Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Carol Shelkin Mosaic Workshop at MAANZ 2013

I had the privilege recently of attending a workshop with US mosaic artist Carol Shelkin.  Talk about being out of my comfort zone.  Not only does Carol work using sheet glass, which I rarely use, but to add to the challenge she is a portraitist.  Definitely not my thing so I was ready for anything and expecting everything. 

Either way 4 and a half hours flew by.  With this course generally taught over a number of weeks we were all happy to gain so much knowledge from Carol, who was more than prepared to share her expertise with us.  As a tutor she was great, and she achieved much with great forbearance in what must have been difficult circumstances.  So, my overview of what I took away from the session goes like this!

Carol showed us ways of looking at shapes, planes, and shadows on the face and how to teach ourselves to actually see them.  To see the face in terms of light and dark, black and white.  Quite a challenge, but it made so much sense to hear how she looked at work.  It also put into context for me why as an artist, Carol produces a black and white painting, a colour painting and a sketch before she touches a piece of glass when starting out on a new mosaic artwork.

Carol talked a lot about hills and valleys ie the contours, become the face, with the more drastic the value or shading, the more contours  will be revealed. 

Carol's philosophy being "if you can capture the shapes of the shadows, these become the face."  Easier said than done, but we all tried as hard as we could!

She shared too a couple of tricks with us - using a "viewfinder" to trick the eye and identify shadows.  Who would have thought a piece of card with a square hole cut into it would be such an effective tool.  As for the colour wheel she gave each of us - I don’t think I have put it down since I got it.  While a wrote a paper on colour theory many years ago I had never really utilised this tool in my practice.  Wow, what a mistake.  These things are awesome!

Colour is an incredible thing so being reminded that cool colours recede and warm colours stand out wasn’t a bad thing.  According to Carol, in general the warm colours are the hills (orange, yellow, red) and the cool colours (blue, purple, green) are the valleys.  I like simple connections that have a visual link.  They make sense to my way of thinking so I liked this thought from Carol very much.

The other concept Carol shared with us was the 60:30:10 rule.  Again, a general rule, excluding eyes, hair, teeth etc it works like this.  60% of the flesh area should be one colour in a range of shades. "Flesh" can be blue!  So long as you use shades and link tones using your colour wheel.  30% of the work is the secondary colour and all its shades which leaves 10% of one other colour and its shades.  I am sure this isn’t a new idea, but for this portrait novice it was a great way of understanding what we were being taught.

More tips included the secret that eyeballs are not really round, and the "whites" of the eye are rarely ever white.  Who would have thought.  As for me, I have certainly started seeing things differently.  I have been busily "squinting" to identify the shadows and contours ever since I got home. My portrait, which was the proud bearer of one eyeball on my departure from Melbourne, now has an eyeball and some surrounding skin.  Biggest progress made however is the mental leap and I think I do "get" this.  Time will tell.

My workshop buddy Kym and I agreed with our new South Australian friend Elaine's comment that she needed to "paint by numbers".  I could certainly see the connection!

Best thing is I now have two new FaceBook friends.


Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Carrie Reichardt - Mad in England

Ok, so these are my thoughts on the keynote address for the MAANZ Symposium 2013. From the UK, Carrie Reichardt advised us she is "not a Royalist" and proceeded to share her thoughts on life, art and politics. Her paper was unsettling and overwhelming...but inspirational. Days later, her words are still resonating with me. "The Treatment Rooms" is her studio and her work definately has a message with murals, mosaic, ceramics and screen printed political works her forte. Sporting a "Mad in England" windcheater and a hat rather akin to that of a tram conductor Carrie was never going to be boring. Art college turned her off art. Her tutors didn't like political work or feminist work which translated that they didn't like her. So she finished with art college and did her own thing, which she has continued to do ever since. Her art is autobiographical as is her way of working and from what she told us her art is cathartic and brought her back from the edge. After suffering from mental illness, her art was her salvation. Becoming involved in community mosaic and work with schools enabled her to make a connection to people and she was able to work again, but as she so clearly stated, Council pays you to dumb down the message and take meaning out of the work so Carrie stopped working for Council through public art commissions, and again started to do her own thing. This is where the discussion deviated from mosaic, and for just reason, but her time talking to us was spent discussing issues that at times were confronting, but were very much from the heart. I for one appreciated this. Death row is a tough topic to address and Carrie did it with humility while at the same time making her stance on related issues pretty clear. 3 out of 4 people on death row in Texas are ex military. Thanks to a connection made through the Big Issue, Carrie began a process of writing to someone on death row, and continued to do so for over five 5 years, becoming friends with Louis and engaging in a lifelong relationship of learning and engagement. This process too reinforce the message that it is ok to do your own thing and as a result Carrie began the mammoth task of mosaicing her own house! Louis spent the last two days of his life with Carrie before his execution. His message to Carrie was that her writing to him restored his humanity. Louis died on 20.10.2005. The death row arguement is a tough one - people either agree with the argument or don't. As Carrie sees it, there is limited opportunity for dialogue - unless you make art out of it. The process of creativity for her, has ensured sanity. As such, there is much in the way of subtle, sometimes hidden messages, in much of her work. Through her friendship with Louis, Carrie's sense of justice and law and order was overthrown and overwhelmed. For Carrie, the words of Martin Luther King Jr ring true "The ultimate tragedy is not the oppression and cruelty by the bad people but the silence over that by the good people." People are seduced by ceramics and mosaic and as such it is often possible to tell a story that might otherwise not be heard. Her work for Elephant Parade is a good example of this. Commissions for this project were completed free of charge and as such Carrie has final say over what her work says and shows. Her elephant Phoolan is half gorgeous elephant resplendent in ceremonial robes, and half skeletal to show both aspects of elephant conservation. The irony of the private collector who purchased the works intent to "push the elephant against the wall" was not lost. Similarly Carrie's Trojan horse , commissioned by Cheltenham Art and Craft Museum makes a comment on the abuse of horses by man in war, horse racing and abattoirs. Current work is progressing along the lines of utilising ceramic collage, with the ever present opportunity for political comment. Carrie is working on an international mosaic project in Chile in January 2014. Other influences on her work include the Black Panthers, Fred Hampton's statement "You can kill a revolutionary but you can't kill the revolution" and the concept of "craftivism" as defined by Betsy Greer 27.8.2013

Melbourne cuisine

Plans for tomorrow are all set. Frank is heading back to Bouzy Rouge to learn how to make Suckling Pork with the chef there and I am heading to the MAANZ Symposium. Food in Melbourne has been an epicurean delight. I am happy to say that more often than not we have fluked it and have eaten really well. Even the Chinese Takeaway we had one night was better than average. Our top pick of Melbourne cafes and restaurants include: Bouzy Rouge 470 Bridge Rd, Richmond. We had lunch there today and both enjoyed our meals. The secret ingredient in the Suckling Pig kept Frank guessing for the duration of the meal until he finally conceded that my guess of "cinnamon" might indeed have been correct. As for me, the Portuguese Seafood Stew with rissoni was the ultimate. I happily used the bread to sop up the sauce until the plate was as clean as possible without licking! Euro Patisserie at Kings Arcade Armadale has great coffee at only $3.50 for a flat white. The escargot pastries are to die for and the croissants are not far behind. With good food and dog friendly, highly recommended for breakfast or a casual lunch. The pick of the meals for me so far was lunch at The Atlantic. Although it has built its reputation on the concept of from the "ocean to plate" the braised beef cheeks with broad beans and mashed potato was the ultimate. It was the best meal I have had in a long time. Just for the record, I did have seafood pasta for entree. The salt was also incredibly good. Turns out it was Murray River salt flakes. Famous for their naturally occurring pink tinge I found a supplier today in our travels and brought some to take home. Actually dinner at il Solito Posto was pretty incredible too. We were seated adjacent to the book case, so after choosing between Barbara Cartland's The Very Naughty Angel and writings of Anne Frank, the menu was easy to navigate. The seafood linguine didn't disappoint and we decided fairly quickly that if we lived in Melbourne The Usual Place would quickly become a regular place to dine. Best breakfast so far goes to Caffe e Torta. A little piece of Europe in Little Collins Street. The breakfast was great with substantial portions, so pretty good all around. The decor was fun too with posters and bits and pieces. In general the decor in restaurants here tend to be quirky. Much more so than Brisbane. If they are not classic with white cloths and trendy graphic designs on the wall, they combine an odd array of bits and pieces, not unlike what you would find in the home of a collector, antique dealer or family restaurant in Europe. Point in case the tip bowl at il Solito Posto. A squirrel nutcracker which looked suspiciously like Alessi. I checked it out at close range but couldn't find a mark on it. The bar tender had no idea what it was, and seemed rather bemused by my interest. Interesting thing was we found a similar nut cracker in an antique store in Armadale - priced at $150. Recommendation for pizza? Papa Gino's in Lygon Sreet, Carlton. The best pizza around. All I can say is thank goodness we have been doing lots of walking. This city could have dire consequences on my long term health and well being. 22.8.2013

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Melbourne Aquarium

A visit to the Melbourne Aquarium was reminiscent of the visit to the zoo. Wall highlights within a visit to what seemed to be a construction zone with all of the noise, dust, impact on circulation and trip hazards one would associate with a building site. Again, signage apologising for the inconvenience and a full entry price of $35 did little to appease. Ok, enough complaining! The highlights were worth the angst and they included seeing both Gentoo and King Penguins. These birds are incredible in real life and so much better than viewing them on tv. Sorry Sir David! The colours were incredible and so intense up close. Watching them walk was amazing with their momentum and gait unlike anything you can imagine. they really do waddle - until they hit the water where they come into their own. As for the Gentoos, how cute are they. Their trick is to build a pebble nest to impress their partner. Security is tight with pebble theft rife as males fighting to attract their own females, thieve pebbles from adjacent nests. The seahorses and leafy sea dragons were amazing to watch with their movement dependant upon the current. Sea horses use their tails to hang on to coral to stabilise themselves. Then on a whim, they release their tail and float off until they reattach onto another convenient branch. The octopus was a true character as only an octopus can be and I spent some time watching him. His ability to manoeuvre and shape shift is inspiring. The tank with tropical fish was good, but not as large or lavish as you would expect with the access to corals, anemones and fish we have in Australia. It was a little disappointing. There were some smaller tanks that were interesting. I loved the Thread Tailled Travelly and also enjoyed watching the Scorpion Fish. Seeing Travelly on the menu at dinner tonight I abstained and went for the pasta! As for the rainforest area, how it fits under the definition of an "aquarium" beats me. We saw our fill of snakes, bugs and spiders at the zoo so I really struggled to get the connection. The shark tank was ok, but was mostly an in the round set up with only two small sections where the sharks, fish and rays could pass overhead. That said, seeing the rays glide over with their "faces" so close to your head was an amazing experience. I think if you lived in Melbourne you would buy an annual pass to the zoo and aquarium and then when you visited and the construction meant you couldn't see what you wanted you could return another time and pick up what you had missed. Perhaps that's the way to do it. Certainly with both of them so close to the city centre there is no excuse not to visit. 21.8.2013

Melbourne Zoo

I have always been a supporter of ethically sustainable care and conservation of animals and am generally in support of the work of zoos. In the last twelve months I have been fortunate enough to visit Taronga Zoo, Tiger World in Thailand, the Bali Birdpark and Singapore Zoo. Singapore has an international reputation and it did not disappoint. Unfortunately Melbourne didn't live up to expectations. For me, Melbourne always came in ahead of Taronga. That has now changed. We visited Melbourne Zoo yesterday and while we still had a good morning, overall we were disappointed. The site is looking tired and run down, which probably explains why there was also a lot of renovation and empty pens happening. Signage advised patience while awaiting the new and improved look, but with entry fees remaining the same it was frustrating to say the least. The thing for me that impacted most was the reduced number of animals. Even species like Ring Tailed Lemurs and Capuchin Monkeys which usually live in large social groups had reduced numbers. Three lemurs just doesn't have the impact required. That said, there were two small troops of meerkats which was good. The new Orangutan area was nice, but not nearly as good for viewing as Singapore Zoo. Not in my opinion anyway. The key difference, other than the reduced number of animals, was that in Singapore you can walk the boardwalk up and around the apes, so that at times you are above them, sometimes on their level, and other times they are above you. It really as an immersive experience, but one that is respectful of the needs of the animals. They are free to move around unimpeded. It really is an incredible way to see Orangutan. That said, seeing the large male seek warmth on what was a cold day was interesting. He used palm fronds to line the concrete and found a spot out of the wind against the viewing window. That was, until the female came and removed his palm fronds. Every one of them. As for the juvenile? He decided a blanket was all that was needed and promptly utilised the jungle gym equipment to string the blanket up into a tent like device which he promptly crawled into and snuggled out of the wind. Perfect solution. Although the elephant enclosure was a huge improvement on what was previously available, having seen elephants at Patara in Thailand it was hard to see them so confined. With 7 animals in the herd there was some element of group comfort for this social animal....but again we valued having seen these animals as close to in their wild state as possible. With a 150 year history, the Melbourne Zoo needs to work to bring things up to speed....in the interim, lets hope that they retain their loyal supporters and client base....and fit in a quick visit to Singapore for inspiration as to how things should be done! 20.8.2013

National Treasure

I met a living legend today. This gentleman, Mr Evans, should be a living National Treasure. In Japanese culture he would be treated with the respect of an aged artisan. In Australia, few would recognise his expertise. Mr Evans runs a quaint, old style shoe repair business located in the Royal Arcade. The Royal Arcade has been in existence since 1870 and from what I can tell Mr Evans has been part of the package for almost as long. For more on the Royal Arcade go to their website at http://www.royalarcade.com.au/ In Brisbane, I was told my boots were unrepairable. They could not match the leather, they did not have the same crepe soles etc etc. On a hunch I brought them to Melbourne with me in the hope that I would be able to find someone that could repair them enough to enable me to continue to wear them. You know what it's like when you have a favourite pair of shoes - the sentimental value over rides common sense. I got these boots on the first trip Frank and I made to Sydney together. We discovered Evans Leather Restorations the previous day so I decided to venture in and see what they said. Not having the boots on me at the time, I described as best I could what the problem was ie a blow out in the crepe heel that made me walk like a landlocked sailor. The girl in the shop wasn't sure, but told me "if anyone can fix them Mr Evans can" and suggested I bring them back in between 8.30 - 1.00 the next day when Mr Evans himself would be in the shop. So we did....and he can! He talked me through the process. Based on his inability to supply a ready made unit, he will construct new soles and heels for my boots. Yes I could buy a new pair of boots for the price, but realistically there is nothing like them around, and they will be good to go indefinitely. So for the experience, and to get my boots back I think it is worth the investment. So, my boots will be repaired, then will be posted home ready to wear again. Got to be happy about that. As for Frank, he came up with a payment plan for cost recovery of the repairs. Spying a shoe shine kit complete with box, he decided he could set me up in the Bourke Street Mall to clean the shoes of passers by, thereby earning the money for the repairs! 20.8.2013

Monday, August 19, 2013

AFL Queen

Who would have thought I would end up at the MCG watching Carlton play Richmond - and enjoy it so much? Certainly not me, but I think being at the game puts a whole new light on activities, and I really had fun. TV coverage seems to focus on the immediate close up action - and don't get me wrong, they do a great job of it, but seeing the entire field of play actually provides different insight to what is going on. As for the punch ups, there is always a tussle happening somewhere. It did actually remind me a little of Gridiron in that I wasn't always able to spot where the ball was....although in Gridiron I know that where the huddle is, the ball will be elsewhere. On the whole, AFL players seem to be better looking, and younger?, than their rugby counterparts. Either that or I am getting older. Tall and thin, and boy do these guys run. I had no idea how much ground they cover in a game. It was pretty impressive. Another benefit of being at the ground, it is huge! I am sure there are statistics somewhere, but trust me, it was big! The crowd was in the vicinity of 61 000 - actually, 60 825. All very well behaved, with lots of fans sporting all sorts of team colours and crazy outfits. From those in the more traditional jersey in team colours to the woman sporting tight leopard print pants, leopard print shoes and black and yellow striped socks. The number of families where Mum and one child supported Carlton, and Dad and the other child supported Richmond (or variations therein) was amazing. Even though Darren and Jackson support Carlton and Deena and Samson the Brisbane Lions, it didn't strike me as being noticeable until I saw it in such numbers. Split supporters within family units is the norm. Darren has been a Carlton fan since he was little - perhaps 5 or 6 years of age. We have a photo of him in his Carlton jersey at around this age. Uncle Ron on the other hand was always a diehard Richmond supporter! Richmond have been around since 1885. How incredible is that for team history! Any single Melbourne women should hang out at the AFL. It was suit city, with many men in attendance dressed and looking pretty spiffy. As for the dress code for the members, the rules stated no beach wear or overalls. With the wind that was whistling around I don't think banning beach wear was much of an issue. As for the security guys, they had their job cut out - keeping an eye out for illegal items when doing bag and esky checks. No video cameras, no glass and wait for it - no cooking utensils! I kid you not. As if you would have time to throw a snag on the BBQ while the game was on. For a first game it was the perfect introduction - with the score being quite close, and Carlton as the under dogs actually coming through to win the game. Oh, did I mention the view from the Jim Stynes Room? Going corporate was pretty special! 17.8.13

The Lieutenant

Book club attracted some heated discussion last night. We read The Lieutenant by Kate Grenville. A deceptively quiet little tale, all the better for knowing that she based her work of fiction on the papers of a real early settler of Sydney Cove. But it wasn't the fiction/non -fiction debate that got us going, instead it was a discussion of language, culture and how we learn. The differences in learning language as a child versus learning a language as an adult. We got onto teaching styles, and what works and what doesn't and how teaching styles vary and how they change over time. For me though it brought up memories of those teachers who made such an impact that they remain part of your make up long since you left school. My top teachers list would include: Mrs Clarke Year 3 at Neutral Bay Primary School. Mrs Patricia McKenzie Year 5, Mr Keith Williams Year 7 at Burleigh Heads Primary School. Mrs Jane Van Hoeyen, Art Teacher, and Mr Bruce Ingham, Ancient History at Miami High Sate School Ms Barbara Piscitelli at QUT - early childhood educator extraordinaire...who taught me to listen to and value what children will share of their world. Combined, they established a lifetime love of learning within me, and for that I have to be grateful. 6.8.13

Saturday, August 3, 2013

Hamilton Island

Hamilton Island The island is starting to grow on me. I think the trick is to look beyond the tourists and the hype. As you start to explore and settle in to what is offered then the natural beauty of the island takes over until it is almost overwhelming. This visit we have remained on the island with close to perfect conditions. With little or no wind, ocean looks like a sheet of glass. Certainly the extreme opposite of conditions the weekend we went sailing. That said, I can imagine just how spectacular sailing might be in good conditions and look forward to venturing out again when the opportunity arises. We had a wonderful dinner Friday night, with six of us dining beach side. Tapas and celebratory champagne at the waters edge with candles to light our way, before moving in to the restaurant for dinner. The food was wonderful and the service five star, so with the conversation of friends and a glass of wine, it was a perfect evening. With the topic of conversation being related to Hamilton Island Race Week, which kicks off in about two weeks I extended my vocabulary to include some yachting terms. I discovered that a Volvo is not a car and an Oyster is not food. Both are very expensive yachts - one a racing yacht, the other a cruising yacht. Go figure! 4 August 2013

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Earth bound

We ended up with 75 at the symposium. 73 adults and two newborns - Henry and Mitchell. Highlights for me today included a special rendition of The Lion Sleeps Tonight - especially for Jess and I who had expressed disappointment that Jay referred to it in the children's program, but hadn't played it. Thanks Jay! The rest of the day passed in a blur as i coordinated delivery of the conference program, ensured Dr Susan Krieg and other speakers had what they needed, organised media opportunities and ensured food was available as needed. Suffice to say it has been a rewarding yet exhausting day. One of the unexpected bonuses was seeing the girls from Isaac Regional Council and Whitsunday Regional Councils. Seeing them all again after delivering professional development programs on their home turf was a bonus! Made for a great day! Currently in the air and homeward bound. Back to the mundane environment of the office tomorrow. Never mind. 16.7.13

Charter flight

I really did have the most incredible weekend. Sailing was awesome so, high winds aside it, would highly recommend it. There is nothing quite like the sense of serenity and peace, even with the wind clanging every piece of equipment imaginable. Highlights of course other than being out on the water was sharing some time with the loggerhead turtle. We saw many, but I like to think it was the same one greeting us and welcoming us to her bay. She was so gentle that it was a privilege to see her on a semi regular basis. If I thought the adventures topped there I was wrong. Options for transfer to Mackay were to take the barge, then drive 1.5 hours. Thanks to Frank we decided this was not a viable option so he organised a charter flight from Hamilton Island to Mackay. The plane was a small single winger craft. Two seats. Mine, and the pilots. Trish welcomed me and proceeded to run through the safety drill - on the Tarmac, by tying a piece of string around my waist. Apparently, this was the life vest. Hopefully it wouldn't be required, but just in case it was there ready for use. Remove the packing, slip the vest over your head, wait until you are outside the aircraft, then pull the toggles to inflate. Perfect. The range of dials and other controls was impressive. Lots of gauges and numbers. The ones with fluorescent paint were the important ones. Why else would they be high viz orange? I was in very safe hands and as such was able to sit back and enjoy the flight. Actually I was so excited I sat perched on the edge of my seat the entire time - looking at anything and everything. The key advantage of the small plane definitely being its ability to remain below cloud level. Islands, buildings, cemeteries, all look incredible from such a a vantage point. I must admit though that the cemetery was on the close end of the Mackay airport. It would have been too creepy approaching the airstrip to see the cemetery awaiting you if you overshot the runway. The most amazing part of the flight was not only seeing the rainbow, but virtually flying though it. Somehow as we approached it became almost circular and we ended up flying through the edge of the ring made by the rainbow. Incredible experience. Right up there as far as special moments go. 15.7.13

There's a bear in there - and Jay Laga'aia too

The fun and games continued. This time as a result of work commitments. The reason I was actually needing to be in Mackay was to support delivery of the Read for life: early childhood symposium. A one day program for educators, public library staff, parents and anyone interested in promoting the value of early literacy in children. My brief for the afternoon was to meet Jay Laga'aia at the airport and transfer him to his session at the Gordon White Library, a branch of the Mackay City Library network at Mt Pleasant. Jess from the main branch is an angel and we couldn't have achieved what we did without her support. So, there we were at the airport, waiting for Jay. Based on Brisbane arrivals I had added a portrait of Jay and Big Ted to my iPad and stood holding that so that Jay would recognise us. I shouldn't have worried overly. The "arrivals area" at Mackay airport is a doorway with a "No Entry" sign adjacent to the coffee outlet. No problems. Approx 6 people were awaiting loved ones, guests etc. so, I shouldn't have been overly concerned about missing Jay in the crowd. At least a couple of his fellow passengers had a chuckle and one little girl carrying Cookie Monster was pleased to report she hadn't seen Big Ted. Before we knew it Jay was there, introductions made and I had vowed never to wash my cheek again. That's what a kiss on the cheek from Jay will do. Trust me,over the last few days I have seen sensible senior citizens turn into giggling girls at the pleasure of having their photos taken with this legend of Playschool, Home and Away, Bed of Roses and Star Wars! We made it to the library with bags in tow ready to set up and do sound checks to find our audience had already started to arrive. Then they kept on coming, and coming and coming! We ended up with over 400 Mums, Dads, Nanna's, carers and children ready and waiting. Ready to go Jay stepped up and began his performance and the audience was his. From beginning to end, it was incredible. Everyone getting into it, teapots, crocodiles and billy goats left, right and centre. A 45 minute performance and meet and greet turned into almost two hours of singing, dancing and pure joy. I loved the Three Billy Goats Gruff (with girl Billy Goats) and was touched by the pure simplicity of the Ukulele, but got most from the interactions Jay had with the littlest of his visitors. One little lady brought her own, pink Ukulele with her and carefully requested that Jay sign it with her name, not her sisters. This young lady knew what she wanted and seemed not to recognise the significance of this guy serenading her on her own ukulele. Classic moments abounded this afternoon. Did I mention I would love a Ukulele? Doesn't have to be pink, but for this non musical person, any interest in things musical is to be encouraged. The line to say a personal hello and get a CD signed was longer than any I have ever seen and to Jay's credit he stayed on for as long as it took. Not only that, he thanked the children for waiting to see him, and not one went away empty handed. Playschool postcards form the perfect surface to write a hello on and every now and then a Star Wars card snuck out from the bottom of the pile on special request. Many happy people later (big and little) we finally were able to pack up and head off. After a quick shower and change of clothes we picked Jay up and went to dinner. This icon of Australian Television had dinner with three librarians - one each from Brisbane, Mackay and Surat. There goes his street cred. Just for the record, yes we did have a great evening. 15.7.13
Note to self. Boats float. That means that when you are suited up with boots face mask, snorkel and new super sized flippers when you come up for air, it isn't the current that has run off with you. Instead the boat has moved and you need to go over to the ladder. No, not panic and lunge for the dingy as you imagine being swept out to sea. Meanwhile, where is Captain Frank? Out of sight putting the camera away. Just before I entered the water May the loggerhead turtle welcomed us back by coming the closest to the boat she has ever come. Only thing was I had taken my glasses off in order to swim so missed it all except for a vague blob as she did her dive. We left May's Bay late morning after watching a sea eagle eat his breakfast on nearby rocks and a sea gull who had adopted the dingy dive in and retrieve a fish to eat. More like a minnow, but he seemed proud of his achievements. We headed over to Cid Harbour to explore, then with the weather improving substantially decided to return to May's to anchor overnight rather than return to the marina a night early. So after lunch we headed back, this time me taking the wheel and having my first lesson in handling the yacht. Not dissimilar to a car, but with a much larger wheel. Actually, on this yacht we have a choice of wheels. So, I started getting my head around the depth of water, working out how to steer straight and when to veer. The wheel is large and as such takes longer to respond, but once it does, she responds quickly. Takes a little getting used to, but I enjoyed it immensely. Others have found our bay so we took a different mooring on our return, hopped into the dingy then went across the bay and up an inlet to a pirate beach. Coming back we went to look at the coral bommies under high tide. A totally different experience to this morning. Heading back to the yacht we saw May and were able to cut the engine and head across to where she was swimming. Seeing this gentle creature so close was incredible. Her head seems so small in comparison to her shell mass, but she looked happy, smiling at us before she dived and went down into the water and out of sight. 14.7.13

Snorkelling of sorts

The weather for our trip has been far from ideal,but you make of it what you will. Winds overnight were up to 40 knots, but May's Bay protected us from the worst of it. With a little sunshine this morning we took the opportunity to go out int he dingy and test the snorkelling gear. Well, I put my face mask and snorkel on, dangled head first out of the dingy and checked out the coral, bommies and fish. Sighting of the morning was Mr Moray eel. A pale white colour I thought perhaps he was a rock due to his lack of movement, but appatprent,y thats what they do.....lurk, then when something comes within range, lunge! Perhaps not the traditional way to snorkel but given the wind conditions and temperature of the water a good compromise. We decided to head back to the yacht, making it back on board within minutes of another downpour. Perfect timing. Next was breakfast - spaghetti on toast with toast cooked the camping way. For this city girl a new way of doing things using a funky little rack to balance the toast over the gas flame. Why is it that food tastes so much better outdoors? 14.7.13

May's Bay

Rubber ducky entry and exit is another skill to learn. My skills must be improving though as I successfully negotiated the beach without getting wet or injured. Unlike my Thai experience six months ago. The beach here is small and intimate, and very quickly passes onto mangroves which line the waters edge. These trees really are quite beautiful. The last time I was so up close and personal was a biology trip in high school. The root system is what makes them unique, enabling them to exist on the waterline, yet breath via their network of roots which form a latticework system of breathing points above the water line. As for the salt water, I'm can't quite remember how they deal with that, but given how healthy they look they cope magnificently. Having discussed the potential danger of cone shells I was aware that shell seeking was to be undertaken with care. That and the fact that many beaches within this area would be considered national parks or protected environments. That said, I only found one shell worth investigating, flipping it over to discover it was inhabited by a hermit crab. After he wiggled his claws at me, I gently placed him back in position and left him to his housework. It is the turtles in May's Bay that have most captured my attention. We have sighted a couple each day. They appear out of nowhere, take a breath or two on the surface and go again. Sometimes they reappear further across the bay as they seek food. One this afternoon came up close by our yacht, alerting me to her presence as she huffed out and took another breath of air. The sound so unusual I had to look - and there she was just watching me. An amazing experience. I took a photo on my iPhone, which looks more like the Loch Ness Monster than doing credit to this beautiful girl, but I knew if I left to get the camera, she would be on her way before I returned. I consider myself very lucky to have seen her so close, in her environment, not one of man's making. 13.7.13

It's a sailors life

The interesting thing about expectations is that they are often misfounded. Take this land girls thoughts on sailing. Here was I thinking it would be relaxing, full of solitude, might I even suggest romantic. How wrong was I. With winds that reached 25 - 30 knots overnight there was nothing but noise. I thought that the motion of the boat was what I would find most challenging to deal with. Perhaps I was a Pirate in another time and place as this has been the least of my concerns. The noise though has been something else entirely. Apart from the occasional pump kicking into action and the ropes slapping against the mast the continual slurping and slapping of the water against the hull made me realise the subtle power of Chinese water torture. Most noises I could equate to something at home. The bilge pump reminds me of Tia and Willow scratching at the door to come inside, the ropes slapping on the mast equate to branches falling on the roof, motel doors slamming when I travel for work etc. I wake, recognise the sound, turn over and go back to sleep. The incessant slurping of the water is something else....that said, at least I slept. That makes one of us. The weather this morning isn't much better. Wind has dropped a little perhaps, but it is cloudy and overcast. So at this stage it looks like we will settle in for an hour or so with a book, then reassess things later in the morning. Might not be the best weather for snorkelling but we might take the rubber ducky across to the bay and go for a walk. 13.7.13

Hamilton Island here I come

The big adventure has begun.  This girl is off sailing for the weekend, prior to heading to Mackay to deliver the Read for life: early childhood symposium on Tuesday.
Paul did the furry pickup without incident this morning.  I laughed to see Cinque's travelling companion - a Labrador.  His arch nemesis, although Charley looked like she had some age about her so hopefully he behaved himself.
So, an hour or so in the business lounge, iPad and book in hand saw me happily occupied until my flight to Hamilton Island.  We landed without incident, although the airstrip here must test the skill of the best pilot.  A narrow strip of land seemingly surrounded by ocean.  Once the descent begins I find it better not to look.
Frank met me, we collected my bags - one for work next week, one for pleasure and off we went.  Buggy to the marina, then loading gear onto our yacht.
Actually I think we "stowed" the gear.  There seems to be a specific language to boating and this land lubber has lots to learn.  Home for the next few days is a 44 foot Jeanaue - Miss Deveraux out of Hamilton Island.  Checking out all of the cabinets and hides holes to stow gear kept me entertained for some time.  Hopefully my full quota of bumped heads and banged elbows has been reached and the rest of the trip should be relatively uneventful.
We headed out of the marina late afternoon and by 3.00 had settled on our mooring for the night - May's Bay.  Accessed via a channel between Whitsunday Island and Cid Island, you go further around Daniell Point and on to the next cove.  Dugong Inlet off Daniell Point seems like a popular spot with 32 vessels seeking mooring for the night.  May's Bay had us and one other - a huge multi million dollar cruiser complete with wide screen television.  I'm not quite sure what the sailing protocol is, but I waved as the lady of the boat went out to tackle the anchor....who knows, we might get an invite for drinks one afternoon.
The movement of the yacht takes a bit of getting used to.  Above decks I am fine (well so far), even when we came through the entrance to Cid Harbour - known locally as "the washing machine".  The challenge I have is being below decks in the cabin.  I saw a plane go past, then another one, then a third....in opposite directions.  At the point confusion was about to reign, Frank put me out of my misery by showing me the "star" that I could see.....and each time our yacht moves in the water, we pass back and forth the sight line to the star. 
Best sighting of the afternoon though was a sea turtle - must have been May of May's Bay fame!



Sunday, July 7, 2013

Charters Towers

Took me a while to get this one out - one of the challenges of being on the road.  Once back in the office I played catch up for so long I forgot I was yet to log this blog entry.  So, now the photographs are available seems like the ideal time.

Charters Towers aka "The World" is an historic town, filled with beautiful heritage buildings.  The Council and community really value the unique qualities of their town.

We have spent the week based at the Excelsior Library, which started life as a hotel and now spends its days meeting the needs of locals in other ways.  The building is quite beautiful, and being located on a corner of town, easily accessible to everyone.  

Within the region, there are also historic points of interest, including Ravenswood (too far to visit this trip without risking missing our flight) and Mingela, a town 50 kms out of Charters Towers.  Once a thriving little town called Ravenswood Junction, as its name suggests, it was the departure point for the train to Ravenswood.  Now though, other than a couple of houses, there is a pub - advertised as a quintessential county pub with a cat and peacocks, the fuel station has closed as has the general store and the post office.  Chatting to a local though, we found out that you can still access a post box for $20 annually.  Just stop by and see the guy at the pub if you are interested.
Highlights of the trip were sunrise at The Weir and then next morning at Tower Hill, meeting Maggie in the Pioneer Cemetary, seeing my first Red backed Fairy Wren, and meeting new friends.




Thursday, May 30, 2013

Bali overview

sometimes during a trip you capture an image that just doesn't fit within the blog text, yet it says so much about the country or the people that you have been visiting that it should be included for sheer pleasure. so, for our Bali escapade, these are my picks. Enjoy!

Jimbaran, Bali

Jimbaran turned out to be unlike anything I had imagined. We set off to walk the beach, cut through and walk into town. A short discussion with someone in the know however soon changed our minds. Other than a few resorts along the beach front and a cluster of beach front shack styled restaurants, there is not much to Jimbaran at all. Not within walking distance at any rate. Apparently as a starting point for day trips, or to set out on day trips to water ski, fish, snorkel etc it is world famous, but for self made exploration there is little to discover. So, we returned to our villa via Sundarra, the new beachfront restaurant which is part of the Four Seasons complex. We stopped to sit and relax, have a cold drink and just chill for a while, then headed back and spent the rest of the morning swimming and just being lazy. Quite perfect really. We had some excellent seafood at the bar by the resort pool, then again headed back for a swim and relaxing afternoon. Mid afternoon I wandered down to the resort temple which is the practice venue for local girls learning Balinese dance. With only five girls, and an audience of one, there was much giggling and smiling. Eventually the oldest girl came to talk to me so we had a convoluted conversation where she translated for the others and we all tried to understand each other. We exchanged names and they told me they ranged in age from 8 - 11, with the older girl being approx 15. By the end of it all I had made some new friends and thoroughly enjoyed my afternoon. 31.5.13

Balinese dancing

Jimbaran is on the coast, and overlooks the Bali airport across the bay. Planes come and go frequently. My expectation is that the culture of Jimbaran will be more aligned with that of Koh Samui. Still lots of shops and food outlets, but with the addition of more bars. Shops too I expect will be newer and with more European labels and styling rather than the traditional art and crafts seen in Sayan, wood and stone carving and the like. We will find out more later this morning as we explore Jimbaran further. Last night we saw traditional Balinese dancers and a Gamalan band. My favourite musicians were the two guys who each had a set of drums, similar to those we saw in one of the temples. These guys really rocked a rhythm and the sounds they produced, in unison, were amazing. Quite eerie, and unlike the sing song sounds of the rest of the performers instruments. The dancers were very interesting. Luckily we had a translation sheet to the story behind each dance. Due to this I could basically follow the story line, and still enjoy the movement and colour. A bit like opera really. You have no idea what they are saying, but the emotion comes through....and you either love it, or hate it. The highlight of the dances for me last night was the one where two girls were interpreting the courtship rituals of male birds of paradise. I could see the connection following the research I have been doing of late. An unexpected bonus really and much less scary than the old man in the first dance. I was glad though that we took the time to watch the performance as it was quite different to the Thai dancing we saw in Chiang Mai in January. 30.5.13

Rijsttafel dinner

Monday evening we joined other guests at the restaurant to participate in a traditional Indonesian Rijsttafel Dinner. Funny thing was everyone else watched the Legong dancers and Gamalan orchestra upstairs on the terrace, while we decided to eat as waiting for the performance to finish would have meant eating too late, so we ended up with the restaurant to ourselves, and we could still hear the music. The Rijsttafel, which translates literally as "rice table dinner" dates back 350 years to the peak period of Dutch rule in Indonesia. The idea developed from local culture where rice is the meal staple, and you add small amounts of meat or seafood or poultry and vegetables. The Dutch however liked larger meals, so they developed the idea into a feast with rice and 8 or more accompanying dishes, with associated pickles and sauces. The meal we had comprised 13 different courses, although luckily some were presented simultaneously, more like tasting plates. Even with the rice there were three different varieties - white, black and yellow. While I was still very full by the time we finished it was not quite the ordeal it sounds. The food was beautiful and the spices used are certainly different to those used in other Asian foods I regularly eat at home. 27.5.13

Sayan, Bali

Located in the Ayang River Valley we are staying at a resort in Sayan, a mountainous area of Bali. We have the Ayang River passing by our door, the water tumbling over rocks sounding like torrential rain day and night. Quite a relaxing sound once you become accustomed to it, but I can imagine the American tourists dialling reception to have the noise of the river "turned down". Being set within a natural area of vegetation we have seen lots of birds, butterflies and insects in addition to our squirrel friends who delight with their arboreal acrobatics each morning. It really has been a beautiful place to stay for a few days and I have enjoyed it. This afternoon we relocate to Jimbaran and the beach. Should be quite a contrast. 29.5.13

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Balinese cuisine

Food is a large part of Balinese culture and I am proud to say we have immersed ourselves fully.  Even though we have participated in a traditional feast, and a "rice table banquet" the best meal we have had was at a roadside restaurant recommended by two different people we spoke to - Naughty Nuri's.

Barely worth a second glance as far as restaurant decor and street appeal go - in fact the day of our first visit we walked right past it, but that could have been due to the Neka Museum of Balinese Art being opposite so I was a little distracted.  We walked on by for quite some time until we realised we had overshot the mark.  About turn, and back up the hill, but boy was it worth it.  The restaurant is always busy and you sit at communal tables to eat.  It is obviously a favourite haunt of locals, and tourists in the know.

So, what's all the fuss about? BBQ Ribs!  Not being a huge rib girl I ordered a local noodle, chicken and vegetable dish. Then proceeded to steal ribs off Frank's plate.  Wow, they were sooooo good.  The ribs are grilled on a BBQ which virtually stands on the street.  Pre cooked in a huge pot, as orders come through the rack of ribs are removed from the pot, dipped until they ooze in a vat of sauce, and are then grilled on the BBQ.

Served with rough cut potato chips or salad, they are incredibly good.  So much so, that we ordered a second plate.  Only fair given I was helping Frank to eat his!

Established 1995 they advertise Good Indonesian Food, and it is.

The next day we went to a traditional Indonesian restaurant.  This was located within a large complex, with a traditional building and seating around the garden.  Looked good, but the food left a lot to be desired.  The flavour of my chicken dish was good, but the flesh of the chicken seemed to be missing, leaving succulent bones, but a hungry Tammy.  Frank made the mistake of ordering ribs - bad move as they just didn't compare.  The noodle dish however was good.

The highlight for us, and what made it worth eating here was the spice and herb garden.  Open to restaurant diners we went for a walk to explore to find that beyond the garden beds were open rice paddies.  We walked along the edge of one and stopped to watch some men threshing rice the traditional way.  Best thing was no one demanded money for the privilege.  This little hidden corner of Ubud was a highlight of our day.

A little indulgent perhaps, but with both of us still a little hungry we again headed up the hill and shared a plate of ribs at Naughty Nuri's.  with a bottle of Bintang, the local Balinese beer, it was the perfect way to end our day exploring.


Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Monkey Forest

We got smart today, returning to the Monkey Forest. This time, walking a different route we found the main part of the temple in addition to what was obviously the nursery section. There were small groups of mums suckling new babies everywhere. One of the babies would have been lucky to be one week old. Others might have been two to three weeks. They were tiny and mum wasn't about to let them out of her reach. It was absolutely incredible to be able to be so close to these wild animals, yet watch them interacting with each other, unconcerned by our presence. Watching the humans interact was interesting also. From the woman who pulled a monkeys tail, to those getting close to have their photo taken with the monkeys, it was easy to see why the warnings were in place. These animals are wild and as such they are unpredictable. One look at the size of their teeth was enough to make me conscious of the potential dangers. That said, I really enjoyed having more time to explore the gardens and temples with the monkeys as guardians. 28.5.13


Today was a day to revisit previous destinations.  We returned to Ubud, walking from the Monkey Forest back up Monkey Forest Road, looking at shops as we went.  This road boasted more new shops and businesses and as such the architecture was less interesting.  The traffic was equally frenetic with motorcycles going both ways even on one way roads.  Crazy stuff.  There is little to do other than shopping, so it helps to enjoy going in and out of numerous shops, most of which sell very similar items.  Even the "art galleries" seem to stock similar work, the quality of which is fairly questionable.

We turned off the main road and cut across to the back streets we explored the day previous and again enjoyed the quieter pace.  Stopped for a drink, had some lunch and generally enjoyed our morning.

One of the things unique to Balinese men and women is their capacity to carry bundles on their heads.  From buckets of building rubble, to trays of food and bundles of banana palm fronds you see them carting gear this way quite often. Many of the women go bare headed to do so.  Those using a round of cloth seem eminently more sensible to me.  That said, there is still some skill involved I am sure.

Dog count for the day was 22.  With 23 dogs for yesterday's count it seems Ubud dog counts are pretty close on any one day.  The security dog at the resort did change today though.  So far this week a golden retriever a gorgeous toffee colour had been on bomb sniffing duty.  This afternoon however a black lab had the honours of checking our vehicle.  Then it was back to snooze until another car came in to request access. 


Monday, May 27, 2013

Pay as you go

One of the things I am struggling to come to terms with is that you must pay for everything. Rice paddies are in abundance - where we are staying there are ornamental, but working fields, and by the roadside they are a common sight. So when our driver asked whether we would like to stop and see rice paddies, take photos etc on our way up the mountain we readily agreed. Only to arrive and be charged a fee to view the rice paddies from a variety of viewing platforms located opposite and amidst yet another, tacky roadside selection of stalls selling crap. These rice paddies are set up as a tourist trap, and while you can see them across the hillside quite plainly, the view is nothing compared to some of the others we have seen while driving around Ubud. Further up the mountain we were also charged to enter the network of roads surroundings e of two active volcanos in Bali. Only problem was it was pouring rain, and with the fog, visibility was nil! What a rip off! Luckily for us we had a great lunch at a traditional buffet styled restaurant. 27.5.13

Bali bird park

Luckily for me we stopped to see the Bali Bird Park late in the morning. If we had waited until the afternoon which was the original plan, we would have been washed out. Quite a good collection with Budgerigars, Galahs, Pelicans, Eclectus Parrots and Sulphur Crested Cockatoos representing Australia. International species included, Hornbills, Toucan, Flamingos and Crested Cranes amongst the less common species. Seeing the birds was another highlight of the visit to Bali so far for me. While there are many birds in cages, there are also two free flight aviaries. One of local Balinese birds which was good. There was also a selection of Birds of Paradise. Very exciting to see after recent research I have undertaken following the travels of Tim Laman and Ed Scholes and the work they are doing through the Cornell Lab of Ornithology. The Greater Bird of Paradise was incredible to see as for the first time ever I saw for myself the iridescent colours on his throat as the sun shone directly onto his feathers. This little guy came right over to the edge of the cage to say hello and I will be eternally grateful. Even though Tim Laman is a master in the art of bird photography, seeing this for myself was beyond description. It was a great moment to see this effect for myself. Other high lights were the birds that were free roaming on trees which you could walk straight up to....often without a human guide nearby. So, African Grey Parrot, Macaws, Eclectus Parrots (quite rare in Australia) and Sulphur Crested Cockatoos could all be seen at close quarters. The best thing though was the chance to hold (or be stood on by) a variety of birds. Hornbills are not a common sight in Australia so having a photo with both a male and a female was amazing. As was holding not one, but two Macaws, and a variety of parrots. The photo says it all. I was one happy girl. Dog count for the day was a respectable 62. 26.5.13