Wednesday, 29 June 2011

Byron Bay dolphins hate me

Wategos Beach at Byron Bay

Sunset at Wategos Beach

Sunset at Wategos beach

I went to Byron Bay for Ms Fivestar's birthday bash, which was a huge success. The weather was bee-ewd-ifull, so I swam every day even though the water was a 'refreshing' 17 degrees (that's my 'guess'-timate).

Before I caught the flight home on Monday afternoon I did a kayaking tour in search of dolphins, whales and turtles.

The dolphins, which were in abundance that morning, disappeared as soon as my friend, Mr Irish, and I, paddled out. I had warned Mr Irish about my relationship with dolphins. When they see me coming, they swim in the other direction.

Our guide, a laid-back older surfie boy (circa 1978), told us it was going to be a good day for wildlife because the ocean was flat, and early that morning he'd seen heaps of dolphins fishing and frolicking in the bay. I said nothing, but I knew otherwise. 
I would love to be a child of the ocean who attracted dolphins in their hundreds. But dolphins hate me. When they know I'm around, they send out a sonar message to clear out of the immediate area ASAP. I don't know what it is about me that they find unattractive. I think they must latch on to my desperate desire to have them love me. Maybe they think I'm too needy. Or neurotic. And that affects their own sense of well-being and 'dolphin-ness'. Know what I mean? 

I swear that every dolphin-spotting tour I've done has been a flop, that leaves tour guides scratching their heads: "I can't understand why the dolphins aren't here today," a guide commented when I took the kids on a dolphin cruise at Port Stephens several years ago. He added: "Yesterday a pod of 50 came right up to the boat and swam with us the whole trip."

That's not to say that we didn't see anything during our seven kilometre paddle (what a workout). We spotted: a whale's spout in the distance, a green turtle popping his head out of the water, several dolphin fins in the distance and a mako shark leaping out of the water - yes, it's true. But, as usual, I was looking the other way and only saw the splash. I blame the dolphins; they were playing with my head.  

Friday, 24 June 2011

Gotta whoel lotta love (meeeeeeew) gotta whole lotta love (meeeeeeew): off to ByronBay AGAIN

Today I'm off to Byron Bay to celebrate the life and times of Ms Fivestar, who turns SPECIAL tomorrow when she hits life's halfway mark.

Now, to you the definition of halfway may differ from mine. Used to be that mid-life was around 40, and if you talk to my daughters it's more like 25.

It's funny how we view the world when we're young.

I do remember my sex education teacher (that's what they called it back then) in high school, Mrs Grey (or was it Day?). She would sit and explain to us the intricacies of male and female genitalia in a soothing matter-of-fact tone, and I would stare at her skin. She had a habit of resting her hand on her cheek, and this had the effect of pushing her skin into crepe-paper creases. I found this fascinating. I thought she was ancient. Many years later I realsised she was probably 50 at the time. Poor Mrs Grey Day. Who'd wanna be a teacher?

My favourite comment directed at me from a students is: "Gee, I bet you were good looking when you were young." And just lately, one of my students said I reminded her of the actress in Boston Legal. Turns out she was talking about Candace Bergen. I wonder how much work she's had done? I wonder how bloody old she is!

Life is a cruel mistress, but going to Byron Bay for the weekend isn't a bad way to wallow in one's own misplaced vanity.

Gotta whole lot of love... gotta whole lotta love...

PS: Sorry, no pics as off to airport and not working on my computer, which is broken

Monday, 20 June 2011

Bin a long time, bin a long lonely lonely lonely lonely lonely time... why I hate winter in Sydney

Sitting next to bar heater in small, cramped poorly-lit room, eating cheddar cheese Sakatas from the packet (feel sick) and drinking cheap red wine while marking students' exam papers and trying to block out bad vibes from lounge room where Spanner is attempting a miracle - to convince our daughter Miss Hissy (aka The Hiss) of the value of the square root in everyday life.

Seriously, the real square root is the one you have with your partner of 16 years, but you can't explain the truth of the matter to a 15 year old who would be, understandably, grossed out.

There's not enough MSG cheesy flavour on the crackers. I will write a letter of complaint to Sakata first thing tomorrow.

I have made a really nice stewy braised beef with tomatoes, which is in the oven and needs no interference for another hour. But Spanner can't help himself. He's already poking and prodding it.

Brings me back to square roots.

I hate winter in Sydney.

Thursday, 9 June 2011

More than 73 million sharks are killed each year

Do you know why?

For soup.

Fishermen catch the sharks and hack off their fins before tossing them overboard. Sharks need to be constantly moving so their gills can extract oxygen from the water. Without their fins, they sink to the ocean floor where they starve to death, drown or are eaten alive by other fish.

A fisherman who kills sharks and sells their fins can make $US700 per kilogram.

The fins are in huge demand from restaurants, particularly in Hong Kong and mainland China, where they are mostly used in gourmet Chinese soups*.

Global Shark Conservation at the Pew Environment Group (PEG) claims that "finning" is responsible for a 90 per cent decline in some shark species.

The group recently reported that 30 per cent of all shark species are immediately threatened or near threatened with extinction.

The thing is, without sharks we're stuffed. The website says if sharks disappear "all hell with break loose". It explains that the large shark species are "apex" predators and "ecological stabilisers". For example, on the USA east coast the elimination of several large shark species has led to the proliferation of smaller sharks, rays and skate. These smaller fish have devoured the shellfish population. The role of shellfish is to filter the water, but now they're gone water quality has been seriously damaged.

"Once you remove apex predators from an ecosystem the result is the same as removing foundations from a building - total collapse," says Stop Shark Finning.

I know we're all torn between supporting numerous causes and the shark isn't the first creature that comes to mind when considering how to help the environment.

*However, you can make a small difference by BOYCOTTING restaurants where shark fin soup is served and by passing this information on to your friends. AUSTRALIA IS INDIRECTLY INVOLVED IN FINNING BY ALLOWING RESTAURANTS TO SERVE SHARK FIN SOUP. Go to this link for a list of restaurants in Australia that serve shark fin soup: