Gang-gang. Native ducklings seen doing 'training laps' at Dickson Pool.
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Gang-gang. Native ducklings seen doing 'training laps' at Dickson Pool.

We love to report the ways in which bush and metropolis trespass across each others' boundaries in this Bush Capital and now Graham Smith sends us this picture (wittily entitled "Lap Legends") he took at Dickson Pool early on Friday morning.

The ducks are native Maned Ducks (aka as Wood Ducks).

Ducks at Dickson Pool

Ducks at Dickson PoolCredit:Graham Smith

"Such a Canberra scene," he rejoices.

"It was a very funny incident. I'm probably not meant to take photos in the pool area but this was too funny not to. I helped get the ducklings out and was attacked by the mother duck."

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NFSA's art deco platypus.

NFSA's art deco platypus.

And from that item with a whiff of chlorine about it this fragrant column segues effortlessly to an item with a complex nose. It offers hints of pink peppercorn, of Turkish rose petals, of raspberries and perhaps even of rhubarb.

Loyal readers will know that this column is sharing with the admirable truth-fixated blog Honest History http://honesthistory.net.au our horror at news of Swedish fragrancemonger Byredo. It has created, to cash in on Great War Centenary commemorations, a fragrance called Rose of No Man's Land.

Byredo is echoing the Great War ditty that praised the saintly Red Cross nurses at the front as The Roses of No-Man's Land.

Byredo says its new scent honours these nurses but sceptics alert to commercial exploitations of the war's commemoration are scathing.

Byredo's enticing Rose of No Man's Land

Byredo's enticing Rose of No Man's Land

Historian Carolyn Holbrook, learning of this perfume with its no man's land theme, has gasped to Honest History that "I wonder what it smells of – rotting human bodies (the most potent scent in no man's land), open latrines, cordite?"

But Byredo testifies that, no, Rose of No Man's Land boasts "Turkish rose petals and a radiant chord of raspberry".

Seething Honest History (choosing to call the perfume Trench Pong) has challenged Byredo to withdraw the product but, like us, is finding Byredo shy and secretive and hard to wring a response from. We have invited Byredo's media elves to comment on the controversy but so far in vain.

Now we (and Honest History too) have invited Byredo to give itself a pat on the back by confirming a throwaway remark in the fragrance blog Now Smell This! There "Jessica" (who sounds as if she has a sophisticated nose) gives Rose of No Man's Land a cerebral review. Then she notes in passing "A portion of Rose of No Man's Land's global profits will be donated to the Swedish division of Doctors Without Borders/Medecins Sans Frontieres, as an appreciation for today's medical caregivers in war-torn regions."

Sceptical Honest History seems to suspect that Byredo may only have come up with this placatory idea after it realised how on-the-nose its new product is.

Probingly, investigatively, Walkley-seekingly, we are begging Byredo for comment, but suspect we will have to go to Sweden at Fairfax Media's expense to knock on the secretive corporation's door.

Meanwhile "Jessica" is sure that, as well as all the nuances of Rose of No Man's Land that Byredo boasts of, she can detect as well hints of rhubarb and of green grass. We cannot wait, should someone buy us the fragrance for Christmas (it costs more than $A200 a little bottle), to see if "Jessica" is right.

When we are given it for Christmas we will wear it to the Palace Electric cinema at New Acton where we were on Sunday night, for the time being only smelling of mere (but uncontroversial) Instinct by David Beckham.

We mention Sunday's excursion so as to lead into a subject opened in last Friday's column. We invited readers to nominate fine "useless" Canberra buildings, using Edmund Capon's stimulating notion of "uselessness" in design and architecture.

In this Wednesday's annual Griffin Lecture at the National Press Club he is going to list his choice of 10 of the world's greatest buildings. Each of them, he will tease, is in its way "useless". By that he means that it boasts some flair and weird wonderfulness in its looks over and beyond the dictates of mere function. Each of his choices (they include the Sydney Opera House, Bilbao's Guggenheim Museum, and the Taj Mahal) is surprising to behold.

Does Canberra have, yet, any brilliantly useless buildings? Overwhelmingly our big edifices (think of the High Court, the ANU's School of Music, Woden's towering slab of the Sky Plaza) are depressingly plain and useful-looking.

We can only think of a few praiseworthily useless Canberra buildings and coincidentally we had a meaningful interface with one of them on Sunday night. We had just left the bright lights of New Acton and were walking towards the National Film and Sound Archive in what would have been total darkness but for the fact that a terrific electrical storm was daubing the sky with lightning. Lit from behind by this the already spookily strange archive (once upon a time the Institute of Anatomy) looked like an Art Deco/Stripped Classical version of windswept, forbidding Wuthering Heights.

The building is captivatingly useless in that there was no need for it to have the looks and decorations it has just to house a collection of anatomical objects. It could have been as plain as a barn. As it is though, it has some character-giving embellishments without, and, especially, within, including walls decorated with the face masks/busts of great scientists and one ceiling pointlessly, joyously dominated by a useless stained glass platypus.



Ian Warden is a columnist for The Canberra Times

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