Saturday, September 1, 2012

A Golden Age

Whisked away to Ballarat for a week with my car-apprehensive accomplice Zara, I was having a working one of the coldest parts of the State, at the end of winter...
We had two visits to the Ballarat Botanical Gardens. Above is the only unfinished sculpture I came across in this public space crammed with statuary, and my favourite.
Ballarat was a famous 'boomtown', being at the heart of one of the world's biggest goldfields, when gold was first discovered here, in the 1850s. Above is a view of Loreto College, on the shores of Lake Wendouree. Today, most of the gold you see belongs to the daffodils, everywhere in Ballarat...
Not that I had an endless, sunny horizon. When it wasn't drizzling, Brave Faisal and Superzara got stuck into masses of ivy...with a pair of clippers, I mean:
All of this came from out from under the kitchen window. How many hours did it take us, Zara?
 Ivy I prefer when it's only taken over half the universe, as here...
but lichen, Zara and I agreed, is subtle, so to see it everywhere reminds us of golden ages...
such as this signpost signals.
The Ballarat Botanical Gardens "are one of Victoria's most significant regional botanic gardens, retaining a gardenesque style characterised by mature trees, bedding plants, statuary and contemporary architecture". I have never seen so many statues in one place in my life, though if I were fleeing from Pompeii, as the above threesome are said to be doing, I'd be glad to be somewhere a little cooler now too.
The above gives you some idea of the scale and layout. It is one of the most formal gardens I've visited, a linear promenade punctuated by massive, conifers such as Araucaria and Sequoia ( especially Sequoiadendron giganteum, Sierra redwood ). It made me reflect on the quality of our public spaces, and how they express our civility and the way we regard one another. It is also, here, triumphant, an example of how the extraordinary wonders of the world can be harnessed by an evolving and ambitious humanity.

The prehistoric, elephantine garrison of a tree, the Bunya Bunya ( Araucaria bidwillii ) is splendid.
I imagine the Victorians saw human endeavour as encompassing and mastering such splendour, yet I feel they were the first to behold the magnificent extent of the world around them. They were as thrilled as I was,
by all this new life.
As the name 'Ballarat', coming from the language of the Wathaurong Aboriginal people, means "resting place", so these gardens offer respite... a black swan and her cygnets too.
The site is also one of commemoration. Above is a part of the more recently-built war memorial, on the perimeter.
 And here, the commemoration of rhythm and echo and flow and continuity, in the guise of a fountain. These are the most finely-maintained gardens I've entered, its lawns the lushest.
 Nothing is slapdash.
Past and present merge flawlessly. Is not a Golden Age more than a memory, but an aspect of our nature that can come alive wherever we perambulate?
Here, above, a corner of the Robert Clark Horticultural Centre. The new can meld with the old without jarring,
just as the old can appear from up out of the new without discord.
Whenever the rain kept me indoors, I read Gavin Maxwell's 'The Rocks Remain', and I was reading this because as a boy I'd been a huge fan of his famous 'Ring of Bright Water', an account of rearing otters in remote Scotland. I remembered other stories that are with me still: Hugh Lofting's, Gerald Durrell's, Paul Gallico's, Virginia McKenna's.
So a Golden Age, to me, is one that is forever renewed, and it is in the garden, in working with nature and what is natural, that my acquaintance with it comes most alive. Go, daffodil, go!


  1. Hello Faisal:
    Another splendid post and in this one we have a comprehensive tour of a public garden which is not only superbly maintained but which also contains a wealth of interest both in terms of the planting and the widespread use of ornament. The Victorian statuary we find rather appealing for it looks so right in the environment in which it is placed. And yet the more recent War Memorial we find, looking at you image, to be most moving for in that stark grimness there is a real humanity.

    And you are right about your Golden Age, for we really believe that every moment of every day must become one for in that way we all gain in wisdom and understanding.

    Your portrait at the end is charming and just as we imagine you to be.

  2. Hello Jane and Lance,
    war memorials are taken seriously in Ballarat, with, I think, Australia's longest Avenue of Honour, and a wealth of memorials. It's sobering, and it's also pretty marvellous to have that reminder so visible in daily life. It's an act of honour, to remember, and it's nice to be somewhere where history matters - Melbourne seems to have trampled alot of its history.
    Yes, gold is everywhere, if we dig for it!
    Thankyou for the tremendously kind compliment.

  3. Faisal, from the midst of our ugly, nasty political season, I tend to hear "golden age" as reference to the age of the "robber barons" in the U.S., all of which seems to be returning with a vengeance. I wish I could be so optimistic.

    1. I get your drift, James; everything in the US seems to be larger that life, including the stupidity! I guess that's why my title is the more diminutive "A" Golden Age, instead of the more proclamatory "The" Golden Age. I hope some good-old American common sense takes hold!

  4. lovely trip through this amazing garden...and i, too, loved ring of bright water...

  5. Hi Velma. I'm glad you liked it. Did you see the film of Ring of Bright Water too? It's terrific.

  6. Hi Faisal, I've made a note of those nature writers, all of whom I aim to read or re-read. I find this post subtle and profound. Golden Age is often referred to nostalgically,some past imagined idealized state. I really like the idea of continually renewing it in the garden. But why daffodil? I say: go wattle go!

    1. Yes, Catmint...I was overwhelmed by the daffodils (and jonquils) in Ballarat: not just here and there, but in almost every garden, everywhere. It would have been churlish of me to have insisted that any other flower/plant should dominate, though, yes, I prefer natives. Having said that, I couldn't help but have respect for Ballarat for sticking to its thing. Even if it's not mine.
      A Golden Age exists for me eternally, not as a thing of the past.
      Life is a Golden Age. Every day is a golden age. We get so caught up in daily data we forget it's the greatest blessing to be alive at all.
      Go wattle, go every little, slightest thing, go the palest of petals, the most shy of shoots, the least of all limbs!

  7. Dear Faisal,
    There I was, strolling nonchalantly through the world of blogs when suddenly I came across yours. I do like your post on Ballarat - a town I myself like to visit and a town well known to my partner's ancestors back in its golden age.
    I also like daffodils and jonquils and they can also provide links to a 'golden age'. Often, and especially in country Victoria one comes across a patch of jonquils or daffodils growing seemingly on their own, in the middle of nowhere, but when you delve a little further you find that once a house stood there (someone else's golden age) and the flowers had been planted on either side of the front door. Now the house is gone, decayed and fallen away. The people are gone too but the flowers remain, year after a year, a living, self perpetuating memorial to the those who once lived there.
    Bye for now

  8. Thankyou, Kirk, for all you've so perceptively said. Yes, it's delightful to come across old bulbs in the country where you least expect them...old roses too.
    You've deepened this story, with an angle I hadn't considered. I was trying to suggest continuity - of spirit or feeling - "gold" being symbolic. As usual, as I set out to write the post, I didn't really know what I was going to say, and built the story around the photos.
    I love Ballarat - so civilised compared to Melbourne - should I say that?! In fact, there are so many gracious towns out of would be nice to cover them all.
    Thankyou again,

    1. Hello Faisal,
      I would say that Ballarat was definitely on par with Melbourne if not surpassing her. After all I don't think they went in for the wholesale destruction of their gracious buildings as did Melbourne. When we return to Melbourne we will live until we can move to the country and Ballarat is high on our list!
      Bye for now,
      Thank you for becoming my third follower!

    2. Kirk, hello again,
      It always amazes me how Ballarat, the people of Ballarat, the authorities in Ballarat, have valued their heritage enough to safeguard it. There's no graffiti, either, and virtually no litter. And there is so much beautiful architecture, especially alot of an Arts and Crafts style, not really seen in Melbourne. AND - I'm not a tidiness freak - the gardens everywhere are nearly all well-tended, and often, 'old-fashioned'.
      It's a pleasure to have encountered your marvellous blog - long may it, and you, continue!

  9. An interesting post as always dear Faisal
    - good to see you are not only working hard but you also enjoy yourself with a good book (;

    Thank you very much for the invitation to Facebook you have sent me...
    I am considering of joining sometime

    Wishing you a lovely week ahead

    1. Hi lovely Demie,
      you don't have to work so hard on Facebook, as you do on Blogger, but then it's really only a way of keeping in touch.
      Thankyou for your comment; after my 'holiday' I felt that I needed a holiday!