Sunday, December 30, 2007

Hello 2008!

The Night before Christmas

It has been another hectic Christmas with the whole family flying in from various parts of the country to enjoy a bit of holiday frivolity in the land of the Lotus Eaters (or Banana Benders as Queenslanders are more often called) in our tropical North where no one wears anything but shorts. This year after all the travelling, we didn't go overboard on presents, but we did have a lot of family fun with murder mysteries and dressing up and lots of challenges
Things started off well with some sumptuous cooking by my darling daughter which included three desserts and a chocolate cheesecake birthday cake for yours truly. As if that wasn’t bad enough, everyone else took a turn at cooking and tried to outdo each other, so the diet is well and truly down the drain and I’ll be lucky if I ever fit into any of my clothes again.

A fine Christmas Angel

A few nights before Christmas we did the grand tour of Brisbane’s Christmas Lights. The bus driver asked us to lead the carol singing even though we hardly knew more than a few lines of any song between us. Although it was a bit a tacky, there was some genuine Christmas spirit around as young and old turned out and many places had a donation tin supporting various charities. I was also relieved to discover that the radio station sponsoring the competition was offsetting the consumption of all that electricity by buying blocks of green wind power.

Alas, a lot of my Christmas lights pictures turned out like this

This is one of the better ones because the bus actually stopped

We also had a family outing to Dracula’s on the Gold Coast. This was another hilarious evening for reasons which will become clear if I can ever manage to scan the photo. OK the scan isn't great, but you get the idea.

Getting sucked dry at Dracula's where we went for a nice family meal

Since then, things have been a bit more subdued if you count lazing around the pool while being pelted with water canons subdued. While the boys are off making a big splash at “Wet ‘n’ Wild” the rest of us are trying to conserve our energy for New Year. I’m looking forward to reading all the books Santa brought me, soaking my feet in a tub and possibly having a spa with more of Santa’s goodies.

Trying out the Christmas presents

Trying out the Christmas presents

Trying out the Christmas presents

Away in a Manger

Queensland is a great place, especially at this time of year when everything is lush and green and there is a permanent scent of frangipani in the air.

Should I say “Wish you were here?” It is certainly a good start to a New Year.
Have a fabulous one.


Saturday, October 06, 2007

Duck Hunting

At this time of year, it's not uncommon to see lots of baby ducklings around Wrest Point Casino.

Duck Crossing Sign at Wrest Point Casino

Alas, there' s not much happening there today, so I walk on around the Esplanade, past sailing clubs, shipwrights and chandlers....

Past the modest and little known Reserve dedicated to one of Hobart's most famous exports. Perhaps Hobartians are a little embarrassed about some of his exploits ...

To the Sandy Bay Rivulet, where water testers are hard at work.....

Testing the Water at Sandy Bay Rivulet - Chloe, Jess and Tamara

They assure me that this is one of the most polluted creeks in Hobart.

However, the ducks don't seem to mind. Look closely -double click - and you will see lots of baby ducklings. Not bad considering that this is almost the middle of a capital city.

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

What Drought?

Spring is supposedly here and the whole country is in drought, the worst in decades, including large parts of Tasmania except that is, for Hobart, where it rains every time I go out.
Between the showers though, I managed to have a lovely time at the market. I got some fabulous purple ranunculus and some Iceland poppies. Couldn't decide between the two so the stall holder gave me both at a discount. I was also given free shavings of coconut ice since they had run out of my favourite indulgence - and some organic apples.

*By the way, it is now scientifically proven that chocolate is an antidepressant, relieves pain and prevents mood swings (ABC News, 7 p.m. Tuesday, 2/10/07). When I told my son this exciting bit of news. He said, "What? And they needed scientists to prove that?

At home, our pear tree flowered like big wedding cake for a day or two before the blossom was blown around like confetti. The fierce winds also brought down a lot of trees and left five hundred homes without power.

Earlier in the week there was also an enormous fire in our major department store. It closed off the central city streets and much of the shopping district where a lot of shops suffered water damage and couldn't open for weeks. Despite this, there was almost a carnival atmosphere in the city. Strangers talked to each other and there was a sense of the city pulling together in misfortune. Too bad about the historic shop fronts though. I only photographed them a couple of months ago, and now they are gone.

Remains of main Myer building, Liverpool St.

Deserted entrance to Hobart's famous Cat and Fiddle Arcade where shops are closed due to water damage, loss of electricity or risk of falling debris

Exhausted Clean up Workers

Bright flower plantings in the city bring a bit of cheer
In other little known other news from around the globe, I am reliably informed by our man in Mongolia (Hi Ross!) that there's a touch of bubonic plague going around, carried by Marmots, the national barbecue dish. Just stay away from those Marmots and any other warm furry things.

Afternoon with Dick Smith

In my case a bit of Greenhouse Guilt has paid off. After my trips to Hokkaido and Mongolia last year I thought I should contribute a little to the "Save Recherche Bay" fund being promulgated by the Tasmanian Land Conservancy (TLC for short), which buys up land destined for logging to preserve it for future generations.

Recherche Bay has historic connections to Rear Admiral d' Entrecasteau's search for missing fellow Frenchman, La Perouse in 1792 and was probably the first bit of Tasmania ever stepped on by Europeans. The bay is named after his ship and many of the islands and channels and even the Huon River in this area, were named and charted by him.

I know there are many flaws with Carbon Offset Schemes - George Monbiot likens them to pissing over the side when when the ship is sinking, when we should be down in the engine room bailing (, but at least this is an established forest which is already sequestering carbon and one which we can see and visit.

The good news is that this forest is now secure thanks to a huge contribution by Australian entrepeneur, adventurer and now philanthropist, Dick Smith. He and wife Pip were guests of honour at the recent celebration to mark this event, to which we were also invited. It was good to see politicians of all persuasions there too, including Senator Bob Brown, Peg Putt from the Greens and State Labour Environment Minister, David Llewellyn. The state government contributed by waiving extensive stamp duties and formulating management plans.

If you want to know more or support the work of the Tasmanian Land Conservancy, look up their website at

On the subject of air travel, there's a nice quote by Richard Branson on How to become a Millionaire. "Start with a billion and buy an airline."

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Alice in Kettering

Like Alice in Wonderland I stumbled into a strange world at Kettering recently. This is the place where you take the Ferry to Bruny Island and there are some pleasant places round about like Peppermint Bay, which has a great restaurant and Woodbridge, with its narrow crooked road, large old oak trees and quaint shops and vineyards. The road I usually take was closed and I ended up at an almost deserted hotel. Inhabited by strange creatures and mythical beings, it looked like a film set from Lord of the Rings. King Neptune guards the entrance. A mermaid gazes out to sea and wherever you look you come upon intricate sculptures by Swiss Australian sculptor Roland Gabatel.

There's a Griffin grinning from the top of the chimney

Giant Mushrooms lead the way to the door

Entrance to the Oyster Cove Hotel. There are interesting sculptures inside too

The mermaid's view from the verandah

An exhuberant Merlin rises from a garden bed

Strange creatures and mythical beings - even the green man is here

Octopus and Fish

Tweedle Dee and Tweedle Dum in the driveway

The Queen of Hearts emerges from a tree. The White Rabbit, the Cheshire Cat and Alice are nearby

Nat and Tim who made me welcome on a lovely sunny afternoon -Hi Guys!

I don't know about you, but I am not one to haunt museums and galleries. I love my art served this way - a naturalistic setting where it takes you completely by surprise.

Year of the Blood Moon

Dear Friends,
You must be wondering what is going on. Well it seems that my marriage of 24 years is about to end in divorce. This has made everything I was doing pretty meaningless - travel, writing, working overseas, doing up the house etc. and I have been miserable since June. It felt like someone had died. I think it was me.
Now, after the coldest winter ever it is time to move on.

For the last couple of weeks I have been in the nation's capital to see how the other half lives. On the surface Canberra is all public servants, anonymous high security apartments and tree -lined streets (the City of Masan in Korea is modelled on it), but every now and then you get a glimpse of what lies underneath. It's very international and restaurants of every persuasion outnumber every other kind of business at the rate of about twenty to one. I am not surprised that my son has been putting on weight. The rest seem to be delis and kitchen shops, although the clothes and bookshops are pretty good too.

This is a rare Chair Tree seen only in Canberra

In the main shopping centre a man is playing a grand piano and I am treated to a free facial and manicure. After a pleasant afternoon barbie at Tom's for visiting Mums, there's a round of pubs and nightclubs including the aptly named and eclectic Phoenix. There is even a genuine Irish pub here (not your O'Malley's or Bridie O' Reilly's) called Filthy Mc Fadden's though I have yet to visit this one. Afterwards we dance until dawn.

Back out in the mall there are four drummers hard at work and even the police seem to have a spring in their step. A green rabbit bops by, then a bevvy of middle -aged school girls and a few goths. Pub crawlers from the uni and a troupe in kilts with blue woad on their eyebrows, presumably after Wallace or some other ancient Scottish hero, come next. Canberrans do know how to make their own fun.
My son has just come from a Come As You Aren't party where their favourite goth (Hi Adelle!) came as a cheerleader and the very proper German exchange student came as a goth. Said son, now a business analyst, came as an Arts student with a McDonald's application in his pocket. It is strange to see him heading off in the morning in a suit and tie and a business shirt freshly ironed by his own hand. His friends down here would never believe this.

There is also a top uni here with lots of international students at the leading edge of their discipline and lots of very cheap drinks. It's seems a shame to be sitting here drinking (mine only cost me a four leaf clover) when we could be out there changing the world. Still I get to speak French and German alternately and meet two astrophysicists named Wolfgang in one evening. There's also a lovely girl who drapes herself around me and tells me how much she likes older women. As I head home to recuperate, I am terrified of losing the dogtag for the electronic entry. It would probably take a swat team to get in without it.
Meanwhile, the party kicks on without me at the Rugby Club which is televising the France versus Argentina match, followed by a breakfast of bacon and eggs. Too bad France loses, as it's the last night for one of our French friends. They say goodbye as they carry son home at seven in the morning on their way to the airport. Sorry, no pics to protect the guilty. At sunrise, two magnificent hot air balloons glide by. They look so near you could almost touch them.

On Sunday we go to the local market where we stuff ourselves on generous free samples - relish, dukkah and wonderful loaves and dips. There's lots of other stuff to do here too. It is sort of a political fun park - Parliament House tours, old and new, the War Memorial, the National Gallery, lavish embassies, the observatories and the Floriade Festival, but we did most of those last time so I am happy just wandering about - there's lots of green space and the cherry blossoms are coming out. Some of my excursions are involuntary. Canberrans are a bit secretive about street signs and it's really easy to get lost. They also have a really curious cab service here which claims to operate on voice recognition. "Did you say Blogsville? " and drives people mad.

On the 28th, like hundreds of others, we walk alongside Lake Burley Griffin to watch the spectacular Lunar eclipse though the photo doesn't do it justice. There's almost always a big sky in Canberra - it was built inland in open paddocks and that is why there are so many observatories in this area. Although the days are mostly sunny now, it is still freezing at night and it seems that I am wearing my entire wardrobe.

Cheeky King Parrots seen on the way to the shops (me not them).

For the totally desperate there is always the telly. Coming from Tassie, I am mildly shocked to see all the ads for escorts and images of women waggling their body parts at me during prime time. Canberra is known as the porn capital of Australia. It is vaguely confronting too, when the belly dancer in a Turkish Restaurant dances vigorously at our table. It's hard to know where to look. I hope I am not turning into a prude.
In some ways Canberra reminds me of Victorian England (not that I was present) - all prisitine and respectable on the surface, yet with a thriving sex trade and more prostitutes per head of population than at any other time in England's history. No politicians in sight though. This is a bit surprising given that we are about to have an election. They must be all out in the provinces kissing babies and making promises.

Thanks for having me everyone! I had a great time.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

The sun is shining for the first time in months...

Rosellas in the Garden

Juvenile Molly Hawk at the tip

The birds are coming back.....

The First Blossom

Hang in there folks... It's almost spring