Wednesday, November 11, 2009
Saturday, November 7, 2009
Thursday, November 5, 2009
Before I begin Tuesday's story, I want to say a big "thank you" to all the people who have helped me or housed me, usually both. They would be: Linda Upfold in Sydney, Barb and Gus King in Perth, Greg Hanlon in Melbourne, Olive and Frank Bull in Launceston, Liz and Rory O'Leary, and Alison O'May in Hobart, Jill and John Robertson, and Tony and Angela Hillier in Canberra, Margo and Jim Irwin in Coomera, Gold Coast, and Peggy Robinson, and David and Maggie Salter in Wellington, and, in advance, Jill and Bruce Carlsson in Auckland. You have all been fabulous hosts and I shall be writing to each of you when personally when I return home. I certainly couldn't have managed all this without your help and support and I thank you all.
On Tuesday Morning, then, David (caterer immaculata) and Maggie Salter came round to Peggy's house to pick me up for the drive to Auckland, which we were going to do over three days. Our first leg would take us the appproximately 350kms to Lake Taupo and the town of the same name.
The landscape which we drove through was ever varying from the rugged hills in the south, through the central plains and back into more rolling countryside and finally into the desert of the beginning of the volcanic area and finally into Taupo itself. I had never been this close to active volcanoes before, and their grandeur was mesmerizing. They were snow-capped, the tallest one being over 9000 ft. There was no sign of their being active; no smoke or anything, but the way that they protrude from the landscape makes one realize how really insignificant we are!
On arriving in Taupo, we found our motel, and it was here that I discovered that this whole trip from south to northwas being paid for by the Wellington group and the Auckland group combined. I have no idea how I'm ever going to thank you all for your generosity. Suffice it to say that I was almost reduced to tears again. I shall treasure these memories all the more for this, and I do thank you from the bottom of my heart.
Once we were checked in we took off for one of the most incredible sights in the area: the Huka Falls. This is the start of another hydroelectric scheme which supplies some 15% of all New Zealand's electricity. The falls themselves are caused by the river being forced into a narrow channel, and while not high, they carry some 15 cubic meters of water per second. The sheer rugged power is a wonder to behold.
We returned to Taupo for dinner and then turned in fairly early with me looking forward to a new day, when we would get to see some more examples of the geothermal nature of this area. Everyone had warned me that the Rotorua area, our next destination, smelled very strongly of hydrogen sulphide from all the geothermal outlets - geysers, mudpools, vents and so on, and thus I was a little disappointed that it wasn't nearly so bad as I expected. I was expecting the whole area to be a natural "stinkbomb" and in fact, it does smell, but not nearly as badly as I had been led to anticipate.
The next morning, I awoke early, as I usually do and took a walk around the town for a couple of miles or so. It was very quiet and the skies were threatening. The volcanoes, which had been quite visible the previous evening were shrouded in cloud, and I wondered if we'd be able to see anything later on. I needn't have worried.
Our first port of call on the drive to Rotorua was the "Craters of the Moon" area. This is a large open area of vents, craters and mudpools, with a walkway which runs all around it. The walk takes about three quarters of an hour, and to be honest, we were all a little disappointed. I suppose we'd all expected something a little more spectacular.
However, we were not disappointed by our next place to visit. The place, which I'll call Orakei Korako until I can find something with the proper name on it, is a geothermal area which boasts of itself as the best naturally occurring site in the world, and I, for one, wouldn't gainsay it.
We were taken by boat across a lake and deposited at the bottom of a huge rock ledge where hot water runs down, and all sorts of colors are deposited on the rock from the dissolved salts. The walk around the area took about an hour and a half and was all up hill and down dale. I have absolutely no idea how many steps we climbed and descended, but they seemed innumerable.
It seemed as though every time we turned a corner there was something new to be seen. There were hot springs (and I mean HOT), geysers, mudpools, a cave with a warm lake in it, a rock shaped like an elephant's head. It was a true wonderland with colors which beggar description. I think we were all amazed and it more than made up for the disappontment we felt at the Craters of the Moon.
We drove on to Rotorua for lunch and tried to get a look at a working geyser (the geyser at OK is unpredictable), but were told we would have to buy a ticket even if we didn't want to see anything else. I was, by this time, pretty tired, and my knees were aching, and so we decided to go back to the motel and rest up for the evening's festivities.
David and Maggie had arranged for us to go to a Maori Cultural Evening at the Tamaki Maori Village on the outskirts of town. We were picked up at out motel and driven out to the village. On the way, the driver regaled us with all sorts of stuff and told us that each busload of people had to be represented by a chief. Somehow, because I had played rugby when I was at school, I was selected.
The three chefs, one from each bus, by sheer coincidence, all turned out to be British. One from west Wales, one from Luton, and me. We had to face the Haka, where warriors with fierce gestures and threatening moves, tried to intimidate us. We had been warned that we must keep eye contact and not smile. Once we were accepted as guests, then the people we represented would be welcome in the village.
We were entertained by people doing traditional village things such as carving and playing games, and then we were led into the dining hall for a meal cooked in the way of the Maori, underground. The evening's entertainment went on a little longer than expected, but was really quite exceptional.
On the way back, I was informed that I, as chief, had to sing a song. I had been warned that this might be the case, so I launched into "Five Nights Drunk" (what else?), which raised some laughter.
I have to admit that I had a certain trepidation about the evening, thinking that it might turn out to be really kitschy, but it was, in fact, thoroughly enjoyable. I'm not sure when I'll be able to upload this narrative, but it will probably be in Auckland. We shall be leaving for there in an hour or so, but before that, we shall take a further look at Rotorua.
Watch this space!
Tuesday, November 3, 2009
However, before I finally quit Australian shores, it would be extremely remiss of me not to mention two people without whom this whole trip would have been impossible. First, Gemma Black. Gemma was the catalyst who first got my wishes to return to Australia across to the necessary people, namely Linda Upfold. It was wonderful to see Gemma in the Gold Coast. She is now living just north of Brisbane, and when she came to the class at Neranga it was wonderful to see how relaxed and content she seemed compared with when we had last met, in Chicago. Wherever her future journeys take her, I can only wish her continued success and buona fortuna. She is, indeed, a lovely lady.
And secondly, and certainly not least; how can I possibly thank Linda Upfold. She has spent interminable hours on my behalf, continually calling and emailing trying to get everything organized, and how well it HAS been organized. In spite of my little niggles, nothing whatever redounds to Linda's organizational acumen. Her arrangements on my behalf have been nothing short of perfect, and I thank you once again, Linda. I know no other way to express my gratitude than in public and this forum seems the best. I doubt that I can ever thank you enough for all your hard work.
And so now I'm in New Zealand.
My trip from Coomera to Wellington began with an alarm ringing at 4.07 am and me making the quick dash out of bed and into the shower, to be followed by packing, breakfast, short trip to the station, fond farewells to Jim and Margot and then hopping onto the 5.40 train to the airport.
The check in went smoothly enough, but I have to admit to not being prepared for the line to get through EXIT customs. In my experience, customs is there to check your coming in, not leaving! In the end, my departure took much longer than my arrival.
The flight across the Tasman Sea was uneventful and we arrived just about on time in Auckland. I have to admit that my arrival in New Zealand left a lot to be desired. Auckland airport is, to put it bluntly, auckward. After a twenty seven mile hike to reach customs and immigration, I got into the country with no problem, but try to find your way around the airport. Where there are signs, they're very confusing, and I have to wonder why, in the imes of the global village, we can't have standardized signage.
Anyway, I eventually found the Domestic Transfer desk and having checked in for the short flight to Wellington, then tried to find my way to the domestic terminal. I was told to catch the bus outside door number 6. Fine, I thought. Except that the doors don't have numbers!! Eventually I found the bus after asking several people and arrived at the gate with about five minutes to spare.
On reaching Wellington I was greeted by Peggy Robinson, who identified herself by holding a couple of my books. I was supposed to be on the same plane with another lady, a student in the class, but she had been delayed because her bags were lost in Sydney. She arrived about twenty minutes later, and we all set off for Wellington proper. To say that Wellington is beautiful and magnificent would be to do it an extreme disservice. The drive in from the airport simply took my breath away. High hills surrounding a natural harbor with house dotted all over, enough to put San Francisco to shame. I had always thought of it as being a dour, administrative center, but WOW! Anyone coming to this magnificent country must visit Wellington.
Peggy's house, where we went after dropping Cathy at the railway station, is a charming small house in Brooklyn, overlooking Oriental Bay and the whole sweep of the Wellington inlet. The view from up there, to repeat myself, took my breath away again. The house must be at least a thousand feet up which I can attest to, having walked up there a few days later!!
The following day, Saturday, was the first day of the "Pen Manipulation Techniques" workshop, which was being held up the coast at Ramaudi Beach, about a 45 minute drive from Wellington. The workshop was a joint venture between the Hutt Calligraphers and the Calligraphers of Kapiti. There were 18 people in the workshop which meant my work was going to be cut out for me. We'd had a little trouble getting paper, but in the end needn't have worried, because Daniel Reeve and Alison Furminger. Daniel, incidentally, is the man who did all the calligraphy for the "Lord of the Rings" movies.
The workshop went very well on the first day, and I have to say a special thanks to David _____ for handling all the food and refreshments for the workshop. After the workshop was over for the day, a gave a short illustrated talk about my work and then most of us headed to a Thai restaurant for dinner, which was superb, as was the company! We stayed the night at the Ramaudi Beach Resort, which was quite luxurious, and I was able to catch up on my email and this blog.
The next day, was the last day of the workshop, and I tried to get around to each person to do them an alphabet as a keepsake. I nearly made it!! At the conclusion, I was presented with a thank you card and an original piece by Lorraine Brady. It was quite beautiful, and I only hope that I can get it home in one piece without damaging it. Lorraine, I should tell you, is New Zealand's first, and so far, only, Fellow of the Society of Scribes and Illuminators, and an amazingly talented lady (as well as being quite hilarious!!).
Peggy and I returned to her house after dinner at the Fisherman's Table. I was quite exhausted, and soon after getting home, went straight to bed.
My last full day in Wellington, was spent relaxing. Peggy took me over to meet her son, Tom, where I was able to download the previous posting to my blog. We then took off to drive around the south shore, and see just how breathtakingly beautiful this area is. I was amazed that we could actually see the South Island from there. After a leisurely drive around the shore, we stopped for lunch in Courtney Place, the entertainment and eating section of town.
I wanted to walk down Lambton Quay, the shopping district, and try to sort out my cell phone. I'm currently in a Catch 22 situation, courtesy of Optus. I wanted to recharge my phone, but was told that my phone ID was switched off. In order to turn it on, I had to call Customer Service. Customer Service calls cost 27¢. I'm out of credit, so I can't call them, and I can't recharge the phone. Great!
And so to Tuesday and the start of another adventure. More of that next!
Sunday, November 1, 2009
The road from Thredbo to Jindabyne winds though a beautiful valley which, though normally brown and sere was this time a beautiful emerald green thanks to the recent rains in the area. Though Australia has suffered through a ten year drought, it does look as though the land is beginning to receive some badly needed rain, and the earth is responding.
Just before we reached Jindabyne, Tony turned left and headed back towards the Kosciusko National Park so that he could show me another piece of the Snowy Hydro project which he had designed - the surge tank close by Lake Jindabyne. It is another marvel of engineering and basically protects much of the upper part of the system from a surge in water whenever the pumps are turned on. Not being an engineer, I will spare you my poor attempts to explain its workings, and if Tony happens to read this, perhaps he can add a note to explain more fully.
We lunched in Jindabyne and then began the journey back to Canberra. On the way, the discussion turned to railways. Tony hailed originally from Swindon in Wiltshire, a big railway town back in the day. He began telling me how his favorite line was along the north Somerset coast, and when I asked why, he said because that was where he used to go on holiday after the war. I asked him whereabouts and he said that it was a little town I would never have heard of. I suggested he try me whereupon he said: Blue Anchor. I said that we used to holiday there, too. That we stayed in these funny little chalets on the sea front. He said: Well, that's where we stayed, too. and they had no running water and we had to go get it in buckets or canvas bags. We further decided that we must have been there about the same time, certainly the same years!! It truly is a very small world!
On arriving back in Canberra, Tony dropped me at Jill and John's house, where we were to get ready quickly to go out to the Symphony. The music we heard was by an Australian composer, whose name, I regret to say, I've forgotten. an Elgar cello concerto, and Sibelius' Second Symphony. I have to say that I find the Sibelius rather "bitty" but the other two pieces were most enjoyable, although the sound balance in the Elgar concerto left something to be desired.
The following day, Friday, I had to spend out looking for a new suitcase, and finally found what I needed, but had to spend $360 for it. I hope that it will be the last one I ever have to buy! In the evening, the members of the Canberra workshop were invited to Tony and Angela Hillier's house for a potluck dinner and wine, so that we could all get to know each other before the workshop started. It was a most enjoyable end to the day.
Saturday morning was the beginning of the Canberra workshop, which was held in a very pleasant community hall about twenty minutes from where Jill and John lived. After a very kind introduction from Jill we got underway with "Pen Manipulation Techniques". There were 15 people in the class of varied experience and backgrounds, and we made great progress during the day. By the time the day was done, I was very tired and went to bed early.
On the Sunday, we went through manipulated capitals and then, in the afternoon, I gave them one of Arthur Baker's alphabets, and then went round to do an individual one for each student. At the end of the workshop, everyone gathered around and presented me with a letter done by each student with a little note on the back. The letters spelled out "Thank You Charles". I was very moved.
I had agreed to stay on one more day in Canberra and open their annual show, so during the day I got to see around Canberra. We went first to Mt Ainslie (?) where one has a magnificent view of the city. The original city was designed by an American, whose name, I'm sorry to say, escapes me (another senior moment). There was apparently a large international competition to design the city, and his concept won.It is a marvellous design, even if the politicians did jump in and change things, and which, knowing politicians, probably wasn't for the better!!
We were due to meet Tony and Angela and Barbara Pubal, a friend of Jen and Gemma Black, and whom I'd never met. We arrived a little early and were able, first, to look around an exhibit devoted to the design and founding of the city, and then to take a walk along the new R G Menzies path around the lake. It was very windy, so we curtailed our walk rather than doing the complete circuit. Barbara, when we met, turned out to be absolutely delightful and, a big surprise to me, is married to a man from Cleveland, Ohio, Brecksville to be more precise, where I spent twelve years of my life, most of the time working for American Greetings.
At the show opening later on in the evening, Jill had asked me if I would do a short slide presentation as part of the evening, which I was happy to do. People brought some potluck snacks, and Tony brought along some wine for our enjoyment. He and I had hoped to sneak out for a pint at a pub near there, but the evening ran on longer than expected and so we had to miss out on that!
The next day, I had to be up early to catch a flight to Sydney and then on to the Gold Coast. Queensland. I'm happy to report that Virgin Blue gave me no aggro this time and got me safe and sound to the Gold Coast, and much warmer climes, where I was duly met by the two Margarets, Sheekey and Hardie, the president and secretary of the Gold Coast Calligraphy Society. I regret to say that I know almost no surnames of the other people in the class, because I forgot to ask for a list, and will have to redress that oversight when I return to America.
It fell to Margaret Hardie to make the thirty minute drive up to Coomera to deposit me at my next homestay, which was to be with Margot and Jim Irwin. It was wonderful to see Margot again. We had last met at the workshop I taught in Brisbane in 1987! She hadn't changed a bit, the same as me!!! When I arrived Jim, who is now retired, was out at the Maritime Museum in Brisbane, where he seems to work harder than he did in his work life!! I had never met him before, but he proved to be the most affable of hosts and I was made to feel most welcome. Their house was designed by Jim and is absolutely fabulous. A beautiful structure down to the minutest detail, and right on the Coomera River, with mangrove swamps opposite. I delighted in seeing the birdlife, so different from what I'm used to. They have a fairly tame Butcher Bird who comes to visit for his breakfast every day. There are also Magpies, astounding for their beautiful song, Honey Dippers, Galahs, Lockateels(sp?), Ibises, Egrets and a whole host of others whose names I don't know.
Once arrived at Margot and Jim's, I realized that the prints which were coming from America and Randal Thompson, weren't there. I needed to have them that evening so that I could sign and bag them prior to the workshop. We made a quick phone call to Judy Kilburn and she, bless her, drove them up to Coomera and I was able to spend the evening getting them ready for the workshop the next day.
Wednesday began with Jim, Margo and I taking a little stroll (actually, it was more of a forced march!!!!) around the estate where they live. Jim and Margo are very fit and walk at a pace which left me gasping!! Where they live is truly beautiful, and makes good use of the waters of the river, without being too intrusive. I was delighted to see, for the first time, two koalas in the wild. I have to admit that they were rather high up in the gum tree, but at least I did see them!
The Gold Coast scribes had elected to have me teach "Letters From Hell", and Margot and I left in plenty of time for me to have three quarters of an hour setting up before the workshop began. Unfortunately, we drove slap into a huge traffic jam on the M1 which had us stuck for more than an hour, and we eventually arrived a little more than 15 minutes late. We had a frantic scramble to get everything started.
I was delighted to find Ruth Venner in the workshop. She and I had last met when she was the organizer of the calligraphy group in Adelaide in 1987. As it turned out, she was also going to be spending the night at Margot and Jim's house.
The workshop went fairly well with no-one being TOO confused with the manipulated Gothic letters, but by the time 4.30 came around, everyone was pretty tired. The workshop was being held at the Town and Country Motel, which is adapting itself to being something of a conference center. The motel is in Nerang and the staff bent over backwards to make sure that everything went smoothly. They laid on morning and afternoon coffee and tea, with edibles, as well as excellent light lunches. On that evening 25 of us sat down for dinner and it was really very fine food. I was further surprised and delighted to see Vi Wilson come in, whom I hadn't seen in some 18 years, when she and her husband Michael visited at my house on Staten Island, New York. Unfortunately, Michael couldn't join us; he was undergoing the joys of preparation for a colonoscopy the following morning!!
Breakfast on Thursday morning was a lovely relaxed time, with Ruth regaling us with some of her excellent poetry. One of her poems is about calligraphy and so moved me that I asked her if she would send me the poem so that I could, at some time, do a painting from it. I now have that in my possession and will attempt, at some time in the future, to do it justice. I have always had problems explaining what I do, and this poem does so beautifully. Thank you, Ruth!!
The workshop went very smoothly and at the end, Margaret Sheekey and the other members of the class presented me with an aboriginal print and a T-shirt. They were beautiful and I shall treasure them. Now that I can reflect from here in New Zealand, I can only say that I marvel at the generosity and kindness of all the Australian people I met on this trip. I had a truly fantastic time, and I look forward to the possibility of returning in 2011. I thank you all!!!