Thursday, January 31, 2008

100 Word Stories: the 100th day

It’s difficult not to count. Every day I miss him. Every day brings him closer.

I scan the news – radio, papers, internet. My Middle East geography has improved from zilch to some sort of expertise. If I play with Google Earth, can I understand the place he is?

He’s guarded, when he’s able to communicate with us. The children and I pray at dinner that Daddy will be safe and every time I feel the tremor in Lucy’s hand. At eight, she understands. At two, Bella bangs on the table with her spoon and looks at me with his eyes.

Sark


Sark
Originally uploaded by rooruu.
While work consumes so many hours in the day this week, I'll use another Channel Islands photo from years ago for today's image. This one is of Sark.

Sark was somewhere I always wanted to see - it was the real reason for going to the Channel Islands at all. And it didn't disappoint. Wonderful landscapes, farmland and coastal. And although it's small, when you don't have motorised transport (apart from tractors), suddenly it's not so small.

(The ocean wasn't pink that day, but the original photo is now in an acid-free album...)

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

100 Word Stories: Something's growing in the basement

They need the cold, and the dark.

It’s a yearly ritual. Hope in darkness, confidence that this year, as every year, the days will turn after the solstice, the early evenings will lengthen, just a little, each day, creeping up by minutes.

Down there, we buried them in rich dark soil, in the blue bowl that was my grandmother’s, the terracotta trough my mother brought from Italy, the painted pots from Eastern Europe that I somehow brought home unbroken.

And before winter is over, their green shoots will come, and we’ll bring them upstairs. Daffodils. Hyacinths. Spring. Colour. Perfume; hope.

Cottage on Herm, Channel Islands


Herm cottage
Originally uploaded by rooruu.
I'm not here, no. But I can take a moment, and remember, and enjoy the pretty play of pink on pink, the sprawling generosity of the roses, the geometry of window and lattice.

Then it's back to the maelstrom of work.

I think you have to live in the right kind of place, and have the right kind of house to paint it pink. Isn't it delightful, though?

(Herm is one of the smaller Channel Islands, not so well known as Jersey, Guernsey or Sark).

Funded!

Moriya's loan is fully funded - but if you still want to play, go and have a look at Kiva and find an entrepreneur to support. Go on...

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

100 Word Stories: Tell a story that takes place inside a bathroom

Would you think that cradling the cold porcelain of the toilet bowl could be joyful? No. Think again.

Hours in doctors’ surgeries. Questions. Needles. More questions. Anaesthetics. Hope threading through it all, twining in with the despair of no, and not this time, and maybe….

It’s surprising how quickly, however much you hate needles (and I do), you learn to give yourself the necessary injections. Each one a grimace, each one a step.

Finally, months later, this is my morning ritual. Me, retching. But as the days get colder, you get closer to being born, and my heart is full.

Time


Selborne sundial and tree
Originally uploaded by rooruu.
It's not cold like this where I am today. It's stiflingly humid, hot, wish-it-was-winter weather. Probably better for a sundial to do its work, though.

I was thinking about time today, how it can seem to move at such varying speeds, way too fast, unbearably slow. Some things seem to be unending and then when they do end you just don't believe it's possible.

Although I rarely buy or borrow or listen to books on CD, I'm working through The Time Traveler's Wife, which I enjoyed so much reading in book form. The unabridged version - every word, over 15 CDs. Read by William Hope and Laurel Lefkow (take a bow, you're wonderful).

And maybe it's because I read visually much more than using audio books, but the book comes fresh to my ears. Not unfamiliar, but fresh. A spoken voice gives specific character and tone to Clare and Henry.

There's a film due later this year, and Henry will become Eric Bana, Clare, Rachel McAdams, a third version of the book with which to engage - a version for my eyes as well as ears and mind. I'm looking forward to it. I hope they do it well... (release date for the US is June 2008).

Monday, January 28, 2008

Meet Moriya Nabieva


Inspired by this entry on Sarah London's blog, I'm now involved as a textile entrepreneur in Takjikistan (just north of Afghanistan). No, that picture's not me, it's Moriya. Although I wish I could go look at the fabrics myself.
Moriya Nabieva, 48, is married and has 3 children. For 14 years, she has been selling traditional fabrics for Tajik national clothing. Moriya has a sales spot at “Tidzhorat” market in Yavan. Moriya plans to use this loan to purchase a few new types of fabric for women. The new fabrics are very popular among the local women. Moriya plans to repay this loan within 10 months.
I now have an account with Kiva, and you can get involved in microcredit to the working poor too, from as little as $US25.
Moriya needs $1000. As of right now, she still needs $650 of that in 28 days. If, like me, you're a fabriholic, maybe this is a rather fun way to enhance your stash (without needing any storage space). (But if you'd rather help buy a cow or a motorbike or facilitate all sorts of other businesses, then go and browse and choose what suits you).
Here's the link to the page on Kiva.com about Moriya. Can you lend her some more? If you do, please leave a comment, it would be good to know you're a part of this too.
And here's the excellent part: when it's paid back, you can recycle the funds into another project.
Thanks for the inspiration, Sarah.

Funnel Cake


0801 Australia Day: Funnel Cake
Originally uploaded by rooruu.
From the Australia Day food stalls in Hyde Park, we selected something we hadn't tried before - and what did it matter that lunch began with dessert? Funnel cake has absolutely no redeeming qualities, nutritionally, and it looks better covered in whipped cream and berries (disguising the froth-of-fried-worms look). But both versions (the nearer one has cinnamon sugar on it) tasted good and were a treat - a cross between a waffle and a doughnut.

If you'd like to know more about funnel cake, here's a Wikipedia link: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Funnel_cake

100 Word Stories: Where's the redhead?

Did she wear the hat? I warned her. I’m dark haired myself, I fit in. They don’t notice you, the street cops, the block wardens, the bluesuited watchers with their commsticks and lasers. Uniformity is safety. Don’t be noticed as a stranger.

Ah, she said, it’ll be fine. I’ll be OK. She took a last swig of kavafi (how did it not burn her throat? It’s firewater) and headed down the stairs.

Two hours. I wait for my commstick to bleep. Nothing.

Six hours. I check the news on my commstick. S**t.

Oh gods, I wish she’d worn the hat.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Doubledecker bus


0801 doubledecker bus mosaic
Originally uploaded by rooruu.
Travelling on this restored Leyland bus was a highlight of Australia Day. If you sit upstairs, you get a whole new view as you travel around the city - you're higher up, you can see more, your view of the buildings is upward and inclusive rather than blocked by a ceiling.

I liked the way the left hand photo travelled from the historic (bus, buildings) to the modern.

100 Word Stories: The good news is, you have one day to live

So, what shall we do? A walk? You’ve always liked being outdoors. Maybe the beach, however slow you may be now, although it’s a tad chilly in early spring. Spring. We hoped when you made it through winter that maybe...

How can we find enough ways to tell you what you mean to us?

Al we have is now. The open air, a good meal, your heavy weight on our feet as we sleep. And then tomorrow, here at home, that quiet final needle as we pat you and wonder about how quiet and empty the house will be.

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Australia Day: Martin Place


0801 Australia Day: Martin Place
Originally uploaded by rooruu.
Although it wasn't our plan, we ended up spending a while in the afternoon of Australia Day sitting in the shade watching the Australian Open tennis (women's singles final) on the big screen at Martin Place. And chatting. And it was very pleasant. (Also, you couldn't hear the players grunting (the sound wasn't good enough) and that was also very pleasant - the grunting irritates the tripes out of me, it seems to be unnecessary and whiffing of gamesmanship, somehow...)

There were teenage boys skateboarding down the steps, showing admirable perseverance, and while your heart leapt to your mouth at some moments, they neither (apparently) damaged themselves, or actually ran into anyone else.

Friday, January 25, 2008

Sydney Harbour, summer

Just as a contrast to yesterday's London park in January, here's Sydney Harbour in January. It's really good that at Circular Quay railway station they've removed the solid concrete barriers and replaced them with glass, so you can SEE the harbour.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

London park, winter


London park, winter
Originally uploaded by rooruu.
When your winter is a Sydney winter, you just don't get the same change of landscape palette as you do in colder places - the monochrome of fog and snow and frost and bare trees. When it's not your usual experience, it has a freshness and novelty as a different way of seeing. I'm sure this path would look quite different in summer.

I saw the new film of "Sweeney Todd" today (my first experience of that particular musical, and a good film, if a triffffle enthusiastic with the red) and it has a Tim Burton monochrome palette - except for the flowing red. As one review I read noted, Tim Burton's monochrome palette is rich - not at all simplistic black, grey, white, but shades and tones of bruise and stone and more.

Those who lived there then could not understand why I took or kept this photo. Years on, I remember, and it's good to revisit it. Mind you, when you went from a London January to a Sydney January, it felt as though someone had turned the lights on.

100 Word Stories: Why did you climb a tree?

Apples. Red against the blue sky, just out of reach.

It’s not just about the apples. Catch the memory – hoisting up a leg, adjusting to the architecture of a tree, looking for handholds, finding each foothold, testing it, climbing, making your small self tall. Finding a fork in the branches to perch and look around. Feeling the breeze on your face.

Choose an apple, veined in red and yellow and pink, when you look up close. Warm in your hand, crisp to bite into, sweet tart juice on your tongue.

Did you savour it all so much, as a kid?

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Greystones boats


Greystones boats
Originally uploaded by rooruu.
One of my photos from years ago, taken at Greystones near Dublin. I've been listening today to travel stories from a family member who's just come back from Ireland and the UK.

With this photo I rather liked the contrast between the monochrome landscape and the brightly painted boats.

100 Word Stories: He couldn't care less

As a writing exercise, I've decided to play along sometimes with the daily themes on 100 word stories. Fiction, as you would guess, of 100 words exactly, as you can no doubt deduce. Oh, and you don't count the 'prompt phrase/title' in the 100 words. You can go over there and see today's prompt, and read what others have written, or vote, or write something yourself. It's an interesting exercise in micro-fiction.

He couldn’t care less…

The summer heat had ripened the bananas in a single day, so they smelled sweetly rotten. He sniffed the milk. Sour. Pulled out a slice of bread. A dot or two of blue on one side. Does heat kill mould? When the toaster returned it, he scraped it down, smeared on some honey and went back outside.

Nothing had changed. The air was salty, humid, still, the day’s heat building up. The empty, silent beach house was loud with memories – his grandfather’s fishing rod, his father’s favourite chair. That longboard. He headed to the beach with it under his arm.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

I will survive...

I hadn't considered the significance of the mention of 'outer space' in this song, but it occurred to someone at Pixar (take a bow, Victor Navone).



Treat yourself to a viewing. (chortle!) (Direct link to this on YouTube here).

For months you don't go anywhere near YouTube, and then you do, and you Find Things.

Farinelli


0801 Farinelli portrait detail
Originally uploaded by rooruu.

Wandering around the National Gallery Of Victoria International (and Intergalactic too, while they're at it???) I was paying some attention to details of painted textiles - laces, and the edges of dresses and so forth. And thus I took this picture - only then realising (and taking a photo that's a tad out of focus of the whole work) that one of the subjects of this portrait is the castrati, Farinelli.


The film, Farinelli, is among my favourites, and from all the music, the Handel aria from Rinaldo, Lascia ch'io panga. For the film's music, as I recollect, they merged a countertenor's voice with a soprano's to achieve the range of a castrati.

This video's a little crackly, but countertenor Philippe Jaroussky has the voice of an angel. (I can't find this on iTunes, so if you know of an album on which this is included, please let me know).



(direct link to this on YouTube)


Here's the version from the film Farinelli with the marvellously cast Stephen Dionisi 'fishing' to the work of the merged voices:


(direct link to this on YouTube)

As with the duets from yesterday, I don't have enough of the language to know what they're singing. Perhaps then, though, this lets you overlay what you hear with what you imagine, or believe, or find to be true and how the music speaks to you. When I'm cherrypicking opera, it doesn't worry me to have little or no idea of what they're singing, although I imagine it could be more irritating if you were watching a single opera from beginning to end.


Today's alternative photo would have been shiny stuff from the dentist's and yes, I'd rather think about (and listen to) Handel than the whine of the dental drill and the elegant sensation of fat (anaesthetised) lip feeling as though it's turning you into a drooling embarassment to yourself. Which is one reason why there's no photo, as I was somewhat distracted. This is much more beautiful.


(fishing: miming to a song. cf Milli Vanilli, or for that matter Audrey Hepburn in My Fair Lady.)

Listening: music

I do enjoy the way you can now cherrypick individual tracks (although I did have to buy the entire Shall We Dance? soundtrack to get Peter Gabriel's version of The Book of Love). Much more than ever before, though, you can get just the pieces you want. iTunes here in Oz costs $1.69 per track.

Maybe you miss treasures you'd otherwise discover on an album, but ah well (or oh pook! to quote Mrs Meares from Thoroughly Modern Millie. Not enough people say oh pook! these days, do they?).

Recent acquisitions:

Richard Glover's afternoon radio program on 702ABC Sydney reminded me of the duet from The Pearl Fishers - I chose the Bryn Terfel & Andrea Bocelli version (Bizet: Les pĂȘcheurs de perles - C'Ă©tait le soir - "Au fond du temple Saint").

This is a different pairing, and it's sound rather than video, but the sound quality's reasonable:


(if this doesn't work, here's the direct YouTube link).

Something I'd been meaning to find for ages was another duet, the one played by Andy through the prison PA in The Shawshank Redemption. (Mozart: Le Nozze di Figaro: Act III, Scene 10, Duettino, "Sull'aria").



(if this doesn't work, here's the direct YouTube link)

Did a bit of Christmas music cherrypicking in December. Of several, my favourite would be "In a Bleak Midwinter" by Sarah McLachlan from her Wintersong album. Hauntingly beautiful and original version of the old carol.

Now if only they had the Doug Anthony Allstars' version of the Hunters and Collectors' song, Throw Your Arms Around Me. (I know you can find it on YouTube, but I'd like a clearer version...)

What music have you been acquiring or playing?

Monday, January 21, 2008

Murderball (and a few other recent films)


080121 Murderball
Originally uploaded by rooruu.
There are bargains to be found among the ex-rental DVDs at times, and this one was a corker. I'd always meant to see this, and had never got around to it - so a couple of years after everybody else, I've finally seen this excellent documentary about wheelchair rugby.

Verdict: Very Excellent and Recommended.

It's not a film to pull punches, and if you're a tad sensitive to swearing, it might make you twitch. But in the stories it explores, it offers a great deal - not just the rahrah of top level murderball international rivalry, but the human stories of what the game can mean to those who are involved at that level, and those who may still be travelling the difficult days of rehab.

It also struck me as having great potential for senior health/PE in high school in the ways in which it explores not only disability, but also sexuality and road safety and consequences, all things worth discussing with teenagers.

Other films I've seen recently, in case it's looking like Everything's Just Brilliant:

Elizabeth: The Golden Age. A perfectly fine follow-up to Elizabeth (riddled with Australians, ha!).

Death at a Funeral, which was thoroughly enjoyed by the fairly full cinema in which I saw it, but which left me utterly cold. Would have walked out if I could. Just wasn't my sense of humour at all, it seemed forced and unfunny and at times rather ghastly.

No Country for Old Men: not always easy to watch, but a clever film with a narrative that has twist and drive and much dread. Javier Bardem as the hitman is horribly good, Tommy Lee Jones as the sheriff, with that lived-in face and unmistakeable voice, equally good.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Juno


080121 Juno
Originally uploaded by rooruu.
This one's been gathering awards and buzz for a little while, and is fresh to Australian cinema screens.

Verdict: Very Excellent and Recommended.

It's a clever script, but the work of Ellen Page as Juno, and others of the actors, is terrific - particularly Ellen Page. It was also such a pleasure to see parents of a teenager depicted in a movie as not being Nazis or fools.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Turkish Delight

This was in a Queen Victoria Market cafe. What particularly drew me was the 'home-made-ness' of it. It's just not possible that it was spawned from a factory - look at the various sizes, the variation in colour.

I've been cutting out a quilt today, and I know, however many quilts I make, my skills won't match the astonishing women who spend years and execute their work with determination and precision. I have my own standards, but I'm OK with the fudging/accommodation that's part of things made one at a time. It makes them more human.

This Turkish Delight, you imagine that each mouthful would have a particular quality, depending maybe on whether it was a crustier edge or a softer one, how the flavours have come together in that particular piece. Sometimes it's good to remember that to be human isn't to be perfect. Quilts don't need to be perfect, or cupcakes, or anything else we make. It's the journey, too, and the destination doesn't have to fit anyone else's standards but our own.

I thought this looked beautiful, on its blue plate.

(Dear Scatterdaisies: I'm on a Scatterday break for January).

Friday, January 18, 2008

Palace Pier, Brighton


Palace Pier, Brighton
Originally uploaded by rooruu.
A winter day years ago; there was something simultaneously grand and shabby about the Palace Pier.

I scanned a collection of print photographs recently to upload to Flickr - this being one of them (if you click on this then head over to the set called "The past is another country" you'll find the others.

It was odd, as I looked through them, to wonder how my memory was moderated by the photographs. If they've discoloured a bit over time - maybe gone pinker with some sort of effect from their album storage, for instance - how much will that make my memory recollect it in the colours my eyes see now? I put some of them through auto-enhance, which did change the colours a bit. And I looked at the results, and wondered if the enhanced version was actually more accurate. Winter light in England or Ireland was from the cooler end of the spectrum, rather than the warmer, cold in colour as well as weather. This photo came up bluer, and that's probably more true.

The photos are also, truly, snapshots, captured moments, a tiny proportion of the time, and the spaces between are largely forgotten - the drive to Brighton, train to London, touring the countryside, negotiating city crowds. It's all too much to remember, and yet how much also we do forget. So then you come back to the photos, and let them be spurs to memory and springboards to recollection.

This blog, too, is just snapshots - how do you sum a day in a photo or a few lines? And yet time slips past, and our blogs catch something of our lives and days. I enjoy reading others' blogs, and glimpsing their worlds, different to my own. The creativity of Posie Gets Cozy, the knitterly madness of Yarn Harlot, the inspiration of decor8, just to name three.

(and right now I'm too lazy to reedit this in blogger and bung in the links, but googling 'em up is easy).

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Newbery/Caldecott prize winners

The Invention of Hugo Cabret by Brian Selznick won the Caldecott - it's an astoundingly imaginative book. Read the NYTimes article here, which includes some images from the book - it's a thick'un, with text and pictures, not at all a quickie bedtime read for tots. I've given two copies to adults as presents in the last six months.

Newbery Medal: Good Masters! Sweet Ladies! Voices From a Medieval Village by Laura Amy Schlitz.

Full list of all prizes on the American Library Association site.

New Amy Butler quilting fabrics: Midwest Modern

If you'd like a squizz at the next Amy Butler fabric range from Rowan, due out in a couple of months, then Midwest Modern is viewable here. Three colourways: Orange Dahlia, Ohio Sky and Pink Dahlia.

Back to catch up tomorrow or the next day. Summer hols are vanishing fast.

Bank ceiling, Melbourne

Can't even tell you which bank, or which street. Drawn in by the building's architecture, we undertook no transactions - just stood inside the doors and looked, and wondered at the most beautiful ceiling. It's still a bank, so it's a publicly available space for gawking.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Window

Not sure what I liked more here, the wonderful rich blue of the window frame or the intricacy of the random stone wall. This is a photo I took years ago at Blundell's Cottage on the shores of Lake Burely Griffin in Canberra.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Atonement


080121 Atonement
Originally uploaded by rooruu.
I was a bit dithery about going to this - malicious little girls aren't my cup of tea, really...although I did enjoy The Piano, so there's an absolute that isn't absolute.

Verdict: Very Excellent and Recommended.

I avoided reading the book, though I do plan to read it now, so I didn't quite know where it was going. The two leads were excellent, and the malicious little girl (although in her grown up incarnation Romola Garai's performance owed a fair bit to the stunned mullet school of acting). The four minute tracking shot of Dunkirk is a boggler - reminded me of the long tracking shot in Kenneth Branagh's Henry V. Maybe there's something about war and tracking shots...

Monday, January 14, 2008

Inspiration


0801 Flinders St Station mosaic 1
Originally uploaded by rooruu.
Quilt-inspiring geometry is everywhere (this is a mosaic near the entrance to Flinders St station). It's my kind of quilting that this has a bunch of blues, a bunch of browns, lots of variations on each colour. At a quilt shop (not that, ahem, I'm short of fabric, exactly) I find myself much preferring to purchase a little amount of a lot of fabric, rather than yardage of a few (unless it's a border). For the same reason I like jelly rolls, charm packs, fat sixteenths, other ways to have variety.

While in Melbourne I invested in some happy summer prints, cherry and pink and lime and aqua, and this morning I've been playing with ideas in Electric Quilt. And downloading some of the EQ palettes I don't have on this computer (if you have EQ, here's the link: http://www.electricquilt.com/Users/Downloads/palette_lib.asp). That's another way to play with fabric, and it involves less (physical) storage...

There was a fierce storm yesterday afternoon, enough to bring down trees amid the rumble of thunder which lasted hours, and cracks of lightning sometimes close enough to make you jump. This morning there's washing to be done, but the day is grey and not promising for washing to get dry, the air and ground still damp from yesterday's rain. I was going to paint a couple of cupboards for the sewing room too, but again I wonder how the paint will dry today. Tomorrow's going to be warmer. Maybe tomorrow. (The cupboards will help finish off the sewing room, which I know seems to have been underway for a long time - but it will get there).

(I haven't forgotten Scatterday, a catchup is coming...)

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Melbourne, January 2008


Melbourne January 2006 mosaic
Originally uploaded by rooruu.

What can you do in two days in Melbourne?

Gawp at the Shot Tower in Melbourne Central, and other architectural details such as those wonderful pillars and ceilings from a bank building. Travel on trams, and wish you had been there in time for the daily 2pm tour of the Royal Exhibition Building.

Spend time at the Queen Victoria Market - the food sections are brilliant, olives and bagels and cheeses and more, fresh fruit and vegetables - but skip the tat of trashy rip-off T shirts and stuff. (Trays and trays of mangoes, can you tell it's summer?)

Visit the Melbourne Museum - excellent exhibition about the human mind on at the moment, wonderful Federation Tapestry on display (even if they did burgle "Eternity" which is a quintessentially Sydney icon!) and even a classic display of pinned bugs such as used to be the staple fare of museums.

Visit the National Gallery of Victoria International, which has an excellent shop with Tord Boontje lights and cut outs, Mozi textiles, Florence Broadhurst textiles, graphic black and white softies, a fabulous red sarcophagus backpack (from an LA museum) and one lone, boring, unimaginatively chosen book on quilting. Sigh.

But to make up for it, the gallery contains some astounding artworks, including Shonibare's simply wonderful Reverend on Ice, a charming ceramic depicting chicken killing more prettily than you might have imagined, delightful vintage postcards depicting Britannia and ?Madeleine of France having a poke at each other with flags over the English Channel, Farinelli (just a detail here of hands), antiquities from South America and more.

You wander through lower ceilinged rooms (here a Picasso, there a Man Ray) and then find yourself in ones with cathedral-like proportions, over here a Monet, over there a Canaletto. It's an impressive collection (and in the decorative arts section we found a hugely helpful museum guard, who assumed his job was to help us enjoy the collection, not watch us beady-eyed and stop us burgling it - his delight in what we could see enhanced our delight).

Be frightfully glad that your hotel room has a view over the Yarra, past Crown Casino's belching night-time flames and to Port Phillip Bay.

Enjoy what seems like lots of public artworks - statues, sculptures, mosaics and more. Decide that while Southbank and the Yarra aren't Darling Harbour and Sydney Harbour, well, it's not a bad stroll either, and the streets in other parts of the city just don't seem as crowded as Sydney.
Visit a couple of quilting shops, because it's always good to see what they have in other places. (I'd particularly recommend Amitie, which was buzzing-busy and full of yummy fabric). (Being grateful for lovely directions supplied by helpful quilters).

Stop typing right now because there's thunder overhead.....and it's raining, such as it's supposed to so much in Melbourne, and didn't, at least not on this visit.

(Later): Tourist tips:

  • Ask at your hotel for maps: they weren't easy to find at the airport. It was much better to have our own map to pull out at any time and consult.
  • The Circle Tram is free and travels in both directions around the city's central grid of streets - the trams for this were mostly dark burgundy in colour, and consistently pretty full. They (sometimes) had a (free) printed Melbourne guide in pockets near the door and also a spoken commentary. (Unfortunately we ran out of time to see the display of venomous spiders at an opal shop. Gee whiz.)
  • If you're going to pootle around Melbourne all day, and are likely to need more than the Circle Tram, just buy a Zone 1 ticket from a newsagent/convenience store and be done with it - you can buy all day ones, covering bus/train/tram together. If you're visiting quilt shops further afield, check to see if you need a Zone 1&2 ticket.
  • If you're travelling outside the CBD, tram stops are numbered, so if you have a particular destination (like a quilt shop) in mind, check ahead of time to find out the nearest tram stop number, much easier than hunting street names.
  • Some museums/galleries are free. Some aren't. Some will charge for particular exhibitions only.
  • I'd like to tell you that I found one website that did a simple "What's on in Melbourne Right Now" listing for galleries/museums/exhibitions. But I didn't. If you know one, bung in a comment. We found the places we went to through a combination of reading maps, guides, online sites, the newspaper (The Age), and stuff we'd knew before.
  • The Skybus from Tullamarine (Melbourne) airport was easy to find and use: if you're going home again, it's cheaper to buy a return ticket than two singles.
  • Wear comfortable shoes, and enjoy walking (if the weather is kind).

If you click on the mosaic, it will take you to a larger version.

It was a busy (we walked miles), happy two days. I still think, though, that there's nothing can beat flying back into Sydney with the afternoon light catching the red roofs and silvering the turns and bays of the rivers and harbour, seeing the Harbour Bridge and the Opera House....


Kids, films, ratings

Sometimes I'm horrified by the films to which small children are taken - you wonder just what sense they're making of it, or wince as they whimper in fear. If I go to a G-rated film, I expect a kiddy crowd and the noise/popcorn/rustly unsettledness of it all. If it's M or MA, you hope not to have children running in and out, or clearly upset, or clearly uninterested in the screen action. But sometimes you wonder if a rating, focusing on a small part of a film, might deter a worthwhile experience for medium-sized or older children.

There's an interesting article about this in the New York Times: Take the Kids, and Don't Feel Guilty.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Flames

They're quite possibly crass, but they're eye-catching, the flame-throwing pillars outside the Crown Casino complex on the Yarra in Melbourne. On the hour, at night, they go through a short cycle of flames - with a basic camera, it's kinda like trying to catch a blowhole doing it's thing, as they flare and die and you hope you haven't wobbled too much... But it's also a spectacle, and there's something elemental about fire and flame...

Friday, January 11, 2008

Reverend on Ice : Shonibare

This artwork was originally created in association with the arts program of the Commonwealth Games in Melbourne, and was subsequently acquired by the National Gallery of Victoria. It's inspired by the Scottish painting, "Reverend Robert Walker (1755 - 1808) Skating on Duddingston Loch" (link takes you to National Gallery of Scotland page on this work by Henry Raeburn).

There's something delightful, and curious, and engaging about Shonibare's sculptural figure (even it it's not ice, it's wax, and Don't Touch!).

There's an article from The Age about this sculpture here.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Art gallery

Mini culture-vultures at the Art Gallery of NSW - this was an interactive school holiday program about Australian Aboriginal music. The kids were engrossed and engaged and enjoyed participating.

Yesterday it was the National Gallery of Victoria International, today the Art Gallery of NSW. Both have lots to offer, but one thing I noticed was that the Victorian one (what's with National and International? The National Gallery of this country is in Canberra....) combines what is split in NSW - here, if you want to see decorative arts, furniture/textiles/glass etc, that's in the Powerhouse Museum, a separate institution. I'm not arguing either system is better or worse, just different.

From a quilting point of view, I always look at the textile books section in the gallery shops, just to see what they have. And am usually disappointed. I don't expect an art gallery's book selection for quilting to be one how-to book of fairly bog-ordinary designs. Hello.... there are lots of interesting quilt/art quilt books out there which would be much better as representing quilting in this context. If you've got to have a how-to, what about Simple Contemporary Quilts: Bold New Designs for the First-Time Quilter by Valerie Van Arsdale Shrader? It's got designs from a bunch of different art quilters of high esteem. One would assume Quilt National books would be a given, if you want representations of current work, and then a couple of good books on quilt history, if you want to round out a bare-bones selection.

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Port Authority building, Melbourne

You feel pleasantly lucky when you can look out of your hotel room in Melbourne and see this nice old bit of architecture. Melbourne of course did well, architecturally, when the 1850s goldrush money poured into town - there are a bunch of beautiful Victorian buildings. In addition to that Victoriana, there are plenty of other buildings to appreciate as well. Sydney has a bunch of good ones too, but it's when you visit a less familiar city that you tend to notice more.

More happened than appreciation of architectural detail...more photos to come. It was an excellent flying visit.

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Shot Tower, Melbourne


0807 Shot Tower, Melbourne
Originally uploaded by rooruu.
What better to have as a centrepiece in your city-centre shopping centre than a shot tower? This is at Melbourne Central, and is a very striking piece of preservation/re-use. I had seen it before, but on arriving at the atrium had one of those, aha, it's a good idea, moments. It's an interesting exercise in different architectural geometries side by side, the glass cone and the brick tower.

Monday, January 07, 2008

Tartan landscape


0807 tartan landscape
Originally uploaded by rooruu.
Somewhere out there, the Fletcher Jones banshees are out to get me for vandalising their work on this kilt.....

(Fletcher Jones is one of Australia's few bespoke kilt makers, I'm told).

It's got a spinal sort of look, a skeleton in fabric. It's for Recycled Threads, so all I can offer is a glimpse till the autumn/Mothers' Day issue of Australian Country Threads comes out mid-year.

Sunday, January 06, 2008

Pierrepoint


0807 Pierrepoint film
Originally uploaded by rooruu.

Albert Pierrepoint was one of Britain's hangmen in the twentieth century - his work involved between 400 and 600 executions. This dramatised documentary featuring a very fine performance by Timothy Spall was compelling, although not always easy to watch.

(Sideline note: the film makes the point that Pierrepoint dealt with the criminals' remains with respect and courtesy - but when he hanged very few women and almost entirely men, why is it a woman's body that we are shown in full as he bathes it after the hanging? Is it that it's 'easier' somehow to show a naked woman than a naked man?).

Like Vera Drake, it's a film set in a thirties/forties English domestic world, poorly lit, cramped, drably coloured, a claustrophobic environment in which the characters do their best to live respectable lives.

You wonder what it did to a man's mind, even one as phlegmatic, workmanlike and professional about his work, when after the WW2 Nazi trials, he was chosen to go to Germany and found himself hanging 13 people a day for a week.

In his biography, Pierrepoint had this to say:

It did not deter them then and it had not deterred them when they committed what they were convicted for. All the men and women I have faced at that final moment convince me that in what I have done I have not prevented a single murder. I have come to the conclusion that executions solve nothing, and are only an antiquated relic of a primitive desire for revenge.

Here's a page that shows the status of capital punishment in the world today - where it still exists, where it's been abolished.

Saturday, January 05, 2008

Brighton


Brighton
Originally uploaded by rooruu.
Another place I enjoyed visiting some years ago was Brighton. Maybe it was partly Georgette Heyer (Regency Buck, for one) and her mentions of the Brighton Pavilion, as built and decorated by the Prince Regent.

You mustn't have been able to photograph inside, as I don't seem to have any interior photos- although I remember how amazingly elaborate it was. Think I bought postcards, instead.

It may not have been too late in the afternoon when this photo was taken, looking over the sea front. In an English winter, the day closed in all too quickly. But I rather liked the moody atmosphere of the day's ending, the vintage bollards, the sea and pier.

Although to one now accustomed to Australia's sandy beaches, I'd forgotten the shingle ones of England. Isn't that why you travel, to find things you'd forgotten, and discover things you didn't know?

Friday, January 04, 2008

2007 Year in Pictures

Summing up 2007:

2007 mosaic, 3 pix per month

three photos per month.
January:
Roses, Vaucluse House and a quilt made from orphan blocks from many of my projects.
February:
Books (particularly The Time Traveler's Wife), mad matador fabric and wonderful vegetables to photograph.
March:
Martian starfruits, Robin McKinley's Sunshine and one of my favourite performers on stage.
April:
Casino Royale, a scrapbooking chipboard album made for a grieving friend and stitching done on Anzac Day.
May:
Finally putting photos of my quilts into albums to document them, making sweetly pretty cupcakes and a charming jug.
June:
Red Nose Day, my challenge quilt comes home, a blue evening sky.
July:
The inspirational Choir of Hard Knocks, stairs at Watsons Bay from a happy day with friends and the final Harry Potter book.
August:
Daffodils and jonquils, fragrant strawberries and a quirky op shop shirt (that will go into a quilt).
September:
The six Ken boys, my hair done up for a (rare) formal occasion and a healthy breakfast in a pretty aqua bowl.
October:
Sewing room being revamped, cherry blossom in a family garden and another challenge quilt, this one including family initials and other embroidery.
November:
Shabby chic vintage-style Christmas decorations, a heart cushion on one of my quilts and the lighted cupboard for my green glass.
December:
Nestling, Double Delight roses in Cowra and a Christmas snowman (I gave two of these to old, dear friends, so we will each bring him out for Christmas).
It's not so easy to sum the year in so few photographs. Allsorts managed it in just twelve (thanks for the inspiration!), but I needed thirty-six (the maximum I could fit in a mosaic).
I wonder how 2008 will look?

Rawdon station, Rylstone


Rawdon station, Rylstone
Originally uploaded by rooruu.
My Castle Howard photos were taken well pre-digital, in the 1980s, and going through albums to find them set me off sorting out photos - I have so many packs and negatives from pre-digital times. It's been good to go through them, be reminded of places and people.

I still plan to keep to a photo a day on this blog, but this year I'll salt the present with the past, and photos scanned from that pile of albums and the experiences they contain.

This photo was taken at Rawdon station outside Rylstone, in the Central West of NSW. I've always been happy with how it caught the travel of light down the old tree trunk, the sunlit verandah of the old house beyond.

Thursday, January 03, 2008

Castle Howard: grounds


Castle Howard 03
Originally uploaded by rooruu.
Another view of the grounds of Castle Howard. It was summer when I was there, a cool and rainy summer. Blue skies didn't matter, that day. Nothing mattered but the chance to see what I'd only seen through the television, to see it in the real world and gain a little sense of what it was like. I was not disappointed.

Castle Howard


Castle Howard 01b
Originally uploaded by rooruu.
A few years after watching Brideshead Revisited with such joy and pleasure, I was in the UK. On heading north, Castle Howard, where the series was filmed, was a must-see. I timed it to arrive there right on the time the grounds opened, and savoured being able to wander, with few people around - it got busy soon enough, with the expected bustle of a stately home. But for about half an hour, I hardly saw anyone, and walked the grounds. Magic.

Brideshead Revisited


0712 Brideshead Revisited
Originally uploaded by rooruu.
In these lazy summer days, I've been watching a long-time favourite. When Brideshead Revisited first was on television in the early 1980s, and when I was repeated, I watched every episode avidly. It was before the days of video, of course, let alone any other way of seeing the series but by being in front of a television when it was broadcast.

It's some years since I watched it, and it was surprising, in some ways, to find how much I remembered, how much detail was still clearly in my mind. Jeremy Irons' wonderful voice narrating it, the universal excellence of the acting, the sets, costumes, the whole sense of a world created.

It remains a masterpiece.

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

Sliced sunlight


0801 light on hederacea
Originally uploaded by rooruu.
It was good to have noticed this. I've planted hederacea/native violets in gardens before now, but this is the first time I've seen them in the wild. They're willing growers in the garden - not greedy, not demanding, but covering shady spaces where other plants refuse to grow and flowering cheerfully. There was also something about the shaft of sunlight, the slice finding its way through, that appealed to me. Maybe because there was enough time to stop and look long enough to see it, instead of rushing by.

It's in yesterday's mosaic, but I decided to give it a day of its own.

Tuesday, January 01, 2008

The Peace of Wild Things


0801 Bushwalk mosaic
Originally uploaded by rooruu.

Come for a walk. It's not far, and it's pretty flat, but you might walk into the odd spiderweb or two. Stay on the path, so the bush around it isn't trampled - but there is so much to see. Every colour of green and grey and brown you can imagine, in bark and branch, twig, leaf, above your head, all around, under your feet.

Stop for a moment and listen. The cicadas are singing, as they do in summer, but the trees hide birds - can you pick the raucous call of the white cockatoos? But there are many more, softer, some melodic, some repetitive - now and then you'll catch their flight, or be able to tell, at least, which tree they're in.

Watch the how the sunlight falls, the dappling of shade, the brightness of the water. Where it's still, notice how the lagoon returns a reflection of all it sees. See how the bark is a roadmap of time passing, the scribbling tracks of insects, the ruffle of paperbark.

Even the ground beneath your feet has things to show you - a necklace twig of fallen eucalpyt leaves, the tonal changes on a bushrock, the sharp and gentle shapes of leaf litter.

The easiest birds to see are the ducks - you could stop awhile near there, where you can see the water and watch them wonder if you did bring some bread for them. Sit down, and listen. Let your eyes see what can be seen, your ears hear what can be heard. There's a light wind, and you're sitting in the shade, but it's not cold. The air is clean and clear, with the freshness of early morning. It smells and sounds and feels like summer.

The poem that comes to your mind - and you wish you had learned it by heart, instead of clutching at snatches and phrases - is by Wendell Berry, "The Peace of Wild Things".

It ends: For a time/ I rest in the grace of the world, and am free.

Happy New Year.

If you click on the mosaic, it will take you to a larger version of the image in Flickr so you can see more detail.