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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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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Changing Seasons: June (Munich)

June in Munich. It’s hot, surprisingly hot. Two months ago it was still cold and even snowing a bit. Now, after the long winter, the population of Munich has come outside. Large numbers of people are running and cycling in the streets and exercising in the parks. In the Englischer Garten they even surf!

A small man-made river, the Eisbach, flows through the Garden with a current so forceful that the ducks don’t need to paddle. In one section near a bridge, a standing wave has been created, and though swimming in the river is not allowed, the rule is bent for surfers (München rules generally seem made to be broken), with the exception, noted on a sign, that the wave is only for experienced and skilled surfers.

The surfers are out every morning, but on Sunday morning in the Englischer Garten there were people not just surfing, or strolling like me; others were boxing, studying, cuddling, meditating, photographing, dog-walking, or doing a little yoga:

Nearby, at the end of Prinzregentenstrasse where I went to gaze on a golden angel, the Friedensengel, I found a photographer with models, exercising of course. The stone angel babies almost seem to be joining in the whole Munich exercise trend.

I’ve seen the seasons change in a few cities this month, starting with Canberra, then Singapore, and now Munich. Cardinal Guzman likes to see seasons change and prompted me to do the same.

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Changing Seasons: June (Singapore)

First thing on a Singaporean June morning, steamy air fogs the lens and veils the purple bougainvillea in mist.

By 6.30 on a Saturday morning the revellers have all gone home and a man sits alone in peace beneath colourful colonial architecture, a combination of Chinese, Muslim and British influences. He watches a video on his phone, oblivious to the loud repetitive soundtrack, a version of Twinkle Twinkle Little Star.

At midday, amid a mass of visitors to the Botanic Gardens, amid the lush vegetation found here and throughout the island, a bride in red and her less spectacular husband pose beside an old fig, its roots resembling two human legs and perhaps a tail.

When Cardinal Guzman posed this prompt to photograph the changing seasons, he wanted a photo of the same place each month. I’ve already covered Canberra for June, but have ended up in Singapore, a country with no winter. Just heat and humidity and eternal summer.

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Changing Seasons: June

June in Canberra.

It’s officially the first month of winter in Australia. Here in this part of the country that’s more wintry than most, many of the trees are leafless, the maximum today is 13, feels like 8, the public servants still run morning, noon and night even when the wind is blowing at 35 knots, and if you’re standing beside the lake taking photos of the landscape, you get wet.

Cardinal Guzman’s ‘Changing Seasons’ challenge: check it out for more seasonal photos.