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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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Monday, 29 May 2017

Kangaroo Island - home to Fur Seals and Sea Lions

We arrived in the twilight. A brushstroke of pink and orange across the sky. Our destination Southern Ocean Lodge. This is a  short journey from the capital of the island Kingscote, across to the southern side, but at this time of night, it took a little longer. Kangaroos and Tammar Wallabies are crepuscular (a favourite word of my son George) meaning they like the twilight and tend to come out to feed at dawn and dusk, so we crept along, playing dodgems with the animals along the way. The lodge is settled in the short shrub land overlooking Hanson Bay (see the low lying buildings on the cliff face)  and all I can say is that the colours and the panorama are most definitely breathtaking. You could easily spend your entire day gazing out at this wonderful vista. 


This island which is the third biggest in OZ, is seven times the size of Singapore and roughly the same size as Long Island, NY. There is one person for each square kilometre. In the UK there are 246 people to a square km, so you can understand that sheep, some cows, but mainly, koalas, echidnas,wallabies and kangaroos predominate here and that makes us very happy. 

It was chosen as the first free settlement in the 1800s but what were they thinking ?- it was a logistical nightmare with water in short supply and rough seas to contend with. So Adelaide on the mainland was chosen instead. 

Our wildlife guide asked us if we knew what Kangaroo means - apparently when the first explorers came in contact with aboriginals and pointed to the Kangaroo asking them what it was the aboriginals answered "I dont know or I dont understand you" - but this was taken to mean the name of the animal. This is a bit of a myth and unlikely to be true but it is a nice story nevertheless. 

It was named Kangaroo Island by Mathew Flinders when he came across it in the 1800s and there is a lot on the island which is so literal Oz - Remarkable Rocks - Bay View Road, Grass tree, Yellow bush pea and the incomparably named plant the Snotty Gobble.

The New Zealand Fur Seals are found at Admiralty Arch, a cavern formed naturally by the wind and the southern ocean. They manage the turbulent waters and then climb up in an agile manner, quite surprising for their little flippers and rounded bodies, to greener areas, where they find a sunny spot and sleep like babies. They are smaller and darker than the sea lions, with long whiskers and external ears.


Further down the coast is Seals Bay which is a sanctuary for the Australian Sea Lion which was so hunted in the 19th Century. Despite being protected now, their numbers are declining and there are only some 15000 left in the wild. The breeding cycle is long- 18 months, and there is quite a high seal pup mortality. These two males have sandwiched a female between them, perhaps in an effort to keep her warm and have fun later on. 

The pups can often be left for three days at a time while the mums head out to sea to catch fish. This makes them quite vulnerable. The mums have to find their own pups through a series of interesting calls once they are back. This pup suckled loudly from its mother's teat while the younger one below obviously missed its mum and found a warm stone to cuddle up to.

My next blog will take us to those originally named Remarkable Rocks also in Flinders Chase ( From the french word Chasse meaning hunting ground ) National Park.

Monday, 22 May 2017

The Cypriot

About a year ago I walked into the Art Gallery here in Queensland and saw this portrait.

It is called "The Cypriot" by William Dobbell painted in1940. Dobbell met Akis Gavrielides, a waiter in a cafe in London. He painted many portraits of this man who is described as a study in exotic good looks. Clive James wrote a poem in 2003 called "The Cypriot by William Dobbell" and the opening stanza goes: 

"The Cypriot brought his wine dark eyes with him,
Along with his skin and hair he also brought that shirt.
Swathes of fine fabric clothe a slim frame with grace 
bespeaking taste and thought". 

It has stayed with me ever since, and now is the moment I can celebrate it. We have just had the weekend of Paniyiri in Brisbane. Two days of Greek dancing, cooking demonstrations, honey puffs, shieftalies, souvlaki, plate throwing and much, much more. Two days for which months and months of preparation have been spent tirelessly by so many volunteers to bring this event to life. This year we celebrated 40 years of the Hellenic Dancers. I applauded the efforts of Cypriot women in  http://in-cyprus.com/spirited-women-of-cyprus/. They start their preparation months in advance. 

We celebrated the island of Crete, and commemorated the Battle of Crete which took place on the 20th of May 1941 in which so many Anzacs and Cretans fought to ward off the German invasion. They lost the battle but the bonds between Crete and Australia and New Zealand have remained strong and close. We listened to Glenda Hume Saunders talking about her father Reg Saunders experience fighting in Crete. We put up photos of Cretan people from the Cretan Photographic Society. We remembered that this is the 60th anniversary of Nikos Kazantzakis' death in 1957, just as I was being born. Extracts from his books and a film on his life and talks on his works gave us a small insight into this giant of Greek writing.  I think of my sister Niki who was instrumental in introducing me to his works and whose birthday is May 23rd though sadly we lost her in 2013.

Members of the Cypriot, Cretan and Greek Communities in Queensland have worked tirelessly for months to share their history, culture and love of life, as epitomised by Zorba the Greek, with a wider Australian audience. It makes me nostalgic for my homeland and proud at the same time. I think often of the reason why at the time when Cyprus was fighting a war of Independence against the British, my father decided to educate me in English, attracting criticism and death threats for his action. This is a decision which changed the direction of my life forever and while I have no regrets about the many places it has taken me, I often wonder at his own thoughts in choosing for me to go in a completely different direction from my sisters. Everywhere my itinerant life has taken me I have looked for the Greek or Cypriot connection. In India, counted on the fingers of two hands. Here much more widespread and still evolving and it is an undoubted pleasure and privilege to meet so many wonderful people who choose to celebrate their origins in their new homeland. Today, the 22nd of May is also the anniversary of my father's death, a traveller himself who never passed up an opportunity to see the world. Does he look down on me and see what a traveller I have become I wonder? It is fitting therefore, on these days of many anniversaries to share from Kazantzakis his own passion to see the world, a celebration of origin, travel and happiness:

“All my life one of my greatest desires has been to travel-to see and touch unknown countries, to swim in unknown seas, to circle the globe, observing new lands, seas, people, and ideas with insatiable appetite, to see everything for the first time and for the last time, casting a slow, prolonged glance, then to close my eyes and feel the riches deposit themselves inside me calmly or stormily according to their pleasure, until time passes them at last through its fine sieve, straining the quintessence out of all the joys and sorrows.” 

Monday, 8 May 2017

Mother Nature's Laughter

The day is dull and overcast, not common in this sunny part of Queensland but it really didn't matter. We are visiting Mother Nature's Laughter garden in the lovely suburb of Bellbird Park. The gate is purple. The colour pops.

The flowers in the front garden are popping too though it is autumn here. Part magic, part careful planning of Antonia, our gracious grey haired garden owner, dressed in a red cardigan and red shoes, sporting a pretty hairclip on her beautiful curls and a necklace of lime green and purple. I think you are getting the picture of this wonderful septuagenarian even if I have resisted the temptation of photographing her for you. She grew up in Holland and endured the war years. Her joy was picking wild flowers and it is something that has stayed with her. She talks about the importance of keeping the child within you, that ability to sense and feel without necessarily having the knowledge or the maturity. Children feel and sense so easily. She urges us to keep that within us and tells us of how she fell in love with her little house and bought it within the day.

How she raised four children on her own and struggled with little money and drought and cancer and how the garden was and is her salvation, a garden full of the most wonderful native and non native plants, where bees buzz in amongst the blood red flowers of the climber in full bloom. We had to  duck down to enter the verandah which looks out onto a slope of verdant shrubs and mature trees. 

We have a cup of tea and some cake and even her kitchen window is perfection in colour.

We walk around and she talks about her plants and offers us all cuttings, she talks about the steps she made, the rocks she carried, the buckets that were needed to keep the plants alive in the prolonged drought.Everything was planted by her and nurtured by her with losses and failures along the way.
There was nothing when she first moved in, so the garden has grown with her years.

Her face is a vision of kindness and compassion, calmness and creativity. I loved the day and meeting Antonia and promised to return with my husband, the keen gardener in my family. 

Tuesday, 2 May 2017

Allez la revolution

A very good friend of mine and I email frequently. Her last email to me said I am planning a dinner party, playing in a tournament and plotting a revolution. I was impressed - and all in the space of a week. I asked her which was the most challenging, and tongue in cheek, we both agreed it was probably the dinner party! 

What is heartening in life is that people around us have this "can do" attitude and sometimes the goals might be such that a week is cutting it fine but the reality is that it is the seeds that start the action that spread from one to another and then become a movement and this is what we hope in political activism the world over, whether decrying the climate change policies in the US, the Neo nazi movements in Europe, the refugee crises and the way our beloved homeland and its people are managing their future. Time to think differently, more creatively about overcoming the problems that have beset this little island for so long. I am hoping the seeds of revolution will take hold, spread widely and yield abundant food for thought.