365 Unusual Things: 358-365

358. Christmas Eve. Spent a quiet afternoon beside a dam because several members of my family have Covid.

359. I was given a purple shamrock for Christmas. Its leaves look like purple butterflies on stalks.

360. In a newfound café I was enjoying good coffee and half an hour of peace and quiet, when the staff put on loud Indian music. I got up and walked towards the door to leave and they turned it off.

361. Watched a hovering dragonfly till it was suddenly snapped up by a passing peewee (magpie lark).

362. Very hot last night so I opened my window wide. At 1.30am a police car turned its siren on right outside my window. A car chase ensued.

363. An old man collapsed on a rooftop carpark and then it started to rain. An ambulance eventually arrived and put up a little tent over him.

364. Accidentally deleted my photos from 25th December till now.

365. New Year’s Eve. Went for an early morning walk thinking I’d avoid people but a “Running Event” began and hundreds of runners filled the path I’d planned to walk on alone. I did however find something unusual, the beauty of a bird’s nest built from natural and man-made strands.

***

And so I reach the end of my 365 days of unusual things. Thank you to all of you who have followed me each week.

Black and white brigades

For my last black and white post comparison, I’ve played with a photo from my father’s WW2 album, darkening the image to bring out the words taken from Churchill’s most famous speech in June 1941: “We shall never negotiate with Hitler”. I’m comparing it with a photo I took in 2017 in Amiens, France, of a fire brigade training in front of the cathedral. My darkened version of the old photo is on the left, and the original is below it. Most likely the location is Cairo where my father was stationed. The mosque domes, minarets, and Moorish striped arches suggest it’s at least in a large city.

There are similarities in the two images: large old buildings behind groups of helmeted men. And there is contrast: in the old photo, the people are in white uniforms and white pith helmets before a dark building. In the photo in Amiens, the people are in dark uniforms with silver helmets before a light building. The great detail in the new one, especially in the sculpted decoration on the cathedral, is what draws the eye. But the old photo – in spite of its lack of such detail, its blurriness around the arches and verandahs, its unidentifiable faces – tells a good story simply because of the writing.

I’ve been looking at the big sign in this photo since I was a child, but when I scanned the small black and white picture and then digitally decreased the light, the writing on the sign became clearer, darker, stronger. A reminder of what it takes to defeat an enemy.

Thank you all for reading my thoughts this year on old and new black and white photos. And I thank my father for bringing the photos home.

***

365 Unusual Things: 351-357

358. Saw a woman walking in a Christmas tree.

359. Saw two guys in Santa costumes fishing at the pond.

360. My Korean student gave me two handleless teacups for Christmas. I made a cup of tea when I got home but the cup was so hot I couldn’t pick it up.

361. On the ABC television news tonight, where excellent English is required, a defendant’s words were written on the screen:
“If I had of done nothing…”

362. Went for a drive tonight to see some streets where every house is over-decorated with Christmas lights. At the start of one street, someone had graffitied on the bitumen in big letters: “no more lights”.

363. At the National Library café I sat with the Leonard French stained glass windows on my left, and saw one reflected in the marble pillar on my right.

364. Just read a request for submissions from a journal, “a small traditional publisher of a variety of genres focused on uplifting and supporting womxn everywhere.” At first I thought the x in women was a typo. But it seems they are exing men out of their lives. Men are valuable, indeed indispensable.

***

365 Unusual Things: 344-350

351. Went to a concert and heard my son sing in Latin and Finnish, though he speaks neither language.

352. Dropped off a Christmas hamper at a charity and was invited to have coffee with a French teacher because I speak French.

353. A migrant who is learning English from me was so confident today that when she started talking I had to interrupt her after 15 minutes so we could learn some new things.

354. Wanted to sit on a seat beside the pond this morning (8.44am) but couldn’t wade through the long grass. Three hours later (11.49am) I was about to complain to the local government when I looked again at the seat and found it surrounded by mown grass.

355. After photographing the mown grass yesterday, I was attacked repeatedly by a peewee (magpie lark) till I fell over. Today I’m bruised and aching. A passerby said he’s never seen them attack humans before.

356. Read, in an article about progressive young couples who believe the world is over-populated, that Elon Musk has nine children.

357. Watched a Salvation Army band play Christmas Carols. Was surprised that so few pedestrians stopped.

***

Black and white plate stacks

Once I was sitting near a café counter where I could take a close photo of the stacks of plates and cups waiting to be used. The resulting picture reminded me of one taken in about 1941 in North Africa, probably Egypt, which I found in my father’s WW2 album. The man in the turban has always fascinated me, a kitchen worker who had to carry a cumbersome load of plates, with more waiting behind him, and who stopped a moment for an Australian soldier to take his photo.

I like the similarities in the two images, an appealing repetition of the pattern formed by the plate stacks, even in the photo on the left in spite of its age. In its background is the repetition of plates on shelves, and in the new photo it appears in the stacked plates and cups and the shell pattern on the wall. Here, the edges of all these plates and cups and tiles give the whole image a sharp neatness, but though the visible edges of plates in the old one are not sharp, still each plate can be counted, even those in the dimness behind the man. When combined with the sheer number of plates, it gives the picture a story.

I go to cafés often, and thought I’d try to snap a waiter or kitchen hand carrying a huge stack of plates. But I either wasn’t in the right kind of venues, or kitchen workers no longer have to handle so many plates at once. There might even be a rule against it.

***

365 Unusual Things: 337-343

337. Saw what looked like an offering beside a pond. I did an experiment (after being told that few people use cameras now, see day 336), taking a photo of the same thing with both my camera and my phone (Fujifilm X-E4 and iPhone SE). Here’s the comparison. My camera takes better photos.

338. A neighbour whose marriage broke up this year has a large Christmas tree at his front window which has not been there in previous years.

339. This morning I tried to order two bowls online but couldn’t complete the order unless I told them my gender. Bought the bowls somewhere else.

340. Today we took our grandson (8 months old) to visit his great-great aunty (98). Surely this is unusual.

341. Saw a hill that had been cleared except for a small clump of trees left in its middle.

342. Bought Japanese fabric from a shop cleverly named Kimoyes.

343. Bought maple syrup in a maple-leaf shaped bottle.

***

365 Unusual Things: 330-336

330. In a huge shop of Christmas decorations, only one small table held nativity scenes. The rest was tinsel and bling, including witch dolls and black Christmas trees.

331. I’ve had just one translated story published this year (it used to happen more often) and today I got an offer to publish a second one, but it will come out on New Year’s Eve in the U.S. when it will already be next year here. So my 2022 record will still stand at one.

332. Saw seventeen swans swimming at sunset.

333. Watched a guy scraping the algae scum off the top of the local pond. His motor died half-way across so he had to row to the other side.

334. Today is the last day of spring.

335. Today is the first day of summer. But more unusual is Australia’s win this morning in the World Cup soccer against Denmark.

336. Heard that compact camera sales are down 97% due to the ease of photography with mobile phones. I’m in the other 3%.

***

Black and white Art Deco

A few years ago I went to Napier in New Zealand, the Art Deco ‘capital’ of the world due to the style of its architecture constructed after the commercial part of the town was destroyed in an earthquake in 1931. I took this photo (on the right) of one of the buildings with vintage cars parked outside, marking the spot where a tour begins. It resembles several photos from my father’s WWII album from North Africa where many of the buildings had been built in the 1930s. Art Deco buildings and decoration are recognisable by their geometric, symmetrical forms, hard edges and repeated lines. The photo of a covered market built in 1932 in Nairobi, Kenya, is a good example of this fashion. This building is still there.

Placed side by side this way, it’s easy to see how far photography has come. The image from Nairobi, Kenya, is a bit dull next to the clean whites and lines of my photo taken in New Zealand in 2013. However, the modern ability to adjust the light in photos is also good for revealing detail in shadows in my old pics, detail that I had no idea was there when I looked at the original photos that are just a few inches long and wide. For example, when I increased the light in the old photo, some features appeared at the building entrance. And the open windows up the side of the building are more defined now.

I like the clean space depicted in the newer image from Napier. And the details on its cars, for example, compared with the blurriness of the cars in the old pic, make it a far more interesting photo to study when zooming in. It’s my favourite today.

***

365 Unusual Things: 323-329

323. A potter friend made a ceramic egg carton, put a few eggs in it and advertised it on Facebook who took it down because it promotes animal products. She took the eggs out, advertised it again, and it passed the test.

Photo from Facebook

324. My translation of a radio play, “Jonah’s Whale” by Claude Aveline, which was accepted in January by Delos Journal at the University of Florida, was finally published today. This is the first thing I’ve had published in 12 months. You can read it here (for paying subscribers): https://journals.upress.ufl.edu/delos/article/view/2001/2357

325. Today at the local shopping centre a young woman was sitting on Santa’s (unoccupied) throne, shoes off, feet on the seat, reading her phone.

326. Yesterday and today were as cold as winter yet we’re a week away from the start of summer.

327. I read good news today about 2 pest species in Australia, the ibis and the cane toad. The ibis uses a “stress and wash” method, flicking the toad about, which releases its poison, then the ibis washes it before eating. This is unusual but very welcome since the introduced cane toad has few predators, and the native ibis, commonly seen eating out of rubbish bins and off picnic tables, is now doing something useful.

328. Today I found an audio of a French short story on a site designed to help people with insomnia. It begins after 10 minutes of relaxation instruction. What’s unusual? I’ve translated this story into English so I know the last line is dark, not a happy ending. I wondered why they chose it to help people sleep, until I listened all the way through and found the story stops at the 2nd last line which has been changed to a happy ending.

329. Today in a reserve I saw a white cane chair beneath a massive old gum tree.

***

365 Unusual Things: 316-322

316. At an ice cream shop this afternoon, I had to ask which flavours had dairy in them because about half were marked “vegan”.

317. I signed up to sponsor a girl in Ghana today. Her name is Forgive. She has been waiting 99 days for a sponsor.

318. Went out for a walk because the rain had stopped at last but after 5 minutes it came down again. When I got home and turned the radio on, the DJ played “Why does it always rain on me?”

319. Wandering through the Australian Botanic Gardens today I found a bust of Joseph Banks beneath a huge banksia tree (named after him).

320. Today I received a free coffee from a barista who had stopped being friendly to me. Turns out he’s just stressed from running a café.

321. An electronic sign over a major local road is presently telling us to “Hang up and drive.”

322. In a pizza shop tonight, there were bits of trivia about unusual New York facts.

***