Wednesday, 2 September 2015


I wrote this article a couple of years ago for the now defunct local magazine 'Tasmanian Life'. It still captures a snapshot of life in our house in Hobart:

My home is in it’s 100th year. It’s been the domain where 100 years of personal history has been lived on a domestic scale and because I can’t help myself I often wonder about the other people who have called this particular place home. About who else, over the years, has dug in the garden, descended the staircase or looked at the view from the upstairs veranda.

Most of the former inhabitants are shadows in the dark yet we know that this house was originally built for a princess of industry. Mabel was one of Sir Henry Jones’ nine daughters and this house was a wedding gift on the occasion of her marriage to Tom Fitzgerald. David Walsh of MONA celebrity may be who everyone’s talking about in Hobart these days, yet 100 years ago the name on everybody’s lips was Henry Jones. He too was a local boy made good. Famous for starting work at age 12 in George Peacock’s Jam Factory pasting labels on tins, he went on to own the company and to become the first Tasmanian knighted. He was a local entrepreneur with international interests – he had a finger in what seemed like every pie. His personal motto was ‘I excel in everything I do’. And he did.  His name continues as the Henry Jones IXL Jam Factory is now the swanky Henry Jones Art Hotel down on the Hobart waterfront and IXL jams can still be bought at the supermarket.

When my family moved in, eight years ago, we set to work exposing the homes original bones, which luckily had survived the passage of time and the demands of previous inhabitants. Over the century it had transformed itself into various guises within it’s original floor plan, from a house to two flats to a house with a dental surgery and back to being a house again. It adapted to suit its changing circumstances and the times.

When we found it, it’s soul may have been somewhat obscured by heavy drapery, patterned carpets and tired paint schemes. Yet once the jarrah floorboards and vast windows with coloured glass detailing were exposed and the walls were dressed with neutral colours and displayed to the world again, it’s identity proved to be intact. I’m sure that if Mabel dropped in for a jam tart and a cup of tea she wouldn’t have any trouble recognising her old house.

From the outside, it may look all red bricks - heavy and imposing however once through the front door everything changes. There is a generosity of lightness and space that is unexpected and almost modern in feel. Such period enhancements as crystal chandeliers and beautiful leadlight windows only enhance the sensation. It veritably sparkles.

It wears its Arts and Crafts label with myriad elements defined by the doctrine still in situ. A dramatic, dark timbered staircase….tick leadlight windows….tick beamed ceiling…..tick graceful curved arches……tick and a requisite Inglenook fireplace….tick. This was a movement that spurned the mass produced and the machine made in favour of craftsman created simplicity. Mabel Fitzgerald took this creed somewhat to heart, as she actually carved some of the subtle Gothic embellishments with her own hands - the lions head wreaths on cupboard doors and the curious gargoyles on the armrests of the bench seat. Parts of the house may have a manorial almost medieval feel, it’s the fusion of what is now history evoking an even earlier history, yet it’s lightened up with soaring ceilings, open plan rooms and simple, unsuperfluous detail.

 These days the original architecture and details are allowed to speak for themselves. They are a perfect backdrop to our things and our day to day life. Because we are now part of a global community, decoration is a mishmash of continents with Designer’s Guild fabrics from the UK, Kelly Wearstler ‘Imperial Trellis’ wallpaper and Brunschwig & Fils fabric from the USA. Juxtaposed with Oriental rugs, books, contemporary Tasmanian paintings, books and furniture reclaimed from family and the somewhat  addictive Gowans auction house at Moonah. True to a sense of place, this interior is all about Hobart in the 21st century and our family who lives here. There are no rules. Souvenirs brought home from our travels; a clock from a Paris flea market, a bust from the Vatican Museum in Rome and a miniature of the Mannekin Pis in Brussels, sit side by side with a cornucopia of taxidermied treasures; a zebra skin, groupings of butterflies and a deer head. Books, flowers from the garden, personal ephemeral collections, and the detritus left by children also form the tapestry of detail. It is a mixup of everything that we love and live our lives amongst, which makes our style decidedly sentimental rather than slick. Everything is accompanied by a story.

We have tinkered minimally with our home's basic layout, adding much needed bathrooms and converting what was the dining room into the kitchen. The original kitchen loitered in the far back corner of the house, way away from the goings on. Now it is out amongst it. It may have a chandelier, yet there is an emphasis on functionality in the kitchen. Modern accoutrements such as the fridge and dishwasher are hidden from view in the cabinetry and while it is undoubtedly a kitchen it also multi tasks as a dining room, a place for homework, a playroom and a cosy spot to sit in front of the fire with a glass of wine. Even now it references the Arts and Crafts movement - the bench top may be industrial concrete yet it was cast and finished off by hand. A contradiction between industrial and hand made.

Upstairs in the master bedroom whimsy has been given free reign. Take a second look and it’s not really a hole in the ceiling which opens onto the sky but a rather a cleverly rendered trompe l’oeil painted by Hobart artist Peter Gouldthorpe. It may have been inspired by a ceiling in Josephine’s boudoir at Malmaison outside Paris yet here it is decidedly less glitzy and is instantly recognizable as a Tasmanian sky in the manner of the celebrated Tasmanian colonial landscape painter John Glover. Just like the real sky different shapes have been spotted in the clouds – the map of Scotland, the mask of comedy and various indeterminate figures and faces. Oh and our five year old swears that he can see a kangaroo with a koala on it’s back.

This house, a century ago, was built to be a family home and a family home it remains today. That is probably the defining connection between now and then. Our children no doubt aren’t the first to slide down the banister and living amongst the delicate fabric of history - there’s a lot of glass in this house - they have learned to adapt their play. They know now not to skip rope under the chandelier. There is a great vibe going on here - over the last hundred years it has obviously known lots of love and happiness. There is no marauding miserable ghost rattling its chains in this house.


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Tuesday, 17 June 2014


It's no secret I have a bit of a thing for escapism…'s where I've been hanging out for the last little while. Curiously, it's the allure of the Stockholm Archipelago that has been fuelling our most recent escapist fantasies. As usual, there are no half measures in our family…..yet instead of going so far as to actually buy the tickets and workshop the myriad details involved in yet another extended leave of absence from Hobart……we are leaving a wake through the waterways of Southern Tasmania in our boat:

and restoring an historic boat shed…..five minutes drive from our home:

It's our loose interpretation of Southern Tasmania meets Northern Europe…..and for us, it's the best of both worlds. I'm starting to see what Proust meant when he wrote 'The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes but in having new eyes.' Thank you words of wisdom found in a Baci wrapper.

Dreams of boats, boat sheds and archipelago's all collided over the Queen's Birthday long weekend when, with fabulous friends and our combined assortment of children, we staged an actual escape to Satellite Island…..which rises out the waters of the D'Entrecasteaux Channel…..between Gordon on the mainland and Alonnah on Bruny Island:

Satellite Island is uninhabited……except for Richard the manager who lives in his own cottage over near the disused fish farm, a wild roaming herd of deer and free ranging chickens. To really set the scene, you arrive by water…..we moored at the boat house jetty under the cover of darkness by the guidance of torches and candlelight. The boat house is perched over the water and is all tricked up for accommodation as it has a double bedroom and a cavernous bunk room…..which easily fit all of our children. Big roll a doors in each room open directly onto the panorama…...which I imagine must be utterly superlative on a still, summery day. There are sun lounges and a fire pit on the surrounding deck….which was the perfect location to toast marshmallows and watch as the wintery sun sank into the icy waters:

Evocatively named, the Summer House is accessed by stairs which lead all the way from the boat house to the top of the cliff where it nestles amongst the trees…..the windows frame vast expanses of sky and watery view and you can see the twinkling lights of Alonnah in the distance (the closest pub and shop are there). Inside, there is a shack aesthetic going on, decoration is embellished in the vernacular…..lots of driftwood, wicker baskets, corrugated iron in one of the bathrooms, candles and stones, antlers and a slow combustion fire….with piles of magazines (Satellite Island was on the front cover of  'Country Style' in March) and books.

I'll admit that I was somewhat panicked by the preparation involved for life on a desert island…..for three nights. Our fishing abilities are notoriously appalling. So, I resorted to lugging an enormous Le Creuset French oven with lamb shanks….slow cooked with a melange of vegetables and herbs, white wine, tomato passata and a hint of anchovy…..over on my lap.  Like magic it was transformed into soup with the leftover meat shredded and the addition of water, pearl barley and a grating of grana padano. Wild oysters shucked off the rocks,  local cheese from the Bruny Island Cheese Co and Grandvewe at Birch's Bay, home made pizzas and a bbq took care of other meals. Of course, my husband couldn't resist showing off his eggs benedict one morning for breakfast….hollandaise being my own personal cooking nemesis as I have the innate knack of ALWAYS being able to make it separate…..which never fails to reduce me to tears. He makes it seem so effortless.

We circumnavigated the island at low tide along the rocky shelf:

And explored vistas from the cliff tops:

Being lulled to sleep by the rhythmic tones of the tide ebbing and flowing underneath the boat shed was enchanting as were seeing the first weak, wintery rays of light coming through the picture window signalling morning….yet I'm sorry to say that I struggled with dreadful insomnia, paranoid that our three year old would wake in the middle of the night in the summer house (we'd strategically positioned one set of parents in each 'house' to keep an eye on children) and feel compelled, in the dark, to navigate the perilous cliff face stairs down across the unfenced deck surrounding the boat house to try and find us…..or that I'd need to reverse the journey to get to the loo. Why is relaxation with small children so elusive?

Anyway, our boys spent their stay in what can only be described as adventure heaven. They fashioned their own bows and arrows from collected sticks and feathers…..serendipitously there was a ball of string on the bookcase…..and entertained themselves for days (rain and shine) stalking the island's deer and working out where they were with their compasses:

Happily, it was more in line with 'The Dangerous Book for Boys' than 'The Lord of the Flies'. I'm all for children creating their own fun and we shamelessly ban technology on family holidays to try and show them what life was like in the good old olden days…..way back when we were children. Imagine our delight when the boys, unprompted,  said that our trip to Satellite Island was the best family holiday ever…..except for Legoland!

Now that we've consciously opened our eyes and are really looking at our surroundings…...instead of yearning for foreign climes (although I am guilty of doing just a little bit of that too….Oh, Uzes how I ache just reminiscing about you!)….there's no denying it, Southern Tasmania in winter, really is an amazing place.


Friday, 8 November 2013


Amidst the swirling vortex of children's birthday parties, school camps, interstate school trips and sports days, and all of the requisite organisation, cooking and washing, we managed to emerge momentarily to host a rather impromptu grown ups drinks party at our place on the weekend. The night before, I may have woken up in the early I'm sometimes prone to do......and when I couldn't get back to sleep I ventured downstairs for a cucumber (sliced, of course) to take back to bed to rest on my bleary eyes. The next morning, I was greeted by a cacophony of amazed childish utterances.....'what's this doing here'.....rather than the 'wow, you look ten years younger'.....which I was hoping would be the result. Oh well.

I couldn't resist and tizzed up the house. Fresh flowers from the garden:

Spellbinding peonies from the shop:

And then I resurrected the pink lanterns that I'd used to decorate the garden for my milestone birthday....a year or two ago. This time, I hung them down either side of the front door, comme ca:

Last time, I'd hung them under umbrellas which ran down the centre of the long table:

I wish I'd taken more photos of Saturday night however in the last frantic push to get ready, I accidentally dropped my husband's phone into the I had to graciously swap. Anyway, as is always the way, the party went off in the kitchen amidst the debris of bottles, glasses and platters:

All this week, while cooking dinners and supervising homework in this very same room,  I've been struggling not to giggle at the memory of one friend who utilised parts of the kitchen decor quite creatively....she discoed with a pair of antlers pilfered from the top of the mantelpiece....while she was also wearing the cow hide a cape.

I had a new was made of tulle. I've always secretly coveted a dress made of tulle so was overcome with wish fulfilment when I found this one......although my husband quite unkindly told me the next day that it may have done cruel things to the size of my derriere with it's pouffiness. No matter, it's still tulle. I tied two Hermes scarves around the waist to fashion a sash kind of thing. I've been doing a bit of this lately....tying two scarves together that is, today I tied the same two 90 and 70 carres into a long roll of scarf to make this.....a la one of the Knotting Cards from the stack I picked up in Lyon:

Anyway, while we are on the subject of dresses, I'm still reeling from the news that Collette Dinnigan, who has made some of my all time favourite dresses, is shutting up shop at the end of the year. My phone ran hot after the announcement with friends checking up to see how I was coping. One even went so far as to give me this as a present:

I haven't quite finished reading it yet....I'm eeking out every word and picture and consoling myself with the ravishing beauty of her work and the incredible story of her life. 

Dresses are so redolent of memory.  I couldn't help taking a trip down memory are some of the Collette Dinnigan frocks which hang in my wardrobe and some of their memorable outings. 

This was the first ever dress of hers that I acquired to wear to a birthday party for my husband. I also wore it to a romantic candle lit dinner at the Ayana Resort in Bali when we celebrated our 10th wedding anniversary. I couldn't find a photo of me wearing it so here's one of my girls and her friend after they'd raided my wardrobe:

I bought this dress especially to wear to the Henley Royal we are in the Steward's Enclosure having lunch....while I was pregnant with our other daughter:

My husband took me to Melbourne for the day to choose this dress for my  40th birthday....and yes he endured sitting for long hours at a time in various ladies change rooms around town while a friend and I made the final selection.....although we did make sure to fortify him with a lunch....and wine at France Soir:

And here's the very same dress earlier this year rugged up with myriad layers to brave the chilly London weather for the Chelsea Flower Show

This dress was packed to take to India and here it is at the Taj Lake Palace in Udaipur:

And another that I wore to Derby Day last year which was originally intended to wear to my brother in law's wedding:

And one of my all time fave's getting ready to have lunch in Montpellier with a friend.....back when we fleetingly called Uzes home:

Last but not least, here's my most recent acquisition sported a couple of weeks ago in Melbourne with fellow bloggers Heidi from Adelaide Villa and Ms Faux Fuchsia:

I am going to miss Collette Dinnigan's dresses.....yet I hope that she manages to find the family time that she's looking for. There's an anecdote in her book about her husband teasing her 9 year old daughter about taking over the business when she grows up to which Estella promptly replied 'No way, that's too much hard work'. Children are perceptive little treasures aren't they.


Thursday, 24 October 2013


It's a red letter day in Hobart today. It's Show Day. Officially, due to Southern Tasmanian custom, we can now plant your tomatoes outside, uncovered, without fear of them being destroyed by frost. It's an idiosyncratic Tasmanian version of the Fete de La Musique which of course is code in France for signalling the real start of balmy, summer weather. Except that today, here in Hobart, Mount Wellington is covered in snow and it is all of 10 degrees out there:

My tomatoes are still being loved up and nurtured along in the artificial warmth provided by the double glazing in our north facing sunroom....maybe I'll plant them out in the veggie patch next week. Am also holding off on the four packets of sunflower seeds as it would be just too devastating if these hopeful, signals of summer were decimated by an unseasonal wintery frost.

The inclement weather meant that this morning my husband was unable to ride his bike all the way to Orford, on the East Coast. He is a serious bike riding MAMIL. I'm pleased to announce that I too have recently acquired a bike and become a cyclist......yet I'm most decidedly not a female version of a Middle Aged Man in Lycra.....apart from blatantly apparent bike colour coordinates with most of my shoes.....and has a wicker basket:

I deliberated over the choice of bike for ages.....honestly, I was thinking about it back in the mists of time when I would have needed two baby seats. I had my heart set on a Pashley Princess, much to the mirth of the chap in the neighbourhood bike shop, an English import which looks the business yet weighs a tonne. I had to compromise because the tyranny of location meant that I needed as many gears as I could get and quite frankly pushing a 30kg bike up to the top of my hill would have seen me dissolve into a puddle.....especially as most of the time it looks like this:

I couldn't help myself and my first ride after taking possession was over the iconic Tasman Bridge which links the city of Hobart with the suburbs on the Eastern Shore:

In hindsight it was a ridiculous route to choose as my bike looked startlingly incongruous next to the five lanes of traffic:

The cycleway is so narrow that if you accidentally lost control of your steering you would pitch over the knee height rail and be rendered road splat.

So, where do you go when your bike is much more suited to riding around town? Well, for starters not only did it take me up hill and down dale all the way to my yoga studio for class, it also took me out to lunch twice last week.....although I may have to rethink my cycling attire as half way down Macquarie Street (steep incline, three busy lanes of traffic) my scarf blew into my face and I couldn't see where I was going. The high heels though, were fine.....much to my husband's distain, as he would never, ever be seen dead in anything other than bike shoes with cleats.

Anyway, another exciting date looming on the calendar for Hobartians is this coming Saturday evening 6pm - 8pm at the Stanley Burbury Theatre (at UTAS) when Tim Winton will be in town talking about his new book 'Eyrie'. If you are thinking of going, tickets are $10 or $7.50 concession and you can pick them up at Fullers Bookshop in town. I've just finished reading it in anticipation, although I must admit that my head is still spinning from the intense paranoic hyper reality which is the mind space of the main protagonist......and thinking about the ending. I'm very curious as to what Tim Winton will have to say....and to hear him talk about this book in person is just too good an opportunity to pass up. I've bought my ticket.


Wednesday, 16 October 2013


I think that I've mentioned before how I'd most likely be clinically certified as insane during school holidays if I didn't have the comforting respite of a good book to see me through. Mercifully, during the holidays that have only just concluded I had a couple of fab books in which I was able to quite happily lose myself amongst the pages.

Can you believe that only a couple of days into the hols, Paul Bangay himself came to Fullers Bookshop in Hobart with his new book 'The Garden at Stonefields':

This was such a red letter occasion that I actually hosted a sleepover at my place and one of my old friends from school drove 4 hours from her farm in the north of Tasmania to come and see Paul with me:

After an informal talk, there was question time and I was able to ask Paul Bangay, in person, which gardening books he keeps stacked up on his bedside table.....his answer was anything by or about Vita Sackville West and Sissinghurst, David Hicks and Russell Page. While most of Paul's oeuvre has done time on my bedside table, I'm sorry to say, that as much as I love this book, it weighs an absolute tonne and is particularly difficult to read in bed. However that's an aside. He also clarified that the quickest way to get your hedges to join up (and this is a major preoccupation for me) is to plant from small, and water and fertilise like mad......I later read that in his own garden he dug up most of the soil in his beds and had it sifted, fed and topped up before it was replaced.....maybe that's what I'm going wrong.

Anyway, the rush of having the babysitter in for the evening may have gone to my head, the result being that my friend and I took ourselves out for a fancy dinner at was celebrity spotting heaven (in Hobart terms) as we later spotted Paul.....disappointingly having dinner at another communal table. Yet, for my friend, who quite openly admits to being an AFL footy tragic she was beside herself to discover that she was actually sitting next to a female football commentator who she idolises.....I'm afraid to say that I didn't have a clue who she was. As you can imagine, it was hard work keeping the troops on track the next day. Thank goodness I had a brief window of opportunity to slope off with a cup of tea and see the before and after of the magic that happened over 8 years in the Stonefields garden.....the immediate results being a that I've been gripped by a gardening fervour which has seen me strew sheep manure over my entire garden, plant 3 box topiary shapes and a hedge of eight 'Abraham Darby' far.

One weekend during the holidays, we took the ferry over to Bruny Island where amongst the strange isolation and beautiful scenery:

 I started to read this:

Richard Flanagan's new book 'The Narrow Road to the Deep North'. I won't lie to you, at one stage....after the horrifyingly confronting and graphic descriptions of a POW camp in Burma....I had to put it down and take a mini break.

I'd been to a talk Richard Flanagan gave a couple of weeks ago and been transfixed by his anecdotes and inspiration. One story he told was about when he went on a book tour of America which coincided with the belated release of 'The Death of A River Guide' which he had written some years before. I was recounting this afterwards to my husband (who has done some work for Richard) and made it this far before he wanted to know whether this was the time 'when Richard found himself in the back of a taxi with the Beastie Boys?' No. It was the time that Richard found himself on the plane and realised that he couldn't remember absolutely anything about this particular book that he had written, neither the plot nor the characters....nothing. The book was in the hold, which was no help, so he admitted that he resorted to drink. After he landed, jet lagged and a tad hungover, he was met with the good news that he had to front up for a radio interview....and he was already running late.

I managed to summon the courage to finish 'The Narrow Road to the Deep North' and I'm still digesting it. It was written in such a way that even though I didn't think I could keep going, I had no choice, as I compulsively wanted to know how it was all going to end. And nothing prepared me for how it did. I can't stop thinking about it and already realise that I'm going to have to read it all over again.

Although, before I do so, I think I'm going to have to read Tim Winton's new book 'Eyrie'. Especially as I see that Tim is bound for Hobart to talk at a Fullers event on 26 October at 6pm at the Stanley Burbury Theatre at the University of Tasmania....which is bound to be interesting.

So my children are now all institutionalised back in their respective schools. Books aside, during the second weekend of the holidays, I managed to stage an actual physical Melbourne for a hedonistic weekend of chat, food, fashion and frivolity with Heidi from Adelaide Villa, the most interesting blog commenter in the world, Pamela and Faux Fuchsia.

How fantastic are these ginger jar jeans:

They were a gift from the sartorially gifted Faux Fuchsia who was determined that I should start dressing to match my house.....although I may have already been guilty of dressing my baby accordingly......see: