Sunday, 21 December 2014

Cooking the perfect Christmas turkey

I've had this recipe for many years - in fact I think it might have been passed down to me by my late mother. The newspaper is yellowing and by the end of this you will be mellowing! So this is thanks to Oliver Pritchett - and is from the Telegraph (London I presume!) Have a wonderful Christmas and thankyou for following along with me as I muse from the terrace! May 2015 be all that you wish and more!
Heston Blumenthal's turkey (mirror.co.uk)

And so to the recipe - a little dated but....enjoy!!

"Today, for the benefit of those few readers who have not yet bought my new cookery book, Hot Dishes, I am reproducing my recipe for the Perfect Christmas Turkey. 

What you will need: one turkey - ask the butcher to pluck it for you. Quite a lot of unsalted butter. About three cups full of coarse sea salt - I get my cups with a nice pale blue floral pattern on them, from Thomas Goode and Co, a nice little shop just down the road. A box of good-quality crackers. A large sheet of organic silver foil - not the ultra-shiny artificial stuff; I get mine from the Real Silver Foil Company. Turkey giblets - including the weird-shaped bits that are an off-putting sort of turquoise colour. Some Brazil nuts, preferably the 'montanha' variety.

At 5.30 on Christmas morning, get up and turn the oven on to 200 degrees Celsius. If you have a fan-assisted oven, turn it three clicks below the little symbol that looks like a cigar with stripes on it. Go back to bed. 

When you get up again, stuff the turkey - see page 449 of my book The Right Stuffing. After stuffing it, I like to give my turkey a good slapping all over. It may or may not tenderise the flesh, but it certainly helps to restore the circulation to my hands after being inside that cold bird. 

Add some salt to the unsalted butter and smear it all over the bird, then bung it in the old oven. The basic rule of thumb about timing is that a turkey betweekn six and seven kilograms will take roughly 45 minutes longer than you expect it to. 

Take a sheet of silver foil, fold it into an envelope shape and place it on the floor to catch the Krakatoa tidal wave of hot fat that is going to shoot out from the dish when you open the oven door to take a look because nothing seems to be happening in there. 

It is important to have organic foil, because when you get up from crouching in front of the oven, you will feel dizzy and the gleam from the ultra-shiny foil could dazzle you, causing you to lurch into the bread sauce. 

After 45 minutes, turn the oven down to 180 degrees, or if you have a fan-assisted oven, until the humming noise coming from it changes from 'moderately annoying' to 'slightly irritating'. 

While checking the bird after the first hour, I usually find my oven glove bursts into flames. I like to put it out by dousing it with the giblet stock, which has been simmering for a day and a half. I do not feel bad about losing the giblets because of the nagging doubts about those turquoise bits. Throw the giblets out the window.

Take the crackers from their box, grip each one by the indented part, next to the centre and pull outwards sharply. Don't worry if there is a slight explosion, this sometimes happens. Collect the paper hats, give them a generous sprinkling of salt and lay them out as stepping stones on the greasy kitchen floor. Take the riddles and give them to the family and guests to keep them amused until the meal is ready. 

Take six or seven decent-sized Brazil nuts and throw them at the cat, which is eating the giblets in the garden. 

It is now time to turn your attention to the gravy. You will find the recipe on page 675 of my large, lavishly illustrated book Just Jus. When you have made the gravy, place the book against the cat flap to stop the cat coming into the house, where it will be sick. 

The turkey will be done when a member of the family comes to the kitchen for the fifth time to ask: "Is there anything I can do to help?"

Throw a couple of Brazil nuts at them, take the bird from the oven, place it on a carving dish and leave for 20 minutes or so, to allow the cook to 'rest'.

Sunday, 14 December 2014

The fall of the wall

With a title like that I bet you thought I was referring to the Berlin Wall! But no! Although that was a momentous occasion seeing my beloved back wall (strangely one of the reasons I bought my home) go down in the blink of an eye was a lot more up close and personal.

Now there are not many people who would buy a house because of a wall but....then I'm not like many people! My home is around 20 years old and the wall around 60+++ years old. It was obviously part of an old factory/stables. My home was built on all that remained of the factory/stables - an empty piece of land. I loved my wall. It had a great presence. If a wall can have a great presence - then it had it in spades - or bricks!
My 'Moroccan' wall and the young yukkas - divine
And then along came my next door neighbour who wanted to build 3 x 3 storey townhouses at the rear of his property. We fought him to the death on the plans - but only managed to reduce the footprint to 2 x 3 storey townhouses. The local court of last resort (VCAT) gave permission for him to build on the proviso that my beloved wall remain. I was ecstatic. The local council gave permission for the build based on the height of my yukkas which they considered would protect me from being overlooked by the new neighbours. At the time I stated that "the neighbour/developer couldn't 'borrow' my yukkas as trees die". My pleas fell on deaf ears and the development was approved. So much for looking after current residents - this council is all for looking after new residents which of course = more rates income. 
Growing, growing, growing, having babies, having babies, having babies
But we had a problem. The yukkas which had been planted around 10 years ago 'had gone troppo'. They crushed the watering system - but it didn't deter them. They just kept growing - both upwards and outwards at the base! The narrow garden bed couldn't fight their growth - it looked like they had enormous elephants feet - and they proceeded not only to push over the small retaining wall bordering the garden bed - they also had a fine time pushing my beloved wall to the point of no return.
Yukka 'elephant' feet! Pushing the retaining wall forward (they ain't got anywhere else to go!)
The last thing any of us wanted was a death by the fall of a wall (particularly after the appauling death of 3 people walking past a development site in Carlton last year) There was no choice. It had to go. 
Looking at the wall from the developers side. Look at the height of the yukkas - great privacy screen!
After much angst on my part the deed needed to be done so the 2 x 3 storey townhouse development could proceed.  And a temporary fence put in place - until closer to the finish of the development when the neighbour/developer and I will decide what I WANT! I can forsee a year of dirt, noise, blasting radios and more angst - but this post is about the fall of the wall!

So follow me on the fall of the wall - a journey that was over in seconds. Along came the wall puller downerer - he hooked his shovel thing over the wall and in one fell swoop it was GONE! I've never seen anything like it! BANG! That was it! Talk about a ton of bricks!
The flattened wall - almost in one piece. The neighbours yukkas - almost eating their 2.5 storey home, and my yukkas waiting to go to the toxic tip
Thank goodness it fell towards the vacant land and not towards my home. It would have killed me and wiped out the back of the house! Then out came the chainsaws to remove the offending yukkas. Some were so big that they need a special saw as the chainsaw wouldn't/couldn't get through them. 
You can see the bottom of the wall as it fell - as for the chainsaw - it won't cut through the elephant feet!
Then up went the temporary fence so that all and sundry wouldn't be able to see me watching television (after all the cricket season is on!). Oh - and for SECURITY!
Looking through the patio doors from my sitting room - zero security
What a day in the life of a wall. I'm even keeping a bit just for prosterity. I'll keep you posted on my new design - but that's a long way down the track. And it won't include rampant elephant feet yukkas - the height of my 2 storey house - and the house opposite - see above.
The temporary fence (1 year?!) and the ravaged courtyard (1 year?!) I can't bear to look
And a final warning - DON'T PLANT YUKKAS unless you live in the country and can plant a copse of them (if that's what it's called) a very long way from the house!

As you can imagine I am now horrified by how many yukkas are for sale at every garden shop often in the courtyard department - they start off small but end up...... 

And the piece-de-resistance - yukkas are toxic - they have to be taken to a special dump. Dump cost - a mere $1000!

So plant yukkas at your peril as they were ultimately the cause for the fall of my beloved wall.

Tuesday, 2 December 2014

Vale Phillip Hughes

A life cut down by a freakish one-in-a-zillion accident. He will remain 63 not out - forever. 
On a short walk over the weekend it was moving to see cricket bats and hats on front lawns. What an amazing idea and so symbolic of the 'Aussie way'. (hashtag#putoutyourbats) - and the world did.

Cricket bat and hat - a wonderful tribute
It's a timely reminder to us all to Carpe Diem, to seize the day - everyday. You never know when it's going to be over. 

In Berlin Elton sang a tribute to Phillip and gave support to the bowler Sean Abbott 'Don't let the sun go down on me'. You can listen here.

Thursday, 20 November 2014

an uplifting education programme

Recently I was privileged to spend a day at Melbourne's wonderful Malthouse Theatre to watch students from years 9 and 10 perform exerpts from a play written by Angus Cerini - normal.suburban.planetary.meltdown. It had been specifically commissioned this year for their schools education programme - The Suitcase Series. I support the Malthouse and specifically The Suitcase Series after being introduced to it a few years ago. The Suitcase Series is an award-winning education program for Years 9 and 10 students to collaborate and devise short works around the themes of sustainability and climate change.
The marvellously converted Carlton & United Brewery Malthouse
As the Malthouse website states: "normal.suburban.planetary.meltdown is a play about Earth Hour, in a normal suburban suburb somewhere, an average man is suddenly having difficulty breathing. His impending doom induces an existential crisis which is only aggravated by lackadaisical conversations with his smart-arse dog, his #hashtag obsessed daughter, his fed-up wife and a voiceover which (annoyingly) he can hear. normal.suburban.planetary.meltdown is a wickedly ticklish take on Armageddon … and the importance of composting."

On the first occasion I was fascinated to watch students perform their chosen piece (often with just 4 students and occasionally with more than 6). The abilities of the participants covered a wide range, but I was amazed by the courage of those students to perform in front of their peers, teachers and the facilitator of the programme in a real theatre - right out of their comfort zone. At that age I couldn't have done it but perhaps students are different these days! I watched them 'network' and 'hang out' at the breaks. I watched them ask questions at the conclusion of each of their peer performances. I was 'bowled over' by the positives that the facilitator was able to come up with for each performance - even those that had little going for them! You could see the students blossom as the day progressed.

But the piece de resistance was when real live actors took to the stage and performed the play in its entirety. What those actors brought to the play with their performances had the students sitting on the edge of their seats with their eyes wide open! Suddenly they could see the possibilities that can be incorporated into a piece of writing and I'm sure they would have re-considered their interpretations on the piece in the future. You could feel the electricity in the air. It was fabulous. And at the conclusion of the play the actors sat at took questions from their special audience. 

I was hooked. The Suitcase Series was for me! It was where I wanted to donate using my small philanthropic fund (I have written about it here) Well time progressed until finally this year it all came together. I chose to 'underwrite' a country school - Boort District School. This year they had rehearsed with 6 students - and an enthusiastic and encouraging teacher - and then on the day the teacher plus 4 of the students left their Mallee town at 5.30 am to travel to Melbourne. That in itself was worth a 'gold star'! None of them had been to the wonderful Malthouse before nor had they ever performed on a stage before! So this was pretty exciting, overwhelming and just a little bit scary. They were the first school to perform on the day (the series saw over 900 students from 46 schools go through the programme this year) and they did a pretty good job when compared to the other school groups. Interestingly it was the 2 schools from outside Melbourne who I had the most admiration for. The opportunity for school students to perform and to see theatre when they live in Melbourne is far more accessible. This was a real adventure - and a positive one at that!
The teacher, the Boort District School students (including a happy 'dog') and the Malthouse facilitator
I watched as each school performed and then listened to the facilitator Vanessa O'Neill, the Malthouse Youth and Education Manager, discuss with them their reasons for choosing to play the piece as they had. One of the Malthouse actors (who played 3+ parts when performing the entire play that afternoon) also sat through the performances giving wise counsel and encouragement to each group. There were no 'put downs'. It was such a positive experience.
Terrible photo but... the actors and the facilitator (L) answering questions
normal.suburban.planetary.meltdown was about Climate Change and one of the characters was a dog. Each student playing the dog had worn a dog outfit. What a difference it made when the professionals performed in the afternoon. The dog wasn't dressed as a dog - but from the minute she strutted onto the stage (with one black eye) and rubbed herself against the pole (after sniffing one of the students!) there was no doubt in our minds that she was an overconfident terrier with 'attitude'. The students were enthralled by the actors and their performance. 
'The dog' with attitude!

At the conclusion the actors returned to the stage and questions were fired at them. They were so generous with their time and knowledge. I'm sure it was invaluable to each and every student (and teacher!).
"How did the dog get into character?"
"How did the actor play three different parts?"
"Why did the man walk and talk like he did?"
"How did the lid of the rubbish bin light up when it was opened once and not the other times?"

The questions went on and on - and if the facilitator hadn't stopped it they would still be asking! The actors were so generous with their time regarding how they get into their character, how they got into acting, how they prepare just before coming on stage. I could go on but I hope you've got the picture!. 

Afterwards I asked the Boort District School performers what had been some of the highlights of their day. 
"Coming to Melbourne". 
"Coming to this place" (waving arms around at the extraordinary building) 
"Seeing those actors and THAT DOG"
"Meeting all these people"

At the conclusion of the day I drove home uplifted by the experience. It confirmed to me that my money had been well spent! It also confirmed to me that from little things big things grow. 

If you like the sound of The Suitcase Series then I encourage you to assist a financially challenged school to attend and perhaps change just one students life! We're not talking mega money here - maybe just registration fees, travel expenses etc. The rewards for those who participate will only be judged in the years to come. 

If you would like more information then contact please feel free to contact me by email jangwilliams@iprimus.com.au or go straight to the Malthouse Theatre and speak to Rachel Petchsky about The Suitcase Series - email rpetchesky@malthousetheatre.com.au

You won't regret it! I hope to see you there next year!

Thursday, 13 November 2014

Oh to be in Melbourne!

Oh to be in Melbourne
Now that spring is here

With apologies to Robert Browning! I don't know if you have noticed the flowers this spring. They are amazing. Is it the wet winter or the dry winter we've just had (I can't remember!)? Whatever it is they are bloomin marvellous! They are bursting forth at every opportunity! On a stroll through Richmond and East Melbourne on a beautiful sunny day recently this is what I came upon. And it wasn't even the purpose of the stroll! What a strolling bonus!
Gorgeous red roses dripping off the fence
Looks like these 2 cottages are competing - and what a competition!
The prettiest laneway I happened upon


Even the public nature strip is bursting forth!
Geraniums making a statement in an unloved block of flats
Love these red geraniums against the tree trunk
And just in case you haven't seen enough flowers I just loved this window display at homewares store The Works in Hawthorn - made out of paper patterns and ..... mock flowers - aren't people clever!
A scrunchy crunchy paper patterned skirt and flowery bodice
But I'll leave you with these lovely roses - on the fence of my short stay rental cottage
Uplifting when I walk in the gate - and my clients agree!

Sunday, 9 November 2014

A speech for the ages


It's not often that we continue to hear and read about a speech praised as one for the ages. So I went to find the eulogy that Aboriginal lawyer, land rights activist and founder of the Cape York Institute, Noel Pearson gave at former Prime Minister Gough Whitlam's memorial service in Sydney last week. I wanted to read it. Even though it is being hailed universally it wasn't easy to find a full copy of the eulogy he gave. So having found it I thought I would share it with you.

I hasten to add that this is NOT a political post. I encourage you to either read it below or listen to it here - his voice is worth it!  It is quite remarkable. (The actor Cate Blanchett also spoke - listen here)
Noel Pearson speaking at the Whitlam memorial service in Sydney (Peter Rae - The Age)
"Paul Keating said the reward for public life is public progress.

For one born estranged from the nation's citizenship, into a humble family of a marginal people striving in the teeth of poverty and discrimination, today it is assuredly no longer the case. This because of the equalities of opportunities afforded by the Whitlam program. Raised next to the wood heap of the nation's democracy, bequeathed no allegiance to any political party, I speak to this old man's legacy with no partisan brief. 

Rather, my single honour today on behalf of more people than I could ever know, is to express our immense gratitude for the public service of this old man. I once took him on a tour to my village and we spoke about the history of the mission and my youth under the government of his nemesis, Queensland Premier Joh Bjelke-Petersen. My home was an Aboriginal reserve under a succession of Queensland laws commencing in 1897. These laws were notoriously discriminatory and the bureaucratic apparatus controlling the reserves maintained vigil over the smallest details concerning its charges. Superintendents held vast powers and a cold and capricious bureaucracy presided over this system for too long in the 20th century. 

In June 1975, the Whitlam government enacted the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders Queensland Discriminatory Laws Act. The law put to purpose the power conferred upon the Commonwealth Parliament by the 1967 referendum, finally outlawing the discrimination my father and his father lived under since my grandfather was removed to the mission as a boy and to which I was subject [for] the first 10 years of my life.

Powers regulating residency on reserves without a permit, the power of reserve managers to enter private premises without the consent of the householder, legal representation and appeal from court decisions, the power of reserve managers to arbitrarily direct people to work, and the terms and conditions of employment, were now required to treat Aboriginal Queenslanders on the same footing as other Australians. We were at last free from those discriminations that humiliated and degraded our people.

The companion to this enactment, which would form the architecture of indigenous human rights akin to the Civil Rights Act 1965 in the United States, was the Racial Discrimination Act.

It was in Queensland under Bjelke-Petersen that its importance became clear. In 1976, a Wik man from Aurukun on the western Cape York Peninsula, John Koowarta, sought to purchase the Archer Bend pastoral lease from its white owner. The Queensland government refused the sale. The High Court's decision in Koowarta versus Bjelke-Petersen upheld the Racial Discrimination Act as a valid exercise of the external affairs powers of the Commonwealth. However, in an act of spite, the Queensland Government converted the lease into the Acher Bend National Park. Old man Koowarta died a broken man, the winner of a landmark High Court precedent but the victim of an appalling discrimination.

The Racial Discrimination Act was again crucial in 1982 when a group of Murray Islanders led by Eddie Mabo claimed title under the common law to their traditional homelands in the Torres Strait. In 1985 Bjelke-Petersen sought to kill the Murray Islanders' case by enacting a retrospective extinguishment of any such title. 

There was no political or media uproar against Bjelke-Petersen's law. There was no public condemnation of the state's manouevre. There was no redress anywhere in the democratic forums or procedures of the state or the nation.

If there were no Racial Discrimination Act that would have been the end of it. Land rights would have been dead, there would never have been a Mabo case in 1992, there would have been no Native Title Act under Prime Minister Keating in 1993.

Without this old man the land and human rights of our people would never have seen the light of day. There would never have been Mabo and its importance to the history of Australia would have been lost without the Whitlam program.

Only those who have known discrimination truly know its evil.

Only those who have never experienced prejudice can discount the importance of the Racial Discrimination Act.

This old man was one of those rare people who never suffered discrimination but understood the importance of protection from its malice.

On this day we will recall the repossession of the Gurindji of Wave Hill, when the Prime Minister said, "Vincent Lingiari, I solemnly hand to you these deeds as proof in Australian law that these lands belong to the Gurindji people and I put into your hands this piece of earth itself as a sign that we restore them to you and your children forever."

It was this old man's initiative with the Woodward Royal Commission that led to Prime Minister Fraser's enactment of the Aboriginal Land Rights Northern Territory Act, legislation that would see more than half of the territory restored to its traditional owners.

Of course recalling the Whitlam Government's legacy has been, for the past four decades since the dismissal, a fraught and partisan business. Assessments of those three highly charged years and their aftermath divide between the nostalgia and fierce pride of the faithful, and the equally vociferous opinion that the Whitlam years represented the nadir of national government in Australia. Let me venture a perspective.

The Whitlam government is the textbook case of reform trumping management.

In less than three years an astonishing reform agenda leapt off the policy platform and into legislation and the machinery and programs of government.The country would change forever. The modern cosmopolitan Australia finally emerged like a technicolour butterfly from its long dormant chrysalis. And 38 years later we are like John Cleese, Eric Idle and Michael Palin's Jewish insurgents ranting against the despotic rule of Rome, defiantly demanding "and what did the Romans ever do for us anyway?"

Apart from Medibank and the Trade Practices Act, cutting tariff protections and no-fault divorce in the Family Law Act, the Australia Council, the Federal Court, the Order of Australia, federal legal aid, the Racial Discrimination Act, needs-based schools funding, the recognition of China, the abolition of conscription, the law reform commission, student financial assistance, the Heritage Commission, non-discriminatory immigration rules, community health clinics, Aboriginal land rights, paid maternity leave for public servants, lowering the minimum voting age to 18 years and fair electoral boundaries and Senate representation for the territories. 

Apart from all of this, what did this Roman ever do for us? 

And the Prime Minister with that classical Roman mien, one who would have been as naturally garbed in a toga as a safari suit, stands imperiously with twinkling eyes and that slight self-mocking smile playing around his mouth, in turn infuriating his enemies and delighting his followers. There is no need for nostalgia and yearning for what might have been. The achievements of this old man are present in the institutions we today take for granted and played no small part in the progress of modern Australia.

There is no need to regret three years was too short. Was any more time needed? The breadth and depth of the reforms secured in that short and tumultuous period were unprecedented, and will likely never again be repeated.The devil-may-care attitude to management as opposed to reform is unlikely to be seen again by governments whose priorities are to retain power rather than reform. 

The Whitlam program as laid out in the 1972 election platform consisted of three objectives: to promote equality, to involve the people of Australia in the decision-making processes of our land, and to liberate the talents and uplift the horizons of the Australian people. This program is as fresh as it was when first conceived. It scarcely could be better articulated today.

Who would not say the vitality of our democracy is a proper mission of government and should not be renewed and invigorated. Who can say that liberating the talents and uplifting the horizons of Australians is not a worthy charter for national leadership?

It remains to mention the idea of promoting equality. My chances in this nation were a result of the Whitlam program. My grandparents and parents could never have imagined the doors that opened to me which were closed to them. I share this consciousness with millions of my fellow Australians whose experiences speak in some way or another to the great power of distributed opportunity. 

I don't know why someone with this old man's upper middle class background could carry such a burning conviction that the barriers of class and race of the Australia of his upbringing and maturation should be torn down and replaced with the unapologetic principle of equality. I can scarcely point to any white Australian political leader of his vintage and of generations following of whom it could be said without a shadow of doubt, he harboured not a bone of racial, ethnic or gender prejudice in his body. This was more than urbane liberalism disguising human equivocation and private failings; it was a modernity that was so before its time as to be utterly anachronistic. 

For people like me who had no chance if left to the means of our families we could not be more indebted to this old man's foresight and moral vision for universal opportunity. Only those born bereft truly know the power of opportunity. Only those accustomed to its consolations can deprecate a public life dedicated to its furtherance and renewal. This old man never wanted opportunity himself but he possessed the keenest conviction in its importance. For it behoves the good society through its government to ensure everyone has chance and opportunity.

This is where the policy convictions of Prime Minister Whitlam were so germane to the uplift of many millions of Australians.

We salute this old man for his great love and dedication to his country and to the Australian people. When he breathed he truly was Australia's greatest white elder and friend without peer of the original Australians."

Thursday, 30 October 2014

Halloween - it's creeping in 'downunder'?

We seem to be adopting all things American - I wonder if they are adopting many things from 'downunder'. Perhaps they are still putting a shrimp (prawn to us) on the barbie!

I was horrified to see a display of over-sized pumpkins - probably pumped up with hormones - at my local supermarket. I wonder how they will sell. I wonder if anyone is going to carve funny faces in them and light a candle? I wonder how many people care about trick or treat. I certainly don't. Do you?
My local supermarket display - pumpkin soup anyone!
During my time in the States recently there were HUGE pumpkins on offer here, there and everywhere. Surely they would be 'off' by Halloween. I don't think these pumpkins are edible but I may be wrong. Probably if you eat them the hormones will blow you up as well.
American pumpkins. Gross!
Is it only in America that they get over-excited about Halloween? I can recall having an American penpal many moons ago who asked me what I was doing for Halloween. In the dim dark ages past I had to advise her that I had never heard of it! I recently Googled it to find out the history - click here if you are interested - its history really has little to do with pumpkins - more to do with the Christian All Hallows Eve - a hallowed evening.

About the only thing that I thought was rather clever was this carved pumpkin - probably because if doesn't look like a pumpkin - more like my haunting owl (see post here).
Now ain't he just the cutest lille ole thing! (pinterest)
So let's let Halloween - particularly the trick-or-treat part, apple bobbing and even scary dress ups which are all part of encouraging consumerism pass us by (well you may ask - so why am I writing about it if that's how I feel!?) What do you think about Halloween (as opposed to the Christian celebration of All Hallows Eve) and do you celebrate? Is it just an excuse for children to gorge on sweets? And is it just an excuse for retailers to sell costumes, sweets (I've seen ads for Halloween donuts!) and over-pumped pumpkins?

Tuesday, 21 October 2014

When will we ever learn

It's been a torrid week in some ways and an uplifting week in others. The Melbourne Festival is currently on and I seem to be drawn to all things indigenous in one way or another. And that's a good thing - in one way or another. 

It started with the opening of the Festival at Federation Square (our Federation not the indigenous peoples of our land). But it was a 'welcome to country' by the local 'tribes'. (now I know that many of you will already be rolling your eyes as the 'welcome to country' is seen by many as 'tokenism'. But that is just one point of view). So let's begin with the Festival opening - the photos don't really reflect what was occuring but....
The smell of eucalyptus burning - so evocative

Federation Square transformed (the little ones were 'right into it')

And then I went to one of my favourite dance companies - KAGE - to see the world premier of their current production The Team of Life. I was keen to see it as 2 years ago I had been invited to attend a 'workshop' of their plans for the production. It was fascinating to see the progression after it had been 'workshopped' over that period. It is the story of a South Sudanese boy-soldier - David Nyuol Vincent (his book The Boy Who Wouldn't Die) - and his journey to live in this country. In 2011 David was appointed as Australia people Ambassador and one of Melbourne’s Top 100 most influencial, inspirational, provocative and creative people. One of his connections to 'life' and this country was through playing soccer (originally with a newspaper pushed into a sock to make a football and then playing with the real thing). On the other side of the stage was an indigenous couple - he obsessed with Aussie Rules and the 'oval' ball. Although I felt it didn't quite gell and combine the two types of football or the two types of 'blacks' (their words) - I felt they did a stirling job to show us that humanity is pretty much the same. See the review here
Former boy-soldier David Nyuol Vincent (what a smile) and Leila Gurruwiwi (Jeff Busby)
And then last night it was off to see Big Hart perform Hipbone Sticking Out - a frenetic, amusing, poignent and shattering story of the history of the indigenous peoples of this land before and after colonisation. It was funny, clever, and ultimately devastating to hear the story of 16 year old John Pat a young and 'up and coming leader of his community' who died in custody in 1983 from a kick to the head by a policeman and then left for dead in the Roebourne lockup. (you can read the horrifying account here) But it was also the story of the colonisation of the Pilbara which denied the indigenous the power to speak - and to be heard. His mother was in the audience. She finally received an apology from the Western Australian Parliament in 2013. But it doesn't bring her son back. See the review here
Trevor Jamieson playing John Pat (if he had been alive today) (the age)
And then we read in the paper that on Saturday night a young indigenous student Joshua Hardy from Darwin who was studying at Melbourne University to be a lawyer (having won an indigenous scholarship to the prestigious Melbourne Grammar School) was kicked in the head outside a McDonalds and died. Yet another life cut short for no reason.

Joshua Hardy with his sister Rebecca just hours before he died
Senseless. Shattering. Continuing. When will we ever learn?

The Australian National Anthem (rewritten by Judith Durham of The Seekers fame) will end this post. You can hear her sing it with Kutcha Edwards (who sang it at the KAGE premier) here. I hope you enjoy and agree that the words are more 'suitable' than the olde worlde words we currently sing!

Australia, celebrate as one, with peace and harmony.
Our precious water, soil and sun, grant life for you and me.
Our land abounds in nature’s gifts to love, respect and share,
And honouring the Dreaming, advance Australia fair.
With joyful hearts then let us sing, advance Australia fair.

Australia, let us stand as one, upon this sacred land.
A new day dawns, we’re moving on to trust and understand.
Combine our ancient history and cultures everywhere,
To bond together for all time, advance Australia fair.
With joyful hearts then let us sing, advance Australia fair.

Australia, let us strive as one, to work with willing hands.
Our Southern Cross will guide us on, as friends with other lands.
While we embrace tomorrow’s world with courage, truth and care,
And all our actions prove the words, advance Australia fair,
With joyful hearts then let us sing, advance Australia fair.

And when this special land of ours is in our children’s care,
From shore to shore forever more, advance Australia fair.
With joyful hearts then let us sing, advance ... Australia ... fair.

Thursday, 9 October 2014

My jet lag theory has been blown out of the water!

I've been rather pleased with myself on returning to Australia from Noo York and Washington. I've been bragging about my theory that "flying west I don't get jetlag". It seems that when I fly to Europe I 'just get on with it on my arrival' and don't seem to react to the long flight (economy - ugh) as much as I do returning home flying east. Now maybe it's just because I am off-and-running to see and do a million things when I fly to Europe or is there more to it than that? 
My theory is 'apparantly' correct (parisbreakfasts.blogspt.com)
When I fly east (Europe to Australia) it seems to take my time-clock at least 10 days to return to normal. By that I mean not waking at 3.00 am and not being able return to sleep which is then followed later in the day by the absolute desire/necessity to have a 'lie down' at 3.00 pm which isn't at all helpful to return to my usual sleep pattern (I need to admit that the 'normal' pattern is a pretty disrupted one). 
It's 3.pm after flying east! (telegraph.co.uk)
Well I was all puffed up with myself on my return home from the States (flying west) and I certainly didn't have a broken sleep pattern - well no more than is normal for me! But I seem to have lost a week on my calendar - making arrangements a week out! So yes my sleep was fine but my head was obviously elsewhere (some would say it often is!) P'raps it was still in Noo York! So to those friends who I have 'messed up on' I apologise. 

Do you have a theory about flying east as opposed to flying west. Or is it all in my foggy mind!?

Monday, 6 October 2014

My Noo York top 6

On my recent first trip to New York - in itself rather a surprise for such a world traveller (!) - you'll notice that my list doesn't include some of the must-sees such as the Metropolitan Museum of Art, The Museum of Modern Art, the Guggenheim or the shops such as Saks, Bloomingdales, Bergdorf etc. In this post I have decided to focus on my favourites which were small interesting experiences that can't be gathered while in the enormous 7 building Metropolitan. My favourites in the short time I had in New York seem to be the small museums and spaces.

Oh to have the money that many old New York families had/have but then to do it with such style and such panache for all the world to see - this was the surprise package for me. Between 1902 and 1906 J. P. Morgan (of banking fame) built his private library next to his residence - acquiring illuminated, literary and historical manuscripts, early printed books - including 3 copies of the famed Gutenburg Bible, private letters and original music scripts. It is a treasure trove. What a library. His son J. P. Jr. gifted it as a public institution in 1924. We popped in for a look and stayed an afternoon! We loved everything about it. 
Stunning Library - books, books, books
Some stored in the vault - look at the bolts on the right
J P himself (sorry so dark - no flash)
The fabulous light and bright modern extension - with New York buildings reflected
Another surprise. Old money here too - and all gathered in a beautiful mansion on 5th Avenue. We loved the fact that you can still wander the rooms much as they were when Mr (and Mrs) Frick lived there. And what a house. What a life! Mr Frick (1849 - 1919) was a Pittsburg coke and steel industrialist. They lived with paintings by Vermeer, Bellini, El Greco, Goya and Gainsborough - to name just a few - always keeping in mind that the entire collection and the house would be gifted!  Although his wealth was extraordinary one could imagine his hosting of regular dinners and wandering the galleries after his guests had departed. Mrs Adelaide (had to include this - the name of my home town) Frick died in 1931 and it was opened to the public in 1935.
Housed in the New York City mansion built by Henry Clay Frick (1849-1919), one of America's most successful industrialists, are masterpieces of Western painting, sculpture, and decorative art, displayed in a serene and intimate setting. Each of the Collection's sixteen permanent galleries offers a unique presentation of artworks arranged for the most part without regard to period or national origin, akin to the way Mr. Frick enjoyed the art he loved before bequeathing it to the public.
Both the mansion and the works within it serve as a monument to one of America's greatest art collectors. Built in 1913-14 from designs by the firm Carrère and Hastings, the house is set back from Fifth Avenue by an elevated garden punctuated by three magnificent magnolia trees. Since Mr. Frick's death in 1919,
- See more at: http://www.frick.org/collection/history#sthash.VIdemPH7.dpuf
The gorgeous gallery (no photos allowed) www.frick.org
The Fragonard Room (www.statelinesptgds.com)
Housed in the New York City mansion built by Henry Clay Frick (1849-1919), one of America's most successful industrialists, are masterpieces of Western painting, sculpture, and decorative art, displayed in a serene and intimate setting. Each of the Collection's sixteen permanent galleries offers a unique presentation of artworks arranged for the most part without regard to period or national origin, akin to the way Mr. Frick enjoyed the art he loved before bequeathing it to the public.
Both the mansion and the works within it serve as a monument to one of America's greatest art collectors. Built in 1913-14 from designs by the firm Carrère and Hastings, the house is set back from Fifth Avenue by an elevated garden punctuated by three magnificent magnolia trees. Since Mr. Frick's death in 1919,
- See more at: http://www.frick.org/collection/history#sthash.VIdemPH7.dpuf
Housed in the New York City mansion built by Henry Clay Frick (1849-1919), one of America's most successful industrialists, are masterpieces of Western painting, sculpture, and decorative art, displayed in a serene and intimate setting. Each of the Collection's sixteen permanent galleries offers a unique presentation of artworks arranged for the most part without regard to period or national origin, akin to the way Mr. Frick enjoyed the art he loved before bequeathing it to the public.
Both the mansion and the works within it serve as a monument to one of America's greatest art collectors. Built in 1913-14 from designs by the firm Carrère and Hastings, the house is set back from Fifth Avenue by an elevated garden punctuated by three magnificent magnolia trees. Since Mr. Frick's death in 1919,
- See more at: http://www.frick.org/collection/history#sthash.VIdemPH7.dpuf
A walk in the park
I mean Central Park of course! I couldn't have imagined that it was so big, green, lush and busy - and yet there were nooks and crannies where one could slip away and spend some quiet time. Still our visit was hardly an amble - unfortunately there was not time for ambling during my stay. We went at - I regret - a relentless pace - in order to 'fit-it-all-in-just-in-case-I-dont-get-back' sort of pace. These lungs of New York have something for everyone. Joggers, walkers, entertainers - it really is an astounding park - and to think it was all 'created'. And it's not being encroached upon by carparks, new footy ovals, overpasses or ringroads. It is revered as we don't seem to be able to do here in Melbourne. For a great read that will bring a lot of the history of the park and the amazing apartment buildings overlooking the park to life I recommend the who-done-it Death Angel by Linda Fairstein (we even met a friend of hers on our speedy amble!)

Green green Central Park
The High Line
What a surprise. To walk along a disused railway line which is now planted with trees, grasses and flowers gave me such a different perspective to New York. It has been an unimagined success. You see the city through different eyes. And it has changed the face of the areas surrounding it. How much more sensible it was that the powers-that-be didn't rip it out and replace it with yet more highrises. I'm sure that it will be copied throughout the world - where old railway lines lie sad and dormant. It has been embraced by New Yorkers and of course by hoards of visitors.
Fun seating on the old railway tracks
Fun design, green spaces
Lush along the old railway line - high above the street
Ground Zero
I want to say that I loved the way the space where the two buildings once stood was done but the word love is so wrong for this site - so I hope you will forgive me. I was totally moved by the absolute simplicity of the 'holes in the ground'. The simplest of simple waterfalls with the water falling into an ever deeper hole - seemed to tell the story. Sometimes we overdo our 'memorials'.  Surrounding each 'hole' were the names of all those who had lost their lives on that fateful day. Although I didn't have time to visit the newly opened museum I am glad that I visited the site, and glad in a way that I left with the simplest of reminders of the day that changed our world forever. I'll let my photos do the talking.
All is quiet except for the sound of continual cascading water flowing into a darkened hole
Every life lost is engraved to be remembered - the park will be beautiful in years to come
The Tenement Museum
What a contrast to The Frick and the Morgan Library and Museum, and yet once again a wealthy philanthropist (more on them later) bought the building in 1988 to showcase the living conditions of those who fled Ireland and Europe to find a better life for themselves and their families. The apartment block was built in 1863 and was home to over 7000 immigrants who lived cheek by jowel until it was boarded up in the 1940's. We had recently seen the film The Immigrant (highly recommended) and in some ways it was like walking into that story. The Museum is on 4 levels and each floor showcases the stories of those who passed through the building - from Irish Oursiders to Sweat Shop Workers to Shop Life. It's a timewarp. We toured just two of the floors but each gave us a great overview of the living and working conditions of those who first arrived in the land of hope and plenty.  
4 floors up, 4 floors down

Imagine carrying your heavy water bucket up 4 flights of stairs - in the dark!
And so I conclude as Frank Sinatra sings in what has become the unofficial anthem of the city:
 
Start spreading the news, I am leaving today.
I want to be a part of it, New York, New York.
These vagabond shoes, are longing to stray
Right through the very heart of it, New York, New York.

I wanna wake up, In that city that doesn't sleep.
And find I'm king of the hill, top of the heap.

These little town blues, are melting away.
I'll make a brand new start of it, in old New York.

If I can make it there,
I'll make it anywhere.
It's up to you, New York, New York.

New York, New York.
I want to wake up, in that city that never sleeps.
And find I'm Aye Number 1, Top of the list, King of the hill, Aye Number 1...

These little town blues, are melting away.
I'm gonna make a brand new start of it,
in old New York, and...

If I can make it there, I'll make it anywhere.
It's up to you, New York, New York!