Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Photo February Day Twenty Nine

Fountain, The Alcazar, Seville, 2010

My last photo for February. Ah. No more trawling through the external hard drive late into the night. No more pressure. Yay. Actually, I've rather enjoyed this effort - it's been fun.

Normal blogging resumes in the next few days.

I want to leave you with a peaceful photo, because at the moment, all I want is a bit of peace, and another day to the week where I can clean my tip of a flat and sleep in and read.

Hope you've enjoyed Photo February. I've enjoyed not writing about my day-to-day life for a month, reflecting, looking back and revisiting some of the wonderful places of been and experiences I've had over the last few years. I've looked over the photos from the last month and I realise just how blessed I've been.

Of this fountain. It was in the gardens of the Alcazar. I stared at it for a long time. What a place to sit and refect. Oh what it must be like to be able to take your book here and read in this pavillion. What would it be like on a hot day, listening to the trickle of the water, catching the odd breeze, glass of sangria nearby, when you want to stretch your legs there are acres of gardens to enjoy just outside.

This little place is part of my idea of heaven.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Photo February - Day Twenty Eight

Baby Koala, Healesville, 2008

I love marsupials.

This was taken on a day trip to Healesville with a friend, his mum and nephew who were visiting from the Netherlands. It was a lovely day, we got to look at a lot of animals, but this little critter stole my heart.

That and the 'vogelbekdieren'. Only the Dutch will their own word for platypus. Meaning "bird beak animal" it does make sense, but still - It's a bloody platypus. Call it a bloody platypus.

However, getting  a photo of these elusive waterborne critters is next to impossible. They are nocturnal. They are very cute. And they hate camera flashes, so you don't do it. But they're great. Really, really, really cute. A bit like waterborne meerkats.

The next cutest animal we saw on the day was this baby koala.

Don't let koalas fool you. They may look cute. But they don't smell too good. They scratch. They have a tendency to piss on you. And get chlamydia. And they don't do very much.

But gee they're pretty to look at.

Monday, February 27, 2012

Photo February Day Twenty Seven

From the kitchen window, 2006-2012

I make jokes about living on the crappest street in the best suburb. This is not too far from the truth as my street is semi-industrial abnd my kitchen window overlooks a fish processing plant. This, however, is not the worst street in my suburb - I'm told that the street that contains the needle exchange is worse. And where I used to live near the old Channel Nine studios was not that good as you got The Footy Show yobs trawling for parking once a week. There's also another street on another part of the suburb where there are shoes over the power lines at regular intervals which scream, "Buy your drugs here!" My street is not like that, though we do see cops raid the house just down the road regularly - the stench of marijuana and chemicals is pretty apparent. We find used syringes around the place from time to time - but living inner city for nearly twenty years, I'm used to that. That's what rubber gloves and newspaper is for.

Okay, I'm blase to some of the perils of inner city living - junkies are one of those perils - but if they don't disturb me, I don't disturb them. If you don't look too hard, you don't see it.

Like the fish factory. Other than throb,beep and hum of the odd forklift early in the morning, it doesn't bother me. It doesn't smell. They don't operate it in the evening or on weekends. Everything is frozen. It's fine. It keeps the rent down.

On the good side of things, sometimes when I look out the kitchen window, this is what I see.

Yes, I know the window needs washing - but waiting for the body corporate to get the window washer in is like waiting for Tony Abbott to get a social conscience.Never going to happen.The ugly net curtain has gone too - replaced with a decent wooden blind.

Sometimes I can overlook the fish factory for much lovelier things.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Photo February - Day Twenty Six

Ruin, Pearson's Bridge, Co Cork, Ireland, 2006

Visiting Blarney and Barney in 2006, we spent a day visiting what Blarney refers to as "old shit".

This was one of the bits of "old shit" we saw. I just prettied up the background because it was a grey day and it makes the ruin stand out a bit more.

We had a great day. The first stop was to the Jameson's factory where we had a tour of the site with a very corny tour guide. This was followed by an Irish whisky tasting, which is always fun. Then we went down to Bantry Bay for a look around, then back to Cork via this place - which was pretty magic.

I love Ireland an have been there on many occasions. It was the one place I could visit freely outside of the UK when I was living as an illegally in Britain, only because you didn't need a passport to get there. The people are lovely, the guinness flows freely and for somebody who was raised in an arid country, I can never get enough of the green of the countryside, the music in the pubs or SuperMac's garlic fries. And there are no snakes there either because St Patrick drove them all away ages ago.

Of the places I'd return to again - Galway and Glendalough stick out in my mind, though I'm very fond of Dublin - even if I did end up in the Mater hospital with suspected pneumonia on one trip.

Of this picture, the other thing it reminds me of is the poster I used to have on my wall at college. A large poster of "The Unforgetable Fire", the U2 album. This is not the castle used on the cover short, but it brings back memories from what now appears to be a simpler time.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Photo February Day Twenty Five

Bikes in Utrecht, The Netherlands, 2010

Until a few weeks ago, I hadn't been on a bike for twenty years, so landing in the Netherlands was an eye opener. EVERYBODY rides a bike around he place. Yes, they do have the the luck of having one hill in the country which is the size of a speed hump and they do have an infrastructure that gives bikes the right of way, but there are nine million bike riders on the roads there and I don't think I saw one person wearing a helmet over there... maybe not having the threat of a $154 fine for not wearing one is enough to keep them off their heads.

The other thing about Dutch bikes, they look comfortable. They have a nice padded seat to keep your tush happy. You sit upright, none of this stooping over nonsense. They have mud guards (spatborden according to Glen Waverley - essential he says - but I think there is innuendo involved with what he's saying) and sensible handlebars and everybody looks happy when they ride a bike. People have old fashioned lights and baskets and bags attached. They look fun. Though I'm not sure how I'd go cycling over wet cobblestones... or in sleet...

Bikes are just a way of life here. It's mad, but it's lovely. There are even bike parks near all the railway stations where thousands of bikes are parked during the day - like Australia's multi-story car parks, they have them for bikes.

If I had a real girlie bike like these ones I'd probably ride one more - that and I'd get rid of the cars on the road.

Friday, February 24, 2012

I think this sums the situation up pretty well

Photo February Day Twenty Four

Reindert and Lobster, Cambridge, MA, 2010

Having somebody cook my dinner is something that only happens a few times a year. I love cooking, I try and cook for friends every so often, but with life being so busy, it only happens rarely. The dinner parties that used to happen don't seem to occur any more which is a shame. It appears it takes a sick friend or a really special occasion to get your dinner cooked for you. 

Thinking about it, the last meal I had cooked for me was at Christmas - last meal I cooked for a friend - a few weeks ago when I went around to Blarney and Barney's house of pesilence to give them a bit of relief. It near the end of February. Think I should do something about this.

Anyway, to the photo. This was taken at Reindert and Corazon's, in their kitchen. Cooking is a big thing thing in their household and both of them are excellent cooks. When they have people to stay, 'Lobster Night" is a bit of a tradition. 

Living in Boston, lobsters and other crustaceans are regular fare. This is the home of clam chowder and other delights, the food became popular, partly though the Catholic population not eating meat on Fridays, but also the fact the beasties are plentiful and delicious.

So, on this day, Reindert and I had spent a great day up in Salem - a place I had to go, being the witch that I am (it was another pilgrimage - and strangely poignant despite the tourist bent) On the way home we dropped into a supermarket and went to choose our lobsters, live from the tank. This was easier than I thought it would be. A veteran yabbie* catcher from way back, it was like looking a lot of big yabbies. The lobsters, claws trussed, were placed in plastic bags in the boot of the car and we drove the short distance back home.

When we got home, Reindert got cooking, the lobsters going straight into the freezer to quiet them. There were words about me putting the lobster in the boiling water. I chose to defer this honour. I'm a healer, I can't kill or hurt things. Happy for people do ethically and humanely do my bidding, but I just can't kill things. 

So as Reindert is about to drop this lobster into the boiling water, I was saying a kaddish for it - thanking it for being my dinner and being so yummy, that this was the way of the world etc.

Have to say, it was a mighty fine dinner that night.

I look at this as one of my happy shots. Somebody's cooking my dinner for me - that's one of the best feelings in the world. Just wish I remembered what it felt like more often.

* For those not in Australia, a yabbie is a small freshwater crustacean found over Australia, like a small prawn. They inhabit creeks and waterways and are best caught, like lobsters, with a cage, or what we used, a bucket filled with holes and a peice of old steak or a bar of velvet soap tied the the bottom. Used to go yabbying all the time as a kid.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Photo February Day Twenty Three

The Alhambra, Granada, 2010

The problem with my pictures of the Alhambra is that they no way come close to showing the magic of the place. Sure, my photos below, of a sleeping alcove in the Nasrid Palaces shows the intricate carvings, the sense of light and shade, the opulence of the gardens, the way it is perched on a hill below the Sierra Nevada ranges, already snow capped at the start of November and the perfection of a fountain in the Generalife, the gardens on top of the hill behind the complex.

You have to ponder who had the time and presence to make the fountains spurt the water symmetrically. Or who was the lucky person to shine up the tiles for the mosaics. And who dusts the intricate masonry and clears the cobwebs from the ceilings.

Gotta hand it to slavery. It gets shit done. The Ottomans, for all their marauding, did some things brilliantly. Palaces is one of those things.

When I went to the Alhambra, I marked it off the bucket list as being 'done'. Another place off the list - or so I thought. The thing about Spain that they don't tell you is once bitten - always bitten. I want to go back. I want to wander the winding streets of Las Ramblas in Barcelona and ponder the unfinished beauty of the drippy candle cathedral. I want to traipse through the streets of Toledo, my sandals slapping against the cobblestones, the breeze up my dress, I want to ponder faraway towns, and churches and landscapes. I want to go and sit and watch a cloistered nun silently pray in simple chapels. I want to feast on a stew of white beans and partridge (even though the bones make it hard to eat). I want to watch flamenco in smoky bars with a glass of Rua Vieja over ice in my hand (Spanish Jagermeister glorious stuff). I want to dine on tapas. I want my breakfast of churros and chocolate every second day. I want to try patatas bravas in every town. I want to walk the Camino de Compostella de Santiago. I want to feel the bolshie bitch come out as I order my coffee, in Spanish at rude waiting staff. I want to be kissed on top of La Giralda in Seville as the bells peal the start of evensong (though it might be a bit loud).

Spose the only thing for it is to go back again.

Magic, magic place.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Photo February Day Twenty Two

Really Big Buddha, Bangkok, 2010

This is allegedly the biggest reclining Buddha in the world. This would belong somewhere in Queensland, but it's not made of plastic, nor is it sitting by the roadside east of some nondescript town. This golden boy, 46 metres long and 15 metres high, gilded, etched and peaceful, lies in this massive hangar-like structure in Wat Pho, Bangkok.

Visiting him is a must. Other than he's very photogenic, it gives an interesting insight into modern Thai life. You can also get a good, cheap Thai massage at the onsite massage school - though Thai massage is a form of torture for some, pleasure for others - depends if you like somebody trying to forcibly insert your foot in your ear.

For me, I just love this guy's eternally peaceful face. 

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Photo February Day Twenty One

Afternoon Street, Granada, Spain, 2010

Love this photo, the long shadows, the lane ways, the man at the side of the Cathedral doing heaven knows what. Granada sits in the shadow of the Alhambra in so many ways, this maze like city of churches and students, with its rough and ready feel and a palpable heartbeat throbbing away.

My time here let me witness some of the miracles of of Spain. The prayers of  cloistered nun. A joys of the Hammam bath house. The veiled threat of the peaceful demonstration. The wonders of getting lost in an area you would never do before.

Magic place, Granada. A place of shadows.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Photo February Day Twenty

Empire State Building, New York, 2010

Of the many places you do not want to tackle when you have the tail end of food poisoning and you've spent 24 hours on a plane, New York tops the list.

You need energy for the place. You need some up and go. You need your walking legs to get you places which can be within two and twenty blocks away.

You also benefit from having a lot of money and some time. Unfortunately I've only ever spent a few days in New York. On this last trip, with my stomach gurgling after a noxious bout of jet lag, I got out of the hotel room in the early evening and went up Fifth Avenue. I needed to find some food. In the previous 36 hours I'd only injested the Singapore Airlines supply of dry ginger ale and a bread roll after a few hours of continuous puking as I was about to leave Singapore.

Finding a Pret a Manger outlet for a quick bite, a favorite sandwich store from London, I continued walking, until I came to Rockerfeller Centre, some ten or so blocks up from where I tentatively ate a sandwich and down yet more fizzy water to get on top of the dehydration. On paying the money to let me up to the viewing platform, I went up the fast elevator to the top of the Rockerfeller Centre.

This was the view. They make films about this view. It's hard to tire of the New York lights on a clear night.

It's a sight everybody should see once in their life. There aren't words.

After an hour up with the gods, I descended and walked back to my hotel in the early West Twenties, going by Times Square and the theatre district. I felt safe. I felt alive, and I promised myself that next time I'm in New York I'll have a few more days there to really take the place in. One night is not enough.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Photo February Day Nineteen

Temple Cat, Bangkok, 2009

Temples are as much a part of life in Thailand as eating. They are revered and enjoyed by the population. Thai Buddha's are wrapped up and dressed with the seasons, they are visited, left offerings and treated like kings - which is probably the point of being a deity.

So wandering around the temple complex of the Big Golden Bhudda, finding these guys wrapped up in plastic while renovations were done, it just felt a little out of character. The cat skerricking away, t, the drums of paint, the plastic sheeting, the lack of workman, the lacksadaisical way the buddha's are wrapped - it's hard to work out whether this is all being done out of duty or care.

Then there's the cat. What's he doing there? Who does he belong to? Who feeds him?

I discovered over the ten days I was in Thailand that surly cats are a temple feature, pissing in pot plants, swiping at visitors, other demanding a flea providing cuddle or just sizing you up, protecting the buddhas as if they were infirm people.

They're like the silent heartbeat of these magnificent places.


Saturday, February 18, 2012

Photo February Day Eighteen

Little Girl at the Alcazar, Seville, November 2010

I came to the Alcazar late on my trip through Spain. After experiencing overwhelming deja vu in Toledo, wandering the Thyssen-Bournemisza in Madrid and nearly passing out from the beauty of the Alhambra in Grenada I got to Seville with the distinct feeling of disengagement. Another bloody palace. Fine. It's just another bloody palace.

The Alcazar is not just another bloody palace.

I've got this inkling that there is a part of me which is undeniably Moorish. I have dark eyes, unruly hair, olive skin (when it gets a lick of sun) I'd fit in very well in the Ottoman empire. Being of Cornish and Welsh tin mining stock is just far too ordinary.

Anyway, on my last afternoon in Seville, I braced myself for yet another bloody palace - but I shouldn't have worried. The place is entrancing.

I like the juxtapositions in this shot. The intricate, aged masonry, the parquetry and colourful woodwork, the greenery. You can imagine this as a working palace hundreds of year ago, courtesans wandering aimlessly, pomegranate in hand, withering under the Seville heat. The child, dressed in a flamenco costume, wandered into the shot. A princess in waiting. She had a right to be there. It was if she owned the place, galivanting around in her little red dress, the Alcazar atrium her playground.

How this place must appear to a child. Another spot in the world I'd go back to in a heartbeat.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Photo February Day Seventeen

Supermarket Finds, Jahor Baru, Malaysia, 2010

When in a new country - or another country for that matter, a trip to a supermarket is mandatory. Wandering the aisles, checking out products and prices is great fun.

When in Malaysia 18 months ago, my friend took me shopping. My eyes were opened. Brilliant.

Fresh out there in the aisles, on ice, for your own selection. No waiting at the deli counter for the surly bloke with the banana fingers to grab your piece of whiting with a bit of plastic.

Different types of poultry. My friend couldn't tell me how they got the chicken black in colour it - was it grown that way or was it dyed. I don't know, but it looked strange. Then again, I think the yellow corn fed chooks look odd.
Shoot Condoms. What does one say to that?
Drypers Wee Wee Dry nappies. That one had me shaking my head. Oh, and the prices are in Malaysian Ringitts, which made me feel a bit better.

I can't find the photo of the bags of Bunny Love Carrots. I love pondering the the strange flavours, the odd types of snack foods., the odd looking fruits, comparing prices.
Brillant fun! Then again, little things keep me amused.

If you're never been to a supermarket in a foreign country - give it a try. It's some of the best entertainment you can find.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Photo February Day Sixteen

Seville Cathedral, November 2010.

By the time I got to Seville I was Cathedralled out. But that's when the magic happens.

Seville Cathedral is the third largest Cathedral in the world, dwarfed only by the Vatican and a one built in Brazil. It's HUGE as the following photo demonstrates.

Thing is, I wasn't overly taken with Seville Cathedral. it's almost too big. They allegedly have the bones of Christopher Columbus sitting in this strange supported coffin. The place is swamped with unruly tourists with their flashes going at the speed and intensity of a tropical rainstorm. Also on the day I was there, they were doing a heap of renovations and the man with the sledgehammer was pounding away in a chapel. Didn't make for a quiet day of contemplation. 

Also, after the pure joy of Toledo Cathedral, a place I know I've been many time over the centuries, a church that vehemently forbade the taking of photos, but so rich in beauty - you couldn't blame them for not allowing photography lest the cameras stole the soul of the place away. It's a stunning place.

The shere enormity of Seville Cathedral was enough to make it a overwhelming.

Then god plays a hand in things.

Feathers and I have a strange relationship. One of my strange regular occurences is that find myself walking down the street and a feather will fall into my hand. It happens more often than I say. I like to think of it as a sign that there are angels out there. (I have a funny thing with butterflies too - they'll often land on my lips - no idea why this happens either, but it does, fairly frequently. Dogs and cats also come bounding up to me in the street to say hellp.  A bit strange but it just happens - I've learned to accept these funny little things.)

In the midst of my urge to run from the Cathedral and take refuge in the Jewish Quarter, a place where I was comfortable amidst the winding , narrow streets - I made the decision to look down.

And this is what I saw.

Proof of angels.  : )

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Photo February Day Fifteen

Photos from Home, 2003-2005

I've not shown you much of where I'm from, so here are a couple of shots from home.

The concrete dragon looks after me. His name is Alastair and he sits at my front door. I think every home needs a dopey looking concrete dragon. My mum has one in the loo who's equally as dopey as Alastair.

Alastair is named after an old boss of mine who had very little hair and a permanent dopey look on his face.

Alastair has been through a number of house moves, he gets bumped by the hoover twice a week, tripped over regularly. Though he can be a nuisance, he's very good at holding the door open.

This is my mother's kangaroo, Mabel and her joey. Mabel is not a pet kangaroo, more she's one of the Eastern Greys that frequent my mother's garden. She's quite used to people. I took this one morning when I was staying down at the bed and breakfast. I got within about three metres of her when I took this. She was unperterbed  and continued to munch on the lawn. We hung out together for about half an hour on this day, just sizing each other up.

Going to my Mum's place is cool in that you often find roos under the clothes line in the morning when you get up - or they're in the driveway when you get home at night. Going for a walk up the hill into the scrub behind the house you often find a group of them sleeping in the sun.

Eastern Greys have really pretty faces. 

This is possibly the last photo taken of my grandmother.

Taken on Boxing Day in 2003, I dropped in to see her in the nursing home before going back to Melbourne.
I was only with her for 20 minutes, her dinner was about to arrive and I was shooed away. This was normal behaviour. NOTHING interrupted dinner time.

She had a massive stroke a few days later, clung to life just to see the New Year in and passed away in the first few days of January, 2004.

Some facts about Gran.

She was born in a gold mining town in 1899, the youngest of six. Her father used to drive the Nhill Express train. He was with the railroads all his life.
She saw two world wars, Federation, the abolition of capital punishment, the invention of the telephone, computer, car, bus, washing machines, television. She could only use some of these. She never learned to drive.
One of my grandmother's brothers was at Gallipoli.
Another was stationed on the Western Front in France.
She married my grandfather in 1923.
When she died, she had three children, twelve grandchildren, about fifteen great grandchildren and a smattering of great, great grandchildren.
Of the family, many have gone into service industries - nurses, doctors, police, clergy. There are two Order of Australias, a number of doctorates and many university degrees floating around the family. She never made it past the second year of high school, instead, she was farmed out to her brothers to look after their children and to do some factory work.
She taught me how to knit and crochet and bake. Things I love to do now.
She also loved to give me merry hell when she could.
When I was overseas, I wrote to her every month religiously. When abroad on shorter trips, hers was alway the first postcard I wrote.
She loved to read - and read until she lost most of her sight to macular degeneration when she was 100.
She was as deaf as a doorpost most of my life - though we reckon much of this was selective.
She appeared to like me for my irreverence. The card I gave her for her 90th sat on the fridge for nearly ten years. It had a badge on it which read "Living Fossil." The card read, there must be somebody older than you. Inside was a picture of a dinosaur.

I still miss her terribly.

This is an old picture of my niece, Elle. Elle started high school last week. This was taken when she was about four-years-old, doing the pink goodness thing like only a four year old girl can.

Elle is the family princess, all wrapped up in pink, dainty and she has these big brown cow eyes that can beat down most people in seconds. She can bambi with the best of them.

She's cool. She still gives hugs and will sit on your knee and give you a cuddle. I know it won't last, but it's nice to have while it's there.

She's a lovely girl, but this shot captures how I still see her in my mind.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Photo February Day Fourteen

Hairy Cows, The Isle of Skye, 2006

I have a list of near mythical places I've always wanted to visit.

On the list we have (in no real order) Buenos Aires, Rio de Janiero, Cancun, the Canadian Rockies, the Sahara, Cape Town, Mount Kilimanjaro, Angkor Wat, walking the Milford Sound, going on the complete Camino de Compostella de Santiago, more of Wales (I've been to Tintern Abbey, that's it) Koh Phi Phi, The Whitsundays, the Bungle Bungles... too many places, too little time and money (and I must renew my passport!).

One place I have knocked off the list a few years ago is the Isle of Skye, the largest of the Scottish Islands found on the west coast. Home to the Talisker distillery (yum - love peaty single malts) and some of the most stunning scenery I've ever witnessed. A place where the wind can carry the bleat of a bagpipe for miles.

Criss-crossing the country, starting at Inverness in the north east, I made my way down Loch Ness and across the country to the original Glenelg - which is nothing like the beachside suburb in Adelaide - actually, I think Glenelg is Scottish for Woop Woop.

Anyway, taking the bridge across the spit, I finally made it to this mythical place that they write songs about, the place where the MacLeods and MacDonalds come from, this place which has the feel of a place that has been ravaged by war and left to its own devices for centuries - and in many ways it has.

Skye is like no place I have ever been before or am likely to go to again.

The Isle of Skye is one of the most ruggedly beautiful places I have had the honour to visit. Amazing scenery -  but that is the case for the whole of Scotland - okay, maybe not the outskirts of Glasgow...

Staying at a bed and breakfast outside of the town of Broadford, I found that being there out of season ( I was there in May), I needed to drive forty kilometres or so to find myself some dinner. So, a half hour drive was made, up to the town of Portree, the largest town on the island.

After a pleasant dinner at the pub I drove my trusty rented Skoda back. It was well past nine p.m.when I stumbled across these wee beasties grazing in the long paddock.

I love Highland cattle, or hairy cows as they are known, which is pronounced "herry coo", (it might take you a while to work out what the locals are going on about). They're as docile as regular cows despite the horns, complete with the big eyes which are hard to see because nobody appears to cut their fringes and lolloping gaits and an unwillingness to move out of the way of cars. The road was not much more than a sealed track so going fast wasn't an option - but they weren't going to get hit. The hairy cows had right of way.

The little hairy cow had a bit of personality too.

When I got back to the B&B around ten that evening, it was still dusk. I was happy. Seeing hairy cows was as good as witnessing the Loch Ness Monster. Little things make me happy, as you are well aware.

The other thing I love about this photo is what is in the background. Surrounded by a rugged, windswept coastline, the greys of the sky take on hues I've never seen before. Pinks, peaches, vanillas, blues and meld in together. Breathtaking.

As with all of my travels, I wish that somebody was there to share it with me. Radio National doesn't quite cut it for company on a road trip that takes you places such as this. At least I got to see hairy cows on the Isle of Skye.

And next time I'm going to the Talisker distillery with a designated driver...

Monday, February 13, 2012

Photo February Day Thirteen

Door Knocker, Durham Cathedral, 2006

I'm a cathedral junkie.

Not many people get this obsession, but there is something about cathedrals that I can't get enough of. The older the better. They're like cats, or children. They all have their own personalities and foibles and indiosyncracies and a very vibrant life of their own.

I really like English Cathedrals and the rich history they provide, what with the reformation and the disolution of the monasteries, the pure destruction and tentative rebuilding of these megatliths which were built out of love with what are now primitive tools and have somehow stood the tests of rampaging time. Could you imagine them building a cathedral in modern times (okay, scratch that, the Sagrada Familia in Barcelona is still not finished 100 years on - with modern tools... and modern unions... and modern standards...) 

I spend hours wandering through these structures when I get the chance. My record would be spending seven hours going through York Minster on my first visit there - time well spent pouring over chapter houses, vaulting, masonry, right down to the little mice carved into the pews near the Lady Chapel.

Ely Cathedral is breathtaking, this 'Ship of the Fens' visible on the horizon for miles, the pure white light of the Lady Chapel, exquisite. Love the place. Lincoln's dog legging nave is a testement to time and engineering (and goes to prove that modern engineering would have put the structure out of the town on firmer ground. St Paul's whispering gallery still gets my imagination, even if it does mean scaling these large, circular staircases. Westminter Abbey, a Royal Peculiar rather than a cathedral can be dwelled on for days - there's so much to take in.

Yeah, you got it, Cathedral Nerd. (She shrugs and sighs)

Another favorite place that I go back to if I'm in the area, is Durham Cathedral, with its unusual fluted vaults (as seen in the flms Elizabeth and the Harry Potter films) a structure has been on the site for over a thousand years. It's one of the oldest standing Cathedrals in the country and a fine example of Norman architecture.

This photo is of the door knocker on the North Door of the cathedral. Known as the Sanctuary Knocker because of its former use.

"The knocker on the Cathedral’s northern door, known as the Sanctuary Knocker, played an important part in the Cathedral’s history. Those who ‘had committed a great offence,’ such as murder in self-defence or breaking out of prison, could rap the knocker, and would be given 37 days of sanctuary within which they could try to reconcile with their enemies or plan their escape." The right to sanctuary was recinded in 1624.

The original one is sitting in the cathedral museum, but this is a great replica.

I love stuff like this. Finding out information such as this on an item as trivial as a door knocker... like, cool!

It makes travelling all the more enriching.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Photo February Day Twelve

Great Ocean Road, past Apollo Bay, 2009

This majestic coastline is a place I need to explore more. It's truly wonderful - an exceptional part of the country, and I've only been there once.

Glen Waverley took me for a drive one day on a cool and blowy early Winter's day. A favour to me - and in part because Merijn gets car sick and Glen Waverley drives like a hooligan and I'd never been there I got to sit in Merijn's spot while she was home with the cat.

It was a great day.

Picking me up at the crack of dawn, we made our way down to Geelong, where he put the roof of his car down and we drove for most of the Great Ocean Road in the open air. Thank goodness for scarves - convertibles and long hair really don't go.

It was a really wonderful day for me - I got to knock off another thing on the bucket list. Other than cranking the Discovery Channel Song up to eleven on the way through Apollo Bay (and I wanted to brain him) and not being allowed to drive - even though he borrows my car when he needs a sensible car - one capable of hauling hime a few bags of groceries - because he really does drive like a hooligan - still we didn't come to blows. It's hard to bicker when the scenery is so wonderful.

There are so many places around the state I haven't seen, so many places to go. I've never been to Wilson's Promontory, Philip Island, Sorrento, Marysville.... I have been to Daylesford, but just for the day - never stayed over. I haven't been away on long weekends anywhere. The last time I was in the Grampians I was a child.

Most of my travelling in Australia  is done driving to and from Adelaide once a year - with the odd trip to the Dandenongs or down to the Mornington Peninsula.

It's one of the things I want to change about my life. I want somebody I can go places with and enjoy them.

Is that too much to ask when there's scenery like this about. Going alone on road trips should only be done when the travel is necessary - not for fun.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Photo February - Day Eleven

Monk and Doorway, Bangkok, 2008

I take lot of photos of windows and doorways on my travels. You never know what you're going to find down a passageway.

I've been with travellers who knock on large doors in castles and cathedrals wherever they go - just to see who will open them, so it seems we nutty people with a fascination for buildings are around the place. It comforts me.

Me - I'm forever looking for what is around the corner or down the lane. I look down passageways, out windows and through doors - just to see what is there. It has to be done.

I found this monk in a courtyard in Bangkok, quiet in contemplation.He stood there for ages, just watching whatever he was watching. He was so peaceful.

One of my dream holidays is to travel to Chiang Mai and spend a week at Wot Doi Suthep learning about Buddhist meditation - what a great way to do very, very little in an incredibly beautiful place.

Until I get that dream holiday, I'm just going to have to ponder this monk, pondering whatever he may be pondering.

This is one of my favorite photos I've taken in my life.


Friday, February 10, 2012

Photo February Day Ten

JFK Library Flag, Boston, 2010

Americans do flags really well.

As a rule, Australians don't.

I find it quite distubing seeing these yoofs at the cricket draping the Australian flag across their shouldres like a cape, wearing Australian flag tattoos on their cheekbones, or the new seemingly eponymous Southern Cross tattoo plastered about the place. See, what happens when move country, or get another passport? Then there are the people who fly the flag in their front yards - again, don't know if I agree with this - though it comes down to personal choice. Personally, I don't think the Australian flag is that inspiring - nor does the website "Bad Flags of the World" which give our flag a C  -something about being colonial rubbish - worth a look the site - though I do think it strange that the nearly identical Australian and New Zealandish flags are rated very differently. (The website is really worth a look for a giggle - some people have too much time on their hands)

As a kid, nobody had the flag flying in their front yards - now, it's becoming more common. Then you have the Aboriginal Flag, the rather menacing Eureka Flag (you know when that's being flown men in the building trade are about) and the completely uninspiring state flags. Think about it - what is a flag other than a bit of material with a uniform pattern on it?

In the US, the flag is EVERYWHERE. You can't look right and not the see the good ole red, white and blue flying in your face. When you're not used to such rampant patriotism, it's all a bit confronting.

Regardless, I look at this photo and see a poignancy to the American flag that I don't reckon I've witnessed before.

This shot was taken in the atrium of the John F Kennedy Library in Boston.

It's a remarkable place for a number of reasons. Firstly, it's a bugger to get to if you don't have a car. You take the 'T' the Boston Metro out to what feels like Woop Woop, then you hop on a free bus which takes you the rest of the way. The building is stark, standing on a bit of land near the seafront of Columbia Bay. There is nothing else around. It would have been peaceful there if it wasn't for the biting wind.

JFK is an American icon. He lead America though an era of change, an incredible era era where America started to live out out some of it's dreams. And battle some of its demons.

The museum is fascinating. Unlike Australia and much of Europe, the Americans charge through the nose for you to go to museums and galleries, so you hope that the visit is going to be worth you dishing out your hard earned coin. I arrived late afternoon, only just making the final cut off for visitors. I wish I had a lot longer. This is an amazing place. Fascinating. Reverent. And very, very well done.

I stayed in the atrium and pondered this flag for a long time before I was ushered out the door to the bus stop. It was a cool, blowy Boston day, the sky overcast, the night drawing in quickly as it tends to do in Massachussetts in October. Looking up amongst the railings and struts of the ceiling, the flag hangs as a symbol for everything America stands for.

In this majestic setting, you get an inkling into the greatness that America can be.

I don't make statements like this often.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Photo February Day Nine

Daggers, Canterbury Cathedral, 2006

I'm one for pilgrimages. I have this desire to do the Camino Compostella de Santiago one day, traipsing across the North of Spain checking out cathedrals and pondering the steps that millions have taken over centuries.

This photo is of one of my pilgrimage places.

Every time I'm in England I like to come here and sit for a while and ponder. I've been drawn to this place since I read the Canterbury Tales at uni. These daggers mark the spot where St Thomas a Becket was murdered. The place - Canterbury Cathedral.

So why does a murdered twelfth century saint have such meaning for a woman in the 21st Century? Thomas a Becket, a common man, a merchant's son, a soldier and a lawyer, who rose his way up through the ranks to finally make Archbishop of Canterbury, the most powerful role in the country beside the king at the time, tha king being Henry II. Henry and the turbulent priest were the best of friends in the early days. Once a Becket rose to the bishopric, he wouldn't let Henry walk all over him, stopping his old friends desires for the throne to take on more power and to weaken ties with Rome. Thomas, agreeing with what the king was saying, but had massive reservations wouldn't sign Constitutions of Clarendon - stormed out of the talks and fled to France, effectively exiling himself. During his time as Archbishop of Canterbury, Becket was exiled many times. Becket was seen as a bit of a ratbag.

Thomas returned to Canterbury some time later and took up his place back at the Cathedral, but the King was pissed, and whether by royal decree or misunderstanding, sent four knights after him after asking who would rid him of the turbulent priest.

These daggers mark the spot where he died on 29 December 1170.

Thomas a Becket was a man of principle. A man who believed that he was accountable to his faith first and his government second. A man who was taunted and tainted and stood up for what he believed. A man who overcame many odds. A self-made man.

It may also have something to do with the fact I saw Derek Jacobi and Robert Lindsay in Anouilh's plau, Becket on the London stage in the early nineties- still one of the best performances I've ever witnessed.

I'll go back to Canterbury and commune with Becket once again. I can sit at the place where he died and feel him, stomping around in his sandals and hair shirt, uncomfortable in body, but still in mind. He stood his ground in times of struggle.

Thomas a Becket will continue to fascinate me, no matter my faith, beliefs or reasoning. He's somebody I mention in my fantasy dinner party guest list.

He's somebody who holds a great deal of meaning for me. There is something very inspiring and very special about this man and this place.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Photo February Day Eight

Myponga Moon, 2007

I know this isn't the greatest of photos, but I remember taking it and I'm fond of the place where it was taken.

My mum used to have a Bed and Breakfast in Myponga. A straw bale cottage, decked out in a lovely, country style, a little patch of paradise just south of Adelaide.

When my uncle passed away a few years ago, Mum had a bit of an epiphany and decided to sell the cottage.

But before she did, I got to stay down there just one last time. 

One of the great things about Myponga is that it's just far enough away from Adelaide that the city lights don't impact on the night sky as much. The stars are amazing down there. When I was there the other weekend it was a moonless night - for the first time in ages I got to see the Milky Way in its glory.

The other thing about the cottage was that it was tucked behind a big hill, with cypress and poplar trees lining the summit.

This photo was taken at ten at night. It was a glorious evening.

I miss seeing stars. Real stars and lots of them.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Photo February Day Seven

Pony, Hertfortshire, 2006

Finding myself watching my friend's Gareth and Georgina's daughter at her pony riding lessons when I was staying with them a few years back, I got to see another side of life. The life of the young and overcommited. The life where kids get riding lessons and piano lessons and swimming lessons and violin lessons. Staying with Gareth and Georgina in 2009, I went and watched the kids swimming lessons - which was fun as I got to go for a swim - love swimming, even if it is November in England and it's threatening sleet. They kid's extra-curricular calendar was as busy as ever.

I didn't get this stuff when I was a kid (okay, I got flute lessons - but I still wish I had had learned to play the piano)

As a kid, however, I had a pony. Well, my sister and I shared a pony, a rotund grey mare named Pebbles. She was a sweety, though my sister was the one who did the riding - I just went out to the paddock to talk to her regularly. Pebbles was a good listener who liked carrots. I don't know if I could ride a horse to save my life now - then again, I said that about bicycles...

I remember that when we were out with the horse, immediately afterward, before going into the house, we had to strip off and wash our clothes immediately because Mum was allergic to her. Mum's allergic to all sorts of animals. Dogs. Unspayed male cats. Anything at the zoo. And Pebbles. So we'd run in and shove our play clothes in the washing machine and change into our dressing gowns ready for dinner.

Growing up on a farm was a great thing, even if it means that your mother will tell any new friends that you greatest talent in life is getting calves to drink from the bucket. Okay, it's a talent, but I'm not sure I'd shove it on my CV.

Looking around the stables while G and G's daughter and the pony did her stuff I went for a wander and found this fellow. Hate to say it, but watching a six-year-old go round and round on a horse is not that interesting, so I went to visit the neddies.

I'm as much a sucker for horses as I am for cats. I stop and pat the police horses in the street any time I pass them. I think horses are lovely.

This one was no exception.


p.s. Started a new role today. Much better. No Phil Collins. No Beyonce. No Adele. No Rhianna. No Billy Joel. And the team appear to be lovely. And I'm back in the city. Rather pleased indeed.

Monday, February 6, 2012

Photo February - Day Six

Temple Time, The Royal Palace, Bangkok, 2008

Travelling alone, I tend to spend a lot of time wandering in and out of museums, art galleries and religious sites - which suits me down to the ground. Art Galleries and Musuems are normally air conditioned and seeing I go to the odd hot country, they're good respite from the unrelenting heat and humidity.

Temples and churches are another passion of mine. I love wandering around these sites of devotion, feeling the force of millions of prayers. The art work, the masonry, the thought behind some of these structures  blows me away.

I loved Bangkok for it's temples. Being a Buddhist nation they take theire Buddhas very seriously. The Thai people dress them up, visit them, bring them offerings. There are seated Buddhas, standing Buddha's, Buddhas that lie down...

And people come to these temples to pay reverence to their Gods regularly.

This shot was taken at a temple at the Royal Palaces in Bangkok. I love the sense of movement as the kids file in. I watched as these kids filed in silently, identically uniformed and visibly happy. I wonder if Australian school kids could manage such decorum.

I want to go back to Thailand partly because I love Bhudda watching - and the people, and the food, and the massages, and the shopping. Great place.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Photo February - Day Five

Rainbow and Observatory, Parkes, NSW, 2009.

Reindert and I bonded on this road trip. I look at these photos and they bring back memories and reminders of  just how wonderful a friendship it helped to forge.

Reindert and I had flown up to Newcastle to retrieve a landcruiser and bring it back to Melbourne after our colleague had been in a dreadful accident. Our colleague, Wubbe, another crazy Dutchman, was going back to the Netherlands to recouperate and something had to be done with the van because it couldn't sit in a hospital car park for the year or so it would take him to come good.

For those not in Australia, Newcastle is 1100 kilometres (700 miles) north of Melbourne.
So Reindert and I went up on a wet winter Friday, spent and evening with Wubbe, who was finally released from hospital and able to fly back to Holland. The next morning we started the long drive home, taking the long way through Parkes -  because Reindert wanted to see the big dish. It was only 500 kilometres out of the way. It was nothing to travel in a weekend.

Reindert and I have the same disregard for distance.

Now, there were some issues with the trip. First up, somebody had been tinkering with Wubbe's van - and the radio wasn't working. A road trip without a radio! Never fear, Reindert is and electrical engineer by training. He had jerried the radio by the time we got to Dunedoo. We stopped for lunch at Dubbo. And finally, mid-afternon, we got to the Dish.

For those who haven't seen the movie, which is a bit of an iconic Australian flick, we are introduced to the radio telescope as "this big dish in the middle of a sheep paddock'. Which is pretty much what it is. Stuck in the middle of nowhere, in the middle of a paddock, is this stonking great radio telescope which sticks out like a pimple on a pumpkin.

We were there a week before the fortieth anniversary of the first lunar landing and preparations were being made for the anniversary. We had a good look around the Dish's Museum and the site. You can only get up into the dish on a couple of day's a year, so my dream of playing cricket on the dish was not going to materialise. See the movie, The Dish - it's wonderful.

After an hour or so, we left to start the rest of the drive home. Driving away, it started to rain. And this is what we saw as we looked back. We sat and watched the rainbow for twenty minutes or so, never expecting to see such sight.

It proved to be a good omen for a great road trip and a wonderful friendship - if you disregard the speeding ticket Reindert copped coming out of Rutherglen the following day.
You have to love nature.

And this is the Dish. It was a good day for photos.

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Photo February - Day Four

Melbourne from a Balloon. December, 2008

Probably the best birthday present ever.

I turned 40 in 2008. As with many people, turning 40 was a big thing. At 39 all these cathartic things happened. I got a job I liked. I'd fallen in love. I'd lost a bit of weight. I'd made new friends. For the first time in my life I remember being pretty happy.

For my 40th, I had a party, which was great. I wasn't expecting presents, but said that if people wanted to get me something, a bead for my Pandora bracelet would be appreciated. This was before Pandora bracelets were de rigeur. I cherish that bracelet, now one of three, the beads received filled a full bracelet.

The other surprise on the day was the guys I worked with sent a hat around and I was presented with a voucher to go on a balloon ride. I'd made a joking reference to Glen Waverley that I'd love a balloon ride for my birthday. It's like going in and saying you'd love a Tiffany bracelet or trip to Paris or a pony. I'd never expect or demand such a gift. But as I'm learning , but it out there, you never know what might come back.

Serious wow factor. It was on my bucket list of things to do and the guys from the Integration Engineering Team at Tin Can, String and Whistle made it happen. Like the Pandora bracelet, it was a wonderful gift  which I will cherish always. (Thinking about it, those boys really spoiled me over the three years I was there)

It took a few months to arrange, but on a crisp December morning, six weeks after the first attempt at taking the flight was aborted due to bad weather, three months after my birthday, I made my way to a local hotel in the week hour of the morning where a van took us out to the launch zone. As the sun came up, we unpacked the balloons, inflated them, climbed in the basket and went for the ride of my life.

It was one of those unforgetable experiences, silently floating over the city. After my initial nerves were quelled (as I said to the pilot, I have no problems going up - it was the thought of landing that scared the bejesus out of me) I really got into the whole experience. It was magic.

This photo was taken as we floated over the Melbourne CBD overlooking the strip between Lonsdale and Bourke Streets, overlooking the Fitzroy Gardens (that I walk through on the way to work). I can also see the tower blocks which I live behind, the brewery nearby, and tucked away, the building in which Tin Can, String and Whistle resides.
Seriously, the best birthday present I've ever received.

The only thing I would change about the whole experience is that I would have loved to have somebody to share the whole thing with.

Next time.

Friday, February 3, 2012

Photo February - Day Three

Sangeet, Christchurch, 2008

One of the things that I love about my life is some of the interesting places I find myself with no warning.

This day was not so much a strange day or event, but it was unexpected in many ways.

This shot was taken in Christchurch, New Zealand, about four years ago. I was over the ditch visiting my friend Geetangeli and her husband and she took me along to a friend's Sangeet - a pre-wedding party for an Indian bride. Not one to say no to a party, complete with Indian sweets, I jumped at the chance, knowing only my friend and nobody else and knowing that there would be a feed of gulab jamuns at the end of it. Can't say no to gulab jamuns. 

The party was held at this architectural wonder of a house high on the nearly cliff like hills outside of Christchurch. I wonder if the house was damaged in the recent earthquakes. I was standing at the house's entrance looking down a light trap - and this is what I saw. Cool, eh!

However, here I was, one of the few people at the party not in a sari or a salawar kameez, but I was made to feel very welcome.

The colours of India take my breath away. Even if we're in downtown Christchurch.

I remember a friend telling me how on coming to Melbourne that should couldn't believe how everybody wore black - there were so many wonderful colours out there to wear - why would they choose to wear dull old black all the time?

That comment has stuck with me and I do make and effort to wear colour now - even if it feels a bit strange to be out of the "Melbourne Uniform".