First World Problems

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ISN’T it ironic, don’t you think? Yes, a little too ironic that the day I am meant to be reviewing a show called First World White Girls, every imaginable First World problem rears its ugly head. I wake up from a delectable deep sleep courtesy of last night’s meditation class (First World White Girls love yoga and meditation) and wonder what the universe has in store for me this day. Like other First World White Girls around the planet, I reach over in bed for my MacBook Air (you don’t expect me to sleep with a PC, do you?) and switch it on, only to find one of those mosquito bite emails that is going to itch all day. I sigh, and go and make my Vietnamese coffee (I’d rather DIE than drink instant), check a few more emails, and get ready for my yoga class.

Photo by Nick Morrissey

Photo by Nick Morrissey


There’s a green tea (First World White Girls adore green tea) and avocado on Ryvita before I have to head to a GP appointment in my air-conditioned car (I mean, really, who can live without aircon?). But wouldn’t you know it, I have to wait a whole 30 minutes in the doctor’s surgery (OK, it was on a comfy seat, with a flat screen TV, my iPhone and magazines to keep me company). I get free blood tests and pay $75 for my appointment, of which I will receive $37 back on Medicare (You mean I have to PAY something for great health care). My female doctor (yes, a woman) pens a string of scripts for other things, like valium, which are designed to make my White Girl First World more bearable.
Photo by Nick Morrissey

Photo by Nick Morrissey


I head off to lunch – sushi of course – with a gay male friend (First World White Girls always have gay male friends), and while waiting for my second green tea of the day and my lunch, my mate and me take turns at complaining about our mornings. Lunch takes 30 minutes to arrive, a point I make of mentioning to the waiter (does he not KNOW I’m busy?) and on the way home I pick up a skinny chai latte (First World White Girls love chai latte). But I’m annoyed as I go to pay with the spare $50 floating around my wallet and wouldn’t you know it, the till is stuck and I can neither pay nor receive my chai. Just as that serious issue is fixed, I head upstairs in the shopping centre to pick up my library books (which cost me 50 cents to reserve) but I can’t just swipe my card and leave, as I owe the library $10.20. This time my eftpos card won’t work, and so I have to pay in cash. I mean, how annoying, right?
Photo by Nick Morrissey

Photo by Nick Morrissey


The afternoon is spent writing, emailing and surfing Facebook until I have to knock off early and have a long, hot bath (my First World White Girl muscles are tight from all the yoga, you see) before picking up my friend for the show. But I get stuck in traffic in my air-conditioned car, and while I listen to music on my choice of radio stations, I shake my head at what a First World White Girl day I’m having. My friend jumps in my vehicle and we complain all the way to Brisbane’s Judith Wright Centre, where we stop briefly for a burger before the show. I’m relieved to find the burger joint also sells wine, I mean, after the incredibly GRUELLING day I’ve had, how could ANYONE go without wine. I snatch another one just before we enter the theatre.
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If you see nothing else this year, try to get to a production of First World White Girls somewhere around Australia for this is quite possibly the best reminder you will ever have of what a fortunate life we lead. Written, composed and performed by Brisbane cabaret artists Judy Hainsworth and Kaitlin Oliver Parker, this one-hour performance is punchy and perky without being at all preachy. Dressed in floral frocks, faux fur stoles, beige shoes and hair that is coiffed to perfection, the two proceed to entertain the audience with their singing, dancing and dialogue. “Just because we have food, water and espresso pods, doesn’t mean life is easy for us,” they quip, in between sipping on San Pellegrino bottles, with a straw.
Photo by Nick Morrissey

Photo by Nick Morrissey


In fact, the audience is invited to participate, by writing down one (just one) First World problem on a piece of paper, which is then collected in a Tiffany bag, and read out at random. I wrote: “I can’t find a boyfriend” and regular
Global Goddess readers will know this is a life-threatening issue for me. There’s even a checklist to discern whether you are a First World White Girl which includes:
• If you throw a fit when there’s no free wi-fi
• If you chip your $80 manicure
• If you get teased for owning an Android phone
• If your friend spoils the end of Game of Thrones before you get a chance to watch it
• If you get a disastrous spray tan the day before you are bridesmaid at your best friend’s wedding
I know, I know! These are all very real issues, and I’m not sure why the UN isn’t stepping in to solve them.
Photo by Nick Morrissey

Photo by Nick Morrissey


By the end of this show you will have laughed your head off (that doesn’t literally happen in the First World) and taken a good, hard look at yourself. This performance may not solve all of the planet’s issues, but it does take a giant leap towards solving some of our First World Problems.
The Global Goddess was a guest of the Judith Wright Centre of Contemporary Arts, which has a great program of eclectic performances throughout the year – http://www.judithwrightcentre.com To see where First World White Girls are playing next go to http://www.firstworldwhitegirls.com.au
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Glasgow Gins and Bares It

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I AM utterly incapable of finding my way around a map, let alone the world, constantly confusing my north with my south, and in the global game in which you have a 50 percent chance of heading in the right direction, I always get it wrong. I do, however, possess an uncanny knack of sniffing out an Indian restaurant in any city in the world, no matter how unlikely this may seem. And, as it turns out recently in Glasgow, a gin joint. There should be some kind of humanitarian award based around these gifts, really, there should. On this particular day the accents are as soupy as a Scottish winter when I wander into 71 Renfield Street. Yes, there’s 71 wee drams on the drink menu here and not one of them is whiskey, making owner Paul Reynolds possibly the Scotsman bravest heart of all. Or a little insane. Reynolds has bucked tradition, quite possibly risking life and limb, to open a gin bar in the heart of Glasgow where whiskey is the drink of choice. And this tale gets even juicer for this is a tea lounge by day and a gin bar by night. From cupcakes to quinine, what’s not to love?
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During the day, Cup Tea Lounge serves 47 types of tea and 16 kinds of cupcakes made on site. But when 6pm arrives, the quaint interior of this heritage-listed Victorian building goes from Clark Kent to Superman and transforms into Gin 71. It’s named after its street address and the number of gins on the menu making it Glasgow’s largest collection of artisan gins and home-made tonics.
“A friend mentioned a gin bar and I stayed up until 3 in the morning researching gin bars. Originally I thought we were going to have 300 gins but we condensed it down to 71,” Reynolds says.
“I learned how to make tonic and on May 1 this year when we opened you could hardly move in here. It fits with the story of the colonial building. Queen Victoria used to be a tea drinker and the colonials also drank a lot of gin.” And because I can be a bit of a wanker sometimes, the idea of sitting and quaffing gin on a big, plump couch in Glasgow just like a wild colonial, appeals greatly to me on this spring afternoon.
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Brave he may be, but stupid Reynolds is not, reluctant to call gin the new whiskey, instead preferring to refer to it as the new vodka. And for the record, there’s only one whiskey on the shelves and even that’s actually a bourbon rather than a real whiskey. If patrons do prefer whiskey, Reynolds is more than happy to send them around the corner to Hope Street and The Pot Still Pub, which is considered the host of the finest collection of malt whiskey in the land. Back at Gin 71, there’s seven Scottish gins on the menu, selected from thousands around the world, and chosen via a scoring card which not only examined taste but the “gantry presence” or what the bottle looked like on the shelf. I pause briefly and consider my own “gantry presence” as I slouch on the couch.
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During the Commonwealth Games, Gin 71 will be sourcing and serving gins from around the Commonwealth. And on this long, lazy afternoon, Reynolds makes a remarkable claim. He says it’s not gin, but the quinine in the tonic that is said to make gin drinkers depressed (I knew it) and one of the reasons he makes his own tonic. Discerning gin drinkers at his establishment can partake in a gin “flight” in which they can sample a range of gins coupled with unusual spices such as lemongrass and coriander.
“I want people to have a wee journey of types,” he says.
And a “wee journey” is what The Global Goddess enjoys this fine day, eventually stumbling out of Gin 71 (while it is still in its tea house mode, mind you) and down the main shopping mall of Glasgow. Suffice to say, sufficient money was spent on items I’m sure I will never wear. Unless of course a tartan kilt comes into vogue during a Queensland summer, sometime soon. Just call me Clan Crazy.
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Glasgow is set to sparkle when it hosts the XX Commonwealth Games starting this week. Visitors can stroll the cobblestoned streets of Merchant City, named in the 1980s to pay homage to the city’s merchant trade dating back to the 16th century in which Glaswegians were among the first in the world to travel the globe spruiking their wares. It’s now a bustling hub boasting 90 bars and restaurants such as Central Market, which sources local fresh produce such as plump mussels and was named the Most Stylish Restaurant at the 2013 Scottish Style Awards.
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There’s plenty of theatre to be had in the this city, and one of the most charming traditions is the daily A Play, A Pie and a Pint at Oran Mor, an old church in which the basement dedicates its lunchtime to a one-hour play, while patrons feast on a pie and a pint. OK, so the actor may or may not have spat in my beer, such was his passion in delivering his lines, but who can blame him? And really, he wouldn’t be the first bloke on the planet to do so. God, in Brisbane it’s practically considered a mating ritual.
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Around the 1980s Glasgow started to embrace tourism and more recently, has become Scotland’s “media city” housing the modern studios of the BBC and providing the background for films such as World War Z and Cloud Atlas. The space-ship shaped Hydro arena was opened last August by Rod Stewart (regular readers will remember The Global Goddess saw Barry Manilow there live earlier this year and hasn’t been quite the same since) and will be the venue for gymnastics during the Commonwealth Games. Australian graffiti artist Sam Bates has also added his touch to the city, commissioned to paint colourful murals to commemorate the Games.
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At the end of my Glasgow journey, the words of Reynolds (or it could be the gin speaking) ring loudly in my ears. “Glasgow is a bit of a diamond just waiting to be polished.” A city which has gone from drab to fab. Perhaps that kilt will come in handy after all.
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The Global Goddess travelled as a guest of Glasgow City Marketing. For further information on visiting Glasgow please visit http://www.peoplemakeglasgow.com.au
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Chasing Cowboys

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THE mercury has plunged to minus 2 degrees and the hour hand has just passed 7 when I head out to the Dalby Saleyards in Southern Queensland Country. I rage a long debate with myself over whether I can get away with wearing my lime green, fluffy dressing gown I tossed in the back of the car at the last minute before heading west. I realise it’s been so long since it’s rained out here, the boys might mistake me for a tuft of grass, and anyway, without an Akubra on my head I already stand out like the dog’s proverbial. I’m chasing stories on Dalby, Chinchilla and Miles and for the next two hours, I’m also chasing men, The Global Goddess whispering naughtily in my ear in the cattle yard not to relinquish a prime opportunity to find a fella.
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I’m no mathematician, but the ratio of blokes to sheilas on this chilly morning is about 50:1 in my favour, and the greetings I receive are much warmer than the weather. There’s plenty of nods, nudges and a couple of “g’day mates” tossed in my direction over the rattle of cattle under auction. One bloke asks me if I’m “watching the footie tonight?” (He clearly does not know that Offspring is screening on the other channel and I’m bloody intrigued to know how Nina’s love life is faring). Another asks me if I’ve got “any cattle in the yards?” a question me and my tiny 2-door Hyundai i20 find secretly hilarious and flattering at the same time.
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The men keep doing the Dalby two-step around the cattle yards, shuffling along a metre to stand in front of the next pen of beasts going under the hammer and I’m following them like I’m in a progressive barn dance. But I have a burning question I need to ask and I need to find a willing volunteer. I stop one bloke whose mate tells me his name is Harry, “Harry high pants” and he agrees to an on-camera interview in “five minutes”. In the meantime, I speak to one of the rare women out here, and pose my question to her. “Most of them down there are married,” she nods her Akubra in the direction of the flock by the fence, and there’s a few players in there too, she tells me, naming a couple of culprits.
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After two hours I give up on securing an interview with Harry, and am walking quietly back to the car when I hear a voice behind me. “So, have you got your story?” another cowboy says, following me quickly out of the cattle yards. “Yep. I don’t have all morning to be chasing you boys around,” I say defiantly. “Where are you staying tonight?” he directs this question at my breasts. “Chinchilla,” I say. He stands and considers this for a moment, calculating whether I’m worth the hour drive to the next town. And just as I’m about to turn to leave he says: “Well, I guess I’ll see you around then.”
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I laugh all the way back to the car and ponder this exchange for the next hundred kilometres to Chinchilla. Country Queensland can be complicated. It can give you the absolute shits and delight and surprise you all within the space of a kilometre. One minute you’re cursing the dust and the fact it just won’t bloody rain, and the next, you’re loving the wide, open spaces. The space to think.
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I haven’t had a decent coffee in days and I’m starting to feel a bit scratchy by the time I arrive in Miles on my last day. Don’t get me wrong, country Queenslanders are hospitable, but you can’t exactly request a double shot, skinny latte when all that’s on offer is black tea. You drink your cha and you don’t complain. That’s just the way it is out here. I’m told the property on which I’m staying out of town – the deliciously named Possum Park – doesn’t cater and so I stop in town and pick up a meal to cook later and wine. I have grand plans to sit with my bottle of red and spend my last night writing up hours of interviews born from hundreds of kilometres on the road. But the owners have other plans. The communal camp fire is lit at 4.30pm and I’m expected to be around it.
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This gives me one hour, except for a small problem. The second I step out of the car, I drop the coveted wine, smashing it to pieces on the gravel, wine pouring over the thirsty ground like there’s been a murder. I contemplate my dilemma for a minute and then, without hesitation, jump into my car and drive the 20 minutes back down the dusty tracks, dodging kangaroos, into town for another bottle. I consider for a minute that this may make me the alcoholic I’ve long suspected I am but I don’t have much time for such ponderings, if I’m going to make it to the campfire. Things are raging by the time I join a bunch of grey nomads around its flames. I’m welcomed like a long-lost daughter by this bunch of strangers and once we warm up a bit, I confess to my hunt for a cowboy. There’s a single, 82 year old woman sitting next to me and I ask her if she, too, is looking for a fella: “Nope, I’ve come this far without someone ruining my fun, I’m not going to let them now. I get to travel the world and do what I like.” I don’t catch her name, but if I had to guess, I reckon it would be something like Dot. I stare into the simmering coals and reflect upon Dot’s words and have a stark realisation on this starry, starry night. I’ve just met me…in another 40 years.
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The Global Goddess travelled to Dalby, Chinchilla and Miles as a guest of Southern Queensland Country Tourism. To go on your own cowboy hunt, go to http://www.southernqueenslandcountry.com.au
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Snapshots of The Land of Smiles

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MY mate Tacky likes to refer to Thailand as “the big mango” but sometimes I think it’s more the devoured mango. All sweet, juicy and full of sustenance and life. Here’s a few snapshots of my recent trip, where as usual, I’ve fallen in love with the colour, the characters and the chaos that is Thailand.
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Nothing says breakfast like these beautiful towers of Indian spices at the Shangri-La Hotel, Bangkok…
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I adore windows into other people’s lives and cultures…
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Fresh Thai fish in chilli is hard to beat for a feast…
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A Thai bikie…
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A school girl feeds the birds…
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Market fashion…
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Thai duck salad at GranMonte Vineyard in Khao Yai…
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Herbs, spices and all things nice at the Hansar Hotel, Bangkok…
\The Global Goddess travelled as a guest of the Tourism Authority of Thailand. http://www.tourismthailand.org
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Breaking Traditional Thais

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LIKE all of the best travel tales, this story begins over a glass of really great wine. In this case, five months ago, back in a Bangkok restaurant, in the middle of a coup. Yes, picture me going all white linen trousers and Somerset Maugham on you while anarchy rages outside and you’ve kind of got the gist. It was at the Rang Mahal Indian Restaurant at the Rembrandt Hotel, when I was introduced to a fine drop made by Thailand’s only female wine maker, who happened to have studied the art in Australia. Not only was the wine excellent in a country more renowned for its Singha than its shiraz, but I had the burning desire to know more about this woman.
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Fast forward to last weekend, and I had the incredible fortune of standing on a vineyard in Thailand’s Khao Yai, interviewing Nikki Lohitnavy about her impossible dream producing great Thai wine. Nikki, who is just 27, started becoming interested in viticulture when her parents started the vineyard in 1999.
“Back then I was in high school in Bangkok and every school holiday I would spend my time here helping in the vineyard and I liked it,” she says.
“I asked if I could go to Australia and finish my high school in Melbourne and then I studied oenology at the University of Adelaide. I wanted to be a botanist, I’ve loved trees since I was a kid.
“In my third year I asked if I could go to Brown Brothers and do the harvest there and in 2008 I got a scholarship from Wolf Blass for excellence in wine making and went there for three years. After that I came back to Thailand to start Granmonte.”
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Granmonte, which means “big mountain” in Italian, is named after the mountains of Khao Yai National Park which frame the pretty property. And there’s another element to this tale. Shortly after arriving, I’m told that rogue wild elephants have been known to wander through the vineyard, thus ensuring I spend the next two days imagining how I should react should I encounter a tusked beast. Should I sprint to the cellar door and launch myself into a vat of shiraz? Snatch a discarded bicycle from a vineyard worker and try to outcycle the beast? Stand still and pretend I’m a petit verdot? It’s not every day one has to consider the possibility of an elephant attack on a vineyard and I want to be prepared. For this is a story where even your wildest dreams can come true.
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You see, in her first year Nikki produced a modest amount of 20,000 bottles. Now, the vineyard has expanded to 16ha and makes between 80,000 and 90,000 bottles a year. The family has also just purchased another vineyard about 40 km east.
“We started sending our wines to competitions. We couldn’t just say our wines are getting better and are really good,” Nikki says.
“When we were confident our wines were of high quality we were more confident to sell to hotels and restaurants.”
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Not only is Nikki’s wine served in top-quality Bangkok restaurants such as the Rang Mahal and Australian-owned Nahm – recognised as one of the world’s top restaurants – but 20 percent of production is exported to Japan, The Maldives, Hong Kong, the US and even a Thai restaurant in Germany. And Nikki has this message to those skeptics who believe Thailand couldn’t possible produce good wine.
“I just say ‘try it’. We have a lot of that attitude towards Thai wine. That’s the main reason we have our cellar door her, that’s how we connect,” she says.
“I’d like to encourage people to give Thai wine another go because now we are producing much better quality wine. Please try again.”
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In fact, Khao Yai could be considered one of the more ideal places to grow wine, as there’s no frost and the vines don’t go into dormancy. The vines are pruned twice a year here so they can be harvested. There’s now 12 wines on the list, which boasts everything from a light chenin blanc to a gutsy shiraz, with a couple of experimental blocks of Italian varietals due to come to fruition in the next two years.
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The least expensive drop, the Sakuna Rose named after Nikki’s Chinese-born mother, sells for around AUD20, which is remarkable given it is so expensive to produce. There’s a 360 percent tax on wine in Thailand and all of the machinery is imported from places like Australia.
“It’s challenging here but if I was in Australia I’d be doing the same thing as everyone else. There are only a few of us making wine from grapes here,” Nikki says.
And things are bustling along in the Thai wine industry in general, with the Thai Wine Association celebrating its tenth birthday this year with eight members, of which Granmonte is recognised as the country’s best. But more importantly, those global gongs are starting to trickle in, including an award at last year’s Sydney Wine Show.
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On my final evening at Granmonte, I bump into Nikki walking through the vineyard in the late afternoon light.
“In a few minutes, go and stand at the front gate and look back over the vineyard. The light illuminates the vines and it’s really beautiful then,” she says.
I do as she says. Stand by the frangipani tree, bask in the humidity, look back over the vineyard framed by the mountains and drink in this intoxicating story of success. And there’s not an elephant in sight.
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The Global Goddess travelled as a guest of the Tourism Authority of Thailand. http://www.tourismthailand.org

The Naked Truth

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I’D like to say it’s not every Saturday night I spend laughing at a man’s penis but who am I kidding? It SO is. The only difference is that this time, it’s not one, but two penises (I feel the plural form should be peni?) at which I am chortling. Now, before you think I’ve gone all French on you, it was all work, I swear. And no, I am not supplementing my paltry freelance journalism income for prostitution. Yet. You see, I found myself in the curious position, if you’ll pardon the pun, of reviewing these penises for a story. Well, not exactly their penises, but they did form a rather huge (nudge nudge) part of the show about which I was writing. Yes, on Saturday night, I saw a performance called The Naked Magicians at the Brisbane Powerhouse.
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I don’t want to spoil things for everyone who simply must go and see this show, so I’ll just share some of the more unusual highlights, including the set, upon which there’s a blow-up doll, a box suspended in chains, two fans (which prove absolutely hilarious at the finale), a magic curtain, and a table. Magicians Christopher Wayne and Mike Tyler don’t believe in props, and certainly don’t believe in clothes, which are shed throughout the performance.
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Yes, it’s R-rated magic at its stunning best but while it’s naughty and a little rude, it’s not crude. The magic is simply superb but what makes this show really sing is the boys’ ability to ad-lib, create comedy and even without the tantalising prospect of their tricky dickies dangling before you, you’d have a fantastic time. There’s also plenty of audience participation, including at the start of the show when a giant pink penis is tossed around the audience with gay abandon (which secretly thrilled the New Farm boys in the front row). I screamed when it hit me in the face, and couldn’t offload that bad boy quick enough.
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Naturally, I spent most of the night wondering when it was pants-off time (the boys do start the show fully clothed) and when the proverbial rabbit might get pulled out of the hat. And I was not disappointed. There are no actual penis tricks (this is not Puppetry of the Penis, people) and for the record, I’m still recovering from seeing “the hamburger” from that show anyway. It’s more two all-Aussie blokes, making marvelous magic, in the best way they know how. Naked. Or as they say: “Good magicians don’t need sleeves and great magicians don’t need pants”.
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How the boys actually hatched the idea to create a magic show that they would perform naked is beyond me, but you can bet your bottom (wink wink) dollar, that every woman and gay man in the audience will now be expecting far more in bedrooms around Australia. As if we didn’t expect enough already. Yes, unless you can read my mind like these boys can, don’t call me, I’ll call you. Oh yeah, and there’s a fabulous phone trick too. The Naked Magicians, the best fun I’ve had in ages… with my pants on.
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The Global Goddess was a guest of The Brisbane Powerhouse. The Naked Magicians is running until June 29 before heading to regional Queensland and on to Las Vegas. http://www.brisbanepowerhouse.org
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The Resurrection of Christchurch

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THERE are seven men to every woman in Christchurch. A salacious fact onto which I clutched as tightly as my passport as I flew across the Tasman at the weekend. Six years ago, I saw my first ever fortune teller who emphatically predicted that not only would I meet a man who was either younger than me or young at heart, but I would meet him in New Zealand. At the time I was ecstatic, given I was flying to Queenstown that very weekend, convinced my luck was about to change. It was my first trip across the ditch and it was incredible, but all I managed to do was meet a male editor who, like me, was stuck all alone in a luxurious alpine lodge with a bunch of honeymooners. We overcame this awkward fact by pretending we were newlyweds who didn’t spend any time together except over dinner at night, which confused the smug, happy couples, and is a story about which we still laugh to this day.
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A year or so later I won another trip to Queenstown, a jaunty journey on which I invited my sister and about which I have previously blogged the perils that awaited us at our destination. We escaped white outs, igloos, icy mountains, a narcoleptic and a randy ram just by the skin of our teeth and with the assistance of copious amounts of whiskey. The only bloke I met on that trip was on the flight home and whom I wrongly accused of sitting in my seat, which made for some rather awkward hours back to Australia. I returned to New Zealand a year or two later, this time to attend a conference in Rotorua, where I vowed I could never marry a man who smelled strongly of sulphur.
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But last weekend I went back, lured by a girl’s weekend and the firm fact that there are now seven men to every woman in Christchurch, the odds surely on my side. I should explain this mathematical impossibility by letting you know that the reason there are so many men in town these days is that they are rebuilding this pretty city after the devastating earthquake of February 2011, in which 187 people were killed, 1000 buildings destroyed, and about more of which I will write later.
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As per usual, my story begins before I even board the plane when a 60-something man at Sydney International Airport leans him arm against my body, before jumping in surprise and exclaiming: “Oh, I’m sorry, you looked like a table.” Now, I know my universal sex appeal holds no bounds, but even for me, this was a new low. A piece of furniture? A table wearing a leopard-print scarf, clasping an orange handbag and drinking a glass of red wine? Things have leapt off to their usual sterling start.
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The clock is pointing glaringly past 1am when I arrive in Christchurch with my four new female friends and when we attempt to check in, the receptionist asks whether we are “here for the wedding?”. “Well, I am looking for a husband”, I reply, before scuttling away to my room. Half an hour later, there’s a knock on my door, and just as I’m mentally praising the hotel for their prompt delivery of the man of my dreams, I open the door to find the receptionist who has decided that since one of asked for a toothbrush kit, all of us must have forgotten our toothbrushes. I ponder this logic into the wee small hours of the morning.
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Breakfast is at C1 Espresso café with owner Sam Crofskey, 37, who not only lost his original café across the road in the quake, but his house as well. Sam was working in his high street café when the earthquake hit.
“I was a little bit confused. The coffee grinders fell off and landed on my legs and the power went off and then I could hardly stand,” he says.
“We needed to get rid of the customers, the staff and then ourselves. We had more than 100 people in the café at the time.
“Out on the street everyone was distraught and I thought everyone was over-reacting. I thought we’d come back tomorrow and clean everything up. It took a lot more for me to understand the city was actually gone. When you are here with no power or phone you have no idea what’s going on.
“I was like, my business if fucked, my house is fucked…that’s annoying.”
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Sam moved C1 across the road to the old post office – the first reinforced concrete building built in Christchurch – and reopened in November 2012.
These days, the café retains the old post office vault – now used for a coffee machine; sparkling water is poured from a dentist tap; a sliding bookcase leads to the toilet; and burgers are delivered to patrons via tubes which run from the kitchen to tables.
And on the rooftop there’s a vineyard and beehives with plans to build an eight-room boutique hotel here in the near future.
“We wanted to rebuild it as a legacy. There are lots of really cool things in Christchurch. We opened the doors and people flooded in. They really wanted to connect with the central city,” Sam says.
“Christchurch was a broken city before the earthquake full of old, white people. It had no young people. But now people are doing cool stuff and are proud to be here.
“The lights are on and people are home now. The old rules are gone.”
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It’s at this early point in my trip that the story I thought I would write about Christchurch starts to change. We head over to the CTV site where 115 people – the majority of victims – were killed in the earthquake. There’s nothing there now but a simple plaque, dedicated to the dead. In the background, there’s a colourful mural of a naked woman from the Calendar Girl’s Strip Club, one of the first buildings to reopen, and presumably going great guns with so many labourers from around the world in town.
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Across the road from the CTV site sits the Cardboard Cathedral, constructed from, among things, 96 gigantic cardboard tubes, as a gathering place for the devastated community. But one of the most touching sites in Christchurch sits just across from the cathedral – 187 white chairs to commemorate every person who died in the earthquake. Visitors are invited to spend time there, reflect and even sit on a chair with the simple words: “choose one that speaks to you.”
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In the badly affected Anglican Cathedral, locals say when the quake hit, a statue of the Virgin Mary spun around and faced towards Christchurch. Outside here, there’s a pile of “sorry stones” on which visitors have penned their condolences. Colourful Buddhist prayer flags flap in the breeze nearby.
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But there’s also hope among the rubble. In the aptly-named Re:START sector, businesses are blossoming out of shipping containers. New Zealand fashion designers are peddling their wares alongside cafes and craft stores. In New Regent Street entrepreneurs such as Rekindle are turning waste wood from demolished homes into edgy jewellery, art and furniture.
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Just out of town, other businesses, such as The Tannery Boutique Retail and Arts Emporium are finding previously hard-to-secure council approval for businesses is much easier these days, as the city rebuilds. There’s even a Ministry of Awesome in Christchurch these days, where some of the city’s creatives gather to discuss ways to recreate devastated areas.
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It’s a city of gap fillers and anchor projects. Colourful graffiti art adorns massive walls, impromptu gardens are planted everywhere and street installations are a delightful discovery around every corner. The town clock, which stopped at 12.50pm – the precise moment the earthquake hit – still stands in the town.
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As for the men, to be honest, I’m so enraptured by this city’s story of resilience and resurrection, I forget to look. The earth moved for me in Christchurch, just not in the way I expected.
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The Global Goddess travelled as a guest of Christchurch and Canterbury Tourism. To book your own escape, go to http://www.christchurchnz.com
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