Sunday, August 30, 2009

A Bag of Lemons

True to form, Tom could not resist the large pile of lemons left in his staff room last Friday. A fellow staff member's tree had produced a huge harvest, and in this case, resistance was futile. We visited the town of Bendigo recently on one of the ITF weekends, and were hosted by Barb and Doug Jamieson. Barb's lemon marmalade was wonderful. So I am clear about his intentions! He's promised to chop them up, but I'm guessing the harder part will be standing over the pot of boiling lemons and sugar until it "sets". I'm going to call Barb for the recipe shortly.

The Bendigo weekend included a bush dance, out in the "bush", down a dark and winding road with many wildlife warning road signs, far away from the lights of the town. The Emu Creek Bush Band played, and took their time to teach us (kids and all) a variety of bush/folk dances. A very enjoyable evening, and a great way to catch up with fellow exchange teachers. We met a couple who will be in Winnipeg for 2010. She's a music teacher and got an acceptance on her first application. The Winnipeg counterpart has apparently been trying for a few years. Interestingly enough, and this is either a Winnipeg or a Mennonite connection thing, but I know of the new exchange person.

The day following the dance, we all slept in (a miracle for the Wiebe Roberts crew). We enjoyed a lovely breakfast with more of the lemon marmalade, and headed out for the town of Castlemaine. This is another central Victorian town with gorgeous architecture. Bendigo's buildings, more than 100 years old, are gorgeous. The newer suburbs just can't compete with the beauty of the older buildings. Much brick, iron lacework trim, restored buildings, and some in the process of being restored. Tom had a chance to visit a local potter in Castlemaine as well as the Bendigo Potteries (producing functional pottery for 150+ years). True to form, we picked up more pottery... now the big question will be how to get it home.

One of Bendigo's biggest industries is gold -- the town is built over a working gold mine, a mine that has been producing for more than 150 years. (There are reports of billions of dollars of undiscovered gold in central Victoria if anyone wants to start a search.) Another kind of gold for us is seeing the art and architecture of a place. The Art Gallery in Bendigo has a treasure trove of 19th century Australian art. When we were in Adelaide, we couldn't see the early Australian art in the South Australian Gallery because that particular section was being renovated, so this was wonderful. Early Australian (European-based) art from the late 18th and early 19th centuries derived from a European/English tradition. Artists made art the way they had in England and the work didn't accurately reflect the colours and light of the Australian landscape. The bush and eucalyptus trees appear pale green, or a lime green in colour, which is not near reality. There were also artists who were employed by the rich of the new antipodean world to paint portraits of important people and their estates, and the results can be quite amusing. Large bodied cows or sheep with tiny heads and legs. Very primitive in appearance. Anything to show off the newfound wealth.

A group of painters in the late 19th century changed Australian art. They became known as the Heidelberg group after a small town outside Melbourne (now a suburb). Their works were strongly reflective of everyday Australian landscape and life, and were influenced by the impressionist movement of the day. Artists like Tom Roberts (the other one), Frederick McCubbin, and Arthur Streeton are part of this group. The gallery in Bendigo has a wide range of Australian art, from the earliest to current works by people like Shaun Gladwell, a video artist. His piece is a mesmerizing slow motion film of a biker commemorating the roadkill of central Australia (Apology to Roadkill). Another piece by contemporary artist, Patricia Picinnini is of a strange maternal being, part human, part animal, part magic, suckling her young. We stood near this sculpture for quite a while, unable to tear ourselves away.

We ended our weekend at Hanging Rock, with our own picnic. I brought the Peter Weir movie home a few weeks ago, so we enjoyed the eerie music and sad and strange story of repressed finishing school girls off on a school picnic. Several disappear, most never to return. One of the teachers disappears. The headmistress eventually kills herself.

Somehow we tore ourselves away, although the rocks looming overhead are formidable.

A young kangaroo followed the kids around, especially when it saw them eating apples and sandwiches. We couldn't resist ... gave it some of the apple and some of the sandwich, even though we all know we aren't supposed to feed the animals.

Now I have to face that bag of lemons... I'll let you know how things transpire!

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