After a hippo moment in the changing rooms at David Jones recently, I’ve been walking with a lot more enthusiasm and energy this year! Yesterday I took a detour through the national park near our home that extends right up to my usual walking track around the oval. The majestic Sydney red gums have finished barking, save for a few frills here and there. Their trunks are now smooth-skinned and cinnamon-coloured and they stand like tall sentinels through the bush. At their feet lie mounds of cast-off bark, adding extra tinder to all the fallen trees that have died from lack of water. I pass a hole in a dead tree beside the track where, one glorious year, baby lorikeets used to poke out their heads and watch passersby until finally they were old enough and brave enough to fly away. In the peace and quiet of this bush walk my mind spins with ideas for new writing projects: time slips, medieval fantasy, mysteries and crimes. I move into a patch of low coastal scrub where wicked banksia men mark my passing, and I conjure up goblins and spirits of the wild. I am trepidatious, but also tingling with excitement as I plot and plan. I start the upward trail to the oval where I usually walk, admiring the red wild fuschias and furry white flannel flowers on my path. Ugly reality intrudes as I walk around the oval and, as always, collect the garbage that visitors leave behind or chuck out of their car windows: cans and bottles, plastic bags and cardboard containers. I leave the cigarette butts (and other unmentionables) but remove a huge handful of used party poppers left just across the road from the garbage bin. People walk their dogs on the oval, and pick up dog poo, but no-one, it seems, takes responsibility for hauling home their rubbish. And you know what? You idiots make me really mad! Worse: you frighten me because it’s only a matter of time before a flying cigarette stub ignites the bush around the oval, starting a firestorm that will wipe out the national park and all the creatures living there, and that will also threaten our homes and our lives. If I had the sorts of magic powers I give my characters, believe me, I would put a curse on all of you!