When they told me that the music would contain lots of Hallelujas my mind went immediately to singer/songwriter Leonard Cohen.

Imagine my surprise then at the beautiful Mandeville Hall in the grounds of Loreto College in Melbourne’s very swish Toorak, the Hallelujas were part of Frideric Handel’s Messiah. Originally an Easter offering this English-language oratorio burst onto the stage of Musick Hall in Dublin on April 13, 1742.

We enjoyed excerpts performed by Cantus and Sonare Novesia, from the Cathedral of St Quirinus, in Neuss, Germany. Eight glorious voices soared through the rafters and we were left absolutely spellbound.

And yet another performance at St Patrick’s Cathedral in East Melbourne.

Normally when you hear of Melbourne talk turns to Federation Square, Lygon Street, Southbank and the Victoria Markets. And the Casino. Who cares!

We were spoiled by several days in South Yarra, 4 kms out of the CBD and roughly 1,300 kilometres south of Brisbane. A bustling, upscale suburb with art deco apartments facing the Yarra, and well-preserved mansions, South Yarra is full of swanky boutiques, art galleries, cocktail lounges and eclectic bistros. I was tempted by a cat collar with bell for $77 – Ha ha ha -and of course I came upon a great bookstore.

Avoca Book Store, Toorak Road, South Yarra

I’ve been known to favour walking tours of an eclectic nature when I travel and I wasn’t disappointed with South Yarra’s offering of a two hour stroll with an architectural expert explaining the various styles of housing.

Both trams and train service South Yarra and the nearby Botanical Gardens and other reserves offer a great stretch of the legs. Honestly, it was just so therapeutic being surrounded by greenery after having been in drought effected territory for so long.( Note to self : plant more trees this week and steer clear of chocolate).

We went Airbnb. I love them and detest the impersonality of hotels. After all, seen one marble bathroom, you’ve seen them all.


Raising Gypsies

Did I tell you I enjoyed Chicago at the theatre last weekend?

It was beaut to see Tom Burlinson again as Billy Flynn. Burlinson had success as a young man when he played young Jim Craig in the 1982 Australian movie The Man From Snowy River and Tommy Woodcock in Phar Lap in 1983. He then seemed to fade away singing the songs of Frank Sinatra in nightclubs over the years.

Also lovely to spend time in Sydney with the daughters before they both headed off again. You see, I’ve raised gypsies……..

My youngest flew out to India for work purposes for six months yesterday. (My apologies for my behaviour : I may have been just a tad fragile.)

My eldest is off shortly with her military boyo to be stationed in a remote region of Australia for two years. So remote that it will be an easier option to fly to India for a visit. And it’s a Dry Community. Good luck with that, Pocohontas……….

Stuff your eyes with wonder, he said, live as if you’d drop dead in ten seconds. See the world. It’s more fantastic than any dream made or paid for in factories. – Ray Bradbury from Fahrenheit 451

No, there were no tears and I have been positively positive. Disgustingly positive really. And envious of course. I was already tinkering with a holiday to Arnhem Land in autumn so that’s now a done deal. My only concern is for the Labrador, Bentley, who is unused to crocodiles and dingoes, and is stone deaf. I’m fearful that if he meets a snake he will want to make it a playmate. Same with a dingo: he’s such a good natured pup with an inability to read social queues.

As for the Indian adventurer, just as well she’s vegetarian and did a spell in Beijing last year.

We’ve agreed to meetup in Darwin next August, to coincide with the Northern Territory’s Federation Day ( read : Cracker Night) and Darwin Cup. The gambler’s gene did not come from my side of the family though the need for a new outfit for the occasion certainly did. I’m currently researching a side trip to the Tiwi Islands.

Since retirement I have been regularly asked when I will be selling up to be closer to the girls. Makes me laugh each and every time. 

Safe travels, Cat Balou. Looking forward to belly dancing classes upon your return.

Sydney Writers Walk

Home after spending a few days in the old hometown of Sydney catching up with the daughters. Our girlie weekends tend to consist of champagne breakfasts, too much good chocolate, dumplings, laughs, and a trip to the theatre.

And lots of walking. 27,000 plus steps on Saturday alone. ( Thank God for old pubs with harbour views and cold ciders).

The Sydney Writers Walk is a series of 60 circular metal plaques embedded in the footpath between Overseas Passenger Terminal on West Circular Quay and the Sydney Opera House forecourt on East Circular Quay.

The plaques were installed to honour and celebrate the lives and works of well-known Australian writers, as well as notable overseas authors, such as D.H. Lawrence, Joseph Conrad and Mark Twain, who lived in or visited Australia. Quotes from a significant work and some biographical information about the writer are stamped onto each plaque,along with an excerpt of the author’s writing.

It’s a perfect walk along the harbour with an ice cream in your hand. Boysenberry.

I was born, schooled, worked, married and had my two babies in Sydney and have been returning on a yearly basis forever. Stupidly, I introduced the daughters to theatre at an early age. And champagne breakfasts.

The old homestead was demolished nearly thirty years ago and replaced by a McMansion so I’ve never had the heart to revisit.

Interestingly, the apartment where we stayed in the city was two doors down from my office from 1980 where a client picked up a chair and threw it at me. But that’s another story…….

She’s a whole different city since those days.

Literary Dinners and Romance Novels.

The next Literary Dinner at my local pub, The Grand View, features Paullina Simons. Simons is a Russian-born American writer and the international best-selling author of the novels Tully, Red Leaves, Eleven Hours, The Bronze Horseman, Tatiana and Alexander, Lily and The Summer Garden.

My eldest daughter, Pocohontas, is not a big reader. Well, she is in that she consumes volumes of Government Legislation as well as travel guides to help plan holiday itineraries. But not fiction. This is the child who made me wade through 1500 pages of Book 1 in the Game Of Thrones series for a book club only to announce at the meeting that she was “too busy” to read so watched the tv program instead.

At one stage said daughter became very excited about The Bronze Horseman. “ Mo, you just have to read this one”. A romance novel, the book begins on 22 June 1941, the day Russia enters the Second World War after Operation Barbarossa. Tatiana Metanova, nearly seventeen, meets the handsome and mysterious Red Army officer Alexander Belov. The relationship between Tatiana and Alexander develops against the backdrop of the Siege of Leningrad and in the face of many difficulties.

Confession straight up. Romance and I don’t mix. It seems to have bypassed my DNA. However, I did read to the end and I did learn how the Russians, both soldiers and civilians, suffered during this period which was interesting.

A bright, young thing spied me reading The Bronze Horseman in the communal lunch room at the office. When she asked how I was finding it, I told her. Stupid me never did learn to keep my trap shut………… BYT proceeded to explain why it was her favourite book of all time and that it was a wonderful love story. I think she talked non stop for twenty minutes.

BYT is now a published Romance Writer and going great guns. What do I know?

*Spoiler Alert:
My bug bear was that Tatiana carried around with her for some twelve months a pair of sexy knickers for when she had the chance to do the wild thing with Alexander. Starving, freezing, only one set of clothes, people falling all around her on the snow covered city streets and dying, and 1) she never changes her undies and 2) she never even contemplates trading them for biscuits, a chicken, or even a glass of vodka.

Realistic, I tell you, not romantic.

The Perfect Souvenir

My daughters, the Gadabout Girls, are big on travel and experiencing different cultures. Add the label Adrenalin Junkie to my eldest who does all kinds of horrific things that she doesn’t even share with her mother these days, such as jumping out of planes, hiking through South America and driving Go Karts through the streets of Tokyo. She unashamedly admits bonding with her partner when they patted a shark together whilst surfing off North Stradbroke Island.

When she told me a few years ago that she and her military lad were touring Europe she mentioned Switzerland. Switzerland. Stupid mother asks, “why Switzerland?” The reply? “Large dairy industry and great cheeses”. Mother was stupid AND naive. They jumped out of a plane, landing in water, and floating down an icy river. As you do.

So today, on the 110th Anniversary of the birth of Errol Flynn I thought I’de share the souvenir the daughters brought back for me from their trip to Greece via Egypt.

Yep, these they found in Athens. Better than a miniature sphinx or a snow dome, hey.

I’ve been away for a few days to a beautiful part of our world though home earlier than expected. Bit of an issue so a bit blahhhh.

In an attempt to lift my spirits a friend jokingly said “ what we need is some Errol music, but we haven’t got any”.

Well guess what, my friend. The jokes on you.

Add To Bucket List : Jamala

My childhood was full of books written by Edgar Rice Burroughs and Saturday movie matinees featuring Johnny Weissmuller in a loin cloth. Nothing quite beat a tussle between Tarzan and an anaconda.

Unfortunately, that 90’s Prime Minister with the viperish tongue who called Australia“the arse end of the world” was quite correct in that we are located a very long way from Africa. I never had an adventure of my own with a giant snake, though anything under 2 metres in my own garden is fair game with a garden hoe.

I did enjoy my safari moment recently at the Jamala Wildlife Lodge in Canberra. Only five minutes out of the CBD and attached to the National Zoo and Aquarium Jamala offers accomodation in Jungle Bungalows which allow you to get up close and personal to bears, lions and giraffes.

Booking in early afternoon the adventure starts with High Tea. Forget jam, cream and scones-this is the real deal-followed by an encounter with a cheetah and an introductory walk around the zoo with a Keeper.

Our bungalow meant that we had a giraffe at our balcony and we were able to feed him carrots by hand. OMG, aren’t they magnificent creatures with the most gorgeous eyelashes!

Meeting on a deck for Champagne and Canapés before dinner we were entertained by hyenas and lions enjoying their evening meal.

Dinner followed with more Moët and evening entertainment which included a pair of lions sleeping in an area separated from the table by thick glass. Did you know lions dream? It’s true.They wriggle around just like big pussycats.

An early Breakfast is necessary if you are interested in feeding the animals with the Keepers. Of course our hands went up though one couple begged off as they had been kept awake by the roar of lions since 1am. We slept through that, thank God, though didn’t need the alarm as we could hear the big cats calling to each other as the sun rose. Holy Guacamole, what a noise!

Our morning walk was brisk as one would expect on an almost winter morning in the ‘Berra though this seemed to make all the chimps, lemurs, and zebras frisky. We also fed the Elans, Llamas and Deers, and  patted the “dopey Labradors of Africa”. 

What’s that, you ask……

Rhinos. I patted a couple of Rhinos behind the ears. Just like you would pat a dog. How amazing is this?

The zoo is on 25 acres with enclosures which are kind to the animals and suitable for the breeding of critically endangered species. Much of the native vegetation is untouched which in itself encouraged indigenous bird life. Never before had I seen a flock of wild budgies – breath taking!

There is so much more to Jamala but you’ll have to see it for yourselves. It’s an awesome experience and you’ll require deep pockets. But you know what? Sure beats house maintenance and a long time dead.

The complimentary Moët went down quite well and if there is one thing I’ve taught the daughters it is to enjoy their Bubbles.

The Aquarium is tiny, only about 7 or 8 tanks. Can I tell you how spectacular it is to walk through this at night? Scary but spectacular.

No bloke in a loin cloth, but there was a truly massive snake that would have given Tarzan a run for his money.

Add to Bucket List.

Answering The Call and Gilgandra

It’s been a long day, an emotional day, and a girl does have a weakness for sparkling Shiraz. No melancholy, just thoughts.

Memories of a car trip twenty years ago, long buried, come to the surface. I’m not sad – no need to head for the hills. Please stay put.

Pocahontas, my eldest, is school captain. I refuse to allow her to attend the annual school excursion to the Snowy. 7 days on a bus with 60 other kiddies, aged 10 years or under, to spend three hours playing in the snow at Thredbo seems totally ridiculous. It’s not that I’m a helicopter parent. Afterall both my daughters have been travelling the world solo since they they were 18 years of age. But sorry, I’m a mother with a semblance of a brain and discover that for every child from a school in Queensland that visits Canberra 1000 kms away the school receives $100.00 per child. Effectively, this excursion is a fundraiser for the school. ( It’s not the Shiraz that makes me cynical. It has always been thus).

Mo, Pocahontas and Cat Balou

We plan a family holiday to coincide with the school excursion. Best family holiday ever. Country towns full of history. Lots of fun, lots of memories. My girls can tell you where Henry Lawson is buried, where Dorathea McKellar was born, can recite “My Country”, and can tell you about Captain Thunderbolt. Kids are such sponges, aren’t they?

We spend a night in Gilgandra, country NSW. Sheep and wheat country. A sad little town in that it is like thousands of other little country towns that have come to a standstill. It was known as the town with the most windmills back then. We loved it. You know why?

Gilgandra is also known as the “Coo-ee Town”. 

“Cooee!(/ˈkuːiː/) is a shout used in Australia, usually in the bush, to attract attention, find missing people, or indicate one’s own location. When done correctly—loudly and shrilly—a call of “cooee” can carry over a considerable distance.The distance one’s cooee call travels can be a matter of competitive pride. It is also known as a call of help, which can blend in with different natural sounds in the bush.”From Wikipedia

Back in October 1915 two Gilgandra men decide to do something about the declining enlistment for World War 1. A march from Gilgandra to Sydney is undertaken. As the miles pass the number of marchers increases. Three hundred and twenty miles of Australian sun, with little official backup,no radios, phone boxes nor mobile phones. The men rely on the generosity and love of bush folk along the way. 35 men begin the march. 263 men answer the Coo-ee.

So proud of their history this little community, including service organisations, church and school communities, put together a CD of songs reflecting that period of their townships history’s. Yeah, you know I’m a sucker……..

So much history, so many memories. Wait till I share what happened when the school captain refused to wear all white to Graduation.

Lest we Forget.