Friday, December 31, 2010

Of Flying Pigs and Fake Trees - Happy 2011 Everyone!

 The Flying Pig

Pigs symbolise Good Fortune and Prosperity in many cultures and I certainly wish you those, but the flying pig seen here in a local Garden Supplies shop means something else. It is about  things that are unlikely to happen. I have just looked over my New Year  Resolutions  - e.g. give up smoking yet again, get a real job, get a makeover, get new glasses, get a new boyfriend - and yep, I can see all those little piggies strapping on their wings, putting their seatbelts on and turning their mobiles off.

This pig had a few friends which I will add to my bad taste collection - expensive too at $500 on special and I'll introduce them to you too, along with another fake tree for that collection which seems to be growing all too quickly. I found one in Canberra too.

A Little Bull

Some Cows
A Goat
Not sure if this is a Horse or a Bull

... this definitely looks like a bit of  a Bull 
Hey! I saw those first - see the Post "Wild Art" Sunday, April 4, 2010

I see graffiti is being recognised as a serious artform too. There are at least three earnest books about it  in the current bookshop catalogue 

And a Fake Tree too

This one in Canberra is only half fake and probably a good use of dead trees,
but I must say I prefer live ones

And I told a lie - a porky in the local idiom. We are still getting a paper mill, the deal being that the timber company is simply moving out of the more sensitive areas, but the court cases continue...

But just in case you now think the place is completely devoid of culture, class and beauty, let me show you a couple of pictures of beautiful gardens I pass on the way to the shop.

May all your flowers bloom and all your dreams come true
and all your pigs take wing! 

I hear the fireworks starting so I am am going to have a look.
Cheers for now,

Saturday, December 11, 2010

A few Glimpses of Tasmania - Down at the beach

Took these pictures at South Cape Bay which is about a five hour walk from the nearest road, but there are plenty of other lovely beaches which are much more accessible. This is the last bit of Tasmania before the Southern Ocean which is why the wind blows so much. I liked it because it was so isolated

You can hear this beach roar from a long way off

 Getting closer - the approach is via a rickety stairway down the other side of this cliff

 Wind pruned vegetation

The Birds are enjoying themselves
Lion Rock

First Spider Orchid on the way back

Native Laurel

Dogwoods, I think
And then a very long walk through button grass plains, back to the car

A few Glimpses of Tasmania - Forests and mountains

Here's why Tasmanians get cranky about people wanting to woodchip our forests. Tasmania has one of the few pieces of temperate rainforest  left in the world and it contains many rare animals and plants that do not exist anywhere else.

 This is a leatherwood tree which makes the most beautiful honey

 Pencil pines and cushion plants, Central Highlands
Pencil pines are an ancient species and these are hundreds of years old. Cushion plants which are individual small plants growing together like coral take almost as long to grow too.

 Pandani - these date from Gondwana times, when Australia was joined to Antarctica

Pool at the top of a waterfall, Central Highlands

 Looking over the top

 Another One

 The ferns and Fungi are interesting too

 And mosses
Deciduous Beeches growing here around Crater Lake (actually a cirque carved by ice not a dead volcano) are not found anywhere else in Australia, but South America and South Africa have similar species from the same period. They look absolutely stunning in Autumn when they turn glowing orange

We also have the Tasmanian Blue Gum which competes with the California Redwood in height
( This is my son's picture taken on an iphone)  

* Some of you may have seen some of these photos  before as I took then during the Cradle Mountain walk, but you don't have to go far out of the city to see this kind of scenery. Promise I'll get out soon and take some new ones!!!

Wednesday, December 08, 2010

The Long Road Home 3 - Canberra and the Home Run

This was going to be the last post for 2010, but I have just come across some photos of Tasmania I thought I'd lost, so may put them on over the next few days.......

The Last thousand Km.
Canberra is lovely in the spring. I’ve always rather liked it. For a start it is completely artificial, having been built in a sheep paddock halfway between Sydney and Melbourne because they both wanted to be the capital of Australia. 

 I haven't seen Canberra look this green since about 1978

Everything is beautifully laid out and it is a bit like a political Disneyland. Here’s Parliament House. There’s the Old Parliament House. Here’s the Prime Minister’s residence and there are all the embassies, each its own fantastic bit of architecture and usually set in lovely gardens or parkland and who knows, you may even run into your local politician opening something or doing a lap of the lake.
Secondly, the National University is here, along with several Scientific Organisations and observatories, so it is probably the most international city in Australia on a per capita basis, and probably the one with the highest collective IQ. It also has the highest food prices and rents, but we won’t go into that now. (Three piece suits on the other hand, are pretty cheap because there are an awful lot of public servants here too).

 This is a water monitor (a kind of lizard) attending the National University

Lastly, though it should have probably have been firstly, I always have a good laugh with my son and his girlfriend  fiancee and as usual, they dragged me off to several social events like Oktoberfest at the University. I am sure that people actually study there too from time to time. We also spent a bit of time  browsing the bookstores  - Canberra is fantastic for secondhand books, and going out for coffee or lunch and playing boardgames,  which is the latest craze to hit Canberra.

I thought at last I would have some extended time on the internet and would be able to upload my photos, but two of the USB sticks wouldn’t open anymore and my old laptop tossed its mortal coil as soon as I started. Luckily, I was in the right place for technical support and my son set me up with a new computer and saved most of the photos, though  they are no longer in the same order, and a few  are still lost. Check the blog occasionally if you are missing, because I will add them in when I come across them.  This took up most of our week together, but it was great seeing this branch of the family too, although as usual it was much too short.

 Van Gogh's Irises

Since my last visit my son and his partner have discovered the joys of suburban living. What this fifties house lacks in trendiness and multiple bathrooms is made up for by the big garden. They have both been very busy.

His garden

 Her Garden
Did you know that Irises symbolise 
There certainly are a lot of them here!
Their Strawberries

His Shed - No, it's not a WC
It contains the bar fridge kindly donated by ANU. If you zoom in on this you will see that it is an ex Bio Hazard fridge. Believe me, no one steals the beer

Oh yes, speaking of loos, remember my disappointment with the Opera House toilet in Vienna? Well, my son showed me a toilet in Canberra which exceeded my expectations. It was at a little restaurant behind the Drama Theatre. Unfortunately I couldn't linger too long because it was the Gents. The Ladies was pleasant enough, but not half as interesting.

 Now this is a Toilet!

Too bad it was the Gents. The Ladies wasn't as interesting

Only Australians will appreciate this one - the street does have the obligatory utes, but the residents weren't all that keen on me taking photos

All this took rather long and didn’t leave me much time to spend with my sister in Melbourne (another 700 km) but we still had time for a  lovely meal at a Vietnamese restaurant and spent an afternoon clearing the gutters and twigs off her roof – (They are a fire hazard and this was where the terrible fires were a couple of years ago)  before I had to  catch the ferry to Tasmania.
My youngest son was in the process of moving too when I got home and grumbling a lot about all the stuff he had acquired and now had to move as well.  Since my daughter and family have also moved at least twice this year, I think the whole family needs houses on wheels and not just me.

Tasmania had had rain too and was incredibly beautiful as I drove through. It is still the kind of place where people have the time and patience to grow annuals, but I didn’t have time to stop and take photos. Even though it’s officially summer now, it has been quite wet  and cold and I was grateful that my winter clothes arrived from Russia a couple of days after I did. It’s nice now to be doing homey things for a while, like planting herbs, baking gingerbread and thinking about how I am supposed to stain the decks. Just as well I can’t do it in this weather.

Now the Reindeers and I are getting ready for Christmas 
There was good news when I got home. The Vale of Belvoir for which I campaigned a couple of years ago, had now been bought by the Tasmanian Land Conservancy and I was just in time for the celebrationary drinks.  The other big thing that was happening was that plans to build another big paper mill in the state had now been scrapped because it would have consumed vast quantities of Tasmania’s fragile forests as well as affecting things like fisheries and  tourism. This has been going on for a long time in Tasmania and things got quite heated with rumours of corruption and protesters being  arrested and fined.

The next  big project for the TLC is to buy all the timber company’s holdings – around 27,000 hectares. They don’t keep the land. They just buy it, work out a management plan, put a covenant over it to protect natural and heritage values and then resell it to people who respect that. The money then goes towards purchasing the next place. I think it’s a great idea. The Capitalist solution to conservation. If you like it, buy it! It might be an idea worth trying in other places. We need all the carbon sinks we can get! Although this company is now helping conservationists, other forest companies have not given up yet. There is currently an international campaign by aavez in progress in this regard.

Well everyone, I really have to go now. I may add a few things here and there but will catch up with you again next year. I wish you all a very Happy Holiday and a wonderful, fantastic, brilliant New Year!


Ariah Park - "The Town of Wowsers, Bowsers and Peppercorn Trees"

 Main Street, Ariah Park

This little town not far past Griffiths had a sign on the road that said:  “The Town of Wowsers, Bowsers and Peppercorn Trees.” I simply had to check this out. I found it so positive and inspiring amid general gloom and doom, that I am giving it its own little page.

Ariah Park turned out to be a quaint little 1920s farming village which used to have all the right accoutrements – blacksmith, saddler, service stations, a Newspaper Office and a pub of course, and a lovely avenue of peppercorns down the main street.  Like other bush towns, it too had fallen on hard times, but instead of leaving a row of empty shops to stare like dead eyes onto the street, two ladies from the village set them up as if they were inhabited and they change the display every month.

Display in the old butcher's shop


The buildings in the town are beautifully maintained and there are pretty planter boxes and bowsers all around town which help to make it look lived in and welcoming. Camping is free and so is the museum which is full of nostalgia. There are also lovely second -hand and antique shops.

 Yes, there were plenty of bowsers,  and I could see the peppercorn trees down the main road. The bowsers started multiplying when motoring took off in a big way in 1925

And some very nice old signage, but that didn't explain the wowsers*
* A wowser for those non - Aussies out there, is an unflattering term for an excessively puritanical person, so I sought some information from Gwen Fairman who runs the museum in the old barber's shop and the Second Look  second hand store.

The museum had some good displays too. This one is about the School of the Air, the way children in the bush who couldn't get to schools used to get their education

And who remembers these things? These were little vaccuum tubes that whizzed your money up to the cashier and returned with your change and your receipt. There still used be one in a Melbourne Department Store called Buckley's when I was little. This one came from the town's grocery store across the street

Gwen used to be a  "Hello Girl" meaning she worked at the old manual telephone exchange and could listen to all the gossip. The switchboard is in the museum too. 

 Gwen Fairman sitting at the manual exchange where she once worked

It seems that back in the 1920s no -one liked the publican of the town's only pub, so a second licence was sought by local entrepeneurs. Unfortunately for them, this was the height of Temperance fervour which began in Australia in about 1830, following on from the success of similar movements in the U.S.A.
It was thought that if the demon drink could be eliminated many social evils such as domestic violence and poverty would end too.  Australia was then a male dominated society and pubs were the only places besides church, where you could socialise. Places like Broken Hill had 60 pubs at the turn of the century and Tasmania had one for every six people.

Typical Temperance Poster of 1919
My daughter sent me this poster quite coincidently. It said at the bottom:
"Makes you want to keep drinking!" 

In the USA they achieved Prohibition in 1920, but in Australia they succeeded only in having pubs closed on Sundays (and there were ways around that too) and having them close by six in the evening.
This unfortunately resulted in what was known as the 'six o'clock swill' when people- generally men, would attempt to cram in as much alcohol as possible in the limited time available, something which would not change until 1955.

Back in Ariah Park, a number of local temperance -minded people, who had presumably taken the Band of Hope Pledge, hired a Sydney barrister to contest the licence. He succeeded in having this otherwise very popular proposal knocked on the head at the Licencing Court in Temora in 1926, and no second hotel could be opened. Thereafter the editor of the Ariah Park News coined the phrase "Wowsers, Bowsers and Peppercorn Trees" to describe the town.

I just know friends at the Morris Minor Car Club would really appreciate this place. Hmmn. I'm pretty sure that people at the Ulysses Motor Cycle Club (Whose motto is Grow Old Disgracefully) would love it too, though I can't guarantee that the coffee is as good as mine was.
The town refuses to die in other ways too.  Gwen told me that when the café was about to close, the town rallied together and bought shares in it - $1000 each, and it is now leased to a young couple who do a nice line in strawberry pancakes.  At 85, Gwen doesn’t expect to get her money back in this lifetime, but she doesn’t seem too sorry. She typifies not only the “Never say die,” spirit of this town, but also the hardiness, optimism and hospitality that used to be the hallmark of rural dwellers in Australia. After a cuppa and the obligatory biscuits, I reluctantly continued on to Canberra. May many more small country towns have local guardians like this.

Thank you for the coffee and a lovely chat Gwen! How did the topic of Iceland go?

The last couple of hundred kilometres were much harder than the previous three and a half thousand. Too much traffic, too many hills and too many little towns with 50 km roadsigns. At least N.S.W. had the good sense not to bypass them as other places have done, including Tasmania, and thereby not cut off their lifeblood completely. If they had, I would never known for instance that a little place called Barellan was the home of former Tennis Champ Evonne Goolagong.
Much as I was looking forward to seeing my son, I had to have a good lie down and several cups of coffee before I tackled the last run into the city as there had been nowhere to pull over for ages.