24th Nov – A beautiful dark-haired girl in a brief flowery skirt and briefer white t-shirt was scooping raspberry ice cream while I waited for her to serve me; my eyes were fixed on her scooping arm and its six inch high tattoo of a skull and crossbones.
25th Nov – A very unusual day. Went to Sydney to meet a German couple who have been my penpals for a couple of years.
We sat on the grass for a while in the cool of the afternoon, which for my German friends was unusual. Where they live, it is forbidden.
Next to us was this work of art by Fiona Hall, A Folly for Mrs Macquarie. Mrs Macquarie was the wife of Lachlan Macquarie, an Australian governor from 1810 to 1821. On his tomb is written “Father of Australia”.
At the apex of the quasi-Gothic folly is the raised arm and clasped dagger of the Macquarie crest. The barbed wire is a symbol of the white man’s act of dividing the land. The axe and scythe represent implements brought to Sydney by the First Fleet for clearing land for farming.
The ceiling is decorated with sculptures of bones from native animals that once lived in this part of Sydney; see below:
26th Nov – My dog was so excited when we returned from Sydney that he tore around a corner, spun out and blew a leg. Now he walks on three. It’s permanent. 🙁
27th Nov – Learnt from a radio program that one muscle exists only for smiling, the zygomaticus major. It draws the angle of the mouth superiorly and posteriorly. 🙂
28th Nov – In the library, a pudgy, sweaty guy sprayed himself with deodorant around his neck, down the front of his shirt and over his head.
19th Nov – Spoke to a new migrant to Canberra, Australia’s capital, who ardently believes the capital should be on the coast. His opinion shows the movement of priorities for Westerners: in 1908 the inland capital site was chosen for its fertility and adequate water supply, but in 2012 the pleasure of seaside living is more important.
20th Nov – Tried on shoes in a shop but they were too tight. Was given a stocking and told the shoes would feel looser with it on. If I add a layer, won’t the shoes be tighter? No, as it turns out, they did indeed stop pinching. Did the stocking elastic push my foot flesh up my ankle?
21st Nov – The bathroom ceiling, painted a few months ago with unsuitable paint, is peeling in white flakes that float down before my face as I clean my teeth.
22nd Nov – I teach a few continental Europeans who tell me stories of very effectively demanding and receiving money they are owed. They like the statement, ‘This is not negotiable.’
23rd Nov – Made a hot chocolate from a product which recommends organic non-dairy milk alternative. But I used chemical, antibiotic and hormone-infused non-organic dairy milk. Full cream.
But since my source of photos is from Egypt, an ancient country where rain falls little and seldom, I thought of the two photos here below that show ingenious methods of sustaining life in a dry land. During the Hellenistic era (333 – 30 BC) two technological devices were invented to transfer water to farmlands from the Nile or from underground wells fed by the Nile. The first photo is of a saqiya or Persian water-wheel, a machine which freed up human labour for tasks other than manually carrying buckets of water from the Nile to the crops, or lifting buckets of water from the river and pouring it into a channel. The saqiya uses animal power: bullocks, buffalo, donkeys, camels or cows, which tread circles around the horizontal wheel, turning the vertical wheel connected to the clay-pot laden wheel. The pots are positioned on a set of ropes so they tilt forward when they rise out of the well and empty into a trough before descending into the well to fill again.
Thousands of saqiyas are still in use today in Egypt.
In the second photo, a device called a tambour, or Archimedes Screw, consists of a large tube inside which a spiral chamber turns and scoops up water when rotated by a handle. The water travels up the length of the screw chamber and is poured out the top of the tube into irrigation channels. Its inventor, Archimedes, is said to have been the first to use the water screw, in 230 BC. This technology is now rare in Egypt but is still used for irrigation in other parts of the world.
14th Nov – Someone from the Ancestry site sent me an obituary of my great-grandfather. The phrase ‘engaged in suppressing the slave trade’ leapt off the page. It’s given me hope.
15th Nov – In a car park, a young African immigrant was trying a car door and peering in the window. Then he walked over to another car as I watched suspiciously. I heard an electronic beep and he opened the door of a car identical to the first one he’d tried to unlock.
16th Nov – A very butch butcher, tattooed and pierced, prickly asymmetrical haircut, a woman in men’s clothes, sold me some meat and asked for my shopping bag to put it in. Taking my small orange carry bag, she squealed “Oh that’s such a cute bag! So cute!” as only a girl can.
17th Nov – A chicken pizza recipe found quickly online included no pizza base in its ingredients. Instead, chicken breasts are pounded flat and round until they resemble a base, on which you put all the toppings. Pffft. As if that’s a pizza.
18th Nov – My son lost his mobile phone last night and today the city police station called to say someone had handed it in.
The green moss on this rock brought out the amateur photographer in me. Outdoor workers call it high-visibility green and wear vests of this colour, all the better for us to see them with, but it doesn’t make them as pretty as these rocks by the sea on the south coast of New South Wales.
In 1940, when Libya was still an Italian colony, this frontier fort on the Libyan-Egyptian border was bombarded into the pitiful state you see in the photo below. In 1940 and 1941, Fort Capuzzo changed hands seven times back and forth between the allied and axis forces, finally falling to New Zealand troops who captured it for the last time in November 1941.
In the little grotto, a statue of Mary survived the beatings. Whether the photographer was Catholic or not, he evidently found her survival mysterious, hard to explain. So do I.
9th Nov – Accidentally gave my dog three lamb chops I’d bought for dinner. For us.
10th Nov – A penpal from Germany phoned me today from Central Australia. Our first conversation after two years of handwritten letters.
11th Nov – When I give a student the writing prompt, “Heaven is like this…”, I often doubt we could imagine it. Earlier this evening, in the garden lit by filtered sunset and perfumed by jasmine and roses, the street beyond quiet, all neighbours and dogs at peace, I imagined it.
12th Nov – Making up a bed, I threw a clean fitted sheet over the mattress, and a small bird’s nest fell out of one of the elasticised corners.
13th Nov – Hands are constantly visible when tutoring. I notice nails growing, each day a fraction longer.
I, too, found a photo of something soft in a hard place.
Finding a soft thing in a blokey shed is rare. When we found this possum curled up on top of an old wardrobe cum tool cupboard, we tempted him with his favourite food, fruit, and he kindly sat up and took the piece of apple for our photographic benefit. My husband took this excellent shot.
I have to confess that though his fur looks soft, I can’t confirm it. Possums are vicious; it’s wise to put the piece of fruit in front of the cute ball of fur and quickly withdraw your hand.
Another photo from my father’s World War 2 album: it’s not a sharp image, but it’s about renewal, and that’s what matters.
During the presence of Australian troops in Egypt, house boats on the River Nile were used for officers convalescing or on leave. Earlier this year I posted a photo of Shepheard’s Hotel in Cairo where officers also spent time relaxing and renewing their spirits. On the same theme, Dad wrote a poem about time-out for officers and privates, called Seven Days’ Leave, a few verses of which I posted here.
4th Nov – Heard recently that Jack London’s books are great to read when learning to write fiction. I wouldn’t have picked him for inspiration. But today, my husband and I were reading White Fang aloud and I was all ears listening to London’s masterful use of short, active, common words. Here’s a pretty good paragraph:
5th Nov – Three and a half years ago I applied for work with a tutoring company. This week they’ve offered me a temporary job.
6th Nov – A strange building, a strange lift, a stranger, mop in one hand, cleaning bucket in the other. As we moved from the 5th floor to the ground she established from my basket of teaching materials that I could help her son learn to read, and took my number.
7th Nov – Every week for the past six months, my neighbour has put a vase of fresh flowers in her kitchen window (which is happily opposite my own). She’s trying to sell her house, but hasn’t. It seems buyers aren’t swayed by flowers.
8th Nov – In two shops this morning, Norah Jones was singing Come away with me. Must be the ultimate music for relaxing a shopper’s grip on her purse.