Friday, May 25, 2007


We meet many people during our lives and some of those people tend to remain in our memory. We even recall people we met only briefly and whose names escape us. No doubt we remember them because there was something about those individuals that left us wondering about how they would manage in the future.

I mention this because I wish to write about a young man I met whilst working in Sydney a very, very long time ago.

This memory was triggered early one morning when I could not sleep and I had a sudden suspicion that I was experiencing tinnitus. I became aware that there was a humming sound in my head and I thought, “I wonder if this is tinnitus.”

The noise sounded like two rather pleasant notes recurring over and over in my left ear.

I then thought, “If this is tinnitus then I can cope with a bit of music playing in my head.”

It was the thought of music in my head that triggered the conversation with the young man.

I don’t remember spending much time with him at work because I do believe that he wasn’t one of the regular people on my shift. He may have been filling in for someone on the night we had the interesting conversation that left me wondering about how his life panned out.

When we met, he had just finished his last year at high school and, as he had to wait a few months before beginning his university course, he had started work at the bank.

Our job involved shiftwork at the computer centre of the bank and I do know that the conversation occurred on a night when we were working the graveyard shift. There was nowhere to go during the meal break so we would spend that time with co-workers.

During our conversation, I asked what course he had chosen to do at uni and he said that he was going to do Law.

I must have appeared to be an empathetic listener because it wasn’t too long into our conversation before he began to confide in me.

He told me that it was his parents who wanted him to do Law. Obviously he had the academic ability to complete the course and they had decided that he would, indeed, do the course.

When I asked what he wanted to do, he said that he wanted to write music. He said that he heard music in his head and, as he tried to explain it to me, I could sense how important his need to capture this music was to him.

And he wasn’t talking about simple little “rock and roll ditties” but complex symphonies.

I was only a year or two older than him but I felt the need to offer some sort of reassurance and advice.

No doubt I would have told him that I completely understood about the concept of hearing music in his head because my head is always filled with words that swirl about until they formed into sentences and then formed into prose and eventually it becomes essential that those words are written down so that my head is left vacant allowing the process to begin all over again.

My advice at the time was that, if he couldn’t go against his parents’ wishes, he would always have his music and he may be able to concentrate on it sometime in the near future.

I do wonder if he ever had the chance to follow his passion. I hope he did.

My regret is that I can not remember his name so that I can Google it and find out whether the music in his head was written down and eventually performed by an orchestra.

The music in my head does continue. I am not sure if it is tinnitus or not.

I remember that my maternal grandmother would complain about her tinnitus so I have always been aware of this condition. My grandmother was very irritated about this constant noise in her ear and she would bitterly complain about it.

Given my suspicions about hearing music in my head, I did a bit of research and I found a most helpful site:

I have learnt that the word "tinnitus" means "tinkling or ringing like a bell". I have also learnt that tinnitus is usually a roaring, buzzing, or ringing sound in the ear. This site even has audio of the noises that tinnitus can produce.

My two recurring pleasant notes don’t seem typical of the experience. Maybe, like my co-worker, I am simply hearing music in my head. Although I am not sure that I can build a symphony upon those two notes.

Thursday, May 10, 2007


My beloved cat, Bill the brown Burmese, has his bedroom in our large double car garage. It is the best room in the house. It is cool in summer due to the concrete floors and the added insulation of being beneath the bedroom and bathroom section of the house. Also it is warm in winter as the bricks retain the heat and there are a number of windows which provide many pools of sunshine for Bill to sleep and to sunbake in.

Below is a picture of baby Bill when he was not much larger than a mouse.

When he is not in his bedroom, Bill is in the house on a bed or a lap. And, when he is not sleeping, he is pestering me for food.

I do allow him to venture outside the house on occasion but I do worry about his wellbeing as the farm is awash with dangers. There are snakes, of course, and you will hear more about them soon. And there are many feral cats, against which Bill has tested his fighting skills with unfortunate results.

I also try to limit his outdoor life because I don’t want him to practise his hunting skills on the local native birds and baby hares.

Fortunately he is intimidated by the birds that frequent my bird baths. They will squawk loudly at him and at times they will execute bomb dives towards him and he will retreat with his ears back and his tail between his legs.

When we are away from the farm, we always ensure that Bill is left safe and sound in his bedroom garage.

Well, we had always assumed he was safe and sound until a recent event when we found that we were in need of Steve Irwin and his snake handling skills.

I must digress here to say that I still find it difficult to accept the sudden death last year of my fellow Queenslander, the endearingly zealous and genuine conservationist, Steve Irwin.

Back to the event. It occurred on a Saturday night when we were relaxing with a drink, watching TV and Bill had retired to his bedroom. The son heard a noise coming from the garage and he remarked upon it. The spouse dismissed it assuming that it was Bill having a bit of a tussle with one of our many resident green tree frogs.

But the son wasn’t convinced and he felt that the sound was different and he went down to the garage to investigate. Suddenly we heard him yell, “Snake!”

The spouse, displaying a dose of optimism, said it may just be the blue tongue lizard that has been living in our yard. However he was soon to discover that it was a large and deadly brown snake.

Yes, Bill and a snake were having a bit of a dust up in the garage. Bill was taking an occasional swipe at the snake and the snake was lunging at him in defence.

We grabbed Bill from the garage and I took him to the kitchen where I started wiping his paws and body with a wet rag in order to remove any venom on his fur.

We all know how cats react to having nasty substances on their bodies.

“Oh dear, what is that on my coat. Best lick it off.”

The daughter decided that water was not enough to cleanse Bill so she got out the antiseptic and tipped it in a plastic container of water and she gathered a number of rags and she started to drown the poor cat in this solution.

Her actions only added to my distress. Will Bill die from an unseen puncture wound from the snake or will he die from ingesting the antiseptic solution after his next bout of grooming?

Meanwhile the spouse is in the garage with a torch and a spade trying to coax the brown snake out of his hiding place so he could dispose of it.

As a born and bred country lad, this wasn’t the spouse’s first encounter with a snake nor will it be the last.

The brave son was milling about behind his (extremely brave) father armed with a hoe and giving his father much moral support and lots of advice.

I was somewhere between the two events, that is, the drowning and/or poisoning of Bill in the kitchen and the dangerous "Steve Irwin" activity in the garage.

It should be noted here that snakes are a “protected species” in Australia. And that is fair enough if they would go about their business avoiding us as keenly as we try to avoid them. But when they enter the sanctum of your home it is another matter. We have the right to be just as much of a “protected species” as they are.

Also I would like to mention at this point that Australia has severe gun laws which restrict the ownership of guns to people who have a legitimate reason to own a gun and a gun licence. These people include farmers needing to cull feral animals and people who use guns for sport such as target shooting.

Oddly enough, criminals are not subject to any restrictions whatsoever upon their ownership and purchase of weapons or their ability to use their weapons on human beings rather than feral animals and shooting targets.

I don’t know why this is. Perhaps I should ask this current Howard Government who imposed these gun laws upon the non-criminal population about this anomaly.

I mention guns here because it would have been foolish of my spouse to have tried to “wing” the snake using his legal weapon given that all surfaces were concrete and brick. The ricochets would have made it very interesting indeed.

After a tense time, the snake was eventually “subdued”.

The Australian Eastern Brown Snake (Pseudonaja textilis) is one of Australia's more deadly creatures. They are fast-moving and aggressive and they have venom which can cause death to humans relatively quickly if left untreated. Brown snakes are not always brown and they can grow to over 6 feet in length and they are even claimed to be the world's second most deadly snakes.

After the encounter with the snake was ended, we had the long wait to see if Bill was going to start to display the telltale signs that he had been struck by the snake and in need of antivenom from the emergency veterinary clinic which was a good 30 minute car trip away.

We all watched his every move and he seemed to be okay and he even tried to return to the garage to finish off the argument with the snake.

The spouse's theory as to why Bill survived the encounter was because snakes are not good at moving about on concrete and it may not have been able to get enough of a grip on the slippery surface to make a really solid strike and therefore make good contact on Bill’s body.

Whatever the reason we are grateful for his survival. It was not his fault that his bedroom was invaded. The snake came into his haven, his bedroom. It may have been able to slip though the gap between the floor and the garage doors. Or it could have snuck in when the doors were open.

We are currently experiencing a drought so it is inevitable that the snakes may come in search of water in and about the house.

We have had a number of snakes arrive in the garage over the years.

And Bill has had three snake encounters that we have witnessed. Who knows what happens when he is on his boundary rides of the farm?

I should mention that Bill also survived his encounter with the antiseptic solution.

Below is a picture of older Bill relaxing.

The son was well pleased with Bill’s new odour. He insisted that everyone in the family have a very deep sniff of Bill because for once he smelt wonderful rather than his usual dusty, musty old cat scent.

Now I fear that the son may decide to take an antiseptic bath himself.

Tuesday, May 01, 2007


We recently visited my in-laws who live at the Gold Coast, Queensland. It is about a three hour drive from our farm.

The contrast of views from their home and the views from our home evokes a well known poem My Country © 1904 by Dorothea MacKellar. I have quoted extracts from her poem.

Below is the view from the balcony of the third storey beachfront unit.

I love her jewel-sea

The view below shows a couple of the beaches south of the unit and also the mountains west.

The sapphire-misted mountains

This morning I took some photographs of my autumn views of the farm. We are experiencing a drought at present.

The view below is looking from the front of the house.

Her pitiless blue sky

The view below is from the rear of the house. It is the view I see as I wash the dishes, making it a pleasant task.

You may notice Pod (see post dated Janury 1st)who remains incarcerated in our sturdy yards due to his continued bad behaviour.

Over the thirsty paddocks

Though earth holds many splendours, wherever I may die,
I know to what brown country my homing thoughts will fly.

Bit too sentimental of me I suppose but I do love my country.