Wednesday, February 23, 2011


I'd stayed in the city for what turned out to be a depressing work meeting on Monday night. On the humid drizzly morning-after, forewarned about heavy traffic around the foreshores, I set off to walk to the pool with not much more than a dilly bag with togs and towel, and a book.

The two Queens had slipped into the harbour as the dawn was just breaking through heavy clouds and by the time I was at Mrs Macquarie Chair the huge Queen Mary 2 had docked at the Naval Base and Queen Elizabeth was looking somewhat more glamorous, if that compliment can ever be extended to today's big cruise ships, all top heavy overstuffed with little balconies, at Circular Quay.

I made it three people at the pool, as a light rain came and went, overhead mostly dark with occasional cloud breaks revealing a brilliant Sydney blue sky for a teasing few minutes. It looked like some of the local pleasure boats were taking passengers directly on board from a lowered gangway and jetty.

Swimming in the rain is heaven.

Around the cove, past the Opera House, I threaded my way along the Quay, through a million cameras, to the Museum of Contemporay Art, where the queues for the Annie Liebovitz exhibition were said to be intimidating. Well, there weren't any. Everyone was pointing the other way, looking at Herself, caught in breaking sunlight, and warping the perspective of all our usual landmarks, even the bridge pylons reduced to little stone things.

The exhibition is on one floor - 15 years of her life, with great expansive landscapes, walls of densely compacted personal photos of unnerving intimacy, drawing you close, too close, overlapping life and death, beginnings and endings, and everything in between, and of course riddled with the rich and famous. From an awkward gangly almost frightened early Nicole Kidman snap, for example, Liebovitz then takes you to the fabulous star, wrapped in the narcissism of her own glamour, emerging from a swirl of smoky gauze, nearly unrecognisable with swept back short hair and one vulnerable eye, and in a stunning inversion of reality, the empty theatre blurred out by the spots, leaves just the beautiful one and that door competing for your attention. Queue for it.

I was there for a long time. When I emerged there was more light rain and things were whiting out.

(clicking should enlarge)

I wandered off into the streets of the city, better.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011


The other day I came across this. While I can't say I yet agree with the first sentence, if he is talking about earthly life on this planet, and I don't know the context but intend to try to find it, I think I know what he means.

"Love is life. All, everything that I
understand, I understand only because I love. Everything is,
everything exists, only because I love. Everything is united by it
alone. Love is God, and to die means that I, a particle of love,
shall return to the general and eternal source." Leo Tolstoy

Monday, February 14, 2011


It happened quite quickly on Friday evening. She had been looking a little bit glazed and uncertain for the last few days, although she was in reasonable shape walking in Centennial Park on Thursday morning, trotting along at her own speed, tail wagging slowly, and endlessly, as it always did. Her last years were nothing if not a manifestation of strength and beauty of personality.

Spot was 16. The oldest dog I've ever had, and I've always had dogs. Always will I hope. Strangely, I'd been lent Dog Walks Man the week before, half finished now on the bedside table. Spot walked us through a life certainly better for her being. Our good fortune.

The little city house felt suddenly empty. I didn't get down to the country, by now surrounded in mist and low cloud with a light steady rain, till Sunday evening. With two candles and an incense stick burning, I sat on the couch with Millie. She's the big dog now, the keeper of the spirit. In a half awake half asleep fading meditative state, my bare feet under the old wooden table where Spot spent most of her last years, in the stillness, I swear I felt her hairs gently brush past my toes, soft and fleeting, then gone.

We had stayed in town for a fund raising party on Saturday. Under a marquee on the lawns of an old sandstone house, Sydney twinkling beyond the harbour, Diana Doherty, with Pen on piano, had played Robert Schumann's Evening Serenade, and only as she could - heartfelt and beautiful, time slipping away, a hushed audience, and us, a wee bit teary.

Here you go Spot ... and thanks

Tuesday, February 8, 2011


You've seen the film. Now hear him speak. Colin Firth was reportedly brought to tears. There's more from the BBC.

The producer of this very personal film is Emile Sherman ...

(thanks to mamamia)

... son of Brian Sherman, immigrant, business man, entrepreneur, arts patron, animal rights activist. Sydneysiders, especially from the eastern suburbs, will be familiar with Sherman Galleries.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011


The heat continues. During the day, and especially in the afternoon, there's very little coming and going, at least that you can see or hear. On Monday friends driving south popped in mid-afternoon. Although inside the house was marginally cooler, we sat with cold lime drinks under the big gum overhanging the lawn. The shade and the stillness, with just the slightest of air movement, surrounded by the hovering heat, was almost exhilarating. It was certainly peculiarly Australian.

Later we walked through what will hopefully one day be a canopy of scribbly gums. They're about four year olds now, and were planted as tube stock to evolve into an avenue of creamy white wandering trunks with widespread protective arms over the new gardens. More on them later. To get there you walk over the little stone bridge near the dam where two skinks live. One is always on the lookout, whatever the weather.

By the time we were back to the house, another visitor had appeared, someone I hadn't seen in all the years we've been here. Out came the book. It could be the common but rarely seen, secretive and shy, Scaly thrush (Zoothera dauma), a beautifully disguised forest floor dweller with brown and cream marbling, striding alertly across the lawn grub hunting. Or maybe it's the Spotted quail-thrush (Cinclosoma punctatum), equally wary.