Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Teapot Tuesday

Red Spot II, Wallisy Kandinsky

The Celestial Tea Party

All the young gods were there –

bring a plate the invitation read

So we did:  figs and olives,

and those little honey cakes Artemis loves

finely curled fish cucumbers and dianthus crystal sweets

What we didn’t dream of was Dionysius and his ‘tea’

And after the party, we’ve been picking  crockery from the sky

for years

installation at the V & A

In response to Tess at The Mag.  Many others can be found dining here.


Sunday, January 29, 2012

Sunday Trees

The Tree of Life:

This is the tree on our bedroom floor.  It is a wool and silk carpet, woven in Qum, Iran (formerly Persia) and is about fifty or sixty years old.  The 'tree of life' motif is ancient and found world-wide: from China to Egypt and even in North America.  It symbolises life, immortality, fertility and the boundlessness of the natural world.  Some elaborate systems use the tree of life as a symbol of the Earth and cosmos, male-female balance and so on.  There are also some  esoteric schemes which see the tree of life as the secret of eternity.

In the case of our rug, I think the central scene symbolises the paradise of the 'hortus inclusus' - the enclosed or walled garden.  The concept of a separate world - Eden, or an oasis - as an enclosed garden began to make more sense to me when we moved to the deserts of the Middle East.  The harshness of the landscape and the climate is thrown into contrast by the softness and fertility of the enclosed garden.

The rug has a strong border depicting buildings in Qum, but also serving as the 'wall' of the garden.  In the safe space inside, birds flourish, flowers bloom and the tree offers cool shade and the promise of life.  Of course, it is a fantastic tree, blooming with myriad and disparate flowers (including dianthus, hyacinth, and rose).  The sinuous trunk weaves across the space, an arabesque symbolising the infinite nature of of the spiritual life, while the birds offer music and the freedom of flight.

You are welcome to come and sit in my garden, take sweet tea and dates, and listen to the poet's song.


Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Teapot Tuesday

What do you do with old silver-plate teapots and cutlery?

I bought this from 'Mr Chimes' at the Arts Centre Sunday Markets, in about 2005 or so.  The last few times I visited the markets, he wasn't there, but a quick check of the Sunday Markets website now shows  he is still there (hooray!).

The teapot hangs in the doorway between our kitchen and laundry, and annoys everybody who doesn't live here: 'too bad' I say.

The chimes are fashioned from old forks and spoons, with glass embellishments.

Cultures that see spirits and ghosts in every dark corner tend to favour chimes and bells to keep these ghoulies at bay.  I am not sure if we have any bad spirits here but I do love my chimes.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Sunday Trees

prunus serrula

Up on the Wall

 In an ancient garden, heavy with whispering Roman shades

stands a totem to northern sprites, woad-dabbed irregulars and

the heart-beat of a tree.

Here the mist hisses through leaves,

Sol  raises his tired face against

the windflowing down from the Glens

and salutes the old warriors.

prunus serrula, Tibetan Cherry
photo taken at Chesters Walled Garden
nr Hexham, Northumberland


Thursday, January 19, 2012


Sir Daryl Lindsay, 'Landscape Myrniong', NGV The Joseph Brown Collection
photograph by Isabel


I saw a cloud on the drive north
a moustache hovering over an empty hill
a classically curved bow
implying a pair of lips pursed
to kiss the land


Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Teapot Tuesday

Now for a little philosophy.

In 1952, the English philosopher Bertrand Russell, wrote a paper entitled 'Is there a God?' in which he argued that the burden of proof of an unverifiable statement remained with the person making the claim, rather than on an observer attempting to prove the statement's falsehood.  The analogy he used was that of a teapot, orbiting the Sun between Earth and Mars.  Simply put, he argued that just because an observer could not prove the teapot didn't exist, that did not mean it did exist.

the Russellian solar system, with orbiting teapot,
courtesy of Prima

Personally, I believe Bertrand Russell was an entertaining and challenging writer and thinker.  I do not endorse his views on all subjects, nor do I seek to force them on others.

My daughter Prima is fascinated by Russell, and in homage to his paper, she created a teapot in his honour.

And because we are all flawed beings, we failed to spell his name correctly:


Monday, January 16, 2012

Speak god

sculpture: Jason deCaires Taylor

Speak god

That night the storm tore at the coast,

pulling down rock cliffs and shifting hillsides

the mighty Longinus estate slipped into the sea,

many cattle were lost, slaves too

and the landscape changed as if an earthquake had ridden through

Below, the sea’s bed churned with mud, cluttered debris from above,

and new currents swept the old harbours away, navigation even for fish, lost

Three slaves from the ship survived the wreck 'til day break,

their execution – an appeasement to deaf gods – was slow and agonising;

their screams would wake the idle gods

 while clouds ran from a scurrying sky, appalled

The rest – sailors who fell with the bronze,

their bones like pearls about the lost god – took the easy sacrifice

The god of alabaster eyes, dressed in barnacles now, is silent

Inspired by a bronze statue of Poseidon or Zeus, found by a vacationing diver, and by the photo prompt offered by Tess at The Mag.  More results of her inspiration can be found swimming here.


Sunday, January 15, 2012

Sunday Trees

Continuing the theme of trees related to home, this is a very special tree.  It is an ancient swamp willow. Originally it had five huge limbs, each about 1 metre in diametre.  A severe storm brought down one of the limbs, frightening my parents into having them all lopped back. 

This photograph would have been taken in the late 1960s, and shows the tree-fort construction of my brother.

Swamp willow, Toronto Canada, c 1968
In the right background you can just make out the 'play house' my father built for my brother and me.  It was more elegantly constructed than the tree-fort (my brother was for all things military), fashioned from sheets of 4x8 plywood, with left over asphalt roof tiles.  The front door knob was a large wooden thread spool, and it had two hinged windows you could prop open, one at the side and one at the back.  We built a little reclaimed brick terrace to the right of the house which nestled under an ancient and generous damson plum tree.

In a complete departure, I offer you an earlier structure:

Isabel & brother, c 1964

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Stepping through the Wall – and Meeting Elisabeth

We all know stories about people who meet online, fall in love and get taken to the cleaners, or live happily ever after.  We know about protecting our children from ‘stranger danger’ and chat room nasties.  We’ve heard about scams emptying bank accounts, preying on good-hearted and soft-headed folk.  On our blogs we are careful to protect our families, never divulging too much information, posting photos of ourselves (generally) or giving our telephone numbers out.  We know all these things, don’t we?

The other side to these warnings is – does the virtual world exist?  I read your blog, but do you actually write it, or are you all some bizarre construct of my over-heated imagination?  Hmm, might put that idea to the side for now.

I started reading Elisabeth’s blog, Sixth in Line, months ago.  She writes incisive autobiography, always with a probing twist, often confronting, always compelling.  Elisabeth has many devoted followers who respond generously or argumentatively to her blog.  I read her in awe, for a long time not commenting because I felt inadequate and shy.

Gradually, I began to recognise some of the places her writing touched on – not only the emotional places, but physical locations too.  There was a parking ticket, a pet grooming shop and other markers. I realised Elisabeth might live close to my parents.  I took my courage onto my keyboard and began to leave comments.  I had this wild idea that maybe one day we would meet.

What did I think a physical meeting would achieve?  Would it convince me that you, on the other side of the Wall, really exist?  Curiosity? Or perhaps I was motivated by my perverse and trouble-making nature?  I don’t really know.

We met last Saturday, at a local coffee shop.  Weeks before our date, I was terrified at the prospect and wished I’d never suggested it.  I thought it will ruin everything and I’ll have to stop writing (not one to catastrophise, me).  I gave Elisabeth plenty of opportunities to bow out gracefully, worrying that I would waste her time, bore her or generally be a nuisance, but she did not withdraw, and neither did I. 

In the last week before we met, I grew quite excited by the prospect, genuinely looking forward to it.  I’d reasoned away any risks (white slavers would not be interested in me) and yes, even if the meeting was a social disaster, I would still be able to write.  It wasn’t a disaster.

We found we both had to convince our husbands that we would be safe and promised to ring to ‘check in’.  I anticipated we would have coffee and chat for thirty minutes and that would be that.  Have a nice life, see ya ...

I arrived first. I bought myself a coffee and sat by the front door, my large pink sun hat hanging on the back of the chair – the signal to Elisabeth.  I waited.  I wriggled in my seat and adjusted my posture.  I heard myself saying ‘try and look as much like a human being as possible’. 

When she strode in, all long arms and legs and smiles, I recognised her immediately.  She pointed to the hat and said ‘Isabel!’ I asked if she would have recognised me from my portrait and she said, yes probably.

We skipped the small talk.  What a relief.  Instead we plunged straight in to life, the universe, writing, family, careers ... we confessed our earlier nervousness and the concerns of our husbands.  We spoke about blogs and books and family history.  We discovered many things we had in common as well as the differences in our lives.

For various reasons, it is important that we preserve our privacy, so I did not take a photo of us together; however I wanted to have some commemoration of the moment:

Shaking hands.

I said that I would like to write about our encounter.  Elisabeth looked horrified.  I reassured her, not the personal details we’d shared, but the experience.  She agreed.  We decided we would both write about our meeting and try to co-ordinate the time of our posts.

We chatted for two and a half hours, ignoring phones and the interruptions of my family.  Eventually we decided we had better step back through the wall to our separate blogs.

It was an interesting experiment, meeting a fellow blogger, a successful experiment and a pleasure that I had not anticipated.  I am sure not all such encounters would be as satisfying.  Out there, in the real world, I often meet people I hope to become friends with and for one reason or another, the chemistry does not work: we find we have nothing to say after the first burst, or we discover different outlooks which prevent a true meeting of minds.

So – stranger danger?  Yes, be wary, of course, and careful.  If you do have the opportunity to cross that boundary, you may find someone special. I know I did.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Teapot Tuesday

Melbourne Teapots today.  The first is a magnificent hand-built teapot that my daughter Prima (of the long flowing locks) created at school.  It holds enough tea for 8 good mug-fuls, pours surprisingly well, and I think should be the star of its own animation-adventure.  This teapot inhabits a special universe of clear water and rolling tea plantations:

As promised last week, here is the teapot that my son Primus, of the saturnine glances, gave me for Christmas, in all its cheery glory - and yes, it pours as a teapot should:  drip-less and smoothly.

ps -- I am flying back to exile --  see you soon  xx


Sunday, January 8, 2012

Emperors and Kings

Emperors and Kings

We remember His Exultedness Ozymandias  standing in the desert, surveying His Empire

we wrote essays about him at school

Emperors and Thieves

We remember the sight of another Exulted One, in bronze, being towed earthwards

(and later the trap-door plunge after much discussion)

Emperors and Tyrants

We’ve studied the works and plans of the Genius of Economics: His Marxness

and watched with sadness or satisfaction as the communist experiments failed under

the weight of human nature

Emperors and Stars

In marble or bronze, paint or celluloid we like to keep our Emperors on pedestals,

high up on a wall:

Above, untouchable, beyond the grip of gravity or sin

image: Lee Friedlander

Thanks to Tess at The Mag for the prompt.  More mags are here

Sunday Trees

Jacaranda, camellia and oleander, on the nature strip, in front of our house in Sydney.  Not strictly a tree, perhaps, but indulge me. just this once?


Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Teapot Tuesday

from the Victoria & Albert's collection:

(I received a lovely red teapot for Christmas from Primus, but I haven't a photo of it with me -- next time!)

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Sunday Trees

eucalyptus, Victoria

If trees were born, this is how they would emerge.  A new tree for a new year.

Best wishes for Health and Happiness during the coming year and
Happy Birthday to Primus  and UV
Isabel xx

the birthday boys (22 years ago)