Weather closing in

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I know I listened to Australian bands long before I even thought of the possibility to move to Melbourne. Some decades ago we already listened to Midnight Oil and Men At Work. Not really listening to the things they were trying to convey. Just appreciating the tune and the rhythms.

Like “four seasons in one day” by Crowded House. There’s a saying about Melbourne: “If you don’t like the weather, just wait for 15 minutes”. I guess they know what they’re talking about. Terrific weather in the morning is followed by showers in the afternoon (“arvo”), to be followed by quite a nice evening with a very nice sunset.

Weird.

But sometimes the weather is just … drab. Gloomy. Dark. More like Europe.

Makes for a nice photo, though …

Old school

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I am getting so used to flying jets, like the 737 or the A380, that flying a turbo prop feels like an adventure. And it rather is.

Just think: ony half a century ago, propellors were the normal thing and jets were … special. Flying a Pan Am 707 to New York was like being invited to dinner by Peter Stuyvesant … (no, not the cigarettes). Nowadays, nobody even thinks about airplanes. You just get in one and that’s it.

So I flew to Burnie in (or is it “on”?) Tasmania. A one hour flight with a Saab 340. Nothing wrong with that. Until I started realising that the last time I saw a Saab 340 was waving Christine good bye on some holiday trip to England. Some thirty odd years ago.

So it’s not only the music and the movies that go back decades the moment you leave the bigger cities of Australia. 

Old school flying. Nothing digitilised. Although I guess (and hope) they brought a Garmin GPS to point the way. Like the one you put on your bike. Stick and rudder. Like that Cessna I used to fly.

It is rather comforting to realise that the airplane I was flying in somehow survived all that modern crap and is still doing what it was made for. Bringing me safely from A to B.

B being Burnie, Tasmania. Which couldn’t handle any jet, as the runway is only 550 meters long.

Small adventures. Life is good.

Aftermath

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I must have visted the battlefields of World War One a dozen times and afterwards each and every time I travel back home in silent awe. Sixty million soldiers called to arms. Ten percent perished.

Wait … WHAT?

If you would translate that to present times and current populations, either in the Netherlands or in Australia, it would mean we would be mourning 2 million deaths. And that’s just “us”.

We already start sending governments home when we would hit 1% of that. I know, because in Holland we seriously discussed the 24th soldier dying in  Afghanistan.

Once you start digging into the names and backgrounds you find thousands of names form Australia and New Zealand. The Commonwealth at work in its darkest form.

Visiting Ypres (or “Ieper” in Dutch/Flemish) is really worth the effort. The surrounding countryside is littered with graveyards and memorials, silent witness to the incomprehensible horror that took place a century ago. The town is beautifully restored: most was destroyed beyond recognition by endless bombardments.

Since 1927 a ceremony is held at 20:00 at the Menin Gate, a triumph arch on which 54,000 names of Commonwealth soldiers who were never found have been inscripted. And in the rare instance that a body is recognized, the soldier will have a burial with full honours and this name is taken from the Menin Gate. 

As far as I know, only three names were removed …

I have shared that emotional remembrance moment three or four times now and each time I am deeply touched by how many people still join. Great grandchildren connecting with their great grandfathers. 

2016 … 30,000 evenings after the fact and remembrance still going strong. This shot is less than one minute after the ceremony ended … just a normal day, no special date. It makes you stop and think.

Mixed times

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I’m sure that every generation has this feeling of time flying by and getting mixed up in one big memory soup. But with the digital world adding literally tons of information every day, this surely must be faster times than ever.

So … it’s rather nice to be able to capture some of that time span in  one picture. Bits of personal history and present time mixed in a colourful palette.

Let’s see: a Delta Dagger, it being state of the art half a century ago and the sound of full afyer burner take offs howling somewhere in the back of my mind. And a DAF artillery towing truck, going back to my time in the field artillery. And the most modern museum facade forming a mirror for me and Christine in present times. With blue skies mingling with a faded Dakota shining through the windows. The only thing missing was psychedelic music floating around us. 

And again I would have loved to challenge my grandfather to see if he also thought like this. And that for that generation indeed things moved as fast. Or is it just my mind, boiling over with impressions and thoughts.

I wonder …

Nuclear blast

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Sitting in my favourite seat, watching the sun set while sipping a wine. Beautiful colours reflecting over the water into our living room. Spectacular. Suddenly I realise that the sun is actually a very big nuclear reactor, blasting away. Like a bomb.

The scene could easily fit in some post apocalyptic movie. Either I had one glass too many or it is because I’m tired after a long week looking at stuff that links to war. Or perhaps both.

I’m just happy the sun set and the world turned slowly into the reality of an early evening. Better that way.

Remnants

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After having approached Melbourne CBD for the last 12 months from the east, it is amazing to see how different it looks coming in from the west. Moving into Docklands was the best thing that could happen to us. Modern, open, with lots of sky. Like our place in Holland.

Up to the 21st century, Docklands was just a slowly spreading landscape of harbour and industry. And only in the last five years it became a more vibrant part of the city. You can still hear the emotional distance in Melbourners, when talking about this part of town. In the meantime there are 10,000 people living in the modern high rise and more than 50,000 people have a job in this modern suburb.

As things go, almost nothing of the old times can be found and only at the outer edges you will find remnants of the past.

Regatta

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You can actually feel it in the air: the chill has gone and warm weather is coming. And for a few weeks life will be really good, with moderate temperatures and the sun not yet burning everything to a sienna tone.

I sat on our balcony today, sipping a juice, half reading a book, half watching what was happening out in the marina.

Regatta!

Actually just a bunch of tourist boats drifting around the inner harbour of Docklands, but clearly a sign that the season has started. Or is about to.

Everybody pipes in, including some minister mumbling to the lord about grace and saviours and whatever. It was a bit strange, with a local MP (read: sociopath wanting to be elected) droning on about historical facts, a “Scottish” pipe band (yup, including that strange whirling of the drumsticks) and a local choir (ladies who still believe in all magnificence).

But good in an overall way. And the fire brigade had their own field day.

I mean, summer is coming and we go sailing. That’s a boat, good company, lovely weather and – as it is always 5PM somewhere – a dram. Or a beer.

So I’m a happy man, with all this happening right around me. And I’ll be the last one complaining about some guy with a cloak (white, with a burgundy cross!) wishing all sailors well.

Tall ships

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Having sailed on one of the, if not the, most beautiful clippers of current date, my eye will always lock on yards. I mean, modern sailing is all about sailing close to the wind. But there is something about yards and square sails. About finding the passat winds and sailing around the world without any of the tools we perceive as “normal” nowadays.

Of course it is also because of the link back to my grandfather. And that painting of “Passat”, a four mast barque. My history. Stories over cigarette smoke and a dram of brandy.

But is also because of the beauty of man conquering the seas, traveling way beyond the horizons. Returning with stories about beautiful coasts, adventure, meeting with strange folk.

So I was pretty content seeing this replica sailing right by our balcony. Even though it was a bit of a fake, mostly operated for tourists. But I have the memories of long ocean swells, winds picking up to levels beyond belief and the whole ship creaking from stress. The speed. Magnificent.

So, well done, little square rigger. Good memories brought back to the front.

Hue

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Temperatures far above any comfort level, humidity so that anything even remotely colder is dripping with water and a scenery that is shimmering in historical light.

Hue, Vietnam. City of the Perfume river.

And a battle between US marines and North Vietnamese troops. Destroying the place that was once even the capital. The place of emperical gardens and a citadel of unbelievable beauty.

So there I was, in a hotel on the south bank of the Perfume river that would not pass any hygienic inspection anywhere in Europe. Bland, dull and barely clean. Reminiscent of East German DDR architecture. Forbidding. Ugly.

Only when I saw a couple of geckos crossing the ceiling like there was no gravity did I understand that this place could be cleaner than I thought. And more special.

Geckos hunt mosquitos and other creepy crawlers. And when you marry, folks present you and your new wife with a pair of geckos for your new house. Bringing good luck.

The Perfume river right below my balcony … suddenly I felt overwhelmed with the historical impact of this place.

Fog closed in and the world turned opaque. I was fiddling with my camera and had the feeling I could capture just that one shot … 

There! The river playing it’s magic tricks. 

Poffertjes

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Sunday morning in Docklands. Most people tell me that this suburb is too quiet, without a soul.

Well, I beg to differ. Perhaps during winter, but with Spring right around the corner, things are quite lively.

As Melbourne goes, food is available everywhere. And this being a very international multi cultural city, you can of course get poffertjes …

Wait. WHAT? The small Dutch pancakes, with butter and sugar?

Christine tried to make some Aussies to pronounce it correctly. I walked over and found out that the two ladies had no clue either.

It must be the “tjes” bit.

Rain

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I was visiting an airshow, quite surprised it was right around the corner. I’d been to Duxford (UK) and Oshkosh (USA) and never realized that just one city further along the track was another – quite good – exhibition.

It made for some nice captures, albeit that the rain – common factor in the Netherlands – interfered.

Now think “airfield” and it will probably not enter your mind that that also means “open fields”. Like “no cover”. Until it starts raining. Hard.

Everybody ran away to whatever roof over their heads they could find, most not succeeding and getting thouroughly wet. Some ending up under the one wing that was close by and still getting wet, wings being kind of … aerodynamic and so prone to letting air kind of flow around it. Including the water.

Right in front of me were a mother and daughter under an umbrella. I just stepped forward and told them that I was “family” for the duration of the downpour. They accepted, not totally sure what to do with almost two meters of grinning looney.

“Keep your hands to yourself, sonny!”

Ah, just five meters away were father and son. Luckily they were grinning also.

And I got to take a photo in some comfort.