365 Unusual Things: 78-84

78. This Indian bike was parked beside a snake warning sign outside a café where I had lunch today.

79. Saw Crushed Snow White in the hardware store and felt a twinge of sadness.

80. Saw a police car today with the registration plate NO RUSH.

81. Stepped onto a small beach used as a boat ramp at the lake, only to notice I’d almost stepped on bees.

82. Prepared a lesson today for an art-loving student based on Claude Aveline’s poem, the ‘Portrait de L’Oiseau-Qui-N’Existe-Pas’, the ‘Portrait of The-Bird-That-Doesn’t-Exist’. Looked online for artists’ interpretations of the poem and found many many paintings, each one unique, each one unusual.

83. Visited an elderly woman today who eats only Mars Bars and Sustagen, and that’s enough, she says.

84. Searching for more images of The-Bird-That-Doesn’t-Exist today, I came upon a story about a conspiracy theory that birds aren’t real, that they were all destroyed years ago and any birds we see now are drones.


365 Unusual Things: 71-77

71. A barista in a café decorated each of my family’s coffees with a different pattern on its froth, a Pegasus, a seahorse, and a swan.

72. I went out into my front yard tonight and discovered a small, brightly lit, Persian grocery store has opened directly opposite my house and I didn’t know it.

73. I’ve long admired a more practical car than mine parked in the next street, and today I found it in a car sales yard. I bought it.

74. In the same street there is a ‘shared zone’ with a 10 kph sign which everyone ignores because there are never any people walking on the road. Today I tried to obey it and drove at 10 kph in first gear. My car almost conked out.

75. On my local pond there is only one white duck, a domestic escapee, who befriends the native black ducks. Today I saw the white duck and a black duck asleep together in a quiet reedy corner.

76. I’ve long tried to photograph dragonflies and have failed. Here’s one that stood still long enough:

77. Bought an English translation of a French children’s book that includes a story omitted from the original. It’s about the author, whose name is Aveline, which means hazelnut, being eaten by a squirrel who thought he was actually a hazelnut. Why would the French leave it out?


Black and white fountains

Continuing with my posts about black and white photos from the 1940s, and comparing them with my own recent snaps in black and white, today I’m comparing two fountains.

The photo on the left was taken in 1941 in the Helwan Gardens in Egypt. I haven’t been able to find another image of this fountain on Google images so I don’t know its name or whether it still exists (my father didn’t write a caption under it). Helwan was a village near Cairo where allied soldiers camped in World War 2, which is why my father had photos of these gardens in his album.

The other photo is one I took in February this year of a fountain in Goulburn NSW.

The 1941 image is soft but lacking sharp detail. I imagine the tiles on the stair risers would be visible in all their decorative detail if photographed with a digital camera. The 2022 photo does show detail of the old fountain’s crumbling plaster work, but also all the layers on the palm trunk are well defined, like the individual palm fronds and the leaves and needles on the big old trees in the park.

The Goulburn fountain reminded me of the photo from Helwan, both having palm trees planted close by. In colonial Goulburn it was part of a Victorian era fashion for associating the civilised parts of town with exotic plantings and Biblical lands. Egypt was one of those Biblical lands where palm trees grow naturally, yet there were so many planted in the large Helwan Gardens that I wonder whether the landscapers were influenced by the Victorians…


365 Unusual Things: 64-70

64. Went to the Arboretum in Canberra today and thought about the pine forests on this hill that were totally destroyed by fire in 2003. Now we have this beautiful place with baby forests of different tree species slowly but surely growing. Sometimes something good can come from something very bad.

Arboretum Canberra

65. An aunty turned 98 today. She is active on Facebook every day. Must be one of the oldest users.

66. A video of me reading from my translation of Les Cœurs barbelés by Claudine Jacques has been published on a YouTube channel, Jill!, for women literary translators. Seeing my work published has become more and more unusual since the pandemic began.

67. Something ran down inside the wall cavity behind my head while I was in bed. This was normal in my previous house, an old one, but in this newer house I’m hoping it will be unusual.

68. A van parked near my house matches the electricity box beside it.

69. Received two letters today from two penpals, one dated 2-2-22, the other 22-2-22.

70. In a Thai restaurant tonight, I saw this sign.


365 Unusual Things: 57-63

57. Saw a coastline covered in sandstone rock formations resembling skulls.

Hyams Beach NSW

58. Saw a pink stingray that blended into the driftline.

59. Saw a small river party boat named Queen Mary, reminding me humorously that my father went to the Middle East in 1941 on the Queen Mary.

60. Parliament House in Canberra has been lit up with the blue and yellow of the Ukrainian flag.

61. A question on the prerecorded Mastermind tonight was “Who said that Russia ‘is a riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma’?” (It was Churchill in 1939.)

62. Walked past the free library in my shopping centre where the books were in a total mess, tumbling every which way, and when I came back past it, every book was neatly standing on the shelves as if the elves had heard me grumble to myself.

63. Had to explain in a commentary why “The Unusual Bestiary” by Claude Aveline is unusual.

Black and white corner buildings

In a few earlier posts about my father’s collection of old black and white photos, I compared one of my own recent images of a similar structure in the part of Australia where I live. But today I’ve chosen a photo I took in 2015 when I was in Barcelona marvelling at the arty buildings in the Eixample district. I took many photos of this photogenic city, but there is one which sort of reminds me of a picture from the 1940s taken in Nairobi, Kenya. Both are sandstone-coloured buildings on a corner with a crowned short tower; in Kenya it’s a dome, in Spain it’s a tempietto.

The two buildings are roughly early twentieth-century. The Spanish Casa, originally built in 1854, was remodelled in 1905. The other photo shows the Khoja Mosque in what was Government Road, Nairobi, Kenya.  Across the street I can make out the Bombay Boot Bazaar (if I zoom right in), which confused me until I did a web search for images of the same building, and I ended up in Nairobi! It seems it was a business run by an Indian in Kenya.


Is the old photo any poorer than the newer one? The writing on the buildings is not as legible in the 1942 image, the organic motifs sculpted on the Casa are more defined than the individual bricks and decorative parts of the mosque, and faces in the newer photo are more identifiable. I like the distinct individual clouds in the old photo sky, while the new sky appears cloudless but, without a visible blueness, it seems glary. (It was clear, a beautiful Spanish sunny day.)


It seems the value in the old photo lies more in the historical record it provides, whereas the Casa Lleo Morera is such a beautiful subject that it doesn’t need colour, not even a blue sky. And therein lies the secret to an interesting black and white photo today.


365 Unusual Things: 50-56

50. The staff in the National Library bookshop have lost my translated books. Surely this is unusual for a national library. I’d left some on consignment for them to sell.

Beautiful bookshop, with Leonard French windows. Pity about my books.

51. Today’s date is 20-2-22, twenty-two-twenty-two.

52. Came home from a walk to find the garage door open, though we’d pushed the button to close it. Turns out our car not been driven in far enough, the descending door had hit the car bumper and automatically risen again when our backs were turned.

53. Today’s date is 22-2-22, twenty-two-two-twenty-two. An American sent me a message: Happy Twosday. It doesn’t work as well in Australia where Tuesday sounds like Tyoosday, or, when we’re not trying hard, Chewsday.

54. Thanks to a web site about vintage sewing machines, I discovered a feature on my Bernina machine that I never knew existed. I’ve owned it for 48 years.

55. After the radio news about Russia and Ukraine, the announcer said the world’s gone crazy and then she played three songs with Crazy in the title: The World Gone Crazy by the Doobie Brothers, Crazy Mixed Emotions by Russell Scott & His Red Hots, and Crazy by Patsy Cline.

56. Saw this boat moored outside a boat hire shed today.

Sussex Marine Hire


365 Unusual Things: 43-49

43. Today I saw two signs beside a pond, 20 metres apart, one warning the water is shallow (no swimming or diving), the other the water is deep (no swimming or diving).

44. A Russian friend who used to live in Australia, who loved our coffee, has bought a coffee machine to try and make it the way our baristas do. She sent a photo of her toddler drinking a babyccino, a cup of non-coffee popular in cafés here, but unheard of there.


45. I once tried growing the kangaroo paw (native plant) and failed, but this one, a Christmas present, has flowered. It does look a wee bit like the small front hand of a kangaroo.


46. I was advised to start WORDLE with CRANE, it told me the R and N were correct, so I guessed ROBIN and won.


47. At a café a couple sat at the table beside mine, he in a tartan beret, light blue jacket, bow-tie and pocket handkerchief, white trousers too short for his legs, black patent shoes, no socks. She was in black, head to toe. On her sneakers was handwritten on both sides of each shoe in white paint, PEACE.


48. Got an invitation today to have coffee with a relative I’ve known for 33 years who has never invited me out before.


49. Saw a number plate: 13.888. Will the good luck of 888 cancel out the bad luck of 13?


Black and White Columns

There are half a dozen images of Cairo minarets in my album of 1940s photos. One in particular of the citadel in Cairo shows the thin twin minarets that are less like the towers on other mosques and more like pencil-shaped columns. I looked for a structure where I live that resembles them, in order to see what kind of black and white photo it makes. The Australian-American Memorial is good for comparison:

The minarets on the citadel in Cairo are thin and columnar, like the Memorial. Both images illustrate the power of a tapering column soaring into the sky, visible from far away, and indeed more impressive from a distance. The memorial in Canberra, affectionately known as the obelisk, the Eagle, or the chook on a stick, is prominent in the background in my previous black and white post about towers.

The modern digital image on the right highlights the cloud detail while the 1940s image better shows the decorative sculpture of a minaret rising into what appears to be a clear sky. My photo of the monument in Canberra was taken at about 11 am with the sun behind the top of the column so its detail is not as visible; it’s more of a silhouette. For a better black and white photo I should return to it one afternoon. One thing I noticed immediately is the sharpness of the windows in the newer photo, the clearly visible cars and trees in the background, compared with the soft blur of the older photo, which is actually more charming (to me). Not knowing exactly what’s in the blurred part makes me linger longer and wonder.

In contrast to the Turkish-style minarets with vertical grooves and tiers, the memorial is a hollow octagonal column covered in aluminium sandblasted to look like stone, quite featureless except for the eagle and sphere on top. Here they are, in the photo below, and for readers who’d like to know what we’re called to remember when we see it, here’s a photo of the plaque:


365 Unusual Things: 36-42

36. Saw hundreds of anti-vax, anti-government protesters in cars, trucks, vans and on foot heading towards the city centre and Parliament House, hooting, beeping, calling out and playing music over loudspeakers, disrupting traffic flow, making people late.

37. Visited a lake that has an algae problem like my local pond. Several floating wetlands have been installed to eliminate the algae and seem to be working.

38. From the National Film and Sound Archive site today:  ‘It has been said that digital files last forever — or five years, whichever comes first.’

39. Had my hair cut by a girl named Paris who tried to learn French but was no good at it and gave up.

40. Camilla, wife of Prince Charles, has, it is said, embodied the Queen’s ‘never complain, never explain’ attitude.

41. At the National Library café today I was one of 7 customers. It’s usually packed but all the public servants have been asked to work at home, so there were only us retirees. I could sit where I wanted, which was next to one of the stained glass windows by Leonard French. Usually I can’t get near them.

42. Made myself a birthday cake today. First time ever. And made it with leftover Christmas mincemeat, which I just discovered is the proper term for fruit mince. Made from fruit. Not from minced meat, which is the proper term for meat put through a mincing machine.