Tuesday, September 23, 2014


Now that the camera was out, I took it for a walk. I'm becoming more aware of a liking for loosing the background. If that's a metaphor for being in the here and now, then I'm trying. Though it's not easy; not like the photos - just a wide open aperture and zoom.

Here's a Grevillea against the morning sky; a little day lily on the forest floor; and an unfolding Waratah, a mystery unto itself.

                                                                 (click to enlarge)


Today is the spring Equinox down here. And a gorgeous day too with its parallel sun rays and perfect balance of day and night - things I didn't ever think about till the stillness of the bush gave time, and cause.

It prompted me to get the camera out and do what I've been meaning to do for ages - try and get some photos of the if not the most common (though possibly) then certainly the most raucous bird around: the avian larrikin, the Red Wattlebird (Anthochaera carunculata)

It is a not especially attractive grey and white medium sized Honeyeater, with a not especially attractive loud squark interspersed with a strange honking. But what it might lack in looks and song it more than makes up for in sheer energy and wild spirit: always on the move and always alert to the slightest disturbance. These photos had to be taken with a zoom while keeping perfectly still inside a window. If a bird were ever to be called wide-eyed and bushy tailed, then this would be it.

Larrikin is a term of endearment. I've grown to love their constant companionship and sheer familiarity. And while on terms, 'wattle' has nothing to do with our native plant, but is the fleshy coloured appendage hanging from the neck (think turkey), except for the Little Wattlebird which has none.

                                                                     (click to enlarge)

Tuesday, September 16, 2014


Last Wednesday, the State Library in conjunction with Aurora Expeditions marked the Centenary of Shackleton's (ill-fated is always added here) Imperial Trans-Antarctic 'Endurance' Expedition, 1914-1917, with a terrific presentation by Alasdair McGregor, historian, author and biographer of the expedition photographer Frank Hurley, the only Australian in the expedition.

Two parties were involved. Shackleton and his men were to start the 3000 Km crossing at the Weddell Sea, a treacherous gawping yawn in the continent packed with thick and unpredictable sea ice east of the Antarctic Peninsula (we are below the tip of Sth America here - Drakes Passage you know) and then head via the South Pole to meet the second party on the opposite side at the Ross Sea (below Tasmania and New Zealand) and whose job it was to head toward the Pole from their end leaving a series of inland supply depots for the crossing party which itself would be unable to carry enough to get them across. 

There were no means of communication between the two parties.


The story is pretty well known. Shackleton's boat Endurance, converted from an Artic tourist ship with a round bottomed hull singularly inappropriate for ice, became trapped and crushed in the Weddell Sea.

The men wintered it out in what has been described as the most dangerous and dismal place on earth drifting north with the ice and in unimaginable circumstances eventually made it with several sledged lifeboats to Elephant Island where a base was set up, some set out for and made it to South Georgia, and all survived.

The less celebrated Ross Sea party suffered three deaths.

The expedition that had left England three days after the start of the War arrived home alive to a battle still raging and where in sickening irony some who cheated death in the cruel bitter winter of Antarctica would meet it in Flanders.

Sources for Frank Hurley's photographs: SlateState Library of NSW, National Library of Australia, City of Tongues

Monday, September 15, 2014


                                                                 (nsw govt website)

Last Wednesday evening we went to a presentation at the State Library of New South Wales which is one of those under appreciated places undergoing considerable rejuvenation and one that when you do end up there you are forever thinking I must come back more often. At the very least, they have great exhibitions, for free (though not an especially glamorous website).

The library is one of Sydney's lovely old sandstone buildings, in a splendid spot, once by and overlooking the Botanical Gardens and Shakespeare Place, now spliced by a freeway tunnel which makes if for nothing else good surreal art - cue Jeffrey Smart:

I very much liked too that down the cosy cavern between the old and the new, at the back of the old Mirchell Wing wedging Parliament House, when we emerged the homeless were bunking down for the night, calling out to each other and laughing amongst themselves like borders in dorms after the lights go out.

In the interests of keeping a resolution I've made to make shorter posts which actually get posted rather than longer ones which don't, why we were there is the next installment.


I was upset to read that Jenny Diski has cancer. She is, to be honest, the real reason I subscribe to The London Review of Books; that and leaving them lying everywhere around the house to impress people.

She so exposes herself, bare, always letting truth get in the way of denial. I came to Diski late. 'Skating To Antartcica' was on our reading list before we went there on a trip organised by Aurora Expeditions (which leads me onto my next post - breath-holding not recommended), a trip arguably the most memorable ever in that it is an experience of such wonder and beauty that it isn't easy to convey a skerrick of what it is like, though Jenny Diski does well in what it meant to her.

I managed a few on-the-way-to Antarctica posts, but then collapsed under the arrogant weight of wanting to be good too. But without writing a word, there are some impossibly brilliant photographs (impossible to be anything else) and I must get onto it. I will.

Back to Diski. She is taking in water, if not yet listing. I can't say I'm pleased she has decided, or had it decided for her by her within-ness, to write it all down. But I am. And I can't really confess to liking reading about people dying. But I do. David Reiff's (Susan Sontag's son) Swimming in a Sea of Death, about his mother's death, for instance.

Kubler Ross started me off I suspect.


We interrupt this non broadcast (though there are several post incubating, well there's always posts incubating) to bring you some good news. Wonderful news in fact.

There is a Holy Man in Rome. Read this. Look at the areas he wants to address and heal. How did this man get elected? Is the Holy Spirit come?

One thing which caught my eye was the call to restore peace before the end of the day. I had a Catholic upbringing in a Christian Brothers College, and for all they taught, and didn't, I have a very clear memory of a junior school art class where we had to paint an image* of:

                                            Let Not The Sun Set Upon Your Anger.

(* I did a silhouette of two figures - black sexless shadows - holding hands against a huge yellow sun. Basically I couldn't and still can't draw)