Monday, May 30, 2011

The Orange Pages

Yesterday I saw the draft 2011 Lord Howe Island phone book.  The phone book is produced by the P&C Association.  It’s orange, about 20 pages long and includes surnames, first names, kids’ names and nicknames.  The phone book is full of illustrations.  The school kids draw pictures of their families and lots of Lord Howe scenes. 

The phone book I’m using at the moment is dated 2009.  It’s hopelessly out of date and my copy is heavily annotated with new listings and numbers.  Since 2009, people have died, babies have been born, there have been marriages and divorces and lots of people have moved house.  If you’re looking for someone’s number, you need a fair bit of local knowledge.  It isn’t a good idea to rely on an out of date phone book.  Once, when visiting the Island a few years ago, I called a friend on the number listed in the phone book and found myself speaking to her ex-husband.  Very awkward! 

I’ll feel like a real local when my listing has a nickname. 

Sunday, May 22, 2011

She smiles

Before Elsie was born, Luke bought his first and only baby book.  Ever the scientist, he chose Baby Watching by Desmond Morris.  Morris writes about the evolutionary reasons for human behaviour.  In one chapter, he examines a baby’s survival mechanisms.  Human babies are helpless.  New babies can’t walk (like baby antelopes) and can’t hold onto their parents (like baby monkeys).  Their only survival tools are crying, which is hard to ignore and smiling, which keeps the parents nearby.    

Pixie’s growing so fast.  When she was a tiny little baby, I used to wrap her up and put her down to sleep immediately after feeding her and changing her nappy.  It’s impossible to do that now – she keeps smiling at me.  The smiles are just irresistible. 

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Regular exercise and contact with other mums

When I took Pixie to the GP for a check up and her first immunisations, he asked about her feeding patterns, sleep and development.  He seemed happy with her weight, reflexes and level of alertness.  There’s a maternal health checklist too and at the end of it Frank told me sternly that I needed more exercise and contact with other mums.  It seemed like good advice.  I’ve been so busy trying to work and look after the two little girls that exercise and friendships have been neglected. 

So yesterday I walked to Little Island.  It was mid-afternoon and the light was just starting to soften.  There were thousands of providence petrels circling in the sky.  Did you know that you can call them and they circle lower and lower and land at your feet?  It’s a great thing to do with first-time visitors to the Island!  Unfortunately when I came home, Pixie was awake early and screaming, Elsie was also screaming because Luke was holding Pixie and Luke looked like he wanted to scream too. 

Today, I took both little girls to the playgroup in the Anglican Church hall.  There are lots of little kids at Lord Howe – about 30 under the age of five.  Playgroup is a riot.  There were kids painting cockle shells, kids making play dough spaghetti, kids pushing around big trucks and kids (like Elsie) who spent most of the hour and a half hovering near the food.  Chatting with the other mums, catching up on the news and playing with the little kids was just what I needed. 

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Mountain rescue

It was a beautiful day at Lord Howe today.  But it must have been a long day for the poor man who broke his leg climbing Mt Gower yesterday. 

In the past when someone has been injured, the guide radios for help and the local SES team hurries up with a stretcher.  Unfortunately, yesterday’s accident occurred above the “get up place”, a section of exposed rock where climbers use ropes, and the injured man was about 95 kgs.  So the injured man and the SES volunteers spent the night on the mountain waiting for a helicopter rescue. 

The radio in the Pinetrees office was buzzing with activity all day and everyone seemed to be involved.  When I went to the hospital in the morning, the two nurses were running out the door with a large pack.  When I picked up Elsie after lunch, her nanny was wearing her orange SES gear and preparing to climb the mountain too. 

This morning two Navy Sea King helicopters arrived to airlift the injured man back to the Lord Howe airport (and a waiting air ambulance).  He’ll have a few stories to tell when he gets home…  

Saturday, May 14, 2011

A trip to the tip

When I was a kid, rubbish at Lord Howe was burnt or buried.  For the last 10 years, Lord Howe has had a state-of-the-art Vertical Compost Unit (VCU) which processes all of our organic waste including meat, dairy products, food scraps, green waste, cardboard, paper and sewage sludge.  The garbage has to be sorted very thoroughly – it’s one of the hardest things for guests and new staff to get used to.  Recyclable rubbish and some garbage (including nappies) are returned to the mainland on the ship every fortnight.  A visit to the tip is part of every Lord Howe bus tour. 

Over the last 10 years, the proportion of rubbish that is composted has increased – that’s the good news.  The bad news is that Lord Howe now produces much more non-recyclable rubbish than we did 10 years ago.  The reason is simple – like everyone else we now have more consumer goods and replace them more often.  We throw out our DVD players, TVs, computers and washing machines and none of these things can be recycled.  The old island tradition of saving everything in case it can be used again is dying out. 

There’s no garbage collection at Lord Howe and I spend a lot of time at the tip these days.  It should be a quick trip, but this morning it took me almost an hour.  It was raining.  I took three bins down the steps to the car (food scraps, plastics, paper and cardboard) then a box of recyclable bottles and cans and a bucket of nappies.  I came back into the house and took Elsie down to the car and put her into her car seat and then made another trip for Pixie in her capsule.  I had to run back into the house for a dummy for Pixie.  When I got back to the car, Pixie was screaming and the dummy wasn’t helping – she needed a feed.  I took her out of the car and back into the house and then made another trip for Elsie.  By the time I got Elsie out of her seat and back into the house, Pixie had gone back to sleep and I had to start all over again…   

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Out of touch

When I lived in Sydney it was easy to stay in touch with news and current affairs.  The radio was always on, I commuted to work and read the newspaper on the train, I even watched Lateline occasionally.  Luke is fanatical about the rugby, the NRL, the cricket and about a hundred other sports, so I even knew some of the sports results. 

These days I am completely out of touch.  I bought an expensive tuner, but the only station that's clear is Triple J which is re-broadcast from the LHI Radio Station.  I have about a million TV stations, but I'm at work in the restaurant in the evenings so I never watch the news.  The papers are meant to arrive on the afternoon plane.  However, they're the first thing to be offloaded if there's too much weight on the plane. 

A few weeks ago we had terrible weather on a Saturday.  Saturday is our busiest day.  There are flights from Sydney, Brisbane and Port Macquarie.  On this particular Saturday, they were all cancelled.  Some Pinetrees guests were stuck at Lord Howe and really needed to get home.  Others were stuck in Sydney airport but were desperate to get to Lord Howe.  Everyone has to wait around all day because QantasLink doesn't cancel flights until the last minute (sensibly - in case the weather clears).  The housekeepers clean the rooms and make them up for new guests, but then the flight is cancelled and the old guests move back in.  The rooms have to be done again tomorrow. 

On the way home at the end of a long day I stopped at Joys Shop, the Lord Howe supermarket.  The Saturday newspapers were on the counter.  I was amazed.  I asked Rodney: "How did you get the papers today?  There weren't any flights!".  He sighed: "They're last Saturday's papers". 

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

"Straight teeth and a good game of tennis"

Pinetrees is built around a tennis court.  It's supergrass now, but in the old days it was sand.  We have boxes full of old photos of tennis competitions and parties.  My mum loved to tell the story of how her mother used to lock her up in the tennis court with her older sister Kerry and the cat, to keep them all out of the way.  Kerry used to take Pixie's clothes off and put them on the cat and push the cat around in the pram.  It was one of her earliest memories.      

Later, Pixie became a very competitive tennis player.  Her mother insisted that all of her daughters learn tennis, saying something like: "The two things you need in life are straight teeth and a good game of tennis". 

Pixie paid for me to have tennis lessons at high school too.  Years later she told me that she had always suspected that I skipped my tennis lessons.  I'm a real goody-goody.  It just isn't in my nature to skip lessons.  Pixie had good reason to be suspicious though - I'm hopelessly uncoordinated and I never wore my glasses.  Despite the expensive lessons I never seemed to get any better at tennis.     

Pixie also paid for years of orthodontic treatment when I was a teenager.  I'm pleased to report that I do have straight teeth.