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!!!

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