Weekly photo challenge: Angular

The word ‘angular’ makes me think ‘Art Deco’, the popular visual arts style of the 1920s and 30s that embraced the hard edges of industry, machines and man-made structures rather than the soft, curving, natural lines of the previously popular ‘Art Nouveau’ style.  Art Deco buildings are recognisable by their geometric, often symmetrical, forms and decorations:  repeated lines, zigzags, steps, and ziggurat shapes.  Here’s a photo from Dad’s WWII collection from 1941/42, showing the covered market in Nairobi, built in 1932.  It’s now called the City Market.

City Market Nairobi

Covered market, Nairobi, c1942

The City Market building in central Nairobi has the classic features of Art Deco architecture:  symmetrically stepped walls and straight lines at every turn – even the clock is octagonal.  Well, that was in the 1940s;  the clock is no longer there, as you can see in the photo below, taken in 2011.

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City Market, Nairobi, Kenya, 2011. Photo courtesy Richard Portsmouth, Flickr, http://www.kanyawegi-uk.org/index.aspx

How quiet it was in the 1940s, with a neatly hedged roundabout and only a few cars parallel-parked beside the building.  Images online of the City Market now, including the one above, show a lot of people and traffic, and angle parking to fit more in.  Photos online of the interior are full of colour and activity, showing local people buying fresh food, particularly meat and fish, fresh flowers, handcrafts and souvenirs for the tourists.

Inside, it’s an open space where the windowed walls step inwards, with unadorned concrete arches supporting the vaulted ceiling.  Pivoting windows on both sides allow air movement and cross ventilation (see an enlarged view of them in the header above), and the vertical strips of louvres allow hot air to escape through the higher openings and cooler air to enter at the bottom.  It was ‘green’ architecture long before sustainability became so important.  There’s an interesting site here with more photos, as well as plans and information about the energy-efficient design that keeps the building cool.  It’s very interesting reading.

I have to admit that while I have a few items of Art Deco style inherited from my parents, it’s not my first choice of decoration or architecture.  Give me instead the organic forms of Art Nouveau, the stylised vines whipping asymmetrically around doors and windows and up and down balustrades.  Give me environmentally sustainable curves any day.

Thanks Daily Post photo challenge for the angular prompt.

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Weekly photo challenge: Achievement

I visited a neighbour one day in October to wish him a Happy 97th Birthday.  That’s a pretty good achievement, surviving life’s vacillations for 97 years.  He’s Dutch, born in Amsterdam he says, during the war (the first one).  His greatest achievement, he says, was becoming a  submarine navigator during the war (the second one).  But what about his long long long life?  He says everyone wants to grow old, no one wants to be old.

Before we sat down together on his birthday, he took a cooked sausage from the lunch delivered by Meals on Wheels, cut it up into small pieces, put them into a small decorative plate and stuck a toothpick into each one.  He poured himself a glass of red wine and invited me to join him in his birthday celebration.

Aart 97 today

He is the eldest of 12 children and has no idea if the others are alive or dead. They all stayed in Holland while he moved to Australia, and now he only remembers the names of 5 of them.  But he remembers his childhood, and often sings a Dutch song that his mother sang when he was small, a song of thankfulness for being saved from a shipwreck, ‘Als g’in nood gezeten’.  He wrote it out in Dutch, and then translated it into English for me:

Aart writing Als g'in nood gezeten

He has sung the song for me many times.  For a while, he forgot some of the verses, so we turned on his computer and found, to his surprise and mine, that he still has an Internet connection.  We looked up the verses, then he sat and sang it from start to finish.  At the end he was so pleased with himself that he turned to me with this delightful smile.  I snapped him.

Aart singing

Aart was a seaman and says he has seen more of the sea than most people, spending much of his life on it and under it.  He now lives up the street from me, that is, several hours’ drive inland, so I asked if he’d like to come for a drive to the coast to see the sea.  But he has no desire to see it again, and prefers his memory of it.  He rarely leaves his house, and likes it that way.  He wants to die there.  If he gets what he wants in the end, without doctors and carers insisting he goes into an aged care home, then that will also be a great achievement.

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Thanks WordPress for the photo prompt.  It was good to reflect on achievement.

One trip EVERY month: November

This month I spent a weekend at Barlings Beach on the south coast of New South Wales, named after the Barling family who have been in the area since 1852.  That’s a long time in Australia’s books.

On the way I saw an ex-church which has been here almost as long;  the sign high above the door says 1855.  The church now appears to be inhabited by free spirits.  I was bold and brave and took photos of it, though I’m not sure I would have knocked on the door to ask for directions.Ex-church front

I don’t know if anyone was inside peering out, but as I wandered down the street and looked in the left hand window, something was looking back at me.

ex-church window

At Barlings Beach the air was dry and hot, and it felt good to be hotter than I’ve been since last summer.  But this was no paradise, the sky overcast with dark blue clouds, the water green and waveless.  Strange, but last time I was at this beach there was surf.   And here and there, a few dead birds lay half-buried in the sand.  I’ve read that they are short-tailed shearwaters, a type of muttonbird, that fly thousands of kilometres from the Arctic to arrive on the east coast of Australia at the start of summer.  The long trek is too much for many of them.

Barlings storm approaching

Only one man was swimming.  My husband.  (No photo.)  Another man was fishing, wetting his line really, while the women, who had been fishing from their esky seats, declared it a waste of time and settled down for a chat.

women on eskies

Another woman seemed to be wondering why the water was so flat.  Was there something in the green murk that she couldn’t see?  Only a few days before, a surfer had been bitten by a shark in waist-deep water at another beach up the coast.  Knee-deep was a safe depth.

what's under the water?

The rainless windstorm came and the temperature plummeted by 15 degrees.  The wind blew itself out and the waves rolled in again.  Later in the afternoon as I walked on the shore, I couldn’t believe it was the same beach as a few hours before.

Barlings after the storm

Next morning, paradise had returned, and I walked to the rock platform that goes out to Barlings Island.  When the tide’s low it’s possible to walk over to it on the rocks.  The island is a significant Aboriginal heritage area associated with traditional laws and customs.  It’s excellent for snorkelling, to see fish swimming through a giant underwater kelp forest.

Barlings Island

On the way home, at a small beach called Mosquito Bay, I was standing on the boat ramp wondering how boats would survive a launching over the rocky bottom, when something moved around and over the ramp base.  See the black part above the water?

Smooth Ray on boat ramp

It was a stingray, a Smooth Ray, according to the notice at the top of the ramp warning us not to harm them.  I frequently walk in the edge-water, sometimes up to my knees, but this time I’d stayed on dry land.  Wasn’t I happy about that!  The blown-up photo in the header of this post shows the ray’s long sting, almost as scary as a flying celluloid doll in a church window.

Smooth Ray Mosquito Bay

It was another good trip away, another weekend of nature-watching.  And, even better, people-watching.

Thanks again Marianne for the suggestion to take one trip EVERY month.  Only one 2014 month to go, one 2014 trip to take.

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Weekly photo challenge: Descent

Descent:  a downwards movement, bad for a fragile object falling or a fragile person tripping.  A good thing if you descend from an airless mountaintop or from worthy ancestors.  It’s especially useful if you need an inexpensive system of water delivery, for even in the desert there’s the free pressure of gravity.  The photo here is taken in a desert during World War Two, one of the many photos my father brought back from the Middle East.  It’s captioned simply “Gravity Tank”, taken in North Africa, probably Egypt, in about 1941.

Gravity tank, North Africa, c1941

Gravity tank, North Africa, c1941

Prompted by the WordPress photo challenge.

One trip EVERY month: October – Who says Canberra is boring?

Some months, rather than leave town, I go tripping around my local area and have just as good a time as if I’d taken a trip to the sea.  This weekend, just by walking and riding my bike around the suburbs and by the lake, I’ve seen a few odd things that make me appreciate this beautiful unboring city.  Yesterday, for example, I went to visit a friend who is not afraid of anyone:

Bang the door

Then I went to the lake to watch the weekend sailors.  Let me give you a bit of the history of this central ornament of the nation’s capital, in honour of its 50th anniversary this week.

Lake Burley Griffin is an artificial lake formed by damming the Molonglo River.  The capital’s designer, the American architect Walter Burley Griffin, is immortalised in the name of the lake.  He had included it in his original design in 1912, but the lake project didn’t begin until 1963, and finally the formal opening came in 1964.  Residents and visitors have flocked to its shores ever since.

Lake Burley Griffin edge tufts

For me, it’s a body of water which is neat, if unnatural;  it invites us to sit beside it but not to enter it.  The water quality is frequently reported as unsuitable for swimming, and therein for me lies the disappointment.  But I must remember that the Molonglo River is narrow and unspectacular, hardly a suitable river for a nation’s capital, like the Brisbane River is for Brisbane or Sydney Harbour is for Sydney.  Here’s a photo taken earlier this year as I was walking beside the part of the Molonglo which still exists where the lake ends (begins?);  you can see it opening up into the lake on the right:

Molonglo River opening into Lake Burley Griffin

Molonglo River opening into Lake Burley Griffin

Thanks to Walter Burley Griffin, instead of a stream that even I could swim across, we have a nice big lake.  Yesterday I went to watch sailboats sail on it, an excellent antidote to the busyness of life.  The weather was heavenly, an ideal spring day;  the sky was blue, the air warm, the breeze light.  If you were fishing, which I wasn’t, there was no need to hold on tight to the rod.  No need to hold it at all, in fact:

Lake Burley Griffin, fishing rods, boats

Many of the national institutions are situated lakeside, including the Australian National University.  One of the university’s sculptures by the water caught my eye with its aluminium birds roosting on the dead branches of this old gum tree.  From a distance they give the impression of a flapping flock of sulphur-crested cockatoos, a familiar sight around here.  But a closer look reveals the metal birds also resemble hands reaching up to the sky.  The commissioned sculpture, called Witness, is by Indonesian artist, Dadang Christanto.

Witness, Dadang Christanto, 2004, ANU, Canberra

Witness, Dadang Christanto, 2004, ANU, Canberra

After seeing unreal birds in a dead tree, I turned round and saw real plants in a dead car.  Another piece of ANU ‘art’.

Back in my suburb, I was riding my bike past a neighbouring house where a sheep is both pet and mower.  She was very happy for me to take her photo but didn’t understand the concept of standing back from the lens.

Brown sheep

And then she smelt my leather bag and began to nibble it…

Brown sheep nibbling bag

Check out the reflection of me in her eye!  Now that’s odd.

All in all, a good spring weekend tripping around my town.

Marianne sends out the challenge to take one trip EVERY month.  If you’re reading this, Marianne, I say a big THANKS for the inspiration!

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Weekly photo challenge: Refraction

Walking beside Lake Burley Griffin this afternoon, around the back of the National Museum, I found these panels of mirrors reflecting, in a warped kind of way, rows of slim young gum trees growing near the water.  I was under the trees with a project of photographing details, but what caught my eye was this long image of the very trees I was under:

External mirrors NMA 1

What a simple way to adorn an otherwise ugly set of slopey walls:

External mirrors NMA 2

The panels create the effect of fun-house mirrors, bending and twisting the straight tree trunks:

External mirrors NMA 5

Fun to look at and fun to photograph:

External mirrors NMA 4

Sometimes the weekly photo challenge topic serendipitously coincides with my weekend outing.  I love it when that happens.

Weekly photo challenge: Signs

When the Australian government, among others, announced this week they’re sending troops off to Iraq to fight (if only in the skies for now), I thought Here we go again.  As I rode past this bin today, the sign “General Waste” reminded me of the futility of war.  It might seem an obscure connection, but when you see the page from my father’s anthology of war poetry compiled in about 1942, you’ll think what I thought.  First, the bin:

General Waste bin

Second, a poem entitled “General Waste”, originally written in World War One by Reverend Geoffrey Studdert Kennedy, who volunteered as a British chaplain to the army on the western front.  He was also known as Woodbine Willie for the Woodbines he smoked and handed out to the wounded and dying.  But he had a threefold reputation, for he was also a great anti-war poet.

In Dad’s poetry book, I’ve often read “General Waste” and felt the hollowness of war.  Studdert Kennedy wrote it in about 1917, but his poems were recalled by soldiers fighting again in World War Two.  Dad has called it “General Waste”, though searches online suggest it was called simply “Waste”.  There are a few spelling errors in his script, so I’ve transcribed it:

Waste of muscle, waste of brain,
Waste of patience, waste of pain.
Waste of manhood, waste of health,
Waste of beauty, waste of wealth.
Waste of blood, waste of tears,
Waste of youth’s most precious years.
Waste of ways the saints have trod,
Waste of Glory, Waste of God.
War!

"Waste" by Rev. Studdert Kennedy, c1917

“Waste” by Rev. Studdert Kennedy, c1917 (my father’s script)

Thanks WordPress for this week’s photo challenge.

One trip EVERY month: September

I haven’t left town this month, but I have visited the National Museum which gave me plenty of opportunities to snap photos. Ours is a museum of social history.  Neither the content nor the architecture is traditional, which is obvious even before arriving at the car park:  the introduction to the building is this giant 30m high loop, part of what is called the Uluru line: Entrance NMA In the foyer there are great glass windows looking onto the lake, and an artsy window dressing which produces the best shadows. window_Nat Museum As I moved up into the galleries, Eternity caught my eye.  Arthur Stace famously wrote this single word in beautiful copperplate writing on the footpaths of Sydney between 1932 and 1967. Eternity NMA Stace described an experience in church which prompted him to write Eternity half a million times over 35 years:

John Ridley was a powerful preacher and he shouted, ‘I wish I could shout Eternity through the streets of Sydney.’ He repeated himself and kept shouting, ‘Eternity, Eternity’, and his words were ringing through my brain as I left the church. Suddenly I began crying and I felt a powerful call from the Lord to write ‘Eternity’. I had a piece of chalk in my pocket, and I bent down right there and wrote it. I’ve been writing it at least 50 times a day ever since, and that’s 30 years ago … I think Eternity gets the message across, makes people stop and think. (courtesy National Museum of Australia website)

From reflecting on eternity I was taken back in time to the largest of all marsupials, the extinct Diprotodon.  After all, it wouldn’t be a museum without a skeleton.  Here’s the Diprotodon in and out of its skin:

An unmissable object in the Museum is an old windmill, its sails turning slowly and windlessly, old technology driven by new. It’s a Simplex windmill from Kenya station, north-east of Longreach in central Queensland.  The windmill provided water for stock from a shallow bore, from the 1920s until 1989, when a deeper artesian bore came into service.  It was one of two windmills on 25,000 acres!  As the windmill owner, John Seccombe, who donated it to the museum says, Australia couldn’t have survived without windmills. windmill NMA One of the saddest sights in the museum was this gate, a reminder of times when some children were raised by institutions: Boys Home NMA There were other objects like leg irons and old pistols that remind us of our darker colonial past:  and a convict bi-colour ‘magpie’ uniform, designed to deter convicts from escaping.  But imagine the situation if, in 1788 and later, the roles had been reversed, and it wasn’t the English arriving to claim this land for the crown, but the Aboriginals arriving to take the land from the whites.  Gordon Syron, an indigenous artist painted that ‘what if’ scene in The Black Bastards are Coming, 2006: Black Bastards are Coming_Gordon Syron_2006 NMA Out on the museum terrace, one of the best spots to get a quiet waterside coffee, I was contemplating eternity when a man and dog came past on a surfboard (lakeboard?).

Before I go, if you’re wondering about the header image, it’s part of Martumili Ngurra, 2009, hanging in the museum foyer, painted in acrylic on linen by six Martu women from central Western Australia.  Ngalangka Taylor, one of the artists, says:

“When you look at this painting, don’t read it like a whitefella map.  It’s a Martu map:  this is how we see the country.”

The painting shows tracks and roadways and geographical sites related to mining and pastoral activities introduced in the 19th century in their part of Australia.

More next month.  Until then, see some other monthly trips on Marianne’s East of Málaga.  She challenges us to take one trip EVERY month.

George Sand. Heard of her?

She was a great-great granddaughter of the King of Poland, Augustus II the Strong.  Her father was the king’s great-grandson, Maurice Dupin.

Her mother, Sophie Delaborde, the daughter of a bird fancier, was, said George, of the ‘vagabond race of Bohemians’.

She was a girl with a foot in two worlds, born Amantine-Aurore-Lucile Dupin in 1804 in Paris, raised by her aristocratic grandmother.

She did what women did in the nineteenth century:  she married at 18 and produced a child, and a few years later, after some time away from home, she produced another child.  Perhaps not by the same father…

She did what women didn’t do:  she left her husband to live as a single mother in Paris.

George Sand, Auguste Charpentier, 1838, Musée de la vie romantique, Paris

George Sand.  Auguste Charpentier, 1838.  Musée de la vie romantique, Paris

In 1831, she began mixing in artistic circles and changed her name to George Sand.

To be independent, George had to earn her living.  She took to writing, lived in attics, cropped her hair, abandoned her expensive layers of women’s drapery and donned cheaper clothing:  a redingote, trousers, vest and tie.

Dressing in men’s clothes allowed her to visit clubs and theatre-pits where she closely observed men in their public male spaces and listened in on their literary and cultural conversations.

And dressing in men’s clothes brought her valuable attention as a new author.  It helped her books to sell so she and her two children could eat.

http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/e/ef/Liszt_at_the_Piano.JPG

Franz Liszt Fantasizing at the Piano.  Joseph Danhauser, 1840.  George Sand is seated on her red cloak.  An imagined gathering of musicians and writers (and Liszt’s mistress).  Image courtesy Wikipedia

In her writing career she considered herself an equal among her male peers, and her works were widely read.

By the end of the nineteenth century, her works were out of fashion.

Some of her best writings have been translated into English in recent years.  After I read her Gothic novel, Spiridion, (in French), about 3 years and 3 months ago, I had an idea that English-language readers would find it intriguing.  When I’d finished reading it, I started translating it.  Now SUNY Press is publishing my translation of Spiridion, and will have it ready in May 2015.

George wrote it in 1838/39 while keeping company with Frédéric Chopin, several years her junior.  When Frédéric, George and her children sojourned in Majorca for the winter of 1838, she finished Spiridion to the sounds of Chopin composing his Preludes.

But in 1842 George revised the novel’s ending, and it’s this one you’ll read in the English translation.

In Spiridion the audacious George wrote of an exclusively male microcosm where not one female plays a part, a world impossible for her to experience but not impossible to imagine:  a monastery where goodness is punished, corruption is encouraged, love is discouraged, and real and unreal demons haunt the cloisters and the crypt.

It was a harsh critique of the rigid dogmas of a monastery and its authorities.  “I allowed myself to challenge purely human institutions,” she said, and, for that, some declared her to be “without principles.”  Her response:  “Should it bother me?”.

Some readers will learn a lesson and find hope in this story.  Others will read a mystery based on the evil tendencies of humans confined in an institution, with a positive suggestion or two for living peaceably with our fellow monks.Spiridion cover

In May next year, if you’re looking for a Gothic novel with a philosophical turn, keep your eye out for this cover.

George became one of the rare women of the nineteenth century able to earn enough to be financially independent.  She was still writing when she died at 71.

Nadar (Gaspard Félix Tournachon), photographer (French, 1820 - 1910) George Sand, about 1865, Albumen silver print Image: 24.1 x 18.3 cm (9 1/2 x 7 1/4 in.) Mount: 30.5 x 21.4 cm (12 x 8 7/16 in.) The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles

George Sand, photograph by Nadar, about 1865, Albumen silver print, The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles

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Voice Work

On Thursday, the WordPress writing prompt was “Voice Work”:  who would you like to do a voice recording of your blog?

It got me thinking about audio books, a book pleasure I enjoy from time to time.  The delight of this kind of ‘reading’ is in the hearing.  The voice of the reader combined with an excellent novel is the best kind of one-sided conversation.  Usually an actor is chosen as the reader, but hearing him read is streets ahead of seeing and hearing actors interpret a novel as film (well, for me it is).

Take, as an example of a highly-recommended audio book, Dances with Wolves read by its author, Michael Blake.  My husband and I listened to it on a long drive and often found we didn’t want to get out of the car.

danceswithwolves

Then there was The Collector, written by John Fowles, narrated by James Wilby.  Creepy story.  A butterfly collector decides to collect something less morally acceptable.  The reader played the part so well that I don’t think I could trust him in real life.

The Collector | [John Fowles]

And recently, on another long drive interstate and back again, we listened to The Book of Ebenezer Le Page by Gerard Basil Edwards, a story about a long life on the island of Guernsey, written by a Guernsey man, and read by Guernsey-born Roy Dotrice.  It was so good that we’ve replayed parts of it just to hear the narrator’s voice and the quirky dialogue, where verbs aren’t always conjugated and h’s are dropped when they exist and added when they don’t.The Book of Ebenezer le Page | [G. B. Edwards]

I tried to imagine someone (not me) reading my blog posts, but I drew a blank.  But something else sprang to mind: a book I’ve translated which will be available next year.  That is something I’d like to hear read aloud.  The story, Spiridion, is set in an 18th-century monastery where goodness is punished and females play no part.  So my reader would have to be male, for the only female in this book is the author, though she’s a writer with a man’s name:  George Sand.  She wrote in French, but for my English translation I would choose, perhaps, an eloquent Englishman.  Or Australian, because I’m Australian.  But then, perhaps not, since there are no 18th-century monasteries here;  an Australian accent might not be credible.  I’d need someone who sounds like he could have lived in the 18th century, from a country where monasteries have been around for a millennium.  How about an actor I’ve seen in a film of the same genre?  Say, Sean Connery.  Hmmm.  Did you see him in The Name of the Rose?  Yes, he’s the one.  I’d pick him.

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