The master of fashion on display in Bendigo – Balenciaga: Shaping Fashion


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Anyone with even a vague interest in fashion is familiar with the names Dior and Channel, but did you know it was a Spanish designer and couturier by the name of Cristobal Balenciaga who they themselves revered and referred to as “The Master”?

The Bendigo Art Gallery is celebrating the fashion and legacy of this fashion icon through its exhibition Balenciaga: Shaping Fashion, in conjunction with the Victoria and Albert Museum in London. It’s toured in other countries but Bendigo is the only place you can see it in Australia. The coups regional art galleries can pull off!

Born in Spain in 1895, Balenciaga was first introduced to sewing by his mother and at 12 years of age became an apprentice tailor. Ten years later in 1917 he opened his first fashion house and later moved to Paris to a fancy street where he remained for the rest of his 50 year career.

A complete perfectionist and with an obsession for sleeves, he was one of the most innovative and influential fashion designers of the 20th century. This was a man who had an amazing understanding of fabrics, which were at the very the heart of his designs and led his pioneering work.

He revolutionised the shape of women’s fashion which was previously dominated by the hour-glass shape by coming up with a range of sculptural and architectural shapes that didn’t accentuate the waist and that still resonate today in fashion. Middle-aged women are still grateful. He is credited with the invention of the sack, tunic, shift and baby doll dresses, a sample of each displayed in the exhibition.

Balenciago dressed some of the most fashionable and  influential women of the times including Jackie Kennedy, Grace Kelly and Gloria Guiness. Fashionista Mona von Bismarck was enamoured with his fashions and famously refused to leave her room for three days when news broke that Balenciago was going to close his studio in 1968, claiming there was no one left for him to dress. Clearly she disagreed.

There are two parts to the exhibition. The first explores Balenciaga’s early life and influences, his craftmanship, workrooms and clientele and features garments and hats he crafted from the 1950s and 1960s. Visitors are able to peer back into how he worked in his salons and workrooms through a collection of sketches, patterns, photographs and fabric samples, and watch the fashions being strutted out on the catwalks of decades ago.

Some of my favourite pieces were the x-rayed images of some of his pieces which revealed the hidden details and finesse  and structure of his work. The work underneath is an artwork in itself.

The second part of the exhibition features Balenciaga’s legacy in the fashion world and looks at his influence on the  work of more than 30 fashion designers over the last 50 years including pieces by Calvin Klein and Yves St Laurent and an intriguing black plastic ‘snake dress’ created for Icelandic singer Björk.

Even if you’re not a fashionista, it’s an exhibition with much to see and beautiful details to appreciate, and it may have you looking at the engineering of clothing in a new light.

If you want to catch the exhibition, you’d better hurry along – it finishes on 10 November. Quick sticks.


When the adult kids come home – and all hell breaks loose


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I sometimes chuckle smugly when others complain their grown up kids don’t leave home, for years or decades. I feel just a tad righteous because we managed to offload both of ours straight after uni and packed them off to live independently and successfully in different cities.

But here we are, 10 years later and one of them has just moved back in—this time with her whole family in tow! That’s five people including a five-year-old, a three-year-old and a very vocal but not-yet-talking-not-long-one-year-old, and a big hairy dog. Oh, and the entire contents of their house that has completely taken over our double garage, totally lines one side of the hallway, and covers each and every horizontal surface in the house including the floors.

It’s a temporary stay, just while their new house is completed after the rental property came to an end. We were all supposed to be just ships passing in the night as we travelled with just a week or so crossover. But then, of course, the house got delayed!  What were we thinking? Houses always get delayed.

It’s been a manic month. Very busy. And very noisy. And extremely messy. And quite stressful. And we’re not even the parents or doing most of the work. And I’ve been to Brisbane, Bendigo, Melbourne and Newcastle too in that time.

There’s the very loud, teething toddler who’s into everything – cupboards, dishwasher, garden beds, yogurt, the big kid’s Woollies herb mini-gardens, the dog’s eyes; a digger-crazed Mister 3 with magic snow and ice powers who runs incessantly up and down the now-thinned hallway draped in a soft blanket (cape) as Elsa the Frozen princess shouting ‘let it go, let it go’ and who likes to regularly re-landscape our garden (ie, make mud) and who goes so hard he sometimes just crashes out on the sofa; and Miss 5 who just resists sleep with a fierce passion and somewhat resembles that jumping bunny filled with Everlast batteries advertised years ago. The one that just keeps on going. Actually she’s pretty easy in comparison to the others, AND she goes to school during the day.

Meanwhile the parents zip in and out to meet builders, fencers, contractors, landscapers, carpenters and carpeters, and do long inspections and get sign offs, and disappear into the dark of night to paint and spak-fill, and paint the old chest of drawers which now lives in the laundry on a drop sheet in the laundry (next to the change table) almost blocking the washing machine which hardly gets a break from the 16 loads of washing per day.

The dog is an angel and no trouble at all.

It’s not all bad. On the other hand, it’s been a delight to have them all and disperse the work load a little. We’ve played lots of games, had oodles of cuddles and bedtime stories (we even started Narnia) and we get much assiduous assistance with feeding the worms and the goldfish and watering the pots. Mr 3 even called me his ‘other mum’.

We’re lucky really that we can all grit our teeth and survive this with a smile and sometimes a grimace, and a glass of wine at the end of the day. Sometimes two. (I’m taking notes for when I’m old and decrepit and need assistance from the young’uns. I’m sure it will be repaid.) Mr T is just a bit anxious as he’s trying to get the tax return done in time for submission (tomorrow!). Nothing like a deadline.

We’re a family. Pretty messy one at the moment and I’m not getting anywhere near the things I need to tick off my lists, but we’re going all right.

Two nights to go.

No, wait – then the other one arrives from interstate with her bub.

Photographing Floriade: Finding focus in the floral frenzy


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Hands up if you’ve visited Canberra’s annual floral spectacle and taken dozens of photos, only to be disappointed with the results when you look at them at home?

With a multitude of colours, wide expanses of flower beds and a million blooms on offer, it’s easy to assume capturing amazing shots is a simple feat, but this isn’t always the case. If you’ve ever been disappointed by your Floriade snaps or wondered how to improve your floral photography, help is at hand.

Two of Canberra’s professional photographers have been photographing the floral glories of Floriade for decades and have a wealth of tips to help others find some focus and view their flower photography with different eyes—and take home some terrific shots at the end of the day.

Australian Institute of Professional Photographer members, Ben Kopilow of Fusion Photography and Geoff Comfort of Geoff Comfort Photography have again teamed up with Floriade to present a number of well-structured workshops early each Saturday morning of the festival. The two have a long association with Floriade having presented these workshops for the last 10 years, honing their skills and the messages they want to impart, whittled down to some key elements informed by decades of professional practice.

In fact, it was Floriade that first got Ben into photography nearly two decades ago. With a new camera in hand and no experience under his belt, he entered a shot of a single flower in the event’s photo competition—and ended up with first prize. It was enough to inspire him to start on a new career journey into photography.

The winning image was a simple one, of a solitary bloom, so it’s no surprise Ben cites seeking simplicity as his number one tip for floral photography.

“In photography, often less is more and allows your image to stand out from the crowd.” says Ben.

He even quotes Leonardo da Vinci to back up his view: “Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication.”

While Geoff also highly values simplicity and focus, his number one tip is to be aware of your background when taking a photo, whether it be a rogue leaf or bit of dirt or someone in the background.

Geoff also speaks of the importance of light in photography. The word photography itself means ‘drawing with light’ and finding the light is integral to taking a great shot. However, having lots of bright, harsh light in the middle of the day is not so great when photographing flowers so Geoff has some ideas to counteract this.

“You can soften light with a diffuser, or create your own shade with an umbrella or have a friend create some for you,” says Geoff.

“Take advantage of cloudy days. They provide softer lighting and allow you to more easily capture the shadows and details of flowers.”

Both photographers stress you don’t need the best gear to get great photos. They believe being creative and thinking about the composition of your photo are all important, and they’re skills you can learn and practice.

“When people come through the gate, they’re often so excited they often start snapping madly at the first flowers they see,” says Geoff.

“But it’s important to slow down, have a good look around and find a flower or scene you want to feature, then work out how to compose your image. Rushing means missing details, and the details count.”

Some of Ben and Geoff’s other favourite tips include:

  • look for a focal point or point of interest in your photo
  • lead the viewer’s eye to where you want them to focus in your photo, for example by using focus or leading lines
  • think about the light—use shadow, side light or back light for different effects
  • move around your subject for different perspectives or different views.

The Floriade photography workshops are held early each Saturday morning, before the crowds arrive and to take advantage of the softer early morning light. Starting with a talk and some pointers, they allow lots of time to practice, with assistance if needed. Time is spent at the end looking at some participants’ shot and providing helpful critiques.

But even if you don’t make a workshop, next time you venture into Floriade, or any field of flowers, with a camera or phone in hand, perhaps take the time to slow down and focus on something small and eradicate distractions. There’s a million potential images waiting in the blooms—the challenge is to focus on one that stands out.

First published at The RiotACT

Two’s company, but sometimes a crowd: why I love my own space


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I have a confession to make. I’ve been happily married, even deliriously happily married, for more than 30 years. (That’s not the confession.) But as my dearest and I spend more and more time together during the days and evenings in our (reasonably recent) retirements, I’m finding I’m needing a little bit of space.

It’s not that I don’t love spending time with my nearest and dearest and doing lots of things together (he’s actually rather good company), but the older I get, I’m really relishing a bit of time and space just for me. To think, to explore, to waste time if I want (I’m quite good at that – one of my super talents, in fact), to try new things—whatever I’d like—all my myself.

So, it is with the utmost of love and respect that I want to say to my most beloved:

I love you dearly, but occasionally, please just leave me alone!

Sometimes you hear women complain their husbands are golfers and that they spent inordinate amounts of time on the golf course, meaning the wives have become ‘golf widows.’ Not me. I actively encourage him onto the course. Go, stay – for as long as you like. Because that’s my special time, when he’s out for four or five hours at a stretch and I’m completely left to my own devices to do whatever I want—write, read, ‘waste’ as much time as I want on the computer. Whatever I want with no one to come and ask what I’m doing. Not that I’m doing anything sneaky or untoward. It’s just I don’t want to be bothered.

And those days when he’s booked in to golf and I’m planning to do all the things, and then it rains and he stays home instead! Ugh! My special time gone in an instant.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m married to perhaps the most wonderful man on earth, and I love spending time with him. But as I’m getting older, I’m really valuing some ‘me’ time more and more, when I’m not beholden to anyone else and I can do things that bring me pleasure, even if others can’t understand why.

I like to be by myself when I’m on my computer, in my little cyber world, and don’t even like someone else at the desk next to me. I know I shared offices for decades, but now I don’t like sharing that much. Concentration levels are so much higher when I’m by myself. Or maybe I’m just becoming old and curmudgeonly.

Mr T and I have been together since we were teenagers, and while we share a myriad of similar interests, we also enjoy our separate interests. As I said, he golfs, I play tennis. He likes James Bond movies, I like tragic dramas. He cooks, I eat.

Most of our holidays are together, but we also do our own trips. He goes on wine trips with the boys, I go to Thailand with the girls for massages and cocktails. A couple of months back I spent a couple of weeks in Zimbabwe next year without him travelling with a small group and taking thousands of photos all day, everyday. I loved it but it would have him crazy, so all the more reason to do it by myself.

We are a fabulous partnership, as our many couples, but we’re also two individuals so I’m delighted we are able to pursue different interests and have different friendships and don’t always have to be tied to the hip, even as we spend more and more time together. It’s good for both of us. I’m not an introvert—I thrive on the company of others, especially my family —but this little place I’m discovering now that’s just for me—I have to say, it’s an absolute blast.

What about you? Do love spending some time by yourself?

And I wonder when his next golf day is?

Kids and books, and a delightful May Gibbs giveaway


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Tales from Collection of books for giveaway

We’ve just had another sleepover with two of the grandkids, which Mr 3 likes to call a ‘drop off’. It’s quite the highlight of their week. Among other things, it will invariably involve:

  • lots of jigsaws and puzzles
  • choosing & printing out a colouring page featuring unicorns and fairies (for Miss 5)
  • pikelets for breakfast
  • and lots and lots of story books, some on the couch and more in bed snuggling under the covers all together.

That last bit is probably the favourite bit for all of us. There’s nothing quite as squelchy warm and fuzzy as reading to little kids who are completely mesmerised by the stories and pictures and drawn in so deeply into the world of books. Sometimes it’s so exhilarating and exhausting that the whole lot of us fall asleep in the bed together. Oops.

Apart from the fact that we all love the reading and the snuggles, of course there’s a whole wealth of evidence that the best way to help children with literacy and set them on a path to a lifelong relationship with books and reading is to start reading to them early. Doesn’t really seem like rocket science, does it? As long as we make it fun and they enjoy it – which really isn’t hard at all with the amazing array of beautiful, thoughtful and sometimes very funny books available all around.

And in further good news, there’s also evidence that reading aloud to kids helps with focus and can assist with behaviour and also helps to develop imagination and has all sort of other benefits. Winning all around!

We read all sorts of things with the kids (and the babies too) with lots of new books from new authors, but I also love to read them some of the things I read and loved as a child. I’m looking forward to reading the Tales of Narnia to them soon and I’m tracking down some Ruth Manning-Sanders book at the moment – did anyone read those? Books of fairies, books of dragons, books of mermaids and so much more.

Some of my old books haven’t survived very well and they’re a bit smelly which puts the kids off a bit, so it’s actually lovely to be able to buy some new copies of some of the old favourites.

We’ve recently been looking at Snugglepot and Cuddlepie and introducing the kids to the magical world of Australian bushfolk created by May Gibbs, one of our most beloved authors and illustrators. Even a hundred years after she was creating those beautiful sketches and books, the artwork is just as delightful.


  • This giveaway has now closed and the winner announced.

So that’s why I’m really excited to announce I have a lovely giveaway to celebrate books, reading and the very special world of May Gibbs and the Australian bush. The prize is a boxed set of four May Gibbs storybooks from the “Tales of Collection” including: Tales From the Gum Tree, Tales From The Billabong, Tales from the Bush and Tales from the Camp Fire.

That’s $50 of gorgeousness and reading time pleasure sure to make some little people very happy.

If you’d like to win, pop over to my Instagram account and find the details on the giveaway post. Make sure you’re following @BoomingOn and tag a friend you think might also like this Snugglepot and Cuddlepie prize. You can also enter on Facebook – just go to @BoomingOn page and look for the competition post there. This competition is restricted to Australia only. Winner will be selected randomly and contacted directly via DM.

Charity support

Did you know that when May Gibbs died in 1969 at the age of 92, she left the copyright of all her works jointly to The NSW Society for Crippled Children (now known as Northcott) and the Spastic Centre of NSW (now known as Cerebral Palsy Alliance). That means not only does her work continue to live on through reprints and rethinks, but it also means thousands of disadvantaged kids have been, and continue to be, helped by her generosity and the continuing sales of her works.

The organisations have done a marvellous job keeping her work alive and reinventing it in all sorts of ways. Many of her works feature her own original illustrations and some feature the work of other artists inspired by the originals.  There is also an absolutely delightful range of gifts, toys and clothing – from cards to bookmarks, and bookmarks, swaddles to pyjamas, kids’ chef sets to plates and cups and heaps more.

I just love that these lovely stories and beautiful illustrations keep living on and on and keep helping children who need help.

Those interested in history and gardens can also visit ‘Nutcote‘, the 1926  home where May Gibbs lived with her husband ‘J.O.’ in Neutral Bay, which has now been turned into a charming museum. If you have little people in your life and you live or go to Sydney, you can enjoy a story time in the garden (for ages 3 and up) every first Sunday and third Friday of the month at 11.45 am and 1.45pm.

If you want to see more of May Gibbs’ books and the licensed products Northcott now sells, pop over to their website to take a look or you can pick up your own Tales of Collection bookset  from Scholastic.

Life lessons from a stint of house sitting


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I’ve just completed a stint of house-sitting duties. More accurately, I’ve completed stint of dog sitting duties. I had three long, glorious weeks of leisurely days in a lovely house looking after two gorgeous dogs in delightful Brisbane winter weather. It’s not a bad gig.

The dogs we were looking after belong to my daughter, who was on an international trip with hubs and bubs doing a big family reunion (on his side). Someone needed to look after them, and given the usual suspects were all travelling with her, we scored the vacant position.

At the end of the assignment, which was punctuated with many, many doggie walks and absorbing the perfect winter sun, here’s what I discovered, or perhaps have been reminded of.

Dogs are marvellous company

After my two old girls Mookie and Misty went to doggy Rainbow Bridge a couple of years ago, we haven’t (yet) got another. Our frequent travelling has made me delay bringing home another doggy family member, but I am reminded how much I love having a dog around and how much I miss their super-excited greetings when you come back home, even if it is after only 10 minutes. Nothing is more joyful than a dog when you return home.

Apart from a dog waiting for you to put the dinner bowl down. Or a dog going on a walk. Or a swim. Or getting a tummy scratch. Or lying in the sun. Basically, they’re usually pretty joyful creatures, which makes them entirely good company.

Picking the right breed of dog for your lifestyle is essential

I’m completely besotted with these two boys, but man – do they need a lot of exercise! For the few weeks I was up for it, but my vigilance would lapse if they were my own. If you don’t take them running or swimming regularly, at least once a day, usually twice a day, they get edgy and restless and start bouncing about and creating havoc in the house (a bit like kids in the witching hour when they start getting all hyped up). The boys are a Border Collie and an Australian Shepherd, both working dogs, so no surprise there. Luckily their mum and dad are busy busy busy and always exercising, so it works for them.

I’m constantly amazed though when people buy a dog breed that really doesn’t complement the way they live. If you’re lazy, do not get a working dog (like these, or a heeler or a kelpie). If you’re allergic to dog hair, don’t get a Golden Retriever. I personally think they’re worth the clean up, but crikey they give off a lot of hair. If you don’t like constant yapping, don’t get a Maltese. Research the breed and match it to your lifestyle. It’s not fair to the dog otherwise.

There were two dogs next door – a kelpie and a mixed breed – and the poor things never get taken out for a walk or exercise. So they spend a lot of time barking and even moaning when they’re alone. Irritating when it’s early in the morning, but terribly sad for the poor dogs who are obviously bored and sad and lonely. Wouldn’t they love a run.

Indoor mood lighting is wonderful

I forget to put on lamps and fairy lights when I’m at home, but I’m emulating my daughter while I’m here and putting on her soft pretty lights in the evening. It transforms the place and makes you feel like you’re somewhere special, or on holidays. Note to self: do this more when you get home.

Brisbane is the perfect place to be in winter

I adore my home town of Canberra and the winters there can be exceptionally pretty (see pretty pic below) but bloody cold sometimes to go with it. A mid-winter escape is the way to go. Shorts and sandals in winter – winning!


House sitting allow you to explore a new city at leisure

House or dog sitting provides an excellent for holidaying. It allows you to discover a different location at leisure without feeling you have to squeeze too much in because you’re paying expensive holiday accommodation and/or you’re only there for a short time.We explored and discovered lots of new things (like free walking tours!) but didn’t rush around like maniacs.

And of course, no surprise, Brisbane is full of marvellous places to go and delicious places to eat and drink.

I’ve been discovering some gems. More of those coming in another post.

It’s easy to be holier than thou when you cheat

When you flat out absolutely refuse to get Netflix yourself (I don’t care if it’s only $9 a week, or month or whatever, still not getting it) but you stay somewhere that has it already, there is an enormous opportunity to binge watch multiple series in a relatively short space of time. We got through four series with a few other bits and pieces, with a list that should last us another year or two.

And even though we don’t have Netflix, further suggestions are also welcome for future visiting spates. Here’s a few that we watched and enjoyed:

  • Collateral
  • The Bodyguard
  • Line of Duty

Overall I discovered the concept and reality of a spot of house sitting is rather good. I also discovered the concept and reality of a spot of house sitting in the middle of winter when it may have snowed just a tad where you live in Canberra is an even better idea.

I might have to dabble in this practice more often.

And now I am missing the boys and had to kidnap another dog for a while to alleviate the withdrawal.

What about you? Have you done any house or dog sitting?

On the road again – 100 years of Australian cars take to the track


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Ford Model TT 1924–26

Ford Model TT 1924–26 Photo: National Museum of Australia

Car enthusiasts, start your engines—and start heading towards Goulburn. Well,  not until Saturday, 17 August because that’s when the National Museum of Australia will be taking 12 historic vehicles from its car collection for a spin around the track at Wakefield Park Raceway near Goulburn.

‘A Chequered Past’ will cover a whole century of car history through the selected vehicles and will be a once in a lifetime opportunity to see them in action. It’s the first time some of these cars have been on public display and the first time so many of the collection can be seen in one place.

The cars on display have done quite a bit of mileage: they’ve carried royalty, created racing history, transported adventurers around the country,  taken the prime minister to work, and got the nation singing .

The vehicles cover a lot of years and vehicle types, but they’ve also been chosen for the roles they’ve played in Australia’s history.

‘Each vehicle was collected for the range of stories they have to tell about industry, adventure, advertising, technology, passion and Australia’s connections to the world, not as an example of type,’ explains curator Laina Hall.

So it’s not just car buffs who will enjoy the days. It’s also a feast for anyone interested in Australia’s social history.

One of the heroes of the collection is the dark green 1967 Brabham Repco  1 V8 racing car, which was constructed and raced by Sir Jack Brabham,  legendary racing car driver and Formula One champion, and Ron Rauranac. The car recorded the fastest lap in the 1967 Tasman Series in New Zealand of one minute and 25 seconds, but although it retains some original components, I don’t think it will be going that fast on Saturday.

Brabham BT23A-1 Repco V8 1967 Photo: National Museum of Australia

Brabham BT23A-1 Repco V8 1967 Photo: National Museum of Australia

Those old enough may even remember the bright blue Model T- Ford that was used to promote Aeroplane Jelly from 1978 to 1988, pictured above. Even if you don’t remember the car, you’re probably singing the song right now.

There’s royalty among the cars  with a stately and carefully conserved Daimler landaulette, one of the most treasured cars in the museum’s collection, which was used by Queen Elizabeth II during her iconic tour of Australia in 1954, a tour which was met with wild excitement around the country. Almost as big as the Beatles.

Another vehicle used for Queen Elizabeth II for her royal tours in 1963, 1970 and 1977—a 1958  Landrover ‘Special 88’ SWB Utility— will also make the trip to Goulburn. Modifications were made to the vehicle, as suggested by the Queen, which included lowering the hand rails and adding a perspex windshield to protect her and her outfit from the wind while allowing a better view for the public. The Queen had requested an open top vehicle for better viewing and was quite prepared to use an umbrella if necessary. What a champ.

An S Series Bentley used by Sir Robert Menzies will be displayed, one of four luxurious Bentleys purchased by the Australian government in 1964 for ceremonial and VIP use. Menzies used to watch the football at the Carlton Football Club from the vehicle, on a specially built platform. He must have been very fond of his car and retained both the Bentley and its driver when he retired in 1966 until his death.

Bentley ‘S’ Series 3 1964

Bentley ‘S’ Series 3 1964 Photo: National Museum of Australia

Other vehicles include a Type C torpedo Citroen car (bright yellow!) driven around Australia in 1925, a Sundowner Bean 14 hp  driven by Francis Birtles on his record-breaking journey from London to Melbourne in 1927, a Wolseley 1500 saloon sedan and an FX Holden sedan, the first commercially sold Holden. More modern days will be represented by one of the last Holden Calais to be manufactured at the GM Holden factory in South Australia before its closure in 2017, marking the end of an era of Australian car manufacturing.

The vehicles will be on display between 10am and 3pm and will also do a number of laps around the track, both individually and in groups. That not only means great photo opps for car enthusiasts and photographers, but illustrates the important conservation work of the museum to maintain the vehicles in working order.

It won’t all be about the cars. Visitors will be able to make a day with it with food stalls on site and a range of activities for kids. The aptly named singer and entertainer Frankie J Holden will be MC on the day. I wonder if he’ll sing?

Car clubs are invited to take part in a “Show ‘n Shine” and members of the public are welcome to bring their own car treasures.

You can find more information about the event  and the stories behind the individual vehicles at the museum’s website, where you can also book tickets for the event.




Free walking tours in Brisbane: discovering hidden secrets with a local


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If you’re looking for a walking tour in Brisbane with a difference, you need to know about Brisbane Greeters, a group of dedicated and knowledgeable locals who take small groups on free walking tours of their town. I’m just going to say that again. Free walking tours! Two of my favourite things in one phrase.

There’s no better way to discover a neighbourhood than with a local—they know the nooks and crannies, the hidden secrets and the tales of things that have gone before. And given they live locally, they’re usually fans of the area, because why else would they live there? So this seemed like something not to miss.

So I didn’t. Mr T and I signed up and joined Sue, our lovely guide, on a terrific guided walking tour of the historic areas of Newstead, Tennerife and New Farm. Some of the areas we’d visited before, either driven through or even walked previously, but with a local guide to inform our visit, a whole new world of history and tidbits were revealed to us. How much we miss on a normal pass through.

The areas we visited were dripping in history. We started near the water and saw the spot named by Lieutenant John Oxley after he breakfasted there. He had proposed the area as a good site for settlement but an area further north was settled instead (see if you can work out the name of that creek now). We visited a 130 year old pub where they still serve beer from wooden barrels, heard tales of visits from Bert Hinkler, passed an air raid shelter from war days and spotted one of the only two American eagle memorials in Australia (the other is in my hometown of Canberra.) Wouldn’t have noticed any of the above had I been on my own. Well, I would have seen the pub.

Much of the area was a solid working class area with a lot of industry. It’s now the site of a lot of marvellous urban renewal, the first area in Brisbane to undergo such transformation. The rows of wool warehouses that once stood next to the rail lines and opposite the busy wharves have been transformed into an array of modern apartments while paying homage to their past. The old Powerhouse has been revitalised into a funky exhibition space and the sugar refinery now a most elegant suite of apartments. It’s brilliant.

The area is also rich in naval history as a stroll along the submarine memorial walk will reveal. In World War 2, the US navy took possession of New Farm Wharf and associated wool warehouses in 1942, as well as other buildings in the area. Moreton Bay was one of the largest US naval bases in the Southwest Pacific and operated over a period of three years. So much to learn of years gone by.

I absolutely loved our day discovering parts of Brisbane and the history that’s made it into the place it is today, and taking note of things you may have passed before without a second glance or thought. Discovering them with a local made it a bit more special too: like, ‘This 130 year old pub was my Dad’s “local”’, and ‘I grew up in that house on the hill over there.’ That sort of thing.

Tours are on foot and go for between two and four hours. They’re for small groups only and can be tailored to individual groups, though they will have some set areas they cover. The most popular one is one Brisbane city, which goes for about four hours, or there’s a selection of more tailored walks in the ‘burbs. You can even request a walk specially curated to your interests, but don’t forget to book in advance – at least a week.

And believe it or not, this is a completely free service! And I don’t mean one of those ‘free walking tours’ where you’re pretty well expected to tip in lieu of paying, so #freenotfree. The organisation has a strict policy of not accepting tips although they do welcome donations through their website to help offset the administration costs of running the program. Or you may be able to coerce the guide into joining you for a drink or a coffee. The volunteers do it because they love their home town and are pleased to showcase it to the world. Amazing! If you’re lucky, your guide might even play a spot of piano for you.

A guide from Brisbane Greeters playing one of the "Play Me" pianos on Brisbane streets

Brisbane Greeters is part of an international network, International Greeter Association, dedicated to welcoming visitors to their home towns and taking the on guided walking tours to show some highlights and hidden gems, places you wouldn’t discover by yourself and stories to go with it

The Brisbane group is supported by Brisbane City Council. Several cities in Australia also offer these tours (Sydney, Melbourne, Adelaide and Cairns). There are also branches in over 200 destinations all over the world, from Madagascar to Macedonia, Ghana to Germany, or Colombia to Croatia, and all the way in between.

If there’s not a Global Greeters network in your area, the organisation can help you set up your own. Now, there’s something to keep you busy!!

If you love walking tours, meeting new people, and discovering new places and hidden secrets, this could be for you.

I’ll be signing up again soon with Brisbane Greeters for another free walking tour of Brisbane to discover some of Paddington’s secrets.

Photo journalism and the World Press Photo Exhibition at the Powerhouse


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Have you heard of the World Press Photo Foundation? I hadn’t until this week. We became acquainted because I’m in Brisbane and there happens to be an exhibition on at the Powerhouse showcasing the recent work of the world’s top press photographers selected from nearly 80,000 entries.

The exhibition features a collection of award-winning press photography, with almost 150 of the most compelling and powerful examples of photojournalism taken during 2018 from all over the world. Such exhibitions have been running for more than 60 years, having started in 1955 when a group of Dutch photographers organised an international contest to show their work to the world. This year the exhibition will tour through 45 countries and will be seen by four million viewers.

The moving images depict stories from a range of categories including general news, the environment, sports and nature. So subjects like displacement, war, drug addiction, poaching and politics are included in the material, recording our social history as it happens and capturing moments and emotions.

image from the World Photo Exhibition at the Powerhouse in Brisbane

an image of a member of an all-female anti-poaching unit which protects animals in the Phundundu Wildlife Park, Zimbabwe, captured by Brent Stirton of Getty

I was shocked by some (of young Russian and US kids undergoing military-style training), interested in some, horrified by others and couldn’t really look at one. As miserable as some may be, these are stories that need to be told. And someone has to witness them and record them to do that, as tough or as heartbreaking as that may be.

Not all of it is pretty (fortunately some is!) and a lot of it is quite confronting. But it is real and it’s telling the stories of the world that are happening now. It’s not like wandering through a Monet exhibition, but it is like wandering through our world.

The Powerhouse building seems the perfect setting: a raw industrial building now rebirthed as an exhibition and performance space and which exudes the authencity and grit of a hard-lived life. It’s worth a trip just to see the building by itself. But that’s another story.

You can find more details on the Powerhouse website, but be super quick – it finishes on 4 August.


World Tiger Day


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I’ve always been enamoured with animals and wildlife, but my recent trip to Africa seeing and experiencing many species at close range has heightened my awe, and made me more aware of their plight and the dangers so many of them face in our world with people and animals grappling for space.

One animal particularly under threat is the tiger, the world’s biggest cat, and what better day to mention it than today – International Tiger Day.

Around 100 years ago, there may have been over 100,000 of these magnificent creatures roaming the earth, but now – according to World Wildlife Fund there are less than 4,000 tigers left in the world. That’s around a 95% reduction in numbers! This is due mainly to loss of habitat and poaching.

According to WWF, a number of governments in countries where tigers roam are on a mission to double the number of tigers in the wild. In 2010, the governments of 13 countries where wild tigers live decided that the business-as-usual approach was not enough, and they needed another plan.

‘They came together and committed to TX2 – the most ambitious conservation goal set for a single species – to double wild tigers by 2022, the next Chinese Year of the Tiger.’

Apart from being magnificent creatures, tigers also play an important role in their ecosystems. As top predators of the food chain, tigers keep populations of prey species in check which keeps the balance between herbivores and the vegetation upon which they feed. Balanced ecosystems are not only important for wildlife, but for people too. People rely on forests in a range of ways, either directly for their livelihoods or indirectly for food and other products.

As the effects of climate change escalate, natural forests are becoming increasingly important; providing fresh water, clean air and regulating the climate to limit extreme weather, such as droughts and storms.

Tiger conservation is important because efforts to conserve them also assist the conservation of other species in the same area. By protecting tigers, we are protecting forests – something which ultimately benefits us all.

So, more than just beautiful to look at.

You can donate money to the cause, adopt your own tiger, spread the word and be more aware.

Tourism and travelling to places in Asia where tigers live naturally also has a positive impact on tiger conservation. The revenue generated by tiger tourism circulates in local economies and helps local communities and provides a living for many. In fact, wildlife tourism has turned about the economic fortunes of many areas in Africa as locals are involved in both protecting and monitoring wildlife.

But when you travel in Asia, be aware of places that promote tiger patting and tiger entertainment. Despite the claims of the operators, these animals are usually drugged and usually come from poachers and harsh treatment. Their lives are not easy ones. Surely a quick selfie-snap patting a docile tiger’s head to put on instagram for a few likes is not worth their lifelong misery?

Here’s an article if you want to know more about that growing trend.

I’m looking forward to photographing tigers in the wild one day. I hope they’ll still be there when I get a chance to do so.