Friday, May 22, 2015

The Tale of the Man with his Head in the Wishing Well

The Hand that Gives, Gathers (Sydney May 2015)
Now, as you may have heard me say before, I don't believe there are any ordinary moments, and you've probably read that I don't go searching for the surreal, or quirky or humorous moments either. However, every now and again, I witness something that just calls to me: "I'm surreal, I'm quirky, I'm anything but ordinary". Of course, as to that last one, I see those special things all the time, but stay with me on this one please.

One such surreal moment caught my eye yesterday in the centre of Sydney. A guy with his head down in a fountain. Obviously looking for something? Maybe. I will leave that up to you.

The fountain is actually a wishing well, and the statue of the dog is called The Legend of Islay. Let me quote the inscription (copied from Monuments Australia) so you know what it's about:

 The Legend of Islay
Islay was a favourite pet of Queen Victoria. Whenever he saw the royal mistress he would sit up and beg for a biscuit. He was often sketched and painted both by Queen Victoria and Sir Edwin Landseer, her painting master. The bronze sculpture by Justin Robson was modelled from a sketch drawn by Queen Victoria in 1842. Now over a century later, Islay is begging hopefully for a coin to help deaf and blind children of New South Wales. Islay died 26th April 1844 and buried in Adelaide Cottage, Windsor Castle.
Interesting eh? But, wait, there's more: The dog talks. Yes, a talking dog. And, naturally, someone has put a video online demonstrating him doing just that:

Even more interesting don't you think? The voice belongs to John Laws, the famous and notorious (in the opinion of some) radio shock jock who has been heard on Australian radio for as long as I remember (some might say too long). 

And, for a bit more: There is a stone on the front of the monument that comes from the battlements of Blarney Castle in Ireland. The plaque reads: "Touch the Stone from Blarney Castle, make a wish, and cast a coin".  

A it says above, donations go to the Royal NSW Institute for Deaf and Blind Children (where in a tangential and odd twist my father once worked as what they called the Bursar, or in real terms the manager of the facility).

I find this all fascinating and as a real treasured bonus to my work as a street and social documentary photographer. A surreal moment in a busy little square, that in fact reveals a story. Not necessarily the story we might all be wondering about: What's the guy doing? But an interesting one nonetheless. 

PS The title of the photo is from one of the inscriptions on the monument which you can see is in a number of languages.

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