Saturday, 21 November 2015

Is this our future - the dove of peace

AP Photo/Francois Mori
Please watch the following video - I'd like to think that this father in Paris has taught his son that it doesn't need to be like this. What a father.

Wednesday, 23 September 2015

A truly beautiful mosque

I've just returned from a marvellous trip to Moscow - up the Volga - to St Petersburgh but am so overwhelmed with the photos I took that it will take me a while to sort them! So in the meantime I'll take you on a journey of my last port of call in Abu Dhabi.
The view across the water from my hotel
Now I go back a long way with Abu Dhabi. Way back in the early 70's I was sharing an apartment (I think they were called flats in those days!) with a friend who had worked with the Abu Dhabi Finance Minister and his co-horts in London. They had a very soft spot for Rosy and would often call to have a chat. There were no mobiles in those days. It was a flat with just one land-line and it was right outside my bedroom door. Rosy's friends may have been good at finance but they were hopeless on time-zones! I was regularly awoken by the phone in the early hours of the morning and the trill of Rosy laughing with them down the line! Much gnashing of teeth by me. Then Rosy announced that they were visiting Melbourne and her friends would like to meet me and take her 'long suffering flat-mate' out to dinner! Of course they chose upstairs at Florentinos. Having never met a muslim Finance Minister (well even a muslim) I was nervous that they would turn up in 'sheets and tea towels on their heads'. (Oh how ignorant was I?) It was before the days of Armani but I was relieved to be greeted by 3 of the most handsome, elegent and charming men I have ever met - wearing beautifully cut 'western' suits!  What a time we had!  (English Rosy still sees them when she visits with her husband once or twice a year - they are now very 'oldies')  So I have always had a soft spot for Abu Dhabi - albeit from a distance. And so I took the opportunity to stopover en route home from my Russian sojourn to see the newish mosque.
Arrival - just a small corner
And what a mosque! Completed in 2007 the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque (see link here) is one of the largest in the world (the Casablanca mosque claims to be larger - it was amazing when I visited a few years ago) With a capacity of 40,000 (half the capacity of the MCG!) and built at a cost of around US$540 million no expense has been spared. And yet I found its simplicity, and almost feminine appearance (fronds of wandering flowers throughout) stunning. The carpet alone weighs a mere 35 tons! And in compulsory bare feet it was beautiful to walk on (New Zealand wool not Australian I'm afraid) I could go on but I'll just take you on a wander though this truly beautiful building. So here we go - brace yourselves!
We're inside now - water, arches, domes, detail
Minaret, outside courtyard (ENORMOUS) with inlaid flowers on columns and on the mosaic floor
All the outer walls were covered in flowers - so pretty
Details of the raised inlaid flowers
We're inside now! The carved walls with backlighting - and top left just a touch of Swarkovski
Just a small corner of the vast area, beautiful carpet, inlaid walls, how small we humans look
I'll take 3 Swarkovski crystal chandeliers thanks
Dripping in sparkle arkles
Want more Swarkovski - then it's off to one of the outer 'rooms'
Eyes down now - detail of the floors - like walking on a carpet of flowers
Night is approaching and the blue lights are turned on - weepably (!) beautiful
There is something very serene about this entire building
We look like ants - the soft glow of evening and the blue lights - what a combination
By chance I was there for the cresent moon
Go in daylight and be there for nightfall - magic
Go and visit when you are next en route to Europe/Russia/Scandinavia etc (or even the Middle East!). And remember that from 2016 both the Guggenheim and the Louvre will be opening their doors in their new museums (and don't forget my favourite Islamic Art Museum in nearby Doha - see post here). And Abu Dhabi is only just over an hours drive from the Emirates/Qantas hub of over-the-top-glitzy Dubai.

Monday, 31 August 2015

Bits and bobs creations

I was in the National Gallery of Victoria (Federation Square) shop yesterday and was thrilled to see a beautiful cap - actually called a Scold's Bridle made out of bits and bobs (odds and ends, bric-a-brac, knick-knacks, flotsam and jetsam etc etc etc). Of course it wasn't wearable - these days - but I was entranced by it.
There's a bit of everything here
I think I can see 2 eyes, 1 red nose and bowlips. Can you?
Made out of odds and ends - probably a lot of half a pairs of earings (the other lost!) - it was a delight to see although the history of a Scold's Bridle tells a different story. It was first recorded in England in 1567 and in Scotland was used on female transgressors and women considered nags, shrews or scolds - those suspected of witchcraft and preventing them from gossiping or speaking! It was sometimes called 'The Gossip's Bridle'. Now I know where the word scold comes from: a woman who nags or grumbles constantly - dreadful.

Woman wearing a Scold Bridle - oh the shame of it (
Even with that ghastly history it so reminded me of the necklace that I made out of half pairs of earings, broken pieces of necklaces, unworn jewellery that needed a revamp, old buttons (some from my grandmothers and my mothers collections). In otherwords just about anything I could get my hands on!

My trinket necklace
Whenever I wear it there is always much comment. And it makes a fair bit of noise - jingle jangling as it does.  
Iris couldn't fit another piece of jewellery on - well then maybe she could!
It reminded me of the noise of all the jewellery worn by the famed Iris Apfel - the current documentary on her at the movies really is a must. Do go see it. After all anyone in their 90's who has become a stylist mega star deserves to be supported. (read an interview here). How much more interesting is her dressing than the usual predictable 'oldies' wardrobe. She does make a lot of jingle jangle noise in the film but I say go-for-it! I don't know how she has the strength to lift her arms with all those bracelets. (more fun than lifting weights!)
Her necklace reminds me of the 2 dozen strands of pearls available at the Bead shop!
I was sad to read that her devoted husband who features in the film died just short of his 101st birthday - here is the New York Times obituary.

Do you ever jingle jangle when you step out? Oh and if you would like me to 'run up' a necklace for you out of bits and bobs then start collecting and then contact me at and we could come to an 'arrangement'! And I assure you it will be less than the Scold's Bridle - a snip at $5000.00!

Monday, 24 August 2015

A no dig vegetable garden

A few months ago I wrote about the 3 Bens (see post here). A couple of weekends ago I headed down to the Bellarine Peninsula to do a Permaculture Course with the 'gardening Ben'. Of course this is in preparation for my country retreat although I hasten to add that I have absolutely no intention of creating a 'have to be there' vegetable garden. Having to be there would rather defeat the purpose of a country 'weekender'. There would be nothing worse than worrying about whether the rabbits had eaten my lettuces, or the creepy crawlies had attacked my spinach or the watering system had ceased to operate. So I went along with all those thoughts in my mind and came away with all sorts of plans to ponder. 

What I found fascinating about the no-dig garden (well a bit of light digging but no grist to the mill/shovel digging) was how simple it all seemed. I'll take you through the process but first a view from the vegetable garden at Kiltynane Winery where we learnt the secrets. 
Peace, tranquility, a view to die for and a veggie patch to work on
So it was down to the veggie patch to see how it is done! One of the problems that Ben has is that the wind can be damaging but he has to work in with the view for the visitors - so as much as he would love to plant windbreaks they would interfere with the views. It's all about compromise.
Let's chop down the use-by vegetables and then cover them with staw
Out with yesterday's newspapers - spread them all over the prepared plot and...
Then it's time to water them in!
After a good water it's on with another bale of hay - spread it all around (doing the hokey pokey)
A visit to the compost for some sweet smelling odds and ends from the kitchen
Including some steaming (truly) coffee grounds you can see in the front which Ben collects from the local coffee shop  
More spreading - Ben calls his layers a Lasagne
And once his lasagne is made he will walk the garden and pull up some self-sown seedlings and just plant in the top
Of course having delicious compost including horse, sheep and chicken poo plus food scraps and the ubiquitous coffee grounds (keep away the bugs!) will make a difference. He also noted that the bales of hay which have been in the compost can also be used as the edge of the garden and seedlings can be planted in the top of it as well! Amazing.

Gorgeous colours also help - as do delicious veggies
If you think you would like to do the morning course then the next course overlooking the beautiful Swan Bay is on 18 October (see the link here) For a non-gardener like me to get all excited it must be good! And the olives which were removed from my home in town and are currently awaiting transport to the country retreat - they will benefit I'm sure from what I learnt. So go no-digging if you can!

Monday, 17 August 2015

A Peeping Tom

I wandered up the street the other day chatting to a neighbour who was off walking her dogs when we stopped to 'chew the fat'. As one does!

As we chatted I noticed the street bully (in the cat world) and I suspect the eater of one of my favourite goldfish (see post here telling the sad tale!) watching us from a very secure position!
Giving new meaning to the phrase 'peeping tom'
A very fat Mr Peeping Tom watching those damn dogs depart - phew!
What is it about cats and dogs. They just don't seem to get on. Do you know of any dogs and cats that do?!

Having said that - if you want to see a friendship that brings tears to my eyes then click here. I promise you won't regret it.

Tuesday, 11 August 2015

Here a roadblock, there a roadblock

It doesn't seem to matter where I drive - or walk - these days there seems to be a road closed sign whilst yet another highrise or renovation takes place. Someone whispered to me that we were on the cusp of a recession - me thinks not. If we were some of the developments would not be going ahead. 
Warning - another road closed!
Mr Hi-Vis Vest Roadwork Sentry viewed me with suspicion as I took this photo
I was awoken recently by the beep beep of a backing truck and when I popped my head out my window yet another concrete truck was trying to back up my narrow street in order to gain access to a Victorian house that was in the throes of being renovated down an even narrower lane. The logistics of this had me gasping. It went on for days (not all day - but every day for over a week!) And to make sure that no-one else had access to the end of my street and into the lane the road was closed whilst each concrete truck backed up the street. And this meant that 1-2 'roadwork sentries' were required to ensure only those damn concrete trucks could have access.
A huge concrete truck squeezed into the top of my street - note the hi-vis roadwork sentry working hard!
Now I'm told that there is money to be made by being a roadwork sentry and the job is rather sought after! All they seem to do all day is stand with a paddleboard which they need to turn from Stop to Slow. The remainder of their time is taken up drinking coffee, chatting, eating, monitoring their mobile phone, leaning on cars and generally having a pretty relaxing time. They even have their hi-vis (!) vests and rainwear provided! Sounds like a bonza job to me. One of the roadwork sentries was even older than me! During this upheaval there was a lovely old British Racing Green MG sports car parked illegally across the road from my home. It made getting into and out of my garage almost impossible. I was about to ring the Council to get them to send around a traffic cop to slap a parking ticket on the windscreen when lo and behold the old roadwork sentry codger knocked off work and slipped behind the wheel! As I said there's money to be made from being a roadwork sentry!

Always useful to lean your 'paddle' against the wall while doing I don't know what!
Recently there was an article in The Age which really said it all. Author Shane Maloney has lived in inner urban Brunswick for 35 years. As he said "At the moment in Brunswick anybody with a high-vis vest and a lollipop stick can close an entire street for a day - there appears to be no regulation." But it was the final paragraph of the article which really resonated with me. "One perverse impact is developers, targeting land in an activity centre(inner urban), can easily build to eight levels, while residents wanting to renovate can't move their house two metres closer to the fence because of setback requirements". 

This is where the concete was going! It has been like this now for a few weeks - the neighbour on the right (see green temporary fencing fabric!) tells me that he has lost half his back yard, privacy and security - glad the Council is looking after his interests! Not!
Are you tired of being put second while all this development is taking place.  I know I am.

Monday, 3 August 2015

Are you slightly pear shaped?!

After my last weeks post on those dreaded yukkas I threatened to write about the removal of the olives at the front of my home. But I have decided that I will do that at a later date when I can show you the ritual of replanting them at my country home in the months to come. In the meantime they are awaiting their 'final resting place' in my landscape gardeners front yard!
So let's have a bit of fun this week! Many many years ago I cut out an advertisement for jeans from - if I recall - Italian Vogue, which highlighted what I would call - one of woman's better qualities! Or a woman's curse. Being of the Rubanesque variety myself I've always wished to have no bottom - and long legs - for jeans - but alas it ain't the case for me!
Are you slightly pear shaped?!

It's funny what you keep in those odd collections which most of us have. This photograph has always been part of my collection. 
Buggy Jeans - never heard of them - perhaps we women boycotted the firm!

Recently I've taken to photographing the odd pear. I fear there might be a slight obsession here! 

I don't remember what this ad was for - but at least in Italian Vogue the pear was clothed! Poor Kate!
So apart from eating them - poached in red wine or fresh they always have a slightly different meaning for me.
Delicious poached with star anise

A peeled pear studded with cloves - tres elegant!
Will you look at a pear through different eyes in the future?!
Clever - a whole fruit salad here!