Wednesday, 27 March 2013


One night last week, we got the babysitter in and ventured into town to go to the theatre:

Up in the cheap seats at the Theatre Royal (Australia's oldest, no less), where the chandelier is almost at eye level, you wouldn't want to suffer from vertigo as it is dizzyingly high. We went to see The Select (The Sun Also Rises) by an experimental New York theatre company brought to Hobart as part of Tasmania's International Arts Festival, Ten Days On the Island. Amazingly, a sizeable chunk of the dialogue was lifted directly from the pages of Hemingway's novel Fiesta: The Sun Also Rises  which was narrated predominantly by the main character and acted by the cast.  A play within the pages of the novel was revealed and it was long, almost three and a half hours....if you were a fast reader you could a almost read the book to yourself in that time (I read in on the two planes between Hobart and Brisbane). The production was witty and clever, which managed to save it from being a tad on the dull side, and used a pastiche of words, music, sound effects and....trestle tables, which did duty as.....trestle tables, beds, trout and most dramatically.....a bull:

Yes, a bull, because you need a bull/trestle table for a bullfight. And there was a bullfight, just before the promiscuous Lady Brett Ashley ran off with the bullfighter, having shagged most of the other male characters, except for Jake....because he was impotent due to wounds sustained in WW1. Hemingway, of course, loved bullfights.....after he committed suicide in 1961, two tickets to the upcoming Pamploma bullfights were discovered in his desk.

I can't say that I share his appreciation, as I don't like bullfights. All of that testosterone dressed up in pink tights and gilded, garishly hued, tight costumes......the absurd stances, pelvic thrusts and floppy hair. Not to mention the overwhelming barbarity and the blood and guts.

I went to a bullfight at the arena in Beziers in 2010....coincidentally, it was just around the corner from the hospital where I had my baby four months later. My overriding impression, from what I saw through my tears, was a cruel attention seeking display of virility. The odds are stacked against the bull from the minute that it runs, confused and scared into the arena. It is never going to get out of there alive. It is going to be taunted and formulaically stabbed, until it can barely hold it's head up and then some egotistical maniac is going to utterly humiliate it and kill it in an attempt to show off. Don't be is nothing like the children's classic storybook The Story of Ferdinand.

Occasionally, a bullfighter gets gored:

.....good on the bull I say.

Peversely, outside the arena before the corrida, it was almost how I imagine going to a Tom Jones concert would be like.....lots of giggly, excited women....young and old, clutching flowers, cards and notes to throw at the bullfighters feet as an act of infatuation. If the judges want to show their approval, they don't present a trophy and fizz up the champagne...they award one or two of the beasts severed ears and if they think it was particularly good, it's tail.

Bullfighting in the Langudoc area of South West France continues to grow in may have been outlawed by an act of parliament over the border in Spain's Catalonia, yet in France it attracts a massive crowd and various towns have a week long hard sangria drinking, paella eating, bullfighting focused Feria associated with it.

In just over three weeks we are heading back to the Languedoc. The closest sizeable town to the village where we will be living and our children going to school, is Nimes, which boasts several important remains from the ancient Roman Empire including an amphitheatre which was built around 70AD. In the late 19th century it was remodelled as........a bullring, which is still in use today. Needless to say, I won't be going there to see a bullfight however I am tempted to maybe get tickets to see Depeche Mode perform there in July.


Tuesday, 19 March 2013


Sometimes I think my husband and I need our heads read. Honestly, did we really think taking not only our four children but also nine of our birthday boy's besties to the newly renovated TMAG was a good idea? I'm embarrassed by our ignorance....we should have picked up on other parents smirks as they wished us luck, deposited their children with us and then vanished into the promise of an afternoon off. 

It was just so tempting, especially as the TMAG reopened all renovated and reconfigured on Friday. So, on Sunday we carried out what seemed like a well conceived plan on paper and took twelve children on a tour of the Tasmanian Musem and Art Gallery....led by us. What I managed to see, while trying to ensure boys weren't swinging from the chandeliers, was has been transformed into a destination museum and art gallery in it's own right although I'm sure that most people will still come to Hobart first and foremost to experience David Walsh's MONA eccentricity, yet end up being enthralled with our state collection. 

This is the room that used to greet visitors with various pelts from Tasmanian animals that you could pat, a diorama of a pre colonisation landscape that used to take up the entire back wall and a staircase that led up to the rapturously beautiful art treasures in the colonial gallery. Look at it now:

The staircase has been reconfigured to resemble something straight out of Hogwarts and underneath, in numerous different darkened nooks and crannies, are an Egyptian Mummy, a suit of armour and various other surprise bits and pieces......sorry, the details are somewhat hazy as I was fraught with supervision frenzy at this particular juncture.

The TMAG has always been a compelling place by virtue of the fact that it is a museum AND an art gallery. The juxtaposition of the display of taxidermy, historic artefacts, decorative arts and colonial and contemporary art has always made it special. Years ago, as part of my post graduate work, I curated an exhibition at the TMAG about the Sea and spent a year wading through all of the departments...seeing....such incredible objects as what was believed to be a fragment from John Franklin's glove (questionable as he vanished, never to be seen again looking for the North West Passage), a relic from the Titanic and John Glover's intimate impressions of seascapes captured in his sketch books. I may have also been sidetracked by other totally unrelated objects in the collection....such as the wedding dress Kylie Minogue wore on Neighbours when Charlene married Scott:

I'd better just case you are about to book a ticket to Hobart to see it for yourself....that it hasn't made the display case, it's still in storage out the back.

There is an entire room dedicated to the extinct Thylacine:

It is poignantly moving. Donated in 1926 it is moth eaten and threadbare and you can see the stitches just managing to hold it together. It is a creature that has vanished off the face of the earth forever and this stuffed representation is just so blatantly.....dead.

Upstairs, in the colonial gallery, which is an Aladdin's cave of such beautiful treasures as myriad John Glover landscapes, Gould still life's and the Hamilton Inn Couch there is a wall hung with portraits of Tasmanian Aborigines. The looks on their faces from across time is haunting.

I'm on my third week without sugar. I had managed to resist temptation making brownie for the birthday boy's class, numerous taunts in restaurants about town when my husband said 'yes' to the tiramisu and the chocolate mousse, and shopping for the ice cream and lollies which my husband uses to make his signature birthday cake. Yet on Sunday, after we'd made it home and served up dinner to the party boys, I was ready to eat the cake in it's entirety*. By that stage things had disintegrated into scenes reminiscent of 'Lord of the Flies'.....'after all we aren't savages really.....'?


* Just for the record I didn't.

Friday, 15 March 2013


At some time in their lives all the males in our house have been train fetishists....the wooden Brio/Thomas the Tank Engine train set has been strewn from one end of the house to the other for the last seven long years....and they ALL still play with it. It will come as no surprise then that my husband panicked when recent stories hit the news that the West Coast Wilderness Railway was being threatened with closure. It prompted him to buy tickets. So, on the weekend we loaded the family into the car and drove the best part of four and a half hours west to get to Strahan to go for a train ride:

The long drive from Hobart, through the picture perfect almost Jurassic Park scenery of the national park is incredibly beautiful....until you reach the outskirts of Queenstown where the landscape suddenly becomes an arid wasteland having been absolutely decimated over the years by the mining and smelting of copper. It was an environmental catastrophe:

Luckily, the devastation was localised mostly to where the acid rain fell so by the time you reach the town of Strahan, forty odd kilometres down the road, it all looks to be green,verdant and wildernessey again. Which is lucky as Strahan is a tourist town which trades almost exclusively in the business of wilderness adventures:

Every morning this tranquil harbour is abuzz with activity as not only the Wilderness Railway but also helicopters, seaplanes and a flotilla of boats depart to show visitors such sites as Macquarie Harbour, Hells Gates and the pristine Gordon River:

In the middle of Macquarie Harbour is the teeny, tiny Sarah Island which was where the most heinous convicts were incarcerated in abysmal conditions back during colonial days. There's not much there now except for the stories - think 'For the Term of His Natural Life' and the real life tale of Alexander Pearce who somehow managed to escape, not once but twice. On his first attempt he was at large for 113 days during which time he may have eaten three of the men who were with him. In Hobart, having been apprehended after his second attempt, it was reported in the local paper that Pearce didn't look like he was 'laden with the weight of human blood, and believed to have banqueted on human flesh'....even though body parts were found in his pockets.....while he still had food left.

Here's a Huon Pine tree which only grows in certain parts of Tasmania, including the area around Strahan:

You see an awful lot of it at the Salamanca Market....turned into hair clips, salad bowls and pepper grinders so you'd probably be surprised to hear that it is a protected species and cannot be felled......these days only wood salvaged from the forest floor and river beds can be used.

The township of Strahan, like most major tourist destinations, is part real and part construct. On the surface it's hard to tell which is which....the pub may be original yet perhaps the Banjo's isn't.

We stayed in the mock red brick Federation style cottage....behind the facade it was just like any other motel room around the country.

On the fringe of the wilderness we payed through the nose for pub meals which were served by transient waiting staff from India, Texas and the UK.....and lied to at the breakfast buffet by a Tasmanian.....'Sorry, we're all out of mushrooms for today'....only for mushrooms to materialise ten minutes later in the bain marie.

No matter, the West Coast of Tasmania is incredible for it's natural beauty. It really has to be seen to be believed.


Friday, 8 March 2013


Yesterday, I took my car into town for a service at 9.30am. I may have squandered the entire day between then and 3pm loitering in book shops, trying on clothes, wandering aimlessly around town and dragging out a cup of green tea in a cafe for the best part of an hour......usually my mouth is scalded after I drink it in quick gulps, frantic that my children are trashing the joint and annoying everybody.

It was flicking through the paper without interruption that I read an article about how scientists predict that in five years time new born babies in Australia will be tested for a complete range of genetic diseases...which will effectively let parents know what diseases their babies are susceptible to and when they are likely to succumb. For under $1,000 everyone will be able to have these tests. I'm afraid to admit that I may have had a bit of a dwell on all of this. In the past I will admit to having fallen prey to self diagnosis by typing imagined symptoms into Google....and have come up with all manner of sudden onset, certainly fatal diseases....which mercifully haven't eventuated. I just don't know how I'd cope knowing for certain, not only my, but my entire family's eventual predicament years, or even worse, months in advance. I really don't think I'd want to know....would you?

Now before I panic you all into believing that I am what my children would derogatorily term a 'hippy freak' here is a quick look at what I wore today:

I picked the dress up for half price yesterday on my travels and while it may be silk...a natural fibre, the beads are definitely....plastic. In the photo you can't see the leopard print bikini, chosen by one of my boys, that I am wearing underneath.

Here's a close up of my bangle:

Which bears the mantra...."look on the bright side"....cue the whistle.

I think a lot about disease prevention through diet and exercise and am horrified that you really have to be committed to educating yourself about what really is good or bad for you. Surely this information should be honestly and uniformly presented so that everybody knows.....should Milo cereals really have a National Heart Foundation tick of approval emblazoned on the box.

It's no secret that I spend a lot of time in our local health food the extent that I am on first name terms with the staff and they have even offered me their daughter for babysitting duty when I have been stuck at the eleventh that's where I buy locally grown and milled wholemeal flour/coconut oil/muscovado sugar/herbal toothpaste/cristal stick deodorant/shampoo and conditioner/ soap nuts for laundry and make our own peanut butter.

For the last six weeks my husband and I have been fiddling with acid/alkaline balancing...we even have the litmus paper and chart to prove it. All the usual culprits make the list of what causes your body to be overly acidic...stress, white bread, sugar, alcohol and coffee.....while green leafy vegetables, green drink:


and yoga, laughing and optimism help make you more alkaline....and just in case you were wondering, you want to be alkaline.  I thought we are going OK...even though I may have suggested on the weekend mixing up a cocktail using the above two ingredients.....with vodka.

Then I read Sarah Wilson's book 'I Quit Sugar'. How on earth did I reach the age of 41 without realising how much sugar is in fruit....4.5 teaspoons in one APPLE alone. I have been plying myself and my family with more than two serves of fruit a day thinking I was doing the right thing when in reality I have been feeding them the equivalent amount of sugar found in a Coke and a doughnut....because at the end of the day fructose is fructose whether it's masquerading as a mango or as a Mr Whippy ice-cream.

So, now that the scales have fallen from my eyes and I'm not feeling so virtuous for using muscovado sugar when I should have been substituting powdered stevia, I have been working on trying to change my attitude towards fruit.....seeing that this has been the means by which sugar has been infiltrating our house. I've always used fruit as a lunchbox staple as it comes in it's own packaging and is natural. This week I've cut back and tried some some of Sarah Wilson's handy hints for lunch boxes.....put a scant handful of popping corn into a brown paper bag with a knob of butter or coconut oil, fold over the top and nuke for somewhere between 1 - 2 minutes. Easy.

Yesterday, I made the Avocado and Coconut Popsicles which I dished up for afternoon tea today instead of a fruit plate....two out of the three children actually ingested them. Hurrah...I'll keep working on the other two.

Today, after school we are heading up north to visit my mum in Launceston.....and she will unashamedly feed my children ice cream with sprinkles for breakfast.....if they ask her to. Let's hope they don't!