Wednesday 25 March 2020

Free Picture Study Resource: Tom Roberts - Part 1

Australian artists tend to be neglected, partly because there isn't anywhere near as much information about them compared to artists from other parts of the world. I put this guide together for those who would like to explore some great works by an Australian artist who made an important contribution to the art world. Tom Roberts painted some iconic works that showpiece the Australian landscape but he also was an excellent portraitist. This resource has two parts. In this first part, I've included mostly landscapes but in Part 2 I'll include mostly portraits.
This is a simple guide and it's also the first time I've done anything like this. Hopefully you will be able to download it without any problems. If there are any, please let me know in the comments and I will try to fix them. If you enjoy it, let me know, too!

Download PDF to view this:

Monday 23 March 2020

'On the Edge of a Precipice'

I posted this on Instagram last week:

'The war (virus) creates no absolutely new situation; it simply aggravates the permanent human situation so that we can no longer ignore it. Human life has always been lived on the edge of a precipice. Human culture has always had to exist under the shadow of something infinitely more important than itself. If men had postponed the search for knowledge and beauty until they were secure, the search would never have begun.' 

C.S. Lewis, The Weight of Glory

One of our iconic beaches was closed on the weekend after it was packed with people enjoying  Friday's warm weather. Further beach closures were added when the social-distancing rules put in place earlier in the week by the NSW Government were flouted.
It seems that on the one hand there is selfish panic buying of what started off as toilet paper madness which progressed to the hoarding of pasta, flour, tinned food, hand sanitiser, disinfectant, disposable gloves...While on the other hand there are those who don't seem to understand (or care) that they could put others at risk.
Today, all non-essential services are closing in our state, as are most of the state borders. Schools are not open unless parents need to work but attendance rates were already dropping last week.
Universities courses have gone on-line and many people are working from home, including my husband. We've had a few Internet issues and if he's on a conference call no one else can be online. Apparently even my Fisher & Paykel electronic washing machine interferes with the Internet so I have to switch it off during the calls.
So since last week we've stopped swimming, orchestra rehearsals, cello lessons (although we'll probably do those via face-time next week), university (for my son) as well as his casual work & as of this week, I won't be looking after my two grandchildren on Tuesdays so we'll be face-timing them to catch up.

Today I was looking through this book by Marguerite Patten who worked for The Ministry of Food as a food adviser during the second world war. Food rationing was introduced gradually in Britain from January, 1940 and continued until 1954! 
While we have shelf shortages of food, we're not on rations by any stretch of the imagination:

This was meant to be my son's 21st birthday present but I only finished it on Saturday - five years later (!!) - while we were driving to the park for his and my husband's combined birthdays before everything shuts down. I don't know how many one and a half inch hexagons I sewed here but it felt never ending. I had it professionally quilted and got it back from the quilters on Friday, just in time to sew the binding around the edges.

Apart from our outside activities being curtailed, Moozle and I have continued with our usual homeschooling routine. We've had a bit more time to go out walking and the other day we found an eel in our local creek. Last week I started reading 'Notes From a Small Island'  by Bill Bryson as a distraction from all the frenzied news that's washing over us. I bought it while we were in London last September to remember some of the places we visited. It requires a bit of editing for younger people but it's a fun read. When we went through the Roman Baths in the city of Bath in Somerset, England, Bryson was one of the main narrators on their audio guides.

We're setting our alarm for 8pm each evening as a 'call to prayer' to pray for protection over the vulnerable people we know and for an end to this virus.

Monday 16 March 2020

At Home in Mitford by Jan Karon (1994)

It’s rare that I read a contemporary fiction book (presuming that a book written in 1994 would be in that category) but I have two good friends who loved At Home in Mitford, as well as its sequels, so I decided to read the first book in the series.
Mitford is a charming fictional village modelled on a small town in the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina. Father Tim, a conservative 60 year old Episcopalian priest and bachelor, is the main character. He has been the rector at Mitford for twelve years and is feeling exhausted, fatigued and low in spirits. He needs a holiday but doesn’t feel he can go away and leave his congregation.

To complicate matters, a very large dog turns up and adopts him, he takes on the care of a neglected young boy with atrocious manners, and he falls in love with his new neighbour.
At Home in Mitford is a gentle book to delve into if you need to take a breath, slow down, and find comfort in the little ordinary things that we tend to miss when life is busy.

“Y’know, Preacher, th’ more things you own, th’ more you’re owned by things.”

If you like Elizabeth Goudge’s writing you’d probably enjoy Karon’s. I enjoyed immersing myself in the lives of the people of Mitford and will be giving it to my 15 yr old daughter to read.

‘What had he done all those years with no dog and no boy, just the everlasting monotony of his own company? He supposed he hadn’t noticed very much that he was alone, proving the old adage that “you can’t miss what you never had."’

Saturday 14 March 2020

The Death of Ivan Ilyich by Leo Tolstoy (1886)

The Death of Ivan Ilyich is a powerful and intense story that Tolstoy wrote when he was in his late fifties, almost a decade after his masterpiece, Anna Karenina. It is the story of a man whose main aim in life was to be comfortable, to enjoy life, and to be approved by society - and how this man had to come to terms with his own humanity.
Ivan Ilyich married well because that was agreeable to him and looked upon as correct thing to do by those persons of higher standing. At first everything about his marriage fitted well with his ideas of a light-hearted and agreeable life - up until his wife’s pregnancy when a new element arose to disturb his peace. His wife became exacting and jealous and they fought over everything.
Ivan Ilyich decided that he needed to free himself from the unpleasant aspects of domestic life therefore he spent less time at home and poured himself into his office as a public prosecutor.

‘His official pleasures lay in the gratification of his pride; his social pleasures lay in the gratification of his vanity.’

As time went on, Ivan Ilyich rose in the world, the family moved in the best circles and everything carried on nicely. Even his marriage proved agreeable at times, but as he began to experience symptoms of the disease that was to take his life, he became irritable and broke out in gusts of temper.
Eventually he went to see a doctor, who directed him to take some medicine but gave him no specific diagnosis.
One day, about two months later, his brother-in-law paid a visit from out of town and one shocked look from him confirmed what Ivan Ilyich suspected. Something was seriously wrong but no-one would actually admit it.

The rest of the story so poignantly details Ilyich’s coming to terms with the truth of his condition, his loss of dignity as he is forced to accept the help of others, and most of all, the agony of knowing that everyone is acting falsely by not acknowledging that this disease is going to take his life.

‘This falsity around him and with him did more than anything to poison Ivan Ilyich’s last days.’

For such a short book, this story packs a powerful punch. It lays bares the inner workings of a man whose life was shallow and self-promoting, his struggles between hope and despair, his anger as he thought of ‘all the correctness of his life,’ until finally he comes to the point where he asks himself,  ‘Can it be that I have not lived as one ought?’
I cried through the last chapter of this story.

Linking to Back to the Classics & The Broken Spine Challenge for A Classic in Translation 

Saturday 7 March 2020

Our High School Archaeological Studies

The Ring of Brodgar, Orkney

Gods, Graves & Scholars: The Story of Archaeology by C.W. Ceram

I’ve used this book in the past with my older ones and it’s very good. Ceram, a journalist and not an archeologist, traces the development of a highly specialised science in a way that the ordinary person can read it with genuine excitement as they would if they were reading a detective thriller.
The book was originally published in 1949 and was later revised and substantially enlarged. We have the 1971 edition and it is well-illustrated with black & white photographs, pen drawings and maps. There are 32 chapters, an appendix with chronological tables and a bibliography for the topics he covers.

The Folio Society have published the book and of course it's lovely, but expensive. Here is what they say about it:

'From Pompeii to the Rosetta Stone and from Nineveh to Chichén-Itzá, this hugely influential book was the first to tell the story of archaeology. First published in German in 1949, it was translated into 26 languages and became an international bestseller. More than any other book, it helped stoke a passion for archaeology in the imagination of the post-war world, and remains one of the world’s most widely read books on the subject...
Ceram tells us that ‘the great Palace of Minos was as large as Buckingham Palace’, that the bronze statues of Pompeii ‘rang like bells’ when they were first struck by the workmen’s shovels, and describes how our modern superstition about a black cat crossing our path stems from ancient Babylon.'

We're using Ceram's book as our main 'text' for the year and this term I'm adding in some fiction that is centred around archaeology. 

The Boy with the Brown Axe by Kathleen Fidler

This book is geared towards a younger audience (around 9 to 13) but I included it because it's a fictionalized account set in the Neolithic village of Skara Brae on the Orkney Islands which dates back 3,000 to 5,000 years ago. It describes how the village may have been destroyed and weaves in some geographical detail such as the Bay of Skaill, the Standing Stones of Stenness and Maidstowe. One of the characters in the book is a stone mason who is working on the Ring of Brodgar. Both my daughter and I enjoyed it even though it was a quick read for us.
Thanks to Sarah @delivering grace for suggesting this book.

The Rediscovered Village of Skara Brae

Crocodile on the Sandbank by Elizabeth Peters (1975)

This is the first book in the author’s Amelia Peabody series and it was a delightful read. We've both read this and my daughter loved it. While her characters in these books are fictitious, historic figures do make an appearance from time to time. For example, in Crocodile on the Sandbank, a well-known French Egyptologist plays a small part in the story. William Flinders Petrie, the famous archaeologist, is referred to a number of times, as well as a some other Egyptologists.
Amelia Peabody had lived a quiet life with her father, a scholar and antiquarian, generally supporting him and keeping house as he got older. The story takes place in the 1880’s. Amelia is 32 years old, single, and very sure of herself. 
When her father dies he leaves her his considerable fortune and she decides to leave England and travel to see all the places her father had studied: Greece, Rome, Babylon and Thebes.
She engages a companion, a Miss Pritchett, to go with her. Miss Pritchett contracts typhoid while they are in Rome and is dispatched back to England. Amelia, musing whether or not she should find a substitute, comes across Evelyn, a young English woman on the street near the Roman Forum. She had been heartlessly abandoned by her false lover when he realized she had no fortune and had fainted from hunger and exhaustion. Amelia rescues her, nurses her back to health then two of them take a boat up the Nile to an archaeological site to embark on their Egyptian adventure.

I looked into this series of books for my daughter to read alongside her Archaeology studies this year, for enjoyment mostly, but the settings bring archaeology to life and certainly give a feel for antiquity.
Elizabeth Peters earned her Ph.D in Egyptology and her archaeological knowledge comes through into her mystery writing which adds an authentic touch.
The author writes well and there’s a good dose of humour in her writing. Both my daughter and I think this first book has some similarities to Agatha Christie’s The Man in the Brown Suit, which we both really enjoyed.
I've started reading the second book in the series, The Curse of the Pharaohs, and while it's a great read, I think it may be just a tad mature at the moment for my daughter. Fortunately our library has a good number of the Amelia Peabody books so I'll check them out to see if they're suitable. I think once you've read the first one it's not necessary to read them in order. But do read Book 1 first if you decide to try them out!

Murder in Mesopotamia by Agatha Christie - a murder mystery set in a Middle Eastern
archaeological dig.

Appointment With Death by Agatha Christie - set in Petra. When Christie was 40 years of age she met her second husband, Max Mallowan, an archaeologist who was assisting Leonard Woolley in Ur. Christie worked alongside her husband and became an invaluable aid to him in his work. 

Ur from the air, 1927 - about a year before Christie visited