Another Country Diary


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18 May '02
While we've noticed the straggly bush in our front yard that has small white flowers in summer and then berries in late autumn, I've never known its name. It was hidden amongst the other bushes at our front gate so it wasn't one we noticed much. It's a spindle tree and we can see it clearly now because we've had the front area of the house 'landscaped'. (Yeah I know it's a bit lah-de-dah but it was my birthday present to Jan. She despairs of the big space and having the time to do no more than just weed on weekends. The local garden designer Marcia hauled in her son Steven who lives down the coast, and he has replaced the old heavy gates, and reorganised the front fern garden, opening it up and making it much more attractive. Or it will be in another few years when it all grows.)

The tree is quite delicate and well, spindly. The berries are a beautiful rose pink with orange fleshy centres when they split. My invaluable two volume Margaret Grieve 'A Modern Herbal' (now online) tells us that... 

"The Latin name for Spindle is Fusus, ...by the Italians it is still called Fusano. In allusion to the actively irritating properties of the shrub, (don't eat it kids, it's poisonous!) its name Euonymus is associated with that of Euonyme, the mother of the Furies. In old herbals it is called Skewerwood or prickwood (the latter from its employment as toothpicks), ... William Turner (16th Century herbalist) apparently christened the tree Spindle Tree. He says, "I know no goode propertie that this tree hath, saving only it is good to make spindels and brid of cages (bird-cages).'

"The wood, which is of a light yellow hue, strong, compact and easily worked, fulfils many uses. On the Continent it is used for making pipe-stems, and an excellent charcoal is made from the young shoots, which artists approve for its smoothness, and the ease with which it can be erased. It is also employed in the making of gunpowder."

The Grieve list of synonyms are nice. In the USA she says it's called "Fusanum. Fusoria. Skewerwood. Prickwood. Gatter. Gatten. Gadrose. Pigwood. Dogwood. Indian Arrowroot. Burning Bush. Wahoo. (In French) Fusain. Bonnet-de-prÍtre. (In German) Spindelbaume."

When I was traveling in England ... um, ... years ago, I bought a set of tree prints  of English birds and broad leaf trees, and I mounted them in  cheap supermarket frames. I like them so much that they've been on my walls through every house move since then, and they're now in the hall entrance to this house. I'd obviously seen that it showed the Spindle before, but walking past it the other day, the illustration of the berries leapt out in new attention. 

Those moments are important to me when they happen in the garden. It seems as if you don't focus on things but they reach out and grab you anyway. I'm forever running back to the house to get my camera. I've made a rule to never go into the back garden without a bucket and the camera. Until I forget. The spindle is a very pretty tree and I'm glad it has captured my attention. 

22 May '02
Jan and I drove to Mt. Buffalo for a special friend's 80th Birthday party on Saturday. Coral Bennett (OAM) has been the strength in holding together the Wandiligong Preservation Society. Wandiligong is a small town set in a lovely river valley up river from Bright, and Coral and her husband Jack used to run the store there and had a school holiday camp just outside town. 

The Wandi (as its friends call it) valley, was a prosperous gold mining area and even up to the seventies had working gold mines. It was full of small miner's cottages and lovely wooden churches, a brick community hall and lots of English trees, chestnuts, poplars and green open spaces. There was even a band rotunda. When they could afford it, the Bennett's bought up some of the old cottages and rented them out for holiday accommodation to people like me, who loved the character of the valley. I went there with girl friends who all fell in love with the place as well.
Of course when development started to destroy the unique nature of the valley, we all offered our assistance to raise funds, lobby government, make videos and print leaflets for the Preservation Society.  Coral was the force who held it all together. She was loathed by some locals and councilors, but most of them would grudgingly appreciate that what is left today, is mostly because of Coral's and her associates dedication. She brought up a large family, two girls and three boys, and came through periods such as the the closing of their local store and the death of Jack with incredible strength. She was always politically active, opinionated even, and against all kinds of injustice. The Order of Australia Medal she received in 1989 is a recognition of that.

The birthday party I've covered in stills and movie, and I've put the stills up on the website as a slide show here. While I was a bit too busy to enjoy myself (and Jan has to put up without me while I'm doing it)  it was made into a very magical occasion by the first snow they've had for this year, falling steadily overnight. We all went out and marveled at it (those are my footsteps above). In the morning it was half a meter deep and we were stuck until snow plows and chains could be brought in to let us all go home.

We then went on to Melbourne. I got to see my daughter and we stayed with Jan's parents. On Monday, after dropping Jan at the airport early, I went over our latest web project with Christopher Waller, a top designer and friend since the days of Australian MultiMedia magazine. Stupidly, I then drove back at night through rain and thundering transports getting home in the early morning. But the trip was worth it. Have a look at the pictures, I'm trying to find some time to cut the video.      

23 May '02
Part of the agreement is that I say... these images are ©Dalai Lama in Australia Limited 2002.
I'm writing this on the weekend, feeling just a bit flat after the last two days of helping Greg with media cover of the Canberra visit of the Dalai Lama (see past entry here). On Thursday night it was my gig to cover the airport when the entourage arrived. I took some pictures of the people waiting but I had to make my own attempt at coverage from within the crowd, because the woman with the security clearance arrived late. There was a happy crowd of eighty or so local Tibetans, Buddhists and  interested onlookers who blocked the arrival lounge entrance. They caused some pain to the security staff when they all wanted to go through the scanner into the departure area to watch the plane's arrival, and they had to stop them after a dozen or two.

The (Tibetan?) Buddhist practice of making an offering of a plain white scarf (an allowable gift without value), meant that there were dozens of children (and adults) practicing with their hands together, white draped, in the process of making an offering. When he arrived, the Dalai Lama took some and passed them back, and accepted an occasional bunch of flowers that was handed to the attendant staff to be whisked away in the manner of all royalty.

Then the cars, with a police escort, and a mini bus carrying the entourage, all sped off into the night to the hotel. The baggage had gone on before. Very efficient, it took 10 minutes at most. And I went home to Bungendore. The next day was to prove to be a bit more interesting.
Fred Harden  
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