Posted by: jkirkby8712 | February 13, 2012

Tuesday 7th to Wednesday 8th February 2012 – Ballarat, art, music and a friend.

Tuesday, 7th of February, was the third Anniversary of Black Saturday [7th February 2009], when those devastating fires swept across large areas to the north and east of Melbourne In many of those areas, recovery was still taking place! Meanwhile, parts of the states of New South Wales and Queensland continue to suffer the consequences of major floods over the past few days. These extreme consequences of weather seem to be becoming more of an annual occurrence over the past few years..

I recall another extreme case of the weather in this date – back in 1983 – when a severe dust storm blew down from north western Victoria and shrouded Melbourne. We were living in a rental home at Keilor Park at the time, while the home in Sunbury was being built – with only James around at that stage, and Mrs Seipolt living with us. That storm was perhaps a precursor to the tragic Ash Wednesday bushfires which occurred in Victoria and South Australia on the16th February [including much loss of life and property at Mount Macedon, just north of Sunbury].  At the time I was working at Keilor Council, and recall one of two fellow workers were directly affected by those fires.  Had we being up at the home building site in Sunbury that night, we would have had a ‘spectacular’  [and frightening] view of the fires on Mount Macedon. As it was, I was down in Carlton for a while early that evening visiting brother Colin, who was living in the inner suburb at the time, and recall coming out of his house to find ash in the streets of inner Melbourne, having blown down from Macedon, 50 kilometres to the north. That was an eerie night – recall lying awake listening to the radio reports. But we were the lucky ones  – safe in Keilor, not so the people to the north of us going through a night of hell, both there, and in other parts of the state.

Meanwhile, throughout the British Commonwealth, celebrations have commenced for the 60th anniversary of the reign of Queen Elizabeth.  The Diamond Jubilee of Queen Elizabeth II is the international celebration throughout 2012 marking the 60th anniversary of the accession of Queen Elizabeth II to the thrones of seven countries upon the death of her father, King George VI, on 6 February 1952. Queen Victoria in 1897 is the only other monarch in the histories of the United Kingdom, Canada,  Australia and a few other Commonwealth realms to have celebrated a Diamond Jubilee. Following the tradition of jubilees past, a Diamond Jubilee medal is being awarded in various countries and holidays and events will be held throughout the Commonwealth. Quentin Bryce, the Governor-General of Australia, announced that the Diamond Jubilee will be celebrated “with a host of national and community events throughout the Commonwealth.” Paying tribute to Queen Elizabeth II as Queen of Australia in the Australian House of Representatives in Canberra on 6 February 2012, Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard stated the Queen was a revered figure in Australia. Gillard also announced that she would on 4 June light a beacon atop Parliament House and a street in the parliamentary triangle in Canberra would be renamed Queen Elizabeth Terrace.  The Queen’s  special message to mark the year was as follows.

In this special year, as I dedicate myself anew to your service, I hope we will all be reminded of the power of togetherness and the convening strength of family, friendship, and good neighbourliness, examples of which I have been fortunate to see throughout my reign and which my family and I look forward to seeing in many forms as we travel throughout the United Kingdom and the wider Commonwealth. ………..Elizabeth II, 2012

Here in Australia today, ‘hostilities will recommence between the major political parties, as Parliament resumes in Canberra, also the location where the Reserve Bank made another monthly deliberation on interest rates this afternoon.

But I really had none of that in mind myself.  I left for Ballarat at 11.30am, leaving James’ dog  behind – in the house, against my better judgement. However, although she was out at that moment, I was hoping she would be around to keep Murphy company until he was collected for Goonawarra. I think part of that happened today,  although I’d not discover until my return, that in fact the dog stayed a second night with us, and for most of Wednesday – that day he was alone all day, while Susan was at work. I was a little annoyed, not at Susie, but at James for just taking it for granted we would be around to look after his pet for an extended time!!  Anyway, despite all that, it apparently survived it’s visit, and was eventually collected some time on Wednesday.

Casual drive to Ballarat, with one stop at Bacchus Marsh along the way – call of nature –  and to respond to a brief message from Susan – ‘Sorry Dad! Didn’t say goodbye, had a doctor’s appointment. Have fun!’  –  Originally, I’d thought she was working today, but apparently came home late last night unwell, and rang Adam to say she was sick today. She had rushed out rather quickly not long before I left – I was happy to hear from her, at least Murphy would have some company for a while – I had providing that since early this morning.

I think it was around 12.45pm when I reached the Central City Motor Inn, on the outskirts of the CBD, booked in, etc, then went for a wander down to the city Mall area, leaving the car behind. Had an iced coffee and a sandwich, before proceeding on up to the Art Gallery of Ballarat.

At the Art Gallery,  I collected my two tickets for tonight’s concert, and then spent an hour or so, having a look at the current exhibition on display  –  the paintings, etc of Michael Shannon. A retrospective Michael Shannon  [referred to as an ‘Australian Romantic Realist] is one of Australia’s most under-regarded major artists from the 1950s to the 1980s. In his heyday, Shannon’s distinctive paintings were as avidly collected and frequently displayed as those of near contemporaries, John Brack and Fred Williams.  I rather liked the exhibition  –  he had a lot of emphasise in his early decade or so on pictures of suburban scenes, buildings, structures, still lives, and so on, some of them rather plain and to many, would appear uninspiring. Later in life, after he became ill, and moved out to the Heathcote area in Victoria, he began to paint many rural and country town scenes, much more to my liking.  Born in South Australia in 1927, his biography explains how the late 1970s saw this change in focus. In 1980 he bought a small house near Heathcote (north  east of Sunbury). His interest in landscape had grown following a visit to David Chapman in Tasmania in 1974 (he exhibited small studies at Macquarie in 1979) and in the 1980s the landscape became the central concern of his work. It is a landscape he clearly fell in love with – from the rock faces of the quarry paintings through the more intimate glimpses of hill sides with trees and bush tracks, to the large canvasses of spacious hills stretching to distant horizons. A long battle with Parkinson’s disease preceded the artist’s death in 1993. Anyway, in my usual manner, I purchased a copy of the official catalogue – bought the slightly cheaper soft covered version this time, which apart from illustrations of most of the paintings on display, and others, included two or three excellent essays about his life and work. A good investment.

Whilst I was at the Gallery, I rang Heather to let her know I’d arrived, by car. Her mother was not the best, but Heather was determined to join me at the Art Gallery concert tonight, and as I’d driven down [after originally intending to come by train] we agreed that I would pick her up from her home this evening. From the Gallery meantime, I walked back through the main City area and back to the Mall – when I was a teenager, this area was open to traffic, and included the tramline down the middle. Bridge Street, as it was called, was quite narrow, and I guess eventually it was decided to make it a pedestrian only Mall [the trams were long since gone].  My next visit was Collins Bookshop [of course] . Quite a large store, and I was assuming that it would have stocked copies of the books of the Wordsworth Poetry Library. My perusal revealed none, although I did bypass the actual ‘poetry’ section. However, the shop manager assured me that there were none of that series in stock.  Well, despite that, I found one – ‘Collected Poems of Rudyard Kipling’. He was surprised that there was a copy left in the shop, but then began to quote verses from a couple of Kipling’s poems!!! He was ahead of me here, but anyway, I made the purchase, and so added to my library collection of that series of 3 books now, with two others on order from Amazon.

At this point, rang my sister Jean, to ascertain if she was in fact here in town somewhere – yes, not far away, with eldest son Vincent. We arranged to meet up in 30 minutes, and have a coffee. In the interim, I walked back to the motel, deposited my purchase, etc, and then returned to the Mall – perfectly timed, met my sister and nephew walking from the opposite direction. Chatted for half an hour over cappucinios – not that I really enjoyed my drink, don’t seem to have any favourable taste towards coffee of any sort at present [other than the iced coffee version, the one of least benefit to me!!].  Vincent, who was in between studies and work at present, had been distributing his resume [with the needed help of his mother apparently] at various businesses around the town. There was obviously quite a contrasting difference between him, and younger son, Alwyn, in terms of self-confidence and a the ability to face a challenge, and this became obvious on today’s meeting. Vincent currently lives in Ballarat, sharing a house with his sister, Rosemary & her boyfriend, Marc. Before we parted, I arranged to drive out to Jean’s place, at Enfield [about 20 minutes out of Ballarat] for a brief visit in the morning.  From the ‘coffee lounge’, it was back to the motel via the supermarket, where I purchased an evening meal to eat in the motel before going out later on.

Heather, who had been being through two disastrous marriages, since I last saw her in the late 1950s  [apart from our lunch in Bacchus Marsh the other day] lived in a unit up in the Ballarat North/Wendouree area, not far from the old Ballarat Cemetery [which is actually called the New Ballarat Cemetery!!].  It is many many years since I have purposely picked up a young lady [well, she is my age of course – we went to primary school together] for the purpose of  going on an outing –  some people might call it a date, but I think we just both looked upon it, as two ‘old’ friends catching up, and what better way to do that, than at a musical concert, within the environs  of the Art Gallery of Ballarat, such institution of which we both happened to be members. I gathered that at different times, both her late father, Charlie Jones, and her brother Ross, had been heavily involved in the management of the Gallery. We had a common interest.  Actually, I’m not sure if Heather and I were ever ‘friends’ as such – we went to school, and Church/Sunday-school together, but I don’t think we were ‘buddies’ or anything of that sort. Yes, as a ten year old, I was fond of her, though never communicated anything of that nature as far as I can recall, while Heather regarded shy Bill as ‘rather sweet’ [that wasn’t communicated either, at the time].  Now all of a sudden, 50+ years later, we are friends!!  That’s rather nice actually.

In any case, tonight, we have come to see the ‘Helen Davey Trio’ – a poetic world/folk group with a contemporary twist, made up of Australian lady [in her 40s], Helen Davey [who sings and plays guitar and the piano], and two guys from Switzerland [about the same age as Helen] – Ferdi Rauber [a percussionist, who also ‘plays’ a variety of other instruments and implements, such as tablas, gong,didjeridoo, frame drum, udu, cymbals and percussion, amongst other things], and David Aebli [on double bass, mandolin, bouzouki, & solo guitar]. They had called the concert tonight ‘Carvings’, and that was in fact the name of the CD, of which both Heather and myself purchased a copy during the evening.  An interesting trio  – mixture of ‘almost’ jazz, folk, blues, and some other odd genres of music, it’s hard to describe. I expected a short program, in fact it was split by quite a long, and we thought too long, an interval, and then another lengthy period where Helen called for ‘stories’ from the audience – to which she would then, on the spot, create music, words, etc, to fit in with the particular story. She got that started by referring to one of the classic European paintings on the wall where we were, and calling for ‘descriptions’ of what that painting was depicting – can’t recall the name, but it has been on display for many years, featuring an old couple in the prime of their years. Interesting, the painting underneath that one, is of a young nude lady bathing – a picture I’ve always admired, and one of the audience, thinking that was the painting Helen was referring to, very aptly gave it the title of ‘cheeky’!!

In any case, I think we both enjoyed the concert overall – some of the music or style was a little ‘strange’ or different, but an entertaining night  – we both agreed on two things, it was perhaps a little too long, could have done without the story telling segment, and we both had trouble understanding the lyrics of what Helen was either saying or singing – maybe the acoustics just didn’t match her soft [though at times, deep voice] – anyway sometimes, I simply gave away trying to pick up what she was saying, [was giving me a headache, to add to a nagging toothache!] and simply sat back and enjoyed the music.

The musicians invited those of us present to join them after the show at a restaurant around in Sturt Street which had apparently remained open for the purpose –  certainly, I doubted there would be much else of the ‘coffee lounge’ nature still open at this time of a Tuesday night in Ballarat. However, Heather & myself jointly agreed that we would not bother to join the crowd – the concert had gone a bit later than anticipated, and I don’t think she was used to late nights over recent years.  I declined the invitation to have a drink back at the unit – instead, if time permitted, we would meet up again tomorrow afternoon for a drink, before I returned to Sunbury.

Back at the motel, though I was not ready for sleeping, I didn’t even bother to switch the TV on, and couldn’t get the internet to connect up to my laptop, so instead,  I opened up the ‘Rudyard Kipling’ poetry book, and had a look at the introductory essays, the most interesting of which was the piece written by George Orwell, originally written in 1942. It was described by many critics as a ‘hard-hitting account of Kipling’s poems’, and apparently has been generally considered as one of the most important contributions to critical discussion of Kipling. That detail is too extensive to canvass here, but as I started to read the early poems in the book, I tried to reconcile the contents with what Orwell was saying. At the time of writing, I’ve not got too far, and not really sure if I have enjoyed [or sometimes even understood] very much of what I’ve read so far!  Time will tell –  on page 36, with over 800 to go!!

Wednesday, 9th February –  woke earlier than I really needed to, and had over an hour before the breakfast I’d ordered, was due to arrive.  That breakfast included an especially prepared juice combination drink of carrot, apple and celery –  not sure whether that was going to do me good or not, but it was an interesting and enjoyable drink. Anyway, I remained at the motel until near checkout time, in no rush, and in a relaxed mood.

When for a drive up to Lake Wendouree – beautiful sight to see the lake full of water again – and whilst there, rang my sister, Jean to make sure she was home out at Enfield. It’s about a 15/20 minute drive out to the Skilbeck property – being a working and school day, Jean was the only one home, and I stayed for about an hour, over a slow coffee [which I wasn’t really enjoying] and a bit of a family chat. Ross apparently was not really happy with his job at the Grammar School anymore, and was looking elsewhere. They were all going up to a family wedding in Cairns in a couple of months – the suggestion had been made that he might find something up there!  I made the comment that such a move would leave just the one Kirk sibling down here in Victoria!!

Back to Ballarat, where I called in at the Red   Brick Gallery in Skipton Street, apparently just opposite from where Rosie   & March live, although they were currently at work or university. At this   Gallery, there was a display of a mixture of sculpture, paintings,   photography and drawings from a variety of Ballarat artists [under the title   of the ‘2012 Red Brick Group Show’, including one selection from Rosie   herself [my niece], which was my prime reason for dropping by. Quite a small   gallery, which this morning seemed to be full of women & their young   children, so it was also quite crowded, so I didn’t stay long. Up a narrow   winding flight of stairs which required careful negotiation, picked up a   listing of the works on display, and then searched for Rosie’s piece, which I   found on the wall, halfway back down the stairs! Item No. 9 by Rosie Skilbeck   – ‘Sun Flower’, which was a kind of collage put together by ‘recycled junk   mail non canvas’, size 51×76.  It   looked quite impressive actually, with lots of colour and pattern, but I   decided that I was not quite so impressed to pay the asking price of   $275!!

However, as we already knew, the girl was very   artistically minded, and it will be interesting to see what she can come up   with in the future. Meanwhile, I continued on my travels :– further communications with Heather, to arrange a 2pm   meeting over at the Boatshed restaurant, which was apparently opposite   Nazareth House, where she was visiting her ill mother.

I returned to the   Art Gallery of Ballarat  – two reasons,   one to collect another copy of the 2012 catalogue of shows due to be held at   Her Majesty’s Theatre in Ballarat this year [wanted Heather to have the   opportunity to see if there was anything in there that she might be   interested in going to later in the year, that we might have a mutual   interest in], and secondly, to have a further look at the general Gallery   displays, that I didn’t cover yesterday. While I’ve seem most the Gallery’s   normal daily displays, I always enjoy another look. In fact there was a copy   of an Australian painting, already framed and for sale in the gallery shop   that I was very tempted to want to purchase. The price was below what Rosie   had been asking for her work, and with all due respect to my dear niece, I   think I’d prefer to spend my money at this stage, if I had a choice, on the   Ballarat Gallery painting –  Charles   Conder’s 1888 oil painting ‘An early taste for literature’!  I went away thinking about it. The painting   was created from a scene on a farm near Richmond on the Hawkesbury River in   New South Wales,  which shows a more   light hearted approach to Conder’s normally more serious paintings.  While the painting captures the atmosphere and   the warmth of a Spring day, with the evident delicate branches of Spring   blossom a feature, it highlights also, the scene of a little cow [or heifer]   amongst a bush picnic setting, blithely consuming a newspaper that one of the   picnic goers has been reading – hence, the name of the painting, and the   creation of a lighthearted fable or conversation piece. This version would   look rather appropriate amongst all my bookshelves, and books, and other   Australian paintings I currently possess.

Another place   I visited during this trip, after a bit of a wander around a part of the   Botanical Gardens, which were starting to look rather glorious in   anticipation of the Begonia Festival, coming up in March, was the Adam   Lindsay Gordon Cottage. I think I mentioned this spot on my last visit, but   at the time it was closed to visitors.  Gordon was a poet, born in the Azores in   1833, educated in England, and then sent to Australia in 1854 by his father,   to hopefully start a new and useful life. During his lifetime, as well as   becoming a successful poet, and achieving both fame and failures in many   other pursuits in both Ballarat, and later, Brighton in Melbourne, he died at   his own hand, in 1870. The cottage which he had lived in, whilst in Ballarat,  was eventually relocated to the Botanical   Gardens on the centenary of his birth, in 1933, and in the 1980s, a   restoration program, finally resulted in the Crafts Council of Ballarat   opening the cottage in March 1992 as an outlet for locally produced crafts.   The venture is staffed by volunteers, and allows members of the Crafts   Council to sell their products. Inside, there was certainly a variety of   craft items,  antiques, paintings, etc   available for sale, but apart from a couple of paintings, not a great deal   that interested me personally. Although, had I being looking for a gift for someone,   there may have been some likely opportunities amongst the displays.  Amongst my various collections, I don’t   think I have a consolidated selection of Gordon’s poetry, just various   examples in different books.  Interestingly,   One of Gordon’s poems, The Swimmer forms the libretto for the fifth   movement of Edward Elgar’s song cycle Sea Pictures, and Elgar also set to   music another of his poems A Song of Autumn. The latter appears below.


‘ Where   shall we go for our garlands glad

At the   falling of the year,

When   the burnt-up banks are yellow and sad,

When   the boughs are yellow and sere ?

Where   are the old ones that once we had,

And   where are the new ones near ?

What   shall we do for our garlands glad

At the   falling of the year ? ‘

‘ Child   ! can I tell where the garlands go ?

Can I   say where the lost leaves veer

On the   brown-burnt banks, when the wild winds blow,

When   they drift through the dead-wood drear ?

Girl !   When the garlands of next year glow,

You may   gather again, my dear—

But I   go where the last year’s lost leaves go

At the   falling of the year.’

According to   Gordon’s biographer, Douglas Sladen, this poem was written in October or   November 1868, while Gordon was staying with Mr Robert Power of Toorak, in   Melbourne, for Mr Power’s little daughter, whom he appears to be addressing   in the second verse.

Heather and myself arrived at the Boatshed restaurant   [don’t think that is it’s actual name] but it is located on the Melbourne side   of Wendouree Parade, on the shores of Lake Wendouree, opposite the large area   of land occupied by Nazareth House. That facility is supported   by the presence of the Sisters of Nazareth, a commitment to Catholic Health   Care Principals and the total spiritual, emotional and physical needs of each   resident, and the provision of aged care accommodation. Described as a   ‘welcoming environment for your family and friends, peaceful surroundings,   appetising and healthy meals with seasonal menus all make Nazareth House a   special place to live’. The restaurant is   located just north of View Point, where as a young family, us Kirks used to   come here with Mum, particularly on those occasions when her spinster sister,   Jean, was visiting from Sydney. Long ago memories.  That’s what Heather and myself indulged in   over the next hour – long ago memories of both of our lives, and where they   had taken us since the late 1950s. I won’t go into the areas we conversed on,   though certainly, her life had taken her on different pathways to what I   might have imagined when I knew her as a Primary school fellow student back   in the 1950s. Although her mother was not very well at all today, and was   currently sleeping across the road, Heather apparently brings her over here   sometimes for a bit of an outing, although they usually have to sit in the   outside part of the restaurant, because the provisions for wheelchair access   are rather limited, and it is a fairly crowded environment.

It was shortly after 3 o’clock where we took our leave   of each other – Heather back across the road to visit her mother again, which   she does daily and has for many months since her incurable cancer was   diagnosed early last year I think, while my destination was back to Sunbury.   It had been a very pleasant hour this afternoon.

As for my return trip, I was in no real hurry, and in   fact, stopped off in Melton for 30 minutes to have a drink at one of that   town’s coffee establishments. In Sunbury by 5.30pm. In no mood to cook a meal   tonight – instead went out again later to purchase a take away Noodle shop   meal for Susie and myself. Couldn’t cope with anything too heavy, so a ‘noodle   soup combination’ suited me perfectly!!

Meanwhile,   back in the real world, there was a ODI cricket match played  in Perth  this evening – India 6 for 234 defeated Sri Lanka   8 for 233









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