An Island Off an Island

Musings from Bruny

Following yesterday’s post I received this from my friend Barry Barnett in London. As you’ll learn in his story Barry is currently researching an ancestor who came to Tasmania as a convict. He is also recording stories about his home town Blandford Forum in his Blog The Blandford Express .Thanks Barry.

There was something undeniably familiar about Jan’s watercolour by Martin Snape of Portsmouth Harbour, England – from the Gosport side.

For it is where my distant relative, John Weeks spent two spells in the convict prison hulks, Laurel and York awaiting transportation to Australia. He was a poacher by trade and a pretty astute one. For after his first transportation conviction, he managed to avoid the transport vessel to ‘down under’ as he spent all his seven years’ sentence working as a labourer in Portsmouth’s naval dockyard.

Life in a convict hulk has been described as a ‘hell on earth’. Prison hulk living conditions, isolated by water and wooden walls, were terrible and hygiene standards were so poor that disease spread quickly. Typhoid and cholera were commonplace and the death rates were high. Below deck was rat infested and the stench appalling. Dead convicts would be buried on ‘Rat Island’ so called as it faced Gosport’s large naval abattoir. Bodies not buried might be sold on by the ship doctor.

After his second transportation conviction, John Weeks did leave Portsmouth Harbour for Van Diemen’s Land. At 62, he was the oldest convict on the transportation vessel, the Lord William Bentinck II. Older convicts were left normally to rot in the hulks at it was assumed they would not survive the long and arduous sea journey. This time, John would have wanted to go as his two sons and daughter had just arrived in Oz under an early assisted passage scheme. Did he get himself arrested deliberately?

Lord William Bentinck II berthed in Hobart, Van Diemen’s Land on 26th August 1838 and John served his sentence. It must have been quite a reunion at Christmas 1844, when he met up with his family in Camden, New South Wales. Apart from his poaching, the versatile John was also described as a coachman, groom, farm labourer and ploughman. Despite his many appearances in English courtrooms there is no record of this continuing in Oz.

On Thursday 8 November 1857, the following appeared in the Maitland Mercury & Hunter River General Advertiser:

‘Death Notice. At Maitland, upon the 4th instant, Mr John Weeks, aged 82 years, father of John and Benjamin Weeks of Camden, after a severe and protracted illness, which he bore with the utmost Christian patience.’

It was, of course, from the city of Portsmouth from which the First Fleet left for Australia and there are several reminders today here of this link. Portsmouth, nicknamed ‘Pompey’ is England’s only island city.

So perhaps this blog piece could best be entitled: ‘Musings from an island city off an island off Continental Europe!’

Baza, London, England.

Marcus has previously described the Bruny Waste Transfer Station (aka the tip), and even as I write, he’s loading up for a trip. It is a very well-run operation and has the added benefit of a ‘treasure table’ which encourages recycling. Even if you’re not in the market for anything, it’s always worth a look and I’ve noticed that most people give it a quick once over. To date I have managed to ‘step away’.

I have very recently (and unexpectedly) had an Antiques Roadshow moment based on the adage of ‘one man’s trash is another man’s treasure’. Let’s roll the camera back to the summer of 1972. I have always loved a ‘tip trip’ and so was only too happy to accompany Dad to the Orange Rubbish Dump (or whatever posh title it had in those days). He was ‘depositing’ but I was intent on making a ‘withdrawal’. Even then scavenging was frowned upon, and so Dad kept watch while I retrieved a framed picture. I had been immersed in decorating books and magazines which focused on repurposing and was in search of picture frames; what was behind the glass was of little interest. Once home I set myself up on the front lawn and hosed off the layers of dirt revealing a very prettily carved wooden frame. I prised the picture out and pushed it to one side admiring my treasure.

Mum, meanwhile, retrieved the discarded the picture, a watercolour of a harbour scene which she convinced us was of Newcastle viewed from Dad’s home suburb of Carrington. And so it became the ‘Newcastle’ picture. In time the frame would indeed be used in a decorating project and the watercolour would be framed and hang in Mum and Dad’s home. Following their deaths the picture passed to me and when we moved to Tasmania it formed part of a grouping of ‘Newcastle’ works in my studio (for those who don’t know I was born and raised in that City and have a strong interest in its history).

Last weekend I was standing looking at the ‘tip’ painting while waiting for the kettle to boil. Examining it again I realised that the artist’s signature was very clear and, taking note, I hopped online (a luxury not possible in 1972!). ‘M Snape artist’ immediately returned results and I was confronted with very similar works and an identical signature. My man and his subject choice was revealed – not Newcastle NSW but Gosport on the south coast of England.

An email to Richard Martin, an expert in Snape’s life and work, was duly dispatched with a response within hours ‘Indeed, your picture is a watercolour by Martin Snape (1852-1930). He was a very prolific artist working at the latter part of the 19th century until shortly before his death in 1930. He was not nationally known but as a local artist made a living out of painting views in and around his (and my) home town of Gosport.’ Further discussions ensued and the Snape was mailed to England and a new home yesterday. I always liked it, but part of its charm was the story behind it, not necessarily the work. Given that we still have a bedroom of framed works in bubble wrap awaiting hanging space, sending it off to begin a new life seemed smart.

As you probably realise in many of my stories there is a library connection, and so it is with Gosport. In 2009 I undertook a study tour of public libraries/galleries and museums in England which were co-located. I visited Gosport as part of that project. It was one of my favourite integrated facilities and many library friends will have seen photos of different components worked into some of my presentations. Who would have thought?

So what’s taken the place of the ‘tip’ paining on my wall? A Monte Luke photograph of Stanwell Park gifted to us by our friends Sandra and Jeffrey; and yes, there’s a story there too! So it’s now the Newcastle/Wollongong wall which is fair enough as that’s where we moved when we left Newcastle and where I/we spent many happy years.

Talk soon.

Spring has well and truly sprung here on Bruny and we have been busy immersing ourselves into life at Dennes Point.

The Jetty Café has reopened after its winter break. Friday nights are strictly ‘fish ‘n chips’ and we headed off on evening one to join with our neighbours in supporting this local business. Lovely to stand by the fire and catch up after dinner. The café is in a beautiful building overlooking the Channel. Architect designed it was largely built by the local community and also features a commercial gallery space and adjoins the Dennes Point Memorial Hall.

I am also excited to announce that the gallery has re-opened as Pluk following the retirement of the previous owner ( and fellow quilter), Kate. Pluk is the brainchild of Chrystal, who was the first person we met at Dennes Point when Ruby did her escapee act on day one. It features lots of tempting items, some of which are already making their way north to ease lockdown blues.

Yesterday we made the 7 minute drive to the Barnes Bay CWA Hall for a workshop on the Forty Spotted Pardalote. Endemic to Tasmania the 40 Spots (as we now refer to them) are one of Australia’s rarest birds and are only found on Bruny and Maria islands. They are small, quiet and difficult to spot, unlike their relatives the Spotted and Striated Pardalote, both of whom we have in the garden. The the very noisy Striated have nests in the eaves of the house and the studio and are extremely social. The 40 Spots rely on the Eucalyptus viminalis ( white gum) which itself is under stress due to climate change so lots of issues. Citizen scientists M & J are now involved, building nesting boxes, observing and recording. We thought we had seen one earlier in the year when Marcus rescued one that had flown into the window but we now know that this was a juvenile Spotted. For the birders amongst you a couple of good articles over on the Bruny Island Environment Network page.

Home after our Pardalote session, Ruby and I headed to the beach where we watched dolphins playing off shore – well I watched, Ruby was too busy searching for starfish! We’re not in Orange anymore.

Yes, winter was cold but not the raw, biting pinch of a crisp Orange winter’s day. The Bureau did announce this week that it was the mildest Tasmanian winter on record and its easy to see why. I only remember having to wear my puffer jacket on a couple of occasions. Most afternoon walks on the beach required just a warm jumper to be comfortable.

I know it may seem that I have become obsessed with the wind down here, but it can be truly surprising and so varied. There is very rarely a day that can’t be described as windy but it is the speed with which it arrives, and disappears that can amaze. The absolute force of the wind is awesome. We had a BOM severe weather warning for Monday night and sure enough at 3.00am, the gale-force winds (of over 100 kph) tore and ripped at the house trying to find a finger-hold on any loose or vulnerable aspect of the building. What we weren’t warned about was a repeat performance last night, but of even more intensity. At times it felt like a heavyweight boxer was raining body-blows to the house and it responded by shuddering as if its feet were being lifted off the ground. Ruby slept through the whole experience totally unconcerned, or at least totally oblivious. (Boy, can she sleep!)

One interesting aspect of the wind is what it can do to the beach. In the afternoon after the gale of Monday night the beach had a very different appearance to normal. Where the waves had wetted the sand the wind had scoured the surface enough to undercut every bit of tiny pebble, wood, shell and seed and left them each on their own sandy pedestal. It resembled a specimen tray in a high-end jewellery shop. At the back of the beach where the sand was dry, the landscape of ‘dunes’ was just liked Jimmy Murdoch had described in Year 9 Geography back at Orange High in the sixties.

 As you know, food is an important part of our lifestyle and we are still exploring the wide range of local produce available to us. We are well-served by several outlets on the island including the Bruny Island Cheese Factory for cheese, locally brewed beers and condiments; The Oyster Shuckery; and the baker down near Alonnah that sells his bread out of a couple of old fridges on the side of the road; and a local farmer who grows vegetables. Its not difficult to be fully inspired in the kitchen as a result. Our vegetable garden is ready to go into full production and we already have a couple of things on the go.

In terms of ‘home improvements’, I have been busy constructing a new garden shed/potting shed down near the studio. The enclosed area that has been created (which I have grandly named “the utility area”) is handy for hiding the garbage bins, compost bins and saved bits of timber and other building materials. Two or three garden beds out the front of the house have also been created and/or renovated to tidy up for first impressions.

The back yard is still a work in progress and is undergoing a change from the original ideas. When the weather permits that will be the next focus of attention with yet another garden bed (I wonder who is going to maintain them all?), and a new fire pit to locate and install.

If you listen carefully, you may just hear the wind screeching like a banshee through the fly-screens!

At the moment Dennes Point looks like it’s cheering for Australia with splashes of gold everywhere amongst the green. Most appropriate as the Olympics wind up in Tokyo. How did nature know?

The Cootamundra wattle at the top of the drive was the first to make an appearance a month or so ago. As the days lengthened it was joined by other species and when Wattle Day rolls around on 1st September Dennes could easily slide into a May Gibbs story. Add to this the sea of run-rampant yellow daisy, swathes of jonquils and yellow flowering succulents and you have a colour combo from marketing central.

Which brings me to the Olympics. While we were fairly ambivalent in the lead up, once they started we cheered along with everyone else. One of the benefits of ‘retirement’ is the ability to watch finals in the morning! Naturally Tasmania (including us) is delirious about the success of Ariarne Titmus. We were in a shopping centre in Hobart when she won the 400 metre freestyle; the place exploded. Shades of Sydney 2000. Tonight Stewart McSweyn from King Island will complete in the 1,500 final – fingers and toes.

But my Olympic heart is with Emma McKeon. What a star. Not only is she from Wollongong (tick), she and I received our Australian Honours at the same ceremony in 2017 (tick), AND my sister Jo swims at Emma’s families’ swimming complex (tick). Hell, we’re almost related!

Love from the Island with special hugs for everyone in lockdown xx

Hi there – its Ruby again.

I think I’ve gone too far. As per my last blog, I’ve always thought that my behaviour pattern of alternative bouts of naughtiness (Auntie A would call it ‘ridiculousness’) followed by uncharacteristic periods of quietness, would keep M&D guessing as to my well-being. And this in turn would allow an absence of consequences. Not so.

I forgot to mention last time a couple of incidents to add to the catalogue of mischievous conduct. The first involved a one kilo bag of lawn seed that I managed to access. Not only did I scatter most of the contents to the four winds, but I was also able to eat a fair bit of it too. Too much like dried Weet-bix and another spell on the lounge with a very bloated stomach. Next was a stray handkerchief (hardly worth mentioning) and a very long pyjama cord. Boy, did that take some expelling! The last episode resulted in an unfortunate burn to mouth and tongue in the pursuit of molten-hot chocolate chip cookies straight out of the oven. Dad only turned his back for a second but I am deceptively quick when I need to be.

So, back to consequences.

The untoward experience of the suspected bite/sting of a couple of weeks ago happened again. My response was much the same as before – jumping up from my position of repose on the lounge, and burying myself under the table with lots of licking of lips. M&D are now thinking it might be tooth-ache and a resultant visit to the veterinary clinic is required. I didn’t see this as a positive outcome for me (I seem to remember from a previous visit that it involved a thermometer and a very intimate body part). So I instituted the ‘quiet period’ approach and added the extra touch of having to be assisted up on to the lounge. That was my rookie mistake – I had laid it on too thick. M&D were too concerned and an appointment was made.

Next patient please

I think vets in general provide a good and necessary service, but show me one that has any empathy for a Labrador’s raison d étre (outside of gun sports) and that is food. After weighing in at 40.5kgs she has put me on a strict diet. How can that be? My beautiful body shape has been called into question. I do have a social media presence and I can tell you that “body shaming” does not get good press, and those who engage in it are morally corrupt. That vet should expect some further action from my ombudsman (The RSPCA) when I complain long and loud to them.

Unfortunately, M&D seem to agree with the vet this time and they are the food providers in this family. I just don’t want to hear “But Ruby, its for your own good. I guess I’ll just have to be on the lookout for more wallaby poo, starfish and food items left unattended to supplement my starvation rations.

Hi there, this is Ruby.

Things haven’t been going particularly smoothly of late. I think I have caused Mum and Dad a fair bit of angst – even panic, over the last couple of weeks.

Back to that later. Let’s start on a more positive note. Weather has been great. After a couple of wet weeks, the sun has been out, very little wind and temperatures that still allow a black Labrador to have the occasional dip in the Channel.

With my Dad

 I’ve been sticking pretty close to Dad as he has decided to add yet another level to the back garden – this one right up in the back corner to allow views over to the south. That involved lots of digging initially which I was able to help with. I did get a bit sick of that area and proceeded to dig my own hole in the middle of the new lawn. For some reason that was not met with a huge deal of enthusiasm from Dad. I think I heard rumblings of “Bloody dog”. The next job was screwing down the new deck up there. I like to help as closely as possible by hanging over each and every drill hole and screw as they happen. I have to be nuzzled out of the way, which I quite like.

Sometimes he gets very distracted and sits for long periods just watching the birds. I can’t quite see the attraction but it’s a pleasant way to spend some time if the sun is out and I can stretch out on the mud/dirt. The other day he spent a good amount of time observing a family of Blue Wrens taking advantage of a newly cultivated patch of land, all the while taking in the antics of Crimson Robins, New Holland Honey Eaters and Eastern Spinebills. I can’t begin to describe the excitement and joy he expressed when a bandicoot hurried out of the undergrowth. I would have thought that a black Labrador is excitement enough for him!

However, back to the series of unfortunate events that is the real reason for this post. They really have been coming thick and fast of late. For most of the ensuing incidents I hold M&D largely responsible. Their inability to put things properly away really shows their naivety when it comes to my breed, (you’d think that after three others they would have learnt). Despite what they believe, the kitchen benches are not out of range. So, subsequently I was able to ‘access’ a whole dark rye loaf and a whole week’s worth of my chicken breast fillets. It seemed like a good idea at the time but boy I paid for it later. I had to lay very quietly on the lounge after both opportunities. Thank goodness for my cast-iron Canadian Maritime constitution.

Look Mum! I’ve got your shoe.

One endearing trait that I know they appreciate is when you surmise that they are coming back inside, you grab something that they value and race off with it – preferably outside. This means one of two outcomes – one is a chase around the garden or deck, or two, much yelling and threats. Both are real fun and we all love it. Last week though, there was a very different reaction from Mum. She didn’t see the humour or fun when I grabbed her pin-cushion and took off out on to the deck, scattering pins and needles everywhere. I have to admit that it wasn’t a pleasant experience because all too late I realized that I had several very sharp and painful hardware in and around my mouth. Again I retreated to the lounge feeling a little under the weather. M&D’s panic and then the concern were palpable and was only a little assuaged after consultation with the emergency vet. Pain was followed by total indignity as all my ‘doings’ were forensically examined over the next few days. Everyone was much happier when a needle was finally excavated.

 My next tribulation was not only worrying for M&D but very painful for me. I was happily snoozing on the lounge when I felt inexplicably great agony in my mouth. I shot up and sought sanctuary under the table and eventually under a bed. I could not be consoled. All of us were perplexed as to what had caused this but M&D speculated that it must have been a bite or a sting from insect/arachnid unknown. I won’t be keen to have that happen again.

The view from Mum and Dad’s Hobart room before they were forced to vacate.

And so, to the last travail to bring you all up to date on the downside of a Labrador’s life on Bruny. Mum’s been working pretty hard lately and decided that they would treat themselves to a couple of nights of indulgence and luxury in Hobart. All this unbeknownst to me of course. They weren’t letting on, knowing that it would require me to go to Margate Dog Resort. Having had ‘form’ at MDR, I was forced to have tranquilisers to curb my separation anxiety. Well, I let them have one night to themselves but got myself in such a state that the resort owner rang Mum to come and get me. I had been expelled from kennels! When we got home all I could do was to curl up in a ball and sleep the sleep of the dead. Mum came and slept on the lounge with me to make sure I was OK. They were so concerned for my welfare and self esteem that there was no hint of censure. They really do love me.

Love from the Island.

One of the many things I love about living on Bruny is the ferry ride which is our physical link to the world beyond. Call it romantic, call it escapist, the knowledge that for 12 minutes as we make the crossing we are neither here nor there fills me with delight. As does the fact that in the almost 12 hours from dark to dawn when the ferry doesn’t run we are indeed an island. What’s the old Manly Ferry promo line; ‘Seven miles from Sydney and a thousand miles from care’? In our case it’s 1.3 nautical miles across the D’Entrecasteaux Channel from Roberts Point (Bruny ) to Kettering (off island) but I reckon we’re a whole lot more carefree here than in Sea Eagle heartland so distance isn’t everything.

In our (limited) experience the Ferry is one of the most discussed topics on Bruny, whether it be the machinations behind the awarding of the current contract; the merits of one ferry over another; the proposed booking system or the queues that form during the holiday season.

Until very recently the MV Mirambeena ruled the stretch of water between Kettering and Roberts Point and was universally loved. Her retirement in May was widely lamented and even the Premier paid tribute to her 30 years of ferrying locals and visitors across the Channel. I must admit to a lump in the throat when she made her lonely way past our house on her way up to Hobart and her future after her last official run.

The Parrabah ( or Nairana) from the Mirambeena.

The Mirambeena was replaced by the Parrabah which joined the Nairana in forming the Bruny Fleet. Back up is supplied by the Bowen which is not widely loved – mostly I suspect because she doesn’t have splash guards and there is a fair chance you and your car could cop a wave (or two) if it’s choppy. There was a lot of doubting that the new team would be up to the job, mostly because the Mirambeena’s double deck gave extra carrying capacity, but a new timetable with additional sailings and quicker turnarounds has been introduced and from our experience it’s ‘so far so good’, though we must bide our time until the holidays to make a final call.

The much maligned Bowen.

Queues and the Bruny Island Ferry go hand in hand in peak holiday season and there is even a Facebook Page devoted to the topic. We quickly became familiar with terms such as ‘up past Pashas’ and ‘into the hotel car park’ to describe the length. Sometimes needs must so it’s always good to be armed with water, a book and a sense of inevitability.

There is a misconception that residents get preferential treatment in terms of getting on the ferry. Not so. The coveted ‘R’ sticker on the car gives us a cheaper rate but we line up along with everyone else. Occasionally the Golf and I are called forward out of turn to fill up one of the tight spaces under the wheelhouse/passenger lounge but that’s about all the favoritism that comes our way – and as many drivers hate this space it can also be looked on as a punishment!

Every vehicle that comes to Bruny arrives via ferry so on any trip you can be bumper to bumper, door to door, with cars, motorbikes, cyclists, tradies, heavy machinery, buses, trucks, campervans, caravans and anything else you can think of. Pedestrians travel for free and have the luxury of an elevated lounge ( unless the Bowen’s been bought into service). Visitors get out, take selfies and marvel at the experience; locals text, read or have a quick shut eye.

All too soon the trip is over, we start our engines and wait to be called forward by the ever smiling Sealink staff, over the ramp, on the road and back to reality.

Before I close a big shout out to the beautiful Suzie from Campbelltown (Tasmania) who Ruby and I met on the beach yesterday afternoon and who follows our adventures. She is here with her husband Bruce and dog Ella. I was so excited to know that someone other than those of you who have to ( i.e. family and friends) read what we have to say!

Love from the Island xx (and tell me that you’re not humming Ferry Cross the Mersey!)

Winter has settled on Bruny Island and we are enjoying bright and shining days with glittering seas and crisp nights. Notice I said ‘crisp’ not ‘cold’? Readers, compared to Orange, Dennes Point is positively balmy. When Central West NSW was covered in the white stuff a few weeks ago, and our social media feeds were nothing but snow porn, we were luxuriating in day time temperatures of 13 while at night it dropped to maybe 5. When snow lays on kunanyi/ Mt Wellington there can be a chill to the air but nothing a Tasmanian Tuxedo won’t fix.

What’s a Tasmanian Tuxedo I hear you ask? Must admit when I heard the term on ABC Radio Hobart a few weeks ago I was intrigued – it’s a puffer jacket, and let’s face it Chez Richards has a number of those in varying weights and colours.

I donn my silver-grey waist length puffer most afternoons when we head off with our girl on her walk. (M is made of sterner stuff and his TT has yet to hit the dog walk scene). Our usual route takes in the length of Nebraska Beach and mostly coincides with the golden hour before sunset.

We’ve had some massive tides over the past few weeks and the shore is littered with an amazing assortment of weed, shells, driftwood and smells ( the latter being the attraction for Ruby). The number of visitors to Dennes Point has definitely declined but we still catch up with regular walkers and their pooches – particularly Ruby’s friends Mia and May, and Pearl and Norman.

The sun doesn’t rise until about 7.45 am and (mostly) not having to be anywhere the day starts slowly – and it finishes the same way when the Sandy, happy trio pile through the door, draw the blinds, and settle down by the fire.

The move was an excellent idea!

It seems incredible, but we have been residents of Bruny Island, Tasmania for over six months.

It would seem timely then to comment on life as we know it. There is nothing negative to report, despite an earlier post about the incessant and persistent wind. Some long-term resident did point out that “Well, it is an island”. It was also made clear, and rightly so, that Autumn is relatively calm. In fact, Autumn weather has been a delight.

I have settled in to a comfortable rhythm in which the days are pleasantly filled with a combination of renovation and landscaping balanced with plenty of sitting admiring the view, reading, crosswords and the obligatory post-lunch snooze with my constant companion – the beautiful Ruby.

As a result of my leisurely efforts, I can report that my workshop under the house is, as of today, complete. I had bought all the materials needed some months ago but an issue of a lack of confidence on my part meant procrastination of a crippling nature. Enter Nigel, a friend from the Gold Coast, who kicked off the process and gave me a plethora of tips and tricks of the trade. Next to urge me to get on with it was Regina – a worthy apprentice and sounding board. After that the electricians put power on and moved some lights and I was able to complete the project much to my personal satisfaction.

The landscaping of the back yard is still a work in progress. Barrowing three tonnes of soil up a very steep slope is character-building but also soul-destroying. (Just thinking about it, I think I need a rest)

I’ve also managed to do a lot of work in our caged vegetable garden (caged to keep out the wallabies and possums). That has meant creating two levels to accommodate six raised garden beds and rebuilding stone walls. More barrowing of garden mix required!

Another aspect of the rhythm of life is Ruby’s constitutional in the late afternoon. She has two main routes – a walk down around Kelly’s Point or the much-preferred walk along Nebraska Beach. This, of necessity has got earlier and earlier and we find ourselves going about 4.00pm to avoid getting home  in the dark. In terms of the report card, the beach has to get an A+ on several counts. First, the beach itself is pristine. I’m always on the lookout for rubbish to pick up, but invariably, I come home happily empty-handed. Secondly, almost without exception the other walkers are friendly and willing to have a chat. The other benefit of the beach is never getting sick of the beautiful and varied skies presented to us each evening.

On the subject of friendly people, its my experience that everybody we come into contact with are universally friendly, helpful and cheerful – from wonderful neighbours to retail workers and ferry staff. It must be something to do with healthy environment and gradual pace of life.

I can’t finish the report card without mentioning the absolute privilege of being surrounded by the astonishing array of flora and fauna. Luckily our block has been planted almost exclusively with native plants, and whilst I miss the varied trees and colours of Orange, there is no doubt that the local birds and animals are attracted to our home. We have resident quolls under the house and under Jan’s studio (not always welcome), echidnas are frequent visitors and we both still get a thrill every time a wallaby bounds past us when outside. Bird life is also plentiful and far too varied to mention here, but highlights have included a wedge-tail eagle, white breasted sea eagle, black cockatoos and a myriad of honey-eaters, parrots, wrens etc.

So, apart from missing friends and family, as of now there are no regrets associated with our move to Bruny. The whole experience gets a resounding ‘thumbs-up’.

By Alistair Richards visiting his brother Marcus and Jan, with wife Katrina.

An island off an island, no! An island at the end of a car drive, at the end of a flight, at the end of a car drive, at the end of a ferry ride. Luckily I was able to be in the wheelhouse of the ferry and give the Master the benefit of my self-declared expertise. His welcome was indicative of the island at the bottom of the world, both the people and the wildlife, certainly not over-rated.


The weather changes are spectacular, ominous clouds over the mountains, passing showers and brilliant clear skies and that was in the first two hours. I love the sea and Cape Bruny Lighthouse, at the southern tip, with rugged cliffs being pounded by waves was a highlight. We were also pounded by the wind with a chill factor of six or seven degrees.Spectacular wildlife everywhere, crimson breasted robins, numerous varieties of parrots and the legendary white wallabies.


My brother Marcus and his wife Jan seem very happy in the new environment, obviously a part of the local community, and up on all the gossip and of course, local controversies: will the new ferry be big enough, should residents get priority over tourists? Katrina and I voted and gave a ten for their hospitality, location and view from the new estate and the exemplary food. To be clear the score is out of ten. Suggested Marcus could have a pop up restaurant, but politely declined

.


Most pleasingly, we were able to get out and see the sights unlike big sister Beverley, who was kept in quarantine at the house for her whole visit. Nothing to do with Covid, just the government thought it best to keep her locked in.


Bruny Island, an island off an island, or what I said, highly recommended to all.

Dear friends,

Ruby here writing to tell you about my latest quest. I have become a socially responsible canine, raising funds for the RSPCA in the fight against animal cruelty. In embarking on the Million Paws Walk this May I am walking in the paw prints of my big sister Holiday. I don’t think that Million Paws was around in the time of my biggest sister, Licorice, who from all accounts was an independent miss, or in the sainted Velvet’s time – from all accounts she was a home body and in the eyes of Mum and Dad could do no wrong.

The deal is I walk for 45 minutes every day with Mum and/or Dad and people sponsor me. The walking’s not hard, we do it anyway. The sponsorship is easy too and I’d like to thank the kind people who have supported me. The tricky bit is the dreaded bandana that I’m supposed to wear to promote the cause. Really?

Regular readers will know that I have an aversion to fashion accessories and have previously written about the angst they have caused. Just when I thought such things had been forgotten and I was safe wearing only my embroidered collar, Mum comes rushing up from the letter-box exclaiming ‘Ruby something for you!’ Being a Labrador naturally I assumed a box of Smackos had been delivered, sent by one of the ‘Aunties’, and I rushed over to investigate. Picture my disappointment, indeed horror when instead a bright yellow bandanna was produced and wrapped around my neck. Save me!

Thankfully mostly I’ve managed to avoid wearing it. This is achieved by a lot of crazy excitement when walks are announced which causes Mum to forget it until we’re half way down the drive. Dad is on my side and when Mum does remember he is brave enough to say ‘Squirt, she’s not a circus animal’. Onya Dad!

On the Heritage Walk

If we’re talking about giving thanks I’m also grateful that when I have been seen on the beach in it, none of my friends have been about to witness my humiliation. Mia and May are currently up at their Hobart house and Norman and Pearl have family staying and so are on a different walk cycle. Not that Norman would be game enough to say anything as I believe there may have been an unfortunate incident when he was at the groomers last week. I’ll keep that piece of information in reserve in case I need it. Just saying.

With my Aunty A at Bark in the Park

When I think about it this is not my first foray into community work. When I was a little girl and we were living in Orange I attended Bark in the Park which my Aunty Adrienne (Aunty A) had helped to organise. I was very excited, so much so that I managed to vomit up the 500g of butter I had stolen off the kitchen bench and eaten just before we left home. Wow, did that cause a sensation! Every dog there wanted to be my friend. Aunty A acted quickly and no-one got a look in. Mum and Dad decided that discretion was the better part of valour and we left soon after. Ah, memories.

If you’re interested I do have my own fundraising page – that’s because I am a socially responsible canine. Have I already said that?

Love from the Island

Ruby