Tuesday, August 23, 2011

St Mary’s Christian Brothers’ Maryborough 50 Year Reunion

Pat and I travelled to Maryborough to attend his school reunion.  Pat left the Christian Brothers’ school in Maryborough in 1961, at the end of Junior (Year 10) to continue his education at the Christian Brothers’ boarding school in Gympie.  Pat’s friend Mike Anderson drove us there and back (and also round about while we were there).



Stopping at a Matilda Servo just south of Gympie, we were very surprised to come across the actual iconic Matilda who made her world debut at the opening ceremony of the Commonwealth Games in Brisbane in 1982.  The entire world was captivated by the 13 metre mascot, as she majestically entered the QE11 stadium.  Then her “pouch” opened, and out tumbled lots of children dressed as joeys, who ran and performed a jumping routine on a fleet of trampolines.



Matilda Fuel Supplies commenced trading in the same year, and established its name from the iconic kangaroo.  The company acquired Matilda from her former home at Wet ‘n’ Wild Water World on 30.09.2011, her 27th birthday.  Following refurbishment, Matilda took up residence at this Matilda Servo in January 2011.


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Matilda captivated the Commonwealth Games audience (including the Duke of Edinburgh) by turning her head and seductively winking – a feat she is still performing today.


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A detour was kindly made by Mike to discover the hidden Station Hideaway Hotel in Tiaro.


IMG_2396 We checked into our accommodation, then set out to explore Maryborough – for Pat and Mike a trip down memory lane.  Maryborough has many beautiful old colonial and Queenslander houses.


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Lots of beautiful old pubs to photograph – 25 for the afternoon!



Beautifully maintained old buildings.


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The steam train was waiting to take passengers.



Mary Whistler was playing her calliope.



The Mary River looked very attractive (Pat said better than he remembered it.)



Pat and Mike used to play in this fig tree (when they were younger than they are now.)



Mike with a “Crow-Beater” rubbish bin, manufactured by the local firm Olds Engineering.




Pat remembers the band rotunda in Queen’s Park from 50 years ago.



The steam train comes around the bend with members of a Garden Club on board.



Sausage tree (Kigelia africana) in Queen’s Park.  This is a native of Africa, where two of its other common names are “Father of kit bags tree” and “Sagging boobs tree”.



Sausages (or whatever) on the Sausage tree.


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P L Travers, the creator of the Mary Poppins stories, was born Helen Lyndon Goff in an upstairs bedroom of this former bank building in 1899.  Although she moved to London in 1924, and remained there until her death in 1996, the people of Maryborough are very proud that she was born in their city.



St Mary’s College has been completely rebuilt.



St Mary’s Church.


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Pat’s former house has been replaced by a block of units.



“The boys” – 50 years on.



Some of “the originals”.



Next morning, we were treated to a magnificent morning tea and lunch at Kev and Margaret Cordie’s farm, on the edge of the town.

Thank you to all the organisers for an excellent weekend.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Mariposa Grove of Giant Sequoias


While we were in Yosemite National Park, Laura took us to Mariposa Grove, where there are several hundred mature Giant Sequoias. Two of its trees are among the 25 largest Giant Sequoias in the world.

Giant Sequoias are not the oldest, tallest or fattest trees in the world, although they come close on all three counts.  However, their claim to fame is that in total volume the Giant Sequoias are the largest living things known to humans.  (Americans seem to like having biggest things.)


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Sequoiadendron giganteum is the sole living species in the genus Sequoiadendron, and one of three species of coniferous trees known as redwoods.  The tree occurs naturally only in a total of 68 groves on the western slopes of the Sierra Nevada Mountains of California.

The giant sequoias are having difficulty reproducing in their original habitat due to the seeds only being able to grow successfully in mineral soils in full sunlight, free from competing vegetation.  Frequent fires, caused naturally by lightning strikes, maintained these conditions.  Following European settlement, these fires were not allowed to run their natural course, and now few of the remaining groves have sufficient young trees to maintain the present density of mature giant sequoias for the future.  Today, controlled burns are carried out to remove competing vegetation, and the young trees are beginning to grow again.

Wood from mature giant sequoias is highly resistant to decay, but due to being fibrous and brittle, it is generally unsuitable for construction. From the 1880s through the 1920s logging took place in many groves in spite of marginal commercial returns. Due to their weight and brittleness trees would often shatter when they hit the ground, wasting much of the wood.

Giant Sequoias have been successfully grown in other parts of USA, as well as Europe, Australia, New Zealand and Chile – obviously in places where there is lots of room.  They very rarely reproduce in cultivation.


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Like pets, many of these magnificent trees have been given cutesy nicknames.  The Fallen Monarch is one of the first trees to be seen as you enter the grove.  The top picture is mine, and the one below is a famous 1899 photograph of F Troop US Cavalry officers on their horses up on top.  I was amazed to see how little the tree had changed in over a century.

Tannic acid in the wood suppresses the initial growth of fungi and bacteria, essentially arresting decay. Only when rain and melting snow have leached the tannin from the wood can decay begin. Biologists suspect that this tree had been down several hundred years before the Cavalry photograph was taken.



Unlike the US Cavalry, we weren’t allowed to climb on the Fallen Monarch.


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A slice has been carved out of this fallen tree to let visitors into the park.


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I think that this is the Three Graces, minus the Bachelor, out of The Bachelor and Three Graces.  This is a group of four trees, three of them growing very close together, with a fourth a little more distant. Their roots are so intertwined that if one of them were to fall, it would probably bring the others along with it.

The entire root system of a mature Giant Sequoia is less than two metres deep, but can extend up to four acres in area.  Visitors were urged to stay on designated paths to avoid damaging the delicate root systems, so close to the surface.



The Grizzly Giant, estimated to be over 2,700 years old, is the oldest tree in Yosemite National Park, and possibly the oldest on the planet.  Its base circumference is 30 metres, and it’s 64 metres tall.


US Cavalry at the Grizzly Giant, 1902.
Photo: C. C: Pierce.  (No, I didn’t take this photo.)

As can be clearly seen in this picture, the Grizzly Giant leans slightly, approximately 17 degrees out of plumb. It is able to remain standing because of compensation with root development and additional growth. These giants are often targets of lightning; the Grizzly Giant was once hit six times in a single storm.


This photo was taken in 1903 (Joseph N. LeConte) of a group of dignitaries at the base of the Grizzly Giant.  One of the dignitaries is President Theodore Roosevelt (but I don’t know which one.)


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Laura and a bit of the Grizzly Giant.  My opinion is that she is better looking than President Roosevelt, whichever one he is.


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Jan and even less of the Grizzly Giant.



Pat and Laura (and several other people) at the California Tunnel Tree. This was cut in 1895 to allow coaches to pass through it (and as a marketing scheme to attract visitors to the grove.)   Thankfully, no such act of vandalism would be permitted today.


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Laura in the California Tunnel Tree.



Laura with some little Christmas trees which might be very big trees in a few hundred years time.



Pat and a tree which is big already.


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We saw one deer in Mariposa Grove, quite a distance away.


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Pat and Laura study the map, dwarfed by the trees.



The tree on the right is the Clothespin Tree. Countless fires throughout this tree’s life nearly severed its trunk, creating a space in it large enough for a pick-up truck to drive through.



The Faithful Couple: This is a rare case in which two trees grew so closely together that their trunks have become fused together at the base. 

This picture is a close up of the section where the two trees join together.


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This is the Faithful Couple, looking up to the top.



This is the base of the Faithful Couple, showing how the two trees have fused together.


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We were lucky to see these striking Snow Flowers (Sarcodes sanguinea).  They looked almost artificial, poking up out of the brown leaf litter, with no green leaves of their own.

Sarcodes sanguinea, is a parasitic plant that obtains food and water from mycorrhyzal fungi that attach to roots of trees. Mycorrhizal fungi are themselves symbiotic parasites that help plants fix nitrogen from the atmosphere in exchange for nutrients from plant roots.

It was called the snow flower or snow plant because it was thought to come up through the snow, but it actually comes up after the snow melts or has mostly melted.  It grows in conifer forests of California, and portions of western Nevada and northern Baja California.

Thank you Laura, for an amazing day.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Golden Gate Park: Eastern End

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On our last day in San Francisco, Laura took us out for breakfast to a French restaurant Zazie, in Cole Valley.  The restaurant is named after the French film Zazie dans le Métro based on a novel written in 1959 by Raymond Queneau.
In the film, provincial pre-teenager Zazie stays in Paris with her Uncle Gabriel (a female impersonator) for two days, while her mother spends some time with her lover. Zazie manages to evade her uncle's custody, and Métro strike notwithstanding, sets out to explore the city on her own.  Will have to see the film.
On the wall of the cafe is a partial picture of Zazie.  We were served proper French café au lait in steaming bowls.
Then we said goodbye to Laura, which was sad.  Laura drove off to work, and Pat and I went to Golden Gate Park – this time the eastern end.

Firstly, we went past the Conservatory of Flowers.  It was still early, so quite foggy.

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The building reminded me of Kew gardens in London.

IMG_2263 - Copy Then lo and behold, the plaque advised us that the building was completed in 1879, and “patterned after the Conservatory, Kew Gardens, England, a distinguished example of late Victorian style.”
One of the many things that has impressed me about San Francisco and California, is that if they like something, from no matter what time or place, they are not afraid to copy it.  We have seen quite a few examples of this.

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It was too early to go into the conservatory, so we continued on our way through the mist.

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Underpass – looks as though this could have been built in 1879 as well.

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Underpass up closer.

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Clever use of white succulents as a pen.

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We continued along our merry way to the de Young Museum, past the Garden of Humanitarians. 
Pat said he hadn’t been aware that humanitarians could be grown in a garden.

Picture from http://www.topsummerdestinations.com/
The de Young Museum originated as the Fine Arts Building, which was constructed in Golden Gate Park for the California Midwinter International Exposition in 1894.  The museum’s name was changed to the M. H. de Young Memorial Museum after Michael de Young, the director of the Expo, who supervised much of the museum’s growth until his death in 1925.  The building suffered significant structural damage in the 1989 earthquake, and the current building opened in 2005.
An interesting statistic: the new museum is the fourth most-visited art museum in North America, and the 16th most-visited in the world.  So we weren’t alone there.

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Historic elements from the former de Young, such as the sphinxes, the original palm trees, and the Pool of Enchantment, have been retained or reconstructed at the new museum.
This is one of two concrete sphinxes (c.1910) by Arthur Putnam (1873-1930) replacing originals from the entrance to the original Fine Arts Building of 1894.  The building’s Egyptian Revival architecture reflected a fascination with ancient Egypt, inspired by archeological discoveries such as the 1858 excavation of the Great Sphinx at Giza.

Gustave Doré (1832-1883)
Poème de la Vigne (cast in bronze in 1882)
Gustave Doré created this vase for French winemakers, who exhibited it at the 1878 Paris World’s fair.  It was later exhibited at the Chicago World’s Columbian Exposition of 1893, then the famous California Midwinter International Exposition of 1894.  It was purchased by guess who, Michael de Young (he must have had a large garden) who later donated it to the de Young Museum.

We were going to the de Young Museum to see a magnificent exhibition entitled Picasso: Masterpieces from the Museé  National Picasso, Paris.  This exhibition consisted of more than 150 Picasso masterpieces from this gallery, available because the gallery is currently closed for renovations.  The Musée Picasso’s holdings stand apart from any other collections of Picasso because they represent the artist’s personal collection - works that the highly self-aware artist kept for himself with the intent of shaping his own artistic legacy.
We were able to see paintings, sculptures, drawings and prints from different phases of his astonishing career, such as the Blue, Rose, Expressionist, Cubist, Neoclassical and Surrealist periods.  (All right, I did copy that bit from the brochure, I can’t claim to have remembered all that.)
Here are some of the exhibits we saw:

Pablo Picasso Autoportrait  (Self-Portrait) Oil on canvas. 1906 Musée National Picasso, Paris - Pablo Picasso's Masterpieces shine in exhibit at de Young Museum - by Lyrica Glory and Michael Cuffe - Warholian
Self Portrait (1906)
Gallery 2:  Expressionism
Picture from www.flickr.com/photos/warholian

Les Baigneuses  (1918)
Gallery 3:  The Cubist Years, 1909-1918.
Picture from http://www.musee-picasso.fr/ 

La Course  (1922)
Gallery 4:  Neoclassicism, 1918 – 1924.
Picture from http://www.seattlegayscene.com/

Pablo Picasso Grand Nature morte au guéridon  (Large Still Life with a Pedestal Table) Oil on canvas. 1931 Musée National Picasso, Paris - Pablo Picasso's Masterpieces shine in exhibit at de Young Museum - by Lyrica Glory and Michael Cuffe - Warholian
Grand Nature morte au guéridon  (1931)
Gallery 5:  Surrealism, 1925 – 1935.
Picture from www.flickr.com/photos/warholian

Pablo Picasso La Lecture  (Reading) Oil on canvas. 1932 Musée National Picasso, Paris - Pablo Picasso's Masterpieces shine in exhibit at de Young Museum - by Lyrica Glory and Michael Cuffe - Warholian
La Lecture  (1932)
Gallery 6:  The Spanish civil War and the Weeping Woman, 1936 – 1939.
Picture from www.flickr.com/photos/warholian

Pablo Picasso Portrait of Dora Maar, 1937 Oil on canvas Musée National Picasso, Paris - Pablo Picasso's Masterpieces shine in exhibit at de Young Museum - by Lyrica Glory and Michael Cuffe - Warholian Portrait of Dora Maar  (1937)
Gallery 7:  World War 11 and the Korean War, 1939 – 1953.
Picture from www.flickr.com/photos/warholian

Pablo Picasso Le Baiser  (The Kiss) Oil on canvas. 1969 Musée National Picasso, Paris - Pablo Picasso's Masterpieces shine in exhibit at de Young Museum - by Lyrica Glory and Michael Cuffe - Warholian
Le Baiser  (1969)
Gallery 9:  Late Work, 1961 – 1973.
Picture from www.flickr.com/photos/warholian

It was interesting (and I’m sure no coincidence) that the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (SFMOMA) was showingThe Steins Collect: Matisse, Picasso, and the Parisian Avant-Garde, The Contemporary Jewish Museum (CJM) was showing Seeing Gertrude Stein (who was best-known for her patronage of vanguard painters, most notably Matisse and Picasso, in Paris before the First World War) and that the de Young Museum was showing this Picasso exhibition.
We were very lucky to have gone to all three of these exhibitions (Pat may not agree about the Gertrude Stein one).

Although reeling from sensory overload, we then called in at the Conservatory of Flowers, which was now open.






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This is an aerial view of Golden Gate Park (picture by Alexander Marks, from Wikimedia Commons).  It’s about five kilometres long and a kilometre wide. 
The western end, which finishes at the beach (which we’d visited another day with Laura) is on the right of this picture, and the eastern end, where the De Young Museum is, is on the left.  We haven’t visited the middle yet.
Apart from the attractions we’ve seen, the GG Park also includes the Spreckels (there’s that name again) Temple of Music, the Academy of Sciences (one of the largest natural history museums in the world), the Japanese Tea Garden, an AIDS Memorial Grove, the San Francisco Botanical Garden, the Golden Gate Park Stadium, Hippie Hill (a popular gathering-place for hippies during the 1967 Summer of Love, and no doubt since).  There are also countless minor attractions.  We’ll have to go again.

From the eastern end of GG Park, it was about an hour’s walk back to Laura and Arend’s place, with those stunning San Francisco views along the way.