Changing Seasons: August

August in Canberra is a little warmer than July when dawn was a few degrees below zero. Now we’re slowly moving back towards the sun and the wattle trees are coming out in bloom, producing bursts of  bright yellow in the bushland. Today I went up Black Mountain to our telecommunication tower known as Telstra Tower, where I saw the interesting combination of our iconic wattle and the tower, a structure that can be seen from far outside Canberra, a landmark that tells travellers they’re almost here.

If we are enjoying delightful afternoons, warm enough to sit in the sun to catch ten or twenty minutes of Vitamin D infused rays, our nights are still freezing and frosty, and the further you go above sea level the frostier it is. On Black Mountain there’s a warning sign for those driving or riding or even walking up and especially down the slope in the early hours of the morning: Ice on road. When I took photos this afternoon it was a lovely 14 degrees and this cyclist was haring down the mountain, around its curves. His wheels made a loud whirring sound as he passed me.

Here’s some evidence of August’s two weathers. Yes it’s a good afternoon for riding downhill at speed, but after the night’s frost a cyclist could be sliding not riding.

Cardinal Guzman had the idea of posting a photo of changing seasons each month. Thanks Cardinal.

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James Burley

I have often thought that many a youngster when he was hit out there on the Passchendaele heights … and he knew that the end had come – must have thought to himself: “well at least they’ll remember me in Australia”. C.E.W. Bean

We all have ancestors but not all of us study their lives. I do, but I don’t know whether I’d recommend it. Many of my ancestors died young, which means I’m a descendant of the few survivors. And every young loss has a tragic story behind his or her death.

Two brothers who enlisted in the army together, numbers 5046 and 5047, James and Frederick Burley, were my great-grandmother’s cousins. Both of their lives ended in France in 1917. Frederick was never found.

But James was wounded in one of the horrific battles in Passchendaele near Ypres in Belgium, died in hospital in Rouen, France, and is buried there. This week, news articles are appearing about the commemorations of the hundred years that have passed since the Ypres battles. By coincidence, James Burley had his name projected onto the Australian War Memorial last night. I was there to see it for the 30 seconds it was shining on the facade of the building.

Like many Australians, I have descended from a convict ancestor, Joseph Burley, who was transported to New South Wales for trying to sell a stolen watch. Seven years he got. Pretty harsh penalty for a pretty petty crime.

Frederick and James Burley were his grandsons.

James was wounded on 20th October when his battalion was fighting near Zonnebeke in the region of Ypres, where 30 mm of rain had fallen two weeks earlier. Not only was the ground wet from heavy rain, but parts of the battlefield were swamp or reclaimed swamp, and digging and shelling only produced more water.

View of the swamps of Zonnebeke on the day of the First Battle of Passchendaele. Ruins of Zonnebeke church in background. Photo from Australian War Memorial taken on 12th October 1917.

Note from War diary for James’ 47th battalion, 12th October 1917: Country almost impassable being very boggy and shell holes full of water… Weather very bad, cold, raining… Men’s feet very sore owing to continually standing in shell holes full of water…

James died seven days after he was wounded. He was 32 and had got married the year before.

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This is the last of my relatives’ names to be projected onto the War Memorial. Five in all.

I have so little to complain about.

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The Mask

My translation of Claudine Jacques’ short story Le Masque has just been published by Volkeno Books, Vanuatu, in a bilingual edition. Hold the book one way to read the original French story, then flip it over to the back to read it in English.

The setting is a fare ofe, a bamboo house in New Caledonian bushland. The protagonist sees it as exotic and inspirational, just the impetus she needs to begin her writing career. She talks to a tribal mask left behind by a previous tenant, and it responds…

Available to order at noiraublanc.fr, here: http://noiraublanc.fr/index.php?route=product/category&path=62

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Weekly photo challenge: Unusual

Back in May I blogged about a new sculpture that was set in place on Anzac Parade in Canberra as a memorial for the Boer War in South Africa (1899 – 1902). Before the official opening, the sculpture was covered in black plastic, or rather the sculptures, all four of them. It was a weird sight, especially at dusk and in the evening. The sculptures were covered for a couple of weeks, and looked like this:

Is it unusual to cover a sculpture in black plastic before a big reveal?

At last at the end of May the plastic was removed and now we have this magnificent arrangement to admire as we drive or walk past:

The sculptor, Louis Laumen, created four bronze riders and horses that for all the world appear to actually be riding out from the gum trees and down the slope towards the road. From a distance they look life-size but they’re actually larger than life. A short path at the back lets us walk around the entire group and touch the horses and riders.

Thanks to Lignum Draco for posting this photo challenge on WordPress.

Changing Seasons: July

Canberra, July.

Eight-thirty. One degree. Fog lifting.

Frosty gum leaves and oak leaves, fallen side by side.

I love this place. My face is icy but my neck is warmly wrapped. After days at home with a winter head cold, I’m out for a walk, cooling my cabin fever. In this early morning stroll along Anzac Parade and down to the lake, I pass ten people, each of the encounters some minutes apart. It’s strangely quiet, Canberra. It doesn’t have the buzz of the big cities, it doesn’t have the bustle. Later in the morning there’ll be buses of tourists arriving to view the memorials on Anzac Parade, and public servants will be walking between buildings and car parks. But right now as a pedestrian, I have the footpaths of the Parade virtually to myself.

A local radio station, Queanbeyan FM, frequently plays a snippet from Troy Cassar-Daley’s song I love this place. I know why they play it.

Anzac Parade, Canberra, up to the Australian War Memorial and Mt Ainslie, winter

 

Check out Cardinal Guzman’s blog for July in Norway: https://cardinalguzman.wordpress.com/2017/07/18/the-changing-seasons-july-2017/

The Travelling Sketchbook

Many months ago I joined a group of women bloggers who wanted to contribute to a travelling sketchbook, Anne Lawson‘s brilliant concept. The blank sketchbook was made by Anne in Melbourne and posted off to the first person on the list who posted it to the next one and so on and so forth until it reached me, the last one on the list. Consequently, being last, I had all the previous entries to follow. A hard act. Here are the creations, page by page:

The sketchbook has now returned from its round-the-world trip back to Anne’s house. It’s been a unique pleasure for each of us to decide on a suitable contribution and then execute it.

For me it was an unusual day. I’d been wondering how I’d find time to think about my contribution let alone write something in the book. But I’d gone to meet a student that day who forgot about her lesson, so I unexpectedly found myself with a whole day free. I went home and set about writing a number of meaningful quotations with a calligraphy pen, ending up with ten. I chose the neatest one that best fitted the page size. Then I added a piece of machine embroidery I’d made for a textile art course years ago. It’s freely embroidered inside a wire coat hanger, then cut away. I had made several of them and attached them to a shawl for the course assessment, but had this one left over. Now it isn’t left over any more.

Thank you Anne for your idea!

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Weekly photo challenge: Bridge

If I were young and in love I might be tempted to engrave my name and his on a padlock and attach it to a beautiful bridge, casting the keys to an unreachable depth and thereby hopefully cementing the relationship. Now that I’m oldish I see these padlocks as akin to litter. Young lovers who attach the piece of not-easily-removable coloured metal see it through the rosy glow of their love. The decorative wrought iron of the bridge panels is little more than a place to hang their public bling. When I saw this and other footbridges in the Englischer Garten in Munich I felt an old woman’s frustration.

Footbridge, Englischer Garten, Munich

Later I despaired at the sight of a love-lock stand framed by a huge walk-through heart that was covered in them. Lovers could purchase padlocks for the specific purpose of attaching them to the narrow ironwork of a bridge and throwing the keys into the river below. Like a fast food outlet, the stand eliminated the need for forethought and preparation.

But not all pretty garden footbridges are made with decorative ironwork. In Albert on The Somme in northern France there’s a small public garden with a narrow stream, a waterfall and this bridge, where lovers would need to bring something pretty big and heavy to permanently attach it to the branch-sized bars.

The public garden in Albert is at the back of the Somme 1916 Museum where there is much to see regarding all the parties fighting in and around Albert in that year. Lots of grim reminders of war. The garden, by contrast, is a place of joy and peace.

Thanks WordPress for the Bridge prompt for this week’s photo challenge.

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The Half-Veil

The digital literary fiction journal, Brilliant Flash Fiction, has just published “The Half-Veil”, my translation of “La Voilette”, a Catulle Mendès short short story of 1884. Click on the link and scroll down through other brilliant flash fiction till you see this cool photo added by the editor.

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Header image: La Modiste sur les Champs Élysées, Jean Béraud (1849 – 1935), courtesy Wikimedia Commons

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Changing seasons: June (London)

I’ve not only changed seasons from winter to summer, I’ve changed countries, again. In this present country, England, in this city, London, each day changes weatherwise. When the temperature’s up and the sky is clear, the ideal summer day, jets leave condensation trails in white exes against the blue, visitors to Hyde Park buy ice creams and let their children play in the ‘Diana, Princess of Wales Memorial Fountain’, and the park gardeners busily pull out unwanted pond-side plants. Tourists sail on the lake, attracting swans in flocks looking for crumbs. And the ugly duckling born in spring is left to fend for himself, wondering why.

Hyde Park pond with swansThe next day the sky is grey, rain falls on and off for hours, the ground is puddly in the least expected places, and canvas shoes let in water. The old dark brick 18th-century buildings of the former silk manufacturing area, Spitalfields, look worse without sunshine. But I’m sure they’re beauties inside now that the price tags are in the millions.

Wilkes Street, rainy day.jpgThanks to Cardinal Guzman for his seasonal inspiration.

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Weekly photo challenge: Transient

The soaring Gothic cathedral in Amiens is a medieval beauty by day with an abundance of statuary and stone lace, but at nightfall in summer it becomes a giant canvas for a light show of high-definition coloured images. Nightfall means 11 pm. At 10.45 when I took the first photo, the sky was still deep blue. The days are very long in a northern French summer, but this one just happened to be the summer solstice. The longest day.

La cathédrale Notre-Dame d’Amiens, 10.45 pm, 21st June

The projections are modern for the most part, following the lines of the facade, highlighting them and even appearing to move parts of the cathedral about.

11:08 pm, the solid cathedral resembling a line engraving

11:13 pm, making smaller details the main attraction

11:22 pm, drawing with light

The best is left till last. In the beginning of their existence (approx. 1220 – 1270) the statues were polychrome, a feature revealed during the laser cleaning of the facade in the 1990s. Time has stripped them back mostly to bare stone; only a few small areas of colour can be detected here and there, and if you didn’t know they were once painted, you wouldn’t notice even these patches. But, for one transient moment, our brilliant 21st-century lighting people can restore the medieval colours for us.

11:29 pm, just when we thought it was all over, the colours of the tympana appeared for the pleasure of those who hadn’t walked away.

The statuary is mostly far above my head, so photography is a good way to look closer at the details. I particularly like the central tympanum depicting the last judgment. In the middle register, the naked damned are led to hell, while the saved are clothed and led to heaven. I’m hoping to be among the clothed.

Each image projected onto the cathedral facade lasts but a moment, the spectacle itself lasts half an hour, and even the lighting patterns change from time to time. But the cathedral itself has stood solid and unchanging since the 13th century, a survivor of wars and revolutions. It reminds me that if I leave something behind, it had better be good; it may be around for centuries.

Thanks to WordPress for the transient challenge.

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