Sweet Companions

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Sweet Companions

Truly active is the bee
on manifold flower visits
in her quest for tea
she carts food a-distance

corbiculae cunningly gorged,
port nectar and pollen home
as energy meals - once forged
In the hive to honeycomb

whatever fertilised bloom
flown to, and walked upon,
is now a floret — we assume —
fruitful from the sly turn on.

Plant, insect, humankind
in symbiotic relationships
enjoy a peace of mind
well saved from apocalypses

Forty spots

Entry, page 11/12 Birds of Victoria Gould League

Years ago I found grounded, a dead bird,

Stiff and cold. My damp palm swallowed its whole

Strangeness — mine to learn of a fowl dead.

Exquisite bird, miniature creature,

Said new to me. Unrecognised, Geoffrey

Enunciated, “A spotted pardalote.”

Time ticked slowly. Home – facelift begun.

A midget bird flew in nearby tree tops

Swooped low to the foundations busily

Constructing a home. Weird bird nesting in

The dark earth, unique, beautiful creature.

Absolute unto land, nests low — lives high.

Up in the eucalyptus — eating lerps.

Its forty spots endangered by mankind

Forever. Denuded ecology 

Awful progress a threat to extinction.


Birds of Victoria was a first bird book of Andrew’s in 1974. In 2020 Professor John Woinarski of Charles Darwin University predicts the life of the Spotted Pardalote is endangered.

Melaleuca lanceolata Common name – Moonah

Photo Author

Anything that is four times older than me, and still standing, is entitled to lean on the ground, instead of standing all the time. A sure sign of resilience is the ability to rest on an elbow and still stand. We see examples of this in this ancient plant, the Moonah. . The prevailing wind will sculpt and prune it so it is taller on one side than the other. When the wind is too strong the bough will resist until it bend to and meets the ground. There it will rest and send forth new growth.


In my home town we have a few remands of ancient scrub that were old trees long before William Buckley lived amongst the Wadawurrung people. (William Buckley was an escaped convict who was rescued and improbably lived with local tribal for 32 years before he resumed his former life and was pardoned.) The tribes people he lived with had great respect for this tree they called it Plenty. It gave plenty back to the tribe in nectar and medicinal properties. Botanists have named it Melaleuca lanceolata. (Lanceolata reads as if it is a “lotta” plant actually the word refers to its lace like leaves). Its long abundant flowering season from October to February is rich in pollen and a food source for bees.

The tree in the photo stands on the Esplanade at the Eastern end of Gilbert St. It should probably be recorded as a tree of significance – however this is unlikely; first as it is one of the last wild trees left on that part of the Bluff, and secondly it would bring attention to it in the summer when the town is overrun with all manner of individuals. Some, likely as not, uninterested in plants. The trees are not endangered, so I suppose that is another reason it stands unnoticed and alone.

The Moonah tree is known throughout the country as a strong plant, well capable of withstanding salty wind and rain. Indeed in many parts of the country it is planted as a tree good at fighting salt degradation – as we observed in many over-farmed mallee sites. It helps to lower the water table and in doing so draws salt deeper into the subsoil.

Of all the wonderful plants I love I have chosen to write about the Moonah because it is not showy. It is not really splendid despite its delicate tiny flowers. After living 300+ years it is often just a stubby black tree with twisted branches, prickly tough leaves, and flowers almost too small to be noticed. Yet this tree is tough. Farmers find its wood makes everlasting fence posts. It makes a wonderful wind break. (Not even the wind will get through it’s tight canopy). As a result it is a popular tree for birds to roost in. Possums love to sleep through the day hidden among the mess of its branches.

Commonly we find it growing in masses of thick undergrowth where it seldom gets much taller than four metres. Along the Anglesea estuary it adds stability to the shallow, poor soil. Under the canopy – at the proper time of year the undergrowth hides the most spectacular native orchids: the Fairy Orchid grows underneath the moonah others grow nearby, the twisted Sun Orchid, the Sharp greenhood , the Wax Lip Orchid.One hundred kilometres away the tree survives in the undergrowth of the Manna Gum – a favourite of the Koala.

Photo Author

In Torquay we are lucky to have at least one streetscape where the trees (photo included) where trees stand 10 metres tall. This stand (also a remnant) is inland, about 100 metres from the surf beach. Here, the tree are protected from the the inshore wind and they reach up to 10 metres into the clear sky. Because they have been protected they are tall and have grown without the handicap of neighbouring plants holding them back.

Like all plants of the Melaleuca family the flowers grow from a filament that when spent remains on the flower stem as a little hard nut like growth. As the plant grows “nuts” from previous flowering’s remain.


Photo https://commons.m.wikimedia.org/wiki/User:Gderrin Wikipedia

The Plenty Tree

The twisted Moonah tree
turns is back to the wind
hunkers down low,
resting on heavy limb
in the dusty dune.
Perhaps the Wadawurrung
sheltered beneath this bough
the day
a possum skin
became a ceremonial cape.
Even so it grows.
Annually flowering
millions of petals
so bees
use this generous pollen store
as food we
harvest.

Photo Author

King River

Author supplied

King River

We relax in the evening light

on his fluid banks

The William Hovell dam

tames him until

like the young girl in the park

he defiantly tumbles over the spillway

where he reaches his valley

too weak to fight rocks he once tore from the hills.

Today he playfully polishes

marble-round those too heavy to move

into mobile hides

for trout to mock the stealthy angler.

He tugs at the reeds

and questions why Hovell

disliked the name the Pangerang people used,

Poodumbia, or that of her twin sister -Torryong.

The King and the Ovens rivers coldly

steal the story -and gender – other voices should tell.

Once the home of the bandicoot, koala, and platypus

Sangiovese grows on old tobacco fields.

Marsh grasses sway on a zephyr

beside her freely flowing stream.

Our water mirrors smoky coloured clouds overhead

for fish to hide in dark spiralling eddies.

Slow birds circle tall tree tops,

scan nighttime roosts,

and puzzle aloud the same query.

Why the name changes buddy?

Barracouta is a fishy narrative

Crayfish pots Apollo Bay ref https://alkinalodge.com.au/wp-content/uploads/2016/07/visionsofvictoria1223940-302-Copy.jpg

I was born in a coastal city yet fish was not a big part of our diet. The number of times we children ate fish was limited. The fish we ate at home was fillets of smoked cod. When mum prepared it she cooked it in a white sauce with some onion. Another common name for this sauce is Mornay Sauce. To the French it is know as Béchamel sauce. Not that the milky substance Mum cooked was anything like a rich Béchamel common to French cooking.

In her case I imagine it’s role was to act as a filler. For, as history tells us, it’s original common name was Glue sauce. Served as it was the sauce disguised the salty fish we were dished. Cooked this way the smoked fillets were boneless and tender. When it came to fish our preference was to eat fillets because served that way bones were eliminated. On a rare, very rare occasion, we ate fish from a Fish and Chip shop.

Fish and chips were the most popular takeaway meals one could buy in the 1950’s. Nearly every town, or hamlet, had a local Fish and Chip shop. The fish was nearly always fried Flake served with a handful of potato chips (three pence worth of chips.) When the family ate this way we possibly had sixpence worth. (Potatoes were most commonly cheap. It was only in times when farmers failed to grow a decent crop the shopkeeper more carefully budgeted the chip amount).

When cooked, the Chipper, would pour the fried food on a single piece of white butcher’s paper and wrap the lot in a bundle of used newspaper. (The newspaper was used as an insulator to keep the meal hot until it was consumed). As soon as we got outside we would tear a hole in one end of the paper and pull the chips from the gaping hole and eat the meal using our fingers aa eating utensils. (When old enough to have money of my own I would sometimes sell a bundle of old newspapers to the shops for a few pennies).

It is surprising in 2020 to note how little we valued the riches of the sea years ago. For instance, as kids walking around the rocks of Lady Bay we had no appreciation the migrant families that picked wild mussels and oysters from the rocks later enjoyed a free gourmet meal. Worse, by the time we appreciated what they had feasted upon it was a banned activity. (Only once have I enjoyed the pleasure of harvesting wild oysters from the sea. This was at an Army Reserves camp in Tasmania around 1970).

In Victoria the Fisheries Department stocked local streams and lakes with trout. In season, and with some childhood luck, we ate Rainbow salmon trout sometimes and lots of wild eels. The eels were easily caught but most difficult to manage when landed. Their writhing slippery skin allowed for a dangerous moment or two before they were bagged. For the boy fisher, who tried to kill and extract the fish hook in the half light of dusk on the grassy edge of a local creek the battle was dangerous. The eel would wrap its body around an arm or leg, and with a hook protruding from its mouth it was also capable of a nasty bite. The fish caught this way was eaten as a trophy but otherwise unappreciated because each had unfamiliar bones that required caution when eating them.

Unusually at our Education Department run hostel, “Hawthorne”, at our final meal before graduation in 1961, we were served what the Army would call a Mess Formal Dinner. The meal started with soup, followed by a course of Crayfish (Australian Rock Lobster.) Our main dish was fillet steak. I have no recollection of what came next. The point is back in 1961 Crayfish was plentiful. It wasn’t cheap but it was plentiful and considered enough of a delicacy to form part of of our final college meal. (Within a few short years crayfish disappeared from Australian tables. The fishing fleets along the southern coast disappeared with them.) (To buy Australian Rock Lobster , in 2020, one competes with the rest of the world and pays what is asked)).

It was not until I became a regular Friday night diner at the Nicholson dinner table, did I regularly eat bony fish. Marie’s choice was Barracouta. This was served as fried steaks with mashed potatoes. The Barracouta (now renamed Australian Snoek) is a tasty fish. Unlike the delicate bones of trout the fish has darning needle thick long bones. Hundreds of them. (It too has almost disappeared from fish mongers. Either it was over fished, or with global warming has moved to colder climes).

All along the south western coast of Victoria it was possible to find a fleet of the wooden Couta boats. Many of these places had no natural harbour, or poor berthing places, (Lorne, Port Campbell, Peterborough, for protection the boats were hauled out of the water at shift’s end and rested high and dry on the pier.)

Nick Polgeest, talks about life in Apollo Bay here,

(1989). Interview with Nick Polgeest regarding the history of the Australian Industry. trove.com.au]

Over the years I have had my taste palette trained to enjoy the fruit of the sea. An example is octopus. As a school boy a text we read was A Pattern of Islands by A. Grimble. This book tells in great detail how the indigenous people of the Gilbert and Ellis Islands (Kiribati) caught and ate the fish. Grimble an Englishman was appalled how people could eat it. After a couple of trips to Greece I now ask how could they not?

Today many local people attempt to catch fish as their forefathers did and they fail. They fail to catch their local fish because they have been over fished, or the condition of the water has changed and the fish have moved away.

It is a curse of international fishing that schools have been over fished. (Sometime the fishing lines are hundreds of kilometres long. The goal of these fishers might be one variety, yet all varieties of fish are caught. The unwanted fish are released as by-catch corpses thus wasting every other species.)

The ecological problems are many. The oceans are full of indigestible plastics. Fish farms feed confined fish fish meal that requires antibiotics to kill harmful pathogens. Species have been lost and fish is considered the property of every body at the expense anyone living in water indigenous to them. My final word is if we are to continue to enjoy fish as a food we must only take what we can eat – today.

Spring produce

Spring produce as sold by Peaches Torquay Instagram

Above ground the springtime vegetable garden

Sprouts with verdant green growth

Leaves smooth, jagged, curled, and plain

Wear their choice costumes in bright sunlight

Sing in the rain

Dance in moonlight

Sway on springtime breezes

To tunes composed by weather gods

Calling to business

Mature foodstuff

Fresh - crisp - sweet smelling - table ready goodness

Rewards for patient

Home gardeners

Try as I might my attempts never equal those of our fruiterer.

A tasty cake of many layers

More cake for everyone says sustainabilityillustrated.com

Yesterday the Chairman of AMP David Murray stood down at the request of major shareholders. David Murray was the former Managing Director of the Commonwealth Bank. On his retirement from the bank he became a respected go to leader. His reputation was unimpeded so what went wrong?

In simple terms he failed to understand a company has to have a greater ambition than to make money for its shareholders. Shareholders make it clear they want their directors to make money for them. This is something he concentrated his efforts upon so what went wrong? David Murray lost sight of the fact that a business also has a social responsibility. It also has an environmental responsibility all of equal weight to profit.

It is a pity for David Murray he did not pay more attention to the work of John Ellington’ theory of the Triple bottom line: People, Planet and Profit. It has been taught for years in business schools. The shareholders should not have been surprised David Murray decided governance for profit was his aim as he was a known skeptic of Global Warming and Social responsibility.

This is not to play the man. I do not set out to demonise him. He is simply a man of his time. He is out of time. A director must keep up. A nation must keep up. Our nation is demonstrating an inability to keep up. It has announced plans of change to the funding of university courses. If a student chooses to study STEM subjects (science, technology, engineering and mathematics ) the courses will be cheaper. If the student chooses to study the humanities, (philosophy, literature, history, politics, economics, sociology) the course will be more expensive. Worse, if the student fails to pass the first year of study they will lose federal funding.

Many successful people are able to point to failure in tertiary study being the catalyst for them to choose a more appropriate area of study. From their “failure” they became better – more dedicated students. It should surprise no one ones youth is not a good indicator of how a person might grow through life. Sometimes failure is the wake up call an individual needs to reassess their goals. Cutting funding creates an unwanted economic barrier. It is short sighted.

It is short sighted to direct students into STEM subjects because universities are not training establishments whose job it is to train work ready people. Their job is to educate people in the higher skills of learning, synthesis, critical thinking, and evaluation. These are all things I have written about previously however they do need to be reinforced because when it comes to evaluation of education and company performance the bottom line is multidimensional.

To return to a hobbyhorse of mine it is important companies look to their social responsibility. I have a total dislike of the lack of social responsibility big tech show.

Here are some examples.

If you want to know something, anything, the common thing to do today is to Google an answer. The smallest state in the world is something Google knows. The last match played between football teams – when these two teams last met the scores were identical – Google throws up the answers in a fraction of a second. We have come to learn Google will tell you the answer. The last time Google paid tax in your country is the only one that stumps it.

One thing it can tell you with ease is , Jeff Bezos’s wealth increased by $637 billion in the first six months of the Covid 19 pandemic. That is because he is the largest shareholder of Amazon. Amazon in the wink of an eye is the largest distributor of products in the world. It’s largest competitions Alibaba – ebay and Tencent are not minnows either. Because normal shopping is disturbed people are spending more time online and these businesses are now the preferred locations search for goods they want.

In their company we find Apple, Facebook. These companies may pay a modicum of tax but here in Australia we have a Who’s Who of companies each with turnover in excess of AU$1b that pay No Tax. A company of the size of these companies avoiding tax is not living up to its social responsibility. They argue they remain within the law in country out of country across the globe, in each they escape the taxman’s grasp. Many of these companies have greater wealth than sovereign nations. The same nations unable to tax them are powerless. The only thing that can stop them is shareholder pressure. It should not be feint hope shareholders revolt at their inaction to accept they operate with a social responsibility to their countrymen. The time has come for shareholders to redirect their boards to the principles of the triple bottom line. To pay tax where the money is earned. To think globally and reject profits earned from environment damage.

If it helps you identify culprits here is a partial list from which to start: Chevron, Exon Mobil, Energy Australia, Santos, Amcor, Peabody, spotless group, Ford, Nissan, Healthscope, Foxtel,

Oh the list runs on And on.

If David Murray upset some shareholders because the firm promoted a man proven to be a sexual abuser, where are the upright shareholders of the miscreant companies? If the shareholders are so addicted to dividends they refuse to look how their money is earned then it is time to double tax them if the company uses loopholes to avoid tax.

The Grey Currawong

Photo Geoff Park WordPress


The Grey Currawong

Cementing the reason the holy scriptures

Say hungry birds need not plant or harvest

Despite knowing them as such efficient killers

We reason they are not your everyday evangelists

From my front car seat and – putting to the proof

I paused and marvelled at the beauty of the smoky plumed bird

Ignoring me as it stood proudly on the corduroy rolled iron roof

Like an impatient smorgasbord diner – mark my word

It twisted and speared its beak under the ridge cap

To sample the delicacy presented gracelessly in situ

Savouring the food – tossing it around in its widening gap

Before devouring the arachnids meal – hidden hitherto

Unaware it demonstrated the killer’s act of slaughter

It hopped on two legs over the roof ridge out of sight

The presence of this bird explains the absence of twitter

Or buzz in our garden – trees, shrubs – so quiet

I G Y

Author supplied photograph

During the Cold War over seventy nations put their political differences aside and planned a series of eleven major scientific studies of the globe in 1957/58. Those eighteen months were called the International Geophysical Year. From that Australian scientists played a major role in the advancements of knowledge of the globe. Specifically our work was perhaps more successful than the six nations that joined with us to study Antartica. The success was due in a large part to our foreign affairs department. It agreed for our scientists to set up bases in the country in the years before to trial equipment and materials. In those years our scientists were able to refine their knowledge to work in such an inhospitable region. (Post that period other countries have perhaps fared better.)

I have several reasons for retelling this story. The first is it is a reminder of Vic. ( I don’t remember his full name) but he was a young fellow Rev George Mutten mentored. The young man was an infrequent visitor to the vicarage and I met him only a handful of times. George took pride in saying he had spent time at Antartica during the IGY. I learned he was tragically killed a short while later in a car accident on a notorious bend in the Stoney Risers. His leader in the year he spent at Casey Base was Dr Phillip Law.

Phillip Law was a very respected Australian who made academic contributions to the growth of this country. He was born in 1912 ( a year before my mother). His is the second reason I recall this time. He led an interesting life, that has been documented in at least six books – including three autobiographies. The few pararagaphs I give to him relate to his adventures in Antartica. Where he first visited in 1949.

Law was born in Tallangatta. He grew up in Hamilton and went to the Ballarat Teachers College. He taught at secondary schools in Hamilton, Geelong and Melbourne Boys High School before he gained an MSc in Physics at Melbourne University. During WW11 he was involved with war projects at the University. ( I had my own time working in some of the same localities but that is as far as the similarities go.)

After the war Law gave up his secure job at the University and was appointed leader of ANARE (Australian National Antarctic Research Exhibition) by the Department of External Affairs. He was the leader in charge of bases at Macquarie Island and Antartica from 1949. He held that position until 1977 by which time he had personally led exhibitions to Antartica twenty three times.

Consequently he was leader in the years of planing leading up to the International Geophysical Year.

The learnings that came from the eleven major studies of the globe in those eighteen months have had a profound influence of our understanding of the universe. For instance, in the years leading to the study period America announced it would launch a satellite into space. The intensity of achievement was ramped up to such an extent America was beaten in the space race. They did not launch their rocket until the USSR had startled the world with Sputnik one , in 1957,, and Sputnik two. In all, over seventy countries had tens of scientists study the globe in wonderful cooperation.

If there is a good sign we are prepared to listen to scientists. It is now. This the first time in three generations science, and the word of scientists are being sought out.

Which brings me to another reason for tapping away at this screen and recording my thoughts. Some years from now people will ask those living today, what was Covid 19 like? What did you do?

I am not a diarist but here are some thoughts on the matter. The most astonishing thing is the virus quickly developed across the globe in three months. The lives of most people have been turned upside down. Millions of people are sick with a disease for which there is no cure. As a result thousands have lost their lives. Millions that were employed one day are unemployed the next. All over the world people have been affected. For example, our Government realised our hospital system was inadequate to manage an influx of desperately ill people, and its usual workload as well. so all but the most urgent operations were cancelled to free up hospital beds.

Initially one of the obvious signs was, the messages were confused, and people panicked. Supermarket shelves were emptied of basic necessities. People sought out information on self management skills that were almost forgotten: How to cook bread, How to grow vegetables, How to husband poultry. They did these things because they were unsure the state would be able to look after them. The government loosened spending and made available unparalleled government aid. Much of this aid was directed at business in the hope that life would “spring back” to normal when the initial panic subsided.

Now here we are three months down the track. Business people are arguing commerce will never recover unless the chains of lockdown are loosened. Immediately forgetting of course there is no cure. The Advance Australia group and the IPA are applying pressure on the Morrison government to lift the Lockdown and get back to business

This new pandemic age is certain to provide scope for dozens of future PHDs to study how it should have been approached, as every day we hear new reasons for and against social distancing. President Trump says America is not supposed to be closed to business at a time when many of his people are dropping dead like flies. He has also withdrawn funding from the World Health Organisation to take attention away from his own inadequacies

The truth is business is not going to bounce back as some businesses may never recover. Today Virgin Air excused itself from stock trading while the debt burdened company looks for a white knight to bail them out of trouble. Failing that aide it is just one of many.businesses unlikely to live on.

The evidence each country is fighting Covid 19 in its own way has made life more uncertain. Government’s around the world are making knee jerk responses to this hidden deadly threat. Many health officers are reporting progress is being made in treating it while they struggle behind the scenes to make beds and ventilators available for their sick.

It is not as if administrators were unaware a pandemic threatened mankind. In recent years we have had several near misses with SARS, and Ebola, but is the madness of mankind not to worry about future threats until we have to deal with them. Right now we can see the foolishness of this behaviour. Yet we procrastinate soothed by the words of business lobbyists.

How have we denied the warnings about global warming from similar learned people is beyond comprehension. This is yet another reason for speaking out. In my mouselike way my words are silenced except for recording , “What is happening is not happening in my name”. Perhaps it his is more difficult until one has lived through many awful life events and observed it hasn’t always been so easy. My hope remains world leaders will put aside the nonsense industry people spread and instruct their scientists to advise them.

My last point is contentious. I want billionaires to donate all but their pocket money to science. If I pick just one I will start with Bill Gates. I cannot decide whether he is a saint or sinner. His charities do such a lot of good yet the question remains, was his wealth legitimate from the beginning? Leaving that question aside.

I want him to abandon the idea that big business will help agriculture and global food supply. I think water and soil and seed, that isn’t owned by business, and organic fertiliser, again unowned by business, is all farmers need to produce food locally. Food has been produced that way forever. Monoculture is not good for the planet. If you are unsure of this get the scientists of the world to study food production with no thought of patents and licences. Just do it for the hell of it like was done in the IGY back in 1957/58.

Here is an interview with a very old Phillip Law. (He was 97 when he died)

https://www.science.org.au/learning/general-audience/history/interviews-australian-scientists/dr-phillip-law-1912-2010