A few years ago, some friends of ours let us stay in their beach house at South Durras on the south coast of New South Wales. We headed up along the Princes Highway looking for Durras Drive, and as we turned the corner, there was this remnant of a barn. We’ve passed it many times since then, and each time I’ve had an internal debate about its appeal. Why do I look at it for as long as I can, until the car has gone too far? Is it beauty I’m seeing? My gut reaction is yes, but I can’t explain why. A few weeks ago I decided to snap a few photos and go home and think about it.
We pulled off to the side of the road where the bare tyre-marked patch made it clear that numbers of cars had done exactly the same over the years. What is it about the old barn that makes drivers suddenly stop on their way to South Durras beach, and gaze in awe at a structure that has lost its original potential?
Looking at the images today, I can see that the beauty in the ruin is the remains of its frame, the grey of its weathered wood, the rust on the old sheets of corrugated iron. And its size, impressive and significant, suggests strength and persistence, a refusal to lie down and die; it’s a paradox, its life is ending yet it’s not.
There’s not a lot that the barn could be used for now. Perhaps it would keep light rain off our heads, perhaps it casts a large shadow where cattle and horses can retreat from the heat. But thanks to its slow deterioration, the ruin gives travellers who turn the corner off the highway for the first time, as we did, this brilliant wow moment when they gaze on the spare interior and crumbling exterior. Thanks Daily Post for the prompt.
If you’re looking for some mild amusement, and you have an Apple computer, check out the Faces option in the ‘Apple Photos’ application. It collects images of faces, that is, anything that resembles two human eyes above a nose above a mouth. It doesn’t always get it right. Sometimes it finds sculpted faces, though they can look real enough, like these resting on top of the pond in the Sculpture Garden at the National Gallery, faces that produce a physical reaction in passers-by:
It’s not just 3D images it finds; even 2D painted faces are thrown into the collection with photos of real faces. Here it places two faces from For of Such is the Kingdom of Heaven by Frank Bramley (1891) hanging in the Auckland Art Gallery, New Zealand, next to my beautiful daughters-in-law:
How about this image of a sun sinking into the sea? I do love a good sunset, but if I’m looking for the reassurance of a human face, I prefer my son, not the sun!
But even more mysterious, curious and ridiculous, a photo of a kangaroo’s tail and back legs, sideways. I’ve looked at this circle with my glasses on and glasses off. I can’t see any face. But it’s good for a laugh!
It was truly surprising to see all the faces (recognised by Apple) from my photos. There were even some I had previously ignored for being too small or blurry in the background of another subject. As I was scrolling through them all, another son walked into the room and exclaimed his delight at all the faces of our family and friends appearing in a long stream across my screen. It was a bit of fun, and was fit fodder for the photo challenge this week.
A few days ago I discovered by happenstance, through a friend, a staff member at the National Library of Australia, that some New Caledonian legends I translated a few years ago have been published. My friend was flicking through a new book, preparing it for the catalogue, and saw my name as translator. She sent me an email about it, but it was all news to me.
I hotfooted it over to the library to see for myself, and there they were, my translated legends at the back of the book. Sometimes life throws up surprises, and sometimes they’re good. I’ve contacted the author, Claudine Jacques, to let her know I found them. She thought I knew…
My English translations appear in Sillages d’Océanie 2014, which is not available online. But an excellent illustrated edition is available, in French, at the digital publishing platform, Issuu, at this address.
Take a look. Even if you can’t read French, you can get an idea of the stories from the colourful illustrations by Bernard Billot, aka Papou.
To leave you with another taste of New Caledonia, I’ll point you back to the header at the top of this post, my photo of a Noumea sunset, surely the most perfect I’ve ever seen.