Thursday, January 31, 2008
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 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
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.
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).
Tuesday, January 29, 2008
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.
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
If you'd like to know more about funnel cake, here's a Wikipedia link: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Funnel_cake
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
I liked the way the left hand photo travelled from the historic (bus, buildings) to the modern.
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
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
Thursday, January 24, 2008
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.
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
With this photo I rather liked the contrast between the monochrome landscape and the brightly painted boats.
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
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.
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).
Here's the version from the film Farinelli with the marvellously cast Stephen Dionisi 'fishing' to the work of the merged voices:
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.)
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?).
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 pêcheurs de perles - C'était 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
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
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
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
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 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.
Back to catch up tomorrow or the next day. Summer hols are vanishing fast.
Wednesday, January 16, 2008
Tuesday, January 15, 2008
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
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
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....
There's an interesting article about this in the New York Times: Take the Kids, and Don't Feel Guilty.
Saturday, January 12, 2008
Friday, January 11, 2008
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
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
More happened than appreciation of architectural detail...more photos to come. It was an excellent flying visit.
Tuesday, January 08, 2008
Monday, January 07, 2008
(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
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
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
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
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
It's in yesterday's mosaic, but I decided to give it a day of its own.
Tuesday, January 01, 2008
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.