Archive for the ‘Australia and NZ’ Category

Visiting Auckland – May 2013

August 11, 2013

I think I must be a sad disappointment to Ann and Colin.

Ann likes to begin the day briskly: “Well! What’s the plan?”  I so wish I could do that too, and be a person who could answer her properly – but I rarely have a plan, especially first thing in the morning.  My suggestions seemed to strike Ann as rather feeble and inadequate – she likes to do three or four different things in a day, and ideally have a fifth idea up her sleeve.

Ann is a powerhouse of energy.

Ann is a powerhouse of energy.

Even so, we did some lovely, if unlikely, things in 2013.

Last time in Auckland, we had visited the Arataki Centre centre hastily and at the end of a long day, so one of my goals was to go back and see it in more detail.

KONICA MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERA

It was a chancy, wet-and-dry day, but we had a walk – Ann looked doubtfully at my sandals (they are strong sandals) and wouldn’t let me go on the longer walk over muddy terrain.

They came from a sale in Chateauroux, years ago.  Then, they were stylish. Now, just practical and comfy

They came from a sale in Chateauroux, years ago. Then, they were stylish. Now, just practical and comfy

She was probably right.  Our walk led downhill through the dense forest, past ferns and under tall trees – stunning New  Zealand native bushland.

it was a bit like this

it was a bit like this

We stayed dry-shod, and at the bottom of the hill we met some people in a car who were lost and looking for the Arataki centre.  We gave them careful directions, but never saw them again.  I said it was a complicated city.

That weekend, my wonderful English daughter emailed and told me that she would be having a baby in November – so Ann and I dashed out to buy knitting wool and needles, driving (as usual) miles and miles through Auckland.  (It’s a very drive-around sort of city – partly I suppose to do with its layout around two harbours and various mountains.)

Mt-Eden-655

Rome has seven hills – Auckland has more!)

Ann is a knitter too, and we went to a staggering kind of warehouse for craft, wool and everything, called Spotlight.  The name suggests stage ambitions; amateur dance competitions; pancake makeup; bring on the clowns – all that.

There are amazing and unimaginable crafts out there, especially in New Zealand and Australia.  (Turns out that Spotlight is also well known in Australia).  I felt as if I had discovered a pirate hoard of joyous colour and vulgar bizarrerie all mingled together – and wanted everything of course.  That’s what pirate hoards do – they bring out the greed in us.

Yarn_Knitting_Needles

But I managed to remember the size and fullness of my suitcase and only bought twice as much wool as I actually needed.  (What to buy?  What to leave?  – It has features in common with those ‘packing dreams’ – in which the house is burning and you have to grab only what you can carry.)

———————————————

On a day of heavy downpours I walked up the hill to the slightly hippy, slightly gentrified suburb of Titirangi – a place of coffee shops and alternative small ads where I feel right at home.  There I found a second hand bookshop doing what bookshops do these days: closing down and moving online.  Sadly.

All Books Half Price

(crossed out) followed by

Make me an Offer

followed by

Closed for Lunch.

I came back after lunch, of course.  There ought to be a word for that intense greed that one feels in bookshops – again, I wanted everything, whether I really wanted it or not.  Nothing would fit in the suitcase, but maybe I could stash some around my laptop, in the carry-on bag?  And they wouldn’t be for me exactly – after all, I have been downsizing and throwing out sack upon sack of books – I could give some (lovely presents!) to family in Australia.  I came out with an early edition of The Saint (for my brother); a nice little compact copy of The 39 Steps (valuable once – ‘it’ll only go on the bonfire’ claimed the seller, a witty, somewhat post-prandial man of about my own age, attractive if you are into domineering intellectual booksellers); and The All-True Travels and Adventures of Lidie Newton by Jane Smiley.

Smiley is a favourite author, and this novel turned out to be clever, informative and funny – a real keeper, even though it was one of those oddly huge, heavy paperbacks that mimic hardback format.  And something else that I’ve now forgotten – more than enough to lug up onto the plane.  Then a peculiarly Antipodean event happened: I paid for the books, and realised that I had no way of getting them home dry.  The bookshop could provide an ecologically sound paper bag.  My borrowed raincoat was already soaked and tight-fitting, and the rain was getting even heavier (hard to believe).  So I left the books with him, to collect tomorrow.  Halfway home I realised that I had given away quite a lot of money (‘make me an offer’ turned out to be an exaggeration) and had neither books nor receipt to show for it.  Oh well – this was New Zealand, and it was all completely OK.  Next morning (he’s not at his best in the mornings) I dropped by and all was well – not exactly a pirate hoard, more of a dragon’s golden lair, but ’twas an honest dragon.

On Sunday kind and perceptive Ann had realised that I’d rather spend a long time in one place than a whole lot of short times in differeent place.  She kindly left me to wander around a fine old house-turned-Art Gallery, Pah Homestead, while she rushed off about her grandmotherly duties.  And came back in time for excellent coffee on the terrace.

Pah Homestead

Pah Homestead

All I had done was browse the house, while she had quartered Auckland by car, zipping to and fro through the weekend traffic. So much more to say about Pah and about the Auckland Art Gallery – I will leave them till a later post.

Next time I go to New Zealand I will have some plans prepared in advance.  So I’ve made a list of things I will take with me.

  1. enough money and time to go for a road trip down the west coast of the South Island and see the fiords;
  2. proper walking shoes so that I can cover distance and interesting ground – even though they are heavy, bulky things to carry;
    good walking shoes

    good walking shoes – don’t talk to me about style!

    These walking shoes are being modelled in Scotland – I wish I had had them with me in New Zealand.

    I said: 'Don't talk to me about style!'

    I said: ‘Don’t talk to me about style!’

    And a good pair of shoes will take you a long way –

    a long way - - -

    a long way – – –

     

  3. a  map of Auckland; (and a bus map)

    The map I take will be more detailed than this.  But you can see how complicated it is.

    The map I take will be more detailed than this. But you can see how complicated it is.

  4. some more ideas of places to go for day trips in and around Auckland;
  5. a raincoat; (for more about my raincoats, see my post “Kindness in Adelaide“)

 

Advertisements

tea party with dog

May 22, 2013

 

Adelaide Art Gallery – really the ‘Art Gallery of South Australia’.  Tired, ratty and querulous, I prowl its incomprehensible galleries, searching for a way out.  No Exit.  Signage is non-existent and the floor-plan misleading.  Bouncing off the dead-ends, recoiling from the Turner exhibition, returning again and again to the truly upsetting flayed horse, I crave outside air, natural light, a loo.    The ‘sculpture courtyard’ has two sculptures – three if you count a low pocked concrete wall about a metre high, that forms a rough triangle around dry grass.  Drier and more beaten than the watered lawn outside it,  it looks neglected.  I’m starting to turn against sculpture courtyards.  But in the end there really is a cafe – and a gift shop: refreshment.

Amongst the slightly tedious assemblage of early Australian art, breathing darkly of a more decorous age, huge Hans Heysens glow with commanding reality.  They are wonderful – the reproductions in books give only the faintest sense of their effect.  I hear Heysen’s name in my mother’s voice: she is a big fan.  How is it that the greats are always astonishing in their greatness, no matter how much we would like to discover that others are just as good?

There are some lovely discoveries, though.  I haven’t heard of Clarice Beckett before: a Melbourne artist of soft light, tenderly captured.  Her works feel remarkably modern – they reach out and illuminate the heavy walls.  This one is called ‘Morning Shadows’.

Morning Shadows

Morning Shadows

 

The most intriguing moment comes when I see E. Phillips Fox’s ‘Alfresco’ – at first I mistake it for another Beckett – but it is older, and comes out of that altogether more narrative approach of the late nineteenth century.  It is concerned with light, yes, but also (and entertainingly) with composition.

"Tea Party with Dog"

“Tea Party with Dog”

Within a drift of light pastel shades, the central lady in the red dress attracts our attention, so that she and the dark-clad man seem to be the focus of the picture.  His dark suit ebbs away into the dark-and-white dress of the servant, whose back is turned.  At the same time, the intense black splash of colour that is the little spaniel is the more sharply focussed part of the picture.  Invisible to the chatting couple, two people on the edges of the group are engaged in feeding the little dog illicit tit-bits.  This action draws our gaze away from the centre, towards the periphery; away from the male-and-female couple’s interaction towards the animal – from speech to the senses.  One could take this further and think about a contrast between formality and subversion, but perhaps it makes most sense to go along with the witty insertion of distraction as a topic, and to note that the lady in the important hat may not be as important to this picture as she thinks.  Fox even offers us the servant’s detachment as a hint that we too can detach ourselves from the centre and indulge ourselves in a secret little game with the dog .

Kindness in Adelaide

May 17, 2013

The number 170 bus route runs along North Terrace from the centre of town – somewhere near the Art Gallery. We’d had our day out – breakfast with a friend at MacLaren Vale (minor kindnesses at the motel and in the coffee shop); driving the hire car back to Adelaide; wonderful coffee up near the University (pretty, patient waitress; witty random bar staff); a visit to Colonel Light overlooking the cranes and the tall buildings;

Cranes over Adelaide

Cranes over Adelaide

a ride on the O-bahn;

Adelaide's O-Bahn runs on concrete tracks - very fast!

Adelaide’s O-Bahn runs on concrete tracks – very fast!

DSCF1135

lunch in one of those Food Malls you find everywhere. Then we went our separate ways and I chose the reliable joys of the Art Gallery. (Along North Terrace, past the intensely engaging statue of Roma Mitchell, among other things our first woman State Supreme Court Judge.)

Rhona Mitchell

Roma Mitchell

The sculptor shows us a wonderfully serious-but-charming face.

 

DSCF1143
She has just gone to first place on my fantasy dinner party list – and perhaps I should invite the sculptor as well.

I met with Annabel and her friend in the Art Gallery coffee shop for – of course – afternoon tea. Perhaps this post should really be called ‘Eating my way around Adelaide’. Then – a rush to find and meet Val and get to the airport in time for our flight. Dusk was starting to fall. Time was starting to matter.

Marvellously organised as always, Annabel had a bus route map, and knew all about the buses. (We had been to the thoughtfully-located Metro info shop earlier, where a good-natured lad who looked about twelve had been informative and patient with us.)  As I said – the number 170 bus route runs along North Terrace and then through the centre of town. Traffic lights, busy roads, interesting buildings, parks, (where to get off? where to get off?) There would be a sharp left bend then a right. Watch for it! Count the stops! Yes – this is it, and there’s Val in the distance, waiting already. Whew – made it. We jumped off near Hill Street, Parkside. Two paces later, and something is missing. A blast of knowledge strikes – something missing! Damn! left my raincoat on the bus – the bus – just pulled away. Or in the cafe? asks Annabel. That first urge is to run after the bus shouting and waving: I would have done it once, but now the stronger reaction is to shrug and let it go.  Anyway, maybe it’s in the cafe.  How humiliating! I feel like a child – and rather a stupid child at that. I’m not even that sure where I left it.

(I am writing this in Auckland, where it is raining hard.  Truly: I’m not just making that up for effect.)

Annabel, however, is not one to let go, and back in Canberra is where the real kindness of Adelaide shows itself.  Nudged by Annabel, I am to phone the Art Gallery and the bus station. The Bus Station number is easy to find – it’s on the bus route map that Annabel has saved.  (I threw my copy away – needless to say.)  A kindly woman at the other end is completely non-judgmental, and takes details of my raincoat as carefully as if it had been a work of art.  (It’s black;  crumpled tissues and a water bottle in the pockets; has a word on it – Berg-something – I tell her feebly).  She will check with the depot and get back to me.  Art Gallery Information are sweet – I have to phone their Security people (she puts me through), who haven’t seen it, but explain that when something is left in the cafe it can take a while, and perhaps I could ask them (he puts me through).  The cafe staff are lovely – someone takes the time to go and check, finding that it’s not there.  I feel happy as a sandboy – maybe I can fix things so that I spend the rest of my life phoning the lovely people who hold down busy jobs in Adelaide.  Only a few minutes later and the phone rings.  It’s the Bus Station lady – warm and personable – they have found my raincoat.  I can feel her smiling over the phone, almost as pleased as I am that the raincoat is found.  The word on it is ‘Berghaus’, she tells me kindly, as if she has known me for years.  But alas they don’t post things to people – it will have to be collected from the depot – and she gives me the coat’s ID number, the address.  I thank her and write it down, as I quietly give up again.  I know no-one in Adelaide.  No one at all.

In the night I wake and think up plans to try to find someone online – maybe gumtree? Next day I email a few mates, to see if anyone else has a friend there – but no.  (Val’s friend is elderly, so I don’t suggest her.) Annabel comes back from work, puzzling over the same thing, but she turns out to be willing to ask her friend  (the one we met for afternoon tea – keep up!) for this favour.  First though we check the map to find Newton (? – from memory) – where the Bus Depot is – and get some sense of the dimensions of the favour she will be asking.  It’s a fair step out of town, but we ask anyway.  Needless to say, this perfect stranger, her Adelaide friend, is willing to do it.  Collect, parcel up, and post back to me care of my brother in Brisbane.  What does she get in exchange, I wonder?  A stranger’s gratitude, re-imbursement (but how can I value her kindness and trouble), a sense of being part of the community of those who do good deeds.

Any suggestions for the present I will be sending her? (Once I’ve obtained her address from Annabel, of course.)

Canberra Centenary – and a poem

May 12, 2013

Canberra is celebrating a hundred years since its Foundation in 1913. There are many dates one might celebrate: 1911, when the whole area of land was set aside and named the Federal Capital Territory; 1913 when Walter Burley Griffin and Marion Mahoney Griffin’s design for the city was selected together with the name ‘Canberra’ (February – first survey peg driven in; March for the naming ceremony); 1920 when a formal foundation stone was laid; 1927 when Parliament House was opened and parliament moved from Melbourne. These options bear little relation to anything we were taught at school. Marion Griffin was never mentioned in those days, and for some reason the date 1921 is fixed in my mind (if nowhere else) – but hooray for more detailed histories, and hooray for Canberra!

As for me, I first saw Canberra back in the winter of 1958, when a bridge still crossed the Molonglo and there was no lake. This isn’t my own photo, but the car on the far right could easily be our Morris Minor.

5430546922_6a36531118_z

This poem, though, is about arriving in Canberra in the hot, hot February of 1967. In this centenary year, writing memories of Canberra seems appropriate.
*****************************************************

Higher Education

It was the worst inland drought for decades
the year I turned seventeen. I left school
and gladly quit my family home in the north:
leafy, suburban, sub-tropical, cramped.
I packed poetry books, took the sleepless overnight train south
to Canberra (thirty hours – change at Strathfield, seven-twenty-five
for the Monaro Express)

The high plains were yellow-grey:
an unusable waste of dingo-coloured grass;
a desert, but so unlike the familiar
golden deserts I knew from National Geographic
that the very word seemed wrong.

Lake George, desperately low, shimmered in edgy mirages
where the ironbarks in blackened prongs weathered into fissures.
the lake-floor exposed acres of caked, baked-earth hexagons ––
filled out the official margins on the Survey Map

Grainy-eyed and stunned, I evaporated gradually
into the derelict moonscape.
The burning morning hours trundled past,
the smell of hot eucalyptus hung in air
so purely dry it scalded every in-breath.

Then the final curving descent into Canberra,
watered and shining with the brilliant arcs
of fountains and sprinklers;
where cool shops retired discreetly behind Spanish-style colonnades;
a green world
breathtakingly contrived; so ostentatiously artificial
it defied understanding, on any terms.

Blundering astonished back into a kind of self,
I was saved by bookish words:
Then at dawn we came down into a green valley, wet below the snow line.
Here, it was two in the afternoon, and civilisation
was under construction before my blurring eyes.

Animals and Art

May 7, 2013

It’s been a bad week for the wild beasts. Yesterday I went to the Art Gallery in Adelaide – a charming place, with excellent early Australian art, a cute gift shop and a lively café. And an unavoidable ‘sculpture’ of a highly realistic horse, strung up and partly skinned. The furry bits of dark hide asked to be stroked, it looked so real. I’m pretty good with intellectual horrors normally – I can look at that painting of Marsyas being flayed (see below), and I’ve watched ‘The Cook, the Thief, His Wife and Her Lover’. Something about that horse, though, was deeply grotesque and disturbing beyond description. I had to scuttle past, repelled and diminished: it had turned me into a scared little old lady who just wasn’t up to it.

I wonder if that is a function of art: to show us ourselves in unexpected ways?  Perhaps the horse was successful, then.

Back in Canberra now, with the weekend papers still to read.

The Canberra Times for Saturday, May 4th seems determined to publish heartbreaking stories – all the sadder for the callous aura that its strangely upbeat tone supplies.

The main front page photo on Saturday shows a dingo gazing at the camera from the back of a ute, while the story  jauntily tells of how this dingo was domesticated (to an extent) years ago. Mick, who a professional Government dog-trapper (as well as other animals), ‘spared her life’, which seems to be code for saying that he slaughtered the rest of her family.  He named her ‘Jess’. She has spent her life endlessly seeking out feral dogs and dingos, whom Mick then traps and kills. The subtle brutalities of Mick’s matter-of-fact language are scarcely concealable. She howls when she sees wild dog packs and ‘is on a long lead because she won’t come back when she is called.’ How far the journalist (and sub-editor) are colluding when they speak of the ‘crack team’, I leave up to you.

Even Mick seems, by the end of the piece, to have achieved some kind of consciousness of his appalling work. Here’s how it closes:

“- – – the challenge still drives him. ‘I’ve been after a bitch for three years,’ he said, heading into Gudgenby before dawn. ‘I came close near Tharwa. I’ve caught her pups. She’s even stepped on the [trap’s] plate. She’ll slip up one day. But you’ve got to admire her, she’s bloody smart. It’s almost sad, really, when you catch them – it’s like the end of an era.’ ”

Reeling from that essay, we turn to the back page looking for recreation, only to find the headline ‘Sad end as lost lamb gets the chop’. Somewhere on a busy road in Canberra a truck crash killed ‘scores of sheep’ (actually lambs, we find out later) some of whom escaped and fled. (Wouldn’t you?) There’s no tension in this story, as the headline has told it all, but anyway – the lamb managed to cross busy roads and hole up near the café on Regatta Point. (Sorry – don’t know where that is exactly – I’m a stranger here myself – I think it’s a pretty spot by the lake.)

When it was found to have a broken leg – well, naturally, (‘unfortunately’) they put it down. Shame on you, Mr Scott! Lots of animals survive with only three legs! Some nameless member of the public brought the lamb in – well, next time, member of the public, you’ll know better. Don’t phone the authorities, but take the lost lamb to your own vet and spend whatever it takes to get it mended. Keep it in your back yard with water and grazing and household scraps, and in dry weather give it some hay. A creature of courage and sagacity, an escapologist, a lucky chancer – surely it will be worth your trouble.

 

*****************************************

 

Titian’s painting of Marsyas:

Titian: Flaying of Marsyas

Titian: Flaying of Marsyas

Queensland Places – Brynhyfryd Park, Blackstone | John Oxley Library

April 20, 2013

Queensland Places – Brynhyfryd Park, Blackstone | John Oxley Library.

Main Beach, Southport

April 18, 2013

A Story in Pictures

When I come home to Australia – I still call Australia home, even though I have lived in the UK now for more than thirty-five years – I love to look at the sea, and at the beaches I knew as a teenager. We all knew then that Main Beach was the best, after the king tides of the sixties destroyed Surfers’ Paradise. The Council brought in more sand by the truckload, and shoved big rocks along the edge, but the surf was never the same. At least, that’s what we said in the seventies. After that – well – I wouldn’t know. I’d moved overseas. Anyway, my Mum (now 87 years old) and I drove the couple of miles from her place, over to look at the sea.

04 Main Beach erosion

Blow me down if the beach hadn’t been destroyed by those cyclones and floods and stuff that they had through the summer. Washed away. That wooden bit sticking out isn’t designed to be a jetty: it was once a platform where you could stand to wash the sand off your feet before returning to the demands of shoes and cars and civilisation.

So I took a photo of Mum by the destruction and sent it to my kids with a feeble joke about two sorts of erosion – they all responded by telling me how well she is looking. Not much eroded at all. So much for wit.

06 Mum at Main Beach

I think she looks quite nice in her grey dress against the grey waves, while the orange plastic strips give the whole thing a kind of grim liveliness. A little further along there was a warning sign.

08 tourists

I struggled but eventually managed to get a clear shot of it, past the tourists who were having a good time, milling around and taking photos. “Japanese tourists,” as my mother inevitably observed.

09 tourists in danger

And then a middle-aged chap stepped over the orange guard rail. His women folk seemed to be urging him to stand closer and closer to the edge, and he was inching along obediently. They were trying for an exciting photo – and it was a long drop. Maybe he would have landed softly, but I didn’t want to see it. “Come back, come back,” I shouted, “Dangerous! Danger!” And waved my arms, beckoning in the universal sign-language. There’s always that moment when you feel that maybe you should let grown-ups take their own decisions, and then there’s the quasi-maternal moment when you feel that you want to protect the stranger who has been having a good time in your country. Nobody wants it to end in tears. Meddlesome Jill.

Mum and I walked on – well staggered on, really, as Mum doesn’t walk very strongly or very fast these days. I was hoping that: a) we hadn’t offended them; b) they weren’t going to rush up and hit us; c) they weren’t going to come and tell us to mind our own business. None of this happened. Somewhere there exists a photo of the next moment, but I don’t have a copy. A rushing of feet behind us, and the women grabbed us round the waist, gesturing that they wanted a photo. Laughing and excited, they stood us in a line of four, arms around each other, and the same man we had saved from the waters was organised and instructed to take our photo. There were a couple of different line-ups before the women were satisfied. I bet they are good pictures – he had a terrific camera. Perhaps a little story about the kindness of strangers was even better to take home than a daredevil stunt.

Instead of that vanished photo, I can offer you a different picture of random generosity. This is a water bowl, for dogs walking the seafront, and in case you didn’t know, there are dog pawprints in the concrete leading to it. It was in fact being used by an Egyptian ibis, who was dipping its head into the bowl, washing and having a drink – but I wasn’t quick enough to get that picture. Prudent bird, it startled off when I came too close.

10 water bowl

Pubs in Whitby

February 25, 2013

I’m still playing catch-up with this blog.  Wonder why I am so determined?

– Back in the UK – late spring of 2011:  Will finished at uni in Hull, and I collected him and all his belongings for the last time.  Rancid sheets and greyish towels loosely rolled together; black binliners of odd socks and much-worn pants; the unwieldy black metal skeleton of a partly disassembled drumkit; the only slightly broken laptop; boxes of books the easiest to pack.  We went for a weekend out in Whitby on our way home – I suppose it was a celebration, and an exploration, and a pilgrimage to the tiny harbour that Captain Cook set off from to sail the vast and unmapped seas of the world.  This wasn’t a particularly attractive project for my twenty-two year-old son, but the Abbey, the Goths and the Bram Stokeriana had their own magnetism.  And Will was, as ever, open to new experiences, to landscape and to beauty.  He is perennially surprised by this aspect of himself – I guess he forgets about it inbetween times.

We stayed at The Resolution Hotel (very cheaply) in long-decayed grandeur, more recently slapped up in squared-off concrete as a beery local.  The dusty stair carpets smelt of stag nights.  Even so, a pub named after Cook’s ship was the place to be, and the real Resolution had ventured into the Antarctic, in search of a Great South Land.

Most of the pubs were shut or decaying, or seedy, unambitiously offering cheap beer.  Their no-frills atmosphere skulked through the streets.  But their names soared with ambition:

The Endeavour (of course – Cook’s ship: the real Endeavour had, after all, been a cheap compromise: a tub of a vessel, allocated by a stingy bureaucracy, only to achieve some of the most imaginative feats of the century: )

The Wellington

The Dolphin “Rebuilt 1912”

The Golden Lion

The Buck Inn (Julie Widdowfield, licensee)

The Jolly Sailors

The Rock Inn

Lucky Ducks

White Horse and Griffin

Black Horse

The Board Inn (“Downstairs restaurant with harbour views.  Booking required.”)

The Duke of York

The Granby

The Elsinore

The Little Angel

 

and (leaving town) – The Cross Butts touchingly offers: “Whitby wishes you a safe journey home

Anglesea – February 2011- nearly two years ago now

December 9, 2012

So much time has passed.  I reached a point in my Australian trip narrative – and somehow couldn’t go on.  A great slash – black lightning – a darkness ripped across the reportage, just as I reached Geelong.  And that makes sense, because what Geelong contains was also a great wound across my life: the stopping place from which it was so hard to move forward.    No wonder it appalled my mind and blocked my tongue.  In that place, I rely on help from others to devise some kind of strategic approach, for my own strength is baffled and foolish there.

We stayed, not in Geelong, but in neutral territory down on the coast at Anglesea.  By the Great Ocean Road.  We played in the surf and on the beach with the grandsons, and we hung out with my daughter.  We walked along the cliffs, stepping quietly past a brown snake as it lay, relaxed and stretched still as death by the path.  Choughs were springing from the cliffs out into airy space.

DSCF1466

So many of them, and moving so fast that each photo can only catch one or two.  The bird book says that choughs are clumsy fliers – but they don’t look it here.  Perhaps these aren’t choughs at all – or perhaps they are what choughs become, once they are enchanted by cliffs and ocean.   These grassland-foragers, mud-nest builders, these earthy dwellers in convivial crowds: they don’t need to be here. – It must be some sort of choice to live where they can rise up alone and swirl into the salt air, blue above and blue below.

DSCF1464

On our way back, the brown snake was gone – not dead at all, then.

 

the Queensland Gum – or river red gum

February 23, 2012

Here she is again – beautifully described by John Vallins in the Guardian’s ‘Country Diary’ column.


%d bloggers like this: