Wednesday, November 26, 2008


One of the features of our unit which gives us great pleasure is the window in the dining/lounge room. It faces out over Oxford and helps us realise what season we are in.

A tree grows just outside this window. In summer it completely blocks the view of the road and the surrounding suburb. It's luscious green leaves soak up the excess heat and unit feels enclosed within a glen type arrangement. It feels refreshing just looking out the window.

In autumn, the tree starts to lose its leaves and the road becomes more visible. The road is hardly noticeable though, because of the beautiful orange then yellow foliage. Squirrels scamper up the tree, organising their winter hoard. Pigeons rest on the branches. At night the yellow street lights shine upwards through the yellow leaves and so even in the dark the tree is a thing of beauty.

And then comes winter, sweeping away the last leaves from our tree. Now we have a clear view of the road and the suburb... and the sky. We watch the clouds billowing across the sky, the rain coming in and blowing away. The sunrise spreads its purple red fingers across the sky, the colours changing at every moment. And all against the bare, cold branches of this lonely tree, made more pitiful by the occasional pigeon which rests alone on its outstretched arms in the cold rain.

We are glad God made this tree and lets us watch it change throughout the year. And that in winter, when it rests from all its labours, we can watch such a glorious sky. If we were on a ground floor apartment we wouldn't have such earthly delights. JMB

Monday, November 17, 2008


Last week we celebrated two major milestones in Jonathan's life. They might seem small, but they open up great possibilities for him, for which we are grateful.

The first is the screwed-up-nose face. This once discovered, was promptly used to communicate a wide range of emotions and concepts. He's used it to communicate many things from "I'm not eating that!", "That child just hit me on the head with a toy", "Give me that camera!", "Raw broccoli tastes weird" through to "I'm screwing up my nose just because I can".
It's a great step forward for him, giving him other options apart from the edges of the communicative spectrum: the cry, the whine and the winning smile and contagious giggle. Now, he can communicate uncertainty, displeasure, disdain, and just have fun screwing up his nose, which is always a good thing.

The second milestone was the first step, following closely by the second, third and fourth steps. There was no falling from our perfectionist son, who has been cruising since he was eight months and practicing walking at any and every opportunity. Jonathan does not like falling. The few times he does fall now he usually doesn't hurt himself but wails loudly, we think because he is cross with himself for falling. So, if walking was going to happen, there would be no falling, and so while we think he's been ready to walk for a while, there was (at least in his mind) probably the possibility of falling, which precluded the possibility of walking. But this has been overcome and now there is walking. This of course, opens up many possibilities. Already he has started pouring the energy he poured into learning to walk (without falling) into learning to climb, which is the next stage. And then there is running and dancing, and later, running away and jumping in puddles (for which we are well located).

And of course, by the end of the week, it was all old hat and he was pulling faces and walking at the same time. He's a clever one, this boy. JMB

Monday, November 10, 2008

Genuine Cornish Bears!

This is a genuine Tasmanian Dwarf Elephant. Often known just by its initials (TDE).

(Eraser included for comparison purposes only.)

No really. It is. It is a Tasmanian Dwarf Elephant. Have another look. It is a Tasmanian Dwarf Elephant. Just tell yourself this as you take another look. It's latin name is Loxodonta Tasmana Pumilius Pumilio. It's a very rare species of elephant, so it's possible that you've never seen a photograph, or even seen the latin name for it before. But life is all about learning new things. So here's your new factoid for today. The genuine Tasmanian Dwarf Elephant.

There's a story behind this genuine Tasmanian Dwarf Elephant. I bet you guessed that would be coming. It's not to late to move on to another blog.

We went to Tasmania in 2004 for a two week holiday. It was the first time that we took more than one week of holidays at a time and that we decided to do more than just encamp in the one location. We travelled around Tasmania in our car, having driven to Melbourne and then catching the impressive ferry to Tasmania. We had a blast, and saw lots of non-elephant related things. Although we did see this elephant-themed sign which still gives us the giggles years later. Some might say we giggle easily but they don't know us very well. Our giggles begin deep within us and usually manifest themselves as an amused smile or a hearty chuckle. Mark occassionally even laughs - which most people find disturbing.

It's a great sign. But, on reflection, it's a bit of a tangent from the very important story of the Tasmanian Dwarf Elephant (or Loxodonta Tasmana Pumilius Pumilio to give its Latin name, but you can shorten it to just TDE if you find either 'Tasmanian Dwarf Elephant' or 'Loxodonta Tasmana Pumilius Pumilio' too cumbersome for everyday use).

The story goes like this. One day in Tasmania we stopped at a medium sized town (for Tasmania) and, among other things we did there, entered a larger than average Newsagency (for almost anywhere, unless you happen to be in a place given over to unusually large Newsagencies, in which case you might want to write a blog entry on it - people are writing blog entries about all sorts of meaningless chaff these days).

In this Newsagency was a largish stand given over to a range of animal themed, casted plastic toys/models by a company with a European sounding name. The animals (the toys/models, not actual animals, of which there weren't any in this very civilised larger-than-normal Newsagency) were of varying quality - some looking remarkable lifelike, once one factored in the fact that they were significantly smaller than the genuine article.

Jennie likes elephants. Really really likes elephants. They're in her top three animals (unlike cows, which she considers a kind of mould). So we bought her one. The one in the photograph as it so happens.

We stuck it on the top of the dashboard of our car. From time to time people travelling in our car would ask us, "What's up with the elephant on the dashboard?" A not unreasonable question to ask when someone is transporting you at high speeds in a metal box - it doesn't hurt to vet the driver carefully. But perhaps doing it before you get in the car would be advised.

We would answer triumphantly, "It's a genuine Tasmanian Dwarf Elephant!" Being the perfect joke for us. We would lay the irony on thick (not easy to do when pronouncing an exclamation mark at the same time) and the joke would reference something only we knew anything about, thus preserving our general batting average for our jokes (somewhere just slightly above a perfect run of golden ducks - yes folks it's an animal themed post today).

Until one day.

One day our passenger (an Australian, as it happened) replied brightly, "Really?! I didn't know they had elephants in Tasmania!"

There was stunned silence from Baddelim for fifteen seconds as we processed the words, reprocessed them, turned them around and processed them again just in case we were missing some really fiendish reverse irony. Then through the dawning horror we had to work out what to do. The whole point of the joke was to have a small laugh at the Baddeleys as it was obvious there is no such thing as a, wait for it, Loxodonta Tasmana Pumilius Pumilio (but its friends just call it TDE for short). It wasn't supposed to set people up for social embarrassment (apart from being exposed to such lame humour). We didn't have any contingency plans ready. How does retrieval ethics work in this situation, when the good of humour has been lost? (Small Moore College ethics joke there.) Digging the person out of their hole seemed impossible, but just letting it go would leave them open to potentially much greater embarrassment down the track. We undid the damage we did. Unsurprisingly, the person has never spoken with us again about any elephant related topic.

We've never enjoyed our joke the same way ever since. And, like war, you can't be only half-committed to a joke.

With this little back story in place, we would like to share with you, gentle (and stubbornly persistent, if you've reached this far) reader Baddelim's latest English expeditionary discovery. Presenting a sleuth, or sloth if you prefer, (yes, those are the right collective nouns for bears, only polar bears have the collective noun 'pack', presumably because it is too cold for either detectives or sloths in the polar regions) of genuine Cornish bears!
And I bet you didn't know that they had bears in England. That's two new things you learned today. So now you're ahead for tomorrow as well. (Please, let the reader understand!)

MDB (JMB didn't think I could turn the story of:

  1. we bought a toy elephant in Tasmania.
  2. years later, we saw some life-size wooden bear statues in Cornwall.
into a soaring epic with a little lesson about the vicissitudes of life and laughs. She was obviously right, but I sure spent some electrons proving it.)

Monday, November 3, 2008

Stopping Traffic

Walking down to the shops, head lowered against the cold, cold wind (it snowed on Tuesday night), I reached the traffic lights. I pressed the button and looked up to wait for the 'walk' sign. That was when I noticed that the traffic lights were not working.

Inwardly I sighed, and calculated how long it would take me to walk down to the next crossing. As I did, I glanced up at the traffic, and noticed that a bus coming along the road was flashing his lights.

"But I haven't done anything!" I wailed inwardly.

And then I realised that he was slowing down.

"Oh, he's stopping to let me cross" I thought, surprised at the concept and slightly worried. No traffic would stop on the other side of the road, so I would no doubt inadvertently delay this (lovely) bus driver.

Even as I thought this I glanced to the left, and there was a car, slowing down. Stopping even.

I crossed the road. In peak hour. Without waiting. With no lights forcing the traffic to stop! And nothing short of miraculous - a bus stopped for a pedestrian when not forced to do so.

When I recounted this to Mark, we both remembered our first taste of Sydney traffic. Even on side streets we learned (very quickly) to stop and make absolutely sure that no cars were coming or intending to come in the near future, before venturing to cross. In fact, for a while, we had a theory based solely on our experience, that in order to retain your NSW driving licence, you had to provide evidence that you had caused serious harm (of a physical or psychological nature) to at least one pedestrian per year. Nothing else seemed to adequately explain the aggressively anti-pedestrian policy we encountered. I can safely say that if after six months in Sydney, a bus had stopped to let us cross the road without being legally obliged to do so, we would have stayed safely at the sidewalk, assuming that this bus was trying to lure us onto the road for some nefarious and possibly lethal purpose.

Here in Oxford it seems that the opposite rule applies, given the number of times we have seen really dangerous jay walking in the last year. (Top of the list are those with limited mobility who we've seen walk out in front of traffic. By Sydney standards, limited mobility with regards to jay walking may mean wearing inappropriate shoes for a short, sharp sprint. But in this context when I mention limited mobility I do mean limited mobility: wheelchairs and walking sticks not excluded.) In Oxford, the traffic just... stops and there is no yelling, horn blowing or road rage that we have encountered. Of course, it makes driving a nightmare because pedestrians expect the traffic to stop and act accordingly.

Possibly a new advertising slogan for pedestrian tourists (you know, the ones with a small carbon footprint...): "Come to Oxford: Enjoy the Traffic". JMB

Photos courtesy of the ruined cathedral in St Andrews.