Posts Tagged ‘Hermitage’

A southerly is a coming.

January 5, 2019

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Moscow University.

With the unrelenting heat finally ending with a solid promise by BOM ( Bureau of Meteorology) that the temperature is set to drop by  ten degrees over the next hour or so. It is early yet, but a southerly change is coming! We have been mainly inside during the last few hot days, spend reading or on the internet. I discovered a book picked blind-folded out of our book shelves. It is ‘Fathers and Sons’ by Ivan Turgenev. отцы и сыновья иван тургенев

It is large brown coloured hard cover bound and published by Foreign Languages Publishing House Moscow, and even has coloured plates of the different characters pasted in between the pages. A beautiful book to look at even without reading the words. But talking about Moscow. Moscow’s university is so big, that even if one spent just one day in each room, your life would not be long enough to have lived in each room. The statistics are staggering.

Many years ago I visited Moscow and St Petersburg. I wrote about it in ‘Frank Story’. Here is ‘n extract from the visit to the Hermitage Museum.

“It was the next day, when we were all ready to be bundled into the bus, with Natasha our guide, and remarkably, also the two Queensland girls who came to Russia to ‘shop and drop with two enormous bags’, to do the visit of all visits, namely, ‘The Winter Palace and The Hermitage’. It seems inconceivable enough to have gone through life without having experienced those two icons, but to have visited Russia and not to have done so, an unconscionable offence. The so affable and unrelenting larrikin of our Aussie Moscow librarian took yet another turn and this time serious. He became seriously ill, out of breath and appeared to have a heart attack. Within a few minutes an ambulance arrived and he was taken to hospital. He, sadly, would miss out on his Hermitage experience, which he had told me, he had never visited during his stint at the Moscow library. We, after this short delay were whisked away and soon arrived at the Hermitage Museum. Much to our surprise we were led past a queue at least a kilometre long and invited through the gates within a couple of minutes of our arrival. Was communism with its heart supposedly embedded in the welfare of its proletariat already slipping that fast, to now give preference to rich foreign cashed-up capitalist tourists?

The Hermitage Museum with The Winter Palace defies anything that I had seen so far, even the Sydney Harbour Bridge. Not just the buildings but the space in front of it. The sense of what space can add to buildings is nowhere as clear as that of the Red Square in Moscow and the huge square in front of The Hermitage Museum in St Petersburg. So, by the time you reach the front of the buildings you are already in awe of whatever there might be inside. I suppose, this is also when you approach Sydney’s Opera House when viewed from the expanse of the Harbour.  The Hermitage Museum houses over 3.000.000 pieces dating from the Stone Age to the 20th century and presents the development of the world of culture and art throughout that period. You cannot possibly do justice in spending a few tourists’ hours but, alas, that is all we had time for.”

But let me finish with a beautiful poem;

Those Shadows.
Here’s a Song;

When I am dead, my dearest,
Sing no sad songs for me;
Plant thou no roses at my head,
Nor shady cypress tree;
Be the green grass above
with showers and dewdrops wet;
And if thou wilt, remember,
And if thou wilt forget.

I shall not see the shadows,
I shall not feel the rain;
I shall not hear the nightingale
Sing on, as if in pain;
And dreaming through the twilight
That doth not rise nor set,
Haply I may remember,
And haply may forget.

( Christina Rossetti 1830-1894 )

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Good Friday and Valparaiso.

April 19, 2014
Fire at Valparaiso

Fire at Valparaiso

Yesterday things were so quiet you could hear a sole pigeon flapping its wings on the main street. Good Friday is seen as a day of mourning and the usual clamour of shoppers and their trolleys had ceased. W.H Auden’s muffled drums were tolling, even dogs did not bark. Cars were driven in reverse gear only. Later on the TV, a procession was seen showing a man struggling with a heavy wooden cross barefooted through a main street somewhere. A small crowd was lining the pavement. Children were confused. Should they cheer him on with little flags or cry? If he thought he was on his way to Mount Calvary, what was he doing on the Sydney M5 overpass near Liverpool? That same man, still barefooted and wearing his crown of thorns was interviewed later on ABC TV.

It is all so confusing but at least he had his moment of fame. The day remained terribly silent. All was closed and barred up. Remarkably, the one shop that was open were selling croissants, Vienna sour dough crusty bread and whole fish including giant trouts and snappers, prawns, lobsters, head and all. (no crowns). I was feeling a resurgence of spirits and decided to add some colour to this grey and sombre day. Many customers were pushing and shoving for food proving that the closure of shops did not lesson customers on and about wanting to buy items for later digestion. I recklessly splurged out on a whole snapper and a sour dough crusty bread. It is not as if Good Friday is a day of obligatory mourning for everyone. Once I learnt that my hobby of masturbation was a serious offence with a special place for the serial offender reserved in the hottest of hells, I tossed the whole lot overboard and joined that army of un-repenting onanists and hopeful fornicators. I am not surprised that that poor man was reduced to carrying that cross around barefooted. Further footage on the ABC news showed men self flagellating in Chile or was it Peru? Seeing that, my thoughts went back when we were in Chile many years ago during the Pinochet reign of terror. He was a very good and devout Catholic. Margaret Thatcher remembered him fondly.

We landed in Argentina and after some time in Buenos Aires took a flight to Mendoza and from there a bus over the Andean mountains to Santiago in Chile. The capitol was tense and even though lots of people were about and cafes doing well, the sight of armed soldiers with machine guns at the ready did not make for a relaxed atmosphere. Every time we thought things were quiet and relaxed a mass of people would be running through the streets and a tank would appear. Shops had their shutters pulled down in seconds and the streets became eerily quiet. ( Not unlike Good Friday in Bowral). This happened also during one evening when we went out to have a meal. A disturbance somewhere and again all people rushed away or went indoors. Within minutes the shops were deserted with shutters pulled down. All was now barred and hidden. We had no clear recognisable street signs or beacons to guide us back to the house were we were staying. A soldier with a gun stopped us as were about the only ones still defying the impromptu curfew. We showed him the address where we were lodging and he showed us the way back. It was all a bit sinister and dangerous. We were younger then and the adrenalin made us take risks we would not take now. Today we feel we take lives in our hands shopping for giant Marigolds at the local nursery or a bolt cutter spanner at Bunnings-Hardware or even queuing at the local ATM.

After a week or two in Santiago we went to coastal Valparaiso. Valparaiso was again in the news last week. A dreadful fire had consumed a suburb of that glorious city. It was on that same steep hill consumed by that recent fire that we walked up all those years ago to have some lunch. We were told that Valparaiso had a large second hand book market. We walked around it for a couple of hours. I have never seen a book market like it. A bit like the Hermitage but for books only. Millions of them and in all languages. As we walked up that steeped hill we noticed the tightly packed houses had many trees. Especially the Australian Casuarina and Eucalyptus. Sadly it must have been those very flammable trees that added to the devastation in Valparaiso last week.
http://www.bbc.com/news/world-latin-america-27029252

The End is Nigh

September 6, 2013

Hermitage_from_insideThe End is Nigh,

It is all so quickly over. It seemed like yesterday watching mum soaking the split peas over the (single) granite sink back in the forties. Yet, thinking of the timespan between dinosaur and IPad, a couple of mere Nano- seconds later in our universe’s evolution, it is almost over. Well, give another ten years, or more, or less.

I was hardly over my Vitrectomy getting used to endless eye drops when I reached a new stage in my own evolution. I fell over. This is a new stage I seem to have arrived at.

One of the things in growing more mature is that sleep will become more evasive. I used the word ‘more mature’ for others and not in my case. I have reversed in most of my tepid evolutionary efforts and am surprised I can still walk the talk.

We have an unwritten conjugal agreement that whoever can’t sleep moves elsewhere. Those that do sleep ought to be given preference over the restless tossing and turning insomniac. This not unreasonable. A disclaimer to this rule is when the snoring of the sleeper is so loud and disruptive that the non-sleeper is prevented from even closing one’s eyes. The air vibrates and white knuckled neighbours are knocking on walls or even ceilings, a paddy wagon is waiting outside the front door with baton drawn policeman waiting.

It was one of those nights that my lovely H padded me firmly in the ribs (followed by a kick in the groin 😉 ). “You are snoring”, she said with her lovely sonorous voice, not wishing to be unloving or unkind. “Go upstairs”, followed by, “put on the electric blanket, it will soon be less icy.” Those that know and understand the quality of a deep sleep finally arrived at after many nights of somnambulistic adventures would understand the sacrifice and heroic efforts in relinquishing and renouncing this supreme and rare state of bliss and being.

I grabbed my still warm and favourite pillow and stumbled to the upstairs bedroom. It was dark and very cold when I walked into the frigidly empty and lonely bedroom. I normally take the side nearest the window and with an outside light giving some direction I managed to get within a meter or so of my bed when it all happened. I was so needy for a soft mattress and so close.
One of the most disconcerting experiences surely would have to be stopped in one’s forward motion tract totally involuntary.

That’s what happened. As I, what I thought, would be my last final step to the mattress, my right footed plans to go forward were thwarted by getting caught into my left footed leg of my pyjama. It was the most startling surprise of my life almost overtaking that of entering the St. Petersburg Hermitage Museum back in1989.

I fell heavily forward and found myself between window and bed on the floor. I could hardly believe it. Such a strange event and in the middle of the night. I made the most of the situation by calmly surveying any possible damage. I could just about move all my parts and when I got over the shock raised myself up and went back to the door to put the light on. I steadied myself against the doorframe rubbing my forehead pensively, reflecting on that odd fall. It was then when H appeared at the bottom of the stairs. “What happened, what was that loud bang”, she asked looking up at me, still leaning.

”I fell heavily”, I answered John Wayne like in need of sympathy or at least the offer of a Band-Aid. “How”, she asked? I then explained about the pyjama leg catching my leg in forward motion to my bed and showed her the actual spot of impact. No blood, no nothing, no Band-Aid.

Go to bed now, she said. (Don’t fall)

Moscow – St Petersburg ( Leningrad) Express

January 28, 2012

Originally from ABC The Drum:http://www.abc.net.au/unleashed/32238.html

It is one thing to see sports players going overseas but worse still would be losing artists to greener pastures.

I am reminded somewhat by the reverence shown to Alexander Solzhenitsyn, who died recently. Thousands filed past his open casket. Television showed metre long roses placed there by Putin and Gorbachev. I wonder whether we would revere our writers and artists the same.

I can’t remember when I have last seen a PM opening a book show or being photographed at an art gallery, or even commenting on the importance of art. On the contrary, the Bill Henson affair brought out suspicion, disregard and ignorance from those that ought to know better.

Why is it that sport is the Holy Grail above everything else?

Years ago I took the overnight train from Moscow to St Petersburg (Leningrad) in midsummer and shared the sleeper with a couple and an ample-bosomed and beautiful Russian woman by the name of Lilly.

Most of the sleeper cabins behind me had groups of American choir singers, both boys and girls of around 20-30 years of age. They had performed in Moscow and were booked to sing in St Petersburg. Being midsummer, and so far north, the days lasted forever. It had also been very hot with thunderstorms in the late afternoon. The Americans were pleased to meet someone from Australia and, as proof of it, I was asked to give an impromptu impersonation of Crocodile Dundee star Paul Hogan and say “goodiaye and hozygoin” over and over again.

This was nothing compared with what would follow next. The beautiful Lilly in my cabin spoke some German and so did I. The train was air conditioned but it was stifling hot and, as Lilly and I got acquainted, she, now and then, modestly dabbed her bosom with an Eau de Cologne sprinkled silken and embroidered handkerchief. She kindly asked what I did when I was not travelling and I told her I painted pictures. Ach nein, du bist ein Artiest? Wie ist das möglich? (An artist, how is that possible?) The hanky started working overtime.

The secret was out and went like wildfire through the whole train. The next thing, passengers were lining up to meet me, vodka was offered and Lilly unpacked some ‘kuchen’ with cubed sugar soaked in almond essence. (I remember it well.) I was almost carried around on shoulders and tears were flowing. I was feted like an emperor.

Some hours later, when darkness finally announced itself – and consider Russian sleeper trains are not gender separated, and the vodka had settled – the four of us, including the beautiful Lilly, calmly undressed. I hopped in the top bunk and she underneath. I slept on a cloud of Eau the Cologne and almond essence.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0lNFRLrP014

Next morning, breakfast was served in those ornate silver plated urns and glassware. The Americans behind us, thankfully, had had enough of Aussie imitations.

Getting back to the reverence shown to artists, dead or alive, in countries elsewhere, it seems doubly annoying to hear in all details the latest exploits of an AFL player who went to play in France for more money. Why is that of such enormous importance?

What I am trying to get at is that if I would have gone around the Goulburn-City Rail Link announcing I painted pictures, the best I could hope for would be the question “Do you sell them, and how much?”

How many more years will be wasted in giving so much credit to sport and so little to art?

When will we finally start recognising that art is important because it lasts and also defines us as a nation that always strives above the mundane.