I invite you to visit also my literary blog: Journeys in Creative Writing where I post original fiction including short stories, poetry and 'Paternity', a full length mystery novel.

Saturday, 29 November 2008

Sydney Opera House and The Harbour

The Sydney Opera House can be mistaken for just any boat - depending on the angle of your view. Many types of craft move around her, adding to the impression.

In fact this beautiful building is situated on a small peninsular jutting into the harbour. The land is called Bennelong Point after one of the first Aborigines to become acquainted with the First Fleeters from Britain.

The point was originally the site of an Aboriginal midden or community gathering place and became one of the first areas from which this ancient race was dispossessed.

The surrounding precinct is one of my favourite parts of Sydney, my home town.

You can see Bennelong Point in this shot, as well as a trace of Mrs Macquarie's Chair and other parkland that extends quite a distance to take in the Sydney Botanical Gardens.

Large and very beautiful, Sydney has been a working harbour since the place was first settled by British people in 1788.

You could always count on seeing huge passenger and container ships, even warships, moving through the heads and past many of the harbourside suburbs.

There is about to be change however, with wharves soon to be abandoned and shipping moved to other ports. Right now there is much push and pull whether the sites will become parks or high rise.

I hope the greenies win!

Old restored and replica ships provide day trips for tourists and add to the colour of the harbour.

Of course visitors are everywhere. Here you can see the broad steps leading up to the Opera House proper.

It's as though the building is a giant set of monkey bars where visitors and locals climb and play - all over the site.

The Opera House is a real people place. Danish acrhitect Jorn Utzon did a remarkable job with this stunning creation.

Another icon, the Sydney Harbour Bridge, is a neighbour of the Opera House. As is this hotel that also carries maritime reminders.

I got confused with all of the angles in this shot - I can assure you that the tourists who stay at this resort do have level floors on which to walk! I think the result is fun anyway.

You can tour the bridge and climb high onto the arch for an astonishing view. Here you see tourists on their way aloft.

The bridge is a presence in many parts of the city. This is the northern end of George Street, I think the oldest thoroughfare in the city. Old wool stores in The Rocks area can be seen in the distance.

I'll take my bloggie mates on a tour of this area in the near future.

Nearby Circular Quay is another of my all time favourites. Here something is always happening.

Ferries dock and leave for suburbs in many areas of the harbour, buskers entertain and there is a constant flow of fascinating human beings.

This day was very grey and drizzling, but few let that bother them.

At first glimpse, this bright figure can be mistaken for a grandmother tending her littlies.

Hang around a little and we see that 'she' is a male busker - one of those who can stand stock still for astonishing periods. He waylaid a couple of little tourists (with parental permission) to take part in his show.

This news stand operator sees a lot of interesting sights every working day.

Captain Cook dropped in to say hello. He was promoting a cruise around the harbour.

Of course the Captain was the explorer who discovered eastern Australia for the British in 1770.

Only eight years later the government established the new colony as a gaol where they could get rid of their overflow of 'criminals', a large number of whom were transported for minor misdemeanours.

Many had stolen to survive and others were political prisoners. Others of course were murderers and villains through and through.

Coal miners were demonstrating about changes in their industry and came to the quay after a very large march through the city.

And then, of course, there were everyday Australian families enjoying themselves. These parents were tending their flock in a huddle that looked to me as though it could have belonged in a farm yard ...

These little guys enjoyed themselves so much they knocked themselves right out ...

Post Script: I have just learned that the architect of the Sydney Opera House Jorn Utzon today died in his sleep at his home in Denmark, aged 90.

Mr Utzon was involved in disputes with the New South Wales Government during construction of his wonderful building, and left the project in 1966, six years before it was completed. He never returned to Australia and never saw his work once it was finished. He always said he wasn't bitter about the experience.

In 1999, the Opera House invited Mr Utzon to prepare a statement of design principles for future changes to the building. Burying the troubles of the past, he agreed to work on the project as a consultant with his son and partner Jan.

In 2003, at the age of 85, Mr Utzon was recognised by his peers and awarded the prestigious Pritzker Prize, regarded as the Nobel Prize of architecture.

On the eve of the Sydney Opera House's 30th birthday in 2003, Mr Utzon sent a video message to Sydney expressing his gratitude at being involved in the new building developments.

"My gratitude is from the heart," he said. "Thank you very much for giving me permission to work again on the House."

“I have made a sculpture . . . you will never be finished with it – when you pass around it or see it against the sky . . . something new goes on all the time . . . together with the sun, the light and the clouds, it makes a living thing.”
- Jorn Utzon, 2002

What is the favourite part of your home town? Can you share the memories with us? Just leave a comment ...

And don't forget the latest episode of my novel 'Paternity' on Journeys in Creative Writing! It's an Outback Australian story of a city journalist trying to find her father ...

Saturday, 22 November 2008

Sydney - My Home Town

I love to visit Sydney where I was born, and taking pictures is always part of the scene. I thought you may like to see some that I took on recent jaunts ... They are not iconic Sydney, but more unusual angles and happenings. These particular shots are mostly in the bustling CBD with its shops and offices.

Enticing window displays are everywhere ...

As are flowers, captured in troughs and pots to soften the landscape.

My daughter Lynne and I made this trip together and here she is casting her designer's eye over the plants.

Somehow the plants survive the traffic fumes.

As does this gentleman taking a rest in the middle of it all.
It's probably safer for him to sleep in the middle of the day rather than at night ...

Bright colour dots the grey ...

I like the angles and curves in this one.

And the Victorian glamour of the magnificent State Theatre. It still shows movies but the organ that accompanied the films for years has disappeared. This is just a glimpse of the street foyer.

We walked our legs off that day, did a little shopping and then shouted ourselves a meal at the fish markets. Here you can choose the greatest freshest sea food, ponder how it will be prepared and eat it there and then sitting on the wharves.

What dish would choose? Or would more shopping be your thing?

Friday, 21 November 2008

The Aussie Barbecue - a Phenomenon

How about this barbecue cook top arrangement as a pointer to an orderly mind?

I spied a brawny Aussie bloke cooking his snags and eggs on a barbecue down at my closest beach a few weeks ago ...

Fair dinkum, no prompting and no joke. This was his modus operandi!

There he was, out in public view alongside sun-drenched families enjoying themselves, creating an art form.

No egg rings for him - sausages filled the bill, capturing the oozing eggs before they got caught up in the onion rings alongside on the hot plate.

I have no idea who he was, but he was only too happy when I asked him if I could snap his creation. He was proud of it.

Barbecues are big deal in Australia, and come in many forms. Paul Hogan invaded the US of A TV advertising a few years ago trying to persuade the good residents to come to our shores where they'd be sure to be invited to 'throw a prawn on the barbie'.

Truth be told, sausages, eggs, chops and steak are much more likely fair in the Wide Brown Land. Accompanied by a big salad tossed in a bowl.

I caught this man and his son cooking their own version on the council barbecue next door to The Orderly One's Art Work.

His technique is far more typical - with its bacon onions and tomatoes arranged anyhow.

Many Australian beaches are dotted with permanent barbecue facilities stocked with gas that are available for free. We can be confident of being able to roll up with just the makings of a meal and get cooking in no time.

The cook tops are always spotless - cleaned and polished daily by council employees. And there are generally benches and seats nearby to spread the repast.

It's OKAY for Aussie blokes to cook in public. In fact it's a BADGE OF COURAGE.

A barbecue is often about the only time Australian women get to put their feet up when entertaining is happening in our families. Although it's dangerous to generalise!

Home barbecues tend often to be more flash, with families and friends summonsed to quite an elaborate feast set up in the garden or around the pool.

Cooking tops themselves can range from a simple Japanese style grill to a steel plate that can get a might rusty, to stainless jet numbers with built in ovens, grills, plates - you name it.

The best fun, so far as I'm concerned, is the meal that you simply stand back and throw - and if the snags are burned around the edges, who's going to notice under the tomato sauce?

Do you have something equivalent to the Aussie barbecue in your home town? I'd really like to know. Tell me in a comment ...

By the way everyone - I've just posted the third episode of my Aussie mystery novel on Journeys in Creative Writing - drop over after you comment here eh?

Monday, 17 November 2008

The Joys of a Hip High Veggie Garden

You can't beat a backyard veggie garden when it comes to providing nutritious food for the family and saving money at the same time.

I have a tiny traditional height garden but I'm still able to produce sufficient veggies to save myself dollars every week.

One of my favourite parts of the day is when I wander into the garden in the evening to pluck beans, salad or herbs to add zing to my evening meal.

More and more people around the seaside towns of the Northern Rivers region of NSW are doing the same thing. I think the whole world should catch this beneficial disease!

In the past two years there has been increasing interest in the hip high veggie gardens displayed at the local garden centre owned by my daughter and son-in-law John (pictured at top).

Bloggie friends have been asking me about the gardens since I included this pic in a post a couple of weeks ago.

They not only grow great food but elderly people and even those confined to wheel chairs can still tend their own home gardens with one of these beauties.

Just imagine - no more bad backs and no more bending over to weed.

Today I'll explain how to get one going for yourself.

Lynne and John tell me that although they have had great success with their Aussie corrugated iron versions, it's fine to build your own with old railway sleepers or concrete for instance.

John suggests half filling the hip high beds with around a cubic metre of drainage gravel, topped with good quality organic garden soil.

He recommends separating these two layers with permeable shade cloth to prevent the soil sinking into the gravel but allowing the passage of moisture.

After that lace the top with plenty of organic composted manures and all round fertiliser.

Then it's a matter of choosing a variety of vegetable seedlings and you're away!

This little setup can keep you in veggies for years if you top up the compost and fertilisers now and then and rotate the types of plants in each spot.

These days horticulturists realise that most plants love living closely cheek by jowl, and that this prevents the growth of weeds as well. Gone are the days of ordered rows ...

You'll be surprised how much can be grown in a small space. And there's no need to stop at veggies.

Plant a fruit tree instead of an ornamental shrub and you'll win every time!

Are people growing more food in their gardens where you live? Have you ever had a veggie garden?

And by the way if you enjoy a rip roaring yarn with a fair sprinkling of Australiana - have a look at Journeys in Creative Writing my literary blog. I'm serialising my novel called Paternity and it's free viewing!

Wednesday, 12 November 2008

Family History and World War I

My great uncle joined the 4th Battalion of the Australian Infantry Force in 1916 at the age of 18 years 10 months.

He signed up for an adventure and died on the Western Front battlefields of the Somme, in France, on July 9 1918, just four months before the guns of World War I fell silent. His body was never found.

Here he is pictured just before embarking for Europe. The boy is my father James.

It is estimated that 59,000 Australians died during the war. Of the 330,000 of my nation's youth who were mobilized for service it is thought 152,000 were injured. That adds up to 64 per cent who were seriously affected.

The entire Australian population of the time was just five million.

This week the world is commemorating the 90th anniversary of the official conclusion of the horrors of that war.

Generations later, to the very many families so intimately involved, those horrors remain in memory.

Robert Hamilton Saville - Bob to adults in his family and 'Bobo' to his nieces and nephews - was the apple of our family's collective eye. Indeed, my father named his only son (and my brother) after him.

Five years after his death his mother Jessie described her existence as 'a living agony'. She said this in a letter to the Australia armed forces pleading for information about her son.

The letters she wrote over many years, always seeking news of Bob, sketch in graphic fashion the horrors faced by loved ones because of war.

This is Robert Hamilton Saville's mother Jessie in happier times.

And the letter below is one of many similar ones which my brother Bob recently discovered in the records of the Australian War Memorial in Canberra.

Actually, so far as Bob was concerned, the army tried hard to get information for Jessie, including interviewing soldiers in Bob's unit.

There was so much confusion on those battlefields, with shocking battles being fought time and again over the one small piece of ground. Bodies were often blown to pieces and were buried where they lay, by falling earth and rocks.

One soldier recounted how he saw Bobbie Saville 'killed near me by bomb or bullet at Merris about midnight during a hop over just before reaching our objective. He died instantly.'

Another said that Bob had been buried where he lay, by members of his own platoon. 'The ground was held' he added, in seeming satisfaction.

A Lance Corporal testified that he had also seen Bob killed - 'with a bomb'. 'On the way back I examined Saville and found him quite dead. He was buried later on. I knew him quite well.'

A Private said he had seen Bob killed outright by machine gun fire, and had seen him lying dead on the ground soon afterwards.

An officer added: 'According to informant Saville was well thought of by his mates.'

Jessie had nine children all together, including three sons and a daughter who all died within a year of birth. Obviously she prized every one of them.

But it seemed that her gravest sorrow was not knowing exactly what had happened to Bob, or where he lay. On the other hand, she may never have received these eye witness accounts. I wouldn't know.

During World War I Jessie and the family also worried about Bob's brother Herbert Nathaniel (above) who made it the the end of the war in the same battalion. This portrait depicts him five months after the official ending.

Some time afterwards Jessie also wrote letters seeking to know what had happened to her brother William, who fought in Europe as well. Records tell us that he returned, but I understand that Jessie herself never find out.

This is a form Bob filled in to enlist. The crossings-out and alterations are changes made whenever Jessie contacted the army from a new address - she moved around a lot.

Jessie never wanted Robert Hamilton to go to war, and did what she could to prevent it happening.

When Bob was 18 years and four months old and his mother was away in Queensland he enlisted without parental consent. Jessie found out and wrote to the army saying she absolutely refused her son permission to join up.

Bob had been training for two months and the army was obliged to discharge him 'at his mother's request'. By this time the Gallipoli campaign was in full swing.

It seems Bob was determined to serve and finally both his parents agreed to him joining up again only four months after he was released.

His new enlistment form stated that Bob was but 5 feet 4 inches tall, weighed 130 pounds, with a 32 inch chest expanding to 35.5 inches. He had a 'fresh' complexion, brown eyes and light brown hair.

Bob embarked on the 'Wiltshire' among reinforcements for France via England on August 22 1916. By this time the 4th Battalion had moved on from Turkey.

Herb Saville also joined the 4th Battalion in France and like so many of their mates the brothers protected those at home from much of the horror they were facing. This was especially the case, naturally, where children were involved.

On March 22 1917 Herb wrote a letter to his niece Edie who was nine at the time. It's a lovely, gentle letter.

Edie was one of the sisters of my father Jim who was then aged eight. Here they are pictured around the time.

Edie also received a letter from Uncle Bobo:

Bob spent some time in hospital in France and England with scabies and dermatitis (no wonder in the conditions) and also served as a batman to Captain R.A. McAlpine MC at the training school at Aldershot in England before being shipped back to the Western Front.

It is such a waste that fine people are drawn into such horrors. The sooner wars of all varieties are ended forever, the better.

How do you feel about war and the effect they have on families? Do you have similar stories?

Sunday, 9 November 2008

Inspiration and Tranquility in this Garden Centre

It's amazing how a space can feel tranquil even though traffic roars on an artierial road only metres over the fence.

That's the experience many customers speak about at my daughter and son-in-law's business, Endless Summer Garden Centre at Tweed Heads on the North Coast of New South Wales in Australia.

Many come to the small garden centre simply to 'chill out' or wander around gathering ideas for their own gardens. A while back a merchant seaman used to come regularly to sit by the centre ponds with their tinkling water features, relaxing after six months at sea.

Lynne and her husband John and staff arrange the garden centre into small 'rooms' which act as a type of demonstration for home gardeners.

These are miniature gardens in their own right, often complete with garden art, plants, paths, pots and other features.

Here Lynne is speaking to a customer about a garden problem, perhaps likely ideas for a design, how to combat a pest or disease, or adjust the pH of her soil.

Lynne and John and their staff also offer home consultations, full computerised tailor made garden designs and landscaping.

A few years ago they won the national industry title for the year in their size category, bringing fame and visitors from all over Australia.

They have always advocated sustainable environmental techniques, encouraging their clients to avoid chemicals as much as possible, and to establish their own productive gardens.

There are many frogs, lizards and other small wild life among the plants.

Here's John giving some TLC to some of his plants.

This demonstration high rise garden bed is extremely popular, always filled with veggies and we often see visitors trying out a bean or a radish as they pass by.

These beds make veggie growing so easy, avoiding back aches for all ages. They are for sale.

Lynne is very artistic and takes great care to source stock that other retailers do not sell in her area.

The centre displays really inspire ...

People come to the garden centre to choose gifts throughout the year. This is one view of the small gift shoppe.

There are always elements of fun in the place. Wander around a corner to an unexpected meeting with this designer garden gnome, called Ben Doone for obvious reasons!

These display bicycles may be stocked with the latest spring flowers ...

The international judge called the garden centre 'an excellent example of how to display a large stock in a small space'. You can see why ...

I very much enjoy visiting this little garden gem myself!