Photo challenge: Independence

Yesterday, a French friend asked me to define the word ‘yoke’.  She looked in her bilingual dictionary and came up with ‘constraint’.  But it’s more than that, I think, and I tried to explain that it can be a mark of servitude.  Or slavery.  Or it can be a metaphor for a burden, anything that keeps you coupled to a problem.

Today I passed this yoke, and took the photo to show her.

A yoke is a binding thing.  A piece of wood fastened to the necks of two animals, then attached to a plough, forces them to work obediently and stops them escaping.  When the yoke is removed, and especially once it’s nailed to the top of a post, the animals are free to roam and go where they please.  Independence.

Yoke

Thanks Ailsa for the ‘Independence’ photo challenge.

Frank

Last night I went to the Australian War Memorial for an 8:58 pm appointment.  At this moment, Frank’s name would be projected onto the exterior wall of the Hall of Memory, an honourable way of remembering the soldiers who died for Australia in World War One.  Every 30 seconds a new name appears.  There are 62,000 names on the Roll of Honour which will all be displayed several times between 2014 and 2018, from sunset to sunrise.

F.A.P. Shaw, name from the Honour Roll projected onto Australian War Memorial, 21st June 2015

F.A.P. Shaw, projected onto Australian War Memorial, 21st June 2015

Frank was my first cousin twice removed.  Or, if you like, my grandfather’s cousin.  He was the third son in his family to be killed in action in France, the first in 1916, the second in 1917, and Frank in 1918.  He was 23, had been promoted to Lance Corporal, was twice recommended for decorations and was congratulated for conspicuous gallantry and daring in reconnoitring enemy positions in February 1918.  Five weeks later he was killed by the enemy on 5th April, 1918 in France.

After receiving news of the death of a third son to die on the Somme, Frank’s father asked the Defence Department to send home his personal effects.  And so, in July 1918, the effects of Frank Albert Percy Shaw were sent with the SS Barunga.  In case no. 1153 were a two-Franc note (damaged), a wallet, a note case, photos, two prayer books, a letter and a YMCA wallet cover.  On 15th July, the Barunga was torpedoed by the enemy and was lost with all cargo.  But, at last some good news, she was carrying invalided troops back to Australia, and all on board were saved.

The Barunga, with the personal effects of a number of soldiers who had died, is still sitting on the ocean floor off the Isles of Scilly, south-west of Lands End, England.

Australian War Memorial, Canberra, 21st June 2015

Australian War Memorial, Canberra, 21st June 2015

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On the way

Last week, for the first time in a long time, my son and I met for morning tea in a café, and on our way back to the car I caught sight of some writing engraved into the concrete as we stepped up on a kerb. I stooped to take a photo, and at that moment a bus turned the corner.  My son thought I was crazy, crouching down on the road, focused on photographing a bit of concrete graffiti while a passing bus was leaning into the corner.  But he was missing the magic of the moment.

Here’s what captured my attention:  a grey concrete kerb, utilitarian and ugly, made ‘beautiful’ with a few words and autumn leaves collected in the hollow of the gutter.

You are beautiful 2

Thanks WordPress for the challenge to photograph something on the way to somewhere.

Japanese Gardens, Helwan, Cairo

In the 1800s, the town of Helwan was Egypt’s winter resort for the wealthy.  During the Second World War, British, Australian and New Zealand soldiers were resident in the area and visited these gardens constructed in 1917 by the architect Zulfiqar Pasha, who gave them a Japanese theme with about forty Buddha statues, elephants, a Japanese-style bridge and pagodas.

Japanese Gardens, Helwan, Cairo, c1941

After the 1952 revolution the gardens were neglected and Helwan became an industrial area.  However, about a decade ago, with help from the Japanese Embassy, they were restored as a Japanese Garden.  Once more it has become a desirable escape from the crowds of Cairo.  It’s not just tourists who enjoy the space;  most Muslim locals also love it as a green oasis amid decrepit concrete buildings, even accepting the novelty of Buddha statues in a Japanese garden, the only one in the Middle East.

Japanese Gardens, Helwan, Cairo, 1941

Japanese Gardens, Helwan, Cairo, c1941

In an earlier blog post, I had previously posted the photo of the seated Buddha on a lotus flower and the three elephants, but I deleted it.  However, I’m posting it again, because today I was reminded of the value of photos.

When I went searching online for current images of these statues, I found that my photo had been copied before I deleted it, and then it was used to illustrate a couple of stories about the demise of the statues. The Buddha has been beheaded and the elephants de-trunked.  What a horrifying discovery!  A couple of web sites have stories or brief notes about the destruction, and the authors of these sites have used my photo to show the statues as they were in the 1940s.

My father’s wartime photos are a valuable historical resource, and I’m pleased to be able to share them through this blog.  However, it’s disappointing that I received no credit as owner of the photo.  Take a look at this Twitter post, for example, and a news site, here, which has put its own name across the bottom of the photo.  Please, if you wish to use my photos in your stories, ask me before copying them, and give me credit.  Thanks.

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Eltville, Germany

In recent months I discovered that my husband and sons are descended from a German couple who came to Australia in 1856 from Eltville, Germany.  Now, I’ve just been to Eltville, and found it a lovely restored town along the German Timber-Frame Road (Deutsche Fachwerkstrasse), a tourist route passing through towns where houses are half-timbered.  It was very pleasant to stroll through the winding mediaeval streets and see houses with centuries-old dates marked on the front, including one from 1365.  This date might not blow your mind if you grew up in Europe, but for me, having lived my life in a young country where nothing is much more than 200 years old, it’s precious.  I had to photograph it so I wouldn’t forget how old it all is.

Eltville on the Rhine is known for roses and wine, in particular the sparkling wine, Sekt.  I bought a small bottle of Sekt and it came in a rose-printed bag.  Our family ancestors would have seen the Electors Castle every day, a former residence of the archbishops and electors of Mainz.  But the rose-growing began after they left, so they wouldn’t have seen this rose-filled maze beside the  Castle.  When I was there the rose bushes were in new leaf.

Along the Rhine there’s a pleasant promenade beneath an arbour of pollarded trees.  In their early spring nakedness I found them amusing.  I’ve seen pollarded trees before, but not as bulbous as these here in Eltville, which have been cut back quite severely.  The amputated branch stumps are nobbly in the dormant season, but I’m assured that the compact, leafy canopy that grows in spring and summer creates a spot for romantic rendezvous beside the Rhine.

Pollarded trees on the Rheinpromenade, Eltville

Pollarded trees on the Rhine promenade, Eltville

Eltville.  In the mid-nineteenth century some of its winegrowers left this lovely village to make the long journey across land to Hamburg, then to make the long journey across the seas to Australia, where they would plant vines and make wine in their new homeland.  But the descendants of those who stayed in Eltville have kept their town beautiful and inviting.  I doubt anyone would want to leave this lovely place now.  Unless they’re a tourist, like me.

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Weekly photo challenge: Intricate

This week’s WordPress Photo Challenge is for something ‘intricate’.  The Oxford Dictionary defines intricate as ‘very complicated or detailed’, from the Latin intricat- ‘entangled’, and from in- ‘into’ plus tricae ‘tricks, perplexities’.

Tricks and perplexities.

When I read about the challenge, I was in Barcelona looking at intricate architectural details on buildings all around me.  Barcelona does intricate very well. There’s Barcelona Cathedral with its decorative west facade constructed in the 19th and early 20th centuries:

Barcelona Cathedral facade, top detail

Barcelona Cathedral facade, top detail

There are the individual architect-designed houses in the Passeig del Gràcia, including one of Gaudi’s, which had hundreds of people outside and inside and which I therefore passed by, and there was this one, the Casa Lleó Morera a few doors away, which I prefer.  It was designed by Lluís Domènech i Montaner for Lleó’s mother in the early 1900s.

Casa Lleó Morera, Barcelona

But, for me, what was most tricky and perplexing were the bench-lamp-posts designed in 1906 by Pere Falqués et Urpí, a Catalan Modernist architect.  There are 32 of them along the passeig.  The benches are covered in ceramic mosaics, a  technique typical of Catalan modernism (think Gaudi), and the lamp posts are of wrought iron rising up from the bench in a whiplash form, a characteristic of Art Nouveau generally (known as Modernism in the Catalonia region of Spain, which includes Barcelona.)

I sat on this bench to read a city map, looking for famous Barcelona art and architecture.  But I was sitting on something more interesting than all the tricky buildings and their perplexed spectators.  For, when I stood up, I saw the shadows cast by the twisting entanglements of the ironwork and the complexity of the mosaic tiles over the curved edges of the seat, and realised this was an excellent way to make art publicly useable and inclusive rather than exclusive.  When you sit on the bench, you are part of the art.

Frescoes and keyhole arches: Saint-Martin de Fenollar, France

On the road from Ceret in the Pyrénées-Orientales, France, heading towards the Mediterranean, a short detour takes you to Maureillas-las-Illas and on to a chapel which you would never find if you were simply driving around.  It’s not only off the road a short way, but it has a house built in front of it, indeed, attached to it and concealing the chapel from view.  Pity.

Saint-Martin de Fenollar, Maureillas-las-Illas, Pyrénées-Orientales, France

Saint-Martin de Fenollar, Maureillas-las-Illas, Pyrénées-Orientales, France

It’s the chapel of Saint-Martin de Fenollar.  In the 1960s it was restored and is now one of France’s ‘monuments historiques’.  The earliest record of the chapel dates it at 844 AD which makes it an example of pre-Romanesque architecture.  Its exterior is simple and small, but the interior is much more interesting.  There are pre-Romanesque arches, which were shaped like keyholes or horseshoes, and are sometimes called Moorish arches.  In my header photo above, you can see that the external doorway was once keyhole shaped. Signs in the chapel say that all photography, with or without flash, is strictly forbidden.  So I took no photos of the interior.  I was good.  There are, however, a few on Creative Commons which I can use to give you a reason to visit this little ‘gallery’ of 900-year-old paintings.  Indeed, these photos reveal more colour than can actually be seen inside the dark little chapel where only a few slits let the daylight in.  Here’s a photo from Wikimedia Commons of a keyhole arch leading to the apse inside the chapel:

« Fenollar arc triomphal outrepassé » par EmDee — Travail personnel. Sous licence CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons

This form of arch was used in Visigothic architecture in Spain until the Muslim invasion in the eighth century AD, following which Spanish Muslim architects adopted its form for their mosques.  In Saint-Michel-de-Cuxa, an abbey of the same region, there’s some information on the wall of the church to explain the different arches:

Arch comparison St Michel de Cuxa

Arch comparison, Saint-Michel-de-Cuxa, France

However, Saint-Martin-de-Fenollar is a treasure for its remnants of 12th-century frescoes, which probably would have covered every wall top to bottom. What’s really amazing is that, before the restoration, a farmer had used the chapel for agricultural purposes and had knocked a huge hole in the eastern wall of the choir to make a door.  The wall was covered in frescoes, which with his help became little more than rubble.  The hole has since been filled and the remaining frescoes brought back to life.  In the photo of the apse, above, the infill is clear around and under the window.  We can only imagine what images had been there before. I have no photos of the interior but I have memories.  I looked at this ‘Christ in Majesty’ on the ceiling until my neck ached.  In the image below the colours are brilliant, but in the poor light creeping through the arrow slits and narrow windows, combined with dim electric lights illuminating the apse, the frescoes are quite dull.  I imagine that in Romanesque times candles would have lit the images, flickering over the Biblical faces and animating them mysteriously.  The photo below would not have looked so bright in candlelight or in minimal daylight, so we are seeing the image differently.  It’s a Christ in Majesty, encircled by a tetramorph, from the Greek tetra, meaning four, and morph, shape. Around the image of Christ are the four evangelists: Matthew, Mark, Luke and John.

File:Chapelle Saint Martin de Fenollar - Commune de Maureillas (66).jpg

Christ in Majesty, in a tetramorph surrounded by the four physically flexible evangelists, Saint-Martin-de-Fenollar, France. Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

What a precious jewel we found by leaving the beaten track and venturing inside an otherwise unremarkable structure.

My thanks to Dennis Aubrey at Via Lucis for introducing me to this chapel.

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Saint-Julien, Estavar, France

Estavar is a tiny, isolated but very pretty village in the south of France, close to Spain, situated at 1225m above sea level, and known as the community that receives the most sun each year in the Cerdagne region.  I went there recently to see l’Eglise Saint-Julien, a small Romanesque church.  It was closed when I visited, and seems to be open only for guided visits.  Inside there are remnants of 12th-century frescoes, which I didn’t get to see, but the outside is charming and worth a visit.  It was encouraging to see some work being done to restore it.

Bell gable, Eglise Saint-Julien, Estavar, Pyrénées-Orientales, France

Bell gable, Eglise Saint-Julien, Estavar, Pyrénées-Orientales, France

Chevet, Eglise Saint-Julien, Estavar, France

Chevet, Eglise Saint-Julien, Estavar, France

See the sculpted heads around the top of the chevet?  Each one is an individual.  Zoom in!

Heads around the chevet, Eglise Saint-Julien, Estavar, France

Heads around the chevet, Eglise Saint-Julien, Estavar, France

Estavar is on the border of Llivia, a Spanish enclave which has existed within France like an island since the Treaty of the Pyrenees in 1659, in which the mountain range of the Pyrenees became the border.  Some Spanish villages north of the mountains became French, but the Spanish influence is everywhere evident in the Catalan culture north and south of the border.  Since the treaty demanded that only villages would be ceded to France, Llivia remained Spanish, since it had once been the capital of Cerdanya (Cerdagne in French) and was considered a city.

Thanks to Dennis Aubrey and his blog Via Lucis, I’ve seen many parts of France that I would have, in the past, ignored.  My friend who drives me around when I’m here, and who has lived in the Pyrénees for decades, has also discovered some sites she didn’t know existed, and is thankful to me for introducing her to them!  She should really be thanking Dennis…

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Prieuré de Marcevol, Pyrénées-Orientales

For a recent sojourn in the Pyrénées-Orientales, I asked Dennis Aubrey to recommend some Romanesque churches and monasteries to visit.  Marcevol was on his list.  Thanks Dennis.

On our way to spend a weekend in the higher Pyrenees, a friend and I visited the Prieuré de Marcevol which had unfortunately closed two minutes before we arrived.  But the sun sets late on these spring nights and I was able to take some photos of the exterior.  It’s a twelfth-century priory founded by the Order of Saint Sépulcre, destroyed in an earthquake in 1428, abandoned as ruins during the French Revolution and only properly restored in the last 40 years.  The priory now welcomes groups for cultural and sporting activities.

Facade, Marcevol Priory, France

Facade, Marcevol Priory, France

The facade is impressive, but the eye returns again and again to the rosy marble framing of the door and window.  The marble comes from the nearby quarries in Villefranche-de-Conflent, and has been used in many churches in the region.

Marcevol priory, Pyrénées-Orientales, France

Rose marble, Marcevol priory, Pyrénées-Orientales, France

Uphill from the priory, there’s the small hamlet of Marcevol and a small eleventh-century church, Nostra Senyora de las Gradas (Santa Maria de las Grades).

Church in the hamlet of Marcevol, France

Romanesque church in the hamlet of Marcevol, France

We drove up the hill to see if we could go inside but unfortunately we were out of luck again;  it is not open to the public.  It’s right next door to, practically adjoining, a house which we thought was part of the church structure.  The owner, sitting on the steps by his back door, set us right.

Church, Marcevol, France

Eglise Sainte-Marie des Grades, 11th-century church, Marcevol, France

The chevet of the church is decorated by Lombard Bands, or a series of blind arcades, which are believed to also enhance stability.  Blocks of stone, much longer and wider than the others in the structure, were set deep into the thick walls above and below the arcades.  Lombard Bands were widely used on Romanesque churches in the Catalonia region of southern France and northern Spain, where Marcevol is located.

Since the little church and houses are all of stone, there’s nothing ugly in this hamlet.  For even when stone structures are neglected and tumble down, wildflowers grow quite naturally in the gaps. On the web site for the Marcevol priory, I read:  ‘Anyone who has never been to Marcevol does not know everything about the world’s beauty.’  It’s not just the priory, the hamlet and church that inspire, but also the setting, close to the majestic Mount Canigou (2785 m), the mountain loved by the Catalans.

Steps up to the church, Marcevol, France

Steps up to the 13th-century wall protecting the nave, Marcevol, France

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Anzac Day 2015

On 25th April it will be 100 years since Australian and New Zealand soldiers charged the beaches in Gallipoli, Turkey, in an attempt to beat the Turks and give the Allies a chance to take Constantinople.  They were mown down, slaughtered.  The battles continued for months until December 1915 when they withdrew, defeated.  Out of a population of less than 5 million, Australia lost 8,000 young males at Gallipoli.

The following year, 1916, my grandfather, Ernest Bruce, joined the army after stowing away on a ship of volunteers headed for Egypt.  In July at Pozières, France, on the Western Front, he was trapped under concrete in an explosion, and then gassed.  But he survived.  He was one of the 40,000 Australians killed or wounded in 1916 on the Western Front (see AWM).  That’s a huge part of a population of 5 million.

When he returned to Australia, he was too ill to work for more than a few days a week, yet it took the government years to offer him a pension.

His oldest son was my father, Ronald Bruce, who hadn’t learnt a thing about the futility of volunteering to fight in a war.  In 1941 he joined the army, was sent to Egypt, and months later was sent home with shell shock.  He couldn’t hold down a job, and at 25 was offered a pension.

This Anzac Day, I honour my father and grandfather for volunteering to participate in Australia’s defence.

At the Australian War Memorial in Canberra there is a wall called the Roll of Honour.  It’s covered in the names of Australians who have died in war.  My grandfather and father are not on the wall because they returned alive;  but my grandfather’s three cousins, the Shaw brothers, did not.  They are all buried on the Somme in France, and their names are here on the wall.  I put poppies beside their names.

Since I learnt that they were all killed while my grandfather returned, I haven’t looked at life the same way.

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