3 Basque proverbs & 2 words

Gaua, gogapenen ama: Night is the mother of thought.

Jentalik are/were a race of giants in Basque legend. The word comes from the same Latin root as Gentile, foreigner, with the Basque plural attached, but some think it also attests to a folk memory of the ancient people we now call Neanderthals. In this version, the Basques are descended directly from Cro-Magnon humans who co-existed with Neanderthals on the Iberian Peninsula - and perhaps elsewhere as well - for many thousands of years.

Izena duen guztiak izatea ere badauje: Everything with a name exists.

Our word Centaur may be of Basque origin. Zalzaval = horse-man. Basques say they are descended from Zalvazal. One of the oldest Basque festivals, the Rigodon dance (from erri-goi-doi, meaning City of Heaven), features a man in a horse costume (the Zamalzain, the horse-man) dancing around a cup, variously referred to as the Grail or the entrance to the spirit world. Today, this is a glass of wine.

Nola soinu, hala dautza: Each kind of music calls forth its own kind of dance.


E Pluribus Unum

Walking back down Parnell Street in Strathfield to my car the other evening, I saw a coin glinting on the pavement and picked it up. Not so very far along the same street, I picked up another. The light wasn't good enough for me to see what they were, and even when I came home I had to look at them through a magnifying glass. The first is a small golden 1977 Hong Kong twenty cent piece, with crenallated edges and Queen Bess II on the back. Lot of Chinese live in Strathfield so I guess that explains that. The other turned out to be a 1907 US nickel, with a big Roman V, flanked by wreaths, on one side and Liberty, her face almost effaced, on the reverse. How on earth did that get there, I wonder?


turns out we're all Basques after all

Was fascinated by Dr. Stephen Oppenheimer's Eden in the East: The Drowned Continent of South East Asia, which fed naturally into one of the themes of Luca Antara. His next book, Out of Eden - about the human progress from Africa into the rest of the world - is equally intriguing. Now he's written a third, this time a genetic study of the populations of England, Wales, Scotland and Ireland, sometimes known as the British Isles. I haven't read it yet, but there's a summary of its thesis, by Oppenheimer himself, here. Another link is to the Bradshaw Foundation, which has a world map, called the Journey of Mankind upon which you can view the probable course of that trek out of Africa. Now I'm remembering the way my father looked on his death bed, revealing a profile that seemed undeniably Spanish to me at the time ... but perhaps I should have been thinking - Basque.


day off blues

Adrenaline hangover. Have to make a call but feel disinclined to do so - yet. I decide to drive over to Newtown for cigarettes. The outlets that sell Gadung Garam in the strength I like have narrowed down to three that I know of, two in the City, and this one. Philip's looking for his cat so I tell him she's round at the door of my building. Bitch, he says when I say I spoke to her but she turned her back on me. He goes off rubbing his neuralgic face. In Salisbury Road, some guys (have to be guys .... ) in a hotted up black car are throwing something out the window. As I come up to the corner of Australia Street, I see a brown ovoid arc from the passenger side over the roof towards three girls walking down the footpath. There's a splat!, barely heard. Eggs, then. One of the girls has suffered a direct hit, there's goo all over her face, her bare shoulder, down her arm. O my God ... ! she shouts, seeming more excited than upset. I want to take the number of the black car but it's way down the street now and I'm not going that way, I'm turning. Outside the Courthouse Hotel, a skinny guy in denims and hat is walking his ferret on a lead. The ferret, all ginger and black, hunches its back as it hops along beside him. A woman parked in a no stopping zone opposite the police station runs to her car and climbs in the driver's seat, hardly waiting for her young son to get in the other side. She gives me a getaway grin as she pulls out. I cross two sets of lights, buy my smokes, stroll down King Street a ways, pulling the cellophane from the pack. Two drunks outside the railway station sardonically kitchy-koo a baby in a stroller. The mother ignores them. I cross two more sets of lights. 3000 men from Newtown fought in the Great War says a plaque set in the pavement where I stop to light my cigarette. The hoped-for headspin doesn't come. I must be more addicted than I think. It's hot and I feel lazy and stupid as I wander back to the car. When I come home again, I make the call. Tonight we'll be watching horror movies at six because my friend says she'll be scared afterwards if we do it later. I put Modern Times on the stereo and come through here to write this. The way Bob sings In this earthly domain / Full of disappointment and pain / You'll never see me frown ... almost makes me cry. Yesterday it did but today the memory of those tears makes it impossible to shed them again. Lunchtime already. I have no idea what I want ... unless it's hard boiled eggs.


Wurke and Bills

Have always loved those large format, illustrated histories in which the sparse text is interleaved with images drawn from a wide variety of contemporary sources. The other day I picked up one from the early 1970's, by Max Colwell, called The Journey of Burke and Wills. Among its visual attractions is a number of luminous watercolours by Ludwig Becker, the German polymath who accompanied, and died upon, the doomed expedition. Plus much else besides. The actual account of the trek is fairly abbreviated but includes all the essential detail of that extraordinarily poignant disaster. The only thing I wish was also included is Sidney Nolan's wonderful painting of their departure from Melbourne, which I can't find an image of on the Web either. But this one's pretty good:


hoo dat?

It was the sound of the streets. It still is. I symbolically hear that sound wherever I am.
You hear the sound of the street?
That ethereal twilight light, you know. It’s the sound of the street with the sunrays, the sun shining down at a particular time, on a particular type of building. A particular type of people walking on a particular type of street. It’s an outdoor sound that drifts even into open windows that you can hear. The sound of bells and distant railroad trains and arguments in apartment buildings and the clinking of silverware and knives and forks and beating with leather straps. It’s all—it’s all there. Just lack of a jackhammer, you know.
You mean if a jackhammer were—
Yeah, no jackhammer sounds, no airplane sounds. All pretty natural sounds. It’s water, you know water trickling down a brook. It’s light flowing through the . . .
Late-afternoon light?
No, it’s usually the crack of dawn. Music filters out to me in the crack of dawn.
The “jingle jangle morning”?
Luca Antara, the book, goes to print today. And I go back to work ...


at the wedding : a before & after

From left: Catherine, sister of the groom, Francois, the groom, Katherine, the bride, Martin, brother of the bride, Frances, sister of the bride


Off to NZ tomorrow for about ten days. My sister's wedding, in Havelock North, next Saturday, is the reason for the trip but I'll see a few other people and do a few other things while I'm there. Fly to Wellington, drive to Hawkes Bay, fly to Auckland, fly back here ... will be good to have a change of scene, change of head space, change, change, change, like the ringing of a cash register with empty drawers but good acoustical presence. Was there something else? No, I don't think so. Unless it's this.