Thursday, July 24, 2008

Family Flying in August 1920

Aircraft in Flight on 13 August 1920 in Queensland, Australia

My great grandmother must have been one of the first aircraft passengers in Australia.

On the 17th March 1920, she paid the then huge sum of ten pounds (around twenty dollars) for a ten minute flight - hardly time to get up before coming down!

My Great Grandmother, 1900

Happily she saved the ticket issued to her by Australian Aircraft Pty Ltd.

It has two sections: 'This portion to be retained by the passenger' and 'This portion to be given to the pilot'. The ticket indicates the name of the pilot ('Capt. Legget') and the type of aeroplane used ('AW'). I'm a bit surprised by the degree of administrative detail for what was essentially just a very early and short joy ride. But I guess it could have been for souvenir purposes as much as anything else.

The figure '4' top right shows she was the fourth person to try out this new fangled contraption!

But the momento of this occasion that is for me most interesting is her pencil written account of the event - while still in the air!

She records the take off ('the air 5pm 17-3-20') and the landing ('5.10pm going to land').

Then she puts down her sensations:

'Flying near Inglewood. S M White. Sensation great. Paddocks look like garden beds. Motor cars look like dogs'.

And I now remember this was not unlike my own first experience - the fascination with the miniaturisation of ordinary things like houses and trees and roads and so on.

My great grandmother later added in ink down the left hand side that she flew at '1000 ft in air' and 'Travelled 12 minutes'. And down the right hand side that the plane was an 'Armstrong Whitworth Aeroplane 160 HP'.

I'm guessing that the aircraft she took could have been like the one pictured above, flying in Australia on the 13th August 1920.

My great grandmother's experience makes me feel in actual contact with one of the bigger events of history - the accomplishment of flight!
Mystery Object - Elaborated

Obviously, no prizes for guessing we had a male 'chastity belt' in our midst ...

... but what I didn't tell you was that I'd held back my absolute favorite style ...

... which has a kinda Porsche Carrera look ... it's the high gloss and the sleek elegant classic curves ...

... a similarity made more striking when 'a la maison' or 'in place' ...

... just imagine yourself driving this hot shiny 'baby' down to your local gay watering hole ... .

Though perhaps I've stretched the idea one stage too far! What do you think?

Or is this elaboration enough to change your minds about getting one for your 'utilities' cupboard?

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Today's Mystery Object

They come in two basic styles - 'the cage' (illustrated above) and 'the desk knickknack'' (below).

Each style is available in a wide range of colours and sizes.

So three questions:
  • What is it?
  • Do you have one?
  • Do you need one? (You may have to consult your partner to get the 'right' answer to this question!)

Answer to the first question tomorrow, along with photos of the object in use.

As if you won't guess in a nanosecond!
There are Pools .... and there are POOLS!

The pool at home seemed pretty satisfactory - you know, 30 metres long, 2 metres deep, blah, blah, blah.

But then last month, THE pool opened at the Alfonso del Mar resort at Algarrobo on the southern coast of Chile.

1000 metres in length, a 20 acre area and a 40 metre deep end.

Not so shabby - though perhaps a little less intimate!

Has envy done something strange to my judgment? LOL!

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Recalcitrant Pumps - Part 2!

I was walking home from the French bakery this morning - armed with an almond and chocolate croissant, and an apple danish - and was savouring the prospect of devouring them the moment I got inside, if not sooner ...

... when I happened upon a pair of mens shoes, out for a casual Sunday morning stroll - quite unaccompanied!

Now you may not strike you as in any way out of the ordinary, but if you check my post of 7th November 2007 ...

... you'll realize I am being relentlessly ambushed by old footwear!

What do you reckon I should do guys?

Should I confront my leathery stalkers? Suggest a coffee to chat about the 'situation'? Embrace the wonderful diversity of surprises that daily rush in on us?

Any suggestions?
The Colours of Nature

No blah blah required!

Friday, July 18, 2008

Size Isn't Necessarily Everything

Just goes to prove that cos you're small doesn't mean you can't exert a big influence on the world around you!

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Warri and Yatunngka of the Mandildjara Aboriginal Tribe

Warri and Yatunngka in their camp at Ngarinarri

There are probably only a few stories in a life time that truly move you - and stay with you for the rest of your life. For me, this is one of them.

In the nineteen thirties, two aboriginals of the Wandildjara tribe, Warri and Yatunngka, fell in love. They belonged to different skin groups and, as such, were prohibited by tribal law from being together. Contravening this law could result in physical injury or death.

So Warri and Yatunngka left their settled urban tribal group with its contact with the imposed European culture, and for the next forty years lived a traditional hunter/gatherer nomadic life around the Gibson Desert of Western Australia. Bearing two sons at one of the water holes in the desert.

Gibson Desert in Western Australia

Over the years, there was occasional news of the couple. Tribal elders forgave them. And so with the great drought of 1977 and fearing for their safety, a tribal elder and friend, Mudjon, encouraged Dr William Peasley to detour from his annual exploration of the route of explorer and gold prospector David Carnagie to search for Warri and Yatunngka.

Mudjon, elder of the Mandildjara people and friend of Warri and Yatungka

Peasley was later to write a book of this experience 'The Last of the Nomads' (1998). And there was to be a grainy 16mm film shot by the search party, 'The Last of the Nomads' (1998).

This film was my first contact with Warri and Yatunngka's extraordinary and moving story.

Footage shows the search party finally spotting smoke on the distant horizon. And Mudjon walking across the barren desert towards it.

After an interminable wait, two tiny figures appear and slowly walk ... out of the Stone Age and back into the C20. Shattering. And I'm guessing this scene is what moved indigenous film-maker Glen Stasiuk to say he was 'inspired by seeing footage from the original search party'.

Warri and Mudjon walking out of the Desert in 1977

The couple were emaciated and barely alive - Warri had a leg injury and could not longer hunt.

Warri Kyangu of the Mandildjara

Yatungka of the Mandildjara

In the footage that followed, Warri and Yatungka seemed terrified - on so many levels. They lived back in town ...

Warri, sick and miserable at the camp near Kata Kata

... with Warri dying in 1979, and Yatungka, then refusing to eat or drink, dying shortly after.

Glen Stasiuk's inspiration of Warri and Yatungka's story lead him to make 'Footprints in the Sand' (2008). With the involvement of one of the couple's sons, Geoffrey 'Yullala Boss' Stewart. Who had lived with his parents in the desert till his teen years. It was shown for the first time at the Message Sticks Indigenous Film Festival in Sydney.

Indigenous Film-Maker Glen Stasiuk

Of making his film, Stasuik says it was 'a privilege to go to a remote location and share the experience of their spirit and their ancestors ... [it's] ... a reminder ... or who we are and where we come from'.

And, as he says, it's so important for 'an indigenous voice to be heard'.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

'A Bracelet at Tiffany's ...'

A lady walks into Tiffany's. She browses around and spots a beautiful diamond bracelet and walks over to inspect it. As she bends over to look more closely, she breaks wind.

Very embarrassed she glances around to see if anyone has noticed her little accident.

As she turns around, her worst nightmare materializes in the form of a salesman standing right behind her.

Cool as a cucumber and displaying complete professionalism, the salesman greets the lady with, 'Good day, Madam. How may we help you today?'

Very uncomfortably, but hoping that the salesman may just not have been there at the time of her little 'accident', she asks, 'Sir, what is the price of this lovely bracelet?'

He answers, 'Madam, if you farted just looking at it, you're going to sh
it yourself when I tell you the price.'

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Lotus or Lily Feet - Foot Binding ( 纏 足) in China

I'd just pigged out on a heavy beef comfort food stew - it's winter and yesterday the coldest of the year - and was wandering around the living room when my gaze fell happily on a little pair of highly embroidered ladies shoes bought in China in the late C19 by my great aunt Mimi.

My Great Aunt Mimi (centre, front row) at the time of traveling the world in the late C19

Great Aunt Mimi was absolutely the most cheerful, out-going and positive adult I have ever known. She had no conspicuous abilities or talents - just an enormous sense of delight in life and an uncomplicated unguarded openness with people.

My strongest memory is of her teaching me, in the 1960's at the age of three or four, the song 'Little Brown Jug' with a loving affection and an endless enthusiasm I remember to this day. Her merriness was irresistibly infectious.

My Great Aunt Mimi in her 90's - I knew her in the 1960's, I was 3 or 4

My great aunt never married. She left the family home ...

My Great Aunt Mimi - Standing in white

... to live with one of her nine brothers - till he married.

Then she established her own household.

And took an extended Grand Tour of the world. Not only to the the usual stations of the cross - Paris, Rome and London - but through the Far East, India and China. She was not at all short on courage! And all this journey-ing with a glass eye.

I have always thought of Mimi when I noticed the little Chinese shoes in the various places they have occupied in the places I've lived.

Though I only became fully aware of the accompanying horrors they meant for the wearer as a teenager.

The practice of foot-binding developed in China in the C9 primarily as a symbol of wealth - lotus-footed persons did not require the mobility needed by working people.

Binding began between three and six years of age ...

... to achieve the optimally beautiful and ideal adult lily foot of three inches.

The practice became illegal after 1949 in New China, though it continued in outlying provinces into the 1960's.

The shoes themselves are often beautiful when viewed as works of handicraft. The first two below are deliciously fanciful examples of children's shoes. And the remainder, shoes for adults reflecting varying degrees of wealth.

When I was living in China, you still used to see older women who had undergone foot-binding (not my photos below).

I found this quite good Chinese documentary on the subject, if you'd like a bit more.