Friday 16 October 2020

Begone, Bogong

Agrotis infusa, a.k.a. Bogong Moth

High Spring, Dear Reader, has settled around us in this neck of the woods. The imposition of September's hay-fever has happily passed. Daylight Saving officiates over our time-keeping. Cardigans are off, then on, then off again. And I've had to deal with the first bogong moth for the year.

Fat, brown and fuzzy, these Eastern Australian moths make an appearance in the spring as they're migrating to the cool, granite crevices and caves in Alpine regions to aestivate (marvellous word for summer hibernation) over said summer, navigating at night like birds using magnetic fields, and then head off again back to their warmer breeding grounds in the autumn ... In their millions! 

Huddling Bogongs shingling a cave wall

The first sign that spring has truly sprung is when one of these critters comes crashing through the cedar blinds on our bedroom windows and flaps erratically toward one's head as it makes a beeline for the bedside lamps. Of course, it's way off course at this point, the bright lights of the big city are too great an attraction when the winds are not obliging it to head in the right direction*, and this specimen is thus destined not to fulfil the dictates of its life cycle.

They're harmless, naturally, and unlike other six- and eight-legged critters one must deal with semi-regularly, they're a bit big to whack and, anyway, experience teaches you the fuzz only makes a mess that will need attending to in the morning. It's not worth getting out of bed to shoo it away as it's a futile exercise and only when the lamps are switched off will they scamper off like a paperclip-sized beetle, looking for a dark and secluded hidey hole.

They don't last long once indoors, lonely disappointment no doubt contributing to their premature demise, so it's invariably carcasses that are swept up when they're finally discovered behind books or towels or cushions. In this instance, our evening pest slipped its fat self in between the glass panels of the door of the oven, and was unsubtly wedged halfway down. Hardly the cool and dark crevice it was longing for once daylight burst upon it. 

I frowned at it for a couple of days, and decided it had indeed departed this mortal coil and would need disinterring. Luckily, German engineers allowed for just such an eventuality, so it was a simple exercise to remove the oven door and take the glass layers apart. And that was that for Bogong Number 1.

In truth, they're a bit thin on the ground these past couple of years, and it's a phenomenon commented upon in zoological and lepidopterical (?) circles, it would seem.  Opinion is divided - drought, agricultural pesticides, the distractions of excessive light pollution - whatever the root cause, the millions, if not billions, of bogongs just aren't around. 

Which is bad news for the 2000-odd endangered Mountain Pygmy-possums, Burramys parvus, which awaken ravenous from their winter hibernation in the Australian Alps to feast upon the conveniently aestivating moths, all laid out neatly like tasty morsels ready to be hoovered up by these bundles of impossible cuteness. Theirs is a desperate plight if the moths don't appear ... 

Alpine Adorableness

But not so for the lepidopterophobe; the bogongs begone-ing is a blessing. And while it is thus, they need fear not such tales as this:

Growing up in Our Nation's Capital meant enduring many Rustic Delights, it being known as the Bush Capital, after all. One being that our city was particularly vulnerable to the inundation of waylaid bogongs in springtime. In the peculiar fashion of children, for whom playground amusements are like Traditional Knowledge to be passed down through the generations, it fell to the slighter older children to teach a treasured, seasonal Bogong game to the uninitiated.

When the bell rang, the Wise Elders raced into the playground during breaks clutching wooden rulers with which to whack against the drainpipes against the buildings, wherein slumbered unsuspecting hordes of lost bogongs in their thousands. The thrill of seeing the streaming clouds of startled moths, pouring from each end of the pipes, was matched only by the malicious pleasure of inducing shrieks of terror from the tinies and the teachers on playground duty as they ran helter-skelter from such waking nightmares.

* They've been known to be blown as far off course as New Zealand, which must be both a bewildering and exhilarating final journey for these small-minded creatures.

Image Credits: 1: Internet Archive via Flickr; 2: CSIRO scienceimage; 3: Department of Environment and Primary Industries via Flickr

Tuesday 6 October 2020

Strangers In The Night

Douglas Hodge as Tertius Lydgate

Douglas Hodge stalked me last month. Or perhaps I did him. I suspect it is more likely to be the former, as I had to seek the expert advice of the Closing Credits to Middlemarch to be reminded of his name.

In three consecutive and randomly selected, evening, televisual entertainments, he popped up on the screen. And so it was on his third appearance that I decided I should be on my guard. Fortunately, our borders are still closed to Foreign Visitors so I won't need affixing an eye to the peephole in our front door.

There used to be a time when we Pipistrellos would take ourselves off to the cinema on a regular basis and the joke would be that there were only 6 actors in France, (French films being a fancy), as the same faces would recirculate about everything we ever watched, like a small repertory company touring the provinces.

Then when Boxed Sets took over our lives, we could easily say the same thing of television actors. But as we are both hopeless for remembering the names of theatrical types*, our typical exclamations of recognition from the sofa when a familiar face crops up would be any one of:

"Virginia from The Braithwaites!" [once a lot but not recently. Where are you, Virginia?]

"Red Cap!" [just the other week and we were both amazed at our recollection of that old chestnut]

"The main guy in the first Spooks!" 

"Poldark! ... The new one ... It's Warleggan!"


"Soames!" [principal character, no less, in The Forsytes, so you'd think we'd know his name]

"Soames' sister!"

"He played Soames' sister's useless husband!" And always confused with "Young Jolyon!" for some reason, so we never make the right attribution.

"He was in Rome!!!"

"Game of Thrones!!!!" &c., &c.

The otherwise educational Credits typically furnish us with opportunities to soak up some Atmosphere and hum along (GoT, par exemple), or, as is more likely, to attend to glasses of wine and whatnot. The actors just swirl around us and still we never learn so many of these household names. Although, in truth, we both called out "Tamzin Outhwaite!" in unison after a few more minutes cogitation after our "Red Cap!" moment, so it must be the unusual-ness of her name that made it stick.

Our Northern Lineup: Spooks!, ?, The Clerk!, ?, Rome! (& sometimes labelled Peaky Blinders!), ?, ?

For some reason, an actor who has appeared in many, many things, still gets referred to as "The Clerk in North Square". I'm sure Phil Davis (I looked it up) would be a bit cross about that as his is a terribly easy name in the scheme of things. 

DH as the sour puss Roger Carbury, and Peaky Blinders!
[Thank you, Mr. P!! How did I not realise?!]

But Douglas Hodge seemed the unlikeliest of stalkers. First off the rank was the 2001 adaptation of Anthony Trollope's The Way We Live Now, where ol' DH was really only a support actor whose face I recognised but, typically, whose name eludes me. TWWLN, by the way, I love for so many reasons and David Suchet & Shirley Henderson are utterly brilliant (and since I adore them both unfailingly, their names do stick), and this last viewing there was a "The Butler in Downtown Abbey!" moment. 

No DH hints on the covers of these delights

Needing to follow this favoured televisual delight with something equally worthy in the Costume Department, I picked out the 1994 adaptation of George Eliot's Middlemarch and up he pops again, playing the same irritating, wet sort of character ... Oh, coincidence.

And once that show was done, we randomly pick out a Maigret we'd recorded from the telly, Maigret in Montmartre, 2017 and there he is again, (putting in a great turn as a Sleaze for a change, I might add). When Douglas Hodge appears on your screen every night for over a week, I call that Downright Peculiar.

Red Cap Tamzin! & DH

Imagine my surprise when I resort to the interwebs to see where he may be these days, (not tip-toeing through Elizabeth Bay, surely?), I discover that he's an exceptionally busy actor, indeed! And we've seen him in so many things that I'm perplexed that when we see him on the screen we don't immediately cry, "Red Cap!" (And why don't they ever repeat that on the telly? It was such a great programme).

Buy! Sell! DH front and centre circa 1990!

But surely for strangeness, back in the Olden Days, a very young DH appeared in a show that I remember for rather a personal reason, Capital City. For the majority of the civilised world who won't remember this, it was set in the trading room of a fictitious, London investment bank, and it came onto our screens in Australia during the shoulder-padded-era at a time when Your Correspondent was also working as a shoulder-padded Dealer in Sydney, and was seen as much as Essential Viewing at the time as when Wall Street was released and a flashy broker organised a champagne-fuelled Private Viewing for we clients. 

And when I moved to London to work in a (non-fictitious) merchant bank a few years later, my (still there) shoulder pads brushed up against fellow workers who gleefully reported they were the Inspirations, no less, for several of the characters in the TV-show, and were still basking in the, ahem, notoriety.

* Except for our own retired resident thespian about the condominio, whose name we have been known to delightedly exclaim when we occasionally see his face pop up on an Olde Show!

Image credits: 4: Flying With Hands; remaining: via Google

Sunday 4 October 2020



Clump of Creamy Clivias outside the Casa

I must sincerely apologise, Dear Reader, for the brisk pace taken in the last three posts. It was a foolish undertaking to entitle them with a reference to Winter, as I realised too late that the calendar was running down rapidly to October and High Spring, and needed to hustle them along. So with this in mind, a pause is in order, and we're going to just admire the Clivia miniatas that are in full flower around and about.

These tough little shade-lovers from South Africa are extremely popular again right now, having once faded from their red-hot popularity in this country in the late nineteenth century. There are clumps blooming all over the place now that the former lacklustre orange has been supplanted by creams and a reddish shade of orange with rather more oomph. Behold:

Plant enthusiast, Lady Clive, later Duchess of Northumberland,
Shortly before lending her name to Clivias in 1828

Image credits: 1-7: Flying With Hands; 8: National Portrait Gallery, London

Bats In The Belfry