Saturday, February 28, 2009


Grandson Todd flyfishing

Now it's time for me to get into the garden for a while - a lot to do!!

Friday, February 27, 2009


The foundation stone of St. John's Anglican Cathedral in Brisbane was laid in 1901 by the Duke of Cornwall on his way home from opening our first Federal Parliament. The building is finally completed after being cloaked in scaffolding periodically as the church struggled to raise the money to complete it. The final stages have cost about $37 million, completing the west end of the building with its two towers and spires and finishing the central bell tower.

The time it's taken to build it is not unusual; St. Mary's Cathedral in Sydney took just under 150 years, St. Francis Xavier Cathedral in Adelaide began in 1850 and work lasted until the late 1990s, just under 150 years and work began on St. Edmundsbury Cathedral in East Anglia, England in the Middle Ages, through to completion just three years ago.

St. Edmundsbury Cathedral

Gothic architecture had its origins in Northern Europe, cold and dark. In the Middle Ages larger windows were designed to allow more light in and a system of buttresses were used to withstand the forces in the building.

St. John's was designed by British architect John Loughborough Pearson, recognised as one of the great Gothic Revival architects of the 19th century. Pearson died four years before the first stone was laid but his son, Frank Pearson, took over the practical details of completing and simplifying the design but essentially it was his father's design. The size of the windows are much narrower than cathedrals in Melbourne, Sydney and Europe. Pearson deliberately narrowed them to cope with the Brisbane climate.

Read more on neo-Gothic architecture at Wikipedia.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009


This is delicious!!
We're nearing the end of Summer and as my basil is on the verge of going to seed, I picked a few stalks and decided to make a pesto. I made it up as I went and even gave in to my husband when he suggested I add a few drops of Tabasco. It's scrumptious with dried tomato chips or on corn biscuits with cottage cheese and I also use it in a puff-pastry pie with chicken thighs, corn, extra basil leaves and parmesan/mozzarella cheese. Here's what I threw in and puréed it all with my stick mixer.

Ripped basil leaves, about 3 bunches
1 large Tomato
Tabasco, few drops
Minced Garlic, heaped teaspoon
EV Olive Oil, a few glugs
Balsamic Vinegar, about a tablespoon
Pine Nuts
Parmesan cheese, grated

Tuesday, February 24, 2009


I'd always known about Margaret Olley but it was when watching an ABC documentary on this intriguing lady several years ago that my interest peaked, not only in admiration of her intimate interiors and colourful still life oils but astonishment at the revelations of her extraordinary life. She was interviewed in her lounge room, which looked like an antique shop, treasures covering every surface, barely room to move. She is one of the country's most generous benefactors to public art galleries.

Margaret is a 'national living treasure'; on June 12 2006 in the Queen's Birthday honours list, she was awarded Australia's highest civilian honour, the Companion of the Order of Australia, for her commitment to art and philanthropy. On July 13 2006 she donated more works to the Art Gallery of New South Wales; her donations to date include more than 130 works worth $7 million (Wikipedia).

Marigolds & Fruit

The Margaret Olley Life's Journey exhibition is at the University of Queensland Art Museum until April 19, then it travels to the SH Ervin Gallery in Sydney from May 1 until June 21 and, finally, it's at the Newcastle Regional Art Gallery from August 15 until October 25.

Poppies & Checked Cloth

Listen here to listen to a podcast of a recent radio interview with Margaret on ABC Radio National's 'Artworks' program.

Meg Stewart, daughter of Sydney painter Margaret Coen, has published a biography of Margaret Olley entitled 'Far from a Still Life' - link.

Monday, February 23, 2009


Australian Heath Ledger was awarded Best Supporting Actor for the sensational role of The Joker in 'The Dark Night'. It was a bittersweet moment for Heath's family as his Father, Mother and Sister accepted the award on behalf of Heath's daughter Matilda; the Oscar to be held in trust until her 18th Birthday. Richard Wilkins, entertainment reporter for our local msn network said, "This was the crowning glory to an all too brief career".

On a high note, wasn't Kate Winslet's speech brilliant, calling for her Dad to whistle and he did! Such a great Oscars moment for prosperity. And Hugh Jackman really arrived on the world stage as the Academy Awards' host. Hugh was one of the big winners on the night and I'm sure there will be many accolades tomorrow.


I'm just about to sit down to watch the Oscars, hosted by our very own Hugh Jackman.  I've been following his career closely and years ago likened him to a young William Holden and knew he would go places.  Go Hugh!!


I really miss my walks with my 'walkie-talkie' friend Marj. That's the term she's come up with for me, her 'walkie-talkie' friend. We usually walk around the lower pondage (there are two, upper and lower, holding ponds below the weir) three mornings a week; up with the birds at 6:30am and walking by 7am. The distance around the lower pondage is 4km (2.48 miles). It's a great start to the day, keeps my weight static and gives me the energy to get everything done before my treat of a movie in the afternoon and then back into it.

Because of bushfire smoke all around the area I haven't walked since 4th February and I'm really feeling sluggish. My bloggy friend, Willow, posted a very funny piece the other day and is motivating her bloggy pals to join her in a Side Bar walk against blogger blub. I've joined in but, instead of walking, I've rescued my slide machine from the shed and got the old bod moving!! Come and join me, Willow and Leslie over at Textures Shapes and Color and get fit.

Sunday, February 22, 2009


You bring me good news from the clinic,
Whipping off your silk scarf, exhibiting the tight white
Mummy-cloths, smiling: I'm all right.
When I was nine, a line-green anaesthetist
Fed me banana gas through a frog-mask. The nauseous vault
Boomed wild bad dreams and the Jovian voices of surgeons.
The mother swam up, holding a tin basin.
O I was sick.

They've changed all that. Travelling
Nude as Cleopatra in my well-boiled hospital shift,
Fizzy with sedatives and unusually humorous,
I roll to an anteroom where a kind man
Fists my fingers for me. He makes me feel something precious
Is leaking from the finger-vents. At the count of two
Darkness wipes me out like chalk on a blackboard...
I don't know a thing.

For five days I lie in secret,
Tapped like a cask, the years draining into my pillow.
Even my best friend thinks I'm in the country.
Skin doesn't have roots, it peels away easy as paper.
When I grin, the stitches tauten. I grow backward. I'm twenty,
Broody and in long skirts on my first husband's sofa, my fingers
Buried in the lambswool of the dead poodle;
I hadn't a cat yet.

Now she's done for, the dewlapped lady
I watched settle, line by line, in my mirror ---
Old sock-face, sagged on a darning egg.
They've trapped her in some laboratory jar.
Let her die there, or whither incessantly for the next fifty years,
Nodding and rocking and fingering her thin hair.
Mother to myself, I wake swaddled in gauze,
Pink and smooth as a baby.

Sylvia Plath

Saturday, February 21, 2009


Love is in the air - John Hamilton 'In Black and White' Herald Sun Melbourne
Where is the love? It was all around at Hamer Hall on Thursday night when legendary American singer Roberta Flack, accompanied by her band and the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra, gave one of the great concerts.

Flack and her ensemble interrupted their Australian tour to perform the benefit and all proceeds from the $100-a-head night are going to the Victorian Bushfire Relief Appeal.

"I was devastated to hear of the desperate plight faced by so many people," said the diva. "I wanted to do something for those affected by these tragic fires and we approached the MSO with the idea."

From the first notes of her classic The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face, she had the mood right.....beautiful, sad and reflective.

Meanwhile, 60 American fire recovery specialists are now on the ground at the front.

Thank you, Uncle Sam.


Johannes Gutenberg c.1398-1468
We can thank Gutenberg (and Caxton) for the books we read today. Gutenberg invented the mechanical printing press and the fruit of his work is evident all around us.

Time-Life magazine attributed Gutenberg's invention as the most important of the second millennium. The project took off like the Internet.

Gutenberg reviewing a press proof

Pics: Wikipedia

Friday, February 20, 2009


I learned piano from the age of seven until sixteen, just after I started work as a secretary in a large firm. About this time, as I was earning, I caught the train with a friend every Saturday night to the Canterbury Town Hall where up and coming rock stars of the future played for peanuts. We had a fantastic time and, as I wanted to dance better than I did, I'd skip piano lessons and cycle down the road to my friend's house, where we'd push the furniture out of the way in the lounge-room and rock and roll. She was an excellent teacher (Merle, where are you?).

I was feeling really bad about deceiving my parents this way and one day bought some 'modern' sheet music to take home to appease my Mother, as she'd been nagging me to practise more often (my music tuition was in the classical vein from the very beginning and I was feeling like a change). We had a large entrance hall where the piano sat, after being moved out of the lounge-room when the television set had taken over that domain. I walked in the front door and got the shock of my life, the piano was gone!

Mother explained to me that she'd had a letter from dear Mr. Blake saying that I hadn't been attending lessons; so she sold the piano. It was a Pianola, actually and many a happy family get-together was spent around it before the days of TV. I can't blame my Mother now as I think the real reason was money; my brother need specialist care and an operation. She was a stay-at-home Mum and so we were a one income family.

One piece I loved was Beethoven's 'Fur Elise' and I played it very well. Over the years I would play the piece on tables and desk tops; I never forgot it and, about twelve years ago, after many years of work, I decided to treat myself and went looking for a piano. I found an old beauty, a three crown Ronisch, made about 1905. It cost me $3,600 but worth every cent, it has a wonderful, rich tone. The crowns signify that Ronisch was the appointed supplier of some royal courts such as Saxony, around 1870, Sweden-Norway 1890 and Austria-Hungary 1901. The arms of the courts are stamped inside the piano - a bad photo follows.

The day it was delivered, I sat down and played 'Fur Elise' through to the end; a few stumbles but I was elated! I practised a lot and now can play reasonably well at Sixth Grade level. I had accomplished eighth Grade as a young girl but now find some pieces far too difficult, as my hands aren't as flexible and I make such a mess of trills!

An amazing revelation came from my Piano Tuner. The piano moved with us to the country, so I decided to get it tuned. The Tuner said that he knew the piano and used to tune it at the Uniting Church in Blackburn; it had been there for decades. He had tried to talk them out of buying a new one. My dear teacher, Mr. Blake, used to set up concerts, the performers being his students. I remember very nervously playing a piece on the white baby grand in his loung-room; the audience being fellow students and parents. The next year commanded a larger venue and we played in the Sunday School hall at the Methodist Church in Blackburn, later to become the Uniting Church! So it may very well be that I performed my second recital on the very piano I bought so many years later!

Thursday, February 19, 2009


NATURE'S EPITAPH - William Herbert Carruth (1859-1924)

Who knows where the graveyard is
Where the fox and the eagle lie?
Who has seen the obsequies
Of the red deer when they die?

With death they steal away
Out of the sight of the sun;
Out of the sight of the living, they
Pay the debt and are done.

No marble marks the place;
The common forest brown
Covers them over with Quaker grace
Just where they laid them down.

But a few years, if you see
In summer a deeper green
Here and there, it is like to be
The spot where their bones have been.

Thus, not more, to the poor dead year;
No grave, nor ghostly stone,
But a greener life and a warmer cheer
Be the only sign that he's gone.

Victorian Bushfire Appeal

Tuesday, February 17, 2009


This afternoon we watched a Spanish movie, 'Salamina Soldiers' (2003), about a young novelist assigned to write an article on the Spanish Civil War. She embarks on a journey that will change her life forever. In the film mention was made of a poet, so I scribbled the name down and, after the film ended, my fingers went clicking. I'm rather ashamed to say that I'd never heard of this man and now I'm reading about a very famous poet and the incredible life he led up until the Spanish Civil War in 1936 and his flight across the French border to Collioure. His works are very beautiful and many written in grief for his wife. I found the following about Machado on a gem of a site which I intend to explore more.

"Antonio Machado's wife died when she was very young. It is through his lifelong anguish over this loss that a kind of sacred spiritual yearning emerges. He begins to see his dead wife as his divine beloved, ever present, ever calling to him, yet ever just out of reach so union can only be found in a mystical embrace. In this way, his unsatisfied romantic yearning was elevated to an experience of the sacred, similar to that sought by the troubadour mystics several centuries earlier. When his poems speak of this beloved woman, read into it the divine and see what meaning emerges."

With the morning dew...
With the morning dew,
stand forth from the mists
white peaks, green meadows.
The sun on the oak groves!
The larks climb so far
they melt into sky.
Who feathered the fields?
Who made wings of wild earth?

Above the tall ranges,
on broad sunlit wings the eagle rides the wind.
Above the sharp peak
where the river rises,
the turquoise lake,
the ravines deep in pines,
Above twenty hamlets
and a hundred roads.

Mistress eagle, where bound
so early in the morning,
so steadily flapping down highways of air?

'Selected Poems' Translated by A.S. Trueblood

Monday, February 16, 2009


My ancestors on my Father's side sailed on "The Duchess of Northumberland" to Australia from Devon England in 1841; a subject I'll broach at a later date. Haldon Belvedere, above, was not very far away from whence they came. Below is the story about the castle and the link for further information. My girlhood dreams were of living in such a place.

Haldon Belvedere/Lawrence Castle is a landmark on the Devon skyline which is visible from miles around. It was originally built by Sir Robert Palk, a past Governor of Madras who was reputed to be one of the richest men in England in the late 1700s. He had made his fortune in India while in the employ of the East India Company and this allowed him to purchase Haldon House in Dunchideock and estates extending to 11,600 acres. The house was extended to establish a grandiose mansion designed on Buckingham House in London. All that remains now is the stable block and staff quarters which have been converted into the Lord Haldon Country House Hotel and a private dwelling.

The Palks used the Belvedere to entertain special guests such as King George 111 and later, Marconi is said to have carried out tests at the site which has evidence of having been a Neolithic settlement. The triangular tower was extensively renovated in 1994 to illustrate the magnificence of its fine architecture, its ornate plasterwork, gothic windows and mahogany flooring. The spiral stone staircase with cantilevered steps, wrought iron and mahogany balustrade and hand rail, leads to the roof terrace where the best views are to be had. The building is, without doubt, one of the finest examples of this type of 18th Century tower, the design of which is based on the Shrub Hill Tower which stands in Windsor's Great Park.

The restoration was commended by winning a Civic Trust award in 1999.

Sunday, February 15, 2009


"Let me tell you what I think about bicycling. I think it has done more to emancipate women than any one thing in the world. It gives her a feeling of self-reliance and independence the moment she takes her seat; and away she goes, the picture of untrammelled womanhood." Susan Brownell Anthony 1820-1906, civil rights leader.

Thursday, February 12, 2009


This scene is unbelievable, two days later, compared to the one below. I took it several minutes ago from my kitchen door. We awoke this morning to good news; the fire heading towards us was contained last night when the wind dropped. Hubby has gone down to check out the damage done to his beloved Rubicon River. We've found friends we were worried about and now my head feels light, without that worry and anxiety. We still have the cars packed as there is still a local fire spanning 108,000 hectares but heading North, away from us, with the Southerly.

There are still many country towns under threat and our State of Victoria has a mammoth task ahead re-establishing infrastructure. We were short of water to begin with and now there is going to be so much hardship for thousands of people devastated by this tragedy. It's a very sad time for all Australians.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009


Can barely see the mountains opposite today.

We were to catch the ferry, Spirit of Tasmania, last Sunday morning for a two week idyllic holiday on the apple isle, Tasmania. On the day before, Melbourne had the hottest day on record, 46.4 degrees Celsius and we were doing some last minute shopping, walking the hot pavement, with the occasional respite in air-conditioned comfort in a large department store. We spent the afternoon in our Hotel room, twenty-eight storeys above Melbourne and, considering the events of the day, over thirty bushfires broke out during that awful day and many being in the area where we live, we decided to cancel everything and head back home.

We found that all roads heading home were blocked so we stayed overnight at our daughter's home. The next morning the main Highway to Sydney was opened and, what was normally a 75 minute drive, took 5 hours. We arrived home
to no power but our meat supply was still frozen, so it hadn't been out for long. The power was restored a couple of hours later and we were then able to get on the net to the service sites to find out the latest. Our ABC radio has been a lifeline with their contacts and accurate updates.

Each day is a waiting game; we have the cars loaded and ready to go if needed. This is the worst tragedy in Australia's history. The little town of Marysville, 20 minutes away, an iconic tourism destination, has been rased to the ground. Many people are missing and our Premier, Mr John Brumby, has declared the site a crime scene as it is suspected that the fires were deliberately lit.

Monday, February 2, 2009


A father and son keeping cool in the shallows of Middle Park Beach, Melbourne.

We have had one heck of a week trying to keep cool in the worst heatwave for a century. We've been lucky to have had power for the air-conditioning - hundreds of thousands of homes were without for days as fires brought down lines which couldn't be repaired in a hurry.   Over 30 people have died through heat exhaustion.  Many have lost their homes and I really feel for those Firies and CFA volunteers trying to save them. And, what is beyond comprehension and makes me livid is that some of these fires were deliberately lit!

To brighten us up a little, we had a visit from our daughter, son-in-law and two Grandsons who cooled off on the way in the beautiful Rubicon River, which is only five minutes from our home.