Dramatis persona*

helenhead Helen Chick

I've always wanted a bumper sticker that said "I'm a female, LDS/Mormon, Scout leading, geocaching, piano-playing, bicycling, mathematics educator with a PhD in maths ... and I VOTE"!

I think this makes me a minority group of cardinality 1!

* Since there's only one of me and "personae" is plural (I think), I've gone with dramatis persona.
March 2019
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O’Gradys Falls (and not for the first time)

A friend of mine from Melbourne and his partner have been visiting Tasmania and we had a window of opportunity to catch up this morning, a catch-up with scenery thrown in for good measure as I took them on a little sight-seeing tour up the mountain and down to Kingston Beach. We walked in to O’Grady’s Falls  where, because they are so photogenic, I took some hand-held time exposures, even though I have photographed them before (not once but twice … and certainly more not included here). They are very pretty.

12 of 12, December 2018

Things were a little frantic this morning as my New Zealand-based brother and his family were arriving for Christmas and I am their local hotel. Trouble is, I had been occupying the rooms — yes, all of them — that they needed, and although I have spent time in the last week getting things ready there was still a bit to do. Before breakfast I had managed to clear them some wardrobe space. The garage’s major restructure will make it easier not to collide with the barbecue, kayak, lawnmower, Scout camping gear and a bunch of storage crates (and much more stuff not visible in the second picture), and it is now serving as the budget accommodation suite. 

During breakfast I managed to get this year’s Christmas card production line started. I am slightly worried that the international cards won’t arrive in time … although I did manage to write and send them later in the day. Of course, now I am worried about the interstate cards, since I have no idea when I am going to have time to get them organised.

With a hot day ahead, and rain forecast for later in the week, I needed to do something about the overly enthusiastic grass in the yard. I probably need to trim the path edge too, I suppose, but there were other things that were more urgent.

During the morning I learned that the latest issue of a magazine for primary maths teachers had been published, containing an article written by a friend and me.  We’re both pleased that this has appeared.

In the evening, after several weeks of doing badgework and competition camp preparation, I finally had a chance to get out on the water at Scouts. My water shoes couldn’t wait to get off the pebbly shore.

I looked after the kayakers as the sun set over Mt Wellington.

In the meantime, the other leaders looked after the kids in boats.

We headed up-river and under the bridge on one of those glorious mild summer evenings.

And at this point we turned around and headed back … and then I failed to take any photos of packing up, and closing parade.

[The “12 of 12” project involves taking 12 photos on the 12th of the month; this is episode 112.]

“Messiah” (most of it, plus 2 RDCVs*)

I knew that the TSO Chorus was doing Handel’s Messiah at the end of the year, and, being familiar with the work and suspecting that the shortage of tenors that had seen me invited to do Gounod’s Romeo et Juliette might also apply even for the better known Messiah, I let the powers that be know that I was interested in singing, and I got a “yes” in response (an extended “yes”, that applies into next year too 🙂 ). Thence followed a whole bunch of rehearsals, and towards the end there was a bit of a twist: instead of singing in S, A, T, B blocks, we started to mix ourselves up, so that we were paired with another person from our voice part but then were dispersed among everyone else. This made a huge difference to the balance and quality of the sound … and also meant that we had to be much more self-sufficient as singers instead of letting others of our voice parts “carry” us. The end result was a sold-out performance with the full orchestra which apparently sounded really good.

The following weekend we took a cut down version on tour to two of Tasmania’s regional areas: Cygnet (which was close enough that Mum and Dad could come and see it) and Campbell Town (which I took a friend and her family to, as the Cygnet concert sold out before we got tickets). This time we were accompanied by a quartet and a synthesised organ continuo and, again, both concerts sold out and were well-received. It was fun to “go on tour” and get to know some of the choristers better (I already knew a few from Loose Canon) and start to feel more a part of the group.

And I always enjoy “doing” Messiah because of its meaning and the fact that it’s just a great piece of music.


*RDCV = Readers’ Digest Condensed version (the Readers’ Digest publishing company used to produce “condensed” versions of classic novels, to save having to read every last word of Dickens or Hugo)

Not your average nesting site

My eagle-eyed parents, on a drive, happened to spot a tawny frogmouth making its home up a telephone pole.

When I drove past a week or so later it was to discover that it was actually home to a family of not just two but, if you look closely, three.

It’s not the place I would have picked for a home if I was a tawny frogmouth (they typically roost in eucalypts where they are well camouflaged), but it seemed to be working for them. A week or two later, however, they appeared to have abandoned this site, hopefully for something more comfortable and better hidden.


12 of 12, November 2018

I kind of forgot it was 12 of 12 for most of the day, and so was forced to resort to desperate strategies at the end of the day. When I got home, I decided to look for patterns, or interruptions to patterns.

This is from the pebble patch by the front door.

Here’s a coastal daisy hiding amongst the other daisy-things.

Here’s a coastal daisy breaking through the fence palings.

Here’s a dead leaf amongst the living.

Somehow some gravel snuck up onto the retaining wall.

This bit of fence might be getting on a bit.

There’s a roll of sisal rope in the garage.

Once upon a time there were eight cups in this set (two of each colour) but somehow, when one of my nieces was living with me, one of them transformed from green and same-size-as-the-rest, to translucent blue and doesn’t-match-at-all.

There’s a book missing. That’s because it is being read.

Light from the upstairs window shining on the lawn and fence below.

Part of my penguin collection … but not all of them are penguins.

A shelf full of UHT milk. The single carton on the right is messing with my head, as there is supposed to be an even number of them (because … reasons).

[The “12 of 12” project involves taking 12 photos on the 12th of the month, thus providing the opportunity to get snapshots of different aspects of your life … or just miscellaneous weird stuff. This is the 111th instalment since 2009.]

Sailing lessons

With Hobart being situated on the broad expanse of water where the Derwent River meets the sea, it is not surprising that there are quite a few sea scout troops scattered around its shores. One of these has a supply of “Oppies” (Optimist class sailing dinghies) that can be used for helping people learn to sail. We arranged a sailing camp one weekend where we stayed in their hall and learned something of the art of sailing.

We learned to rig the boats, but the reason that we are doing it inside is because …

outside it was blowing a gale and definitely not safe for sailing.

“Skip” took the kids for some theory (apparently they knew the answer to this question!).

Fortunately the weather improved, and we were able to get out on the water.

Yours truly had a go but felt a little ungainly in a boat which is designed for youngsters to learn to sail.

The hosting Scout troop also have a couple of rigid inflatable boats that can act as support vessels; we had a bit of fun taking the kids for a spin up the channel to Margate. 

And then the kids had fun jumping off them at the end of the day.

Jamboree training camp

Every three years, in preparation for Jamboree, a training camp is held so that the leaders can meet all the 34-36 Scouts who are going to be in their Jamboree troop, and so we can test out the patrols. The Scouts in a Jamboree troop can come from a number of home troops, although this year there were only three home troops involved (it’s usually more), and this is why it’s useful to have a shake-down camp. At the camp the kids get to meet each other, find out more about what Jamboree involves, and do some activities … including learning how to use a fire extinguisher.

They also build the gateway (in our case, a painted banner), which got a bit tricky when it started to rain (fortunately we had a big dining shelter), and they also get to help with the cooking and washing up (and to realise that this is going to be part of the Jamboree routine).

On the second day they do an “off-site activity”, which, for our group, involved a hike from Fern Tree down to the Waterworks along the Pipeline Track. This took us past the two lovely sandstone aqueducts, and involved the traditional (for hikes along this route) crawling under the track, before the final descent down the water-free Gentle Annie Falls (in the last photo).

I think that, in general, we’ve got a nice group of kids going away with us come January, which is a good thing … and a good leader team.

Back on song

Earlier this year, when I wasn’t sure how the year was going to pan out, I received an invitation to be an extra tenor in the Tasmanian Symphony Orchestra Chorus for a forthcoming performance of Gounod’s Romeo et Juliette (tenors are in notoriously short supply for many choirs). I have been missing singing with my old choral group, Loose Canon, which is now in what appears to be permanent recess (largely due to its members being over-committed to other choirs, including the TSO Chorus), and although I wasn’t sure if I was going to be well enough or if I had time for this engagement—the TSO Chorus has a fairly rigorous and demanding schedule—I was keen to get back into some substantial singing. Fortunately, when August came around and rehearsing began, I was back in good health and the rehearsal load was manageable.

The music itself wasn’t too challenging (although some sections required a bit of serious work), and Gounod has some lovely harmonious moments; the harder bit was getting the hang of the French, as I have done very little of anything in that language (French is not my lingua franca, as it were!). Fortunately we had some good guidance and training, and gradually it started to flow off my tongue a little more easily.

The TSO chorus is associated with the Tasmanian Symphony Orchestra, which has a very good international reputation, and some really good soloists were lined up for this performance. The performance went off really well, and, as you can see, received very good reviews (the Mercury’s review is below; see here for another one which mentions the French!). [The photos below were taken by Alastair Bett.]

It was good to be involved once more with a group of good singers (in fact, most of the old Loose Canon members already sing with the TSO chorus) and June Tyzack is a good chorus master. The question is, will my involvement continue?

12 of 12, October 2018

Today was a very miscellaneous day, and so I have ended up with a very miscellaneous collection of photos for this month’s 12 of 12. I kept forgetting to take photos for some of the things which were happening, and so, as I tried to get a full set of 12 shots, the degree of miscellaneity got even worse.

The day began with the sun and clouds interacting on Mt Wellington.

Six months on, the legacy of my breast cancer diagnosis is, fortunately, just a simple tablet at breakfast-time (well, actually, there were other consequences, but this is the only ongoing treatment thing I have to do).

One of my PhD students had corrections to do with her thesis (lots of them, but only really minor ones), and my task is to check them. There are a few more tweaks still to make as this list suggests, but by the end of the day she had done them.

In the afternoon I needed to pick up a friend of mine who lives on a sandy coast. The Gazanias are growing in profusion where she lives, brightening up the roadside verges. They always remind me of my now-departed Uncle Ian who used to have a shack down at Murdunna where these also grew.

My friend gave some of her proteas to my Mum and me.

After completing the errands with my friend I headed back up to town, where the light over the mountain was lovely but less so by the time I got up onto Rosny Hill to take a photo … and so I took a photo of the yachts and the bridge instead.

On Friday nights I often have dinner with Mum and Dad, and as often as not it is take-away Praties (roast potatoes with toppings of your choice).

As I returned home from Mum and Dad’s, and unsure whether or not I had enough photos, I took a shot of the big development that is going on at the old golf course (this was the site of one of my brother’s geocache hides, which was the best caching challenge I’ve ever done, but now it is no more 🙁 ).

In the evening I went for a walk through Lindisfarne, along the river and around the bay.

And when I arrived home I caught up with the new Doctor Who.

[The “12 of 12” project involves taking 12 photos on the 12th of the month, thus providing the opportunity to get snapshots of different aspects of your life. This is the 110th instalment since 2009.]

Cape Hauy and Fortescue Bay

We had a dual-purpose activity planned for Scouts this weekend: three of the older Scouts were doing an overnight hike (not really shown here, because one of the other leaders followed that) and a camp and day hike for some of our younger Scouts, which is the event with which I was mostly involved. We were camped at Fortescue Bay, and on the Saturday we headed out to Cape Hauy.

Cape Hauy is a dramatic peninsula that breaks up into islands at the end. It is an undulating hike out to the end, but there has been some major trackwork to “harden” the track, which is to make it less susceptible to walking erosion, by building stone steps that may (or may not!) make it easier to walk.


The dolerite cliffs at the end are very spectacular, and you can see Cape Pillar (scene of a two-night hike earlier in the year, where we skipped doing Cape Hauy).


The Scouts felt a good feeling of accomplishment and slept well that night (well, not entirely, since some of them had their tent raided by possums!).

The next day we did a little stroll along Fortescue Bay around to Canoe Bay, with the sun finally making an effort to come out as we returned.


The weekend’s final task was to go and meet the overnight hikers who had walked through to Waterfall Bay. Here’s one of the waterfalls that we found while we awaited their arrival.