December 10, 2006

Just peachy

Now that I am able to clonk about on crutches in my giant metal boot thing (feeling like Frankenstein's monster), I have resumed my former computer position near the French doors at the back of the house.

These open out onto the deck with the home-made but very pleasant water course trickling past. We all enjoy sitting (or lying) here, particularly in the mornings before it gets hot.

There's an old peach tree here, that was close to death when I bought the house, but has responded to my inexpert but well-meaning efforts at pruning by being laden with fruit each year. Unfortunately the last few years the whole crop has fallen victim to fruit-fly, so this year I set aside my principles about not using toxins in the garden, and sprayed. It really should be done several times, but once was all I was prepared to do, and it certainly made a difference. There are still lots of fruit-flies, but only about half the crop is affected this time, leaving plenty for me to share with local birds, lizards and the dogs.

The tree is so close to my chair that I can take photos without staggering to my feet, which is just as well, because crutches are not a very effective way of stealthily approaching wildlife. I've uploaded some of my favourite photos from over the past 2 weeks, and they can be seen here.

This female Red-capped parrot has been particularly entertaining, because despite being perfectly able to feed herself, she maintains a constant plaintive chirping which eventually persuades her mate to fetch the best bits for her.
But an awful thing happened 3 days ago. She took off from the tree and flew straight into the glass of the kitchen window with a sickening noise. She flopped to the ground and was making pathetic efforts to fly, but unable to co-ordinate or gain height. By great good fortune the dogs were inside, so I hobbled out as quickly as I could to try to throw a towel over her so she didn't injure herself some more. She managed to lurch up into the tree, however, and I couldn't reach her. She was calling piteously for help and it was all very distressing. I watched her for ages as she sat there panting and crying, until something startled her and she flapped off in a very wobbly fashion. I did not expect to see her again, but to my huge delight I heard her petulant chirping yesterday and sure enugh, she was back, tucking into a peach with gusto. It made my week!

December 05, 2006

"When is hungry not hungry"

I subscribe to a monthly e-newsletter from The Word Centre, a group in the UK who promote the use of plain English. In today's edition is this scary item:
When is hungry not hungry?

Answer: when the US Government decides to replace one easy-to- understand plain English word, with a decidedly unclear four-word phrase.

From now on the new phrase used in a report by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) will be 'very low food security'.

Why? Because the word 'hungry' is not a 'scientifically accurate term' for what the annual USDA food security survey looks at: how many American people have gone without food during the year.

This year's survey found that 12% of Americans, around 35 million people, could not put food on the table for at least part of last year. Of these 35 million people, 11 million said they had gone hungry at times. It is to this group of people the phrase 'very low food security' will apply.

The USA has set a goal of reducing the number of hungry households to 6% or less by 2010, or to half the 1995 level. But it is finding this target difficult to achieve as the number of people going without food has increased over the last 5 years.

'Anti-hunger' advocates say the new words 'sugar coat' a national shame.

David Beckmann, president of Bread for the World, an anti-hunger advocacy group, says:
"The proposal to remove the word 'hunger' from our official reports is a huge disservice to the millions of Americans who struggle daily to feed themselves and their families.'

In other words, if a goal is not being met, move the goalposts. Or if that might attract unfavourable comment, call the goalposts impermanent target-indicative markers instead.

Mind you, I think the "anti-hunger advocates" could have chosen their metaphor with more care.

Stir Crazy

I was gently chided by a friend today for not having posted here more often, when I have had so little to do since breaking my leg nearly 7 weeks ago. A justified comment, because there have been a great many hours when I did very little except feel sorry for myself, or stare disconsolately out of the window, but as I am now at last able to move around (albeit haltingly, and on crutches), my horizons have expanded and mood has correspondingly improved.

The 4 weeks I spent confined to chair and house were a very unsettling glimpse into the lives of those who are not simply waiting for a bone to heal, but for whom such confinement is a permanent and usually involuntary condition. I was prepared for a certain amount of boredom and frustration, but not for the interminable dreariness of days spent completely inside.

However, I am very fortunate to have an expansive view, and even when confined to the couch for days on end, I was able to gaze out over the coastal plain to Perth city and beyond.

But in the mild start to summer that we have enjoyed, it was immensely frustrating not to be able to negotiate the previously unnoticed door frame and move out of the house and onto the verandah, let alone to manage the subsequent step down to the garden. To be thwarted by an obstacle no higher than a matchbox was as infuriating as it was instructive.
I'm sure those of you without problems walking will look at this picture and fail to see the problem. Believe me, I would have too, a couple of months ago.

I will be forever grateful to the friend who arrived on day 10, armed with a simple picnic lunch, and declared her intention of helping me get the wheelchair over this lintel, through the just-too-narrow doorway and out onto the verandah for an hour or so. The sense of release was intoxicating!
It was certainly a turning point, even though I could not go further than that, or indeed manage it unassisted, for another couple of weeks.


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