Wednesday, October 31, 2018

Wildlife Wednesday - Velellas

Velella velella
What the heck is a Velella?

This is the exact question I'd be asking if I hadn't googled to find out what on earth I saw last week!

I went down to the beach and there were heaps of 'airless bluebottles' washed up. That's what I called them as I took photos and puzzled over what the heck they were (you know, as I so often do!)

There were a few 'aired' bluebottles there, but they were far out-numbered by the airless ones.
Velellas with a Bluebottle

Normal blue bottles have a stretch of tentacles, or a wound up ball if them (the bright blue, stinging part), and the others didn't have that. They had a blue tinge of colour but no tentacles that I could see. But I wasn't getting too close as I had no clue if they stung or not - and if they did, woudl it be worse than the regular blue bottles? I found out later they don't sting...but I wasn't testing it out!

When I googled 'airless bluebottles Australia' I came across newspaper article written a few days earlier on the NSW North Coast, describing exactly what I was seeing on the south coast. The fab journo had identified the mystery buggers for me. Then I went to my books with a name, so much easier than going with nothing.

Lots of Velellas washed up
But there's not a lot written about these. Dakin's seashores had a drawing and mentioned them but without any information.

The Australian Museum also mentions them here, about halfway down the page, and  also calls them By-The-Wind Sailors.

Then I found a reference on a CSIRO website, here, which also mentions Purple Bubble-raft Snails (also on the beach on the same day and next week's wildlife post).

The CSIRO site says this,

"Out in the open ocean where blue bottles live, each armada (the collective term for blue bottles) has both left and right handed forms. But when a breeze kicks up and drives them toward shore, only those with the crest facing the right direction to catch that particular breeze will sail toward their death. It seems that this is nature’s way of ensuring that some survive.

Blue bottles are strikingly beautiful. The air bladder is pearly blue, while the tentacles are intense peacock blue or dark teal. This shade of blue is common in animals that live at the air-water interface, and is thought to protect them from UV damage and possibly aid in camouflage.

Other creatures that live in this unusual habitat include the By-the-wind Sailor (Velella velella), the exquisitely beautiful Purple Bubble-raft Snails (Janthina sp.), and the highly unusual Sea Lizards (Glaucus and Glaucilla), which are actually sea slugs that consume and store undischarged stinging cells from jellyfish such as blue bottles for their own defence."

As much as I've searched for the beautiful Glaucus, I've never found one. But that day on the beach, all the others were present. I guess I keep searching!

Have you ever seen Velellas?

Sunday, October 21, 2018

Sunday Story - Writing Workshop

If you're interested in writing, and live near the south of Sydney, you might be interested in a Romance Writing Workshop at the Wollongong Writers Festival on 24th November. You may know the presenter!

If you're not interested in romance, the Sci-fi and Grant Writing workshops will be awesome - just in case you were wondering!

Why not stay for an awesome Romance Panel on consent, on Sunday 25th November?

Book all tickets here -

Friday, October 19, 2018

Phallic Friday - perimenopause

The ABC had a great article about perimenopause - you can find it here.

For me, it's one of those things I've had to go through before I heard anything about it. And my mum's not alive, so I couldn't even ask her about it. I did ask Dad, but since Mum had cancer before her death, all the cancer and treatments had wiped out any hormonal issues. So, I had to stumble along myself, asking people along the way.

Which keeps making me ask, "Why didn't I know about this?"

My sex education wasn't great as a kid, and as an adult I did biology at uni and quite considerably broadened my knowledge...but I still thought menopause just 'happened'.

I didn't understand that it wasn't like a tap turning off, more like a slow, run down of hormones! :) It's been a struggle to manage all the changes, mentally as well as physically. Sleeping patterns for me are challenging. At the moment, Mr E had a single doona on his half of the bed, while I have three blankets that come on and off as required. And that's something that changes through each night. I may start off with 3 and chuck 1 off, then another, then pull one back on, or two, or throw them all off. How on earth can you sleep properly when your thermo-regulation is screwed!?

Anyway, if you're struggling with your body, and aged between 35 and 55, start thinking hormonal changes. And start talking to people so you don't think you're going crazy! It seems anything can be 'normal'.

Wednesday, October 17, 2018

Wildlife Wednesday - spur-winged plovers

The annual plover breeding at my place has occurred. Once again, they hatched their chicks on our roof. They're used to me now, so I don't get dive bombed every time I go to the bin or walk in the yard ... but they're still very protective when it comes to other birds and possums!

They moved the chicks to the school grounds across the road not long after hatching. During term, I often heard the teachers asking kids not to go near the plovers, which made me smile. I loved hearing adults educating kids and protecting wildlife.

Then in the holidays, one morning there was a huge kerfuffle with the plover adults. Screeching awfully. I went out to investigate. There were kids with sticks, and I heard one say, "I just want to see the chicks." Maybe they only wanted to look, but these kids were brandishing the sticks like weapons and it wasn't only the plover parents who were worried.

I turned into a shrew, and yelled at the kids. I just told them to go play somewhere else and leave the birds alone. Nothing happened. So I went closer and yelled more.

I was one side of the plovers, the kids on the other side. I was sure the plovers were going to start attacking me, but I held my nerve and stood my ground and waited for the stick wielding kids to go.

I tweeted and got so much support from people, which calmed me down. I was feeling a bit crazy for yelling at kids...but these plovers are so much part of my annual cycle I didn't want to see the babies hurt.

The kids came back, and I went out and watched. They soon left.

Later that afternoon, another screech from a plover had me going out again, but this time a parent was in my birdbath and splashing happily. I'd never seen them do that before - they usually use puddles beside the road. So I took it that they were thanking me for my help :)

I'm so glad the plovers no longer swoop me and see me as non-threatening. It makes me even more protective of them.

Do you have plovers near you? Do they swoop? How about magpies?

Wednesday, October 3, 2018

After the NRL Grand Final

A friend asked me how I felt about Cooper Cronk playing when injured, in last Sunday’s NRL Grand Final. It’s a good question. Of course, I was glad he was playing because I want to watch the best in a Grand Final - same as I was happy Billy Slater was also playing. I believed the torn rotator cuff story, so I always thought Coops would play. At the beginning of the game, he looked like he had some movement in his arm and that was good. By the end of the game, I was glad they took him off the field. When Boyd Cordner said that Cronk had played with a broken scapula, I almost fell off the chair. How on God’s earth could somebody play with that?

Mental toughness is something I’ve always associated with Cronk. Last year, when he was leaving the Storm, he said something that changed my life, strangely enough. He said every time he got emotional about leaving he’d just bring himself back to the present moment and centre himself again. Maybe they weren't the exact words, but that’s what I remember. To me, he spoke of mindfulnesssomething I’d always struggled with, alongside meditation. I then picked up a book on mindfulness and read it with new eyes. I began to change, become well. And that makes no sense whatsoever … but I’m crediting Cooper Cronk with that change in mindset.

When you’re good at mindfulness and meditation, it is supposed to allow you to minimise pain (among other things). By limiting pain, you can focus on your body and help it heal. For Coops to play 78 minutes of football, and make those seven tackles, is nothing short of incredible. How far along the mindfulness journey is he?

Playing sport with broken bones isn’t the most sensible thing to do. If I’m a kid looking at my hero doing that, when I break my bone do I want to do the same thing? Does it set a bad example? Does it bring up issues of player welfare? Does it bring up issues of doctors allowing people to do things that aren’t safe for them?

I struggled with those questions. I searched online for articles so I could have some answers. In my mind Cooper Cronk isn’t somebody who would play with serious injury, putting himself in jeopardy, or his team. But I had no evidence for that except my own gut feeling and when someone is your hero, gut feelings get mixed up with your own expectations. Pedestals are pretty rocky places!

In my scrolling through articles, of which there were many, I found that the pedestal rocked but didn’t topple. Thank goodness!

The Roosters’ medical team was said to have scoured the Internet and the world looking for answers to the questions they had. All this while keeping the injury a secret. It’s quite incredible that they could do that and the media didn’t get a whiff of the story. When you read about what they did, how they got x-rays, ultrasounds and MRIs, to pinpoint the diagnosis and injury site, it’s rather incredible. The Roosters’ Dr said that the injury could not have gotten worse by playing and I think that’s a telling factor. It’s a shame that major detail was lost in a late paragraph of one article. That information should be front and centre, so kids know that even though it was a man’s decision to play in the Grand Final, it was backed up by doctors’ advice that the injury couldn’t get worse.

In the State of Origin in 2016, I think, Coops broke his wrist, and came off the field immediately. That injury healed far quicker than anyone imagined, and at the time everybody said how amazing his recovery had been and how much time he put into that injury to heal it. That doesn’t seem to have come to light again and yet that’s another important factor. Cronk knows his body, he knows what he can push through and what can’t. When he broke his wrist, he was off before the trainers got to him. He knew he couldn't continue to play - this time, same bloke, different injury, and different story.

Another important factor is his position in that club. The medical staff went all out to make sure this guy could not play. They weren’t going to rule him out without being absolutely certain. To me, that shows the influence he has on that team, and the need they had for him.

He played 40 minutes in the week before’s Final with the injury, where his teammates protected him, covered for him, and looked out for him. At the end of that game, Joseph Manu said that he’d done everything he could to protect Coops. For teammates to do that, your presence must be important. In the Grand Final, this happened even more. Cronk may have been there directing play, taking the heat off people, and in cover defense, but every other person in that team did more than their job to ensure that he could be there in that limited role. I don’t think that’s something many people would inspire.

At the end of the game, there was something different about Roosters Cronk compared with Storm Cronk. Storm Cronk seemed that little bit aloof, held back from people, at least in the public eye. Roosters Cronk was a little bit like that, but then he got pulled into the middle of that Roosters team, he wasn’t on the outside, he wasn’t on the edge, he was right in the middle. In going somewhere new, maybe that’s what has to happen. You have to make new friends, you have to fit in, you have to link and make links with every person. When you’re established, you have your crowd and you can extend a welcome to new people, but you’re established you don’t have to make the huge number of connections to fit right in.

I think that’s the most incredible thing about Cooper Cronk. I wondered how he’d fit in with the new team, a new bunch of blokes who seemed so different to the ones he played with in Melbourne. For him to have forged the bonds we saw on Sundaybonds so strong that people will cover for you, protect you, and look after youis something quite phenomenal. To achieve that in 12 months blows my mind. I think the calibre of the man, not just the footballer, has been shown with this move to Sydney.

And then there’s the comment he made about his wife, Tara, which was beautiful. He claimed that she pushed him to play, pointing out how important another Grand Final was to him. The strength, then, of that woman is also phenomenal. I suspect she’s a large part of the reason why he continued to play after his move to Sydney. I think she may have known he wouldn’t be happy retiring before his time.

In a post-match interview he said the Storm had created him into the player, and person, he is now but that the Roosters had allowed him to have a family and move to Sydney. What a fabulous way to look at major changes in life, especially when you have to beat your mates to succeed.

There’s bravery in starting over, especially when you’ve been at the top. But conquering that fear, and coming out on top, like he has, is incredibly inspiring.

Although a part of me thinks it’s crazy to play in the Grand Final with a broken scapula, I will never forget that he did. I will never forget what that shows. I’ve used him as a hero in many of my stories, but I’ve never made him heroic enough. Sometimes real life is better than fictionand with Cooper Cronk and Tara, I need to step up my game. He’s my hero and she’s fast joining him. Hope to God they never fall off that pedestal!