Flying Fox Dreaming–or nightmare?

A year ago I posted “Nightbats” on YouTube.

Well, they have certainly increased since then! See this story, and some excellent pictures, in The Illawarra Mercury.

A flourishing colony of flying foxes at Figtree is driving some businesses and residents batty. It is estimated that tens of thousands of grey-headed flying foxes have turned a patch of bushland just north of the freeway exit into their summer home.

"The smell is overwhelming and they gather at dusk in numbers that completely blacken the sky overhead," said Chris Caroutas from Figtree Cellars.

WIRES bat co-ordinator Sandra Leonard has called for patience, assuring people the flying foxes are crucial to forest regeneration and will move on once the bush food runs out.

But Mr Caroutas said numbers had been steadily increasing each year and so had the stench. "Customers are constantly commenting on the smell, which is not good if that’s the first thing they notice when they get out of their cars," he said.

It has been likened to cat urine, marijuana and lantana.

Hakan Karama from Star Kebab House described the bats as "annoying and smelly". "Customers are always complaining and it seems worse when it rains," he said.

Juliette Fox, an assistant at Pet Barn, said the squealing and flapping did not bother her. "Their numbers have definitely increased but that’s probably because they have been displaced from their natural habitat," she said.

Nearby resident Con Stefanou from London Drive estimates the bats have multiplied 10-fold over the past few years and believes such numbers are unhygienic…

Since I was going shopping at Figtree yesterday I thought I would call in on the bats as I walked by. And the numbers are indeed amazing, something my camera could not really capture.




Australian poet Les Murray wrote a wonderful poem “The Flying Fox Dreaming” – “finger-winged night workers… Upside down all their days…” They are a significant element in Indigenous culture also, as in this painting by Jimmy Djilminy (2000).


See also a site of questionable authenticity — but nonetheless it may please some – an attempt to do a tarot on indigenous symbols. Very New Age. There is a lot of that around. Nice art work though.

Who remembers the disgraceful Marlo Morgan and her bullshit exploiting Aboriginal Culture?

1996: Dr. John Stanton (Berndt Museum of Anthropology, WA) “said the book contained misleading and damaging information about Aboriginal people” [5]. He was not sure, he said, “whether the damage the book had done to the overseas image of Aboriginal culture, which was complex, diverse and vibrant, could be ever undone.” Morgan promised a written apology, which she actually never produced [6].

Not saying that Wildspeak site is totally doing a “Mutant Messages Down Under” shtick – but one does need to question such things.

This, however, is authentic:

Oh, and after photographing the bats I called in at The Hellenic Club and…


All you can eat with
a combination of
Traditional Greek
and Australian Cuisine

On Bruce Dawe keeping on, and other miscellanea

Nice to see a poem by Bruce Dawe in today’s Weekend Oz Review. Yes, I do compromise my integrity every Saturday by patronising Rupert, as I do like the Review. The poem is called “The Ultimate Tally” and comments on James Magnussen and the 4X100 Relay in London.

— You gave it all you had. Luck turned away,

As did those bitter media reckoners, who say

You failed

Quite a lovely little poem, and hey the guy is 82 now!  Among my record ever posts is Friday Australian poem #17: Bruce Dawe, “Homecoming” — 19,998 views since November 2007.

Also in the Review is a great encouragement to read The Sex Lives of Australians: A History by Frank Bongiorno. One to look out for in the Library for sure.

Cross-dressing colonists, effeminate bushrangers and women-shortage woes – here is the first ever history of sex in Australia, from Botany Bay to the present-day

In this highly readable social history, Frank Bongiorno uses striking examples to chart the changing sex lives of Australians. He shows how an overwhelmingly male penal colony gave rise to a rough and ready culture: the scarcity of women made for strange bedfellows, and the female minority was both powerful and vulnerable.

Then came the Victorian era, in which fears of sodomy helped bring an end to the transportation of convicts. The twentieth century saw the rise of the sex expert. Tracing the story up to the present, Bongiorno shows how the quest for respectability always has another side to it, and how the contraceptive pill changed so much. Along the way he raises some intriguing questions – What did it mean to be a ‘mate’? How did modern warfare affect soldiers’ attitudes to sex? Why did the law ignore lesbianism for so long? – and introduces some remarkable characters, both reformers and radicals. This is a thought-provoking story of sex in Australia.

With a foreword by Michael Kirby, AC CMG.

Not in the Oz today, but my recent travels on Facebook have led me to two nostalgia groups: Lost Sydney and (just the other day) Lost Gay Sydney. This is such an interesting phenomenon that I may do another post on it later. One of my more popular posts here already has been Nostalgia and the globalising world — from Thomas Hardy to 2010 — 2,519 views since January 2010 and quite a few of my posts, particularly on The Shire, are nostalgia pieces.

It still seems odd to be getting nostalgic about the 80s and 90s – but people do in both those groups – and thirty years is thirty years, after all!


Newtown Bridge 1988 – I can get nostalgic about this! From Lost Sydney, though it could equally be on Lost Gay Sydney!

And speaking of nostalgia, I have really been enjoying the rerun of As Time Goes By, a British sitcom that aired on BBC One from 1992 to 2005. Starring Judi Dench and Geoffrey Palmer. I had never watched it systematically before, I have to admit, but now I am just loving the sharp writing and the display of some very fine ensemble acting.

ABC is also repeating Monty Don’s Italian Gardens, one of the most beautiful documentaries ever made, in my opinion.

The cinematography is to die for on that!

Back in The Oz, Phillip Adams alarmed me rather:

SOME of the madder middle-eastern mullahs, including a number in Egypt itself, are calling for the destruction of those pagan pyramids – in the same ecumenical spirit as the Taliban’s destruction of the monumental Buddhas of Bamiyan.

Carved into a cliff not far from Kabul, they stood there from the 6th century to March 2001, when, having been deemed "idols", they were dynamited on the orders of Mullah Mohammed Omar. Later, some of the more tolerant Taliban (an oxymoron) would express regrets, if only because blowing up Buddhas was bad PR.

Now their Egyptian brothers want to finish what’s left of the venerable pyramids after various vandalisms of the past. While time itself has done the most damage to Egypt’s ancient tombs, some blame should be directed at the pharaohs themselves, who would, all too often, seek to erase the identity of their predecessors. 19th-century Europeans masquerading as archaeologists could be as brutal – one dynamited a huge hole in the Great Pyramid. And, yes, the radiant limestone that once encased Cheops’ man-made mountain was removed to build mosques in Cairo.

But Christians have been at least as destructive as Muslims. Leaving aside the Crusades, there’s the way Catholic Rome used the Forum as a quarry – and melted down the bronze from the roof of the Pantheon for the papal altar canopy at St Peter’s Basilica.

Every civilisation has behaved in an uncivilised way in regard to such looting and pillaging – right into the modern era of Christian missionaries burning down the great indigenous cathedrals in Papua’s Sepik region, and in the bulldozing of Aboriginal sacred sites by miners. The spiritual destruction of aboriginal religions throughout the world by white invaders was finally far worse than the destruction of temples and statues, and gets the endorsement of God in his Good Book. Look at what He did to Sodom, Gomorrah, the Golden Calf and the whole shebang with the Flood. Thus the most rapacious real-estate developers can claim divine inspiration, as can the Balkans’ ethnic cleansers.

You don’t need religion to inspire the demolition of the past, though…

Yes, I have of late thought quite a bit about the wholesale destruction in England and a little later in Scotland that accompanied the Reformation, and the 16th/17th century wars of religion in Europe. Madness finds a companion in the notion that God writes books – he doesn’t and never has – and even worse that I (or my partners in delusion) have the Magic Key to the book. There’s another topic for another day! Let’s just say that I think uncertainty is a really healthy thing.  Somewhere in that you may be afforded glimpses of a God who is really godly, unlike the extremely crotchety old bastard with an unhealthy compulsion for blood sacrifices who appears in the pages of the holy books of the three Abrahamic religions – alongside glimpses of a much more godly God…

But enough of that. See my older posts on The Bible if you want more.

Trouble is, fortunately, that Adams may be believing a furphy. Certainly hope so.

Someone who reads a lot of right-wing blogs in the United States these days might be forgiven for thinking so, though there is no sign here that any such Islamist clamor to destroy the monuments of ancient Egypt has actually arisen.

The fear that it has, though, is a textbook example of how a rumor, especially about a place as tumultuous as Egypt these days, can take on a life of its own — fed by a kernel of fact, a dash of Twitter, and a convenient coincidence or two.

The claim that radical Islamists had, in the name of the Muslim aversion to artifacts of paganism, asked President Mohamed Morsi to have the pyramids torn down apparently began with a June 30 item in Rose el-Youssef, an Egyptian magazine that for years was a mouthpiece for Hosni Mubarak, Mr. Morsi’s ousted predecessor…

Ahmed Sobeai, a spokesman for the Freedom and Justice Party, the Muslim Brotherhood’s political party, responded, “Dr. Morsi cannot respond to something that hasn’t happened.” Mr. Sobeai called the whole affair “an attempt to fabricate a crisis from an illusion.”

The pyramids, he said, are safe.

To be fair, Adams concludes his piece thus:

I’m not too worried about the pyramids. True, Islamic anger has been directed at Cairo’s Egyptian Museum in the past – forcing the curators to remove mummies from public view. But the overwhelming majority of the Egyptian people are very proud of their history – and would form the first line of defence if bulldozers started rumbling towards the Giza Plateau. Australia might offer help in such a circumstance. Jack Mundey could transplant our Green Bans.

At my age the obituaries read like autobiography…

By which I mean one notes again and again someone you can relate one way or another to your own life or career or interests, who can’t possibly be dead – can they?

Just lately:

Ruth Wajnryb, linguist and ESL guru (1948-2012)

Dictogloss – which I first encountered while teaching at Wessex College in 1990.

And all those marvellous columns and books!

In her book, Expletive Deleted, described as ”a good look at bad language”, Ruth Wajnryb (pronounced ”Vine-rib”) took a scholarly look at bad language – ”swearing” – which might be taken as a substitute for slugging someone, until one realises that some languages, such as Japanese, supposedly do not contain any nasty words. In its blurb for the book its publisher, Simon and Schuster, went into the anomalies of swearing as spread across cultures. ”Why is it that in some languages you can get away with intimating that a person and his camel are more than just good friends, while pouring scorn on a mother’s morals guarantees you a seat on the next flight out?” the publisher asked rhetorically.

That does not quite sum up the life of Ruth Wajnryb, but it does reveal the extraordinary mentality of this daughter of two Polish physicians, who were Jewish Holocaust survivors from Poland, nurtured her in her language development and set her off on a course to became an international linguist.

Ruth Marie Eugene Wajnryb was born in Sydney on September 13, 1948, daughter of Abraham Wajnryb and Nellie (nee Gelman). Her parents had been married in Poland before the war, drafted into the Polish army at the outset of hostilities, captured and incarcerated throughout the war, before reuniting in Paris and migrating to Australia.

Wajnryb grew up in Campbelltown and was schooled there. She briefly visited Israel then returned to Sydney, where she undertook an Honours Arts degree at Sydney University and a Diploma of Education, completed in 1974. She went out teaching, including a stint at Strathfield’s Santa Sabina College, but became increasingly interested in teaching English as a Second Language. For migrants wanting to learn the language of their adopted country, she had a special empathy.

Becoming increasingly involved in the training of language teachers, she joined the staff of the University of New South Wales and led the Teacher Training Department in the university’s Institute of Languages. She started writing books on English teaching and developed a technique, known as ”Dictogloss”, combining the features of a dictionary and glossary, which became enormously successful…

I never met her, but she was always around…

Bruce Bennett,  Oz Lit guru (1941-2012)

Bennett was an editor of The Penguin New Literary History of Australia (1988), The Oxford Literary History of Australia (1998), and Resistance and Reconciliation: Writing in the Commonwealth (2003).

Rosemary Dobson, poet (1920-2012)

Her literary career was as distinguished as it was long. Her first collection of poems, In a Convex Mirror, appeared in 1944. Her last book, Rosemary Dobson: Collected, was published by the University of Queensland Press last month. Dobson belonged to that generation of mid-century poets that included A.D. Hope, James McAuley, and Judith Wright. She, however, always stood apart to some extent, and by the time of the ”poetry wars” in the 1970s, her poetry was quietly singular at a time of noise and fashion.

Her last full-length collection, Untold Lives & Later Poems (2000), was published when she was 80. It won The Age Book of the Year Award in 2001, one of the few poetry books ever to do so.

Rosemary Dobson was the granddaughter of the English poet and essayist Austin Dobson.

And a curious one, the probably real King of England died in Jerilderie this month: Michael Abney-Hastings, the 14th Earl of Loudoun (1942-2012). A lovely story which segues nicely into my recent rereading of The Daughter of Time by Josephine Tey.

And finally what a shame it will be if Malcolm Turnbull’s obituary — long in the future one trusts — should read "ought to have been Prime Minister of Australia."  What a waste of talent, and what a contrast to any current leader!

Looking back on a spring day

I have found my “blog” for September 2001.

05 Sep 2001

poetry..challenge and consolation

Poetry has been a passion and a sustenance in my often impractical and prodigal life, in dark phases and in times of joy. I wish I could write it better. Here’s someone who could; but is the title true? In some ways, maybe…

W.B. Yeats (1865–1939). from The Wild Swans at Coole. 1919.

Men improve with the Years
I AM worn out with dreams;
A weather-worn, marble triton
Among the streams;
And all day long I look
Upon this lady’s beauty
As though I had found in book
A pictured beauty,
Pleased to have filled the eyes
Or the discerning ears,
Delighted to be but wise,
For men improve with the years;
And yet and yet
Is this my dream, or the truth?
O would that we had met
When I had my burning youth;
But I grow old among dreams,
A weather-worn, marble triton
Among the streams.
Offered for your pleasure.

06 Sep 2001

Around the pool table…you

I have my share of problems, and I am neither young nor cute.
The last is not necessarily a disqualification for what I am about to say. And that is, that every now and again in life you meet someone who is like a second self: but be careful, as that metaphor can take you down the road of possessiveness which can ruin everything. One must always respect the otherness of other people.
But there are such people, such soulmates (for want of a better word) whose smile can light up your life, and with whom one feels one is at home, with whom one feels so right it is almost scary.
I was with such a person this afternoon.
I thank him and look forward to many more such times 🙂

Perhaps you can see where this is going…

Here at The Bates Motel I see new growth.



Here is the whole poem.

Thomas Henry Kendall was born at Ulladulla, New South Wales, on 18 April 1839. He received basic schooling from his parents, Basil and Melinda Kendall, but his early life was difficult, as the family struggled to earn a living. The Kendalls were living on the Clarence River, near Grafton—a backdrop that would later provide a steady source of inspiration for Kendall’s poetry – when Basil Kendall died in 1852. In the late 1850s family moved to Sydney, and from 1859 Kendall began contributing poems to literary journals and newspapers, with his first published collection,Poems and Songs, appearing in 1862…