Yarnbombers hit Currumbin

Yarnbombed pelicans photographed by Gail Rehbein

The Currumbin yarnbombers have struck again. First, it was the beachfront banksia trees that copped it a couple of years ago. Knotty tree trunks covered with colourful threads knitted with naughtiness. Now the creekside pelicans have been hit. I rode over there on my bike to take a closer look.

Yarnbombers take to the streets and cover objects with knitted or crocheted yarn. Most yarnbombers are women who cloak trees, lampposts, bollards, bicycle racks and hand railings with crazy, colourful patterns of thread. Yarnbombing is playful protest. But the issues embedded in this peaceful activism are serious.

Beautifying bland public spaces, challenging norms about women and their homemaker crafts, and bringing attention to a specific issue, can set the yarnbombers knitting.

In 2013, the Knit Your Revolt Tricycle Gang threaded their yarn around their tricycles and bicycles and took to the streets protesting the assault on civil liberties posed by the Queensland Government’s “anti-bikie” laws. (These laws made it illegal for motorcyclists to ride in groups of three or more.) In July 2017, Knitfest knitters and crocheters will be yarn bombing the small rural town of Maleny in support of refugees seeking a new life in Australia. The focal point will be a very large tree where yarnbombing will reflect the idea of ‘Safe Harbour’.

However, yarnbombers are not always so public in their intentions. For some, being the anonymous yarnbomber, secretly spinning their threads to cover public objects, often under the cover of dark, taking the risk to engage in some public naughtiness, is part of the yarnbomber ethic. And it looks like this variety of anonymous yarnbombers have visited our creekside pelicans.

In 2004, after the annual Swell Sculpture Festival, eleven pelican sculptures were installed beside Currumbin Creek. Each sculpture sits atop a timber post and portrays a pelican composed with machinery parts. Since last week, the pelicans have been wearing knitted hats and scarves!

After quizzical looks subside, a local whodunit emerges. Who is the pelican yarnbomber? This, I admit, is one mystery I hope stays unsolved. The more interesting question is: ‘why?’

We can only guess at the yarnbomber’s motivations and message but if it’s something like looking after our local pelicans, the fish they eat, the waterways they swim in, then the yarnbombers have won my respect. But then, maybe it’s just a little reminder to rug up for winter. Either way, I’m happy to see our yarnbombed pelicans as I pedal by.

Yarnbombed pelicans photographed by Gail RehbeinYarnbombed pelicans photographed by Gail RehbeinYarnbombed pelicans photographed by Gail RehbeinYarnbombed pelicans photographed by Gail RehbeinYarnbombed pelicans photographed by Gail RehbeinYarnbombed pelicans photographed by Gail RehbeinIMG_9819Yarnbombed pelicans photographed by Gail Rehbein

Yarnbombed pelicans photographed by Gail RehbeinThanks to:

  • The Conversation for unravelling some of the mysteries of yarnbombing,
  • Artist, Richard Moffatt for The Pelicans, a wonderful piece of public art that is much enjoyed; and
  • Our mysterious yarnbombers.

Lamenting little fences

Fences have become tall. Too tall. There was a time when fences were built small. I’m sure you’ve seen one. It might be timber, palings painted white or uprights strung with a criss-cross of wire. Little fences are sometimes brick, three hands high, punctuated by small turrets with one housing a letter box. Sometimes a little fence marries a garden. Sometimes a garden is simply enough on its own.

As I ride, I look around. Where fences are small, my eye has space to stretch. There is depth where near and far, light and shade, short and tall, mingle into a complex celebration of the ordinary. The view is not always beautiful but it’s often interesting; more interesting than a six-foot fence that funnels life into a narrow view.

I lament the passing of little fences where lives lay open and front yards ran free.

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Afterword…

I wrote these observations some weeks ago. Since then, I’ve been collecting photographs of little fences seen on my regular rides. Compiling a collection of photos was an interesting experience.

I found quite a few little beach bungalows with their low-rise fences retained. I was encouraged to see them. However, I found myself experiencing a peculiar paradox. Stopping to take photos on the footpath of my bike in front of the fence, I became very aware of the resident’s privacy. I didn’t want to cross any boundaries in capturing images of the little fence. Typically, I directed the camera along the footpath, avoiding the house (unless it was obviously unoccupied). There were some fences I would have loved to photograph but I didn’t even stop because I felt the responsibility of discretion.

In times where large fences are designed to ‘secure’ a property, an irony emerges.

Little fences, where lives lay open and front yards run free, offer a different type of protection, one seeded with respect.

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So, here is my collection of images celebrating little fences. First though, let’s begin with a not-so-little fence.

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A six-foot fence changes the streetscape.

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A small turret housing a letterbox.

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Sometimes a garden marries a little fence.

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Sometimes a garden is simply enough on its own.

The Great Brisbane Bike Ride is an annual event hosted by Bicycle Queensland, a non-profit bicycle advocacy organisation. Last Sunday was my first time riding in the event.

I’ve never been a big event type of person. And truth is, I’m probably still not. However, events like these provide a wonderful opportunity to ride car-free roads, receive right-of-way at intersections being managed by police officers and know that support is nearby if you need it. There’s also something very pleasant about the unspoken shared enjoyment that ripples quietly through the group as we gather and begin to ride.

Pre-dawn, Jane and I drove from the Gold Coast to Brisbane’s West End, with bicycles loaded the night before and a thermos of filter coffee, freshly brewed. The sky was still dark when we parked our car, unpacked the bikes and rode down Montague Road to the starting area.

In the quiet before sunrise, the mood is softer, yet to be touched by the light of day. Sleepy eyes blink. Thoughts sink, not ready to find form. Feeling is served neat with fresh morning air. Birds call. Bicycle wheels click and cleated shoes clack on the bitumen as they walk to the starting line.

Different spokes

The first riders, the speedy ones who will average at least 30kms per hour during the ride, roll under the starting banner at 6.15am. Then the 25-30km/hour riders leave, followed by the below-25km/hour cyclists and then us. We registered for the category designed for women who prefer camaraderie over speed. We must average at least 17km/hour but we can enjoy the view knowing we won’t hold up faster riders. Not that this event is a race. Quite the contrary.

The Great Brisbane Bike Ride is part of Queensland’s Bike Week celebrations and caters for many different bicycle riders. Not only were preferred riding speeds recognised but also distances. Cyclists could choose to ride 10, 40, 75 or 110kms. There was also a family ride for kids. And I saw many different bicycles during my ride; there were racing bikes, mountain bikes, hybrids, electric bikes, recumbents, tandems and even a trike pedalling feverishly in the foothills of Mt. Cootha!

A fresh experience of a familiar city

We chose the 75km ride which included the option to ride up Mt. Cootha, Brisbane’s highest peak with panoramic views. We chose to take the short-cut and I’m glad we did. Brisbane has some hilly suburbs and across our 70-kilometre ride, we climbed 665 metres of elevation. Some of that elevation was clocked climbing Brisbane’s landmark Gateway Bridge. It was very exciting pedalling up the long steady climb and stopping at the top to look out. Of course, the descent was quite a buzz too!

Our ride took us along the Inner City Bypass which was closed to cars for the event, through Paddington, Bardon and to the leafy foothills of Mt. Cootha, past the Brisbane Planetarium, out to Jindalee, and across to Oxley, Sherwood and Tennyson, where we rode past the Queensland Tennis Centre. Then we pedalled around the snaking river through Yeronga, Fairfield, Dutton Park and Highgate Hill to return to Riverside Drive at West End and ride triumphantly under the finish banner.

Four hours and forty-six seconds of riding time plus a handful of stops along the way to eat, see and give the legs a rest. The Great Brisbane Bike Ride took me to places – cycleways, streets and parks – that were new to me. The ride gave me a fresh experience of a familiar city, an enjoyable Sunday morning and a hearty appetite for cycling more.

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Pedalling the long steady climb up the Gateway Bridge.

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At the top of the Gateway Bridge!

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Leafy foothills of Mt. Cootha.

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An important sign to make sure we detoured around Mt. Cootha 🙂 

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Rest stop with water and snacks provided.

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We rode along some brilliant cycleways that are well-networked. 

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A triumphant finish! [Image credit: Race Atlas]

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