New Zealand / Australia Diary
Sunday 6 May 2012
With my final workshop behind me I could be the Compleat Tourist for the remainder of my stay in Australia, and what better way to celebrate being in a strange & exotic land than with a frenzy of consumerist abandon! The original plan had been to hit the shops in Freo (Freemantle), a prime site for the heavy-walleted, but my hosts said that there was an Arts & Crafts Festival being held in and around a nearby town/suburb that might have more interesting (and less predictable) stuff on offer. This seemed like a splendid idea so Pat & I joined Karen in her car and we set off to explore the Festive offerings.
The first thing we needed was a map showing the various participating locations. The one place that we knew was part of the Festival was Kalamunda Agricultural Hall so that's where we headed, successfully negotiating the town centre road works & diversions that seemed deliberately designed to make finding the venues more difficult. There were several craft stalls at the hall, good stuff but nothing that quite tempted me, but no maps, so Pat made a sketch of the Festival plan (that we were allowed to look at but not take with us) and we used this as our guide to the next venue.
Before we set off I wandered outside to look at the neighbouring sports field where a lot of action was taking place. It turned out to be two games of Australian Rules football being played by children's teams, with a good collection of parents providing (mostly) support & encouragement from the sidelines. It was fascinating to watch, helped by the fact that I have virtually no idea of the rules and could view it as some form of macho formation dancing. The young tykes were chasing around with fierce concentration, virtually all in neat pairs of one from either team, presumably marking their opposite numbers. Despite what looked like a potentially life-threatening combination of running & kicking meeting youthful inexperience it seemed both (relatively) safe and good natured. It made my childhood soccer games look very tame.
Our next stop was the MORO studio where the preferred medium was metal plate, some of it very heavy. However the resulting artworks were full of life & humour and I was sorely tempted by several of them, only to be held back by the serious weight involved - any one of them would easily break my luggage allowance and the shipping costs would probably have been astronomical. I was particularly taken by a seadragon sculpture after my Tasmanian encounter, even though this one was leafy rather than weedy, but it was still too heavy to seriously consider.
We managed to obtain a map at the studio but this proved to be a mixed blessing, it was so stylised & abstract that on several occasions we really had no idea of where we were or what road to take. Despite this we somehow managed to end up at the Kanyana Wildlife Refuge, an animal welfare centre that was having an open day as part of the Festival.
Kanyana at first seemed like many other wildlife centres I'd visited - lots of pictures, bones, old nests and other 'educational' stuff in amongst stalls where you could buy t-shirts, bags, toys and any number of sugary drinks & snacks. We met a friend of Pat's who was a volunteer there and asked where the Good Stuff was, she said that we should definitely visit the animal hospital so we joined the queue and shuffled along.
It took a long time to get in (the hospital was actively in use and visitors were strictly limited in number) but it was well worth the wait. We were taken through the hospital in small groups by one of the volunteer workers, more or less following the treatment path that an injured animal would take. The approach was compassionate but pragmatic & practical, there was a real sense of devotion to the welfare of these creatures but an acceptance that most wouldn't make it (they have a 45% recovery rate) and a determination that those that do will be released back into the wild rather than kept as pets or otherwise domesticated. I was impressed that although we were told the injuries were caused by 'cat attack', 'cat attack', 'car verses bird', 'cat attack', 'car verses bird', 'abandoned pet' and so on there didn't seem to be any rancour towards cat or car owners, these were injured animals and it was their job to make them better.
One thing that was repeatedly mentioned was that they saw a lot of magpies with calcium deficiency, apparently people feed them mince which stops them eating the bugs from which most of their calcium intake comes. This got a little surreal for me as I was at the back of the group at this point and heard that people were feeding the birds 'mints' which seemed a peculiar thing to do - were magpies particularly partial to After Eights?
The stay (especially the queuing) at Kanyana had seen us fall way behind schedule so we found our way to one of the wineries (it seemed like 80% of the Festival was concerned with the production of alcohol in some form) and augmented our picnic lunch with a shared green salad and various coffees. From here we decided that we should restrict ourselves to visiting the designer woodworking studio (run by the family of a circle dancer) and finishing off at an organic vegetable shop, but we had not allowed for The Map From Hell which led us all over the town before seeing us arriving very, very late at our first objective.
We just about caught our dancer friend who was on her way out, she in turn led us up to the studio where the work was on display, mostly dinner table sets & cupboards. The furniture was gorgeous - beautiful, comfortable & perfectly proportioned, a dazzling example of art, design & function in glorious harmony. There was a tall chest of drawers that I'd have bought there and then, devil take the problems in shipping it home, if it wasn't for the fact that it was already sold... and that the price was Au$20,000. By comparison a dining table with eight chairs was a snip at Au$10,000. In some ways it seemed preposterous to spend so much money on furniture but I could see just how good it would be to have these stunningly beautiful objects in your home for daily life, and that they were the sort of things that would be lovingly handed down to the next generation, the antiques of the future. If my annual lottery ticket makes me a zillionaire I won't be going to Ikea for my home furnishing needs.
By now time had flown and it was too late to call in at the fruit & veg place for some food shopping. So instead Karen drove Pat & I back and dropped us off. A quiet dinner and evening is coming to an end as I sit here and type, tomorrow is my last day Down Under and I'll be off to Perth to see what the city has to offer.