Saturday, 30 May 2015

Vivid Sydney

There is absolutely nothing Not to like about Sydney. The food is fabulous, the transport quick and reliable the hustle is exciting, and the pace of the place makes you feel pleased to be alive. Apart from the fact that I might well keel over from exhaustion, I could very possibly live here. I sure do love coming for a visit.

Vivid has been the impetus to visit again this year, and I can feel the old woman veil being firmly placed when I say that I really don't feel this year's lights are as good as last year's. I am not whinging, just saying.

There seems to have been a shift away from presenting wonderful things to look at and wonder about. This year it's all about keeping the kids entertained with cartoony stuff and interactive bits and bobs and the abstraction and the quiet invitation to think and wonder and imagine has taken a poor second place. No prizes for guessing which I would prefer, but then I am an old woman, not the energetic mother of youngsters whose minds and fingers need constant play and direction.

A decision was made to expand the number of precincts and this too seems to have diluted the overall effect. There can only be a finite wheelbarrow of cash and the more hands out the less useful it becomes.

The Chatswood precinct had it's rookie outing and while I liked the stuff near the train station and the sculpture in the mall, my imaginings of the stuff I had read about it all, far exceeded the reality. And sadly last night when we trooped off to Martin Place, which was my favourite last year, so we saved it for an outing all on it's own to be savoured and enjoyed, well there was nothing there. There are interactive games and bits for parents and kids like at The Sydney Show, but one of the attraction operators said that there were no light projections out of deference to the victims of the Lindt Cafe siege. I am not sure if this is true, or just a throw away line to stop people whinging, but if it's true then it seems to be a very strange sort of demonstration, and I reckon the organisers aught be publicising these facts so that folk without children just don't bother going there.

The fountain at Martin Place was my pick, but I think it's there all the time.

I like things that are as they appear on the box. I can't help feel a bit cheated when the hoopla is more than the reality, and not just a little more.

So if you are popping on your sneakers and leaving the kids behind, head for the Cahill Expressway for a long look around. It is magical and beautiful, and not too crowded and then wander down to The Rocks for a look from there. There is nothing about this view that gets old. The ballet / movement projection onto the bridge pillar at The Rocks is also lovely and is perhaps best seen walking towards the Opera House, or on a ferry ride out of Circular Quay.

Down at The Rocks before the lights came on. Bloody marvellous place.

If you are taking the kids, take a little blanket so they can lie on the ground and watch the animal film in the Argyle Tunnel, let 'em have a look at the vid on Customs House, and have a play one the stuff at Martin Place.  

There is something for everyone, and I am just being selfish, cos last year it seemed like it was all for just for ME.

Thursday, 28 May 2015

From Street Art to Fine Art, it aint a big leap.

This piece is paper pasted onto the wall. It falls into almost immediate decay.

'What is one man's junk is another man's treasure.'

No I haven't been checking out the Sydney humpity bumps - dumps, although I am tempted to think that they would be pretty exciting too cause there is nothing in this city NOT to like.

Yesterday was an Arty Day.

We started early - well ok that's a lie, but we began our adventure with wonderful dumplings at  North Sydney's Din Tai Fung and then we were off.

This was an old Brewery and the renewal looks interesting. I like that the new bits are not remotely in sync with the old and that the old still stands proud. The brick work especially around the arched windows would melt the heart of an old London builder - eh Stevie?
Chippendales is a sort of new suburb, just an easy stroll from Central Station. The whole area is dragging itself through urban renewal and so there is a wonderful mixture of fixed, repaired, replaced, and bloody wonderful looking falling down. Some of the replaced is in my opinion rather less than successful, too austere and some of it really lacks any sense of fine aesthetic. I realise that compact housing needs to be cheap, but that surely does not necessitate ugly. There's a variety of vertical gardens on very grand scales up the sides of very tall buildings and they look OK from a distance, but as is often the case with gardens they look pretty scrappy up close and I watched the watering system on one of them pour gallons of water straight off onto the footpath. Communal maintenance over many floors must be a Body Corporate nightmare.

Matt Adnate's wall.

The Gallery space at The Living Mall at Central Park was much more successful than last when I was there last year. It seems established and operational rather than just an idea. A Street Wear exhibition was coming together and an Aussie Street artist Matt Adnate had painted 3 huge portraits on the walls outside. Brilliant to look at from a distance - well one of them I found a little disturbing and then wonderful to have a look at up close and personal as I tried albeit unsuccessfully to work out how he had painted it.

There was some spray can action of course but also brush work and scraping and sponging too I think. The hurried 'let it dribble' bits are quite possibly my favourite.

Anthony Lister's pieces, I think this were my favourite  for the day.  He painted them behind and around the  pillars in a the lecture room next to the gallery.

Some huge prints celebrating the Street Wear display were being arranged. This one reminded me of Zig.

There is a great deal of talent in these Street Artists. There is obvious planning of the piece and I believe that there is often preliminary sketches, but still the work is done quickly, and the spontaneity is what really draws me in. I have worked for weeks and weeks on canvases that ended up looking like shit and these folk spend perhaps a couple of days and the end product is just bloody brilliant. The given of course is that they are just very much better artists than me - I am only a hack, but there is quite an art to speed art work and I would love to be able to produce - not these images - my images but with this speed and precision. Maybe if I could I could be the first fat old woman on a scaffold or a ladder painting up a storm and running from the police. 

We found 'White Rabbit' gallery which was closed last year. This place takes you from whimsy to the dark side over 4 floors. I suggest if you have kids that you call it a day after the 3 floor, and perhaps even the second. Some of the stuff is not for the pearls and hairnet brigade. We looked and watched and played and wondered and photographed and laughed. Bloody brilliant place!

This is the Penis Garden - no it wasn't on the ground floor.
Then we trolled through the backstreets looking for new Street Art pieces. Carol knows her onions and can identify artists just by their style and had wonderful stories about meet and greets and details which only add to the art. I should suggest that she runs some tours, but be warned you'd need comfortable shoes, a hardy disposition and the capacity to traverse 4 lanes of fast moving traffic without fear.

Scott Marsh's piece is joyful.

Very Kafkaesque

She had spent time looking for 'The Block' at Redfern and I am pleased to say that we found it together yesterday, well actually Carol found it, I just trooped along some metres behind and was pleased for the respite. The tiny 2up/2down terrace houses presented in varying degrees of decay and I find them very romantic.



Off to town for the Matt Adnate exhibition. He has painted maybe a dozen large canvases predominantly of Aboriginal children. His style was easily recognisable, and his work translates simply from the street to the gallery. It was all but sold out, and so the story goes, he is now off to Tibet to spend his loot on his next project. I can only wish him great success.

There was a somewhat homeless bloke in the mall doing a tapestry roll style piece in BIRO. His work too was very interesting and whilst his plans were simpler than jetting off, he seemed to have it sussed and excuse the pun, was on a roll. If you are in the mall, stop by and have a chat, and a look at his tribute to the ANZACs which is the topic of his current piece.

We staggered home with feet hurting so much that our eyes were almost leaking and best laid plans of Vivid lights after the kids go to be bed, were dashed in lieu of PJs and the footy. Yeh Queenslanders!!

Wednesday, 27 May 2015

The Start of My Little Holiday.

It's no secret that I travel BADLY. The whole getting somewhere by plane just doesn't do it for me, but apart from the tall young bloke who from his own account was a statistic wiz for the NRL, who waved his arms around, too often in my face and spoke barely taking breath in a loud whiney voice ( explains why he's not on radio or the tellie) for the WHOLE trip, and the bloke across the aisle from me who got on ordered a couple of beers cos 'It's got to be dark somewhere in the world', who was like a jack in the box, getting up to check his precious cargo and bending over, so exposing his bare hairy stinky arse to the world and more importantly sticking it right in my face, well apart for this bit of irritation the trip to Sydney was fine.

It was a jeans a sneakers and layers and my big old blanket scarf thing night last night. Yep it was chilly. Off the VIVID and the lights are just so lovely.

Circular Quay was as ever completely heaving with people, and we manoeuvred our way to the southern end and up the tall lift onto the Cahill Expressway which runs above the railway and we had a real good nosey around. There were fewer people there, mostly serious photographers like Carol, toting their camera gear and setting up for the perfect shots. The view to the Opera House and The MCA ( Museum of Contemporary Art) is excellent from up here - Just a local's tip. The lighting loop on the Opera House is pretty good, but it's a bit too 'cartoony' for me and doesn't take full advantage of the iconic sails shape, but the MCA display is just bloody fantastic. When you stand a just watch, you can 'fall' into it. The building grows and changes size and it's just fabulous.

We ate at the Neptune's Palace - a great mixture of Chinese and Malaysian food and apart from being outrageously rude to some poor bloke with one of those voice box on his throat thing which lacked any sort of clarity of sound to the point where as I couldn't see him, forced me to shout out above the din, 'What is that fucking noise?' Carol crawled up her own bum as she was looking straight at him and madly pointed to her throat and quickly did a Marcel Marceau. Shit I had just loudly offended him, but not on purpose, and I reckon I might have identified a possible new invention for the Shark Tank. Anyway the food was good and fuelled us for the next big adventure. We were off to jump on the boat for a harbour cruise taking in all the Vivid lights.

The very best part of the 'Cruise' was the cracker display which we caught by sheer serendipity before we boarded. 
I had found the tickets on one of the coupon sites and after some negotiation we decided that we might be able to manage to enjoy it. Well WE WERE WRONG!


The shitting thing left late which Carol said was pretty normal for Sydney, and was full of rude pissed bogans who were keen to stand right in front of us and hoover up their stinking food and down more cheap grog. We had secured our spots and were taking not prisoners. A couple of people tried to stand in our way, and I had to get rude, but not as rude as the woman next to us who got up and grabbed 'em and walked them to the front of the boat, all the while telling them about manners in Australia.

Anyway it became obvious early on that the lights were gonna come a very poor last to the shit food and grog and the dooosh dooosh disco going on inside.

The boat didn't come within cooee of any of the lights and just rocked up and around on the harbour which could have been all very wonderful except for the fucking noise and the people.

We should have known better! and never again! 

Friday, 22 May 2015



These buildings are called 'Nail Houses'. They are all found in various cities in China. As urbanisation becomes rampant there is an urgent need to house and move huge numbers of people moving to the cities a la the European Industrial Revolution. Consequently, large tracts of all sorts of dwellings are being resumed and demolished and quickly replaced by 21st century stuff.

Now as I have always enjoyed living in a democracy, I don't know anything really about the communist lifestyle apart from having spent a week in Havana a good few years ago. This gave a touristy glimpse but it was probably as accurate as trying to draw a picture of what an onion tastes like. I did get the impression that people generally did as they were told, unless some corruption of officials was possible. Had we been au fait with the greasing of palms system we could have landed ourselves business tickets on the Cuban Air plane on the way home, instead we sat more than snugly in economy and hoped that the plane didn't run out of petrol.

Some people surreptitiously cooked up food in their kitchens and told a few illegal cabbies that they were gonna be open for dinner and then tourists were dropped off a ways away from the house and when they arrived they were fed in the front yard. This was one of the best meals we had there, even if we spent time looking over our shoulders as we walked for a cab after we had finished.

People were poor and once passed the sometimes jolly facades of their homes you could see that the walls were crumbling and the overcrowding was spectacular. There seemed to be no reliable plumbing and furniture was limited in deed. But you know what? They were extremely proud of their homes. We were invited in a couple of times, not as scam I am pretty sure, just because they were happy to show and share.

But back to China. As needs must, the government ( Local Councils etc) resume tracts of land and the people who are gonna be ousted have to agree the compensation amount, if an agreement can't be reached then they don't have to move. So these NAIL HOUSES appear in the midst of some strange modern construction. It seems that officials are not permitted just to chuck people out of their homes like they can in our democracy. If people make a stand then they can stay.

I am not sure what happens in the long run though, cos the development goes ahead anyway and I guess then the property becomes tainted and has no value, but at least the folk get to stay at home, even if that means that they need a boat to cross the moat built around their place or they need to cross 6 lanes of traffic to get to school or buy a loaf of bread.

It must take some guts to tell the officials, 'NO', and stick to it. The rarity of NAIL HOUSES is surely an indication of the rarity of courage and strength and conviction. Or maybe Chinese people just don't give a shit about their homes - but I doubt this.

In these times of legislation and control and rules and licences, when the only real growth industry seems to be in providing fools with permits to tell Joe Public what to do, in these  times I would just love to see more NAIL HOUSE PEOPLE, people who can and will think for themselves and will make a stand regardless of pressure and backlash.

It's easy. Our democracy allows us to be NAIL HOUSES. The hard bit is thinking for ourselves and having the strength of our convictions.

Wednesday, 20 May 2015

Macadamia and Cherry Bickies

It is a poorly kept secret that I am NOT a cook. Well it's not a secret at all as I shout it often enough, but as serendipity would allow, I do make a pretty good biscuit and even though I might dish up dinner that Steve frowns on from time to time, he has never knocked back one of my bickies. He does love 'em, and in deed prefers it if I manage to straddle that line between burnt a little on the bottom and charred to shit.
Anyway, a while ago a friend asked for a batch to take home to France and since they were a big hit there too, she has asked for the recipe, so Laurence this post is for you. For anyone else interested in Macadamia and cherry bickies, this is truly foolproof, I am evidence enough of that.
So here goes....please don't bother telling me my oven is filthy - I know!
Turn your oven to 180 degrees C
250 gms of butter - half a stick of the homebrand stuff is easy to measure.

1 and 3/4 cups of brown sugar. pack it in. If you put more in the bickies seem to be harder - sure there is a chemistry explanation for this.
Beat the shit out of the sugar and the butter. If you have a machine then it takes about as long as it take you to measure out the flour and the baking powder.
2 eggs - beat 'em in one at a time about 45 sec each in the machine.

Add 1 teaspoon ( this is not a precise science so oopies are OK )vanilla essence or paste and beat in with second egg.
Change the beater for a kneader. Laziness is a virtue in my kitchen.

3 cups of PLAIN Flour and 2 level teaspoons of baking power. Sometimes I remember to mix this up a bit sometimes I forget. I don't own a sifter so the flour is straight out of the bottle. Knead it in 2 lots til mixed in.
300 - 320 gm of Macadamia nuts. I chuck 'em in whole cos that's how we like 'em but by all means chop 'em up if you like. Knead a bit longer after you have put 'em in.

200 gm of cherries. I pop these in whole, last thing cos otherwise they get all smashed up. Again this is how we like 'em. Now that there is only Homebrand cherries available, be aware that there is a lot of syrup in the bag. I don't put this in. 
This is what the mixture looks like when you are ready to go the scoop.

Mixture makes 36 bickies using a desert spoon as a scoop. This is really just trial and error for my oven trays. My oven is a 90cm one so it's pretty big. I use baking paper because firstly my oven trays are not be as clean as they might be and secondly because it's easier to clean up. I just drop the mixture in roughly. It is sort of like self levelling cement - somehow by magic they sort of even up.

I pop both trays in the centre part of the oven for 8 minutes, and then dance around the kitchen and wash up and  generally phaff around cos a watched bickie never cooks.
AT 8 minutes I switch the trays top to bottom for another 8 minutes. Yep that means more dancing and singing and cleaning up while my nose goes into action waiting to tell me when things are cooking well.
Clean up is easy.

I pull out the top tray after about 8 minutes if they seem nice and brown on the top and then put the bottom tray back up to the top spot for as long as it takes me to flipper out the first batch onto the cooling tray. This is mostly because Steve likes 'em a bit dark on the bottom....Stop being rude!

The radio just keeps things ticking along
So that's it. All up it takes a bit more than an hour, if you have a machine. If you don't have a machine, there is no disgrace in going to the shops and buying a packet of any sort of bickies that float your boat, cos I sure as shit would not be advising you to mix this lot up by hand, cos in the kitchen I am as lazy as the days are long in the UK Summer.
Good Luck. Let me know if you are successful, and if not, well I told you first up, I am not a cook. 

Tuesday, 19 May 2015

Babyliss Pro Curlers - I like 'em

For some time now I have been looking at having a go a curling my hair. Yes research has been done. I am pretty sure I have mentioned this before. But this week the research turned serious.
I fronted up to a number of stores and actually had a go. Now even for an anal germ crazy woman like me, I thought it was ok to put the curlers in my hair. I wanted to see how they felt, how heavy they were, and how effective the clippy things were in holding it all together. I gave thought to other people's filth and creeping crawlies but decided that the need for research overpowered the possibility of nits or scabbies.
Obviously I am not the only person in the whole universe who feels this way cos  most shops have sets of curlers and wands and things all out on display for customers to play with. I suppose they figure that they will sell more if the customers can feel more. Not once did an assistant ask me to refrain from using the curlers on the grounds of danger to others - Health and Safety and all that, which was just as well cos otherwise I might have had cause to be offended. Fancy if they had come right out and said that I couldn't try them cos I might leave some sort of disease on 'em and so make 'em impossible to sell.
Well this didn't happen at Myers, or David Jones or Harvey Normans or the Good Guys or HV Hair Salon Southport Park where I did finally buy 'em. The women here were wonderfully helpful and knowledgeable, and maybe that was the difference between this place and the others - the assistants were actually hairdressers. Anyway I liked 'em and will be back for other bits and pieces now that after all these years I have ventured in there.
HOWEVER, it did happen at the Priceline Pharmacy at Southport Park Shopping Centre. Here the boxes were stuck up tighter than thighs of a menopausal woman at a comedy festival. I asked to have a look and was told that Elf and Safety would not allow it - presumably because I was such a disease risk. This gave me the shits. I asked someone else. Same answer. Then I asked if I bought 'em, got 'em home and didn't like 'em could I bring 'em back. NO! Elf and Safety!!
I mean how many can they sell? Even if you had checked out this brand elsewhere you wouldn't buy them here firstly cos the assistants don't do what it says on their box and secondly because they are cheaper elsewhere.
All this comes as result of 'doing the research' .    
So I opted for BABYLISS PRO.

It comes with your choice or butterfly clips or flash bobby pins.

Just plug 'em in and 3 minutes later you are good to go. 3 different sizes - take your pick and 20 of the little suckers to roll in.
Not the most attractive look. But EASY to do.

Every bit of hair had a go.
And voila - curls.

Pin it back or please yourself.


Steve said this is my 'just been fucked' look. Not sure if he thought that was attractive or not.

It sure makes my hair look more than before and so I am happy to give it a bit of a go and experiment some more.

Change is as good as a holiday, so I am luckier than most cos I get to take my change makers on holidays. Yippee!!