Welcome to this blog, the story of a great big Australian adventure. It documents my travels, life in Australia, and a subject close to my heart – environmental conservation. 

On a picnic blanket in the park

Yesterday was Mother's Day here. The day started hazily, before becoming a bit Tupperwary by lunch, and then clearing by mid-arvo into sunshine and warmth. I wasn't feeling well, and spent most of the day either in bed or struggling to get comfortable on the sofa. But I was enticed into Waterline Crescent Park to take the air, on a picnic rug beneath a bottle tree.

There was not a garden gadget to be heard. Nor was the idiot-on-the-park, who can't drive his Audi without constantly gunning the engine, going to and fro between garage and wherever. It was peaceful. Was everyone out visiting?

I have noticed our neighbours don't do what we were doing: maybe their yards catch more sun than ours at this time of year. Only kids seem to use the park. They gather with mates after school; play footie; practise kicking with their dads sometimes; oh, and schoolies stagger out to the swings at 5am after an all-nighter, but that is highly seasonal usage. One neighbour once told me that people would sometimes get together in the park for drinks and a barbie. But you'll never see it happen. This isn't an official day rest area, you see: there's no barbie provided by the council; no picnic benches; just low walls, around the swings, to sit on. It's just a lovely green oasis in the middle of suburbia, where people didn't cut down the trees and name streets after them.

I curled up with my back to the sun, lizard-like. Soon I had to shed a layer. That's the thing about living here: it's the equivalent of November in the UK, and there I was, lying in substantial warmth, and feeling much better for it.

A mackerel sky was developing from the north.

We spotted an old friend.

But then the ants came. It's taken me a long time to respect Australian ants. There are many varieties and all shapes and sizes. We have ants on a mission with large, orange-brown end-bits: they march day and night up and down the front and back walls of the house. The lines are at the same point along the walls, so maybe there's a meeting on the roof. One of these stung my long-been friend when she opened her bedroom window during the night, and her finger swelled up for two days. We get small blacks on a particular worktop in the kitchen if we inadvertently leave food crumbs around: these don't sting when I squash them. Other tinies live in a nest by the garage door: they move so fast I can't even focus on them. And angry ants live in similar nests under grass. These go apeshit if you disturb them while mowing the lawn or lying on a picnic blanket. One got my friend on his back once as he lay recovering from a run, and the puncture wound was reluctant to heal for a while. And I had many a painful toe before I started wearing proper shoes for gardening.

On this occasion, we moved three times to escape the cross ones. Then the sun went in, and so did we.

Leichhardt, hinterlands and places beginning with M

There's more to northern NSW than Byron Bay