Sunday, December 11, 2011

Amended Forecasts

WE HAD a bit of rain in Melbourne last night, quite a bit. Around midnight, the show outside was too good to miss, so the port, glasses and ashtray all moved to the front verandah, where the Rufous Bird, who roosted overnight at the Billabong, soon fluttered out from the kitchen with little bits of cheese on sticks, some multicultural dip and dry biscuits, snappy celery and a fresh jar of Vegemite. It is one of the many great things about women, that compulsion to mark even the most mundane occasion by putting nibbles on plates, but this display of nature’s fury was particularly well catered. By the time the evening’s second wave of storms had rolled in from the Bay, setting barrages of thunder to rattle windows and driving a procession of soggy ringtails into the shelter of the garage ceiling, a fresh bottle of champagne to toast the tempest’s fury had joined the front-porch provisions.

This morning, with nary a touch of thick-headedness because champagne is such a wonderful tipple, the news on the radio is that some parts of the city on the Yarra copped more than 40mm in less than eight hours. The only complainant was the cat, which streaked over the side fence at the height of the storm, soaked to the skin and quite clearly taking the weather as a personal insult. Before the creature realised there was food in the offing and switched from aggrieved irritation to plaintive mewing, the Professor had been twice bitten, scratched and gouged for the offence of offering a consoling pat, at which point the Rufous Bird demonstrated that other staple of feminine behaviour and observed with a sniff that the mauling was entirely warranted. If only women would deliver those adjudications on sensible behaviour before the event, the world would be a much safer place, but they never do. Perhaps they are too busy anticipating the next opportunity to cube little bits of cheese.

It is always very difficult to intuit what others might be thinking, and not just cats and women but Age reporters as well. Melissa Fyfe, for example, might been contemplating last night’s storm and wondering if she should balance her previous advocacy of the need to prepare for endless drought with a fresh report that, on second thought, would concede her catastropharian informants might have been just a tad alarmist. But probably not, as her more recent discovery that the Premier’s wife has a sister who is married to a man who owns cattle, was quite probably still at the fore of an investigative mind.

And what of her colleague Adam Morton? Have the recent rains inspired thoughts of revisiting one of his source’s dire warning that the drought-now-broken could mean a Victoria bereft of birdlife? “Clearly it shows when we have sustained change in rainfall and sustained change in climate it is having a marked effect,'' Deakin University’s Andrew Bennett told him three years ago. It is lucky the Billabong’s moggy does not read the Age, as predictions like that could only inspire an even more vicious state of mind. Not that she harbours any affection for birds, mind you, just that she would prefer to kill them all herself. As it happens, the birds are doing quite nicely these days – it was only last week that the Professor spotted a sacred kingfisher on a Royal Park power line -- which is more than can said for the Age’s shareholders and laid off sub-editors.
A female sacred kingfisher (not known to cube cheese)

And so is Melbourne, just by the way. The online weather map confirms the finger of sunshine which just jabbed through the study’s window is a harbinger of a lovely afternoon, so Doctor Yowie and the golf club beckon. It is the natural order of things -- just like droughts and rain and nonsense in the Age.  


  1. Professor,

    Your article should carry a warning for young readers that you were writing about Weather, which must not be confused with Climate.

    Weather is that stuff which falls on your head, be it rain or happy little sun-beams. Climate is something completely different, Climate comes from "scientists who use sophisticated American computer models" (quoting the very learned Melissa Fyfe from a previous article).

    I feel it is important that you issue a statement saying this article is discussing the weather, not the climate, lest small children and small puppy's confuse the issue.

    Then take yourself with your cubed cheese back to the billabong, go and frolick with your platypus mates and leave weighty matters such as climate change to the more learned members of our society.

  2. "I feel it is important"

    Yes, feel. Whatever you do, don't think. You're ill-equipped.

  3. Kingfishers are the best, aren't they? My favourite are kookaburras, but I'll look out for the sacred kingfishers next time I'm cycling through Royal Park. I assume this is somewhere on the golf course, any tips where? I occasionally take a detour from Royal Park station past that old people's home where Vladimir Petrov spent his final days, if I recall correctly.

  4. duck: The sacred kingfisher was on a Parkville Street fronting the park and very near the Burke & Wills memorial, beside Eliot Avenue. I checked a bird-buff site a day or two later and learned of another recent sighting in nearby Brunswick.

    Incidentally, during the period Morton reports kookas were in trouble, if there was a night I spent a night in the bush and did not hear them cackling the sun to sleep, well, I can't recall it. They are endearingly determined creatures which absoltely, positively MUST have the last word. If another bird dares speak after they have laughed at sundown, they put sleep aside and do the whole performance all over again.

    In the morning, when you might prefer to sleep later, their racket is less welcome.

  5. Elizabeth (Lizzie) B.December 11, 2011 at 7:00 PM

    Professor, we too have our moments Chez Elizabeth. After a delicious luncheon repast taken during a great storm today one member of the imbibing group (who shall be nameless but who is known, in general, as my responsibility) decided it was time for a swim of the more exerting sort, involving laps in a publc pool. Having had his car keys subtly removed by his responsible adult, and his beguiling Celtic charm having failed to deliver the fair maiden opposite as his driver, he has just returned from the alternative suggestion of a solitary 'walk', full of the love of mankind, birdkind and agog with the rapture of nature. He also spoke long and enquiringly to an apparently very friendly fellow, a fisherman on a harbour wharf, resulting in a highly enthusiastic desire to immediately buy a boat and carry on with his nature studies into the deep. We are currently hearing about what an adventure it will be. A bit like Toad Hall around here right now.

    Now the company have departed he sits happily on the balcony surveying the harbour and informing on traffic: "Here comes the Maxi" he announces as I quietly sit typing this.

  6. As kingfishers catch fire, dragon flies draw flame.
    And Professor, whilst you were savouring turkey twizzlers and Charles Heidsieck on the patio, there were others, knee deep in water, thrilling to the tingle of mudeyes crawling up their necks. A myriad of dragon flies will neither coruscate nor scintillate this day. Many, many muddies made the greatest of sacrifices, laying down their lives to fatten up the local trout, for the more ADVENTUROUS fisherfolk among us.
    Gerard Manley aside, I was wondering, while submerged in rain, what Shakespeare (master of the politically portentous) would have made of last night's atmospherics raging in full fury and during an eclipse.

  7. The high moment of trying all these lying pricks for treason would be when they are led, step by step, through their own march to hypocritical idiocy without being able to deny, obfuscate or shout down.

    The agony of that alone would easily be the equivalent of a racking.

  8. You've had a charmed life. In my experience not all women are compelled to cube cheese and put out nibbles. It's actually only the good ones who do. Fortunately for me, my third and last wife does, but it took me 20 years to find her.