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.


Black and white dams

At present there is a lot of water in the south-east of Australia. The rain keeps falling and the rivers keep overflowing into towns. Sometimes the authorities release water from catchment dams to try to prevent them spilling over, though the released water can cause problems downstream. The release of dam water is always a dramatic sight. A few months ago I drove over a dam when water was being released and it was so surprising that I stopped and took photos.

Here’s one that I’ll compare with a photo from my father’s 1941 album which he simply captioned “Weir in Nile”. I found a modern colour photo online of what looks like the same dam, called the Mohamed Ali Dam in Cairo, built in 1840.

Which is the better photo? Mine has a solid black and white appearance, with blacker blacks, while the old pic is composed mostly of soft greys and white. The drama of the rushing water and its spray in the 1941 photo is effective in spite of the slight blur. You can almost hear the roar of water in front of the camera. The old photo might be better simply because it is more picturesque with its brick pointed arches and what looks like a wooden drawbridge. But the modern image is better if you’re looking for details and defined straight edges.


365 Unusual Things: 309-315

309. At a major grocery store I saw shelves of bread loaves behind the counter and asked if I could buy one, but the “bakers” assured me they weren’t cooked yet. But they looked cooked!

310. Today I found a beehive in a tree hollow.

311. Saw two baby peewees (magpie larks) on an overhead pipe in a carpark.

312. Saw a Parking Enforcement Van driving the wrong way down a one-way street.

313. On a door at the office of an aged-care business, the sign read “People and Culture Department”.

314. In the early hours of this morning, a planet, probably Mars, was shining super brightly through my curtain.

315. Saw two cars in the same car park tonight, both with registration plates that would encourage mocking.


365 Unusual Things: 302 – 308

302. Passed a pink house falling into ruin, all blinds down, letterbox smashed, flowerpots full of rubbish, matching pink fence collapsing, next door to a house with fake security tape stretched across the yard saying “Keep Out. Haunted House”.

303. Today I saw a gallows with a skeleton hanging from a noose, dressed in a boy’s t-shirt, shorts, boots, and cap back to front. Halloween “decoration”. Why?

304. Saw a tall apartment block still under construction that has a tree on its roof.

305. The Melbourne Cup was run this afternoon, and a radio announcer said that 3 horses didn’t finish and would be shot because this has been the dreadful pattern in the past. They weren’t shot.

306. It’s just before midnight and a half-moon is shining in my window because the sky is cloudless. It didn’t rain today, for the first time in weeks.

307. My head is continually and involuntarily turned by the multicultural population of my suburb, so different from the mostly Anglo suburb I lived in 3 years ago.

308. My mother was born 100 years ago today. A friend laid flowers beside her crematorium plaque for me. I discovered it’s beside my father’s plaque on the war memorial wall. I never knew this.


Black and white animal lovers

Recently I was leaning against a tree with my camera shutter set to electronic, that is, silent, when a girl walked towards a swan to tempt it out of the water. She was wearing a dinosaur dress with spikes down the back. I took her picture and converted it to black and white.

Then I compared it with a photo from my father’s World War Two album of a girl holding a goat in Syria, taken in about 1941. Beneath this photo my father wrote ‘Syrian Bint’. The dictionary tells me that bint is colloquial but with an Arabic origin, meaning girl or daughter.

I like the similarities between the two photos. The girls are both looking to the left of the image, they seem about the same age, and they are both enjoying the animal they’re with.

The photo of the Syrian girl is close-up and very well defined. I don’t know if it would be much better if taken with one of today’s cameras. Zooming in reveals surprising details of both the girl and her goat. But the landscape is pretty blurry; zooming in makes it worse. By contrast, the trees and reeds in the background of the new image, taken with my Fujifilm X-E4, are clearer though not sharp, probably because I was trying to be stealthy rather than capture the perfect shot.

My favourite of these two photos is the one taken in 1941.


365 Unusual Things: 295-301

295. Walked on a beach where the driftline was peppered with blue things, mostly bluebottles.

296. Been married 40 years today. That’s unusual.

297. Stopped to look at a large vertical rock on the beach but couldn’t get close to it because of storms and a high tide, but noticed there were several memorial plaques nailed to it.

298. Was thrilled to see three cygnets on a pond today where there have been none so far this spring.

299. At 4.30 this afternoon loud music started up opposite my place, then dancers in traditional costume danced in a circle outside the Nepalese restaurant while a guy on a mic announced to passers-by that they could join in.

300. Saw several front yards in the neighbourhood fully decorated with Halloween stuff like some do at Christmas. Never saw this in previous years.

301. Got some shortbread biscuits called EET-SUM-MOR from the new South African shop near me.


365 Unusual Things: 288-294

288. Watched an adult woman climb a rock-climbing wall in a children’s playground.

289. Saw two boys who had caught a yellow fish at the pond. Possibly a type of goldfish, grown large out of the fishbowl.

290. Went to a pub named Sirens which is opposite the Ambulance/Police/Fire Brigade building.

291. Received some free journals from an editor I read for as a volunteer. Included was a card explaining the numbers on the Front Matter page of a journal that tell us which print run the copy is from; in this case it’s print run no. 1. I checked out a book I knew had been printed more than once, Suite Française by Irène Némirovsky (translated by Sandra Smith); the last number is 3, meaning it’s the 3rd printing, I think. The numbers are not in a regular order. Books seem to have a different system.

292. Saw last year’s nest for Welcome Swallows being re-used. It’s on a light fitting.

293. Saw a class of kids being taught how to ride bikes in a skate park. Didn’t know this was being taught by schools.

294. Watched fish jumping out of the pond surface and splashing around. Filmed it and caught myself singing in the background: Summer time, And the livin’ is easy, fish are jumpin’…