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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

20 December 2019 / leggypeggy

Off on the next adventure

taipei, taiwan

Taipei, Taiwan (pic from Wikipedia)

In less that two hours we fly off to Taiwan to share a family gathering. Will post as often as possible. But just in case, wishing everyone a wonderful Christmas and great start to 2020.

11 December 2019 / leggypeggy

No, Scott Morrison, my husband does NOT want to be fighting fires this summer!

I have been blogging now for eight years. This is the first time I have ever reblogged someone else’s post. Meg McGowan has written an extraordinary post that exposes the shortcomings of our government (in particular our Prime Minister) as well as some of the hardships, shortages and disadvantages faced by our saintly Australian firefighters. Please take the time to read her post and the comments, and share it as widely as you can.


Update: This post has now had more than 20,000 views. Thank you to everyone that’s sharing it. I wish I’d put this link up before I published. For anyone wanting to donate to the Rural Fire Service, please make a donation directly to your local brigade if you have one. If you don’t have one you can make a donation here:
I’m sorry if I don’t respond to all your messages. I’m sure you understand.


This photo was taken ten hours ago. The man in the middle of the photo in the red braces is my husband, Graham King. He’s fighting fires today as a volunteer. His shift won’t be over for a few more hours.


When I saw this photo, posted by our friend David Glover on our local community page, I briefly had the thought that if anything happens…

View original post 2,085 more words

28 November 2019 / leggypeggy

Fabulous fashions of West Africa


African fashionAfrican fashionAfrican fashionEarlier today I saw an amazing video clip of a fashion show in Africa (link at the bottom of the post). Maybe it was filmed somewhere outside Africa, but the dance, beat, clothing, enthusiasm and energy are all African.

A while back someone asked me about the fashions I saw in Africa, so I thought it was about time to share some pics. All these photos were snapped in West Africa in the first quarter of this year. The pics were taken from Ghana to Senegal. I have heaps more pics of fashion, but I hope these will suffice for now.

African fashion

The fashions cover both women’s and men’s clothing (only one of those). I was rarely able to ask people to pose for a pic so these were usually taken ‘on the fly’.

I so wish I could pull off one of these outfits. Do you have a favourite style or colour?

African fashion African fashion African fashion African fashion African fashion

African fashion


19 November 2019 / leggypeggy

Showcasing plants that thrive in difficult locations

Sturt's Desert Pea, Port Augusta, South Australia's floral emblem

Sturt’s Desert Pea

Australian Arid Lands Botanic Garden

Landscape at the Australian Arid Lands Botanic Garden

Our recent road trip to and around South Australia included a mixed bag of sights. The primary attraction was a week-long tour to Lake Eyre and environs (coming soon), but there was a lot more to enjoy such as the Marree Man and Mutonia Sculpture ParkMutonia Sculpture Park.

Another unexpected treat was a visit to the remarkable Australian Arid Lands Botanic Garden. Located in Port Augusta (about a four-hour drive north of Adelaide), the garden is proof that the desert can grow and create beauty.

Pink Mulla Mulla, Port Augusta

Ptilotus exaltatus, pink mulla mulla

Acacia papyrocarpa, western myall,

Acacia papyrocarpa, Western Myall,

Eremophila, Native Fuchsia, Australian Arid Lands Botanic Garden

Eremophila, Native Fuchsia

It’s worth noting that Australia’s arid zone ecosystems are fragile, complex and occur nowhere else on earth. This garden receives an average of 300mm (12 inches) or less of rain each year. Developers put a lot of thought into choosing plants—from Australia and overseas—that would thrive and survive under these circumstances.

One of the garden’s aims is to promote flora that suits the region. To help people choose plants that are waterwise and more suitable for the climate, the garden features six AridSmart Display Gardens. These are the Desert Garden, the Mallee Garden, the Arid Courtyard Garden, the Eremophila Courtyard Garden, the Flinders Ranges Garden, and the Coastal Garden.

Once established, the plants in the Desert and Coastal Gardens require no additional watering. Plants in the other four gardens require between 7,000 and 23,000 litres of water per year, compared to a traditional home garden with lawn that needs about 100,000 litres of water per year. See my note at the bottom about the catastrophe of Australia’s main water system.

AridSmart Display Garden, Port August, South Australia

One of the AridSmart Display Gardens

AridSmart plants can be purchased in the garden’s gift shop and are:
• exclusive to the Australian Arid Lands Botanic Garden
• sourced from the country’s most remote arid regions
• selected for beauty, vigour, toughness and reliability
• tolerant of a range of soil types and climatic conditions
• hardened for 2 to 8 months in temperatures up to 47°C (116.5°F)

Spiny daisy (Acanthocladium dockeri), Port August, South Australia

The rare spiny daisy

The garden also has a rare plant collection. I was surprised to learn that Australia has almost 25% of the world’s rare and threatened plant species. One of the rare plants is the spiny daisy (Acanthocladium dockeri). Samples were first collected in 1860 by the Burke and Wills expedition. It was thought extinct until four sites were discovered in mid-north South Australia in 1999–2000.

Rhodanthe chlorocephala ssp. rosea, Port Augusta, Australian Arid Lands Botanic Garden

Rhodanthe chlorocephala ssp. rosea

Two of my favourites
Sturt’s Desert Pea (Swainsona formosa) is my favourite plant in this garden. It’s pictured at the top and bottom of this post. I love its blood-red and drooping flowers. It is South Australia’s official floral emblem and is named after Charles Sturt, an explorer who led three important expeditions into Australia’s arid interior in the 1800s.


Samphire (Halosarcia spp.) is another favourite. I first learned about this chenopod about 10 years ago. Samphire and its relatives are a versatile source of food and medicine. It grows in sand and saline conditions, and is extremely drought tolerant. We should be making more use of it.

Boronia crenulata, Port Augusta, Australian Arid Lands Botanic Garden

Boronia crenulata, Aniseed boronia

A bit of background
The garden was designed by landscape architect, Grant Henderson. It was established in 1993 and officially opened in 1996, but the idea for it dates back to 1981. That’s when local parks and gardens superintendent, John Zwar, proposed a garden to promote and conserve plants that could thrive in the city’s arid conditions. City Council accepted the proposal and set aside the current 250-hectare coastal site.

In 1984, an active ‘friends’ group was formed to promote the garden, seek funds and lobby for its development. In 1988, a management advisory committee was formed. Things really began to take shape in the 1990s with a master plan, major infrastructure development and plantings.

More about Australia’s main water system
Friend and fellow blogger, Tony, has researched and written a comprehensive post on the catastrophe that is taking place in our vital water system—the Murray–Darling Basin. I highly recommend this post. You can find it here.

Another article says that Australia may have lost up to 90% of its waterbirds.

Sundew, sculpture by Warren Pickering, Port Augusta

Sundew, sculpture by Warren Pickering

Groundcover of Sturt's Desert Pea

Groundcover of Sturt’s Desert Pea

1 November 2019 / leggypeggy

Sculpture in the middle of nowhere

Rust in peace, a make-believe bomb.

A make-believe bomb.

Metal sculpture

Too much dieting?

Our recent road trip in central Australia included some weird, wonderful and unexpected treats. I’ve already introduced you to the mysterious Marree Man. Now it’s time for the brilliantly weird and creative Mutonia Sculpture Park.

Created by Robin Cooke, this artistic oasis is an amazing collection of industrial junk turned into clever sculptures. The largest and tallest is of a dog. Its body is a derelict water tank, while the head and tongue are an old Chrysler. I didn’t have enough time to walk up and get a close-up of the dog, but you get the idea. Cooke wanted to call it Dottie the Dingo, but the locals have tagged it the Big Dog.

The Big Dog in the Australia outback

The Big Dog, made of a water tank and an old Chrysler

Old planes on their tails

Two old planes and our van in the background

Before turning to art, Cooke spent 20 years as a mechanic in Victoria. In 1997, he downed those tools and came to the desert in remote South Australia to create his first sculpture. Apparently he returns every year to add another masterpiece. I’ve read that the original work was a bit of an anti-mine protest by indigenous landowners.

Musical sculpture

Musical sculpture

Giant wildflower sculpture

Giant wildflower sculpture

Time Tree sculpture

Time Tree sculpture

The park is located on the Oodnadatta Track. It’s near Alberrie Creek—population 2—and about a two-hour drive west of Marree. Once upon a time, the area was a railway siding for The Ghan, the famous train that does a 54-hour run between Adelaide and Darwin. About 40 years ago, the railway was moved west to avoid floodplains.

Here’s an entertaining five-minute video about the park and Cooke. It’s from a TV episode done by the ABC’s Stateline program in South Australia.

26 October 2019 / leggypeggy

Expensive visas, clever watch repair (x2) and cheap food (x2)

Senegal Consulate in Sierra Leone

Senegal Consulate in Sierra Leone

Earlier this year, our West African travels were supposed to end in Freetown, Sierra Leone. We had hoped to carry on as far as Dakar in Senegal, but when we first booked there was only one seat available. Along the way, one passenger decided not to continue beyond Liberia, so we claimed the now-available two seats.

But this presented a problem. We didn’t have visas for Senegal. Pity we didn’t get them on spec in Ghana when they were available overnight and for free.

Electrical sign

Poor John versus Blessed John

Rumour (meaning someone’s blog post) said we could get visas at the border—for a bribe of about US$50 per person. But that’s a risky approach. Rumour also said there was a Senegalese Consulate in Freetown.

So Poor John and I set out to find this consular office. Neither address given online was right, but white tourists stand out in Black Africa and locals are willing to help. A guard in front of the Gambian Embassy (near the second wrong address) pointed us in the right direction.

People think of embassies and consulates as palatial places, but many are quite basic. The Senegalese one in Freetown was the latter. A dark, rundown building, with a simple sign over the door and a watch repair stall out the front. I wish I’d taken a pic inside.

Upstairs, we were greeted by two men, who assured us that we could have visas. ‘Fill out the paper work and come back tomorrow,’ one said. Suddenly, a third man arrived and he was the consul. Yes, yes, he could provide the visas on the spot. ‘Just pay US$200.’

Poor John said, ‘But the visas are supposed to be free!’

I can’t describe the raucous laughter that spilled out of all three men. Heads thrown back and enormous hahahas. The consul said, ‘This isn’t an embassy, this isn’t a charity, it’s voluntary.’ So we paid. But we got off easy. I had US$100 and US$70 worth of Sierra Leone currency—and they accepted that. Yay, a discount!

Watch repair, Sierra Leone

Would you trust this guy to fix your watch? I would!

Watch repair
On our way out of the consulate, Poor John stopped at the watch repair stall to see if the fellow could fix his watch. He’d had it repaired in Monrovia, Liberia, but it still didn’t work.  It took the fellow about five seconds to determine that a spent battery (he touched the old one to his tongue) had been installed. He replaced it, charged $3 and off we went.

By then, it was almost 2pm and we were super hungry. We headed back to the hotel on foot and passed a very basic restaurant. It had one dish on offer. Rice, fish and something green. It cost about $3 for the two of us.

Watch repair revisited
The next day my watch stopped illuminating in the dark. I love this feature because it lets me know the time in the middle of the night. It happened once before and I got it fixed in India. Back then a fellow fiddled a bit and replaced some part and it worked beautifully.

So we returned to the watch ‘repair shop’ for a second service. He took the back off the watch, fiddled a bit, didn’t replace anything and handed it back to me. I stepped into the dark, rundown building and saw that the glow had been restored.

‘What do I owe?’ I asked, and he said $3. ‘But that’s what you charged us yesterday to replace a battery. Today you didn’t add a battery or anything?’

And he said, ‘I just used my brain.’ I smiled and paid. And we walked back to the cheap restaurant for another meal of rice, fish and something green.

Simple food in Sierra Leone

Simple food in Sierra Leone

18 October 2019 / leggypeggy

Contemporary Indonesian artworks on display

Gazing on Collective Memory by FX Horsono, 2016

Gazing on collective memory by FX Harsono, 2016

Art as purifying dialogue (Seni penjernih dialog) by Tisna Sanjaya, 2019

1. Art as purifying dialogue (Seni penjernih dialog) by Tisna Sanjaya, 2019

Back in June, four of us visited this exhibition, Contemporary Worlds: Indonesia, being shown at the National Gallery of Australia. I meant to write about at the time, but then we travelled extensively.

Just today I noticed that this exhibition closes in nine days, so I thought I’d better get something posted.


The arts in modern Indonesia have been affected by three periods. It flourished under the enlightened policies of President Sukarno (1945–65). But the regime of General Suharto (1966–98) was brutal, oppressive, right-wing and corrupt. His New Order dictatorship had a devastating impact on artists, the intelligentsia, ethnic Chinese, the environment and the whole of Indonesia’s social fabric. The years since 1998 are known as the Reformasi (reformation) era.

Ladies and gentleman! Kami, present Ibu Pertiwi!, 2018 by Zico Albaiquni

Ladies and gentleman! Kami, present Ibu Pertiwi!, 2018 by Zico Albaiquni

This show is a selection of art from the Reformasi era, which has seen a freeing up in thinking and liberties across many topics that are important to this huge South East Asia country and one of Australia’s closest neighbours. The exhibit has 54 pieces by 24 Indonesian artists who have been working since the fall of President Suharto.

The first pic in this post is by 70-year-old FX Harsono. He is the senior artist at the exhibition. Most of the other exhibitors are quite young.

Shelters by Albert Yonathan Setyawan, 2018

3. Daughter Libby strolls between Shelters (floor installation) and Mind the gap.

1001st island—the most sustainable island in archipelago by Tita Salina

4. 1001st island—the most sustainable island in archipelago by Tita Salina, 2015

Indonesian neon visual art

5. Neon work by Uji ‘Hahan’ Handoko Eko Saputro and Adi ‘Uma Gumma’ Kusuma, 2018–19

Below, I have added notes about five pieces. The captions don’t let me include enough information. The numbers let you know how images and explanation connect. 

Family portraits

Indonesian family portrait series by Akiq AW, 2017

1. Art as purifying dialogue (Seni penjernih dialog) is displayed at the entry to the exhibition. It was specially commissioned for Contemporary Worlds: Indonesia.

2. This dress is composed of many ceramic panels. Created by Mella Jaarsma in 2013, the piece is titled The Landscaper. Every panel shows a rural scene of Indonesia. The lefthand photo shows the dress and a video (in the background) with someone dancing in the dress. Totally captivating.

3. Shelters is by Albert Yonathan Setyawan, 2018–19. Mind the gap is by Faisal Habibi, 2015.

4. 1001st island—the most sustainable island in archipelago by Tita Salina has been created out of plastic waste fished out of Jakarta Bay. It is held together with fishing net. The video in the background shows plastic being gathered and then shows the island being floated in the sea.

5. Silent operation: sign study based on the formula of contemporary (visual) art by Uji ‘Hahan’ Handoko Eko Saputro and Adi ‘Uma Gumma’ Kusuma, 2018–19.

Do you have  favourite piece?

Throw away peace in the garden

Throw away peace in the garden by Eko Nugroho, 2018

Carnival trap, 1 and 2

Carnival trap 1 and 2 by Eko Nugroho, 2018