Category Archives: Brisbane

Raindrops of fantasy

Last week I awoke to a feeling of absolute delight. I could hear heavy succulent raindrops splattering on my tin roof. This rain would certainly be heavy enough to get through the leaf litter and into the soil. As we lay listening, to ensure he didn’t feel too neglected I enticed my knowledgeable husband into a discussion on the meteorological conditions that influence raindrop size. Scintillating I know, but I am a keen gardener. Enough said.

Web,-Watermark_Raindrops-on-CitrusI love rainy days because they tempt me to bring out my wet weather gear that doesn’t get a lot of wear in our dry climate. The garden skinks and spiders are brushed out of my Wellingtons, the umbrella mechanisms are tested to ensure they haven’t rusted out and my raincoats get aired and the dust shaken from the shoulders.

Sophie & Angus on Home Beach – Version 3I think raincoats can be such a fashion statement but here in Brisbane they aren’t commonly used other than by primary-aged school children wandering around in bright high-vis yellow plastic coats Paddington Bear style. We usually have wet weather in summer so wearing a coat just adds to the discomfort of wearing clothes. There is something to be said for living in a nudist colony in the sub-tropics.

As I child I loved dressing up, so it is with glee that at the first sign of rain I slip into my full-length waterproof coat with its pleated hood around me. There is something about an elegant cape that triggers fantasy and imagination in most adults.  The reversible coat is forest brown and shiraz red which does tempt Captain A to comment that I look like an ageing Red Riding Hood in camouflage whilst I feel as if I could swish across time zones fighting evil dragons rather than just wolves in the forest. Leaving my childhood I can always turn to another favourite Susie in raincoat hood fashion model.  I could wear a light trench coat that reminds me of Audrey Hepburn. It is very practical even when riding a bike but the problem occurs when I arrive at my destination because Brisbane hasn’t yet embraced the concept of cloakrooms where wet coats and umbrellas are placed.

 

I remember as a child walking home from school in the rain, bare foot in the gutter, making dams with my heels, and feeling the cool water surge across my toes. Absolute bliss!  Wellies may not be my fashion statement choice but they do serve a purpose. My large yellow boots were a lifesaver when wandering through the flooded streets in Venice during a snowy November. The pavements were so cold it was warmer wading and my only challenge was preventing the bow wave from washing the cigarette buts and rubbish into my boots. Now, in Brisbane these boots have Susie in St Mark's Sq, in wellies – Version 2been relegated to the shed where they make a foray into the garden more pleasant after heavy rain and hopefully, are a deterrent to the odd snake. Captain A who feels I am reverting into fantasy, has developed an inclination to spray what he perceives to be escapee caterpillars from Alice in Wonderland. I put up with their discomfort but I have to agree with him that they are cumbersome and inelegant and I shouldn’t be seen out in them. Definitely not car to bar shoes!

Thus, if it continues to rain during the morning will I use an umbrella but which one?

My first choice would be a small flip-up umbrella that inevitably does flip but upside down in any breeze.  I cannot count the number of small umbrellas I have left around the world, because I avoid putting a wet item into my handbag which already contains camera, iPad, iPhone as well as lipstick and sunglasses. Small folding umbrellas are workable only in very light showers and once our tropical downpour starts the only option to prevent drowning through inhalation of raindrops is to use the large golf umbrellas that have become corporate billboards. Compromise has been reached in our Andrew with umbrella in LAhousehold with me carrying the small umbrella when on my own, but when sharing the large size, it is Captain A’s responsibility. I am not sure he agrees with me but it is that or we both get wet. I remind him that we once witnessed a discussion in a Gentlemen’s outfitters shop in London where a customer deliberated between two umbrellas each costing over £400. And that was at the lower end of the price range. I really do think a pocket handkerchief and a snazzy umbrella contribute to the male sartorial style and have suggested Captain A consider it his fashion statement or weapon as John Steed did in The Avengers.

A tightly furled umbrellas is particularly useful in claiming space in a crowd in addition to tripping the odd irritating passer-by. When I see a phalanx of umbrellas charging towards me from across the street I am tempted to run in the opposite direction. I am surprised in our risk adverse society that we don’t get issued with a warning and instructions on what not to do with an umbrella. Even when it is a dismal wet day I will wear sunglasses so that the points from someone’s umbrella don’t remove my eyes. I think I should also carry a bucket.

BBC 4 umbrella sculpture

Umbrella sculpture outside BBC4, London.

The water has to run off these umbrellas somewhere but why does it have to be down my back. Recently while I was waiting at the pedestrian lights in the city, minding my own business and keeping dry under my dinky umbrella I felt water trickling down my back and into my shoes. My neighbour was completely oblivious of the damage being done to my attire much less my sense of wellbeing. At least I didn’t have a carry bag full of purchases also getting wet.

My saddest umbrella experience was occurred during a stormy afternoon when along with everyone else I was doing last minute Christmas shopping hoping I could get it all done and meet the next day’s deadline for postage home. I had a cache of bags with all my purchases clutched tightly under one arm to avoid getting wet, a shoulder bag slung over the other arm and with my free hand I was carrying an opened umbrella bent against the wind. I got to my destination, sat down and as I moved the bags containing my gifts out of pedestrian way, I thought they felt very light. I had been totally oblivious that the rain was dripping off my small foldup umbrella into the bottom of the carry bags which being paper, and once damp, tore apart and allowed all my carefully chosen presents to fall out. I think I was more upset about the time wasted than the money.

Umbrellas are an appendage we don’t know what to do with. Next rainy day, watch people shut their brolllies, shake the water off and then look around wondering what to do with them when they enter a shop? The drops make the smart marble floors as slippery as an ice-skating rink and the pile of brollies is very tempting to sort through as they leave and I am sure you won’t mind if I take the one that hasn’t got the broken strut.

Playing in raincoats – Version 2
We need to encourage more workplaces and shops to install the clever apparatus that encases the wet umbrella in a plastic bag and perhaps we could put the odd damp child in there as well and contain them. That is one thing to be thankful for, I don’t have small children to entertain on wet days. Been there done that!

 

 

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Tutus and the little girl in all of us

'Tutu Reimagined' has inspired me to add pink and a box pleat skirt to my wardrobe.

‘Tutu Reimagined’ has inspired me to add pink and a box pleat skirt to my wardrobe.

Yesterday I saw a lovely exhibition ‘Tutu Reimagined’ at the QUT Art Museum. The Australian Ballet’s 2003 project invited selected designers and architects to create their vision of a tutu. Feathers, beading, resin beads, and ballet slippers were incorporated into gorgeous designs. I am so pleased I saw it with another girlfriend.

As a little girl I never took ballet lessons which is probably a good thing as I quickly grew into a long-legged gangly girl far too tall for any male dancer. I would have looked like a tarantula on steroids. However I envied the small girls who flounced around in their pink leotards and frilly tutus. My sports attire of shorts, t-shirt and life jacket wasn’t nearly so glamorous.

What is it about a full skirt which brings out the little girl in grown women?We flirt and twirl, and laugh when the wind flicks it up allowing a glimpse of long gorgeous legs. It complements the waistline and for those lucky enough to have a curvy bosom it is a reflection of the female shape. Sometimes I worry that with my boyish figure I look like a stick insect in a skirt but I don’t care. I know I become more coquettish when wearing a full skirt.  However, sadly there quickly arrives an age when other than on stage a girl should not wear a short fluffy skirt. But fashion hasn’t neglected my girlish ego. The elegant box pleated skirt is back in vogue and I am already practising my pirouette.

For a lady who generally wears black, navy and cream I might even introduce a little pink to the wardrobe but I am not sure about the petticoat or crinoline. Check out the scene “La Crinoline’ on the porcelain de Choisy le Roi plate at Maddie and Marie.

Generosity of spirit

Well done to Lincoln Sherlock who showed by his quick response to an emergency situation that he is a selfless and brave man. Even more so, as once he had saved this man’s life, he left the scene beside the Brisbane River without seeking to be noticed.

Recently I saw a young girl pull up in a car and rush to ask an elderly man if he was okay as he leant puffing and heaving against a light pole on the side of busy Kelvin Grove Road. Another young girl passing by also stopped to see whether he needed assistance. It was heartening to watch.

Realistically very few of us are placed into a situation where they save a life but during our day kindness doesn’t have to be so dramatic. A smile, a greeting and a gesture of friendship or assistance without expectation of reward are what create a good society to live in.

A delicious goat cheese from Le Fromage YardOn the week-end I bought some cheese from two young people, Stephanie and Pierre who have started a small business. I like their cheeses and I like them so I sought them out at the market. After purchasing the cheese, Stephanie placed another small goat’s cheese into my bag. I am becoming a regular customer of Le Fromage Yard and this generous act was much appreciated.

I don’t think generosity of spirit means that you have to offer a gift that costs money. It can be a simple genuine act of spontaneous friendship, kindness or thoughtfulness. The pleasure the person receiving this act should be sufficient and because happiness is infective it will make the giver and the receiver feel happy.

Rarely do you have the opportunity to return the gesture, rather, you pay back that generous act not to that person but to another individual because most people respond to kindness and want to reciprocate. Pay it forward, as the saying goes. You will never know what effect small acts of generosity of spirit may have; such as letting a car move in front of you when waiting to get into the carpark. I am willing to bet however, that it will have a ripple effect on those around you.

Vietnam War and the music

We enjoyed the Rolling Thunder Vietnam concert drama at QPAC last night. The cast did a great performance representing the guys and girls affected by this war accompanied by the terrific music played by the band. I spent my teens listening to this music, that took us through the gamut of angry protests against war, political lyrics, soul mixed with blues and rhythm. By the end of the concert we were dancing in the rows.

Helo dropI kept nudging my husband asking, ‘Do you remember this one?’

‘Some, not all. Occasionally we would have to tell the guys in camp to lower the volume because it was too easy to find us.’

‘If you can’t remember it you weren’t there?  Spaced out?’ was my unkind response.

‘Nope, working to darn hard; we would come back for a meal and a beer, go back to our tent, put on earphones, listen to a little music before passing out from exhaustion.’

Prang I accepted the gentle chastisement. This was true and he had been through as much as anyone had in Vietnam but not to know and feel that this music was in his blood.

How could he not know the lyrics and rhythms? ‘I bet your sister knew these songs.’

‘Probably, she was vehemently opposed to the war.  Made lively dinner table conversation when I was home on leave.’

Of course, headphones – ‘Light bulb moment’. Andy has always loved classical music, and despite the damage to his hearing from his military career, can still identify the differences between versions of the same operatic pieces.

‘Didn’t you listen to the music at the bars?’War and Peace

‘Didn’t go to many bars. Too busy working and looking after our helicopters.’ I should have guessed: his other passion.

So while I jigged in the aisles, he stood watching the fabulous screen shots, remembering what seems like a long time ago.

 

If you can see this concert do so. We had a great time and it has memorable music entwined with some strong messages.

Sitting out the New Year

I am so over all the suggestions for what to do to celebrate New Year. I hope I don’t have to listen to too many more ‘If you’re wondering what to do tonight….’ comments over the radio. I never wonder, I will sip champagne, have a delicious meal with my husband and daughter and be totally satisfied that we are together looking out on a safe and peaceful Brisbane.

It must be a fault in my character but if I feel obliged to do something I become unenthusiastic about doing anything. That goes for New Year celebrations. However having found a wilful spider weaving a web around my Christmas Tree I decided to clean out the very small store space under the stairs. Not too many Daddy Long Legs met their fate down the nozzle of the vacuum and it wasn’t nearly as cluttered as anticipated. Son’s aviation manuals from almost 2 decades ago are being seriously culled; daughter’s stuffed toys and dolls are being deposited in her storeroom and I have offered the Grandmother’s Chafing dish which hasn’t been used in over 15 years to the children.ball leg_1 top of leg 1

I polished it up, and it started to look beautiful again with the small details on the legs giving it a lovely old-world appeal. I love using silver cutlery and dishes at every opportunity but our lifestyles have changed so much we never use warming dishes. Our dining room next to the kitchen and the deck makes such contraptions sadly superfluous. If no-one wants it I suppose short of finding an alternate use for it, we will wrap it in tissue and store it for another couple of years. It is like all the beautiful but well-worn tablecloths we inherit and rarely use: some things are just too difficult to throw out. Perhaps that could be my resolution for next year: use it, if not give it away or don’t buy it in the first place. Have a happy New Year. 

Breast Feeding with élan.

Breast feeding in public never ceases to produce a hot debate and I am thinking I must be mad to even consider that I could contribute to the topic. However, as supportive of feeding in public as I am, I do think you can breast feed; as with any public act, with a touch of class.

As a preface to this conversation, I am a trained midwife, I have breast fed three children and I have done it in public and never did I receive a complaint. In fact I remember an occasion when I was breast feeding my third baby at a formal function and an Australian High Court judge came up to chat. Not realizing that I was feeding the baby, he stroked her back whilst we talked about his grandchildren. It wasn’t until she burped that he realized what I was doing. He did look slightly embarrassed but I was able to quickly put him at ease. I like to think that I managed the situation with élan.

Susie feeding Sophie

‘Duh?’ you ask, ‘What is élan?’

‘It is doing something with style and elegance and is probably the first cousin to the dinosaur Etiquette,’ says mother.

‘Duh?” you ask, ‘What is etiquette?’

‘It is social convention that takes into consideration others’ rights and needs before yourself,’ says mother.

There are often times when it is easier to feed the baby in public than to wait until you get home. A hungry crying demanding child is very distressing and cannot be reasoned with. So too are the damp patches that appear on your clothing when your milk comes down in reaction to that crying.

So here are some suggestions for Breastfeeding in public. I would be delighted to receive other serious suggestions.

How to breast feed with élan in public.

  1. Stop bosom envy. Most feeding bosoms aren’t tight and perky; they are lovely large warm pulsating mountains. Wear a shirt, t-shirt or jumper and tuck the baby under the flap.
  2. Become a fashionista; scarves and pashminas are today’s fashion accessory and great for draping over peculiar shaped bulges.
  3. A sunburnt bosom is seriously uncomfortable and leads to potential skin cancer later in life. Never leave your towel behind when going for a swim. It comes in handy as a sunshade when it is casually draped over your shoulder and your baby’s face to act as a parasol.
  4. Skin damage is so aging: avoid the Queensland turkey neck on your newborn and drape a light muslin baby wrap around your neck, allowing it to drape gently over the baby’s head to provide sun protection.
  5. Become the watcher not the watched, by choosing a corner table whilst feeding so that you can observe what is happening around you.

Nursing mothers’ rights? Well, other people have rights also, a right to express an opinion and a right to consider a different point of view. You can of course breast feed in public, it’s easy to do, just do it with élan.

Toilets as works of art

 

I banned ‘toilet talk’ at the dinner table when my children were young but this was different. I had just suggested to the grandchildren they do a pit stop before going to the park and undertaking a 2-hour drive home. These children looked at me as if I was quite mad but having lived or stayed in many unfamiliar towns over the past couple of years, I was used to taking advantage of knowing where a toilet was before venturing out for the day. Los Angeles and London were fantastic, particularly their department stores. This made me think of tourists to Brisbane and my daughter who commutes between many cities and locations queried how would a tourist manage if they needed a toilet in Brisbane.

I could answer that easily as when I was potty training that daughter I think we visited every public toilet facility in Brisbane.  However, 30 years ago there weren’t many so I became cunning and learnt a few tricks such as going into the lobbies of the Sheraton and Hilton Hotels or the David Jones and Myer department stores. The other good option was the art gallery and museum on the other side of the river (if she could wait that long).  I certainly couldn’t rely on public facilities to assist. I remember the staff of the local library telling me that the toilet was for staff use only and that I would have to take my little girl elsewhere. Anyone who has had children will know that isn’t often an option so we charged outside to the nearest tree in the park adjacent to the library and I hoped the librarian was watching from her window.

Shopping with small children was always a fraught situation and expensive, as there is nothing subtle about three toddlers in a shop all needing to use the toilet. I have bought a lot of orange juices in my time. My grandmother used the term ‘Spend a Penny’ which I didn’t understand until I began travelling around Europe where it is common practice to pay to use a toilet facility although I think it is unfair that we women support the men who don’t have to pay to use the facility. Talk about gender inequality.

Loo doors. Highway 'Services' en route Ribeauville to NormandyWe have had some funny and peculiar toilet experiences in our travels.

I have been to beautifully appointed loos such as the Savoy in London but the prettiest were the doors of toilets at a service station on the A5 in France. The pictures of birch forests in the men’s and foxglove flowers (also called ladies’ gloves) in the girls’ were spectacular.Loo doors. Highway 'Services' en route Ribeauville to Normandy                                I was intrigued with the rotating toilet seat, which came out with a new disposable plastic cover. It was tempting to press the button just to watch its action as the seat disappeared into the wall and reappeared fully dressed.

My daughter and I also found ourselves standing in front of a rather confusing toilet which looked like a space capsule in a car park in Toulouse. Neither of us could work out how to get into the capsule until a homeless fellow sitting nearby took pity on these two pathetic women and showed us how to do it. Inside, it really did feel like a space ship as it was totally hands-free; the door locked itself, self-flushed, motion sensor water and soap control, and only after that did the door unlock. You had to be quick as after an allocated time the door opened automatically. After each person, the entire system was sprayed and sanitised, thus the name Sanisette.  That homeless person earned his tip from us that day.

The most surprising toilet was at Malpensa airport outside Milan. I am not sure whether it is a requirement of EU regulations but we discovered that the ladies’ toilets still has a squat toilet. This was a challenge particularly as we were wearing long high heeled boots and stove pipe jeans. I am not sure who laughed more, my daughter or me but my New Year Resolution is to improve the muscle strength in my quads by doing more squats.

I read recently an entry on aixcentric complaining about the lack of public toilets in Aix-en-Provence. My advice is to encourage the local council to begin a ‘Toilet map’ such as the one in Australia set up by the Department of Health and Ageing as part of the National Continence Program. So no, it wasn’t initially set up to assist tourists or parents of small children but who cares it is still a very useful map of where the 16,000 public and private toilets are located.  I think it is a brilliant idea.