Monday, 7 July 2014

An unexpected encounter

Yesterday, Monday, was sunny!  There was no wind - even better.  So, to embrace the moment, while I waited for my cousin and his wife to come and pick me up to spend the day with them, I sat in the garden for half an hour.  It was a bit of a milestone occasion on this latest trip to Melbourne.  It is winter, but I think the awful weather since I have been here has taken even the locals by surprise.  I sat with some orange juice and a mug of tea to start reading a new book. Bliss!  It wasn't long before I noticed a faint shadow had fallen across my left arm.  Curious, I thought.  So I moved the chair to the right a little.  And then I had to move again.  It took me longer than it should to realise that the sun in the southern hemisphere moves across the sky from right to left as opposed to left to right, as it does at home.  Good thing I didn't attempt to build a career in rocket science.  The first time we came here it took me at least week to realise that the sun shone from a northerly direction rather than the south.  Estate agent boards promote north facing aspect properties, which they definitely would not get away with at home!

Once with my cousins we had a walk through a park in Glen Iris, a suburb not far from here. In the middle of the park is a large conservatory.  We wandered inside, looked at ferns and other relatively unspectacular plants, and then, working away quietly in a separate part of the glasshouse, we came across a man called John Varigos.  You can read about him here:
http://www.smh.com.au/lifestyle/homestyle/central-park-conservatory-now-home-to-john-varigos-orchids-20140526-zro3j.html 
He is a man with a passion for orchids, and having asked him one question we opened the floodgates to an outpouring of knowledge and information about an extraordinary species of plants.  He took us on a guided tour of some of the 600 plants in his collection.  It was a very unexpected interlude and quite wonderful, because it is not often you meet someone who has an all-consuming passion for something as this man does - a sort David Attenborough of the orchid world.  He goes off and treks through jungles in Borneo and places like that, looking for unidentified orchids.  He's found three so far!  

I took one or two photos.
 This orchid smells a bit like snowdrops.
And this one smells of vanilla.  The vanilla bean does come from an orchid, but not this particular one, but it did smell delicious nevertheless.
He told us how each species of orchid has one dedicated pollinator, which makes the odds for their survival very precarious.  And THEN he mentioned how the cutting of the verges in some parts of the Australia are endangering the orchids that grow along them.  That was a subject very close to my heart, so I had my obligatory rant about the councils cutting the verges at home. It had not occurred to me that other countries are carrying out the same brainless practices.
It was a privilege to meet Mr Varigos.  I learnt a lot in that happy half hour.

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