Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Getting old

Ye gods - how can it be that Kylie Minogue turns 40 today? Geezus, I feel old. It doesn't seem that long ago I was off my head on drugs dancing with a bunch of gay boys and drag queens at Mardi Gras to "Step Back in Time" in a hairpiece and hotpants. Whilst I might be feeling old, apart from a scarily taut immobile face and ever expanding lips good old Kyles looks like she still likes nothing better than to
spend a night burning up the dance floor.

I on the other hand have turned into a nanna. How do I know?

A: I like to go to bed at 9pm
B: I think that getting out of bed at 6.30am is a 'sleep in'
C: I get excited about dressing in nice clothes at work but don't travel anywhere more interesting than my desk in them.
D: My drug of choice these days is hot chocolate not a line or an e. And at times I find the hot chocolate just as exciting.
E: On Friday nights I get excited, not because I am going to the hottest new bar in town but because that's the day our cleaner has been and we'll have a nice clean house. Sometimes if I'm feeling really crazy I'll to celebrate we have pizza.

What's next? Spending all my time at the doctor?? Oh that's right, thanks to Ivy I'm already doing that. Bring on the walking frame....surely at this rate it won't be much longer.

Friday, May 16, 2008

Sad times in the animal world

Back in 05/06 when Ed and I were overseas we had the opportunity to work with animals both in Bolivia and in Thailand. These experiences were amazing and more than often quite painful, in the literal sense, especially for Ed who still bears the scars of some savage puma bites on his thigh. Our time in Bolivia was wild, in every sense. Both of us were responsible for the welfare of a cat for a month with little training. It was terrifying, exhilarating and very bloody fun, and funny. And you can read all about it if you like here

My personal charge was a beautiful, cranky, funny little package who went by the name of Rico. Rico was an Ocelot, a medium sized jungle cat who are most famous for their soft, velvety, gorgeously patterned fur and big eyes. After his mother was hunted in the wild for her fur Rico was found living with a family while he was a kitten who were persuaded to let him go live at the park. Without the life skills he would have earned from his mother Rico was kept in a large enclosure in the jungle and was taught to walk on a long rope. This is where I came in, for 30 days Rico and I would head off into the jungle where he would walk, hunt, sniff, catch snakes and lizards and do all those Ocelot things. It wasn't the perfect companion, he was a cranky little bugger who was prone to jumping me when I wasn't looking which would scare the living daylights out of me, he would often refuse to walk and lie on the ground sulking for hours in the rain or the hot sun, and sometimes he would throw massive tantrums growling and screeching and throwing himself on the ground. (Probably good training for me life with Ivy when I think about it.) but we got to know each other and towards the end he usually looked excited (for a cat) when I turned up every morning with some juicy grass and his lead. The work was hard and exhausting but most days I couldn't get over the fact I was able to get up close and personal with such a beautiful endangered species.

Yesterday I heard some sad news from the park. A few months ago Ricos volunteer headed up to his enclosure only to find that overnight Rico had caught his collar on the cage and hanged himself. A sad end to a beautiful cat who had a sad beginning in life. But at least it some consolation to know that his life was enriched by his time at the park even if he couldn't be a true wild cat living in the jungle.

In Thailand I was keen to do some more stuff with animals and after a long search came across the wonderful Elephant Nature Park in Northern Thailand. This sanctuary rescues elephants who have been abused or abandoned.....the scary thing is that they are being mostly rescued from the tourist industry. Some elephants were dragged around the streets forced to do tricks and 'beg' for food from tourists, others were kept in trekking camps lugging tourists around on their backs in uncomfortable harnesses, others had been beaten, blinded or starved by their owners. Lek, the Thai woman who runs the park, brings as many of these elephants as she can find to her park where she rehabilitates them and then allows them to live in family groups, free to do as they please. While this park is about rehabilitating the animals it is also about rehabilitating tourist's mindsets. In short, that tourists understand that elephants just left to do their thing are just as interesting and fulfilling to watch as riding on them or watching them perform tricks such as dancing, playing musical instuments or football. The latest trend to hit is painting....elephants are being trained to do self portraits, abstracts and naff line paintings of flowers and the like. Most people think this is adorable, that the elephants are so clever and that by buying a painting they are helping to save some poor elephant from a life in a trekking camp or as an illegal logger. Companies such as www.exoticworldgifts.com are selling these paintings for over $700 us dollars and even have put up a youtube video of one elephant supposedly painting a self portrait. It has subsequently become one the most viewed videos of youtube and the couple that run this business actually seem to believe that they are helping these elephants by promoting elephants paintings.

When Ed and are volunteered at the Elephant Nature Park we were particularly taken by the littlest member of the park - a four week old baby boy. He was already 100 kilos, soft, squishy, covered in hair and very cheeky. Rescued with his mother, who had been abused while she was pregnant the little baby and mother came to the park in a very bad condition. Many people didn't think the little baby would survive but with the help of the park and some very willing female elephants who appointed themselves as 'aunties' he survived. For the last two years he has grown up in the safety of the park and had a very happy life.

Recently, his owner contacted the park to say that now mother and baby were better he would like them back from the park. The mother will be put back to work trekking and taking tourists for rides yet again, while the little baby will be taken from his mother and will be taught to paint. Learning to paint will mean being trained which in thailand means being beaten with metal hooks and being locked in a small pen until the baby is so terrified that they are willing to do anything after a couple of weeks.

It's such a shame so many people take things on face value, and will probably proudly display their elephant art believing that they have done something right. In the meantime more and more elephants are destined to a life performing tricks for people's amusement. And when you consider that an elephant can live until it's 80 that's a life sentence. As awful as it is, I can't help feeling out of the baby elephant and Rico - Rico may have got the better deal.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

The trials of teddy

He's a bit shapeless looking, a bit crusty and a bit smelly yet he is more loved than any other in our house by young Ivy - may I introduce Freddy the flat teddy.

Inspired by the tales my friend Tiff had told about her little baby Millie and her passion for sharing her cot with a stuffed toy called Lambie I was determined to get Ivy to invest emotionally in one of her lovely toys rather than the dishwasher which I'm fairly certain wouldn't fit in her bed despite her passionate displays of affection for it.

I offered up a selection of stuffed lovies for her to choose from, a soft plush tiger with floppy paws which she threw on the floor in disdain, a cute pink monkey made out of socks was tossed to the corner of the cot, a hand knitted golliwog didn't even make it into the cot but was unceremoniously dumped off the end of the change table in a dusty corner where he remains to this day. Things weren't looking good - faced with a child that seemed to prefer whitegoods over most things I needed to call in the big guns, and conjured up the flat teddy.

Flat teddy had been bought for Ivy by her Nanna when she was a wee baby and although I liked him Ivy wasn't that fussed. However after 10 months languishing in the tox box teddy suddenly seemed to have developed a lot of appeal and was ripped out of my hands by Ivy as she squealed and shoved him into her face, her way of declaring true love. Now teddy is Ivy's constant bedtime companion, she uses him as a pillow, can be heard chatting and cooing to him in the middle of the night and is always waving him in the air when we go and get her in the morning. If you ask her "where's teddy?" she will go and get him and wave him around with a big smile on her face. (sadly she can't quite distinguish between the words 'teddy' and 'daddy' and offers up the teddy as the answer to both questions - sorry Ed) It's adorable and reminds me of me and my siblings passion for a strange toy rabbit called Rupey who, by the time I got to have a go of, had no stuffing left, his eyes had disappeared into his head and his fur was the colour of dirty dishwater - yet we still loved him to bits.

Whoever designed the flat teddy must be from the same school that designed the teletubby. In other words something that is unbelievably attractive to babies and little kids but appears as just odd and unappealing to us adults. Flat teddy doesn't really have any facial features, he's small and well without wanting to state the obvious.....he's flat. But there seems to be method in the madness of the teddy, he has no buttons or eyes that can be pulled off and swallowed, he's small enough for little hands to pick him up and because he is so darned flat it's rare that he can roll or fall out of the cot. For me the only appealing thing about teddy was his lovely soft fur - but having done more than a few tough nights with Ivy he has been snotted on, cried on and even vomited on and in less than a fortnight he is looking quite aged and greyish. But just like her mother before her, age and the loss of looks will not stop Ivy loving Freddy. I'd say the more vomit, snot and other smells loaded onto him over the years will make him vintage to her...just like a fine wine.