Wednesday, October 31, 2007

An elderly artist Margaret Olley

from w
Known for her brightly painted small works, Margaret Olley perhaps sees time ticking away as she is now 84, she is now painting a three piece large work of her own studio. It is a work in progress but will be displayed in Brisbane at the Philip Bacon Galleries. She says, 'It's (Painting is) not for the money. It's when you walk in and you see the paintings on the wall for the first time, away from where you've been painting. That's where it's a learning curve. It's like seeing them for the first time.'
Credits: This photograph was taken by Brendan Esposito and published in today's Age newspaper.

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Optimism in the face of drought

from w
Nullawil is a tiny wheat-growing town halfway between Hopetoun where we lived for six years and my hometown Swan Hill. The drought has been on-going for years and most farmers are not going to strip the harvest at all this year. But as Ron Pollington said, 'I say if you're getting three feeds a day and half a bed at night and the bank manager is not at your door and if you've got your health, you're doing all right.' How's that for optimism.

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Friday, October 26, 2007

The House for Mr Biswas, an old book

from w
On Tuesday morning I was sorting boxes of books for Rotary Donation in Kind to send to Pacific primary and secondary schols. I came across a book which brought back many memories - House for Mr Biswas by V S Naipaul whose books I have really found interesting over the years. It was a book with comedy and pathos and one of his earliest. A man from Trinidad, the author certainly reminded me of the Indian people of Fiji. In Fiji there is Brij Lal, Satendra Nandan, Subramani, but Naipaul still stands out as one of the best post-colonial writers of Indian heritage.

An apparently grumpy man, Naipaul was supposed to be a special guest at a Melbourne Writers’ Festival one year and I was really looking forward to seeing him. However he reneged for some reason. I liked his books, the first I read being ‘House for Mr Biswas’ which I found about the time I went to Fiji so there were many similarities with people I met there. Some of his books are:
• HALF A LIFE, 2001

Another occasionally grumpy writer is Paul Theroux who was once a friend of Naipaul. He wrote Sir Vidia's Shadow (1998) an angry and unforgiving book after Naipaul slighted him. Theroux considered earlier the older writer as his mentor but the friendship ended in breakup, which Theroux sealed with his bitter accusations. "I had admired his talent. After a while I admired nothing else. Finally I began to wonder about his talent, seriously to wonder, and doubted it when I found myself skipping pages in his more recent books.’

What reminded me of this book today was the sound of the electric saw in the back yard as Peceli cuts a hole into the wall of a building - a garage large enough to house two cars but only ever used for storeage etc. He is renovating, putting in a ceiling, masonite inner walls, painting, and now putting in a window. The guy next door is probably on night shift with a note on his back door 'Do not disturb'. Anyway it is 1 p.m. so shrieking, grinding, sawing noises in the neighbourhood are surely allowed.

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Three Fiji drawings

from w
Some sketches from a time I was in Fiji - a policeman, a Polynesian dancer, and a man blowing a davui.


Thursday, October 25, 2007

Writers at the Geelong Gallery

from w
The newspaper got a few things wrong in the page of pics about our gig at the Art Gallery. We had adjourned to Three Towers bar afterwards. I read my story 'The Babel Tower' there and we had eleven other readers and an audience of about 100.


Monday, October 22, 2007


from w
Yesterday I bought a pretty $1 greeting card of butterflies when I was on my way to an Art Gallery/Readings gig. Then I played around with it using Photo-edit on my other computer. I still have to do some decent drawings of Bebe the butterfly for the children's book/Christmas present.


Saturday, October 20, 2007

early Geelong paintings

from w
Tidying up old files of cuttings, I came across a Geelong Advertiser that printed three photos of early Geelong paintings: Eugene Von Guerard's 'Barwon River' 1854, Alexander Webb's 'Yarra Street', 1872, and William Tibbits' 'Geelong', 1874 of Eastern Beach. All very different from now. Though I wouldn't want to go back to the time before electricity, running water, cars, computers, I think we can do without the over-development that is going on in the vicinity of Yarra Street today with huge multinationals building even more shops, malls, supermarkets and a bridge over the road blocking the view of the bay. Our protests were in vain.


Friday, October 19, 2007

Reading the papers on a Saturday morning

from w
A typical Saturday morning means reading the Geelong Advertiser and the Age. I don't buy newspapers other days except the Thursday Age for the Green Guide (TV and radio). Immediately I throw out the sections on cars and property though sometimes a picture catches any attention.

Then the business section gets ditched - except for an occasional read of an obituary - yes, they are interesting at times - everyone has a journey and a story.

The Advertiser doesn't take much time to read, except to find references to people I know - e.g. the writer Graeme Kinross-Smith who launched his novel entitled Long Afternoon of the World which promises to be an interesting read.

Local politics - well I usually give that a miss though this week it IS interesting. In the electorate where I am a swinging voter (Green or Labour at the present) our friend Gavin O'Connor the Labour man who is a career politician and has over the years been passionate about justice for people, multiculturalism, peace, cleaning up local councils of corruption - has announced he will stand as an independent!
Way to go Gavin. Through branch stacking I think, some other guy got the pre-selection. Now there is a quandary. Do you vote for a party or for a decent man or woman? It will be an interesting outcome. I like the idea of independents who can use a conscience vote and not be dominated by party bosses. Of course if I lived in a country town I would vote 'little' Liberal because the man or woman there needs to be passionate about country living.

Then there's the local titbits in the papers such as the fact that the Geelong Show is on - hence there is the pic of blushing dressed ducks at the show. Vying for Miss Geelong? Gavin was on page 35, the ducks on the front cover. Way to go Addie, get your priorities right. Hmmm.

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Boring drawings

from w
Sometimes you feel good about drawing, other times you are just mucking about, drawing dull looking lines as you wait for someone to up their mobile account while you sit in the car near a boring wall, near a boring car or you draw a boring building site. This week was a mixture of tasks - cleaning up an office, going to a book launch in a renovated library - not my book!, the induction of a hospital chaplain where I walked up five lots of stairs because I got the shakes about going in a lift. I've taken on a three-hour office job now, mainly on a computer. And I went to a funeral in Melbourne after a panic about the starter motor not functioning on the car. They fixed it in two hours to enable us to go and it was freeway almost all the way so that was a plus. Meeting with cousins and folk I hadn't seen for many years was also a plus. However I'm tired this week.


Monday, October 15, 2007

Contemplating Jamberoo

from w

An informative website introduces the TV series and other related links are worth reading. I watched the first of the TV series on Sunday night with interest as the five women arrived and settled into the unique situation - slowly - and with discomfort - to the gruelling routine of Benedictine life at the Jamberoo Abbey of enclosed nuns. Sister Hilda however, who did the voice-over, and figured predominantly in their introduction, appeared to be a no-nonsense, tell-it-like-it-is, feisty nun. The visiting women were a disparate lot - each different with plenty of baggage to unload as they started periods of silence and order and gave away their mobiles, etc. It will be interesting to see how the Samoan/Australian girl gets on. She at least can surely sing!

I have wondered about days off and quietness and meditation and I value brief (20 minutes) times of reflection and unwinding. But as I watched the routine and discipline and order of Benedictine rules I got so annoyed. The music was monotonous, monocultural, and I longed to shake up the routine with some jazz, some Pacific Island gospel, multicultural stuff. Meals without speaking was a shock - well, there was a reader and the clatter of cutlery. If I went to such a place I would want to turn it upside down - get the women singing different songs, start painting, start writing, bring in lots of newspapers, the internet. Wear colourful clothes like in that funny movie about the couple who hide out with the Amish people. How can you pray about the world without knowing it?

Okay that's my rant for the day. I would never make a nun, for sure. I need the rhythm of life with variety and change and surprises. Maybe, that Sister Wendy is a bit of alright though - the one who waltzed throughout the European art galleries and got excited about paintings and their meanings.

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Sunday, October 14, 2007

drawings for the story "How the Turtle got her shell'

from w
Nearly finished the pictures for the children's story. These are to go with the part where the turtle tricks the old blind woman into releasing her. Many of the drawings are still rough and need to be reworked/coloured/altered as I need to make the colours and design on the turtle consistent! Anyway I hope a few little books will be ready before Christmas for the grandkids.


short story - The Babel Tower

fron w
Next Sunday afternoon twelve writers are reading poems, stories, responses to art work in a Print Exhibition at the Geelong Art Gallery. I'm one of them and will read a story I wrote these last few weeks in response to a sculptural piece called 'The Tower of Babel'. I got quite a way from the Biblical reference and just imagined the life of an elderly man who became agoraphobic. Each reading is supposed to be less than 5 minutes so I'm not sure if it's too long or not. I made a small sketch of the item I wrote about - changed the colours a bit.
The Babel Tower

The sand dunes rippled like fine merino fleece. Spinifex dotted the rises and a stand or two of mallee gums smudged the skyline like a Fred Williams painting. Sally-Ann dared not drive her car further into the sandy bowl where the strange tower rose. The Cortina was parked near a dried lake bed cracked and grey because of the drought. The building was cupped inside a valley so it couldn’t be seen until you were right upon it. Each storey entwined the one higher, like an ice cream cone. It was painted a sand colour almost as a disguise. In a trick of light she thought it was a house made of playing cards with its straight rectangles, although the details were not of queens and kings and jokers but of numerous narrow slits for windows as in picture books. The hum of electricity wires suggested the house still had power.

Arthur McBright, whom Sally-Ann had never met, had moved out here three decades ago so they'd told her at the Mirror Lakes Grand Hotel, one of those two storey country pubs with a decorative cast iron verandah all around. She had visited the country town because her mother had wanted to be buried ‘back home’.

Now Sally-Ann recalled those warnings about the grandfather.' 'Forget our side of the family. Don't bother to visit the old man. He won’t welcome you.. He lives out of town in the sand hills.'

When Sally-Ann had joked back, 'Building a house on sand, not on a rock?' her mother had been furious. 'Don’t thrust religion down my throat, Sally-Ann! My family's had far too much of that! ' Sally-Ann could still hear her mother's insistent shrill voice even though her mother was dead.

The funeral had taken place less than three hours earlier. The old man had not attended. When Sally-Ann had asked the funeral director, he had muttered something about the Tower of Babel then gave her complicated instructions on how to get to his ‘tower’ in the sand hills about 25 k from Mirror Lakes.

She had asked the barman about her grandfather.

‘He was very bright, sociable, until he started collecting history books.’

An older man, drinking at the bar had interrupted, ‘No, it was religion that got him. He was obsessed about finding God.’

Another man had said,. 'No, it was the opposite. He gave up on religion.’

The encroaching sand had silted up the main door of the tower but a stone pathway led around the side until saw a car garage so there must have been another track in. Apparently the Mercedes was rarely driven.

After Sally-Ann rattled an iron door knocker at a back entrance, a thin middle-aged woman opened the door. ‘And just who are you?' Three ginger and white cats performed circles around her ankles.

'Mr McBright’s grand-daughter. My Mum’s funeral was this morning. She is…was… Audrey.'

'Yeah, I know all about you and your mother. Kept yourselves away, didn’t you!'
‘Mum said we wouldn’t be welcome.'

'And neither you are, so go back to the city where you came from.' The woman slammed the door shut. The sand swished around as if seconding the words.

Sally-Ann stood away from the house and shouted out, 'Mr McBright! Mr McBright!’ She noticed movement from about four storeys up. Someone was looking down over a parapet. Sally-Ann waved her arms. ‘I’m your granddaughter.’

A few minutes later, the woman, presumably the housekeeper, opened the door. ‘He said to come in,’ she muttered through gritted teeth.’ She led the way as the rainbow coloured cats nearly tripped them both up. It was like climbing up a lighthouse. Sally-Ann pulled her digital camera from her backpack and took three shots looking upwards, entranced by the symmetrical spiral patterns.

The housekeeper unlocked a door and Sally-Ann found herself in a small gallery with several surrealist paintings, then the two women moved into a circular room with small pointed Gothic windows and a brocade wall-hanging of a medieval scene of Canterbury Tales pilgrims with horses and donkeys. Though there were three lights dangling from the ceiling the room was poorly lit. She barely could see the old man because he blended in with the beige covered straight back chair until he shifted his weight. So this thin man was her grandfather. He was dressed in a khaki overall and striped blue shirt and his socks were not matching. He wore no shoes at all.

The housekeeper stood there, hands on hips, the cats still around her feet. Then she hurried from the room and the cats swished away.

'I don’t know you!’ the man barked.

‘I’m Sally-Ann. I came up for Mum’s funeral. Audrey, your daughter. And you weren’t even there,' she accused.

‘ I heard she’d died.' He scowled. ‘She never came up to see me. Not since…'
‘Since when?’

'Never mind. Anyway, I suppose you want my money. Is that why you’ve come?'
'No, no. I’m not like that. I’m just… The people in the hotel said you have a lot of books and I’m…well, interested to know what kind…' Her voice dwindled..
‘You want to sell them then?'

"No, just have a look. I'm curious…'

He tried to stand up from the straight back chair,. He rocked three times but still could not get up. Sally-Ann took one arm and pulled until he stood up shakily. She looked around for a walking stick, found it and placed it into his hand.

'I’m a molly-duiker,’ he grumbed. ‘Wrong hand.’

‘Me too,’ said Sally-Ann brightly. ‘Must be in the genes.’

Did she sense a tiny smile?

Alright, come this way.' He had a set of keys on his belt and used them to unlock one door after another, as he shuffled along.

Sally-Anne felt claustrophobia kicking in; she wanted to see windows. After another key in a lock, a door swung open to reveal a huge library, wall-to-wall books except for narrow windows where late afternoon sunlight streamed in.

When Sally-Ann took out her digital camera, her grandfather frowned. ' Don’t take any of me. I barely have any teeth left.'

‘No, I’ll just take pictures of your books, your paintings, your cats, and the views from these unusual windows.' She framed pictures so that she could see the sand-dunes. The spinifex looked like bushes on fire. She took out her mobile phone, switched it on to reveal a photo of her son David, 'Grandpa, this is my son Dave. Mum wanted him named after her brother who apparently died when he was young..'
He seemed to pale, lost his balance, then steadied himself. 'Children only hurt you… Well, you’d better go now. It’s nearly sunset,' the old man muttered..

There’s not much babel going on here then, Sally-Ann decided.

Was the house of seven storeys going to turn into a pumpkin or something?

'You have to drive back. You might get lost. The road is not well marked.'

'That’s nothing. I drive every day to work in the city which is far more dangerous than a few kangaroos on the road.'

'It’s time for you to go, ' he insisted.

'Okay.' Should she kiss him goodbye? His glinting eye seemed to say – keep back. She hugged him anyway, bumping noses and kissing an ear.

He shoved four books into her hands and said, 'Take these.' They were dusty but one looked like a First Edition of Alice in Wonderland. He pointed to the exit door, but she knew there were more storeys below. A descending walkway wound all the way down to the lowest storey.

Now she could breathe easy. She snapped eight more photos which could be cropped and manipulated on her computer back in the city. Sally-Ann remembered something the barman had said. ‘Arthur McBright raged against God when the kid drowned and he blamed Audrey.’

Though the tower might come tumbling down one day or just disappear and go back to sand, there was no closure at her mother’s funeral after all.

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Saturday, October 13, 2007

Rotary Fundraising Auction

from w
Dinner parties and auctions are not exactly my scene because I want to chuck out stuff from the house instead of buying even more. I"d rather walk through a forest. However Peceli's Rotary Club of Grovedale put this on every year in a nice venue with chandeliers and flashing lights and marble in the bathroom. This year they sold about $14,000 of stuff. Things like a dog bath, a pressure hose for cleaning the car and cement (huh - there's a ban on water from outside taps!) Our table of nine people was full of chatter and a fair bit of wine. Food was fine and the table settings elegant. Peceli bid for a box of vegetables/eggs/pizza voucher/cocacola for $70 but somehow it turned out to be $100. Now we are swamped by cauliflowers, cabbages, and carrots. My Italian friend bid for a bear in a chair for her grand-daughter so I did a drawing of that, as well as the scene before me of mainly red wine.

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Thursday, October 11, 2007

Orchids reviving

from w
A spike of orchids looked like they were on the way out so I rescued them and put three flowers into water with a few red and green leaves I'd picked while strolling back from the shop. The dying orchids actually revived.


Monday, October 08, 2007

Playing with the mouse and photo-edit

from w
I'm tired of sorting junk and chucking out so have taken a 20 minute break to lay with the computer mouse and muck about with some of my drawings using photo-edit. Okay, okay, calm down, some of you don't like this at all! The original pics were drawings in the Youyangs, Fyansford, an shells, the latter part of a turtle story.

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Donkeys in Anakie

from w
This is part of a painting - it was too big to scan on my A4 size scanner so I cut off the donkey's feet.

While Peceli is busy renovating our garage to put in a ceiling etc. I've been chucking out old junk, going through boxes of bower-bird collections. I found a whole box of music - Abba, Seekers, 'We are the world', UB40, etc. so that's going back a bit. Christian song books of the 60s, 70s, Sydney Carter, some to throw out - and it's interesting which songs never made it past five or so years.. Dated words mainly. I found drawings and paintings that ought to be thrown out but...


View from Youyangs

from w
There is a picnic spot among large rocks at the Youyangs - a few hills that you see from the train from Geelong to Melbourne. This area overlooks the flat lands towards the sea. I was tidying a cupboard and found this watercolour painting that was made some time ago. We occasionally go to this spot for a bit of a walk and a picnic. It's a quiet place to get away from the noise and activity of the provincial city (though they do call Geelong 'sleepy hollow' at times!)

The picture here is altered a little from the original because I scanned it in as 'Illustration' rather than 'Photograph'. How the computer decides which parts to alter I do not know!

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Sunday, October 07, 2007

Pipes and drums at a wedding

frmo w
I found a crumpled page of sketches on the back of a page of music, almost lost in my shoulder bag - made at a recent wedding where Scottish drummers and a piper entertained the guests at a wedding. The evening consisted of various Scottish country dances and tables laden with food for about 250 guests. I dared not draw the whirling tartan skirts of the guys -especially the energetic groom. The shoes on the dancers and musicians intrigued me - they were soft looking black pumps like those of ballet dancers.


A cross, orchids and a bus-stop

from w
Some sketches mainly with coloured pencil are here as I try to tone down the bright colours I usually use. The new orchid is just opening and in a pot near our back door. The view from the Normanby Street bus-stop is ordinary but I had ten minutes to wait. The Altona Meadows Uniting Church looks like an aeroplane hangar and has oddly shaped windows, roof and ceilings and the placement of a cross, plotplants near a window caught my attention. This is one of the Melbourne churches where there is a Fijian congregation. I go there sometimes with Peceli. I did not draw this during worship, but later when the choir was practicing!

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Friday, October 05, 2007

Melbourne Welsh Male Choir

from w
This afternoon I went to St Mary's Basilica - the best venue in Geelong for a music program. The Melbourne Welsh Male Choir performed - with about fifty men. What an enchanting afternoon it was with their full voices - first tenor, second tenor, baritone and bass voices and a pianist on a grand piano almost dancing with her fingers and toes.

The program included Methodist hymns (of course), 'Men of Harlick', 'Danny Boy', songs from 'Oliver', 'Summertime', negro spirituals, 'New York, New York'. A soloist sang a few popular songs - I didn't catch his name, and of course he sang, 'I did it my way!'. I drew a sketch during 'Danny Boy'. Because of the huge crowd they were screening videos of the choir in action which was useful. This choir is going the London next year to sing in the Albert Hall. Yes, excellent.

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After a second storm - this old house

from w
A week or so ago I posted a sketch of a house four doors down which suffered during a storm. Another storm this week sent the old ti-tree tumbling - as well as a tall tree in their back yard which tipped a neighbour's house. The chainsaw man was in full swing yesterday. I was surprised by the reddish colour of the cut wood. I hope it will be used for carving rather than firewood.

I talked to the owners this morning because they were having a garage sale at the little old house. They told me it was about 150 years old, the earliest cottage in the area and they plan to do it up. It will look really sweet then. I did buy something too - for $3 a neat T-shirt with lots of bling kind of jewelry on it, so I'll wear it to the Mood Support Group book launch tomorrow afternoon.


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Monday, October 01, 2007

more drawings for turtle and butterfly story

from w
In blue biro this time. Some more drawings to match the story-line I posted September 19th and have posted some of the sketches since. Click on any pic to see it larger if you wish.

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