Vale Humbekhali

Some sad news from our capital, Canberra, on the passing earlier in the month of Humbekhali.

Hummer, as he was known to his friends, died peacefully of old age.

He had been a fixture at the National Zoo and Aquarium for many years.

Sleep well, our friend. You will be missed.

On a lighter note the National Zoo has one of the best ever picnic areas ever : playground equipment, walking tracks, barbeque facilities, and lots of fun things to enchant Little People and us more cynical types.

Might be time to start planning another trip to the ‘Berra.

New At The Australian War Memorial, The Dambusters and A Dog Named Judy.

The 24th of February was in recent years declared National Day for War Animals.

This is because animals have played vital roles in the support and protection of Australian soldiers during war and warlike operations.  Horses and camels provided transport, birds aided communication across enemy lines, dogs tracked enemies and protected soldiers from improvised explosive devices, and a range of animals served as companions or unit mascots across all conflicts. 

The Australian War Memorial in Canberra unveiled a new memorial dedicated to military working dogs and their handlers on the day.

Circling Into Sleep was created with help from an Explosive Detection Dog called Billie and her handler. Billie was trained to walk in a tight circle on a bed of soft clay to create the paw-print track which spirals into the memorial, representing the steps of a dog as it circles into sleep.

Circling Into Sleep

The ashes of Aussie, Military Working Dog 426, were interred within the memorial on 4 December 2019. As a military working dog, Aussie served in Australian domestic and international operations including the Solomon Islands in 2004 and four deployments to Afghanistan with the Explosive Detection Dog Team. Described as a tireless worker, Aussie began to slow down after retirement and died in 2017, aged 16.

For more of Aussie’s story go here:

I will confess that one of my favourite animated films is Valiant, a 2005 effort, that highlights the work undertaken by pigeons during war. Little Valiant flying across the English Channel to the tune of The Dambusters is a classic.

Coincidentally, I just finished reading Judy by Damien Lewis. O.M.G what a tale !

Amazing stuff. Totally amazing.

To Censor or not to Censor – that is the question.

Second-hand books are wild books, homeless books; they have come together in vast flocks of variegated feather, and have a charm which the domesticated volumes of the library lack. Besides, in this random miscellaneous company we may rub against some complete stranger who will, with luck, turn into the best friend we have in the world.”

Virginia Woolf (1882-1941)

The Little Community Library in the parkland near my home continues to gain momentum. I put a call out for more children’s books at the beginning of the school holidays and the neighbourhood came good with DVDs, small toys, and colouring in sets as well as a variety of reading material.

Over the past weeks there has also been the donation of numerous LGBT Romance novels. Often they are sneakily hidden between the pages of other books.

Personally, I’m not offended, but as this communal Library is frequented by children of all ages who utilise the reserve with its playground equipment I have been taking these books out of circulation. Effectively I’ve played Censor. It doesn’t sit well but I have genuine concerns that if a 7 year old goes home with one of these novels a parent could go into meltdown. This could possibly result in the loss of this resource.

A friend has questioned my stance, given that I’m not so zealous with the plethora of religious books that are donated.

None of these books are tossed into the garbage bin. They are donated to an organisation where they can be better appreciated. The plethora of religious books are given two weeks on the shelves before they are removed. I think that’s generous.

Am I becoming a Book Nazi?

The National Archives in Canberra has updated its cafe with a new display on banned books. You can read about the secret history of Australian censorship as you sip your coffee. You can also examine a censor’s report or flip through a copy of a book or magazine once prohibited in Australia. This Cafe is going on my Must Do List For when I next visit the ACT.

Add To Bucket List : Jamala

My childhood was full of books written by Edgar Rice Burroughs and Saturday movie matinees featuring Johnny Weissmuller in a loin cloth. Nothing quite beat a tussle between Tarzan and an anaconda.

Unfortunately, that 90’s Prime Minister with the viperish tongue who called Australia“the arse end of the world” was quite correct in that we are located a very long way from Africa. I never had an adventure of my own with a giant snake, though anything under 2 metres in my own garden is fair game with a garden hoe.

I did enjoy my safari moment recently at the Jamala Wildlife Lodge in Canberra. Only five minutes out of the CBD and attached to the National Zoo and Aquarium Jamala offers accomodation in Jungle Bungalows which allow you to get up close and personal to bears, lions and giraffes.

Booking in early afternoon the adventure starts with High Tea. Forget jam, cream and scones-this is the real deal-followed by an encounter with a cheetah and an introductory walk around the zoo with a Keeper.

Our bungalow meant that we had a giraffe at our balcony and we were able to feed him carrots by hand. OMG, aren’t they magnificent creatures with the most gorgeous eyelashes!

Meeting on a deck for Champagne and Canapés before dinner we were entertained by hyenas and lions enjoying their evening meal.

Dinner followed with more Moët and evening entertainment which included a pair of lions sleeping in an area separated from the table by thick glass. Did you know lions dream? It’s true.They wriggle around just like big pussycats.

An early Breakfast is necessary if you are interested in feeding the animals with the Keepers. Of course our hands went up though one couple begged off as they had been kept awake by the roar of lions since 1am. We slept through that, thank God, though didn’t need the alarm as we could hear the big cats calling to each other as the sun rose. Holy Guacamole, what a noise!

Our morning walk was brisk as one would expect on an almost winter morning in the ‘Berra though this seemed to make all the chimps, lemurs, and zebras frisky. We also fed the Elans, Llamas and Deers, and  patted the “dopey Labradors of Africa”. 

What’s that, you ask……

Rhinos. I patted a couple of Rhinos behind the ears. Just like you would pat a dog. How amazing is this?

The zoo is on 25 acres with enclosures which are kind to the animals and suitable for the breeding of critically endangered species. Much of the native vegetation is untouched which in itself encouraged indigenous bird life. Never before had I seen a flock of wild budgies – breath taking!

There is so much more to Jamala but you’ll have to see it for yourselves. It’s an awesome experience and you’ll require deep pockets. But you know what? Sure beats house maintenance and a long time dead.

The complimentary Moët went down quite well and if there is one thing I’ve taught the daughters it is to enjoy their Bubbles.

The Aquarium is tiny, only about 7 or 8 tanks. Can I tell you how spectacular it is to walk through this at night? Scary but spectacular.

No bloke in a loin cloth, but there was a truly massive snake that would have given Tarzan a run for his money.

Add to Bucket List.

Of all of the Gin Joints she walked into mine…..

Every time I visit Canberra, our Australian Bush Capitol, I discover something different to tease my senses. I was not disappointed on my latest trip with an afternoon sitting in the sun at Tipsy Bull, a Gin Joint in trendy Lonsdale Street.

With over 230 different Gins available for tasting, as well as a selection of other drinks, this is a great spot for a catch up with friends.

What is it that makes the Tipsy Bull different to other bars?

As well as the friendly and knowledgable staff the De-Constructed Gin Journey is an experience in its own right.

Every Gin on the menu has its own story. I selected the Australian Green Ant Gin produced by the Something Wild Beverage Company. Green Ants are renowned Bush Tucker and our Indigenous hand harvest these ants for their medicinal qualities, protein and citrus flavour from the Northern Territory.

The floaters are Green Ants

Your selected Gin is then delivered on a paddle where you are advised to slowly savour the flavours before adding a selection of botanicals. Mine included lime, lemon, rosemary and juniper berries which you add to enhance the flavour according to taste before adding tonic water and ice.

It’s rather like making an Aromatherapy Perfume: it’s a slow process which is all about finding the right balance of taste and fragrance to meet your own requirements.

One of my companions selected a Coffee/Chocolate flavoured Gin with a Graveyard connection. (Yes, you read that right.) The other went for a flowery Spanish flavoured Gin with a hint of Ginger which was much enjoyed.

As Humphrey Bogart said in the movie, Casablanca , “Of all of the Gin Joints in all of the Towns in all of the World and she walks into mine.” Folks, I certainly intend to walk into the Tipsy Bull more often.

Does this make me an old soak? Not on your life! The process of getting your Gin to meet the requirements of your palate is a slow one. I sat on the one drink for two hours – with a nibble and lots of laughs in between of course.

Tipsy Bull is located at 2/5 Lonsdale Street, Braddon.

Add to MUST DO LIST when next in the ‘Berra.