Tuesday, January 15, 2013

It's a Bright New Year!

Pardon our radio silence. We're back and ready for a new year, with new words ... hopefully more good than bad.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

For the people, by the people

Click image to read the thoughts of an egalitarian gum-muncher ...

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

THIS is a Man's Life? ... Who Knew?!

"Weasels Ripped My Flesh"
Well, that certainly goes a fair way towards explaining why I've had such 
communication problems in my relationships with male human grownups. 

Perhaps, dear reader, this is a rich vein which merits further exploration ...

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

The Power of Poetry: the Pen and the Sword

Can we go on bowing and curtseying to people who are just like ourselves?

We begin to wish that the  Zoo should be abolished; that the royal animals should be given the run of some wider pasturage – a royal Whipsnade.

Will the British Empire survive? Will Buckingham Palace look as solid in 2034 as it does now?

Words are dangerous things remember. 
 A Republic might be brought into being by a poem
- Virginia Woolf in Time and Tide,1st December 1934 (emphasis added)

The video presentation of Heathcote Williams' chillingly eye-opening poem  
Royal Babylon, and its preface by the above quotation, are from http://www.royalbabylon.com/Site/Royal_Babylon.html 

Friday, April 6, 2012

It's a jungle out there

.. and no I don't say this as a bad thing.

I have laboured to surround my house with jungle and finally  - Success! Some snaky friends have given my place the good habitat seal of approval.

Carpet python and carpet - Sussssing out the veranda ...
Here's the proof!

Yep,they're here alright, as the butcher birds and mickey birds often shout out to me: mooching along the verandah for a bit of gecko-gobbling, dropping unexpectedly from a palm frond, darting away when disturbed while having a sip at the frog pond (or snacking on a froglet?) I LOVE it that I'm not someone who's afraid of snakes and that they've chosen to live here!

Cat and dog are cautious in the garden, but they won't come to harm and nor will the snakes. The carpet python and tree snake that I have met are not poisonous, and my animals are trained to leave them be. They can share the garden as long as they like.

Here's a poem written by D. H. Lawrence on our relationship with snakes:


A snake came to my water-trough
On a hot, hot day, and I in pyjamas for the heat,
To drink there.
In the deep, strange-scented shade of the great dark carob-tree
I came down the steps with my pitcher
And must wait, must stand and wait, for there he was at the trough before me.
He reached down from a fissure in the earth-wall in the gloom
And trailed his yellow-brown slackness soft-bellied down, over the edge of
the stone trough
And rested his throat upon the stone bottom,
And where the water had dripped from the tap, in a small clearness,
He sipped with his straight mouth,
Softly drank through his straight gums, into his slack long body,
Someone was before me at my water-trough,
And I, like a second comer, waiting.
He lifted his head from his drinking, as cattle do,
And looked at me vaguely, as drinking cattle do,
And flickered his two-forked tongue from his lips, and mused a moment,
And stooped and drank a little more,
Being earth-brown, earth-golden from the burning bowels of the earth
On the day of Sicilian July, with Etna smoking.
The voice of my education said to me
He must be killed,
For in Sicily the black, black snakes are innocent, the gold are venomous.
And voices in me said, If you were a man
You would take a stick and break him now, and finish him off.
But must I confess how I liked him,
How glad I was he had come like a guest in quiet, to drink at my water-trough
And depart peaceful, pacified, and thankless,
Into the burning bowels of this earth?
Was it cowardice, that I dared not kill him? Was it perversity, that I longed to talk to him?
Was it humility, to feel so honoured?
I felt so honoured.
And yet those voices:
If you were not afraid, you would kill him!
And truly I was afraid, I was most afraid, But even so, honoured still more
That he should seek my hospitality
From out the dark door of the secret earth.
He drank enough
And lifted his head, dreamily, as one who has drunken,
And flickered his tongue like a forked night on the air, so black,
Seeming to lick his lips,
And looked around like a god, unseeing, into the air,
And slowly turned his head,
And slowly, very slowly, as if thrice adream,
Proceeded to draw his slow length curving round
And climb again the broken bank of my wall-face.
And as he put his head into that dreadful hole,
And as he slowly drew up, snake-easing his shoulders, and entered farther,
A sort of horror, a sort of protest against his withdrawing into that horrid black hole,
Deliberately going into the blackness, and slowly drawing himself after,
Overcame me now his back was turned.
I looked round, I put down my pitcher,
I picked up a clumsy log
And threw it at the water-trough with a clatter.
I think it did not hit him,
But suddenly that part of him that was left behind convulsed in undignified haste.
Writhed like lightning, and was gone
Into the black hole, the earth-lipped fissure in the wall-front,
At which, in the intense still noon, I stared with fascination.
And immediately I regretted it.
I thought how paltry, how vulgar, what a mean act!
I despised myself and the voices of my accursed human education.
And I thought of the albatross
And I wished he would come back, my snake.
For he seemed to me again like a king,
Like a king in exile, uncrowned in the underworld,
Now due to be crowned again.
And so, I missed my chance with one of the lords
Of life.
And I have something to expiate:
A pettiness.
Taormina, 1923

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Quickstep: No. 15 in an Occasional Series entitled 'Harmless Hobbies for Mad Old Bags'

The song and dance just keeps on coming in the all-new revitalised Common Shrew.

Here's my kind of woman. She's not going to sit down and shut up.

Good On You, Mathilda, way to go!

Monday, February 20, 2012

I Got Life

Heard this today for the first time in ages. Nothing more to say.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012


I am feeling extremely virtuous having put phase 1 of The Return in  place by going to a 1-hour Zumba class.

I managed to keep up with the class for the entire hour!

The teacher  commented that she saw me smiling so she knew I was having fun .... little did she know that as I wiped the sweat out of my eyes and my sight returned I was able to read the sign in multicoloured letters out the front of the hall.... it said


I couldn't have put it better myself.

This is one of the numbers we do and this is what I look like ....  not (but watch this space!)

The Common Shrew: The Return... no more worms. Now where was I?

Yes, Dear Reader, the Shrew has returned!

She  has fought bravely back, through rain (leaking roof) and shine (skin cancer), dog attacks and domestic insanity, with all its attendant insomnia and penury, not to mention the compensatory consumption of kilos of The Shingle Inn's excellent White Christmas.

But now be warned! 

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Lovely Weather for Frogs!

New life in all the wild weather in Queensland. At least the frogs are happy. (See the post for 29 December 2010.)

The tadpoles are enjoying their daily meal of boiled lettuce, and seem to be coming along nicely, although at different speeds.

Here's a shot of the tadpolarium, complete with toad-proofing and frog launchpad ...
... and here's a finished tree frog, now back happily snoozing somewhere in the showery garden

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Brisbane Floods 2011

Tammy ( Salvation Army) & Rev Tanya (St Catherine's Anglican Church) Middle Park 
tell Wiza she's welcome!
For this and more positive flood stories and pictures go to




Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Brisbane Floods January 11 2011

The river rises

in ones and twos
ahead of the long night
we come to stare at the river
we shrug on
a semblance of science
we toss around heights and peaks
and over-ground flow
to affect a nonchalance
while this greedy
wrong-shaped thing
spreads its bloated sides
towards our homes
in ones and twos we come
to stare at the river
we watch the eddies
and look aside
it isn't wise
to catch the river's eye

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

The Joy of Words

Sadly,  'sconce' and 'anaglypta' are out the window and 'lay-flat fluming' has now been supplanted in my affections by a new piece of terminology, to whit : wippen flange.

As anyone who has labored hard to write a poem about things musical could tell you, (and quite a few people already knew but never mentioned it to me) this is the name of part of the action of a piano.

It appeals as having some potential as a term of abuse.

Apparently I'm not alone in liking these words. Have a look at these covers from what seems to have been a pretty ephemeral magazine - wippen flange covers -  or maybe it was just a construct in the artist's mind? Who knows?

I'd certainly LIKE to know ...

Here is the wippen flange in its natural habitat. Is it just me, or do they look like cute cartoon legs and feet?

'On the left is a classic example of a spinet piano wippen with plastic flange, back check, 
and jack.  This one should have a whole new wippen, not piece meal.'
(I'm glad we cleared that up - TCS)
You can find this at 'Plastic piano parts crisis', in  The Piano Owner's Survival Guide.  which in itself gives a whole new perspective on the term 'crisis'.
Oh, I could go on all day.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Girly Fun : No. 14 in an occasional series entitled 'Harmless Hobbies for Mad Old Bags'.

Bathing belles, including The Shrew's mother, aunts and grandmother, in the 1920s.
Since it is the New Year, The Common Shrew brings you this resolution-worthy 'Harmless Hobby'.

Apparently a traditional value in the Shrew family, having girly fun is in line with such admirable resolves as 'Not Letting Life pass one by', 'Sharing a Smile' and 'Committing Random Acts of Kindness and Senseless Beauty'.

So, to carry us all bravely into 2011, 'Girly Fun' it is.

Oh, and as the photo shows, brave boys can join in too.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Good for the Gardens ....

Today the sky is lightening up a little here in Brisbane, and we are so far not badly affected by floods, so I can take a deep breath and be somewhat philosophical about the recent never ending downpour.

In The Shrew's garden, apart from the frogs mentioned in the previous post (yes, the tadpoles are coming on nicely, thanks)  there are quite a few things that love the rain.

Here are some of them:

the self-sown pumpkin vine,

the ginger curcuma roseoana, with its beautiful velvety leaves, (and the dracaena, behind it)

and the red cage fungus, clathrus ruber, otherwise known as the basket stinkhorn. I found out why it has this name when I took its photo .... . you can see more about this weird and wonderful fungus here.

"I think the true gardener, the older he grows, 
should more and more develop 
a humble, grateful and uncertain spirit."  
~Reginald Farrer, In a Yorkshire Garden, 1909

Sunday, December 26, 2010

The Gift that Keeps On Giving

THE SMILING DONOR : Green Tree Frog, Litoria caerulea  Pavel German  © Australian Museum

Whew, that's Christmas over for another year - apart from the hungry cries of retailers who have forgotten which Dickens book they are supposed to be in. No, sorry,it's not 'Oliver Twist' (please sir I want some more) except that they forgot to say 'please',  but the message of Dickens' 'A Christmas Carol' that they should be keeping in mind.

If you look here you'll find a poem called December 26 about the things that Santa forgot, on the wonderful American Public Media Writer's Almanac page.

But this year my favourite present was a generous dollop of frog-spawn, kindly left for me on Christmas Eve by a visiting frog.

She must have known that my goldfish recently went to the Great Weedy Pond In The Sky ... already I can see the eggs changing from fullstops into tiny commas ...

...  and 'I think there's something in that for all of us, don't you?'

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

All I have to say about Christmas 2010

Holy Meerkat Family!

O.K. I was going to post a photo of a woman having hysterics in a shopping mall,
but I couldn't get anyone to come close enough to hold the camera.

So, anticipating next Year's New Year's resolutions, 
I have resolved to let my nice side shine through. 

So here's the sweetest thing you'll get from me until ... oh, quite some time, probably.

See more meerkats and make them your own at    http://www.etsy.com/shop/niftyknits 

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Something to say: Glenn Gould

I went recently to see 'Genius Within', a moving and profoundly engaging documentary about this fascinating artist.

Despite perhaps reaching less far than his heart-breaking music, his incisive remarks about art certainly merit revisiting by those of us who like to write, among others.

Here's a sample... in this excellent video by pOlyphOny , whose work can be found at http://www.youtube.com/user/p0lyph0ny

Monday, November 8, 2010

Outspoken Australian Woman made a Saint

That's Mary MacKillop, now known as St Mary of the Cross, sculpted by John Elliott in St Stephen's Cathedral, Brisbane.

Not an inappropriate name, given her history and the attempts of perverted and conniving priests to make this courageous and unswerving woman go away - but when did the Catholic Church ever demonstrate any great regard for the work of women or the welfare of children?

Here's what Ynes Sanz wrote about her in  Fanny the Flying Housewife & other stories, 2009.

Two Marys
Mary Helen MacKillop, also known as Saint Mary of the Cross 1842 — 1909

i St Stephen's Cathedral, Brisbane

come away
from the frankincense
and chasubles

in a dim-lit chapel
stone walls chisel-ticked
enclose a stillness

inhale this new scent
calling up old linen
and young women's dreams

behind a rood-screen
of scribbled tree slabs
is a sanctuary

imbued with the spirit
of camphor laurel
one hundred years in growing

a figure looms from a plinth
no-eyes becoming eyes
under your grateful gaze

woman and tree both
wild and problematical
stout beauty at their heart

light a candle for her
and see in its flicker
Mary striding on

ii St Francis' Church Melbourne
For the poet's daughter, artist, 1970 —

Here Friends,
we see the Bless├ęd Mary,
aloft against a creamy ground,
flowers at her feet,
in the niche where we placed her,
waiting for the day
that she becomes a saint.
You may be surprised
at her meek demeanour
and downcast eyes,
but we like to remember
a compliant heart
may be found even
inside a rebel breast.
We see in her statue
a symbol of Women's
Work in worship.
See the fine detail
made by our master sculptor.
Note the work in the gilded crucifix
woodgrained rosary and
simple prayer book
so skilfully painted as if worn with constant use.
What's that you say?
The statue's painter
was a woman?
No I was not aware,
but come, let me show you,
head-high to your right,
another of the Church's
treasured works of art.
© Ynes Sanz 2009