I have been thinking about mice. In particular I have been thinking about the scurrying, furry, scrabbling, poo-laden, smelly mouse plague we had a few years ago when we were still living in the old manse in Tanunda, all too near the heavily moused wheat fields and vineyards.

I was so moved by the extravagant mouseness of that month that I wrote a wee poem to celebrate … an ode to Autumness and all its little wonders.
I call it “Autumn”


Oh to be in Tanunda
Now the season’s changed.
Autumn, the time of wonder
When rodents go deranged.
Autumn, mellow mousy time
They scurry without fear
Perpetrating pantry crime
Eating anything that’s near.
Oh to be in Tanunda 
With a mouse in every trap
A time of mellow wonder
Flavoured with mousy crap.

The Exhibitionists!

There has been some low-level scurrying and snuffling in the Fox Holes.
We threatened to stage an art exhibition, and now we are.
The two Vixens (Amelia and Joy) and the old worn Dog-Fox (Ant … i.e. me) have got together under the guise of A.Fox Collective.
Our exhibition “Abstracted Landscapes” will hang for two months at the lovely Rain Moth Gallery in Waikerie by the River Murray in South Australia’s fruit-growing Riverland.

We call it “Abstracted Landscapes”, but perhaps that is slightly – just slightly – misleading. Some works are more like “abstracts landscaped”, some are “fibrescapes”, some “buttonscapes”, some “lightscapes”.

Amelia captures, in fibre and photo, the subtle light of landscape and experience.
Joy repurposes buttons from the past, some mundane some flashy and fashionable, bringing wearable hints of history.
My paintings attempt to show what landscape feels like, rather than record exactly what it looks like.

Mother and Daughter Hanging – Amelia and Fibres

If you are passing through the Riverland, pop in – supporting the rural art scene is a good thing, and supporting us Foxes would make us very happy.
We are friendly and house-trained!

Up North (oil on canvas)

Cottage Memories

The Horsnell Gully Cottage

It was a good house, sitting on a few acres of steep ground.
The front was 1880s dressed stone.
The back part was dug into the hill and cool.
The clothes line was accessed by climbing stairs to one side and walking onto the flat roof section at the back.
Fruit trees surrounded it.
The vegetable garden was black aluvial soil above the creek.
The chook sheds were concrete cells that were once kennels for dog breeding – while we were there they held nesting boxes for red hens, and some housed the orphaned and injured owls that we fostered.
The front door was reached by crossing a footbridge over a permenantly flowing stream, and then climbing more than twenty steep steps that passed through the garden.
These steps were a favourite sunning place for red-bellied black snakes and tiger snakes that lived in the creek vegetation.  
The snakes were no trouble – we just needed to watch where we walked.It was a good house, of fond memory.
It wasn’t big, but it was cosy and comfortable.
It was the place where our son Huw was conceived, and the first place he lived – born on our tenth wedding anniversary in 1983.

arty shot - joy and huw - horsnell's gully 1983
An Arty Shot – Joy and Baby Huw in the Horsnell Gully House, 1983

This was the fourth place Joy and I lived as a couple.
I came down from Lobethal in the hills in 1972, and Joy and I had a flat in Norwood.
We were married in 1973 and lived first in a century old house in Hyde Park just off the now very trendy shopping strip on King William Road.

13 April 1973 – When I Still Had hair and Joy’s Was Red

From there we went to Fullarton to a house with a big garden and orchard out the back.  Thence we headed for the hills and dwelt Hobbit-like in the Horsnell Gully cottage, known locally as “The Dogs’ Home” or “The Kennels” … a dog’s home with two Foxes living in it – strange!We lived in that house for quite a while, playing loud, loud music (there were no immediate neighbours to complain), drinking chilled Bolly on the verandah (especially on Saturday and Sunday afternoons).
 People with musical instruments popped around to relax, and Joy catered lavishly.
 We hung out with the arty set and spent a lot of times in galleries and dimly lit clubs and bars.

horsnell gully_0012 - version 3
Joy and Our Friend Catherine in the Early 80s

It was a pleasing lifestyle.
… the bright front rooms and the cool gloom of the semi underground back rooms 
 … reclining in the bath on Saturday afternoons with the lorikeets hanging in the pear branches outside the open door
… the wild fox walking across the back roof to pick the olives
… the echidnas walking up the steps by the kitchen window
… the possums yelling for jam sandwiches on the verandah
… the choruses of frogs
… and the constant singing of birds.It was a good house that had seen much in its 100+ years, but wasn’t telling.
It held the drama it knew close to its breast, but sometimes there were echoes.
 No, it wasn’t haunted but some nights it sounded as if it was.
 Strange beasts dwelt between the ‘new’ ceiling and the original wood ceiling above it.    Wraiths squirmed about in the sealed off bedroom chimney.
The iron roof moved and creaked in the heat.There were physical threats as well as those imagined spookings.
The cottagey rural charm was spared from the Ash Wednesday bushfire horror.
Flames skirted around it.
The fire, roaring like daemons from Mordor came straight down the valley, dark at 3pm, to within not all too many metres from our door where it changed course and went up the hill and behind the back of the house.
 Emergency services ordered me and my heavily pregnant Joy to evacuate – it seemed a very wise idea. A week or so later a “rain event” swept black ash down the flooded creek, over our gardens and poultry sheds, and through the two Humber cars I had parked in the lower area.When the baby started to crawl, and looked like toddling wasn’t far away, it became apparent that a house sticking out of a cliffside, infested with snakes and all sorts of bities, with a precipitous stone and concrete stairway access, probably wasn’t the place for us.We reached into our pockets and purchased a house in the ‘nice’ end of Prospect and became almost respectible suburbanites.

old pics i_0024
Art in the Suburbs – The Kids, Huw and Amelia, in the Prospect House Back Room.

But we missed the Gully.
Bits of that cottage still circulate in our blood.

Of Summer Heat and Bicycles.

Lone Tourer.jpeg
The Lone Tourer

Summer is hot where we live! Too hot for cottage garden plants, and this year too hot for me..

The love-in-the-mist plants have died off and their brittle corpses bestraggle themselves brownly across bits of our garden path and bestrew their brittle branchlets amongst the roses.

In this heat, I know how they felt as they dried to a desiccated death (or would have “felt” if plants feel).

The hot sky is cheerfully and cruelly blue.

It is far too hot to ride a bicycle!
Too hot or not, that hot summer sky’s blueness both blends and clashes with the gaudiness of the lycra clad pedalling racers Touring Down Under through our hills.

from the advertiser
From the ‘Adelaide Advertiser’ January 18th 2019

The ‘Tour Down Under’ cycling event is always raced under the harsh South Australian summer sun.

This past few weeks, little old Nairne, and places like it, have been packed with parked cars and strangers.
It’s a cafe trading bonanza!
Touring gawpers gawp at gardens, grapes, granite, and gables as they bustle to see bunches of blokes on bikes breezing through the Adelaide Hills.
A hot, racy breezing on bikes in the heat.

The two-wheeled carbon neutral physically fit transport concept is great
– but the act of competitive pedalling turns otherwise normal and nice people into obsessed overheated fools who have lost all idea of dress-sense and sensible behaviour.
You know that can’t be good. They risk cardiac crises and dehydration.
Never-the-less they smile through the sweat as they congregate in the alfresco areas of village coffee shops.
Good on ‘em!


I remember another era when a bicycle was a different beast entirely from the one they it has evolved into – a finer beast  – a refined and elegant device.

My bike.
My ‘Bullock’ with its proud ornate “B” badge thrust forward
– all black, graceful, heavy.
No carbon fibre or light alloys on that girl.

She was steel – British steel,
Her big wheels soaked up the inconsistencies of the dirt tracks and gravel roads.
Her momentum carried this pre-lycra, corduroy and denim clad, helmet-less rider effortlessly.
She carried me over the miles, seated luxuriously on her extravagantly sprung seat.

Her horizontal crossbar had ties to hold a collapsed sports fishing rod
Her hessian pannier had room for scrumped apples,
Her wet bag held fish.

She was a bike of bikes – big, bold, black, and beautiful
… but now her kind is gone and replaced by all these lighter,lesser, mean, nasty, skinny, fast, expensive machines.
Machines that swarm the roads like locust plagues in their shiny, gaudily alloyed millions.

Sigh! … But the Bullock – that was a bike!