19 December 2021

I decide to weed the garden, it’s a week before Christmas and grass is waist high in the flowerbeds. I like to tidy up before visitors come. Rain is forecast. I ignore it till I feel it penetrate my jeans and I need a coffee anyway. Five minutes into the coffee and my book, puppies on my lap, the sun comes out. It is going to be one of those days.

The pups decide to help me plant some native groundcover with little yellow flowers which I like for its toughness. I work my way through the mulch to the soil and Dot enthusiastically assumes I need help digging, and that the tiny green plant is a weed. It now looks like chewed kale but I water it tenderly. I want to take a photo but there is a clap of thunder that sends us all scurrying for cover. it sounds like hail.

It’s time to empty the barrow anyway.

Pat has been out the back putting in garden edging after my mulch spilled over the new Covid -inspired path. He regrets hanging out the washing ten minutes ago. Must be coffee time again.

9 August 2021

Last Christmas my husband gave me a chainsaw. Just a little handheld battery powered one. I was gobsmacked, then terrified: what was he thinking? When we were newly in Australia , me anyway, building a house in a paddock, he gave me a try with his chainsaw. Within seconds it broke. Actually broke, not just the chain came off or it ran out of fuel or even just got stuck in a too big log. It broke. He took it back to the shop and I didn’t touch the new one. Now thirty odd years later, I’m supposed to use one?

It stayed in its box for a few months, gradually gathering dust, half hidden under the tv table. He charged the battery, showed me how to press the two starter buttons and its chain whirred round. I held it, feeling the weight and balance. I had to wait till I was was alone, for the first time. I took it out to try cutting some twiggy bushes. It started all right but slid along the twigs or ripped untidily, not sawing a neat cut. When I moved onto a bigger twig (the size of my finger!) I automatically pressed down harder and cut it perfectly. Yay!

Eight months later, my chainsaw comes out with me pretty much every time I’m in the garden. We had a big storm recently, which toppled two trees across the driveway. Pat did the big stuff with his chainsaw and dragged the leafy bits to our mulch pile with the tractor. Yesterday I used my chainsaw, cut them into lengths and size and mulched for a couple of hours. It felt good to be outside sharing the work, enjoying the sun, working up a thirst. The battery recharges in the coffee break. How good is that?

The pups help with all gardening projects.


July 21

Not only has a year passed since I last wrote anything but it is exactly a year, and we in Victoria are in lockdown again, first for five days, now extended another week.

We got through it of course but it is hard doing it all over again. The garden has been growing weeds, the roses need pruning and I planted broccoli, leeks and swedes but the nights are too cold and they have barely survived. I even covered them with an old shade cloth blind on the frosty nights.

This year is radically different to last: we now have two Jack Russell puppies. We travelled to Mt Gambier to collect them, just a five-day border closure, after Christmas. They are adorable and have turned our life upside down. They are now nine months old, we walk much more than before and can feel the benefit. Rocket likes to dig. We put more sand in the grandchildren’s sandpit but she prefers the mulch pile, diving into it with excited yelps, paws furiously digging. Dot is prone to freezing on the end of a lead or when she is scared. She isn’t into digging much, except when we are also digging or laying pavers on a sand base. She digs and Rocket attacks the rake, the shovel, anything resembling a broom.

Week three of Stage Four Restrictions

I am writing in my studio again. I walked into a cobweb across the door and opened it to find the floor was a graveyard for slaters, there were white specks of spider poo on the desk, (curiously not on the floor) and the windowsills were covered in dust. Not house dust; this is fine soil blown from drought-affected farmlands. I swept slaters and a huntsman carcass outside and wiped down the desk, legitimate avoidance tasks before being able to sit down and write. I have been reluctant to isolate myself voluntarily in addition to the restrictions we are all experiencing. Instead of craving time alone to write, I have worked in the house editing. The studio feels more like a creative space.

My daughter gave me ‘grand-mothers’ a book of essays by well- and lesser-known women who are grandmothers. I was hooked by the introduction: these are my people, my tribe. I know them, they know me. They understand. Like motherhood, the complexity of grandmotherhood defies description and yet these women describe the myriad emotions I feel that began with the birth of my daughter’s daughter and continue to swell with each successive miraculous birth, her four girls and my son’s precious son. I am so lucky to live close by and be part of their lives. I suspect this may become a grandmotherly blog. Or a birdwatcher’s blog.

The rain has dumped so much water that our heavy clay soil cannot absorb it fast enough and we have silvery puddles all over the lawn. Rainbow lorikeets have invaded the garden and stolen the seeds I put out for the king parrots. They are half the size, but I saw one see off five parrots yesterday, puffing himself up, bobbing his head up and down while hopping and flying from one feed tray to the other. This morning they are investigating a hollow in an old tree quite close to the house. The whole flock swooped in, chattering excitedly, and taking turns to poke their heads into the hole.

Mon 17 August 2020

Last week was our most active in a while, week 2 of lockdown, shops shut – even Bunnings. Yesterday I mentioned to Pat over coffee on our recently restored verandah, that we should be halfway through by now and he shook his head with a smile, ‘No, Jenny, it’s only been two weeks.’ That’s probably why it was our most active. The urge to get out – anywhere – is strong when the choice is so limited. We walked and cycled, took advantage of the sunshine to work outside, mulching fallen limbs with leafy crowns and nuisance sticks and rose prunings that previously we piled onto a bonfire. The mulcher has been like an extra person in the garden and the bush area, quickly converting rubbishy bits into perfect mulch. It is immensely satisfying. We leave the dead trees for habitat and the trunks where they fall.

The exception to that was the dead tree giant at the bottom of the driveway. We had been driving in and out around it for years and the trunk fell inconveniently across one side, blocking the entrance. A complication was that the resident bees decided they would stay and repair the damage to their home. They don’t like chainsaws much. We left it for months, waiting for winter when the bees would be less inclined to be out and about. Pat sawed it quickly and towed their half onto the grassy side. We can see the brand new yellow honeycomb in one end, like two plates in a rack. We had already planted half a dozen new natives in that area and the tree managed to avoid all of them in its fall. As the daughter of a forester, I have an affinity for trees, delighted with the recent books regarding communication between trees and I like to think the tree fell where it did to avoid crushing the new young ones.








My World in 2020

5 August 2020

How quickly life changes. We are in the Metro Melbourne area: Stage 4 restrictions as of Monday. My instant reaction was to dash down to Bunnings and buy veg seedlings and enough plants to last me 6 weeks. The announcement that we can order and pick up was a great relief but how would I know what to order if I can’t browse slowly around the aisles, wondering if that plant would fit somewhere, suddenly fall in love with one I just have to buy? The whole process of buying plants is a complex one that can’t easily be reduced to ‘order and pick up’. There are colours to consider, height and foliage to complement what’s in the garden already. Sun or shade tolerant, frost or drought. In the latter case, I admit to being very mean to native plants in summer, expecting them to survive in totally dry conditions. The trees and shrubs are almost all natives now, to suit the birds and the bees in the now- fallen big old tree.

I was determined to face down the bitter wind and rain the next day and planted broccoli in the raised self- irrigating veg plots that Pat made by cutting an old corrugated tank in half. I just had time to add a couple of trees to the ‘hedge’ growing behind the tanks when the rain came. ‘Hedge’ in this case being a 3-deep corridor of indigenous trees and shrubs along the fence line. We’ll put in grasses where shrubs did not thrive.


26 July 2020   @cantylane.com

My World

No travelling this year! We had a big trip planned to celebrate Pat’s big birthday. UK, Isle of Man, Croatia and finally Portugal to meet friends and ride the Camino route to Santiago. All on hold, like countless others. I’ve been thinking about blogging lately because we are usually overseas at this time, travelling, escaping Melbourne’s winter. This year’s journey will be through this extraordinary time of Covid-19 restrictions. As if the horrendous bushfires that began the year were not enough. Our planet is warning us. The Earth is fighting back.

Enough doom and gloom. This blog will be about my world, the 5 km radius I’m presently allowed to roam. ‘My World. is about writing and gardening and family and home. Welcome.


6 June 2018 France


After a busy few days visiting my oldies in Scotland (older than me, like, really old) we had visits with old friends, (only as old as us) in Bristol and Cambridge, where Pat stayed while I was in Crecy.  What a fabulous five days that was. I was attending  a writing course with five other like-minded people, run by Alan Durant, author  of 100 children’s books and his wife Ginny who provided delicious meals and a trip to a Michelin guide restaurant. We stayed in the

IMG_0332prettiest cottage in town, slept in the attic, and wrote in ‘silent time’. No talking  and write where you like. I can recommend it. Alan gave us deceptively simple stimuli, like a cemetery and old photos, minimal instructions and half an hour each day of one on one tutorials. At the end of five days, we had each written a children’s picture book and a 3000 word story. These were read out between courses from aperitif to dessert on the final evening. I left feeling energised, and quite likely to go again next year.

Now Pat and I are in a modern apartment in Arras, still in the attic, this time four flights up. We took a guided tour of WW1 sites, cemeteries, memorials accompanied by an enthusiastic Ausssie guide who explained the Australian troops’ involvement in this area. A sobering and emotional day, made worse by shocking hay fever; I sneezed continuously. Pat went to Ypres, Belgium the following day while I rested. We saw entire fields of scarlet poppies, they are a weed here! This morning was market day in the cobbled square. It is hard not to be tempted to buy but we are determined to travel light.

Tomorrow we head back to England, see my brother in Birmingham once more and have a special rendezvous with Dom and Alex in London. We fly out 12 hours before they do!

25th May 2018

We’ve been out of range of internet for days. It makes us realise how much we use it. I tried to use Google maps on my phone in the hire car and a message from Telstra screamed, That just cost you $100!’ We bought a map. We caught a train to Carlisle using a “two together” railcard, a useful investment. Cost us six pounds fifty each. Other times it has been cheaper to hire a car! The trip is  smooth, quiet and speedy. So unlike the Australian experience. My 91 year- old feisty Aunt Betty picked us up in her car, brand new two years ago. She drives confidently and we were delighted to find she is as young at heart as ever. She still judges pistol and smallbore target shooting, scoring great bundles of them that are sent each week. She drove us to a forbidding fortress/castle in the Scottish Border Country. It is a five story stone cube built in the 1300’s, extended a hundred years later. Mary Queen of Scots used it to visit her future husband  Bothwell (Boswell?) riding 50 miles across the countryside, making herself seriously ill afterwards. The castle sits alone in farming country, any other habitations have long gone. The Scottish wind is every bit as biting as the Manx; finding its way through arrow slits and the open roof. It is said that only the descendants of the family dare to sleep there overnight. I can’t imagine wanting to sleep in such draughty damp accommodation. Onward the next day to Edinburgh.



May/June 2018

A Spring welcome to England. The flowering cherry is scattering pink confetti blossom IMG_0151with the slightest breeze and the azalea is wearing a ballgown of the deepest pink. The sunlight is dazzling, almost Australian bright, in a cloudless blue sky.  We visited Redditch where Stephen and I spent our teens. Dad was a forester but the new job turned out to be mostly desk-based and planting along the streets of newly built housing estates. Park House, our home for those formative years, has disappeared. We had a huge garden, .8 of an acre, and there was a public car park at the road frontage, plenty of room for development. It was demolished six years after we left and a new housing estate built. It was a strange experience to adjust our eyes to the present when the past was still so clearing our minds. The centre of town was similarly unrecognisable but we found our way to the high school before we left. Lunch was at The Bell, around the corner from Stephen’s house in Harborne. It is a black and white timbered building about 450 years old, with a narrow passage through the middle and two tiny rooms either side. Even people of our modest height have to duck through the doorways. The pub is situated next to the twelfth century Norman church, as was the custom. Stephen and Judith were married there.

The next day we were back at the airport, to fly to the Isle of Man. It is an hour’s flight, at a low altitude so the window seats offer a view of farmland, sea and the island’s coastline. Our hire car is a Nissan micra. a sensible size for the narrow roads here. We drove to Dalby where our holiday cottage is, dropped off bags and drove to Peel to see Mum. She was in the corridor talking to another lady and I think for a moment she was taken by surprise. Her memory has worsened since last year.

Day 9: To Ngorongoro Crater

Monday 17 July

Our earliest start yet, 5 am, tents down, bags packed to leave around 6 am. It was too early for me to eat. I shoved bananas and a packet of biscuits in my daypack for later. The drive would take a minimum of five hours to reach the Ngorongoro Crater. We saw a few animals on the way but yesterday was the best. The desert changed as we rode from red to sandy to grey and sparse grass to acacias to stony wasteland. In parts, there were dry water courses to cross, evidence that the rains did come.

The highlight of the day was a collision between a truck going the opposite way and our bus. The truck driver misjudged the available space or the size of his vehicle. Both drivers edged onto the scree at the sides and nearly made it.

We were holding our collective breath when a nasty grating sound came from the roof at the rear. Because both vehicles were tilting towards the middle, their roofs had crunched. We all piled out, with cameras to record the event. A couple of Masai materialised to check what was going on, one jeep drove off road, through our group, around the blockage and sped off showering us all with dust. There was much discussion as to the best way out of the situation. No blame or fist waving as might have been expected, no exchange of insurance companies. Large rocks were placed in front of the wheels on the road, presumably to lever them upright when they moved. Our bus teetered so far over I thought it was going to tip completely on its side. Karimi pulled over to safety and we congratulated him as we re-boarded.

At the top of the crater we boarded two safari jeeps and set off downwards through the jungle-covered sides to the plain at the bottom. It was the Great Valley from the dinosaur series of DVDs. There was a river, fresh water lake, alkaline lake, dry grassy plains, lush grassy plains and bushy vegetation for those animals who wanted it round the edges. We ate lunch by the hippo pool, along with quite a few other tourists. We were warned to eat in the jeeps because the local pest birds, red kites, would snatch food out of your hand. We watched them circling in the air spotting unwary sandwich eaters they could swoop. This hippo pool was quite different, clean water and fewer hippos so they could move around. They come out at night to graze when it is cool. Here is where we saw herds of wildebeest, zebra, a solitary lion. There are also cows mingled in with the wildebeest. They follow the lead cow’s bell when it is time to go. It is a peaceful place.

We arrived late afternoon at our accommodation. We camped in the grounds of a very swish hotel, Kudu Lodge. Rooms here were for wealthy tourists, $186 a night. A couple of the group did opt for a room and offered us use of the luxurious showers. The itinerary allowed for a 15km ride before dark. Everyone was tired but rallied with some encouragement. I was tripping over on the gravel paths and not sure what my knee was doing so I declined. Pat did 5km, Adriana too, then joined me in the truck. It was a downhill tarmac winding road, looked like fun. The uphill was of course the reverse. Most enjoyed the ride, but would have done without it after the long day. Karimi parked the bus and jumped on his bike to ride it when the others had come back.