Saturday, October 31, 2009
Wednesday, October 21, 2009
Monday, October 19, 2009
Friday saw me viewing some of the town of Hobart, something I missed doing the last time I was here. I was here in the middle of winter and taught a four day workshop, coming in the day before and leaving the day after, and to my memory, it seems that I never actually left Lindisfarne, a suburb of Hobart, except to drive down to Richmond to see the old bridge.
My wonderful hosts, Liz and Rory O'Leary and their two daughters Liza and Susan, made sure that this didn't happen this time. We took off early with the intention of driving up Mt. Wellington, the 5000 ft peak which overlooks the city of Hobart. However, the cloud was down and so we decided to go the the signal station on Mt Nelson, which also has a small cafe. The views from Mt Nelson were breathtaking and I could only imagine what they'd be like from Mt. Wellington. We had coffee at the cafe and then descended with the intention of heading across the river to the exhibit which the Hobart group had mounted. Half way there, we noticed that the cloud had pretty much cleared off "the mountain" and so we made a dash for the summit. I managed to take some photos two thirds of the way up, but by the time we reached the top, the cloud had rolled in once again.
For lunch we made for the Cascade Brewery, apparently the oldest brewery in Australia, so that I could sample the local brew. Their pale ale was very flavorful, but a little too gassy for my taste. The lunch was excellent.
The evening was devoted to my lecture, but before that, the members of the group had a pot-luck buffet, with wine. A very pleasant start to the evening. The lecture went quite well, I think, although I had a few problems with the computer. Prue thought that it might be due to the vagaries of the electrical supply!
The first day of the workshop was held at the Friends' school thanks to the kind offices of Ailsa Ferguson, one of the teachers there and a stalwart of the calligraphy group. The first day (this being "Pen Manipulation Techniques") was devoted to how actually to manipulate the pen before going on to learning a Roman text hand. Most of the people in the class handled things very well and I was more than gratified at their application.
That evening, Liz, Rory and Liza took me to Mures Seafood Restaurant, right on the waterfront. The food was superb - I had a fish called BlueEye, which was new to me but very tasty, as well as one of my occasional martinis!
The second day of the workshop was spent on the capitals to go with the minuscules we had done the previous day. We swept through those with hardly time for a breath. This left me the last half of the afternoon to allow people to play a little, while I went around and did an alphabet for each member of the class.
In the evening, most of us got together for a meal at the Royal Thai Restaurant, where we were joined by His Honour Alan Blow, a Justice of the Supreme Court of Tasmania, and husband of Margaret Blow who was in the class. He was a wonderful dinner companion and I thoroughly enjoyed hearing his stories about India, from whence he had just returned. A friend of his was part of a family having a wedding and Hindu weddings are immense in their scope! I also had to say a very sad farewell to Olive Bull, with whom I had stayed and then journeyed down to Hobart. I had such a wonderful time with her and Frank, that I hope that I will be allowed to return in the not too distant future.
Monday morning saw me also saying sad farewells to Liz, Rory and Liza. Rory drove me into town where I was to be interviewed for radio at the Hobart ABC affiliate. My interviewer there was Christopher Lawrence, and I have to say that he did a masterful job. Of course, I haven't heard the interview to hear how badly I sounded!
Alison O'May picked me up there to run me to the airport but we made a side trip down to Richmond once more, to go view the bridge and pluck a couple of peppercorns. Ah, the aroma from peppercorns fresh off the tree is just fabulous.
I was dropped at the airport by Alison, where my day rapidly went downhill. If you're ever in the position to fly Virgin Blue, go Qantas, JetStar, Air Australia, anything but Virgin. I went to the desk to drop my bag where I was informed that by a rather hostile young woman named Leesa, that I could not check my bag right through to Canberra, even though I had a ticket. When I remonstrated and asked why, she said: It's the rules! When I questioned her further, she rather rudely called down to the next desk: "You deal with this one", and stalked off. I was informed that they were unable to link two separate tickets and that I would have to pick up my bag at baggage claim and recheck it. I was also informed that I would have to pay an excess baggage charge of $50 for being 4.8Kgs over the limit.
I asked to speak to a supervisor but was told there was no-one available. I was also informed that the flight was running a half hour late, which would give me even less time to pick up my bag and recheck it. I was furious!!
When the plane finally rolled in 40 minutes late, I knew that there was very little chance of my making my connection in Melbourne. My mood was further blackened, when on board I asked for water and was told I had to pay $2.50. For a small bottle of water. If Tricky Dicky Branson needs the money so much for his adventures into space, I suggest that he not try to steal the money out of his passengers' pockets but look elsewhere for his funding. Needless to say, I shall do my best to avoid Virgin Airlines in the future; life is too short to deal with this sort of crap!!
On arrival in Melbourne, still 40 minutes late, I dashed to the baggage claim to get my bag which took ten minutes to arrive. I finally got to the check in bag drop where a delightful young lady got me to a desk so that I could immediately check my bag and then hightail it down to the gate and onto the plane. From picking up my bag to check-in, through security, to the gate and onto the plane took me ten minutes!! I was exhausted, but, I'm happy to say, I arrived in Canberra on time.
Thursday, October 15, 2009
I arrived in Launceston (pronounced lawn-sess-tun, unlike the English lawn-stun), and seeing Olive and Frank Bull again was as though we'd only parted a couple of weeks previously. It was just wonderful to see Olive's smiling face after 22 years. They took me straight to their lovely new (well, seven years in their possession) home, and immediately set about making me comfortable. We caught up on all the news of the last twenty years or so, Frank interspersing comments in his droll way which has always made me crack up.
On the Tuesday, Olive took me into the town, a bustling place of about 100,000 souls, with an amazing range of shops. Not for them the suburban shopping mall. This is a town which is quite happy with old-established mom and pop stores. I had to find somewhere to get a whole new set of prints done for sale at both Hobart and Canberra, because the prints from America (Randal Thompson) were only going to arrive in time for the Gold Coast portion of the trip. Olive and I traipsed around until we finally found a place that could do what I wanted at a reasonable price.
Then we headed out to the Cataract Gorge, which carries the north branch of the River Esk. It is an amazing place with beautiful rock formations. We took the chairlift (Olive is scared of heights but jumped into the chairlift like a trooper). The chairlift is the longest single span lift in the world (everywhere needs to be the biggest, best, smallest, beautifullest, something-est to justify its existence!). On arriving at the other side, I saw my first wallaby in the wild in Australia, and a huge flock of peacocks. Someone once said that the peacock is so proud of its finery but forgets that it has really ugly feet!
After lunch, Frank wanted to visit a local auction house where there was a Beswick (Sp?) figurine up for bids. He wanted to check out its quality and see if it was worth bidding on. Frank has a very extensive collection of Beswick figurines and this piebald pony would be a good addition to that collection. He was also interested in a Folio Society-published trilogy about the English Civil War era.
The following day, Frank went to the auction, but the figurine went to a commission bidder for more than he was prepared to pay. He was successful in his bid on the books, however. After he returned, Olive and I went out and picked the books up, along with my prints. Olive then drove me downriver (the Tamar) to a beautiful overlook, where the full expanse of the river could be appreciated. This was the site where the Rebecca was built, a small ketch which was the first boat to cross the Bass Strait to mainland Australia. The Bass Strait is one of the most treacherous bodies of water in the world, definitely not the place for a single-handed sailor!
Thursday was the day for Olive and me to head down the central valley of Tasmania, between the Eastern and Western Tiers of mountains, to Hobart. Our first stop on the way down was at Campbelltown. Here there is a run of engraved bricks, set into the sidewalk, which will eventually run all the way around the town. The names on those bricks are all of convicts who were banished to Australia as their sentence. Typical of a sentence would be seven years for the theft of, say, a loaf of bread. Seven years seems to have been the minimum sentence. Anyone who has a convict ancestor may purchase a brick which is then engraved with the ancestor's name and installed in the sidewalk. Olive has such an ancestor, and has, indeed, purchased a brick. She pointed out one brick in the name of John Kelly, who was the father of the notorious outlaw, Ned Kelly.
Our next stop was the town of Ross, which was very much a convict town. Much of the town was built by convict labor, including a very beautiful bridge spanning the river there. We decided that we would have lunch at the local pub, the "Man O'Ross" but were dismayed to find that no part of it opened until 12 noon! We finally ate at a little newsagent-cum-grocery store-cum-restaurant across the street. Ross is a beautiful little village, much of it built from a honey-colored sandstone. There is a very interesting little store and museum which is mainly about the wool industry and the convicts who started and ran it.
And so to Hobart. Our first call was on Christine and Geoffrey Farmer. Christine had found someone who could do giclee prints for me and, while the examples they showed were of pretty good quality, I wasn't prepared to pay the $45 they wanted to do them, this was four or five times what I'm used to paying.
We then went to meet Margaret Blow at her lovely home in Battery Point. Her husband, Alan, is a Supreme Court Justice here in Tasmania and is currently away in India, attending a Hindu wedding in the family of long-time friends. While waiting for Margaret to return from running errands I discovered that I had lost my phone. Having already laundered one in Sydney, I was faced with the prospect of having to have bought three phones in two weeks, excessive even for me! Fortunately, I had left it at Frank and Olive's, and by some sort of magic, Olive managed to have it delivered to Hobart for me to pick up this morning! After sharing some good cheer with Margaret, Olive and Alison O'May, it was Alison who ferried me over to the O'Leary's house in Kingston, the furthest south I have ever been.
Today, I have been driven around by Liz O'Leary (I am staying with Liz and her husband, Rory while here). After picking up my phone, we wanted to go to Mt. Wellington, but it was covered in cloud, so we headed to Mt. Nelson instead. The views from the top were wonderful and there is also a little cafe there where we had coffee. After driving down we saw that Mt. Wellington was clearing and so decided to make a mad dash up it, hopefully to take some photographs. I managed to get a few about two thirds of the way up, but the mountain was socked in by the time we reached the summit. Mt. Wellington is about 5,000 ft. high and offers spectacular views of the city of Hobart and the Derwent Estuary.
This evening I start work again with a lecture for the calligraaphy group here, and then a workshop on Saturday and Sunday.
Tuesday, October 13, 2009
On my first night there we went out to Williamstown, just east of the Yarra, which is full of restaurants of all types. We ended up in a pleasant cafe and had dinner, and then went on to the Hobson Bay hotel for a nightcap. Greg was very pleasantly surprised to find that one of his pieces of calligraphy hanging there, had sold, so the evening turned into something of a celebration.
The next day, Thursday, we spent travelling around finding art supplies that I needed. Then we went out to Camberwell (a name with which I was very familiar even though the one I knew was 12,000 miles away). My reason for going there was an attempt to track down a very old friend of mine and Donald Jackson's, Chris Snook and his wife Jenny, neither of whom I'd seen for some 15 years. I had tried to see them when I was last in Melbourne but they had proved to be in England when I was there. It looked as though I was going to be unlucky this time, too, because the shop was closed. However, there was a card in the window with a name and a phone number, so I called and Chris answered. It was great to hear his voice again and we arranged to have dinner together that night.
Greg and I then scooted over to St. Kilda for lunch before heading home to his place and a well-earned nap. In the evening we went over to Carlton and met up with Chris and Jenny, where we had a quite delicious dinner and caught up on all the news of the past 15 years!
On Friday, we had the one day workshop. Traffic was really bad going in and it took us almost an hour and a quarter to get there, arriving just before the start time. There were 16 people in the workshop and I was particularly gratified to see two people who had been in previous workshops: Lauchean Duncan and Deirdre Hassed. Lauchean had been in workshops in both Sydney and Melbourne, while Deirdre had come over to Australia from New Zealand. The day was really tiring, because, after the workshop a bunch of us went out for dinner and then returned so that I could deliver my lecture. I eventually returned home about 10.15pm having left that morning at about 8.15am.
The Saturday/Sunday workshop had 13 students and was a reprise of the "From the Sublime to the Ridiculous" one which I'd given in Perth. Of those thirteen students, seven had been in the Friday workshops and were thus becoming old friends. Most of the students were really quite accomplished and almost needed no direction from me. However, I think a workshop's main value is in giving the students hints of possible new directions in which to take their work, and I think I did that.
One of the things which I have to mention is that Melbourne has one of the most ludicrous traffic systems I've ever devised (apologies, Melbourne!). They have a wonderful network of trams which go all over the city. The ridiculous part is that (bearing in mind that Aussies drive on the correct side of the road - the left) where there are "safety zones", if you're driving a vehicle, you must make right turns from the left hand lane!! You drive up to the intersection and park on the left, across the intersecting road, until the light changes, when you then make your right turn; a wonderfully harebrained system presumably designed by a bureaucrat, or possibly figured out to keep non-Melbournians off the streets!!
On the Monday, I had a leisurely morning of packing and then wandering around a shopping mall looking for a few gifts to bring home. Greg then drove me to the airport where I caught a flight to Launceston in Tasmania. The flight was full and I would have thought that, having had my ticket purchased on May 1, that I would have had a either a window or an aisle seat, but no!Apparently, in Australia, you can't reserve a seat until 24 hours before the flight. Still, a minor annoyance in the overall scheme of things! Frank and Olive Bull were waiting for me at the airport when I arrived. Olive had told me that she hadn't changed a bit in the last 20 years, and, of course, she was right! The same as me!!
My stay in Western Australia, like everywhere else, was fantastic. I was met at the Perth airport by Barb and Gus King who proceeded to show me the most amazing time. We first went to King's Park, which is a magnificent park overlooking the Swan River in Perth. I was made to feel instantly at home in that beautiful city. After a delightful stroll in the Park, we headed out to the local tennis club to meet my sister's brother-in-law, whom I hadn't seen for more than thirty years. He is a doctor; a GP in the area. After a glass of wine with Geoff, he took me back to his beautiful house in Claremont, close to the river, and then he, his wife, Wendy, and I all went out for dinner.
Of course, a lot of what I did has either now disappeared to the far recesses of what used to be called my brain. Other things I remember but very likely in the wrong order!
The workshop began on Saturday - "From the Sublime to the Ridiculous" - and an amazing sixteen people signed up for it. It was held in the Boy Scout HQ in Perth and was full of joy and laughter (exactly the way I like 'em). I had the students go through a Foundational Hand to begin with and then on to pen manipulation in the afternoon.
After a very pleasant martini with Barb and Gus, I spent the rest of the evening on my own and was able to catch up on some much needed sleep
By the following day everyone seemed to have "got it" (the concept of pen manipulation) to a greater or lesser extent. Somehow, we managed to finish a half hour early and we neglected to take any class photographs, because, by the time Barb had gotten everything packed up, the class had dispersed! Oh well!! I had gone round and done an alphabet for everyone in the class and it had taken me a lot less time than I expected.
That evening, Geoff picked me up at my hotel and drove me back to his house where he was preparing dinner for two of his neighbors and myself. We were also joined by Geoff and Wendy's son Tristan, their other son, Nick being otherwise engaged! It was a wonderful evening at where, I regret to say, I imbibed a little too much wine. Geoff has this unbelievably magnificent wine cellar, which would be the envy of anyone who enjoys a glass.
The next day was to be the lecture, but first, Gus and Barb and I had decided to go for a bike ride. G & B fortunately had a number of spare bikes and they picked me up at the hotel and off we went for our spin along the river. The river is truly magnificent and the bike trail runs all along both sides of it. We rode for a leisurely 18kms and stopped for a cup of tea on the way, before arriving back at our starting point. The next time I'm there, I want to do the whole ride down to Fremantle and back!!
After dropping the bikes off at their house, we drove down towards Fremantle and then out to Cottesloe for lunch and my first view of the Indian Ocean. I'm not sure that I ever expected to see that body of water, and I have to admit to standing there, not really believing where I was. We got back to my hotel in time for me to have a short rest before the lecture, which went fairly well and which was put on in one of the hotel meeting rooms.
After the lecture, most of the members of the class repaired to the Melbourne for a class dinner which was most enjoyable. Barb and I had decided that we would take the ferry down to Fremantle the following day, and meet up with Wendy at a local microbrewery. Several of the class members decided that they would join us, too. The trip downriver was spectacular; the houses were unbelievable paeans to overindulgence!!
The following day, Wednesday, I boarded an early flight to Melbourne and picked up three hours which helped to discombobulate me even more. I never used to suffer much from jetlag, but this time has been just a little different. More about Melbourne next time.