Monday, January 26, 2009

Australia Day, 2009

Today is Australia Day – at least it’s January 26th in the Northern Hemisphere; it’s already January 27th in Australia. But it’s the thought that counts, isn’t it.

For my American friends, Australia Day is Australia’s national day – equivalent to July 4th in the United States – and commemorates the date on which the First Fleet, consisting of 11 ships – two warships (Sirius and Supply), six convict transports (Alexander. Charlotte. Friendship, Lady Penrhyn, Prince Of Wales, Scarborough), and three supply ships (Golden Grove, Fishburn, Borrowdale) - sailed into Sydney Cove (now Sydney) to establish the first British settlement in Australia. Aussies have a funny sense of humor. They commemorate the founding of a penal settlement. And it was all the American’s fault since they fought a war of independence that resulted in the Brits no longer being able to view the American colonies for penal settlements.

Life in early Australia was harsh but Aussies were also a sentimental bunch as illustrated in their poetry. Periodically, I think about the only Banjo (Andrew Barton) Patterson poem I learned in high school. It’s not ‘Waltzing Matilda’ or ‘The Man from Snowy River,’ it’s ‘Clancy of the Overflow’ and was written more than 20 years after my family migrated to Australia from England which puts it in some perspective for me. The sentiments are more than 100 years old but I think that many of us can connect with them even today.

Clancy of the Overflow

I had written him a letter which I had, for want of better
Knowledge, sent to where I met him down the Lachlan, years ago,

He was shearing when I knew him, so I sent the letter to him,

Just "on spec", addressed as follows, "Clancy, of The Overflow".

And an answer came directed in a writing unexpected,

(And I think the same was written with a thumb-nail dipped in tar)

Twas his shearing mate who wrote it, and verbatim I will quote it:

"Clancy's gone to Queensland droving, and we don't know where he are."

In my wild erratic fancy visions come to me of Clancy

Gone a-droving "down the Cooper" where the Western drovers go;

As the stock are slowly stringing, Clancy rides behind them singing,

For the drover's life has pleasures that the townsfolk never know.

And the bush hath friends to meet him, and their kindly voices greet him

In the murmur of the breezes and the river on its bars,

And he sees the vision splendid of the sunlit plains extended,

And at night the wond'rous glory of the everlasting stars.

I am sitting in my dingy little office, where a stingy

Ray of sunlight struggles feebly down between the houses tall,

And the foetid air and gritty of the dusty, dirty city

Through the open window floating, spreads its foulness over all

And in place of lowing cattle, I can hear the fiendish rattle

Of the tramways and the buses making hurry down the street,

And the language uninviting of the gutter children fighting,

Comes fitfully and faintly through the ceaseless tramp of feet.

And the hurrying people daunt me, and their pallid faces haunt me

As they shoulder one another in their rush and nervous haste,

With their eager eyes and greedy, and their stunted forms and weedy,

For townsfolk have no time to grow, they have no time to waste.

And I somehow rather fancy that I'd like to change with Clancy,

Like to take a turn at droving where the seasons come and go,

While he faced the round eternal of the cash-book and the journal --

But I doubt he'd suit the office, Clancy, of "The Overflow".

Banjo Paterson, 1889

Sunday, January 11, 2009

MooseCam: Anchorage, Alaska

I stumbled on Moose Cam and have been visiting almost every day for more than a year. The cam is mounted at about second-floor level looking towards a lake. Since trees don’t grow as tall in Alaska as they do further south, it was hard to tell how far the cam was from the lake and how big one could expect any animals to be.

Until yesterday! Finally, I saw moose. Although the site indicates that the images are refreshed every three minutes, I kept on hitting refresh and captured a series of images. The webmaster must have seen them too and zoomed in to
where two moose were visible. Now I know what I'm looking for.

What a thrill!