Saturday, September 18, 2021

Silly After Action Report - A Little Bit Closer to Heaven

 French soldiers twiddled with their weapons, gazed pensively into the middle distance and did all of those other things that war films have soldiers preparing to attack do to build up the tension.  In front of them lay a hill festooned with trenches.  The French commander glanced back at his men, they seemed to have acquired some unusual "camouflage".  Every one of them had what appeared to be twenty pounds of asparagus strapped to their uniforms.  He turned to the shabby wretch beside him.

"Is that really necessary Outlebarrel?"

Outlebarrel shrugged, " You need the hill, I need to make a delivery.  I call that win-win."

"If we take the damned hill."

"Don't you have armoured support?"

"Yes but, well they're led by a 10-2."

"Oh god, dead man walking."


"Well don't worry mon ami," replied Outlebarrel with a grin.  "The asparagus always gets through."

So after my thoroughly undeserved victory in the previous scenario I'm trying to build on that success in the next, PP8 - A Little Bit Closer to Heaven.  Here my bold French heroes (with sous-lieutenant Outlebarrel in tow) will attempt to capture a particularly desirable hill from Dave Wilson's German defenders.  The French win by capturing all level 3 hill hexes.  A nice and straightforward victory condition, the scenario designer must have been ill. 

To do said capturing I start off with a dozen 458 elite squads equipped with four lmgs, a mmg and a 60mm mortar.  They are led, if that's the correct word (it isn't) by a 9-1, an 8-1 and an 8-0.  On turn two I gain reinforcements in the form of six squads of 648 assault engineers (and sappers) led by a 9-2 who would surprise me by surviving the game.  These warriors are carrying a pair of mmgs a flamethrower and a DC along with a pair of lmgs.  Also on turn two I would receive four Stuart tanks led by a mighty 10-2 (who wouldn't survive the turn of his entry).

Dave's defences are short on manpower but heavy on boom.  He has precisely six squads half first line, half second.  These are led by three officers headed up by an 8-1 and have a mmg, two lmgs, a 50mm mortar and a panzerschreck.  The real bite to his defences are 48 factors of AP mines, a dozen trenches and a 50mm AT gun.  Since my boys enter from offboard all of his force can set up concealed.  However the mines cannot be laid on level 2 or 3 hexes.  

On turn three Grenadier regiment 917 comes steaming to the rescue with another twelve squads (eight first line and four second) plus all of the support weapons their comrades apparently left behind; two mmgs, four lmgs another panzerschreck and a 50mm mortar.  Three more officers lead the latecomers including a none too shabby 9-1.  Obviously it would be best if I could clear the initial defenders off the hill objectives before the reinforcements arrive.

At start

I could enter on the left board edge or all the way along the top until Q1.  I opted for the shortest distance between two points.  My plan was to deploy some halfsquads and plough forward finding minefields and defenders in the most painful way possible while the bulk of my force built up in the woods looking to take out the defenders thus revealed.  When the tanks and assault engineers turned up the push would begin in earnest.  Over on the left I had a couple of squads that were going to press for the two level three hexes that had been temptingly left unguarded.

My initial plan with the halfsquads worked so well that by the end of the first turn I already had a squad equivalent dead.  Things didn't look so rosy but I had felt out a few of his defences including a couple of minefield hexes that my halfsquads nobly took in their stride (a very tentative stride but a stride nonetheless).  I had also built up quite a significant firebase in the woods.  Over on the very left I had disposed of some dummies and was trotting towards the unoccupied hill hexes.

End German turn 1

Turn two rolled around and with it my reinforcements.  I had this turn and the next to take the hills before Dave's reinforcements likely tipped the balance.  Naturally my 10-2 didn't last long but despite my moaning at the time this was actually encompassed within my plans.  My infantry were pushing towards his AT gun and if it was shooting at tanks it wasn't shooting at them.  On the left a pair of 648s with both mmgs and the 9-2 in tow armoured assaulted in the direction of the vacant hill hexes.  

Meanwhile the remainder of my reinforcements pushed forward into a very crowded spot in the middle of the board.  I sent two tanks up on to the hill from the right to give the defenders something to think about (and indeed lost my 10-2 immediately) and sent the remaining tank on a lonely guard mission to watch at least part of the entrance area for Dave's reinforcements.  My at start force got very bold and started pushing forward as well.  More minefields were found but it has to be said that Dave didn't get very good value from them.  The only thing they could guarantee to break were my officers and it has already been established that my officers will break if you sneeze near them.

End German turn 2

Things looked a little messy (and two and a half of my squads were now dead plus two tanks) but the situation was actually moving in my favour.  I had broken his forward defences and my troops pirouetted around the minefields to hit the left hand side of his line and start rolling it up.  Over on the left hill I moved my 9-2 led kill stack forward under the dubious shelter of a Stuart to take a victory hill and also establish overwatch (great term, I wonder what it means) over a great deal of the entry area for Dave's reinforcements.  A halfsquad (one of the few survivors) plunged into CC with Dave's AT gun crew.  I hadn't actually captured the ridge line but I had snagged a significant amount of it and his remaining defenders were grossly outnumbered by my forces who could afford to take a few losses (and did) to drive out the remainder of his at start force.  For Dave it would all depend on his reinforcements.

End French turn 3

At this point it has to be admitted that the dice were somewhat in my favour.  Overall Dave's rolls were slightly worse than average and mine were slightly better.  However, in the crucial turn when Dave needed to rush his reinforcements forward my dice were hot and Dave's were not.  Over on the far right my guard tank would break and ELR a halfsquad carrying the panzerschreck (it would go down to a faust shortly afterwards but delay was imposed).  Along the bottom edge of the board where Dave brought on the bulk of his forces my two squads with the mmgs caused carnage.  A third of Dave's reinforcements were wiped out upon setting foot on the battlefield and this left the remainder in poor position to aid the survivors of his at start force which I managed to pretty much wipe out in the next turn.  By the time Dave's surviving reinforcements had reorganised I held the entire ridgeline trenches and all and Dave would have to try and drive me out of them.

End German turn 3 - The tide has swung in my favour

Dave tried his best but now it was my guys hiding in trenches cheerfully firing on their attackers.  There were nervous moments.  On the right his last trench location was the scene of a close combat which raged until the end of the game with casualties on both sides.  At one point he recaptured the AT gun only to be thrown out again next turn.  Finally with his casualties reaching critical mass and his last forlorn hope pinned as it raced towards the most accessible hill hex he conceded.


End game

Favourable dice notwithstanding I'm actually pleased with the way I played this scenario (a rare occurrence) but for all that I'm fortunate that German turn three wound up the way it did.  Thanks to Dave for the game.  We're starting to run out of Provence Pack scenarios, I'm not entirely sure what we're going to do with ourselves.

The French commander made his way nervously around the battlefield.  A mine had detonated twenty metres away and precipitated a nervous breakdown he was still recovering from but it looked like his men had done well in his absence.  Then he reached a trench and stopped with a look of horror.  A German antitank gunner had literally been impaled on asparagus.  Beside the defiled corpse stood Outlebarrel with a twisted grin on his face.

"And that's the way we do it in Laos," he announced and spat off to side.

"Bullshit," replied the officer, "I know perfectly well that you've spent the last three weeks hiding in a packing crate on the Marseilles docks.  You've never been anywhere near Laos.  Where the hell did you get the asparagus by the way?"

"My cousin has a vegan restaurant."

"Great, another war crime."


I'm Contemplating Assault on a Mynah

 It's a glorious day outside, the sun is shining, the sky is clear but I'm sitting indoors with all of my windows firmly closed.  Why?  Mynahs!  These feathery bastards have become the bane of my existence.  I'm spending an increasing amount of my time cleaning birdshit off my carpet.  If I leave a door or window open more than a crack these avian intruders wander in and make themselves at home.  "Making themselves at home" appears to involve crapping on every exposed surface.  I have tolerated this indignity for far too long.  Time to wheel out the big guns.  I placed a call to my tech support.

"Guys, you have got to do something about these damned mynahs."

"Why?  Their coal production is up twenty percent this month?"

"Is that seriously the best joke you can come up with?"

"Don't blame us," they retorted, "you write this blog, we're just supporting characters."

"Fine, can you help me with the mynahs?  I mean, seriously, what do I pay you guys for?"

"Clandestine surveillance operations, concealing your browser history and occasional wet works.  And while we're on the subject of payment we'd like to point out that your last Czech bounced."

"Did you drop him from high enough?"

"Nice to see that the standard of humour has returned to normal."

"I'm a little short of Czechs at the moment.  Do you accept Slovaks?"

"Yes but you won't like the exchange rate."

"I'll put a couple in the post.  Now about the mynahs, they're seriously starting to annoy me.  They're small and they're irritating and there's crap everywhere."

"Funny, that's pretty much our description of you."

"Are you going to help me or not?"

"Relax, we've got just the thing.  Once we're done you won't worry about mynahs any more."

"Sounds great."

"There might be a few side effects."

"Such as?"

"Occasional headaches,"


"Bleeding from the ears, nose and eyeballs.  Dizziness, epileptic fits, hallucinations, psychotic breaks, sexual disfunction, paranoia, gangrene and skin rashes."

"But it will get rid of the mynahs?"

"Well it will stop you worrying about them."

"When can you start?"

"Actually we started a week ago.  Let us know how you get on."

Saturday, September 11, 2021

The Animals Keep Coming

 Things have been a little tense between me and my Tasmanian correspondent lately.  Normally I sit smugly in a justified zone of self satisfaction due to the fact that I live in New South Wales and she's barely clinging on to the world down in Tasmania.  Now with COVID ravaging my state she has been gleefully informing me of her weekend trips around the more photogenic parts of Tasmania while I've been checking the five kilometre limit to see if I can actually go shopping.

It is a measure of my desperation that I contacted her the other day to see if she had anything that could possibly count as news.

"Will you stop bothering me," she demanded wearily.  Apparently all of that travel around the Tasmanian bush wears you out.  "Honestly, I don't know why I work for you."

"You work for me because it's court ordered community service and you have another seven hundred years to go.  Now, what's the exciting news from Tasmania?"

"We've got blue tongues."

"Is that some sort of a dietary deficiency?"

Once she finished swearing my correspondent informed me that she had recently taken ownership of a pair of blue tongued lizards.  This along with a couple of mad dogs, a bathtub full of fish and a goldfish that periodically fakes its own death.  It wasn't easy, oh no.  Before you're allowed to care for blue tongued lizards you have to complete a form assuring the government that you're competent to look after such valuable slivers of Australian wildlife.  There wasn't any actual exam or anything you just fill out the form and they toss the lizards at you on your way out the door.

So now my correspondent had two lizards or, as her dogs refer to them, brunch.  They reside in a tank in the hopes that the more canine members of the family will consider it slightly too hard to tear them to pieces.

"What about your daughters?" I asked.

"Oh the dogs can tear them to pieces if they like."

After a brief period of explanation (and a surreptitious call to Child Services) I gleaned the information that her daughters were actually delighted with the new additions to the household despite the fact that every new pet reduces the amount of space they have to live in.  My correspondent is equally delighted for reasons she wasn't quite able to explain.  She acquired her new pets in the way she acquired all the rest.  Somebody else wanted to get rid of them.  At this point I rather suspect there's a facebook page somewhere in Tasmania informing the citizens that if they want to dump random animals they should just contact my correspondent.

Never one to miss an opportunity I tried to encourage her to adopt an octopus.  Unfortunately it appears that hyper intelligent invertebrates is where she draws the line.  She's afraid that it will get out of its tank and wander at night (don't laugh, this is a very real possibility).  Since my principal reason for making the suggestion was a hope that together they could re-enact that iconic scene from Alien I didn't have much to say.  Sadly with a house groaning with animals it looks like the octopi will be left out in the cold.

On the plus side my correspondent is now fully authorised to care for reptiles of the non-venomous variety.  To care for the venomous ones you have to fill out a different form and hopefully take some kind of test.  With my octopus hopes dashed I did suggest a snake but apparently all of Tasmania's snakes are venomous and my correspondent is tired of filling out forms.

"So, to recap," I said, "you're spending your weekends travelling around the state and in between you're raising children, dogs, fish and lizards.  Is that a correct summation of your life?"

"Jealous?" she asked.

"Kinda, yeah."

Silly After Action Report - A Hunter in a Hurry

 The Sherman tank lurched to an abrupt halt.  There was a sudden metallic clang as it was rear ended by the Sherman immediately behind it.  All along the long line of tanks there was a series of further metallic clangs.

"Keep it up boys," snarled the commander of the first tank, "the Germans will think they're being attacked by the glockenspiel appreciation society."

Ahead of the long line of now somewhat battered tanks was a small cluster of houses and a series of imposing but curiously flat topped hills.  Naturally there were vineyards because this was the south of France and vineyards were issued to each citizen at birth.

"What are those big question marks up on the hills?"

The commander gave them a cursory glance, 

"Probably nothing.  Let's move!"

"What about the infantry?"

For answer the commander pointed to a collection of well equipped soldiers led by a man wearing a t-shirt with a bullseye printed on it.

"Who's that?"

"A a 9-2," replied the tank commander, "may God have mercy on his soul."

The tanks started up again almost drowning out the muttering of the driver in the lead tank.

"I quite like glockenspiels actually."

So yes here we are again in the south of France.  Once again my Free French are attempting to liberate not particularly important sections of their homeland from such Germans as haven't already deserted.  It has to be said this series has not exactly been a road of triumph for me.  This time I was determined it would be different.  My task is simple, I have to get a bunch of armoured vehicles from one end of the board to the other.  In contrast to most of the preceding scenarios the victory conditions are really that simple.  I have to exit 40 VP of AFVs off the south edge of the board having inconveniently entered on the north.  

The fact that the victory conditions require the exit of 40 VP mean that I must be overflowing with armour.  Indeed I am.  I have ten Shermans, three Stuarts and an M8 GMC.  To support this cavalcade of metal I have eight elite infantry squads led by a trio of leaders ranging from mediocre to quite good and, ominously, a pair of very elite squads that were both assault engineers and sappers.  They were led by a 9-2.  Don't bother getting familiar with him, he won't be around for long.  Also in the mix are a trio of lmgs, a pair of bazookas and two 81mm mortars which might be quite helpful if  I can drag them somewhere useful before the end of the war.

So what does Dave have to oppose this glittering array of steel?  Ah yes.  He has three guns, one 88mm and two 76.2mm antitank guns all of which are quite capable of recycling my armour into petfood cans.  He also has eight squads evenly split between first and second line, a hmg, an lmg, a panzerschreck and a 50mm mortar.  To back this up he has twenty factors of AT mines and twelve concealment counters.

At start

Above is our at start set up.  At this point it has to be admitted that both Dave and myself made an almighty cock up of this particular scenario.  I have set up the bulk of my force where it is because I figured (correctly) that Dave's guns would be on the hill.  I assumed he would have at least two of them positioned to cover the wide open spaces in the bottom half of the board and therefore there might be an opportunity to bludgeon my way along the road at the top and exit for the win.  I had misread the VC which state that the French tanks have to exit off the bottom left corner which resulted in an almighty traffic jam and some desperate redirecting of my forces.  Just for the record neither shell holes nor cliff sides exist.

Dave did his set up in a hurry and to spare his blushes I won't go into his mistakes in great detail I'll just note that while twenty factors of AT mines seems impressive they rapidly become less impressive if you think they're AP mines and group them accordingly.  I shan't even mention that he was permitted to HIP two of his squads but didn't.  

My plan (before we reread the victory conditions) was to edge gently forward along the top road until the guns revealed themselves.  I accepted that I would lose a few tanks drawing their fire but hoped the combination of numbers and my infantry would be able to take out the only one covering the road and my surviving tanks would roll forward to victory.  A small force consisting of the M8 and one of the mortars would position themselves where they could take the other two guns under fire and at least give them something else to think about apart from my main attack.

End of French turn 1

The first turn went pretty much the way I expected.  I put a Stuart up on a hill and it was promptly immobilised by one his 76mm much to the surprise of both of us (we were expecting it would be destroyed).  Dave had placed his heavy machine on the first floor of a convenient farm building and managed to chop up some of my infantry which was annoying but all in all I wasn't displeased.  The bulk of my tanks and infantry were still immune from harm and all three of his guns had revealed themselves.

Dave's first turn had a mix of fortunes.  My 9-2 naturally got shot dead by a sniper before he even saw a German.  My 9-1 was broken and wounded.  Fortunately this game would not be won by infantry leadership.  The immobilised Stuart was killed and another burnt but in return his 88 malfed.  That was worth the price of two tanks quite frankly.  The worthless clowns serving that piece never repaired it and took every opportunity to break.  Still Dave had his two 76mm guns and an overachieving sniper to hold back my forces.

End German turn 1, a mixed bag but I think I'm ahead

While his guns and sniper took on the job of forward defence the bulk of his infantry fled rearward to set up a last stand position around the hexes I needed to exit through.  It was at about this time that I realised my misreading of the victory conditions.  This required a little mental readjusting but not very much.  Given my tanks were where they were really the only thing I could do was hope to take out his guns and then roll down the road.

With the 88 down (permanently as it turned out) I turned my attention to his remaining guns.  I also discovered Dave's mistake with the mines when my infantry marched on to a six factor AT minefield and steadfastly refused to be blown up.  To add icing to the cake of disaster for Dave I managed to break the crew of one of his remaining guns.  With only one gun left in action my surviving tanks got very brave indeed and rolled up onto the hill to take on the survivor.

End of French turn 2.  Things shouldn't be going this well

Of course it wasn't quite that simple.  His surviving gun took out a Sherman and he actually managed to re-man the other gun (killing a halfsquad of mine in CC along the way) and killing another tank.  His sniper, in a murderous rage, took out his frustration on my wounded 9-1, wounding him twice more the second time fatally.  It was not a good day for French officers.

I've never cleared a minefield before so more for practice than anything else I moved a sapper squad up to the minefield I had discovered and attempted to clear it.  Here we discovered something rather odd.  As far as we could determine you actually have to be in the hex in order to clear the mines which seems to imply that the sappers have to enter the hex, get blown up and then, assuming they survive, start clearing the mines.  I pointed out that that was insane.  Dave agreed with me but we couldn't find a rule to counter it.  I decided I would just drive around the AT mines instead.

Meanwhile I had finally decided to do something about the hmg that had been carving up my infantry.  A Sherman dropped a WP round on its hex which broke the squad manning the machine gun but drove the 9-1 commanding it berserk.

His final gun is down, time to charge

 Bereft of nearby infantry targets this lone maniac charged towards the congregation of armour that I was now rolling forward, braving all the fire I could throw at him.  I wasn't too worried, what could one man do?  I found out in my next turn when I rolled my last Stuart past him and the demented bastard produced a faust and fried it with a critical hit.  Three ones in a row.  I wasn't standing for any of that nonsense and I overran the guy with three successive Shermans.  On the last I too rolled snake eyes and we just hosed the guy off the tank afterwards.

Ok so the charge has been delayed until a single berserk guy is dealt with

That's pretty much the end of anything interesting.  With his guns down I just had to roll to the exit locations and beat up his infantry until a path was cleared.  With half the tank strength of Free France bearing down on him Dave conceded when I broke his halfsquad with the panzershreck which he had deemed his last chance.

It can't be said that I really won this game.  Dave's misreading of the scenario card far outweighed my own mistakes and pretty much crippled his defence from the outset.  Do I feel as though its a slightly cheapened victory given that it didn't really come from my own efforts?  Hell no!  After six straight losses I will take it any way it comes.  I shall crow my victory from the rooftops all throughout La Belle France.  I'd better, with his lesson learnt I'm sure Dave will be reading the scenario card for our next game far more closely.

Weary, grimy but elated with victory the armoured column rolled into the village and came to a sudden halt.  In the village square was a shabby, unshaven man in the tattered remains of what might have been a uniform.  He was was sitting on a pile of crates.  The commander of the lead tank got out and approached the stranger.

"Who the hell are you?"

"Name's Outlebarrel," replied the other patting the crates.  "If you're interested in black market asparagus I'm the man to see."



Plague Update #55 - Freedom Edition

 "Freedom!" I announced to the collection of plush toys with which, for reasons beyond my comprehension, I have chosen to share my life.  "I am now fully vaccinated.  Coronavirus holds no terrors for me!"

"I'm amazed you still think we listen to you," said the puffin.

"Who's making all the noise?" demanded the plague doctor emerging from the spare room holding what looked suspiciously like a human kidney.  "It's a human kidney," he explained.

Somewhat deflated and more than a little disturbed at the fact that the plague doctor seemed to be eyeing my midsection with more than usual interest I sighed and gave up.

"OK fine, its a big deal for me all right.  It means that someday I might be able to get out this damned apartment."

"How are the blood clots?" asked the plague doctor.


Yes the second shot of AstraZeneca vaccine is coursing through my bloodstream persuading my immune system to take its job a little more seriously.  Not only that but some forty five percent of the state's population share this happy condition.  Of course curmudgeons will point out that we're still a long way from the point when we can open things up and mingle together in public.  As if to emphasise that point the number of infected daily rose to its highest level ever.  It's starting to look like it might just be easier to let everyone catch COVID and let our natural immune system go to work.  Of course that's hard on the immuno-compromised or the just immuno-lazy and it puts a bit of a strain on the hospital network.  For those in the health sector currently under pressure the light at the end of the tunnel is that if COVID carries off a decent percentage of the chronically ill then going forward their work load might be more manageable.

By far the biggest trauma generated by this latest outbreak is the interminable press conferences.  I normally elect politicians on the theory that if I give them my vote they'll go away and I won't hear from them for a few years.  Now apparently we need an update report every day on how we're not dealing with COVID.  However it would appear that my state's political leaders have heard my silent prayers.  They're cancelling the daily press conferences.  The health minister spent the entire of the second last such conference defending the cancellation.  Now apparently when we want to be misled on COVID we're just going to have to rely on Facebook.

I do have a certain amount of sympathy for our politicians.  Normally its a nice indoor job with no heavy lifting, no clear lines of responsibility and nobody actually expects you to achieve very much.  Now the same people who elected these unemployable deadbeats are getting outraged that they can't handle a major health crisis.  What do you want?  Competence?  Accountability?  I'll bet you don't.  A competent, accountable government would be able to interfere in your lives far more effectively than the shambling mess we're currently lumbered with.  

The old Austro-Hungarian government was once described as "tyranny tempered by incompetence".  Just pause for a moment and think of how many ways a genuinely competent government could ruin your life.  Particularly if you haven't paid the right amount of tax for the last several years.  You may well come to the conclusion that the occasional devastating plague is a small price to pay.

Fortunately our politicians have stepped up.  Or rather they tried to step up, tripped over their own shoelaces and sprawled face first in the dirt.  We have heard that our federal health system told Pfizer to call back later when they wanted urgent talks about supplying us with the vaccine that we are now literally begging for.  The federal government is making bold announcements about how much better life will be when we hit 70% vaccination rates while the more remote states are raising militia forces to ensure that nobody crosses their borders until we crack the secret of immortality.

Normally that last point wouldn't bother me too much but I've been starved of travel for so long that a week long trip to Western Australia sounds like heaven.  And that previous sentence encapsulates exactly how little the current plague stalking our world has affected me.  It's principal impact has been a reduction in the amount of holiday travel I undertake.  Oh woe is me!  It would be nice to see my parents again before I completely forget what they look like but on the other hand when I do you can simply introduce any elderly couple to me and I won't be able to tell the difference.

The government of my state has formally surrendered to COVID and announced that they'll be unlocking the city once vaccination rates reach 70% even if the other 30% drop dead.  If that happened the government would probably claim success in reaching 100% vaccination rates.  I personally am looking forward to getting out and having a meal, a  cup of coffee and possibly finding somewhere else to sleep.  I really don't like the way my plague doctor is sharpening his scalpel while he looks at me.

Saturday, September 4, 2021

Travelling Pathetically - Round and Round the Garden Edition

 I tightened the laces on my shoes, checked my water bottle and took a deep breath.  After the coughing fit subsided I took a more carefully managed breath.  I was ready, behind me serried ranks of plush toys lined up to bid me what might be a final farewell.  Actually that wasn't quite true, the plague doctor was in the spare room dissecting a cadaver provided by my tech support (he seemed vaguely familiar but I didn't like to ask) but the puffin and the platypus were indeed looking at me with what I chose to interpret as an awestruck disbelief in my heroism and not at all a weary incredulity at my stupidity.

"I'm off," I announced.

"That explains the smell," muttered the puffin.

With the spirit of adventure in my heart and an uplifting song on my lips I strode boldly forward.  One pace, two and then out onto my balcony.

"In the name of God will you please stop singing."

I looked back to see which of my plush toys had made the offending remark but it turned out to be pretty much all of my neighbours in unison.

Yes this is what I have been reduced to.  Bold sojourns through the leafier parts of Sydney have been abandoned in favour of simply stepping outside my apartment.  It is a measure of my boredom that I have actually written a blog entry about walking around the outside of my home.  It is a measure of your assumed boredom that I think you might read it.

Before entering the outdoors proper I did indeed step onto my balcony for a birds eye view of my destination.  Something else with a birds eye view of my destination was a cockatoo sitting in the tree outside my apartment.  I'm quite fond of this tree as it blocks my view of the garbage bins.  Also it provides a home to the occasional cockatoo.

If I don't survive maybe he can lead rescuers to my body

Having examined the terrain and persuaded the cockatoo that I wasn't food I left my apartment and struck boldly out into the mediocre known.  My apartment complex consists of two large honey brick coloured buildings.  In fact the term "complex" isn't really appropriate.  I actually live in an apartment simple.  In between the buildings is a concrete path and a small amount of garden.  The garden is to give the impression of a certain amount of nature and as far as I can tell the concrete path exists to give residents dogs something to shit on. 

Once I was out among the trees (well, tree) my mood improved.  Possibly putting some distance between myself and a passive aggressive platypus, a sado-masochistic puffin and a scalpel happy plague doctor might have something to do with that.  I pulled out my camera to document the wonders of nature that unfolded before my eyes.

This is the same tree as before with garbage bin lids carefully cropped out

Shall we say that documenting the wonders of nature didn't exactly occupy a great deal of my time.  Nevertheless I did my best, strolling down the concrete path to the pool enclosure desperately trying to photograph anything that didn't look like it was slapped together by second rate builders in the 1950s.  It is a measure of how times have changed that the sight of a masked person creeping around the grounds of the building taking photographs didn't actually excite any adverse comment from my neighbours.  Either that or my neighbours are up to their own dubious activities and figure live and let live is probably the wisest solution.

Whatever the reason I wasn't apprehended and lynched by a rampaging mob of concerned citizens.  Indeed the concerned citizens were noticeable by their complete absence.  Either they were cringing under their beds hiding from disease or were boldly roaming the earth contributing to its spread.  Whatever the reason it meant I had the grounds of the building to myself.

Incidentally I say "grounds"; that no doubt conjures up a vision of sweeping lawns, sculpted trees and possibly a faux gothic folly on an island in an artificial lake.  What it actually means is a few plants and a concrete path not entirely devoid of dogshit.

These are clustered around the foot of the aforementioned tree.  As you can see the cockatoos haven't missed them either

A couple of the more elderly residents do indeed attempt to keep the growing things growing which is nice and gives them something to do now that the police are cracking down on geriatric street gangs.  These efforts have resulted in occasional patches of colour amongst the green such as the above.

On arriving at the pool enclosure I took a hard right and readied myself for the trek to the clotheslines. 

 Are you still reading this incidentally?  I can't imagine why.  

Something red and spiky caught my attention for a moment until I realised it was only another plant then I took a picture and moved on.

It's red and spiky, in these times of lowered standards that seemed like a good enough reason for a photo

Only there wasn't very much to move on to.  Between my building and the next property along there is a narrow strip which provides accomodation for clotheslines.  The clotheslines run out about halfway along at which point the strip seems to lose all reason for existence and only continues because they hadn't yet run out of land.

Having dodged my way past various collections of low hanging clothing, it was raining but apparently that doesn't bother some people, I was able to enjoy a broad patch of green.  That is if your definition of broad is about ten feet wide and flanked by brick walls and fences.  There was another tree though.

See, another tree!

With the excitement reserves of a narrow strip on land now exhausted I retraced my steps and once again pirouetted around increasingly damp clothing as I headed towards the rear of the simple.  Along the way I took a photo of some pretty pink plant among rocks.  I did this largely because the more photos I pad this entry out with the fewer words I'll need to use.

Look! Pink! Rocky!

I was heading away from the miracles of nature now and heading to where concrete reigned.  This was the rear building in my simple and (in the opinion of those of us in the other building) the lower rent section.  It is also where the vehicle corral is located.  Behind the building is a waterhole which featured briefly on the news a couple of years ago when heavy rains put adjacent buildings in danger of sliding into it.  It might look nice but fortunately whoever built my apartments thoughtfully constructed a high fence so that nobody can see it from our end.  It's presence is only apparent due to the prevalence of ibis and our spectacularly high mosquito population in the Summer months.

I was coming to the end of my journey unless I wanted to clamber into a neighbours backyard (for the record I didn't) so I swung up the driveway heading for the more affluent front building where I could be among my own kind.  My own kind to the best of my knowledge being a gay couple downstairs, a lovely Laotian lady who lives next door to me and a cute girl from Singapore with a nose ring.  On the way I used my camera to scrape the absolute bottom of the barrel in the way of "nature" photos.

Bottom of the barrel exhibit A

One my return I was met by my platypus weeping in relief.

"I thought I'd never see you again."

"I've been gone five minutes."

"Yes but the puffin changed the locks."