2015

I've kept this blog, on and off, since 2006. In 2015 I am also using it to chart daily encounters, images, thoughts and feelings about volcanic basalt/bluestone in Melbourne and Victoria. I plan to write a book provisionally titled Bluestone: An Emotional History, about human uses of and feelings for bluestone.
Suggestions welcome!


Tuesday, May 05, 2015

My Year with Bluestone: Random Stones in a tricky week

I'm still struggling a bit getting my post-trip routines going. In fact, to strike a more personal note, I'm struggling with a number of anxieties at the moment. Hey ho. That's the nature of work and life, and you mostly just have to press on... Worse things happen at sea, etc. etc.

Yesterday I recorded a video interview about this bluestone project for our Centre. I'll notify when it's posted. I didn't think I would have anything to say, and we nearly canceled (still not sleeping particularly well after returning from London last weekend) but found I was able to rabbit on at some length about it. It reminded me of how good it felt when I was blogging daily and could feel the project gathering momentum. It's just that I seem to have rather too many projects on the point of gathering momentum at the moment, so it's easy to feel overwhelmed by everything.

One of the things that is preoccupying me at the moment is the TEDx talk I'm giving in Sydney in a few weeks time, on another topic altogether. I have to strike just the right note and then memorise the talk: quite alien to the way I would normally prepare.

So here's just a snap of a very uneven bluestone laneway. You can see why councils sometimes want to smooth over these laneways with concrete. I am allegorising this photograph to speak for my life at the moment: taking the rough with the smooth...

Monday, May 04, 2015

My Year with Bluestone: Returning home

After two weeks in the UK, and then a week back in Melbourne, battling jetlag and a few other trials, I return to the blog, wondering how I ever managed to blog daily about bluestone for so long, and wondering if I'll be able to pick it up again.

I gave a paper (actually, it had a formal title: "The Brook Lecture in Middle English") from some of my work on a completely different project, on emotions and the face. I did some work in the British Library that helped me refine and re-write an abstract for an essay from another unrelated project, and received a note from an editor of a book in which I have another essay on another topic about some revisions I have to do.

I have also had to think about my teaching plans for second semester and next year.

But if I don't keep this blog going the bluestone project will slip away, so I am determined to keep going if I can. 

Friday, April 10, 2015

My Year with Bluestone: Friday House Blogging (9)

Another short post today (I'm leaving tomorrow; have not finished paper, etc. etc.). A year ago my parents moved to Melbourne. It's taken them a good year to feel settled, I think. But we've just had the delight of being able to walk up to visit them for afternoon tea towards the end of a working-at-home day. My mother had made a cake; we chatted; and then came back to our desks. I'm so glad they live so close now.

Moving was tough, because of leaving good friends behind (about an 80 minute drive away), and because it meant downsizing. But they have done very well. My dad enclosed one end of the garage, too, so he has a study that looks out onto the little landscaped garden; and my mum has her sewing room as before.

In the garden there has been a massive job of landscaping, bringing up huge bluestone boulders from the Merri Creek (we are so close that one day I ran into my father on the creek path: that was a good day!).

Here are the enormous boulders, and the ubiquitous spider plants. The garden is easy to care for (that's another reason why they moved). But I mostly like this garden because the bluestone links our houses, at two points along the Merri Creek.

I'm not sure I'll blog while I'm away. But will definitely be back in two weeks time. 

Thursday, April 09, 2015

My Year with Bluestone: Gothic, not Bluestone Ormond

I was chatting about my bluestone project last night with a friend visiting from Adelaide. "Ormond College is bluestone, isn't it?" she said.

Alas, no, Ormond College (shown here in a rather lovely, but rather old photograph) is a sandstone building. It was designed by Joseph Reed, and built between 1878 and 1881.


So why did she think it was bluestone? We thought it was something about the gothic associations of its style, but I think it might also have something to do with the unhappy associations of this College with a nasty sexual harassment case that was current at one point during her sojourn in Melbourne (of about thirteen years). The affective associations of university architecture, residential colleges and institutional darkness are powerful indeed: no wonder they produced an image of dark bluestone.

Our discussion also made me realise that although bluestone features extensively around the campus — in fountains, ponds, foundations, walkways, etc. — there are no bluestone buildings here. And if not in Melbourne, then probably not in any Australian university (unless I have gone blank and am missing something here). The main stone for universities here mimics the honey-coloured buildings of Oxford and Cambridge. Even Melbourne's old Wilson Hall, destroyed by fire in 1879, and also designed by Joseph Reed, was a sandstone gothic building.

If bluestone is appropriate for houses of worship, why not for houses of learning?



Wednesday, April 08, 2015

My Year with Bluestone: A Little Accommodation

Again, a little post, as it's the week before travelling, and it's always hectic.  On my way to work, I sometimes ride on little informal mounds like these, put down by local residents or commuters to ease the way for a bike from pathway to street. Here are two of the humblest little piles of concrete slurry you could hope to see, easing the way for a car to traverse the bluestone kerb, which has itself been paved over right to the edge, as if someone were icing a cake, rather than allowing the bluestone to be seen as you walk along. But no one was going to disrupt this bluestone kerbing by making a proper driveway. Gorgeous!


Tuesday, April 07, 2015

My Year with Bluestone: Little Gulley

After a rather dry few weeks, it is bucketing down heavily in Melbourne this afternoon. I'm at home on the last day of our Easter break, trying to lock up a paper I'm giving next week, so some shorter bluestone posts over the next little while, I think, as I work on one of my other more medieval projects. I have several loads of washing drying in front of the heater; two cats making a cubby under the sheets; and am still digesting a rare toasty cheesy lunch. On a day like this, water will be rushing down all the bluestone laneways in the city and suburbs and especially down this unusually narrow and deep bluestone waterway between two houses, just down my street.  

I'm often amazed, after quickly snapping pictures like this on my phone, at the amazing patterns that cluster around bluestone. Vertical green corrugated iron: red bricks giving the depth of field here, the new wooden fence and the surprisingly tropical-looking disorder of that plant: is that a monstera deliciosa? (I grew them as a kid and a teenager: perhaps it's time to start with them again?)



Monday, April 06, 2015

My Year with Bluestone: The Real

Sometimes I flatter myself I can tell the difference between "real" bluestone, prised out of the earth, and the fake stuff used for public and private walls and walkways. Sometimes it's more difficult.

This time it's easy. This is a garage of a house not far from my home. The blocks here have the little margin you sometimes see on bluestone blocks...


... but if you were in any doubt about the originality of stone, a quick comparison with the "sandstone" (?) would make it clear: it's the uniformity of the pattern that confirms we are looking at some kind of concrete fabrication. Still, I respect the way the architect has gone for the bluestone at the back, overlooking the bluestone lane. Bluestone in its proper place, in the "service" area of the house!

Friday, April 03, 2015

My Year with Bluestone: Friday House Day (8)

I started Friday House day blogging in the back corner of garden, in the chook shed, and have gradually been moving forward towards the front of the house (though I have sometimes skipped the Friday blog).

But today we go even further backwards, to the bluestone laneway behind the house. It's a gorgeous Melbourne autumn day, and it's very quiet, even close to our main road, because it's Good Friday.  I went round to the laneway to take photos of Joel for an upcoming gig in June (first outing of his new piano trio: a big milestone for a jazz pianist). Like countless other bluestone lanes, this one is used more as a thoroughfare between streets than for access to back gardens. It also has blocks of flats at either end, one with the obligatory "tenants ears only" sign.

So here's the musician in the family, blessedly choosing a bluestone laneway for his promo stills...

Thursday, April 02, 2015

My Year with Bluestone: Research and Collaboration and Tom

On various fronts this week I've been thinking about research collaboration. It's one of my roles for my School this year, to think about how to strengthen and develop research groups, networks and partnerships, so I am starting to map the various forms of collaboration we are involved with, in our School, the Faculty, the University and elsewhere in Australia and internationally.

Our research centre for the history of emotions is all about collaboration (you can download our annual report for last year online here). No longer does the typical humanities scholar work in splendid isolation, though this perhaps still persists as a dream. "If only I could just stay at home and write", we sometimes say.

Today we had a meeting with half our centre and an interlocutor helping us think about possibilities for disseminating our work more broadly, and making connections beyond the usual humanities circles, and it was frankly inspiring to hear about everyone's work. Being part of this Centre keeps me very busy — it's not about having quiet writing time at all — but having this other context to work in and speak to produces a different kind of inspiration, or incentive to work.

And then yesterday I sat with Helen and we nutted out various possibilities for the paper I'm writing for Manchester. Having funded research assistance makes all the difference to my work for the Centre. It makes it possible to work across as many projects as I do. There is a white board in the room where Helen and Anne work with all my deadlines written up there: we regularly meet and update and cross things out as they're done and write up more things to do, and they go off and follow various leads for me. It is superb. But they are also collaborators, in that they are brilliant interlocutors for trying out ideas and following trails down rabbit holes, and reading drafts and telling me when things aren't holding together. Yesterday I sat with Helen  and we spent an hour or so following down some threads that took us from Chaucer to Boethius and Machaut to Petrarch, scrambling across Middle English, Old French, Latin and Old English; and together we made a little map of a tiny nugget of an idea that I will develop over the Easter weekend as I write my talk. So all praise for different forms of collaboration. Helen and Anne are also both doing huge amounts of background work for this bluestone project, which will make it possible to start writing this book in second semester, even though I will be teaching two subjects.

One of my other lovely collaborators is my friend Tom. We had some lovely dinners and outings in the course of our previous collaboration, and we are cooking up another project (and heard some good news about it today). But in the meantime, he boldly took up my invitation to investigate the Bluestone Cafe chain when he was last in New York.  He reports:
So we went to one of the outposts (not the flagship location in the Village—it’s way down at the end of Manhattan and we were in Midtown). There were no pics of Bluestone Lanes, but when I asked why it was called Bluestone Lane, the young woman at the register said she didn’t know (but then asked if I knew—I must have had a knowing smile. To be fair, it was her first day). But the Aussie barista said it was to celebrate all the great coffee that was available on the Bluestone Lanes in Melbourne. Flat White—verdict? Really quite good. There were some promo material. I’ll send it via post.
If you click on the second photo, you can see what an Australian-style cafĂ© menu looks like in New York. The only thing you wouldn't get here in Melbourne is "hot brew"...  And do we use the word "smashed" for avocadoes if we're not talking about Australian breakfasts taking over the world?

 And here is Tom, suffering in the name of my research...



Wednesday, April 01, 2015

My Year with Bluestone: Discreet building on hipster Brunswick St

Brunswick St Fitzroy is now a very hipster place; full of gorgeous little bars, pubs, restaurants, boutiques, specialist shops, perfumeries, bike shops, etc. etc. There are also heaps of bluestone buildings here as Fitzroy, just north-east of the main city blocks, was Melbourne's first suburb. There are lots of great resources, published and on-line, about its buildings. And I'm the first to acknowledge I've not done my basic research here on this building (with others of the buildings I've looked at, there's more available online), but it's a very striking one, on the north-east corner of King William and Brunswick. There's a faded photograph on the State Library website, but no further information about it. Here's the corner view:


It has the appearance of a warehouse, rather than a shop, given the size of the front windows. Or perhaps it was a rooming house of some kind? Here is the view from King William St:
 And a closeup. I believe this building is now the parish office of All Saints Church:

Here's the church itself, further down King William St. There's rather more written about this church and I'll revisit another day:
 And here's a view from the back of the building on Brunswick St: observe the contrast between the ornate street frontage where the 'quarry cut' is actually rougher (i.e. more fancy) than the smoother, less visible back wall.

And a handsome doorway and two fine lions...

The building is surprisingly anonymous as you walk down the street. It doesn't scream "style", as so many other buildings on the street do; nor does it invite you in for a micro-brew. It's turned, institutionally, to the church on the side road, a little historical pocket in this bustling street. More to come another time. I've had a quick look here at the Fitzroy History Society, but need to look at Tony Birch's history of Fitzroy, too.