31 01 2012

Vesuvius looms over the scene of its destruction - the town square at Pompeii

No visit to Pompeii would be complete without visiting the origin of the destruction – the volcano, Mount Vesuvius.

Vesuvius is located approximately 11km from Pompeii and is clearly visible looming over the town from the market square. It is considered to be an active volcano, well over-due another eruption, but currently lies dormant. And lucky too – the very populous city of Naples is also on the slopes and adjacent to Vesuvius.

Pictures of Vesuvius found in the ruins of Pompeii show it to be a pointed mountain with heavy forests all over it. This is taken to indicate that it had probably been dormant for some time prior to its famous 79AD eruption which blew the top off the mountain, gassed and then buried the towns of Pompeii and Herculaneum.

Vesuvius is a volcano inside a volcano. Standing at the top adjacent to the crater, a much larger crater is visible around the edges. Many lava flows from previous centuries are also visible on the slopes as unvegetated areas.

The climb to the top is very steep on soft gravel pathways – not recommended for those with cardio, pulmonary or mobility issues. When we reached the top it started raining – sweet relief for those of us who are extremely unfit (me). The crater itself is cordoned off and is extremely steep, dropping a couple of hundred metres. A small wisp of smoke was rising from one side of the crater, near the top.

one of the plaster replicas at Pompeii. They were gassed, then their bodies encased in ash. When the ashes were dug out about 200 years ago, plaster was poured into the cavities in the ash and replicas of the bodies of humans and animals - and whole families - were found.

view of the City of Naples from the top of Vesuvius. Hope they have an evacuation plan and plenty of warning! The brown area without foliage in the middle of the photo is previous lava flows

detail of the rock inside the crater

vertical crater wall

view of the upper section of the path that winds around Vesuvius - it's steeper than it looks

a wisp of smoke rising from the crater wall

the rim of the outer crater that Vesuvius sits within

this section of the outer crater is known as The Man - because it looks like a face in profile

If you liked this post, you might also like:
A childhood dream (Pompeii)
Sorrento – an after-thought

Life is a beach

30 01 2012

These pictures were taken at Goolwa and Middleton beaches at the end of January 2012 – the end of the summer season. Goolwa and Middleton, and the nearby town of Victor Harbor, are traditional summer holiday places for people from Adelaide. The towns are a combination of retirees (God’s waiting room, as they say) and holiday homes. This is where the “schoolies week” is held in South Australia. Only an hour’s drive from Adelaide, this area is very accessible even for a day-trip, and is often a couple of degrees cooler – very important in an Australian summer.

wild weather

leave nothing but footprints (which are quickly washed away)

swim between the flags

jumping off the rocks into the surf

rocky island

surf school

dog chasing ball

where are the chips? Being held hostage in the car by a flock of seagulls....

If you liked this post, you might also like At the edge of the ocean

At the edge of the ocean…

29 01 2012

at the water's edge

ripples in the sand

As a child I had a horror of seaweed. I would never go into the ocean if there was any seaweed around – I refused to walk through it, fearing it would wrap around my ankles – or worse, there would be a crab hiding in it to pinch my toes. I have a vague memory of that actually happening which might have started my concern – but I might have invented that memory!

However, seaweed on the beach – before it dries out into rotting smelling brown mounds, is actually quite fascinating – interesting colours, textures and forms. These were taken at Goolwa and Middleton in South Australia.

an abstract sandcastle made by someone before we arrived

another abstract sandcastle with what appeared to be a pelvic bone of a small animal on top of it

a naturally orange sponge

the brown seaweed at the bottom of the picture looks like swordfish blades

a shell

underside of same shell

a dinosaur nest! of sponges

a jellyfish

a natural "smiley face"

If you liked this post, you might also like Life is a beach


28 01 2012

magnificent golden gates shining in the morning sun

What visit to Paris would be complete without a trip to Versailles. A short train trip from central Paris, Versaille is of course famously the former residence of Queen Marie-Antoinette.

The queues to get into Versailles were phenomenally long and move incredibly slowly – and we had already purchased our tickets in a small shop in the adjacent town. I won’t bore you with the pictures of cobblestones, pigeons, and the queue, all taken as we tried to maintain enthusiasm as we waited to get in. You are never alone in Versailles – a sentiment I believe shared by Marie-Antoinette!

But Versailles is definitely worth the wait. It is grand – gilded and carved marble relief, the ceilings painted with spectacular tableaux. The sharp edges of the marble staircase are worn smooth and rounded, from the feet of many traipsing up and down inspecting the rooms – it would be interesting to know how much of the wear is from tourists and how much already existed. The rooms are set up as they were in the times of Royalty with amazing furniture.

The gardens are also magnificent. Neatly manicured forests, geometrically perfectly clipped hedges, vast reflecting ponds, fountains with elaborate statues. And of course Grand Trianon and Petit Trianon, the private houses of the King and Queen, also set in the gardens. Much smaller and much less gilded and gaudy, they are none-the-less, still luxurious and beautiful.

If you would like more information on Versailles, and some fabulous photographs without tourists in them (!) I can recommend the following books:



The Palace of Versailles

main entrance

queues waiting in the courtyard entrance

Room of Thrones

Hall of Mirrors

ceiling detail

ceiling detail

Napoleon's throne

gilded detail of the roof

Grand Trianon

Petit Trianon - Marie-Antoinette's favourite

courtyard inside Petit Trianon


Folly at Petit Trianon

If you liked this post you might also like some more posts from France…..
Arrival in Paris
Caves of Lascaux
Notre Dame
French menus
Standing Stones of Carnac
Les Grottos en France
The Louvre
Eiffel Tower (Tour Eiffel)
Streets of Paris
Arc de Triomphe
Napoleon’s Tomb
Galeries Lafayette

Galeries Lafayette

27 01 2012

taken from the cafeteria - much more an Opera House than a shop

When in Paris…, shop, shop!

But Galeries Lafayette is not any normal shop. Set in what appears to be a former Opera House, it is spectacular – worth visiting just to gape! The shop is laid out around a central staged area which looks upwards to a spectacular domed glass ceiling. Each floor has gilded arches looking out into the central space, each detailed as you would expect in an Opera House.

The shop itself has a huge range of top designers – not great if you are anything above the slim sizings of Parisian women. But great to look at – and handbags, scarves and makeup fit anyone!

I had lunch on the second or third floor, sitting in one of the domed arches watching the shoppers on the ground floor and admiring the architecture, as I ate my baguette and macaroon, and drank my cafe au lait.

In the end I didn’t buy much – I bought more in their second store which is situated underneath the Tour Montparnasse (look up – it is the only high-rise building in central Paris). A backpack-style handbag that was very useful for travelling, and a purse that I get comments on all the time. Do I tire of saying “I bought it in Paris”? Not at all! I did end up buying some soft suede shoes and some silky socks for my poor over-worked tourist feet, which somehow never recovered from the shock of suddenly spending entire days walking.

The other really notable thing about Galeries Lafayette is that they provide free maps of central Paris with all the major tourist attractions and the metro marked, as well as their stores. These are available at Charles de Gaulle Airport and many metro and train stations.

Galleries Lafayette is available online. For the tourist, they have a section in the basement where you can organise your paperwork to claim your duty-free allowance back.

ground floor makeup area with the iconic interlocked Cs for Chanel, overlooked by the golden arches (real golden arches, not the multinational) and the glass ceiling

the domed glass ceiling - the camera can't catch how spectacular this is

If you liked this post you might also like some more posts from France…..
Arrival in Paris
Caves of Lascaux
Notre Dame
French menus
Standing Stones of Carnac
Les Grottos en France
The Louvre
Eiffel Tower (Tour Eiffel)
Streets of Paris
Arc de Triomphe
Napoleon’s Tomb

Things you no longer list on your resume

22 01 2012

photo credit: Valeriana Solaris

I started working at age 18 in the mid-1980s, in the age just before computers. I remember working at a desk that did not have a computer on it. One of my jobs involved coding A4 pieces of paper with pay deductions. These papers were then sent off somewhere else to be coded into a giant warehouse computer which managed the pay section for this government department.

In the same office was a typing pool. This was a room of exclusively women, in a sort of hot-house environment. The lighting was just-so. The desks and chairs were all just-so. Every hour they all stood up and did stretching exercises, focussing particularly on their necks, shoulders and wrists. If you needed a letter typed you wrote it out long-hand and sent it into the typing pool. It then came out and you proofread it. If it was OK, then you signed it and sent it (snail mail). Of there were errors, you sent it back to be typed again. You made sure your letters were well-drafted before they went to the typing pool as you didn’t want several drafts going through this long drawn-out process.

And consequently, you probably received about five to eight letters a day and the turn-around for each letter was a few days. For those letters requiring a decision, you probably made three to five decisions a day.

Compare to today when I might received between 80 to 150 emails a day. Some are trivia (people saying “thanks” or acknowledging a previous email – “thanks”. But even so, the number of decisions and responses has gone up exponentially, and the turn-around has dramatically decreased.

However, I digress. This posting was about the sorts of things that you used to include in your (brief) resume – which would be bizarre if not unintelligible and irrelevant to today’s employer. For this list, assume an office-based job, particularly at the entry-level.

1. Ability to operate a photocopier. (Of course the ability to repair a photocopier on the run is still a desirable skill, but probably not worth putting in your resume unless you are applying fora job with Xerox.)

2. Ability to operate a fax machine. This was once a skill – these newfangled office machines! As was loading the thermal-imaging paper that faded after a few years, destroying all corporate records.

3. Ability to operate a Roneo-copier. This was a great machine that ran off carbon paper. I distinctly remember these at school – the teacher would write out lesson sheets or tests in long-hand (and they had to write neatly then! And remember how to spell the words correctly!) which were then printed on the Roneo by cranking a handle, which turned a cylinder and pressed the carbon paper against sheets of paper. Ker-chunk, ker-chunk. Ker-chunk, ker-chunk.

4. Job applications used to be written by hand – your best cursive. Most of us never mastered the Copperplate handwriting of our forebears, but our writing had to be neat enough to pass muster for a job application, and the letter had to be perfect. If you made an error, you had to start that sheet of paper again.

5. Ability to take dictation – either in shorthand or using a dictation machine. And no, I don’t mean a tape-recorder. And then the ability to transcribe dictation.

6. Later on, with the wide-spread implementation of desk-top computers, specifying the computer programs you could use – Lotus 1,2,3 leaps to mind – was a specific thing to list in your resume. The more the better. Nowadays it is usually assumed for most office-based jobs that you will be computer-proficient, and most offices use Microsoft. If it is included as a skill it is almost a perfunctory covering off on the basics. But at one stage it was a skill worth listing, something that might give you an edge over someone else.

What else did you used to put on your resume that you wouldn’t dream of including now?

whatever happened to…children’s games

22 01 2012

photo credit Sommer Poquette

Without wanting to sound ancient, today’s children seem unable to entertain themselves without some sort of screen. Or perhaps that is just the children I know, and I am falling victim to hopeless stereotyping. But it seems that the only place that you actually see children running around playing the sorts of games we played when we were young (yes, I know, I sound ancient) is in advertisements for life insurance and mortgages. Both of which are about death.

So here are a few of the games I remember from my childhood which I rarely see played now.

hopscotch – great for balance and coordination

cat’s cradle – a coordination game involving a loop of wool laced around the fingers of both hands to creat patterns

What’s the time, Mr Wolf – participants would sneak up behind the back of Mr Wolf according to the number called out, until Mr Wolf screamed “dinner time” and tried to catch someone before they got back to “home”

All over, Red Rover – another chasing game where participants tried to cross a certain space (for instance a tennis court) without getting caught and being ‘out’

foursquare – very popular at school lunchtime, involved a square court divided into four smaller squares, one child in each square bouncing the ball between each other trying not to get out

skipping – self-explanatory, but do the skipping songs still exist? Tinker, tailor, soldier, sailor, richman, poorman, beggarman, thief….pepper!

marbles – a craze from year 6 – marbles. Each lunchtime entrepreneurial children would set up marbles for other children to try to knock off and “win”. Unsuccessful marbles were forfeited to the “storekeeper”.

yoyo – I vaguely remember World Yoyo champions travelling from school to school demonstrating various tricks – walk the dog, round the world, and who knows what else. I wonder what happened to them – did their careers take off from there? Is there a transferable skill there?

knucklebones – these were plastic replicas of sheep vertebrae (thought I don’t think we actually knew that at the time) which were flicked and caught from the front to the back of the hand and back again. Favoured those with large flat hands who could flick a large number of knucklebones and hence win.

I Spy – Time honoured classic for dementing parents on long car-trips.

Hide and Seek – another self-explanatory one, and a great way to lose a child for an hour or so and gain some peace and quiet….

piggy in the middle – a three person game where the two on either side toss a ball between them trying to keep it away from the “piggy”. If the piggy manages to get the ball, then the person who threw it exchanges places with them.

What other games did you play as a child?