The best thing about returning home to Australia from a long trip overseas is that you no longer feel obliged to tip anyone. At least that's what my male staff says, but then he's notoriously tight fisted. The best tip he ever gave anyone was "Be good to your mother." That went down very well with the porter at Nairobi airport who was so impressed with this wise advice that he dropped my female staff's thirty kilogramme suitcase on my male staff's foot. Personally I just enjoy getting home to find that all our friends have survived in my absence. Paolo and Biggles the budgies came back from the Pet Resort in one piece. We were all a bit worried about them because the resort owner was keeping her pet python in the same room. Despite this they survived, either that or they got eaten on the first day and the resort owner bought two identical budgies before my staff returned.
Mary the half tame Magpie is fine, though she's hatched a couple of chicks since we left and they follow her around all day squeaking at the top of their voices and the only way to shut them up is to cram their beaks full of worms. Once she's done this the little buggers go off quite happily and find their own worms for five minutes until they get bored and start squeaking at Mary again. Poor thing. She's looking a bit harassed at the moment. She says she's looking forward to chasing the little bastards away when their old enough. Her husband - Manfred, is nowhere to be seen. Mary says that this is typical and that he's probably over at his friend's nest swilling beer and watching porn.
Bubble and Barnabas the two butcher birds are okay too. They look so alike that my staff find it difficult to tell them apart. They play on this fact at feeding time and often come separately in order to confuse my staff, which let's face it is not that hard. They'll feed one who'll then fly away. Five minutes later there'll be another butcher bird on the deck and my staff won't know whether or not it's the one they've just fed, so they dish out more food. This goes on for a while until one or other of the birds says something. That gives the game away because they have different voices. Barnabas always sounds hoarse, as though he's been yelling for an hour or two, and Bubble sounds like a butcher bird should.
Then there are the two guinea fowl - Patch and Peanut. They don't really belong to my staff at all. Our neighbours had a flock of fourteen who used to spend more time in our garden than in their own. They were quite useful in keeping the tick and leech numbers down to mere plague proportions, but then the neighbours moved away and couldn't be bothered rounding up the guinea fowl. They were left to fend for themselves, which they did quite admirably until a fox discovered them and thought all his Christmases had come at once. Now there are only two left - Patch and Peanut. They are obviously the wariest and wisest of the flock. Mind you, wise is only a relative term when it comes to guinea fowl. They make Badger look smart. Still, it was nice to see them when we got home, even if they did swear at us when we got out of car because their memories are so feeble that they didn't recognise us.
It's odd that nothing truly calamitous happened while we were away. Something major nearly alway occurs when my male staff leaves the country. He was en-route to London when 9/11 happened. He was in Botswana at the time of the 2004 tsunami. He was in Tokyo when they had an earthquake and didn't even know until he got home and he was in Borneo when Julia Gillard stabbed Kevin Rudd in the back and pinched his job. So all in all it was a relief to get home to find that nothing much had changed. Julia Gillard is still Prime Minister and her government is still incompetent. Tony Abbott is still leader of the opposition and is still certifiably insane. Even Colonel Gaddafi had the good manners to wait until we returned to Australia before getting himself killed.