The world’s art and culture in your living room: cultural thriving during a pandemic


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In all the mayhem and confusion that is the COVID-19 pandemic, one thing is certain: the world’s art and cultural institutions, together with the wonders of modern technology, are providing us with some amazing viewing opportunities.

We may not be able to travel at the moment and performances and events have been cancelled everywhere, but there is still a world of cultural opportunity at our fingertips. As institutions close their doors temporarily, thousands of them have opened their collections for free online viewing and exploration to help people cope with the housebound and stressful situations many of us are in and introduce some culture, colour and interest.

It’s a devastating time for millions of people and organisations who have lost jobs and income so while these services are being offered for free, it is possible to donate to them to help alleviate the financial hardship and better position them to bounce back when we’ve got through this.

In the meantime, if we want to escape into a world of magic and beauty, all we need is a computer and some wifi, and plenty of time.

(To go to the sites to view the offerings, click on the headings or the highlighted hyperlinks.)

Art and culture at your fingertips

Google Arts and Culture hub is bringing the collections of art galleries and museums from all over the world to your living room. Hundreds and hundreds of them. Possibly thousands. So many you’ll never get through them all. You can explore alphabetically, by category, collections, or even colour and time. They have incredibly close up views of art works, 360 degree tours and street views where you can explore landmarks and famous sites. It’s almost exhausting how much is there.


This article by Travel & Leisure pulls together a number of free virtual tours being offered by some of the major museums, including the British Museum, the Guggenheim and the Paul J Getty Museum in LA. Who doesn’t love a tour? You pick up soooo much more information and tidbits than just wandering through by yourself in a daze.

New York’s Metropolitan Opera 

If opera is your jam, The Metropolitan Opera has you covered. A day after cancelling their upcoming performances, they announced they would be offer free streamings from their Live in HD series of cinema transmissions for the duration of the closure. Each night (at 7.30 NY time) they will screen a new opera from their collection from the last 14 years which will be available for 20 hours on their website. The screenings will also be available on the Met Opera’s on-demand apps. Almost like being there! The presentations are free but there is a donate button on the site should you wish to donate to their ongoing costs during the cancellations.

Opera scene from The Metropolitan Opera

Photo: Metropolitan Opera

If you want to spread your virtual wings a little further than New York, check out The Guardian’s listing of screenings of operas and musical performances.

Seriously – so much! If it is in fact too much to take in, they kindly do a Critic’s Pick each week to help you along in your selection.

Shakespeare for the masses

The Globe Theatre in London is enabling their filmed Shakespearean plays to be viewed at home through through their GlobePlayer online platform, including an online catalogue of performances spanning 10 years, although there is a cost. I mean, not everything can be free just because there’s a virus circulating the world and we can’t get out. Twelfth Night, Merchant of Venice, Romeo and his mate and lots more. Still much cheaper than buying a ticket to be there in the flesh. You can rent or buy, which means you can download it to watch it once or pay more so you can watch as many times as you want. Just like other streaming services.

For cash-strapped Shakespeare nutters, there is a limited amount of free material available online including some behind the scenes stuff. They also have a blog and a podcast.

* Breaking news: The Globe Theatre has just announced that six of its previous productions will be available to stream from their on-demand Globe Player streaming service over the next few weeks, starting from 6 April. They will rotate and be available for two weeks each. They’ll also make available a series of 10 minute films – 37 of them – about Shakespeare and his play, each shot on location in the real setting of the plot. Such new news it’s not even up on their website yet. Watch that space. In the meantime, you can get more detail about what’s coming here.

Photo: The Globe London

The circus is in town – that’s all towns

Cirque du Soleil is spreading the circus joy. In their words ‘Now more than ever we want to do our little part to spread joy directly to your safe places.’ You can view show footage, exercise like they do in the circus (be careful there), learn new makeup techniques and even immerse yourself in virtual reality with their VR app. There’s also a 60 minute video of highlights from some of their famous shows like KURIOS – Cabinet of Curiosities, O and LUZIA. Warning: don’t try any of the tricks at home yourself, especially on your own.


Photo: Cirque du Soleil

Music to make your heart sing

Music lovers aren’t forgotten either. The ABC has thoughtfully put together a list of amazing performances from all over the world you can listen to at home, including some being live streamed. There’s even some ballet from the Bollshoi.

Museums, music, mental health and more all in one post

If you want to delve a little more broadly, this post from ChatterPack has a huuuuuge list of sites to visit which will keep you amused, centred, engaged and busy in all sorts of ways: learning, nature, music, culture, languages, mental health, even religion. If you can’t find something here to interest you, you’re really not trying hard enough.

Right, where are you going to start?

The eruption of COVID-19 and what we’ve learnt about ourselves


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It’s been a few months of shock and awakening as the insidious COVID-19 continues to spread its invisible fingers around the globe and snuffs out dreams and plans, millions of jobs, thousands of lives and leaves fear and confusion in its wake. It’s been an instructive period when we have learnt a lot about the world we live in—and not all of it is good.

First up, we’ve discovered that our world can change in the blink of an eye and crash away under our feet, bringing us down with it. All those plans we had in place this year suddenly just vanished. Business ventures, weddings, travel, family gatherings—most of them have evaporated. It’s difficult to get your head around how massive these changes are. And it’s been reinforced what a global village we will in. What happens in one place affects what happens in another place. We are all connected.

We have learnt, or been reminded, that there resides among us a huge mix of people. There’s a horrid element of those who allow themselves to panic irrationally and turn into selfishly hoarders who are prepared to get into physical altercations over toilet paper in the supermarket aisles. There are other even  worse specimens who have deliberately stripped supermarket shelves far and wide bare of in-demand items so they can deprive people who need them of the items and sell them online at exorbitant prices. It’s heartening that Amazon and others are cracking down on some of these swine and closing their accounts and that some supermarkets are combatting this with interesting pricing strategies.

We have discovered that many, many of us just don’t like to follow sensible guidelines and insist on doing just what we want to do, over-estimating their own fortitude, dismissing the danger and and continuing to endanger others. The scene just a week ago at Bondi Beach was an example. I was incensed to hear of a fellow Canberran this week who was ‘as sick as a dog’ but continued to go to work because they were ‘too busy’ not to. Translated, my immediate desires and needs are the most important thing and I don’t give a flying fig about the rest of you and that if I actually have this virus I could indeed infect 406 people within 30 days and given the current statistics across the world, that means that anywhere between four and 28 people might actually die as a result. Good work, champ!

We have learnt, or been reminded, that the USA is led by a particular kind of dangerous imbecile who spouts rubbish and endangers the country who put him in charge, a man who for weeks insisted this was a hoax and that the virus would disappear soon like a miracle, perhaps with the warm weather, and who is now hoping for packed churches at Easter. Seriously you won’t believe what he says until you see the video for yourself.

Meanwhile our own PM is creating confusion by stating you can’t have a wedding with more than five people, you can’t have a funeral to farewell your loved ones but you can get a haircut to look schmick when you wander around the open shopping centre eating your takeaway sanga and coffee because you can’t sit down at the food court which is still open. To his credit, Scotty from Marketing was this time in the country at the outset of the unfolding disaster and he’s lost his smirk. He’s perhaps trying to show some empathy, but he does get very cross at those pesky journalists when they ask a question he doesn’t like. Like, why are weddings banned but schools are open?

Yes, yes, it’s all very confusing, but the big message is pretty simple: just stay home if you can. Because that’s the safest for you and for everyone else.

Above all, we have learnt that soap and water is a more effective cleaner than alcohol sanitiser (though that’s still good) and that most of us have been washing our hands inadequately all this time. And we’ve learnt that Bunnings and grog shops are essential services.

On a more positive note, importantly we have discovered that this disaster, like all disasters, has brought out the best of many others who have shown their kindness and humanity.

Firstly, enormous thanks and gratitude to the doctor and nurses and other medical staff who are putting their lives on the line day after day, week after week, though sadly many of those are losing those lives in doing so.

Movements of people trying to help others and Good Samaritans are doing kind deeds

Neighbours are delivering cards in their area offering assistance and their phone number

people across Italy are singing from their balconies

online choirs are singing around the world

and museums, galleries and educational organisations across the world are opening their resources for free to keep people occupied and engaged.

This is no doubt an incredibly difficult time we are faced with and will cause untold heartache, but the only way to get through it is together. Take the advice we’re being given seriously and comply with it, because it will save lives. Be kind, lean into others for support, ask for help if you need it, and wherever possible, stay home.

If we’ve learnt anything, hopefully it’s that we have a choice in how we deal with this.

Let’s make the right choices. Let’s concentrate on the positives and try and push the negatives away.

We’ll get through it.


Helping Canberra businesses survive COVID-19: survival of the most adaptable?


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The tough start to the year just got a whole lot tougher with the COVID-19 virus spreading at a frightening pace throughout the world, with health authorities and governments scrambling to keep up. All health considerations aside, serious as they are, it’s also an extremely difficult time for any businesses associated with travel, entertainment and hospitality. Those businesses and the people they employ can’t just ‘work from home’ and are looking down the barrel at some pretty trying times ahead while the travel industry is on its knees with cancellations of holidays and events left right and centre.

In terms of businesses, it may be a case of the survival of the most adaptable as well as the fittest. While it’s a bit tricky to adhere to the very sensible principles of social distancing while at the same time supporting some of the suffering businesses about, here’s a list of things you can do in Canberra to play by the guidelines and maybe give some needed financial support to those who need it.

For those further afield, I’ve included a couple of orgs which are pulling together national lists. If you let me know what you’re doing in your neck of the woods, I might just pull together one of those as well and we can all go mad sharing the love.

Postpone, don’t cancel

While the situation is ever-evolving, consider postponing travel or event plans rather than cancelling. If you have a choice, accept a credit for cancelled travel or event rather than getting a direct refund. That will help those businesses manage cash flow issues which are critical to staying afloat and you get to take a holiday at another time.

Buy a voucher

You may not be able to get out to eat at a restaurant just now, but if you’re looking for a present for someone special consider buying vouchers for restaurants, cafes or little getaways that can be used later during the year. That will give the suppliers a little immediate and needed cash flow.

Drink local wines or brews

If you can’t get to the vineyards, maybe order in some local wine stocks or other brews to help you last the distance. Lots of wineries are offering special deals and free delivery as incentives, like Lake George Winery


Dine in, or take away

If you can’t get out to a restaurant, maybe order in instead. Lots of restaurants and cafes are introducing innovative ways to help out diners in trying times.

The new funky Rebel Rebel restaurant in the city recently announced on social media they’re upping their cleanliness and hygiene to extreme levels and are also offering their entire restaurant menu online. (In fact, thanks Rebel Rebel for their post which gave me the idea for putting together this listing.) Just order online and they’ll run it out to your car. You can also order from their wine menu at takeaway prices. You can find the menu here:

The Copper Dragon Tavern at Greenway is also offering their entire food menu as take away. You can see the menu at and order by phone. They’re currently working on an online ordering system.

In Yarralumla, Lambshed’s is being super vigilant with hygiene as well and are also allowing diners to pick up items from their menu to eat at home and will home deliver to Yarralumla and surrounds. I saw them SHOUTING ABOUT IT ON ONE OF THEIR INSTA POSTS.

If you’re still out and about The Mill Cafe in Queanbeyan is doing takeaway containers of pasta to heat up at home, different ones each day for $5 each, and they may do larger sizes with deliveries soon. They also have some stock of precious loo paper for those who truly need it, but don’t be a dick and take advantage of them being nice.

Order food online

Supermarkets may be crazy in a few places (hopefully the panic will abate pretty soon) but lots of foodie places are delivering straight to your door.

The Cook Grocer offers online ordering and free delivery over $25.

Urban Providore which specialises in artisan food products has an easy online ordering system and you can order baskets of food delights for others or for yourself. They’re still doing deliveries and orders over $150 are freight free.

Visit Canberra’s Handmade Markets online

After 12 years of continuous markets, Canberra’s Handmade Markets made the decision to cancel their market planned for this coming weekend and are taking their design and food online instead. The virtual market will be live from 10am Saturday 21 March to 4 Pm on Sunday, 22 March with reat discounts on offer, live updates and giveaways and great prizes to be won as you ‘wander’ the aisles of the ‘markets’ and the wares of around 200 traders online. Winning: you don’t have to miss out on the gorgeous things and they don’t have to miss out on an important part of their trading year.

Keep busy reading

If you haven’t got a stack of books already ready for some binge reading, there are a few options.  Most bookshops are still open although that’s a situation that may change. Canty’s Bookshop in Fyshwick is still open for binge buying while monitoring the situation closely. While they’ve decided not to do deliveries by skateboards, they are providing some good doses of humour along the way.

A couple of lovely ladies I know had to cancel their planned 3-act book launch last weekend of three kids/YA books so instead they dropped by Harry Hartog’s Bookstore in Woden and dropped off signed copies and goodie bags instead, so you can just pretend you went.

Get outside and enjoy the sun

Social distancing and self-isolation don’t exclude you from getting outdoors and getting some fresh air. It may not help support businesses in a big way, but it’ll be good for your body and your soul, especially if you’re going stir crazy cooped in with small children. A couple of outdoorsy suggestions for Canberrans:

  • Explore the National Botanic Gardens – lots of pathways to wander and hidden nooks and crannies to discover
  • Discover the rose gardens at Old Parliament House – they’re in full bloom at the moment and are worthy of a leisurely stroll
  • Climb up some of Canberra’s hills for a great view of the city – Red Hill, Mt Taylor, Mt Ainslie, take your pick.
  • Visit Tidbinbilla Nature Park now that some areas have been opened again to the public after the recent fires. You can go for a walk up the Birrigai Time Trial, have a picnic, or discover local history at Rock Valley Homestead.

Other lists for around the country

The suggestions above focus firmly on Canberra businesses and happenings but there are similar listings for other areas as well.

  • Gourmet Traveller magazine has put together a list on their website of restaurants and cafes all over Australia who are looking at doing things differently and they are constantly updating the list.
  • TimeOut in Sydney is now focussing on TimeIn in Sydney There are some very inventive people around the country, and I’m sure they’d really appreciate some support right about now.

What else is happening in Canberra to cope?

If your business is doing something innovative or different to meet the demands of this challenge, or you know of some, do let me know so I can add them to the list.

Let’s share this information and do what we can to help each other get through as best we can while still being calm and cautious.

And everyone – stop hoarding toilet paper and hand sanitiser!!

Tips for photographing the Canberra Balloon Spectacular


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Balloons skimming water of Lake Burley Griffin during Canberra Balloon Spectacular

It’s that time of year again in Canberra when the balloons take to the skies and drift across the lake and city as the day breaks.  This year year it starts on 7 March when more than 30 balloons will fly high including this year’s special guest – a rather large T-Rex dinosaur. There’s not much that gets me out of bed early in the morning, but the balloon spectacular is one of the exceptions.

I keep going out year after year trying to get some great shots and have ended up with hundreds of duds. I’ve pulled together some tips for how you can get the most out of photographing the balloons during the festival to maximise your chances of getting some crackers.

Allow for the weather

Rule number 1 – balloon flying is dependent on the weather. Rain, too much wind, not enough wind, rain … the balloons don’t go up. Forewarn the kids the night before if you’re taking them to allay potential disappointment, and check on the weather before you set out. You can call Canberra Connect on 13 22 81 or follow the Balloon Spectacular or EventsACT on Facebook or Twitter, or listen to your local radio station.

If you just turn up hoping and the balloons don’t fly, make the most of the morning anyway to witness the city coming to life as the light comes up over the lake, the rowers and the cyclists appear. Or stay for breakfast in the tents on the lawns.


Get there early

If you want to witness the crews at work and the balloons emerging from the ground and rising, get there around 6am to scout locations and find the action. The balloons start filling just after 6am, start taking off around 6.15am and most are in the air by 7am. The whoosh of the fiery shots into the balloon and the revelation of the balloon shapes are not to be missed.

Even if you are late, when the sun is up and the balloons are on their way, it’s still a spectacle to watch the balloons on their cruise around the city skies, drifting close to Parliament House or hovering above the water.


Pay attention to the light

The light changes quickly so if you are using an SLR camera you will have to adapt accordingly. Start with a higher ISO in the early morning and drop this as more light appears. Keep an eye on your light metre to guide you. Turn off your flash in the early morning if you’re using a point and shoot or a phone – the automatic function will perceive it as being too dark and will want to flash – only useful to light up a couple of metres in front of you which is probably not what you are aiming to shoot. Avoid shots where there is part shade and part sun.


Check your equipment

Make sure you have an extra card and battery, just in case, and a different lens for options if you have one. Or spare film if you use – does anyone use it anymore?? And perhaps a tripod in the car just in case the balloons don’t fly and you want to concentrate on the dawn lights, or you want to be extra steady.

Try different angles

Look for something a bit different. Get down low, or stand on something to give you more height. Try taking shots directly upwards, or downwards, from different angles. A sea of spotted balloons across a sweeping sky is impressive, but so is a close up of just one or two.


Find your vantage point

If you want to start with the excitement of the balloons filling and lifting with the big whooses of flame, you will need to be at the lawns in front of Old Parliament House around 6am As the balloons move on, you can change location to give you a different perspective. Try crossing Commonwealth Bridge and parking next to the lake overlooking the Museum and Black Mountain, or under Commonwealth Bridge, on top of Kings Avenue Bridge, near Regatta Point, on a boat on the lake to get up super close – there are lots of options. From the lake at the end of Anzac Parade or near the Carillion you’ll get a lovely wide shot vista of the lake with Library, bridge and Black Mountain in the background as the balloons drift away, sun behind you.

If the balloons take off from near the Arboretum due to weather, watching from around Scrivener Dam is a good option.

IMG_5689 IMG_5702

Look for different subjects

It’s all about the balloons, but pay attention to what else is around. Of course, the lake and Canberra’s iconic landmarks, but look out for the birds, the rowers, the foreground, and the crowds. Fellow spectators can also be great subjects.

Watch around you. The scenes and skies are constantly changing. A great shot might be right behind you. Watching out for balloons landing is another option.


Take your time

The Balloon Spectacular is a moving feast with a constantly changing canvas. Watch for patterns of balloons in the sky or interesting positions, and wait until balloons move into a favourable position before you press the shutter.

Try to anticipate what’s coming up and wait for the right second to press the shutter. For example, wait until the fire is released into the balloon for a shot of light, or wait till the animal balloon faces are nearly touching so it looks like they’re kissing. Pay attention to what’s in the background.



Watch out for cyclists

If you’re taking photos around the lake near cycle paths, spare a thought to cyclists. Don’t stand on the paths to get a great photo, oblivious to users. I’ve seen a number of cyclists having to evade unaware spectators, or their protruding tripods.

Be persistent

Keep trying. If you want really great shots, you may have to put the time in to get all the conditions right – cloud, colour in the sky, balloon formation, vantage point, timing, control of your camera, etc.

And if you don’t get great shots this time, there’s always next year.

Have you got any other tips? I’d love to hear them.

The toilet paper crisis in Australia: an illustrated essay


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As the  incidence of Corona Virus escalates globally and the World Health Organization raises its concern level ever higher, caution and preventative activities are top of mind around the world as we collectively try to prevent this becoming a full blown pandemic. Governments are setting in motion travel bans, people are being quarantined, the Queen is giving out awards wearing gloves, mass gathering are being banned and Japan is on the verve of cancelling the Olympics. Meanwhile in Australia, toilet paper panic is hitting hard.

Supermarket shelves are being stripped bare as the country is going mad stockpiling toilet paper. Because that’s what matters.

Seriously, you have to love a place where #toiletpapercrisis and #toiletpapergate have been trending on Twitter for most of the day and people are making the most of the opportunity to turn it in their favour, and perhaps up their follower numbers.

For those not on Twitter or not in Australia, here’s a quick summary of what’s been happening. Pretty much, there’s a little bit of panic about supplies should we all need to quarantine ourselves, the shelves are emptying and people are reporting on it. It’s causing quite a lot of confusion in the supermarkets with people trying to work out where all the loo paper has gone and why this is the most prized item on the ‘must not run out of’ list.

All of this, of course, is causing more panic buying. Nothing like a bit of group mentality to escalate things. Now the supermarkets are putting a limit on the number of rolls you can buy in one transaction.

I have to say, it’s kept me amused all day as the toilet paper memes just keep coming. At least it keeps your mind off other crises we have at hand at the moment, you know, like the actual corona virus, the climate crisis, world poverty, the parlous state of the Australian Government right about now, and so on.

The whole situation is bringing out a few different personality types. Firstly, there are the comedians

those with criminal backgrounds

the happy (and sometimes new) Costco members


The opportunists


and the social media-savvy ones

and even the economists

I wonder if Alan Kohler will do a graph on this issue on the news tonight. He likes graphs.

Then there are the lateral thinkers


And finally the ones who have their priorities right.

I’m wasting hours following the hashtag. I must move on.

To be perfectly honest, I must admit I have my own personal stash. 36 rolls of high quality toilet paper to be precise (I know because I counted). In my own defence, I wasn’t adding to the panic buying. We usually have that many stacked away because it’s one of my life goals never to run out of loo paper and a world pandemic is not going to be my undoing. Surely it’s one of life’s essentials?

I blame my mother. She has a similar fear of running out of toilet paper and has been a sly stasher for many years. Now she happily resides in a nursing home where the staff are aware of her proclivities and have monitored her for some months sneaking into the store room and the toilet in the reception area to swipe a few extra for herself. She probably doesn’t even know about Corona virus which is probably a good thing. Imagine when she finds out about the run on supplies. After a series of discussions with management, she’s now allowed to have 30 rolls of toilet paper in her own bathroom: no less (that stresses her), but no more because – sharing. I’m thinking though she might be able to make a bit of a tidy profit if the current panic buying continues – but she’d have to master Ebay first. Maybe I could list them for her and take a commission??

Anyway peeps, let’s all relax. The supplies will return to the shelves shortly. There surely has to be other things to worry about. Like, the actual virus, which is actually pretty awful.

What about you? Are you all stashed up?


Enlighten Festival: Canberra’s having a party


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Balloons skimming water of Lake Burley Griffin during Canberra Balloon Spectacular

Canberra is just about to erupt into a month long feast of festivities and birthday celebrations and everyone is invited to the party. If you’ve been considering a visit, this might just be the incentive you need to come and a perfect time to discover the hidden secrets of the capital as it lights up – literally.

Enlighten Festival (28 February to 15 March)

It all starts on 28 February with Enlighten, Canberra’s 17-day autumn festival when the city turns on a massive party and the national buildings in the Parliamentary Triangle light up with after-dark illuminations and a host of events and performances.

There’s a range of fabulous ticketed events but because we Canberrans love a bargain, there’s also lots and lots of free entertainment. There’s in fact two and a half weeks of entertainment, lights and fun with roving artists, music and all sorts of performances throughout the Enlighten precinct. Many of the national institutions open up at night with special activities during the festival, like a degustation at Old Parliament House, private garden dining at Questacon’s Igloo Garden or night access to the Spy exhibition at the National Archives.

Look out for the Symphony in the Park event (8 March) on the lawns of Commonwealth Park when the Canberra Symphony Orchestra will bring the Rumours album by Fleetwood Mac to symphonic life as the sun goes down. And guess what – it’s free too!

And spoiler alert, it’s a photographer’s and ‘grammer’s dream!

The next day, the city’s takes a day off for its 107th birthday celebrations, with free-flowing entertainment, local musicians, street food, family friendly activities and more. The festival culminates with the annual Skyfire fireworks on 14 March and another chance for an evening outdoors when the skies explode in colours above the lake. Then there’s just one more chance to catch those balloons with an early rise the next day.

So many options!! All the details and program of events can be found on the Enlighten website.

Night Noodle Markets (Reconciliation Place, 28 February – 9 March)

What’s a big street party without food? The Night Noodle Markets are back with new and returning stallholders and a world of tasty treats,  and this year with an extended stay. Lots of Asian favourites and international flavours and of course gelato. This year there’s a new doughnut with a Japanese twist made from rice. Lots of places to relax with a drink and plenty of space for the kids to run around. You can check out all the menus here.

Good Food Month

If you’re serious about good food, the even better news is that the noodle markets are part of an even bigger event – Good Food Month. That’s a whole month of culinary events and special dinners. I’m off to the special degustation event at funky Monster Bar and Kitchen when Brissie chef Matt Blackwell from GOMA arrives in the Can for a foodie feast with music on the side. Heads up: looks amazing and tix still available.

More info about the events on the Good Food Month website.

Balloon Spectacular (7-15 March)

This is my favourite time of the year in Canberra when the dawn skies fill with coloured balloons gently wafting over the lake and beyond and the kayakers are out in force. It’s one of the rare times I’m inspired to get up early to try and catch them. Always a festival atmosphere on the lawns of Parliament House as the balloons inflate in the dark and gently take shape and rise to float over the city sights. Now in its 31st year, this is a sight you should take in at least once in your life. I’m up to about 20.

If you’re planning on joining in, I’ve got you covered with tips on how to get the best out of the event, including photography tips and some of the best vantage points. This year a giant T-Rex will be joining the flotilla.

Canberra film festival (6 March)

The Academy Award come to Canberra (sort of) with the Lights! Canberra! Action! Film Festival  as part of Enlighten. Now in its 17th year, this annual event combines creative film making in a competition. Local film makers have to create a seven minute film based on a given theme and including a number of specified items. On top of that, they have just ten days to make the film. The 12 finalist films are shown at a free event under the stars in the Rose Gardens at Old Parliament House with food and drinks available on site or BYO. More information on their website.

Maybe I’ll see you there?

Airline seat wars and social media licence


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Last week the internet had the world divided, although that in itself is hardly news. That’s largely what it does. On this occasion it was over the bad behaviour of a couple on a plane and the ever-vexing topic of reclining seats and when it’s acceptable practice in the world of air travel and when it isn’t.

So, what happened? Basically a woman reclined her seat for most of a flight, put it up on request for meal service and then reclined it again afterwards. The man behind, in the back row and unable to recline himself, then took to punching the back of her seat continually in retribution, which she duly recorded. Such grown ups!

The big question became was who was right and who was wrong, and of course the whole world wanted to be involved. I was pretty surprised though that opinion ended up being pretty evenly divided, with half supporting the woman and half supporting the man behind. (Disclaimer: I’m actually taking the word of reports on that as I have neither the time nor inclination to analyse it myself.)

What is wrong with you internet, and all you people who voiced opinions?? One person claimed reclining a seat is ‘literally the worst thing you can do on a plane’. Really, reclining a reclinable seat is the worst thing you can possibly do on a plane? I can think of at least a dozen, most of them too unpleasant to write here. How about hijacking? Surely that’s worse? And do not get me started about the incorrect use of the word ‘literally’, one of my personal bug bears.

While I admit I don’t know all the relevant details of the situation, and no doubt the woman could have been more considerate, on what planet is it okay to punch someone’s chair ad nauseam just to annoy them when they’re doing something with the chair that’s it’s actually designed to do? Unsurprisingly some saw it as some sort of female vs male debate (nuh, don’t just pull out the automatic feminist responses. This was not about sexism: the participants just happened to be of opposite sexes).

And then World War 3 broke out (not literally!) with a multitude of opinions and rantings, many of them unnecessarily unkind and rude.

What is wrong with us? That:

  1. a) we can’t resolve a situation on a plane without resorting to vindictive and childish games, and
  2. b) we can’t have a civil discussion with differing opinions without resorting to abuse and name-calling?

Of course it’s not just about seats on planes. Almost any topic brings out the same sort of behaviour online, a social phenomenon of our times. Culture wars, political beliefs, vaccination, climate change, controversial people – anything can lead to irrational rants and vilification.

I’m continually gobsmacked that so many people think it’s okay to be blatantly rude to others on social media. Twitter in particular seems to lend itself to a very nasty level of personal attack and vitriol. I’m not sure if those who partake in those attacks are just that way inclined and would do so in their personal conversations or with work colleagues, or whether the veil provided by a SM platform gives rise to an extra layer of nastiness.

When did we become so horrible? I’ve been putting some thought into it recently and it seems there’s quite a lot of research being done on the topic and many others are also considering the question: Is social media making us ruder? One school of thought is that it might have something to do with not making eye contact, but surely it’s more complex than that?

It’s something I find incomprehensible so I can see I might be doing my own research into it, without being drawn into the mire of hatred.

And just in case anyone is wondering about my opinion on reclining seats on planes, here it is. Yes, of course you should be able to recline your seat during travel (why else would they build them that way?) but clearly not during meal service. That’s because that’s the rule and otherwise makes eating onboard a pretty unpleasant task. I rarely do it on domestic (short haul) flights and yes, it’s a pain when the person in front does so sometimes I might then too, but that’s the game you play buying tickets in economy. If you’re concerned about leg room or avoiding the back non-reclining row, do your seat allocation early and choose other seats, or pay the surcharge for more leg room. I’ve been paying to have jeans turned up for my short legs my entire life – sometimes that’s just how things turn out. But when I’m on a plane for 12 hours straight, some of that time I’m going to have my seat back.

So, people of the world, whether we’re on a plane or on Twitter, my take is that we should just try to be nicer to each other. Have different beliefs, voice them if you want, want to do different things—just don’t be bloody nasty! You never know, it might just come back to you in the form of karma.

Have you ever had a situation on a plane when travelling? Do you think people should be able to recline. Do you think we’re just becoming a more abusive society?


Climate protest signage: recording the signs of our times


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Every climate rally needs a strong signage game and the game was on at the People’s Climate Assembly rally in Canberra last weekend.

It’s actually a pretty dire situation, this warming climate thing, especially with a horde of silly politicians in parliament who think their own truths are preferable to actual scientific facts. One was even silly enough to admit last week on national television that he doesn’t look at the evidence in making up his mind. He’s clearly not alone.

As if that wasn’t comic enough, there was lots more comic relief on the lawns of Parliament House in the form of creative signs and placards and a good dose of Aussie humour, and some terrific outfits as well. Something has to keep you going at trying times like these and provide a bit of light relief.

I loved the woman from Hawaii, the Murdoch gang, and the pineapple who may make a run for parliament in the future.


I was interested to discover afterwards that the Australian National University School of Art and Design is putting together a digital archive of signs to capture the movement on climate change in Canberra and record the diversity and creativity of the signs. This is a really pivotal moment in our history – perhaps the most pivotal there will ever be. As they say, the signs of our times.

You can find out more about the climate sign project on their website:

You can submit your own photos of signage through the website or by email and be part of the recording of history.

They’ll even be an exhibition at ANU on 19 February.

Who’s got some great photos of signs to contribute?

The People’s Climate Assembly and why I’m joining the protesters


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Last week I attended a climate action rally in Canberra, the Peoples Assembly Climate Rally. It wasn’t my usual sort of mid-week activity but I felt compelled to be there. I wanted to be counted as one of the millions across the country desperately worried about the frightening effects our changing climate is having on our world and will continue to have in increasing ways.

It was a peaceful and friendly assembly of around 4,000 people gathered on the lawns directly in front of Parliament House. It wasn’t a rabble of ‘crazies’, ‘ferals’ or even ‘scourges’ on our society, as some of our political leaders would have you believe. It wasn’t loud or at all disruptive, which meant the astounding number of Australian Federal Police representatives there had a pretty easy day of it.

Instead it was a gathering of ordinary, sane and intelligent people from all walks of life and all political persuasions who accept the overwhelming body of scientific evidence on climate change. People young and old, professionals, office workers, scientists, mums, dads, workers, grandparents, retirees, even golfers. Many had travelled hundreds of kilometres to be there and some who had recently lost their homes to fires. All people who desperately want our politicians to accept the scientific and economic truths, stop their war mongering and start acting to reduce emissions as a matter of urgency to keep us safe and secure in the future.


There was an excellent line up of speakers—a scientist, a doctor, a vet, an Indigenous leader, a church minister, politicians, an ex-PM’s granddaughter and a student rep, all who spoke with knowledge and passion. You can actually hear some of them on the People’s Climate Assembly Facebook page. At the end of the speeches, the crowd slowly walked around the entirety of Parliament House,led by the resplendent Red Rebels, and completely encircled the entire building in a striking spectacle of symbolism. Pity some of the residents insider were too embroiled in their own self-indulgent leadership shenanigans that day to notice.

But surely it’s not just the calibre of speakers and the spectacle created that’s driving so many people from disparate backgrounds to rallies, like this one or so many others like it around the nation, including people who would never have dreamed of going to a protest before?

Of course not. It’s desperation and fear for what our future holds. Many of us have been deeply concerned about this for decades (we’ve certainly been warned about it for decades) while others are seeing it with fresh eyes, have just recognised the threat or can no longer keep quiet as the topic has been front of mind over this ‘Black Summer’. Australia has been described as the Ground Zero of climate change, the place where it’s really becoming evident in our day to day lives and no longer a thing we can dismiss as belonging to future years.

This summer we’ve seen devastating fires rip through our country, fires turbo-charged by bushfire conditions that are more dangerous than in the past including the hottest and driest year ever recorded in Australia, and now flooding rains. Both fit with scientific predictions about how climate change can affect weather.

Here in my hometown of Canberra, while we eventually managed to escape fires in our suburbs, we’ve endured one weather catastrophe after another. We sweltered through January and recorded our hottest day ever (44 degrees C or 111 F, and statistically we’re the coldest city in Australia); we’ve breathed in horrific toxic smoke for weeks that shut down postal deliveries, national institutions and half the city as people hunkered inside to avoid the worst air quality in the world: we’ve been in a state of alert and then emergency for weeks on end  as fires burned to the south burning around 8% of the ACT;  we were smashed by a catastrophic hail storm the likes of which we’ve never seen before; and then we had so much rain (which of course we’re extremely grateful for) all in one hit that it caused flooding in some parts.


That’s just my neck of the woods, and of course  it was a hell of a lot worse in other places. Hell was the key word in that last sentence.

While it’s been a wake-up call alright for many and the conversations on the topic have elevated, still our current government is not listening and not responding to what needs to be done. In fact, despite their rhetoric, they’re digging in deeper – literally. Despite the astonishing amount of evidence, despite the huge economic costs we’re now counting, and despite the fact we have a way out of this mess with alternatives for power, we still have a small cohort of people who pretend they accept the science and are taking action but continue to push a pro-fossil fuel agenda instead, adding further fuel to the fire.

That’s the reason I was there; that’s why we were all there on the lawns of Parliament House. We want our politicians to face the truth and take action. I’m not a green lefty, a dole bludger or an hysterical idiot. I’m not even firmly wedded to a particular party. I’m a intelligent, rational suburban mum and grandma who just wants to see some sensible policy put in place. I’m all for the climate change legislation proposed by independent Zali Steggall who spoke at the rally. You can learn more about that on her Climate Act Now website.

I was really proud to be there to be there with my daughter and young grandson, three generations of us standing up to make our voices heard on something we feel is of the utmost importance. Well, Mr 3 isn’t completely clear yet on all the whys and wherefores, but he did understand we were there to help ‘save our world’ as he professed to the people sitting next to us. Surely we owe it to future generations like him to give them a fighting chance?

As the inimitable and inspiring MC Dr Karl reminded us at the end (does anyone know how to spell his last name? does it matter?), we actually have the technology and knowledge to turn this mess around. We’ve met other enormous earth challenges successfully before—we closed up the hole in the ozone layer once we knew what was causing it and acid rain is no longer the problem it was. Millions of individuals, businesses and governments are already taking action to curb the effects of climate changes. In Australia (and the US), we just need a federal government prepared to listen the majority of people who want strong action to be taken and start put in place targets and policies to support that. We started doing it years ago and then went backwards. It can be done and I personally will never give up on that idea.

This shouldn’t be a ‘political’ discussion. It’s not about which side of the political fence you sit. It’s about science. That was at the heart of this meeting and many others like it: we have the evidence, now what are we going to do about it?

If you’re interested in learning more about the issue of climate change and why I’m so passionate about this, I’m in the process of writing a series of posts summarising resources to help people understand the facts and the issues in what has become a confusing topic filled with misinformation. I’ll be covering:

  • where to find accurate facts (already up)
  • why does it matter? (coming)
  • what you can do and how to use your voice (coming)
  • how to take personal action (coming)

As always, I’m always up for answering questions. If you don’t accept the science of climate change, I’d really like to understand why. Let me know?



A Sydney stayover and harbour views for days


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A quick overnight stay in Sydney recently saw us land an amazing spot on the harbour with some of the best views in the world. To be clear, it wasn’t the most salubrious of apartments: the chairs were very tired and the kitchen pretty ordinary (which might have mattered if we were going to use it), but it was clean, the bed comfy and the sheets crisp. For $185 for the night with parking included, I reckon we got our value just from the view alone.

Harbourside Apartments in McMahons Points is a towering slab of cream concrete, a product of 1970’s modernist architecture that really has little aesthetic appeal, but the big draw card is where it sits.

That is, right on the edge of Sydney’s glorious waterfront directly opposite Luna Park, which of course is right next door to the iconic Harbour Bridge with the ever-magical Opera House huddled graciously below. By staying there, you get to take in the harbour views in its various guises as it sparkles through various colour changes throughout the day and night. We managed sunrise, afternoon and of course at night when the harbour is lit up in all its glory and long trains drift across the bridge like a toy railway set. It’s a mesmerising view. I’m just sad I didn’t have my tripod with me so I could have got a lovely long exposure shot to make the lights really sing.

I think possibly we might have got a bit lucky because I elected for the cheapest room (tight-arse) so wasn’t actually expecting it to be on the harbour side. Perhaps they had space midweek. These photos are taken from the window. I’ve even got one taken from my bed.  The windows (which to be honest needed a visit from an abseiling window cleaner) only open about six inches, a safety issue no doubt, but that’s enough to get a camera lens up there without the glass and to get your phone out the window for an unfettered shot. I made sure I held on tightly as we were 12 storeys up and it wasn’t likely to survive the drop.

Just 100 metres down the road is the McMahons Point Ferry so you can zip straight across the harbour to Circular Quay on the ferry and maybe take in a show at the Opera House, or stay on the northern side of the bridge and take a sunset picnic in a nearby park instead. You can choose from Watt Park, Blues Point Reserve or Sawmillers Reserve – lots of little green spots abound.

Eating choices abound too. If you want to go a bit upmarket, longtime local Sails restaurant is right next door to the ferry so you can enjoy more sparkling views over a lovely dinner should you choose. We thought about it (I’ve eaten there before and it was very enjoyable) but instead our group opted for a more casual Lebanese meal a little further afield. Maybe next time and I can give an up to date review. Lots of other restaurant choices in McMahons Point as well including well known Moorish Blue, Italian or even gourmet pizza.

In the morning the main proper of McMahons Point beckoned for a relaxed outdoor breakfast (reading the paper from the apartment stay) with a good variety of cafes and restaurants to choose from and an array of interesting little shops and boutiques.

Of course I managed to find a lovely clothing store that was closing down – which meant everything was half price! It’s a charming area on the harbour with some beautiful and historic homes. Super close to the city but somehow feels a world away.

If you’re going to be in Sydney for a few days and are planning to spend a bit of time in your room, maybe this isn’t the place. There’s a lovely pool overlooking the harbour with a barbie and an alfresco dining area, but the rooms themselves are pretty small (well, we did opt for the smallest studio room) and there’s no indoor common space to sit around in. Most of the rooms are held by individual owners but the refurbishments made in those rented as as short term stays seem to be be consistent in the decor.

If you’re in the area, do not miss the chance to visit Wendy Whiteley’s Secret Garden at Lavender Bay. Here’s a write up from when we visited previously.

We often pop into Sydney for a night and I’ve forever seeking out places to stay in lovely areas that don’t cost a fortune – because Sydney! Another place we’ve stayed at in Sydney a few times is Cremorne Point Manor – an old guest house in Cremorne which has been reburbished and done up into a number of rooms. Not terribly large rooms and not terribly fancy, but clean and comfy and comes with breakfast and sometimes you can get a really good price – and it’s in a beautiful spot in Sydney.

Travellers’ Tip: Once we decided where to stay, I looked online on various sites for the best price then rang the hotel directly. They offered a higher price initially but did match the online price I’d seen.
And no, this is not a sponsored post. Just trying to be helpful to those trying to avoid paying a fortune staying in Sydney. It won’t work for New Years’ Eve though. The cost of the room jumps up to $850 a night then with a 5 night minimum stay. I’d recommend staying at another time and making your own fireworks.