Australia Day 2017

 

To celebrate Australia Day today, 26th January, in our nations’s capital, Canberra, there are the official government-organised events like the Australian of the Year ceremony at Parliament House (last night), a Great Aussie Day barbecue breakfast (this morning), and, later, a citizenship ceremony, a flag raising ceremony, kids entertainment, bands, and finally fireworks.

The winners of the four categories in the Australian of the Year Awards deserve recognition for their many years of service, offering solutions to hard-to-solve problems of often-forgotten groups of people. The principal award of Australian of the Year was given last night to Professor Alan Mackay-Sim for his ground-breaking work in repairing spinal cord injuries.

This year’s winners were all quiet achievers. Today there’s another Australian here in Canberra who’s quietly getting our attention, a patriotic man who’s not just flying one Australian flag on his car or his house for the week as some do. This guy, pensioner David Goodall (who prefers to be called Spurs), has arranged a display of Australian flags on his front lawn and footpath – there are 229 bunting flags, one for every year since Captain Arthur Phillip planted his own flag, the Union Jack, in the soil of Sydney Cove and claimed this land for England. Spurs has also displayed flags for each Australian state and territory.

The facing neighbour has allowed him to set up chairs for those who wish to visit and be present at 9.30 this morning for an indigenous Welcome to Country ceremony by a local man, Wally.

When I went for a look last weekend, I admired the tall blue agapanthus lilies growing along his front fenceline. Don’t they blend well with the blue of the flags! I wonder if that’s a coincidence…

Here I like the red reflections on the tinder-dry Canberra grass as the sun shone through the Union Jack crosses in our flag corners. Spurs set up the whole display, paying for everything himself and writing all the signs and slogans. A number of them are written with everyday Australian expressions like “Good on ya mate” or with facts from Australia’s 229-year European history, but there’s also a tribute to those who have sacrificed their lives for this country:

The display is at 9 Biffin Street, Cook. Any Canberrans who enjoy driving past displays of Christmas lights can now extend the pleasure to Australia Day, for Spurs intends to do this every year for the rest of his life in Biffin Street. Good on ya mate!

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Changing Seasons: January

Cardinal Guzman has put up a photo challenge that seems challenging enough for me as a non-photographer.

He has two versions. I’ve chosen the easy path:

    • Each month, post one photo (recipe, painting, drawing, whatever) that represents your interpretation of the month.
    • Don’t use archive stuff. Only new material!

This morning I was in the Botanic Gardens here in Canberra and was stopped in my tracks by this Corymbia ficifolia. Family: Myrtaceae. Dwarf orange. Sometimes called Red Flowering Gum.

The Canberra Botanic Garden has nothing but native plants. The gardeners have found ways to grow plants from all parts of Australia, even rainforest plants in a lower part that is reached by stone staircases, a place that’s kept dark and wet to encourage rainforest trees and ferns to grow. And up in the bright sunlight there are trees like this orange Corymbia ficifolia, a native from a small area near Walpole, way down on the very south-west coast of Western Australia, and here it is growing on the opposite side of the country in a different climate. Bravo, Botanic Gardeners!

The photo is my interpretation of January in Australia. Bright orange native flowers, clear blue sky, hot morning.

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Weekly photo challenge: Names

It is said that the department store Whiteaway Laidlaw & Co. was often nicknamed Right-away & Paid-for, since they accepted only cash and offered no credit. It was also known simply as Whiteaways and became a household name in India, Singapore, Kuala Lumpur and Shanghai during the first half of the 20th century, as well as in other British colonised cities like Mombasa and Nairobi in Kenya, seen here in these wartime photos.

Whiteaway Laidlaw department store, Nairobi, Kenya, c1941
East African Standard building on the corner, Whiteaway Laidlaw department store on the right, Delamere Ave, Nairobi, Kenya, c1941 (from my father’s WWII album)

The store was founded by a Scotsman, Robert Laidlaw, in 1882 after he had lived in India for 20 years. He was not just an entrepreneur but also a philanthropist and British politician. He died in 1915 in London, but his emporium continued until 1962. It imported and sold household goods and was also a tailoring business, selling products that appealed to Europeans and wealthy locals. As advertised on the store sign in Mombasa, they were drapers and “Complete Outfitters”.

Whiteaway Laidlaw department store, Mombasa, Kenya, c1941
Whiteaway Laidlaw department store, Mombasa, Kenya, c1941 (from my father’s WWII album)

Kenya was then a British colony engaged in defending itself against Italian Ethiopia (created in 1936) on its northern border. Kenya herself contributed a great number of men to fight for the British colonial Military: the King’s African Rifles. The Italians were defeated in November 1941 during my father’s period in North Africa. Hence these photos in his album.

I’ve been looking at these old photos since I was a small small child and have often wondered why two photos feature the same franchise of Whiteaways. Perhaps my father bought some outfits here. Apparently the store catered for shoppers with a small purse, which would therefore have attracted soldiers. Thanks to WordPress for challenging me to find out who Whiteaway Laidlaw were.

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The Enchanted Ring

Today a new story has been published in Peacock Journal online, “The Enchanted Ring”, written by Catulle Mendès in 1887, translated by me. The story is in his collection, Pour lire au couvent (To Read in the Convent), which might surprise since it’s a wee bit spicy for innocent convent girls and only a little less risqué than his tales in Pour lire au bain (To Read in the Bath).

To set the scene, the Peacock Journal editors have illustrated the story with Claude Monet’s impression of Vétheuil in the outer regions of Paris in 1879. This will give readers a hint that the story works its way towards a country inn where three rich and handsome princes are resting for the night (only one of them is asleep…).

Claude Monet, ‘Vétheuil, Paysage’, 1879

Another of my Mendès translations, “The Only Beautiful Woman”, appeared recently in The Brooklyn Rail inTranslation which you can read about in my blog post here where you’ll see a photo of Catulle Mendès standing casually in his study reading a story. Or a poem. If you don’t recognise Mendès, you might recognise his daughters from this painting by his friend Auguste Renoir in 1888, now in the Met Museum, New York:

Auguste Renoir, ‘The Daughters of Catulle Mendès’, (1888), Huguette b. 1871, Claudine b. 1876, Helyonne b. 1879

Peacock Journal has a theme: beauty. The editors search for it in every submission. I feel fortunate and chuffed that they found it in “The Enchanted Ring”. Make your day better by popping over to read this and other stories about beauty.

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