Failed to upload footage from Queensland trip, so they ended up on Facebook – see my page (https://www.facebook.com/johanna.fawkes?ref=tn_tnmn) for links.

But I do have some snaps from the Raintree Forest and Cape Tribulation Beach (where James Cook ran aground on the coral reef, limped to shore and claimed Oz for Blighty). One of them shows a huge spider, but completely unscary as it’s in its own home, might be jumpier if it were in mine.

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Being the only sole traveller, I sat up front with the driver on the day tour to the rainforest. At one point he mentioned that he’s visited northern Europe as his wife is Danish, but couldn’t get overt the amount of clothing everyone had to wear. “They kept having to put stuff on then take it off” he said in the incredulous tones of one who spends all year in shorts and T.

I’m getting the hang of winter here – which means more layering and unlayering even than Denmark as it’s bloody freezing (1-5 below 0) for the first few hours and again the moment the sun drops. But @ midday the sun is warm, even if not enough to warm the air, like a taste of spring. And given the miserable summer the UK is having I’ve been grateful for the amount of sunshine I see, even through iced windows.

As I may have mentioned earlier, I’m not complaining about the cold but about the local refusal to accept it. It’;s as if the collective myth of the good life is incompatible with the reality of long cold winters, so the houses are built for the tropics. Everyone knows Australia is a hot country, don’t they? I could see my breath the other morning as I woke up and reaching for my glasses to check the time, they fogged when I put them on. Leeds is hardly sultry but I’ve never been this cold indoors. But am learning local skills and am now fully equipped with at least one heater in every room, electric blanket on the bed and  flanellette pyjamas and sheets – my grandma would approve.

This disjuncture between myth and reality is part of the imposition of a European mind set on a non-European continent. All the imported trees and flowers, all the place names (you get to Sydney via Liverpool, Camden Town, and Parramatta) and the custom of ‘Christmas in July’ because Christmas should be in winter…. I understand holding on to what you know, I’m the same, downloading BBC Radio 4 arts, politics and comedy podcasts, trying to keep up with Olympic shambles there and Labour factionalism here. I keep thinking of Ray Bradbury’s astonishing short story, Dark they were and Golden Eyed, which I re read last week for the first time since I was about 15. It’s even better than I remembered – but how remarkable that it should haunt me so vividly over so many decades. Read it and see what you think – to me it’s a study in colonialism, nostalgia and the futility of trying to tame nature.

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