One For the Road

Travelling Along Back Country Roads is the theme of this week’s Lens-Artists Challenge #158. Thank you to Beth for her post. You can visit her site here

Now here’s a story for you –

One cloudy Sunday afternoon I followed this single track road to get closer to Loch Tay (Tay in the Gaelic means “House”). Further down the road. I could see ruins down in the trees along the shore. Surely this had to be the old village of Lawers I’d heard about.

It was a fair slope down to the water. In the fields beside the track, there were a few cattle and on the other more sheep … who ran off as I approached … all except one. The dry-stane dyke has been waiting a while to be restored.

The loch is beautiful in a lovely part of Perthshire. Once part of the Breadalbane estates – the family that once held the largest landholdings in all of Scotland.

When I reached the shore, there was not a soul around. I soaked up the views, the cool air on my face and the stony earth at my feet. I couldn’t see any sign of a jetty. I’d been told steamships used to do day trips along the loch in the 1800s. Further east along the bank, I explored the ruins of the 1000-year-old village of Lawers.

Few walls stood amidst the hummocks of fallen stones and tangle of trees. The gable-end of a home still stood out. After the village church roof collapsed two hundred years ago, services were held within its walls. It’s said about a thousand people from the area would attend communion, many rowing across the loch.

It was so still, here. No birds sang. There was not a breath of wind. An occasional bleat from sheep reassured me a bit.

Just the day before, I’d heard that the village is haunted by a certain Lady of Lawers.

She lived in the late 17th century, was said to be gifted with Second Sight and when she died was buried under an Ash tree beside the kirk.

Soothsayer, Mary Campbell married and lived here in the late 17th Century, in this township on her husband’s farm. She became known as the ‘Lady of Lawyers,’ because of her wise sayings. Many of her predictions came true in time. Some caught my attention!

The feather of the goose will drive the memory from man.

Storytelling gatherings in people’s homes kept the community together. People knew their family history and the tales of their ancestors. Learning to read and write (education) meant that people lost the need to sit telling stories to others. They no longer felt that strong sense of belonging.

The mouth of the sheep will strip the land pf its people.

During the Highland Clearances of 1750 to 1860 many poor families here were evicted from their homes and the thatch roof burnt so they could not return.

The last person left this village in 1939. The land has been for sale since 2016. A real estate agent commented that they’ve had a lot of interest lately, especially from other European countries, perhaps because of CoVid…

Oh No! This reminds me of another of her prophecies!

Spend as you get, get as you spend. Save and for whom? Remember death!

Lady of Lawers

As the clouds began to darken, I had one last look at the loch. Saw the remnants of the pier for steamships in the distance and left … vowing to learn more of Mary Campbell’s times and story.

Sources

CAMPSIE, Alison in The Scotsman, September 7, 2020. The Village that stood for 1000 years and slowly slipped away.  

The Lady of Lawers. Wikipedia. accessed 27 July 2021

(PS. If interested further, search for a program with Tom Weir called ‘The Lady of Lawers’)

All text (except quotes) and photos by Meg

Story Twigs the Imagination! by Meg Philp Copyright © under Australian Law.

Calm Crossings

Lens-Artist Photo Challenge #157 – Getting Away 

Thank you, Rusha & Bert for this challenge which reminded me of the feeling of a lovely holiday.

There are some timeless places, where we can escape the often harsh reality of the world. Fine weather can help. To get to the island of Mull, we caught the ferry across Loch Linnhe from Corran to Ardgour one autumn Saturday.

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I could give all to Time except – except
What I myself have held. But why declare
The things forbidden that while the Customs slept
I have crossed to Safety with? For I am There,
And what I would not part with I have kept. (Robert Frost)

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Worth revisiting –

  • Frost’s poem I could give all to time.
  • The moving novel Wallace Stegner wrote, aged 78, his last – Crossing to Safety, reviewed on the ABC’s ‘Tuesday Bookclub.’ (Click the blue link for the 11 min segment)
  • A.B. Facey’s unforgettable autobiography, ‘A Fortunate Life‘ is a much-loved, Australian classic about hardship and loss, friendship and love. Published in 1981, when he was 87, it shows his extraordinary fortitude, despite terrible times.

Sea and sky help remind me that I lead a fortunate life, in a world where so many, millions?, cannot cross to safety.

It’s good to have time to relax and read and think about life … but of course, it’s actually what I do that makes a difference … so I better get on with it.

………….

Relax: a daily posy.wordpress.com.
All text (except quotes) and photos by Meg

© Story Twigs the Imagination! by Meg Philp is Copyright under Australian Law

Sight-Seeing in Tassie

This week’s Lens-Artists Photo Challenge #136 asks us to focus on any subject beginning with the letter “S’. Thanks to Patti, for this entertaining idea. It got me wondering.

You are invited to match these photos with the clues given in a virtual “Car Rally,” visiting various places in Tasmania’s West.

START Photo A. Scaled by Dame Nellie Melba

Tasmania Blackwood was shipped to UK, stair case built /carved then returned to be rebuilt.

1st Stop Answer –

Photo B. Child’s Bed

Early morning solitude

2nd Stop Answer –

Photo C. Doctor Livingstone, I presume?

Fishing port

3rd Stop Answer –

Photo D. Toot! Toot!

No 5 Engine shipped in pieces from England 1939 ( with no instructions). Now only operating Abt rack and pinion railway in the Southern Hemisphere

4th Stop Answer –

Photo E. Beam me up, Scotty … and it’s not ‘Strachan!’

Type of sunbeams called Jacob’s Ladders

5th Stop Answer –

Photo F. bLIMEY!

Great sign by the shore

6th Stop Answer –

Photo G. Scales for Sale

Squally rain … sometimes 4 seasons in one day

7th Stop Answer-

Clue H. bLIMEY!

Sailboats in a sheltered cove

8th Stop Answer

Clue J. Serene Bay

Absolutely still and calm in the shade

9th Stop Answer –

FINISH – Here’s where Meg’s photos were taken. The ‘word-play’ clues as well as the images link to these places. Start was The Empire Hotel, Queenstown. There are two shots taken at Lymington.

  • Strahan,
  • West Coast Wilderness Railway, Queenstown
  • Lymington
  • Randall’s Bay,
  • Cradle Mountain,
  • Salmon Farm, Huon
  • Stanley
  • Empire Hotel, Queenstown

All text and photos by Meg.

Story Twigs the Imagination! by Meg Philp Copyright © under Australian Law

2020 Favourites

Lens-Artists Photo Challenge#129. Thanks to Tina & Co. for your commitment and inspiration this year.

Looking back, 2020 was the year I started appreciating life going on quietly around me. Nature always takes me out of myself.

The angle of the early morning sun was just right .Had to return the next morning to try and capture it with my old Fuji camera.
Visited our Gallery of Modern Art February 1st. Silenced by Cai Guo-Quang’s blue waterhole.
Learned more about butterflies in March. This is an Autumn Brown that prefers to flutter about at dusk.
Turned a corner and came across a surprise! Local kids must have spent a lot of time daydreaming as they created this artwork on the footpath behind our library. Cheered me up!
Spent a lot of time looking up in May. Always fascinated by clouds. Is that a cockatoo?
Testing my new phone. Visited Mt Cootha Botanic Gardens to learn more about “Native plants for Brisbane Gardens.” This is a glorious Grevillea.
Just a reflection of a crystal on a wall.
A new kitten explores the jungle that is our herb patch. (Thinks) They can’t see me!
So little rain in September… Rainbow Lorikeets were really thirsty and made the most of blossoms.
A Spring day at the beach with fresh, clear air blowing the ozone our way.
In a tree in the garden, orchids put on a show in November. Those blooms last for months.
Taken on the last day of the year. We’d had early morning rain. Ain’t Nature grand!

All text and photos by Meg

Story Twigs the Imagination! by Meg Philp is Copyright © under Australian Law.

Fresh Start

Two old chooks “Off to see the world” after watching Breakfast at Tiffany’s in the Picture House.

Happy New Year, too!

Calm Crossings

Lens-Artist Photo Challenge #157 – Getting Away  Thank you, Rusha & Bert for this challenge which reminded me of the feeling of a lovely holiday. There are some timeless places, where we can escape the often harsh reality of the world. Fine weather can help. To get to the island of Mull, we caught the … Continue reading

ANANSI TALES: CRYING FOR NOTHING!

Originally posted on Under the influence!:
Anansi the Spider AFRICAN FOLKTALES Presented here is a retelling of an Anansi tale found in West African Folktales by William H. Barker and Cecilia Sinclair. Anansi the spider is a trickster who has many roles in the folklore and traditions of West Africa, Jamaica and throughout the African…

Looking Up: stay present

As I stuck my head out the back door the other morning, I looked up and it dawned on me. Like my thoughts, the sky during the day is always changing. Light and colours and clouds shift. They connect me to our planet’s atmosphere.

My mind gets up and away. “Will it be a fine day or not? Will we get rain?” I grew up with the oft quoted “Red in the morning shepherds’ warning. Red at night, shepherds’ delight.”

Here come some Scottish rain clouds. In the Tropics, you can smell rain before it falls.

Bute shower

Not everyone heeds a warning!

Coogee, NSW.

What I see often stops me in my tracks. What made the clouds this shape? Was it wind, the temperature, or a frothy sea? I slow down and wonder.

Classic morning sky in Qld

What is that! Why is that cloud different? Is it a fishbone? A surf break in the sky?

There’s a different sky show every day and I day-dream as I see patterns in the clouds. Writer Bryce Courtney believed day-dreaming is essential … that a soaring imagination is the glue that keeps our soul from shattering under the impact of a prosaic world.

A TED talk by the founder of the Cloud Appreciation Society also explains how important this kind of aimless activity is … to just be present and slow down. Check out more images of clouds there!

A elephant … a woman reading above Stradbroke Is.
How low can you go? Frosty morning, Loch Tay

Wherever you are, just look up and see what you can see.

Phoenix – an omen or a promise?

Cautionary tales about ‘the sky falling’ are often told to children in several cultures. There’s also a giant called Swallower of Clouds from the First Nations – Zuni people. This one’s for us.

Might the Sky Fall today?

One cloudy day, an elephant almost trod upon a humming-bird las it lay in the middle of the track, feet in the air.

 “Watch where you’re going!” called the tiny bird. “I’m down here!”

“Doing what?” asked the elephant, looking around.

“Haven’t you heard? Animals round here are worried that today the sky might fall in!

The elephant flapped its ears and muttered, “You can’t do much with those skinny legs!”

“True,” replied the bird. “I decided to do what I can.”

The elephant stepped back … and soon, it was lying beside the hummingbird, feet in the air, ready to hold up the sky and noticed the clouds

Adapted from a fable from China “Holding Up the Sky” in MacDonald, Margaret Read, Three Minute Tales: Stories around the world to tell or read when time is short. Little Rock, August House, 2004: 145.

Tell a story … why don’t you!

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All text and photos by Meg

Story Twigs the Imagination! by Meg Philp Copyright © under Australian Law.

Other Sources

COURTNEY, Bryce. A Recipe for Dreaming. Ringwood, Vic., Viking/Penguin Books Australia, 1998:i-ii.

For more information on the Cloud Appreciation Society – See Founder of the society Gavin Pretor – Pinney, Gavin give a TED talk. Cloudy with a Chance of Joy. Youtube. 2013. (Downloaded 24 Dec 2020.)

Float like a Butterfly

Over these last few weeks I’ve marvelled at how many butterflies have been around. They flit about the garden like wayward petals. Caper Whites are common here. They tend to tango intensely. (You’ve surely seen them spin together.) While this Common Crow just hovers dreamily … floats along till it finds another resting place.

           Some, like the Blue Triangle, are hectic fliers and hard to capture on camera.

        The other day, as I waited in the queue at the garden centre, this Meadow Argus sat                      here so long I began to wonder if it was real. What a beauty!

        Out walking in the park just before sunset, this ‘odd leaf’ caught my eye. I’ve since                     learned it’s an Evening Brown butterfly that prefers to be out at dusk. 

          When I showed a friend my butterfly photos thus far, she sent this one of a Lemon              Migrant in her backyard. They’re found all over Tropical Australia and known for                  their regular large migrations down the east coast. In February this year there was a                                            butterfly boom after the drought.

             I’ve discovered too that North American Monarchs arrived here later than other                  butterflies, in the 1870’s. Some migrate to warmer areas before winter while many                adults stay. Great clusters of them festoon the same trees each year, till the                                                       weather warms up in September.

         I’ve long thought that a visiting butterfly was a spirit on its way to the next world.              The Ancient Egyptians thought so.They also believed caterpillars died (in the chrysalis)                                              and were reborn as butterflies. 

Egypt, Middle Kingdom – Butterfly Amulet . The Met Museum Copyright free.

There’s an old Irish story which Kevin Crossley-Holland reworked and called “Butterfly Soul.” It goes something like this –

Two farm boys, Tom and Declan have been out in the hills all morning, searching for missing sheep. They give up in the heat of the day and stretch out in the shade of a rock wall. Declan falls asleep while Tom sits, watching the valley and farm below. Declan’s snores get Tom to his feet and just as he bends to shake him awake, a pale butterfly flits out of Declan’s mouth.

Tom stands rooted to the spot, while the butterfly floats down the sleeper’s left side and off down the slope. Curious, the lad follows. He watches it approach the gate, drift upwards past each wooden spar and down the other side.

On it goes, down the track. Tom runs down and climbs the gate. When he lands on the other side, there’s suddenly no sign of the butterfly. Looking around, he notices the long grass by the track. He wades in and swishes through. Yes! He spies it down in the ditch, hovering over a the white skull of a ram. There it lands and teeters the horns.

Tom scrambles closer to get a better look and sees the butterfly fly in one eye socket. Feet in the ditch Tom sits. A couple of crows fly past, cawing. A breeze shakes the grass heads. After a while, he’s rewarded. That same butterfly clambers out of the other empty hole. Flying faster than before, the insect quickly gains height and catching the wind heads  back uphill, over the gate and towards the wall.

By the time Tom gets back up the hill, his friend is sitting up, stretching his arms and grins when he sees Tom, “Had an amazing dream!” 

“So,,,  what did you dream, Declan? ” replies Tom, scraping one foot on a stone.

“I was all by myself and walked for a long, long way hunting for you, Tom,  I came upon a railway track. So I jumped along fast from one sleeper to the next.  I didn’t know where the line was heading. I kept looking for a place I knew.

At the end of the line, I came to a tall, waving forest where a strong wind bent the trees this way and that. Suddenly, the wind lifted me up and I was blown along a river shining below me. I was flying straight on, the cold wind in my face.

There, on the banks of the shining river was a big, white palace. I flew down to it. It’s big round entrance was without a door, so I stepped inside. There was not a soul around, only the wind roaring through. I moved on through the place and wandered marble halls, one after another. They were all bare. It was like nothing I’ve ever seen before! 

Then I began to think I was being watched, so I got out of there as quickly as I could and got away,  back along the shining river, through the forest, along the the rail line. Then I woke up”

“The dream was wonderful. I felt so good. I saw so much. Everything glowed bright and big. And I was flying!”

“Ah… ” mused Tom. “You felt you were flying, eh? Well, you should have seen what I saw. I saw. I saw a butterfly fly out of your mouth.”

Declan’s jaw dropped, as he stared hard at his friend.

“And … I followed that butterfly as it  flew away from you. I watched where it went. Come on, I’ll show you!” pulling Declan to his feet. “This way!”

Tom showed him the bars of the gate, the tall forest of grass, the shining river that was the running ditch and then he pointed at the skull of a long dead sheep.

Declan got up close to it and began to mutter “Holy … Dooley! Oh my…! again and again. Slowly, the two them climbed of the ditch and back up on the track.  

“So Declan, ” Tom declared, looking him in the eye. “You might have seen wonders … but what I saw was an even bigger wonder! Do you think anyone will believe us?”

Butterfly You © M.Philp. Adapted from K. Crossley-Holland’s tale “Butterfly Soul’

PS. I’m can’t help chasing butterfies –

Sources
CARR, Richard Vaughan. illus. Ann James. The Butterfly: from tiny wingbeat to a tornado. Newtown, NSW, Walker Books Australia. 1996. 

‘The Butterfly Soul’ in CROSSLEY-HOLLAND, Kevin. (1987) British Folk Tales; New versions. Cambridge, C.U.P.

Queensland Museum. Garden butterflies

Thanks to local Butterfly Expert Helen Schwenke for help with identification

Recent articles in local papers

Lemon Migrant butterfly migration underway

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All text and photos in this blog created by Meg

(Unless labelled otherwise)

Story Twigs the Imagination! by Meg Philp. Copyright © under Australian Law.

Tobermory: Lens Artists Challenge #65 – Pick a Place and Catch its Spirit

The British Fisheries Society established Tobermory as a fishing port on the island of Mull, Scotland in 1788. The cliffs around its natural harbour were scoured back to make room for a road and houses along to a deep water pier.

High tide October 2016 ©MegPhilp

Tobermory comes from the Gaelic “Tobar Mhoire” meaning ‘Mary’s Well.’ One dedicated to St Mary is located at the top end of the cliff. When I got there in 2016 the well had been long capped. The tap didn’t work so I couldn’t try the waters’ healing power.

No matter what, water rushes down from the cliff tops towards the sea. Everywhere you walk you can hear, and find, running, clear water. They make whisky in Tobermory.

When the nearby Strathearn Waterworks were completed in 1883, this Cherub Fountain was presented to the Burgh of Tobermory by Robert Strathearn. It no longer spouts water but there’s still a basin at the foot for thirsty canines.

The An Tobar Art Centre, once a primary school, is now a collective, community-run gallery (since 1998). This statue high up on the cafe wall caught my eye. I’d hazard a guess that this is St Mungo, Patron Saint and Founder of the city of Glasgow. There’s the bell from the legend, though the bird on his shoulder is too big to be the robin.

Addendum – This statue depicts St Columba, who founded the first Christian monastery on the nearby island of Iona in 563AD . The piece was made in 2007 by sculptor/mechanic Eduard Bersudsky of the Sharmanka Theatre group, who are based in Glasgow. Made of oak from the island, it’s an automated sculpture, with the small shoulder-perched bird ringing the bell on cue. [Thanks to Ester Morrison (Front of House Manager) who answered my emailed query.]

Is this St Mungo?©2016MegPhilp

And you can’t go past a local hero – The Tobermory Cat. A picture book about him by Debi Gliori was published in 2012. Here’s a second generation cat who carries on the tradition and patrols the main street and houses in town.

We came upon this little West Highland Terrier in a corner one of the craft shops. The woman behind the counter said she was keeping an watchful eye on him. Her neighbour had recently passed away and this had been his dog.

What kind folk there are in the world!

There’s only a few fishing boats in the harbour these days but its still a peaceful haven for locals, visitors and furry friends.

OOOOOOOOOOO

All text and photos by Meg

Story Twigs the Imagination! by Meg Philp Copyright © under Australian Law.

Linked to Tina’s Lens Artists Challenge #65

More Sources at

Balamory children’s TV program. https://www.wikiwand.com/en/Balamory. Downloaded 5 October 2019.

St Columba. https://www.historic-uk.com/HistoryUK/HistoryofScotland/St-Columba-the-Isle-of-Iona/. Downloaded 21 October 2019.

The Tobermory Cat https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Z8gLztkXwbc. Downloaded 5 October 2019

Remember That Coat

 

That coat was the colour of the sea on a sunny day, all green-blue with sand and seaweed tossed together … or was it darker … the colour I saw from the old bridge at Lossiemouth beach.

 

I loved the colour of it. I don’t know who had worn it before me. In our small family, children’s clothes were passed on to cousins. I was surprised when my mother produced it one day and made me put it on. Here was a ‘good’ coat. It was so heavy it flapped when I walked or walloped my legs if I ran. The label inside proclaimed ‘Harris Tweed.’ On the outside were brown, shiny leather buttons, a pocket each side with a silky soft, slippery lining and a staunch belt with a buckle I found hard to handle. The fabric felt the same as my dad’s good jacket, but his was mostly grey, with purple-pink bits when you looked really closely.

Dad explained how the cloth was woven on a loom and then dyed with all sorts of things, but mostly plants. Peering at my sleeve, I fingered the threads looking for a pattern. Sunday School was the perfect place to study the weaving, scratch at the different colours, pull off straggly fine hairs and fluff, all while humming softly. How were those buttons made? I wobbled one so much it had to be sewn back on again, tightly, while I stood watching.

The collar against my neck made me itchy so I had to put one of my Mum’s headscarves between coat and skin. Looking back, I think wearing that coat marked the beginning of my fashion sense, something that I did not share with my mother.

It all came out when we were getting ready to go to a summer wedding in town. Billy McTavish, who used to dandle me on his knee as a toddler, was getting married to a big girl I’d only met once. I adored this tall, young man and had been hoping he’d wait for me to grow up but here, now, he wasn’t.

My summer dress I liked. It was soft, white cotton scattered with little purple roses. It had two pockets. My white, hand-knitted cardigan had been taken out from under the carpet, peeled from its paper wrapping and held up beautifully pressed. This year’s Clark’s sandals had been freshly whitened. My white ankle socks were new.

I baulked as my mother approached bearing that tweed coat. I cried, which was as much of a tantrum I could ever muster then. I got worse when Mum got our straw hats down from the top of the wardrobe. How to explain what I felt? How could I explain why a straw hat does not go with a tweed coat? My younger sister was always more outspoken than I and surprised me some weeks later with retorts like “I’m not wearing that!” even on school days.

 

I cried more … unlucky before a wedding. My mother bargained. If I wore the coat I could carry the white basket (shaped like a flower pot with two life-like cherries on the side) that my aunty gave me when she came back from her big holiday. My sister beamed at this news. She’d get hers if I got mine! These two treasures had been locked in the china cabinet since the day Aunty went home, ages ago.

With my coat on, my precious basket was placed into my hands. My straw hat was straightened again. It looked like a flying saucer after an unsuccessful landing and was held in place by elastic which always left a red mark under my chin. There is a B&W photo somewhere in one of our family albums to prove all this. There we stood before the ceremony, holding the pose on the steps outside the kirk. Despite the basket,  you could tell how I was feeling by the look on my face, under that hat, in that coat.

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That Coat – Text, Drawings and photo from Lossiemouth Bridge by Meg Philp©2019

Story Twigs the Imagination! by Meg Philp Copyright © under Australian Law.

The Very Dab

(‘The Very Dab’ is a Scots’ expression which in my experience has meant ‘the perfect finishing touch.’)

Way back at the beginning of our world, they do say that God had a walk around when he had finished and was well pleased with what he saw. The sun was shining. The rivers were flowing. Tall trees and lush plants waved in the cool breeze.

He stopped to watch some birds drink nectar from blossoms. He smiled at the antics of more of them, as they fluttered in the river shallows, flapping, dipping and drinking.

It struck Him then that the birds were hard to see clearly. They were different sizes but they all came in various shades of browns, perhaps with shadowy grey or white underneath. They all had the same short, straight beak, too. Now that wouldn’t do. He’d gone to a lot of trouble to make each animal unique. Surely the birds needed the same.

He asked Gabriel to summon every type of bird from around the world and have them gather at dawn on a certain day on top of the highest hill in Canberra. He had a plan to make them all look different and marvellous.

On the appointed day, Gabriel had his list ready. The raucous Australian contingent was there first but soon settled and made room for birds from all over the world. Gabriel ticked off thousands of arrivals. When a Cockatiel suddenly made off with the paper list and ripped it to shreds, Gabriel decided that surely every bird had arrived and went to tell God “All here.”

He came up the hill laden with a bulging sack and a satchel full of paintboxes and brushes. His paints were of the self-perpetuating kind – they’d never fade or wear off and their hues would be passed on through the generations.

God opened his arms in welcome  and told the birds they could all choose their own colours as well as a new beak to suit their needs. The birds got so excited many launched into the air. Those still on the ground formed an orderly queue behind a lorikeet that had been dozing in front but soon woke up and squawked. “I want green, red, yellow … a blue head and collar and a red curved beak.”

God painted it all the colours of the rainbow. Next a large cockatoo ambled up and screeched, “Black, black, black and a big black beak shaped like a crab’s claw on top. I’ve got nuts to crack and sticks to beat, “ stammered the parrot as two scarlet cheeks promptly appeared.

One sweet little bird wanted “A long pointed black beak and a mask to match. Oh … and lots of turquoise and a sunny, golden chest.”. As God searched in his sack, He suddenly pulled out an enormous, saggy beak.

“Oh my, here’s a mistake! I can’t think of a bird who’d be able to use this.” From the back of the crowd came a cackle, “I can! Make it pink and it’s mine!”

God signalled for the big bird to come forward and all watched in awe as the great pink bill was hooked on and then layers of plumage splashed white, then black. The gathering stared silently as the cumbersome bird bowed its head and then turned to lope towards the crest of the hill. The crowd held its breath, then cheered loudly when it took off majestically.

The black beak and mask for the Bee-eater was much easier to fix.

The peacock made very particular requests. “Please could my colours be jewelled greens and blues, with shades of topaz and amethyst in radiating patterns in my tail, just so.” The Painter miraculously made this bird’s wishes come true in a flash.

Can you imagine your favourite bird asking for what they wanted?

As the sun began to sink towards the horizon, there were very few birds left. there was just a little paint and God told them they could help themselves. The Fairy Wren dashed into the blue and came out looking superb, while the Galah frolicked in the white, red and black and came out pink and grey. When the last of the flock had gone, God and Gabriel packed up and walked down to the creek to wash up.

“That’s improved the birds, no end,” said Gabriel. God nodded and sighed.

As they stood looking at the sunset, they heard a thrashing in the bushes nearby. A bird flapped wildly through and called from a close branch.

“Oh no! Oh no! Am I too late? Nobody told me this was happening. I don’t see other birds very often and the painted woodpecker gave me such a fright! “

“Oh, hello,” said God, looking round for his paints.

“This little shy one only sings at night. “ Gabriel looked up, worried, as he searched through paintboxes.

“I’m sorry. It looks like there’s no paint left,” replied the angel as he turned to look more closely at the little brown bird as it hung its head.

In the growing dark, God told the Nightingale to come closer and held up his pointing finger. The bird fluttered over and landed there.

“Don’t despair, little one. I have found just enough on this brush. Now, open your beak for me.” When the bird did so, God put the last dab of gold on its tongue.

The sharp taste startled the Nightingale. It flew off into the bushes. It was hard to make out where it had gone. Suddenly, the most glorious birdsong floated up into the night air. No-one in the world had ever heard anything like it before.

“Ah,” said God. “That worked. Nightingale is happy now.” He and Gabriel stood to listen for a while and then went home.

So … they do say that is how the Nightingale came to sing so gloriously. When people hear one singing in the distance they stop, wherever they are and listen. They forget what they’re in the middle of but remember, ever afterwards, how that Nightingale’s song made them feel.

©MegPhilp2019

‘The Very Dab’ adapted by Meg Philp from “The Nightingale” by Richard Adams in The Iron Wolf and other stories. London, Penguin, 1980 pp. 111-115.

Notes:

The word “Canberra” is popularly claimed to derive from the word Kambera or Canberry, which is claimed to mean “meeting place” in Ngunnawal, one of the Indigenous languages spoken in the district by Aboriginal Australians before European settlers arrived, although there is no clear evidence to support this. ( Source – Wikiwand)

Birds in story order

Cockatiel

Rainbow Lorikeet

Palm Cockatoo

Rainbow Bee-Eater

Pelican

Superb Fairy Wren

Galah

Nightingale

There are more marvellous photos of all of these birds on the www.

All text and photos by Meg

Story Twigs the Imagination! by Meg Philp Copyright © under Australian Law.