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Mezze is widely served in the Greek and Middle eastern world. An assortment of little dishes and tasters which accompany a nice ouzo or a glass of wine. So when you read mezze moments you will have tasty snippets of life as I live it, India for four years and now Brisbane Australia, all served up with some Greek fervour and passion.

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Thursday, 27 March 2014

Kanaks and their art

I was lucky enough to be in New Caledonia to catch an exhibition which had just opened there "Kanak L'Art est une Parole". The idea started up as a collaboration between Paris and New Caledonia and the result is that more than 160 pieces of original Kanak Art are displayed in the Centre Culturel Tjibaou. The Cultural Centre was modelled on the Kanak Great Houses and is quite a landmark on a hill.
If you are anywhere near, make the trip. It is well worth it and will be on until the 15th of June.

The Kanaks are the indigenous Melanesians inhabiting these islands. Their exact origins are unknown but they constitute about 40 % of the population and they have endured many hardships, disease and dissemination. They fought as French soldiers but also for their independence.Two leaders who signed the Matignon Accord in 1988 were assassinated - one of them was Jean Marie Tjibaou in whose honour the Cultural Centre was built and which currently houses the exhibition. Another accord the Noumea Accord has given them a degree of autonomy with the promise of a referendum for independence from France in the next four years.
The Centre Culurel of Tjibaou 
Kanaks have many customs and beliefs involving the sea, their ancestors and gift sharing and exchange. A lot of them are now Christians so it is important to see their art, and their customs given prominence and care.Efforts are also being made to preserve their many many languages, 28 in all, which are apparently mutually incomprehensible and often based on oral tradition. 

For me the most impressive pieces were the ceremonial jade axes which often resembled the sun. They were honed and sharpened in the sand. Akin to them are the war clubs - often phallic and bird like. 

The Great Huts were their chieftains houses which were built with huge care, involving many months of painstaking work. 
The pillars or posts are often carved intricately with patterns and masks.
The most incredible however are the masks which the men wore after a mourning period for a Chief was over. Elaborately carved with fantastic powerful faces they also have a mass of real hair in bouffant hairdos which take some making. The masks are worn by men who can only see out through the slit of the mouth.

While I was busy looking at them they were also busy looking at me.To most Noumeans I was also incredible - they had never met a person from Cyprus before and were about to call the local paper to announce my arrival ! 

Friday, 21 March 2014

New Caledonia

The airplane door shut tight and all of a sudden, tout d'un coup, we were in France. It was quite bizarre, the announcements were in French, Antoine my neighbour on the plane, was keen to talk and tell me about his own life story and with the help of some good french wine did not stop to draw breathe once.  I had to instantly think of my verb book and get my verbs in order. We were on our way to New Caledonia in the South Pacific. Unbeknown to me the island had first been discovered by James Cook in 1774 and named New Caledonia, as the north part of the island reminded him of Scotland!Nothing very Scottish in these southern coastlines I think. 

 This raft reminded me so much of my youth in Famagusta so I had to take a picture of it.
We landed in Noumea, the capital of this long and lush island, which is surrounded by islets, mostly coral atolls with the most magical reefs around them. The roads were perfect, the driving was distinctly on the right and the signs all in French. We were on the southern most tip of the island. The natural harbours were what originally drew the attention of the French when they took over the island in 1853 under Napoleon III. They were initially used as a penal colony and once the convicts had served their terms they were given a parcel of land and allowed to settled. There was a huge shortage of women so the Empress Eugenie gave free trousseaus to girls who were willing to come over and settle. The island is also rich in nickel so mining became a source of income for the island and continues to be so. 

The local Kanak population has been though some rough times and there are still issues of representation, self determination and employment for them.  Nowadays they seem widely employed and ALL speak French. In fact the one thing that really surprised me is that I did not once here the local langauge spoken or one of them. The island is divided into eight different liguistic areas with 28 different languages. Perhaps French is the unifier.I travelled the south island on the bus. I sat there looking at the mamas around me in their traditional dresses and thinking of those French missionaries who all those years ago were determined to get rid of the nudity by introducing the missionary dress. A shapeless rather broad unflattering but comfortable floating cotton frock which all the women wear to this day- mutlicoloured and flouncy. I dont know if the style determined the shape or the shape the style - a lot of young girls are thin and dressed in western dress. They reach a critical age, not sure where this might actuallly lie in real years but they start growing ourtwards and I would say that the majority of women I saw were wide girthed and incredibly weighty. The place I stayed at was full of the art of Paul Gauguin though his women were mainly Tahitian. However the contrast was an interesting one. 

The men - the young ones are mostly dressed in western shorts and t shirts, many with dreadlocks or long hair. There were enough of them in the central square to suggest that perhaps unemployment of these youths was an issue but I also loved the fact that the centre of the town was the Place de Cocotiers a leafy green park full of coconut trees where families, women and young things could hang out for the day or while waiting for the bus. Travelling on the bus women greeted me with wide smiles and friendliness. In the backround, the radio blared french ballads. 
Everything about the place breathes and speaks of metropolitan France. In fact people identify themselves by saying whether their parents came from metropolitan France or not. A lot of the young people have grown up on the island and seemingly live a happy laid back existence. The standard of living is high, prices are French, and the infrastructure is well maintained. It was bizarre to say the least to wake up to a breakfast of croissants and the weather in metropolitan France splashed all over the television screens- il ya du brouillard aujourd 'hui ! It will be foggy today !

More on the Kanak art and life soon. 

Thursday, 13 March 2014

My first miners -Their story.

I met John and Leanne at their stall on Brisbane Riverfront when I was looking for something completely different. They were lovely and we got chatting. They are the first "miners" I met and so I made a point of contacting them and finding out about their story. Leanne very kindly wrote back. I am sharing this with you all as I think it is a lovely story of how one finds passion in life and goes after it. They certainly have, and while it is not easy they have done it and still enjoy it. 

This is their story: 
"Johns father was involved in opal and mining in the 1960’s and 70’s, so John travelled around the opal fields with his father a lot as a kid, he has always had an interest. Always said “one day I want to go mining” so I guess it rubbed off on me too.
We were both hairdressers and had salons in Sydney and the Gold Coast, in our time off we travelled  a lot around the opal fields and generally outback areas. We both love the remoteness and wide open expanses of inland Australia. So we played a little as amateur noodlers (fossicking through other opal miners leftovers) all the time becoming tired of the hustle and bustle of life on the Gold Coast, I think the term these days is burnt out, but we easily  became hooked with our 1st hint of colour.
One of our  good clients was very involved in the opal industry, she had retail shops, and a couple of opal mines. Kathy offered us a partnership in a mining operation, so off we went in 1999. We sold our business, put our furniture in storage, tenanted our house, towed a 20ft caravan out to a place we had never before even visited ...... to live at Opalton, an opal field 135 km from Winton in western Queensland.
We learnt how to operate a 28 ton excavator, a front end loader and  I knew how to drive a truck (I grew up on an apple orchard in Victoria,  always was a bit of a tom boy). We didn't really know much about finding opal though. We had a couple of lean years mining then started to find some opal.  And yes, it is very exciting finding opal, we shout and yahoo, carry on a fair bit. I don't think that ever wears off.
We still feel the same excitement and the emotional and physical roller coaster of opal mining that I wrote about on our website.
Our early experiences selling the rough opal to dealers was very upsetting and disappointing. The dealers knew we needed to sell ( the saying goes “you cant eat opal”) and were inexperienced so offered a low price.
So we learnt the skills  to cut and polish our own opal. Our original styles were very modern and different to what was traditionally being done with opal. We shaped and polished the boulder opal then drilled a hole tied some knots with leather to make  casual pendants. Our first display and sales were in Winton during the Outback festival, there were 3000 people in town. We had made 80 pieces as a trial and sold the lot. All the other miners were in town for the festival, all told us we were wasting our time with this style of opal, which is now a very popular style with boulder opal.
As the average temperature is 45 degrees through summer  we decided that  we could avoid the worst of the heat and sell our pieces at markets on the coast , this could be our summer job. Both of us are creative so as things went along we started to make all sorts of opal jewellery and  business improved.  Now , we spend  the cooler months out west mining ( we also buy rough from our mates to give us variation), and the summer months here on the coast (our workshop is at home) cutting, polishing and designing opal jewellery.  We display at the weekend markets and supply various jewellers all over with our jewellery.
Opal mining isnt like other mining in Queensland with huge companies mining  in a big way, it is all small mining operations, like 2 mates, or a couple of brothers, father and sons and a few husband and wife teams.
Well that finished up being quite a lot , I hope I havnt drowned you with words.
I think you might have gathered that we love what we do, it is our life.
I  enjoyed looking at your blog, I like the botanical gardens part in Brisbane, those figs are great.
You can find John and Leanne on :

More about the creation of opals in another blog. 

Friday, 7 March 2014

The year is 3014...

Two people are having a conversation :

"I was listening to how people talked all those years ago - in 2014 and you know I am a bit baffled bit it."

"Yes there is that strange word that seems to come up again and again."

"What do you think it was - a new language ?

"It just seems to come up in the conversation all the time - and if so what might it be, a verb, a noun, and adjective?"

"I wonder what brought it into the language?"

The clip they listened to went something like this:

"I, like, am so excited about the party. I like went into Top Shop and like thought Oh my god what shall I like wear. I mean like it is not as if it is important or anything like special but you know I just felt like I wanted to make a special effort and like get something really nice."

"Oh I like get that - it seems like forever that we have been planning this and like it is going to be an awesome night but I like feel that we mustn't have too many like expectations because it might like bomb."

"No it wont, I feel like it will be great and like I have already got a group together for it. I like planned the music as well - I just feel like we need to get a good music vibe going to like, get, like the right atmosphere . Wouldn't it be good to like getting everyone going ?  Like am so stoked about it its not true. I like booked an appointment to have my hair done, like in a top bun, like in those magazines.
Like I know we will be dancing but I am going to wear my platforms anyway and like ditch them if they get like uncomfortable.And what about the food, like what shall we have ? Like do you think people like asian like stuff or should we play it like safe and have pies ?

"Well lets like see whats on offer."

Explanations, translations and rationalisations warmly received.

Sunday, 2 March 2014

Along Kedron Brook

Starting not far from the heart of the city and ending in solid suburbia and as far out as the airport Kedron Book is the place to be on a sunny Sunday afternoon.The brook extends from D'Aguilar National Park, near Camp Mountain, 29 kilometres downstream to west of Brisbane Airport at Nudgee emptying into Moreton Bay through the Schulz Canal. 

It was named by German missionaries and is a biblical reference to the crossing of Kidron Valley to enter the Garden of Gesthemane. 

I obviously have no idea about the Garden of Gesthemane, but Kedron Brook is not a million miles from what I think it may have been like. Lush, protected bushland, streams and wetlands all well managed with flat paths and signposts to make them accessible to all. 

These are wonderful habitats for birds and mammals and on my walk I could hear the cackling of kookaburras, the crows cawing and the miner birds just being noisy. This is the home of flying foxes and insectiverous bats, the grass owl, and even the elusive echidna nearer the national park. 

 This tree trunk clearly suffered but still sustains enormous life above it .