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Wednesday, 28 August 2019

Come from Away

Am I the only one that didn't know this story? 

The play Come from Away caught my attention and I entered the cheap tix lottery and managed to grab 2 tickets ($50 each and great seats). So off we went on a Sunday afternoon at the end of July with only a vague idea that it was based on a true story about planes diverted to Canada on 11 September 2001. 9/11, that fateful day.

So glad we did.  It's one of those feel good plays that you walk away from with a big smile on your face. Take tissues. Actually, that's possibly just me, I cry at everything. It is indeed the remarkable true story of the day 38 civilian, 4 military planes and more than 6,600 passengers and crew (and 19 animals in cargo) were diverted to Gander when US airspace was closed.  

The small town of Gander (population in 2001 approx. 10,000) on the island of Newfoundland (The Rock, nothing to do with the man), is home to Gander International Airport (opened January 1938), once an important refuelling stop and still used today as an emergency landing point. 

It must have been terrifying for those passengers, not knowing where they were (welcome to Gander - where the fuck are we), what was happening or when they would be getting home. For up to 6 days passengers were stranded and it's hard to imagine what it must have been like. So Operation Yellow Ribbon was put into action and residents of Gander and the surrounding towns swung into action volunteering to house, feed and entertain all these "Come from Aways" The term is used by locals for anyone not born on the island. 

The play tells the story.  How unease, fear, culture clashes and mistrust was turned around with patience, music and friendship - oh and maybe with a bit of alcohol thrown in.  The scene where the musicians (Celtic style) join in the fun, and over many drinks, tensions ease and lifelong friendships are formed is awesome.  When it was time to leave, the locals refused any money and once everyone left, they found money had been tucked away as a way of saying thanks to their hosts.

One of the scenes was the "Kissing the Cod" or "Screech-in." Like all good local customs, it's usually performed at a pub by a resident.  The "Come from Away" kisses a cod and is asked by the local "Is ye a Screecher?" The newcomer must reply "Deed I is, me old cock, and long may your big jib draw!" Which translates to "Yes indeed my friend, may there always be wind in your sails." Then you drink a shot of Newfoundland Screech, a type of rum, and receive a certificate from the Royal Order of Newfoundland Screechers.  Kiss the Cod - I'll add it to the list 'cos it sounds like my sort of tradition.

Friday, 23 August 2019

Women on Walks

Back in May I discovered this Facebook group called "Women on Walks" and decided I could do with a bit more getting off my fat arse and walking.  The next planned walk was along the beach from Sandringham to Green Point in Brighton.  Talked Andrea, Heather and Erminia into coming along, so at 9.45am on a grey Tuesday, (ah the joys of not working are never-ending) off we set.  Easy pace, walked past the Sandringham Rotunda, Sandy Yacht Club, through some bushland which sometimes is hard to believe is right on our doorstep, along Hampton beach (home sweet home) and finally to Green Point where we had a short pit-stop for morning tea (BYO). On the way back we stopped off at a café in Sandringham Village (Elefant) for lunch/coffee and were back where we started at around 1.30pm.  

Friday 12 July was a bit of a wet and wild day in St Kilda. I guess bad weather needs to be factored in when it's the middle of winter.  Anyway, we didn't let that stop us as we set off through the St Kilda Botanical Gardens and made our way to Albert Park and then strolled around the lake. Heavy rain at one point, but at least it was only blowing in 1 direction so only half the body got wet.  Wandered down Fitzroy and Acland Streets and ended up at Iddy Biddy Bar for a much needed coffee and a delish lunch. Oh and met Ron Barassi along the way - much to the delight (if the squeals were anything to go by) of some of our fellow walkers.

The weather gods took pity on us on Sunday 21st July and the sun was shining.  This time we were in the city and after meeting up in Fed Square, we were off to check out the street art in a couple of laneways (I do love a good laneway stroll). On to and around Carlton Gardens and then back past Parliament for a walk through Treasury and Fitzroy Gardens before our coffee/lunch stop at Great Space café. Lots to see along the way and we had many keen photographers merrily snapping away on route.

The most recent walk was on Sunday 18 August and it was a repeat of the St Kilda one - this time with no rain and much warmer, although it was windy around the lake - and not just because there were 25 women chatting away. We kept a look out for the great Ron B, but he wasn't hanging around on any street corners on this day.

Each month there are two walks. One held during the week and one on the weekend.  The following month, the one that was held during the week is repeated on a Sunday for those that aren't lucky enough to be retired/unemployed/taking a break.  

Each walk is around 10 - 12km and everyone is welcome. Well, as long as you are a women. Apparently some men have tried to join the group and have been politely turned away. Can't blame them for trying - I'm sure an equivalent men's walking group would be nowhere near as exciting when it comes to gossip. 

The group is run by the lovely Annie, who diligently takes a practice walk when planning the next ones and ensures that coffee/lunch spots are up to scratch.  So far I've met a lovely bunch of ladies,  all ages and from various walks of life. Some mothers and daughters share the day and there is usually at least one fur-baby (male's welcome) accompanying us.  It's a fabulous way to get a bit of exercise, discover new spots around our city and make new friends.

All walks to date have been classed as "Easy." Although in October, a slightly more taxing hike down in the Mornington Peninsula is planned and that will be 14.5km.  Now the question has been raised - What is the difference between a "hike" and a "walk?" The answer appears a bit grey, but seems to depend on the surface being walked upon and where you are. Walking tends to refer to the stuff we do everyday on hard, relatively flat surfaces in urban areas, whereas hiking is done in nature and on more natural, uneven ground. Got it?  So really, telling someone to take a hike is not necessarily a bad thing.

Monday, 22 April 2019

Procrastination, Punting and Prosecco

"Procrastination - the action of delaying or postponing something"   

So, I have become an expert procrastinator.  And rather than get on with writing and doing all the other things I should be doing, I did some reading on procrastination. Because that's just what us procrastinators do.

Seems like it's a thing we humans are very good at and it's been happening for centuries. Those old wise ones even had a word for it Akrasia (cheers Aristotle). "The state of acting against your better judgement" (like opening that third bottle of bubbles or eating the entire box of chocolates.) It's when you do something even though you know you should probably be doing something else.

Whatever, I need to get my writing mojo back.  That means just one thing, actually doing some writing.  So much for that dream of sitting in a cafe tapping away. Nada. Not happening. Not even once. I used to get more writing done when I was working.

Anyway, at least I managed a tick off the old list and whipped up this quick post.

Good Friday dawned warm and sunny so a perfect day to go punting on the Royal Botanic Gardens. Nice one B, who took the initiative and grabbed us some tickets.  All aboard our wooden punt, complete with prosecco, plastic cups and parasol for a tour around the lake. After a brief safety briefing (there are after all killer eels and who knows what else lurking beneath the surface of the murky waters), our professional punter Wesley pushed us off and provided plenty of info about the lakes history, the plants and the bird life that call the lake home.  Pointing out mama and papa swan with their four very cute fluffy cygnets was a highlight.

Very pleasant and the prosecco went down very nicely.  Punting on the Lake, costs $25 for adults, $12 for kids (5 - 15) and $65 for families (2 adults and 3 kids) for a 30 minute tour.  Well behaved dogs are allowed on board, so will have to take Lola along next time.  Oh and yes, you are welcome to take alcohol on board - even at 10.30am. Just don't fall in. Apart from those killer eels, the water is a bit smelly - duck poo.

After a pleasant stroll through the gardens, we checked out The Kettle Black for a delicious brunch in South Melbourne.  All that and home in time for a lazy afternoon siesta.

Right, so tomorrow, I'll head down to the corner cafe and seek inspiration.  Or is that motivation? Or fuck it, maybe I'll just pop down for a skinny latte, a croissant and read the gossip mags. Because that too is what us procrastinators do.

Tuesday, 12 February 2019

Urban Scrawl Street Art Tours

Another Sunday, another day exploring our beautiful city.  Having only caught up with the lovely Lynda a couple of weeks earlier on our Wayward Wanders Tour, it was fab to set off an another adventure with her. 

This time we joined Urban Scrawl on one of their Street Art Tours. Having been on a few of these and spent many hours wandering our laneways, it never ceases to amaze me the level of talent we have around us. Melbourne is actually well known as one of the top cities in the world for street art and it's not hard to see why.

What started as a graffiti subculture, is now widely accepted by local authorities who commission many of the beautiful large pieces we have around the city and suburbs.  Whilst generally graffiti and tagging is still illegal, many of our laneways have opened up for artists to share their talents.  It is a bit of a shame to see some amazing pieces tagged, but I guess that's part of it.

On this tour, we wandered around many of the famous spots we have in the city and learnt about some of the artists and their work.  Many of them have made a name for themselves not only in Melbourne, but throughout Australia and around the world. 

The great thing about street art, is that it's ever changing; so what's there one day, might have been replaced the next.  No matter how many times you visit, there are always new works to discover and old faves to admire.  Yes, little Banksy rat, it's good to see you still there.  A piece of art that should really be preserved.

Overall, another good tour company doing these and a pleasant way to spend a couple of hours.  The tours are by appointment and meet at Federation Square.  Cost is $35.  They also run one through Fitzroy and Collingwood.

If you don't want to do a tour, it's easy to go and check them out on your own.  City of Melbourne  have a great guide of all the most popular sites and laneways and you can dowload a map.  Or just wander around and get lost.

Oh and a big thank you to Lynda for the gorgeous pics. I did take some, but they are still sitting on the camera card.

Monday, 11 February 2019

Espresso, Ristretto, Short Macchiato and a G&T

Learn new stuff - it's on the list.  And seeing as I'm currently happily unemployed, seemed like as good a time as any to learn a few new skills. Might come in handy when we hit the dusty road. 

So with my trusty partner in crime against common sense (Belinda "let's do a stand-up comedy course" Dane), we rocked up at our Barista course at 9am one Saturday morning. First up, a bit about The Bean.  I sort of knew that 100% Arabica was the good stuff, but to be honest, that was about it.  Arabica is more expensive and often mixed with Robusta beans to save $$$. Robusta contains more caffeine.  As for "single origin" it's a matter of taste, with some blends containing up to 5 different beans.

Next up, making the coffee. 7-9g of coffee in the basket for a single, 14-18g for a double.  Water should push through at 88 - 92 degrees and 25 - 30ml of coffee should take 25 - 30 seconds to come out. Slower than that, the grind is too fine - time to fiddle with the grinder.  If your favourite cafe is pushing out coffees faster than that - then they are not doing you any favours! Go elsewhere.

Espresso, Ristretto, Cappuccino, Cafe Latte, Long Black, Short Macchiato, Long Macchiato and Flat Whites. So many choices.

On to the fun part.  Engines warmed and machines at the ready.  Coffee into the group handle, tap, press down and lock it in. Harder than it looks, but after a bit of jiggling, we're ready to go. Push the button and out comes the coffee.

Then comes the milk and the art of heating/frothing.  It's all about nozzle position and depth.  Put the two together and there we have it, a coffee.  After making several styles, with mixed success, we thought we'd better taste a few of our efforts - not bad.  Countless cups of coffee later, there we were, proud holders of a Barista Coffee Making Course certificate. 

Was certainly a fun 4 hours and I don't think I'll ever be able to look a coffee in the same way again - now that I'm a professional and all.  I don't have an artistic bone in my body, so don't think I'll progress to the coffee art course - but who knows.

Next up, because you never know when you might need to serve alcohol at somewhere other than at a BBQ or breakfast, we went back and did our Responsible Service of Alcohol course. Drinking responsibly is a whole other thing - which we may or may not yet have mastered. 

So there we have it. We are now armed and ready.


Sunday, 27 January 2019

Wayward Wandering

You know that "go-slow" feeling when you had to go back to work after the Christmas break? Must be seasonal, because even when there is no work to officially go back to, it happens. And I don't like it. Been positively slack the last few weeks.  So much for all that writing I was going to do - not been happening.

So a catch-up post about a fabulous walking tour I did with Sista Lynda way back on 2 December 2018.  At this age, if I don't write things straight away, there is a very real chance of forgetting what we did - so this could be a very short write-up.

Seemed fitting that as we met Lynda walking (Nepal), that our catch-ups involve, well, more walking. I ask myself why didn't we meet drinking in a bar? So on a sunny Sunday, we met our Guide Liam from Wayward Wanders and set off on The Greenie Tour.

First stop, headed down to Birrarung Marr. Opened in 2002 the name means 'river of mists' and 'river bank' in the language of the Wurundjeri people who inhabited the area when the Europeans settled in Melbourne. At this point it was important to acknowledge the Wurundjeri people of The Kulin Nation as the original custodians of the land we were walking on and pay respects to elders past, present and future.

Interesting to hear about how the design, landscaping and plants were chosen and to learn that there are huge underground water tanks installed.  Liam also spoke a little about the Yarra and what it would have been like when European settlers first landed and about the problems with pollution and rubbish in our rivers.  It's sad that those rubbish traps are necessary and that so many people still think nothing of throwing stuff into the river. Cigarette butts and plastic bottles being the major culprits. 

After that, it was a stroll through Fed Square and more discussion on its sustainable features - some of which I'd heard about when I'd done the Fed Square tour a few weeks earlier. 

On to Council House 2 (CH2), which you've probably seen (240 Little Collins Street) many times but never stopped to actually take a look at.  It was the first building in Australia to be awarded a six star green star design rating when it was completed in 2006.  Some great initiatives around water conservation, energy generation, heating and cooling systems, and its energy saving windows and those wooden shutters that open and close.  With one side covered in plants, it really is a stunning building, so next time you're nearby, stop and take a look up and around it.

The wooden shutters of Council House
Time to jump on a tram and head to Fitzroy.  On the way, Liam spoke about the "Green Your Laneway" program and the interesting "Cooling our City" initiatives and Melbourne's commitment to the Paris Climate agreement to help limit global warming.  The goal is to plant 3000 trees in Melbourne every year.  A worthy goal.

A very pleasant stroll around Fitzroy checking out a few community gardens, stopping for a coffee  and visiting a couple of social enterprise shops. Loved Beekeeper Parade and the enthusiastic Koky whose mission is to "create products that change the world".  Their involvement in helping Cambodian children is admirable and their products are pretty funky too. 

Always blown away by the amazing street art that is all around us and Fitzroy has a particularly vibrant street art culture.  Some gorgeous work around the place.

Was also impressed by Fitzroy's Town Hall. Gorgeous classical Victorian building that has been beautifully restored. Didn't get to go in as it was a Sunday - but will add it to the list for future investigation! Just across the road in Whitlam Place is an interesting sculpture Courage by William Eicholtz.  It's of a man removing the Cowardly Lion costume (Wizard of Oz) whilst standing on a disco floor (not sure if the lights still work at night, but cool) whilst looking at a medal for 'courage'. Eicholtz said it aimed to "commemorate and recognise the LGBTI communities courage to be themselves." There is also a plaque dedicating it to the legacy of Raplh McLean who was Australia's first openly gay Lord Mayor.  An important reminder that we should all have the courage to be ourselves.

From there we set off for a 40 minute stroll along Merri Creek, chatting with Liam answering any questions we had. Our final stop was at CERES Community Environment Park. I've been here a few times and always find it amazing that such a place exists so close to the city. Had never really checked out the Permaculture & Bushfood Nursery and that was really interesting. Got myself a Woolly Bush - not that you can eat them, but they are lovely and soft - and woolly like.

Overall, a really good tour and 4 hours well spent playing tourists in our own city.  Liam was friendly and knowledgeable and more than happy to chat about anything we were interested in.  Would certainly recommend it to locals and visitors alike.

The Greenie Tour is $50 per person and runs on a Thursday in 2019.  Like them on Facebook, as they had a special deal on when we booked.  Wayward Wanders also run a 3 - 4 hour Alternative Tour which visits Fitzroy and Collingwood and shows a side of Melbourne many people miss.

Sunday, 6 January 2019

Favourite Quotes

Gotta love a good quote. A while ago, I read a list of the 100 top quotes by well known people and tried to narrow it down to my Top 10. Impossible. 

Managed to choose my fave 14 and then had to add one from Adam Ant, which is not really a quote it's a line from a song (Prince Charming), but I'm currently reading his book and it has led me down memory lane. Gotta love the 80's. "Don't you ever, don't you ever, lower yourself, forgetting all your standards" and "Silk or leather or a feather respect yourself and all of those around you." Same song, not my fave, wise words. 

And now to come up with my own.

And still a very fine looking man at 64!
Oprah Winfrey
"You become what you believe

Steve Jobs
"The only way to do great work is to love what you do."

Audrey Hepburn
"Nothing is impossible, the word itself says, 'I’m possible!'"

Dalai Lama
"Happiness is not something ready made. It comes from your own actions."

Jane Fonda
"It's never too late - never too late to start over, never too late to be happy."

John Lennon
"Life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans."

Jack Nicholson  
“The minute that you’re not learning I believe you’re dead.”

Walt Disney
"All our dreams can come true if we have the courage to pursue them."

Stevie Wonder 
"If you don't ask, you don't get."

Dr Seuss  
“Don't cry because it's over, smile because it happened.”

Mae West 
"You only live once, but if you do it right, once is enough."

Pablo Picasso
"Only put off until tomorrow what you are willing to die having left undone."

Oscar Wilde 
"Be yourself. Everyone else is already taken."

George Eliot 
"It is never too late to be what you might have been."