Monday, 11 September 2023

Spring Heralds

Auditory geometry

There's been a surfeit of Pink petals around these parts of late. Some of which is architectural. Behold the new acoustic petals in the Concert Hall at the Opera House, seen twice recently:

Viewed both this way ...

... and that.

But it's been mostly confined to the abundant Azaleas and Magnolias, hereabouts. They're a little past their best right now, but it's a good sign that spring is here. Well, that, and a goodly dose of hayfever. Such a reliable Spring Herald.

Feast your eyes upon these Lilly Pillys

They're the size of cherries!

Not to mention the gigantic magnolias

Practically the size of soup bowls

A mystery pink blossom at the park ...
Addendum: Now identified as the Judas Tree
Thank you, dear Rosemary!

Azaleas and Magnolias making companionable bedfellows

Delightful, no, Dear Reader? And as I'm thoroughly enjoying a charming Anthology of Bad Verse in the form of D. B. Wyndham Lewis & Charles Lee's selection, The Stuffed Owl, let me share with you a touching tribute to Spring by the alleged worst poet of England, Alfred Austin (1835-1913):

The Spring-time, O the Spring-time!
Who does not know it well?
When the little birds begin to build,
And the buds begin to swell.
When the sun with the clouds plays hide-and-seek.
And the lambs are bucking and bleating,
And the colour mounts to the maiden's cheek,
And the cuckoo* scatters greeting;
In the Spring-time, joyous Spring-time!

* Just last night and today we first heard the call of the Channel-billed cuckoo somewhere in our 'hood!

Image credits: Flying With Hands

Saturday, 5 August 2023

Berlin: Concrete And Chic, 1994

Jeder hat Kraft, or Everyone is powerful

Who knew the Iron Curtain, or a considerable chunk of it, was hiding in plain sight beside Sydney's Goethe-Institut? I traipsed past it on several occasions before noticing the large piece of grafittied concrete in the middle of this pocket park. Hullo, what? Surely not?, thunk I, but investigating closer after the double-take of faint recognition proved it to be so. Once seen, of course, it's hard to miss the 2.4-tonne, 4-metre embodiment of Berlin's modern history as the epicentre of the Cold War. And so far from the action, as it were, in this sedate suburb in Australia.

Your Correspondent has only been to Berlin once, a two-day work trip in late 1994, memorable for so many reasons. The Berlin Wall had been down for a few years by then, and the pioneering tourists had already swarmed across. At the casual announcement of my intended visit, various seasoned travellers yawned, "Oh, you're too late ... " It appeared that unless you were there while vestiges of the Wall were still hanging on was it cool to be in Berlin.* How to explain to the world-weary that what did that matter when you were actually going there for a meeting? And as for cool, it was probably going to snow.

Meeting and dinner with the client done, I had the full Saturday to myself. I was in and out on foot during the day, marvelling at the simply gorgeous and statuesque young men and women I would see as I passed through the lobby of my Hilton-esque hotel**. So not what I expected of the German people!*** By the evening I was up for a night out and a conversation with an elderly, black American poet and long-time resident (of course) at the next table in a bistro sent me with directions for a very Berlin experience.

I found myself in a roofless semi-derelict warehouse, each floor of this heaving nightclub an exercise in German after-dark cool. There I met a young architecture student who proposed a tour of his city and an object lesson in European modernist archicture post-haste when I wrinkled my nose over our discussion of Brutalism. I was flying back to London in the morning and there was no time to lose!

Next I knew, we were driving around in the sleet in Berlin, various concrete buildings we passed given a precis of their history, merits and contribution to the cityscape and I found myself becoming more appreciative as the tour wore on. The city was bristling with cranes, (all the cranes of Europe were employed on sites rebuilding Berlin, apparently), and architects were in hot demand. 

East Berlin bar-hopping was next on the tour, moody and mournful places in the wee small hours, anonymous ground-floor apartments facing streets still pockmarked with scars from their life as the poor half of the city, just with a bar set up amongst the domestic furniture. Finally, a spin back to the architect's apartment for breakfast at dawn. Freezing cold, no lift, but sitting eating toast with my coat and gloves on, just had to admire that it was, of course, by Le Corbusier. Concrete and chic.

* By this time, the Jeder hat Kraft slab had been long ago shipped to a warehouse in outer Sydney by the German-Australian businessman Peter Kubiak, where it languished until its donation to the Goethe-Institut park in 2019, on the 30th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall.

** It was only when I was checking out of my hotel that I clocked all the signage in the lobby announcing it as hosting Vogue Magazine's "Face of the Year" while I was there, hence the cream of Germany's models were trooping through for the duration.

*** Apologies Dear Britta & Sean for my youthful gaucheness! 

Image credit: Flying With Hands

Friday, 19 May 2023

Good News From Home!

William Stewart, C19th oil, The Dominie

Sometimes, Dear Reader, I just cannot resist a bit of trawling on Trove, for the pleasure is two-fold. I get to correct the garbled auto-transcriptions of old newspapers and gazettes (so satisfying), and delight in the masterful language that went hand-in-glove with the lost Art-formerly-known-as-Journalism. Similarly, for a reader some two hundred years ago, another two-fer. Casting a glance over said newspapers of the day, anxious to keep abreast of the doings of the nascent Colony in Australia, one would always find plenty o' news from "home", too. Imagine the rejoicing upon reading this bit of good news:
Last year's report of the Society for Education of the Poor in the Highlands, read at the general meeting held in Inverness, in October last, and just published, states that the number of schools amounted to 511, and they were attended by 37,000 scholars. These schools are rapidly dispelling the dark clouds of ignorance that have so long hung over those romantic but benighted regions, and effecting a salutary change in the moral habits of the Highlanders.

The Sydney Gazette and New South Wales Advertiser, Saturday 22 October, 1831

Image credit: Paisley Museum and Art Galleries

Bats In The Belfry