Friday, April 20, 2007

south by southwest

I threw a tantrum last week that would have done credit to a two-year-old. It was just too much to bear.

With the mouse problem in my place this summer, we've spent weeks using a humane mousetrap to catch and release dozens of mice. They've eaten every piece of chocolate in the house and I have to lock up the bread before I go to bed every night.

So you can imagine how I felt when I discovered my cat had a new hobby: catching mice outside and bringing them into the house alive!

I lost it completely. I ranted and raved while he looked unruffled.

Finally I levelled a finger at him and bellowed "That's it. You're fired!"

The cat yawned.

One saturday recently we took a family trip down the Huon and drove down to Cygnet.

The Cygnet area was first explored by Bruni D'Entrecasteaux who sailed up the Huon River in 1793 and named the narrow bay Port des Cygnes (the Port of Swans) because of the large number of swans he observed in the area.

The first European settlers arrived in 1834. In 1836 orchards were planted and by 1840 Port Cygnet (as it was known at the time) was surveyed and land blocks and streets were laid out. My ancestors arrived there in 1851 and prospered in the apple industry.

We ate lunch in the hotel that my great-grandfather had owned; there's a framed photograph of him in the back bar. Julie was impressed that she got ten different vegetables with the roast. Then we drove around the town while my cousin Winnie told us stories about her childhood. Stopped to photograph the little school where my father was educated during World War I.

Just out of town was the little farmhouse that used to be our family's home. It looks smaller than when I first saw it as a five-year-old, but that's not unusual. The property feels very different because it's no longer surrounded by apple orchards, but it was good to see the house looks smart and well cared for.

There are oak trees just next door, and Julie stopped and filled her pockets with acorns even though I don't think she'll live long enough to grow an oak tree from scratch.

historians' discussion
We had an appointment to see local historian John Dance. He has a house full of memorabilia including a couple of photographs of my grandfather that we hadn't seen before. A few questions produced the unsurprising news that he was in fact a cousin by marriage.

Julie's genealogical research seems to be providing us with a never-ending supply of new cousins. So far two of her oldest friends have turned out to be distant cousins. I guess that isn't surprising on an island like Tasmania -- Iceland has a similar set of circumstances.

The drive there and back was enjoyable. The wooded hills looked as though they had changed little since my grandparents lived there. It didn't take much imagination to picture them making their way through the orchards and down Slab Road to the village of Cygnet, a long way from Hobart on those twisty 19th century roads.

The hills above Cygnet

Collecting old radio shows in the Internet era means you can graze freely through all genres and levels of entertainment, from the most banal comedy to the most engrossing drama.

Even different episodes of the same programme can be notably different.

Take for example episode #152 of DRAGNET 52-05-08 "The big gamble" -- in this one detectives Friday and Lockwood are on the case when a cop is shot during a raid on a gambling club.

Observe the three act structure marked by three differing styles of dialogue - first the detectives are shown in a low-key, almost sympathetic conversation with an informant.

Then after the shooting, the interrogation of a suspect is conducted at a sharp staccato pace, the words being shot out like bullets from a machine gun.

Finally the confrontation with the man whose negligence caused the shooting -- outwardly polite but their words practically drip with disdain.

Much imitated and often the subject of parodies, this is still a show that repays listening.

1 comment:

lightening girl said...

I have a page about apples ( and I've added your blog to this page (in a section with a number of links). I was born in Hobart - the 'apple isle' - and was inspired in writing about apples and that meant Tasmania. If you'd rather I don't link your blog.
please let me know.