I watched the last twenty minutes or so of the movie Ratatouille with a four year old boy the other night, doing my shift while his parents were having dinner with us. The animation was very good, and the visual syntax was varied, dramatic and assured. They sure know how to make animated movies nowadays.
One scene that struck me was when the girl, having walked out of the restaurant with all but one of the staff, for reasons I could not fathom due to ongoing discussions with the four year old, is stopped in traffic on her motorbike, and looks to the side at something which invokes remorse at her leaving. The lanes of traffic on either side of her drive off, with her sitting on the bike, and the traffic held up behind her. (It loses in translation.) Another is the previous scene when the staff walk out of the kitchen, and we have a rat’s eye view of the feet and legs in regulation black and white checks as they tramp out. Continue reading “Candy Glass”
Let’s go back a decade, more or less. Find, in memory, some Friday night. After midnight, the Victory gradually quietens down. The groups of drunken kids wandering from pub to club along Charlotte Street, begin thin out. Wander up the ramp from the footpath into the grounds of St Stephen’s, past the lovely old two-storey house, past Bishop Quinn’s statue, to stand at the curved glass wall of the sacrament chapel. The water flowing along the inside of the wall from the baptismal fount might be matched by a semi-circle of water outside. Or, depending on how late in these years you choose to visit, there might be a dry bed of pebbles, as there is today. Continue reading “Cathedral, after midnight”
Winter is coming. The sky this morning is a perfectly clear blue. A light breeze carries the chill, and a high pressure system sits over most of the continent. Across from the station where I wait, fuming slowly at the mess that’s been made of the timetables, one of the yellow-orange crane booms over the tennis centre building site is swinging around against the blue. Soon I’ll have to start wearing a jumper.
A Beenleigh train has just pulled up behind me, cutting off the sunlight except for the back of my head. It’s gone now, but the breeze has gusted, so I momentarily feel colder in the sunlight. The secret of Brisbane winters, when the drying westerlies blow cold, sweeping all cloud from the sky, is to stand in the morning sun in the lee of the wind, and bask in the warmth. But not today. This day is warming as the sun rises.
A speaker announces that the 7:12 service to the city is running approximately ten minutes late. Previous train 6:50. Next train 7:25. Not bad. I see a flash of red underwing and look for lorrikeets, but in a moment I realise that these are galahs. The birds are on the move. An unusual drone has me looking up from under my hat. Three Cessnas are flying in formation, quite high, towards Archerfield. I’ll wait for the 7:25. Winter’s coming.
Abeba rented a room in a weatherboard house in St. Lucia (the suburb of Brisbane, not the Caribbean nation). The ageing owner had set up a caravan and a shed for himself in the backyard, and rented the rooms to students. Of the tenants there, I remember only a Chinese girl with excellent English, and Abeba, who was from Eritrea. Bereket lived nearby, and Saba was also in St. Lucia. Continue reading “The voice of the spider”
In the autumn of 1996 I took a ferry from Ancona across the Adriatic to Split. There was a reasonable swell, into which we heaved through the night. I slept little in the “aircraft style” seats, keeping an eye on my knapsack, in which all of my travelling possessions, and a significant portion of my worldly possessions were packed. I was travelling with cabin luggage only, which kept the volume down, and made the airports mercifully easy to leave. By dawn we were sailing down the Dalmatian coast. We moved in behind the shelter of the string of elongated islands that parallel the coast, and came into Split. I’d met a Kiwi on the boat who suggested we get accommodation together in Medjugorje. I agreed, having become all to aware of the cost of single rooms. It was a bad mistake. Continue reading “A visit to Medjugorje”
I recall seeing, on a trip to Rockhampton in about 1975, some stands of cactus that I took to be prickly pear. I was surprised to see it, as I had heard the story of the rampant infestation and the eventual control through Cactoblastis, so I thought it had been eliminated. A newsreel from the twenties gives some idea of the severity of the problem.
I had another prickly pear surprise not long ago. The train home from work goes from Southbank Station (once Vulture Street Station) under Vulture Street and into a long cutting. At the top of one of the embankments is Somerville House high school. Staring out of the window, I suddenly noticed a healthy clump of pear at the base of the embankments. I realised that there were smaller clumps of it growing all over the stone bank on that side. As suddenly as it had appeared, it was gone; even before the tunnel under Stephens Road I couldn’t find any more of it among the angled planes of the wall.
So, is this a stable population, of has someone, not too long ago, tossed a fruit down the embankment? The next year should tell the tale.
I was less than ten years old when I was given a copy of Oliver Twist for Christmas or birthday. It was a small-format Collins hardcover, blue-bound, with the Collins fountain logo stamped in silver on the front cover. The pages were very thin, so much so that in places the print from the other side, too heavy in places, showed through, making reading difficult.
I read avidly, and was delighted at Oliver’s rescue. At that point, of course, things take a turn for the worse. When Oliver, carrying his benefactor’s books, is kidnapped by Nancy, my heart sank, and I put the book away.
At the moment, I’m reading Russian Short Stories from Pushkin to Buida, edited by Robert Chandler. The first story is Pushkin’s The Queen of Spades, the third is Gogol’s The Greatcoat. Reading Gogol, I had that same feeling of impending doom as Akaky Akakiyevich makes his way back from the party whose pretext is his new greatcoat.
It took me some years to pick Oliver Twist up again. I think I finished it in my mid-teens. My expectation of a satisfying resolution may have sustained me. If so, Dickens did not disappoint. Gogol offers no such promise, but I am grown-up now, so I pressed on through my dread. Gogol did not disappoint.
If I am not woken suddenly—by an alarm clock, for example—I often find myself in a state on the cusp between sleep and wakefulness; in reverie. And often in that oftenness some questions that have been in the back of my mind will find their way to the front. The other morning—the one that triggered this post—I “woke”, and started thinking about the West Antarctic ice shelf, as one does. Continue reading “Emergence”
About a month ago, Jen and I went for a bike ride on a Saturday afternoon. On the way home, we came up the back streets from Hyde Park. We got to Yeronga Street, and were about to cross into the commercial block when we saw them. A duck was crossing Yeronga, followed by seven ducklings, their legs flailing away to keep up. We rolled over into the car park, watching them progress up the other side of the street. Some bloke joined us, beaming at them. They crossed Fairfield Road at the lights. A couple of other were standing there watching them as well. The traffic was at its calmest at that time on Saturday afternoon, but the road was by no means empty. As we watched, a van came followed our route down Shottery Street and stopped to let them across the intersection, still following Yeronga. Seeing the van, Mum picked up the pace. Somehow the chicks kept up. Continue reading “Down on Fairfield Road”