Make Art, Not War

Federal Election time in Australia. Meh. We don’t even have a reality TV moron to spice things up – we just have politicians. The real problem is that the two major parties are starting to look worryingly like each other as well. I’m sick of the pathetic knee-jerk slogans – stop the boats, back to basics : the latter always used in educational matters, as if any of these idiots even know what the basics are. Not since Whitlam have the arts even been regarded as fundamental in education. As soon as the conseravtives took over, waving slates and chalk and chanting “back to basics!” the arts have been shoved in a corner, becoming more and more the refugees of Australian culture, thrown  scraps and set adrift in leaky boats. Yet those in the arts retain their grip on our senses, with music, books, art, films and other brave sttempts to remind who we truly are. Imagine what they could do in a society that realises how lucky it is to have them?

But this election year, there is a small glimmer of hope. It’s cslled The Arts Party and it wants your vote to triple funding for the arts and make Big Corp pay up to chnnel more money into our cultural renaissence. It even has a poet in residence composing haiku.

Want one million votes

For the balance of power

Wear an Arts T-Shirt

OK, it sounds more like an ad than poetry but all artists have a sense of  humour that can’t be kept down. And that’s what we need. More art, more humour, more music, more books, more films – more encouragment and a better environment for Australians who want to make art, not war.

You’ll find the Arts Party here I hope they get their million votes, and more, because that is one way to tell these politicians that It’s Time.

 

200th Birthday of the Royal Botanic Gardens, Sydney

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This year the grand old dame of Sydney, the Royal Botanic Gardens, celebrates her 200th birthday. Spent the day there recently with Jack and Lucia and had a fabulous time. The gardens always manage to look good, and there were some cool new things to see.

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One thing that never changes is the view – just glorious, in spite of the loud house music emnating from one of the boats. Couldn’t they have picked something decent?

 

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The Wollemi Pine has grown into a mgnificent specimen, straight out of Jurassic Park. Discovered in the Blue Mountains in New South Wales in 1994, the wollemi dates back 116 million years – a living fossil. It’s quite awe inspiring to gaze on something that existed with dinosaurs. Now I know how Dr Alan Grant felt!

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The Cactus Garden is quite specyacular but the most terrifying exhibits (possibly not even intended) were these guys, dripping off almost every plant.

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Something new, and stunning, is Wurrungwuri, a pair of sculptures by Chris Booth, This one is made from 16,000 white pebbles that look like eggs stacked together. The sculptures are intended to encouraged habitation by wild flora and fauna. This one has habitation for bats.

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Happy birthday! Who knows what will be discovered and created in another 100 years.

In Remembrance ANZAC Day 2016

I write this in remembrance of the men (and today, the women) who suffered in war, who witnessed unimaginable horrors and carried images and sounds of human terror for the rest of their lives. I write it also in absolution, in forgiveness for them and for us, their children and grandchildren who carry their agony in our genes. My father tried many times to explain this, that what we suffer makes us what we are and only now do I really understand. We must never lose our hope and our compassion.

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ANZAC Day is the reason we emigrated to Australia as a family of three in 1969. Thirty years after the start of WWII, when my father joined the British Army, he realised his dream of becoming an Australian. He had served in the desert campaign under Montgomery, and during that time had been introduced to the ANZACs, particularly the Australian contingent, with whom he formed close bonds. These were men after his own heart, with a healthy disrepect for authority, and stories to tell of a wide brown land where a man could feel completely free. Well, it wasn’t quite like that when he got here, but the horizon was further away, the skies impossibly more blue and it already felt like home because the friends he had made had not forgotten him. (They only asked that he not tell their wives about thir antics in the war.)

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That wasn’t hard to understand – he carried this picture of my  mother through the war, and the only time he told her about a woman he had met – a destitute widow and mother in Holland, whom he helped with money and rations and who taught him to make Dutch coffee – she was a bit miffed at first, until she learned how deep the pain and suffering of the innocents in war had cut into his soul – and that woman, I am sure, remembered him with deepest gratitude.

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This is one of the pictures he sent back, of some enormous vehicle that he was in charge of driving cross the desert. Yes, it’s a boat. I have no idea why.

ANZAC Day is a day of remembering, and for me, of remembering that it brought us here 47 years ago, the memories of those brave and daring men who made my father fall in love with a country he had never seen and whose dreams of a wide brown land stayed with him long after the war had ended.

A Place in the Country

While staying in Sydney with Jack Perry and my daughter Chi, of the rock band A Girl’s a Gun, I accompanied them to a gig at Laguna in the Hunter Valley – well, just outide it, as this small hamlet is known as the Gateway to the Hunter Valley. Our destination was the Great Northern Trading Post, an eclectic assemblage of amazing old buildings and antiques where good food, good wine and good music are the order of the day. But the first thing you notice is the view…

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And after that, the Mad Max wildlife…

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When they are not rocking the Sydney music scene with their band, Jack and Chi play gigs like this as a duo where their repertoire of blues, soul, jazz and rock suits the ambience.

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While they played and sang, I wandered about and found some things just begging to be photographed – like this overgrown whatsit that reminded me of the krynoid from Doctor Who. In fact it concealed a far more mundane secret. It’s the public toilet.

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The room where Jack and Chi played had wonderful views from this airy little balcony, where I caught them relaxing between sets.

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It was the most atmospheric, peaceful room, full of glorious little vignettes like this desk…

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…and this window….

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These ‘Kraken’ bottles seem to be quite a feature of the GNTP. They remind me of Captain Jack Sparrow, but that’s water, not rum.

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I loved this antique (vintage?) pram sitting in state on its pedestal, just one of the quirky little vignettes dotted about the place – honestly, it’s just like a box of story prompts.

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Mismatched windows and panes of glass like boiled lollies – everything offered itself as a work of art. In every way, a most enchanting day.

Learm more about the Great Northern Trading Post here.

 

Autumn in Australia…

…is still darned hot, leading one to hope that a long Indian summer means a long winter in which to get over it. But in an area where there are deciduous trees, Autumn is still a beautiful sight.

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Deciduous trees are usually found in botanical parks and higher locations here in Queensland but with the warmth of the Autumn sun pouring through the leaves they take on an unearthly fiery transparency. This maple grows in Queens Park, Ipswich.

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Queens Park is also home to this Japanese maple, which looks a bit caramelly and good to eat.

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The Chinese Gardens in Sydney is always filled with Austumn glory after Summer has gone. This is the lake in the middle of the gardens where you can find Dragon Rock.

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This pretty vista is at the University of Queensland’s Japanese Garden in Toowoomba. Designed by Professor Kinsaku Nakane of Kyoto, it is a serene and beautiful place, and naturally, in Autumn, a feast for the eyes.

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One of the great things about cooler weather is being able to light fires again – well, perhaps not just yet, but always around my birthday, which is in winter. I can do the old campfire thing, making billy tea and roasting corn and potatoes in the embers. Can’t wait!

 

The Connectedness of All Things

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When I listened to A Girl’s A Gun (my daught Lucia and her partner Jack) perform Me and Bobby Mcgee recently, it was bittersweet – a song I’ve always loved, done so well, in a beautiful setting, but one that always reminds of the people I lost along the way. It’s a Traveller’s song, from the busted flat and looking for a ride, to the giving of all your tomorrows for just one yesterday in some place with someone long gone.

But then, as is sometimes the way with these things, a whole lot of other things started coming together – I watched Man on Wire with Jack and Lucia, the film of Phillipe Petit’s walk on a wire strung between the Twin Towers in 1974, and I heard the melody La Strada playing in my head. Petit reminded me of the romantic young aerialists  I met as a young girl travelling with the circus – especially one of the Renz troupe who joined us briefly in Spain. His reputation as a daredevil had proceeded him, and we gathered to watch the fabled opening of his act, when he walked up one of the long guy wires that anchored his high wire to the ground. It was superb, something we had never seen before, and the music of La Strada swelled all around us. My friend told me the music was from a Fellini film of the same name – “You must see it,” she said. “It’s about us, circus people, travelling people – it made me cry.” So did I, when I saw it.

The strongman, played by Anthony Quinn, cries too at the end, when he realises he has let slip away the greatest treasure of his life, like the singer of Me and Bobby Mcgee. In the coincidental way of things, I then came across an interview with Kris Kristopherson, explaining how he came to write the song. He wrote the song about a woman called Bobby who sang the blues, and he said that he thought of La Strada when he was writing it, and how the strongman ends up “howling at the stars on the beach’ girl he let slip away. Later, of course, Janis Joplin recorded it and any connection with La Strada faded away. But it became a classic song that meant so much to Travellers like me.

All of these little threads came together in a six degrees kind of way, weaving everything into the fabric of my life, and telling me the story of how none of the people we have loved are really lost, they remain in our hearts and in the music of our memories forever. Everything is connected.