(from a few years ago)
This week saw an overnight trip to the wilds of Tasmania to referee a meeting about environmental issues between somewhat hostile Tasmanian locals, a few pleasant but slightly naïve greenies and some very enthusiastic ornithologists.
I really do think that people with a strong interest in birds are a little different from the rest of the population. If you’re talking to them out of doors, you’re constantly interrupted by bird spottings and conversational diversions about the exact identity of some feathered creature they’ve managed to spot out of the corner of their eye.
And every time I’ve met this particular group of “birdos” (as they call themselves) we’ve had slightly confused conversations about sightings of wedgies, which intrigued me at first, until I realised that their interest was in wedge-tailed eagles rather than caught-up underwear.
I did spend a happy quarter hour in a Tasmanian institution called “Chickenfeed” which sells almost anything at massively discounted prices, and has branches throughout the state, including in this tiny town I was visiting. Someone told me that the owners live in a palatial mansion in one of the best suburbs of Hobart, so there’s obviously good money in discounted goods.
And Judy and I staggered to the top of a local tourist highlight, inappropriately named “The Nut”. The local tourist information officer more accurately described it as the Ayres Rock of North West Tasmania, and it is an extraordinary feature, with a chairlift for those who made more realistic assessments of their fitness levels than I did.
Apparently in the early days of white settlement, the locals for reasons known only to themselves and their resident agronomists, decided to plant potatoes at the top of this mammoth headland formation. Apparently the soil was so good on the top that it was worth the extraordinary effort of dragging themselves up and the potatoes down.
The week ended with my young aspiring dancer and me traipsing down to the local Dance Studio to enrol her in her first dance class. Miss Amanda runs the Studio, and her two junior teachers are Miss Amanda (another one) and Miss Jessie.
Like the schools where the teachers insist on calling each other Mr So and So and Mrs This and That, and the brainwashed parents, myself included, find themselves addressing people young enough to be their children in the same way, Miss Amanda refers to her teaching staff formally.
Apparently there is sometimes some confusion experienced in relation to the two Miss Amandas, but fortunately, Miss Amanda (the senior) is getting married soon, so that will clarify things she said. Not quite sure how, as presumably she keeps calling herself Miss Amanda, and not Mrs Amanda, or even more excitingly Mistress Amanda.
Anyway, two mothers were seated right in the front and centre of the enrolment queue quizzing Miss Amanda about the best dance options for their precious darlings. “But is she really best off going into Jazz 2, or would she be better off in Tap Junior?” they asked this extremely patient young woman, who managed to enrol my dancer and sell us a second hand leotard and ballet shoes while the other mothers continued to harangue her. (I asked whether she couldn’t just dance around in bare feet, but apparently there is splinter danger).
Call me miserly, but $160 all up for lessons, a small black leotard, and second hand shoes seems a lot of money for 10 half hour gallops around a dance studio. I guess she’ll thank me when she successfully auditions for the Royal Ballet.