Sunday, April 30, 2017

Threads - Taming the Fashion Monster

Theme for this year's Fashion Revolution Week
Hello Possums,
Did you know that there was a revolution in progress? Although Fashion Revolution Week ends today, its work is ongoing and its aims are far reaching. Originally begun in memory of the thousands of people -1138 to be precise and most of them young women, who were killed in the Rana Plaza Garment Factory collapse in Bangladesh in 2013, it asks us to consider who makes our clothes – the farmers who grow the cotton, the weavers and spinners, the dyers and the sewers and to consider the conditions under which they work. Most are poorly paid, work long hours and are often exploited.

Last year Fashion Revolution put up a vending machine in Berlin which offered t-shirts for 2 Euros, the catch being that buyers had to watch a video on how they were made. After seeing the video only one in ten prospective buyers bought the t-shirt. The rest made a donation.

This year The Fashion Revolution is urging us to ask companies to be more transparent and accountable about the conditions under which their employees work.While few large clothing manufacturers and retailers have responded to date, a number of smaller operators have recognised that this could give them another selling point and a competitive advantage in an increasingly tight market.

Mona and Margot at work. What are these women up to? Mona is from the Resource Work Co -operative and has put on this workshop on behalf of the Hobart City Council through its Positive Ageing Program
While The Fashion Revolution's main focus has been on the human cost of our clothing, important given that globally some 75 million people are employed in this industry, there are two other aspects of it which I want to touch on briefly. One concerns production and the other disposal.

In the first instance, cheap clothing also comes at a high environmental cost. For example, while cotton growing represents only 2% of agriculture, it consumes 24% of the water. It is generally thought that this high demand for water has contributed to the death of the Aral Sea, once the world's largest body of fresh water and one which previously supported an inland fishery. The large input of chemicals and fertilisers usually required to produce cotton pollutes river systems and groundwater and causes health problems for farm workers and surrounding communities.

 If not grown organically, cotton growing also depletes the soil, requiring more and more inputs and rendering it unsuitable for other crops. Other processes such as dyeing do likewise in urban areas. It is said that the new season’s colours can be readily determined by looking at the rivers in China. The clothing industry also accounts for about 3% of global greenhouse gases - about as much as that produced by 7.3 million cars.  Fortunately many companies – growers,  manufacturers and retailers are forming coalitions such as The Sustainable Apparel Coalition or the worldwide  Organic Cotton Growers Community  and are combining with universities and researchers to reduce their environmental footprint and many of the largest companies are starting to listen.

Choosing colour coordinated fabric strips torn from clean waste clothing

 The big European clothing retailer  H & M for example, is incorporating sustainability throughout its supply chain, beginning with organic cotton, and driving innovation throughout the industry with the aim of becoming Carbon Positive by 2040. It also encourages consumers to conserve and recycle their clothes in various ways including bringing them back to their stores. Since starting this initiative in 2013, they have taken back 39,000 tonnes of clothing for recycling. Although this is a drop in the ocean compared to the 80 billion articles of clothing produced annually, it is important for at least two reasons.

Firstly, currently about 85% of our clothing - yes, even that which we think we are donating to charity shops (Nope, not even poor people or Third World countries want our old clothes when new ones are so cheap), goes to landfill or is incinerated, both of which release toxic chemicals into the soil, water or air. While even garments made of natural fibres release methane and leach dyes and other chemicals as they break down, manmade fibres, which currently make up a higher proportion of our clothing, hardly ever break down, but continue to release micro particles of plastic which ultimately wind up in the food chain.
The H&M program not only keeps them out of landfill, but reprocesses the synthetic component into new materials. The downside however, is that synthetics also shed such particles in the wash. While Stella McCartney offers tips such as washing our clothes less and using lower temperatures to make our clothes last longer and thus less damaging to the planet as part of her Clevercare series, Textilebeat wants us to go much further. It believes we should regard clothing in much the same way many of us are now thinking about food – asking where it was made? How was it produced and what impact does it have on the environment? It says that, just as we have embraced the value of slow food, we should consider the following: "think, quality, natural, local, few, care, make, revive, adapt and salvage.”

The dream.... My sister has been making beautiful rugs out of salvaged materials for years

This brings me to the second concern. Until we can persuade more of the world's clothing manufacturers and retailers to follow H&M’s example, there are several other ways in which we can curb the need for more and more clothing as well as keeping it out of landfill. With respect to making our clothes last longer, there is worldwide interest in reviving some of the traditional skills which were prevalent in households before clothing became so plentiful and cheap. (Poor people, frugal people and sensible people never lost sight of them). Repair cafés are popping up everywhere since they were started by Martine Postma in Amsterdam in 2009. There are currently over 1,000 of them around the world and many do more than just fix clothes.  

 In Australia, Brisbane had the first, Melbourne has at least two, Sydney has one plus a Sew, Make, Create Centre  and there are many other activities which encourage recycling or reuse of textiles such as Preloved Frock Swaps and Trashion Parades, many of them being specifically run to tie in with Fashion Revolution Week. Last year's Trashion parade in Hobart was such a big hit that it will most likely have its own venue this year. If you are interested watch for the details here. Unfashion and refashion are becoming the new fashion.
The reality. I'm thinking that I should try for a pot mitt now. I do need some of those. Margot's turned out really well and I really did have fun, even though I didn't get much done
If you can’t get to one of the cafés or other events, there is a wealth of information on the internet. Just today for example, I found out how to unshrink clothes, not to mention removing all kinds of stains. Of course, if you are the slightest bit crafty, there are any number of sites dedicated to reusing textiles rather than creating more landfill. Here is just one to get you going, beware though - it's a rabbit hole. Once you start looking, you'll be so blown away that you never get around to actually making anything!

Indeed, if even a fraction of the major clothing companies succeed in their efforts to keep textiles out of landfill, the day may come when this marvellous free resource is no longer available, so do it while you can. I went along to a rag rug making event this week. I didn’t achieve much in a 'material' sense, but it was fun making things together and a lovely way to spend a rainy afternoon. Lastly, if you do find yourself having to contemplate the landfill option, in Hobart we do have another alternative - the Rag Van.  This is run by the St. Vincent de Paul charity and will pick up your waste textiles and convert them to rags for industry. My neighbours currently pay dearly for the cleaning rags they use in their coffee shop, as do painters, cleaners, mechanics and the like, so here is a way to help others as well as reducing the amount which presently goes to landfill. If repair cafés, rag vans, clothes swaps or upcycled fashion parades aren't happening near you, now is the time to start them. Yes, I know there are many important issues competing for attention, but this is an easy way to start. On the Revolution!


Friday, April 21, 2017

Dastardly Deeds in Old Hobart Town - Piracy in Tasmania

I suspect that this is a statue of Errol Flynn, Tasmania's most famous 'pirate' having starred in no less than five pirate films - seen in the Hope and Anchor - Tasmania's oldest pub

Argh me hearties! Perhaps it was passing the smuggler's pub in Sandy Bay today, but for some reason I am moved to write about pirates – no, not those who rip videos or those who attack pleasure craft or even oil rigs in the South China Sea, but the old fashioned swashbuckling kind. Though the Tasmanian ones may not have worn cocked hats or had parrots on their shoulders, they were nevertheless a big item in Old Hobart Town. As curator of the Australian Maritime Museum Dr Stephen Gapps wrote in his “Pirate Tales” :

“If there was ever a scourge of piracy in Australian history, it was in Tasmania during the 1820s to 1850s, when Van Diemen’s Land was the repository of the largest number, and many of the most hardened and desperate, of convicts in the colonies. ‘Piratical seizure’ was so prevalent that there was a standing Port Order to Derwent shipping that ‘when moored… sails must be taken off the spars and the ship’s rudder taken ashore.’
The Hope and Anchor located on the corner of Macquarie St and Market Place not far from the docks, contains many maritime treasures

Here are just some of the stories which I have managed to cobble together from various sources. As far back as 1797, the  female convicts aboard the Jane Shorebound for Van Diemen’s Land, sweet -talked their captors into taking them to Brazil instead. In 1813 the Unity was ‘piratically seized” by seven men while she lay at anchor in the harbour off Hobart Town. After cutting the moorings, they released the captain and crew at Cape Frederick, but nothing  is known of the fate of either vessel beyond that. I always thought Pirates Bay, that expansive crescent beach just before Eaglehawk Neck and Port Arthur, was so named because it offered such untrammelled views of the coastline, but it turns out that it is named after the 1822  capture of theSeaflower” by convicts at this site, while her captain was taking on water. Nothing more was heard of the  “Seaflower” or her captors either, who are presumed to have perished at sea. As may be evident from the above, Tasmanian pirates were not so much about stealing booty or attacking other ships, but about finding some means to escape this cursed isle. 

The Riverview Hotel along Sandy Bay Road, near Porter Hill was not so much a pirates' pub but a smugglers' pub . Porter Hill itself is named after the barrels of dark beer which used to be left in the bushes here to be taken in via the back door while patrons drank at the bar
A more heroic tale of survival and incredible feats of seamanship is that of the “Cyprus” taken over by convicts in 1829 as she awaited more favourable weather in Recherche Bay. She was on her way to Sarah Island, that place on the wild west coast, where the most hardened convicts were sent. Eighteen of them took over the ship, and, setting the Captain and some 44 sailors and convicts ashore with ample provisions, they set sail for South America. Nine of their number scarpered on reaching the South Seas and were never heard of again. The rest continued to Tahiti where the weather turned against them, so they made for Japan. Unwelcome in Japan, they turned to China instead, scuttling the ship and claiming to be shipwrecked sailors. Although the remaining  crew managed to obtain passage to England they were recognised on the streets of London by one of the men whom they had set ashore and by the Hobart Gaoler who happened to be in London at the time. Three were hanged, four were returned to Hobart as convicts,  but for some reason their leader now called “Captain Swallow” escaped this fate by saying that the convicts had forced him to participate against his will. You can read the full account  at the Australian Maritime Museum website. 

Stained Glass window in the Riverview
Another story of daring, cunning and superb seamanship concerns the rollicking tale of the “Frederick “ commemorated in Australia’s longest running play at Strahan, "The Ship that Never Was”.
This involved the 1834 seizure of the ‘Frederick” the last ship to be built by convicts for the crown at Macquarie Harbour. Before she was quite finished, ten convicts who were entrusted with sailing her to Hobart,  stole her en route and sailed to Chile where the ship sprang a leak. Although they were arrested for piracy, six managed to escape, ending their days in Jamaica and America.  Of the four who remained, they were  sent first to England and then back to Hobart for trial.  Due to a technicality, i.e. that the ship was not yet registered and had been taken in Macquarie Harbour, not on the open sea, they could not be charged with the hanging offence of piracy. They were however, condemned to live out their days in the even harsher penal colony on Norfolk Island.

Keeping blind Watch - Old Searchlight at Queen's Domain

No story about pirates would be complete without tales of buried treasure. According to the Pirate Island website, the Colonial Ship “Hope” which sank between the Iron Pot and Betsy Island in 1822, had 40,000 gold sovereigns on board. Two soldiers are said to have buried the gold on nearby Bruny Island. The soldiers having been subsequently dispatched to India, were unable to return to collect the loot. Though there have been many searches over the years and centuries, the hoard has never been found. If you are thinking of having a look, be warned  - there's a lot of sand on Bruny Island!  
The Drunken Admiral on Hunter Street  also has a lot maritime relics, Hunter Street having been the scene of much of the action

These are just some of the stories that live on in our folklore, though I am sure there are many more. We do love a good villain. As I was writing them down I wondered why it was that we are so fond of pirates, bushrangers and other scoundrels. Feats of daring and courage are always applauded, the more so if they involve cocking a snook at authority. Nor is it hard to understand the convicts’ desire for freedom and escape at all costs – conditions in the colony were cruel and death was often preferable. Even before being arrested, they would have been at the margins of society  - transported for stealing a handkerchief, a pair of shoes, some bread or a sheep. Many were Irish rebels and thus enemies of the crown, so in some ways the dream of freedom, the easy win, quick riches, the risk taking and defiance of authority are in Australia’s DNA. We also love to cheer the underdog. 

Even though the soldiers’ and sailors' lives would not have been as harsh, they too were subject to orders, control and command and would have been equally isolated and captive in this strange land, as would the ‘free’ settlers and indentured servants. If nothing else, the odd tale of escape or putting something over the authorities would certainly have broken the monotony. I have a feeling that had we not had these colourful characters, we would have had to invent them.
A glimpse of Pirates Bay, Tasman Peninsula at dusk. On a clear day you can see to Cape Huay and the Lanterns

Sunday, April 16, 2017

Happy Easter Everyone!

This was part of a Peter Rabbit shop display recently. Thought it might inspire some of my younger readers  to do their own version. I am just about to do mine. Hope you find lots of Easter eggs and have a lovely day

I see the Easter Bunny has been. Saw the footprints on the way into town this morning

Saturday, April 08, 2017

Little Gems of Mt. Wellington

You could say that's what I am in it for - the mosses, the ferns and the fungi - waterfalls are a bonus!

Since we are lucky enough to have both forest and mountain on our doorstep, there are a number small waterfalls which invite exploration and a chance to enjoy a bit of fresh air without straying far from home.

Silver Falls- not huge but reliable and easy walking, just a stone's throw from the CBD
One of the easiest waterfalls to get to and among the most rewarding is Silver Falls at Ferntree, just after the summit turnoff to Mt. Wellington. The hard part is trying to find a parking spot near this popular family picnic area. The track starts opposite the Ferntree Tavern which has excellent maps for day walks, though not as detailed as those from the Lands Department. Don't park there though unless you are planning to eat or drink there later. The thirty minute walk follows the upper end of the Pipeline track which once provided the city water supply. Since it is quite wide and largely level this is a good track if you want to bring strollers, bikes and or children. As well as pretty ferns and cascades along the way, there are also seats and shelter in case the weather changes. It does happen on the mountain. There is nearly always a good flow of water over the falls.

O'Grady's Falls are in a little grotto and can be reached by several tracks
 There are several ways to get to O’Grady’s Falls but it's also quite an easy walk -read fairly flat, if you start from the Bracken Lane Fire Trail which crosses behind the houses on the right side of the Pinnacle Road, just after Pillinger Drive. Turn left at this Fire Trail  and continue until you reach the junction with O'Grady's Falls track . Turn left again when you reach Woods track and then take the first right. This takes about 40 minutes and is generally well signed except for the last track junction. Turning left here takes you back to the Pinnacle Road and crossing it leads to bushranger Rocky Whelan’s Cave. If feeling more energetic, there are a number of other possible routes such as starting from the Springs (that's the big parking area near the top of the Pinnacle Road where the old hotel used to be) via Woods Track or from Shoobridge Bend via The Betts Vale Track which could include the short detour to the Octopus Tree. As you may have guessed from this, the mountain is riddled with tracks and this is where the map comes in. Except for the Springs however, parking near all these places is very limited.

Nature flexes her muscles - The Octopus Tree

A glimpse of Rocky Whelan's hideout. Rocky Whelan was one of our nastier bush rangers
 Returning now from the Pinnacle Road, turn left off Huon Road into Strickland Avenue. Just after you turn into it there’s a big bend and a grassed area. Once again it may be hard to park here if there are already other cars. Then walk towards the creek and follow it upwards a short distance. Tucked into the crook of the hill is a lush ferny gully with a small waterfall. These are Strickland Falls. There is no real track here, just sometimes muddy footpads which involve a bit of climbing and scrambling. The falls aren’t particularly high either, but I like the fairy garden aspect. If you don’t want to go back the way you have come or want a longer walk, then take the path that rises upwards on the right to join a Fire Trail running across the side of the hill. Eventually you will see a track running downhill off to the right that will take you back to Strickland Avenue and a bit of an uphill walk back to the carpark. Another trail appears to leads downhill from the road on the opposite side of the creek but this track is now on Private Property and closed off at the delightfully named Turnip Fields end,  several bends down from the present one. If it's any consolation this route is mostly dry sclerophyll country and not as pretty as the upper section.

Pretty little Strickland Falls are really a series of moss bedecked cascades
My next favourite are the Myrtle Gully Falls though it’s probably best to see them after a bit more rain. To get there continue winding down Strickland Avenue until just before the marvelously Gothic Cascade Brewery and turn left into Old Farm Road. Follow that to the end, watching out for other vehicles as it’s narrow and has some blind corners. There’s a parking area at the end from which several tracks fan out in different directions. Walk around the gate and stay on the unsealed part of Old Farm Road until you see the sign leading off to the south west saying Myrtle Gully Track. The falls are just a short distance along where you cross a little bridge. One hundred metres further on is Secret Falls, a narrow waterfall also best seen after more rain. Neither of these falls is marked, so we happily continued on over delightful riffles and bridges, still expecting a bigger waterfall.

Myrtle Gully Falls              -Taken with Gordon's iphone

The track notes on the various websites did say that the falls were only 15 minutes from the top of Old Farm Road, but when we finally arrived at the start of the track, the falls were not mentioned and signage for Myrtle Gully Track said 2 hours return. Don’t be misled. The falls are right at the beginning, though apart from the fact that it was all uphill, we did enjoy our much longer walk.

Walker's Reward

Another weird and wonderful fungus - this one is about the size and shape of a rose and has what looks like honey oozing from it and no,  didn't taste it

... and a fabulous glimpse of the Organ Pipes as we reach 571 metres
There are two larger waterfalls here too. The first, Wellington Falls is a 19km walk and takes at least 5 hours when starting from Neika. Starting from the Springs involves a medium to hard walk, especially if going over the scree slopes. The other, New Town Falls is best approached from the New Town end, lest you miss them like I did the first time. Even when I did find them, it was quite a mission (4 hours return – difficult, steep and slippery in places) and they had very little water in them, so these are best left to more serious bushwalkers or at least until after a good rain. While they are impressive by their sheer size, I find the countryside around the smaller falls much more appealing.

Journey's end  - from here on it's all down hill