Tuesday, 21 October 2008

la Gota Fria - the cold drop

It is expected every autumn. It may not always come, but it has done the last two years.

The threatening sky is awesome. Over the pale purple bignonia flowers particularly. It is their best time just at the end of the summer. After continual rain for a couple of days even the hose-pipe is embarrassed when the pummeling downpour pauses. It wants to retreat to its base on the wall out of sight.

Soon there will be more strips torn off the yucca. Enough to make a basket.

Then after several days of downpour, a wonderful sight, a rainbow. I carefully note where it reaches the ground and sharpen my spade ready to dig for the treasure.
But I had better wait until dark.

Is it dark enough yet?

What causes la Gota Fria? During the hot summer weather evaporation occurs and sea water is drawn up into the atmosphere. If a cold front moves in above it, the moisture is then trapped and falls as a constant heavy downpour for several days under lowering skies accompanied by thunder and lightning. Dramatic!

The orange flowers of a bignonia shrub end up on the drive where they are stuck, sodden. Then comes the respite when they dry out after some days of sun. Time to clean up!

Restored to the bright days, the bignonia continues to flourish. Next Spring's jasmine will flower just above it at the extreme right reaching out to the wall and window area - where the senior gecko appears! (See photo in previous blog)
The jasmine will flower in May next year. Its perfume is a pleasure we already look forward to.

Sunday, 12 October 2008

Why the chair was there.

Readers were invited to explain why a folding chair was in an unusual place - shown in a photo in the previous blog. (To see it click on September in the column to the right, then October to return here) I have to say how impressed I was by the range and quality of the response.

62.5 % of the answers mentioned wind in one way or another. Usually expressed with gust-o!
Some 25% of the answers suggested two possible causes: either wind or Otto, our youngest grandson, who was here for a summer holiday admitttedly and responsible for the name 'garden in the sky'. Otto would be perfectly capable of putting a chair in that situation purely as an experiment, but he didn´t.

Meg obviously recalled the melon-throwing competitions held here across the length of the swimming pool every year. She suggested that we had changed the object from melon to chair, and one had gone over the rail. Just as sometimes the smallest grandchild (no, not thrown over the rail) would find he/she could throw a melon, but not straight. Throwing the chair would not be so messy, she wisely thought. Well done, Meg. What a great response to the challenge!

A flying saucer landed but in their haste the Martians dropped the male chair and made off with its partner. They thought that the chairs were Earth people and the female might be more interesting.
This is a real gem: a two folding chair story of great invention by Just Ivan. The chair was in fact one of a pair.

An answer came very early on from Mary-Jane in Melbourne.

Although it may appear to be a chair, it is actually a carefully evolved bloom, produced by the erotic entanglements of the garden creepers. It is a newgrown piece of skyscape, which has evolved for reasons of protection until maturity, camouflaged as a poolside chair. When it appears as shown, it will be harvested by someone who readily adopts it as an unfortunate victim of a blustery evening which has strewn it carelessly from the domain of a neighbour. It will then spend several months ripening under the warmth of various human bottoms until, finally ready, it will simply drift skyward to become part of the cloud scudded skies discarding on the upward jouney its redundant chrome legs over the local tip.

I am delighted to have stimulated such a response. Thankyou, Mary-Jane.

And now, how the chair came to be there: the truth
Unfolding the chair one day late last month, I noticed a tiny creature resting on one of the metal legs. By picking up the chair and unfolding it I had exposed its pale perfect symmetrical body about two inches long. Just a baby! And motionless, clinging to the metal.

I have to digress a moment to explain that we have two cats who live alongside us; they do not come into the house. Bella the mother, and Basil her son, are parent and surviving offspring of a wild litter born in a woodpile on the terrace below us 10 years ago.
They have their own little house basket on the upper terrace and we feed them every day, of course; twice. They repay us from time to time with a tribute: a head, torso or tail of a dismembered rodent. This presentation is laid out for us as we open the door and step outside in the morning. Occasionally, to our greater horror, the portion is not of a mouse or a rat but of another creature, a favourite of ours.

This favourite we first met in Kaduna, Northern Nigeria, in the Sixties. We had 'a government house'. It did not have screens on the windows, although we did sleep under nets. However, apart from the smoke from the 'mosquito coils' placed on metal holders on the floor, we had another species of insect repellent. They would linger in spaces behind cupboards, or rest behind pictures on the wall. From time to time they would swiggle across the wall or ceiling to take their prey. Very occasionally, one of these wonderful creatures, would lose its concentration and would splat on the floor or table. As we all do occasionally as we get older. We didn´t mind. Normally, the creatures were doing valuable work.

You will have guessed by now that it was a baby gecko I noticed on the unfolded chair. In order to save it from the cats, we quickly decided to place the chair amongst the cover of 'the garden in the sky' where the gecko might sneak away with more chance of survival than on the open terrace.
(One of our current outdoor senior geckos is just visible on the white wall in the photo. It (or its double) often appears in this space above the ´garden in the sky'.)

Future posts: The Cold Drop, The nocturnal pigs in the garden, How the villagers used to fish,
The bougainvillea I forgot, The centuries-old pile of stones.