Gday! Bonjour, Guten Tag, or as they say down Bosinver way, “Alright meht!” I’ve just looked back and seen it was before Christmas, a fair ol’ lump of time since I posted to you my lovelies. So with the evenings creeping in on this side of the world and the temperature dropping below 20 degrees, I though to myself, “must be getting on for winter, I’d better tell you all that has been happening with me and my lot.”

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Spring and summer brought adventures aplenty and a whole lot of time trying to avoid drowning (others call it learning to surf). We’ve spent a lot of time on the water exploring in and around the northern beaches of Sydney. We are very lucky to be on a spine of land between two big bodies of water – the Pacific (a very large body of water) and the mouth of the Hawkesbury River (also big).

The coastline of this part of Australia is stunning. Huge sheer, sun-bleached sandstone cliffs of golds, yellows and reds with impossible houses on stilts, defying the laws of gravity, sat on the cliffs looking towards the sunrises and sunsets that grace this part of the world. As I pointed out to Rachel, houses we couldn’t afford even with a double rollover on the lotto. I’m also pretty certain that James Bond villains live in some of them too.

We’ve spent a lot of time at a stunning beach called Palm Beach – 2 miles of golden sands in a big arc. It’s not uncommon for Nicole Kidman and her kids to been seen there – it’s where the great and the good of Sydney stay when they are on holiday. It is also where the “Home and Away” TV show is filmed, so if you’ve ever seen it and those gorgeous annoying young thin actors walking along the beach, that where it is. We go there because it has a lovely safe surf break known by locals as ‘kiddies corner’, where myself and rather a lot of middle aged men are learning to surf – and where middle aged women are looking at the lifeguards going through rescue drills. We had some exceptional days as far as heat goes. Comments were made like, “Darling, at what temperature does sand have to get to before turning into glass?” The air temperature reached a high of 44 on a couple of occasions – that’s on the coast – it was 46 in the west of the city!

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We are extremely fortunate where we live, as we are near to the beach and also our house is shaded by trees in the woods. Even so, we’d leave the house by 8am to go to the beach to get a parking spot and leave the beach by 1pm because it was getting too hot. How people live inland in Australia is beyond me. I feel for the animals in that heat and put out loads of water for them. I ended up buying a few plant pot trays and filling them up, so at least the birds and possums could get a drink. We even had an owl perched on a branch that was in the shadow of the sun. It was so hot that I was able to walk right underneath him – he didn’t move, just sat there panting, the poor thing. I also took to emptying the bath water and washing-up water onto the garden as it was just so dry. Well, all except Christmas Day, where we had nearly 100mm of rain in 6 hrs – and Boxing Day was just as bad.

With the heat comes the risk of bush fires and here we get them a lot. The fire service and volunteers are extremely brave and they were tackling fires all over New South Wales – an area that is the size of France – for days at a time trying to get them under control. The fires are a natural part of the life of the forest here. Sadly a lot of animals do perish, but the trees use the fire to germinate their seeds and literally a couple of weeks after theses fires new shoots and leaves start to appear on the ground and on the trees – and the circle of life continues.

As for wildlife around the house, we have a couple of resident possums – one we saw with a baby on her back which was very cute indeed. Also a big boy possum who is the size of a tomcat and seems to be lacking the finesse of the smaller ones, as he thumps along our roof and falls off too! I’m getting used to our arachnid, I won’t say “friends”, because I hate them. We’ve been getting some doozey huntsman spiders – all very good at catching mosquitos – which have also joined the hate club. I’ve seen all the bad boys now – redbacks, funnel webs and the tiny white tips, whose venom rots your flesh – and they like duvets! So far I’ve found two in our bed! “Aarrgh” is the accepted response. The amount of weird and wonderful insects is amazing – I’ve now seen red, brown, yellow and bright green ladybirds, beetles of every shape and size, flies of bright electric greens and blues, awesome dragonflies and praying mantis of varying colours and sizes. I’m still refusing the insect sprays and have on occasion been eaten quite badly, but the payoff with the birds is worth it and saving the bees too. I have just discovered a natural way to get mozzies too and I’ll be trying it out when it warms up again.

The summer has brought some beautiful birds to the garden. With rosellas (small parrots), king parrots, deck-chomping cockatoos and – a welcome addition – butcher birds, the morning chorus is a symphony. Also a splendid wagtail – a lil’ dinker of a thing with electric blue stripes on its sides and quite a dancer too.

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The sea has provided some spectacular sights for us too – humpbacks whales breaching, dolphins coasting, huge blue groper fish and octopus – all amazing. One species I’ve yet to see (and to be honest, not really wanting to unless I am in a big boat!) are the sharks. We do get some big boys down here. One particular day we were sat on the beach when the rescue helicopter came over the cliffs and hovered about 300m off the shoreline, then all the lifeguards jumped up, walked to the water’s edge and whistled and signalled for everyone to come in. A fisherman had radioed into the coastguard saying he’d seen a big shadow and the helicopter was sent over to investigate. The pilot confirmed that he could see a shadow approximately 3-4m in length in the water. Which was fortunate because they are really hard to see and disappear if more than 2-3m deep. So we all waited for half an hour for this fella to cruise south. We were then told by the lifeguards the beach was again open and go enjoy your swim – so we did!

With the seasons now changing the humpback and southern right whales are migrating back up the coast. Hopefully I’ll get on a boat this year as last season there were record numbers spotted. They aren’t sure if this is because there are any more whales or just more people recording and watching them. All the same, it is a truly wonderful sight. I have been chatting to locals who are active in stopping the Japanese and Norwegian whaling fleets in Antarctica, who I am pleased to say had a very successful year on the “Sea Shepherd” getting in the way of their harpoons and preventing minki whales being caught. The organisation has just won a landmark victory in stopping a great big gas terminal being built right in the middle of where humpback whales give birth and raise their calves.

We are living in interesting times and thankfully more people are becoming aware and active as the plight of animals is being taken seriously with their loss of habitat – and big business is being called into question. This isn’t just about the rainforests either, there are several species in the UK that are under serious threat as well. We can all do our bit, no matter how small. I have heard that some pesticide companies are now being lobbied in Europe – hopefully this action will mean the slow down of the decline in our insect populations, especially moths, butterflies and bees. If we all do our little bit we can make a difference. There are some amazing websites now that give great advice and ideas on how to entice bugs into your gardens – and when you bring in the bugs the birds will follow – and who doesn’t like to see the blackbird or song thrush sat on your wall singing their beautiful song, or the flash of pink or blue and yellow as chaffinches and blue tits poke around for bugs in the bushes and trees.

Well time for me to sign off, I hope you have a wonderful summer – and have a blast with Tatum in the woods (she’s ace!)

Love Nooney XXX