Seredipitous conjunctions

I always enjoy Claudia McGill’s poems for their quirky nature, none more so than her ‘Little Vines’, which she has been propagating for a number of years.

This one from her recent post reminded me, of one of my all time favourite cartoons by Clement. *

Simpering clams, you said?
No, simmering clams.
Oh. I did wonder how you could tell.

* I think this cartoon dates from the early 1990’s. I have kept it in my recipe book since I cut it out from the newspaper.

“You’re an idiot mate”

The view from my window this morning, or what we can’t see for the smoke.

I thought I might share some of our current experience with the bushfires in Australia. First up, despite the massive smoke pall we are relatively safe, here in Canberra, the nation’s capital. The nearest fire is some 50 kms away, but we are inland from the major fires burning along the southern coast of New South Wales and north of the fires burning in Victoria. The smoke is being pushed into this area by the prevailing winds.

It is horrific to hear of more deaths daily. We are unbelievably grateful to all those volunteers and professional fire-ies (yep, that’s what we call them), not just from Australia, but also from New Zealand, Canada and the USA who have given everything and stepped up. While others, not mentioning names Scott Morrison , Prime Minister, take overseas holidays.

As parliament is currently in recess, most of our politicians, except those dragged back for the security council meeting yesterday, haven’t experienced the smoke that has blanketed this city for the past month. We are on almost a daily basis superseding the hazardous air quality ratings normally associated with cities such as Dehli and Beijing (“Call that a hazardous reading …”).

Earlier this week as we drove back from visiting family interstate. Our final day was just over 400kms from the NSW/Victorian border and we drove through smoke all day.

Seen near Gundagai onThursday, this week driving from Corowa to Canberra.

Yesterday our city broke it’s all time heat record reaching 44° C or 111.2°F.

I, like many people in this city, am on edge because we experienced catastrophic fires in 2003 that left 4 people dead and destroyed 500 houses including a number in this suburb. But, like I say, we are still under no immediate threat.

Yesterday I started sewing pouches and pouch liners for injured and orphaned kangaroos and other native animals. There is not much else we can do as going outside requires particulate face masks and is strongly discouraged.

There has been so much support from people across the country and worldwide, but bugger all from our Federal Government. They were finally shamed into action yesterday, funding 4 fire bombing aircraft, amongst other things. That same request made several months ago by state emergency services, in advance of the fire season, was dismissed out of hand. To rub salt into the wound and demonstrate the level of political manipulation by this Federal Government, having finally been forced into action, they immediately released a Liberal Party advertisement boasting of what they were doing for the country. I am sickened.

If you would like to read a more eloquent assessment of the situation I can do no better than to recommend the opinion piece by Australian writer Richard Flanagan for the New York Times, Australia Is Committing Climate Suicide

The title of this blog comes from a victim of the fires at Cobargo, NSW, one of the comments made to the Prime Minister, when he attempted to “glad hand” local residents (at least this one was printable).


On our walk this evening we spotted this Australian native ground orchid Dipodium punctatum (Hyacinth Orchid).

Hot pink spotted petals in the evening sun.

We are bang smack in the middle of suburbia. Talk about surviving against the odds.

I love the soft pink of the tree trunk (Eucalyptus mannifera or White Brittle Gum) with the bright pink of the orchid.

Just in case there isn’t enough pink already, some of the other E. mannifera planted nearby have even a stronger colour, enhanced here by the low light of the setting sun.

Turner’s blues and a few others

I am currently reading Anthony Bailey’s biography of JMW Turner, Standing in the Sun, (2013 paperback edition). So having just posted about Smalt Blue, I was very interested to read the following lines from Henry Syer Trimmer’s account of Turner’s studio, after Turner’s death, ” … and cobalt to be sure there was, but also several bottles of ultramarine of various depths and smalts of various intensities, of which I think he made great use.” Trimmer goes on to report, “I was told by his housekeeper [Hannah Danby] that ultramarine was employed by him sparingly, and that Smalt and cobalt were his usual blues.” ( pps 87-88).

In this case Trimmer is referring to Turner’s oil paints, rather than his watercolour paints. I am trying to find out whether Turner used the same pigments in his watercolours. It seems quite likely, as it is a matter of selecting the relevant binder for your pigment and ensuring that the particles are ground down to the correct specification that are the key. I need to do some more research!

To give you some idea of the colours Trimmer is referring to, above, I have swatched out the three blues referred to, Ultramarine, Smalt Blue and Cobalt Blue, in watercolours. In addition I have also included three other blues, Indanthrone Blue (AKA Delft Blue), Mayan Blue Genuine and Pthalo Blue (green shade) for comparison.

Most interesting of all these pigments to me is Mayan Blue which, according to Wikipedia is “a composite of organic and inorganic constituents, primarily indigo dyes derived from the leaves of añil (Indigofera suffruticosa) plants combined with palygorskite, a natural clay which, mysteriously, is not known to exist in abundant deposits in Mesoamerica.

Indanthrone Blue, PB 60, also goes by more than one name, including Delft Blue and sometimes indigo blue. I would be wary of using the latter common name as the indigo blues I have looked up on line are made from a varying range of pigments. White Nights Indigo (Nevskya Palitra) is a blend of PBk 7, PB 15 and PV 3; Windsor and Newton Indigo is a blend of PBk 6, PV 19 and PB 15.

When choosing a watercolour to add to your palette the general advice is to select a paint made from a single pigment. This will generally give better results when mixing colours. If you are selecting a multi-pigment paint you are more likely to mix a muddy colour. This is because some of the pigments may work well in the mix and others may not thereby cancelling each other out and making mud.