Scenes from Anzac Day 2016

This gallery contains 2 photos.

Ruminating on Anzac Day, this Yank would liken it to the American Memorial Day plus Veteran’s Day.  Anzac stands for the Australian New Zealand Army Corps whose inauguration was the infamous and disastrous military operation at Gallipoli as soldiers from both countries landed on the Turkish shore on April 15, 1915.  These two nations came […]

War memorials

View from War Memorial down Anzac Parade

View from War Memorial down Anzac Parade

Very near to our house, within an easy 10 minute walk is Canberra’s Anzac Parade, a road from Lake Burly Griffen toward the Australian War Memorial (AWM).  Lining this road are memorials to various countries and Australian forces.  The two closest to the large circle in front of the AWM are the Turkish and Greek memorials.  The story goes that the Aussies agreed to give this prominent site to the Turks in exchange for them naming the Aussie landing site at Gallipoli (WWI) Anzac Cove in honor of the Australian/New Zealand forces that landed there and were soundly defeated by the Turkish forces led by Mustafa Kemal.  Well, there being no love loss between the Turks and the Greeks, this riled the large Australian Greek community.  As a compromise for giving Turkey a prominent location along Anzac Parade, the Greek memorial was located across the road on the right

One day, as I was walking past the Turkish memorial on my way home, I stopped to have a look at what was displayed there.  Below the bust-like face of Mustafa Kemal is a message that he was to have given to the Australian mothers of the dead Australian soldiers.

Turkish Memorial

Turkish Memorial

Greek memorial

Greek memorial

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It reads:

Those heroes that shed their blood and lost their lives … You are now lying in the soil of a friendly country. Therefore rest in peace. There is no difference between the Johnnies and the Mehmets to us where they lie side by side here in this country of ours … You, the mothers who sent their sons from faraway countries, wipe away your tears; your sons are now lying in our bosom and are in peace. After having lost their lives on this land they have become our sons as well.

Tears welled up in my eyes at the message.  Wars are awful, savage, and bitter but these words of compassion and peace in an ugly war’s aftermath offer some comfort in the struggle with the pain of loss.  But why did it take a war to bring out these sentiments; why couldn’t this message of solidarity and friendship have prevented the conflict from ever starting?  Are the lost lives worth it?  Service men and women on both sides of a conflict, know intimately the high cost of war and yet in its wake they claim a mutual solidarity rooted in shared experiences.  In our own civil war (an oxymoron if ever there was one), we rightly honor soldiers both north and south not for political agendas that hung in the balance but for the bravery and sacrifices shown in the face of death.  Soldiers do not fight for causes, but for the buddy next to them. This outward manifestation of self-sacrifice brings out the best in people–we should all learn that lesson. Let us just hope it doesn’t take a war to do so.

Australian War Memorial with their Tomb of the Unknown Soldier

Australian War Memorial with their Tomb of the Unknown Soldier

PS

A bit of research has surfaced that suggests these words were never spoken or written by Mustafa Kemal, better known as Ataturk.  If he didn’t, he probably wished he had.

Art Neanderthal visits the James Turrell exhibition at the National Gallery in Canberra, Australia

Oustide permanent 2

Entry to permanent Skyspace “Within, without”

Glorious visit to the National Gallery to see a James Turrell exhibit–A Retrospective. There is not an artistic bone in my body I am afraid and I shy away from modern art–eyes going in different directions, head disjointed from their bodies, or masses of paint on a canvas in random chaos do not generally “speak to me”. I do fancy colors/light and their play with and against each other so maybe this explains my fascination with James Turrell.

 

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Inner rotunda of “Within without”

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Inside outer, outside inner “Within without”.

I like the angles and geometry employed in his capturing of light in explosive colors. To me there is something comforting in the crisp definition of colors and shapes as well as the melding of the two (am I talking in circles?). I like the interaction of the art with the viewer and the changes that occur as the light is altered through filtering or color alterations.

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Stepping into darkened rooms, or rooms tense with vibrant light is a challenge to your depth perception.  In flight school much time was spent to train your mind into understanding what it was seeing/sensing through the exploration and understanding of relative motion and field of vision.  These play a significant role in keeping a helicopter level and on course.  Turrell presses the limits of our sensory experiences by creating spaces that lack crisp definition spatially and blasts you with color with unnerving vibrancy.  I loved the interactive nature of his exhibits that change as you spend time with them, eyes growing accustomed to the lack or the shock of light and color.

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Turrell has his penultimate project under-construction in Arizona at a place called Roden Crater ( http://rodencrater.com/about) which is not open yet.  This project seems to bring together the celestial lights, the earth’s terrain, and man made architecture of antiquity–Mexican, Egyptian pyramids, Machu Picchu and standing stones.  One thing that I cannot fathom is the need to visit the exhibit ” in the altogether”.  Cannot see how this would have enhanced my experience but chacun a son gout.

nudist visit to James Turrell

 

(Photos with captions are mine, others were copied from the internet)

 

Aussie Mailboxes

 

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I know, I know. It has been too long between posts and you are hungry to know more about Australia. The hang up was, in part, due to the fact that few words could describe the sights along the highways of assorted containers that convey mail. Words escape me on how best to describe them but they fascinated me. Since that is the case, I won’t use any words and let the pictures speak for themselves…mostly.

 

Some bacon with my eggs?  Sure thing.

Some bacon with my eggs? Sure thing.

Defies descriptions but its a family thing!

Defies descriptions but its a family thing!

 

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Mailmen really do obey this sign on mailboxes. What a novelty!

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Cattle or Dairy farm, maybe?

 

Think this might bee a bee farm???

Think this might bee a bee farm???

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Microwave mail

 

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Dairy farm, maybe?

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Honey! Who shrunk the dunny?

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No words!  La piece de resistance! La piece de resistance! There are no words but it is a thing of beauty even if I don’t know what it is.

Mailboxes, rather innocuous receptacles, but the Aussie’s do it with flair and panache. No doubt there will be a Mailboxes 2.0.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Canberra–Yes the capital of Australia

 The Australian Capital

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It dawned on me that I haven’t addressed a topic that is near and dear to me—that would be the city of Canberra itself. Bill Bryson did Canberra no favors in his book A Sunburned Country and for some reason or other he keeps returning. Canberra is indeed an unusual metropolis because it is a planned city. Its location is the first issue. It is inland and at elevation (1900 ft.) which explains its cold (by Aussie standards) winters and hot summers. During our travels,most Aussies have nothing nice to say about their capital city. Yes, I said capital. Canberra is the capital of Australia, not Sydney, not Melbourne. Canberra was chosen because Sydney and Melbourne both wanted to represent Australia as its capital and neither would cede the issue. So Canberra’s origins as a planned city grew out of this rivalry.  Canberra ( indigenous origins of this word vary from “meeting place” to “woman’s breasts”) is the city proper and it is located in the ACT, or Australian Capital Territory.  We are a 3 hour car ride south of Sydney and about 8 hours from Melbourne.

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2013, our first year here, was the 100th anniversary of the city’s beginning. Chicago architects Walter Burley Griffin and Marion Mahony Griffin won the competition for the city’s design and building began in 1913. The parliamentary section is on the south side of Lake Burley Griffen with most of the government buildings, museums, and embassies, while the city center or CBD (Central Business District) is on the north side. On the map you can see names like Reid, Russell, Acton, and Parkes—these are names of suburbs which make up the ACT named frequently for government leaders. Each suburb has its own shops containing grocery stores, news agencies, pharmacies, and restaurants. Some suburbs have much larger shopping centers like Manuka (pronounced like Monica, thanks to Queen Elizabeth, I hear tell). These suburbs are where everyone disappears to after work because to walk down the streets of the Parliamentary area after 5pm is a walk into the Twilight Zone—no one is there.
The weekends are another eerie experience as there is little to no traffic, at least by DC standards. That is because there is a propensity for people to vacate the city on Friday and make the 3 hour drive north to Sydney, the largest of Australia’s cities. The dearth of citizenry on the weekends is changing slowly because the younger folk are creating their own subculture, “the decidedly hipster underbelly” in a city of bureaucrats. ( See http://www.nytimes.com/2014/06/08/travel/36-hours-in-canberra-australia.html?_r=0)  John and I just swapped one “DC” for another. There are many similarities but the crowning blessing of Canberra is its lack of traffic. They are slowly working on creating some and struggling with whether or not to build a rail line from Gunghalin in the north into the city, but really, there is no comparison.

So, we live in Campbell on the north side of the lake, one of the older suburbs that boasts one of Canberra’s best restaurants, The Lanterne Rooms. As you may know, John actually walks 10 minutes to work in the morning– a rock in his shoe or a dive bombing magpie may delay his commute but little else.  Many of the roads in Campbell are named for soldiers who earned the Victoria Cross during WWI like Howse, Jacka, and Edmonson. We are a 10 minute walk down to Lake Burley Griffen which is a hub of runners, bikers, walkers, and strollers most days. Warmer months you can see kayakers and paddle boats running amok on the waters. A walk around the lake invariably leads to a stop for a flat white or a cappu at one of the cafes along the route. It’s a way to break up the monotony of the journey—that’s supposed to be a joke.  The view below is from one such cafe.

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So that is a taste of Canberra THE CAPITAL OF AUSTRALIA.

Affable Aussies

Inside the Mitsubishi Triton

Inside the Mitsubishi Triton

What is one word to describe the Aussie temperament you ask? Really? Just one? Well, if I had to pick just one I would say “affable”. They just don’t get their panties in a twist—“no worries” or “she’ll be right” are favorite phrases. Even though I live in the “Washington DC” of Australia which translates to an overabundance of type A personalities concentrated in one place and an over educated populace, the ease with which they handle calamitous events bears remarking upon, hence this blog post.
Recently a friend and I went on “walkabout” (not really a walkabout but I just like using the term) from Canberra to Adelaide (by way of the Barossa Valley) to Kangaroo Island, along the Great Ocean Road and then back to Canberra. It was a spectacular journey but not without its challenges. We had a flat tire on our second day out. This was not just any flat tire, this was shredded strips of rubber that wrapped itself around the axle. Simply amazing we did not roll the motor home. Everyone we dealt with was friendly, sympathetic, and helpful. “No worries, we’ll get you back on the road.” Of course, they were not middle aged women driving in a foreign land, on the wrong side of the road and vehicle, and in a motor home that would easily sleep a family of 6. A bit over kill for two women but there you have it.
Three quarters of the world’s population drive on the right side of the road, on the left side of the car, give or take a billion. What happened to the other quarter? Were they not listening? Did they not get the memo? (The reason for this is quite elaborate and fodder for another blog so I will drop it for now.) Well, duh, of course the Aussie’s drive on the left side of the road and on the right side of the car. They are still part of the British Commonwealth—a rather tenuous alliance but one with monumental fallout. But does this automotive backwardness have implications for the Aussie way of life? This is a ponderous question that I confess I am not qualified to answer—that does not, however keep me from asking and pontificating upon an answer.
My experiences with the Australian denizens has been nothing but friendly, cordial, and helpful (with the exception of our next door neighbor but that is more fodder for yet another story). When driving, they are quite content to allow people to merge into their lanes and easily give way to people as the roads narrow frequently to one lane. There is no stepping on the gas to prohibit the neighboring vehicle from merging, no tailgating to speak of, and people actually check on you after you have been run off the road (This happened to me a couple of months ago. I drove right up into the median heading for the opposing traffic. We avoided a collision and a bicycle rider came by to check on me.) I really don’t know why they put horns in Aussie cars because they so rarely use them. Why all this ease on the highway? Could it be BECAUSE of the reverse driving conditions (right side of the car, left side of the road)? Here me out and then decide.
Most of the world is right handed. When driving in the US and most of the rest of the world, that translates to a driver occupying the seat on the left side of the car. Thus positioned, the important machinations of the vehicle are accomplished with the right hand—shifting gears (if necessary), rear view mirror, AC/heat knobs, and, of course, the radio (unless of course this is on the steering wheel). When backing up, you turn to the right to look out the back and all seems right with the world view (this is probably the most difficult aspect of driving in Australia). All this is to say, the right side is dominant throughout most of the world and driving from the left side of the car accommodates this.
BUT, in Australia, where the majority is also right handed, the left brain of the driver gets the workout—the radio, the AC, the gear shift, the GPS, everything requires the left hand to operate. (Thankfully the pedals are the same!) Does this affect the brain of the driver, his personality, his temperament? Is the Aussie brain getting a better work out which leads to a more even handed and affable driver? Yes? No? Well it was just a thought. You might say if that were the case, how do you explain Britain? Of all the adjectives, affable is not what comes to mind when contemplating the temperament of a Pom. Exercising the left side of the brain while enduring endless cloudy and rainy days will make anyone cranky.  With that in mind, maybe it’s the weather…yes, that’s right, fodder for another blog.
The bottom line—I guess there isn’t one, just the ramblings of a middle aged Yank thinking outside the box.

Beelzabub or Blow Flies

blow-fly1  Lest anyone think that Satan does not live in this world, I can attest to his presence here in Australia in the form of blow flies. This is such an apt name for the vermin because they manage to seek out and land on the most inconvenient places on the human body. Well you might wonder what is a convenient place and I would be at a loss to respond. During our first explore to Australia 20 years ago I first encountered them on a trip to Alice Springs but have since discovered that they inhabit the whole of this country.  

Blow fly is an apt name because this is what people will inevitably do when they land on the body. Where do they land to invoke such a response? Think of this, you are about to putt on the 18th hole of Royal Canberra Golf Course, a putt that could mean a birdie (one under par) for the hole. In my house and in my case in particular, a birdie necessitates champagne to celebrate this all too infrequent event. Back to the putt…just as you are about to strike the ball on what is sure to be the birdie to end the round, a fly lands…where? On your lip…or on your eyelash…or on the flare of your nostril…or any place that would require a first responders action of blowing. It is an instinctual action that frequently does not work or merely blows Satan incarnate off his first perch, only to land someplace equally as unsettling, like underneath your band-aid which is covering the wound of a recently removed wart.  They are so obnoxious that the Aussies have designed a hat just to keep the wretches at bay. This is a cork hat and if while wearing one you can resist the desire to swat at the corks, it actually works.  

Cork hat
These creatures, like Satan, are not solitary creatures by any stretch of the imagination and they seem to particularly like white clothing as you can see by John’s shirt.  And as flies go, they are not particularly large like horse flies found elsewhere.IMAG0372

A flock on John’s back

In a brief on line search of information about blow flies, I discovered this tidbit of information:
Most species of blowflies lay their eggs on carrion or dung, but some species lay their eggs on living animals.

Well, they aren’t going to lay their eggs on THIS living animal but I am not so sure about this woman.  I will leave you with this picture in your head and this thought: Dead flies make the perfumer’s ointment give off a stench;
    so a little folly outweighs wisdom and honor. Ecclesiastes 10:1

Woman with flies