Sunday, April 3, 2011

Fitzroy Gardens and Valentina

Yesterday started grey and gloomy but the afternoon showed promise of being sunny. So Deb and I packed ourselves a picnic lunch and headed to Fitzroy Gardens in the heart of Melbourne. We were starving by the time we arrived so we parked ourselves in this classically inspired pavilion to picnic. I snapped this avenue of elms from my seat. Autumn has yet to really bite and most have not yet begun to turn.Looking into the park you would forget you’re in the middle of Melbourne.

Down between the tree trunks we could see another classical folly.After eating we went for a stroll along a profusion of tree lined paths.If you lift your head you get a reminder of the city that surrounds you.Near the bottom of the garden is “Captain Cook’s Cottage” The cottage was constructed in 1755 in the English village of Great Ayton, North Yorkshire, by the parents of Captain James Cook. Cook had been in the Merchant Navy for years by that point and joined the Royal Navy that year, but almost certainly he visited his parents at the house.
The cottage was brought to Melbourne and rebuilt in the 1930s in a fit of Oz (and Empire) patriotism.
I find it very odd. Cook never got nearer to Melbourne than Tasmania and he died 56 years before Melbourne was settled.
Ah well it gives the tourists from overseas something to be photographed in front of.

I thought this cottage built in 1866 and used as the head gardener’s residence until 1990 is much more interesting. By the way the banana trees in this piccie indicate that Melbourne is not so very far from the tropics. Remind me of that when I am grumbling about the cold this winter.

Just in case you don’t believe in fairies, quite a number live in Melbourne.

Heading back up the hill we came on a familiar sight. We’d finished our circuit of the park.

Now to an extract of my WIP for the week.
Last week Valentina caught up with Stepan an old and dear friend. This week Penelope is back on the scene…


Valentina Meshcova
Berlin 1948
By the weekend I was feeling well enough to give in to Natasha's pestering and take her to the lake. It was not really warm enough, but I relented because autumn was around the corner and that would mean months mostly confined inside.

I also needed to get out. I didn't know what I would do after my personal disaster with Ronnie. But whatever lay ahead I was not going to be despondent. If grief was what faced me I would cry for a time and then heal. Natasha showed me again and again that what matters is enjoying the moment, not dwelling on what might have been.

In that spirit I promised myself I would enjoy the day. So, I sat on the sand and watched Natasha frolic at the water’s edge.

'Hello.'
My insides turned over, 'I was not expecting you.'
Penelope knealt down on the sand beside me, 'I wanted to apologise for my part in the cock up last week.'
My resolution of moments before vanished, 'Apologise? What a bourgeois notion. Do you think a few words will mend my opinion of you?'
She flushed red, she looked even more like Ronnie when she was angry. 'I don't know. Before you were frightened I thought a great deal of you. Enough to continue taking this risk. Enough to make debasing myself seem worthwhile. Now I don't know!'
'Before?'
'Before you got frightened. But frightened of what?'
'The NKVD...'
'NKVD, NKVD I have heard enough of that. With Ronnie you could have had a future away from that. For that matter even without Ronnie. You can walk away. Walk straight into the American or British sector and you would be welcomed as a defector.'
'I am Russian...'
'Yes you are Russian. But the tyrant who drives all the terror is not. And you can't believe that he is a Communist with the people at heart. Walk away, there is nothing stopping you. No wall imprisoning you except in your head!'
'What would I do over there?'
'That is fear speaking. You would do anything you chose to do. And what of Natasha?'
'Natasha?'
'Do you want her to grow up in a society where she has to watch what she says, what she thinks? A place where she is always looking over her shoulder?'
'You are trying to manipulate me.'
She laughed, a harsh sound with no hint of humour. 'Yes I am. In spite of everything I think of you as my friend. I give more than a fig for what happens to you. And there is Ronnie.'
'What about Ronnie?'
Her anger faded away, spent, gone.

A sigh from deep within her, and a single tear trickled down her cheek. 'I grieve everyday for my husband. His name was Danny, did I ever tell you that?’
‘No.’
‘For six years I have grieved, never whole, never serene.’
She scooped a handful of sand and let it trickle through her fingers. I watched it fall through a mist of tears. ‘Ronnie has grieved for you. For years now. What ever happens I will always carry my loss. My darling boy lies in a grave, he will never come back to me.’
Her grey eyes transfixed me, ‘I can't bear to think of Ronnie going through what I have any longer. The only thing that prevents his happiness, and yours for that matter, is your fear.'

I could not entirely hide my tears from Natasha as we packed our beach things. 'What's wrong Valentina?'
'Nothing.'
'Why are you crying?'
'Penelope said something that reminded me about someone I lost in the war.'
‘Penelope?’
‘She was here, she’s gone.’
Natasha wrapped her wet little body around me and patted my shoulder, 'It's alright, I'll look after you.'

I took her hand, as we left the beach 'You know I think we might have some bratwurst at home, just for a certain person.'
'Yummy!'

As we walked home I tried very hard to recapture the hint of optimism I had felt only a few hours before. The cold grey streets of Berlin did not help.
A city block from our apartment with racing motors two big black cars pulled up beside us.
Two uniformed men jumped out of the front car and blocked our path. 'Hello Tina.'
I spun to face the voice, Stepan was not smiling this time.

13 comments:

Old Kitty said...

Oh I like the sweet moments between Valentina and Natasha! I also like the bitter rapport between Valentina and Penelope! I hope they bury the hatchett and become friends - they need each other what with Stepan seemingly on the warpath!! Oh dear!

Great stuff!

Yes, I so believe in fairies! Take care
x

The Words Crafter said...

I love how you mix such poignant moments together....very good.

I love both those cottages and would happily stay in either one for a holiday :)

And I can't believe it's nearly fall there. Wanna switch? It's about to get hot here, blech!

Happy Sunday

heidenkind said...

That cottage is adorable! Very cool.

mshatch said...

loved the second cottage; it looks very cozy. Beautiful pics.

Theres just life said...

I like the Gardner's cottage as well. Captain Hook's cottage looks good, but there is just something more welcoming to me about the other one.
Great out take of the WIP. Hurry up so I can buy it and put it in my library...

Ah...no pressure. I am just impatient.

Pamela Jo

February Grace said...

Oh, such gorgeous pictures. Last year for my birthday my best friend took a walking tour of the city and took pictures all over Melbourne for me- the ones of Fitzroy Gardens were my favorite, and I did a painting (which I ended up sending to his Mum) inspired by one of his pictures, full of hydrangea.

Thank you for posting these. So inspiring.

~bru

Niki said...

Beautiful photos. I remember my nan telling me that Melbourne was very similar to Christchurch in weather. Can be quite cold?

Al said...

Hi Jennifer,
I enjoy writing sweet bits. I’m pleased you like them.
I have to admit that I have a vicious habit of bouncing nasty bits off them though.
As for V and P they want to like each other but they just can’t quite manage it.
Poor V, Stepan on the warpath does seem to be a good description.

HI Words,
Thank you. I am all to happy to hear I am coming close to the mark.
I like both cottages but the whole nationalist thing associated with ‘Cook’s’ cottage worries me.
Hmm, any day hot is sooo much better than cold!

Hi Tasha,
I agree cool is the word!

Hi Ms,
I’m pleased you liked my piccies, thank you!

Hi Pamela Jo,
The gardener’s cottage looks like a home somehow.
I’m writing, I’m writing!

Hi February,
Melbourne is quite photogenic. But the Gardens certainly take the cake. Did you take a picture of your painting I’d like to see.
You are welcome, I am selfish really I post this stuff because it gives me a thrill sharing.

Hi Niki,
Thank you!
By Oz standards Melbourne is quite cold. But it also gets amazingly hot in summer (up to 47C) the tough part is you can have hot and cold in the one day.

Niki said...

That's exactly what it is like here. You never know what to wear when you wake up as the weather can change so fast. We don't get that hot though, thank goodness. :o)

Ann said...

Beautiful photos as always Al. Looks like a wonderful place to picnic.

Love the interaction between Valentina and Natasha!

Jai Joshi said...

At some point in my life I'm going to spend a few years going from the northern hemisphere to the southern - following autumn around the globe - so I can savour the beauty of that season to my heart's content.

Gorgeous pics.

Jai

Lisa said...

What a lovely place to spend lunch!

I'm in agreement with some of the other commenters, I'm enjoying juxtaposition of the sweetness between Valentina and Natasha as opposed to the tension all around them.

Al said...

Hi Ann,
Thank you!
It is a gorgeous spot and not too busy on a Saturday.
Very crowded on a Sunday.
I am so happy you like the interplay between V and N.

Hi Jai,
What a gorgeous idea. Becoming a seasonal gypsy.

Hi Lisa,
It was a great place to stop.
Thank you for you kind words. Juxtaposition is such a useful tool isn’t it?