There’s a photo in my father’s collection that makes me look again, every time. It’s a view through a remnant of an Egyptian building, a stone wall, to a mosque a short distance away.
Egyptian mosque c1942
Fort de la Mauresque near Port-Vendres France 2013
To compare it with one I took with a digital camera, a small Sony I had in 2013 (not as good as 2022 cameras but better than a 1940s camera), I’ve chosen one of the arched embrasures constructed on the cliff edge near Port-Vendres in France (there are a few). I was struck by the similar elements, the arch, the stones, the connection to the Second World War.
The French stone wall has an unnecessarily beautiful arch defining a space through which to point a cannon, and two thinner holes below for rifles, in a position that makes them look like eyes, particularly in my original colour photo where they show the blue sea beyond. In the older photo, the shaded sides of the stone frame and the buildings beyond contrast well with the harshly lit walls under a clear hot sky, giving the picture drama and life. I prefer this older pic, perhaps because it’s taken at an angle, not straight through the hole in the wall. I can imagine standing there at that window in the desert heat.
Zooming in on the stones in the newer image reveals not a lot of difference in the clarity of the two photos. The shape of each brick in the foreground of the older image is quite clear, with the image only blurred about the edges where the modern image is sharp even at the sides.
In case you’re wondering about the blue eyes in the defensive structure, here’s the colour shot:
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.
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?
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…
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.
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.
57. Saw a coastline covered in sandstone rock formations resembling skulls.
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.
Queen Mary party boat Sussex Inlet NSW
Queen Mary troopship leaving Sydney 1941
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.
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.
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.
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.