Hotchpotch 17


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This will be the last post from snippetsandsnaps for a couple of months. Meanwhile, I’ll be blogging at warsaw2018 if you’d like to join me there as I visit Warsaw for the seventh time since 2012 and catch up with my twin grandchildren, Maja and Jaś, now 5 years and 4 months – and of course their parents.

This fare-well-for-now hotchpotch is a catalogue of things I’ll miss while I’m on the other side of the world.

Morning maraudings

I’ll probably ramble the streets of Warsaw on early spring mornings, but I won’t dare take the liberties I take in the streets of Potato Point.

Catching up with friends

I have plenty of special places to do that here, a few of them visited recently in the ceremony of farewells. Downward Dog in Bodalla has added a few delights since I was there last – the big back room offers games to play with lunch or coffee and cake (we tested ourselves with the Trivial Pursuit cards) and the outdoor area is bright with tiles, dog-panels, hanging baskets, and a tower topped by bowls and a teapot

(Cafe shots are the first photos taken on my new camera – Sony Cyber-shot DSC-HX90V – a younger sibling of the one I drowned)

The Tilba Teapot offers a verandah nook and on this visit a free scone, and both cafes give me the company of an old friend and the comfort of speaking English.

In Warsaw I’ll have to hunt out pleasant venues for coffee; be satisfied with my own company; and put my chatter on mute.


The geology museum is on the agenda for Warsaw, but it won’t be able to compete with the explorations at home. J has just begun his categorisation of rocks, repurposing two of the hall bookcases and relocating them to the living room. He reckons he needs me to harangue on all matters geological, but I bet progress is made while I’m away.

The beach, the beach

There will be no substitute for the beaches of home, fingers of god early on a dull morning, perfect sunshine at Honeymoon Beach, even on rainy days through the window of the car.

Oddities and artworks

I imagine I’ll see plenty of art but probably not a visitors book held in place like this …

or sculptures on a headland like this


There’ll be vegetables in Warsaw, but they won’t be free (although they’ll be very cheap) or presented as a still life, straight from the grower’s garden.

Close companions

In so many ways, for so many years, these two have enriched my life. A pity they couldn’t accompany me.

RegularRandom: 5 minutes with beach calligraphy


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It’s a while since I’ve indulged my liking for the graceful lettering the sea leaves behind. Right now my own beach is dense with indiscriminate sea-weed, but two beaches down the leavings are more fastidious and selective, even delicate.

This week my contribution to Desley’s RegularRandom almost manages to match delicacy with delicacy, although not pink with pink! Apologies too – I just reread the rules of the game and I’ve strayed a long way from one object, many angles and different lighting, although I didn’t interfere. Next time …

Return to Narek Gallery


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After a morning of coffee at the Tilba Teapot, and prowling the wonderful stuff at Apma Aboriginal Gallery and Giftshop, I walk with a friend of 30 years through the Bermagui wetlands (last time I did this I was leading a gaggle of primary school kids seeking writing inspiration), onto the beach, and back along the clear waters of the estuary. Conversation and an attempt to keep pace with my companion took the place of photography.

Lunch was aptly named bliss salad – grated beetroot, fried tofu, fresh herbs and a sweet dressing – at River Rock cafe. I met a new musical instrument, the cabasa, listened to conversations about the difficulty of buying guitar strings in the country, and heard the birth of plans for a trip to Mongolia.

Narek Gallery was a perfect end to the day, an exhibition showcasing Annie Franklin’s multiple skills – painting, ceramics, carving and moulded frames. There was poetry in the names of her pieces, some merely place names, none of this “untitled” nonsense!

3D tributes to trees were contained in boxes.

Ceramics were also displayed in carved boxes, or on a kind of mini-stage with a landscape behind them.

Paintings, in frames moulded by the artist, have something of the naive about them, attention paid to every blade of grass.

Her tribute to a tree is painted against a background decorated with images of all the life that depends on it.

Music speaks


For the first time since I’ve been going to the Four Winds Easter festival, the forecast threatened rain. The weather goddesses were kind: they justified the forecast, but only delivered seven drops and and that was in two instalments.

What a feast of a festival! Two days of music, four concerts a day. Seven very well known composers, four premieres, at least four commissioned pieces. Aboriginal dancers, Japanese drums, brass, strings, piano, percussion, classical accordion, harp, wine glass, conch-shell, voice. Two standing ovations. An appeal for donations for people in Tathra who lost homes in bushfires a few week ago, just a few kilometres down the road which harvested $30000, to be matched by the Four Winds Foundation.

On Saturday morning the amphitheatre filled slowly. The lagoon behind the sound shell rippled in a light breeze. A moorhen paraded through the yellow waterlilies on the far edge. A dragonfly darted across in front of the stage.

At 10 am the leader of the local Taiko drum group beat the summons to seats on one of the big drums, sticks and arms whirling.

An Aboriginal Elder welcomed us to country, walking through the tiers of the amphitheatre carrying an abalone shell containing fungus from the women’s place, Gulaga, for the smoking ceremony. Children from Bermagui school sang Aborginal songs after a week of music with two Aboriginal singers, Candice Lorrae and Kristel Kickett, as part of the Four Winds education program.

Djaadjawan Dancers, a group of Aboriginal women, ages ranging from 6 to 60, danced a traditional welcome, a whale dance, and a special dance created for the festival. They were dressed in blue, arms and feet painted with white ochre, a wide plaited belt dangling with shells, headbands of feathers, accompanied by boomerang clapping sticks and energetic beating of Japanese drums by the local Stonewave Taiko drummers.

After that stupendous opening, so many more highlights.

David Leha (stage name Radical Son), an Aboriginal man born at Wallaga, the aboriginal community quite close to the Four Winds site, had such presence as I have never felt before. He sang mainly in language, a powerful voice and a powerful statement of self. I knew straight away this would be one of my favourites. Nothing I could find on the Internet matched what I heard from the soundshell.

A strong contrast to this was Breath Dance, one of the world premieres, part of the Composing for the future with James Crabbe campaign. composed for harpist Alice Giles by Timothy Geller, a piece for harp and wine glass. Recorded wind from Antarctica was part of this music, created when Giles set her harp beside a frozen sea near Davis Station and recorded the sound.

More Aboriginal song, this time from Jessie Lloyd’s Mission Songs Project. She’s been collecting songs sung on the missions, set up around Australia in the 19th century, usually by clergy, to “house, protect, and Christianise” Aboriginal people. The songs express the indigenous experience of hunger, exploitation and displacement, and the spirit that can survive these things. The voices of the singers were rich and harmonised in that wonderful way of voices that set up a vibration.

The song cycle ‘Ayre’ by Argentine-Israeli-Russian composer, Osvaldo Golijov, draws on traditional Arabic, Christian and Jewish cultures, with contemporary South American rhythms. It gave soprano Emma Pearson incredible vocal scope and brought the first day to a rousing end. The photo shows only part of her instrumental backing – it also included double bass, flute, clarinet, conch shell, classical and hyper-accordion, percussion and ronroco.

As we left the parking area for the sound shell on Sunday, voices soared up through the amphitheatre to greet us. One of the benefits of pathological early arrival is the chance to encounter artists in rehearsal. On this occasion it was the five singers of the Song Company, who introduced Day 2 with an hour of 16th century music, sitting around the table quaffing and chatting in Latin (translated for those without fluency) and merging their voices to “find the communal pulse” (“tactus” in Latin).

Guy Noble, the MC, was inspired to introduce the next concert in plainsong, one of his more successful acts of clowning.

Arvo Pärt’s Fratres provided an elixir of calm as each slow note lead to the next with absolute clarity: Bach’s Cello suite, refigured for guitar, was stately: Magnar Am’s Gratia for harp and strings turned grace, gratitude, graciousness and receiving love into music: Pēteris Vasks’ cello concerto Presence “took over your mind smoothly and led it gently”. This segment was contemplative, until a return to the energy of the 15th Century, where clapping became an instrument in songs found buried in Sydney University library and resurrected here.

I can’t possibly begin to do justice to, or even mention, everything in this astonishingly varied and rich festival. It provided enough music to sustain for months. But, given my passion for eucalypts, I have to mention Damian Barbeler’s Visiting eucalyptus, commissioned by a couple from Tathra so they could watch the process of composition. Unfortunately they couldn’t be at its premiere because of the aftermath of the fires a few weekends ago. It was played by a ten-piece ensemble.

The finale was a wildly dramatic piece, The three dancers, by Australian composer Elena Kats-Chernin, inspired by a Picasso depiction of a love triangle.

Thank you, James Crabb, and musicians, and volunteers, for creating a marvellous festival.

If you want to see the scope of the festival and what I’ve left out, here’s the program.

Rocks, ceremony and art


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We’ve written for three or four hours – after all that is the designated purpose of our week together, me and a very special friend – before we set off to visit a geriatric who raises the bar of longevity and survival extraordinarily high. Camel Rock, so named by the whitefellas, has been around, one way and another, for 450 million years.

Baked, squeezed, buried, exhumed and eroded

It’s had a rough time of it and bears the marks of its history, as do all old things. It was birthed when an avalanche roared down over the continental shelf, carrying with it broken-down rock ranging from boulders to minute grains, which settled into layers on the bottom of the sea. Over the millennia they have been baked, squeezed, buried, exhumed and eroded to become today’s rockscape. Undulations in the fine layers at the top of each bed record the ripples as the flow comes to rest. Often turbidite beds are stacked on top of each other by many undersea avalanches covering vast periods of time. As you can imagine rocks now are often highly deformed by all this pressure.

Corroboree, ceremony, trade

More recently, the area around Camel Rock became a sacred Aboriginal site. People from up and down the coast and from the Monaro gathered on Murunna Headland above the Rock for corroboree, the last time as recently as the 1930s. Tools were traded and food from ocean, estuary, lake and river shared. A freshwater hole at the base of the southern side of Murunna was a sacred place for women. The head of a woman in the rock was seen as warning of a dangerous rip.

“Restless earth”

We were drawn to visit Camel Rock as a companion piece to an exhibition at the Spiral Gallery in Bega. The title of the exhibition is part of a quote from Professor Brian Cox: “Earth is our ancestor. The restless earth is your creator.” Joy Georgeson’s ceramic hollow hand-built sculptures, decorated with engobes, oxides and glazes, were inspired by the geology and biology of Camel Rock, and Ivana Gattegno‘s art, acrylic, and black and white charcoal, by the landscape around Gulaga and Mimosa Rocks. You may recognise a pile of stones and the offshore rock in the second image from a recent post.

RegularRandom: 5 minutes with seaweed



Failure to acknowledge: I’ve been in such a flurry of posting that I failed to acknowledge two photographers who contributed to my “Once was a bridge” post. Annette Gray provided the devotional shots of the planks and bolts that I collaged, and the second photo, showing the bridge without its towering replacement. J provided the shot of the two bridges. Apologies for the oversight, you two.

Sometime the sea goes wild and wrenches up everything it can lay its surges on. Then the tide deposits the uprootings on the beach, swirling them about as it comes and goes. In the light of early morning they become gleaming treasures.

This week Desley’s RegularRandom features a very cute Easter bunny cake photographed from many angles. My contribution is not cute at all, but it glows.



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icelandpenny asked me a while back about the signs of autumn in my part of Australia. I passed the question on to J, who is closer to nature than I am. He began compiling a list. Sawfly larvae and processionary caterpillars (aka hairy grubs) cross the road in a huddle. Birds reappear after moulting: Eastern Yellow, Lewin’s Honeyeater, Grey Fantail, Eastern Spinebill; occasional families of young Lorikeets and Crimson Rosellas – they won’t hang round; and Thornbills, Butcherbirds and Bowerbirds, who never really went away. Lyrebirds in the gulleys become more vocal in the misty mornings. Crops of mushrooms pop out of the dirt road.

And burrawangs fruit, although not many this year. They need fire for seed cones to form and luckily (for us) that wasn’t provided this year.

Just above J’s house, glossy green fronds arch gracefully around seed cones with reddish brown nuts just beginning to peep out from their spiky leaflet-cover. The cones take their colour from the background: vivid green against the fronds; a duller sage against the dry orangey leaf litter.

A few kilometres up Bullocky’s Hut Road, on a track off Big Rock Road, a burrawang has spilt some of its fruit onto the ground, but there are still lozenges in the green cone, leaflets curved over them like helmets with pointed nose covers.

Burrawangs are members of the Cycad family, a group of plants closely related to conifers with a fossil record going back more than 150 million years. Judith Wright, in her 1947 poem The cycads captures something of their antiquity.

For a previous post about burrawangs see here.

Once was a bridge


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There you are, a low wooden bridge spanning the Tuross River at Eurobodalla, taking traffic over the mountain to Nerrigundah. You’ve done it for years. You were an old hand when we arrived in your neighbourhood in 1977.


Photo credit: Annette Gray

You provided a basic kind of music, rattling away as trucks and cars slowed down to cross you. You were a primitive and functional work of art, worn wooden planks with gaps between them; bolts and replacement bolts; a thin swathe of sand and a slither of casuarina needles at the edges.


Photo credit for images used in two collages: Annette Gray

Your low parapet looked down onto the river, sluggish sometimes, other times whirling with flood waters. Many times you were completely submerged, but it didn’t seem to bother you. You surfaced in all your sturdiness ready to continue the job you were built for.

You wove your way into our lives. We used you to gauge the height of floodwaters. We walked across you to reach the sandy beach on the other side. The boys rode bikes clunkety clunkety clunk across your uneven boards, chucking wheelies for your whole length and triumphant if the gaps didn’t upend them. One day, I sat, motor revving at the town end of you debating what use I’d make of childless freedom when the kids were with their father: Bodalla pub? Or sitting around languorously in my black lingerie at home?

Once the army was using you and the area around you for training exercises. My son wanted to know what was going on. “They’re trying to take the bridge”, I said. He was mystified. “Take it where?”

Thirty-five years later you have indeed been taken, by the council, not the army. There you are, neatly sliced and laid out in piles in the reserve beside the river.

You’ve been replaced by a sprightly concrete bridge, much higher than you were. It will never have your charm. It will never grunt continuo to accompany our swims or Saturday night wine on the river bank. It won’t wear attractively into wooden scars. It won’t respond to our feet with splinters and clatter. There is no way we’ll be walking along its parapet, looking down on schools of tiny fish or sand ripples under slightly tea coloured water.


Photo credit: J

And you? What’s in your future? You’ll be used for transplants and spare parts, to extend the lives of other old wooden bridges in the shire.

You leave us behind to mourn you.

Never the same place twice: Pooles to 1080


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Once upon a time, not so long ago, we walked from Pooles to 1080. “Around three headlands, through two pebbly coves, over one long-grass rock bypass, past five large orange dykes, between untidy masses of black lava long since solidified, and onto parallel ridges … Rockface laminated in wavy lines.” That’s how I described it then, with a few vague technical geological terms, dyke and lava, thrown in.

Since then, we’ve been tutored, under the auspices of U3A Bermagui, by Bruce Leaver, a passionate geologist. He gave us an early morning insight into deep time, explaining the origins of all the landmarks we could see. Not only that, but he had rocks on the table which he named and explained. J scrutinised them intently; read and reread Leaver’s lucid notes; and collected and classified pebbles from nearby Hayward’s Beach. Then we were ready to revisit the track from 1080 to Pooles, armed with a bit of knowledge, a geological hammer and a collecting bag.

What were we looking for? The wavy lines that indicate hornfels; the solidified lava; the dykes of intruded rhyolite.

Hornfels first. It’s the result of a meeting between a clay-rich rock and a hot igneous body: a connection that, like all relationships, alters the original rock. ID is still slightly tentative: none of the Google images I found looked anything like this.

Then lava, easily recognised – deep black, sometimes pitted, sometimes with flow marks still visible, sometimes smooth like black marble. It derives from the Cretaceous period, somewhere between 135 and 65 million years ago, and there it is still, squatting or flowing solidly, unmistakably black and unmistakably lava.

Finally, and more doubtfully, rhyolite (is it?) forming dykes, in one place “a vertically oriented sheet of light-coloured igneous material sitting starkly in the old shale rocks” as described by Leaver. Dykes are intruders, pushing their way through other rock and marching in a straightish line across the rockscape.

That’s some sort of progress towards geological understanding. At least we’re on the way to mastering the naming of parts. J has a bag of samples to split, and an urge to master the measuring of specific gravity, which, done precisely, gives a precise rock ID.

But for me there’s more to the beaches than geological understanding . There’s the moody sky with faint wave-splash and reflections in the passage of tide.

There’s jetsam, sometimes easily recognisable, sometimes a mystery, at least to this landlubber.

There are rock patterns (possibly hornfels, definitely aesthetically pleasing); the residue of retreating waves; rock-clingers; and a cuttlefish with a touch of pink dawn.

Behind all this Mother Gulaga lounges – Mother Gulaga, or, speaking geologically, a 98 million year old intrusion into the side of a massive strato volcano, a volcano so immense it was visible from as far away as Wollongong and spread over Cobargo, Tanja and Narooma.

For Aboriginal oral histories of connection to this part of country, see here.

Smoking trout




A fisherman son

A long drive

An overnight camp

A five hour return walk

Two fat trout

A smoker

Hickory sawdust


Put the sawdust on the smoker tray

Lay the trout side by side on the rack, adjusting levels to accommodate their fat juiciness

Fit the lid of the smoker tightly

Light the metho burner underneath

Leave for 10 minutes and test: add another 5 minutes smoking time


Lift the trout carefully onto a plate.

Provide a knife and fork for the expert dismemberer

Watch him peel away the skin; lift the flesh from the bones; raise the bones neatly and put aside.