Journey to the Stone Country – Alex Miller and ideas on Conservation

Plenty has been written about the storyline of Journey to the Stone Country.  We have a  fortyish woman who was raised on an outback Queensland station and an aboriginal man who grew up in the same area.  They meet  and when working together visit a long deserted, decaying station house

The house was left with its contents intact so we are given an understanding of what the life was like when the occupants were alive.  My interest was suddenly sparked when the question was raised about the rightness or otherwise of preserving or conserving objects from the past. exactly as they were found.

So imagine standing in the dining room of a fully furnished house whose air has not been disturbed by a human for a long while  Can you feel the previous dwellers.?  Do you feel comfortable or is there a shiver down your spine ? Do you feel that you are intruding on something private ?

Preserve 1One thing we should all treasure is our privacy. With social media this is becoming something that people have less and less regard for. We can have our discussions in our blogs but surely we all draw the line at just how much about ourselves we will reveal.  So if we preserve these objects from the past are we intruding on the privacy of the owners.

Preserve 2When we do conserve the past does that intangible atmosphere disappear ?

Preserve 3Alex Miller gives a very convincing argument which carries you along while you are reading.  In this case it was a substantial house which was the object in question. But how often when driving out in the country have you seen a clump of daffodils just inside the paddock fence, or a lone fruit tree in a most unlikely place and you realise that once there was probably a hut or home on that site

I have done a fair amount of family history research over the years and I have come across documents that have made me mentally apologize to the people for having intruded on their privacy, As far as I am concerned they will remain private.

But on the other hand look at this hut.  It is tucked away in a back yard in Castlemaine, Victoria, and you can see it by driving up the side lane.  Such a pretty little hut, or should I call it a cottage.  My McDonald great-grandparents lived  in this cottage in 1861-2 and had a couple of children there.

CottageCastlemaineI can use my imagination to try and re-create the lifestyle of Jane and Robert.  Would I have different emotions if the cottage had been allowed to fall into disrepair ? Would I feel their ghosts beside me ?  I am pleased that someone has taken the trouble to keep the cottage painted and in good repair.

Alex Miller would say that we have kept the fabric but lost the spirit.

Get Well Message for an Old Friend

 TentCaravan  With Lyn and Peter on a ride

Des. Peter, Lyn

In caravan

Once upon a time there were two young couples who among other things used to go camping together.Now time has passed and one of the older ladies wanted to write to one of the older men to send him a few visual memories, to wish him well with his visit to hospital and hopefully put a smile on his face.  This is what she wrote.

Dear Friend,

! was sorry to hear that you are having a spell in hospital and hope that you make rapid progress and get home soon.

I was wondering if you remember anything about Set Theory, in particular the Intersection of Sets.

A ∩ B = ( x :  x Є A  ʌ  x Є B )

So if we say that

A represents the list of possible ailments for a man, and

B represents the list of possible ailments for a woman

Then

1.  I am quite happy to empathize with you if your present trouble lies in the Intersection Set Aas it  would be quite possible for me to have the same  problem as you

2.  I reserve the right to smirk whenever your ailment is such that A ∩ B = ф , i.e. your ailment doesn’t fall in the intersection set and there is no way in the world that I could possibly get that problem.

3. But I give you permission to smirk, gloat, snigger, grin, jeer, leer  and generally poke fun at my distress in the nicest possible way if any ailment that I should suffer from  also doesn’t lie in the intersection set and that there is no way that you could acquire that problem.

So….. whether your ailments lie in A ∩ B  or if A ∩ B = ф

                         GET WELL SOON.

 

Secrecy by Rupert Thomson

“He came on a November day, a cold wind blowing, the fields soaked with rain.”

With this first sentence, the first paragraph, the first page, then the second page , I knew I was starting a book I would enjoy

Apart from Galileo’s Daughter by Dava Sobel I haven’t found much to interest me in period stories set in Italy, such as Medici stories.  But this rather tragic tale is unforgettable.

I hadn’t heard of it until one night recently it was discussed on the Book Show on Australian ABC TV and now having read the book I went back and watched their comments again more carefully.  To them it seemed the love story was secondary to the Gothic, the darkness, the evil, the religion and politics.  But I’m a people person and the meeting and the gradual involvement of the sculptor and the beautiful young girl was what it was all about. .  It is set in the less affluent parts of Florence  and the countryside with the brief ventures of the sculptor into princely circles.

Because it was set in late C17th Italy how a relationship developed depended on the laws and the morals of the time., and this historical background floats along underneath the characters of the story.  There are also some fine descriptions of how sculpture in wax was done in those times and some unforgettable minor characters along the way.

Then there are the secrets.  We all have our little secrets which we don’t reveal to casual acquaintances. And it is these secrets held by different characters  in the book which lead the story to its conclusion.

It wasn’t until I had finished the book that I found out that Zumbo was a real person who spent his life fleeing foom his home in Sicily.  He really did make the wax sculptures depicting the plague. This has made the book even more fascinating in retrospect.

The boy-girl story and the secrets were but the dominant factors of the book to me.  I enjoyed the background, it was a necessary part of the story, but it wasn’t the story itself.

But, I found a different interpretation of the book in the Australian ABC TV’s Book Club.  For the discussion the three regulars were joined by authors Junot Diaz and Sarah Dunant.  I don’t think I’ve read anything by either of them but after listening to them talk I certainly intend to remedy that.

The background seemed to be everything to them -evil, hell-hole, darkness, gothic, pious, sordid were some of the words they used.  True, but what did they expect in C17th Florence and was it very different to what is happening in different parts of our world and which we read in our papers and hear on the TV news each night.

I don’t think the panel made any mention of the title, Secrecy, which is such an  important part of  the story.  As secrets are revealed so are actions determined.  Knowledge determines how we react to a situation.

Soo…we all liked the book, but with different interpretations and  for different reasons. My appreciation of the book was enriched by listening to these two discussions, the first from the ABC Book Club and the second from an interview with the author Rupert Thomson.

The Blackwater Lightship by Colm Toibin

Blackwater

I was listening to a respected program on the radio and one of the women was praising the work of Colm Toibin and looking forward to reading his latest work, The Testament of Mary.  The subject matter of this book didn’t appeal to me so I looked for one of his earlier books and found The Blackwater Lightship, published in 1999.

It tells a story of three generations of women in a fractured family in Ireland who have had little contact with one another in recent years but are brought together by the  life-threatening illness of a grandson-son-brother.

It was easy to read  and to watch the interactions of the three women and later their defences against both friends of the family and the town gossips, but as the book moved on there was a detailed description of the evolvement of a homosexual affair and lengthy descriptions of the effect of AIDS on the body.

Authors are told to write about things that they know.  I have no objection to being introduced to a wide range of topics belonging to many different eras.  Usually the  new information is in small doses and merely contributes to the story line without dominating it as in this book.  Was I reading a book about the relations between women in a family or a book about AIDS ? As a woman I think I would have found it more interesting if the patient at the heart of the story were  a young person suffering from the side effects of chemotherapy in a last ditch effort to control breast cancer or ovarian cancer or any of the other cancers that strike young women. But that would have to be written by a different author.

Looking back now at the selfishness shown by the three women and the grudges they held , even though on the surface it seemed as they would be able to co-exist in the future at a certain level, I didn’t find any deep resolution of their problems, which is possibly how it would happen in real life.

The author writes in an interesting and flowing style so if you are interested in the subject matter of his stories no doubt  you will enjoy his books.

Grandpa and his bushfire

At this time of the year Down Under there are many reports of bushfires.  Some are quickly controlled but others go on for days or weeks.   My grandfather was caught by one but that was a long while ago..  The dry weather had brought swarms of locusts and by February 1, 1898  Beech Forest was described as being ablaze, just one of the many fires that had been devastating the Otways, turning day into night.

Grandpa and his father and brother had come down each year from central Victoria in the off season to clear land for a dairy farm.  It was in the hills above Apollo Bay, then still known by its original name of Krambruk.  They had built a house and Grandpa was settling in well.

The Otway Forest was fast coming into prominence as a coastal tourist resort. That summer distinguished visitors to the various small communities were reported, as were the balls and Sports Days. On Tuesday, February 8, 1898 it wasn’t a particularly hot morning, but the wind was gusty. And when the wind swung to the north the burning-off which had been  started by the Beech Forrest settlers as a precaution got out of control and headed towards Apollo Bay.

About 11.30 in the morning my grandfather was helping his next door neighbour, William Methven. They saw the fire making for their houses at the top of the ridge so they began to hurry home.  Grandpa reached Mr Methven’s house first and stopped briefly for a drink of milk, the older man having lagged behind, then hurried to his own home.

There was little Charles Fricke could do to save his home.  The fire was so intense he crouched behind a table with a bucket of water for five hours, tearing the back out of his waistcoat to dip in the water and cover his mouth.  The table was too small to cover his feet and the heat drew the nails out of his boots.  His horse was the only one of his animals to survive the fire, even though his mane had been burnt off.

Alone, blinded by the heat, he decided he would rather die on the road to the township where his body would be found more quickly.  And so, feeling his way with a stick, he set off on the three miles to Apollo Bay.  Mrs Costin took him in and put him to bed and nursed him back to health but his neighbour had died trying to reach the sanctuary of the creek.

As the telegraph line was burnt down the news of the fire had to be taken out by horseback.  The coaches could not get through as the track became blocked and the corduroy was burning. So it was Friday before the outside world knew what had happened.

After eight years of clearing scrub, splitting palings, fencing, building, and creating a farm, it was a case of start again.  First priority was shelter. Grandpa built a  temporary humpy using the roofing iron from his burnt home.  .  And so, full circle, he started again. Dear Grandpa.

Image

Grandpa and his humpy