Tuesday, September 08, 2009

Blooms from the burbs

As some of you know, I enjoy having a weekly yarn with the honey-voiced Bernadette Young on ABC radio, and she has recently been on a Western Australian wild-flowers trip with some lucky listeners and her fantastic crew.

I felt a teensy weensy bit jealous, especially seeing as I saw the pictures and heard the show after spending a couple of hours picking up the first coke cans and condoms of spring in my own neighborhood. Surely we had some wildflowers growing here, in the suburbs? Some clear evidence that Mother Nature hadn't completely overlooked us; shadowed as we are on both sides by blocks of flats, backed-in by ACDC-loving mechanics and disregarded by litter buggy school kids?

Milly, of course, is always up for a walk, even though her cruelly-arthritic back knees make her hobble after only 500 metres which invariably ends up making me smile and get a bit teary at the same time: it hurts but she'd rather have a bath and a blow dry than not come with me. So, armed with a camera which gave her many opportunities to rest whilst sniffing driveways, manky bits of leftover takeaways dropped in the gutter and investigate other neglected dog turds, we set off.

Ah, look dear reader! First wildflower we encounter is Crappus Foodus, presumably discarded by either a teenager rushing back to the start of the fifth lesson after lunch or the Thursday night drunk who uses our street as his own personal ashtray and urinal as he staggers his way home at 2am.

What is interesting about this particular example of Crappus Foodus is that it's not from around here, oh no. We have a Rooster that is Red and a Hut that inexplicably produces pizza products at one end of our big road with an underground-transport system sandwich shop, some Golden Arches, and chicken that no-one wants to say out loud is still k-FRIED; but not a Hungry Fats establishment. We can only assume, therefore, that the consumer of this (let's be kind) 'foodstuff' either had to drive some distance to purchase it, arrived here and flung it out of their window ('thanks so much') or is a very fit walker who just undid all their efforts by choosing this meal to eat.

Our landscape is vast and mysterious here in the burbs. It has been fenced off, presumably to keep marauding wildlife out, but shows tantalising promise of good pasture, nice neighbors and a pleasing north-westerly aspect. No wildflowers though.

We move on a few blocks and find that Mother Nature has tried her best in the gutter here. The next time the TV aerial guy comes to visit, we'll invite him to bring along his sheep for a feed as well. Unless of course the animal is now so attuned to city-life that it insists on a latte and friand instead, in which case we'll walk it to the shops around the corner.

YESSSSSS! Wildflowers! They're bravely escaping one of those tiny, perfectly-manicured cottage gardens that hosts brutally clipped box hedges, stylised lavender bushes, iceberg roses stretched up on cruel posts and the requisite silver birch tree plonked right in the middle surrounded by reclaimed paving bricks.

Therefore, these little soursobs were never welcome and are making a break for the other side; the side where they belong - the mean, the wise, the clamouring chaos of The Streets.

No babbling brooks here, although the stormwater drains gush and gurgle when the empty Big M cartons and beer cans block the grates. Instead, we have our own quaint water supply, cunningly painted the same, slightly-odd purply-brown colour as the house. It is with great relief that I notice that we visit it one of the very rare occasions that Milly hasn't left a little reeking pile of brown calling cards underneath it - always a treat for visitors when they arrive.

Turning around and looking over my gate, I see my nemesis: The Leering Lemon Tree. I've been dying to steal - no sorry, pick - those ripe fruits for ages, but when I wander over there, casually whistling and whipping my head over my shoulder every half-second like an epileptic drug dealer, I can't reach the bloody things.

I even took my Litter Ninja Long Tongs with me but they're so flimsy that they actually buckled under the strain of trying to hold on to one measly lemon. The sodding little citrus then slid from the tongs (what does $1.99 buy you these days, people?) and plopped on the ground. On the tree's side.

If I'm bored enough I might just consider using one of Love Chunks' fishing rods and try casting and reeling one in from the comfort of our verandah......

At our back verandah, you can see that the tulips aren't exactly bursting with life or blooms. It's a sad fact that whilst my mother can coax a mango tree out of a cutting placed in arid desert sands, I merely have to think about the colour green and whatever poor plant I've inflicted my lethal black thumbs on dies quicker than a politician's smile during a paternity test.

On the other hand, the wild mint lurking nearby (well, it's in a pot, but that is considered wild in these parts) that Love Chunks and Sapphire planted is doing OK. Actually it's thriving and we have two of those fetching half-wine barrels' worth but little idea what to do with the stuff apart from put it into yoghurt sauce for lamb or sprinkle some in a jug of iced tea. Any recipes you can suggest?

What of the fauna in our area?

Here we have Skipper, the dwarf lop rabbit, or 'Silentus Bun-nus' as the zoologists refer to his species. We have yet to hear him utter any sound except "Eh eh eh" and that was when I soaked him with water every half hour during the 46C February heatwave.
Skipper too, has seen the bounties of Sapphire's gardening skills, with three freshly-grown spring blooms being carefully placed on his head before she renames him the world's smallest living Triceratop. To my amazement, he is completely unaffected by the flowers, the flash of the camera or our laughter but leaves his revenge for later when he digs the new bridge underpass in our hanky-sized lawn. Silent but industrious.

Milly has two favourite outdoor activities and both are pictured here. On sunny days, she likes to be outside on the lawn and I can hear the gnawing sounds - Ka-da-Thonk! Ka-da-Thonk! Ka-da-Thonk! - as her teeth scrape and catch precious shards of her latest bone.

Otherwise, the terrible, screeching squeals of a small animal being tortured are evident - Ah-eee! Ah-eee! Ah-eee! Ah-eee! - when the orange basketball bone is given some love and attention. The poor neighbours probably think she's using Skipper as a chew toy.....

Inside, there are no blooms to be found, other than those in my early paintings and the deformed bamboo plant in Sapphire's bedroom, so Milly finds her beloved beanbag and falls asleep. Her paws occasionally twitch as I imagine, in her doggy dreams, she finally gets to catch the two moggies next door or give that naughty labradoodle around the corner at the traffic lights hound a real talking to.

There's life here. And fun and beauty.


eleanor bloom said...

Well, this bloom in the burbs isn't full of much life, fun or beauty so you're ahead there!

I love that last pic of Milly. Just so sweet.

Been too crook to do much wandering around here lately but did get out to the garden today to totter about a pull a couple of weeds. Why are they so much easier than flowers? My black pansies and more colouful variety lobelias are doing well at least, but that's probably only thanks to all the rain.

Finally heard you on abc last week! Are you on regular days or is it just random (I always forget to tune in when i have the chance).

the projectivist said...

wow! i wish i had a back garden with a lemon tree like that one. isn't it fantastic? but they look as though they're going to go to waste, don't they?

i think you should start deploying your friendship manoeuvres immediately so that this time next year, you're great friends with the lemon-tree-owner and therefore offered first pick!

if you need a doggy babysitter, Milly can always come and stay with us!

Cat J B said...

Oh the neighbours lemon tree.....there is one hanging over the fence of a park I frequent, too high out of reach and it never seems to drop fruit on the park side. Well, at least not when I am conveniently placed beneath it. I am reduced to buying lemons, as the two on my own tree didn't amount to much...

louisalowry said...

Hmmm - yes we managed one measley lemon on our tree this year. I can not wait to listen to tomorrows chat with Bernadette (if she's not still ill, that is) - it is my weekly dose of giggles that keeps me sane on my mindless drive to the school yet again...

Helen said...

We have a lemon tree! If you're even in the neighbourhood I'll give you LOTs of them!

For the record, you should probably just ask the owners, I know we're always trying to get ris of them before they spoil...

River said...

March up to the front door of the house where the lemons live and introduce yourself. Ask if they could spare you a few lemons.You may very well meet a little old 87 year old who has had a fascinating life and has no-one to share her lifetime of stories with.

Word verification is hunches. I have a hunch there will be many lemons in your future.