Patra's Other Place

I started out with Patra's Place, primarily dedicated to my linen collection and stitching projects. But I kept getting side-tracked, so I decided to create Patra's Other Place for anything not related to embroidery topics. So you now have a choice. If you are interested in me, read this. If you only want to see my linen and stitching, visit Patra's (original) Place! (Please note that by clicking on any of the photos, they will be enlarged to fill your computer screen.)

My Photo
Location: Melbourne, Vic., Australia

I am married to Ken. We have no children except a cat and a collection of Australian parrots, finches, canaries and a dozen hens.

Friday, February 27, 2009

Thank you for your prayers.

I guess there is a God. Probably many Gods, of many religions. Today (Friday 27th February) was going to be another extreme fire danger day for Victoria, according to the experts. Whether it was by chance or by people praying, it was nowhere near as bad as predicted. Here in Eltham it got to about 34 deg.C, and the wind was barely a breeze. I used to think 34C was HOT...I doubt I will ever feel that way again. It was warm, yes - too warm for me to sit outside for any length of time, but it was not unbearable.

The air was full of smoke this morning, probably drifting across from the Dandenongs and Warburton, poor buggers. But it dispersed during the day, and tonight I think most people in Melbourne will be able to sleep a bit better than they did last night.

Our kookaburra visitors didn't turn up first thing this morning, which worried me some, as you know how birds and animals are about sensing danger. But four of them came into our yard about 10 am, and had a nice snack of pet mince. The whole lot (about 10 of them) arrived later in the afternoon and were treated to minced beef, which they flew down to take from my hand...gee those beaks are powerful. I would not like to be a mouse or lizard at the wrong end of a kookaburra. Even worse to be a snake. At least the mice and lizards are pretty much swallowed in one gulp. Snakes have to be smashed against a tree or rock until they die, before the kookaburra can eat them!

Tuesday, February 24, 2009


I'm somewhere between atheist and agnostic, so I don't actually pray to anyone or anything. At the same time I respect the religious beliefs of other people, no matter which religion they practice. So, I have no qualms about asking believers to pray to their God for something I think needs all the help it can get. In this case I'm referring to rain, to help put out the Victorian bushfires.

I've had two friends tell me from reliable sources that the number of deaths will exceed 300 in the weeks to come. There are many bodies in the Black Saturday fires that have not yet been identified, and so cannot be included in the official death toll.
A week ago I wrote that it is not over yet. My statement has been proven yet again today, with fires breaking out even closer to the suburbs of Melbourne. The following is the latest news on MSN at around midnight on Monday.

Two firefighters have been injured and at least one house and a fire truck destroyed as a bushfire rages out of control in Melbourne's outer east. The Country Fire Authority (CFA) said the house in Belgrave South had been burned, with reports of others also being hit as the fire hones in on other suburbs in the Dandenong Ranges.

More than 150 firefighters, assisted by aircraft and bulldozers, are battling the blaze, which is threatening homes in Upwey, Tecoma, Belgrave Heights, Belgrave South and Lysterfield, about 40km from Melbourne's CBD. The fire has grown from 70 hectares at 5.30pm (AEDT) to 150 hectares an hour later as a gusty southwesterly change blew in. The CFA has urged residents to decide early whether to stay and defend their homes or flee.

Department of Sustainability Environment (DSE) spokesman Kevin Monk confirmed two volunteer CFA firefighters had suffered minor injuries at Belgrave Heights. Many nervous residents who spotted smoke in nearby areas such as Ferntree Gully have evacuated. The fire came within 30 metres of houses in Glenfern Road, Tecoma, before firefighters pushed it back. "It was here and it's just died," Glenfern Road resident Joe Castro said. "On the north side of Glenfern Rd are all the houses and on the south side is the fire. At one point it reached within 30 metres of the road and they put it out. East of here I can see all the helicopters dropping water. It's as smoky as hell."

The Upwey fire started around 2.30pm (AEDT) and spread through the Birdlands Reserve, pushed along by a northwesterly wind. Three helicopters and more than 30 trucks are battling the blaze, as more firefighting resources move in.
"It's very much the suburbs of Melbourne, it's a huge concern for us. The potential for impact on residents is very serious," CFA deputy chief officer Geoff Conway said.
"It's started to impact on houses in Upwey, Tecoma and Belgrave South. It's currently being affected by the wind that has swung around to the south and southwest. There's still a lot of firefighting to go before we can make this fire safe."

Monday, February 23, 2009

Our Kookaburra Family

On a brighter note (brighter than the previous post about our neighbours, I mean), we are still enjoying the company of half a dozen kookaburras to our back yard every morning and evening. They perch high up in the gum trees and wait patiently until I come out with some food for them. I've started buying the least expensive pet mince at the supermarket, and they love it! Here are some more photos of them on the table in our yard. They are not afraid of me at all, as you can see by the photos, and how close I was when I took them. We had some friends visit today, and the kookas came down to have a feed, but with one eye on our friends, who didn't go too close in case they scared the birds off.
The first four photos were taken in the morning.

This four were taken later in the day, as you can see by the golden cast of the setting sun in the photo.

Their farewell was from our clothesline. They followed me down here to the back door when I'd given them all the food I had up in the yard! This was taken looking through the kitchen window; the chain hanging down held a hanging basket until all my basket plants died in the heat!

Neighbours From Hell.

The neighbours at one side of our house are a family of four - Mother and three daughters. They have lived there for about 16 years, and have never been friendly with anyone nearby. The MOTH walked out on them about 10 years ago, and Mother lost control of the girls from then on. The girls are aged between 16 and 22. The two older ones come and go, living with friends or coming back home as the mood strikes them, I guess - who knows? The 16 year old grew up watching her sisters have wild parties, and now she seems intent on starting the same thing.

We (and their neigbours on their other side) have done the usual things to shut them up - yell over the fence, phone them, call the police, and so on. Mother works night shift as a nurse, so as you can imagine, while the cat's away....One Friday night last year, she took off at 11 pm and within minutes the back yard was filled with teenagers, drinking, yelling and swearing. So I phone Mother at her workplace and told her what was going on. Ten minutes later, the house was in darkness, and all was quiet for the rest of the night.

I thought that idea worked well, as there was not much trouble for a long time.
But, last Friday night, it all started again - teenage boys drinking, swearing, etc. I yelled out over the fence to them to knock it off and they just laughed. All right, I thought - let's try Mother again. So I phone her workplace, only to be told she wasn't working that night. Ken called the police, and they came about 3 am to find nothing much happening, so they didn't stay. The kids finally disappeared inside about 3.30 a.m.

This evening (Sunday) there was a knock on our door. There was "Mother" from next door, highly indignant that I had phoned her at her workplace again about her kids. She said (and get this) she was at home on Friday night! Ken and I said 'What?' in unison! Why didn't she do anything about the kids behaviour? She said she was in bed. She'd heard me call out but said the kids can deal with it - they are adults and responsible for their behaviour. HELLO!!! RESPONSIBLE?? Irresponsible is more like it. All she could say was how unprofessional I was to call her at work. Well who cares about unprofessional - I don't. I told her I would do it again - every time her kids are there unsupervised and making a ruckus, I would ring her. She said she would get into trouble with her boss, and I said good. Maybe that will encourage you to do something about your kids and their friends.

More words were exchanged, she went back home, and I started making phone calls to our neighbours. Three households are very angry about it, having also been woken up by the noise on Friday night. I've got some more calls to make tomorrow, and I've got a pretty good idea of what to expect. Then I'll be phoning our solicitor and asking what we (as a group of households) can do. Can some kind of restraining order be placed on these obnoxious people, to stop them making so much noise late at night? The local police have told me they can't do anything (typical), but that I should go to the local council, and they might issue a fine. Ha. MIGHT issue a fine. Which Mother would pay, but which would not stop her brats from behaving like louts.

Has anyone else reading this experienced similar problems? And if so, do you have any solutions? Apart from retrieving Ken's guns from under the house and waving them around over the fence at the kids....

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Bushfire update. It's not over yet.

I know from emails and messages I've received, that a lot of my cyberspace friends are reading my blog (and others) to see what is unfolding in Victoria in relation to the bushfires. I sincerely appreciate the concern of our friends interstate and overseas, and will continue to keep you informed. I know people can get information of all kinds on the net and elsewhere, but I'm endeavouring to provide a condensed version.
This is on the MSN news page today (Tuesday)
Six fires are still burning out of control around the state with another 19 contained fires still burning. The fight to quell the flames continues as police search the wreckage for more victims of Australia's worst bushfire disaster, which has claimed at least 189 lives. Police expect the toll to rise further.

Stable weather conditions for the next two days should help firefighters to build control lines around those bushfires still raging out of control in Victoria.
Containment lines surrounded 85 per cent of the Kinglake Murrindindi Complex and the Bunyip and Beechworth fires were also close to being contained.
The top priority of firefighters on Tuesday will be protecting Melbourne's water catchments from ash with bulldozers used to cut control lines.
"The CFA and DSE (Department of Sustainability and Environment) are doing a huge amount of work with water authorities to take the fire out of those areas," a spokesman said. The dams threatened include the Sugarloaf (this reservoir is only a few miles from us), Maroondah, O'Shannassy, Upper Yarra and Yan Yean dams.

So far 1,834 homes have been destroyed, displacing 7,000 individuals, according to the Red Cross statistics. While firefighters are getting on top of the blazes still burning out of control it should be remembered the bushfire season was not over, Country Fire Authority (CFA) director of community safety Lisa Sturzenegger said.
"There's at least another month of summer to come and it's not too late for communities to make their plans because having a plan can save lives," she told reporters. "Fire agencies are scheduling fire ready Victoria meetings across the state."

There are more than 4,500 firefighters still either fighting blazes or containing them, backed by more than 500 army personnel.

Tuesday 17th February - a special day.

If you have been reading this blog for a while, you will know that my MIL (Mother In Law) has been living with us since January 19th. Today is her 96th birthday. She was determined to show me she is in fine form, as when I returned after an absence of half an hour this morning, I found her dressed and sitting in the lounge, and her bed made! I gasped when I walked in and saw her, and she laughed at my reaction. "Don't you think I'm good for anything any more?" she asked. Well, considering we thought she was dying a month ago, and I've been helping her get dressed every day since then, you might understand my surprise! We had lunch together in the kitchen while she opened her stack of birthday cards. As I type this, she is in the lounge, watching her favourite t.v. shows.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Kookaburras visit us again.

This morning about 8 am, we had eight of these unique birds in our back yard. If you have heard the kookaburra's call, you can just imagine the racket they were making! So I rushed up to the table near the aviaries and put out meat and pet mince, which I'd bought specifically for the birds if they returned. Four or five sat in one tree looking down at me, three were in nearby trees, and one was sitting up on top of the aviaries, much to the consternation of the chooks, who were clucking away madly! There were four on the table at first, but by the time I got my camera, one had flown off.

Not long after that, I went to the front door and saw this: two kookaburras in the dead gumtree in our front garden, accompanied by a single galah, and in a nearby tree, our two 'resident' lorikeets were screeching at them! I said to MIL our neighbours must hate us - it's all our fault these birds are so noisy!

The sky is still full of smoke. Another fire was deliberately lit last night in Belgrave, in the Dandenong Ranges, which has suffered severe fires in past years. It is on the outskirts of Melbourne's suburbs, so the fire was doused very quickly by the authorities.

I heard this on the radio on Sunday and think it bears repeating:
If you push Mother Nature out the window, She will come in the back door with a pitchfork.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Photos taken from our back yard today.

This morning at about 8 am, we heard a commotion in the back yard. We went out to find 4 kookaburras, 3 currawongs, 2 magpies, 2 lorikeets, and assorted doves and noisy miners - all competing for space on a small table where I'd placed a bowl of water and some seed. Later in the day a pair of gang gang cockatoos came in. This is surely a sign of things to come; we used to get the occasional kookaburra here; currawongs and magpies are rarely seen together, and the other birds usually chase each other off until one species wins the battle. To see them all together indicates that they are now competing for space and food.

I chopped up some raw meat (Topsy's dinner) and took it out to the table. The kookaburras flew down immediately, even though I continued to stand there. Ken came up, picked up a piece of meat and held it out on the palm of his hand. One kookaburra approached him confidently and took the meat from his hand. Three of them had been cackling, but the fourth bird sounded as if it had a sore throat. Their feathers looked as if they'd been singed, so perhaps the bird had scorched its vocal chords. If only Ken had his phone or video camera handy! The way things are, I'm guessing we'll get many more opportunities.

I've got a bit of a variety here. The first two are of the sky and sun at around 6 pm tonight. Under normal circumstances, I would not point my camera directly at the sun and take a photo! But I was able to do this because the smoke haze over Melbourne is so thick, it has all but obliterated the sun.
The dangly bits are our Xmas lights which haven't been taken down for two years.

Same shot, but using the zoom. The galahs had come down for a drink at the water bowl I have on our verandah all the time for the birds.

Our poor garden. Along with most other people, ours looks like God took a blow torch to it last Saturday. The 100 year old Staghorn fern on the tree may come back to life, but I'm not holding my breath.

Our new 5000 litre rainwater tank, installed yesterday. The plumber is coming tomorrow to finish the job with the pipes. Then all we need is some rain to fill it up. If we'd had this installed a couple of years ago when we first started talking about getting one, our garden might have looked a lot better.

On a lighter note to end this post, here is our poor gazebo, which literally blew to bits during the wind last Saturday. I'd warned Ken that it wasn't meant to withstand high winds, but ah no, he knew better. Still, if that's all we have to complain about, we are doing well. We've still got our house and everything in it. Latest figures out today indicate that nearly 2000 (yes, two thousand) houses were burnt down last week. Seven thousand people now homeless. Is that what it was like in London after the Blitz?

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Bushfire updates

There are things that will no doubt be reported on the news around the world, but others won't. The CFA reported today that there were 153 new fires in Victoria yesterday (Wednesday). This does not mean they are HUGE fires; in fact they would be just scrub or grass fires that can be dealt with fairly quickly. As the CFA spokesman said, it is still the bushfire season here, and small fires must be expected.
Most of those are in rural or remote areas, and do not endanger houses or people. However, today (Thursday), the fire scenario took an ugly turn. A 15 year old boy deliberately lit a fire in an inner suburb parkland. If the fire brigade and police didn't act as quickly as they did, this could have been catastrophic for the city and suburbs of Melbourne. It is as dry there as it is in the rural areas, and Victoria's nickname "The Garden State" is not just a pretty phrase. We pride ourselves on our parks and gardens, and trees abound on both private and public property.
What sort of person - child or adult - does this? The kind of person who throws his daughter over the West Gate Bridge? Or the kind of person who defaces public and private property with graffiti? I guess most of us will never understand what goes on in the minds of any of these people.
On the brighter side, an Australia wide telethon had raised over $75 million dollars as at 11.30 pm when I turned the t.v. off. And it was not just coming from Aussies living here. People and companies overseas were also pledging vast amounts of money. For this to happen in the current economic climate is absolutely amazing. When we were watching the telethon, I said to Ken and his Mum "Doesn't it make you proud to be Australian? To think that people overseas like us enough to do that".
I received an email today from a friend in Germany. A lady of my age, who I have got to know through being fans of Andre Rieu. She told me she was so moved by the bushfire disaster, she contacted Red Cross and donated A$100. Dear Astrid, thank you very much - your generosity is greatly appreciated by all Aussies.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Bushfire ramblings continued.

Like many other Aussie bloggers (or perhaps those from Victoria in particular), I just can't get motivated to write about anything else at the moment. As I said in the previous post, we are bombarded 24/7 by the media with updates on the fires, so it gets into one's brain and won't go away.

It doesn't help matters when you see something that brings it home to you in a different way. I was on my way to work this morning, and along one of the main roads going out of Eltham, I saw three dead kangaroos, a dead fox and a dead possum. It isn't unusual to see one animal now and then, that has been hit by a car, but to see that many within a hundred yards is horrible. I phoned Melbourne's talk back radio station later that day, and when I got through to speak to Dennis Walters, I said I was calling to alert his listeners to the plight of animals which have escaped the fires, and are now making their way into the outer suburbs in search of water and food. Native animals used to bushland are not used to roads, and even less familiar with fast cars in great numbers. I begged people to be aware that there will be many more of these animals in the suburbs from now on, and to slow down and watch out for them. Dennis seemed to think this was a good phone call, and he put me into a draw for a new car at some stage in the future. Ken and his sister both listen to 3AW, and heard my call, so I got ribbed tonight about who was going to drive the new car when I won it! I told them if I did win, I'd donate it to one of the bushfire victims who has lost their car in the fires.

In the meantime, have a look at this news item about the animals we have lost in Victoria. There is a link to the film taken of the CFA worker giving a koala a drink of water out of his water bottle.

It is going from bad to worse.

Thank you to all those who have left comments here, or emailed me to express concern about the bushfires here in Victoria. I guess I don't need to tell you much, as I believe we are making headlines around the world, but being right here where events are unfolding before our eyes, it is a terrible time to be living through. Nearly 200 people dead, approximately 5000 homeless, and an enormous area of our State has been completely burnt out. The only positive aspect of the bush being burnt, is that in Australia, it is nature's way of regenerating new growth in our native trees and plants. They rely on fire to do this.

Like 9/11, the media is playing everything over and over, full on - videos of the fires, burnt out houses and cars, people in the burns unit of the hospital, animals being brought into care - birds with their feathers burnt off, animals with burnt paws and singed fur, and interviews with survivors.

Ken went down to our local CFA (Country Fire Authority) last night, to see if they need any extra 'hands on deck', and the man he spoke to said if Eltham comes under ember attack from the nearest fires on a windy day, we'll go up in flames like Kinglake. We live among so many trees, and everything is so dry after years of drought. The fires are creeping closer to us whenever there is a windchange in our direction - town by town.
I have a list of things to pack if it comes to the crunch:
Cat in her carry cage.
Handbag containing wallet, cheque book, keys, diary, address book.
Mobile Phone and charger
Ken’s laptop. My computer memory stick.
Bottled water or other drinks, and energy snacks.
Medications and scripts.
Briefcase containing important papers such as:
Birth certificate
Wedding certificate
Current Insurance Policies
Current car and bike registrations
Utilities receipts, rates notice
Current bank statements.
Essential clothing for both of us - undies, slacks, tops, waterproof jackets
My framed embroidered pictures off the wall.
As much of my antique linen as I can pack into cardboard boxes

Have I forgotten anything?

Ken says he would have to open his aviaries to let the birds free to fend for themselves. I'll never forget seeing film of a bird breeder whose aviaries were destroyed in a bushfire a few years ago; he was crying over the loss of his beloved birds which had been all burnt alive in their cages..I told Ken we could put them all in boxes or carry cages, but he said it would take too long to catch them all. Sometimes you've only got minutes to evacuate your home.

I know many of my blog friends have deep religious beliefs. Would you consider praying for us? We need lots of rain, and we don't need wind at all. That's it - not too much to ask, is it? Thank you.

Monday, February 09, 2009

Unexpected surprise from my Mate in Malmsbury!

My friend LeeAnn has the knack of surprising me with parcels of goodies at unexpected times. Last week I received a parcel in the mail, with a card explaining that it was for a birthday when you're not having a birthday. Yes, well...that's my LeeAnn!! In the parcel was a really cute and colourful tote bag:

And these - can you guess what they are without scrolling down to look at the other photos?

Yup - knitted slippers!

A perfect fit!!

Thank you my dear friend - {{{HUGS}}}

My Country

The Reefton Spur Road a year ago.

The last time we visited Marysville, a year ago. This is now all gone. Just ash and rubble.

I love a sunburnt country,
A land of sweeping plains,
Of ragged mountain ranges,
Of drought and flooding rains,
I love her far horizons,
I love her jewel sea,
Her beauty and her terror -
The wide brown land for me.

The tragic ring-barked forests
Stark white beneath the moon,
The sapphire-misted mountains,
The hot gold hush of noon.
Green tangle of the brushes
Where lithe lianas coil,
An orchids deck the tree-tops
And ferns the crimson soil.

Core of my heart, my country!
Her pitiless blue sky,
When sick at heart around us
We see the cattle die -
But then the grey clouds gather
And we can bless again
The drumming of an army,
The steady, soaking rain.

Core of my heart, my country!
Land of the Rainbow Gold,
For flood and fire and famine,
She pays us back threefold;
Over the thirsty paddocks,
Watch, after many days,
The filmy veil of greenness
That thickens as we gaze.

An opal-hearted country,
A wilful, lavish land -
All you who have not loved her,
You will not understand -
Though Earth holds many splendours,
Wherever I may die,
I know to what brown Country
My homing thoughts will fly.

This was written by Dorothea MacKellar in 1906, and was taught to every school child in Australia for many years (I don't know if it still is). There is a first verse which I haven't included here, as it refers to England, where Dorothea was born.
Well as much as I love our sunburnt country, there are times like the last few days when I envy those of you in icy England. We live about half an hour's drive from Kinglake, which was just about obliterated by the fires there. It was one of our favorite destinations for a bike ride on sunny weekends. I'm glad to have taken many photos up there, and of Marysville, the delightful little town which was totally wiped off the map, as the media has described it. Over 100 people dead, and still counting. Over 700 houses burnt, and still counting. Untold numbers of animals, both farm stock and wildlife, burnt alive. It is possible that some species of endangered critters are now extinct. But I still love this Sunburnt Country.

Friday, February 06, 2009

MIL has settled in well.

Tonight we watched a replay of the 2007 Edinburgh Tattoo on Foxtel, and it reminded me of Isabelle over in Scotland. So after the show had finished, I took MIL into our 'office' and sat her down in front of my computer to introduce her to some of my Blogger friends. She was fascinated!! When I showed her Merle in Shepparton, she was very admiring of someone nearly her age who has mastered a computer and the Internet so well!
The days have been very hot in Melbourne in recent weeks, so we've tended to stay indoors with the airconditioning going during the daytime. We've been very lucky in our neck of the woods to have had uninterrupted power supply, when so many others around Victoria have lost power supply due to the extreme heat. But when the sun has set, we've been taking MIL for a little walk outside onto the patio, so she can sit and enjoy the fresh air for a while. I took this photo tonight. It is a remarkable change from the person we brought home less than 3 weeks ago, who said she didn't want to get dressed again, just wanted to stay in bed in her nightie, and wait to die. Now she is up and dressed every day, eating a wider variety of food, and generally taking interest in life again!

Mrs Wilson Senior - turning 96 in two weeks time.

Tuesday, February 03, 2009

Am I being over-sensitive?

I was cross with my husband earlier tonight. His Mum loves to watch anything he chooses to show her on t.v., and as he has a large collection of DVDs, they have been having a ball the last few nights. (I'm usually doing something more productive like ironing, washing dishes, stitching...)
Tonight, Ken started off with some animated movies, moved on to Bugs Bunny cartoons (at which they both laughed non-stop), and then for some reason, he brought out a documentary DVD on WW2. Whizzing in and out of the lounge room, I saw on the screen the young blokes marching off to war. I heard MIL say "It was so sad, all those lovely boys going off, and so many never returned". I caught Ken's eye and scowled at him, indicating I wasn't impressed by his choice of DVD. He asked his Mum if it was upsetting her and she said "Oh no, it's bringing back so many memories". When he came out to the kitchen and related that to me, I said "That is exactly what I was trying to convey to you - those memories are sad ones, and at her age, she doesn't need to be reminded of that time".

I had in mind the people I've spoken to in aged care facilities about war movies and memorabilia - most of them said they hated to see those films as they brought all the horror of wartime back to them. To my generation (Baby Boomers), they are just films. We know they actually happened, but we can only try to imagine what the reality of living through that time was like. For instance, I will never willingly watch footage of the destruction of the Twin Towers on 9/11; it was the most awful thing I have ever seen in my life, and every time I see it somewhere, I feel almost sick, like I did when I was watching it live on t.v. So I'm guessing that to watch film of the London blitz and other war film, people who survived it would feel the same as I do about 9/11.

adopt your own virtual pet!