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Adventures of a Girl Reporter

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Death in paradise: it’s murder in the veggie patch


We haven't been the only threat in the garden this summer. This guy was making quick work of our young grapevine before justice of a swift and terrible kind was served.

We haven’t been the only threat in the garden this summer. This guy was making quick work of our young grapevine before justice of a swift and terrible kind was served. Picture courtesy Lady Severine Sinful

I regret to inform you, Gentle Reader, that there’s been a killing done. It happened one evening, shortly after my previous filing from a Traditional Aussie Backyard, in which Your Girl Reporter crowed about the array of vegetables we had crammed into our brand new raised beds.

There was no malice aforethought, just incompetence and the over-zealous application of a seaweed emulsion without the necessary dilution.

Sally’s Gardening Tip: Work out how to use an applicator before you start spraying things on your plants. Continue reading

The things you find on bookshelves


More than a year after doing the grown up thing and buying a house Your Girl Reporter is finally sorting through the books that just got thrown on to shelves when we moved. How did I live with such disorder for so long?  A well-ordered bookshelf gives me a sense of peace and well-being that is hard to match and goes all the way back to my childhood in Hong Kong.

In the bedroom I shared with my sister in our flat in Macdonnell Road, there was a low bookcase between us, so that first and last thing were my books. That’s where it began, the endless idle-minded task of moving them around, by author… by typeface… by subject… by colour – the possibilities went on and on.

One day it was perfectly logical for Kafka’s Letters to Felice to snuggle up next to Ronnie Barker’s Christmas joke book, the next a vile travesty and the rearrangement would begin again. Continue reading

It’s getting darker – a year in review


Time to kick the shit of 2016 off our shoes and contemplate the mire of 2017 which lies before us. Anyone else feel exhausted at the prospect? None more so, I expect, than the journalists who have worked tirelessly to cover the rising tide of what looks more and more like fascism in the United States and Europe, a tide that laps even the fair and far shores of Australia.

And for what? To have their good work – and there has been some truly great work from journalists in 2016 – overwhelmed and largely overlooked in favour of what we are calling Fake News. Continue reading

Race Day fashion starts at shoes, makes a fine finish with hat


Racetrack attire is a minefield, and you don’t have to attend the races to be aware that some appalling fashion choices are made each year by young ladies who have misread the brief and gone with ‘nightclub sexy’ instead of ‘wedding elegance.’

It’s an easy enough mistake to make and Your Girl Reporter’s only observation would be that if you’re going to participate in the dated ritual of playing clothes horse for a day, start with the footwear.

A well shod filly should be able to handle the wobbling walk from bar to bookie and back again in the softest conditions. The most elegant outfit will be let down by a staggering gait.

And after the shoes, the hat. Mine is a jiggling mess of dyed chicken feathers which most recently bobbed and nodded its way through the crowds at the Doomben track in Brisbane, Australia when Black Caviar enjoyed one of her many winning outings some years ago. Continue reading

Longbow – a very one-sided love affair


I fell in love with the longbow on the battlefield near Hastings where the Norman invaders settled the course of English history 950 years ago in 1066. I had turned up in 1989, a little after the event, to cover a medieval festival for the local newspaper.

Your Girl Reporter was earnestly taking notes while a big fellow in chainmail explained in some detail the intricacies of recreating the armour and weaponry of Ye Olden Tymes. “And it’s heavy too,” he said as he stuck his broadsword into the ancient turf with a manly smirk. “Go on, see if you can lift that.”

I obliged by failing to budge the thing an inch and that would have been the end of it except for the arrival on the scene of a man in Lincoln green. “Hey Robin, show the Girl Reporter your longbow,” he said and then, in case I was expecting an effete experience, “you have to be really strong to use one of these.”

Well, Gentle Reader, I surprised us all that day.

Continue reading

Distance learning: History, we’re standing in it  


bayeux-tapestry-death-of-harold-copyIn faraway England a band of history enthusiasts was on the march, heading south towards a field near Hastings in the footsteps of King Harold and his army who made the same fateful journey 950 years ago in 1066.

The story is well known, and not just among the English. Your Girl Reporter heard all about it at Kennedy Road Junior School in Hong Kong. We made a mural of scenes from the Bayeux Tapestry for the classroom and I was inspired enough to think that one day I might be able to go to England and stand in the very spot where Harold fell with a Norman arrow in his eye.  Continue reading

Listen, can you hear the garden grow ?


It’s September and here in Ipswich – west, but not too far west – of Brisbane, Australia – you can practically hear things growing. Winter retreated some weeks ago after a half-hearted assault and, to all intents and purposes, spring has been with us for some time already, long before its official start date on the first of the month.

Regular viewers will know that I’m a city girl and a stranger to the traditional Aussie backyard. I’m also these days the custodian of a quarter acre block laid out as a sub-tropical paradise. Join me for my Adventures in Gardening, an occasional series in which I figure out how to keep it that way.

Continue reading

Collard greens and Vegemite, it’s a cultural thing


I don’t know much about golf, but when Australian Adam Scott won the US Masters in 2013, I did know that he would bear the heavy cultural burden of choosing the menu for the following year’s Masters Champions Dinner.

Way back in 1997, Fuzzy Zoeller earned his own special place in the annals of golfing history by suggesting that then first-time Masters champion Tiger Woods would be putting fried chicken and collard greens on the menu.

I had to get my dad Jack Spackman to explain that one. I was familiar with fried chicken but I’d never heard of collard greens. Jack was living in California by then, so was more up to speed on matters of American culture. As in most things for that nation, it turned on the issue of race. Continue reading

Silly streak seals pressman’s fate at Dragon Boat race


There was even more colour and movement than usual at Hong Kong’s premier dragon boat races when the 1974 craze for running through a public place naked reached the shores of Stanley. They called it the Streak. Your Girl Reporter was on the scene. “Don’t look, Sally!” But it was too late. I’d already been mooned.  Continue reading

Times change, but the song remains the same…


poppyrosemaryLast time I walked into the Transcontinental Hotel in Brisbane I was thrown out for being a Sheila. This time, on the eve of the 100th commemoration of the Gallipoli landings, my dollar was welcomed. I spent it – and a few more – on a glassful of memories. To the Fallen.

It was 1979 and I was heading from Brisbane to Toowoomba on a McCafferty’s coach to visit my Nana. With a little time to kill I headed across the road from Roma Street station – that glorious transport hub which tells new arrivals instantly that they are in a world class city – to the pub.

I was in the company of a young man of my acquaintance who had kindly given me a lift into the city and together we fronted the bar, only for the barman to genially say, “Sorry mate. We don’t allow Sheilas in here. You’ll have to take her into the lounge.” Continue reading

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From the vault