Friday, October 30, 2009

Two birds with one stone.

Well this post won’t be too involved. I thought I’d comment on the fact that this is my 50th post. Quite a small milestone but one worth noting.
Yay I’m

Now on to other matters: Just on a week ago Lisa at Lit and Life passed on an award to me.The Who Loves You Baby! Award is given to those bloggers whom you love and who have awarded you in the past! Pass it on!

Thank you Lisa! I appreciate the thought mate, I am most honoured.

So in the spirit of passing this award on to those who have awarded me I will pass this award to:

Jemima at The Reading Journey. Jemima gave me my first award “The Zombie Chicken Award.”

Carrie (alias Prettysiren) at the Prompt Romp. Carrie gave me a “Kreativ Blogger” award.

Heather at Gofita’s Pages Heather passed a “BINGO” award on to me.

Rachel at Parajunkee's View Rachel had the wisdom to give me the “Superior Scribbler Award.”

Rebecca at Living a Life of Writing Rebecca passed on a “Splash award” to me.

Finally, lest I be accused of false advertising here are:

“Two birds with one stone.”

This Guy is an Australian Pelican I shot (with a camera that is) near Eden. I have a feeling I may have used this piccie before, if so forgive me for laziness after a long week.

This fellow is a Sulphur Crested Cockatoo who was giving us cheek in the bush last week. You see these guys as domestic pets all over the world. They are one of our many, many, parrot species and are fortunately very common.

The stone is actually a small clump of boulders I captured near Canberra. They caught my eye because of the huge range of colours and textures in such a small space. A natural artists palette so to speak.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

A Package and a Review

For tonight a change of tack.

I arrived home today to find a package in the mail from the US. Christy Pinheiro of The Publishing Maven promised me a review copy of her book The Step-by-Step Guide to Self-Publishing for Profit! It arrived today.

Thanks Christy!

Now I have been threatening to post my first review for some time. I’ve completed a review of Troop Leader by Bill Bellamy, so here it is

Troop Leader opens with Bellamy’s transition from school into the army. As a junior officer he was posted briefly to North Africa with his regiment (the King’s Royal Irish Hussars) before being withdrawn to England to prepare for D-Day. Although trained as a tank commander he was put in command of a squadron supply unit, eventually landing in Normandy on D+3.

With heavy casualties in the regiment Bellamy was soon reassigned to command a troop (equivalent to a platoon in the American army) of Cromwell tanks. He led the troop with distinction throughout most of the balance of the European campaign. Finally, he was placed in command of the reconnaissance troop of the Regiment’s Headquarters Squadron (Company).

Bellamy’s account closes with the end of the war in Europe, the Victory Parade in Berlin and the beginning of the occupation of Germany.

Overall I liked Bellamy’s account of his involvement in the war. It is a very fresh account partly because he drew heavily on notes and diaries he kept (against regulations) at the time. One of the real strengths of the narrative is how he conveys his youthful approach to the war and command. He was only 21 at the conclusion of hostilities and despite the life changing effect of the horrors he witnessed, he still had a young person’s sense of immortality.

Ironically this youthful approach is probably also one of the weaknesses of the book. His treatment of the emotional impact of the war is quite shallow. I feel Bellamy could have had a greater force had he included more on how he subsequently thought about the events in which he participated.

As a writer interested in the technical aspects of the war, I found Bellamy’s account a bit light. Also I think he made a couple of minor technical errors, for example “remembering” the use of an IR night sight that was not in use during the war. I suspect he has inadvertently combined memories from the war with his post-war military service.

On the up side, he did provide some useful insights into tactical approaches. In particular some information on “digging in” tanks and setting up positions for night defence were most interesting.

On balance I would recommend this book as a good read for those interested in military history, even at the vastly inflated Aussie sticker price (AUD$32.99).

Now finally, because I can't help myself, a piccie of a typical Aussie country town main street.
This is Braidwood in the Southern Highlands of NSW.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Eden and Twofold Bay.

Tucked into a sheltered inlet in Twofold Bay, across from Red Point and Ben Boyd’s Folly, is the quiet fishing port of Eden. Even at the height of tourist season this place stays calm and relatively quiet. At six hours drive from Melbourne, and six and a half from Sydney it is seen as “a little too far” even for Aussies.
The town sits in the hills immediately around the port.
There is a small fishing fleet that still operates from here.
This piccie represents for me how hard these fisher folk must work.
Looking across the bay in a landwards direction it is easy to see how undeveloped this chunk of country is. Largely because the Great Dividing Range extends almost down to the coast here.
As in many places in Oz there is wildlife in abundance.
Beautiful like Banksias
Cute and beautiful like a Rainbow Lorikeet.
Cute, tiny and too quick to get a decent photo. (A Superb Blue Fairy Wren). And oddly beautiful, but definitely not cute.
Eden wasn’t always so quiet from the 1840s until 1930 there were shore based whaling stations here. Whalers set out in longboats from the shore to hunt whales using hand harpoons.

One station, the Davidson’s, was operated by the same family for four generations (from 1843 – 1929).
One of the Davidson’s old cottages still stands.
This is the Davidson’s front yard (my youngest sitting at the bottom being contemplative)
While nestled in the corner of this idyllic inlet
are the remains of the station including: “trying” vat for boiling down the blubber and the capstan that was used to haul the whales up onto the beach.
The whalers, in particular the Davidson family, received significant support from an unlikely source. Perhaps uniquely, several pods of Orcas assisted in the whaling operations. The killer whales assisted in a number of ways: alerting the whalers that baleen whales were nearby by breaching and tail slapping; driving the baleen whales into Twofold Bay and into range of the harpooners; and harrying the larger animals as the whalers killed them.
In payment for their services the Orcas were allowed to take the lips and tongue of the baleen whales after they were dispatched.

There is one tale “Old Tom”, a male killer whale, becoming quite irate when one of the Davidson’s managers tried to renege on the deal.

If anyone is interested there are a number of websites that feature information on Eden’s orcas.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

A Scotsman’s Folly

On the South Coast of New South Wales, almost exactly half way between Sydney and Melbourne and about six hours drive from each, lies Ben Boyd National Park. Hidden in the park are some fantastic places.

Examples include: many kilometres of isolated and undisturbed beaches;

and The Green Cape Lighthouse.If you drive into the main entrance of the park from the Princess Highway and head for Red Point you come to a car park. From there you follow a little path towards the point.

At one spot you catch a glimpse, through a window in the bush, down to the sea. The pounding of the sea has exposed the rich red siltstone that gives the point its name.

Then suddenly ahead you glimpse over the storm twisted Melaleuca trees this unexpected sight.
Looking as if it would be more at home in the UK, this is Ben Boyd’s Tower one of the legacies of an eccentric from the early days of European settlement.

Ben Boyd was a Scotsman who in 1840 raised £200,000 in venture capital to fund development in the Colony of NSW.
Boydtown was founded nearby in 1843 as a port to support a large pastoral empire and as a base for a whaling operation. Four years later a visitor, speaking of the town, mentioned its Gothic church with a spire, stores, well-built brick houses, and "a splendid hotel in the Elizabethan style".
Boyd’s tower was built as a look out to give his whaling boats an advantage in spotting whales as they came north along the coast and he had ambitions that the government would use it as an official lighthouse.But Boyd was too grandiose and by 1849 he was bankrupted. He travelled to the California Gold fields, but had no luck. Finally he disappeared at Guadalcanal in the Solomon Islands in 1851.
Today the Tower that still carries his name is a shell.
Inside the floor joists are still in place but the floorboards are gone.From the tip of the point you can see across Twofold Bay to Eden, the port that took over as the local whaling harbour as Boydtown fell into ruins.And facing down the coast to the south, is more of the rich red stone that contrasts beautifully with the blue green ocean.This stretch of the NSW coast has to be one of my favourite places on the whole planet.

Next: Eden, a well named slice of country.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

The Light, Fantastic!

I haven’t posted for some days, it has been mad at work. To add to my woes, on Monday I was the victim of an assault. A man who has been using our service unfortunately had his bag stolen on our premises. I was on the spot and became the target as he vented his frustrations. He punched me on the jaw before I could move out of his way.
I hasten to add that I was not significantly injured (a minor bruise to the right side of my jaw).

Including Monday, I have been assaulted four times in the past decade. In addition I have witnessed a number of assaults on colleagues and clients. Unfortunately, this sort of event is a risk of working on the frontline of many community services.

In a situation like this there are two main issues: physical injuries; and the potential for psychological trauma. Neither can be taken lightly. Ten years ago for example, it took me twelve weeks to recover from injuries I sustained in an assault. On that occasion I also had symptoms of PTSD for months after. Over the years I have lost a number of colleagues, in a number of workplaces, due to stress related conditions (PTSD, anxiety disorder, depression) caused by actual violence, threatened violence, or verbal aggression and abuse.

In my experience there are several factors that minimise the impact of such trauma on people: personal resilience; a mutually supportive team environment; debriefing support and counselling as necessary (and for as long as necessary).
The first two are taken care of: I am reasonably resilient and have learnt (and taught) skills to cope with stress; and my team are a great bunch, who all step forward to support each other. As to the debrief (and counselling), well that hasn’t been handled so far. I’ve done my bit in terms of reporting the incident. But the silence from head office is deafening.

This is problematic to say the least. Don’t get me wrong in this instance I’m OK.
BUT and this is a very big but, overall long term outcomes for staff in these high stress workplaces depend on good institutional responses to such problems. I’ve worked for agencies that have excellent procedures and some with truly abysmal ones and the difference in staff outcomes is marked.

I’ve only been with the agency I’m with since earlier in the year and haven’t had to put their system to the test until recently (for Greg and now this incident). I’ll keep you posted.

Now I have had enough of that business.
To lighten the tone I am going to share a fair number of my piccies The only unifying theme will be light and my attempts to catch different scenes under different conditions.

This first photo is of some Silver Gulls wheeling overhead at Port Phillip Bay one sunset. The movement of birds in the foreground captures the vitality of these gulls. These birds are actually snowy white, the setting sun has dipped them in gold.

This picture was taken in broad daylight but the dappling of the canopy brings out the greys and whites of this big old Snow Gum’s bark.

I’m cheating a bit with this piccie as I’ve used it in an earlier post. It’s of evening light over Lake George in NSW. This time of day can be magic almost anywhere in the world, but I feel there is a subtle quality to the light in Australia that I have yet to see elsewhere.

This is one I took last weekend, I didn’t use it in my last post but on looking at it again I find the quality of the light in this pic amazing. To my eye it almost has the feel of a watercolour.

This one is taken looking west over Port Phillip Bay late afternoon in winter. I have deliberately underexposed this piccie to catch the sun, but it was fairly dim anyway.

The bricks of Old Ballarat Gaol looked warm in the sunset on this cold autumn day at Easter.

This normally unprepossessing pylon is tinted orangey red by another sunset. It is actually painted in a dark dull-grey colour.

The next two were taken at Wilsons Promontory in July. The first shows the setting sun, again under exposed.
The second shows a headland and two islands out to sea in the pale watery winter sunset. The dead shrubs and the burnt area in the foreground are more evidence of the February Bush Fires.

Once again sun warmed bricks in the ruins of Pascoe Vale Uniting Church.

The glare of a high summer sky lights the sandstone and wrought iron gateway of the Sydney Botanical Gardens.Finally an Aussie icon basks in the sun on Australia Day 2008.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Somewhere in Europe?

Yesterday being a Saturday we got twitchy to be out and about.
Instead of following our usual path and driving out into the countryside we headed into the heart of Melbourne City. We drove into the city because as one of the few perks of working for a charity I have free access to a car parking space near the centre.

I am afraid I am putting my “Uncle Harry” tour guide hat on for the rest of the post.
Melbourne is by European (and even by American East Coast) standards a young city.
The first European settlement occurred here in 1835.
Initially the town grew slowly, but by 1847 Melbourne was declared a city by Queen Victoria.

Then the Victorian gold rushes of the 1850’s began. Immense wealth flooded into the city and the population exploded. By the 1880s Melbourne was the second largest city in the British Empire (after London) and the richest city in the world.

The wealth of the time is reflected in many grand (and also some grandiose) buildings that still survive in the CBD. Anyway we were in the city for about two hours and I took photos of sections of three streets.

A few blocks from where we parked is the “Old Treasury Building”. The building, on Spring Street, was completed in 1862. Its main function was to house the vaults that contained literally tonnes of precious metal that were flooding in from the goldfields. I like it what do you think?
Behind this statue of Adam Lindsay Gordon (a 19th Century bush poet of local renown) is the modern treasury building. Not a patch on the original in terms of style.
Across the road is the Windsor Hotel. The Windsor is the only surviving “Grand Hotel” of the 19th Century left in Oz. Again I think the Windsor is a quite tasteful piece of architecture. Some pretensions, but not too over the top.
I should say something about the tram. Melbourne unlike the rest of Australia’s major cities left its tram system intact in the 1960’s. This tram is of a 1950’s or 60’s vintage. A few of these old style trams are kept running in sections of the city where there are significant numbers of tourists.

Still on Spring Street, is the Victorian Parliament. Overall the building is, I think a bit grandiose. When you look at some of the decorative details it goes over the top. The lamps (originally gas) are simply gaudy.
While the friezes go the whole hog on the “Empire” theme. You’d think we were in Ancient Rome or something. Also what is really galling for me is that while the craftsmen who did this work were very technically competent, the art is simply a poor imitation of the classical period.
Across the road from Parliament is The Princess’ Theatre:
Which is so gaudy it is almost attractive:

In terms of feel, Melbourne is the most European city in Oz. Although the older sections of most Oz cities were trying to remind their inhabitants of what they still saw as home.

These few streetscapes complete with the next couple of generations of trams (1980s and 2000s) and deciduous trees complete the European look.
Then walking up through Parliament Gardens I got this shot of Saint Patrick’s Cathedral through a window of foliage.
Up on Albert Street is a what appears to be a Roman temple. VECCI is the Victorian Employers' Chamber of Commerce and Industry. I think the building is quite attractive but the architecture says “Rome” and “Empire” not “Australia”. Am I being too parochial?

Still on Albert is Saint Peter’s East Hill Anglican church. St Peter's is the oldest Anglican Church in Victoria. It has the interesting distinction that the letters patent of Queen Victoria declaring the city status of Melbourne were read here in 1848.

Finally St Patrick’s Catholic Cathedral. This building was clearly deigned to dominate the Melbourne Skyline and this perspective gives the impression that it still does. In reality the skyscrapers behind it tower over it and the rest of the 19th Century buildings of the city.