Your pretty pussycat is a killer.

Everyone knows this of course, but the numbers are staggering. Feral cats in Australia are killing 377 million birds and 649 million lizards a year (see this article from ABC news). At this rate we will lose all reptiles and ground-dwelling birds in Australia well before the turn of the next century. And if your pretty pussycat roams at night (and often during the day), it too turns feral during those hours and contributes to those extraordinary statistics.

Animal, nature, and landscape photographers are automatically greenies. Sorry, the instant you press that shutter release you’ve joined the club. For who can worship at the altar of Gaia (as we do when we capture those amazing images) and fail to be at least a little passionate about saving what is left.

So, if you own a cat and can’t bear to drown it, I exhort you to turn it into an indoors cat only.  Yes, cats can happily live indoors. They were not meant to roam the Australian countryside (or urban scapes).*

At this point I must disclose I quite like cats, and owned one when living in an apartment in Alexandria, Virginia. As an indoor cat only. Except when he escaped. Or ambushed my bare feet on the stairs from behind the balustrade as he sometimes did, in which case I threw him out and went to find the Dettol.

Polorization and Refugees

Photographers of course know all about polorization. Technically, polorization is the result of forcing transverse light waves to oscillate in one plane only, or if one wants to REALY complicate the whole damn thing in a quantum sort of way, polorization is the production of linearly polarized waves consisting of equal numbers of right and left hand spinning photons, with their phase synchronized so they superpose to give oscillation in a plane. There you go.

Actually we better know it as a gizmo that you screw on the front of your lens and rotate, to remove glare, and make blue sky, white clouds and green leaves REALY pop.

So what has this got to do with the refugee debate? Not a lot, except that the issue of refugees tends to polarize people into 2 camps; those that say our humanity demands we accept as many as we can, and those that say that limiting refugee (and immigration) numbers or nationality is necessary to maintain our social cohesion. And myself? Well, being a pragmatic liberal Libran, I fall somewhere in the middle of the see-saw, with the occasional sortie off to the left, when Pauline Hanson gets out of hand (which is every time she opens her mouth) or another fatality occurs on Manus.

But I am left breathless by the scale of the human diaspora created by the current conflict in the Middle East. In Syria alone, 6.6 million people have been displaced, with 3.3 million of these now in Turkey. Try absorbing that amount into your community. Australia has taken 6000 Syrian refugees since mid 2017. And speaking of, check out the following good news story.

One more point of interest. There is strong evidence that climate change contributed to this situation. Syria experienced the worst drought in probably 900 years (based on tree ring analysis), causing 75% of Syria’s farms to fail and 85 percent of livestock to die between 2006 and 2011 (according to the UN). The social displacement reached a tipping point in 2011 at the start of the Arab spring. The Conversation is a little more balanced about the relation between conflict and climate, but does state “economic struggles stemming from drought vulnerability, the loss of subsidies and the loss of agricultural wages contributed to widespread dissatisfaction with the government. And it was this dissatisfaction which served as a rallying cry to unite people in opposition.” There you go. Malcolm, you better look after our farmers in NSW and Queensland! (although fortuitously there are slightly less than 6.6million, and kalashnikovs are not widely available in Australia).

The Colour Purple

Speaking of PURPLE, what an extraordinary wine-dark, amethyst, heliotropic, not really magenta, definitely not pink, somewhat to the left of violet, licorice-hued velvety-vivacious color it is. Purple commonly represents royalty, wisdom, passion, poison, hope, contrition and homosexuality, amongst other things. It’s very difficult to reproduce digitally and get out of linen tablecloths. It’s the color of an eggplant; the color of an abused black women’s bruised face; this is where Alice Walker’s troubled novel of 1930 black female struggle derived its name. It’s been used to describe pretentious literature and an almost undeserved run of luck. There’s nothing Pastel about Purple – like Alex’s fatal attraction, it will not be ignored.

Lamb Stew Casserole with a hint of North Africa

Once upon a time, the following recipe was born. Chop up very chunkily and with spirit a whole bunch of carrots, celery and onions until you have a goodly pile on the board (a goodly pile is somewhat larger than a pitsy-pat but not quite as much as to overflow onto the floor; come on get your kitchen measurements together). Take your beautiful Italian cast iron cooking pot, you know the one with the bright orange base, and sauté the vegies at low temperature in a generous pool of olive oil in which you have tempered a sizeable smidgen of my secret North African spices mix**.

Meanwhile, chunkily chop up ½ a kilo or so of shoulder lamb (the meat from the legs doesn’t have enough fat for succulent slow-cooking, so don’t use this or I will find you and you don’t want to know what will happen next). Bag this with more than enough plain flower and a generous smidgen my secret North African spices mix**, and shake, baby, shake. Swap the vegetables in the pot for the meat and brown, baby, brown. (if you burn, baby, burn I will again find you and…..).

Mix all constituents together with several generous dollops of tomato paste, in fact to hell with it, add the whole container; a not-insufficient spurgle of a bright white wine (A NZ sav blanc is perfect), and some soy to season. Add a sprinkling of dried mediterranean herbs. Fill a glass with the remaining wine, and dance round the kitchen in celebration of getting this far.

Place in a heated oven for at least 3 hours at 150 degrees, and slowly allow the magic to happen. Half an hour before the finish, take a goodly blodge of swiss brown buttons, and forcibly brown them to golden grandeur in salted butter. Add these to the mix about 15 minutes before you wish to serve. Plate up, serve with roasted rosemary baby potatoes and whatever steamed green vegetable rings your chimes.

** my secret North African spice mix is simple – cumin, cloves, cardamom, a little cinnamon, black pepper and a little ground chilli. If you can find advieh, use this but add a little chilli.