We’re coming Out. We want the world to know … Writer in Transit: London

25 Jun

I’m out and about in London. And I’m not the only one. I find myself here on a historic day when the question everyone asks you on first meeting is: are you In or Out. There can only be one subject under discussion on a day when everything changed but it all seems much the same.  U.K.is leaving the EU. 

On arrival in London I headed for High St Kensington towards the Gardens to an annual antiques and art fair. Couldn’t afford so much as a photo of most of the glorious items on sale but I thoroughly enjoyed the experience.  

I discovered the fabric designs of Edinburgh weavers and of Henry Moore and was reminded how much I love textiles. I was moved by the slightly eerie sculptures of Phillip Jackson. 

Everyone I met was remarkably friendly, sharing knowledge freely and without a hint of disappointment that I wasn’t likely to be handing over my Amex any time soon. Even for the very small, framed piece of fabric by one of those little known Edinburgh Weavers. No really I couldn’t afford even that. Thank you so much. 

I was (again) reminded just how much collectors are wiling to pay for Chinese art… A tiny Chinese ceramic pot much like an egg cup was on sale for well over $10,000. I couldn’t figure out why either. 

I stopped for a sandwich on the temporary balcony created for the purpose at the show which overlooked the gates to the Kensington Gardens.  As I munched my salmon bagel, I chatted with a couple of the dealers. One lovely lady saw no irony in bemoaning the fate of her family gardener’s need for 2 jobs to make ends meet and citing this type of situation as the reason for the Out vote. Perhaps we should all hire a gardener. 

I still hadn’t had my fix of culture so headed for the V&A via the Royal Geographic Society which had a free exhibition of aerial views of the U.K.  Seems everyone is looking at the big picture today.  

Now I’m sitting in the internal courtyard cafe at the V&A museum sipping my annual Diet Coke on ice. I’ve found a quiet haven. In fact everywhere I’ve been today has had an unexpected air of tranquility. (Even Euston Station!)

The V&A gift shop is my last stop and what do I find but a piece of fabric the design of which is by none other than one of those Edinburgh Weavers, Keith Vaughan! This one I can afford! 

I’m so delighted with my find as I feel I’ve discovered an unrecognised artifact after my lustful musings on similar exhibits at the art fair. So I buy two pieces just to reinforce the fact to myself! 

John Drumond 1948

It’s been a big day. Time to go back in; everyone will be out again tomorrow. 

Writer in Transit: Castlemaine

23 Jan castlemain tea in bed

It’s been raining up here in Castlemaine. Full on flooding plains type of rain. First time I’ve been up this way when it wasn’t hot enough to crisp your eyelashes.  It seems to be raining quite a bit when I go travelling at the moment – I’m sure it’s not true that I bring rain wherever I go. It’s just a coincidence.

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I’m here for the Fryerstown Antiques Fair (22-24 Jan) located in a now muddy field surrounded by giant gums raising money for the Fryerstown historic hall. There’s often a fundraising angle to much of the things I’m doing. I’m in search of good 1930’s Australian pottery and whatever treasures I can find (I’ve developed a bit of a button fetish but let’s not go there yet).

If you’re wondering about the writer in transit tag it’s an idea I can up with when I was listening to someone on the ABC talk about their time as a writer in residence at the V&A in London.  I was feeling a bit green-eyed that they’d probably get unprecedented access to all the lovely things held there. I got to wondering what really was a Writer in Residence and thought perhaps I could be one and how you apply and so on.   It then occurred to me   (I was doing the washing up at the time and looking out the window admiring the rainbow lorikeets which just goes to prove that, seriously, women really can multi-task but that’s another post)  that one could just turn up at the V&A (or the NGV or Castlemaine) and start writing what occurred to you there as you passed through it without needing anyone’s permission.  So. possibly I would be a writer in transit?

As I transit, I am actually staying up here in a wonderful bed and breakfast ‘Clevedon Manor‘ which is on the main road in Castlemaine.  It’s a Victorian mansion filled with period- appropriate furniture, lots of horse pictures and a cuckoo clock.  They’ve given me a lovely room with a bay window overlooking the hedge-enclosed garden. The bedroom has a great big silver-grey coloured metal bed with crisp white cotton sheets facing the tiled fireplace over which a gilded mirror hangs. There is a massive 2 meter tall wardrobe with a full length oval mirror in the door. My very clean private bathroom is just down the hall.

castlemain tea in bed

a wistful Vivien Leigh in silk bed- jacket drinking her tea

Last night as I sat up in bed reading, I felt it would be appropriate to be wearing a pink silk, feather-trimmed bed jacket with my matching slippers at the side of my bed on the small rug, having just been served warm tea in a china cup by my personal maid. Beautiful rooms have this kind of Vivien Leigh effect on me. It is so reassuring to visit a new place and feel, well, at home.  Just at the right moment, 1st Dibs released this collection of beautiful images of gorgeous bedrooms.  Lust on these as I continue my journey through the gold-mining towns around Castlemaine.

 ‘Planet Earth is blue …’ so ‘Let’s Dance!’

17 Jan 1976:  David Bowie poses for an RCA publicity shot in 1976. (Photo by Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images)


1997_earthling_cvr_fix_800sqDavid Bowie RIP

It seems there are quite a few things to be sad about lately.  There is so much beauty amongst so much hideousness. I don’t know whether I’m crying tears of joy, rage or sorrow at those moments when the world gives me such random, completely unexpected experiences.

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I’ve just (almost) stopped tearing up over the Paris attacks which affected me and many others so deeply. I stood in Federation Square in Melbourne with so many others and there was a tangible sense of loss and confusion in the air as strangers hugged each other.

bowie singing wild is the wind

Bowie singing Wild is the Wind

Last week I was recovering, like most of us who were teenagers in the 70’s, from the death of David Bowie. Such a loss to the world at a time when we so need love, creativity and a real sense of wonder.  Perhaps that’s why we’ve responded the way we have: European church bells tolling out ‘A Space Oddity‘; Chris Hadfield singing a tribute to Bowie from the Space Station; Scratch artists scratching out ‘Let’s Dance’ in honour of the Thin White Duke. Every one of these brought me to tears and made me wonder why the world can’t demonstrate such amazing outpourings of love and respect more often.

When beautiful people like Bowie leave the world, I feel like we have lost not just a great artist but somehow one of the guardians at the gate. Who will take their place?  So I suppose I am laughing and crying for the loss of Bowie, for the risks to the world that I know.

Grey Fantail

Grey Fantail

And there are times when the world is enchanting. Last night, my  husband & I went out for a sunset walk and a bit of birdwatching at our local reserve.   A pair of young Grey Fantails chose to take as much interest in us as we did in them.  We spotted them in a tree just ahead of us and on seeing us, they flew straight over, flying around out heads, fanning their tails and looking cockeyed at us. They sang to each other and continued like this for 5 or 10 minutes while we stood quietly, happy to be the subject of such delightful avian attention. I was a little choked.

250px-Golden-headed_Cisticola94Later, while I watched a tiny and rare bird, a Golden-Headed Cisticola sing to the setting sun from its grass stalk, I really was moved to tears.  Because there is so much uncertainty in the world and I know that Australia is a bubble of stability in an increasingly turbulent, troubled and most of all chaotic world and it worries me how all that chaos can end.  And I don’t want my world as I know and love it to end. So I cry with happiness for the Cisticola but with fear and worry that all the other chaos can all only end in the saddest of tears.

So let’s take up the Bowie charge… let’s dance, let’s sing to the sunset and the let the tears dry as we move towards a new world without some of the heroes we’ve looked to for inspiration for so long. We’ll need to find some new ones. We can be heroes.

Go star man.

1976: David Bowie poses for an RCA publicity shot in 1976. (Photo by Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images)

1976: David Bowie poses for an RCA publicity shot in 1976. (Photo by Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images)

 

Blazing a Trail in a sorry, soggy mess

9 Jan
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Sir Ernest Shackleton‘s Endurance trapped in the ice. Photo: Frank Hurley

The English traveller has a well-earned reputation for complaining and we do so mostly in relation to the weather.  Of course it’s usually our own weather we’re complaining about – the weather in England is usually too cold, or wet, or cloudy, or drizzling, or … very occasionally, too hot!  So forgive me if I do a minor amount in my post today as the weather is a subject for everyone in Sydney at the moment. Every taxi driver has an opinion on when the rain will stop and the cricket will start again. The discount stores are doing a roaring trade in umbrellas. I’m in Sydney; the town of all night entertainment, harbour views,  yachts and sharp men in very good suits… which have alas all disappeared under a swirling and unrelenting grey cloud which is choosing to deposit torrential rain on the city of sunlight for hours and hours (and hours) on end.

We are trying to explain, rather than show to our damp overseas visitors just how gorgeous the harbour can look and how the opalescent tiles of the Opera House really do glow in the sunlight, we promise! It isn’t the same.

As the clouds descend dark and brooding, I feel empathy for those involved in the opening night of the Sydney festival with its normally dazzling Spiegeltents set out in a Hyde Park now awash with rain with much mud underfoot.

As one does on a wet day, we visited a museum:  the Australian Museum to see its Trailblazers exhibition which included a surprising number of women explorers and adventurers including Kay Cottee who was the first woman to sail solo and unassisted around the world – good work Australia Museum.

I really enjoyed seeing again some of the photographs by Frank Hurley of Sir Ernest Shackleton‘s expedition – what an amazing life this wonderful photographer and explorer had!  If you don’t know the story of Shackleton’s heroic expedition to the South pole and how his ship Endurance, named in honour of the the Shackleton family motto, I thoroughly recommend it. Hurley was the expedition’s photographer.  It is for the most part Hurley’s images that have meant we remember so well the amazing story of the South pole expedition. It’s an adventure story full of gallantry, bravery, true leadership and mad ambition that beats all. Hurley’s image of the doomed ship wrapped in an icy embrace (above) which inevitably crushes it to matchsticks leaving the men to make their way home across a frozen wilderness in unbelievably harsh conditions led by ‘The Boss’, Shackleton, is a wonderful representation of the challenges the expedition party faced.

So I can safely say that in the spirit of doing something new and different each day I did that in Sydney if a little unwillingly. We tramped around the city streets attempting cheerfulness as our rain wear proved to be shower proof but not flood proof!  We found some excellent restaurants and introduced our French guests to the joys of Yum Cha, Vietnamese rice noodle Pho (pronounced fur) soup and a steak at the local pub.  We refused to queue to get into Jamie Oliver’s Pitt Street Italian joint as it was just to mad to stand in pouring rain for an hour for pasta. We also refused to queue for 3 hours to get into the Aquarium (how ironic!) which overflowed with soggy visitors mostly with prams, sharing umbrellas and trying to look happy that they were experiencing this rare occasion of Sydney summer weather behaving more like that of London in July while they were on holiday!

After reading about Shackleton, Hurley and Cottee’s enormous efforts, I am reminded I should not revert to my English stereotype of moaning about the weather and should relish every soggy moment and be glad that I can return to my stylish hotel room and not have to battle ‘liquid himalayas’ as one wag described the seas on one of their solo sea voyages. I will rejoice in the rain now as, when I return to my Melbourne garden, I’ll be delighting in every drop that falls. I admit that I do spend rather too much time expectantly analysing cloud formations and carefully checking the rain-dar as it seems never to rain quite enough in Melbourne (although any Sydney-sider will confidently misinform you that it never stops raining in Melbourne!) So I’m doing my best to remember this under the deluge. It is but a minor inconvenience.

In the meantime, I’m getting through plenty of reading, plotting which new craft I’ll learn at craftsy.com, studying for my MBA and making great headway into those other English favourites: a pot of tea and a box of Milk Tray. There’s really nothing like a rainy day in Sydney to help you get your priorities sorted out.

 

Jan 2 Way to start the year with Amy, Pink and Ed Sheeran!

2 Jan Pink...

pink

Today was a gentle ‘at home’ day.  After the rigours of river kayaking on New Year’s Day, I tackled the garden: weeding, sweeping and generally cleaning up the mess left by my bird friends… mostly empty husks from the bird seed I give them.  (Why do the makers put grass seeds in the  wild bird mix? It makes such a mess and yes, makes unwanted grass grow in my flower beds.  Answers please!)

Addressing my goal of ‘do something good and new each day’ was a bit hard as I didn’t really leave the house (if you don’t count the garden). And you can’t count the things I’ve just been thinking about doing.  I’d been baking and cooking over Christmas so I wasn’t game to get the oven going again quite yet and anyway it’s too hot to bake so no new culinary delights would be attempted.

So as my Day 2 task, I decided today would be a day when,while I worked in the garden, I would only listen to artists I don’t usually listen to. So to keep me company I had, amongst others, the incomparable Amy Winehouse, Adele, Pink, Katy Perry, Taylor Swift, Motorhead, ACDC and Michael Jackson, Maroon 5, Hozier, Ed Sheeran, Meghan Trainor, Pharrell Williams… Bon Jovi!

I didn’t edit, just listened to what came up in my YouTube mix… made me listen to and enjoy music by artists I would never have thought I’d be interested in and made me realise I’ve been listening to SO MUCH OF THE SAME OLD MUSIC/STUFF FOR YEARS! Don’t get me wrong, vintage music in all its forms is great… I can never get enough of Nina Simone or Edith Piaf but it’s particularly good to listen to some young women from different genres and eras.  And if I’m not listening to one of them, I would usually listen to a talking book or ABC Radio National! GAD!

Ok on the scale of ‘something new’ it’s a pretty small beginning, I admit. But you have to start somewhere with your resolutions! And maybe it helped me start to break a music habit. Tomorrow I fly to Sydney … that should be a surefire place for ‘new and good’. If you have any listening suggestions for women vocalists and musicians, I’d love to hear from you.

PS: This evening, while walking to the nature reserve near our house, I saw a 40+ yo man on a skateboard (looking both uncomfortable and decidedly embarrassed) and I can only assume he received said skateboard for Xmas. Also two young men were sitting outside on the deck at the (closed) school near the reserve, drinking beer and playing chess.  So perhaps others have taken up the ‘do something good and new each day’ challenge.  Otherwise, there’s been a shift in the universe of which I am only just becoming aware.

PPS: My garden is looking hip and tidy thanks to the accompanying beats! And that’s a good thing!

New Year Resolves…Good New Things

2 Jan Azure-Kingfisher2-ct280-280x220
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Sacred Kingfisher

It’s another January 1 and the New Year sits before us.. untouched waiting for us to decide what to do with it.

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Cheeky Currawong

A Good Thing

You can choose to make no resolutions about the NY. Many do (or is that don’t).  While I understand it feels like a waste of time if you don’t follow through, at least you had a goal to aim for.  Is it better to have no goals at all and take what comes?

So this year my resolution is specifically vague.  I’ve resolved to do something new (and positive) every day. That is, something I’ve never done before.  So that’s specific. And the vagueness is that I’m not going to plan what that ‘new good thing‘ is. I’m just making a commitment to do something new every day.  It doesn’t have to be incredibly dangerous, exciting or mind-bending, it just needs to be new.

So. January 1.  I kayaked down the Goulburn River to birdwatch and enjoy the gorgeous scenery.  Well not all of the GR but a nice, friendly non-rapid bit with my husband and a friend who showed us the way, let us use his kayaks and drove us back and forth! That is friendship, I’m sure.  In return, I pointed out the birds I recognised… a few Darters, lots of Little Corellas, 2 wonderful, delighting Kingfishers, lots of ducks, a Currawong singing in the trees, lots of noisy Cockatoos.

As we were visiting friends in a beautiful part of the Victorian farming region, perhaps it was easier to find something to do that I’d never done before. The more difficult thing will be to discover something different just as part of my normal everyday routine when I’m at home with the cat and wondering why I can’t watch foxtel for another hour.  Let’s see.

Happy New Year. And may many unexpected, happy, healthy and magical experiences come to you whether you resolved it that way or not!  PS Thanks BirdLife for the photos … I was too busy trying to stay in the Kayak to take photos!🙂

My Kind of Deity

7 Dec

Sharing the wisdom and humour of one the few sane leaders in the world today…

Live & Learn

dali-lama

Indeed, even as he seems the paragon of saintly forgiveness, he advances a claim to ordinariness. ‘‘I am a human being like any other,’’ I heard him repeat in several public appearances over the last year. In Tibet, he told me, too many superstitious beliefs had overlaid Buddhism’s commitment to empirically investigate the workings of the mind. Tibetans believed that he ‘‘had some kind of miracle power,’’ he said. ‘‘Nonsense!’’ he thundered. ‘‘If I am a living god, then how come I can’t cure my bad knee?’’

He similarly asserted his nonsupernatural qualities at the summit meeting of Nobel Peace Prize winners in Rome this December. When the city’s former mayor asked him how he coped with jet lag, the Dalai Lama, Newsweek reported, gave a frankly nonreligious explanation. He could train his mind to sleep well, he said (he goes to bed at 7 p.m. and wakes at 3…

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Birdlife – all sorted for Christmas

20 Nov

A little addendum to my last post. BirdLife has just put out their formal Christmas campaign and given how much I like birds and want to protect them, I’m giving them an extra plug.   They have some really lovely bird-related products in their online store.  And who can resist a baby bird in a santa hat?!

Gate A-4

20 Nov

Let’s share more stories of love, friendship and laughter… that way we’ll get more of what we focus on….

Live & Learn

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Gate A-4 By Naomi Shihab Nye:

Wandering around the Albuquerque Airport Terminal, after learning my flight had been delayed four hours, I heard an announcement: “If anyone in the vicinity of Gate A-4 understands any Arabic, please come to the gate immediately.” Well— one pauses these days. Gate A-4 was my own gate. I went there.

An older woman in full traditional Palestinian embroidered dress, just like my grandma wore, was crumpled to the floor, wailing. “Help,” said the flight agent. “Talk to her . What is her problem? We told her the flight was going to be late and she did this.”

I stooped to put my arm around the woman and spoke haltingly. “Shu-dow-a, shu-bid-uck, habibti? Stani schway, min fadlick, shu-bit-se-wee?” The minute she heard any words she knew, however poorly used, she stopped crying. She thought the flight had been cancelled entirely. She needed to be…

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‘Chairity’ starts at home…

20 Nov

Each year the sudden festooning of lampposts with Christmas decorations, mince pies in the supermarket and Christmas carols at my local cafe take me by surprise! “It’s Christmas!”, they yell! “Already?” I want to yell back!

This year is no exception .. perhaps because while I was visiting Sydney I was amazed to see – before Halloween was even over  –  some bright spark had already installed a 6.5 tonne Swarovski crystal-decorated tree in the Queen Victoria Buildings ! Now I think that’s really a bit early! It was very beautiful though.

It may sound it, but I’m not a cynic and I actually really like celebrating the end of the year, cooking Christmas cake, eating Christmas cake…

This prompted me to consider the various fundraising appeals and campaigns that are attempting to encourage us each to think about someone or something that needs the gift even more.

QVB 1

Here are a few that caught my attention:

Chairity begins at home

Habitus Living – this glorious, glossy, envy-inspiring design magazine features the ‘Chairity Project‘ which, while not strictly for Christmas is happening around this time.

Chairity-Project-2015_Tracey-Deep_4-915x587Each beautifully designed chair will be auctioned off for chairity… sorry, charity… a great idea and a wonderful way to combine art, creativity and heartfelt innovation.  For more info visit Cult Design.

Very Berry Christmas!

jessicaIf you’ve already started shopping and perhaps like me you have a ‘gift drawer’ where you put things you’ve taken a fancy to but you’re not sure who they’re for (ok, that might just be me), how about buying a toy for a boy or girl you’ll probably never meet.    Berry Street is a wonderful children’s organisation which since 1877 has focused on the rights of children to have a safe and happy home. With their Christmas appeal, you can buy a gift on line, make a donation or get gift tags for your own choice of gift.  They only accept new toys and really need gifts for children aged 11-16+

Raining Cats and Dogs!

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If you have a cat, budgie, fish or a dog, give them an extra squeeze of affection (maybe not the fish) this festive season when so many cats and dogs are abandoned. Hard to believe I know but some owners find the cost of kennels or catteries to onerous and just leave their pets to fend for themselves.  And definitely please DO NOT give pets as gifts – these are often the unfortunate creatures that end up at lost dogs and cat shelters when their new owners find they cannot look after them. Consider this story in the Daily Telegraph last year but this sad story is the same every year.   If you’d like to support your favourite animal shelter, they often need blankets and financial donations are usually well received. Lort Smith had a great event ‘Pause for a cause‘ to raise money for the hospital, walking around Melbourne’s ‘Tan’ at the Botanical Gardens with over 100 dogs! What a great sight that would have been! Woof!

Cockatoos need you too!

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Let’s not forget our feathered friends this Christmas.  As a bird-lover I’m biased but it is easy to forget that we have so many beautiful native birds on the edge of extinction.  Visit BirdLife.org.au and see what you can do to help. You can become a BirdLife member for just $1.50 a week! Seems a small amount to help save beautiful birds like our waders, or the amazing Red Tailed Black Cockatoos.  What’s your favourite bird? Perhaps make a donation instead of a bought present for a friend.  I know they’d love it🙂 (And keep your cat in at night, also a good gift to our feathered friends!)

Someone to watch over you

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Finally, this time of year can bring up a range of different and conflicting emotions. If you need someone to talk to, consider the Samaritans.  They have a help line for anyone needing a bit of support. Reach out if you need to. Or consider Lifeline who are there to help with many difficult situations.

Wishing you and your loved ones a safe and happy Festive Season. And if you think it’s too early to be saying this, blame Swarovski!🙂

 

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