Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Caviar Back on the Menu

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Yes, champion race mare Black Caviar is shortly to resume her racetrack career on 16th February in the Black Caviar Lightning Stakes, a race she has won twice before -  in 2011 and 2012.

But before that happens she will be making a special appearance next Saturday at Caulfield Racetrack in an exhibition gallop.  I intend to be there to see her, even though the race card is not all that interesting.

The first Group One race of the Autumn racing season is the  CF Orr Stakes , only a little over a week away, so my interest is piqued once more, in anticipation of the thrills to come.

Last Saturday, watching the races online, I experienced one of those WOW moments when South Australian filly Miracles of Life blitzed her rivals in Black Caviar fashion in the fillies version of the Blue Diamond Preview.


A flashy chestnut 2 year old filly, Miracles of Life has had three runs for three wins, and has won her races by large margins, so looks as if she could be the superstar of the autumn. She is hot favourite for the Blue Diamond Stakes, not surprisingly, and could well win it.

Check out the video below of her win in the Blue Diamond Preview at Caulfield last Saturday. Her first two races are also available for viewing on YouTube.

Will report back on my Saturday outing next week, hopefully with photos of the grand lady of the turf, i.e. Black Caviar.

Cat Politics Update - Detente

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Talya has now been with us for a week and she has settled in very well showing no inclination to return to her old digs. In fact she’s gone quite feral, reverting from an indoor cat to an outdoor cat in a very short time. She appears to enjoy the garden (both back and front) and spends most of her time in it. It must be a reaction to her years of confinement, as she is very insistent in getting out and about and communing with Mother Nature.

She even worked out how to open the back sliding door. It’s a great heavy thing, but the frame is not square, so there is a gap where a resourceful and intelligent pussycat can insert a paw and lever the door open to a width which allows escape. I kept wondering why the sliding door, which I was sure was closed, was always slightly open, until I twigged that Talya was doing it. B didn’t believe me when I told him -until he caught the cat the act. She’s a deep one is Talya.

As for the relationship between Willy and Talya, it is in a state of detente. They’re not fighting, but appear to be keeping a distance between them. Willy will deliberately lie in Talya’s path, so she either has to edge past him or go the long way around, and Talya has taking to stalking Willy from behind, much to his obvious annoyance.

It’s early days yet, and it may take several months for the cats to relax completely in each other’s company. We wait and see.

Friday, January 25, 2013

The New Republic of Cats Gets a Princess


The Cat Politics domicile has acquired another cat. You may recognise her as Talya, the Russian Princess who I had the pleasure of attending last year during the house renovations. Her owners have been feeling guilty about the time they spend away on their own pursuits, leaving Talya to the tender mercies of a cattery.  It seems that Talya has spent more time at the cattery than in her home, hence their concern for the cat’s welfare.

They asked, and we agreed to adopt Talya and she moved in last Tuesday.  This of course has changed the dynamics of the cat situation. Not only does poor old Willy have to contend with the cats next door, who seem to treat our backyard as their second home, he now has to put up with a home invasion by a strange cat. 

So far no blood has been shed, but there have been growls and hisses, as the cats have come face to face.  Fortunately Talya is a very sweet natured cat and seems more curious about Willy than afraid or aggressive. He is rather more apprehensive, but after several days of co existence, appears to be mellowing slightly or resigned to sharing his home turf.

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Talya has chosen to hang out in the spare room on top of the bookcase (see top photo). She climbs up there via her climbing frame which accompanied her when she moved in, along with her other accoutrements – kitty litter and tray. blanket , food bowls, toys, cat food etc. She has settled in well and appears calm and happy.

For the first few days we didn’t let her outside as every time we did she slid under the gate and headed for her former home two doors up.  Fortunately she has got over this and is content to stay in the front garden and explore its delights. She even ventured under the house this afternoon, and we were a bit apprehensive when Willy followed her under there. They both emerged eventually, covered in cobwebs but
unperturbed  She won’t go into the backyard yet, and is unaware of the cat door and how it functions. She is after all used to being an indoor cat.

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The above photo is of the prodigal Monty, who is regularly seen in the backyard. He’s extremely friendly and runs up to be patted if you call him. He and Willy maintain a cautious distance from each other, but exhibit no aggression. 

When I shot the above photo of Monty, he was lounging in the carport, while Willy relaxed on the “lawn”, which due to the current drought is now brown and sere.

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There’s never a dull moment when you are surrounded by cats, and cat politics is a  life study that continues to fascinate and engross this observer.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Butterflies & Flight Behaviour

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The above butterfly is a dingy or dainty swallowtail, which I spotted browsing on the miniature irises in the front garden. It obligingly remained still while I photographed it. I don’t know why it is called dingy as it’s quite a pretty butterfly, slightly larger than the common white cabbage butterflies that are often seen flitting around the garden.

Anyway, I took the photo as it coincided with the book I was currently reading, Barbara Kingsolver’s splendid new novel Flight Behaviour, which, among other things, is about butterflies, the Monarch Butterfly in particular.

I  finished the novel the other morning and found it to be an engrossing and very enjoyable read, as good as any of Barbara Kingsolver’s earlier works.

In this book she returns to a rural location, in Southern Appalachia where not surprisingly Kingsolver lives, and sets the scene around a freak of nature, the massing of monarch butterflies where they have never massed before.

kingsolver_flight behaviour

Dellarobia Turnbow is the engaging heroine of this tale, shot gun married to the boy who got her pregnant at 17, mother of two young children, living with her husband Cub on his family’s  sheep farm, with very few options for escape, hogtied to the dreary sameness of her life.

The novel opens with Dellarobia, who is prone to infatuations with men other than her husband,  on her way to finally consummate one such sexual attraction up on the mountain above her house. She is stopped from throwing away her reputation by the sight of the monarch butterflies, massing in millions up there -  a veritable sea of fire that strikes her so profoundly that she forgoes her assignation and returns home. Because she is short sighted she doesn’t recognise the butterflies as such, but sees instead a vision of  unearthly beauty.

It turns out to be an anomaly in the butterflies behaviour, the monarchs missing their normal migration location in Mexico to come together in Tennessee.

Flight Behaviour is a novel bearing a powerful message about global warming, and it is also a portrait of an isolated rural community, to whom aberrations in weather are seen as an act of god. It is more than that of course, the title of the novel refers to more than butterflies.

Dellarobia is not typical of the community she inhabits,  a religious sceptic with a rebellious streak and a lively intellect that is wasted in the life she is obliged to live.

The arrival of scientist Dr Ovid Byron to investigate the butterfly phenomenon, changes both Dellarobia’s life and that of her young son Preston.  They are both intellectually stimulated by the study of the insects and enlightened to the fate of the world in the wake of climate change.

I’ve always thought that Barbara Kingsolver creates wonderful male characters, and Ovid Byron is one of her best, charismatic and attractive, an intelligent man dedicated to his subject of study – Monarch butterflies. 

The novel is filled with marvellous scenes and set pieces, from the evangelical reaction to the butterfly phenomenon starring Dellarobia as its discoverer, though she never lets on how she came to know about the butterflies; to scenes in second hand stores where, being poor, the Turnbow family are obliged to shop, and Dellarobia’s brush with fame through a media coverage that goes viral on the internet, where she is dubbed the Venus of the Butterflies.

The tone of the novel is alternately wry and serious, the writing witty and lyrical and of course informed by Barbara Kingsolver’s lucid intelligence.

Flight Behaviour is already my favourite read for 2013, and it will take a really special book to knock it off the top of the list. Of Barbara Kingsolver’s earlier books, Flight Behaviour reminded me most of Prodigal Summer, a novel I reread regularly it being a big favourite of mine. It is also set in a backwoods rural community and also deals with environmental issues.

Tuesday, January 01, 2013

Welcome 2013

I always feel optimistic on the first day of the brand new year, speculating on the unknown events that will shape 2013 for me.  I’m not actually anticipating anything in particular at the moment other than the resumption of Group One racing in a month’s time, and particularly the return of Black Caviar to the turf, in February perhaps.

black-caviar-bookBetween Christmas and New Year I read the Black Caviar book, which a friend kindly gave me for Christmas. I suppose it’s not the sort of book everyone would read and enjoy, but as I have a passion for horse racing, I  found it a cosy and comfortable read. It’s actually well written and captures the atmosphere and excitement that surrounded each of Black Caviar’s 22 winning runs on the racing circuit. Having been there in person for four of them, my memories of each occasion concur with the author’s (Gerard  Whateley) recollections.  As the subtitle of the book says, Black Caviar is the horse of a lifetime, and I feel privileged to have been part of it as a spectator and commentator (in my blog) – witnessing history as it happens so to speak.

On the Cat Politics side of things, there has been no argy bargy between the cats next door and Willy.  Both Monty and Willy appear to eschew aggression and have not come to blows on any occasion, for which we are thankful.

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The above photo was taken just the other day. Willy is sitting on the new Persian rug which I purchased a few months ago.  It’s not a real Persian Rug, but a machine made copy of an ancient Pazyryk Rug which was found in Mongolia in 1949. It had been buried in ice for over 2500 years and is the oldest rug in existence, dating back to the 5th century BC.  The story behind the rug captivated me, and as I really liked the rug’s design, it wasn’t hard to choose this rug over all the others on show at the Rug shop.

Here’s a photo of part of the rug in all its glory – horses, deer and griffins.

pazyryk_rug_detail (Large)

It is now two years since I quit the workforce, and I must admit retirement isn’t bad and far preferable to getting up every morning for the daily commute to the office. I occasionally run into people I knew at work and they say the Department’s gone to the dogs in the last few years, what with the Baillieu  Government cutting services and such.

Anyway, Happy New Year everyone! Let’s hope for  love, peace, happiness and Woodstock nation for the world, though that doesn’t look likely.