Thames swans are smart

Learnt that the queues lined up near the London Eye on The Embankment for the ‘lying in state viewing’ were feeding the swans and the swans are now hanging around ready to be bread-bound and bloated long after the queues have gone. We did learn many intetesting pieces of information on our Greenwich River Cruise.

Actually the queues are lining up at Westminster Abbey again (though our tour was cancelled because of the mourning period), and we did a respectful walk around Westminster Park under the watchful eyes of Nelson Mandela, Ghandi, and Churchill et al.

The river reminds me of Brisbane’s murky colour, but the busy traffic and many uses of the Thames were entertaining. We even learnt that WHARF is really an acronym for WareHouse At River Front from the early trading days….and saw the huge shift in industry away from the wharf areas to the varied, and often brutalist, architecturally designed apartment blocks around Canary Wharf. COVID and BREXIT have impacted mightily on foreign investment, and many of the larger international banks and companies have moved over to the EU. Lots of the empty apartments are now quite affordable b&bs.

Nestled in amongst these steel, glass and concrete beasts are the historic pubs and houses which cling to the traditions of affordable drinking houses thanks to the efforts, and money, of the likes of Sir Ian McKellan. The luxury homes of Helen Mirren and Judi Dench were surrounded by greenery……and plenty of security. The bridges are fascinating…each has a different story to tell.

And so on to Greenwich. The constant attention to preserving the naval history of London is to be admoured. The Visitor Learning Centre is a fine introduction to the complex. Bearing in mind the daily ritual of the falling of the time clock at the hilltop Royal Observatory, we took on the challenge of the steep gradient up to top and the walk was well worth it. The view is stunning, and we were gifted with the chance to observe the historic painting of the One Tree Hill before its present tourist status in the Queen’s House. (a familiar Toowoomba reference to Meerwah, also known as Table Top back home).

The ship in a bottle is always a fascination and the large example near the Old Naval Museum is certainly a big one. It stands near the Titanic Memorial garden on the walk to the Queen’s House. As well as allowing an insight in to the lives of royalty past, the naval exploits and prominent figures included Prince Phillip.

The Tulip Stair was the bucket list item for this trip….and it didn’t disappoint! No words needed to describe this triumph of engineering and design. My heart was full.

As we happened to be there on a Saturday, the intrepid climbers on the rigging of the restored Cutty Sark were fascinating to watch while we sampled a gf burger and marvelled at the costumes of those entering into the Alice in Wonderland Treasure Hunt…….on mobile phones of course in this digital age. Artisan crafts and global food tastes and smells…..much people watching!

While the day was rain-free, the sneaky breeze on the top deck of the boat meant zipping up the coats, but the Waterloo Sunset over Westminster Bridge made it such a perfect end to the wonderful day.

Waterloo Sunset

Then it was back to Earl’s Court YHA Hostel for their yummy nachos tea.

Arrivals and Departures

With an arrival into the UK which was relatively hassle-free during the 23 hour transit, a troubling sniffle while gawping at the lights of late-night Paddington Station (no sight of P Bear though) turned into a head cold. Apologies to the other 8 females in the dorm at the student Staysafe Hostel in Kensington’s Hammond Walk…..the sniffle had become a chesty cough by night 2. Not the C virus, but a painful start to the Bucket List Book Adventure……sigh!

Arrival to the creative arts in London….as close as the licorice theme in the hostel…loved the bright dorm entry.

The Design Museum….what a great walk.

Kensington High Street…the old and the new

Arrival at West Dulwich

So it was a solace to rid myself of this condition to meet my house hosts for the cat sit for the week. Park Hall Road is a mixture of cottage gardens, unit blocks and a small village set of shops….and interesting, trusting hosts and two very different Burman cats to care for.

So the garden, cats and quiet isolation were just the shot in the arm I needed….as well as the cough medicine. As the UK quietly shut down into deep mourning and outpourings of respect, I adjusted to the differences in hot water systems, a house full of organic products garnered from their community allotments, and the arrival to the UK was off and running.

Departure of HRH ELIZABETH II9

My all day funeral broadcast in front of the BBC TV, was a bit disappointing not to be out there amongst the throngs, but safe and warm with the furry friends.

Departure of the cold….yeeha!

Arrival at Dulwich Picture Gallery……and a great re-entry into the trip, and the arrival of my taste buds again. 🌻

And a wonderful interview with the lovely bookshop owner, Cathy and assistant Kitty at Dulwich Books…..and now the chance to start the Spotify podcasting soon…..stay tuned.

Belair House

And so we begin…….

Singapore never sleeps

As the first leg of a long-haul flight to London, the Brisbane to Singapore experience was quite a pleasant one. The relief of no delays, easy security and very short immigration queues was a welcome start to what promised to be a looong, long-haul. Bye Brissie!

Singapore Airlines service is always impeccable, and the food at midnight was extremely tasty….well as much as a passionfruit gelato can be when all you want to do is drift off. Movie selection was not enticing, but the music helped lull me into dreamland.

Masks were a definite, but not mandatory, positive. The numbers of coughing and snuffily passengers rang a few alarm bells, but the new travelling world offers “freedom with risks”…..so, the risk begins.

Arriving into Changi Airport in the dark was different, but the bright lights of the shopping precincts soon heralded the dawn of the Shoppers’ Paradise…..and for a non-shopper, the lure of a Fendi handbag was very fleeting – rapidly replaced with a few meanderings around the Terminal 3 halls.

If the midnight feast hadn’t still been making its presence felt I might have tackled a bowl of my favourite Congee…..but no! It was the Butterfly Garden and the beautiful tree-lined seating area which won the day.

With fierce competition from local producers as well as the International frachisees, the bigger, brighter and more creative advertising wins out! Louis Vuitton was definitely the winner!

From previous visits, the orchids have always been spectacular. Today the orchids are not as prominent. They tend to be mingled in with other flowers and greenery.

But I couldn’t pass up a bookstore 🤗

Congee calling.

So now 12 plus hours to Frankfurt………catch you then

Beyond Eggs Benedict….

Michelle and Claire, new kids on the block in Toowoomba’s food scene, have transported a little touch of Oo La La to Neil Street. French-themed decor and a French-inspired menu make a visit to Googs Cafe a fresh experience…..and the food reaches way beyond eggs benny.

If you are looking for take-away coffee and light fluffy scones you are in for a treat. These delicious scones were highly recommended by one of the regulars who just dropped in while we were there.

Or relax and whileaway some time in the classy, comfortable coffee and chat corner – books and a sophisticated hangout…….it’s calling you to try it!

If you are wondering about the name GOOGS, then, yes, definitely a reference to eggs (the googie eggs of childhood), but the origin lies in the pet name Michelle was called growing up as a young child in Yorkshire. Googie……..and with the rich yellow yolks of the New England Free Range Egg Farmers eggs, and the different crepes and omelettes on our plates, the name is right on the money.

The young staff are eager to please and happy to recommend treats to take away with the coffees. The Strawberry Ambrosia meant my dinner party dessert was sorted with no fuss or effort. Nothing was too much bother, and the very different backstories of the partners are fascinating and definitely the reason for return visits. Stay tuned!

As a new business in the city, there are exciting menu items, special menus for Father’s Day this weekend, but also a wonderful Spring Carnival Menu with something for everyone on Friday and Saturday nights – pre-theatre or a special celebration treat.

We recommend you book soon so you don’t suffer regret!

Michelle and Claire are enjoying meeting their coffee drinking regulars, and it was lovely to see familiar faces supporting this new venture. Local suppliers are providing quality products and the choices are spoiling taste buds.

Looking for something with a hint of France…….look no further. Breakfast business meetings, friends for a cuppa and chat, light and cheerful lunches or popping in for a take-away……..Googs is calling.

KAPOW!

When you live in a relatively conservative large regional centre, and are of an age where senior concession cards are a bonus, it can be quite confronting in that moment when you realise that the place you thought was Heaven’s Waiting Room is actually populated in 2022 by an enormous number of creative alternates! KAPOW! It is a heart thumping moment of confusion, enlightenment and curiosity and then a cackle of joy bursts out!

Maybe it’s the venue? Maybe it’s the quirky members of these newest cooperative space sharers. Maybe it’s the sense of anticipation as you climb the stairs to the space above the great coffee makers at Copper Bench in 424 Ruthven Street. Maybe it’s the decor. Maybe it’s the smile on Haley’s face!

KAPOW! It’s all of the senses combined!

Haley Jane has brought her skills in hospitality, design, beauty craft and relationship building to this moment in this amazing business space.

Launching this Thursday on the significant first day of Spring – 1 September from 4-6pm, KAPOW is bringing a vibrancy to the Toowoomba creative arts scene that will knock your socks off. What a fun way to welcome the legendary Spring Carnival. KAPOW is a carnival on its own!

You are looking for something fresh and original? Tried house plants and terreriums – and failed? Here is the delightful never-die solution…..Your search is over. Come in and check it ALL out!

Haley Jane has the credentials, the cosy, credited beauty nook and the guiding hands to have brought all these creatives together. Her journey has been a varied one. Overcoming personal challenges has given her the core strength to tackle this with gusto and a determination to succeed wholeheartedly. KAPOW it is! Brow it is!

Never had a brow experience? What luck….there are opening specials! The brows have it!

Julie has the bling in spades. There is no hiding in the corner with Kaftans with Bling. Eye-catching and one-off pieces bring Julie from her online home business into the CBD spotlight. Slinky silk, colours which compliment any mood or event, and a bubbly ‘fascinator’ take on life with gusto – that’s Julie!

It is a treasure trove of delights. From NecroMousery’s recycling and giving tiny creatures a new lease on life; to the stunning spirit of gems and jewellery; the paintings of many artists; boudoir attire to seduce your smile; the opportunity to have private photoshoots; the calming crystals to the NOTORIOUS wall art…….and much, much more – this space packs a mighty punch! KAPOW!

Are your senses buzzing yet?

If you can’t make it to the launch this Thursday, then you can saunter into sensory surrounds anytime……and KAPOW……you will be entranced!

A Taste of Japan in the Tropics

When the cool shade of the huge fig trees beckons

When the Japanese community in Cairns gathers

When the glittering sea provides the backdrop

Then the culture quietly calls along the Esplanade

Bon Festival time!

The food and friendly smiles

The pounding of the micho

The gooey slimelike mouthful

Bon Festival time!

The drums, the beat, the strength

The kimonos, the bows, the beauty

The children joining in

Bon Festival time!

Cairns, Festival, All things Japanese………….all things fun and friendship

Humming in Boonah

Having decided on a quiet country drive to Boonah to find a newspaper article framed in a pub hallway with the beautiful KJM for company, it was definitely a good choice on a coolish SEQld winter’s day.

Boonah is a rural jewel in the crown of the Fassifern Valley just a short 30 minute drive from Ipswich. Meandering through the picnic park at Peak Crossing to share the family history of the Forsyth plaques and War Memorials; seeing the fertile farm plains and solid mountains marking the route; and noting the graveyards dotted along the way as remaining tributes to early non-Indigenous settlers made for a very pleasant drive.

Honesty requires me to suggest that the initial impression of the Boonah township is one of central town streets which have become parking pot luck and shops struggling to survive through tough economic and pandemic uncertainty. It was, however, heartening to see a town that acknowledges its history and tips its hat to the past achievements, at the same time as becoming determined to focus on future prosperity.

One of those businesses embracing the contemporary food revolution in wholesome, down to earth fare is the Hummingbirds cafe. It had been recommended, so we wandered down the main street past the predictable small town businesses, including the dress shop with an eye-catching window model with the biggest head we had ever seen. Once we rounded the corner and saw the crisp sign and the inviting entrance, we knew the recommendation had been spot on.

The Hummingbirds has a diverse menu offering plenty of dietary choice and both lunchtime savoury offerings and treats for the sweet-toothed. While waiting for our orders there was time to browse the bulk food and organic range, and a chance to take in the inspiring words of wisdom and food facts dotted on the walls.

Food, service and smiles were all plentiful, and the time flew. Nice one Hummingbirds Cafe!

And yes, we found the article which related to a familiar area in Ipswich, and were happy to snap a record of it to use in our further research. The gentille entrance to the Ladies toilet was also a fun find.

Perhaps this jewel could do with a gentle polish, but Boonah is certainly worth the drive!

Zone in to Zines

Toowoomba has its own Zine Library! If you haven’t got a clue about what a zine is…..never fear, you are not alone.

When you need to learn, go to the best in the business. Word Fest Toowoomba was recently able to recruit guru Jeremy Staples from his Russell Island home to Chair the much-enjoyed session on Zines in the company of our own local Ziners Bianca Martin and Bronte Geitz. Both these young writers have dipped their toes in the Zine water for years, and Bianca has now established the first Zine library in a happy little corner of Jeremy’s Book Exchange at the Uni Plaza Shopping Centre deep in the heart of Universityland on West Street.

Dropping in to the Book Exchange and seeing Jeremy in his element is always a delight. The warmth of the shop emanates from his cheerful personality and the fun that each corner of the shop holds for readers and word bargain hunters of all ages and tastes. With sections for all genres and a special focus on local authors, including his own fun childrens’ books, Jeremy has definitely hit on a winning formula for enticing customers.

So it was with much curiosity that I interviewed Bianca. The pride in her voice about the establishment of the little library was very evident. Introductory examples and her own zines have set the tone for the newest library in Toowoomba.

An added bonus was that one of the Zine contributors, albeit a self-declared novice, Nola Passmore, had just dropped a couple of her Zines off to the library. Nola is a well-known local author, former Uni lecturer and now Zine convert. Her small, but powerful pieces, came from articles she had read on themes and historical incidents and her keen eye for words and sentiments which sprung out left a strong impact on the page.

And WOW! A double bonus is The Bookmaker shop near the bookshop in the same UniPlaza row of shops. Wonderfully skilled craftspersons bringing embroidery, paper making and craft and covers, journals and kits as well as exciting workshops make this a great addition to Toowoomba’s bookish scene.

So get in to the Zine Zone! Explore and write your Zines, seek out Bianca and have fun in the zine.

SW – Stephanie Wood. SW – Super Woman

“Limerence and forelsket thrive in the fertile grounds of desire and uncertainty” – Janette Waterson

The journalist author of FAKE, and survivor of love scammed and betrayed, Stephanie Wood, offers a life revelation. Hers, certainly as a warning to others, but also offers self-revelation to the reader. This is my personal tribute to her work, her strength and sincere gratitude for contributing an interview to our Word Fest Toowoomba 2022 program.

The whirlpool of emotions running through the book evoked, for me, the strength and skill needed to separate the skin on a chicken breast from its muscled meat – the hand holding down the promise of a satisfying future morsel bearing ll a light touch to avoid bruising; the other hand pulling the flaccid skin away and using a sharp knife to detach it.

Like the pieces which tip from a jigsaw puzzle box, the words from her pen create pieces of character with edges that need to find a place in a bigger picture. Initially I sensed her reactions of vulnerability, and the feelings of “patheticology” at being part of a con. Then I saw her gently placing the pieces, at first randomly reflecting the brain flurries, then watching the sides materialise.

Then came the vocabulary of insecurities; the hook, line and sinker sinking feelings; the treading water around ego, and vile self-loathing; and then seeking escape from the truthless, while keepsakes of the magical moments were keeping hope alive.

Then it was the fake fabulist culture of Swipe Right on the online dating deals – masterfully dissected.

Emotions were already churning when SW moved on to exposing the red flags of the impostor syndrome and the blinds that cover eyes when love overrides rationality.

Emotions became like the discarded chicken skin sheared from its original whole – separated from the reality of a future full of promise.

Gullible, ensnared, needy feelings kept resurfacing in the writing – then the feelings of discovering fraud followed by the grief of loss of the dream, hopes and pride – leaving the scars. Finding the balm and reconstructing a fine future was never a given.

Stephanie Wood is my Australian Maria Popova. Her literary allusions, her anecdotal style and honesty are refreshing in a world of current affair competition for ratings which produces stale subjects and even staler writing.

So my humble tribute to the keepsakes of FAKE, and the recommendation to read this compelling warning is here:-

Wunderkammer – the cabinet of curiosities

Each drawer a life chapter

Each curio a chink of memory

The cabinet of curiosities a constant reminder of the vulnerability of age

Each momento a nail

Each handling a spike, a splash, a sigh

The cabinet of curiosities is the rosary of penance

Each misstep, each misspoken word

Each gullible drop in time

Slam the drawer, walk away, close the door

But the drawer handles beckon me back time and time again.

Rescued. Revived. Regifting

When someone reaches a point in their lives when creativity wins out over materialism, then something uplifting seems to emerge. That is what has happened to the creative recycler, B Presents. Having faced a few life-changing challenges on top of the recent COVID 19, construction industry hardships and Queensland flood situations, Ben has re-embraced the artistic and design talents he nurtured as an art student in Townsville, but which were channeled into the design and management side of building projects in Australia, Scotland and PNG over the course of years providing for his family.

With his two teenage children now independent, he has taken a new path on his life’s journey. Turning his carpentry and design skills to good use, Ben saw the waste being placed outside homes during the flood clean-up effort and RESCUED some solid, retrievable pieces.

Choosing the vibrancy of the 1970s, he has created a suite of fun, quirky REVIVED pieces of furniture and small storage items. His use of the warmth of orange is carried through many of his furniture and paintings. From painstakingly restored and repaired pieces taking many hours, to the joy of seeing the final design become a reality, Ben has found a way of bringing joy not only to himself, but to others.

His generous soul turned to REGIFTING these pieces he had designed and worked on for so long. His philosophy is that things that have been pushed aside by others, but have given him a purpose and pleasure, should be regifted to others. While many pieces have already been snapped up by astute buyers, or have been gifted to people in Ben’s orbit, there are other pieces that he is prepared to sell at ridiculous prices to fund the next phase of his life journey – exploring the earth, skies and waterways of nature in the expanse of the Australian Outback in the van that is sporting his creative streak both inside and out.

Quirky, colourful and the very original – you will be lucky, and fun-filled to have such original desks, tables, chairs and boxes in your world. Think how much fun it would be working on one of these chairs in front of the computer.

Plenty of paintings for the walls as well…….and in tune with found objects in nature…..no wonder these very ‘one of a kind’ pieces are walking out the door fast.

If you are quick, you can text Ben on 0466 441 769 or email ben.moore.1@hotmail.com to grab a piece or two before Brisbane says farewell.