Weekly photo challenge: Anticipation

In anticipation of a 2.6 metre fence to be built in front of Parliament House in Canberra, Lester Yao, a young architect, came up with a plan during the week to invite everyone to roll en masse down one of the grassy roof slopes.

Since the building opened in 1988, adults and children have enjoyed rolling down the slope or even jogging or training on it, and indeed this was part of the inbuilt anticipated pleasure designed by the architect Romaldo Giurgola (who died in May this year). When the security fence goes up in the new year, the public will no longer have such free access as we do today.

Lester Yao put out a call on social media last Monday, and in response hundreds of people turned up for the peaceful rolling protest. We drove towards Parliament House and saw all the people on the grass from the approach road, so we parked, went to have a look and discovered that a few minutes earlier, on a signal, they had all rolled down from the top. Even though it rained yesterday, all day, as well as the day before, this morning was dry and the temperature was up and no one was complaining about their damp grass-stained clothes. As the rollers began to disperse, much of the space was cleared, which suited individuals who wanted to do their own thing without getting crushed.

dsc06030

There are many ways to roll down a hill. Most lay across the slope and propelled themselves over and over like a log. But a few creative ones did somersaults  until they were giddy. The woman below did headstand rolls.

Parents rolled holding a child, dog-owners rolled with their dogs, and people rolled with rolling cameras. Quite a few adults simply played by themselves like children, rolling on their own for the sheer silliness of it.

In the photo below, there’s a guy laughing at the two rollers in front of him. It looked like such fun…

…that he couldn’t resist. He just had to see what it felt like.

(Just in case you’re wondering, I didn’t roll down the hill.)

Romaldo Giurgola had designed the building with a roof that could be accessed by the public in a spirit of democracy. He liked the idea that we could walk over the top of those in charge of us. But that is all about to change.

Thanks to the WordPress photo challenge for the Anticipation prompt.

***

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

00

The Only Beautiful Woman…

… is the title of my newest translated story, published yesterday by The Brooklyn Rail inTranslation. You can read the story online: go to the website, scroll down to the translator’s note (that’s me, of course) then click on “click here to read”. You’ll then be able to enjoy The Only Beautiful Woman by Catulle Mendès, originally “La Belle du Monde” in his collection Les Oiseaux bleus.

Like Perrault and the Grimm brothers, Mendès was a great creator of fairies. In “The Only Beautiful Woman” the incurable selfishness of humans is embodied in a trifling, time-wasting princess who frightens even the mirrors that reflect her beauty.

Image from
Image from “L’Illustration”, no. 3240, 1 April 1905

I’m very grateful to The Brooklyn Rail inTranslation editors for publishing my work, especially since this is my second appearance in their journal. In 2015 they published my translation of Madame Gorgibus by Jean Lorrain, another story in which one character suffers from another’s selfishness. But Mme Gorgibus never sees the victory of good over evil; her story is less of a comedy than Mendès’ little tale in which mirth predominates and the ending is happy.

I invite you to read these tales; they’re old and short but memorable! If you enjoy them please let me know.

***

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

00

Nervous

We arrived at the ruins of the burnt-out observatory at Mount Stromlo before the sun set yesterday, excited about the performance we were about to see: “Nervous” by the Australian Dance Party, an hour of contemporary dance, music and lighting.

At eight o’clock, inside the structure in the light of the early evening, four dancers began their interpretation of the inner turmoil of nervousness, while the audience waited outside in anticipation, peeking in through the doorway. At last we were invited into the space to find a chair or floor cushion to settle into for the performance as the dancers slowly and aimlessly walked about the circular centre of the floor, confronting each other and almost colliding, wondering about the thing that was making them nervous.

And then they seemed to come together in harmony and moved as one.

Once the audience was comfortably seated, the dancers picked up speed, and the idea moved from wondering to worrying. The nerves were back in control, and we soon learnt why, through the dialogue of the blonde dancer: “Hey, there’s something I really need to talk to you about.” We heard it over and over in different phrasings, as she talked to herself or moved up to the audience and addressed them directly. Hello, there’s something…. No. Hey, how are you? There’s something I… No. Ahhhh, there’s something I really… No. Ughhh, just act natural… Why is this so hard?…

And as she practised her speech, the other three were her conscience, the angels and devils telling her she was doing it right and doing it wrong and she was hopeless at this but had to do it anyway. The four became one conscience and approached the audience, and again the blonde spoke, Hey, there’s something I really…, while a second dancer held her breath, another writhed and the fourth groaned painfully. All of that stuff that goes on inside us while we’re trying to appear calm and in control.

Eventually the nervousness conquered its victims and they could do no more than lie on the cold concrete floor in the purple light of defeat…

Over all of this movement was the intense electronic music composed by Ben Worth (my son), pulsating and vibrating and making us physically vibrate with it. It was loud and soft and occasionally absent but it always returned. And there was Robbie, the lighting guy up there on the platform with Ben, playing his lights over the dancers as darkness descended. Robbie’s light show became one of the players playing with the dancers’ nerves.

Ben, left, Robbie, right (behind scaffold)

By nine o’clock, the sky above the roofless structure was black and starry with a crescent moon and nearby Venus growing brighter by the minute. Some cords from the floor became a prop that lit up and tangled about them, winding around and wrapping them up. The music stopped, the darkness was almost complete. Someone began clapping, and we realised this was the end.

***

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

00