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!

*****

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

 *****

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.

*****

One trip EVERY month: August

Not far out of Canberra, a small village called Gundaroo beckons some of us to stop and stroll, and others to stop and live in the peace and quiet.  This morning we drove there for a cuppa, parked in Cork Street outside the old police station, beside which there’s a tank on a tower, beneath which there was a sheep asleep.

water tower Gundaroo

We had morning tea at the Cork Street Café in the old stables behind the Gundaroo police station.

Gundaroo police station

The chef suggested her freshly baked (in three minutes) foccacia with jam, and with our cappuccinos, it was all hot and delicious, outside in the sun, looking at the lockup.

Settlement in the Gundaroo area began in the 1820s after explorers discovered the well-watered land and fine black soil of the Yass River valley.  From 1856 the village grew slowly with a general store, a Presbyterian Church and Royal Hotel going up.  This small, small village needed a police station and lockup, sad but true, as well as a Court of Petty Sessions.  Today the Court, built in 1874, is an Anglican Church.  It’s fascinating to walk around it and work out how it’s been converted to a church, with the addition of three stained glass windows in an otherwise blank front wall, a bell in the yard to call people to worship, and a cross on the roof (only just visible in my photo).

A short skip down the street brought us to an old shop built in 1886, once called Sally Paskins’ Store, but which is now a kind of museum of old tools that can be purchased.  Together with another shop beside it, the Gundaroo Store, it would sell all kinds of necessaries, from haberdashery to hardware items, and even explosives for miners, for gold had been discovered in the region.  No one bothers with the gold these days, since Gundaroo has a pretty high average household income.  In the header of this page you can see the outside of the store with its heritage-listed wooden plank walls and brick fireplace, quietly retiring beside an ancient tree.

Gundaroo tools

Though it’s a shop, the building is laid out in the typical style of small 19th-century Australian houses, with a hallway extending like a tunnel from the front door to the back.  I slipped out into the back yard while my husband was still inside looking at the blokey stuff.

Sally Paskins' Store Gundaroo

A similar cottage across the street was put up as the Gundaroo Literary Institute and Library, which I once wrote about here.  As we were heading down to the Village Common, run by the villagers as a common grazing ground, we saw the sheep that had been asleep, now standing close to the fence munching grass.  We approached.  She came towards us like a lonely dog looking for a pat.  It’s been a long time since I’ve touched a sheep and I’d forgotten how thick the layer of wool is.  I had to press down through several inches of it to make any contact with the actual head.   As I stroked her, I found tiny horns curving over and hiding their tips down in the thickness of the wool.  She seemed to like the attention even if she couldn’t feel me making much contact.

With her sweet ears that stuck out horizontally, two furry white triangles with pink inners, I couldn’t resist a few clicks.  As we were walking away, she came to the gate and poked her nose through, like our dog does when we arrive home.

Gundaroo sheep

It was a good Gundaroo morning.

Thanks Marianne for inspiring me to take a trip EVERY month.

Orange

From Éloge de l’oranger by Jean de la Fontaine (1621-1695)

Orangers, arbres que j’adore,
Que vos parfums me semblent doux !
Est-il dans l’empire de Flore
Rien d’agréable comme vous ?

"Orange de Malte", P. Doumerc, Oingt, France

“Orange de Malte”, P. Doumerc, Oingt, France

My translation, wherein I change the plural orangers to a single orange tree, for the sake of rhyme:

Orange tree, my desire,
How thy scent is sweet to me!
Is there in Flora’s empire
Anything as lovely as thee?

Blood oranges at EPIC market yesterday

Blood orange eighths

Blood orange eighths

Thanks Ailsa for the orange prompt!

Weekly photo challenge: Texture

Judy Watson, an indigenous artist, created this sculpture, Fire and Water.  It’s textural…

Fire and Water, Judy Watson, Reconciliation Place, Canberra

Fire and Water, Judy Watson, Reconciliation Place, Canberra

You’ll find it in Reconciliation Place, Canberra, where there are a number of sculptures by Aboriginal artists.  Since this particular artwork is called Fire and Water, I’d always thought the grey object amid the fiery reeds represented a seal or dugong.  But on closer inspection today, I saw it’s not an animal, but a stone.  A gathering stone.  Muted sounds are constantly playing through small holes all over it, representing bogong moths flying in on their annual migration and people gathering to feast on them.  Michael Hewes designed the sound.

Looking between the two stands of rusty reeds, we see the National Library, one of my favourite haunts.  In this wintry season, the reeds echo the hibernating poplars in the library forecourt.  At the moment I took this photo, two jets in the fountain were working.  That was just luck;  the fountain is not always turned on.  The elements in the photo are a great example of symmetry in this city of many symmetries.

National Library of Australia and "Fire and Water" sculpture by Judy Watson

National Library of Australia and “Fire and Water” sculpture by Judy Watson

Bogong moths pass through Canberra every year in about September.  Last year they were in plague proportions, congregating on many of the national institutions in the parliamentary triangle, and particularly in Parliament House.  At night they’re attracted to the powerfully lit flagpole on top of the House.  We all had moths flying and dying in our homes, which was annoying for those of us who don’t eat them.

Since we’re thinking of texture for this week’s photo challenge, take a look at this image from another Canberra photographer, Donald Hobern, of a bogong with its fluffy head and carpet-like wings.  When they land on tree bark they’re well camouflaged.  But I can tell you, while one individual moth might look beautiful in a close-up, a crowd of brown, fluttering moths resting up in a corner of your room is not attractive.  But thanks to Judy Watson’s sculpture, I learnt that they’re edible, and even delicious, and I was reminded once again that nothing is completely ugly or useless.

Photo of  bogong moth courtesy of Donald Hobern, Canberra, Creative Commons

Photo of bogong moth (Agrotis infusa) courtesy of Donald Hobern, Canberra, Wikimedia

Take a look at more textures on the WordPress photo challenge page for this week.

One trip EVERY month: July

This is a story of mud, bats and abandoned boats.  But it’s also a story of a certain beauty I found in a suburb that was far from a favourite when I was a child.  Fifty years ago, Wynnum was a Brisbane suburb about 20 minutes away from our house, down the road on the edge of Moreton Bay.  In my small mind, families poorer than mine lived there.

So it was weird this month to be holidaying in Wynnum, in a street where many of the old homes have been renovated by owners richer than their ancestors.

My memory of the bay is of mud flats, the poor man’s waterfront.  Sure enough, as I approached the esplanade for the first time in a long time, it was night, but there was enough city light to see the vast expanse of mud.

Wynnum, tide out, evening

Wynnum, tide out, evening

When I walked to the esplanade in the morning, there was still nothing to see but mud, and rocks tumbling across it from the raised walkway.

Mudflats, Wynnum

Mudflats, Wynnum

To make a fair comparison, I had to see the bay when the tide was in, so I returned mid-afternoon which seems to be a good time to see the sand and sea, sans mud.

Wynnum, tide in, afternoon

Wynnum, tide in, afternoon

For water views there’s not only the ocean;  there’s Wynnum creek and the mangroves where bats sleep, black, upside down and ugly.

Bats, Wynnum mangroves

Bats, Wynnum mangroves

But they’re not half as ugly as these abandoned boats in the creek, which the locals must find shameful.  Whose responsibility is it to dispose of them?

So, Wynnum has mudflats, bats and abandoned boats.  Is there anything good about this suburb?  Well, there’s an excellent jetty that projects far enough out into the bay to enable reflection on symmetry, or to turn your back on the mud and reflect on Moreton Island in the distance.

Jetty, Wynnum

Jetty, Wynnum

And there are Queenslanders.  I’m a Queenslander because I grew up in Queensland.  But there are also houses that are Queenslanders, and that’s what you can see in Wynnum, beautifully renovated high-set weatherboard homes, set on stumps to allow airflow under the house, keeping it cooler in the sub-tropical heat.  And from upstairs, many of these homes have a view of the bay, a peaceful sight whether the tide’s in or out.

Queenslander home

Queenslander home

The name Wynnum is possibly derived from Winnam, an Aboriginal word for Pandanus tree, a great number of which grow in the shore-side parks and streets.  Pandanus is a palm-like tree with roots growing out and down in a pyramid form to keep it balanced…

Pandanus tree - Wynnum

… and it produces large fruit resembling a pineapple.  Bats and possums love it, and it’s edible for humans, as are most parts of the Pandanus tree.  As I walked down the street I caught sight of some niblets of the fruit under one of the trees, looking sadly up at me.

Pandanus seeds

Pandanus seeds

Moreton Bay.  A quiet place.  I’m glad I took the trip.

Moreton Bay, Wynnum

Moreton Bay

See some more monthly trips on Marianne’s East of Málaga.  She challenges us to take one trip EVERY month.