Monthly Archives: September 2010

Perfectly suited to peacocks

Fabric designers have tried to replicate this

When I took these photographs, the song below immediately came to mind…

“I see my wife, my Golde, looking like a rich man’s wife
With a proper double-chin.
Supervising meals to her heart’s delight.
I see her putting on airs and strutting like a peacock.
Oy, what a happy mood she’s in.
Screaming at the servants, day and night.”

You have to have observed peacocks to really appreciate the sentiment expressed in ‘If I was a rich man’ from Fiddler on the Roof. It sums up the peacock perfectly and as I sing it to myself, I can see Tevye on stage imitating the strut. (I’ve always loved singing this song – it doesn’t matter that I haven’t got a beard or a bass voice! I can do the accent and know it by heart.)

There’s nothing quite like the strut of the peacock knowing he’s the focus of attention and preening himself. Such arrogance!

Why on earth was such beauty given to the male of the species? The vibrancy of colour in their feathers, the incredible patterns and then the sheer size of their crowing glory. It just doesn’t seem fair…

Beauty if not everything though…these guys have not the most amiable of manners! Get to close to them and they’ll give you your comeuppance with a sharp peck.

This guy knows he's beautiful

These peacocks roam the grounds surrounding Warsaw’s Lazienki Palace in the park bearing the same name – unexpected hosts when you consider that the park is in the centre of the city. They’ve probably roamed there for centuries. (Lazienki Park is the crowning glory of Warsaw – it was spared during the bombing of Warsaw in World War 11 – and is magnificent.)

I was mesmerised by the peacocks (as they would want me to be) and needless to say, took heaps of photographs! I just love the colours…

Italian Festival offers more than food!

These gelati-maids were kept extremely busy!

Today Westpac Stadium was filled with the smells and sounds of Italy – Wellingtonians had a home-grown opportunity to sample the tastes and learn a bit more about Italy at the Italian Festival.

The festival has been going for about four or five years and gets better each time. This year over 6,000 people visited – it was busy, buzzy and beautiful.

Several trained singers, accompanied by Julie Coulson playing on a baby grand, filled the air with the melodies of italian folk songs and arias; chefs from La Bella Italia entertained the crowd with a cooking demonstration; the festival was so popular that getting around was a challenge!

But everyone was in good humour. With a glass of wine in one hand, and a punnet of risotto in the other – there was no need to hurry anywhere.

For me, the highlight was talking to Tijana from Studio Carolina Izzo and learning about the highly specialist work of an art conservator. She showed us, from inside a padded briefcase, a 400-year old art work they are working on at the moment. It was fascinating! I am so full of admiration for the skill and patience needed. The results of such work must be so rewarding.

I’m not a great finisher of things.In many instances, I’ve been known to start with a hiss-and-a-roar and never quite make it to the finish line. I just don’t have the sort of patience needed for the painstaking work of art restoration.

And then of course, there’s the passion…

Tijana studied art restoration in Florence. She told us that at the beginning of her three year course there were 12 students – eight made it to the end. Only a few have found work.

I could have spent several hours listening to Tijana talk about the work of the Wellington-based studio, but did feel that we needed to move on and let other people in.

Hats off to the organisers of the event – it was great fun. The eight dollar entry fee was worth every cent!

Dancin’ in the street

Don't try this at home!

Today, while the rest of New Zealand was buffeted by gale force winds, rain, snow and hail, Wellingtonians basked in the fourth day of clear skies and sunshine.

While out at lunchtime  I came upon this scene.

I’m not sure what this group of people (South Americans – Peruvians, I think) were celebrating – whatever it was they were certainly doing it in style. Pairs of men would enter the circle of friends throwing themselves through the air accompanied by the beating of  tambourines and a woman singing. It was cool – very acrobatic, very skillful.

Recently there was an article in the Dominion Post about a man arrested for assaulting his wife/partner in public. They had been on their lawn engaged in what looked like a fight. Their defence, when it went before the courts, stated that they had been performing a cultural dance. I’m not sure what the outcome was, but I think the courts were unconvinced!

It struck me that part of what I observed and photographed could have been misinterpreted as aggressive. It wasn’t the case at all of course…but one of my photos does look as if the men could be fighting. A moment in time…

On a day when my spirits needed a lift – this little bit of street theatre really helped. The dancers (if that’s what they were) were amazing and I loved their performance.

I’m really looking forward to the next couple of weeks when Wellington streets come to life with the fabulously creative people involved in the World of Wearable Arts – WOW!!!!

Well, I’ll be shucked!

Mr shucker...

I have another photo just like this – taken three years ago. Same place (Nick’s Seafood Restaurant on Cockle Bay Wharf, Sydney), same time of day and same man. He was smiling then…

Wouldn’t you get sick of shucking oysters day in, day out? You’d so have to love your work. Look at his hands, they look red and swollen – oyster shells are not soft and smooth. And then there’re people like me, who interrupt his flow and expect him to look cheerful.

An oyster shucker – shucker is an interesting word. It sounds vaguely obscene, so I decided to look it up to see how it came to be. The shuck is the outer covering such as a husk or a pod. In the case of an oyster or a clam, the shell is known as the shuck.

Removing the oyster from the shell is known as ‘shucking’.

The person who removes the shell is therefor known as the ‘shucker’!

Wonder how many millions of oysters this guy has shucked.

Now that I think about it…spending all day in a fabulous restaurant, the air thick with delicious aromas, looking out over a picturesque harbour with luxurious launches coming in and out, thousands of people passing, eating, laughing, enjoying themselves. It’s actually not a bad way to spend the day.

Beats sitting in front of a computer eating only a vegemite and cheese sandwich for lunch.

Civic branding

Shame about the butt

Maybe someone should mount an exhibition of man-hole covers! .

No need to guess where this one hails from … you got it, Prague! Isn’t it a beauty?

We’ve got a few arty ones in Wellington too – swirling patterns capturing the characteristic curves in Maori art. Curves which represent the sea surrounding our island nation, and the connections between people and lands.

The man-hole/or drain cover pictured above shows the Prague castle which has a commanding view over the city. It’s a magnificent castle, breathtakingly beautiful with a rich history. You can see how the detail on the cover matches that of the roof of the Cathedral within the castle walls.

Painstaking detail

Fine detail was everywhere. From the cobbled streets to the street lamps and up to the parapets. The manpower needed to have undertaken this work, and the time taken, is unimaginable.

This is only a small sample...

Nowadays, we expect our buildings to be built within short timeframes …. the results show it.

But getting back to the elegant man-hole cover. In my line of work we talk about branding on a daily basis, as if it’s a new concept. It’s not is it?

Plain english?

Does this pass the proofreading test?

It’s a real burden being a Virgo. All my life I’ve been plagued with the eye for detail when it comes to writing. Errors seem to jump out at me.

The above text in the entrance to Prague’s Torture Museum didn’t pass unnoticed. Typed (badly) onto a page of A4 paper, poorly encased in plastic, then hung on an angle (us Virgos like things straight!), it was a sitting duck for my attention.

[Yes, I know the photo is on an angle and it really bugs me…I tried to crop it straight but it just didn’t work. So there you are, I’m ignoring the irritation – and it’s not easy.]

I spend my working life advocating for plain english. The above example would not pass the test and I  wonder how accurate the italian version above it is.

Forgive me for thinking that more care could have been taken in a museum, and in a city so popular with tourists.

I actually think it’s really funny. I’m not offended and I do applaud people for trying. I just love the line:

“If your city is competent to treat one of our expositions, doens’t matter if Temporary or permanently, don’t hesitate to communicate it to us…”

I see confusion in the follow-up!

On show at David Jones

Spectacular displays

Traditions are wonderful.

I was fortunate to have walked into a tradition last weekend. I didn’t know it at the time though. As I took in the magnificent floral displays on the ground floor of David Jones in Sydney, I just thought it was store dressing on a grand scale.

Of course, it was. But it’s store dressing that takes place every year at this time. A celebration of spring. There was an abundance of orchids in shades of gold and rust, lilies looking for all the world like waxen imitations, huge stems of blossoms and beautiful deep green topiaries generously placed around.

I’ve always had a bit of a thing for orchids – particularly the slipper variety (not pictured). I find them quite seductive. Look closely at the shape and texture of slipper orchids…and you’ll see what I mean. The same applies to other varieties though perhaps not so brazenly…

Golden orchids in a golden country

There were crowds of people, young and old, angling their cameras and cellphones upward, trying to capture the beauty of the display. In a week of devastation and disaster, it was a pleasure to gaze upon a celebration of nature and a symphony of colour. Simply gorgeous!

Shake, rattle and roll – a wake up call!

Wellington Harbour - unbelievable calm

Hard to believe that only hours after an earthquake registering 7.1 on the Richter scale hit our small country of New Zealand, Wellington Harbour looked like this!

Christchurch and neighbouring environs – only a 40 minute flight from our capital city – was the epicentre of a quake which hit at 4.30am yesterday morning. I was briefly woken from my slumber…and thought at the time that it seemed to last longer than usual. Then I promptly returned to my dreams and when I awoke several hours later, I’d forgotten all about it.

It was only when my neighbour commented on the phone that Christchurch had been hit very badly by an earthquake, did I remember the 4.30 blip in my sleep. You see, we’re so used to the odd shake that we’ve become complacent. Shakes and rumbles are common occurences for us New Zealanders.

A quake on the scale of yesterdays – inland and relatively shallow – hasn’t been experienced since 1931 in Napier. The whole of Napier was devastated, reduced to rubble. Parts of Christchurch look similar…

We’re all thinking of those we know in Christchurch, and those we don’t know. A friend (in her 80s) rang me to let me know she and her family are safe. She told of being shunted from one side of her bed to other, of the horrifically loud rattle that rent the air – a rattle that sounded like the whirly clacker things we used to take to the rugby – and the after-shocks they are still experiencing. She says that it has been the most terrifying experience of her life. The city is in shock, New Zealand is in shock.

Adding to the tragedy is the fact that so many of us are unprepared.

I’m mindful of the massive bottles of water I bought in December 1999 – for the new millenium – when we were told to prepare for disaster as the clocks ticked over. Mayhem was predicted. It never happened and my massive bottles are still in storage. A fat lot of good they’d be if the quake had struck Wellington. Ten year old water!

Inner-city  Christchurch is without water and power. They’ve been told not to flush their toilets, and to limit phone calls on landlines and on the mobile network.

We have one torch and no spare batteries for it.

Tinned food?  Actually the pantry doesn’t give me much comfort that we’d last for long, unless of course marinated figs and cooking chocolate have special nutrients. I went to the supermarket and stocked up on baked beans today!

The wake-up call which didn’t succeed at the time, certainly has now.