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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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Saturday, 29 November 2014

Terns


Everywhere you turn there is a tern.

They have a blog post all of their own, they were so plentiful and colourful on the island. They are sea birds and there are several types. The White Terns love the  low branches of the Norfolk pines that grow tall and majestic on the island. They are easy to see along the road- sides on the branches.

The Sooty terns prefer the beach – don’t blame them, less chance of falling off!
They are black above but white below and just really beautiful and the beaches we walked along were full of the mature adults, the eggs, hatchlings and fledglings and we spent hours just sitting by them on the beach watching them fly out to sea to hunt for food and then return to feed the young. We watched the little chicks make their first brave steps down to the beach and there was one I absolutely loved who found a lump of white coral. It would jump on the coral and sit there, feeling rightly quite proud of its achievement, and then it would hop off, walk around a bit and then hop back on. I captured some of its antics for you.
 





The fledglings, a completely different plumage from the mature birds were showing signs of maturity by venturing further along the beach, lying in the sun, taking test runs to fly and failing and chasing one another around. Just beautiful to watch. The beaches are safe, there are no predators here to take away the chicks or the eggs – though the rats still exist on the island. 




Thursday, 27 November 2014

A special place


This little island in the middle of the ocean is quite special for a number of reasons – it has faced environmental change, it is self sustaining on a number of levels, it boasts original flora and fauna and it has an interesting history of social equality and an economy that escaped the ravages of the great depression.

The island was discovered by Henry Ligbird Ball in HMS Supply in 1788 and it was named Lord Howe after the First Lord of the Admiralty.
It was first inhabited in 1834 by three families with Maori wives, eventually some more came from the mainland and slowly a thriving little community grew up.  Its population, though diverse now, is largely white and currently numbers about 360. Only 400 tourists are allowed on the island at any one time.

Initially the island was a whaling station but soon that fell into decline and the community started exporting a product that is unique to Lord Howe. The Kentia Palm, a gentle smooth palm which became a great favourite of the Victorian times and was to be found in well to do houses and in hotels. They exported the seeds and set up a cooperative company where men and women and children were issued shares. It flourished and sums of £5000 p.a were distributed evenly and fairly between a few families- an excellent example of redistribution of wealth.

The Museum houses a well documented and well presented history of the island. 

The island prospered, it felt none of the ravages of the Great Depression which gripped the mainland. However by the Second World War the demand for the Kentia Palm had diminished so the islanders had to turn their hand to farming activities. Rats were unintentionally introduced on the island by ships and they ravaged the bird populations so the community put out a reward on rats caught. 0.6pence a rat tail – they would thread them through match box covers to make the counting easier –one cover for every 10 tails.  There was one young girl there who was working in one of the restaurants cooking and washing up, but she confronted her boss and said she wanted a raise because she could make more money catching rats then working for them. The boss had no choice but to give her the raise. A plucky woman’s libber in her day and a great rat catcher!

Technically the island is under the state of New South Wales except that they somehow forgot to include it in their legislation and budgets so for a long time the islanders were unable to gain any title to the land other than a "lease of permanence". Finally in 1955 they passed the Lord Howe Act, giving

the island a high level of self determination. In the 20th Century tourists visited the island for its natural beauty. It has no snakes, no venomous or stinging insects nor any large sharks, though I swam with quite a few Galapagos sharks which I found a little unnerving, though I was told they wont attack.  
In 1982 it was listed as a Unesco World Heritage site and you will understand why when I share some of its joys with you.Only 2 and ½ % remains above sea level – the bits below so magnificent that every little inch counts. 

Monday, 24 November 2014

Lord Howe Island


No mobile network, no Wifi, no street lights to talk of, no seat belts necessary as the speed limit is 25kms per hour, no buses, not much traffic, except bikes. Not much happens after 9pm but by then tourists and locals alike have been well fed and looked after and are all ready for bed, on this small but almost perfectly formed island, the eroded remnant of a volcano that erupted from the top of the Tasman Sea some 7 million years ago.

Now a mere 2 1/2% remains above sea level and for an island that is at its narrowest 0.3 kms wide and approx. 10 kms long you might well wonder what on earth there is to do or where to go.

Out into the wide ocean, widely differing in what it has to offer, up the mountains, the cliffs and the forests, spotting the birds, the eggs and fledglings and counting the stars because this is where they are brightest. 





So if you think you like what you see come back to hear the adventures and see the pictures. 



Saturday, 15 November 2014

Hotting up for the G20


President Obama landed in Brisbane this morning and will be talking at the University of Queensland at lunchtime. What an honour for those students to be able to hear him. The leaders have all arrived – he was the last one.They are all holed up in their respective hotels across the city where they are guarded closely by scores of policemen and secret service agents. The city is quiet, not surprisingly. People are not sure what to expect. We decided to go to a Gallery yesterday only to find that it too had closed for the G20 weekend. The temperatures are up this weekend in Brisbane so people have headed out to the beach in their thousands leaving a little bit of an eerie feeling behind in the city which is normally so busy. 

I like the intensity that this weekend brings with it, I love the excitement that accompanies the arrival of world leaders in a city I now proudly call home and I wait with anticipation to see whether Climate change will feature on the agenda or whether it will be pushed right down. The interaction with the Mr Putin is awaited by all in Australia and Mr Abbott is centre stage for it. Sometimes you wonder about the cost of these events and their usefulness but from a global perspective it can never be a bad thing to have leaders meeting up and talking about issues in the world. 

Today they meet in the iconic Parliament house in Brisbane, a building which has history and heritage and which I have toured extensively because Parliament is actually open to all visitors so I will know the room in which they will all sit to debate. Over the past few days it has been bathed in a sea of colours so here are a few which I was lucky enough to witness. 


Tuesday, 11 November 2014

Jason


In recent weeks I have written a lot about how much the city has to offer and how much fun it has been to be a resident here. The city is young and vibrant.

I was walking past the centre of town. A man selling the Big Issue beamed a smile at me and said a cheery “Good morning”. I greeted him back and walked on. How many of us walk on, walk straight past these people who are often in familiar spots around the city day in day out, selling this Magazine. I used to see them in the UK – I see them here but most of us, truth be told, don’t really see them. We walk past.

The next time I was in the city, I saw him again. He is hard to miss and you will see why. This time though I did not walk past.  I went over and introduced myself and sat next to him as I heard his own story.
His name in Jason and he is Samoan, though he was raised in NZ. He is a graduate in Social Sciences and came to Australia because there are more opportunities here. He found work quickly and carried on for a while until he decided that this was not the field he wanted to be in but to be able to use his qualifications here is difficult and he needs to re qualify and pay the fees to enable him to be registered in Australia. He ran out of money and because he is a foreigner he is not entitled to Centre link support or housing. He knew he had to do something as he was left with two dollars in his pocket so when a friend introduced him to the Big Issue he decided to take this up and sell them on the street. Jason is big, islanders often are, in fact his weight impacts on his life and his health and I can imagine that if I carried all that weight it would be a struggle to walk, let alone stand for hours at a time and with a smile on my face. There is no bitterness or rancor in his story.  I take it at face value. He is matter of fact about the prospects.

He buys the magazine for $3 and he sells it for $6 and he can keep the $3. For $3 I can buy a bag of salad. A loaf of white bread. A burger. He is saving to put the money towards paying for his registrations and his licenses so he can work again. “Saving” he said, but I can’t begin to see how he manages. He is temporarily housed in a facility for three months. It is anyone’s guess what will happen to him after these three months. I walked away full of his story. Humbled by the effort he made to earn these small amounts. The city is welcoming but it is not easy for everyone. There are people who struggle on a daily basis and those who have much uncertainty in their lives.
On my way home, there he was again and I rushed over. With his story in my head I forgot to buy the Magazine. I brought it home and in all honesty I didn’t think it was going to have much to engage me. How wrong I was. I read it from cover to cover and one or two of the articles were outstanding.
It made me rethink the Magazine but more importantly it made me aware of how much I need to pay attention not just to the fun side of this lovely city but also to the side, which we tend to walk by. Stop and make time. Pick up a Magazine, hear their story if you are curious. If you are not, show you care and make a difference to the hours they have to put in to earn their evening meal.