Exploring Locally

George Street (16 November 2014)

One of the joys of travel is exploring iconic tourist spots. But sometimes the best travel experiences have nothing to do with tourism.

On our last trip to Bayeux, I spent our last full day wandering alone. Shelley was laid up with what turned out to be a broken ankle. I couldn’t wander far so that I could return to our room periodically with food and drink. So I couldn’t do a long walk. We’d already explored the town pretty thoroughly, but Bayeux is utterly gorgeous and I could quite happily re-visit what we’d seen.

So I walked along the Aure river, which winds its way through town. I met a friendly cat. I saw people walking their dogs. I went south of the town and wandered to the graffiti-covered rail bridge. I promenaded. In other words, I just wandered aimlessly and saw what there was to see. Everything was delightful.

But what I took notice of probably escaped the notice of the locals, because it was part of their everyday landscape. I took the photo above earlier today after taking out the garbage. Imagine a  Bayeuxer wandering Adelaide and seeing this. They might be enchanted,  or beguiled, or amazed, and a photo like this might end up in their album.

Of course, it’s easy to find lovely cityscapes when the jasmine ‘s in bloom. But I think that a mindful traveller visiting Adelaide will always find something to delight. This isn’t simply because Adelaide is especially lovely. Though I enthuse about Bayeux, not every part is picturesque. It has its share of ugly apartments, rubbish-strewn lots and neglected buildings. But to me, none of that matters. It’s all part of Bayeux’s character, and to me is as worth exploring as the main streets.

For those who are not just interested in the tourist spots, the act of travel helps make the traveller more mindful of what’s around them. Everything seems different, and the ordinary becomes enchanting. We become disposed towards finding the beautiful or the interesting because we are in a different place. Travel broadens the mind. Can travel help us to be mindful of the beautiful and interesting when we’re at home?

Serendipity and some new (to me) presentation tools

There are times that I don’t use Twitter a lot. Sometimes I’m busy, or preoccupied. Which is OK. It’s a bit like a radio. You don’t miss what you’ve missed.

I don’t do a lot of presentations at work except at the beginning of semester, so I have lots of time to rework them. I go to lots of presentations though, most of them really quite dreadful. They need to read this presentation that I stumbled across this morning.

It reinforces stuff that you will have heard before (keep the text to a minimum, for example). But it also has links to useful free stuff. if you’re pressed for time, I’ve listed these below. The first five help you find Creative Commons images. The last has some nice looking free fonts.

http://compfight.com/ (excellent for searching Flickr)

http://www.freeimages.com/ (lots of stock photography)

http://www.morguefile.com/ (more stock images)

http://photofunia.com/ (add your text into images)

http://labs.tineye.com/multicolr/ (search for images by colour)


And that is all.

Why our future depends on libraries.

An absolutely brilliant lecture by one of my favourite writers, delivered to The Reading Agency earlier in October. You can read an edited version here.

One thing that it reinforces for me the is link between imagination and creativity. If creative problem solving is going to remain important, then everything that we do to foster imagination is important.

Another is that when you have a glut of information, you need guides to help you find what you need. Simply making something available, while important, isn’t sufficient.

#blogjune – A “#classic100 weekend

Today was the final part of ABC Classic FM’s Top 100. This year it was the baroque and before. As always, listeners got to vote for 10 pieces. I had decided not to vote for pieces by Bach or Handel because:

1) they would be popular anyway

2) one could easily pick 10 pieces from just either of these composers

I was pleased to see two Hildegard of Bingen pieces, though I was disappointed not to see Gaudete, by Anon, that most prolific of composers. It was the first piece of music that I ever heard Steeleye Span perform, and they have been my favourite band now for nearly 30 (?!?) years.

We didn’t get to hear as much of it this year with various family events, so it didn’t have quite the intensity for us that previous years have had. One of the events was my father-in-law’s birthday, and we have justr returned from there having had a couple of very nice wines. One was a Tim Adams Clare Valley Pinot Gris. The other was a fundraiser vintage made from 11 different grape varieties and was absolutely delightful.

Mixed Blessing 2009

I hasten to add that I don’t admire Churchill’s politics. However, having visited the Churchill Museum in London late last year, I got an appreciation of the breadth of his interests.

The annual Classic 100 selections make me realise how grateful I am that we have an excellent public broadcaster that has helped broadened my cultural horizons. I didn’t grow up with classical music, and the ABC has enriched my life in more ways than mere words can express. There is a quote doing the rounds that Winston Churchill opposed cutting arts expenditure during WW2 which unfortunately is inaccurate (though the sentiment behind it may not be). But he did say in 1938 that:

“The arts are essential to any complete national life. The State owes it to itself to sustain and encourage them….Ill fares the race which fails to salute the arts with the reverence and delight which are their due.”

Of course, I don’t love every program that graces SBS or the ABC, but I don’t expect it to, and don’t begrudge funding things that I myself am not interested in. But the arts and culture seems today to be unimportant, even though wee can spend huge sums of money locking up asylum seekers, and keeping them away from our shores by cloaking such efforts in ANZAC garb by calling it Operation Sovereign Borders. It seems to me that we have become a very mean-spirited people. Encouraging people to produce art and music and encouraging fine food is infinitely more useful than encouraging a nation of property and financial speculators. Art and food and culture can bring people together, even in difficult times. Indeed, this is when they are most at need. I hope that in the future we don’t have our Top 100 cut to a Top 80 or 90.