Yellow Cymbidium ‘REX’

A neighbour gave me this orchid before she moved.  I have decided to name the orchid REX – after the kids’ club that Rosie, Elizabeth (two sisters from one neighbour’s family) and Xavier (the eldest of  three boys in another) created.  Their club house was a roofless shed that they cleaned up and furnished with whatever they can found.  Those children are long gone and their club house taken over by a family of brush turkeys but the blooms on this orchid will last for months, keeping those children in my thoughts.


Mounted Soft Cane Dendrobium

What a difference a year makes.  It takes that long for the roots to grow onto a new surface.   Here this Dendrobium has rooted onto its ceramic mount…IMG_2829

…and another year to root onto a timber mount…


What a difference a year makes…what may seem like a deterioration of the original main stem is actually its preparation for flowering – the new offshoots will continue to grow leaves while it ditches the leaves on the mature stem to make flowers for spring.  It is early winter in Sydney – watch this space.


Not Perfect or Perfect Imperfection

The tag says



Aussie Parade (Perfection)

Hilda Poxon (Measles)

I think it means that this is a hybrid number 6255 by Wayne Turville of Australian Native Orchid Nursery of two Dendrobiums bred by two other breeders who may or may not have registered their hybrids as Perfection and Measles.

Wayne has not suppled a name registered or otherwise so I will call it “Not Perfect” after the song – or should I call it Perfect Imperfection?

The orchid is in a six inch pot

Loss and Gain

This was a post on my first blog.

As I can no longer read my posts on that site because the screen is blocked by pop-ups, I will move some posts from there that may be of interest to my readers here.


We have a saying in Chinese, 塞翁失馬,焉知非福 – ‘like the man who lost his horse, who’s to know if it’s not good fortune’?  Rather a mouthful when translated into English, but like most Chinese sayings, there’s a story to go with it.

I thought of this when I was told that my Chinese calligraphy workshop and the course for the next two terms have been cancelled due to the lack of interest.

The story goes:  A man lost a mare that strayed over the border but needed no sympathy.  He said, who knows? it may be a good thing.  His mare came back with a stallion in tow but he wanted no congratulations.  He said, it may not be a good thing.  His son rode the stallion, fell off and broke a leg.  Again he said it may turn out OK and sure enough, when the army came through his town and conscripted the young men to war, his son was left behind due to his injury.  Few of the others returned.  So the loss of the mare resulted in his son surviving the war.

I am a volunteer tutor so it’s not as if I’ll be losing income.  In fact, I’ve gained many hours of leisure due to the cancellation.  For years I’ve been wanting to go back to playing with clay.  Now I have time.


Update:  As it happened ten students turned up to enrol in the course and there was no rest for me after all.

Since then I have retired from teaching and concentrated on my urban orchard and posting on my first blog.  Recent events have suggested a new direction: no more blogging as I am not able to post or read posts without countless interruptions.

I will not be renewing my premium account but the old site will be sitting there and those who find it worthwhile may still visit the remaining posts in the archive.

I have removed most of my translations of classical Chinese poems from that blog and have found a publisher who will publish them in print.  I will also post them online elsewhere.

This new blog will allow me to read my own posts and keep in touch with followers, although only a handful from the five hundred have moved with me.

I am philosophical.  If not for this, I may never have bothered to work on the book.

The Last Bite


Sydney cuisine is multicultural and our grocery shops have a variety of fresh local produce that migrants from every corners of the world had brought with them.


Persian Bread topped with whipped ricotta and vine-ripened tomato 



Winter in Sydney 2018

June 1 is the start of our official winter and today is cold (12 -15ºC), cloudy and wet.  We’d skipped autumn altogether, it seems.  I do see that the fig trees are dropping their leaves, letting light in to keep my orchids warm.  Several orchids have flower spikes on them and some, like this Dockrillia and the white phalaenopsis, bloomed.IMG_8228

Other than deciduous trees, most plants in the garden just laugh at our winter.  We have flowers all through the year.IMG_8258

On Returning Home by He Zhi Zhang (translation)

This translation was posted in 2015 on my blog Life is But This, now overfilled to accommodate further postings.  I have moved this post from there to this new blog.  Most of the translations from that blog, as this one will be published in print.

Some years ago I found the village in China where my father was born, where everyone shared the same surname.  All the young people had left for the city to find work.  Only old folks and small children remained.  I had a sense of homecoming, yet the curious looks I received told me that I was a stranger in my own home town.  This Tang Dynasty poem came to mind.


On Returning Home by He Zhi Zhang  (659 – 744)

Young and small I left my home; grown, old, I returned

No changes in my accent; hair thin at my temple

Children who saw me knew me not

Smiling they asked: from where have you wandered?

Translated by Mary Tang

The Biennale 2018 at Cockatoo Island

Not one sulphur-crested cockatoo nor any of the aboriginal people who first occupied this island was in sight when Johanna Ng and I visited Cockatoo Island yesterday.

We’d met in town to discuss Johanna’s artwork for my book cover.  During our conversation we discovered a mutual interest in the Biennale of Sydney so we headed to Circular Quay after lunch and hopped on the ferry to the former penal establishment and navy dockyard, now World Heritage listed site.

When the dockyard closed it laid derelict for a decade until it was rehabilitated and repurposed.  Cockatoo Island is opened for business.   Much of the evidence of its industrial past was preserved; it is a perfect venue for the art show.

Historical features of Cockatoo Island on Sydney Harbour remains.  This crane towers over a bar.


Ai Wei Wei’s Law of the Journey 2017 highlights the flight of refugees

Thai artist Mit Jai Inn’s work was created on site with a massive amount of pigments:

Yukinori Yanagi from Hiroshima, Japan reminded us of the devastation of nuclear weapons with a replica of Little Boy, the atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima on 6 August 1945 during WWII.
Even the artist (centre) was bemused

To prove (unintentionally) that anything that can go wrong, will go wrong, the 3D printer that was programmed to extrude clay for Scottish artist Anya Gallaccio’s Beautiful Minds had a mind of its own and created – What Is It?   


Not an art installation but more interesting to me was this young man creating a vertical vegetable farm.  He supplies the produce to the catering outlets on the island.  He claimed he can grow a head of lettuce in 9 days.

As usual I had to take a photo of our Harbour Bridge and the Sydney Opera House from the ferry on the way home.  The smoke is from burn-offs to prevent bushfires.