Saturday, May 30, 2009

Mobile 'phone

Where would you like to take your call, sir?

Seen on return from Surrey to Oxfordshire, pic by Bev.

Another Doctor

Just a quick note to offer my congratulations to my friend Brett Homan on getting his PhD thesis passed by the examiners. As he says on his blog:
"Yesterday I received my examiners’ reports, and they both recommended that I ‘be awarded the PhD degree without further examination or amendment’ (though not without criticism, I must add)."
I came across Brett through his blog, built around his thesis work, as well as interesting asides and broadsides arising.
One of the most interesting is the experimental 'post blogging' of the Sudeten Crisis of 1938 (normally known as the Munich Crisis) here. Sounds obscure, but it's basically taking the unfolding crisis day by day through the newspapers of the time. One of the biggest traps of history is that we know what happened next, and thus what didn't and couldn't happen*. Real life as it unfolds isn't like that, of course, and there are insights and understandings to be gained from trying to immerse yourself in the period and not have their future at the forefront of your understanding. Watching the crisis 'unfold' (which also incidentally explains the absurdity of calling it the Munich Crisis) was a thought provoking, interesting exercise.

Realising Brett was in Melbourne as well, we managed to meet up for a discussion on matters aerohistorigraphical (it's a very exclusive club) and it's been interesting for me to have a peek at writing on aviation history from an academic approach, rather than my journalistic and publishing one. The differences are actually quite major, and as ever, there are lesson and ideas (as well as absurdities) in both approaches to learn from. I'm not sure if I was any help to Brett, but his blog, chats and thesis was certainly of interest to me. And now I can now uncross my fingers at last.

Well done, doc!


* Illustrated by the concepts of coins marked 'BC' and a cartoon of a villager saying to his wife "I'm just off to the 100 Years War dear..."

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Sunday roast

There's something about roast beef. Needs to be pink, of course!

Bev decided to venture a go with Yorkshire Puddings. They worked, and were reet topping.

Wouldn't you rather be here?

Oh, and for those who thought our blog was going to be all art history and aeroplanes, food (and its related topics of markets, cooking and chocolate) are leading the rankings. Funny that.


Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Ghost in the park

I guess you can see why it's called a ghost gum. Here the white trunk nearly disappears against the sky.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Closer... futher away!

Once apon a time, in a village (pretending to be a city) called Oxford, with Rosie and Ross, we saw...
A building reflected in a pane of glass.

That pane of glass was in a window.

And that picture of a window had been digitally manipulated to make it seem straight up.

While the whole window was much bigger indeed.


Thursday, May 21, 2009


Some evenings are just so:

... so wine-sipping, chit-chatting, thought-batting, people-watching, prawn-scrunchingly good.

Last night, we met at the National Gallery of Victoria for a wee peek at what's on. Perhaps the John Brack, or something more suited to an evening browse? Let's start with a good long look in the book and gallery shop, adding many things to the mental list of 'books I want to read/to own someday'.

Time to toddle across the square to the lounge at the ACMI, where the wine's nice and we can swing our feet from the barstools while speculating about the function in the other half of the bar. Academic conference. We bet on an academic conference; some sort of specialised field.

Shall we go to the gallery now? Mm, I'm hungry - let's stick our noses in the door at that disastrously wonderful and unfortunately popular spot for those who love good food and wine, conversation and a little bit of spying the crowd. Go away, fancy city suits, we want a table!

Why is it that really good service always makes you feel as if they have saved a spot at the bar just for you? We started on our glasses of tempranillo, before taking a cosy spot up at the long counter bar, where we could watch all the action and let food be brought to us in delicious hot little plates of Spanish goodness.

Bread appears: one of them salty rye and the other topped with sour dust of smoky pimenton. A bowl of oil. A croqueta, hot and sizzling and cracking open. Within minutes, that Movida feeling starts to come over me again: a sense of deep goodness about this food. It makes me pleasantly, slightly gleefully silly; very happy.

One huge mother of a prawn comes in next, in a deep-fried covering and with some cracked corn and bamboo (we think it's bamboo) baby greens. And small stuffed pimenton, filled with potato and salt cod.

The pace is good and we hit the braised portobello mushrooms in Pedro Ximinez sherry, beef cheek with just a tang of aniseed and some cauliflower mash, and the pork belly with crackling, mm, that crackling, chorizo, black pudding and slow-baked beans.

Do we dare?

Yes, we do: churros and chocolate to share.

When we eventually roll out into the misty damp night, down the graffiti-ed lane where Movida sings Spanish dreams to its eaters, we're too late for much but a one-room show at the gallery. Fittingly, the night sky.

And home. Pleasant dreams.

- Bev

(Pics by James and any handy flat surface for long exposures...)

Sunday, May 17, 2009




I am Mr Gordon Brown sourcing for services of an Oversea Investment Manager (OIM) to manage the sum of GBP11 Million, this amount represent an over-invoiced amount of money from expense accounts that was awarded to an MP by The Taxpayers of Britain in 2008, one year later in 2009, the Second House ‘disappeared’ completely - the contract and was fully paid by direct Wire transfer for the execution of the contract, leaving the over invoiced sum safely deposited in a special security account managed and monitored by the Mr Humphrey Appleby of the money-laundering operation that I represent, this top officer are in charge of the day to day running of accounts and finance section including the auditing department of the corporation and have perfected all documents to back up the payment as to avoid any trace whatsoever, which makes the transaction 100% risk free.

As an administrative officer I was mandated to seek your indulgence on this matter, if this is acceptable to you, contact me strictly by email stating your private phone number Please DO NOT bother to respond if you are not interested.

Yours Sincerely,




Saturday, May 16, 2009


It was just after he’d decided that
he was unlikely to make it as a
Rum Runner working out of Vera Cruz,
or a Torpedo fronting up to the tough
Pinkerton Dicks in Frisco that he realised
perhaps he could make a good Snow-Plough
Driver in the streets of Anchorage, Alaska –
surely they needed good Snow-Plough Drivers
so far North!

Or, with his hands extended to
benefit from the coal fire’s heat, he thought
of being a Teacher in an Inner City Comp
just like his mum had been before she left!

Ross Kightly

Draft version from the notebook.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Beauty through the industrial landscape

Just a moment of strange beauty as the sunset came through the skyline clutter around the railway line and caused the glass power-line insulators to all catch the light. Even in such a messy and unappealing place nature can shine through.


Saturday, May 9, 2009

A couple of recent outfits

Just a couple of flamboyant, perhaps not particularly practical outfits we have seen recently. Above is a remarkable coat in a rather swish emporium off Lygon Street, while below is one of the competition entries at the annual flower show.

It is easy to forget how lucky we are in the visual richness we are privy to today in ways that a few centuries ago was the exclusive domain of the elite - either the rich, the educated or the aristocracy, and this restriction might be even legally enforced. The impact of religious art in a much plainer world, or the ability to wear 'what you want' without sanction is all too easily taken for granted.


Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Sometimes, when you're a little dog (an existential poem, by Toby)

Sometimes, when you're a little dog,
things don't go quite according to plan.

Walks don't materialise, there's nothing to sniff,
and the ball gets stuck under the bookshelf.

You can't even take down a book to read yourself a good tale of blood, death and bones.
And you've seen every episode of Inspector Rex.

So you sit and think.
And stare at the laps that could be cuddling you.
And you think some more.

There's lots to think about when you're a little dog.

You can think and think for hours. Thinkity think.

Thinking and scratching, and scratching and thinking.

Until it's time for another nap.


Monday, May 4, 2009

I wonder where this one goes?

Just an interesting door in Copenhagen. A lovely city, an amalgam of familiar and unfamiliar styles, decoration and utility. Rather like the door, really. (Photo by Bev.)


Sunday, May 3, 2009

More kilts than in Scotland

So it must be Nova Scotia. Actually Fort George, Halifax, with a group of recreators acting as 78th Highland Regiment of the mid-Victorian period.

This little one-minute film was shot in August 2003. There is no sound, so you can thank me for avoiding a bagpipe rendition of 'Nova Scotia the Brave' and various tourists babbling. Feel free to add your own extempore piano accomplishment.

We'd just arrived to have a look around the fort, and I was just testing out our new digital camera. Remarkably this squad acted like I'd scripted and directed the shot - as usual various other visitors did their usual bluebottle impression. It's uncut, which I think makes me lucky, rather than a film auteur.

Just something a little different.


Friday, May 1, 2009

Palacio de Cristal, Madrid

One of the areas I'd hoped to post on in the blog was great or interesting buildings I've liked. A combination of circumstances (a remark by Kent, a recent Laing visit to Spain) has led me to start this informal series of quirky wonders with an oddity in Madrid.

Growing up near the site of the original Crystal Palace in South London, including a few tenuous connections has meant I've always had a fascination with the buildings of the Great Exhibition era - an era where the majority of the buildings have been lost. One of the tributes to the original Crystal Palace is this little beauty in the Parque del Buen Retiro on the Paseo Duque de Fernán Nuñez, in Madrid.

A tribute to the original Crystal Palace, the Palacio de Cristal was built by Ricardo Velázquez for the 1887 exhibition on the Philippines - then a Spanish colony, and it was to be a magnificent hothouse displaying exotic plants, flowers and animals from there. It must've been amazing.

When Bev and I visited Madrid and saw it in 2000, it was most impressive, but the stark - mostly empty - interior seemed small and cramped, with some pretty uninteresting modern art. However the exterior views, and the play of light, and framing, the colourful Spanish tiling was something else. (This interesting architecture website has a couple of good views, including an interior.)

Apparently, it was built in 5 months. For the technical details, the Madrid tourist board website has the following summary:

This singular building is 54 metres long, 28 metres wide and 22.6 metres high at its highest part, and stands on a brickwork base decorated with a fine ceramic frieze.

It is laid out in the shape of a Greek cross in imitation of the cross and chancel of a church. The entrance door, which is in the Ionic style, takes the place of one of the arms of the cross. In front of this door lies a lake, surrounded by vegetation.

The architect and engineer Alberto del Palacio collaborated in the construction of the barrel vaults and the four sections of the glass dome. Another interesting feature is the decoration of the tiles by Daniel Zuloaga.

A couple of poorly researched references imply it's built with a steel framework. It's not, of course, but of cast iron, one of the great materials of the Industrial Revolution, and an architectural material that is overlooked today, mostly because of its technical redundancy. That said, the best ironwork structures (rather than the still impressive iron decoration we see) are a class of delight of their own. For me they take the flying buttress level of cathedral architecture a step further with earthy, light and strong tracery.

It's odd that, rather like an inverted Tardis, it's more impressive outside-looking in, than inside-looking-out. However, even with that caveat, it's certainly on my list of wonderful buildings of the world. I remember wandering around it, trying different ways of looking at it with, and without my camera. It's a treasure.


A good start

Spotted this lot on the bench, when Bev popped out for a moment. Looks like a good start to me.

I note that the last four posts have featured food. Odd that.


PS: I could've called it 'The fighting Mustard tugged to its last berth by the Garlic' but I didn't.

Cook's Chocolate supply

From the Vic Market today. A 58g gold coin. Yum.
That would be good trading material for an around the world trip, as long as you can keep them cool...It's ironic (but an indication of quality) that this 'Aussie' chocolate came to Australia from Holland. I wonder if they sneaked in any '1606' jacht Duyfken coins to the shipment?