One Hearty Party

Photo by Dylan Evans

Photo by Dylan Evans


I REALLY should be cranky with Brisbane, yet I’m not. On the one weekend when I’m out wandering my hometown, foraging through her secret nooks and crannies in preparation for the Brisbane Festival, my sassy city decides to rain. Not just little kittens and puppies, but big cats and dogs with a bit of a windy whip in their tail, just for good measure. But being angry with Brisbane when it rains is like losing your cool at your well-behaved child when they act out of character. You know, the one who almost always is lovely, but every now and then Satan makes a surprise appearance. And so it is with Brisbane on this weekend, our thirsty city hasn’t seen a drop of rain in months, so it would be churlish of me to punish her for that.
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And what that rain means is that when the Brisbane Festival bursts into bloom for three weeks from September 6, this pretty city is going to be so green, it will make every other Aussie capital emerald with envy. My wanderings begin at Fortitude Valley’s Alpha Mosaic Hotel, the latest entrant in Brisbane’s vertical community. Urban chic meets retro here with splashes of orange chairs and purple walls and, a rarity for Brisbane, a stone fireplace in the lobby. But the real treat here is on the rooftop of this hotel/apartment complex which not only has its own herb garden for residents, but 360 degree views of the city, an ideal vantage point for the culmination of the Brisbane Festival with Riverfire’s fireworks.
Photo by Atmosphere Photography

Photo by Atmosphere Photography


On towards New Farm and Jan Power’s Farmer’s Markets I tumble, where the weather may be wet, but the stallholders’ wits are dry and the produce crisp. The Powerhouse will host some of the Brisbane Festival’s key performances including The Shadow King, an Indigenous slant on Shakespeare’s King Lear, and Monkey…Journey to the West, a take on the 1970s cult classic Monkey Magic.
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While surprise events and pop-up performances will be detonating all over the city, the leading lady of the Brisbane Festival will be South Bank in what is Australia’s only custom-designed cultural precinct. Among the many restaurants and bars poised to embrace the festival, Champ Kitchen & Bar will be one of the heroes, with specially-designed cocktails such as The Green Martini made from absinthe and Bacardi (a major festival sponsor) and served with green apple jam; as well as The Royal Bellini, built on strawberries, wine and Grand Marnier to tie in with the burlesque theme of the nearby Spiegeltent.
Champ's Green Martini

Champ’s Green Martini


Brisbane Festival Artistic Director Noel Staunton says around 82 performances will be staged around the city during those three weeks in September, with many of them free. The cheapest ticketed performance starts at $15 with the most expensive at $180, making the festival accessible to everyone. And half of the festival tickets have already been sold.
“Once the festival starts there is the impetus to go and see shows. For me it is about creating debate. It is not about a show being good or bad. It is about seeing things that people normally wouldn’t see for the rest of the year,” Noel says.
“We employ hundreds of local artists and have a policy where we involve every arts organisation in the city. It’s about a party. It’s about having a go and having a good time. Not every show is about high-end culture.
“For me, it’s about a city having a different feel for a three-week period that is nice and easy and just fun. I very much like to see this city up late because this city goes to bed so early.”
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One of the most ambitious festival highlights will be when 100 light horsemen ride across the city’s iconic Story Bridge, a cultural clip clop to the Black Diggers performance at the Queensland Performing Arts Centre, which pays homage to the Indigenous Australian soldiers who fought in World War One. At the Courier-Mail Piazza at South Bank, Soap will be a contemporary circus, comedy and cabaret and will involve seven bathtubs, while at the Queensland Conservatorium, an opera will explore the city’s 2011 deluge with Floods.
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It’s the last festival for Noel, who has been at the helm for the past five years, and cites a performance in 2010 in which festival-goers were invited to attend a giant sauna theatre performance – buck naked – as his most audacious event. Perhaps that’s the year that Brisbane really learnt to let its hair down, so to speak. Who knows? But on this wet weekend, when Noel sits in a noughts and crosses collared shirt and talks about the entertainment game, one thing is perfectly clear. You can’t guarantee the weather, but Brisbane is in for a blast.
LIMBO
STAY: Alpha Mosaic Hotel Brisbane – http://www.alphamosaichotelbrisbane.com.au
SEE: Brisbane Festival (September 6 – 27) – http://www.brisbanefestival.com.au
EAT & DRINK: Champ Kitchen & Bar – http://www.champkitchenandandbar.com.au; Newstead Brewing Co – http://www.newsteadbrewing.com.au; Green Beacon Brewing Co – http://www.greenbeacon.com.au; Tipplers Tap – http://www.tipplerstap.com.au; Gerard’s Bistro – http://www.gerardsbistro.com.au
DO: Brisbane Greeters offer free guided tours of Brisbane’s precincts – http://www.visitbrisbane.com.au/brisbane-greeters
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The Global Goddess was a guest of Brisbane Marketing. For a comprehensive calendar of events and things to see and do in Brisbane go to http://www.visitbrisbane.com.au
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Days Like This

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“When it’s not always raining, there’ll be days like this. When there’s no one complaining, there’ll be days like this,” Van Morrison, Days Like This
PERFECT weather, a public holiday and a close girlfriend. Three elements conspired to create one of those rare days bursting with bliss last week, where stuff simply flows and you are gently swept along by the breeze, rather than being forced to face the winter westerly’s of our lives. It was a free day in Brisbane to mark People’s Day at the Royal Queensland Show or the Ekka in the local vernacular. But I chose to escape the city, jump in the car, grab a girlfriend and head north to the Sunshine Coast and the Eumundi Markets.
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On a weekend, the road would be packed with people heading to Noosa, but not on this mid-week escapade, our two-hour drive instead punctuated by catching up on our lives. We’ve just one hour each to examine, dissect and debate the latest before arriving in the tiny township of Eumundi and her normally bustling marketplace. Even the markets today are sedate, a slower place which suits us just fine, as we saunter through the stalls, pausing to snatch a mid-morning Turkish gozleme stuffed with spinach and feta.
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We stroll and laugh. Steal languid pauses to smell the roses, or in this case, the pungent soap on sale. Chat to a stallholder about his carnivorous plants. Try on eclectic outfits. Resist the seduction of sparkly jewellery. Wander through aisles of books. Observe the colourful characters. Pat a camel.
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We stumble across a “Willy Washer” and spend some time discussing its purpose. There’s a male fairy guarding some jewellery that resembles the young man selling the silver, fashioned from old knives, forks and spoons. An ancient typewriter has been dismantled, somewhat to our dismay, and crafted into trinkets. Colourful hand-woven handbags remind us of our travels around the globe.
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We discover Noosa Reds – plump, juicy tomatoes bursting with the distinct flavours of this fertile region – deliciously packed in crunchy brown paper bags. A giant gecko mural hugs a pole. There’s glass-blowing and some beaut ukes. And all the while, we keep winding through the marketplace, unravelling our lives.
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Unpacking your world is hearty work and so we head east towards Noosa for a sneaky glass of wine by the ocean. It’s winter and it’s empty and it’s gorgeous because of this. There’s no pressure to swim, even though we’ve bought our togs “just in case”. Instead we simply sit, delight at the dolphins, gossip about the awkward couple at the adjacent table quite obviously on a first date. Don’t worry, we’ve both been there many times, and agree he’s overdone it by ordering a gigantic platter of oysters. The double entendre surely not missed on his target.
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Our suspicions are confirmed about an hour later, while we’re sitting along Noosa’s main street, facing the sidewalk in our rattan chairs reminiscent of Paris, sipping lattes like a local. The couple emerge from the restaurant, embrace awkwardly, and nefarious Neptune is left to wander down the street alone, his Little Mermaid heading in the other direction. We wonder if he’ll regret the gregarious gesture. That maybe he tried a little too hard? Or perhaps they simply had nothing in common? Not so for my mate and me. We glide easily down the street, admiring artwork, trying on hats for the upcoming summer, daydreaming of wearing summer frocks and sandals again soon. The sun sets and we reluctantly head home, salty skinned, tousled hair and nourished spirits. Sometimes, when it’s not always raining, and there’s no one complaining, there’ll be days like this.
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Life Cycles

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“Can I sail through the changing ocean tides? Can I handle the seasons of my life?” Stevie Nicks, Fleetwood Mac, Landslide

THIS was meant to be a blog about bikes. You see, in the past few weeks, I’ve been trying to stay motivated and energised in that last month of winter – my most dreaded season – when all I really want to do is hibernate. And so, I’ve been searching for beauty in situations close to home in Brisbane, places where I may not have noticed joy before. And all of a sudden, I discovered this city was full of beautiful bicycles and I started to photograph them for this blog.
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But in the past few days, while swirling this idea around my head in the same manner one might an expensive brandy around their palate, savouring every nuance, it occurred to me this was no longer a blog about bikes, but the seasons of our lives. That there really is a time to reap and a time to sow. There’s a time to get out there and embrace the world, and a time to allow yourself to fall fallow. And, after a huge year of travel which has taken me around the world and back a few times, that’s what I’ve been doing. Greasing and adjusting the old chain.
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A couple of years ago when I lived in Singapore, I had a deep conversation with my then Kiwi flat mate. We were bemoaning yet another humid day which comes from living 100 kilometres from the Equator, and the fact that the sun rises at the same time every day, and sets at the same time every day, regardless of season. You can set your watch by the afternoon torrential downpours and, while dissecting this monotonous predictability, we decided that we needed seasons to define our years and our lives.
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At this point, some of my readers will scoff at a girl who lives in sub-tropical Brisbane discussing the concept of seasons. Isn’t it hot there all the time, they’ll argue. And, relatively speaking if you are comparing Brisbane to Tasmania, for instance, you are probably right. But even here, where the sun shines for perhaps too many drought-riddled days of the year, we have seasons. (Last month, we shivered through the coldest winter day in 100 years when the temperature plunged to 2.6 degrees). The frangipani tree off the back deck loses its pungent flowers and lush green foliage and closes up like a hermit. My creaky Queenslander cottage moans like an old man with crook knees. And every draft that blows across the continent seems to squirm uneasily between the nooks and crannies of the tin and timber, finding nowhere to settle among the high ceilings designed for long summer days.
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When the crisp mornings eventually concede to warm days, and when my schedule allows, I’ve been sitting on my back deck and basking in the winter sunshine, secretly willing the frangipani to come to life. Allowing myself time to reflect and regroup. To think about painting the proverbial bike a different colour. Or maybe trading it in for something completely new. That’s what we should do in winter. Dream. Polish the handlebars. Stare at our reflection.
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Riding a bike for many of us remains one of our first memories of mastery. Sure, we all learned to walk and talk a long time before we ever surrendered our feet to three wheels, and eventually two, but it’s one of those defining life moments. That point in time where you whizz down a hill, carefree and reckless and hope the brakes work when you get to the bottom. I don’t know too many Aussies from a certain era who don’t have a scar on one or both knees from when they’ve had the inevitable gutser. God, I can’t even remember when last time I wrapped my mouth around that fantastic word. Nor, come to think of it, the last time I rode a bike.
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But soon enough we learn that life is full of gutsers and dodgy brakes and greasy chains. There’s potholes and pitfalls galore, as is there supreme pleasure. So, in this last month of winter, be kind, be gentle, be compassionate to yourself and others. And, if like me, you are preparing to get back on that bike and cruise into spring, may the wind always be on your back and the soft sun on your face, as you ride through the inevitable seasons of your life.
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From Paddy to Plate

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MID summer and Thailand’s mounting humidity is threatening to chuck a torrential tantrum any day now. And I’m traipsing around the country’s only organic resort in search of a salacious story, one which will take my taste buds from paddy to plate. Curious about the tropical property on which I find myself, I ask my guide whether there are any snakes here: “Of course,” he says with trademark Thai honesty. “Are they poisonous?” I tip toe my thonged feet tentatively through the cackling grass. “Of course,” he replies.
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I recently travelled to Thailand’s Sampram District, 45 kilometres west of Bangkok, the kind of country where bare-chested men crack open coconuts plucked fresh from the tree with their huge hands. (OK, he may have had a big knife, and was actually wearing a shirt, but a girl can daydream). On this occasion, I’m exploring the organic farm of Arrut Navaraj. Like so many of the best ideas, this concept was born of one simple action. Fifty-two years ago, Arrut’s grandmother was travelling through this district, when she saw an old bullet tree which needed saving from falling into the river. She ended up buying the 0.4ha of land on which the tree still stands today, built a house and starting growing roses as a hobby. But the story doesn’t end there.
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In fact, it’s only the start. Arrut’s grandmother went on to build an open-air restaurant where the menu was limited to just two items: Pad Thai and coconut ice-cream. But that was enough to lure Bangkok’s expat community to the property which they nick named Rose Garden. Arrut’s grandmother even taught her rose gardeners how to dance to perform for the tourists. And this is where the story takes a delicious twist. Arrut himself was a chemical engineer for Shell, working on the “dark side” if you will, before he decided to take over the family property, and transform it into Thailand’s only organic resort.
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These days, it’s called Sampram Riverside Resort, a 160 room hotel with 6 traditional Thai houses, which employs 450 people and stands on 28ha which includes Botanic Gardens, a Thai Village and Rose Gardens. But the highlight is a green market on the weekends where only organic certified products are sold.
“Our concept is based around the traditional Thai way of life. We wanted to expand more into our local community and into organic agriculture,” Arrut says.
“Unfortunately farmers use a lot of chemicals in central Thailand and we want to reverse that trend. We’ve been doing that for the last four years. We are the only hotel in the country to receive funding to do this.
“We want to promote Sampram as a new destination and hub for organic producers and travel. It’s been going quite well.”
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“Quite well” is a bit of an understatement for this concept which is about to expand with an “urban farm shop” in Bangkok and with Sampram in talks with a number of luxury hotel chains and top supermarkets to promote their products.
“We weren’t professional farmers. We started approaching them and found most of them used chemicals and there was no incentive for them to not use them,” Arrut says.
“They were only getting cheap prices so we thought we needed to start being a market ourselves to buy from them.
“The Thai Government doesn’t look at this as a way of life, as a supply chain. It’s been a long process between us and building trust with the farmers.”
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Arrut says no one else is the country is offering anything similar and those hotels or resorts who claim to be organic are mostly paying lip service to the ideal. The next stage of the business is to work on “The Sampram Model” where stakeholders will form a Memorandum of Understanding on their various roles, rights and responsibilities within the supply chain.
“A lot of hotels have organic gardens but that is really for show. To sustain a whole hotel is a different story. We know the people who grow the fruit, the rice…we are in touch with about 200 farmers at the moment in our province,” he says.
“It is a leap of faith to do organic farming. I started eight years ago and I thought it was impossible. In the end I had to come back to myself and you learn from your practice and get better and better. You learn to get the best balance in your farm.
“My big dream is for the Sampram district to become chemical free. The market wants organic and the government has failed miserably by not paying the farmers and they are now switching to the organic. “
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Arrut also wants to use the 0.8ha of roses grown on the property to produce the first Thai rose oil in the world. And he’s sure his grandmother, who is now 91 and living in Bangkok, would be proud of what he’s achieved.
“She’s happy with what I’m doing. She was a keen gardener. She believes we have to adjust with time. Everything we are doing is based on the traditional Thai way of life.
“Every Thai feels now, after the coup, is the time for change. I’ve never felt like this before in my life.
“It is karma. We went right to the bottom, the only way is up.”
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The Global Goddess travelled as a guest of the Tourism Authority of Thailand. http://www.tourismthailand.org
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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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