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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

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.

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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

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

Bird in Paradise all green fingers and thumbs


I’m a city girl as you know and a stranger to the traditional Aussie backyard. All that changed 12 months ago when the current Mr Baxter and I did the grown up thing and bought a house. That would have been exciting enough but this one came attached to a quarter acre block covered with 57 – count ‘em, 57 – trees.

I’ve spent a year mostly just watching things grow and wondering whether to intervene and, if so, when and how drastically. It’s time to actually get to grips with owning my first ever big garden. I have no idea what I’m doing, which seems a good enough reason to introduce Sally’s Adventures in Gardening, an occasional series in which Your Girl Reporter tries her hand at a new skill. What could go wrong? Continue reading

Monkey business ahead for Malcolm, Bill and Tony


Zodiac wheelWhat does the Year of the Monkey have in store for 2016? Since it’s an election year I thought it would be fun to check out the Chinese horoscopes for our political leaders.

Our Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull was born in the Year of the Horse; the leader of Her Majesty’s (for now) loyal Opposition Bill Shorten was born in the Year of the Goat; and the unofficial leader of the disloyal opposition Tony Abbott is a Rooster. Your Girl Reporter had little choice but to investigate.  Continue reading

Sorting through the wreckage – a year in review


Well, that was a year to remember. It started badly, and went mostly downhill from there. It was bookended by terror on the streets of Paris as the City of Light dealt with not one but two ghastly massacres within the space of 12 months. For the most part, what stood out in the response of Parisians was dignity and courage. 

Here in Australia, in spite of the gathering storms, we still had plenty to laugh about – mostly courtesy of our prime minister Tony Abbott and his grown-up government. And in Queensland we started the year with a snap election. Premier Campbell Newman was booted out after a single term which was distinguished by wars on most sections of the population, from gays through to public servants to judges and bikies, not necessarily in that order.

He was probably always going to go, but was the scale of his defeat determined by the distinct lack of sausages on Election Day? You read it here first: Exercising suffrage insufferable without a sausage

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