An unwelcome gecko

IMG_1878-thumbnail-webImagine my thrill when I found a gecko on the roof of my downstairs under-renovation bathroom. I’d never seen one in the Illawarra. I love geckos. I was quite attached to one that used to keep me company in my dorm room in Wagga when I was at Uni. Another gecko encounter has gone into family legend. We were staying on a farm in Northern NSW and my husband spotted a leaf-tailed gecko on the laundry wall. He lifted our, then 3yr -old daughter up to view it. Curiouser and curiouser she leaned closer and closer then lifted her hand to touch it. Understandably affronted by this action the gecko leapt at her and brushed against her hand. She screamed and claimed the gecko had bitten her (no mark) and it was all Dad’s fault (of course). That night she did get bitten – all over ,by dozens of mosquitos. She had a severe allergic reaction to the bites which resulted in a rush to hospital, adrenalin, and, very nearly a tracheostomy (Just our average happy holiday – there has been devastating floods, broken bones and gastrointestinal illness in other episodes). To this day Daughter Unruly associates her traumatic illness with Dad and the poor blameless gecko. So it’s become a bit of a family joke to ‘blame the gecko.’

So gecko’s make me smile – except the one I found in the bathroom last week. This is an Asian house gecko. On further google investigation I found it to be an invasive specimen out-competing our native geckos and other small reptiles. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xGdKd11_8GE

Asian house gecko

Found on the bathroom ceiling in our Illawarra home (approx. 11cm long)

 

The Asian house gecko or common house gecko (Hemidactylus frenatus) betters the cane toad for its successful spread throughout Northeast Australia. But in even worse news – I don’t live in Queensland or even Northern NSW I live more than 750 km south of Brisbane – in Wollongong.

Is this year’s warm extended summer to blame or is this indicative of a trend of sub-tropical species moving south due to climate change?

I have recorded my sighting and photo on a website called Climatewatch. This site allows individuals to record the location of species sightings so their distribution can be mapped. With the axing of many climate scientists from government bodies sites like this may became more valuable than ever to help us monitor trends in climate zones.

The Asian house gecko has a tapering tail and is pinky-brown to dark grey in colour. They can be identified by the small spines along lower back and edges of tail. http://www.ozanimals.com/Reptile/Asian-House-Gecko/Hemidactylus/frenatus.html They also make a loud chick chick noise. https://www.soundrangers.com/index.cfm/product/63065_827/gecko-asian-house-gecko-call-01.cfmI may have heard this at night but dismissed it as a bird.

Two nights before the gecko sighting I saw small cylindrical droppings just outside the laundry/bathroom door and assumed it was a mouse. I bought some humane mouse traps but had no luck catching any vermin. I now wish I had inspected those dropping more closely as they were possibly gecko droppings. A clue to identifying gecko poos is the presence of small white blobs on one end.

I would be interested to hear if any other of my fellow New South Walians (never thought Welshmen was appropriate term) has seen or heard the Asian house gecko.

I have asked the Queensland Museum to confirm identification but as yet have not heard.

Wool

By Hugh Howey            Century 2013                Adult fiction

Score: 9/10                    Genre: Post-apocalyptic, Dystopia

The community in Wool are confined to an underground ‘silo’. 150 floors are joined by a single metal staircase bustling with porters transporting goods and messages between the levels. There are floors for agriculture, supplies, deputy stations, apartments, the down-deep mechanical level and the mysterious, powerful, IT placed in the mid-levels. The ‘wool’ in the title is a reference to the material of the cleaning pads that doomed outcasts must use to scrub the outside camera lenses. The view of a desolate landscape captured by these lenses is projected onto a screen in the upper level cafeteria. This is the community’s only connection to the outside world.

Within the confines of the silo many restrictions are imposed on love, birth , marriage and communication. Order is maintained by discouraging curiosity, limiting interaction between levels and imposing taboos around speaking of the outside. Secrets are kept, and lies are told about the past and the ‘cleaning’ procedures. Those who ask too many questions risk  being sentenced to the publicly-viewed death by ‘cleaning’ in the toxic outer world. Who is pulling the wool over the eyes of the silo community and why? Can Juliette, the newly appointed sheriff, cut through the deception or is she also doomed like the truth-seekers that have come before.

The setting and the dystopian concept of this novel are intriguing but it is the characters that drive the story forward and make this a tense read. Without giving too many spoilers, the unwelcome deaths of three likeable characters in the first quarter of the book sets the pace of the gripping narrative that you never trust to deliver happy outcomes. Juliette the central character is a non-nonsense, down-deep mechanic when she is approached to take on the high-up position of sheriff. She is a well-drawn character who this reader barracked for every step of the way. Although there are action sequences aplenty these never dominate human dramas and relationships. Even minor characters are carefully and often beautifully described.

Perhaps the only character that was weak and hard to get a grasp on was Lukas – Juliette’s love interest. It was difficult to understand what Juliette sees in him. The reason for this unflattering, ambiguous portrayal may be become more evident in future books.

Overall this post-apocalyptic world and its people really hooked me and I will definitely be buying the next two books in the series – Shift and Dust.

Recommend for: Everybody, even those who do not generally read science fiction/dystopia will find the human element of this story has depth and warmth.

Use to writers : Hugh Howey shows us that rules can be broken as long as they are broken with flair. Some of the conventions broken by Wool :

– the central character does not make an appearance until pg 89 and doesn’t get her own POV chapter until page 123 (try pitching that to an editor!).

– two POV characters are killed off early.

– there are many changes of point of view. It is written in third person limited but Juliette is only one of many characters (over six) that get a section of limited viewpoint. In the wrong hands this technique can dilute interest in the main character’s journey but Howey uses it as a technique to elevate suspense. The multiple viewpoints enable the reader to visit dramatic events in various parts of the setting and timeline that impact on Juliette’s struggle. The reader forms a greater connection to minor characters but is always  anxious to return to Juliette’s scenes to check her progress.