Seasons greetings 2020

Last year around mid-December the blog fell apart and did not re-appear until 2 January. Eventually I posted a Belated season’s Greetings on 4 January which was based on a Christmas newsletter I had distributed with cards.

This year we were quite overwhelmed during December with one thing and another, so I did close to nothing about cards, newsletters etc. This newsletter is a belated offering.

As I’ve said elsewhere 2020 was marked by four “C’s” – Coronavirus, climate change, China, and corruption in politics. For me there was a fifth – cataract surgery, which was not quite the walk in the park everyone tells you about. However, my world is now clearer and coloured like I never imagined. Cataracts are gone, so now I only have glaucoma, basal epithileal membrane disorder (dry eyes) and lid wiper epitheliopathy. The net result is that I still need three different kinds of drops, totalling 8 to 10 times a day. If I do that I’m fine.

Coronavirus was, of course, the great determiner of what we did and didn’t do this year. For much of the time we stayed home, used home delivery services for a while, then ventured out carefully and strategically.

We did eventually go to a concert performance of Brahms’ German Requiem, with the 82 voices of The Brisbane Chorale, supported by an orchestra of 24 instruments, all conducted and seated in a Covid-approved manner at Kelvin Grove State College. It’s a splendid work, splendidly performed, asdelivering a message of hope and compassion, an offering for all humankind.

That was in November. In October we went to see an art exhibition Unmasked at the Queensland College of Art.

The Westender has the story. Designer Sharka Bosakova who came from the Czech Republic as an adult

    collaborated for the exhibition with friend and sociologist Dr Mark Bahnisch.

    Together with other collaborators, she explores the multiple roles of the masks: as personas or roles we choose for ourselves, and as roles imposed on us. Sometimes the mask is used to reveal character, in religion and theatre and dance, for example, rather than to hide it.

    “Always present in every society, often used as a means of connecting with the divine, the mask has now become an engaging and confronting fetish and trend, a fear; straddling fashion and art, for a game in which being and appearing are reversed and alternated”.

It was more than that – resolving inner and outer worlds, using art as regenerative expression, with consideration of community and sustainability.

The accompanying text was integral to the artwork. Here’s a bit of the introduction (sorry about my camera aim):

Both of those events were supported and enabled by the Queensland State Government, Unmasked also by the Lord Mayor’s Community Fund.

My work in yards and gardens continued much as before, except people like to talk more, and we moved to bank transfer rather than cash.

I work in some interesting gardens. Trimming has become almost a specialty. Here’s one example:

Behind those trees is a somewhat unruly bank, topped by a Sheena’s gold hedge, which is shown here partly trimmed from the top side:

Trimming done, raking still to do:

We have been spending more time at our place, so I’d like to share a few things.

After flowering about once per decade, we decided the Golden Penda in the front corner of our yard was a dud, so we gave it the chop. In the back corner we have this new star:

It’s a Stenocarpus Doreen, an Australian native. I think we need more of them. Those creamy flowers last a few of months in the spring/early summer. This is the setting:

In our neighbour’s yard to the left, you can see their new pool, the construction of which lasted many months with a fair bit of noise from the various tradespeople. Here’s the finished article as seen from our balcony:

It’s a modern style, where you don’t have pool fences, rather a cavity something like an empty moat. Here’s a view at night time with both pools lit up:

In case you are wondering, I turned ours on so I could take a photo, but we are advised to turn underwater lights on regularly as a maintenance measure.

The skeletal tree behind our neighbours is a Leopard tree, which are deciduous. Every year I swear it has finally karked it, then it suddenly springs to life, which it did a week or so ago.

Dimly you can see that I’ve trimmed the Stenocarpus Doreen quite hard, because we want to make it branch a bit wider than they do if you just let them go.

Brisbane is blessed with flowering shrubs and trees all year. This is a small Grevillea

which is home to a small parrot, seen here feeding on some banana that my wife has threaded onto a dry twig:

It won’t fly away because it can’t. Its wings are not properly formed and it has no tail. It came to our place after it jumped on our neighbour’s foot when he was down in the bush at the back, then climbed the fence into our place, into the small shrub and there it stays. The parent birds, especially the mother, come to check it out from time to time and feed it a bit.

My wife has put some water under the shrub, and is feeding a pair of crested pigeons there. So now we have a small parrot (I’m told it is a scaly-breasted lorikeet) following the pigeons around, thinking it has to do what the pigeons do. Except it doesn’t eat seeds. Luckily they are all good mates.

A question now is how the story proceeds from here. We know that cats sometimes visit our yard at nights. My wife generally does not like to see a lonely bird in a cage, so do we have an apiary instead? A reasonable compromise may be to install some mesh around the shrub, small enough to allow the parrot through, but deny passage to the cat.

So that’s life in the suburbs. Brisbane? I love the place. We only have 24 perches, but bush over the back fence, and 7 km from the GPO, our own little resort in the back yard, a place for conviviality or quiet contemplation, and close to nature.

Having my son Mark here has led us into watching some TV we would not have seen if left to our own devices. The latest has been A Suitable Boy, set in 1951 in the lead up to the first post-partem election in India. It’s a six-part Netflix series, stunningly produced and acted. Nothing happens in the first episode, but plenty does later. In no way is the action predictable, except we did guess correctly who of the three suitors would be the ‘suitable boy’.

If you think the social themes explored are no longer relevant, then have a gander at Netflix miniseries A Suitable Boy sparks controversy in India over kiss between Hindu woman and Muslim man.

2020 was clearly not a good year for homo sapiens. We all hope 2021 will be better. The past will be with us, and the exhortation to ‘build back better’ must take account of the notion that the most important event of any year is normally something quite unexpected.

From me and mine I’ll finish as I did last year:

    in an increasingly troubled world life continues to be good for us. And we continue to cultivate the four emotions worth having – loving-kindness, compassion, sympathetic joy, and equanimity.

    We hope you had a pleasant and rewarding Christmas/New Year and wish you health and happiness for 2020.

Oh, and in case you missed them, here’s Margaret and David and for sheer joy bilb2’s boating mates’ Merry Cruisemas.

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