Wednesday, November 30, 2011

A couple of great things about the Commonwealth of Australia's coat of arms is that it features native flora and fauna (the former unofficial to the authorised design, the latter integral) and secondly that the kangaroo and emu are both edible. (Try finding a unicorn, and you really, really don't want to try lion or eagle...)

Australian passports. The left hand example, issued in 2001, has differently shaped arms than the 2011 example on the right. The logo below the word 'Passport' actually refers to the fact the document has an electronic chip, and isn't a monochrome version of the Aboriginal flag, although exactly the same layout. The smaller arms on the 2011 issued wallet at the top (back) is different again.

Again the contrasts between Canada and Australia are intriguing in this area, as Canada's arms are essentially a British design with some Canadian additions, while Australia's is so appropriate it actually doesn't use traditional heraldic beasts.

When the Australian arms were approved in 1912, in Parliament, MP William Kelly said:
"The emu and kangaroo are so built that they hardly fit into the heraldic atmosphere, and I think we make ourselves ridiculous when we endeavour to carry on the traditions of the Old World with some of the wild creations of our Australian fauna."
I doubt anyone in Australia would suggest more traditional (and therefore non-native) heraldic animals would be a better alternative nowadays. However, making a full size example of the arms smacks somewhat of the chimps' tea party, but didn't stop Museum Victoria:

In contrast of course, Australia's flag, so vehemently defended by certain conservatives is 25% someone else's anyway, while Canada opted for its own flag in 1965. The contrasts and similarities are worth, I think, noting. Australia's flag can be easily mistaken for any of about a dozen similar designs, and when folded or draped, for that of the United Kingdom. But no-one would mistake the coat of arms as belonging to any other country than Australia. Conversely Canada's coat of arms is distinctive only in its details (maple leaves etc.) while the Canadian flag gets 100% recognition in tests.

Heraldry, eh?


Tuesday, November 29, 2011


Like most of Australia, we have a very active Willy Wagtail (Rhipidura leucophrys) which regards our house and the surrounds as 'his' territory, and regularly poses in camera range as seen before here. No-one really seems to know why they waggle their tails as they do (when perched, or on the ground) but from observation I think the usually advanced explanation of it being a bug attracting trick is highly suspect.

A while ago we noticed that rather than the one Wagtail, there was a pair about, chattering at us and sweeping their tails just as their name is derived.

They were also VERY clear that the barn was out of bounds to us (as above) and anyone else, such as the magpies which were getting harassed (usually it's the magpies harassing everyone else). Wagtails are pretty fearless and didn't mind dive-bombing us if we got too close.

A couple of weeks ago, after all the activity, we were getting ready to go out for dinner at a friends when we noticed that there were two black and white fluffballs on the side and roof edge of the barn - the Wagtail chicks were out, and having a look at the wide world!

Our departure was delayed while I grabbed some images on a rather grey day. Above - chick on the left, watching parent on the right.

"Oo are you?"

A fw days later, after a bit of careful exploring while the barn was clearly not under guard, revealed the nest, on a beam, anchored by a a piece of abandoned wire.

The chicks have grown quickly, since, and it can be hard to tell the juveniles from the parents at a glance, but it's clear the little ones haven't developed the tail-feather muscles properly yet, and the waggle has a training-wheels feel about it.

There's also the fluffy baby feathers, with brown tips, as seen above, even though the Edward Heath eyebrows have receded to a more normal proportion. Mature Wagtails are fully black and white with a dash of yellow, and the sexes seem to be indistinguishable.

Sometimes mum or dad is around, and there's still quite a bit of learning going on. One of the juveniles flew into the house's lean-to and (confused by all the windows) was unable to get out, until I captured it in my hands and released it outside. It was like holding a mouse wrapped in a tiny umbrella, the feather's shaft feeling like the umbrella's ribs.

The Wagtail parental advice and home are wound-up as soon as the next clutch is laid, and the current kids are given the heave-ho.

Bev had one of the adults snatch a bug out of the air less than a couple of feet from her face. They are very aerobatic, and have a very varied flight pattern.

They are nice to have around, and make good companions in the garden.


Sunday, November 27, 2011

Wood Engraving Workshop

Sometimes it's nice having birthdays in the same month. We were discussing, one day way back in July or August, what we wanted for our birthdays and concluded that there was not a lot we wanted in terms of things, but that it would be lots of fun to take a class together. Something creative.

Not long after, we stumbled across workshops at the local studio and gallery, Lauriston Press. The wood engraving workshop was taught by David Frazer, an Australian artist working not just with wood engraving, but also in paint and other media.

We signed up and weeks passed...

The workshop was great! Just seven attendees, including us, in a little light-filled studio in central Kyneton -- so, good coffee, close to home. All of the people on the course were really lovely.

Without exception, I think by chance, everyone had come with an image in mind that was interesting, different, historical, thoughtful. That made the class more interesting as there was a lot of quiet working, with murmurings of discussion about why, and what, and what next.

It turned out to be really quite difficult!

But intensely fascinating...

Straight lines a challenge.

But the effect was stunning.

After a brief tussle with a nose (profile thereof inexplicably growing through lack of tool control!) ...

We ran them through the press.

And discovered that all the oops-es and some of the awkwardness drops away miraculously when it's on paper.

We were both quite happy with the result!

Wood engraving appeals to both of us because of all of the historical wood engraved book illustrations. We were both a wee bit confused as to the difference between wood block printing (carved into a block along the grain) and wood engraving (carved into a cross-cut piece of wood, therefore across the grain and much finer detail can be created).

Our hands hurt, it was a challenge -- but we would definitely try it again!


Friday, November 25, 2011

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Arty Chokes

Our artichokes that Bev's been nourishing are justaboutready...

These are their pre-prandial portraits.