Tuesday, December 29, 2009

A Christmas poem

I've been reading and re-reading the BookArtObject set text by Rosemary Dobson as I assemble boxes over Christmas because I've pasted the poem in full in the bottom of each box. It has made me think about poems and the fact I don't often read them, and I thought you might like a poem I saw in Lesley's Printed Material blog... Lesley, I hope you don't mind me quoting you!

Feet that could be clawed but are not...
Arms that might have flown but did not...
No-one said 'Let there be angels' but the birds

Whose choirs fling alleluias over the sea,
Herring gulls, black backs carolling raucously
While cormorants dry their wings on a rocky stable.

Plovers that stoop to sanctify the land
And scoop small, roundy mangers in the sand,
Swaddle a saviour each in a speckled shell.

A chaffinchy fife unreeling in the marsh
Accompanies the tune a solo thrush
Half sings, half talks in riffs of wordless words.

As hymns flare up from tiny muscled throats,
Robins and hidden wrens whose shiny notes
Tinsel the precincts of the winter sun.

What loftier organs than these pipes of beech,
Pillars resounding with the jackdaws' speech,
And poplars swayed with light like shaken bells?

Wings that could be hands, but are not...
Cries that might be pleas but cannot
Question or disinvent the stalker's gun,

Be your own hammerbeam angels of the air
Before, in a maze of space, you disappear,
Stilled by our dazzling anthrocentric mills.
Carol of the Birds by Anne Stevenson
From 'Light Unlocked' Christmas Card Poems published by Enitharmon

I suppose it means something to me partly because the birds are Northern European ones with which I'm familiary, as is the landscape. But anyway, I liked it! It's not quite the same looking out of my windows and seeing parrots and honey eaters feasting on grevilleas in the sunshine, but that's the magic of Christmas in Australia in the summertime - something totally different.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Ye gods and little fishes

I may have mentioned the rain here before, non? Yesterday - Christmas Day - was lovely in and around Coffs Harbour: about 28 degrees C, sunny with just a few clouds intervening between my delicate English skin and the UV rays. We went to Arrawarra Beach after a later breakfast (smoked salmon and scrambled eggs. Yum), walked the dog, collected shells and had an altogether leisurely day. Things weren't all quite as anticipated as the oven in our rented house gave out half way through cooking the Christmas Duck which was a bit of a pain, but essentially we had a great day.

This was a good thing because today is the day we start packing and moving, and with this in mind we loaded the trailer, hitched up the 4W drive, and sauntered off to our block with the idea we'd start unloading some stuff into the shed. Ho ho ho.

The rain started, the clay turned to mud, the 4W drive couldn't get up the steepest, claggiest slope on the 'goat track' up to our block... the engine started straining, the car started slipping back down the slope, the trailer jackknifed, the car didn't want to stop...

It looks nice in the sunshine... it looks damned nasty when shiny with a lick of rain!

Dearest husband managed to bring the car to a precarious halt, darling daughter got out and sat on her backpack on a safe bit of grass, while I packed stones under the rear wheels of the 4W drive. Luckily husband had packed a 4lb lump hammer which came in useful trying to prise the trailer off the tow-bar... and luckily the connecting mechanism wasn't damaged, despite the dodgy angles and the potential for the metal bits to have bent. The trailer then had to be manhandled as far as possible before we all crossed our fingers and had to let it go, chuntering down the hill under its own steam! And luckily it managed to swing round and front itself into a patch of long grass near the bottom of the slope, leaving enough room on the 'road' for dearest husband to be able to slide the car back down the slope, engage the engine and do a 6-point turn. Then I slid into the driving seat and was directed backwards to meet the trailer and we managed to hitch it all up again and drive home, tails between our legs. So much for unloading in the shed! However, I do think we were very lucky indeed: it could all have been so much worse.

And the moral of the story? Um, not sure if there is one, but it probably goes something along the lines of "don't buy a rural block and expect to be able to get up there in the rain" or perhaps, "there's no point in thinking about doing fancy things in your new house until you've spent several thousand dollars hiring a grader and buying loads of gravel to improve the road"! Merry Christmas, everybody.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Peace and Good Will

I've sent precisely one card so far this Christmas, not because I'm a bah humbug sort of person (no, I'm not, REALLY!) but because we have to move house soon and I've not got a lot of energy...

Inspite of my failings in the festivities department we wish you well over the holidays and hope that the end of this year and the start of a new year bring you happiness, contentment and peace. We're wishing for the same things ourselves.

Monday, December 07, 2009


Ah yes, ticks! They are one of the hazards of life on the North coast of New South Wales... and on Saturday night it seems I was visited by one in bed. I have over 70 bites on my left arm, plus the ones up my back, chest and the side of my neck... I haven't found the culprit but everyone tells me these look just like "grass" tick bites.

Of course grass ticks aren't actually a species of grass-dwelling tick - they're the larval stage of some types of tick. There's no specialist treatment, just endurance of the agonising itching, albeit with the help of anti-histamine tablets (day and night), hydracortisone creams and - I've been recommended - 1 cup of Bicarbonate of Soda in a hot bath, which is next on my agenda!

A treasure box

You may remember that when we got back from Europe in October (oh how long ago that seems now!) darling daughter and I went away on her Class Two camp to Woody Head. When we got back, weighed down with various collections of shells, seedpods, bits of rock, ochre and leaves, I set about thinking of a treasure box I could make for the class. I thought it would be nice if they had something in the classroom that reminded them of the fabulous time they had, both visually in terms of photos, but also through touch and smell and their own retelling of the story of the camp. This is what I came up with:

The box is made from A3 grey board, although naturally it is larger than A3 and the cardboard needed to be laminated in order to get the right size...

Each piece - walls, floor, lid, partitions - had to be cut twice, glued, weighted, sandpapered smooth, filled and painted white before being covered in thin Thai banana paper with wild grasses in the mix too.

Class Two wrote accounts of their trip on thick drawing paper, with illustrations on both sides but words on only one side. The paper was folded along one edge so that I would have a margin I could use to stitch the stories together in two accordian books.

The inside of the box base was painted with natural ochres I ground up from the rocks I collected on the beach and mixed with an acrylic medium, then the whole box was varnished, ochre paint and paper, in order to make it a bit more durable under the stresses of 22 pairs of hands!

This is the finished box before I inserted the two accordian books, which I secured to either side so that they sit flat on top of the collection beneath. The 'handle' on the lid is a twig I picked up on one of our walks, sewn on with sage green linen thread to match the leaves in the paper, and varnished as well so that it feels smooth to the touch. Today I presented it to Ruth, their class teacher, so I hope they like it.


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