Sunday, April 23, 2017


The garden today
Sometimes Mother Nature sends a perfect day. Today is one of those.

The sun is shining but it is not too hot, the air is gentle with just a slight mumour of movement in the lemongrass leaves to show we are not living in a vacuum, the bees are buzzing, Sasanqua flowers drop onto the lawn and a little bird just flew down to suck the nectar from a flower on the little bottle brush bush I planted a couple of years ago as bird feed.

I just hung out the washing feeling a sense of deep contentment.

Monday, April 17, 2017

Harsh southern sun

Exposure to our harsh southern sun fades cotton materials very quickly. I made chair covers five years ago to protect my newly upholstered chairs from children's messes but it turned out the children were not a problem but rather our harsh sunlight was. The bright coloured cotton batiks I used faded so much the covers became unsightly.
Same material, different sun exposu
The blue dye faded almost away

This time I covered the chairs as protection against the sun. I have had new material (light coloured and sturdy) to re-cover the chairs for a while, but not the time for the project. While I waited, I used the project as a sleeping potion, falling asleep trying to figure out exactly how to cut the new cloth. A tired mind found it an insolvable problem but when I actually laid out the material this Easter weekend it turned out to be very simple. (If you are having difficulty falling asleep, try figuring out a mathematical problem.)
Try figuring out how to cover a chair - it will send you to sleep

Bright, even when the sun is not shining

Friday, April 14, 2017

Swimming on the windowsill

Window sill in need of some paint
The first thing I did when I moved into this house was to paint all the window sills.  However our brutal sun ages paint quickly, especially parts exposed to the western sunshine and in six short years the western windowsills have lost much of their original paintwork.

Today I began the repainting job. If I had realised what difference it makes to the feel of the rooms I might have repainted earlier (or maybe not). This has been an unplanned but rewarding Easter Friday project. 
Ceramic swimmer on the repainted windowsill.

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Bach Violins Concertos (and Haydn) with the ACO

Playing Haydn
Packed hall, mouse-quiet intent audience, immersed musicians, warmly-felt rousing applause.  This week's evening of Bach and Hayden with the Australian Chamber Orchestra was a winner and the audience was glowing as they left the concert hall.

The Bach Concerto for two violins (Richard Tognetti and Helene Rathbone) and Concerto for three violins (Richard Tognetti, Helene Rathbone and Satu Vanska) were examples of instruments/musicians playing in absolute accord ... but then the whole of the ACO does this with aplomb.

Horns, oboes and bassoon (baroque bassoonist Jane Gower) joined the orchestra for the Haydn. Haydn has to be played really well for me to enjoy it, and this was played really well.

Sunday, April 09, 2017

Horrible Harriet - 'awesome' but LOUD

Horrible Harriet set at the Sydney Opera House
Horrible Harriet is a children's theater piece currently at the Sydney Opera House Drama Theater.  It is based on the book of the same name by Leigh Hobbs, or perhaps one should say 'loosely based on' because the seven year old I was with said it was 'nothing like the book'.  That it was not like the book didn't seem to matter though as she later reported to her parents that 'it was awesome'.

There were only three actors in various guises and I couldn't help but admire their energy. You need lots of energy if you want to keep a whole mob of youngsters concentrating for over an hour.

There were also lots of songs - VERY VERY LOUD SONGS AND MUSIC. When I later related the deafening noise levels to my young charge's parents, her father remarked: "Oh all music mixers are deaf, that's why!"

Thursday, March 30, 2017

Cyclones, sharks and pouring rain

Rain ... surprisingly hard to capture in a photo
Cyclone Debbie has smashed its way through northern Queensland and is now bringing floods to Queensland and heavy rain to NSW. Even here, just north of Sydney, it is belting down but fortunately the rain clouds are forecast to move offshore during the night.

People are warned constantly not to try to drive through flood waters, but still they try and still they need to be rescued. Fortunately no drownings have been reported as a result of Cyclone Debbie. (Addendum 3 April: three people have been reported drowned.)

Perhaps the warnings will be better heeded now that a picture of a shark washed inland during the cyclone is being circulated. There is is, sitting in the street waiting for dinner. 

From ABC news online:
the caption reads
'Authorities have warned
people not to swim in floodwaters'

Sunday, March 12, 2017

Faded flowers

My mother was an avid gardener with a wonderful garden. She loved flowers, particularly roses, and enjoyed having them in the house. She had a lot to choose from, so she always discarded flowers that were past their best and I grew up thinking wilted flowers were only good for the compost.

I have since learned differently. My friends in Hamburg leave their flowers in vases long after my mother would have thrown them out and I have learned to appreciate them as they fade.

Last year in Hobart I saw the most magnificent vase of slowly (or fast?) fading irises in a memorable antique store. The hedge of lovely white roses in front of the shop had initially attracted me and inside the door I discovered a shop full of the quaint, the old and the preposterous. And the wilted irises. 

Tuesday, March 07, 2017

Daniil Trifonov in love

Daniil Trifonov plays
"It isn't about rapport with the audience, but total obsession with the instrument," said a man beside me to his friends. We were all waiting to cross the road after the Daniil Trifonov piano concert at Angel Place last night.

Yes, exactly, I thought. Those were the words I had been seeking.

I had made a few little pencil sketches of Trifonov as he began his concert but as time passed I found myself writing words instead.

Caress, I wrote.  Prayer, Abandonment, Touch, Determination, Structure (during the Shostakovich Preludes and Fugues), Gentleness, Love.

Love. Yes, that is it really. Trifonov loves his instrument, is in love with his instrument.

Virtuoso pianist Martha Argerich is reported as saying of Trifonov, “What he does with his hands is technically incredible. It’s also his touch—he has tenderness and also the demonic element." 
I wondered what exactly we would hear and now I know:  a pianist in love with his instrument - with everything else irrelevant.

Wednesday, March 01, 2017

Wildlife and cobwebs

Long-tailed tit by Robert E Fuller
copied from his website
If you want a different perspective on cobwebs, have a look at the latest post by the wildlife artist Robert E Fuller.

He writes a wonderful blog about his observations of birds and other wildlife near his studio in rural England.

Scroll down his site to see videos he has taken by putting cameras in hollow logs and the like.

Here in NSW and the spiders are busy spinning their autumn webs.  It would be nice if the long-tailed tits Fuller describes could fly over here and take a few with them.

Thursday, February 23, 2017

Blue Tulips as Paperback

Yaay! I got my copy of Blue Tulips: A Love Story in the mail today!

It is looking good ... quite a hefty tome at 430 pages.

Blue Tulips: A Love Story is a book that demonstrates how potent Wagner's music can be as a love potion (and aphrodisiac!)

 Blue Tulips: A Love Story is now available as paperback

Available as e-book at:

Saturday, February 18, 2017

Wagner's Music as Love Potion

Wagner's Music as Love Potion? Blue Tulips: A Love Story is a book that demonstrates how potent this love potion can be.

Blue Tulips: A Love Story is now available as paperback

Available as e-book at:

Thursday, February 16, 2017

Murder, Redemption and King Roger

One would not normally compare a chamber orchestra with an opera company, but I happened to see the Australian Chamber Orchestra and an Opera Australia production within days of each other this month, so here is my take on them both.

In the nineties OA put on a wide variety of operas from a wide variety of composers with wonderful singers, mostly Australian. It was an exciting company. Then the management changed and every production seemed to be a reality TV show. Perhaps someone thought it was the way to win a younger audience but avid opera fans drifted away. I got a subscription to the Australia Chamber Orchestra instead and discovered a vibrant  band of passionate players who have so enriched my life that I can only thank OA for sending me in their direction.

I had chosen to see Opera Australia's production of King Roger because it was billed as 'something different' but I probably wouldn't have gone to the ACO Murder and Redemption concert if I had not had a series subscription because it included American folk songs and I couldn't imagine how they could be combined successfully with a classical offering. So I expected more from one concert than the other.

Unfortunately I found King Roger underwhelming. The music itself is worth hearing, but I found the production too similar to other over-sexualised or pop-culture OA offerings. The program notes described how the composer Szymanowski struggled with his homosexuality, so a reference to this would have been understandable, but the surfeit of writhing and thrusting male dancers that was presented made me feel as if I was watching an American sitcom where every facial gesture is overdone. My seat-neighbour was similarly under-impressed, telling me he had seen the Edinburgh version which interpreted the opera as the struggle of transformation. It sounded like the one I would have preferred to see. I have seen several concert performances of opera since I gave up my AO subscription and find them much more satisfying than overblown productions.  I read however that the current La Traviata is a winner, so perhaps I shall have to give OA another try. 

In comparison, Murder and Redemption with Finnish violin-wizard Pekko Kuusisto leading the ACO way overshot my expectations. Folk songster Sam Amidon sang his songs with becoming naturalness (in  the best American folk song tradition) but what surprised me was how they complemented the classical pieces by Janacek and John Adams.

I am not sure why exactly, but Amidon's songs gave the ACO's passionate version of Adam's Shaker Loops a special zing.

The ACO has exceptional curatorial skills and  this program was just another example.

I sat there wishing I had brought my 17 year old music friend with me.  If you want to induce that generation to go to a classical concert, this was the sort of music you would choose.

Tuesday, February 07, 2017

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Pears, nectarines and Frangipani.

Pears, Nectarines, Frangipani
Acrylic on Canvas 30 x 40cm
In summer at least two pictures of fruit and flowers seem to paint themselves. They happen in response to the abundance of fruit at this time of year.

This second one was more painterly than the first and the only bit that was difficult was deciding the colour of the wall. Cream looked washed out so I painted the wall blue.

I painted this in December and the pears are still sitting on the shelf. It is remarkable how long they last. I wonder what chemicals have been used to stop them rotting? Makes you wonder.

Saturday, January 21, 2017

Pears and Frangipani revisited

My pears and Frangipani picture has been undergoing a transformation. Five year old Sophia said the pears look as if they are made of plastic and I had to admit she had a point.

I painted them over, added a fancy bit of woodwork from the sideboard, changed the background, then changed it again. The picture transformed every time I passed it but still I didn't like it.
At one point I scrubbed it right back again with a big scrubbing brush and running water.

Then finally I removed the background altogether and added two more pears.

Pears and Frangipani ... current version

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Watching sunflowers grow

I planted some sunflowers in front of the garage as a 'Blickfang' (eye-catcher) this spring and they have grown beyond my expectations.  When I went to Hobart in November they were still a few inches tall. On my return after four days, they had doubled in size. It has been a pleasure to watch them grow tall then even taller. Then they flowered and their yellow disk flowers followed the sun as it passed overhead.
Setting seed
Now they grow bulbous, more bulbous every day. You can almost see the seeds growing inside them.   The flowers are too heavy to follow the sun now, looking east all day instead.

If you ever want to observe flowers through their stages, plant them in front of your breakfast window.

One week on (16 January) seeds are setting and the flowers bow their weighty heads.  Then the cockatoos discover them ...

Cockatoos discover sunflowers

The seeds are yet unripe but the cockies don't care and would just destroy the plants then leave.  So I chase them off and bag the heads.

to be continued ... 

Bagged sunflower heads

Thursday, December 22, 2016

Season's Greetings!

It has been a tumultuous year and we are confronted with a new world.  Reading online comments sections that follow political posts would make you despair of the human condition but I am hoping that the tumult will activate those who support an ethical environment. Let us hope that this time next year the tide has turned again.

Merry Christmas to everyone (of all faiths or none) and may you have a very successful 2017.

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Pears and Frangipani

Pears and Frangipani
Acrylic on Canvas, 30 x 40 cm
Warmth, summer fruit and flowers, a general relaxed feeling - they all conspire to make one want to paint, even when beset by a seasonal virus such as the one that caught up with me on my return from Tassie. 

The Frangipani tree is covered with flowers and when I bought these two inside, they were enough to perfume the studio.

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Mona: Museum of Old and New Art

Ferry with sheep
The Museum of Old and New Art (Mona) in Hobart is a Museum you don't easily forget. I was there two weeks ago but it remains very fresh in my memory.  It is like no other museum you have ever visited. I usually last about an hour in a museum, but I was at Mona for five hours and there was not one bored moment of the many I spent there.

Ferries and buses take visitors from Hobart. I took the half hour ferry ride and was pleased I had. I was also pleased I had not read much about it as the many surprises, including the building itself, made my visit memorable. I will not spoil the surprise for those reading this who have not visited, but I can talk about some of the exhibits, not all of which are permanent. 

Mona thumbs its nose at everything: the art establishment especially, but everything else as well, including the creator of this gallery. I didn't notice on my way there, but as the ferry arrived for the return journey to Hobart I could see the group of sheep on the back deck. They looked at us as we looked at them. These quirky, amusing and sometimes in-your-face moments are what Mona is all about.
Golden vase ...
and reflection of me listening to
information via Mona device

Each visitor is given a phone-like device which 
automatically calls up prerecorded information about the art works near that visitor. You can have the information about the works that interest you emailed to you.  (The battery of my device died, so I lost my information - thus few of the images here are captioned.)

Henry Moore head
Woven carpet
The bottom level of the gallery had been divided into four spaces, each comprising several rooms. Four curators had been asked to exhibit art that answers the question 'What is art?"  I found the question captivating as I had written an essay in my second year at art school with the title 'What is art anyway?'

Interestingly two of the curators answered the same way, although with different exhibits. I didn't agree with their premise though, that art is all about survival of the species.

Fat red car

As I sat waiting for the ferry, I realised there was an art video playing right in front of me:

My Mona Video