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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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Sunday, 17 December 2017

Bonkers for Honkers

Approaching Australian Citizenship as I am, it is perhaps right that I start expressing myself sometimes in Oz speak so this blog is entitled "Bonkers for Honkers" the Australian name for Hong Kong. Why it is called Honkers I havent really been able to find out but we all know it is something to do with saying one word instead of two right ? 

Hong Kong is such a mish mash of its history, culture and development. Though 20 years have gone by since it was given back there are plenty of signs that some of that Britishness still lingers. The waterfront was awash with yorkshire puddings and draught beer, cricket on the big screen, loads of expat bankers and businessmen having a pint and either celebrating or commiserating the scores, and all around those unmistakable little signature items that are so familiar to a lot of us. 

Poinsettias grace every pot available and the Xmas Decorations are bold and occasionally brash. It is the first time I have ever come across a black and white Xmas tree. Just cant get my head around the colour scheme at all.


At the same time its laneways are full of small market stalls selling everything and anything and corner restaurants offer steaming dim sums and some stranger items like braised chicken feet or even one item I saw written as chicken intestives, which I suspect were intestines. Gizzards, offal and tripe feature happily alongside the more recognisable and delicious dishes. 



When they have some time to stop their frenetic life style  some of the HongKongese, may pop into a temple. We visited the Pak Thai Temple, which is one of the oldest temples in HK, built by residents in 1863 to honour Pak Thai the Taoist god of the sea. It is now Heritage Listed. We were immediately taken in by the incense burning, the tall statues of the gods, the ancestor worship and the offerings. 
There was chanting and smoke and and the occasional banging of the gong, its reverberations unfolding and meeting the incense smoke as it left the temple. 




Its many facets make Hong Kong appealing and exciting and some people might be bonkers for Honkers but Brissie's blue skies are what send me X static.

Friday, 15 December 2017

"Spot the Tourist"

Our trip to Hong Kong comes in a busy month so there wasn't much time for planning. Packing late one night we both went on instinct.  HK is usually hot and humid so I packed skimpy tops and summer dresses. Hubby wasn't sure he even packed his suit trousers so the state of unpreparedness was marked. We landed in a misty HK with cool temperatures and everyone wandering around in their boots, parkas and Burberry scarfs. We walked out this morning in flip flops and T-shirts and fulfilled the role of "Spot the Tourist" ably!

Best discovery of the day an Art Exhibition on the water front called On Sharks and Humanity- Artists in Action. Here are some of their impressive exhibits and the small message on the base of each art work says it all.




Given our state of unpreparedness, (some friends would be horrified) we then decided to jump on the beautiful working trams and travelled up and down the city enjoying vistas - old buildings next to new ones, amazing architecture and the throngs of people everywhere. 







In front of one of Hong Kong's most treasured heritage building, which originally housed the Legislative Council and is now the Court of Final Appeal we saw this rather unusual sight. An attempt perhaps to distract the crusty Judges having to determine the fate of the Lucky Fortune Company listed before them?  storey neo-classical building is supported by ionic columns. Its most outs




Thursday, 14 December 2017

Nature's embraces

This time last year I was walking the streets of South Ken and North London and admiring the many beautiful Christmas wreaths on the doors. This year I am walking the streets of Paddington and Red Hill in Queensland and find nature embracing front doors, gates and fences unaided, uninhibited and unrestrained. It just wants to take over, come in and embellish what is there, splashed across the front, or coming over the top as a surprise.  Keeping people out or letting nature in I ask myself...





Friday, 8 December 2017

Craig

In the spirit of Marina's Critters here is the latest - his name is Craig the Crow and for some time now he has been watching us from the branches of an enormous Norfolk pine we can see in the distance. 
We feed the Butcher Birds who sing so sweetly to us and I guess this crow thought it was about time to get in on the act. It took me a while to cotton on. He was visiting and deposting dried bread or even pellets of cat or dog food in the water container on the bird feeder. They are clever enough you see to soak them, and soften them,  and then pull bits off with their strong beak. So I put out a little extra one day and now he is a regular visitor together with the King Parrot who of course is a sunflower fiend. 


As for this Butcher Bird who flew in, was it a case of Bird in the hand or in the Bag ?





Friday, 24 November 2017

PMs and their Nicknames

Did I mentioned I enjoyed the Museum of Democracy in Canberra ? Well I loved it actually and here is one more reason why. Then I promise I will stop raving about it.

In a room in the Old Parliament Building there was a whole section devoted to the Prime Ministers of Australia.Lots of standard facts, where they were born, when they were PMs, which party they belong to, what they were most famous or infamous for and what happened to them...

The little note that really tickled me was one saying NICKNAMES. - The Prime Ministers of Australia, in true Aussie style do not take themselves that seriously and are happy to be known, and the people are comfortable calling them by their nicknames.

Here is s smattering of what I mean:

Gough Whitlam - The Young Brolga.

Sir William McMahon - Billy the Leak.

John Grayton- Jolly John.

Sir John McEwen - Black Jack.

Sir Robert Menzies - Pig Iron Bob, Ming.

Arthur Fadden - Artie.

Joseph Aloysius Lyons - Honest Joe.

William Morris Hughes - The Little Digger.

Sir George Houston Reid - Yes - No Reid.

Alfred Deakin- Affable Alfred

And the best of all for the First PM of Australia Sir Edmund Barton - Toby Tosspot.

You gotta give it to them, they have life the right side up even if they are down under. 

Monday, 20 November 2017

An Inviting Democracy.

I spent many hours in the Museum of Australian Democracy. NO, I am not looking at ways of becoming a member, more fascinated by the excellent work they have done at presenting their democracy to us all and making it memorable, clever, noteworthy and amusing. 


Lets start with just the basics - have you ever been actively encouraged to walk into Houses of Parliament ? I don't hear many of you shouting out yes. I certainly haven't, yet the Houses of Parliament in Canberra, both the old and the new, were built with exactly this overreaching principle of being accessible to the people. So not loud or ostentatious, not built on hills so they would be looking down at people, not closed off and barricaded, full of natural light and colours of Australia, built to blend in with nature and use nature, built to enhance people's understanding of these places. This is where their chosen representatives can sit and pass legislation while looking at the colours of the Australian bush and have a direct vantage point to the War Memorial, lest those persons need to be reminded of the sacrifices so many made. 

So I guess that was the starting point and one which had me sold already. I walked into the old Parliament which is a low lying white building with beautiful wooden floors and chambers. I heard about the Mace and the speakers boxes which were actually produced for a film and then gifted to Parliament. I walked through to the PMs offices and the cabinet room, the party room, and the staff room where the cardigans of the secretaries had been left on the backs of chairs and the bins full of crumpled typed papers, their old typewriters at the ready.

I came across the Finders Keepers exhibition where the Museum had collected various items and through them told the stories of the MPs, who owned them. Neville Bonner the first Aboriginal Federal Parliamentarian who represented Queensland between 1971 and 1983. I watched his recording of when he won the election and what it meant for him, his father and his people. He served them well in his swathe of hair and his debonair suits with matching handkerchiefs. Items of his personal life being displayed with care and attention. 


For Tim Fischer who knew he was not "the right kind" to be a leader of the National Party, he used his ties as markers and he thanked them for the uplift they gave him, for the encouragement they strangely offered him. Here are some of them and an even stranger reflection of him in one. 


For Kay Paterson, a Victorian Liberal Senator it was a single gift which made her then collect her memorabilia whether in the form of tea cups with Parliament etched on, or salt and pepper shakers. She has given her collection to Finders Keepers to be displayed for the public.


Moving round, I came across another fascinating exhibition - this one was entitled ONE TO EIGHT.
A contemporary art project by Alison Adler who became interested in the first eight Prime Ministers and not just for what they were known for nor the perceived wisdom at the time. She drew each one as a person and affixed prints, cartoons, badges or even rosettes which were relevant in their times to connect them to those times. That way she could see the political nuances and respond to the person, not to the politics of the time. Encouraging those viewing it to to think again and see things more analytically. And she asks "Where are all the women?" Those strong and intelligent women who supported their husbands in their work, she now cheekily puts their images, (those that she found anyway,) on wallpaper which covered the whole room. Perceptive by the artist of her subject matters, instructive of the women relegated to the background but nevertheless playing an important part, playful in the colours and the patterns she chose to use. I look forward to returning to another exhibition where another Eight Prime Ministers will be women filling the portraits themselves. 


Friday, 10 November 2017

The War Memorial in Canberra. 11/11/2017

In conversation sometimes I talk about the war. People look at me a little perplexed as I am too young to have been in them but of course for me it is 1974 in Cyprus when lives were lost. Most of us will never experience or have the misfortune to live through one, but a lot of our families, parents or grandparents did, and it so easy in this time of relative peace and prosperity to forget what immense sacrifices they made. The War Memorial in Canberra is a moving and beautiful reminder of these sacrifices but also serves to remind us how important it is to have peace and understanding between peoples above all else. Particularly now when leaders seem so throw- away with belligerent remarks.


We visited in the late afternoon as is fitting.The memorial is built in the shape of a Byzantine cross in a grey stone with a memorial reflective pool and the eternal flame. As you come in further you enter the Shrine and the Tomb to the Unknown Australian soldier.


On either side Galleries where in brass you see the names of 66,000 men who died in the First World War and on the other side those who lost their lives in the Second World War and subsequent wars.
The line of names decorated with simple poppies in the margins is at once warming for the love of those who place them there and chilling because the wall of names stretches on and on.



Every day of the year, except Christmas day, the ceremony of the Last Post takes place here.  The ceremony begins with the National Anthem. A piper plays Flowers of the Forest and then a member of the Armed forces reads the story of one of the soldiers. Each day it is someone else. There are 102,815 names on the Roll of Honour. Where possible their photo is displayed and members of their family might be present to lay a wreath by the memorial pool. The Officer goes up the steps and recites the Ode and the bugler plays the Last Post. Finally the doors of the Shrine are closed for the day. It is a truly moving ceremony and every day of the year the War Memorial has visitors who come to pay their own personal tribute.




The gardens are full of interesting sculptures and dedications - the one which caught my eye and of course my heart was the one to the animals who fight in the war. These are the dogs who are trained to detect explosives and this is the touching tribute to them.

A boulevard known as the The Anzac Avenue has a clear path leading down to Burley Griffin Lake but also beyond to Parliament. Purposely I think, so that those in government can look out of the window and see the War Memorial and think twice before committing any other Australians to war.


Today at Anzac Avenue and the War Memorial there will be a  service and a minute's silence to honour the soldiers who lost their lives, and indeed all those who gave their life to their country.



Wednesday, 8 November 2017

The Brits and their gifts !

This building everyone is the National Carillon. I challenge all of you out there to drop me a line or send me a message if you know what this is. Aussies who live in Canberra excepted. Certainly I had never come across it and so we set off to explore this tall structure which lies on a small island called Aspen on the edge of Lake Burley Griffin. It is connected to the island by a little walk way. It was a gift to the people of Australia from the British Government to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Capital and it is a strange but wonderful gift and I am still wondering who conceived the idea and why. 

We walked over and stood below because we had heard bells being played like the Westminster chimes so we were curious to see where the chimes were coming from. 

There is no access to the Tower but we were standing below and we met a very nice Camberan, who was the husband of the woman who was playing the bells at that very moment. He was waiting to collect her. Her name is Lyn Fuller and she is a corillonist if that is the right word. She came down and met us, as well as a young boy who loved hearing the sound of the bells. She very kindly gave us a special tour - we went up in the lift and saw where the bells are played on a keyboard. Individual cables are linked to the bells which are then rung by iron clappers as the carillonist strikes each baton or pedal. 




The keyboard has wooden batons and pedals which are hit by the hand which is held in a fist. So you play a lot with your last finger and use your feet for the pedals. The little boy was delighted to have a go but the best was being given a private recital by Lyn who played a small piece she had composed herself. It is an energetic and demanding process and she comes to practice three times a week and gives recitals from time to time. She had seen an advert in the paper about it and was dubious about being able to do it, but soon realised she had all the necessary skills. Now she trains young carillonists. 


Carillons have a minimum of 23 bells. This one with 55 bronze bells is quite large. The bells each weigh between seven kilograms and six tonnes and we went up a floor to see one of the bigger ones. A separare mechanism operates the quarter hour of the striking of the Westminster chimes. With the tower rising some 50 meters, the sound of the bells drifts across the lake and through the parks. It is soothing and beautiful and seems to me to be an inspired gift but by whom and why I still do not know. 









Friday, 3 November 2017

Bad Jam

In Bali you see road signs that tell you about Jams.

But you also see adverts for Bad rooms being available and your imagination runs riot.

It has been a small but pleasant trip to Bali full of friendship and discovery and what better way to end it then with a good dose of local humour.