Monthly Archives: April 2008

Ducks in suburbia

 

Driving Meg to school one morning last week, we were thrilled to see three ducks wander across the side street in which we park, to forage in the dirt of a building site.

I don’t know what type of ducks they were – they were brown and speckled and cute, and completely unfazed by us – but what variety, and whether they were wild or domesticated, I couldn’t say.

I know it is a little un-pc, but we hastily pulled a piece of bread from Meg’s sandwich and the ducks happily took it from her. It was a lovely way to start the day, with an unexpected sight and the chance to get up close. Their comfort around people makes me think that they were probably pets. Either that, or they are so used to being fed by well-meaning passers-by that they are completely accustomed to the company of humans.

 

On the previous Sunday, a trip into town to see the VCE Top Arts exhibition at the NGV in Federation Square, provided its own excitement.

We made a point of going because we know one of the exhibitors – Andrew Fanning, the brother of one of Meg’s friends. Andrew was selected to exhibit two of his pieces: a self portrait and (in Top Designs at the Museum) an intricate chess set.

It is amazing to see the talent of the top year 12 art students in the state, and the calibre of their work, but not a stretch to see whose names will be appearing around the art world before long.

 

On leaving the NGV we wandered across to catch the City Circle tram and I was struck, as I always am, by the intricacy of the Forum Theatre building. The cross-hatching on the building’s facade makes me think of Moorish architecture – apparently with cause. According to the website Walking Melbourne, it is one of the few examples of this style in the city.

Built in 1928, the building was formerly known as the State Theatre.

I love it, though the angle I was on has given it a little bit of a lean in the photograph. Not one I can fix, either, without sacrificing the straightness of something else, like the traffic light!

My last photograph of the day was unplanned, but I quite like the result. Let me know what you think…

 

I like it for the strong diagonals, and the lone cigarette butt sitting on the right hand vertical third.

By the way, we were getting on to the tram to go up to China Town for yum cha, and due to queues at our restaurant of choice we ended up at another, less crowded establishment. Should I state the obvious, that it was less crowded for a reason…? If I say that it was the Chinese restaurant version of Fawlty Towers, would that tell you everything you need to know?

Next time we’ll wait, or at least go on recommendation. Oh well, live and learn.

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Filed under animals, cool things, melbourne, photography

Autumn heralds

You can always tell when Autumn is really starting to take hold – the mushrooms and bracket fungi start to appear; the nights and mornings are chilly, and the  days marked by beautiful clear blue skies (except for the odd inversion layer that traps any early morning fog and smoke over the city, like it did one day last week).

I love this time of year in Melbourne:  The leaves are starting to change and my mind has turned to pruning and tidying up the garden before winter.

I’m a little hampered in what I can do at the moment (a prolapsed disk in my neck means I’m not allowed to carry anything heavier than 2lt of milk), so I’m hoping for lots of rain to make up for the buckets I won’t be carrying from the shower or washing machine. The pruning is something I can still do, and that will lead to putting in cuttings and a whole crop of new plants for sharing at Christmas time.

We’ve been inspired this year to do even more than we normally would in the way of homemade gifts, by a video called The Story of Stuff. In my opinion it should be mandatory viewing – especially in schools.

I think it will take a while for the message to percolate through our consumer society, so showing it to young children and helping them to understand that our planet has finite resources and finite waste storage will help them to assimilate the necessary changes in their thinking before they become wastrels. Understanding early that things are built to fall apart or that perfectly good designs are changed just to promote sales may help inform their choices in the future.

For the rest of us, changing our habits is the only choice. If we don’t, our planet simply won’t be able to support us, and the heralds of Autumn that bring such joy will be lost.

Personally, I know that it is hard to change. I’m known as the family ‘gadget-queen’ – I love technology, and am the first to learn how to program a new dvd/video recorder or buy a new widget for the kitchen. And I do love a bargain, but I also grow my own vegetables and make my own bread, preserves, pickles and jams. I sew and crochet; bind books and screen print. I love handmade food and gifts and try to re-use and recycle whatever I can. I know I can do more, but it is a start, and one I can build on.

That’s it – I’m off the soap box now. No more preaching…

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Filed under handmade, melbourne

Wednesday’s Storm

When the winds hit on Wednesday (April 2nd), Meg and I were at the movies. Hey Hey it’s Esther Blueburger was only improved by the power going out, but that’s another story.

It was uncanny listening to the wind build and to feel the cinema being buffeted, let alone having the power go out in the shopping centre afterwards as we walked though following the film. But it was seriously scary when I had to wrestle to keep the car from being blown all over the road and traffic lights on a couple of extremely dangerous intersections were out.

I’m constantly amazed at the stupidity of people on the roads in such situations. The intersections I’m referring to – Darebin Road and Station Street, and Separation Street and Station Street, in Fairfield, are large (three lanes of traffic in each direction on Station Street and two/one respectively on the cross roads), and dangerous at the best of times, with accidents happening on a regular basis when the weather is good. So tell me why, when a gale is literally blowing and there are no lights to control the traffic, people speed up?

My parents were driving instructors until I was 23, and I can always hear them talking to me in a situation like we had on Wednesday: approach with caution, be courteous, give way to the right and use common sense. Although some callers to John Faine on ABC 774 spoke glowingly of the drivers they had seen, I personally didn’t see any common sense or courtesy.

Two intersections and two very near misses made me very glad to get home. They also made me collect a pair of disposable gloves and my mobile phone so that when the inevitable crunch of metal came, I would be ready to run and help. It happened about 3.15 in the afternoon.

No one was hurt, luckily, though one lady was shaky and holding her neck, but at least one of the cars was going through the intersection fast enough that a hit on the rear quarter panel on the passenger side spun it 180 deg and put it up on a footpath. One of the cooks from our local pizzeria had the fright of his life when he was unlocking the door to start work for the night and felt rather than saw the car coming at him.

I think he levitated himself out of the way.

Thursday morning saw Station Street shopkeepers and local residents assessing the damage and cleaning up. From what I can tell, three trees were lost from the shopping strip (and one street light doesn’t look too clever). One shop lost an awning and a window, I think, and lots were without power for many hours. The road itself was closed to traffic for most of the day, and the cleanup has not yet finished.

Walking around the back streets with the dogs showed branches tossed aside or whole trees uprooted and lying across footpaths and yards. Amazingly, the local park (Rubie Thompson reserve) had a couple of very small casualties, but no big trees seemed to threaten to fall. Credit goes to the Council who have been carefully pruning and culling the larger trees systematically over the last 12 to 18 months. Obviously the work has been paying off.

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State Library

Latrobe Reading Room, SLV #2 

Having worked at the Museum when it shared a home with the State Library of Victoria, I am interested in the changes that have been wrought to the State Library, and like to look around at the renovations that have been done.

Latrobe Reading Room Dome, SLV 

One room I hadn’t seen since it had been restored, was the La Trobe Reading Room and the famous Dome, pictured here.

Looking straigt up at the Dome, Latrobe Reading Room, SLV 

This room, which houses the Library’s Australiana collection, is one of the most magnificent pieces of architecture in the city. I found it captivating, and couldn’t help but lean back in one of the original wooden swivel chairs to just look at the interior of the dome.

La Trobe Reading Room, SLV #4 

I was actually in the Library  on this occasion for the exhibition of Illuminated Manuscripts in the Keith Murdoch Gallery.

Sitting at this computer and typing, knowing that I can publish a post and make it available instantaneously to pretty much the entire world, puts into perspective the incredible work that went into hand-writing and illuminating books before the invention of the printing press, and how exclusive the groups must have been who had access to them. 

What an incredible thing it is that such fine examples of 14th and 15th century manuscripts still exist, and that we have some of them here in Australia. The exhibition is on until June 15th for those who are interested.

 

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