Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Dodgy bridge

I cross the Isère several times a week by means of this bridge, between Choranche and St-Marcellin, which dates from around 1953.

The bridge is located alongside a small and ancient village named La Sône (derived from the Latin expression for "sonorous water"), which I mentioned in my blog post of 30 June 2009 entitled Weaving machines [display]. Here's another view of the bridge, photographed from the café in the middle of La Sône.

A week or so ago, the bridge was closed for vehicular traffic, for an unspecified period of time. The red and white barrier that you can see in the above photo indicates the place at which an unexpected engineering mishap occurred. Look closely at the following photo, and compare the levels of the road on either side of the concrete pylon.

There's a difference in levels of about a dozen centimeters due to a curious collapse of the main span at that point.

The following closeup photo zooms in on the precise spot where a corner of the span appears to have suddenly dropped.

This incident must have scared shit out of the first driver who hit the bump. I wonder if he stopped to see what had happened, or whether he put his foot down on the accelerator to get the hell off the bridge for fear it might fall into the river. If ever his encounter with the bump had left him with a split second for philosophizing, he might have realized that he was face-to-face with what you could call an existential decision.

Monday, May 30, 2011

Online clothes

For the first time ever, I've just purchased clothes on the Internet. It wasn't such a big deal: just a few quite ordinary T-shirts, some of them black, and the others white. And not particularly expensive.

It might be thought of as a small step for the blogger in front of his Macintosh, but it'll be a huge step for William parading through the village streets wearing sexy T-shirt gear purchased online through La Redoute. If ever I were to obtain any breathtaking visual scoops on this affair, I would of course let you know.

Painted-canvas scroll from Mumbai

When Christine, our daughter Emmanuelle and I were returning from Sydney to Paris in 1969, we stopped over for a couple of days with French friends in Mumbai (then known as Bombay). One of the objects we purchased there—with the help of our hosts: the French commercial attaché and his Breton wife, one of Christine's school friends—was a painted-canvas scroll, 1.25 meters in width and almost 5 meters long. Upon moving into the house at Gamone, I became the guardian of this treasure, since I happened to have three adjacent walls that were disposed in such a way that the entire scroll could be viewed.

If I understand correctly (which I surely don't, because my awareness of Indian culture is on a par with my knowledge of Australian Aboriginal languages and traditions), the images are intended to depict and celebrate the glorious achievements of an ancient maharajah whose forces rode to battle, not only on horses, but also on elephants. This is the fellow in question, at the center of the scroll:

We see him here, elsewhere in the vast scroll, riding in parade on a splendid black steed, surrounded by guardsmen mounted on pale ponies, while a pair of his subjects are applauding as if they were watching the Bastille Day parade in Paris.

Oops, it probably wasn't a parade. The maharajah was no doubt riding into a pitched battle! We see the brave nobleman, in the following segment of the scroll, attacking warriors mounted on an elephant. Just behind our hero, the severed head of a tiger has fallen onto the ground. To the left of the elephant, a little blue man appears to be messing around with brightly-attired women, but I don't know what he's doing, and whose side they're on.

In the following segment, our hero appears to be moving through seaside territory (blue water with white fish), accompanied by exotic beasts that might possibly be multicolored camels.

I'll leave off there, because there are many scenes in the scroll, but my ignorance of what exactly is happening prevents me from acting as an intelligently-plausible guide.

Maybe Christine and I should put this scroll on the market, in the hope that it might interest an expert capable of appreciating it seriously. Meanwhile, the maharajah and his cohorts have been gallivanting around on the wall behind my TV set at Gamone for nearly two decades. I'm ashamed to say, though, that they make so little noise—in spite of the horses, elephants, tigers and camels—that I'm barely aware of their spectacular presence.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

A river and a bridge

My mother’s eldest brother, Eric Walker, liked to point out in his typical loudspoken manner that I was conceived under Bawden’s Bridge, located to the west of Grafton on the Glen Innes Road, some 20 kilometers beyond the home of the Walkers at Waterview.

He never made it clear, though, how he had obtained that trivial piece of knowledge. Besides, I could not understood why he seemed to take pleasure in shouting out this information every now and again. I can imagine a scenario in which Eric (a 29-year-old bachelor nicknamed “Farmer”) had accompanied his 21-year-old sister Kath (my future mother) and her 22-year-old boyfriend Bill Skyvington (my future father) on an excursion to Bawden’s Bridge. Counting nine months backwards from my date of birth, I imagine that the excursion must have taken place around Christmas 1939. Maybe the trip to Bawden’s Bridge was a family outing on the warm afternoon following the traditional midday Christmas dinner of spiced roast chicken, potatoes, pumpkin, steamed pudding and bottled lager. It is perfectly plausible that my future parents, inspired by the balmy atmosphere on the banks of the splendid Orara River, decided to find a secluded shady spot under the lofty span of the bridge where they could make love. Did they realize that Kath’s big brother Eric was spying on them? I shall never know. In any case, Eric was probably not accustomed to seeing live demonstrations of human sexual activities in the environment of the dairy farm at Waterview, and this chance happening starring his young sister must have impressed him greatly.

If anybody were to ask me what I thought of my parents’ choice of Bawden’s Bridge as a place to conceive me (which is not exactly the kind of question that people often ask), I would reply unhesitatingly that it was an excellent decision... although I am aware, of course, that they probably did not really do any explicit choosing. It was the sultry atmosphere and their passion that did the deciding.

The Orara—a tributary of the Clarence—is such a splendid river that one of Australia’s best-known poets, Henry Kendall [1839-1882], even celebrated it. Had my uncle Eric been a lover of poetry (which was not the case), here are verses from Kendall’s poem that he might have recited, in the shadow of the old bridge, while the young lovers went about the task of conceiving me:
The world is round me with its heat,

And toil, and cares that tire;

I cannot with my feeble feet

Climb after my desire.

But, on the lap of lands unseen,

Within a secret zone,

There shine diviner gold and green

Than man has ever known.

And where the silver waters sing

Down hushed and holy dells,

The flower of a celestial Spring —

A tenfold splendour, dwells.

Yea, in my dream of fall and brook

By far sweet forests furled,

I see that light for which I look

In vain through all the world —

The glory of a larger sky

On slopes of hills sublime,

That speak with God and morning, high

Above the ways of Time!

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Giants invade Nantes

A few days ago, in the ancient city of Nantes, on the shores of the Atlantic estuary of the Loire, the citizens discovered—on the square in front of the great 15th-century cathedral—a strange apparition.

A huge block of melting ice contained what appeared to be the dormant form of a giant black dog. Within a few hours, the sun had melted a hole in the ice, and the beast's snout appeared.

By this time, the people of Nantes had heard that the great black dog was named Xolo, and that he came from a mysterious region of Mexico, inhabited by giant creatures. By the end of the afternoon, the dog's entire body had escaped from its tomb of ice, and the disjointed mass was laid to rest on a pile of stuffed bags.

Early the next morning, Xolo woke up in the company of his mistress, Little Girl Giant.

Soon, Xolo and Little Girl Giant were parading through the streets of Nantes, surrounded by noisy throngs of onlookers.

Elsewhere in the city, they met up with another giant, the Peasant.

The street-theatre company behind these spectacular happenings, named Royal de Luxe, was created in Provence by Jean-Luc Courcoult in 1979, but it has been installed in Nantes for the last two decades, and funded by the city.

The Socialist mayor of Nantes, Jean-Marc Cayrault, is excited like a child by all this noise and action, and he's tweeting us constantly about what's happening, and sending out photos.

It's funny, the way we're fascinated by carnival giants. I've often wondered whether there might be some truth about the fabulous biblical stories of the divine giants known as Nephilim, who used to screw our ordinary womenfolk.
In those days as well as later, when the sons of the gods had intercourse with the daughters of mortals and children were born to them, the Nephilim were on the earth; they were the heroes of old, people of renown.
Genesis 6:4

Maybe we recognize the carnival figures as archaic long-lost companions, or maybe even remote ancestors. And who knows: maybe, one of these days, advanced DNA testing will reveal that some of us carry Nephilim genes, putting us in a race apart from ordinary mortals. Now, if I were to follow up those lines of thought, and meditate upon them while smoking grass, maybe I would end up as crazy as a Creationist, ready to jump aboard Noah's Ark.

Voices from Vienna

When I was a student in Sydney, already fascinated by symbolic logic (as I still am), two of my intellectual heroes were the eccentric British lord Bertrand Russell and the equally exotic Viennese philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein.

An English translation of Wittgenstein's Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus can be downloaded today from the Gutenberg website [access]. The philosopher's father, in the industrial context of the Austro-Hungarian empire, was a wealthy iron-and-steel baron—of the Krupp or Rothschild kind. When the dreamy melancholic 24-year-old Ludwig inherited this fortune, he gave some of it away, anonymously, to struggling compatriots such as the poet Rainer Maria Rilke, often mentioned in this blog [display].

At a philosophical level, Russell and Wittgenstein represented the great British tradition of empiricism, based upon the common-sense notion that we learn the truth about the world by looking at events that happen and employing the time-honored technique of inductive reasoning. Now, another Viennese philosopher would soon throw a spanner into the works by demonstrating convincingly that scientific knowledge is certainly not acquired by such an illusory empiricist approach.

Karl Popper proposed that an exceptional scientist succeeds in explaining the universe, not by studying data of a laboratory kind, but through his/her intellect and imagination, maybe while seated alone at a desk in the middle of the night. Subsequently, experimental observations enable the inventor of a scientific theory to determination whether the latter might have flaws in it, in which case the theory would need to be corrected, improved or maybe abandoned, to be replaced one day by a better theory.

Today, there is no doubt not a single serious scientist in the world who wouldn't agree entirely with Popper, who is now considered by many intellectuals as the greatest philosopher of the 20th century. Popper is lauded particularly by the Oxford quantum physicist David Deutsch, author of The Fabric of Reality, mentioned in my blog post of July 2007 entitled Brilliant book [display].

A third Viennese intellectual who would achieve fame in the English-speaking world was Ernst Gombrich, regarded by many as the greatest art historian of the 20th century. Settled in London from 1936, he went on to become a distinguished member of the art establishment. His opus The Story of Art (1950) was the first of a rich series of publications that won him acclaim in academic circles, and led to his being knighted. Gombrich had always been a close friend of his compatriot Popper, and actually played a major role in drawing the attention of the English-speaking world to the Viennese philosopher and helping him to publish The Open Society and Its Enemies (1945).

Back in 1976, I wrote to Ernst Gombrich asking for his advice concerning a writing project on which I was working. In a nutshell, I was wondering whether I might be able to put together a history of the use of the arrow symbol in both science and society. Here are the two pages [click to enlarge] of his friendly reply, in which he alludes to his compatriot Popper:

Let me conclude by a couple of trivial anecdotes concerning Ludwig Wittgenstein.

Some people (but not me) imagine that the education meted out by a fine old school can be a guarantee that students will evolve naturally into fine citizens with noble characters. That's what is meant by nurture. Well, around 1903, 14-year-old Wittgenstein went to a reputed establishment in Linz known as the Realschule. And we have no reasons to deny that the spirit of this school played a part in transforming young Ludwig into the outstanding philosopher that he was to become. But there's a hitch in this thinking. At the same school, Ludwig had a mate, just six days older than himself, named Adolf Hitler.

An Australian author, Kimberley Cornish, has even suggested that the future Fuhrer hated the Jewish boy to such an extent that Wittgenstein symbolized the entire race that would soon enrage the mad dictator, as expressed in his Mein Kampf. Cornish's book is nevertheless controversial, in that there is no firm proof that Wittgenstein and Hitler were aware of one another's identity in that high school of 300 students. There is a school photo in which Hitler certainly appears:

But it has never been confirmed—except, curiously, by the photographic services of the Victorian police in Australia—that the boy whom Cornish has labeled as Wittgenstein is correctly identified. And some critics point out that Wittgenstein and Hitler, although they attended the Realschule at the same time, were never in the same class.

My final anecdote, of a personal nature, was related already in my blog post of July 2008 entitled Danger scale [display], in which I announced with excitement my discovery of the writings of Steven Pinker. Since the Harvard psychologist's book deals with children's acquisition of language, I mentioned a story that had amazed me when I heard it, from an English lady named Elizabeth Anscombe, who happened to be a Catholic friend of my wife's parents in Brittany. Well, I learned later on from my mother-in-law (after the lady's departure, much to my regret) that Elizabeth Anscombe, a professor of philosophy at Cambridge, was in fact one of the world's leading authorities on Wittgenstein. I was terribly frustrated to realize that I had missed out on an opportunity of chatting with Elizabeth Anscombe about Ludwig Wittgenstein (whom she had encountered personally)… but Christine's mother could never have suspected that her Australian son-in-law might be interested in an obscure Viennese philosopher.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Golden nail in the coffin

Today, people in France have been looking at photos of the New York residence where Dominique Strauss-Kahn—widely imagined, up until recently, as our future president—is awaiting the unfolding of the judicial procedures that concern him. For the moment, you can still visit a website with lovely images of the flashy townhouse in question. I wouldn't be surprised if this website were soon removed, however, because this public presentation of a luxurious high-priced Manhattan residence can't be doing DSK a lot of good.

Here in France, these images and the associated real-estate figures will surely constitute a final golden nail in the coffin of DSK's political career. Even the good folk of Sarcelles (the town on the outskirts of Paris where DSK used to be the mayor), who adore him, are unlikely to look upon him in the same way as before, now that they discover his New York lifestyle. French people simply do not like to give their votes to a guy who behaves in such an ostentatious "nouveau riche" style... which is why there has been so much disenchantment concerning Nicolas Sarkozy. Be that as it may, I've put some of the spectacular townhouse photos here, for safekeeping:

I persist in believing that DSK's lawyers are likely to find sufficient evidence to demolish entirely the credibility and claims of "Ophelia", the plaintiff. I've heard rumors, over the last day or so, that she may have been perfectly aware of the identity, reputation and wealth of DSK, and that she attempted naively to use her charms, followed by a rape scenario, to extort money from him. A French media source has suggested explicitly that Strauss-Kahn may have realized rapidly that he was being set up, and that this caused him to react physically in a rather violent fashion. Sex has always been a somewhat "animalistic" activity, and it's not abnormal that a male with his pants down, sensing that he has been led up the garden path, might decide spontaneously to terminate his act in a style that could be described as punishment. [Readers who don't understand immediately the sense and implications of the sentence I've just written should not waste their time trying to figure out what I'm suggesting, because they've probably been fortunate in seeing only the nice romantic side of sex… and good for them!] According to this scenario of events, if "Ophelia" was in such a distraught state when she was found, it was primarily because her scheme backfired in her face (literally). As my rough mates in Grafton used to say: "She got hers."

In the hours that followed the Sofitel incident, as soon as it became known that an important personality was involved in a nasty sex affair, local detective agencies were no doubt already booking their men into the hotel, disguised as randy businessmen, to get the lowdown on what might be available there in the way of sex, along with juicy tidbits of relevant information of all kinds. We outsiders, with our heads full of US crime movies, imagine naively that, in an affair such as this, various smart law officers and lawyers start talking together and discussing what might have happened, and how they might obtain the facts. In reality, though, I would imagine that things happen more rapidly but in a far less telegenic manner. Within a few hours, various detective agencies had probably obtained—through all sorts of experienced professionals, including sleazy operators whenever necessary—a complete in-depth description of everything that had happened, and they were no doubt already marketing their facts and files to certain lawyers, such as those who were finally chosen by DSK.

My guess is that, right from the start, the lawyers Benjamin Brafman and William Taylor were already in possession of explicit evidence enabling them to demonstrate convincingly the thesis, say, of an extortion attempt that was inexpertly disguised in a bungled rape scenario. That's why they've been saying all along that DSK will be acquitted. It's such a clearcut black-and-white situation (no pun intended) that I'm not surprised by DSK's constant "not guilty" attitude. There will, of course, be commentators who'll say that Strauss-Kahn, once he realized that he was in a kind of blackmail situation, should have put his pants back on and calmly phoned the police. I don't agree. To develop this point, I would need to resort to vile language and nasty aspects of fornication. And, since there might be pure-minded youngsters reading my blog, I'll leave off there.

BREAKING NEWS: Strauss-Kahn's lawyers have just sent a letter to the district attorney of New York complaining of information leaks perpetrated, most probably, by Manhattan police officers. We must understand that one of the basic tools exploited by trial lawyers is the capacity to surprise the jury. When the lawyers evoke a trial that would be "equitable", they mean precisely a courtroom ambiance in which they would retain the possibility of impressing members of the jury—indeed, shocking them—with surprising revelations. Apparently the lawyers have a pile of surprises in their bag of tricks, and they obviously don't want to see any dumb cops letting the cat out of the bag.

All the roses at Gamone are blooming

In my garden at Gamone, there are exactly 25 different rose bushes. This morning (probably for the first time ever), all the 25 were blooming… to a greater or lesser extent, of course.

In one square, there are three bushes that I transplanted from odd corners around the house. They certainly appear to be happier here than in their original locations.

The big white bush is thriving particularly well. It's a vigorous shrub variety, whose name I've forgotten, which sprouts out horizontally in the style of ground-cover roses. Here's a closer image:

Its flowers start out as tiny cream-colored buds in large clusters, then they turn white with golden centers, similar to the Lykkefund on the pergola, shown in a recent blog post [display]. Concerning the Lykkefund, I forgot to mention a curious detail: it has no thorns!

The first of the eight square plots in my garden is composed entirely of aromatic herbs. In the center, as in all of the eight plots, there's a lavender shrub, which won't be flowering before summer.

Funnily, when I wander through my garden, I find that the absence of vivid colors in this plot has a soothing effect.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Fitzroy's works of natural art

In my blog post of 11 March 2011 entitled Fitzroy art collector [display], I drew attention to the fact that my dog appears to be a cultivated collector of interesting naturally-occurring wood objects. He's still engaged in this preoccupation, more than ever. Since Fitzroy has now evolved into a powerful animal, accustomed to twilight excursions into remote corners of Gamone Creek, the exceptional objects that he discovers and brings back to the house are becoming more and more sizable and significant.

I refer to them naively, in my inexpert language, as "works of natural art" because these objects appear to have been shaped and textured solely by Nature, with no creative interventions by man or beast. But Fitzroy might not be happy with this terminology, because I have reasons to believe that my dog considers that supernatural cosmic forces of a spiritual kind may have played a role in fashioning the objects that concern him. I would like to glean expert explanations on this vast subject from Fitzroy himself, but he's generally totally enthralled by the delicate handling and contemplation of his precious objects, and prefers not to talk too much about them. He tends to be somewhat elitist, and surely thinks of me as a Philistine. Let's call a spade a spade: Fitzroy's a nice guy, but he's a kind of art snob.

BREAKING NEWS (Thursday midday): My dog seems to be following me (as they say in Internet jargon). No sooner had I started to write this addendum than Fitzroy raced up the stairs, sat down on the floor alongside my desk, and reached up with his left paw and scratched my arm. What I wanted to say was that I had the impression, when I walked outside this morning, that Fitzroy had read the above blog post, and wished to confirm that my opinions were spot on. During the early hours of the morning, he went out on a search expedition and brought back an even bigger stick than the one in the above photo, and laid it down alongside the first one. Then the post woman Martine pulled up, in her little yellow van, and said to me spontaneously (as Fitzroy jumped up on the door of the vehicle to greet her): "I often notice half-burnt sticks in the middle of the road, left there by your little black dog." I really must start looking around for an academy of fine arts (maybe in nearby Provence) that would be prepared to accept my artistically-gifted dog as a student.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011


In my blog post of 16 May 2011 concerning the DSK affair [display], I said that I "smell a rat". I was incapable, though, of being more explicit. No matter how hard I tried to analyze the available facts, they simply didn't "add up" in any plausible fashion. On the one hand, I was unable to formulate any kind of logical demonstration capable of condemning convincingly Dominique Strauss-Kahn as the rapist of an innocent Manhattan chambermaid. But, on the other hand, if Strauss-Kahn were indeed guiltless, then I couldn't understand the logic that would have led to the maid's accusations. Since I could make no headway in grasping the situation and forming hypotheses in my imagination, I had nothing whatsoever to say. So, I've remained silent, but nevertheless highly intrigued, for I'm still convinced that there is indeed a rat in the vicinity, somehow, somewhere… but I've never succeeded in obtaining even a fleeting glimpse of the rodent's shadow, let alone learning how he was being fed, and how he might be caught. I've merely continued to smell the rat's presence, but that's all. No more, no less.

Meanwhile, like countless French spectators of the DSK affair, I've learned a lot about the US legal system. Retrospectively, I'm a little ashamed to have been so ignorant, for so long, in this domain. I imagined naively that I'd obtained a vague understanding of US justice through having watched countless movies, but I now realize that I knew next to nothing about this fascinating aspect of the American way of life. At the same time, I was dismayed to find that many observers were not respecting the presumption of innocence that must prevail concerning DSK, while they were quite happy to respect the presumption that the plaintiff was an innocent young woman who had been the victim of a hideous act of rape.

The other day, I was greatly surprised when I heard that Benjamin Brafman had dared to suggest explicitly to an Israeli newspaper that DSK would probably be acquitted. Surely, the experienced lawyer wouldn't talk that way unless he had good reasons for believing that DSK had been "set up" in one way or another. But how could this possibly be?

As of today, I'm starting to envisage the DSK affair in a clearer light, while assembling the hypothetical fragments of the possible logic of the real events that took place. In my mind, the global situation is now understandable, if not clear. I have the impression that I'm starting to "see" exactly what might have happened up in that hotel suite.

We're in an Agatha Christie situation where there could well be only one single scenario that makes it possible to integrate all the various constraints of which we're more-or-less aware. Obviously, some of these constraints might have been presented incompletely or even erroneously, and there may well be further constraints of which we still know nothing. But we seem to be moving rapidly towards a plausible synthesis of all the known facts.

For the moment, I don't intend to explain how I see things, because I might be totally mistaken, and I'm not keen on making a fool of myself by rash declarations of my beliefs. All I wish to say is that I'm convinced that we're in for a few big surprises, during the coming week or so, and that these surprises will concern primarily the character and behavior of the young woman who continues to be thought of as the presumed victim in this affair. To my mind, that presumption is legitimate, but it is also flimsy, indeed tenuous, because this woman has not yet come out into the glaring lights. When she does, I'm convinced that several surprising facts will start to unfold...

One final point. Sooner or later, to "evaluate" the behavior of a sexually-aroused Strauss-Kahn, commentators will have to abandon language and judgments based upon would-be moral principles. If ever this turned out to be a setup situation organized essentially by the maid (nothing to do with a conspiracy), then even the concept of consensual sex would lose its relevance. From that point on, we would be obliged to speak rather of sexual commerce. And the sole question, then, would be: Was this commerce conducted within acceptable legal bounds? Or were the transactions finally nudged—maybe subtly—into a criminal arena? In that last rhetorical question, it goes without saying that my use of the adjective "criminal"—which has nothing to do with any alleged kind of sexual immorality—is not meant to apply to DSK.

Stray horse

This morning, when I woke up and switched on the computer, I found this stray horse racing across my blog:

It isn't branded, so I don't know where it comes from. But I suspect it belongs to Saltbush Bill.

Bush humor when I was a Waterview kid

This is the cover of a famous Australian weekly magazine, Pix, dated 23 September 1946 (the eve of my 6th birthday). The woman is the US actress Rita Hayworth [1918-1987], and we see from a news heading on the cover that she has just started a "new dance craze". I would imagine that they're referring to the jitterbug, which had been spread throughout the planet (including jazz clubs in the Latin Quarter of Paris) by the American GIs. Pix was a popular photo-journalistic magazine with a huge readership: nearly a million Australians.

At home in Waterview, Pix was regular reading for everybody, along with The Daily Examiner and The Women's Weekly. As a child, I probably wasn't particularly excited about Rita Hayworth and the jitterbug. The item that amused me most of all in Pix was the regular cartoon by Eric Jolliffe, whose specialty was Aussie outback humor… or funny bush drawings, as we would have said. The central personage was a rough rural fellow known as Saltbush Bill, who was always attired in a felt hat and black waistcoat.

Saltbush Bill lived with his large family in an environment that might be thought of as harsh and primitive, where he was perpetually faced with typical bush problems.

To a certain extent, we rural folk at Waterview were probably in mild empathy with Saltbush Bill and his caricatural milieu. Snakes in tree stumps, for example, were an everyday affair… like spiders, heat, dust, flies and backyard lavatories, etc. I hasten to point out, however, that we knew nothing whatsoever (for geographical reasons) of a dimension that was constantly present in Saltbush Bill's universe: the Aborigines, inevitably depicted by Jolliffe—in a way that would be ethically unthinkable today—as incredibly primitive. If ever Saltbush Bill appeared in an urban environment, it was usually a matter of finding solutions to his rural problems. Here, for example, he's dropping in on the local blacksmith:

[Click to enlarge slightly]

The caption is typically banal, since words played a relatively minor role in Jolliffe's work. Saltbush Bill informs the blacksmith that the name of his old horse is Flattery, "because it never gets me anywhere".

PARENTHESIS: I'm intrigued by the construction technique for the post-office roof. I don't recall having seen anything like that in Australia. Apparently the external wooden frame is intended to keep the sheets of corrugated iron in place. As a guess, I would imagine that the purpose of this technique was to avoid the use of nails, since there would have been several obvious advantages in not using nails. First, you didn't need to have a system of solid rafters capable of receiving roof nails. Then you didn't have to puncture the corrugated metal, allowing rain to leak in. Finally, you didn't have to go into town and purchase nails. I would imagine that the external framework was tied together with wire or string. And, if the metal sheets got blown off in a storm, it would have been easy to put them back in place.

Now, just to make it clear that my authentic family environment was only remotely associated with that of Saltbush Bill, here's a photo of my grandfather Charles Walker [1882-1937], attired in a fine Sunday suit and shiny shoes, with a watch chain stretched across his waistcoat, and a cigarette in his left hand:

[Click to enlarge slightly]

As they say in the movies: All characters appearing in Jolliffe's work are fictitious. Any resemblance to real persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental.