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14 November, 2020

Recently at Spring Creek wetlands, south coast, New South Wales, Australia I came across some black swans. I mentioned the white markings on their beaks to my friend and fellow birder Andrew Wood who was there at the time. The information I got later when I looked them up on The Australian Bird Guide is that it is a white stripe common to local black swans.

Here is one of the black swans I found in the waters of Rotorua, New Zealand in February this year. It appears to have the same markings on the beak as the Australian black swan.

There is a strange but colorful Christmas tree this year in the center of Wollongong mall. It is good to see it there. Sometimes we do need our traditions.

Myer my store? Not likely when, in their latest advertising song on television, they knock Christmas. They agree that this has been a difficult year for people but why do they think reducing the importance and value of Christmas will help? I have no idea what they think they are doing. Probably a reminder we are a multicultural country and so we shouldn’t have times of festivity anymore. All very trendy I’m sure.

My visit to Norsewood and to Lyn McConchie’s farm was the highlight of my February 2020 journey through the main north island of New Zealand. At the Norsewood bus stop there was a strange sign. Welcome and no entry. In the middle of town there are three trolls. Incidentally, Lyn has written children’s stories about trolls.

Apart from the three trolls there were also troll footprints and a mysterious Nordic alphabet on display. This coming February, nearby Norsewood, there will be a Viking festival. That sounds like fun. It is one of many reasons to return to New Zealand.

There are locally made woolen socks at Norsewood. I was given a pair by Lyn when getting ready to continue my journey through the main north island of New Zealand. They are surprisingly warm and comfortable. They are ideal for winter, especially when going birding. For some reason the socks I was given had been dyed purple.

On the way to Norsewood by bus one notices all these new fashioned windmills bringing electricity to New Zealanders. According to Lyn they actually work.

During my stay on her farm in Norsewood Lyn took me to Owlcatraz where I met some local owls. The artwork found at Owlcatraz impressed me more than the owls I saw there.

We also went to a Mount Bruce sanctuary where I came across a Takahe. They are a fat flightless bird facing extinction. It took patience but I finally got some good photos of this bird out in the open away from its hiding place. We were told there are two of them and that it was breeding season so the other was probably minding the eggs.

At the sanctuary I got to see Kakas. They are a forest parrot with an impressive beak and loads of curiosity about us humans. There is feeding time at this sanctuary when these Kakas are most active.

Lyn on her farm uses ganders and geese for protection. She told me that since I was with her entering her property and we were friendly toward one another I was okay as far as the ganders and the geese were concerned. The geese would chat about me being on her farm but that would be that. She told me once about a fellow who was chased off by a gander and got some nasty bruising on his backside. She added that the police had no trouble identifying him.

Among the books in Lyn’s collection there are all these Biggles novels. Apart from being friends with Australian writers, she also has long time contacts with the USA and Canada.

Right now Lyn is busy with her Sherlock Holmes short stories and novels. She has also been responsible for a number of the end of civilization as we know it stories including Coals & Ash (2018).

Of the Australian books published in the 1990s, Helen Garner’s The First Stone (1995) rings so true I found it compulsive reading. It is about how an academic can get into trouble without half trying. If you have an office and a visitor keep the door open.

Of the British novels I enjoyed in the 1990s there was: Moving Pictures by Terry Pratchett (1990), The Summer of the Danes by Ellis Peters (1991), The Holy Thief by Ellis Peters (1992), Sharpe’s Triumph by Bernard Cornwell (1997), and Carpe Jugulum by Terry Pratchett (1998).

Police Rescue starring Gary Sweet ran from 1989 to 1996. Each episode contained graphic stunts not likely ever to be seen in any other television show made anywhere. If you are afraid of heights Police Rescue isn’t for you. If you like plenty of action this show is a must.

In terms of children’s television in Australia, in 1992 Bananas in Pajamas took over from the much loved children’s program Mr. Squiggle. Round the Twist started up in 1990 and ended 2001. The far too sugary animated show The Adventures of Blinky Bill, based on the writings of Dorothy Wall, ran from 1993 to 2004.

The BBC in the 1990s was responsible for releasing some great British style comedy about old age and living life to the full, these shows included: One Foot in the Grave, Waiting for God and As Time Goes By.

There were also some brilliant offbeat shows such as the time traveler comedy Goodnight Sweetheart starring Nicholas Lyndhurst and the outer space weirdness of Red Dwarf starring Chris Barrie.

On the American front there was: The X-Files, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Home Improvement, South Park, Star Trek the Next Generation, The West Wing, Charmed, Futurama, The Golden Girls, and Frasier.

I didn’t pay much attention to the music of the 1990s. Madonna was around. I remember her in the 1990 Dick Tracy film. She played Breathless. Then there were The Cranberries and Celine Dion.

Many American movies made in the 1990s were most impressive. There was Michael J. Fox in Back to the Future Part III (1990), Kevin Costner in Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves (1991), Batman Returns starring Michael Keaton and Michelle Pfeiffer (1992), A Few Good Men starring Tom Cruise (1992), Braveheart starring Mel Gibson (1995), The Fifth Element starring Bruce Willis (1997), The Matrix starring (1999), and Galaxy Quest starring Tim Allen (1999).

I feel certain sadness when it comes to The Matrix. It may have been the last film friend and writer Don Boyd saw before he passed away.

The not so great films of the 1990s included: Edward Scissorhands starring Johnny Depp (1990), The Three Musketeers starring Charlie Sheen (1993) and Doctor Who starring Paul McGann (1996).

I found Edward Scissorhands incomprehensible. The 1993 version of The Three Musketeers was overly simplistic and no effort was made to have elegant swordplay as you will find in other movies about the three Musketeers.

The 1996 Doctor Who could have been great if we were not reminded every five minutes that it was about time and a Time Lord. Also I didn’t like the way The Master was realized for this film.

It thus became all too obvious in the 1990s just how difficult it would be to revive Doctor Who. The original run of the television series ended in 1989 with Sylvester McCoy as the Doctor.

The American experiment in way of the 1996 movie was doomed to failure from the start by dumbing down the Doctor to where audiences keen on seeing his return had to shake their heads sadly in dismay.

Doctor Who started up again on television in 2005 and for quite some time did well in the ratings.

The present Doctor, played by Jodie Whittaker, might have taken the show to new heights. Unfortunately poor scripting and awful acting on the part of other actors has made the last episodes I’ve seen on television virtually unwatchable. According to social media, other long time viewers feel the same as I do.

Australian movies of the 1990s I found watchable included: Romper Stomper (1992), Spotswood (1992) and The Castle (1997).

I give Sirens (1994) starring Sam Neill, Elle Macpherson and Portia de Rossi here a special mention because the film deals with one of my all time favorite Australian artists, Norman Lindsay. There’s art, beautiful women and a lovely setting. What’s there not to love? There is a wonderful scene in the film when a preacher asks Norman’s wife what she thinks about all this nudity in his pictures. It is then pointed out to the preacher that she is nude, in all her naked splendor, in one of his paintings. Above you will find photos I took when I last visited Norman Lindsay’s place.

Among the Australian films of the 1990s that are best forgotten there’s: The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert (1994), Muriel’s Wedding (1994), Cosi (1996), and Welcome to Woop Woop (1997).

Cosi is a marvelous play that was performed in Cronulla but a rotten movie. Welcome to Woop Woop shows undisguised hated for Australians who live out in the country.

During most of the 1990s I was working as a civilian clerk for the Navy. I had had enough of casual teaching. The civilian clerk position was full time which meant a steady flow of income. While I was there I even rose in the ranks.

Unfortunately my living conditions had deteriorated for a short while. I was always sure to have the money to pay bills. The woman I was sharing with was more careless with money hence she borrowed from me, paid me back, then borrowed some more until I got fed up with this. Then bills were paid late and finally, sick of this, I moved out and began living on my own. I then enjoyed the freedom of paying bills on time and knowing exactly what savings I had left over for things I wanted to buy or do.

Meanwhile work couldn’t have been better. I was put in Publications with Sandy Mancuso in charge. He was a great leader.

As for what I was doing, I couldn’t have been happier going to publishing houses, printers and book shops. Nowadays publishing is done differently with more emphasis on computers but even so I had a marvelous time. What else I was doing I can’t really say.

In the 1990s discos were for me a distant and somewhat unpleasant memory. I don’t know when discos became clubs or if there was an improvement in the music and general atmosphere when this happened. I know that there was a time when my nieces and nephew explained to me that discos had been replaced by clubs and that was that. I didn’t make in depth enquiries into the matter.

I ended up living alone in Cronulla, a southern suburb of Sydney. The beaches were wonderful and at the time there was an award winning pie shop not far from me. Also I took acting lessons in the little theatre they still have there. Back then there was no thought to accepting new scripts. That would come later.

It was in 1999 I moved from Cronulla to my present locale further south from Sydney. It was a good move. I didn’t know how good it was, however, until I took up wildlife photography.

In the 1980s and 1990s I got to know artists Steve Carter and Des Waterman. I also got to know novelists Lyn McConchie and Barbara Custer.

Political correctness was rife in the 1990s and, instead of taking Orwell’s 1984 warning seriously, they turned Big Brother into a lame Reality show.

As a writer I can understand the desire to improve our world through the written and spoken word. Killing words, however, accomplishes nothing. People just make up new words or resort to violence.

People are genuinely complicated. Most of us want to live in peace and are very tolerant. But we don’t want what little we may have taken away from us.

Changing history to make room for newcomers may seem like a good idea but it isn’t. Sometimes what we know of our ancestors and of ourselves is all we have.

Is there such a thing as a shared history? Yes. But be sure it really is a shared history and not connections made up for some politically correct points scoring stunt.

And all lives matter.

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