Melbourne: City with Soul

I have lost count of the times people have told me I would love Melbourne. They were right of course, it’s a gorgeous city and, after 3 days of wandering her streets, I love her very much. The locals are friendly and laid-back, the food is incredible, the architecture is eclectic and the cafés, bars, restaurants and shops are cool without being pretentious. But, most all, it’s the ease that descends in her presence, that truly endears one to her.

Infinitely increasing the glory of Melbourne was the fact that I was there with my beautiful Lauren and her equally beautiful friend, Alethea. For as long as I have known Lauren, I have heard about Alethea, and it’s not for nothing that in that 14 years she has taken on mythic proportions – she is a thoroughly gorgeous woman. Meeting her was definitely a highlight of my trip; she’s funny and outgoing, and has a warm, generous spirit that bathes you in light when you’re with her. It’s no surprise that her and I got on like a house on fire, as Lauren has excellent taste in women.

The Girls! (Alethea, me and Lauren)

Lauren is also a superb organizer; and for our Melbourne trip she did not disappoint. She found us an amazing apartment, through Airbnb, in the heart of Chinatown. The couple who owned the apartment were lovely, and gave us lots of tips on where to eat etc., and left personal touches, like chocolates on our pillows and a bottle of champagne to help us celebrate Lauren’s birthday. Despite the sun hardly being over the yardarm, we thought it was only good manners to partake of said champagne then and there; plus, it gave Lauren and Alethea a chance to catch up and for me and Alethea to get to know each other – which took all of two minutes, as it felt like we’d known each other forever. Oh, and for any Kiwis reading this, Alethea – who’d travelled from New Zealand – bought with her some Rashuns and Chocolate Macaroons, so it was a proper party.

Toasting Lauren’s coming of age!

After acquiring a fizzy glow and licking the Rashun dust off our fingers, we headed out into the beautiful summer’s day Melbourne had laid on for us. Now, while Lauren excels at oragnisation and the picking friends, she excels not so much at directions; Alethea is about on par with Lauren; and me, well, I couldn’t find my way out of a one exit tunnel. As such, it took us some time to find our way to the nearest tram stop, which, it turned out, was just around the corner.

When Google Maps got us lost, we had to go old school.

We got there eventually and took a tram to the bohemian paradise of Chapel Street – the King Street of Melbourne, though way cooler. I wandered around like a tourist, my eyes popping out of my head with the wonder of it all. There were shops selling remarkable things, much of it second-hand and eccentric; cafés and bars with footpath seating reeked of originality and understated artistic expression; and chilled and friendly folk milled about with no hint of aggression. Indeed, everyone was so chilled, one couldn’t help but wonder if Valium had made its way into the water supply

One of many magnificent shops on Chapel Street.

After strolling up and down the street, wandering in and out of shops, we made our way to Hawkerhall, a restaurant that had been recommended to us by Alethea’s husband. There we met up with Aletha’s friend Ruwai, who is just gorgeous. Also a Kiwi, Ruwai and Alethea hadn’t seen each other for eons, so it was great to be part of their reunion. I also had a reunion of my own, with the utterly adorable Anne-Laure, whom I’d worked with in the art supply store with Kat and Anna back in my Sydney days. It was great to see her again after 7 years and catch up on all that had happened in both our lives since then.

The gorgeous Anne-Laure and me.

After a good night’s sleep (good because we went to bed early like the nanas we now are), we set off mid-morning in search of adventure. Adventure soon found us, when we happened upon a beautiful Synagogue, home of the East Melbourne Hebrew Congregation. There were some gentlemen standing outside and, with Purim afoot that evening, we stopped and asked if they had any festivities planned; they didn’t as such, though they told us of some elsewhere in the city, adding that the morning’s Shabbat Service was about to begin and we were welcome to attend. We accepted their kind offer and made our way upstairs to the women’s section – being that it was an orthodox synagogue – which allowed us a superlative view of all the goings on in the men’s section below. Lauren and Alethea decided not to stay for the whole service and we arranged to meet up when it was finished. As for myself, I was enthralled; I have only ever attended reform services before, so I found it fascinating to be part of a more traditional one. I had the good fortune to sit next to a very kind and gracious woman called, Margot, who guided me through what to do when. The service included a blessing for a groom, which was beautiful, and after Kiddush (the ritual blessing and drinking of wine, which, in East Melbourne, included whisky – much to my delight) there was a luncheon in the bride and groom’s honour. The food was amazing and included the most delicious chocolate layered thingy I have ever eaten.

The Beautiful East Melbourne Synagogue

Feeling spiritually and choclatically sated, I met up with Lauren and Alethea, and we made our way, on foot, to the Rose Street Artists’ Market in Fitzroy. We saw some wonderful buildings along the way, which looked resplendent in the shining sun. The Market, though small, was excellent; Melbourne has some seriously talented creatives. We didn’t stay too long looking at all the wares, as much of the market was in a tin shed that was stinking hot; so, we ate the apples Lauren had brought with her (like the excellent mum she is) and we wandered back to our apartment in Chinatown, to freshen up before embarking on our afternoon and evening events.

Rose Street Artists’ Market

The main event was meeting up with Alethea’s old friend Nathan and his friend Matt (it may be that Alethea also knew Matt, or maybe not; either way, that’s who we met). Our initial meeting took place at a rooftop bar called Madame Brussel’s. It’s impossible to describe just how amazing the bars in Melbourne are, I have never seen places like them; it seems even alcohol vendors in the city of soul are creative geniuses. Madame Brussel’s was no exception; I thoroughly enjoyed being in such unique surrounds.

Alethea and Lauren enjoying the sun at Madame Brussel’s

Next, the 5 of us went to a dumpling restaurant, called Hutong, for which we’d received two separate recommendations within 20 mins of each other. Its reputation was well-founded and clearly well-known, as it was very busy. Everyone enjoyed their meal; everyone, that is, except me. It can be tricky being a vegetarian when you don’t really like vegetables, especially of the cooked variety, which is what restaurants tend do to them. Even so, I enjoyed being there, as the company was excellent.

Hutong Dumpling Bar

After everyone had finished eating, and I had ceased moving spinach dumplings around my plate, we went to Section 8, an outside bar and music venue favoured by New Zealanders. It was easy to why; it was laidback and grungy and a little bit dirty, just the way we like it. Instead of chairs and tables it had warehouse crates and oil drums, the roof was made of corrugated plastic, the front wall was a wire fence, the bar was a hut and the music was awesome, which, in keeping with the venue, was dirty and deep. We only stayed for one drink, as the music was too loud for conversation and we are old now and prefer genial conversation to shouting inane comments to each other while bobbing our heads and checking out the talent.

Section 8

Next stop was The Toff in Town, a bar come music venue come movie theatre spread over 3 floors. We went to a section which had these booths that were reminiscent of first-class train carriages. It was the perfect place for us, for, even though the music was loud, we were cocooned in our little booth, so we could still hear each other talk. Plus, there was a buzzer inside the booth that you just had to push to summon the waiter. On offer was an extensive and imaginative range of cocktails, which everyone partook of; everyone, that is, except me; not because they had vegetables in them, but because I was due to embark on a 23 hour flight the next day (which I happen to be on as I write).

A Toff in Town booth

In preparation for my long haul, I decided not go with the others to the next establishment, so they walked me back to the apartment (in case I got lost, which, if left to my own devices, I most assuredly would’ve have), before heading off to…actually, I have no idea where they went. For myself, I tucked myself up in bed with a bowl of Rashuns, two Macaroons and my book – which, while fascinating, is not what you’d call a ‘holiday read’, being that it is dark and rather depressing.

The next morning, I woke up feeling sick; not, as might think, from the Rashuns and Macaroons, but because in a few hours I knew I’d have to say goodbye to Lauren. We all had afternoon flights – Lauren to Sydney, Alethea to New Zealand, and me, the Isle of Man – so we decided to go out for breakfast and then have a little wander around the shops in the city Centre. We went to a gorgeous café called Magic Mountain Saloon, which Lauren and Alethea had found the day before when I was at the Synagogue. The menu was a bit too vegetably for me, but I did have the loveliest lime and mint drink.

Me and my beautiful Lauren in Magic Mountain Saloon.

After our wee shop, we caught a tram to the bus station and, as my flight was a couple of hours before the others, I said goodbye to Lauren and Alethea, with big fat tears rolling down my cheeks. I should probably point out that I didn’t intend to catch my flight from the bus station (I’m not that disorientated); rather, I was there to catch a SkyBus to the airport. Now I am sitting here, way up in the sky, marveling at what has been an incredible holiday. In the last 3 weeks, my heart and soul have expanded a hundredfold. I feel reconnected to something essential in myself and to the beautiful friends I made in Australia, before I fled, brokenhearted, to the gentle mist-covered island in the middle of the Irish Sea that I have called home for the last 7 years. A cycle is complete, of that I am sure; which can only mean, a new one is in the throes of beginning.


Postscript:

In the throes of a new beginning I may be, but it seems some things are set to stay the same. Yes, a mere few hours into my new life, I had yet another shoe debacle. This time it involved my chosen airplane footwear, my jandals (aka flipflops). I have been wearing my jandals since my King Street blister incident; and it’s been all well and good, except I spilt my orange juice on my first flight and didn’t discover until I was ready to disembark, that I had spilt it all over my jandals; as such, I spent my two-hour transit in Abu Dhabi airport with my jandals stuck to my feet. I did think of giving them a wash in the bathroom, but thought that might be a bit uncouth; not only in a general sense, but also, specifically, as I subscribe to my Uncle Ian’s philosophy on jandals, that they are not just for a summer, they are for life. In which case, if the central toehold pops out, you certainly don’t consider throwing them away, you simply bend down and pop it back in; and when they are minging and the heels have worn away, you continue to wear them, remaining loyal to your jandals until the there is literally nothing left of them. My jandals are about midway through their lifespan and, it has to be said, they have seen better days, and are certainly not fit to be waved around in a fancy Abu Dhabi bathroom. As such, I had to wait until I boarded my flight to Dublin, to give them a sneaky clean in the privacy of an Etihad lav.

As my uncle would say: There’s years of wear left!

Sydney: Past and Present

It’s been 7 years since I lived in Sydney and, I must say, I was apprehensive about returning, as not all those years were good. It turns out, I had nothing to worry about; as all that happened is rooted firmly in the past and visiting old haunts and catching up with friends has been nothing but wonderful. To be sure, I am glad I am not back there, but I now understand the forces that were at play in my life back then and can only marvel and what took place and count myself blessed to have had such an eye-opening experience.

One of the most evocative places I have revisited is King Street, which runs through the heart of Newtown. Arguably the coolest thoroughfare Sydney, it has an eclectic array shops, bars and cafés, most of which have an arty and/or eccentric air. Everyone is young, dressed shabby-chic and look like they listen to cool music. I spent a lot of time on King Street when I lived in Sydney, both in its drinking establishments and in places of employment.

Elizabeth’s Bookshop, one of the places I worked.

On Tuesday evening, I met up with some friends in Glebe – an area that begins at the far end of King Street – which gave me the opportunity to walk its entire length and revisit all those places that had been central to my experience of Sydney. Naturally, after 7 years, some things had change, but much of it, to my delight, had stayed the same. It was amazing to see places I’d spent my working days, counting the minutes till I could go home, and those places I’d spent my evenings, sometimes worse for wear, but always in good company.

One of the pubs I frequented.

Just as I was feeling self-satisfied to have been part of something cool, a calamity befell me which firmly divested me of any notion that some of that coolness had rubbed off on me. Mid stride, I felt a tearing sensation on my right heel and then a mighty pain; unbeknown to me, I had been forming a blister during my sojourn up King Street, which had, at that moment, torn, leaving raw, seeping flesh. Although the shoes I was wearing are normally comfortable, it turns out, without socks, they they’ll rub the skin right off you. This put me in a bit of a pickle, as I had a fair way to go until my destination and had long since passed any Band Aid selling shops.

As far as I could see, I had one of two choices: either walk barefoot, or tuck the bottom of my trouser leg into my shoe, to act like a buffer between it and my raw, bleeding heel. I chose the latter, which did the trick for a few meters, until I felt a tearing sensation, followed by a mighty pain on my left heel; which meant tucking both of my trousers legs into my shoes; which meant I had to tiptoe in order to prevent my trousers legs from coming out of my shoes; which meant, not only was I in agony, but I looked ridiculous. Then, to top it off, it started to rain; not dainty Isle of Man drizzle, but Sydney rain of the torrential variety. So, there I was, tiptoeing to my destination in the pouring rain, wincing at the pain and worried about the state of my hair.

If it doesn’t rain…

Sure enough, by the time I reached my destination – the Australian Youth Hotel – my hair was plastered to my head and mascara was running down my face. It was all worth it though, as I was there to meet two lots of very dear friends. First was the lovely Kat, whom I’d met when working in an art supply shop in the Rocks. Kat is a painter and writer and thoroughly gorgeous person; it was great to catch up with her, and amazing to discover how similar our lives are.

Australian Youth Hostel, Glebe.

Later, I had dinner with the beautiful Lee and Paul. I worked for Lee for 3 years in her very special shop, Heavenly Bliss – an experience that changed my life. It’s impossible to describe how incredible my time there was, suffice to say, I was restored to the light and graced with one of the most significant friendships in my life – my dear Mary (may she rest in peace). We had such a great time catching up, it was like no time had passed at all – a sensation helped by the fact that Lee hasn’t aged a bit and is as beautiful now as she ever was. It was lovely to see Paul too, he is such a sweetheart. He has just published his second book and gave me copy, as well as a bottle of Baileys and some chocolates to enjoy while I read it.

Paul and lee – amazing people!

On Wednesday morning, Lauren dropped me at Redfern Station, though not before checking whether I needed to go to the loo or wanted a bottle of water to take with me. I love the way her mothering spills over into our friendship, as it makes me feel cherished and safe. Not that I took any notice on this occasion, as I said no to both, only to discover once in the station, that I did need the loo; then later, at her birthday hoolie, I was stuck down with a terrible headache, due to being dehydrated – proving she, as a mother, really does know best. Anyway, I was at Redfern Station to catch a train to Pennant Hills, to see my cousin Steve, one of my favourite people in the world. We had a lovely few hours together, talking and laughing and catching up on the last 11 years. The time went way too quickly and I truly hope it’s not another 11 years before we see each other again.

Me and my wonderful cousin, Steve.

Lauren’s birthday hoolie was across the road from her house, at a pub called The Golden Barley. She looked absolutely beautiful in her new outfit and pretty high-heeled shoes; meanwhile, although I wore my favourite top, it didn’t look quite as fetching, paired as it was with my flipflops, due to not being able to wear shoes. Still, I had a lovely time, until I was struck down with the aforementioned headache, that could’ve avoided had I listened to Lauren. The highlight for me (apart from being there with Lauren of course) was meeting up with my very dear friend Nicole. Nicole and I met at Heavenly Bliss – another beautiful outcome from that sacred place – where we worked together on Sundays. It was amazing to see her again and catch up on all that has been happening in both our lives.

The beautiful Nicole and me.

My last Sydney catch-up was with the gorgeous Anna Ruby. Anna and I worked together at the art supply shop (with Kat), and loved each other right away; now, after 7 years, we love each other more. It was simply amazing to see her again; she has a beautiful spirit, and is wise and articulate. I have no doubt we’ll see each other again, but where in the world that will be, I’m not entirely sure; all I know is, I look forward to the day. We didn’t get round to taking a photo, so I’ll have to make do with one I took 7 years ago in my apartment in Potts Point – the only thing that’s changed is now she even more beautiful!

Anna Ruby

These past 3 days in Sydney have far exceeded my expectations. As I said, I was very apprehensive about being here again; but I needn’t have been. What remains in Sydney is not my past, but connections; connections that are among the most rich and powerful in my life. And, as long as the beautiful people I am connected to remain in Sydney, it will always be a home.

 


Header Picture: The Balcony 2 (Sydney Harbour) – Brett Whiteley

Old Friends and New

The greatest joy of growing older is acquiring old friends, and it’s a remarkable thing when you discover that such friends have become even lovelier with age. It has been amazing to spend time with Lauren, to see her as a mother and witness the beautiful mellowing that has taken place. I doubt she realises how lovely she is, even though I tell her. It seems so natural to see her every day, and it makes me very happy; it will be a wrench to say goodbye, and my eyes well-up when I think of it.

Friends forever!

Friends forever!

Midway through our stay in Kalaru, we were joined by our mutual and very dear friend, Julie. Lauren and I first met Julie on a beach in Narabeen, some 13 years ago, and it was love at first sight! We were there to watch Julie’s fella (who was a friend of my fella) play in a band in a beer garden across the road. It was a glorious summer’s day and we were all feeling fine. Eventually, Julie and I ditched our no-good, band-playing fellas (Julie for her adorable and kindhearted husband, and me for the wonders of single life), yet we remain eternally grateful to them for bringing her and I together. And, lucky for Julie, when she got me, she got our beautiful Lauren too!

julie2

Our beautiful Julie

After my last post, wherein I allude to my fondness for the odd tipple or two, the question was asked whether I was drinking my way around Australia; well, I would like to state for the record, that yes, yes I am. The reason of course is that Australia is a very hot country and it is important to stay well-hydrated. As luck would have it, Lauren and Julie like staying well-hydrated too, especially with fermented grape juice of the New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc variety. We make an excellent trio, and spending time together, hydrating and dancing under the stars, has been one of the highlights of my trip so far.

The power of 3

The power of 3

It is also a wonderful thing to make new friends. One of my favourite new friends is Lauren’s 3 (nearly 4) year-old son, Kash. By the mystery that binds people, we have taken a shine to each other. Mostly he’s a rascal, yet he’s incredibly charming with it; he gives me kisses and flowers and tells me I’m beautiful, usually such tokens reserved for his mum. One day, he asked me if we could please have a chat. I asked him what about, and he said we would have to wait and see. He then sat down next to me, thought for a moment, and asked in all seriousness, “Why do girls love flowers?” I explained why that was, and we spent the next 20 minutes chatting about girls and flowers and jet planes.

Me and Kash having our chat

Me and Kash having our chat

Kash’s older sister Charlize, is beautiful inside and out; she is sweet-natured and kind and very polite. It is her birthday today, and she’s reached the ripe old age of 7. To help celebrate her big day, her best friend from Sydney came to stay with us, as did her friend’s mum and little brother.

Beautiful Charlize

Beautiful Charlize

Sandy, the mum, is lovely, and her, Lauren and I got on really well. She is also a legend, as she drove the 7 hours to get here, by herself, with two kinds, in the rain and partially in the dark. She also tried all the funny food Kris (Lauren’s fella, in case you forgot) offered her; by funny, I mean oysters and muscles and eel etc. And, if that’s not enough, she’s is currently driving the 7 hours back, by herself, with two kids, possibly in the rain and later, partially in the dark. I’m really glad I got to meet her; she has a gentle nature and a great laugh (my favourite qualities in a person), and I look forward to seeing her again at Lauren’s birthday hoolie on Wednesday.

Lauren and Sandy wrapping Charlize's presents

Lauren and Sandy wrapping Charlize’s presents

Today was not only Charlize’s birthday, it was also our last day in Kalaru. Tomorrow we’ll say goodbye to this glorious part of Australia and make the long drive back to Sydney; I have no doubt that a part of me will remain. This evening, before dinner, we all wandered over to the dam to do a spot of fishing. Colours deepened as the sun set between the distant hills, black cockatoos chatted nosily to each other and kangaroos watched us in earnest. Charlize and Kash both caught fish, and Kash would’ve caught an eel, if it hadn’t swan away with his lure. It was a beautiful way to spend our last evening, and something I’ll remember forever.

Lauren fishing and Charlize recording the day's events in her new journal.

Lauren fishing and Charlize recording the day’s events in her new journal.

Welcome to the Sapphire Coast

I had the good fortune to grow up in New Zealand, arguably the most beautiful country in the world; even so, nothing prepared me for the soul-expanding beauty of the Sapphire Coast. Crystalline blue waters, made visually spectacular by the purity of the light, pour onto caramel coloured sand; inlets and bays, each with their own unique glory, dot the coastline from Bermagui in the north, to Wonboyn in the south, as do sleepy, seaside towns, where the locals are friendly and heavy industry is banished; with vast swathes of un-spoilt landscape, due in no small part to its considerable distance from any major city, the Sapphire Coast is the ultimate getaway. Yet, there is an ache and a sadness that permeates this land.

The Sapphire Coast, NSW

The Sapphire Coast, NSW

Before the British commandeered Australia for use as an open prison and began sending its undesirables – from petty thieves to Irish political activists – the Sapphire Coast was home to the Yuin people (a collective name that designates several distinct tribes); people who’d lived in harmony with land and sea for over 30,000 years, taking little from it and certainly never destroying it. The first European sighting of the coast’s original inhabitants was recorded in the journal of Captain James Cook – to the British, a celebrated explorer and note-taking coastal cartographer of land the Empire would seize by fair means or foul (mostly foul); and to the first people of Australia, the breath of a leviathan so mighty, it would descend upon their land and destroy their way of life in what was a complete and often brutal takeover.

Painting by Algernon Talmadge

Painting by Algernon Talmadge

In 2006, Biamanga and Gulaga national parks, were returned to the Yuin people. These areas form part of a cultural landscape of deep ritual significance, especially Mumbulla Mountain in Biamanga, which comprises several sacred sites where initiation ceremonies were held. Still, it should not be forgotten that in less than 200 years from Cook’s 1788 sighting, the Yuin population of this area was reduced by 95%, through a combination of killing, disease and displacement. It is an incalculable travesty, one that can never be redressed. When here, one can feel the land yearn for its gentle inhabitants.

'Gulaga' by Cheryl Davison

‘Gulaga’ by Cheryl Davison

Tathra

The town we are staying near is called Tathra, meaning: beautiful place, or possibly, place of wild cats – I haven’t seen any wild cats, so I’m going with beautiful place, which it certainly is. Home to the only remaining sea wharf on the east coast, Tathra has a permanent population of approximately 1600 people, a number that swells during the summer months as city slickers, willing to make the long drive, seek a superlative holiday destination.

Tathra beach

Tathra beach

The next guests to stay with us at our holiday house in Kalaru, were Kris’ dad, Ross and his wife, Carole. They were great company and the conversations we had were varied and interesting. Both have been coming to this part of the South Coast for years and have lots local knowledge. On the days they were here, they took us to the café at Tathra wharf, aptly named The Tathra Warf Café. What a place! From the rustic charm of the décor, to the super nice staff and delicious food, it’s one of the loveliest cafes I have ever been to, and that’s not even counting its best feature: the fabulous view. It’s the perfect spot to take a load off, and even do a spot of fishing while you sip your latte.

Lauren and Carole at the Tathra Wharf Cafe

Lauren and Carole at the Tathra Wharf Café

Tathra Wharf view

Tathra Wharf view

Eden

Further down the Sapphire Coast, nestled in Twofold Bay (one of the deepest natural harbours in the world), is a town called Eden. The area has a fascinating whaling history that stretches back millennia. Every year, Baleen whales migrate to and from their breeding grounds, their path cutting directly in front of the bay. At one time, lying in wait were predatory Orcas (from the Latin Orcus, meaning: demons from the underworld) – also known as Killer Whales (despite the fact they are actually dolphins).

Eden and Twofold Bay

Eden and Twofold Bay (obviously not my photo, because I don’t have a helicopter)

Although such behaviour is typical of Orcas the world over, those of the Twofold Bay area were unique, in that they developed a symbiotic relationship with the Katungal (coastal people of the Thaua tribe) who originally lived there. The Orcas would drive Baleen whales into shore, then alert the tribesmen, who would spear and kill the Baleen, leaving the Orcas to feast upon their lips and tongues (a favourite delicacy), taking what was left for themselves once the Orcas had finished. It was a sacred relationship which continued for successive generations; indeed, the Katungal considered the Orcas (whom they called, Beowas) to be ancestors that had returned to provide for the tribe.

Beowas (also not my photo)

Beowas (also not my photo)

When the British arrived and took over the area, setting up whaling stations in and around Twofold Bay, one station-owning family made use of the Katungal relationship with the Beowas; eventually destroying in less than 100 years what it had taken the Katungal thousands of years to develop.

Eden Whalers

Eden Whalers

Eden has an impressive museum detailing the story of its famous Orcas and their relationship with human inhabitants of the area. The primary focus is the Davidson whaling family (referred to above), the Katungal people getting but a cursory mention. The museum walks a delicate line between wanting to celebrate that relationship and yet distance itself from the moral disgust the idea of whaling elicits today. It does so by declaring Australia’s ‘no tolerance’ stance on whaling and by pointing out the Davidson family merely engaged in subsistence whaling (killing an average of 8 per year, unlike the big whaling stations on the Gold Coast, that averaged 200 per year). However, as the products they harvested from their annual 8 whales went into making such things as, tennis racket strings, bicycle saddles, crayons and corsetry, I’m not sure it can rightly be called subsistence.

Eden Killer Whale Museum

Eden Killer Whale Museum

After our visit, we stopped off at a wharf for a spot of fishing. I have no idea where was, and I only mentioned it because of the lovely photo I took. You will note that I am not in it, that is because I spied a lovely café/bar near the wharf, and felt it was only good manners to frequent it.

Families that fish together, stay together!

Families that fish together, stay together!

As for today, its 11am – otherwise known as wine o’clock in holiday time; however, I better wait, as poor Lauren is at the beach with 4 children and it has just started pouring with rain. To be fair, she is there with the mum of two of the children; still, if she comes back to find me sitting here, happy as a lark, with a glass of wine in my hand, I doubt she will speak to me for the rest of the day.

Road Trip

It’s 11am and I’m sitting here with a glass of wine, a packet of Cheezels and a TimTam. From olive-green trees shot through with burnt umber birds call to each other across the silent lake, adding counterpoints to the smooth Jazz playing on the radio. Above, fluffy white clouds tinged with grey cover the sun, sparing me the sticky task of plying my Manx-white skin with factor 50. It might rain later, which in these parts is a triumph, and all nature will bask in her glory. Australia, it’s good to be back.

It doesn't get much better!

It doesn’t get much better!

My flight from Dublin to Sydney was mind-numbingly boring and physically uncomfortable; on the upside, we didn’t full out of the sky and all arrived safe and sound. It was amazing to see my beautiful Lauren after seven years and we both shed a tear upon our reunion. I also met her children for her first time and was relieved to find that they are adorable and well behaved.

My first night in Sydney was spent drinking wine, chatting to Lauren, then lying in bed, wide awake until dawn. I managed to have a mid-morning nap and felt reasonably lucid on waking. After a wee visit to the shops and collection of the kids from their respective educational facilities, we packed the car, hitch up the boat and headed down the South Coast, where I now sit admiring the scenery.

Balcony view

Balcony view

The Princes Highway

As with many travellers, the route we took down the South Coast was the Princes Highway, so named after The Prince of Wales, who later became King Edward VIII, the only British King to ever abdicate. He relinquished his crown to marry his fancy woman, Wallis Simpson – a twice divorcee from American. Such a match was a no-no in the eyes of church and was deemed a constitutional crisis; so he ditched his job and ‘married the woman he loved.’ By all accounts Wallis was a bossy mare, which happened to be Edward’s cup of tea; their love was true and he remained ardently devoted to her until his death in 1972. The Highway was named after the Prince upon his Royal visit to Australia in 1920. He was due to drive along the Highway, from Melbourne to Sydney, but time limitations and the cost of refurbishing the road to a standard befitting a royal derriere scuppered the plan. Still, the highway got his name and remains one of the prettiest coastal drives in Australia.

Wallis & Edward

Wallis & Edward

The Princes highway begins in Sydney’s inner west and travels the length of the south-eastern coast of New South Wales, through Victoria, all the way to Port Augusta in South Australia. The route is dotted with historic townships, bushland, rolling pastures and stunning coastal views. I tried to find some interesting facts about the Highway, but, it turns out, as with most roads, it’s pretty boring. Indeed, the most interesting thing I know about the highway is I used to live on it in a disused Ugg Boot factory, with housemates that included a theatre director, two big dogs that pooped inside and a dying cat that stunk to high heaven.

The Prices Highway

The Prices Highway

Milton

After staying the night in Jervis Bay we continued south the next morning, stopping for breakfast in the uber hip township of Milton. Supposedly named after the 17th century English poet, John Milton, of Paradise Lost fame, the town has lots to amuse and refresh the weary traveller (especially the well-off hippy variety), including a theatre, art gallery, antique, craft and knickknack shops and trendy cafes. Further, its coastline boasts the world’s most beautiful white sand beaches.

Milton Window Display

Milton Window Display

The area around Milton, known  today as Shoalhaven has been inhabited for over 20,000 years and was the traditional homelands of the Tharawal people. When British settlers moved in towards the end of the 18th century – their eyes fixed firmly on the abundant cedar and rich farmland – they displaced or killed the original inhabitants, thus destroying their way of life and oral history forever. The death knell was sounded at 7am on the 22nd April 1770, when Captain James Cook recorded his sighting of what became known as Pigeon Hill (near Milton), from his ship the Endeavour, when he was on his way to Botany Bay.

Joseph Lycett c1817 - 'Aborigines spearing fish'

Joseph Lycett c1817 – ‘Aborigines spearing fish’

Kalaru

After Milton, we journeyed on to Kalaru, nestled in the Bega Valley, where Lauren and Kris have rented a holiday home for us to spend the next 9 days. The house is amazing and the view and surrounds, spectacular. While here, various friends and relatives will be popping in to say hello and to stay a couple of nights.

Our beautiful house

Our beautiful house

Our first houseguests were Kris’ bother, Paul and his wife, Fani (pronounced funny). Paul is a sweetheart and is very easy to be around; I’ve known him for as long as I have known Kris, which is about 12 years. Fani, whose name couldn’t be more fitting, is gorgeous. We first met 10 years ago, when she popped her head over Lauren and Kris’ fence and introduced herself. She is friendly and soulful and you can’t but laugh when she’s around.

Fani & Paul

Fani & Paul

By beautiful coincidence, Fani and I just discovered that not only were we born in the same hospital in the small town in New Zealand (Tokoroa),  but we also went to the same minding centre, with the same beloved teacher, Mrs Smith; and, if that’s not amazing enough, it is very likely we were there at the same time. It is an awesome connection to have and I feel very fortunate to have found my minding centre twin.

Tokoroa, New Zealand

Tokoroa, New Zealand

Our first couple of days in Kalaru have been amazing, I haven’t felt this relaxed in years. It is impossible to describe how beautiful it is here, and photos just don’t do in justice; not because my camera is stink, but because Kalaru is not just a visual experience. Rather, its beauty ignites all the senses and seeps into the soul, transforming it layer by layer as it dances like sunshine on water on a hot summer’s day.

Dublin: City of Stories

After spending the past few days wandering around Ramsey with a dopey grin on my face, I am finally on my way to Australia. The cause of my glee rests in the fact that, after 7 years, I will be seeing my very dear friend, Lauren. Lauren and I met in Sydney 14 years ago, when we were both working in a café in the heart of the city. I was a struggling artist – aspiring more than actual – and Lauren, a would-be yoga teacher; at least, that is what she told me on first meeting. When she said yoga teacher, I heard puritan and assumed we’d have nothing in common. However, on next meeting, she announced that the previous week she had gone to the pub with her wages in hand (we were paid in cash in little brown packets – like that was legit); then, on the way home, in a less than abstemious state, she lost her little brown packet, leaving her penniless for the rest of the week. Such disheveledness warmed my heart and we have been firm friends ever since.

My beautiful Lauren

My beautiful Lauren

The why of the trip is Lauren is coming of age; that’s right, she is turning 40. It’s a massive todo in anyone’s life and I will be there to help her through it. Only, I wouldn’t be there if it wasn’t for her incredibly kind partner, Kris, who bought me the ticket. It’s a beautiful thing he has done for Lauren and I, and I am eternally grateful. I adore Kris, he is sweet and funny and, if his sprawling, backyard cactus farm is anything to go by, he is getting delightfully eccentric with age. We get on like a house on fire, both for our penchant for the why of things and our mutual love for Lauren.

Since I last saw Lauren and Kris, they have had two children. Mostly, small children bewilder me; as such, I told Lauren I wouldn’t be visiting until they were both over 5 – an age after which I find children agreeable. Her youngest is not quite 5, but he likes jigsaws and is so freaking cute, that for him I will make an exception. To err on the side of caution, however, Lauren promised not to talk me up to them, lest they be disappointed with my non-Marypoppian persona. Secretly, though, I am sure we’ll all have a blast.

Lauren and her beautiful family!

Lauren and her beautiful family!

Now, what trip to Australia would be complete without a visit to Dublin? My flight left out of the emerald city, which meant a 24hr stop over, which meant a visit with my cousin Christy, a Dubliner and all round lovely man (technically, he is my mother’s cousin, or, maybe his father is my mother’s cousin…hmm, I’m not sure…either way, we are related). Having worked at Dublin airport for almost 40  years, he is also a very handy man. After meeting me off the plane, he took me for a cuppa with his sister, Kate, divested me of my bag and then dispatched me to the city center for the afternoon.

Cousin Christy

Cousin Christy

I had thought of going to the Guinness Brewery, as suggested by my workmate and dear friend, Daisy. But, I decided a rebellion was more up my alley, so I visited the General Post Office, site of the 1916 Irish uprising against their British overlords. With last year being the centenary of the seismic event, a state-of-the-art museum has been built in the post office, detailing the ins and outs of what took place. I am ashamed to say that, prior stepping into the museum, I knew nothing about the Rising; but, for a mere 10euro, that is no longer the case. Holy moly…it was epic!

The General Post Office, Dublin

The General Post Office, Dublin

In short, Ireland had long been asking the British to bugger off, and were on the cusp of signing the 3rd Home Rule Bill, which, essentially, would’ve given Ireland self-governance, while remaining part of the British Empire. This didn’t fly with the more ardent Irish nationals, who advocated for complete separation from the British, and the establishment of a Republic. As with any major event involving humans and violence, The Easter Rising as it is now known (which began on Easter Monday and lasted for 6 days), came about due to the convergence of several factors.

The timing was precipitated by the outbreak of the First World War, which, effectively, put the Home Rule avenue on hold; thereby leaving a vacuum for the Irish Republicans (not to be confused with the American political party) to gain support and stir-up descent. This coincided with the rise of socialist and women’s suffragette movements, both of which, gauging that their respective agendas might be met, joined with the Republicans in the fight for a free Ireland.

Real fellow at the Museum dressed as an Irish Republican Guard.

Real fellow at the Museum dressed as an Irish Republican Guard.

Added to this, Nationalisms were on the rise all over Europe; a key component of which was the construction and nurturing of a cultural identity, independent of others. Such cultural identities were made up of factors pertaining to land, religion, the arts, shared history and, in some cases, genetics. The epicentre for the melding of Irish Cultural Identity, was Dublin; which was ironic, for it was the most anglicized and culturally diverse place in Ireland. Still, Irish artists, poets, playwrights and activists expressed the ‘Irish Spirit’, amid the wider nationalist zeitgeist, thus providing a verdant seedbed for a more militant form nationalism to take hold.

“Idea is an introduction to creativity

that gives birth to reality.”

– Stephen Magnus

It all came to ahead in the spring of 1916, and a deliberate, armed rebellion was set for Easter Sunday, later being moved to the Monday. HQ for the rebels was the General Post office, a strategic location – since all communication with the outside world was trafficked through there. On the eve of the Rising, a Proclamation of the Irish Republic was drawn up and signed by 7 key members of the rebellion. Hung on lampposts the next day, the ink still wet, the Proclamation is considered the most influential document in Irish History – you can even get it printed on teatowels! As to what occurred during the Rising? Unfortunately, one afternoon at a museum was not enough to figure out exactly what happened. Basically, it was bloody (lit.) chaos. I can, however, give you statistics:

485 people were killed:

54% Civilians

26% British Armed Forces

16% Rebel Forces

4% Police

The Rebels experienced some important victories; but, to obtain their objective of a free Ireland, through violence, it would’ve been necessary to bring the entire British Army to its knees, and that was never going to happen – as the British response to their heroic attempt attests:

Reprisal

British reprisal

Only one key rebel died in the fighting and eventual obliteration, the rest were captured and executed piecemeal, along with others, to ensure the Irish knew exactly who was boss. The British overkill and the subsequent psychic wounding of the executions, turned the tide of public opinion against the British – despite initially seeing the rebels as troublemakers and a disgrace to Ireland. The British made martyrs of them, thus ensuring their status’ as national heroes and setting the foundations for the Republic of Ireland as it stands today; except, of course, for that little piece in the North…but I’m not touching that with a bargepole.

“It is useless to send armies against ideas.”

– Georg Brandes

Later when I asked my cousin if any of our relations had been involved, he replied, “Oh sure, all of Ireland had a relative in the Rising.” Then he laughed and said, “If that was case, it would never have been put down.”

After the museum – which, by the way, had a component that blew my mind; indeed, it was so intense, I nearly burst into tears (certainly a must see museum in Dublin) – I took a stroll along the river Liffey:

The Liffey

A murky day in Dublin

Wandered through the Temple Bar area:

The pigeon and the muso

The pigeon and the muso

Then stopped at a public house for refreshment:

mmm

The Fitzsimons Hotel – Temple Bar

If my perfect Dublin afternoon, in all its dreary glory, wasn’t enough, I then had the good fortune to spend time with my cousin’s wife, Ciara. Ciara and I had never met before: not that you would’ve noticed; we hit it off immediately and she is now on my list of favourite people I have ever met. Key to my affection was the History of Dublin tour she took me on. Really, we were just driving home from her job in the city center. However, she was kind enough to tell me about all the points of interest along the way, regaling me with stories of the Guinness Family, the merits of British infrastructure and, my best all, Ireland’s Jewish History.

The evening, which was spent at the most visually dazzling pub I have ever been to, and then an Italian restaurant, was equally fascinating in terms of conversation. Subjects included: Ireland, the Catholic Church, Ireland’s monumental decision to vote in Gay marriage (the first country in the world to do so – a fact Ireland has every right to be proud of), Ciara’s charity work and various travels in Africa (if you heard the things she has witnessed, your eyes would pop out your head, but they are her stories to tell, not mine), and Christy’s travels in Eastern Europe.

Statistics for Ireland's Gay Marriage Referendum

Statistics for Ireland’s Gay Marriage Referendum

They were, by far, the most interesting conversations I have had in a long time; true, I live by myself, so the bar is not set very high; still, it was nice to hear new stories from two erudite, open-minded and well-travelled people. If it weren’t for the fact that I had been up since 4am, so I could fit in one last painting session before my wanderings, I would’ve stayed up all night talking to them. But, as It was, I was bone-tired; so, after dinner, I went straight to bed – not there in the restaurant, when we returned to their house. It was a good thing I did, as my flight was at the crack of dawn. It was great going to the airport with Christy – interesting conversations included – as he knows everybody there; indeed, he appears to be related to half of them, which means, by convoluted extension, so am I.

Dublin, I will return.