Monday, August 02, 2021

National Tree Day

We are in lock-down again in Sydney and the online sketch group I joined in 2020 has started to organise  online exercises again. On Saturday we all drew trees as it was National Tree Day.

New growth
 

The small gum tree I planted on the verge at the front of the house in February 2020, just before Covid came to town and changed our lives, has some bright pink new growth leaves.  It took me a while to find my watercolour box, unthinkable in normal times, but when I did I painted the new growth leaves.

I realise now that this is the first time I have painted this year. I had been too busy writing up the interviews with German women.

No wonder I feel the painting itch.

Sunday, July 18, 2021

Too windy for cacti

It's been so windy here in Sydney that the tops blew off a neighbourhood cactus. 



Thursday, June 24, 2021

Out of darkness

https://youtu.be/yAG0kPovQe8 
 
Covid lockdown bears all sorts of fruits. Music by a talented young mate of mine Girl Platoon.

Sunday, June 13, 2021

Women, War and the Third Reich

When I arrived in Germany in 1973 I had no idea I would spend the next couple of years collecting oral histories but that is what happened. I suffered from culture shock in Germany and my response was to collect oral histories of the women I was living amongst. I asked them about their wartime and postwar experiences. 

It was hard work emotionally for both them and for me as they had often been traumatised by their experiences and had buried them as a way of coping.  My questions brought it all back.  Many women said they had not even told their families about what had happened to them and we wept together as they recounted their stories. 

It turned out to be the best medicine I could have wished for and over the course of those two years I learned to love my adopted home. Several of the women offered to help me publish the stories and I did find a publisher but unfortunately it folded before the book was out and by that time I had enrolled in a science course didn't have time to pursue it further.

The box of interviews (and the research I did in the Wiesbaden public library to help me understand the period the women were talking about) were put in a big box and have traveled with me ever since. I felt, and still feel, indebted to these women and wanted to make sure their voices were heard. I also wanted to publish them to help show how a country can descend into fascism, but we have seen other examples since then and the process probably no longer needs explaining.

So here they are, the voices from times past. Fascinating reading, even now, or perhaps particularly now as the women of this generation are mostly no longer living.  I didn't know whether to publish as eBook as well as paperback. Does anyone read such books on a screen? (Dear reader, if you would read it online, please let me know!) 



 

Available from Amazon and other outlets. Here are the Amazon links:

USA: https://www.amazon.com/dp/098731226X

UK: https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/098731226X

AU:  https://www.amazon.com.au/dp/098731226X

 DE: https://www.amazon.de/dp/098731226X

 

Friday, June 04, 2021

Time is relative

Can it be June already? It is! 

The 4th June is almost over as I write, the 4th day of winter, although the past two weeks in Sydney have been pretty wintery. 

Covid isolation seems to have changed how we register time. It has made time collapse for me. Or is it just because I have been busy finishing my latest project? (More soon.)

It is the reverse effect to the lengthening of time that sometimes happens when you go on an action packed short holiday and return feeling as if you've been away much longer. I had a four day holiday in Cairns that felt like two weeks about 15 years ago. The effect was so extreme I've not forgotten it. I wonder if, in 15 years, we'll look back and remember this time-collapsed period as vividly.  

Monday, April 26, 2021

Wagner Roses: Parsifal and Tristan/Isolde

On my way to Bayreuth (pre-Covid) to hear Wagner's operas Tristan and Isolde and Parsifal I stayed with friends in Hamburg. Sitting on their veranda surrounded by climbing roses and honeysuckle, I read the librettos for the operas, painted the roses and dreamt of the feast to come. Both images below are available to download and print on canvas or paper at artsmitten.com

 

Parsifal: Ich schreite kaum ...

Tristan und Isolde: Nie erwachen


Thursday, April 15, 2021

Changing White roses

I hang my work around the house in an ever changing art show. Some paintings I never tire of, others are favourites for a while then take a back seat.   One painting that never seemed to fit anywhere was  'white roses', painted about a year ago. Something about it didn't work.

 


Finally a few days ago after a long painting hiatus while I learned Wordpress and rewrote my website, I picked this white rose painting up and put it back on the easel. It currently looks like this. We'll see where it ends. 


 

24/6. And now like this


 


Monday, April 12, 2021

Chutney

Is it April already? The self sown tomato plant in my garden (last post) produced lots of tiny tomatoes, many of which were green when I pulled the plant out a week ago. Perfect for tomato chutney.

Saturday, February 13, 2021

Tomatoes

My skills at growing vegetables seems to be rather less than growing catnip and yellow lantana. I bught a tomato plant in spring and another late in spring, but neither flourished.
The garden does what it wants though and a large robust plant has grown up beside the compost bin. I carefully bagged some of the flowers on this plant as tomatoes here tend to get insect eggs laid into them early which cause the tomatoes to rot just before you want to pick them. Later I discovered that this verdant getting-enormous plant has tiny tomatoes, the type that are not bitten by bugs, so I took off the bags. Now I am wondering how to encourage more fruit and less foliage.

Saturday, January 16, 2021

Exercise is oh so boring

We are told repeatedly that exercise is good for us but the problem with exercise is that it is so boring. Keeping up an exercise routine is, or has been for me, almost impossible. I would much rather do other things.

However, three years ago I bought a pair of decent walking sandals when I was in Europe which made walking so much more comfortable. I walked everywhere and returned feeling so much healthier that I decided to try to keep walking. I discovered the only way I could make walking a regular thing was to start walking before I was fully awake. By the time I woke up I was already a block away from home and it was easier to keep going.

I walked 20-25 minutes to the beach and back, long enough to make a difference but not long enough to get too boring. I did often miss days, I confess. But I kept walking when I moved to Carlton and then when I arrived in Arncliffe. I live on a hill in Arncliffe and any walk means going down the hill and up again. Very different from the Umina flatlands.

My walk nowadays takes me about 20 minutes and I have become so used to it I walk every day without thinking. I walk to the lookout over the airport to take a morning photo. I send it to a still slumbering friend who likes getting a weather report.

Winter morning airport lights.

Then I walk down the steps to the bottom of the hill and up again past the house with the yellow flowering bush (last post)

I discovered the other day just how beneficial these walks are. In 2019 I was told that my blood pressure was bordering on the problematic and if it continued to increase I should be on medication. Last week when I had a check up I rather reluctantly reminded the doctor to check my blood pressure.

He looked at his notes and commented, “Oh, its more than a year since you were checked. You have been avoiding me I think because you don't want to take pills!”

He was half way through a lecture about pills being necessary when he paused to take my blood pressure.

Pump pump pump. Then pause. Then pishhhh as the air escapes.

“Oh,” he said checking the measuring gizmo. “Your blood pressure has dropped 10 points!”

He didn't continue the lecture. 

 

Botany Bay in summer


Ship leaving Botany Bay

Friday, January 01, 2021

Garden rescue in covid times

I have lived here over a year now. When I arrived the garden was lawn and the patch of ground between fence and path was weeds. 

Early very morning I walked down the hill and back up. At the bottom of the hill I discovered a pretty garden with a yellow-flowered bush growing right over the path. When I saw the house occupant there one morning I asked if I could take a slip. She turned out to be an avid gardener and said: 

"Why yes, take a big piece, or several, so it grows. It will grow in difficult ground so councils plant it. It is a type of Lantana, but not the one that takes over."

So I took slips and stuck them in pots over summer to see if they would take. 


They all survived and I planted them in the inhospitable soil between fence and path. They are thriving there and now I have yellow flowers right along the fence. 

On the other side of the fence the lawn is slowly being replaced by flowering plants, two blueberry bushes and  last week, a rhubarb plant. Gardens are a marvelous tonic in Covid times.

(The bush in the photo is a Hibiscus, the only plant in the garden when I arrived.)

Monday, December 28, 2020

2021 awaits

It is 28 December, a Monday but the streets hereabouts are quiet as it is a public holiday. At 8am it is already warm, over 25C but it is overcast, threatening to rain and very humid. You can feel the predicted afternoon storms in the air.

Normally the sun would be shining and the beaches full but I haven't heard a single complaint. Last season's dreadful bushfires are still uppermost in our minds and we know we are lucky not to be mired in waves of virus. 

The political environment feels much like the weather, with storms building, still suppressed but increasingly volatile.

They say being resource rich is a recipe for unhappiness in this world as resource owners are so easily able to pay off those who want power while they pillage unrestrained. We have watched environmental destruction by unrestrained multinationals in developing countries and we watch it in Australia. 

How do we get our recalcitrant government to take climate action? They look away as our youth becomes depressed and suicidal. They look away as we loose our Great Barrier Reef. They have practised looking away for a long time as the Aboriginal community would attest. 

But pressure is building. Governments around the world are looking at our government with increasing distaste, and finally they are beginning to act on this distaste. This may be the only way we can be saved from ourselves. 

I found a large sheet of paper that didn't quite fit in the cupboard, so I took out my pencil to make a new years greeting picture.  This was who popped up on the page.

 
Happy 2021 everyone!

 



Monday, December 21, 2020

A NSW Christmas 2020

It's a couple of days until Christmas, but really, who would know? One of the effects of the pandemic is that it has messed with our internal measurement of time. Or at least, it has with mine. Time has flowed along with days overlapping, months disappearing and now suddenly, it is almost 25 December. I am making stollen so I know it really is Christmas. 


With a new Covid flare up, Sydney hovers on the edge of another lockdown. People are unsure what to make of the information provided by the NSW state government who seem just as keen to 'keep the economy going' as they are to beat the virus.  They are also being a bit secretive about how the virus escaped quarentine. We are suddenly discovering just how many people have been granted quarentine exemptions (the wealthy, LNP mates, Airline crews among others), and because of the secrecy,  people are making their own minds up. Perhaps a wealthy donor to the LNP Government? Perhaps a Hillsong mate of the PM? (The Hillsong religious sect suddenly has several cabinet members in Federal Parliament).  

Having a Premier whose integrity has been has been questioned by the Independent Commission Against Corruption but who refuses to step down doesn't help.

One thing NSW does have going for it is an excellent health department with a good contact tracing capability.  The chief health officer does look rather uncomfortable at the press briefings (which are invitation only, so no uncomfortable questions) so there is speculation at what is being hidden. After months of very clear and open communication from the Victorian Government (who allowed all journalists into press briefings and answered every question), NSW politicians are looking less than admirable.

Not only the NSW public, but other state governments have noticed the  deficits (like NSW refusal to mandate masks) and have quickly shut their own borders. NSW politicians are not happy, but they really only have themselves to blame. As a result of the closures people from other states are racing back to their home bases

 


 and many NSW families (including mine) looking forward to reunions with far flung members are having to change plans. Fingers crossed for the days ahead.

Thursday, November 12, 2020

Sweetpeas


 I planted Sweetpeas last autumn so I had something to watch grow through the winter. They have been flowering since September and the more flowers I pick the more they flower. 

The Latin name of Sweetpeas is  Lathyrus odoratus and they are true to their name. If I could attach their scent to this blog post I would do so. 

Thursday, September 10, 2020

The Albatross book for kids

Hard copies of my book arrived today and they are much brighter than I imagined. It is so exciting to see them in the flesh.
 
Yes, I agree with my London reviewer. I think kids will like it! 
 
 

 I still don't understand why they are so much cheaper to buy from the UK Amazon store than the US Amazon store. (They are also available from other stockists! )
 

RUOK

A friend just texted to ask RUOK? reminding me that it is RUOK day in Australia, a day meant to promote mental health by asking people to reach out to see if others are ok. 

The first item I heard on the radio this morning was an interview with Suzanne Smith who wrote the book The Alter Boys . It is about sexual abuse in the Catholic Church in NSW and Suzanne's stories have left me wondering how anyone who lived through such trauma can be okay. Homosexuality was illegal so it is no wonder many homosexual men were drawn to an organisation which forbade heterosexual sex. The shame was that this sect had no accountability under the law, and still hasn't under most jurisdictions.

Then on the news I hear that the National Party of NSW is threatening to split from the ruling Liberals because they want developers to be able to bulldoze koala habitats for housing. Poor Koalas, if the fires don't kill them, the developers do.

In Australia at the moment the stand-out politician for ethics and responsibility is the Victorian Premier Dan Andrews. His daily press conferences have become a 'must watch' and are a real eye opener for those of us who don't habitually have access to such events. Day after day we listen to  Murdoch Press journalists ask questions that can only be designed to catch him out. Andrews stymies them, giving patient, thoughtful and honest answers. Andrews has become so popular there is a trending  #IstandwithDan hashtag on twitter. After he outlined his strategy to get Victoria Covid free there was such a combined Murdoch Press and ruling Liberals/National Party pile-on that you wonder how politicians are ok in Australia at any time. There is pervasive talk of PM Morrison being so jealous of Andrew's popularity that he would stop at nothing. 

Internationally there is Trump, Boris, Bolsanaro, Xi JinPing.

I don't know. Are we OK? 

A bright spot: the Sweet Peas are flowering.

Addendum: today the Australian newspaper attacks Andrew's wife. Gutter politics, gutter journalism. 

 

 

 


Tuesday, August 18, 2020

Highrise

Stations in NSW have become the focus for high rise buildings in Sydney. Since regulations were loosened by our neoliberal NSW state government the quality of high rise buildings has become so poor that not even investors are enthusiastic about buying them. There are still some suckers out there like the young woman who featured in the newspapers early in the year. She had spent her fortune on an apartment and was faced with a huge bill for replacing the cladding even before she moved in.  She was quoted as saying ' I didn't even know what cladding was, I had to look it up!' Buyer beware.

These highrise buildings are (or were before Covid) spreading relentlessly along highways as well. A piece of publicly owned land on the Princess Highway in Arncliffe was sold (given?) to developers last year and a  row of buildings rose out of the ground, ever higher. I have watched it's progress with fascination as it slowly blocked the sun from all around. Late last year the developer went bust and all the investors lost their down payments. The newspapers were full of stories of investors and those who had sold the apartments on commission. The building was eventually restarted and resumed it's climb to the heavens.

Now the buildings are finished and when I go for my early morning walk I marvel at how they dominate the landscape. A lot of apartments in Sydney are vacant now and rents are falling in line with decreasing immigration and non existent students. Not all the lobbyists in Canberra can force the borders open at the moment so the refrigerator salesforce will have to change their sales settings. The second tranche of buyers (if there was one) might be regretting their purchases by now. Houses that have had the sun stolen will be feeling equally disenfranchised.


Thursday, August 13, 2020

Frankie

I have acquired a rescue cat, third hand. Frankie was originally rescued from a cat rescue place in Melbourne. After several years her rescuer moved and Frankie came to live in Sydney with rescuer's sister. Then several years after that  rescuer's sister acquired a dog and poor Frankie was cast into a state of anxiety, so she came to live with rescuer's sister's mother. 

 Frankie is a sweet little cat, loves a piece of cheese occasionally and a cuddle always.




Monday, August 10, 2020

Orange Hibiscus

The Art Gallery of NSW is helping their members stay sane in lockdown by organising art challenges. There are prizes to be won, like the box of Faber Castell pencils offered this week. for the drawing challenge titled 'Orange'. You have to use drawing tools, not painting.

I suspect their members would enter with or without a prize as anything to keep occupied and interested is welcome when you can't go anywhere due to circulating virus. 

Here is my Orange entry, a Hibiscus from my still flowering bush.



 





Friday, July 24, 2020

Iso pants

What you do in isolation. Make warm trousers from that drab (but woollen) material you've had for years but brighten them up with whatever material scraps there are in the cupboard.

I am not sure where either bits of lace came from. One was from the edge an ancient doily, the other is lace from a long forgotten project.

The first photo was taken before I tidied up the doily lace with a band of material.