Category Archives: Ecology


23rd May, 2016
23rd May 2016 Stinkhorns

One of the delights of our garden is the wild and sudden appearance of fungi. Of course there are always fungal cords, moulds, mildews and lichen on barks and leaves and leaf litter, but in the last four months, more than a dozen types of conspicuous fungi have emerged. Having done most of their growing underground, they pop up overnight, in unexpected places, and, if not eaten first by snails, slugs and caterpillars, have often died away within a few days. Continue reading Fungi

Borrowed landscape


This magnificent jacaranda tree is in our neighbour’s yard, but it overshadows ours, just as its roots must underlie the gardens of the neighbours further south and west. After a couple of weeks of taking photos of my garden, I realised that I had been treating it as off-limits. Unconsciously, I thought that I’d be cheating on the terms of the project if I included it. Continue reading Borrowed landscape

Fences and bridges













Robert Frost’s poem Mending Wall is based on a tension between two attitudes to fences. The narrator, noting how his stone wall needs continuous repair, is struck by the intuition ‘Something there is that doesn’t love a wall’. When he puts this suggestion to his neighbour, pointing out that the neighbour’s pine trees are not endangered by his apple trees, the neighbour rebuffs him: ‘Good fences make good neighbours.’ Continue reading Fences and bridges

What do you see?

20th May 2016
20th May 2016

For the past few months, since beginning this photographic project, I have been uploading photos every day to an Instagram account. There are now many hundreds there. Every photo is different but every one is also the same.

Take this image. What do you see? A fist? An embryo? A fern? A mother and child? A helix? A shell? A heart in a rib cage? A mathematical formula? Continue reading What do you see?

Everyday Mystery

18th May 2016
18th May 2016

The film Smoke centres on everyday mysteries and on the friendship between Paul Benjamin, a novelist with writer’s block, and Auggie Wren, the manager of a Brooklyn cigarette shop. One day Paul is surprised to discover that Auggie doesn’t just sell cigarettes. He also has a vocation. He takes photographs. More specifically, he has taken a series of four thousand pictures, each of them shot at the same time of day and of the same place: the corner of Third Street and Seventh Avenue, where his shop stands. He cannot explain why he does this. “It just came to me”, he says. “It’s my corner, after all. It’s just one little part of the world, but things happen there, too, just like everywhere else. It’s a record of my little spot.” Continue reading Everyday Mystery

Learning Italian

For the past few months, I have been having Italian lessons with a wonderful teacher who has insisted that I just speak – ‘avanti, avanti’ – without thinking about making perfect sentences, without worrying about making mistakes. ‘Keep it simple’, my teacher says, ‘listen’, and ‘ask questions’. This is the way to make contact. If you are thinking about grammar and how to construct your next sentence, you’re likely to lose contact. Continue reading Learning Italian

A Photo in a Wallet

image_2794When my father-in-law died, after many years of sickness and many months in hospital, his wallet was in the drawer of the bedside cabinet. And in this wallet was a photo of his two daughters. Aged around 5 and 3, their hair in ribbons and pigtails, Anita and Ina are sitting side by side on a bench in a Sydney park, their feet unable to reach the ground. Continue reading A Photo in a Wallet

The time and space of childhood


On my recent visit to Sicily and Crete I was reminded repeatedly of the place, in South Australia, where I grew up. Looking at a hillside of olive trees in Sicily, I would find myself in a primary school geography lesson, lost in pictures of ‘the Mediterranean’. I couldn’t now say if my fascination with ‘the Mediterranean’ had been a fascination with places in the Mediterranean or with South Australia’s classification as ‘Mediterranean climate’. But, while in Sicily and Crete, I had an overwhelming feeling that these seemingly faraway places were somehow inextricably connected with the place of my childhood. Continue reading The time and space of childhood

The hottest July day on record

The Mirror warned that Britain yesterday was to be hotter than Barbados and the Sahara. The Telegraph offered readers a range of alarms and advice:

• Stop staff travelling in rush hour, health officials urge
• Britain braced for hottest day in a decade
• Heatwave could buckle train tracks and melt roads, travellers warned
• What men should wear to work during a heatwave
• UK heatwave in pictures: Scorching weather sears Britain Continue reading The hottest July day on record