Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Four Winds revisited; again.

I write posts for my blog much less frequently than I used to do, but every so often I'm reminded of the benefits of maintaining it. My blog posts mark the rhythms of my life - the events that occur from time to time and that connect me to friends and family. I spent Easter with old friends in the southern coastal town of Bermagui, attending events for the Four Winds music festival. We've all lost count of how many such festivals we've attended, but for me it's now either seven or eight and given that the festival is held only every second Easter, that's a tradition now established for somewhere between twelve or fourteen years.

I've written about the Four Winds twice before, so it's difficult to find new things to say. Forgive me if I repeat myself.

The centre of the festival is two day-long programs of wonderful mainly classical music played in a most beautiful natural amphitheatre.

Blissful. We take wine and pate, cheese and biscuits for snacks and there is usually interesting food for sale for lunch (this year a confit duck burrito with beetroot relish was particularly memorable). Over the years, as well as wonderful performances of the usual classical repertoire, we've been introduced to new composers and unusual and exploratory performance modes. Often, parts of the program have been what might be described as world music.

A new director is appointed every second festival and this year's was the first for Paul Kildea. There was wonderful music, but by the end of the first day we were wondering what had happened to the diversity and unexpectedness that had characterised the best of previous festivals. We were inclined to be a little critical. By lunch time on the second day, however, we were won over by the new approach to the program. It might have been less diverse, but it featured virtuoso performers of admirable skill and range interacting with one another and with young musicians. We saw and heard masterly performances and witnessed the easy and apparently spontaneous collaboration that comes when musicians are at the top of their game.

This year the frogs, whose voices usually accompany the music, were silent, but we had the usual background of birdsong and less usually, flocks of raucous lorikeets and cockatoos.

But that's not all! There's always a cabaret-style performance on the night before the festival begins and this year it was Paul McDermott's 'The Dark Garden' - a mixture of haunting songs sung in McDermott's angelic voice and his offensive, confrontational humour. Puzzling, as I'm sure he intends it to be. And we also had an afternoon and evening of jazz at the Bermagui Wharf with the performers on a moored yacht and an audience in bring-your-own deckchairs. It was magical as the sun set, people chatted quietly, and the music wafted around us.

But even the Four Winds festival itself is not all. Old friends become even older friends as we grow older together. Over time such companionship is easy and much valued. And then there is the beauty of Bermagui itself. It's a long drive from either Sydney or Melbourne (though the drive can be a great opportunity to catch up with friends) and the distance has protected it from much of the development that characterises more easily accessible coastal towns. I particularly like the marshlands at the back of my friends' house with its pathway to the beach.

I'm hoping for many more Four Winds festivals - though it will be interesting to see if I am still writing blog posts in two years' time.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014


After a few nights of waking at 3.00am and feeling chilly I've accepted that it's time to put the doona on the bed. (Wikipedia tells me, by the way, that 'doona' is Australian English for a continental quilt. I've always known that there's a confusing variety of terms for this article, but hadn't realised that 'doona' was distinctively Australian).

With a temperate climate such as Sydney's there are few markers of the transition from one season to another. In late summer the leaves of deciduous trees gradually wither and turn a dirty brown - they don't mark the approach of winter with a glorious display of colour. When I was growing up in an inland town where seasons are more extreme, ANZAC Day (25 April) was the time to pack away your summer clothes and bring out your winter ones. But nowadays, particularly in Sydney, there is not a great difference between clothes you wear in so-called winter and those for summer. Most of my clothes could aptly be described as trans-seasonal.

So, taking the doona from the cupboard, choosing a cover, and snuggling into it at night has a particular significance. Cooler weather (comfortable knitting weather) is on the way and, with great relief, I can bid goodbye for six months or so to summer humidity.

Friday, April 4, 2014

So, what did I buy?

For those of my commenters who wanted to know what I bought at Tangled Yarns...I couldn't resist the saturated colours of the Cascade Forest Hills laceweight:

It's a soft combination of 49% merino and 51% silk. Two skeins is about 1430 metres, so I have plenty to make one of the large shawls that I like so much. (Please don't ask me what pattern I might make. That's a decision too far). I really wanted the vibrant golden yellow, but it had sold out within a week of arrival. Yellow is clearly the colour du jour. Cascade, in a fit of unimagination, number their colours rather than naming them, but I think of this colour as a bright olive green.

I also bought a copy of Interweave's 'Knit Wear'. I suspect it's probably about three years since I last bought a knitting magazine. Ravelry's pattern facility has really undermined the market for such publications. But the magazine has several patterns featuring the boxy shapes I like and that seem to be current. Of course the patterns aren't nearly as attractive at home as they were in the pleasant browsing spaces of 'Tangled Yarns', but I guess that's part of the store's marketing genius.

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Yarn shops

I'm in Brisbane, and yesterday I visited Tangled Yarns. It's the kind of yarn store where you breath a sigh of pleasure as you enter the front door.

It set me wondering just what it is that makes some yarn stores so immediately attractive. There are the obvious things such as a selection of interesting yarns that are updated and changed from time to time. Tangled Yarns certainly meets this criterion, and I was particularly attracted on this visit by a vibrant display of recently arrived Cascade Yarns' 'Forest Hills' - a merino/silk laceweight yarn.

It's also appealing if the yarns are attractively but accessibly arranged. Tangled Yarns is a riot of colour beautifully arranged against a sparking white background. All the yarns invite inspection and touching - the very thing that bricks-and-morter stores have in their favour when compared with the stiff opposition from on-line shopping. The staff are knowledgeable and helpful, but not intrusive if you're browsing. There are lots of knitting magazines for reading, and buttons, bags and other knitting accessories for examination.

But there are two things that I find particularly attractive about this shop. One is the light...natural light that streams through the large shopfront window. Perhaps this is a particularly Brisbane phenomenon, where the natural light is so bright, but it certainly helps in choosing and matching yarn colours. The second is that the shop has lots of chairs. Maybe this is less obvious, but the chairs and their use invite you to linger and to think of the shop as a site of activity, not just commerce. On yesterday's visit there was a small class of people grouped around a table, a couple of people knitting and chatting on the deep, comfortable sofas, and some chairs at a table covered in magazines where I felt able to pause and leaf through (and eventually buy) some of the latest publications. Clearly, a successful store needs to think beyond the most immediate concerns of buying and selling.

On second thoughts, there was a third attractive thing about this shop yesterday - the air conditioning. Buying yarn in 30 degree celsius heat is much more possible with effective air-conditioning!