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20 March 2020 / leggypeggy

Home delivery is a wonderful thing—if you can get it

Milk truck

That’s the milk truck just after delivering milk and eggs to my house

The coronavirus and its resulting disease—COVID19—have brought out the worst in people when it comes to shopping for daily needs.

I mean how many rolls of toilet paper does a person need? I rather like the joke that says your IQ is 150 less the number of toilet rolls you have at home. Based on that, my IQ is 140 and will increase by one point every four or five days.

Other ‘hot’ items for hoarding include hand sanitiser, tissues, paper towels, meats, pasta, pasta sauces, rice, milk and eggs.

Milk and eggs

Milk and free-range eggs—only 250 chickens per hectare

Luckily most supermarkets have implemented a sort of you-can’t-bring-it-back-because-you-bought-too-much policy. Plus, they are so swamped now that they have severely limited their home delivery services. A person needs to apply and be accepted to get a delivery. Mostly reserved for the elderly and/or disabled.

I usually have a well-stocked pantry and haven’t really had to venture into the supermarkets. So I have to brag just a bit. My milk and eggs are home delivered. Canberra still has two milk trucks that serve a handful of suburbs. We’re one of them. How cool is that!

And I have to share this toilet paper cartoon. My thanks to the person who created this. I wish I knew who you were!

socks

3 March 2020 / leggypeggy

Jade treasures in Taiwan’s national museum

 

Bi-zun vessels, mid-Qing dynasty

Bi-zun vessels, mid-Qing dynasty, 1736–1820

Table screen, Qing dynasty

Table screen, mid to late Qing dynasty, 1736–1911

The National Palace Museum in Taipei is so large and so loaded with treasures that it’s impossible to share it all in one post. We set aside a whole day to explore this national treasure and its overwhelming collection—they have 700,000 pieces—not all on display.

I confess that I took more than 200 photos in just a few hours.

Looking back through the pics, I’ve settled on a way to share some of the glory. Green is one of my favourite colours and lots of jade (but not all) is in shades of green. The museum’s collection of jade covers the gamut of colours and carving techniques.

I was never all that interested in jade until we lived in Burma (now Myanmar) in the mid-1980s. Jade was abundant there. So much so that in 2017 a group of miners found a 174-tonne piece of jade worth about US$5 million.

There are actually two types of real jade—nephrite and jadeite. Nephrite is mainly a calcium magnesium silicate. Jadeite is rarer and is a sodium aluminium silicate. Myanmar is the source of nearly all of the world’s finest jadeite, which highly prized in neighbouring China where it is known as the ‘stone of heaven’. Brightly coloured jadeite is commonly known as feicui (kingfisher feathers).

Jadeite also occurs in the USA, Guatemala and Japan. Nephrite is most commonly found in China, Russia, Taiwan, USA, New Zealand and Australia.

Jadiete cabbage in a cloisonné flowerpot

Jadiete cabbage in a cloisonné flowerpot, Qing Dynasty, 1644–1911

The Jadeite Cabbage from the Qing Dynasty is one of the museum’s most popular jade pieces. Made in the shape of a head of Chinese cabbage (a bok choy), the carving includes a katydid and a locust camouflaged in the leaves. The craftsman followed the natural colours of the jadeite to turn the green parts into the leaves and the white parts into the stems. This piece was originally part of a decorative setting in the Qing court. We saw it in Taipei, but until May it is being displayed at the southern branch of the museum in Taibao City.

Meat-shaped stone, Taipei

My photo of a photo of the meat-shaped stone. So realistic

Another popular museum piece is the Meat-shaped Stone. It’s not jade, but banded jasper, a form of agate. The craftsman enhanced the natural banding by staining layers of the stone so that it looked more like pork that had been braised in soy sauce. This piece is usually shown with the cabbage, but it was in on display in Taibao City when we were in Taipei.

I’m still trying to decide which piece is my favourite after the cabbage. What’s yours?

Vase, gift to the Empress of Japan

Green jade vase, gift to the Empress of Japan in 1940

Jade screen

Jade screen, gift to the Emperor of Japan about 1940

5 February 2020 / leggypeggy

Bushfires and the heartbreak of Australia’s new landscapes

 

Rosedale Beach, NSW, Australia

The long Rosedale Beach after the fires. It looks green enough, but only 14 houses still stand.

Pooh Corner, NSW, Australia

Amazing that the firefighters managed to save Pooh Corner.

We just spent six days at Rosedale. In case you didn’t know, the small hamlet of North Rosedale, New South Wales, was almost wiped out by bushfires on New Years Eve 2019.

The road into North Rosedale will be closed for some time and we were not allowed to walk there because trees may fall and there’s lots of asbestos dust around. Reports say 14 houses still stand out of maybe 70? I took the top photo on Monday. It shows the long Rosedale Beach where people sheltered during the fire (see the video at the bottom).

South Rosedale (which is just called Rosedale) fared better. We lost between 15–18 houses out of 70, with many more being damaged. (Note to self: check a map and figure out how many houses are in both.)

Rosedale footbridge, NSW Australia

No idea when the footbridge will be restored

North Rosedale and Rosedale are (well, used to be) connected by a timber foot bridge and the main highway (no internal connecting roads because of the creek that runs between the two).

We were in Taiwan when the fires were approaching, but our friend Chloe was at our coast house with her dog and ours. Thank goodness, Chloe was super organised. On the 30th, she packed her car and filled it with fuel. She put both dogs on leads and left them like that. For hours, we were texting back and forth. I asked her to ‘rescue’ a few precious items from the house.

Burnt tree

A tree on the edge of the beach

Burnt car

This car was about 30 metres from the beach

Of course, there was a big chance that Chloe would hit fire fronts or blocked roads. and have to sit it out in an evacuation centre. So I urged her to take plenty of water, fire blankets, lots of gear for the dogs and tinned food. Oh and be sure to take the WINE.

Chloe set her alarm for 5:30am on the 31st, but said she would move as soon as she woke up. That must have been about 4:30, because I got a message from her at 4:45am and was on the road by 5. Later I was to learn that she had whipped around with the vacuum cleaner before she drove away. Geez!

Turns out she had a good run, driving north through Kangaroo Valley and then on to Canberra. I won’t add a map here, but it was a detour that meant a trip that normally took two hours took almost five. A couple of hours later, Kangaroo Valley was on fire and many of the roads she travelled were closed because of fires.

Burnt hill

A burnt hill on the edge of the beach. Even the life preserver was burnt.

Scorched life preserver

Scorched life preserver

Now for the heroics
There is no way I can adequately describe the heroics and strokes of luck that meant our house and many others in Rosedale are still standing. The fires hit mid-morning on New Year’s Eve. 

Obviously we weren’t here and didn’t live through it, but here is some of what I think happened. Some information conflicts. So forgive me if I misstate anything.

For example, I originally thought the fires started in North Rosedale and then came at Rosedale, but yesterday I learned it may have been the other way around. The blaze was heading up our street and then the wind changed, driving the fire back on itself and towards North Rosedale.

Our Rosedale heroes have been Mick, David, Richard and Sue. These are people who stayed to fight (some had to evacuate along the way). They worked hard to put out spot fires. Richard lost his outbuildings and backyard.

Spot fires can last for ages, Sue told me that three air tankers and Elvis (a super firefighting helicopter) continued to drop water on Rosedale for three days after the main fire to minimise the chance of flare ups. I’m pretty sure Elvis dropped a few loads on our house because the roof is amazingly clean.

The most extraordinary thing is that once you climb the hill on Tranquil Bay (our street), you’d think nothing had ever happened. Oh, except that the little garden in the small circle near our driveway was burnt. Talk about a close call.

Cooks Crescent, Rosedale NSW

Several houses burnt on this headland, which is about 300 metres from our house

Burnt house

One of the houses lost in the headland photo above

Rosedale notice board

Rosedale notice board

The community
The fires have certainly brought our community together. If you search for Rosedale on Twitter, you’ll get us and a suburb in Vancouver. But if you come to our Rosedale, you’ll find that two streets—where about six houses were lost and more damaged—got together for a meet and greet. It was supposed to last for two hours, but went for five.

Sue has a pond and the wildlife has been quick to find sources of food and water. Shes heard five different frog calls and seen plenty of birds and wallabies visit. We started putting out seed and had as many as 12 birds on the deck at once, including eight king parrots. See some of our visitors above.

Also, there was a Go Fund Me campaign to purchased mobile water tanks for Rosedale. It raised $25,000 in a few days and we now have four units.

Kings Highway, NSW, Australia

Kings Highway, NSW, Australia

Kings Highway, NSW, Australia

Driving back to Canberra—our burnt landscape

The drive back to Canberra
We drove back to Canberra yesterday. It’s 154 kilometres. Most of the first 70 kilometres is heavily treed and almost all of it (both sides of the road) has been burnt. Pooh’s Corner was a pleasant exception. 

Some bushfire facts
Bushfires have been raging across Australia since July. Contrary to the fake news that has been spreading globally, the fires are not the work of arsonists. Less than 1 per cent of the land loss is attributed to arson. Horribly dry landscapes (drought) and dry lightning strikes are the main cause. Tonight there are fierce fires burning south of Canberra. There’s a long fire season ahead. So far we’ve lost 33 people, 3000 homes, 12 million hectares of bushland (or the land area of England) and more than a billion creatures.

Tranquil Bay Place, Rosedale, NSW

Our end of the street was saved, but there’s a long fire season ahead

As an aside
Our end of the street was virtually untouched by fire. Our house is perfect to share and (through Mick) we offered it to someone who had lost theirs. Paul and his dog have moved in downstairs and can stay for as long as they need. His wife and daughter (who have been in Sydney) have been here too.

The photos
It’s impossible to adequately explain the look of the landscape. I took all these photos during our stay. Captions tell more of the story. The video below was taken by the Kelly family (Bethany, Patrick and Madeleine). It was featured in the Guardian newspaper and on Monday’s bushfire special episode of Q and A. It shows people sheltering on the long Rosedale Beach and watching as the community burns.

P.S. For now I’m returning to travel pieces, but I’ll keep you posted on Rosedale’s progress. And if you’re hungry, please check out my cooking blog.

18 January 2020 / leggypeggy

Three things have lifted my heart today

Artwork for Pooh Corner

Pooh Corner thank you to firefighters. Art by Mick Ashley. Link in body of text

If you have been following the news in Australia or virtually anywhere else in the world, you’ll know that much of this country has been on fire. Some of the worst devastation has been in the states of Victoria and New South Wales.

Almost 30 people have died, about 6000 homes and buildings have been lost, more than a billion animals have died and 19 million hectares (46 million acres) of land have been burnt. Here’s a rundown of the unbelievable devastation.

So what’s to smile about? It’s a combination of things.

First, today is the 17th anniversary of the horrific bushfires that swept through Canberra. Four lives and about 500 homes were lost back then. That’s reason for immense sadness, but today no fires are burning in the Australian Capital Territory. They are nearby, but not upon us. Our firefighters have worked hard to be better prepared.

Second, today (18 January) is National Winnie the Pooh Day and our own Pooh Bear’s Corner has survived, which leads me straight to the third item.

Third, today is when I saw a delightful artwork that thanks our many firefighters for saving Pooh Bear’s Corner, a small cave on the Kings Highway, which is the way from Canberra to Australia’s South Coast.

We’ve driven past Pooh Bear’s Corner regularly for almost 40 years. But we haven’t been by lately. Because of fires, the road has been closed for more than a month, and reopened earlier this week. Luckily the firefighters have been on duty and Pooh Bear’s Corner has been spared.

As an amazing thank you to the firefighters, Canberra artist, Mick Ashley, created a gorgeous artwork that is available for sale (see above). I think this work is amazing and so poignant. You can order here if you’d like to buy one. All proceeds go to fire relief.

A bit about Pooh Bear’s Corner
More than 40 years ago, David and Barbara Carter from Crookwell created Pooh Bear’s Corner in an effort to distract their children’s pleas of ‘are we there yet’.

Each time they passed, they put signs at Pooh’s Corner and hoped they wouldn’t get in trouble. Then they noticed other people were leaving teddy bears or honey or just a little message for Pooh.

This has gone on for years. We’ve often stopped to say hello to the many Pooh stuffed animals.

I don’t have any current pics of Pooh Bear’s Corner, but I know it has survived. In the meantime enjoy Mick Ashley’s stunning artwork.

P.S. I just found a pic of Pooh Corner that I took three years ago.

Pooh Corner, Australia, Clyde Mountain

Some of the residents at Pooh Corner, 26 January 2017

2 January 2020 / leggypeggy

Fires engulf much of eastern Australia

I can’t let today pass without commenting on the horrific fires in Australia. As I write, nine are dead, four are missing, hundreds of homes have been destroyed.

The news is grim and going to get worse. We’re still in Taiwan, so are living out the drama long-distance, but we fear for our beach house in South Rosedale.

North and South Rosedale make up a small community about four-hours’ drive south of Sydney. The two parts are surrounded by trees and divided by a small creek. North Rosedale was wiped out on New Years Eve. More than a hundred people sheltered on the beach and watched as 50 or more homes burned. I’m guessing that fewer than 20 homes are left there.

South Rosedale got off easier. Maybe 15 homes burned. We just don’t know. So far our house still stands.

But Saturday lies ahead. The temperature will hit 41°C (106°F) and the winds will pick up. The Rural Fire Service is advising everyone—tourists and homeowners—to get out. That’s a challenge in itself. Fuel is in short supply. Roads are closed. Traffic is backed up for kilometres.

Our friend, Chloe, who was staying at our beach house with her dog and ours, managed to drive out about 5am on New Years Eve. She had an easy run. Because of road closures what should have taken two hours took almost six.

I’ve added some video footage here. It’s all from Rosedale. My thanks to those who took these images (borrowed from Twitter). I’m not 100 per cent sure who to credit (Julian Evans and Daniel Sutton?). Here’s a segment from the news. 

Huge thanks also to neighbours, Peter, Sue, Terry and Deb, who have been keeping an eye out for spot fires.

If you are interested in following what happens to Rosedale, here is a comprehensive Twitter feed. With thanks to Associate Professor Gemma Carey for carrying the burden.

29 December 2019 / leggypeggy

Start the day with a Changing of the Guards

Chiang Kai-Shek Memorial Hall, Taipei, Taiwan

The Chiang Kai-Shek Memorial Hall overlooks Liberty Square

Main entrance gate, Liberty Square, Taipei Taiwan

Main entrance gate

A full-on ceremony is great way to start a day, so on our first morning in Taipei we headed off to the National Chiang Kai-Shek Memorial Hall.

The complex surrounds Liberty Square and includes the hall itself, grand entrance gates, magnificent gardens, the National Theatre, the National Concert Hall and—drum roll—the hourly Changing of the Guards.

Dancers, National Concert Hall, Taipei Taiwan

Dancers practice on the verandah of the National Concert Hall

Our timing was perfect. After strolling around the grounds and seeing people practicing a dance in front of the Concert Hall, we headed up the steps that led to the main hall. The place was packed.

Within a few minutes and without any announcement, the surging crowd began to drift to the edges of the massive room. That’s when we realised the Changing of the Guards was about to begin. Before long an official and a volunteer (yellow vest) began to extend the barriers. Then, to our amusement, the official straightened the uniforms of the two guards currently on duty.

Chiang Kai-Shek Memorial Hall

Chiang Kai-Shek Memorial Hall

Straightening a uniform

Changing of the Guard, Chiang Kai-Shek Memorial Hall, TaiwanChanging of the Guard, Chiang Kai-Shek Memorial Hall, Taiwan

At 10am sharp, three uniformed men appeared—two new guards and their escort. They marched in slowly and deliberately with arms swinging in precision, knees lifted high, and a fair bit of heel clicking and foot stomping.

When the five guards were lined up in front of Chiang Kai-Shek’s statue, there was more foot stomping and heel clicking, along with several displays of rifle twirling. The whole ceremony lasted 11 minutes.

Changing of the Guard, Taipei Taiwan

A statue of Chiang Kai-Shek overlooks the Changing of the Guards

No doubt it is a great honour to be part of the the Changing of the Guards. The task is rotated among members of Taiwan’s main forces—the Army, Air Force, Navy and Military Police.

About the Memorial Hall
The hall was built to honour President Chiang Kai-Shek, a Chinese nationalist politician, revolutionary and military leader. He led the Republic of China from 1928 to 1975, first in mainland China until 1949 and then in Taiwan until his death.

Designed by architect Yang Cho-cheng, the hall has three platforms, the main hall and the large roof. The 89 steps that lead to the hall represent Chiang’s age when he died. The hall looks out on Liberty Square and the national concert hall and theatre.

The roof is shaped like the Chinese character for person. Its blue colour, along with the white of the hall, depict Taiwan’s national emblem of ‘Blue Sky and White Sun’. Inside, the ceiling shows the emblem.

The bronze statue of Chiang Kai-Shek is 6.3 metres tall and weighs more than 21 tonnes. It was made by Chen Yifan.

The hall includes exhibition spaces and a museum dedicated to Chiang Kai-Shek.

P.S. Not all pics have captions.

Chiang Kai-Shek Memorial Hall, ceiling

Ceiling in the hall

22 December 2019 / leggypeggy

Flower market better than traffic in Taipei

Bougainvillea in Taipei Taiwan

A sea of colourful bougainvillea

Flower market Taipei Taiwan

Plants and gourds to hang

Decorations, Taipei Taiwan flower market

Red decorations

What do you do with a huge expanse of concrete beneath a busy highway overpass in the capital of Taiwan? With a bit of lateral thinking, you can turn it into a popular flower market.

On our first full day in Taipei and, in the absence of rain, we headed off on foot to visit the Jianguo Holiday Flower Market that is open on Saturdays, Sundays and holidays.

Flower market Taipei Taiwan

Edible options

It’s heaven for anyone who loves to garden or who simply wants to brighten their home.

In addition to a wide range of flowers, plants, trees and bonsai, people can buy all the gardening extras. There are plenty of artificial flowers, seeds, gardening tools, soils, pots, fish, pebbles, decorations and more.

Poinsettias in Taipei Taiwan flower market

Tending the poinsettias

Bamboos and more

Bamboo options

Orchids in Taipei, Taiwan

Orchids grow well in this part of the world

Poinsettias—the colourful plant that says Christmas—were widely available. One shop was selling ready-made and custom-made Christmas decorations and bouquets, but we didn’t see any Christmas trees on offer. 

There was a huge temptation to buy something but, of course, we couldn’t take anything living back to Australia. That said, we did buy two sprays of orchids to brighten the apartment where we’re staying. They’ll do for a Christmas tree.

Flower market Taipei Taiwan

Everything in garden supplies

I reckon the market is well worth a visit. It’s open from 9am to 6pm and is located under the Jianguo elevated highway, and between Xinyi and Jianguo South Roads. The Jade Holiday Market is under the next expanse of overpass. We visited that too. Plenty of jade, gems, jewellery, statues, pottery, porcelain, pendants, trinkets and tea items to choose from, but long ago we stopped buying lots of souvenirs.

Bonsai, Flower market Taipei Taiwan

Bonsai in many sizes

Flower market Taipei Taiwan

You can even buy a tree