Category Archives: Try Something Different

#74 Admire Public Art

Imagine being in a job where you’re rarely praised, often the target of harsh complaints and dismissively known as the Rates, Roads and Rubbish people.

Such is the lot of local councils, but in reality, they’re so much more than that. The council can help make it a real pleasure to live in your town or city.

At our most recent Discovery Group meeting, a local artist, Ken Raff was invited to speak to our members about the public art works he’s been commissioned to create for the Albury-Wodonga area. Since hearing him speak, it’s caused me to stop, look around and …

# Admire Public Art

Ken spoke about the evolution of a public sculpture, and it was the first time I’d realised that our council has people assigned to this very process. Impressive!

Extensive work is involved in the development of such pieces, involving the tender process, the artist chosen, site evaluations, various council departments as well as engineering and fabrication experts and businesses. And through all of this, the artist has to hope that the vision of his work will be maintained.

Here’s one of Ken’s wonderful creations, where it all came together so well.

Called Porta, this installation is sited at the entrance to Victoria from NSW

The choice of colours and even the tilt of the spheres have been meticulously considered by the creator.

And a panoramic shot may give you a better sense of its imposing height and perfect positioning …

This also shows the importance of ‘place’ in public art. In the wrong spot, it might have been lost, but here – simply magnificent!


My public art crawl has now ranged from the stainless steel facade sculpture by renowned artist Matthew Harding, sited at the back of our Art Gallery, MAMA,

Degrees of Separation  (Crossing Paths)

to another of Ken Raff‘s works in the main street …

                                                                      The River 

and on to the imposing galvanised steel artwork called Grow by Warren Langley, representing the crimson spider orchid, an endangered flower found in Albury, but few other locations …


Then there’s the latest sculpture in the Botanical gardens …

The Fern by Michael Laubli

… so perfectly suited to this position.


Public art can also encompass improving some of the plainer aspects of modern living, like applying mural art to otherwise dull areas such as drains and NBN boxes –

Birdwatcher painted by Kade SarteBanana Joe by Kristina GreenwoodThe cover-up!

It’s exciting to come across the art in your local neighbourhood.  I know there are several more pieces for me to discover.

During this adventure, I stumbled across a copy of Banksy’s Rage  – local artist unknown – stencilled under a bridge on the New South Wales side of the Murray River.

It’s positioned to look like the person is about to lob a hand grenade – into Victoria!

Fortunately, the missile is a bunch of brightly coloured flowers.

Cute.

 

 

Photo of the Tai Chi Bunnies taken at Circular Quay, Sydney in January at the Chinese New Year celebrations. I’m told they glow at night!  

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#73 Master the Art of Holiday Packing

It was while my sister was trying to fit all her clothes, plus new Christmas presents and purchases, into a suitcase for her return to Sydney recently that I was reminded of a technique for packing that can reduce stress on suitcases and lower backs.

So today’s activity is a tip on how to:

#73 Master the Art of Holiday Packing

I did feel somewhat guilty watching how difficult it was to close the suitcase. Because back in Sydney resides a marvellous plastic, three-panelled board that allows my sister to fold clothes perfectly flat, and all ending in a uniform size, ready to be neatly stacked into a case.

Unfortunately, I’d completely forgotten that I’d promised to make one just like it for use at my place.

This strange looking contraption is, in fact, a genius!

To tell you the truth, when I was staying at her place in Sydney, I’d initially looked at it with surprise, before laughing at the idea of using a complicated-looking board like this merely to fold clothes.

But then I tried it – wow! I became a complete convert. It’s magic! Where on earth could I get one?

Careful examination revealed that all the fancy cut out holes and shapes don’t seem to have a vital function, even though a YouTube video by the manufacturer suggests they’re needed for ventilation and to reduce static. Hmm…

Unless I’m missing something, it seems you can get away without them.

So I took detailed measurements…

and once back home, realised that with a simple piece of corflute, it would be a doddle to make.

So here’s how to create your own masterful folding implement:

Step one: Cut the corflute into a rectangle measuring 70cm W by 60cm L. Then cut two thin vertical wedges (or slits) out of the lower half, 23 cm from each side edge like so:

Step two: Flip the board over and make three shallow incisions only half-way through the corflute, so they remain attached but can bend; the first cut is made across the middle third in the centre, and the other two cuts are made vertically to extend the slits thus…

and you end up with a plain, but perfectly functional folding board, admittedly without ventilation …

                                                               too easy


Now it’s time to have some fun. Lay your jumper/shirt/blouse/t-shirt/pants etc face down on the board and arrange it so the item fits into the confines of the template like so:

then quickly ‘flip’ in the right panel first to fold in the material on that side, before flipping the panel out again, then repeat these actions with the left panel, before finally ‘flipping’ up the lower panel and flipping it back down again.

Then turn the item over to showcase a perfectly folded piece of clothing …

I know, I know, this may seem like a lot of trouble to perform something so simple, but when you have a heap of clothes you want to fit into a small bag, trust me, it only takes seconds doing it this way, they all end up exactly the same dimensions and you feel like a magician.

If you then stack these perfectly folded items and slide them into clear zipped vacuum packing bags that allows you to squeeze all the air out, you’ll be amazed what you can fit into a small case …

Not only that, when you arrive at your holiday destination and unpack, the items come out looking reasonably well pressed! I’m convinced now that every hotel and household needs one.

But failing this, there’s another sure fire tip to minimise the horror that is packing.

Store duplicate toiletries, PJs, dressing gown, spare shoes, a pillow and anything else you may need at your destination in a specially purchased, large cedar chest provided by your host.

Preferably one that can double as a coffee table in their living room the rest of the time.

Thanks for this, sis.

 

 

#72 Discover Odd Signs

It is the unalienable right of retired people to spend their days tut-tutting about the state of the world and remonstrating about the general drop in standards to anyone within earshot. Or, in the alternative, to pen outraged letters to the editor about the shocking loss of civility in current times.

Being loath to miss out on this activity, and noticing how many bizarre signs abound, signs that would never have been seen in my youth (like the above advertisement where a beautiful face was deliberately graffitied to sell a product!)  I thought it worthwhile turning into a fussy old pedant myself, and using this blog as my pulpit:

 #72 Discover Odd Signs

MISPRINTS

Is it my imagination or are there more egregious misprints nowadays?

Although having said this, I can’t tell you how exciting it was to find a misprint that described my fellow pedants so glowingly:   

But I did wonder where this restaurant goes on the other 6 days. 

Presumably to somewhere further away?

Misprints that sound real can be puzzling, like this one in an article about an Archbishop’s speech.

Verison sounds so much like a word one might find in the Macquarie dictionary, that I’ve decided to start using it to mean a misleading statement about faith.

Schools, above all others, should take care with spelling. One can only feel sympathy for young ‘Sohpie’, having her moment of glory spoiled like this.

I wonder if the two Sophies fought over whose name was the misspelled one? Or is it possible that somewhere, some 16 or 17 years ago, a father and mother decided to call their daughter Sohpie because no-one else in the class would spell it that way? (Speaking of which, is Aby really a name?)

Especially satisfying are those misspellings that throw up an incorrect, but real word that completely changes the meaning.The anti-abortion group mentioned are actually called ‘The Helpers of God’s Precious Infants’ but as legislation now prevents them standing directly outside clinics invading the medical privacy of the patients attending, maybe the misprint ‘previous’ is perfectly apt.


ATROCIOUS GRAMMAR

Bad grammar can throw up some disturbing visual images:

Really? The bullets were singing Amazing Grace? Now that is amazing.


TERRIBLE PLACEMENT

Poor juxtaposition of discrete articles can lead to unintended outcomes. I suspect someone’s head may have rolled when the bosses discovered this posted on an ABC news site. It was only up for about 10 minutes:


DOWNRIGHT LIES

But the signs that really make me hot under the collar are the ones that lie.

First, there was this outside a shop in Balmain …

A shop that cared so much about their ‘beloved Balmain doggies’ that they didn’t even bother putting out any water!

Then there was the hoarding for Clive Palmer’s party, erected recently at the end of my street.

We’re supposed to believe that this man cares about farmers?

So I ‘virtually’ graffitied the sign at home on my computer to make it a little more honest, at least:

But before I had a chance to slip out on a moonless night with my hoodie and black paint and fix it in real time, someone else’s anger had spilled over and this was the result:

It wasn’t me, I swear!

And what about the house with a sign proudly calling itself Wisteria Lane but with not a flower or a vine or a trellis in sight:

Sorry, but if you’re going to call yourself by that name, at the very least you should look like this:

…taken at Tabletop by my Bunnings buddy

or this

Anything less is, quite frankly, misleading advertising and I’ll be writing a stiff letter to the editor about it.

#71 Research Weather Vanes

Browsing through the back pages of a gardening magazine recently, I came across a dazzling and tempting advertisement for weather vanes.

Now over my lifetime, these roof/garden accessories have never really occupied my thoughts. They’re nowhere near as vital as, say, a capacious water tank, nor as obsessively absorbing as a rain gauge.

But due to the power of advertising, I looked longingly at these beautiful fripperies and began to hanker after a weather vane for my own little pitched roof.

And so began the journey to

#71 Research Weather Vanes

This activity has thrown up so many questions.

  • How long have weather vanes been around?
  • Who purchases them?
  • Are they in any way useful?
  • Now I’m wandering the streets around home looking for them, how many have I missed over the years? (In short, every one of them)
  • Why are there so many roosters on weather vanes?

This little cutie’s just a block away from home, and yet I’d NEVER spotted it!

Also known as wind vanes (which is a more logical title, bearing in mind the point of the arrow can only tell you where the wind’s coming from) it’s claImed they were invented over 2000 years ago by the Chinese and the Greeks, who independently arrived at the idea.

The Greeks love to say that their design was first, but I’d give bragging rights to the Chinese, as theirs was documented in 139 BC, a full 89 years ahead of the bronze Triton built atop the Tower of the Winds in Athens.

And despite it being the wealthy Greeks and Romans who adorned their homes with wind vanes in the shape of ancient gods, the term ‘vane’ is not a variant of ‘vain’ at all, but comes from the Anglo-Saxon word ‘fane’ meaning wind.

It does seem that they have little functional purpose for most domestic homes, but now I’m on the hunt for them, they’re the prettiest, most eye catching little adornments on a roof you’ll ever see. If you actually notice them.

Another one I’ve blindly walked past numerous times over 27 years

This brings me to the rooster question. I’m beginning to spot so many of these birds that I’ve lost my child-like excitement at finding another vane and feel disappointed if it’s a boring old rooster cut from the same template.

There are two theories for the prevalence of roosters. The first is that in the 9th century, Pope Nicholas 1 ordered their image be placed on every church steeple to remind the congregation of Peter’s thrice betrayal of Jesus (before the cock crowed). The second theory is that the tail is the perfect shape to catch the wind.

I have a third theory. If you’ve ever owned a rooster, you’ll know that they think their rightful place is on top.

It was pleasing to come across another vane nearby that didn’t bother with the rooster theme, though…

Yes. Another one close by that I’ve never noticed before [sigh].


Then I spotted a weather vane on our city’s railway station tower as I was hurtling along the Sydney to Melbourne freeway.  It’s a big one, befitting such a building and I wish I had a camera with a telephoto lens to better see the design.

Almost the cause of a multi-car pile up on the M31

This led to a friend telling me that our Post Office tower also has one. As I first moved to Albury in 1978, this would make it, oh, 40 years during which I’ve managed to not notice it. D’oh.

The ball on top is simple, but the N-S-E-W takes the prize for artistry


One of the problems with weather vanes is that because they’re on the roof, they aren’t convenient to watch. It’d be just as easy to step outside and rotate your face through 360º to feel which way the wind is blowing.

Enter my Bunnings buddy, a peerless innovator and inventor, who’s designed the cleverest system to see the direction of the wind while the family sits in the living room.

With a wire and lever rig that’s way beyond my intellect to understand, let alone explain, he’s connected his roof’s weather vane down through the wall cavity into the living room so that a lever moves every time the vane does:

Here are three positions photographed to show how the lever moves. 

But there’s more genius to this device. The lever has been cleverly attached to the back of a 3-D bird on a water colour painting of his property (done by the very talented estate cartographer, @catherineo’neilldesign) hanging on the wall, such that as the lever moves with the wind on the rooftop weather vane, so does the bird in the painting. 

Can you believe this …?

It’s breathtaking in its beauty and cleverness. But quite scary the first time you visit my Bunnings buddy’s home.  Seeing the bird move out the corner of your eye is akin to being in a haunted house where the eyes of an Old Master’s portrait flick about … watching, watching.

And the weather vane to which this marvellous device and painting is attached?

A bespoke masterpiece he designed, of course:


Now that I’ve returned to the gardening magazine ads that set me on this adventure, I’ve realised that vanes featuring icons like a cockerel, a ball or a bird are way too prosaic.

I’m going to have to design a vane that befits my home and my life.

Perhaps something like this one I mocked up on the computer …?

 

 

#70 Commission a Bespoke Design for the Garden Shed

About five years ago, I snapped up a small garden shed at Aldi’s during the two-and-a-half day window they allow you to grab any must-have-item-you-didn’t-know-you-needed before they move on to their next set of specials and you’ve lost your chance.

(Aldi’s specials are so reminiscent of the rotating magical land at the top of Enid Blyton’s Faraway Tree. You never know if you’ll find the Land of Goodies, replete with tins of biscuits and chocolates, or Dame Slap’s School where bins spill over with lycra, gym equipment and barbells.)

Anyway, when this particular Land of Desirable Garden Equipment arrived, I was seduced by the kit shed and phrases written on the box like ‘easily assembled’ and ‘few tools required’, so I brought it home to put together over an afternoon.

Three gruelling days over Easter later, and after calling in a friend who’d once built the ‘Taj Mahal’ for his chickens, four of us actually followed the instruction sheets …

(… a stunning achievement on its own)

… and completed the task. Most satisfying.

                                                                    A sturdy little fellow

But despite loving it for the last few years for being so useful, I wasn’t able to get rid of the feeling that it was a little … plain?

So last year, when an artistic friend came to visit for a few days, we made a deal.

I’d

#70 Commission a Bespoke Design for the Garden Shed 

which she’d plan and execute, and in return I’d cook all her favourite meals for the duration.

                                                                      Preparing the templates

I messed up badly, though. Against her advice (artists must DESPAIR of some of their clients), I chose bright blue, water soluble paint for the background, thinking it would look like the sky on a hot summer’s day. But after cleaning and prepping and masking the shed, then applying the first coat, it was obvious this particular blue was more reminiscent of the eye-watering gaudiness of Willie Wonka’s Chocolate Factory.

Luckily, before we progressed any further, it began to rain, the water-soluble paint sloughed off and so the idea was shelved for another day, another season.

I slowly stripped it back, before repainting it with a dark green oil-based paint ready for its proper makeover, some day in the future.

                                                                 Looking better already 

Recently, when my talented visitor returned, she made good on her promise.

Watching the evolution of a work of art is inspiring, from first seeing it look like Banksy was indulging in some artistic graffiti using the pre-prepared templates …

… to the meticulous application of the paint…

…to the final masterpiece, and the knowledge that I now have the best bespoke-designed little garden shed in the village!

Five years in the making, but don’t all great things take time?

Thank you so much @province_

 

#69 Outsource Your Blog to a House Guest

“Greetings all,

I was lying contentedly at the Blogger’s feet the other day – I’ve been holidaying with her and the skinny dog while my humans are cycling around Europe – when I heard her muttering that it would be slim pickings on outsidethesquare101 this month because she hadn’t done anything exciting.

I lifted my head in surprise. Nothing exciting? Who was she kidding? She’d had my company for starters.

Why don’t you, I suggested,

#69 Outsource Your Blog to a House Guest

Like me!

She looked sceptical at first, until I reminded her that she’d introduced me to new, exciting smells and that I’d challenged her to exercise more (there’s a reason she’s known as the Blogger, rather than the Jogger).

I added some intense staring for good measure  …

and before long, she was putty in my hands.

So, by way of introduction, the name’s Otto.

I believe I was called after the famed 10th century German king, Otto the Great.

The more prosaic rumour – that it was because my humans love the Italian language and I’m the eighth dog the family has owned – is nothing short of mischievous scuttlebutt.

Legend has it that my fearless father was a Border Collie who was never meant to meet my mother, let alone … well, you know.

Fences and distance were no barrier to him though, for who could resist the allure of the gorgeous golden retriever-poodle cross, living on the adjacent farm? A little over two months after their accidental meeting, their tiny bundle of joy arrived.

                                                                                 …mini me

Which I believe makes me a Border Groodle, a hitherto little-known breed. And being a combination of the two most intelligent dogs in the world (as rated in every single dog survey ever published) AND the best family-friendly dog known to mankind, you can see how I lucked in from the very beginning.

Add to that my perfect deportment, and I’m pretty irresistible.

As I mentioned, I’m sharing digs with the skinny dog, too. He’s a strange little thing who seems to feel the cold. Very quiet most of the time, but when we’re lying outside and the sun moves, he gives this high pitched bark, and the Blogger rushes out to move his bean bag back into the sun. Talk about spoiled!

And now the silly boy thinks that if the sun goes behind a cloud, he can bring it back with his squeaky bark.

I’ve been having a bit of fun with him lately, ‘cos although we get on well, I can easily put him off his game. If I half-stretch across a doorway, it spooks him out, what with me being a properly proportioned dog and he needing to run around in the shower just to get wet. So he won’t walk past me.

The other night, when he was too sooky to go around me to get outside, he ended up piddling on the Blogger’s best Persian rug.  Did I laugh!

Of course, she just petted him as she mopped it up and told him it wasn’t his fault. Grr! 

So smug on his velvet cushion

And I have no idea how a dog that gets fed three times a day stays so skinny. I’m only allowed one meal at night – you couldn’t call the pitiful handful of kibble I get in the morning a meal – and yet I never lose weight. So unfair.

But I digress. We’ve all three been having some marvellous adventures because the Blogger takes us out twice a day for walks and ball chases and manages to find lots of new places to explore.

First, we went to a park she called by a funny Welsh-sounding name like ‘Adogoffleash’ park where even the skinny dog was let loose.  Apparently he’s never to be trusted off his lead out on the street. Unlike Yours Truly.

It was a foggy morning, not another dog was in sight and we had a ball (if you’ll pardon the pun).

                                                                                              Magical!

Then we went to another place with water and fish and humans on cycles (but not my humans [sigh]) called ‘horseshoelagoon’ and it was so exciting I forgot to let go of my ball and carried it the whole way!


There were cultural outings, of course, which were enjoyably interactive.  I managed to leave my mark at the base of every one of the gorgeous sculptures on this particular walk, so that other visitors with the correct olfactory skills would know that “OTTO WAS HERE”.


But best of all was when I introduced the Blogger and skinny dog to the sights of the city from on high. She did agree when we were at the top that the vista was superb.

I can’t believe they’d never been up to Nail Can Hill before. I’ve got to say she coped surprisingly well going up Hernia Hill, but it was a tad embarrassing for skinny dog and me as she was trying to come down.

As all these fit young runners in their activewear skipped down the steep inclines, looking supremely sure-footed, the Blogger – let’s just say she crouched down and went for a very low centre-of-gravity method of descent, pretending she was inspecting the wild flowers if someone passed. Mortifying!

No doubt about it,  we knew we had the world at our feet.

And my rating of this holiday resort? Definitely five stars.

Hope I can come back again.

Cheerio for now,

Otto”

#67 Rediscover Jigsaw Puzzles

Following a recent posting on this site about investigating a mystery, a friend told me about Mystery Jigsaws.

As I’d recently set up a new jigsaw puzzle in the living room, this was interesting news. To think I’d reached retirement age without ever knowing that all jigsaws aren’t made to the same formula. The mystery ones, apparently, provide a murder scenario where completing the picture provides the solution – or at least gives you further clues needed to solve it. Sounds intriguing.

My friend has promised to loan me one of hers once I’ve completed the behemoth that is crowding out my home at the moment.

But this news got me thinking about whether there are different ways to enjoy doing jigsaws.

#67 Rediscover Jigsaw Puzzles

Because unless you live in a multi-roomed mansion, they really are quite unwieldy and space-hogging.

This view of what’s happening at the moment will show you what I mean (and I had to move it from the living room onto a bed and crowd it all together just to fit it into this panoramic shot).

First, there’s the large board – backed with non-slip material – needed to support the emerging puzzle, then the almost-as-large, also non-slip board to house the pieces that are still homeless, plus the inverted lid for further leftover or special pieces and of course the all important lid photograph to help with identification and placement.

It’s the stuff of nightmares if the living room has to be reclaimed when visitors arrive.

And don’t get me started on the risks of losing pieces and never being able to complete the final picture to your complete satisfaction. Or the discomfort of bending forward in an extremely uncomfortable position whenever you work on it. Or the horror possibility of the dog jumping on the boards and scattering pieces as he romps around. (Yes, he did.)

Not to mention that French puzzle I tried to complete during the Olympics. It not only had the last piece missing, but gave me a duplicate bit I didn’t need, instead!

Who’s ever seen this before?

But I may have found a solution to all these problems.

After a visit to the App Store, I downloaded this for iPad:

Does this mean there are ‘adult-friendly’ jigsaw puzzles? Ooh…

If 8.92K users score it 4.5 stars, it must be pretty good.

And it is.

Its maximum size is 550 pieces – but they can be rotated to increase the degree of difficulty – and you scroll up and down in the side panels with a flick of your fingers before dragging the required piece into place, beginning, as usual, with the borders.

AND you can change the background to suit your picture, choosing from an assortment of colours available. From this:

…to this …

to the boring, but easier-on–the-eyes:

AND, if you click on the round icon at the bottom of the screen, you can simultaneously view the whole picture while you’re solving the puzzle. The image can be dragged and positioned so it’s never in the way:

 

AND, by upgrading the app for a few dollars, you can use your own photos to create jigsaws, which also removes the advertisements. (That’s Oddies Creek, above, near home) .

NO missing pieces, NO extra pieces, COMPLETELY transportable, NO back strain, NO space restraints and NO dog incidents. And did I mention the satisfying ‘click’ you hear when a piece fits into place?

AND you get a gold star when you complete it!

Something rather unexpected has happened, though.

Waiting endlessly for doctors’ appointments, for late trains, or for fog-delayed planes is such a pleasure now.