The Redback Spider (Latrodectus hasselti)

Australia – Snakes, Spiders, Bone Melting Heat

Flea has had to do some adjusting since she moved here to Australia. A year ago she was safe in London, wrapped securely in a festive reindeer Christmas sweater. Snow fell gently outside her office window as she pondered her next cup of tea and (more importantly) which biscuit to have with it. Sometimes she might have 2 biscuits, but then she risked falling asleep on the tube on the way home. That’s about as dangerous as life got for her in London, England.

Although she’d visited Australia previously, I think she has found living here to be quite a different experience. She has loved discovering my favourite beaches and swimming/snorkelling spots, but I’ve had to explain that I’m absolutely NOT joking when I teach her how to avoid stepping on snakes.

The Redback Spider (Latrodectus hasselti)

A Redback Spider (Latrodectus hasseltii) found guarding our shoes from flies at the back door. What a lovely chap! Photo: © 2015 Ash Nathens

Her first and most passionate hatred this summer was for the Daddy Long Legs spider. As the weather warmed and they began to proliferate, she went on a frenzy with a straw broom attempting to destroy them all. After a few days of this, I explained I personally tend to leave the Daddy Long legs alone. I like them about the place.

“Why?!” she asked, pleading desperately with my apparent manly lack of general household cleanliness. “How can you stand the webs everywhere? It’s a horrid mess!”

“Well that’s quite true, my love,” I explained, “Their webs are quite annoying. But they do wonders for the Redback problem.”

“What problem? What’s a Redback?” she asked, not at all convinced.

I gave a brief run-down on the Australian Redback and explained that currently we didn’t have a problem because of the Daddy Long Legs. And when, two or three weeks later, the Redbacks started showing up (in shoes & behind the couch etc) she got a decent look at one and she’s been befriending Daddy Long Legs ever since. How Australian!

How very dangerous this place can be was highlighted to us all just before Christmas when my family visited from New South Wales. We were enjoying a stroll down by the beach in a popular area; families with children running about the place everywhere. We had stopped briefly along the waterfront to enjoy the view of pristine white sand and clean surf. Half a Brown Snake writhed furiously at our feet, the other half trying with desperate vigor to squeeze down a small opening in the footpath. What was causing it problems was obvious: its last meal. A large, mouse-shaped lump was prohibiting its escape; the large bulbous shape causing a blockage half way down. After a few moments it abandoned its escape and decided to just bask in the warm afternoon sun with us. Right there at our (rapidly retreating) feet. It wasn’t quite an adult, probably only about 3’6″in length, but at any size a Brown Snake has a bite that requires rapid medical attention. (nb: One onlooker believed this to be a Tiger Snake; he could be right. The similarities in juveniles of some species are subtle, and I’m no herpetologist. Regardless, either of these snakes nibbles on your ankle, you need to get to a hospital).

Brown Snake

Our gluttonous friend the Brown Snake

Last and arguably the most deadly of all: the heat. I suppose it’s like any other climate: if you grow up learning how to cope with it, you forget how hard it can be. Flea has just gone out for a bike ride – granted it’s only a very pleasant 29°C today  – but regardless, one does not go out cycling at 2pm during a Perth summer. She’s tough and doesn’t complain anywhere near as much as she’d like to, but I’m certain she’s also coming slightly unhinged in the heat;)

Singapore

Yoon-Mi is away in Singapore this week for some well deserved R&R. She has left me little Post-It notes around the house to remind me how loved I am. There’s Post-Its on food in the fridge and in the pantry. There’s Post-Its on the Tim Tams warning me not to eat them. There’s Post-Its beside the bed and hidden under pillows. I love them all:) We were in Singapore together in June this year; I remember I landed back from that trip and badly injured (rolled) my ankle training for an important run I had- devastating. It all went well in the end though! Anyway – all of this reminded me I never got around to sharing any photos from that trip. Laaa-aaazy me.

I had never been to Singapore and I had forgotten what humidity was – I should have remembered from my years of living in Sydney, but even so, Singpore is next level. We landed at about 3am and headed to the hotel where they shoved us in a twin smoking room for a few hours (I had quit smoking a year before that, so this was pretty disgusting) – we grabbed a shower and headed out for a walk around Fort Canning which I absolutely loved. In fact, my first impressions were of a very clean & friendly city. I loved it!

Musings left on the streets of Singapore

Musings left on the streets of Singapore

We spent a few days there, discovering Arab Street and buying fabrics (which is exactly where Yoon-Mi is now I think!) – we explored the Gardens by the Bay which is extraordinary. A photographer’s dream! Below the Mariner Bay Sands and with that weird Marc Quinn sculpture ‘Planet’ – bizarre. Anyway, I loved all of it, and I hope Yoon-Mi is having a ball. Wish I was there!

"Planet" by Marc Quinn - Marina bay Sands in the background.

“Planet” by Marc Quinn – Marina bay Sands in the background.

Oh, ran the 5k track this morning before work – still recovering from last week’s killer PT schedule, so it was a slow one. But what a wonderful morning in Perth. It’s going to be one killer summer!

In the news today

Photos from Singapore

Flotsam

flot·sam · ˈflätsəm · things that have been rejected and are regarded as worthless

Point Peron is my little haven, a rugged & rocky headland surrounded by fingers of reef that create protected bays perfect for snorkelling & swimming. I’ve taken hundreds of photos there over the years I’ve lived in the area, but in recent times I tend to leave the camera at home so I can enjoy the time with family. When the weather is wild, we walk around the limestone cliffs and explore some of the World War II bunkers and canon mounts. When summer is in its prime, it’s a paradise for swimming & snorkelling in the heat of early morning and just before sunset. Our diving gear is always in the car.

This photograph was taken late last summer (earlier this year) – a collection of the things I found when I’m diving off the  western shore. An anemone, some spirals that form the centre of large shells that have long since fallen to pieces… and a myriad of fishing gear. It’s quite literally everywhere at the bottom of the bay. I bring it all home so it’s not ghost fishing. The shells I bring home for Jasmine. This just seemed such a pretty little collection:)

flotsam_2400

“Flotsam” (click for full size)

High Tea and Pirates

A High Tea Adventure

One of the little things Flea has been missing since she moved to Australia is a good “high tea”. A friend of hers in the “Old Country” had done a bit of research and bought us some vouchers to “Maddison Cottage“; a little venue in Perth where such a thing can be enjoyed… one gets the feeling they might be few and far between. We enjoyed getting a bit dressy & had a lovely drive out to Guildford on a lovely rainy day; the first genuinely wet day of the year. We enjoyed a few different teas, made more lovely by a ‘free pot refill’. I’ll admit I did arrive hoping to find a good steak burger on the menu (I was a little misguided as to what was on offer at a High Tea) – but none the less, we were fairly impressed with the morsels.

The setting was lovely, although it felt a little cramped. The tables were clean and well set; and everything was well presented. Sadly though, it was all let down by awful restroom facilities (and after two full pots of tea, you can be sure you’ll need them before you depart). I’m not talking “Trainspotting” awful – it wasn’t filthy. “Functioning” is, however,  about the only positive thing I can say about it. No more than a household loo, it is directly adjacent to their kitchen & one can clearly hear every dish and sniffle coming from the pantry. Which means; they can hear you. I enjoyed listening to staff talking about customers for a few moments before we left. I didn’t use the hand towel provided (on the restroom floor) and left, hand dripping, through a maze of kitchen supply boxes and various other flotsam.

A pleasant enough venue, just don’t look behind the scenes. A real shame! However, Flea looking absolutely stunning and we enjoyed the adventure:)

Piracy & eternal damnation

We’ve been enjoying  a smorgasbord of television programming; Season 4 of Game of Thrones having been the most anticipated. But wow, how good is Fargo (Billy Bob Thornton / Martin Freeman) so far?! We’re loving it:) What else?

  • The Killing (loving it!)
  • Boss
  • Not Going Out
  • Fargo (loving it!)

I’m a bookworm who’s read all off George R R Martin’s books before seeing the show; Flea is watching it first. We’re both enjoying season 4 thus far; Arya & The Hound being my favourite story line. it was sad to not see them this week! No spoilers on this page (because you never know, Flea just might read my blog) – but I want at least 10 minutes of them in every episode this season…

Oh – Sansa and Petyr Baelish – at last! This is one story line I’m excited about:) Obviously they’re going to skip Petyr’s homeland for the TV series which is a bit of a shame, but it should still be great!

"...the only thing he wanted was what I'd given him the night before."

“…the only thing he wanted was what I’d given him the night before.”

Life Without a Cigarette

March 4th, 2013 – my first full day without a cigarette in as many years as I can remember. I can remember those first 3 or 4 weeks pretty clearly; I won’t lie, they weren’t easy. At times they were hell. And yet, somehow here I am a year later: happier, healthier, and I haven’t had a single ‘relapse’ cigarette. Not even a drag.

This isn’t a reformed smoker rant – I hate those people, too – it’s something that I truly hope just helps ONE person go through this crappy quitting thing. That would make me happy.

Before I tell you how I made it, I think first I’ll share with you who I was. I was the ultimate smoker. I’m sure every smoker says that, but I truly was. I believed I would die smoking. Quitting was way too hard – I had tried countless times – I enjoyed smoking so much, I had convinced myself dying from some crappy smoking-related illness was worth it. I had even started mentally preparing for it… I couldn’t convince myself I was “young” any more, but I could convince myself that I had had a pretty wonderful life, and it could end tomorrow and I’d be satisfied. I smoked a pack a day at my worst, and most of a pack any other day of the year. I smoked with coffee in the morning, and sometimes while I was making the first coffee. I smoked while I walked to the train station, and while I walked from central to work. I smoked another quick one before I started. I called morning tea “smoko” because that made it okay. I smoked several at lunch, and anything after knock-off was fair game. I smoked when I was busy, and I smoked to  kill boredom. I smoked to kill hunger, and later when I’d eaten, I’d smoke because I was too full. I smoked just before bed (but never IN bed) but occasionally got up through the night to have one. Some of that is shameful – but this is the honest me, and I know it’s plenty of other smokers, too.

MAR04_02

Smoking makes you a heinous butt-breath’d chemical dependent zombie.

I don’t even know what triggered my very sudden ‘attempt’ at quitting a year ago. I had already tried so many times… the ‘cutting down’ method (that never works) – patches, purging — blah blah blah. I did the right things, but I never once thought the right things. Then, in March 2013, with no great planning, preparation or fanfare, I said a few things to myself.

I am sick of paying for cigarettes. I am sick of putting money in the pockets of rich men who keep making this shit for me. I am sick of scratching around for a few spare dollars when things are tight, only to spend them on smokes. I am sick of feeling so utterly desperate for something that I know will kill me. I am so utterly tired of remembering how fit and healthy I used to be, yet knowing in my heart I’d struggle to sprint 100 meters. I love smoking – but I’m just so utterly sick of needing it, wanting it, knowing I’ll die for it. I’ve had enough.

There were no grand plans or schemes this time. No promises, no goals, no pressure. I was done and that was that. That doesn’t mean it was easy; it was hell. The cravings came… but they went, too. They came hard and fast, but they went away, too. They left me sweating and swearing and raving and desperate – then suddenly they were gone. Ebbs and flows – those first three or four weeks weren’t easy, but that’s all it was. 28 days, and my body was free. Now I had to get that shit out of my head.

Well, I can honestly say 365 days later: I’m still not 100% there. Every 4 or 5 weeks I get a bit of a pang. I’ll walk past someone smoking in the street and my nostrils flare & my fingers twitch . And the loveliest thing about that is – I don’t want one. I still love the idea of smoking and I still don’t hate the smell of it (people are telling me I will – and I still don’t believe them!) – but I don’t physically want one, and there’s no way in hell I’d put one in my mouth. Like an alcoholic – I’ll be a smoker until the day I die – I just won’t smoke.

A year later and a few days shy of my thirty-seventh birthday – I am so damn proud of this achievement; because I alone know how hard the battle was for me. Now I’m running every morning, and I’m out in the ocean at least a few times a week. I’ve saved every dollar I would have spent smoking in a separate account, and let me tell you, it is absolutely vile how quickly that money adds up. I went to London and back on that money. I met the love of my life, and now she lives with me here in Australia, and with a little luck, I’ll live to have her beside me when I’m 102.

Quitting is shit – it’s among the hardest things I’ve ever had to do – but it’s not impossible.

If it helps, visit/call QuitNow in Australia 13 78 48 – personally, I ended up discovering that I had to do it by myself, for myself. All the support & encouragement in the world didn’t help until I realised how much I wanted it out of me for myself. All I want to say to you (or someone you know) is – it is possible, you can do it – I know this, because I made it.

So: go on, try again to get that shit out of your life. I’d say “don’t give up” – but I really want you to.

If you want to talk about it with me, or ask me for tips or how you can help a friend – leave a comment and I’d love to know I’ve reached someone, somewhere!