Friday, March 29, 2013

You Never Know...

 It was only by chance I found  Emil Otto Hoppe's Picturesque Great Britain - the Architecture and the Landscape,  published in 1926. My photographs fail to do justice to his lovely, sepia-tones views, infused with  a mellow chiaroscuro. Above is Sutton Place in Surrey.
Born 14/04/1878 in Munich, the son of a rich banker, E O Hoppe abandoned his banking career in 1907 in London, and opened his portrait studio there. Above is a stream in Ashburnham in Devonshire.
His timing was fortunate, coming as it when much of "Green England" still existed. Above, at Minehead in Somerset, the timelessness is palpable.

Soon after initiating his career, Emil Otto, according to Wikipedia, "was the undisputed leader of pictorial portraiture in Europe." I'm grateful he turned his attention also to the wider, quieter, more stable world. Above, "The Needles, Isle of Wight," the island where my paternal ancestors lived for something like 500 years, as far as I know.
"In the Wye Valley, Wales," above, shows a world that still exists here and there, perhaps. But perhaps, too, this world is becoming a memory. Have we gained more than we've lost in our pursuit of an apparently better life?
This, above, is "Ben More, Scotland," a slow-scape where human intervention hasn't overwhelmed its stage.
 Above, as if from a fairy tale, "Stoneleigh Abbey, near Leamington, Warwickshire." Will it ever appear so eternal again, what with the propensity we now have to change anything we like in whatever way we will?
It being Easter, this image, in particular, strikes a resonance with me. "The Castle, Edinburgh, Scotland" is haunting and timeless. What would it have been for the cross, or any religious symbol, to play a significant role in our daily life? We do not know any more, and we don't seem to care, that we do not know.
The photographer Hoppe had an impact that outdid that of almost all others. "Rarely in the history of the medium has a photographer been so famous in his own lifetime among the general public." ( Wikipedia, again. ) Above, as if hundreds of years' ago, "Evesham Church, Worcestershire."
This is the fireplace I'd like to have, these the chairs I'd like to sit on ( at "Lambay Castle, Ireland." ) There's no television, there's no phone. There's no recorded music. But a self-sustaining life was here... it was here, in these two spaces ( "Glondalkin, Ireland" and "Carrick-on-Suir, Ireland" ), now vanished. If you'd like to read more about this artist, see
I'm fully aware life's moved on, but I'm not altogether sure it's moved on in the right direction.  

Thursday, March 21, 2013

As Ghostly Goes

All over the place, branches are coming down. Wild, winding winds have carpeted the ground with pick-up sticks of branches, too many to count. Besides which, ghosts don't count. They just chuck things about.
Zara belies her gentleness with courage. Like me, she doesn't believe in ghosts, but she's observant of phenomena. When the wind whips up, it's good to get out there into it for a while. We say, "hhmm".
There's nothing orderly in this disorder, but it's a disorder that's soothing, in its random, let-it-happen way. Already I am making a garden out of these bits. I don't need a magazine to tell me what's OK, any more than Zara needs a menu to discern upheaval, tangents or side-swipes.

Friday, March 15, 2013


All of us need to frolic sometimes. With the weather finally normal, I headed off today to The Children's Garden at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Melbourne. Above is the wonderful sculpture by Louis Laumen "unveiled by the children of Victoria, Thursday 16 November 2000, in the presence of Norman Lindsay's grandchildren" of the key characters from Norman Lindsay's runaway classic, The Magic Pudding, published in 1918.
Most immediate entry is though The Observatory Gate. The Observatory itself, no longer state-of-the-art, has become instead a splendid folly, setting the tone.
You're met by this glorious sculpture, which I'd almost steal if I had a shopping trolley large enough...
...past this, a former residence, which I like for its subtle colouring and humility.
Outside the Visitors' Centre, the wackiest of wattles, Acacia glaucoptera, from Western Australia.
The Gardens are beautifully maintained. Since I used to nip in here while still at school, I still find them disarmingly gracious.
Outside The Children's Garden are these inexplicit, organic topiary. The creeper here is a Muehlenbeckia species.
Enter all. I've not seen children so naturally playing, without tantrums, as I did here, for a long time. The idea is to get involved with the landscape, a hard thing not to do.
You would, wouldn't you, with a tree trunk like this to explore? I remember we had something like it as children, my brother being the only one brave enough to defy the spiders.
These are gardens specifically designed that children feel free to run and play. Most of the planting is soft, muted, inviting...
and native. A flowering Corymbia, closely related to the Eucalypts, above, shows itself as a colourful, encouraging personality.
Not everything's softly, softly - nor should it be. The world is the world, and to grow and become capable, children need to be allowed to encounter a certain realism. Here, children can climb and run and muck about. I remember having that right. It seems to me, today, in this fearful world, that's something that's being denied them, some naturalness.
This is Australia, after all, land of the robust. "What doesn't kill you makes you stronger" sounds callous, but who would want to become feeble? Here, in this gentlest of spaces amongst the snow-gums, where mothers  chat, children are allowed to be themselves.
This wonderful cubby house is made from bamboo. Perfectly suitable for any adult too, I'd say.
Here's the hapless, surly pudding himself, "Albert", known in this rollicking story to prefer to be eaten, having the propensity to re-form any part taken from him, and being able to be whatever type of pudding its eater would like.
And here, along with Bill Barnacle the sailor and Sam Sawnoff the penguin, is Bunyip Bluegum, koala, a protector of the unending pud.
This aint Disneyland, no offence to all of you who prefer your culture with saccharine. This is where the strong evolve and the meek are welcome.
From outside of the Gardens, and in the domain of the neighbouring Shrine of Remembrance, where the fallen of Australia's battles are honoured, this statue represents innocence worth fighting for. If I were a guardian angel, this is where I'd like my realm. 

Friday, March 1, 2013

Malmsbury Psalm

Starting more or less in the middle of my journey to Malmsbury, about 100 km north-west of Melbourne, here lies the vicarage of Saint John's Anglican church, the outdoor loo, seen on the left, available to any visitor as they enter.
Bypassed by the nearby Calder Highway, the town may have lost some helpful income, but it has retained its courageous charm. The railway station, especially the disused side seen here, is getting to be genteelly dilapidated.
Founded sometime in the 1850s as a supply stop between Melbourne and the Mount Alexander goldfields, Malmsbury has not yet and never will be, I hope, been afflicted with too much make-up.
The train takes you across this viaduct, "believed to be the finest example of this particular kind of construction within Australia", one of a number if discreet signs informs me. It was built of locally-sourced bluestone in 1860. Beneath it is the not entirely rapid Coliban River, straddling the Malmsbury Botanic Gardens.
Not really a tourist destination, the Gardens look more like a slapped-together arboretum. I was happy here. Sometimes it's nice to go somewhere where things are just allowed to age.
Oddities abound, ignoring makeovers and the demands of the bullish consumer altogether. Sigh.
There are some gems, such as this Arbutus, its cinnamon colour strikingly necessary.
As lovely as this - installation, one-time fountain, memorial? I do not know and I do not need to know.
Someone sensible has made this beautiful cafe out of what they found about them, without getting too precious. Tree-changers have been moving into Malmsbury, slowly and carefully. I am sure I'm not the only one who recognises something very touching in a past allowed to speak without being pushed onto centre-stage.
Malmsbury doesn't scream. I crossed the capacious main street several times with only a single distant car once or twice nosing in the distance.
I ate my lunch in the Gardens, attended by my fan-base, quackers of various nationalities, needing a bit of sandwich. There was almost no-one else there.
No-one has demanded that this ruinous shed should be removed from the main street. Hurrah! Live and let live.
Nor this hay-shed, also in the main street. This is, after all, a farming community...
...a pretty one
and an honest one.
I come back to the vicarage, or the sometime garage of the vicarage. I hope the vicar forgives me, taking shots of his private life, or the parts of his private life I'm sure he is glad have not been renovated.
Here then is the spire of Saint John's Anglican church, sporting its rooster. This has been the driest summer here for 30 years. Lately, though, we have had a presage of autumn, some rain falling into our outstretched hands.
The author, seen against a pine at the railway station, heedless of a rationalised world.