C) on my bicycle, darting between the bushes on the side of the road on the hill behind our station homestead.  Suddenly I became vaguely aware of something on my right arm.  I remember slapping at it a couple of times and stopping it momentarily.  Then it would take off again.  Brrr - I still get the shivers when I think about it.  Another slap and another momentary stop.  Eventually I felt this - thing - heading toward my hand - and suddenly two very very very - try endlessly - long and very very very hairy legs appeared out of my cuffs (I must have been wearing long sleeves - in that heat?).  Well!  Did that set me off, or what!  I actually cannot remember anything much after that except screaming blue murder and running like the devil back down the hill to the house.  I must have been stripping all the way (first streaker on the station?) because by the time I had nearly reached our back door - and my mother who must have been running up the hill toward me, trying to find the snake (that, in her mind, being the only thing that could cause such crazed reaction) - I was stark naked.  The spider being long gone, along with my clothes.  Now, a 'few' years later, I also have to wonder - how in the heck is it possible to strip like that when running like that?  How the jolly heck did I undo and take my shoes and sox off and my long pants?  While running, for goodness sake?  I know I sure as hell didn't stop.  Why was I wearing it all in that heat in the first place?  Once Mum had established there wasn't a snake at all but a poor, 'defenceless' (yea right) little spider that had caused this (she must have been able to translate that much from my babbling), I was thoroughly berated and left to try to dress myself - which meant retracing my steps and collecting all my clothes - again in that unbearable heat and all the while, fully expecting that 'poor defenceless' little horror to pounce on me and gloat.  But until that moment I hadn't actually realised I wasn't wearing a stitch - but when that realisation did hit me - hmmmm - I turned a very nice shade of red.  On retracing my steps I also discovered I had an audience, albeit from afar - all the other kids were watching from the tank where they had been swimming.  Therein arises another question - why were they enjoying that water - and I wasn't???  Well, this happened just a 'few' years ago - when I was a child - so I guess all this will remain a mystery forever.

More exploits next blog.

Sunday, October 7, 2012


Here we are, as promised.

I offer no apology for the fact that both past and present tenses are used in this piece; also that the imperial system is used (even though the metric is used in Australia).  I was raised on this and continue to use it in this piece.    

Mention the TRUE Australian outback to most people, be they from another nation or Australia and visions of a vast, barren desert, miles upon miles of virtually nothing except a bush here and maybe a tree there and plenty of red bulldust, usually come to mind.  Overall not an attractive picture, so most would think.

How wrong can one be.

I was born in Adelaide, capital of South Australia and raised on a sheep station in the north eastern pastoral district of that state.  The station was 115,000 acres, which was small compared with other stations further up and out.  Our livelihood depended on Marino sheep for their wool and a few head of cattle.  The land, which is very barren, it's true, is comprised of such vegetation as salt and blue bush, mulga and gum trees among others.  We averaged less than seven inches of rain per annum so could not rely on cropping.  Ours was among the first of the 'big' sheep stations heading north of Adelaide.

Peterborough was and still is the nearest town, being thirty miles away.  Along with my three older brothers and our cousins I was educated, until the ripe old age of eleven, by School of the Air and correspondence school.

There were times when we actually did have heavy enough rains to isolate us completely but with today's technology this no longer happens.  In those days (and I am only going back thirty or so years) we had our own generator providing us with thirty two volt power, a telephone connected to a 'party-line', mail once a week and groceries monthly.  The wonderful Royal Flying Doctor Service provided our medical services in emergencies.

My brother and his family were living on and managing the station until the last few years.  With improved roads and transport my niece and nephew were able to attend the local primary school in Peterborough.  Both then followed the lead of the generation before them and attended boarding school in Adelaide.  While the station is still in our family, it is now managed by an employed couple.

As can be gathered by the information above, rain water was and still is very scarce.  While all (or most) stations have several large concrete tanks, dam water was used for personal bathing, washing and dish washing.  The water looked dreadful, like wishy washy mud, but to many it was a real novelty to wash and swim in.  We also used to swim in the tanks; in fact this was more common than swimming in the dams which usually did not have enough water in them in which to swim.  However there was the very rare occasion when water was plentiful, thereby allowing us to swim in the dams and even in the creek, which was a lot of fun.  When swimming in the dams you just had to be careful not to be nipped on the toe by a yabby (similar to a crayfish or lobster and just as tasty).  A good deal of outback Australia's water is supplied by huge artesian basins.

While kangaroos are a dearly loved part of the Australian fauna, they, along with rabbits and foxes, are also a terrible menace in the outback.  Our station is surrounded by a supposedly dog proof fence.  However it seems no-one told the kangaroos about this as they cause more damage to the fence than anything else does.  In fact, dingoes are plentiful further north and rarely venture as far south as our station, but we do get the odd stray.  They rip the stock to pieces - not to eat - just for the fun of it!  Rabbits, kangaroos and other pests eat the spear grass and general vegetation, what there is of it, which is food for our stock.

As children, we often rescued orphaned 'joeys' (baby kangaroos), emus, the odd kids (baby goats as most would know), lambs and calves.  We also kept a carpet python snake as a 'pet' at one stage.  Let's just say it decided to take up temporary residence on our tennis court and we decided not to try to make it move on.  All these babes were released back into the wild once old and strong enough to survive by themselves.

Entertainment was a little different out there.  Travelling over one hundred miles for any kind of social occasion was very much the norm.  'Local' towns held annual horse racing carnivals where the focus was certainly more on local gossip, drinking, 'high' fashion, drinking, eating, oh and did I mention drinking - rather than the races themselves.  Races?  What races?  We actually had race horses at one stage but that was well before my time.

Up to the age of eleven my only real play-mate was my cousin.  Her rather co-managed the station with my father, his brother, for many years.  My cousin and I were eventually sent to different schools in Adelaide and have never really been close since.  She married and remained in South Australia, not far from the station, whereas I married and now live in Perth, Western Australia.

We all learned to ride horses and motor bikes and to drive cars (on the station only) almost before we could crawl.  That just seemed to be part of life out there.

At times were were almost completely self-sufficient; raising our own chickens, cattle for their milk and its bi-products, lamb and mutton, vegetables and fruit.  However much of this had to stop due to drought.  We even produced bread from our own ovens.  In those days we were fortunate enough to have an excellent cook, along with governesses and a 'cowboy'.  Those days are long gone now and we no longer produce any of the above, apart from the meat.  While parts of the sprawling homestead have been modernised for practicality the bread ovens have been preserved, along with our old milk separating cellar, although none is used.

Like most stations we have a couple of 'outstations'.  In better years one of these held a family of about fifteen children; the other has been empty as long as I can remember.  Now both stand abandoned and empty.

The homestead itself is typical of many country homesteads, with huge rooms, very thick stone walls, completely surrounded by wide verandahs, huge open fireplaces and very high ceilings.  This building,a long with the engine room, slaughter house, shearers' quarters, shearing shed, stables and assorted other buildings, resembles a small village.

And then there are the 'creepy-crawlies'.  The worst and most venomous snake is the Common Brown but we also have had visits from the King Brown, which lives further north.  Another common species is the afore-mentioned Carpet Python, which is harmless.  As for spiders, the harmless Huntsman is easily the most common and they can grow to be enormous.  I am afraid that I am very much an arachnophobic (see note below) and have suffered from this fear since childhood.  I used to try to overcome this for the sakes of my daughters - but that didn't work - they are now worse than I am!  We also have the Redback spider, which is a cousin to the Funnelweb, although not as venomous.

Among my childhood and teen memories is one relating to an 'uncle' who lived on a nearby station and who owned and flew a Tiger Moth aeroplane.  This uncle used to fly lower over our station dropping bags of sweets attached to tiny parachutes, for us children.  This occurred annually, after he had visited the Royal Adelaide Show.  We used to love racing each other into the huge creek bed at the front of the homestead searching for those little parcels; a bit like an Easter egg hunt.  We also had an airstrip, as did and do most stations, only ours has been overgrown by salt and blue bush.  It would in all probability cause an emergency instead these days.

The aforementioned creek could be very dangerous but also very exciting in heavy rains.  It didn't even have to be raining on the station; as long as there had been heavy enough rains upstream, the chances were very high of our creek coming down a 'banker' (meaning a usually bone dry creek suddenly filled to overflowing with water).  I have only witnessed it once but would not have missed it.  Imagine standing in a completely dry creek bed and suddenly hearing an almighty roar - looking in that direction and seeing a huge bank of water, usually feet deep, coming straight for you, taking all in its path.  These 'bankers' have been known to drag fences, trees, windmills, junk, animals and anything else that gets in the way as far as the creek travels.  We have found items on stations over two hundred miles away.  

There really is just so much more to the magnificent Australian outback than has been mentioned here.  To the eye of the uninitiated it probably still is and always will be a vast, barren, boring, unending desert with very little, if anything, to offer - especially when compared with mountains (we have those in the outback, too), lush green pastures, rivers, waterfalls, flowers and other flora and fauna.  Yes I concede that the outback could well be considered 'ugly'.

But it is not.

It is really beautiful if one bothers to take the time to really look and appreciate the beauty.  You do not need a vivid imagination to really see that beauty - there are mountains, beautiful scrubs of trees and wildflowers in abundance.  Just the colours of the hills and valleys at dawn and sunset and after rain, are spectacular in themselves.  I have seen many magnificent paintings of different settings in the outback - they cannot be imagined, they are real, just as are those of snow-capped mountains, waterfalls, rivers and forests.

The fauna is as impressive as that of the lusher areas too.  As previously mentioned kangaroos abound out there, but not koalas.  These gorgeous creatures are fussy eaters in that, while Australia has numerous types of eucalyptus trees, the koala will only eat the leaf of one species and this is only found in certain areas of Australia. Other fauna includes hundreds of different sorts of lizards, snakes (both of which are reptiles), along with many other creatures, some of which are harmless, some not.  Emus, eagles, eaglehawks, galahs, sulpher-crested cockatoos, rosellas, cockatiels (which have a different name in each Australian state), wild canaries, budgerigars to name just a few.  There are also hundreds of species of smaller ground-living birdlife.

Like every nation, Australia has many features of interest for the tourist but I just feel that the outback, which really does have just so much to offer, is too often overlooked.  After all, it does make up most of the nation but still so often goes by unnoticed.  So - this is my little effort to help acknowledge and salute it - as deserved.

I have also just decided to start adding parts of my auto-biography in here.  This will give an even better look at life in the outback and also includes some rather amusing stories about my 'brushes' with spiders.

Stay tuned.

Saturday, October 6, 2012

I keep thinking life just couldn't get any better but then something always happens that proves that  thinking to be wrong - again.  I am soooo loving everything that I am doing now.  Research for my book on stations is absolutely snowballing - I am meeting the most wonderful people - even some 'new' relations and family friends that I didn't previously know existed.  Amazing.  Even had a wonderful drive into the 'country' last week - to a small town out there, meeting another couple of retired pastoralists.  Such lovely people and the drive was beautiful.  A five hour round trip which many would baulk at but not me, nor most country people.  If you are not prepared to travel, you would probably never leave home at all if you live out there.  We used to travel up to two hundred kilometres for dinners and parties in my childhood - so what?  This is outlined in my piece, 'Edge of the Outback' which I am going to repost here tomorrow.  Just to give you a taste of what that life is like......

Stay tuned.....