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Mezze is widely served in the Greek and Middle eastern world. An assortment of little dishes and tasters which accompany a nice ouzo or a glass of wine. So when you read mezze moments you will have tasty snippets of life as I live it, India for four years and now Brisbane Australia, all served up with some Greek fervour and passion.

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Sunday, 21 December 2014

Christmas Lights and the Spirit of Christmas

Living in the sub tropics the spirit of Xmas is slightly more elusive, so when I joined a friend on a tour of Christmas Lights in the northern suburbs of Brisbane I was not sure of what to expect and was very pleasantly surprised.
Firstly because the bus we went on sporting the title of “Christmas Lights”, was decorated from top to bottom with garlands, koala bears, snowflakes and tinsel. What a festive bus it was.
Then off we went on the tour of the northern suburbs and the houses and churches we saw were dazzling and expelling an aura of festiveness all around totally in the spirit of the season.To cap it all the lovely visit of a great Santa carrying sweets for everyone. 
Here are a few for you:

 Love the kangaroos and the water dragons and the koalas with the snowman's hat on.
The lovely houses, places of worship, or warm family homes. 
It remains for me to wish you all a very merry Xmas, a wonderful new year, one with more peace and more tranquility for all, more justice and fairness in the world, happiness and health in abundance with some wealth thrown in for good measure. 

Monday, 8 December 2014

Pulled back from extinction

The history of Lord Howe would not be complete if I didn't mention the creatures that they literally saved from extinction. A rather brown, fairly unprepossessing bird called the woodhen - a flightless bird which was endemic to the island. But because it was flightless and because settlement meant the introduction of feral pigs and cats the population of wood hens dropped to about 15 in the 1980s. That is when they started a concerted programme for breeding it in captivity to increase its population and they have done this successfully to the point where woodhens can be seen in the fields and forests now on the island. We found them twice, once in the forest - we had placed a bet of a million euros on who was going to spot one first and I won, and once in the fields- drinks for everyone at the bar next time we meet. 

These mutton birds make burrows in the ground and can be seen almost crash landing at dusk as they come in to feed their young.

But it not just the birds - the Phasmid-a stick insect to you and me that was thought to be extinct in the 1920s and was found on the stack of Ball's Pyramid 23kms from Lord Howe- the highest stack in the Ocean.  They mate for life - the males follow the females around and their life is dictated by what she does. They seem to have the right idea ! Several pairs were bred in Melbourne Zoo and David Attenborough is a fan !

The Sea birds - the Petrels and the Shearwaters, also known as Mutton Birds, the Masked Booby and the Red tailed Tropic bird, I have already blogged about the beautiful terns and then there are the Noddy birds. All plentiful on the islands beaches coming in to lay their eggs and raise their young. 

 The noddies nest in the branches of the big Norfolk pines and have beautiful silvery heads.
The gaily coloured Emerald doves are all over the island.
The fish are plentiful - near you, under you, circling around you. Loved the blue and violet corals, the swishing sea grass, the double headed wrasse, the blue star fish, the angel fish, the tunas, the shimmery sword fish. Didnt love the galapagos sharks that were also swimming round and had the nasty habit of circling round just as you had caught them in the corner of your foggy eye. I was reassured they were "friendly"

The sweet lips that need feeding, the sheer abundance of nature over humans and long may it be that way, makes the island a place of complete sanctuary for all. My story is complete with the finding of the heart urchins, these sand hidden creatures that live a gentle covered life until they are no more and they are washed onto the shore, slowly turn white in the sun to reveal the beautiful stars on their backs a sure sign that Xmas is round the corner. 

Monday, 1 December 2014

Bikes and Hikes

Plentiful on both scores and good fun. The island has a few well frequented roads and even more paths in the pristine forests. The walks are all graded from Class 1-6 so you need to chose them carefully depending on your fitness level. The highest is Mount Gower at 875 metres and then Mt Ligbird at 777 metres.

We decided to go half way up to the Goats House Cave, a Class 4 walk, on Mount Ligbird via Transit Hill with some memorable views of the island - the forests are full of ferns and kentia palms, the biggest banyans I have seen, delicate orchids and wedding lilies- some 86% of the plants are found nowhere else. There is always something to see and admire along the paths, the startling cliffs, the birdlife, the flowers and scents. A pair of currawongs singing sweetly.  

The immense banyans with their aerial roots spreading over huge areas.
We climbed to the forest edge on Mount Ligbird together and C climbed Mount Gower with a walking group the following day. 
The view from where we climbed

For the last part of this walk we relied on ropes to pull ourselves up.

Saturday, 29 November 2014


Everywhere you turn there is a tern.

They have a blog post all of their own, they were so plentiful and colourful on the island. They are sea birds and there are several types. The White Terns love the  low branches of the Norfolk pines that grow tall and majestic on the island. They are easy to see along the road- sides on the branches.

The Sooty terns prefer the beach – don’t blame them, less chance of falling off!
They are black above but white below and just really beautiful and the beaches we walked along were full of the mature adults, the eggs, hatchlings and fledglings and we spent hours just sitting by them on the beach watching them fly out to sea to hunt for food and then return to feed the young. We watched the little chicks make their first brave steps down to the beach and there was one I absolutely loved who found a lump of white coral. It would jump on the coral and sit there, feeling rightly quite proud of its achievement, and then it would hop off, walk around a bit and then hop back on. I captured some of its antics for you.

The fledglings, a completely different plumage from the mature birds were showing signs of maturity by venturing further along the beach, lying in the sun, taking test runs to fly and failing and chasing one another around. Just beautiful to watch. The beaches are safe, there are no predators here to take away the chicks or the eggs – though the rats still exist on the island. 

Thursday, 27 November 2014

A special place

This little island in the middle of the ocean is quite special for a number of reasons – it has faced environmental change, it is self sustaining on a number of levels, it boasts original flora and fauna and it has an interesting history of social equality and an economy that escaped the ravages of the great depression.

The island was discovered by Henry Ligbird Ball in HMS Supply in 1788 and it was named Lord Howe after the First Lord of the Admiralty.
It was first inhabited in 1834 by three families with Maori wives, eventually some more came from the mainland and slowly a thriving little community grew up.  Its population, though diverse now, is largely white and currently numbers about 360. Only 400 tourists are allowed on the island at any one time.

Initially the island was a whaling station but soon that fell into decline and the community started exporting a product that is unique to Lord Howe. The Kentia Palm, a gentle smooth palm which became a great favourite of the Victorian times and was to be found in well to do houses and in hotels. They exported the seeds and set up a cooperative company where men and women and children were issued shares. It flourished and sums of £5000 p.a were distributed evenly and fairly between a few families- an excellent example of redistribution of wealth.

The Museum houses a well documented and well presented history of the island. 

The island prospered, it felt none of the ravages of the Great Depression which gripped the mainland. However by the Second World War the demand for the Kentia Palm had diminished so the islanders had to turn their hand to farming activities. Rats were unintentionally introduced on the island by ships and they ravaged the bird populations so the community put out a reward on rats caught. 0.6pence a rat tail – they would thread them through match box covers to make the counting easier –one cover for every 10 tails.  There was one young girl there who was working in one of the restaurants cooking and washing up, but she confronted her boss and said she wanted a raise because she could make more money catching rats then working for them. The boss had no choice but to give her the raise. A plucky woman’s libber in her day and a great rat catcher!

Technically the island is under the state of New South Wales except that they somehow forgot to include it in their legislation and budgets so for a long time the islanders were unable to gain any title to the land other than a "lease of permanence". Finally in 1955 they passed the Lord Howe Act, giving

the island a high level of self determination. In the 20th Century tourists visited the island for its natural beauty. It has no snakes, no venomous or stinging insects nor any large sharks, though I swam with quite a few Galapagos sharks which I found a little unnerving, though I was told they wont attack.  
In 1982 it was listed as a Unesco World Heritage site and you will understand why when I share some of its joys with you.Only 2 and ½ % remains above sea level – the bits below so magnificent that every little inch counts. 

Monday, 24 November 2014

Lord Howe Island

No mobile network, no Wifi, no street lights to talk of, no seat belts necessary as the speed limit is 25kms per hour, no buses, not much traffic, except bikes. Not much happens after 9pm but by then tourists and locals alike have been well fed and looked after and are all ready for bed, on this small but almost perfectly formed island, the eroded remnant of a volcano that erupted from the top of the Tasman Sea some 7 million years ago.

Now a mere 2 1/2% remains above sea level and for an island that is at its narrowest 0.3 kms wide and approx. 10 kms long you might well wonder what on earth there is to do or where to go.

Out into the wide ocean, widely differing in what it has to offer, up the mountains, the cliffs and the forests, spotting the birds, the eggs and fledglings and counting the stars because this is where they are brightest. 

So if you think you like what you see come back to hear the adventures and see the pictures.