Saturday, 22 November 2014

Kabuki & Cottonfields

He dashed out in front of me, onto his stage, wearing his orange sash and long white coat and carrying a somewhat over-sized fan, hiding his face. His long purposeful coat impinged his walk, forcing him to make tiny, quite comical steps like a Kabuki performer. The moment was one of pure theatre.

But he was not a Kabuki performer. He was not even Japanese. When the 8:45am sunlight highlighted him appropriately one could see he was a school crossing attendant, a “Lolly Pop” man, with council waistcoat with reflector orange, and a long white coat to keep warm. And his over-sized fan was the big, round, orange sign on an elongated pole that read ‘STOP’ in black.

I long for the Kabuki performer; but he was gone in an instant, never to return.


This morning I picked a whole bale of cotton. Not from a physical field, for although I’m sure somewhere in this country they grow cotton I have never seen it, as here we are reduced to wheat, canola, sunflowers, and rotation crops.

I saw a cottonfield early this morning - up in the sky - thousands of very small fluffy white clouds, strew across the dawn blue sky, billowing off until they formed a wall of cotton extending to the horizon edges. I picked each with my eyes, amazed at the expanse of the pattern in the sky, and imagined the fluff of each in my hand. I imagined sewing so many garments from this cotton - magical garments, and wished that all nations could pick cotton from the sky and other crops, so that no one went without.

Monday, 17 November 2014

A Chorus of Strange Birds

I found myself in a deserted plain of wood, metal, clay and rock. So deserted that I stopped and looked about me; for I was not in the wilds of mountain ranges nor in a desert, but in my own town at about 5 o’clock on a Sunday in late spring, nearly summer. I felt an eerie hand grip my shoulder, as dry leaves cartwheeled along at their own ghostly pace, picked up by the wind. The sky was grey and threatening, as though it had somehow sucked all the other people out into a third dimension, not so very far away and I was totally alone on this earth.

And then I heard it; I heard the chorus of a modern flock of strange birds. And listened all the more. I let the chorus take hold of me, and I heard the flap, flap flapping, and the ting ting ting, and the whoop whoop whoop, tong tong, and the clack clack clack, the clunk clunk repeat over and over again about me. It was musical. Almost as though I was hearing xylophones in their native habitat twitter and talk to each other, on the wing of the wind which blew in short gusts about me. Then there would be the flap flap flapping as though birds, near at hand were flying off or in, but no birds could I see.

It was a moment of pure wonder; a thrill of excitement, almost transporting me to another world.

Slowly the magic of the moment gave way to reason, and I perceived the true state of things. I saw the Australian Flag across the road near the Council and heard it flap flap flapping in the wind, and each time there was a ting ting ting of a ring of metal touching the metal flag pole.

The shop fronts blinds, half down, of striped material, tied with cord, said whoop whoop whoop, and a metallic tong tong as they attempted to escape their metal bonds.

A wire gate, not properly locked went tong tong ting, every now and then, when a gust was strong enough to tempt it to break free. A clack clack clack of hard plastic sounded from on top of the bank roof, and a clunk clunk clunk of a dinted aluminium can rolling lightly back and forth in the gutter, then stopping, as if searching for danger, and when all was clear, it continued onward.

I put one foot in front of the other, rather sad that I lost my magical chorus of strange birds, but I was hungry, and proceed to the takeaway store.

Tuesday, 4 November 2014

Melbourne Cup and my memories of racing

So, its here again; yet another Melbourne Cup. There was a time when I was so excited about the Cup I would nearly throw up in anticipation. I would follow the horses all season, memorise all the past winners, know which horse won the Melbourne Cup of my birth year (Rain Lover) and all kinds of other things.
The first local race meetings I attended was with my grandmother's best friend and a friend of hers. Sometimes its was to the Horse Racing meet, sometimes it was to the Trots. I loved horses, so it was exciting just to be close to them, but not too close, as I suffered from asthma and they are one of my triggers.
My grandmother's friend would show me how to bet, how to go to the window and what to say. We'd have fun all day, winning though often losing. I'd go the mounting yard for each race and watch what was on offer, and if there was a grey - well my money instantly went on that.
My dad let me pick his winners for his syndicate in my teens, and I followed all the races at Flemington and in Melbourne. My favourite horse was Norfolk Tiger - a hurdler, who was always a safe bet.
I was in New Zealand when my favourite Melbourne Cup chance Kingston Town won - a black wonder. But there were many more over the years that I could pick from their picture.
As I got older, and perhaps more lately, its lost some of the magic for me. Perhaps because it does seem more of a cruel sport now than it used to, and the horses come off second best all too often. I watch it; but I don't enjoy it like I used to.
the horse of my dreams - totally fictional, painted in my teens and regarded as my best horse painting for many years afterwards.

Saturday, 1 November 2014

Pumpkins and Halloween

'I would rather sit on a pumpkin and have it all to myself, than be crowded on a velvet cushion' - Henry David Thoreau 'Walden' (pond)

I thought it was time to re-read Walden. I bought it some years ago after hearing of Thoreau's quotes constantly and especially from Dead Poet's Society. I read it once - and it is quite a read. I understood about 10% of it, but I marked out all the quotes that were special to me. I am only up to page 59 this time, but already I am understanding a little more and finding more quotes that I never noticed the first time (like the one above - and quite topical seeing is Halloween in some countries of the world).

I am often annoyed by my fellow Australians who claim Halloween is an American tradition that we should not even bother to celebrate - that it is Americanisation creeping into our everyday. I know this is not so. Why even Agatha Christie wrote about it in several of her books and she was far from being American, and started writing in the 1920's.

'All Hallows Eve' was first found in print in the 1500's in England, coming from a Scottish term. By the 1700's it had been shortened (contracted) to Hallowe'en and then Halloween. The tradition is believed to have originated with the Celts - though debatable whether this was the Christian Celts or the Pagan Celts. But certainly the  Celtic-speaking world from Ireland, Wales, and Europe based on folklore carried forward from hundreds of years prior to the 1500's. The festival was held around 31st October - 1st November as a celebration to the end of the harvest, and the first days of the darker half of the year (Autumn/Winter), when fairies and spirits were more likely to be active.

Nuts and apples, bonfires, guising, and playing pranks and games were all parts of All Hallows Eve, all having deep significance to the individuals involved, with some variations in different countries or areas.

The rise of Christianity in England and Europe overlapped with All Hallows Eve - where the Christian celebration of All Saints Day (also known as All Hallows Day) on the 1st Nov and All Souls Day on the 2nd Nov, thus the holiday on the 31st October became known as All Hallows Eve.

By the end of the 12 century, Christians were ringing church bells and having parades of people dressed in black in the streets to celebrate 'souls' who had passed, making and exchanging cakes for christened souls (soul cakes), believed to be the beginning of 'trick or treating'.

In parts of Britain these customs and celebrations were lost during the reformation (considered as Pagan beliefs or considered wrong that souls could come from Heaven or on their way to Heaven to attend the celebrations), and other changes of Church, and after 1605 Guy Fawkes Day (5 Nov) saw many Halloween traditions shift to that day, until the traditions pettered out and Guy Fawkes Day stood alone.

Some Christian groups took the traditions of Halloween to America (in the 1600s - 1700s), where Christian faiths battled over whether to celebrate the 31st October to the 2nd Nov as a Christian holiday. The Puritans of New England would not. But following mass immigrations from Scotland and Ireland in the 1800's to America re-established the tradition and from then on it was celebrated on the 31st October.

The Halloween tradition or parts thereof, are still celebrated in Italy, Spain and France where gifts of food are left out for souls who have passed and graves are visited.

The American version of Halloween focuses more on the giving of gifts and the guising (dressing up) rather than the inclusion of souls who have passed, and is therefore more showy perhaps than the same celebration in Europe.

It is certainly not, however, an American invention.

see more: Wikipedia


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