Wednesday, February 23, 2011


Christchurch cathedral tower & spire, the former badly damaged, the latter lost yesterday. [James Kightly]

As I write more news of the earthquake that yesterday hit Christchurch, New Zealand, and surrounds, is still coming in. New Zealand Prime Minister John Key said "We may be witnessing New Zealand's darkest day."

We have happy memories of a couple of days spent in the city in 2007, and among many other fine sights, we enjoyed the cathedral and its tower. As well as the tragic loss of life, the collapse of many buildings the steeple of the cathedral has also fallen in to itself, the church and around. This in a city already hard hit by another, earlier earthquake last year. Reflecting on the issues around the last earthquake, Roy Wilson, a director of architecture firm Warren and Mahoney said: "People could get a little bit of hope and salvation that [the cathedral] was in there in the city, but with that gone … it puts a different spin on things."

Christchurch cathedral seen from the air after the earthquake. [Reuters, via BBC.]

It has been a tough few years in the Antipodes, and any sense of hubris regarding our relations with nature should have been corrected by this latest tragedy. Nature remains the most powerful force in our lives.

Although New Zealand is actually a significant distance from Australia (roughly equivalent to crossing Europe, or half the width of the USA) the ANZAC ties are still strong across the Tasman, and I'm pleased to be able to report that Australia has already dispatched rescue teams: a 40-strong search-and-rescue team was immediately sent and another team of 34 will leave later this morning. Another 74-strong team from Queensland will also be sent. The teams are taking specialist search dogs, and they are being airlifted by the RAAF in Hercules and C-17 transport aircraft.

The RNZAF (which famously got rid of its 'prestige' strike force some years ago) has also quickly gone into action with local aviation contacts reporting Hercules and Orion aircraft in action, and already civil and military helicopters have been of inestimable use. It is not an odd place to find the military. Like the 2009 Victorian bush fires, comparisons are already realistically being made with war zones.

Christchurch cathedral tower in happier days, at the end of roof replacement and repairs in 2007. [James Kightly]

But the people on the ground first were the locals and Christchurch visitors, and despite some hyperbolistic news reporting, it's clear that those first on the scene have gone to the task of rescue in a manner anyone would hope to match if the worst happened to them. Remarkable rescues have already been reported, and although the death toll is certain to rise, it is to be hoped that more rescues are pulled off.

It is early days, but I am sure the New Zealanders will recover and rebuild.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Only in Italy

While we were last strolling in Florence, we passed this little vignette, and I grabbed a (rather average) snapshot. My initial interest was from being an ex-professional in the field (I can justly state I've written manuals on how to do window dressing) but there's so much more to it. For a start, I'd never seen a pintled revolving display window like that before.

But really, it's fascinating because it could only be dressing the window in Italy. The accessories; from shoes, to cigarette, shirt-fronted glasses, to 'phone, the carefully rumpled or unrumpled clothes - and hair, and the extended team to dress one window.

Inspiring lust with a boathook?


Wednesday, February 16, 2011

360 Degree Markets

Thanks to this post on 360 Cities Panoramic Photography Blog, we have a set of 360 degree panoramas that drop you right in the middle of a selection of the world's markets. Click on the title to go to the panorama.

And there's twenty more; although sadly none of our favourites (anyone prepared to do Oxford's Covered Market? Our 'local' is probably still Melbourne's Vic Market and then there's the fish market in Treviso, which has to be a top location, set in the middle of a canal). It's close to a 'real' experience, but you can't fondle the merchandise, smell the smells or hear the crashes, noises and banter. But some things are captured -

My favorite has to be this Sicilian fish market in Marsala - there's a nice man offering you your fish (I can't seem to find the 'complete transaction' button) while the usual market lurkers are all staring at 'you' wondering what you are up to - very Italian.



Seen one...

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Cars at the Rock

Every year, on the Valentine's Day weekend, the Macedon Ranges & District Motor Club hosts the 'Picnic at Hanging Rock' car show. It's a great event with thousands of interesting cars in a unique venue and really is a giant picnic. Here's a taster of just some of the cars seen last Sunday.

The variety is impressive, and cars are both sometimes grouped by club or theme, and mixed in around the trees.

It wasn't just cars, but there were 'bikes, a few tractors and commercial vehicles, and a display of static engines, including this mobile shearing kit.

'Inga' the 1952 Austin Lodestar was a highlight, fully fitted out inside with 1950s kit.

And there were plenty of other big beasts around the traps.

Because of the venue, sometimes it felt like a time-warp, back to a picnic in the 1930s.

The kangaroo herd that so successfully derailed the races at the rock recently were very much there, and very confused as to where to go. This is probably the busiest, noisiest and most crowded day at the rock, certainly from the wildlife's point of view!

This wedge took me straight back to my 1970s Matchbox Whizzwheels and the colour combinations rarely seen since.

Not the more famous (and popular) Minor, but a Morris Oxford.

And it wasn't the only Morris , there, this Bullnose was nice to see from one of our old hometowns.

A set of split-screen VW Combi vans in the Volkes Corner.

Where this 'feral' VW was also scaring small children.

Meanwhile, over at the cricket oval, was this neat little FIAT, worth buying for the number-plate alone. Pasta on your plate? Cool.

And a good day out was had by all, I'm sure.


Tuesday, February 8, 2011

The Wet II - Rochester's Pub

Today, here's just one snapshot of the recent floods of Victoria. One of the areas hit by the floods was the inland wheatbelt town of Rochester, a place that we've driven through on trips north. It has a very memorable Aussie-style pub, the McMaster's Hotel:

Photo by James

As the Herald Sun reported on January 16th:
THE small wheat and dairy town of Rochester in the Victoria's north has been hit by its worst flood.

About 80 per cent of the town is under water and more than 200 properties have been inundated.

The flood waters are expected to peak this afternoon at more than 9.2m, when the full impact of controlled releases from Lake Eppalock are felt. The overflowing Campaspe River has split the town in half and continued to cause water levels to rise well above the town's 1956 record flood level about midday yesterday.

This is what the pub looked like from the air:

And worse than 'a pub with no beer' is a pub full of water:

As the Herald Sun went on to say, it was a real case of bad timing:

Tony McCurry is dreaming of most pub owners' and drinkers' worst nightmare - a dry bar. Mr McCurry and wife Marlene took over running the Hotel Rochester on Wednesday after owning the freehold on it for 10 years.

The water started to recede yesterday, but still covered the floor of the main pub and beer garden.

Mr McCurry said the couple knew the flood was coming, but never expected the damage to be so severe.

"We did sandbagging but by 7am the water was just starting to trickle in," Mr McCurry, 63, said. "Within three hours it was knee deep right through the hotel. It is certainly bad luck."

We hope they've dried out and been able to wet some whistles since.


Sunday, February 6, 2011

Dog hits the road...

When heading off to Castlemaine for the farmer's-market-day out, we noticed a couple of ears in the back on the car...

I'm going to call this one Dog iPad, because it's like Dog TV, but more mobile...

Shortly after the dog nodded off. Appropriate really.

James. Pictures by Bev.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Sharks Patrol These Waters...

... as we are often told, by overseas visitors.

(Shark wrangling by Paul.)

Passing Eagle

We've seen a pair of Wedgetails flying around the area, but this was a solitary example - he managed to climb a terrific amount in the thermals from a few hundred feet when NW of us to between 1,000 - 2,000 ft a kilometre to the south. As the Wikipedia link states:

Their keen eyesight extends into the infrared and ultraviolet bands. This helps them spot prey and allows them to see rising thermals, which they can use to gain altitude while expending little energy.

One up on the glider pilots!



One of the things we like very much about living here is the big sky.

Yesterday evening there was a number of thunderstorms rattling about, and they created the most amazing pre-sunset cloudscapes.

When the sun did start to set it turned the opposite sky pink.

Ripples in the dam were created by paddling feet.