Saturday, September 22, 2007

The Southern Marsupial Mole (itjari-itjari)

Ok, it's been a long time, and under those circumstances I always seem to end up obsessing about animals...

Here’s a quote from a website:

“The marsupial mole is found in the central deserts of southern Northern Territory, northern and east-central Western Australia and western South Australia.”

So that’s clear, then.

In terms of their continued survival, man is not a real problem for the mole these days, although apparently there are some issues with “soil compaction caused by stock movement and vehicles”. In other words, they sometimes get trampled on or run over and squashed. It must be disheartening for the moles to realise that they’re going to end up as road kill even if they stay underground.

In the past things were different; there are records of thousands of mole pelts being traded between 1900 and 1920 in deals struck between Aboriginals and European cameleers which, no doubt, followed the traditional pattern of such deals - the Europeans got the moleskins and a few hundred thousand acres of ancestral lands and the Aboriginals in return each got two pairs of cheap calico trousers and smallpox.

As burrowers go, the moles are not particularly hard-core, tunnelling only 10cm below the surface and coming up to have a look around fairly frequently. Well, not a look around, exactly, as their eyes are vestigial and they have no optic nerves. Presumably they have just enough time to sniff the air for a split-second with their small, slit-like nostrils before being torn limb from limb by the foxes, dingos and cats which they don’t hear creeping up on them because of their lack of external ears.

A further dubious evolutionary development is that the marsupial mole’s pouch faces backwards, to prevent it scooping up sand and bringing the animal to a shuddering and undignified halt. Whether or not this rear-facing arrangement also results in the mole leaving a trail of little tiny pink mole babies, jettisoned and squealing, in its wake when at full throttle is anybody’s guess, but it would make perfect sense to me if it did. (It would explain the “endangered” sticker, that’s for sure.)

There are photographs of these things, and, trust me, they aren’t pretty. It’s always reassuring that creatures whose noses are “horny shields” and whose hands have become “scoops equipped with spade-like claws” tend to be on the small side, rather than there being the possibility that some hellish creature the size of a small rhinoceros is going to gouge its way up through the patio and join you in the hot tub.

Mutual Interests

It’s always interesting to return to my homeland, which regular visitors to this site might possibly remember I regard with a mixture of amusement, horror and disbelief. Ninety percent of the population are bad-tempered, slow-witted hicks and the other ten percent are Eastern European immigrants who failed to do their homework properly and are frantically trying to earn the money for a ticket out of the place.

Anyway, on a light-hearted note I thought you'd be interested to know that the Belfast Telegraph has a "lonely hearts" page which is divided into three sections: "Men Seeking Women", "Women Seeking Men", and "Mutual Interests", where gays have to mix it with pot-holers, model railway enthusiasts and socially inept men with beards who work in I.T. and want to get together at weekends to re-enact the Battle of Naseby.

However, as we're talking about Northern Ireland here I suppose we should just be grateful that there isn’t a section labelled "Homos".

On a more encouraging note, on a visit to the village where I grew up I noticed that someone had taken the time to alter the sign for LESSANS ROAD so that it read LESBIANS ROAD, so there might be some hot action going on out in the sticks.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Creating A Monster

Well, once again it’s been over a month since I posted anything on here, and I’m a little ashamed. Not abject, but a little disappointed with myself. In some ways it would be worse if my readership extended further than a cynical curmudgeon from Iowa, a pert-breasted nymphet trapped in the body of a portly Welsh accountant and a very small lady writer with a bad attitude, but they are loyal, if infrequent, visitors and I really should make more of an effort.

I’ve just spent a week in Ireland, trying to persuade my mother to allow a measure of helpful technology into her life. She’s eighty-seven, and physically a little frail, although she still lives alone and manages to do her own housework. On this visit I noticed there were a lot of cobwebs on the ceilings, but I reckon that’s bound to happen if you’re both short-sighted and four-foot ten in height. Mentally, she’s still in pretty good shape. She repeats herself a lot, and forgets things, but then I’ve been like that myself since I was thirty.

My mother is also becoming a bit deaf. “DO YOU KNOW, DAVID,” she bellows “I DON’T THINK MY HEARING’S AS GOOD AS IT WAS.”

“Well”, I say, “at your age you have to exp-“

“WHAT DO YOU THINK? DO YOU THINK MY HEARINGS NOT AS GOOD AS IT WAS?” she roars, not realising that I’ve said anything.


“Oh.” She says quietly, looking crestfallen, and I have a sudden surge of sadness at the ageing process and the way it will ultimately turn us all into creatures who are figures of fun at best, and, at worst, a bloody nuisance to our families. (Our friends, of course, will still love us as they’ll be just as deaf, daft, drugged and incontinent as we are, so make sure you keep in touch.)

I had a long list of things to do, or rather to persuade my mother to do, but after a day or two I realised none of it was going to happen. Old people don’t like change, especially those, like my mother, who come from a background where money was always tight. They don’t like splashing out on luxury items like living-room windows which keep the draughts out, washing machines that work properly, and TV sets which don’t have to be slapped firmly on the right-hand-side every ten minutes to rid the screen of scrolling horizontal lines.

So I gave up on everything except for the mobile phone I’d bought her for Christmas, which my daughter had spent a full day teaching her to use, and which, inevitably, had been back in its box since December 28th.

It took five days. Five days of being shouted at and shouting back. I don’t know if you’ve ever had to try to explain something slowly, calmly and gently at the volume you’d use to stop a stray dog from crapping on your lawn, but let me tell you, it’s exhausting. Because mobiles look a little like TV remotes it took a full day to persuade my mother not to hold the phone out in front of her, pointed vaguely towards the corner of the room.


Actually it wasn’t that bad. Well, it was, but I didn’t swear and she didn’t cry. And it worked so well that while I was in the airport waiting for my flight home my mother used her mobile to call me four times. Once while I was checking in, once while I was having a pee, once while I was, at the insistence of the security staff, removing my belt and shoes, and once while I was sitting in the bar trying to relax. But that’s what always happens with mobiles, and I was proud of her.

But I think I may have created a monster.