My Sydney visit could not have started better than it has. I actually came up early for a girlfriend’s birthday drinks. That was so fun. While I stayed in the Campari lane (Negroni much as I love it, is too strong for me), I was also introduced to the pretty amazing flavour of an Australian “smoked gin”. Does anyone know about this? I will make efforts to penetrate the local gin distilling scene and report back.
This evening I’ve done one of my favourite things – walking at night. I can’t really walk at night in the country (a) because it is too dark (b) it puts the farm dogs into a frantic (c) walking at night is really a city thing anyway. It’s all about the quiet lights radiating from houses, glimpses of people at home in their rooms with books and paintings or in their kitchens, or watching the tv, still city gardens – intimate landscapes, the harbour, city lights, the racket of occasional flying foxes.
This is a slice of my night walk, coming back over Darling Point, looking through the terraces toward Elizabeth Bay.
The best of all, is coming down the hill to Rushcutters Bay to hear one of my favourite sounds, rope gently thumping against the mast. And once there are a few boats rolling gently it’s like a gamelan orchestra. You never hear them tolling so clearly and gently during daytime.
I made a lovely little clip of the full moon and the gentle sound of rope against mast.
This photo is a bit out of focus and overexposed but your glamorous aunt is doing real yoga. There are some lovely spots just off the highway to Canberra. This is one of them, at a rest area commemorating one of the bravest second war VCs, Diver Derrick VC.
In the Iliad there are one or two passages that changed the way I looked at poplars. Everyone knows I love trees. I already loved poplars. But now I love them even more. I have included one of the passages from Homer, which is about the death of a Trojan named Simoeisios. It follows a standard formula: the fall of the warrior in the battle, his precise wound, the story of his humanity, the metaphor.
There Telamonian Ajax struck down the son of Anthemion Simoeisios in his stripling’s beauty, whom once his mother descending from Ida bore beside the banks of Simoeis when she had followed her father and mother to tend the sheepflocks. Therefore they called him Simoeisios; but he could not render again the care of his dear parents; he was short-lived, beaten down beneath the spear of high-hearted Ajax, who struck him as he first came forward beside the nipple of the right breast, and the bronze spearhead drove clean through the shoulder. He dropped then to the ground in the dust, like some black poplar, which in the land low-lying about a great marsh grows smooth trimmed yet with branches growing at the uttermost tree-top: one whom a man, a maker of chariots, fells with the shining iron, to bend into a wheel for a fine-wrought chariot, and the tree lies hardening by the banks of a river. Such was Anthemion’s son Simoeisios, whom illustrious Ajax killed.
I went to the Banksy exhibition at the Entertainment Quarter. If you go, it’s better not to buy tickets online – they are a much better price at the door. Also, to avoid walking around looking for the exhibition hall, go straight to the end of the main entrance road off Lang Road (I walked all around the place before I figured it out :-)).
Even though the Banksy images are such well known street art there was nothing “old” about the look of the show – mostly original stencils and various prints. Here are some of the street images from Google:
The organiser of the exhibition was manager/accomplice to Banksy for many years, Steve Lazarides. Banksy himself is still unidentified.
One of the best things about the exhibition was the use of videos – streaming on loop around the hall between the exhibits. They told the story of the extraordinary rise of the guerilla grafitti artist with his witty, anti-consumerist themes. It was a very well done story and made the exhibition a really coherent experience.
There was film called “Exit Through the Gift Shop” mentioned in some of the commentary of the exhibition, a film I’d never heard of. In the evening when I was home I looked it up and found a copy on youtube to watch.
The film was an extended commentary on the consumerist art market hype that Banksy parodies (and was itself a clever hoax). It started out purporting to be a documentary on Banksy, being made by a dotty French American amateur photographer/film maker. This character had, according to the film, doggedly followed Banksy for years on his secret missions trespassing at night to plaster his distinctive stencil posters and do his grafitti on buildings and signs all round the UK and both sides of the US. When it becomes apparent about half way through the film, that the quality of the documentary is hopeless, Banksy enters stage left (appearing simply as a dark hooded figure – no face – being interviewed) and persuades the film maker to become the subject of the narrative. So he does, and somehow sets about to transform himself into a grafitti and print artist (like Banksy) with a huge output (none of it displaying any talent or skill whatsoever). The reconfigured “documentary” then follows the film maker’s hugely successful first exhibition in Los Angeles (playing to the cynical undiscriminating art market hungry for the next “thing”). It’s done with a light enough touch though, to make it excellent fun to watch.
It reminded me of a documentary (but not a parody “documentary” at all), about Andy Warhol’s protegee, David Basquiat, who perished very young, apparently a victim of his own success. From the wrong side of the tracks, with no training, he suffered trying to cope with the hype of his spectacular conquest of the contemporary art market at a very young age. His tragic fate perhaps an outcome, at least in part, of the social realities that are the focus of Banksy’s work. Here are some images of Basquiat’s pictures – in a heavily worked totemic grafitti style.
And here is a link to the documentary film about Basquiat, which turned up in my internet searches when I was getting these images of his paintings: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=U6ibOFlSM6o I think the film features (the real) Andy Warhol and (the real) David Bowie.
Following on from my earlier post about adventures in the Whitsundays, I wanted to add another image. These are the Norfolk Island pines, with their very distinctive geometry, everywhere on the Whitsunday islands. This is the ridge of the cove at Refuge Bay where we anchored overnight.
So it was Captain Cook who brought the seeds of the pines to northern Australia wishfully supposing they might provide timber suitable for masts.
I have always found it hard to be on the water in the Pacific and not think of Captain Cook, Joseph Banks and all the great naturalists. For quite a while one of my favourite non fiction books was a book called “Darwin’s Armada” by Iain McCalman. It’s an account of the great sailing voyages of Darwin’s peers. It’s absolutely compelling reading (if that’s your kind of thing). It’s ages since I read it but one of the passages that still stays with me vividly is an account of how the Pacific peoples must have experienced navigating, with only the simplest instruments and no charts – what resources, skills and understanding of the sea they must have had.
But then I am very partial to all things Charles Darwin (and his milieu). The Voyage of the Beagle is so engaging. Here is a favourite passage in which Darwin describes interactions with wild llamas.
I am back from lovely holidays sailing with friends in the Whitsundays. I have an excellent tan to show for it. I actually didn’t want to come back. The South African guy at the charter yacht company was no help either, just suggested I read the book with the self explanatory title “Sell up and Sail”.
This was the outlook when anchored overnight in a place called Refuge Bay:
In the evening I could hear a slightly mournful bird call. At first it sounded like a dove but it was too insistent. It turned out to be a couple of pheasant coucals calling to one another. (Don’t ask me how I figured it out, it was intuition confirmed by internet searches.)
Here are some images of the bird itself which I borrowed from Google:
I put this second image in because it has the fence wire for size. I have actually seen these birds and I can warrant they are concurrently large birds and small dinosaurs.
The “sell up and sail” caper is something I like to enjoy vicariously these days by watching youtube channels. My favourite channel is one called Free Range Sailing. It’s a youtube vlog maintained by an Australian couple who are cruising in a very modest yacht, mostly in tropical waters. Apart from the sailing, they do quite a bit of free diving on the reefs, spearfishing and exploring on shore. Pascal is a very good and resourceful cook. She also seems to be the creative lead in making the vlog – which is high quality well edited video. Her partner Troy is an excellent hand at keeping their 30 foot 50 year old yacht on track and in shape. He seems to handle the inevitable breakdowns of gear in good form and has a droll sense of humour. They are of course, “free range” so it all appeals to my tree hugging temperament. You aren’t going to find them zapping around churning up the peace of the natural world on jet skis any time soon. Highly recommend! And here is the link: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCbU2ulPD3rJ4OZCNH7-gjjQ
The lovely thing about Sydney, well there are many but this is also one of them, is that even when it is overcast it can be very pretty.
I was at Mosman last week during the week, a bit of an event because I don’t go over the Bridge so much these days. Afterward I dropped down from the steep ridge that Military Road follows, to the pretty harbour beach, Balmoral (surf beach for the under threes). I had a nostalgic and quality fish and chips from the Bottom of the Harbour fish and chip shop, which I think has been there about 20 years, loyally taking cash only and reminding some of us of scandalous tax avoidance schemes from the days of when…
It was an overcast day. A steady number of citizens walked their dogs along the foreshore. I have always liked the somewhat art deco style of the concrete foreshore walkway, complemented by the little bridge across the isthmus which you can just see at the end of the beach here in one of my afternoon snaps.
In the course of my recent excursions during May when I was away from work for a couple of weeks, I had the pleasure of going up to the Newcastle Art Gallery for the first time. It was a Saturday early afternoon and the occasion was the opening of a retrospective exhibition of the works of the Australian artist, Virginia Cuppaidge. Virginia was interviewed at the opening, to a very attentive audience. The paintings in the exhibition covered her work over a 40 year career spent in New York. She has recently returned to Australia to live.
Here is a photo of two of her pictures from the 1970’s:
And here is a sculpture made by the Australian Clem Meadmore, with whom she worked for a time in New York. The sculpture is entitled Virginia and lives in the Sculpture Garden at The Australian National Gallery in Canberra.
I became aware of Virginia’s paintings because I was friendly with her mother: author, botanical illustrator, japanophile and horticulturalist, Judy Cuppaidge. Judy and I became friends when Judy was in her 90’s: a more lively and remarkable person you could not hope to meet and, as she said, with her macular degeneration: “blind as welder’s dog.”
I’ve been planning to make a recording of one of Judy’s short stories.
It has been a busy time in May with various excursions and some enforced leave. I have been in the country some of the time and it has been exceptionally pretty, though progress with development has been very s l o w.
Even though it has been very dry, I have been there just after rain a couple of times and managed to get some lovely images, when the earth is all shining and luminous.
You have not heard from me over summer, so it’s a long overdue greeting for the New Year.
As some of you know I had some bad experiences last year with a stalker and it has taken the shine off my happy life. During this last couple of months I haven’t been posting.
It was a very dry period leading up to Christmas and the wildflowers on the country block were very few this year. In past years there has been a profusion of colour and variety but this year it was all very subdued. I did see one wildflower that I haven’t seen before though. Although it was quite common looking – simple structure, bright yellow – I am pretty sure it was a new sighting for me.
Here it is:
The natural world managed to be beautiful in the city too. There was a very small, perfectly formed pale green moth on the window sill at Potts Point one morning. Here it is:
And I managed to get a fair amount of snorkelling and diving in over the summer. Be warned this is not a lingerie shot! 🙂 It was taken during a dive on the south side of Botany Bay at a place called The Steps.
I have been busy down in the country building (as always) and exploring. This is a snap taken down by the creek near my place. It was a lovely spring day and I wore my luminous pink gumboots to protect me from the swamp and any snakes. I don’t know if any of you have read Slaughterhouse-Five – or have seen the old movie – but the hero of the story makes a striking entrance emerging from an underground shelter after the bombing of Dresden in virtual rags and an incongruous pair of silver boots (scavenged from somewhere). My glow in the dark pink gumboots always make me think of that scene – they are so dazzling.