Thursday, April 25, 2013


I've avoided any news media today.  In Australia, it's ANZAC today.  Australian and New Zealand Army Corps.  A day that marks the first landings at Gallipoli Cove in Turkey, back in 1915.

Around the country there are games of two-up, drinking, visits to cenotaphs, marches of veterans and ceremonies of remembrance.  And the theme of Lest We Forget.

Problem is, I don't forget and I fiercely resent being told not to.  The war to end all wars harvested men  and fed the soil with blood.  The ghastly muddy trenches, mustard gas.  I've my grandfather's diaries, from 1915 to 1918.  I've read them.  All the boys in his family went to war.  Amazingly, they all came back, albeit damaged.  Few days go by when there isn't a thought, somewhere, of the service rendered during that war and the second.

The discomfort...  Well, there is the resentment about being told not to forget by people who haven't got a clue about the family background.  Or what I already know.  And the antimony between knowing that he did what he believed to be right, yet refused to talk about it, or join the RSL, or march.  A sense of too much solemnity and worship.  This removed, can it be anything except superficial for the majority?

There is a difficulty.  This happened to people in our past.  To our families.  Given that Australia is very much a country of emigrants, families impacted on all sides of those wars are represented here.

Not sure if this is going anywhere at all.  I am uncomfortable generally with days like these.   I do not see how the people who served are remembered as people.  There's an amorphous fuzzy feeling.  Who remembers the work of the Quarter Master, of the horse trainers, of the sappers who dug and built, of the engineers who worked behind the lines or in them.  Of the stretcher bearers and medics who dealt with front line injuries, often at risk of their own lives, of the nurses, doctors, surgeons and wardsmen who worked in the hospitals behind the lines.

Addendum:  I don't know if there's a basic emotion I'm lacking.  I don't get clucky over infants, I entirely lack any interest on sport, and there is a general detachment from  a lot of things.  But there was a news item that showed a British village that commemorates ANZAC Day every year.   A lot of digger survived the war, only to die there in the Spanish flu epidemic.  Over 130 are buried there.  There is an immediacy, a very real sense of connection, and it felt more real to me than most of the ceremonies in Australia.  I wonder if part of this is because we are geographically remote from the theatres of that war?

Look up and see...

(yes, I know I am far too fond of the three little dots...)

I do like buildings.  Amongst a heap of other things, but this post is about buildings.  Specifically, commercial buildings from above your head.  Okay, that may not have made a great deal of sense.

Most people don't look up.  It's everything at eye level and down to the ground.  This is particularly so when it comes to commercial buildings and is really noticeable in country towns.  Shopfronts are constantly being tarted up, but the awning ceilings are normally forgotten, and everything above street level.  Which can mean a rather startling juxtaposition between the two when you look up.

Over the years, I've taken photos of tin ceilings, of shop fronts that show their history or haven't been altered at all (and those are few and far between), and quite a lot of whole buildings, upper storeys, or particular decorations.

The major department store in Canberra's centre, Civic, is David Jones.  It's housed in the Monaro Mall, which was built in 1963 and has since been extended and altered out of recognition.  But the point of all this - the principal entrance for DJ's is the full height of the building, and the ceiling has a rather delicate and lovely tiled mosaic by Frank Hinder. I wonder how many people know it's there?

Somewhat irrationally, I tend to loathe old shopfronts that have been restored and have lost the patina of their history.  I appreciate they have been stabilised, have a new lease of life, but still.