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April 24, 2005

Dangar Island Paradise


About an hour's drive north of the Sydney suburb where The Poet and I live is the the village of Brooklyn on the Hawkesbury River. Every hour or so a little ferry collects passengers from the jetty in Brooklyn and takes them out to Dangar Island.

Dangar was originally used by the Dharuk people as a source of food but they were wiped out by disease following the arrival of white settlers. Mr Henry Dangar built a farm on the island in the mid 1800's and his name was given to it in 1920. These days around 200 people call Dangar their home, either permanently or on weekends.

There are roads on the island but there isn't any cars. If you live or visit there, you have to walk from the jetty to the house. In the shed at the public wharf are a few wheelbarrows that are used to carry heavy items to your house.

We are lucky enough to have friends who own a house on Dangar Island and who generously open it up to two or three times a year to hold writers' workshops. Of course The Poet is a genuine member of this group. I just tag along and pretend that I have some sort of cachet in this talented group but while they read and workshop their work, I just sit and listen, except today when I had the nerve to draw one of the group.

Note that in Australia we usually talk in how long it takes to get somewhere rather than distances.

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April 22, 2005

Jellore Cottage - Berrima, NSW


As you walk to the front door of Jellore Cottage from the gate in the old grey picket fence you have to brush past the English lavender that lines each side of the path. The perfume of the flowers clings to your clothes and starts the relaxation process.

I think that the thing that appeals to me most about the cottage is its simplicty. There is no television and the radio is only a new addition since our last visit - no carpets, basic kitchen, no Internet or telephone and no piles of books and papers to be dealt with.

The first place that I always head for is the back garden, to sit and watch the sun setting behind the trees in the orchard. The post and rail fence that seperates it from the main body of the garden must have been there for a hundred years or more.


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April 6, 2005

Egyptian treasure at the V&A


I had been talking earlier about our visit to the V&A in London in January. There are so many wonderful things in this museum that anyone could find a corner in which to enjoy themsleves. There are galleries of of Chinese, Egpytian, Roman and African antiquities. Other galleries hold beautiful examples of art work in gold and silver. Somewhere else is a gallery holding modern pieces of design that showcases the work of current young designers. Two very large rooms are filled with plaster reproductions of everything from Michelangelo's David to the doors of an Italian basillica.

In a corridor that runs between the two plaster reproduction galleries are 3 or 4 small plinths holding small items. It was here that I found this wonderful jug. At first glance it appeared to be a fin example of the glass makers art. It is only when you stop to read the information label that accompanies the jug that you discover that it was carved from a single piece of rock crystal. The walls of the jug are extremely thin and the surface is covered with stunning carvings. I find it amazing that this delicate piece has survived since it was made in Egypt in about 1000 CE. The story that it would be able to tell would be well worth the hearing.

In Amsterdam, I wanted to bring home the Delft violin from the Rijksmuseum. From the V&A, my favourite item that I want to bring home with me is this crystal jug. I suppose that it is a good thing that both pieces are stored behind glass or by now I might be in really big trouble.

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April 2, 2005

International Treasure

VandA 001.jpg

Last year The Poet and I went to see a film called National Teasure. The central characters follow a trail of clues to beat the bad guys to a secret which turns out to be a collection of archealogical treasures. I was reminded of this film when we spent, sadly, only half a day at the Victoria and Albert Museum in the last days of our holiday in London.

In the days when the sun never set on the British Empire all sorts of wonderful things made their way by various means to England. The blitzkrieg of World War II was responsible for the destruction of large areas of English cities, leaving fragments of history with no home. Hundreds of these treasures of the world's past have made their way to the collection held in the V&A.

I think that you could not see all there is to see in this museum if you went there all day, every day for a year. The curators have imaginative ways of helping the visitor to see a selection of the collection like the 'Beauty' exhibition that was on while we were there. They had not moved any of the items from their usual place in the museum. A pathway through the halls were marked by pink footprints on the floor and discrete labels beside each of the featured items. Armed with an audio guide, the visitor moved from item to item learning about how each of them represented some culture's definition of beauty.

The first piece in the exhibition was this beautiful example of the work of Italian scultor Canova.

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