Best. Day. Ever.

Last week I turned 35. The Irishman organised a wild Spanish themed fiesta (The Fiesta Dos Virgos!) at our house for myself and my fellow Virgo friend Karen. Karen said that she would cook some Pooky for my birthday and I freaked out. It turns out that she meant something porky, and was referring to an original recipe for Berza Chiponera, a bean, pork and chorizo stew given to her in 1992 when she was in Chipiona, Spain. It tasted much much better than it sounded!

Normally when I hold a party I’m running a hundred different programs simultaneously in my mind’s processor. Checking the progress of the various dishes in the kitchen, making sure the candles are lit, the entryway tidied, the powder room in ship shape, playlist weeded of the Irishman’s guilty pleasures and so on, all the time fending off the Leahy children from messing up my work. Someone once said that cleaning a house with kids in it was like brushing your teeth while eating Oreos. That person must have been a Virgo.

So it was a real juicy pleasure to do absolutely nothing before a party for once in my life except to lounge about in my bedroom with an eyeshadow brush and a cup of tea. The irony is that I think everyone almost enjoyed it more that I wasn’t being my usual anal, hovering party mistress self! I had a great time and I think the Irishman can be promoted to co-party organiser from now on, that is if he promises not to wear any more $4 girls outfits ferreted out from the depths of the op shop.

I love that my friends are such amazing cooks. Scallops, prawns poached in oil, stuffed mushrooms, gazpacho, homemade ice-cream, everything was made with such love.
Actually the food could have been takeaway pizza and we would have still had a ball. Our friends are amazing, period.

I’m very blessed to have this crazy Irishman in my life. He has pledged to fill my days with silly ideas, jokes and drama.

Sunday was Father’s Day so it was my turn to stage something festive. We kidnapped or dad-napped Mark and brought him to a secret location. When he uncovered his eyes, we were at the Puffing Billy station in the Dandenongs. The Puffing Billy is an antique steam train established in the early 1900s which ferried passengers from Melbourne to the rural towns in the Dandenong Hills. They had a 3 course Father’s Day lunch special in the first class carriages with lovely old silverware and starchy white tablecloths, which was pretty much the best thing you could say about the lunch other than the old world ambiance. “I’ve always loved boiled dishwashing liquid potatoes and plastic cream sauced fish!” crowed Mark mirthfully as we chugged past the sun-drenched hills and eucalyptus forests.

The kids had “the best day ever” where the highlights were being allowed a soft drink on the train, squashing pennies on the train track (with approval from the train conductor – only in Australia!) and paddle-boating around the lake at the Emerald Lakeside station stop. We actually managed to leave home with zero cash between all of us and while we were waiting in line for the paddle boat ($15 bucks), Sean found a crumpled $5 note in his wallet, I discovered $6.80 in coins at the bottom of my handbag and the Irishman did his part by lamenting loudly about our plight. So loudly and piteously that the bloke in front of us took out his wallet and gave us the remaining $3.20 that we needed and wished us a Happy Father’s Day. Best Day Ever! And Most Shameful Irishman Stunt!

Here is the ecstatic Irishman, full of good tidings to the world and to the charitable bloke in the boat behind him.

And my favourite photo of the day, Dylan and Sean sharing earphones and a sibling moment on the train ride on the way back home.

Happy Fathers Day to all the wonderful, strong, loving, funny dads out there! And thanks to my husband for my birthday party-  growing old isn’t fun sometimes, but somehow you always bring out the funniest, best side of life there is, and for that, you are the Best. Person. Ever.


Being human


Yesterday evening was what Dylan had been looking forward to for weeks –  her school concert, the Penbank pantomime.  She practically shimmered and smoked with excitement the whole day, like a wok full of hot oil.  Last year, we were travelling and we couldn’t attend it, but this year, that injustice would be righted. This year her parents would be there, rapturous and transfixed when it was her turn to glide onstage and shake her bon bon in a feathered toucan outfit, what joy!

Finn was also in the concert, but his attitude was more one of tolerance than enthusiasm. Finn does not like big audiences or dancing.  When I swabbed his face with makeup, he had the same placid gritted teeth expression that our greyhound Coco has when you put her muzzle on. In contrast, Dylan wanted Eye Shadow! Lip Gloss! Cheek Colour! Sparkles! so by the time we finally managed to get out of the door we were horribly late, which resulted in our being squashed at the back of the school gym far away from the stage.

The school gym was packed to the rafters with parents and relatives. The ceiling was festooned with great swathes of parachute material which changed colours in the theatrical gelled lights. A giant backdrop of Melbourne inspired street art made by the students dominated the stage, and pairs of shoes dangled from the rafters in a whimsical installation.

It never fails to astound me, the size and ambition of these Penbank school productions given the scale of the school.  I almost can’t believe that Penbank with its 217 students, is about a twelfth the size of my old primary school, (2700 pupils in two sessions spread across 52 classrooms!). Much of my childhood was spent standing in the hot sun with a thousand other uniformed children, a sea of shiny black ants on a parade ground, either being lectured or hectored. And when I had school concerts, my mum would be lucky if she could glimpse my bobbing head onstage for a second,  especially considering that I was always strategically placed at the back due to my inclination towards general tomfoolery.

Coming back to the Penbank pantomime. I was thrilled to be there. It was really the most charming concert I have ever been to. And, BIG PLUS, there were just handful of song and dance numbers instead of the usual Dead Sea Scroll-length programme I was bracing myself for.

The children had been asked to select electives as part of Arts Week, and the performances were grouped depending on what they had chosen and children from different year levels were interspersed in each performance.

Finn had chosen African drumming so he ended up doing a rhythmic bongo routine with the only teacher on-stage as his dance partner. Yep, that boy is my son. I was always partnered up with a teacher for any high-risk school activity so that if I went off-piste, a swift taser-like correction could be administered before it got out of hand.  To Finn’s credit, he was rather more cooperative than I was, and actually danced or wiggled with a bit of prodding! This is major, for Finn.

And then Dylan the Dancing Toucan made her appearance, resplendent in her tremulous feathered headpiece and fluttery black skirt. She shimmied and smiled so hard our eyes watered and our hearts burst. Afterward she said to me “Mama, I was trying to act cool but I couldn’t stop my face from smiling!” Bless her little face.

My Asian Tiger Mum instincts betrayed me and I zooted up to the front of the aisle as soon as my little ones came on, practically hobbling on hands and knees trying not to block anyone. These school concerts are always a mix of camaraderie (Oh my god, your child was so divine onstage!”) and every man for themselves (Oops, sorREEE!!! I’m just trying to take a photo of my kid!).  Finn was mildly relieved to see me waving manically and Dylan was overjoyed when her wide eyes finally found my face.

After their dance numbers were over, I slunk to the back of the hall and hung out with some parents I knew to watch the rest of the concert.  I could recognise so many of our friends children, and it was  gratifying to see the Prep and Year 1 kids blossom and grow.

My favourite part – the teachers did a dance at the end and Katherine, the concert choreographer declared that they had mucked it up, so the school principal Vivienne made them redo it! I’ve never seen that before! Moral of the story – there’s always a second chance to get it right.

Everyone was so proud and so present.  Sometimes we get so busy that we forget that we are human beings, not human doings. That night, it was all about being. Being there to watch, being there to give, being there to receive. Being part of something full of love and community.

I could just end here. But something else happened that evening. One of my friends was telling me about what a fantastic job that Katherine, the lady who masterminded the whole concert, had done. Then my friend got all choked up and tried to tell me about Katherine’s sister Mandy.  I couldn’t really understand much of it over the noise in the gym hall, apparently Mandy had been very ill and ended up having her arms and legs amputated. The community at Penbank school had raised an incredible amount of money for her, which I had completely missed while we had been away.

This morning, I remembered to look it up on the internet and read about Katherine’s sister, Mandy McCracken, a woman who came down with what she thought was a simple flu bug, but turned out to be invasive Group A Strep which had turned her limbs gangrenous in a matter of days while her husband and children watched, helpless against its toxic spread.

I say “story” not to trivialise or dramatise what happened, but because Mandy and her husband Rod have narrated this sudden twist in their lives in their own voices with such candour and authenticity. In support of Mandy, the wonderful Penbank children made things to sell, donated their earnings and wrote messages of hope.

I know I’m very late to this but if you have a few minutes to spare, I highly recommend you read this Australian article  which is simultaneously disturbing and tranquil, beautiful and gory, prosaic and sublime. And then to say a silent prayer of gratitude for all that we have, to ask that we may heal the past and focus on the present, and our presence. You can also follow Mandy’s progress and get details of how to donate at

Love & Peace,

Picking up the feathers

This week was one full of tears and hard lessons. After many months of searching for female companions for our peacock Pooky, I finally found a guy who had two beautiful white and blue ones for sale and I was so excited that I jumped into the car the next day and set off on a solo adventure to Gippsland to collect the girls. I’m not a very confident driver, especially in unfamiliar territory, so I was really proud of myself for being brave and for the gorgeous pair of peahen girls that Pooky was sure to be thrilled with.

By the time I got back home, the winter light was fading fast. I didn’t want to traumatise the peahens by putting them in the rear coop, amidst all the ducks and chickens in the dark. The girls were already quite weary and nervous from their long car journey, so Mark and I decided to leave them in the enclosed orchard, which has a mesh 2 m high fence all around it and a net that goes over the top. They would be safe there until morning, when we could move them, we thought.

And then the morning came, and I heard Mark yelling from outside that the peahens were gone. He thought that they had flown out through the top of the net where there was a hole.

I had that familiar horrible sinking, churning feeling in my gut and I headed straight for the fence to inspect it. There it was, the remnants of carnage. Three fox tunnels. A bitten hole in the wire mesh of the fence. Feathers everywhere marking the last struggles of the peahens. I found bits of wings, bone fragments under the lemon trees, and still refused to believe. And it wasn’t until I saw the stomach of one of the peahens, a soft glistening beige mess in the grass, and its small pearl of a scarlet heart nestled within, that I screamed. The towering eucalypts around the forest held their twisted arms up to the sky and I sat on the cold wet grass and felt like a very bad, careless mother.

This was our first fox attack in the five years we have been here, we had previously been so vigilant with the barbed wire, automatic fox-lights and greyhound patrols. Everyone in our neighbourhood hates the foxes. Even animal lovers, or I should say, especially animal lovers. Our builder who lives across the road from us, would later tell me that the day before the foxes killed my peahens, they broke into his chicken coop. He woke up in the morning and went out with his cup of coffee to feed the beautiful brown chickens and saw 14 headless chickens in his coop. Necks snapped, bodies left untouched.

Noone knows why they do this, all the wanton bloodletting. If you lost a chicken or two to a fox trying to feed herself and her starving cubs, you can understand that. But what sense do you make of the stories that come out of our neighbours? Foxes that sit patiently watching while a mother gives birth to a baby lamb during the night, labouring tediously to bring a tender bundle of limbs and hot breath into this world, only to have the foxes eat the face off the baby and leave the maimed thing to die a slow agonising death while the mother bleats through the night.

Who knows what their reasons are.

Lilian told me that mother foxes sometimes bring their cubs to chicken coops to teach them how to kill. Like training for terrorists. Perhaps why I find the foxes most unsettling is for their resemblance to humans. Other neighbours tell me that the foxes just sit on their patio, watching the people in the house through their beady eyes, an unnerving sight for mothers with small children.

Pooky roosts in the tall trees in the forest every night, safe from the foxes, (the peacocks are much better at looking after themselves than the peahens, who lie in their nests on the ground) but he must have watched the slaughter and he went missing for days. We searched everywhere and we couldn’t find him. Normally every morning he comes to the patio and sits patiently waiting for his breakfast. And he comes running, head a-bobbing if he hears me playing the piano. It all sounds very romantic, but actually peacocks like loud noises and I’ve also seen him follow the lawnmower about transfixed.

Anyway, I played all morning for days, looking over my left shoulder, hoping to see his inquisitive little head cocked to one side, bobbing about with the music. But nothing, just an empty armchair.

Finally on the third afternoon, I came back home after lunch, and out of the corner of my eye I saw a flash of cobalt iridescence and a little expectant face looking at me through the window next to the piano.

Pooky was home. And we’re doing our best to make it a safe home for him. More to come on that, but I thought you may like a video I made of Pooky’s homecoming. I’m playing one of his favourite songs – Spectrum, by Zedd.

What the camera doesn’t see

You’re in cognac diamonds and a midnight blue silk dress, striding around the vineyard in the howling wind. And then, pretending to prune fuchsias in hot pink silk while the rain drizzles relentlessly. A friend has asked you to appear in a media article and send over some glamorous pictures. The photographs look beautiful but as they are nothing but a fleeting instant in time. A celebration, not a summation, of life as you know it.

If the camera were to pull back and the frame extend to the edges, it would show the tangled mounds of bedclothes, half-filled cups of water and soft toys on the living room floor, for the children have been sleeping next to the fireplace since the boiler gave up the ghost four days ago, precisely on the coldest day of the year. You can see your breath hang in the air and smell the tinge of sour milk from Finn and Dylan’s 4 day-long stomach flu experience.

There is a dead rat decomposing at a leisurely pace in my bathroom wall, and another one, stuck and mummified in my bedroom air conditioner, henceforth christened the Rat-con, waiting for the electrician to get around to him sometime next week, always next week. In the meantime we turn on the rat-con to take the edge off winter’s bite. And then we turn on the air purifier to take the edge off the dead rat smell. And then we go to sleep praying we don’t die from hantavirus in the night.

Under my dress is a blotchy mess of yellow, blue and purple bruises under my arm and ribcage from when I slipped on a huge puddle of dog urine in the living room after the greyhounds decided that it was too cold to relieve themselves on the frosty ground outside. Mark heard a loud crash and came running, startled to see me on my back, the ends of my hair floating in the dog urine, looking up to the ceiling, quite still. Just like a beetle, he said.

And don’t talk about the horror of the mail which has piled up on the dining table, lying in huge wretched snowdrifts, bills, taxes, scams, advertisements, crumpled and smoothed over, sodden, waiting for our attention when we have more strength, good humour, lighter hearts and are able to feel our extremities again.

But this afternoon, I sat in a chair by the window, bathing in the welcome heat of a sudden sunny spell and watched a little thrush hop from branch to branch of a magnolia tree, every hop fluttering the masses of pale pink blossoms, the colour of satin ballerina shoes. I returned to my book but I kept looking up to see it splashing in the birdbath, the little sprays of diamond droplets glinting in the sun. So much depends on a little thrush playing in the sunshine.

And I thought of Mary Karney, the octogenarian pioneer woman who built our mudbrick house by hand more than three decades ago. Mary visited us this week, in our week of epic squalor. I apologised for the lack of central heating and she shot right back at me “Oh that’s perfectly fine. I never had anything other than the wood stove when I lived here anyway.”

Then she told me a story of a little thrush who used to sit on her shoulder when she lived here. “I used to feed it leftover beef mince, it would eat out of my hand while I sat on the porch. They’re carnivores, you know, the thrushes.”

And Mary looked me in the eye and said “Do you like it here?” and I said, I love it.


p.s. You can read my interview here

Kakadu Travel Diary Part 2

I’m still in a weird, stream of consciousness mood from the steroids and antibiotics. While trying not to get sucked into the rabbit hole of the internet (too much negativity, click bait, comparing and crazy stuff going on that I can’t do anything about), I decided to finish posting my Kakadu photos.

On our last day in Kakadu, there was a knock on the door of our tent and we were informed that someone had cancelled their fishing trip and we could take the slot if we wanted. Finn was so thrilled because he had been told that the fishing boat was fully booked for the whole week. He changed in two seconds, and ran out of the door with me following behind. Then I heard a big thud – he had tripped off the raised wooden deck outside of our room and was shrieking from the mud below. He wasn’t hurt much, just some scrapes, bruises and tears.

This sounds terrible, but my first instinct was actually to feel irritated at him. It was the third time that day that he had fallen or tripped over something and my eardrums were just about to give out. I just snapped at his wailing face, “Finn, stop it! I have had enough of you being clumsy!”. And then I realised I sounded just like my mum. I remember my mother yelling at me throughout my whole childhood for being uncoordinated, clumsy, awkward as well, and I felt really rotten for something that he hadn’t intended at all. Amazing thing, the conditioning we pass down through the generations if we’re not careful.

I took a deep breath and pulled him into the shower, still wailing away, and washed all the mud off. I heard Mark calling the front desk to cancel the fishing trip, and yelled from the shower to hold on. I asked Finn if he still wanted to go fishing. Finn inhaled sharply, looked at me with his big, brimming eyes and nodded. So I squirted some antiseptic on his cuts and off we went.

It was coming up to sunset and the light reflecting off the water everywhere was enchanting. We were lure fishing so we had to cast and reel in continuously. There’s something to be said for repetitive activities. In this modern world, automation has removed the need for us to actually use our hands to do anything over and over again, with the exception of typing.

I found the repeated casting and winding the reel, feeling the sensuous pull of the line against the heavy water, so meditative and peaceful. Losing yourself and your mind in it. Unwinding the frustration and anger of the day.

We didn’t catch anything. Not a single nibble, although the barramundi were jumping all around us, and there were plenty of crocs eyeing us smarmily from across the river banks. And that was okay. Finn is very zen in his approach to fishing. We’ve been out fishing about 9 times and only caught things a third of the time.

I think it’s really healthy for kids to learn about frustration just being a normal thing, just part and parcel of the fabric of life. It’s good to balance out that instant gratification culture we live in where any game you can think of can be downloaded from the app store in an instant and just about anything procured from a google search.

It was also great for me to have that time to think about my own pent-up anger and how most of it was created by my own expectations of how things ‘should’ be, feeling disconnected when my life doesn’t live up to my standards, instead of accepting it as it really is, scrapes, bumps, insect bites, quarrelling, tears, randomness and other ordinary things. Sometimes things just suck and that’s ok too, even if no one on Facebook is posting about it.

The quiet times in the afternoon were my favourite parts of the trip. Watching Dylan drawing outside the tent at sundown, her little cheeks flushed satin-pink from the day’s activities.



Watching Finn play football (I refuse to call it “soccer” like the Aussies / Americans) in the fading light with the other kids, weaving around the massive termite mounds which are everywhere in Kakadu. It’s cute and touching, how easily kids form these transient friendships when they’re on holiday.

Full disclosure – the Irishman did arrange for us to go out in Darwin on a proper fishing boat the next week and we ended up catching 9 fish between us – golden snapper, salmon, batfish, flathead, cod… Finn was thrilled.

The best thing about Darwin was the magnificent agate red sunsets and the dinners we had on the deck at Hanuman, a casual Indian / Thai restaurant. Otherwise the town was curiously devoid of charm and people. It reminded me of the heartlands in Singapore, monotonous concrete slab buildings, bland urban sprawl, soulless malls.

As you may have gathered, it wasn’t the best holiday ever – I was too itchy from being bitten by insects and not sleeping well at night in the un-airconditioned tent, and the kids were really scrappy for most of the trip. I ended up yelling and losing my temper a lot more than I’m happy to admit. The Irishman was on business phone calls half the time, stomping about on 3 hour conference calls even when we were in the middle of nowhere, looking most incongruous talking about financing and balance sheets in the middle of the outback while the birds cackled in the background.  As in Dylan’s favourite book Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day, sometimes it’s just like that. Even in Australia.

So I was so happy to get home to the farmhouse this week. Even though it’s chilly here, my bed has got exquisite, soft linens on it and a heating pad underneath. The fresh brisk eucalyptus air is insect-free and I don’t wake up with kamikaze mosquitoes going ‘WheeeEEE!” in my ear. I’ve got a library of fascinating books to read and cookbooks to work through and an abundance of friends to have tea with. I love my adventures and all, but my favourite place in the world is always the ordinary miracle I call home.

Kakadu Travel Diary – Blog Part 1

We’ve survived Kakadu National Park, 20,000 square kilometres of saturated blue skies, burnt gum trees, drenched wetlands. An area 28 times the size of my home country of Singapore. It’s  beautiful in its own starkness but just so mind numbingly vast, what they call the Top End of Australia.

In Victoria where we live, we’re spoilt by stunning, undulating, varied vistas. For example, on the 2.5 hour journey to Mount Buller from our house, you pass by the gorgeous beaches of the Mornington Peninsula, the buzzing hipsters in Melbourne, the golden tinged vineyards of the Yarra Valley, cute little country hillside towns like Yea and Mansfield, then the vertiginous snaking road up through towering snow gums to the top of the mountain.

In the 4 hour drive from Darwin to Kakadu, you just see monotonous blurry stretches of the gum trees on flat land for most of the journey with only the occasional termite mound or dishearteningly boring McMiners town to break up the scenery.

We decided to take things easy because after 3 hours on a bumpy dirt road, all the kids were car sick and the only thing we had seen was an army base and a small patch of swamp with magpie geese on it. Apparently it was another hour to the cultural centre, and then another 2 hours to a waterfall! My head (and bum) hurt just to think of it. I mean, if you drove that far from Singapore, you’d practically be halfway to China already! We gave the cultural centre a half-hearted exploration, had lunch at a truly tacky resort and beat a hasty retreat back to Wildman’s Wilderness Lodge where we were staying, an hour outside Kakadu.

Actually, as it turns out, we had a far better time exploring the area surrounding the lodge as it is part of the Mary River system and has its own billabong and wetlands. The highlight of our stay was definitely the airboat trip. An airboat is like being on a souped up V8 race car that hovers on a cushion of air over the water. It is dead fast, crazy noisy and a lot of fun. The kids screamed with crazy glee as the Macca, the airboat driver, deftly executed turns and chicanes on the swamp, scattering enormous flocks of birds in the air and alarming kangaroos, wallabies, wild buffalo, feral pigs and crocodiles.



In fact, the airboat was so fast, I feared that we were practically going to crash into the wildlife half the time. In the photo on the below right, you can see the most bizarre stork called the Jabiru. This one was about 1.4 metres tall with a iridescent teal blue face and flamingo pink legs. He had just caught its fishy dinner in the billabong and calmly ate it in front of us as black kite birds circled over head screaming for him to leave some remnants for them.

Speaking of wild buffalo, we were lucky enough to come across two wild male buffalo who were sizing each other up, preparing for a territory dispute. As we watched with great interest, they charged towards each other, and when their horns locked, they both turned at the same time and ran, tangled up straight towards our airboat, no more than 15 metres away!

Luckily Macca had the good sense to whack on the reverse and get us out of their path in a hurry – nobody wants to be smacked by half a ton of wild buffalo! I can just see the headlines – Singaporean family turned into Buffalo Biltong at Kakadu…

Here’s the youtube video I shot of the entire alarming event. The kids thought it was splendid, educational fun though and spent the rest of the day practicing buffalo wrestling moves in the tent.


The wild lotus flowers are magnificent, velvety petaled, geometric and unexpected, rising majestically out of the muddy swamp.

Oh and the crocs are everywhere. A few weeks before our trip, some unfortunate fellow as bailing water with a pail from a fishing boat when he leaned a little too far over the edge, and a huge 4.7 metre crocodile jumped up and dragged him down into the water as his horrified wife and daughter watched. It was so fast he didn’t even get a chance to scream, and he was never seen again. The police went out and shot 2 crocs and found his remains in both, according to the locals. “He got taken just at this spot here. Ah you know, these things happen.” our weatherbeaten Northern Territories cowboy guide shrugged, “we’ll be right.”

That’s the thing about Aussies. Half of the time they’re freaking out about applying SPF 50+ sunscreen, speed limits, making sure that swimming pools are fenced off like Alcatraz and such, but point out that they live in the most dangerous place in the entire world when it comes to wildlife and insects that will kill you and they’re all “No dramas! Throw another snag on the barbie will ya and mind that redback spider under your coaster!” Finn can recite a list of 20 things that will kill you in under a minute just on our local beach alone – coneshells, blue-ringed octopus, the list goes on…


It’s a crazy, rugged, cowboy kind of place. Finn got to ride in the front seat of the jeep – seatbelt optional. We often didn’t see a single car for hours in the baking sun. There’s a town called Humpty Doo and its gas station is called Humpty Pump. There’s a place on the Adelaide river that trains crocs to jump 2 metres into the air to catch dead chickens suspended from rods on the side of the boat. I spoke to a teenage boy who pulled out his mobile phone to show me videos of him riding a rodeo bull, where he hung on for 2 seconds before he was flung off like a rag doll and stomped on. “Jeez, that was a bit hairy there!” he grinned.  It’s a mad place. And when I say we survived it, I mean that I’m on antivirals, antibiotics and antihistamines after being bitten by a swarm of insects which led to a dreaded staph infection.

Did I mention the kids had an awesome time though?  The things we do as parents. More to be continued in Part II of our Kakadu travel diary soon…
Yours, feverishly,

Taking pictures in the dark

You remember how I said in my last post that we were one of the lucky ones who only had a few hours of the power outage last week? Well karma’s a bitch. The very next day after I wrote that post, we were treated to our very own blackout for 48 hours, being one of the only 38 households in our district to be affected by the falling pines trees on our road.

Luckily the candles were just where we left them, and this time I had the Irishman in the house, who made himself quite useful chopping wood, lighting fires, boiling water and transferring it gradually into Finn’s tropical fish tank every hour to warm the poor buggers up.

I took some photos as well but the F1.2 lens that I have on my camera is so ridiculously good that all the photos look 10 times brighter than the reality. It was nearly pitch black in the house once we finished roasting the chicken in the fireplace, as Finn calls it, “caveman style”.

We all ended up in the living room huddled around the fire again, the kids telling jokes in the dark and occasionally glancing at the waning battery bars of their digital devices. You know what is really great in the dark? The sound of the grand piano echoing in the gloom.

This week I’m playing Hans Zimmer’s Time – the magnificent theme from the movie Inception.

I went everywhere with my trusty brass oil ship lamp, the most reliable, beautiful thing.

The next day we bought this monster of a generator which makes a terrific racket when on, it honestly sounds just like a jumbo jet taking off right outside your window, but apparently it is powerful enough to run the whole house. I’m getting an electrician to hook it up permanently next to the mains so that the next time the power trips we can just flip the switch. Very zombie apocalypse. But even though it’s nice to sit around the fire and tell stories, it’s not so pleasant to have a fridge full of rotting cheeses and a chest freezer of putrefying homemade chicken stock and slowly melting racks of our farmed lambs. Nothing more depressing than hearing that drip drip sound of your food melting away in the dark.

Look at that monstrosity! That completes the picture now. We have our septic waste treatment tank, dam, 100,000 litre water tanks x 4, LPG gas bullet and generator. If the zombies come, you’ll want to be on our team. BRAINS!