Weekly photo challenge: Sea

When I was 19 and foolish I went swimming alone in an unpatrolled sea.  A rip caught me and dragged me out of my depth, where waves dumped and submerged me three times. There was nothing beneath me but water.  The fourth wave dumped me on the shore.

These days there are instructive signs at beach entries.  Clearly, large numbers of beachgoers were not washed ashore as I was, were not given a second chance.  Now lifesavers are trying to warn and educate poor swimmers:

Instructions for battling a rip current, Jervis Bay, NSW
Instructions for battling a rip current, Jervis Bay, NSW

Since then I’ve respected the power of the sea and have retreated from its depths.  But I’ve learned a lot by observing it from the edge.

Near Sandy Point, NSW
Near Sandy Point, NSW

Weekly photo challenge: Focus

I practised focusing and unfocusing on my cup and my son who was sitting on the other side of a small café table today.

Dobinsons for lunch

He recently had his hair cut, but only some of it…

The long and short of it

He’s leaning over my new mobile phone trying to work out why I can’t receive photos on it.  Turns out not all phones are created equal.



Late one October afternoon, I was returning from the Louvre when an orchestra began to set up in the square I was passing through.  I stopped to see what they would play;  as they began Danse hongroise by Brahms I nearly floated with love for Paris.  And that was despite my swollen and aching feet;  moments before, I had been desperate to return to my apartment to take my shoes off.  (The Louvre is immense and I’d walked miles viewing its exhibits.)  But I didn’t want to forget these musicians playing me live classical music for the price of a coin donation, so I snapped them and responded eagerly to their proposal that I buy their CD of pieces by Brahms, Dvořák, Bizet and Albeniz.

The CD cover says simply “Classique Metropolitain” without naming the musicians.  Pity.  I’ve played it frequently since that day and never tire of it.  It’s particularly good when I’m translating, when I don’t want to hear the words of songs sung.

Impromptu orchestra, Paris
Impromptu orchestra, Paris

Ailsa proposed this travel theme of ‘Play’ after seeing some people play football waiting for a traffic jam to clear!  Take a look.


Ailsa’s travel photo challenge: Big

Think ‘big’.  Now think ‘Egypt’.  Perhaps you’re having visions of big protests in the streets, and as I’ve just heard five minutes ago on the evening news:  ‘Another day of rage and bloodshed’.

Perhaps you’re thinking of other big Egyptian things:  pyramids, massive pharaonic statues, or the sphinx.  But here’s something else that’s big in Egypt: the citadel in Cairo, a 12th-century fortification against the Crusaders, and the mosque on its summit built centuries later by Muhammad Ali between 1824 and 1848.

In 1801, Muhammad Ali was appointed by the Ottoman Sultan in Constantinople to be governor in Egypt.  But he had bigger plans.

In 1805 he began eliminating the Mamluks, his main competition, a warrior group who for centuries had worked for the Ottoman Empire and the Sultan.  In 1811, Muhammad Ali invited the Mamluk leaders to a ceremony in his palace in the citadel, and as they were leaving he had them massacred.  In the following days large numbers of Mamluks were killed in the city.  Years later, in 1824, he razed the Mamluk buildings in the citadel and in 1830 began building his mosque in the style of the Ottomans in Turkey.  The building, with its one main cupola, four smaller and four half-cupolas, resembles the Turkish Blue Mosque.  On his death in 1849 Muhammad Ali was buried under it.

Next to it in this photo is one of the Mamluk mosques that remained in the citadel, the Mosque of Mahmud Pasha built in 1567 in the Mamluk architectural tradition, with a pencil-shaped minaret characteristic of Ottoman mosques.

Muhammad Ali Mosque and Mosque of Mahmud Pasha on the Citadel, Cairo
Muhammad Ali Mosque and Mosque of Mahmud Pasha in the Citadel, Cairo (photo from my father’s war album)

The painting below by David Roberts in 1839 shows the citadel before Muhammad Ali’s mosque was built;  it looks quite different from the photo, but the title on the painting tells us it’s the same place:

Image: medinaarts.com

Even the painting evokes something big!  We can see the grandeur of the citadel viewed from above a parapet and also a sense of the size of the structures when compared with the Arab groups dotted in the foreground.

But return to the photo and take a moment to look at the street scene.  Peace.  It will come again.

Please have a look at Ailsa’s blog post because it was her BIG idea!



Weekly photo challenge: One shot, two ways

We went to Gundaroo today, a short drive from Canberra out into the country, where we walked past a little library that always amuses me.  It is typical of pioneer architecture in Australian country towns established a hundred or more years ago.  Today the sky was a perfect winter blue, a great day to be out in the street photographing in portrait and landscape.

The photo challenge is to take a photo of the same subject vertically and horizontally.  I took 99 photos today, less than half of them vertical, more than half … well, horizontal.  Here are two.

Gundaroo Literary Institute, NSW, 1888
Gundaroo Literary Institute, NSW, 1888
Gundaroo Literary Institute, NSW, 1888
Gundaroo Literary Institute, NSW, 1888

Ailsa's travel photo challenge: Architecture

My father was born 93 years ago today, so I knew I had to post some photos from his album.  I found these two in his collection of images from Heliopolis, Cairo in 1941/42.  They show the racecourse built as part of the plan for the model suburb of Heliopolis, designed by the Belgian industrialist, Baron Empain.  The baron had the idea of raising a garden city in the desert, to be a place of luxury and leisure for mostly European visitors and residents.  Heliopolis is now a part of greater Cairo.  Empain began his development of Heliopolis in 1905 and continued to build it over the next couple of decades.  The racecourse was built in 1910.

A colour image of the building shows its deteriorated state in 2011, though it has since become Merryland, an area of shops, cafés and gardens.  However, the colour photo also shows how beautiful the detail of the architecture was.

Racecourse, Heliopolis, Cairo, c1941
Racecourse, track side, Heliopolis, Cairo, c1941
Racecourse, street side, Heliopolis, Cairo, c1941
Services Club, formally the Royal Pavilion at the Racecourse, Heliopolis, Cairo, c1941

Check out the beautiful photos of architecture on Ailsa’s blog pages.



This is an account of connections observed when a translator, or any writer, is absorbed in a story.

This morning as I searched through a Wikipedia entry about One Thousand and One Nights for the use of a particular phrase, I came across the sub-heading ‘Foreshadowing’, which, I learned, is a literary device used by an author to hint at certain plot developments such as a disastrous end for the hero.  Ah, what a coincidence, I thought, having just posted a blog entry in response to the WordPress weekly photo challenge for which the prompt was foreshadow.  Clicking on the highlighted term ‘foreshadowing’ on the Wikipedia page took me to another page where I saw an illustration by Arthur Rackham of the Rhine maidens warning Siegfried of a curse and looming disaster.

The Rhinemaidens warn Siegfried, Arthur Rackham, 1911 (With thanks to attemptedbloggery.blogspot.com.au for this superior image)

Ah, I thought again, what a coincidence!  Just a few days ago, reading up on the Symbolism of artists and writers of the 1890s, all the better to understand the story I was translating that day, I came across a painting in a large book about nineteenth-century art, a work by Albert Pinkham Ryder called Siegfried and the Rhine Maidens.  It surprised me at the time because it virtually depicts a particular detail in the story I was working on, Useless Virtue (L’Inutile Vertu) by Jean Lorrain (1895).  Yet another coincidence.  Here’s the painting from Wikimedia Commons:

Siegfried and the Rhine Maidens, Albert Pinkham Ryder

The scene with Siegfried and the maidens comes from Wagner’s opera, Götterdämmerung (Twilight of the Gods), which inspired many painters and writers of the 1890s who produced stories and paintings that transport the reader or viewer, as Wagner did, to a mystical land where symbols foreshadow an unhappy destiny for the hero.  There is often a sunless sky or a glowing moon, a mythical natural landscape of forests, mists, bodies of water, and nymphs – often in groups – who seductively invite the hero to join them.

In a few paragraphs from Useless Virtue, Jean Lorrain could have been writing about Wagner’s Rhine maidens.  The hero, Bertram, even wears a winged helmet like Siegfried in the paintings above.  The story is a gloomy one and quite different from Götterdämmerung, but there’s a moral at the end:  there is punishment for a man who avoids temptation all his life!  I enjoyed translating the vivid imagery, partly because this week I’ve stumbled across these few connections to the story.  Vive la coïncidence!


Weekly photo challenge: Foreshadow

I almost posted a photo of a big player on the German side of WWII as a response to the prompt ‘foreshadow’.  But I’ve decided not to give him space.

I found the picture amongst my father’s photos, but there were others which, for the opponents of this grim man, undoutedly foreshadowed possible defeat. These two bombers would have had me worried if I were on the losing side (or possibly even if I were on the winning side and standing in the wrong place).

Under this one, the caption reads ‘Flying Fortress’, an American bomber.

Flying Fortress, Middle East, c1942
Flying Fortress, Middle East, c1942

The second is captioned simply ‘Bomber’.  I assume it’s British, judging by the insignia on the wings and fuselage.  Without knowing what the colours of the insignia are, I can take a guess that they are, from the centre out, red, white and blue, British colours:

Bomber, Middle East, c1942
Bomber, Middle East, c1942

Ailsa’s travel photo challenge: Wild

“Wuthering Heights is the name of Mr Heathcliff’s dwelling, ‘Wuthering’ being a significant provincial adjective, descriptive of the atmospheric tumult to which its station is exposed in stormy weather. Pure, bracing ventilation they must have up there, at all times, indeed: one may guess the power of the north wind, blowing over the edge, by the excessive slant of a few, stunted firs at the end of the house; and by a range of gaunt thorns all stretching their limbs one way, as if craving alms of the sun.”

Wuthering Heights, Emily Brontë

Wuthering is the word that played in my head one day in May as I walked along the cliffs beside the Mediterranean, in winds strong enough to blow me over the edge.  I was alone up here for half an hour until defeated by howling gusts. The wilder the wind blew, the more scenes I recalled from Brontë novels where heroines wander in windy places.  This isn’t the English moors, but these cliffs gave me nonetheless a Gothic taste of desolation with a hint of fear.  At least on the moors there is no jagged edge to tumble over.

Schist cliffs, Mediterranean, between Colliour and Port-Vendres
Schist cliffs, Mediterranean, between Collioure and Port-Vendres, France
Schist cliffs between Collioure and Port-Vendres, France
Schist cliffs between Collioure and Port-Vendres, France

Before you leave, click here to see Ailsa’s photos of places where the wild things are.