Saturday, March 20, 2010

Putney Punting

I've gone on a fair few cycling expeditions this summer, taking advantage of all my spare time. Maybe it was the perfect weather, or feeling a bit loopy after not sleeping well the previous night, but I decided to go on a last long ride before starting work on Monday. So I made a circuit that included the Putney Punt.

It's a real anachronism - a little cable ferry that carries up to 15 cars across the Parramatta River between Mortlake and Putney. It became totally redundant when the six-lane Gladesville Bridge opened in 1964, only a couple of kilometres downstream, but some sort of heritage order keeps the ferry running. It's even toll-free!

I first cycled to the north side of the river by way of Drummoyne and the Gladesville Bridge, and then made my way across to the ferry's embarkation point. I forgot to bring any sort of map, and received rather vague directions when I asked in Putney, but was lucky enough to find the right headland on my first try. I even had a few minutes to wait for the ferry to leave, and watch a pelican circling overhead.

There was another wildlife moment as I rode home along the shore of Exile Bay. I passed a cormorant swimming almost submerged, with only its head poking out of the water. Then a large fish, about the size of a big carp, leapt out of the water for a second or two. It was as if the birds and the fishes wanted to challenge my ideas about their natural elements!

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Bill Impresses Me All Over Again

I've been reading "The Merchant of Venice" this week, the first time I've read Shakespeare in a while. What really struck home was the way he scatters brilliant asides - clever lines that aren't strictly necessary, but give the audience something to consider in addition to the main plot and themes.

Here are a few examples, just from the first half of one play:
"I can easier teach twenty what were good to be done, than be one of the twenty to follow mine own teaching." I, ii, 16-19
"I like not fair terms and a villain's mind." I, iii, 81
"... For lovers ever run before the clock." II, vi, 4
"All things that are, are with more spirit chased than enjoy'd." II, vi, 12-13
"... I fear you do speak upon the rack, Where men enforced do speak anything." III, ii, 32-33

Other drama sometimes manages this trick, but often the words of wisdom are culturally specific (e.g. "... don't make fun of grad students, they just made a terrible life choice," from The Simpsons). Shakespeare's insights are much more universal.