Billinudgel, with a population of about 200, used to be a railway town, and although the railway is no longer in use, the pub, which dominates the main street, is still well-patronised. I have been haunted by Billinudgel. One summer long ago my family stopped there en route to Brisbane. My mother was enchanted by the classic country hotel with its wide verandahs and beautiful location, and, although not usually prone to flights of fancy, was so taken with the romanticism of it all that she wanted to stay the night. But I was having none of it. It terrified me and I could not be cajoled. I couldn’t get out of that pub and that town fast enough. As I grew older I used to wonder what it was that had upset me so—I was not habitually temperamental or wilful—and over the years, although my memory of the town faded, the memory of the experience remained strong. On my recent visit to northern NSW I welcomed the opportunity to put old ghosts to rest. Present-day Billindugel is an uninspiring industrial area (albeit surrounded by spectacular countryside) and, on the day I visited, the pub verandah was populated by yahoos. I didn’t know whether to feel sad that whatever charm my mother had responded to had so obviously faded, or vindicated that even as a child I had been right. Oh, and the wild west typeface is a slightly modified Romantiques Regular.
Although this big red Z is building signage it works equally well as urban sculpture. It’s a bold statement, this lightning bolt of red, and the cracks in the backdrop of plasterwork, the steely grey abutting the dirty, gritty off-white, and the hard shadow make the gutsy red metal shape even more dramatic.
Deers were introduced to Sydney’s Royal National Park in 1906. The current population is estimated to be about 1700, and they are considered to be feral pests that are wreaking environmental havoc on a par with cane toads. These road signs appear along the stretch of highway near the entrance to the park, but something has gone awry. Every December (until this year, that is) the signs have sprouted red noses and sleighs for the duration of the silly season, temporarily transforming deer into reindeer, and bringing a dose of humour and good cheer to passing motorists. Altered sign or not, at least the clearway is operational so there’s a good chance that Dancer and Prancer et al (aided by Rudolph) will be able to make their deliveries on time.
There’s not much time left to get your letter to Santa. These days you can submit an online letter and get an instant reply, but that’s just not the same as pen and paper. Australia Post provides instructions whichever way you want to do it, including how to address the envelope (North Pole, postcode 9999, plus, wouldn’t you know it, a 60 cent stamp), and if you live in Australia they promise they will reply. In the United States, USPS has been officially involved with Santa mail since 1912, when Postmaster General Frank Hitchcock authorised postal employees to reply to the letters. In New York, ‘Operation Santa’ responds to more than half a million letters each year. You could post your Santa letter here, in this red pillar box that has been in use in NSW for more than a hundred years. The hinge is showing some wear and tear but the instruction is as clear as ever. Although the typeface looks very much like Trade Gothic, it isn’t: Trade Gothic was designed in 1948, years after this postbox was made. Amazingly, if Australia Post imposed its current sans serif font of choice, Univers, over this century old type style, it wouldn’t look very different.
St Marys Hall
I don’t know what I expect a church hall nameplate to look like, but this spindly metal lettering isn’t it. I like it though — the tall letters attached to a bodgy framework that leaves the first S hanging and the way it looks against the brick background. I like the dangling T, the high crossbar of the A and the short diagonal strokes of the M that make me think of those high-hitched trousers Gary Cooper wore, and the not-very-curvy curve of the R and how the bowl hasn’t quite been wrestled into shape to join the vertical stroke.
I almost missed it, the way it blends into its faded paint and blue sky surroundings. The name Pinkertons is synonymous with detective agency in the way that hoover is synonymous with vacuum cleaner. Allan Pinkerton established his agency in the United States in 1850 and became famous when he claimed to have foiled a plot to assassinate Abraham Lincoln. However this building is most definitely not home to the Pinkerton National Detective Agency. The sign on the door leading upstairs says ‘Pinkertons Optic House’, and there is a locksmith on the ground floor. At a stretch they could relate to spying and lockpicking, but really, it’s a coincidence, and I just liked those pale blue letters and the incongruity of seeing Pinkertons in a small NSW country town.
I love the springiness of this script. It sits so neatly on the baseline — the r and m tidy and straight and the curves of the e and a sitting exactly right. The kerning is less even, and that’s what gives it such personality. The m appears to be pulling away from the a, stretching the line that links them. Or perhaps the m has tugged and then let go, causing a rebound that has the e crashing back into the r and forcing the loop upwards. I can’t decide if the C wants no part of it and has detached itself on purpose or if it couldn’t keep up with the wilful forward movement of the m.
It was noisy last night. The crickets and cicadas, noisy all day, were joined by frogs around dusk. At 9 pm, right on time, the thunk! on the kitchen roof, followed by another thunk! a few minutes later, signalled the arrival of possums at the party. DF Wildlife, designed by David Sagorski for Letraset in 1994, is a collection of all sorts of creatures — insects, reptiles, birds, mammals, dinosaurs — but unfortunately I couldn’t find a cicada (the loudest and most relentless of last night’s menagerie) in the character set. However there is a mosquito, another visitor that featured large in the middle of the night.
It’s the weekend, time to relax a little after a busy week. Put my feet up, have a glass of something, maybe even catch some live music. There’s a jazz lounge near me where the seating comprises plush old sofas and comfy low armchairs in an almost haphazard arrangement. It’s perfect for kicking back and enjoying the show, and I can picture this cool combo there, although they do seem quite at home on this brick wall. I like how the wall is painted black, evoking that low-light nightclub ambience, despite the harsh afternoon sunlight.
The word aperture comes from the Latin apertura, meaning opening, so it follows that, in typography, aperture would refer to an opening in a letter from. Specifically, it is the opening to the partially enclosed negative space (or counter) in characters such as a, c, e, n and s. Apertures can be small or large depending on the typeface. The lower case e of Berkeley Oldstyle Book has a large aperture due to the angle of the horizontal bar, but the e of Bembo Bold has a relatively small aperture. Vectora’s a has a tiny aperture, and while Serifa Light’s is larger, it is still small compared with that of Today Extra Light.