Between travels to run workshops we return to John and Annie's home in Bendigo, a spacious low house four kilometres from the town centre. I've my own comfortable private space from which to join in a communal drawing room and kitchen where we talk, work and eat. Wifi works well there and in my room. In my bathroom there's a sandtimer reminding me not to waste water. The garden burgeons on greywater. A pool where the water doesn't get replaced over the winter, in which a clever self cleaning gadget roams at random, and solar heating warms the water, provides sweet relaxation. A few days ago John had to dispatch two Brown Snakes, (snakes protected in Oz unless a risk near homes) as we were eating outside fed from a BBQ under a large covered veranda. I wake early to the songs of bright plumaged birds darting through surrounding trees and fragrant jasmine.
Bees in the base of an old gum tree - at least 240 years old? Before Cooke came to Botany Bay?
Our days, beginning around 6.00am seem longer, with lots getting done before breakfast. You sense here, perhaps more than in Europe, our human race with climate change - to adapt and mitigate. Fewer hours wasted on scepticism, more on urgent invention.
A few miles out of Melbourne airport after our flight from Brisbane, John parked to take a call for a live broadcast, with ABC reporter Kathy Bedford, about Energy Futures, the national conference he's promoted and which, with a rich variety of sponsors, will run in Bendigo from mid-Sunday through to Tuesday pm. I'll be chairing one session in the Capital Theatre, Bendigo, on Tuesday afternoon on Distributed Energy; speakers are Dr David Jones, BIO 21 Group, Melbourne Energy Institute. University of Melbourne talking about New Generation Printable Solar Cells - Low Cost and High Volume, then Dr Maria Retnanestri and Professor Hugh Outhred, University of NSW, Energy sustainability for rural communities in Indonesia, local renewable energy resources, implications for Australia and finally, Mike Hill, Chair, Victorian Local Sustainability Advisory Committee The role of local governments in sustainable and distributed energy. Instead of thinking of food-miles my attention is drawn to the challenge of reducing energy miles and the creation of local energy sources as opposed to the piping or wiring of gas, oil or electricity over vast distances. The drought of the past decade and the continuing water crisis in Australia, despite some welcome rain in recent months, has wonderfully concentrated people's energies in pursuit of sustainability - and like the clever rats we are, human creativity burgeons in pursuit of fixes for the fix we face. A plethora of bright people will assemble for an event conceived by John Martin and to be opened by the Premier of Victoria, a state only slightly smaller in area than the whole UK.
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This morning I borrowed one of John's bicycles and pedalled the O'Keefe Trail into Bendigo to meet up with him and friends at a coffee shop in town. They'd started earlier and probably covered a good 20 kilometres to my four and a half, but I was delighted to have this well tamed bush to myself for a couple of miles cycling through corridors of mellifluous bird song amid eucalyptus woods.In Australia more people seem to take cycling - fast long distance road cycling - really seriously. Off and on road cycle lanes proliferate here and the cycles I see are thoroughbreds, their riders in Lycra pedalling in cadence, putting me in the 'calico and basket' category as one woman observed - gently - in a Bendigo coffee shop this morning. It didn't detract one iota from the sheer pleasure of being able to cycle through this new landscape, though I've a yen to try to search out, perhaps on eBay, a racing cycle that might suit me. John says he'll tutor me on suitable frame dimensions.
* * * Between relaxing we've been reviewing political-management conversations on film, selecting further clips from the Marion City Council conversation for coming seminars in Launceston, Sidney and Melbourne. We've also kicked off a new blog - Constructing Trust - on Wordpress; to be a joint activity dedicated to the political-management theme. Annie's in Melbourne filming until tomorrow. For supper this evening John barbecued us lean kangaroo steaks with lightly fried potatoes and onion plus salad and a nice Shiraz.
I spoke to Lin by Skype this morning to discuss our Easter dates in Corfu; chatted to Mum in Scotland - all for free, as well as arranging teaching in December and January. I'm still bewildered at how our current communication technologies take awe from global distance - the vastness of Australia alone as well as the eleven thousand miles between me and England. It's part good, part slightly dismaying, but I rejoice at the opportunities afforded to collaborate with John.
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My favoured book at the moment is the first Martin Beck procedural, Roseanna. I've read it before but it's good enough for a reread, especially as I've forgotten the end.
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Just got the great news from GreenBirmingham of a small terrace house at 103 Tindal St, Balsall Heath B12 92U - well inside the city - being on show as a zerocarbon house - possibly the first inner city old house converted and lived in that will meet the sustainability code, meant to apply to new homes in the UK by 2016. Such a race ...