Monday, November 29, 2010

Happy Birthday - Grandpa!

29th November, 2010 - We interrupt my post on the Rose Garden at the Botanic Gardens with an extra special post. Today was my father's birthday - and even though the family gathered yesterday, L-kun wanted to do something for Grandpa.

This morning, L-kun decided to draw a birthday card for Grandpa. And right now... there's drawing to be done, and that takes concentration. 

Daddy wasn't sure that it was off to a good start however... L-kun, what are you doing? 

And whilst I was able to suggest that black wasn't the best colour (even if it was the right colour to match the stars that he was drawing... as he wanted to draw the night sky). He did however want to try out a range of different colours  

And finally - with a little bit of help from Daddy to write...ok, perhaps a bit more than a "little" help... the final unveiling. Grandpa holding a birthday cake (with lots of coloured candles).

Happy Birthday Grandpa!

Cheeky L-kun!

It may not be a birthday cake, but L-kun put his heart into it. It may also be just a little less fattening than Krispy Kreme doughnuts we had yesterday! Anyway, L-kun wanted to visit Grandma and Grandpa again this morning, but being monday, Daddy was off to work again . Hang in their L-kun, we'll be back again soon. 

Seriously, it's never easy, whether it's Japan or in the nicer parts of the South Australian regions, to be able to catch up with grandparents when you want to. Our lives are  so full these days with the things that we think matter... only to forget those things that do. Those lessons begin when you're young, and we thank L-kun for being such a good teacher.

And for the last word on the subject, I bring you L-kun... even if he wants to sing it a tad bit too fast.

And it's mystery to us why he called out Obasan (auntie), but we think that's just the cheeky kind of child he is. Cheeky L-kun!

Grandpa, tanjoubi omedetou gozimasu (Happy Birthday).

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Botanic Garden Pt 1... The Return Visit

October 31, 2008 - I described a visit to the Adelaide Botanic Gardens a while ago... and I mentioned that the rose garden had not come into bloom. Well at the end of October (actually, Halloween) I returned there by myself to quickly to have a look around. These will be the last series of the Botanic Gardens for a while (this is after all not a blog about gardens)... but I have to say that the gardens are one of our favourite places in Adelaide, so please indulge me (and my camera).

The Botanic Gardens can be approached from the Adelaide Zoo side (along Plane Tree Drive) - and one of the best parts about this approach is the grand old (plane) trees.

Who knows how old these majestic trees are - well, I can guess that they didn't pre-date English settlement, so that most probably caps it around 170 years.... Still, they look like they've been here most of those.

The winter leaf litter still remains on the ground. These trees don't always look friendly - but sometimes they cast a somewhat threatening shadow across the park. It was Halloween after all....

Of course, inside the park, things tend towards the nice and bright and cheerful. Looking at some of the other plants that you can find in bloom at this time (late October/November)...

It's not all about the plants, but sometimes about those designs of humankind that catch the eye. Both the new structures (which we saw before)...

And the old...  

The good thing about the gardens is that each month of the year there's something different to look at, something more to notice. In that way, they're kind of like children growing up. No sooner do you think you understand them... they go and do something else. It's a path that's  always inviting you down, to take you into   magical possibilities...

And the next post will be about the rose garden itself.... Hope you'll join me.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Mount Lofty Botanic Gardens... Spring-time Fun

10th October, 2010 - Mount Lofty is the highest "mountain" near Adelaide, at 727m in height, it's not going to win any awards for altitude. However, at this altitude, there is a marked difference in the climate, and a number of different plants and trees (especially of European lineage) are much more easily grown in this more moderate environement. 

Mount Lofty Botanic Gardens is a part of the Botanic Gardens that we visited earlier... but about about 17km up into the Adelaide Hills. It's a quick drive up the South Eastern Freeway. Unlike the city location, these gardens were only opened in 1977... very youthful indeed.

View Larger Map

 It's a huge garden, spanning 98 hectares (that a lot of lawn mowing)...and the beauty is that it's free to enter (note that parking is paid, except on Sunday's when it's also free).

The lake is one of the focal points of the garden... not because it's particularly scenic (even with the Black Swans), but because it literally is the frame through which you walk to get to gardens themselves.

As an aside... Europeans had never seen a black swan prior to 1697 here in Australia, and it was not studied scientifically until 1790... indeed prior to this time, such a thing as a black swan was assumed to be an impossible absurdity by the western world. Such was the strength of that view that the foundations of many the Europeans world views were brought into question. The Black Swan Events Concept now describes the  theory that much in life (especially our world changing discoveries) are seemingly both rare and unpredictable - and therefore difficult to anticipate. Seems a lot of trouble over a black coloured swan...

The world that we live in however, is much simpler. Spring comes, flowers bloom. I for one, am happy to be amazed by those things that we take for granted every day.

One of the reasons we were up here was because we wanted to find cherry blossoms (we're just suckers for them I guess). And we had a good idea where to find them... L-kun however had other ideas of how he could amuse himself. Bridge stomping. That' good exercise... just as long as you don't wake the bridge-trolls up.

 Quite a distance in from the carpark you will find this small little gully with quite a few sakura planted as a gift from Japan some 20 years ago. These trees can be found on the way to the rose garden - though it was still too early in the year for the roses. Much of the garden appears reasonably manicured, but this part of the garden is fairly natural. In a way that makes it even more enjoyable for me.

We didn't exactly arrive there at the peak time - but the blossoms were already rapidly  being replaced by the new season's leaves... for which I was a little confused. Most times, plants up in the Hills bloom later due to the cooler weather, but these were blooming almost simultaneously with the ones in our front yard. I wonder if it has more to do with the type of sakura?

And for those observant blog followers out there (all 0.75 of you), you may recognize the following photo from some where.... look up at the top of the blog for a hint.

There were other trees scattered around that were also in bloom (or just finishing)...

Even though it's Spring, the light today was a little strange. This wasn't that late in the afternoon, but th case of the shadows is like a late summer evening. I love this soft yet bright light... if only I knew enough about cameras to know how to capture it.

Spring time is a great time in the garden... always little flower shows along the way.

Along the path that leads around the lilly pond, you can find whole hillsides bathed in the beautiful carpet of bluebells. I can imagine just laying down and drifting off to sleep.

But... there are other paths to tread before we can think about sleeping...

There are two lakes in the gardens, with the smaller one being dedicated to lilies.

However, why we are going this way is to reach the creatively titled Rhododendron Valley... one of my favourite places for flowers in Adelaide. Unfortunately, the Rhodoendron's were not yet in full bloom...but they weren't far off either.

At their peak, the whole valley is festooned with vibrant pinks making for a beautiful sight. I've slightly cheated here and put up a photo that I took back in 2009, which was taken around the same time of year... but it wasn't that easy to photograph the vista.

L-kun came up with a new game today... the "Thinking Chair". And what is involved in the Thinking Chair game. Lots of sitting and lots of thinking. Somehow he's come across the idea of sitting to think (I'm sure a morning cartoon)... but it was quite a hoot to see him staring off into space... lost, apparently, in thought. You have to ask yourself, what does a 3 yo think about?

As you walk around the lily lake, you come to a more large fern garden... with lots of ferns... once again, the higher altitude of the gardens allows many different types of plants to grow well that would otherwise struggle (or just outright die) in Adelaide's dry hot summers.

L-kun found a special rock... he could tell because this rock had writing on it. "Daddy, take a photo of me with the rock", he asked. How could I resist? This is for you L-kun.

It's funny however, that in the heart of Spring that you can find things that remind you of the opposite end of the calendar. Some of the new leaves give a distinct autumnal feel...

And some of the plants seem just out of place altogether. Yet it is these "surprises" that make for a a very enjoyable time to go to the Mount Lofty Botanic Gardens.

Overall, the Mount Lofty Botanic Garden is a great place to get out and commune with nature (at least a more temperate nature than what you'd find on the plains). The gardens are not however very representative of the natural environment around Adelaide. The garden has two major entrances... we normally enter through the lower entrance - and maybe next time we'll have have a look around from the summit side.... but that's for another time.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

OzAsia - Lighting the Night with Lanterns Pt2

Well - it's been a very busy week... I was going to finish off the story of the Moon Lantern Festival earlier, but it's been a bit delayed due to those real-world realities. Now where were we....that's right...

At the end of the parade, and following the fireworks, the lanterns are gathered around the Rotunda for everyone to get a closer look. There were about 30 or so larger "feature" lanterns in total. Each one having a particular theme or country association. Unfortunately the Japanese lantern was not one of the better ones...

There was quite a variety of ideas and implementations. One of my favourites was the gymnast (featured on the top of this post) as she was able to swing on the float which made for a dynamic sight as she was being carried through the crowd.

Some of the floats you could easily work out the influence... for example the anime inspired lantern on the left... but other were less obvious... why was as there a 1940's looking bikini-clad woman straddling a representation of the Festival Centre? Was this some sort of Godzilla-like reference to society being assailed by the uncontrollable forces of nature unleashed by a modern ethics-challenged science? Why don't we ever learn! Why!?!?!

There was a distinct feeling of bringing cultures together... I almost wanted to break out into song at times..."It's a small world after all..." As the focus is very much on school-children in the event, it's nice to see some very positive messages in the designs. The night is definitely about inclusion, and there is a strong sense amongst the crowd of sharing a common experience...

South Australia was for a long time known as the Festival State (and officially still is), a reputation that was built from it's long association with the Festival of the Arts... Back in the 70's in particular, Adelaide could rightfully lay claim to having a special place in the Arts scene within Australia, and we still do grass-roots community-based events very well.

The epicentre of the Festival is Elder Park - which sits alongside the River Torrens in the heart of the city. Adelaide was initially designed by Colonel William Light in the 1830's to be a square mile city-centre located on the banks of the Torrens which was to act as both the water source, and the sewer ( now I could be wrong, but that doesn't sound like such a great plan right there... and indeed cholera outbreaks followed). By the 1880's the river was a bit of a mess "...anything in the guise of a river more ugly than the Torrens would be impossible to either see or describe..." (Anthony Trollope prior to 1880)... they say there's no such thing as bad publicity, but.... In 1881, the existing Torrens Lake (what you see below) was developed through the building of a number of weirs, giving the illusion of a very European river running through the centre of the city, as compared to the small river that actually is normally). Since that time the area has become a beautiful area for families to congregate in the summer months.

Looking west, along the river you see the Entertainment Centre (a poor man's Sydney Opera House) the Hyatt hotel, with the Convention Centre (the low-lying building to the right)... It's not a bad view, but still a little early in the year for romantic walks along the river.

Whilst L-kun loved the lanterns, he enjoyed the overall excitement of being out later than he normally would be... Running around in the cool September night was an opportunity to blow off some steam. Whether that was running around a tree, or rolling down a hill. Actually we were a little lucky that the rain stayed away... a nice change from recent years.
T-chan watches L-kun running through the park

At the end of the day, it's a nice family-friendly festival, especially earlier in the evening. Whilst there's a number of strong asian communities within Adelaide, there's not (with the possible exception of Chinese New Year, and small events such as the Mobara Festival) much community focus on the asian culture in what is still a largely anglo-saxon society. The face of that society has been steadily changing over the last 30 years, and it might be that events such as the OzAsia Festival are a welcome (and somewhat overdue) reflection of that.