IS there sex in this city we call Brisbane? And does it all have to take place behind closed doors? Or, is this a coitus capital where sex exists on the streets and in the suburbs? As delicious as it sounds, I’m not referring to a giant orgy here. I’m talking about that butterflies-in-the-stomach feeling you derive from discovering something new. And I think I’ve found it, at inner west Paddington. Please join me on this journey…where Paddington bares all.
I’ve always thought of Paddington as a bit of a sultry supermodel, stretching languidly along a steep ridge, the curve of her elegant back twisting gently from Upper Latrobe, into Latrobe, Given Terrace and then finally Caxton Street. She is Brisbane’s catwalk queen, but she is much too professional to be pretentious. You’ll find class in her converted workers’ cottages which have been transformed from homes into shops whose contents are colourful and brimming with charm.
We start at Hampton Home Living at Upper Latrobe where the first hidden gem is revealed just underneath this old Queenslander. At the newly-opened 180a Latrobe, you’ll find all sorts of sexy things like a felt winter bustier for $180 or some naughty knickers, French of course, for $45. You’ll find designer clothes hanging in the yard, and even an old-fashioned out-house with a pair of boots poking out from underneath the door.
Past Trammie’s Corner – a popular Paddington meeting spot – and across the road, we trek to Monty’s Chocolates, home to some of the world’s finest chocolates imported from the UK. Our tasting begins with the darkest chocolate first as your brain registers flavour before sugar. At this point in the tour we pause and decide this is much like men. Go for the quality and flavour, as if you’re chasing the sugar, you’ll always be wanting more.
A couple of doors back we stroll into the Paddington Antique Centre, a former 1929 cinema in which some 50 dealers have swamped the 1000 square metre floor space with ancient wares. If shopping is your idea of sex, you’ll find it here among thousands and thousands of pieces from old records to jewellery to retro clothing.
On this particular afternoon we’re on the “speed dating” version of Amanda Kruse’s Shop in Style Escape Hidden Gems Paddington Tour. Time poor, we’re indulging in a “quickie” if you will, as we taste test our way along this strip which transforms from antiques to vintage, to retro to modern. And there is nothing sexier than a city which backs its own. Along the way on your more leisurely three-hour version, you’ll discover local designers such as Dogstar, Little Workers, Maiocchi and Sacha Drake – where you’ll climax with a styling session and a glass of champagne.
Our wander reveals fine French restaurants, vintage clothing and home ware shops. Great cafes, funky food and colourful characters. Old books with a scent divine. So is there sex in this city we call Brisbane? Poke around Paddo. You’ll be most pleasantly surprised.
The Global Goddess was a guest of Shop in Style Escape. To book a tour, go to http://www.shopinstyleescape.com
ONE year ago today I stepped off the plane in Brisbane after 14 months of living in Singapore. People sometimes ask me how long it took me to adjust to being back in Queensland. I knew I’d arrived the moment those two tiny Qantas wheels left Changi’s tarmac.
I moved to Singapore one month after Queensland’s devastating 2011 floods. I was battling a personal torrent of my own and needed to shake off those last, pesky, stubborn crumbs of my broken marriage. I, like Queensland, had some healing to do. Suffice to say, it’s been a rocky road for both of us, plagued by potholes and the occasional melt down. That’s the thing about healing, it takes its own damn time and you can’t rush it. And then there’s those inevitable relapses, as Queensland saw again in January this year when the flooding rains returned. As for me, I’d be lying if I said I didn’t still have some crawl back under the doona days.
But I’ve just spent the past two weeks on assignment out in the Queensland countryside in which I grew up. We were barefoot through the bindi patch kids. Dirt on your cheeks types who didn’t come inside until after dark. Cycled our daggy pushies without helmets, rode in the Kingswood without seat belts, got a scratch and fixed it with a bit of good old-fashioned spit.
And in the past two weeks, I fell in love with my state all over again. Southerners often mock Queensland. They say our weather is too humid. Humid to me is living in Singapore – 100km from the Equator. They say Brisbane is a big country town. If sitting outside by the river on a temperate evening eating food designed by world-class chefs makes us a big country town then yes, we’re epic. Sure, we don’t have daylight savings and our politics are ridiculously conservative. But that just breeds the underground movement of creatives and larrikins I so love here. In Brisbane, strangers still chat to you in the street. Thank the bus driver when they alight. Let your car squeeze in during peak hour traffic.
In the past fortnight, I experienced in spades the friendliness for which Queensland is renowned. In the South Burnett – Joh country – I stumbled across characters, entrepreneurs and optimists. Shirt-off-your-back people where dogs with names like Merlot are the stars of an Australian book about Wine Dogs. A place of dappled sunshine and dimpled smiles.
I met wine makers and farmers’ wives. Ate the local smoked pork, drank the new world Italian reds they are planting out there. Stayed in century-old cottages on hillsides overlooking charming valleys. Did I mention it’s emerald green out there? Yep, after all that rain that so scarred our state, it’s left a legacy of lushness. I took the time for a good old chinwag.
Last week, my travels took me to the Darling Downs. But not the Toowoomba I knew from my childhood – one of haberdashery shops and picnics in the park. Sure, they still exist, but walk past an inner city lane and there’s graffiti art and pop up coffee shops courting the trendy set. Toowoomba is finally embracing its organic food scene. I ate salty olives, fancy French cuisine and slept in an elegant mansion. I stumbled across eclectic art galleries and small designer stores. Had a cuppa with the locals. They keep me honest, no room for egos out here, just kookaburras, galahs and king parrots.
Queensland and I are both a little older and wiser after the past few years. Sure, we’ll always carry our scars, but we’ve also got fire in our bellies. Yes, people sometimes ask me how long it took to adjust to being back in Queensland after Singapore. To be honest, I don’t think I ever really left.
The Global Goddess travelled through Southern Queensland Country as a guest of Tourism and Events Queensland. To plan your own escape, go to http://www.queenslandholidays.com.au
PAVAROTTI was in the Opera Suite, a Peugeot was parked in the lobby, there was a bottle of Moet behind every door, and if I didn’t know any better, I had stepped straight into a game of Cluedo. (Meet me on the Club Floor with the candelabra). If indeed this was Cluedo, it wasn’t a bad way to start, as normally, when it comes to the end of the working week, I’m pretty clueless. Sure, there’s always a cask of Chateau Cardboard (I’ll have a flagon of your finest red under $10, thanks) but no Italian operatic tenors hiding behind my bedroom door.
It’s a French Friday, but Paris this is not. Rather Brisbane, or the Sofitel Brisbane, to be exact. And thus begins my sultry Staycation, where I have precisely 17 hours to indulge in an affair to remember with my own city. And where better to begin than smack bang in the heart, above Central Station?
Don’t get me wrong. Normally I kick off a Friday night full of optimism. What’s not to love about the thought of no work for two whole days and the possibility of meeting a passionate paramour? I’m reminded of this by a piece of art in the Sofitel lobby art gallery. Yes, I too, start every Friday night feeling like a Foo Fighter.
I begin my journey with a short tour of the hotel which has undertaken a major refurbishment since last July. There are now six different room types, aimed at “infusing French elegance with local Brisbane culture”. The décor is fresh and sophisticated and is designed to provide a sense of coming home to your Parisian apartment. Even the colour of the carpet is a little ooh, la, la – it’s not just blue, it’s peacock blue, or was that green? I can’t really remember, as I said earlier, there was someone behind every door, with a bottle of something French and fizzy.
Up on the Club Floor (with the candelabra, remember?), the art-décor elegance continues, as do the unforgettable views of the city. If you want to feel a little French and smug, this is the place to sit and watch all the harangued office workers – of which you are normally one – rush to catch their trains home at the end of the working day.
Back on the ground floor, at the gracious Prive249 restaurant, the French flair continues with an Amuse Bouche of Poached Prawn with Herbed Aioli and Apple; Spanner Crab with Celeriac and Rhubarb Textures Entrée; Vanilla Confit Duck with Petit Pois a la Francasie Main; and Chocolate, Mint and Tonka Bean Cream Dessert.
After dinner my thoughts turn back to the Opera Suite, but not of the terrific tenor (I’m not sure about a man who returns from the dead), but of a photograph I took while I was there. Blame the bubbly if you must, but it looks like a couple enjoying the nocturnal activity for which the French are most famous.
I retreat to my room where I’d love to report that my affair to remember ended with a naughty nightcap, but the thought of curling up on my own in the Sofitel’s famed MyBed’s – all soft and squishy like you’ve been swallowed by a giant marshmallow – was enough for me. Frankly, that bed could have been packed with the North Queensland Cowboys, who I was reliably informed were staying on Floors 17, 25 and 26, and I wouldn’t have noticed.
And so, my sultry Staycation came to an end. This morning, predictably after so much Moet, I looked more like this creature I also found on the walls of the Sofitel’s lobby art gallery. Never let it be said that I don’t suffer for my art.
The Global Goddess was a guest of the Sofitel Brisbane. To create your own affair to remember go to http://www.sofitel.com/Brisbane
THERE’S a fascinating article in the February edition of Cathay Pacific’s Inflight Magazine Discovery which examines Asia’s love of the exotic, specifically its cuisine and culture. The story focuses on fashion, and how many traditional styles of dress not only still exist, but are part of the vernacular. From Vietnam’s elaborate ao dai’s to Japan’s kimono’s, wearing historic dress is not considered unusual. In China, women wear the qipao; the Balinese don the hip-wrapping kambe; while in India, modern-day Maharanis are embracing the sari. But what happens when certain Asian cultures swing dramatically in the other direction? The result, as I discovered on my trip to Taiwan last week, is weird, wacky and wonderful.
Is it a nurse, a nun or a sign indicating the women’s toilet? I stumbled across little pinkie while in the acclaimed Taiwanese restaurant, Silks Palace, better known for its award-winning yin and yang beef noodle soup served in a cauldron. Yes, our host is at the table explaining all about this amazing dish, and I’m out the back taking a photo of the dunny.
I’m not quite sure what a Damper Baby is, but it seems to play a crucial role in Taipei’s exclusive 101 shopping centre, home to the esteemed Din Tai Fung dumpling palace.
This little pooch outside Taiwan’s first ever Bubble Tea shop in Hsinshu was not only wearing this attractive leopard-print coat, but had four baby shoes on each foot. I mean paw. I bet puppy was named Gucci or Muffin.
Everyone else was gazing at the amazing spectacle up in the sky at the Sky Lantern Festival in Pingxi. I was looking downward at this young lady who was not afraid to put her best foot forward.
Proving that if you stay anywhere long enough the culture rubs off on you, my fellow Australians Natasha Dragun (Double Dragon) and Bev Malzard (Honey Ooolong) unleashed their inner animals.
And immediately sparked a trend among the younger Taiwanese visiting the Shen Fen Waterfall as these two cute little copycats demonstrated.
It was not just the fashion which fascinated in Taiwan, but the food, as these decadently sweet tomatoes soaked in plum juice proved at the Silks Palace. Is it a tomato? Is it a plum? Who could tell?
Back at the world-renowned Ding Tai Fung, the mountains of dumpling dishes were enchanting.
While the coffee sign at Pingxi was a little confusing…
The pippies in chili, ulimately interesting…
And the Buddhists at Long Shan Temple, inspiring.
Meanwhile, Cathay Pacific’s Rosemary was as bubbly as the champagne the airline served on the flight to Taipei, via Hong Kong. The Global Goddess travelled in style courtesy of Cathay Pacific’s Premium Economy cabin. Launched in February 2012, the new Premium Economy experience features a more quiet, spacious cabin than the traditional Economy Class with between 26 and 34 seats per aircraft. The seat pitch is 38 inches – six inches more than Economy Class – and the seat itself is wider and has a bigger recline. Special features include a large meal table, a cocktail table, footrest, a 10.6 inch personal television, an in-seat power outlet, a multi-port connector for personal devices and extra personal stowage space. Premium Economy passengers are also allowed 25kg of luggage and have priority check-in at dedicated counters and priority boarding.
How to get to Taiwan from Australia: Cathay Pacific has multiple flights a week to Taipei via Hong Kong from six major Australian cities, including at least three flights daily from Sydney; three from Melbourne; daily from Brisbane; seven weekly flights from Cairns and Adelaide; and ten weekly flights from Perth.
I’M gambling with God. Dicing with Dharma. Betting on Buddha. This adventure unravels in the Taiwanese capital of Taipei, in Long Shan Temple. And I’m essentially playing Taiwanese two-up but it’s not money I’m chasing, it’s love. Of all the temples in Taiwan, it’s here that people flock to seek answers to their lives. Want love? Money? Health? Success? Come to the Department of Deities. I’m lured into the temple by the peaceful hum of devout Buddhists.
Around me, people are playing some sort of interesting game involving two blocks of wood. And just when I think it’s all lost in translation, out of no where, a Californian Chinese woman whose name I later learn is Su Lin, shows me how it’s done.
“First you take a stick which has a number on it. Then, in your head, you tell Buddha your name, where you are from and what you are asking for (in my case: love),” Su Lin says.
“Then you take the two blocks of wood. If they both land face up, Buddha is still thinking about your request. If they both land face down, your request will not happen. If one lands face down and one lands face up, your request will come true.”
I nervously drop the blocks of wood. One lands face up and the other face down. Su Lin and I jump up and down like we’ve just won lotto. She takes the original number I selected and goes to a little cabinet from which she takes a corresponding piece of paper, all of it written in Chinese characters. She still doesn’t know my wish.
“Oh, you are very lucky,” she beams. “You will marry a man of honour.” I am then required to thank the Goddess of Mercy. Thank her? I could marry her myself for such good fortune.
This is a story of love and lanterns. At Hsinshu city, south of Taipei, the 2013 Taiwan Lantern Festival is underway to celebrate the last day of Chinese New Year and the first day of the full moon. If you think you’ve seen lanterns, think again. Every conceivable object has been transformed into an object of art. Delta Energy has also constructed the world’s largest outdoor projection screen which is 100 percent recycled at a cost of US$2 million.
Yes, things are changing in Taiwan where it’s a spell-binding blend of old and new. Here, 2000 year old lantern festivals and traditional food from its diverse regions, combine with concepts like conservation. The yin and the yang. For more contemporary Taiwanese experiences, head to Kaohsiung MRT in the south-west, where its Dome of Light ceiling has earned it the title of the second most beautiful tube station in the world after Montreal. At the nearby Ten Drum Ciatou Creative Park, they’re calling it “A Revolution of Drum Art” where an enterprising group of Taiwanese drummers – who performed at the 2000 Sydney Olympics – are taking tourists on a new beat. If you’ve enjoyed the show, you can even take a drum class.
Back in the north, about an hour east of Taipei in the usually sleepy village of Pingxi, the Sky Lantern Festival also takes place at this time of year. The traditional festival is held here, the home of waterfalls and mountains, as to have the smallest impact on the environment. Around 200,000 people congregate to write their wishes on a lantern and send it into the night sky. In my case, again, it’s love I shoot off to the stars.
According to Su Lin, the woman I met at the Long Shan Temple, should I meet my love, I must return with him to Taiwan to thank Buddha for making my dreams come true. I’m writing out wedding invitations as we speak.
The Global Goddess travelled to Taiwan in pure style courtesy of Cathay Pacific’s Premium Economy cabin. Launched in February 2012, the new Premium Economy experience features a more quiet, spacious cabin than the traditional Economy Class with between 26 and 34 seats per aircraft. The seat pitch is 38 inches – six inches more than Economy Class – and the seat itself is wider and has a bigger recline. Special features include a large meal table, a cocktail table, footrest, a 10.6 inch personal television, an in-seat power outlet, a multi-port connector for personal devices and extra personal stowage space. Premium Economy passengers are also allowed 25kg of luggage and have priority check-in at dedicated counters and priority boarding.
How to get to Taiwan from Australia: Cathay Pacific has multiple flights a week to Taipei via Hong Kong from six major Australian cities, including at least three flights daily from Sydney; three from Melbourne; daily from Brisbane; seven weekly flights from Cairns and Adelaide; and ten weekly flights from Perth.
If, like me, you’ve ever wondered what to do with your ex, one enterprising Brisbane business sells the perfect solution. At Olive Home, in Ashgrove, you can now buy and bake voodoo doll cookies with this lovely little cookie cutter set upon which my friend and fabulous food blogger Kerry Heaney (www.eatdrinkandbekerry.blogspot.com.au) stumbled today. And you wouldn’t even care if the cookies burned. Burn, baby, burn. (Sorry, I got carried away for a second).
Of course, there’s loads of other solutions as well. Just speak to my mother. You see, mum and dad sired four daughters, of which I am one (the nutty youngest if you really must know). And from those four daughters, there’s been five marriages. The interesting bit is, depending on your point of view, there’s also been four divorces. Now, if you’re a pessimist, you might say that’s a bad thing, but I like to think we’re a bunch of overachievers. I mean, the average divorce rate is at about 50%. Not in my family. No, we sit at 80%. Now, that’s what I call gifted. Although some days I can’t help but feel a little like a Kennedy. But I digress. After each divorce mum, who naturally blames every bloke for the failure of the marriages (she’s not far wrong), writes their name on a piece of paper, and puts it in the freezer. Yes, you heard right. She freezes them. Apparently, some old witch (could have been my grandmother), told her about this little tradition which is meant to somehow curse the blokes in question for all eternity. So mum’s freezer looks a little like this (but with far more food in it).
Mum, being married to a butcher and a grazier, has also threatened to chop off certain parts of their anatomy and put them on display like the one below. But we’ve all assured her there wasn’t enough worth chopping.
However, if you were insane enough to marry into our family, I’d say be afraid. Be very afraid. Mum scares the hell of out me most days, I can’t imagine what it would be like not being of her loins. So, what of that last 20% still married? My oldest sister has somehow managed to hang on to her husband, to the man affectionately known in our family as Last Man Standing. I sometimes see droplets of sweat appear on his brow when we refer to him like this.
Yes, should Last Man Standing ever do anything to warrant the final divorce – unless the sister who has married twice has a third crack at it – I can already imagine mum’s reaction.
I spent years recovering from my divorce and there were times when I agreed with mum, but I figured she’s got all the black magic covered. These days, I try to focus on what lays ahead. Yes, The Global Goddess is a lover, not a fighter. On that note, I leave you with this thought…
If you really do want to know all about food, rather than revenge, check out Eat Drink + Be Kerry, http://www.eatdrinkandbekerry.blogspot.com.au. This famous foodie is currently running a fantastic comp where you can win a year’s supply of hot chocolate. And for those who want a tour of my mother’s freezer, leave a comment below. I’m sure it can be arranged.
IN a bid to challenge my consumption on both an environmental and health level, yesterday I partook in my first food fast. Yes, I know what you’re thinking. She’s clawing her way one step closer to becoming a miu miu wearing hippy. While this may be my ultimate goal in life, I really did want to see how my body and mind would react to limiting my food intake to that of a child.
I was inspired to do this by a story in The Weekend Australian which talks about a new program known as intermittent fasting (IF). Under this plan, on two alternate days a week you essentially limit your daily intake to 2720 kilojoules for women (a little more for men), allowing your body to restore and recover.
While it’s still in its infancy, the “diet” is receiving rave reviews for its ability to reduce the chances of things like cancer, as it works on the premise that while we are always burning food fuel, our bodies don’t have time to actually repair. Followers also report losing at least 1kg a week.
So, was it all just a bit kooky like the time my sister and I invested our entire summer spending money in a bottle of Ebony tanning lotion, under the premise we would turn into Whitney Houston? Or did I actually realise some results? Let me also add, I am not someone who normally take photos of her food. Unless you are a food writer or chef, I find it intriguing when a bunch of white, wealthy people in the western world document everything they eat. (During this fast, you will notice how much everyone talks about food on Facebook. Stay off Facebook. One friend even posted a photo of a keyring that looked like a macaron).
I start the morning with the recommended breakfast: one boiled egg and a cup of black coffee. For someone who heaps two teaspoons of sugar and some milk into her daily Cup of Joe, this was a challenge. I tried to concentrate on the sensation of the coffee. Silky and black and a vessel to wake me up in the morning. A bit like my ideal man. Although I also like my ideal man to be sweet. I take my time and savour the egg, which is delicious, although I just wish there was more of it. Why, God, why, did I choose a normal chook egg and not that of an emu? Meanwhile, I reminisce about the missing piece of toast like a long-lost lover.
By mid-morning I am not only feeling light-headed, but I am also having evil, hateful thoughts towards my parents. My low blood sugar is causing me to recall every horrible thing they’ve ever done (or not done) and is playing out like a horror movie in my head. Thankfully, I’ve been to meditation class the night before, and am practising to just “observe” the Freddy Kruger in my head.
Lunch. At last. I’ve spent the past 4.5 hours since my egg glancing at the clock, counting down like a child would to Christmas. Lunch is a bowl of vegetable soup. Who knew carrots, corn and chickpeas could be a whole world of fun?
The thing that concerns me is my afternoon swim. How on earth am I going to swim 1km on a stomach devoid of carbs? Secondly, if anyone else attempts to share my lane, I’m in such a scratchy mood, I think I might drown them, myself, or both of us. I panic a little. There’s nothing in the story about exercise. Am I meant to do it at all?
By mid-afternoon, I think I could eat one of the small children I spied at the pool but I’m lucid enough to realise this could result in me losing my Blue Card. I feel like Victoria Beckham – hungry and cranky. I decide to make a cup of Peppermint tea.
Dinner is a veritable feast of 10 cherry tomatoes, half a sliced eggplant (I cheat and buy the biggest I can find), 1 zucchini, 1 red capsicum and half a red onion scattered with basil, drizzled with balsamic vinegar and 1 teaspoon of olive oil and roasted. I think I might burst with glee when I read the recipe also allows for 1 tablespoon of parmesan. I pretend the eggplant is a steak and my sparkling mineral water is a G&T.
I go to bed slightly earlier, and hungrier than normal. I realise all I’ve thought about all day is food (which is a nice change from men). Funny about what you obsess, when you can no longer have it. But I’ve done it! While I wouldn’t rush to do it again, I have learned something new about food and my attitude towards it. In a world where so many are starving, it’s nice to be reminded of our abundance.
The Global Goddess’ verdict: Unlike total fasts, which I believe are not practical and possibly send your body into “starvation mode” when next you eat, the restricted calorie intake fast has merit. I could see it working after a big holiday or festive season in which you’ve over-indulged. Possibly, and this is the hard bit, if we restricted our calories a little every day, we wouldn’t have to resort to two days of fasting. What really appealed to me was that it made me value every morsel and think about the food I consumed. To donate to Foodbank Australia – whose mantra is “an Australia without hunger” – go to www.foodbank.com.au
“An awkward morning is better than a lonely night,” Graffiti on the toilet wall at The Woodford Folk Festival.
I’M in Bill’s Bar when the delightful Doreen takes my order. “He must be hot, young and smart,” I tell her. Doreen isn’t just any old waitress, she works at the Meet Market where dating dreams come true. “What else do I want?” I ask Doreen. “Someone who treats you like the Goddess that you are,” she replies. “How do you know I’m a Goddess?” I ask her in amazement. “Darl, when you’ve been in this game long enough, you just know.” And with that, she hands me a carbon copy of my order straight from her notebook.
Unfortunately, later that day, Doreen also accosts one of my gorgeous gay male friends and tells him she can find plenty of women for him. Gay-dars, it appears, don’t work quite so well out in the Australian bush.
I’m at the annual Woodford Folk Festival, about an hour and a half north-west of Brisbane, re-setting my soul for the year ahead. The previous evening in The Joy Luck Club tent I’ve already attended Jon Bennett’s show “Pretending Things are a Cock”, which is pretty much as the title suggests. Jon’s brother Tim used to be obsessed with his own penis, to the point he would put it in Jon’s ear. A childhood prank has since spawned a career for Jon, who now travels the globe, taking photos of all things phallic. You’ve never thought of the Statue of Liberty as a penis? Think again.
But if you think this is a sex fest, you’d be mistaken. Nor is it only for happy hippies. For one week between Christmas and New Year, Woodford is the place where ordinary people can simply suspend reality. Listen to some great music, participate in enlightening talks, meet random people, eat, dance, laugh and camp. A place for acrobrats and artists. And most of all, where you can open your mind. Shake off the cobwebs of the year just gone.
So successful is this festival, which has battled every challenge from stinking hot summers where crowd numbers wilted, to flooding rains which devastated the site, that former and current Prime Ministers make it their business to be there. Clad in t.shirt and jeans, Prime Minister Julia Gillard tells the packed Concert tent the story of a friend’s children, a little girl and a little boy. The little boy tells the little girl he wants to be Prime Minister when he grows up, to which the little girl responds: “You can’t. Only women in Australia can be Prime Minister.”
The crowd laughs, but nor is this a love fest. The dirty, smouldering issues like coal seam gas, fracking, climate change and whaling in the Southern Ocean simmer all week long in the Greenhouse tent where experts such as Professor Ian Lowe talks about the rise of the Eco Warrior.
In the middle of a sassy summer storm after a sultry day, a panel in The Blue Lotus tent is talking about bullying and examining how it may be linked to creating a creative class. Those kids that are picked on and socially isolated learn some pretty crafty tricks such as conjuring up imaginary friends with whom to play. Daydreaming of nicer, colourful worlds where everyone is kind. They become the masters of perceptiveness, awareness, intuition.
Under the canvas at The Grande, Spain meets surf music in the form of long-haired Latinos Los Coronas, a band which sounds like matadors have arrived in Maui. Acclaimed Aboriginal singer Archie Roach packs The Amphi & Hilltop stage as does the John Butler Trio. Kate Miller-Heidke kills it at The Concert and Women in Docs is in luck at The Duck.
Back in The Blue Lotus, Sunshine Coast Astrologer Lyvea Rose doles out the skinny on the year ahead. “Between 2013 and 2015, the corrupt kings will fall. The hippy movement which started in the 60s will be realised. Don’t attach to old structures like banks and bosses. It’s a revolution of the heart. Make love, not war. Become the king or queen of your own life. Simplify your life. It’s an excellent year for healers and artists.”
And best of all? Venus is apparently more laid-back this year. Women will be pursued by men. It is, according to Lyvea, a “sexy and stylish” year.
Happy 2013. May your most delicious dreams and wildest desires come true. I know what mine are. I’d love to hear some of yours…
To find out more about the Woodford Folk Festival go to www.woodfordfolkfestival.com
SHE wore a smile of smug serenity, the kind borne from hours and hours of meditation and, I suspect, being a gentle soul. I’m in country New South Wales for a three-day yoga treat and Basia, who calls herself a “tea advocate”, is performing a modern-day version of a Japanese tea ceremony to welcome us to Billabong Retreat.
My journey to enlightenment begins several hours earlier when my friend Jess picks me up at SydneyAirport in her clapped-out car which lacks air-conditioning in the middle of an Australian heat wave. It’s such a scorcher, I expect to see Satan himself behind the steering wheel.
Jess and I have a history of colourful trips which share an unwittingly similar theme. It’s always hot, there’s limited alcohol and we swim in interesting watering holes. In June it was Jordan’s Dead Sea, this time it’s an Australian Billabong the colour of black tea.
I’m in the fittingly name Harmony Cottage on this 5000 hectare property replete with lotus pond. Jess is in a tent. Yoga takes place in a central yurt. I fall in love with the word yurt. Billabong is an eco-retreat where each guest is allocated 50 litres of water each day which are broken down as such:
- 3 minute shower = 30L
- 1 x full loo flush = 4.5L
- 3 x half loo flushes = 3 L
- Spare = 3.5 L
Guests are advised to save water and “shower with a friend”. If only. I perform a crude mathematical calculation in my head. If I don’t have a bowel movement for six days, I can afford another shower. Jess reminds me we aren’t here for six days, so my maths, as always, is flawed. In my spare time, I take to trading shower minutes with the other guests.
Paul and Tory von Bergen own Billabong Retreat near Richmond, about an hour’s drive north-west of Sydney. Paul, a former high-flying Londoner who made millions of pounds, lived in a penthouse and had a photo of a yacht on his desk, lost all his money in a bad business decision. He headed to Thailand where he discovered yoga, but instead of a lightening bolt, it was a gradual transformation on his path to serenity.
Rather than teaching guests the kind of power yoga that has crept into chic city studios, Paul believes yoga is about the mind. A kind of meditation yoga which dates back to 300 BC. Jess calls it Moga.
“The fact you are twisting one way or the other way is almost here nor there, it is about peace of mind and health and happiness,” Paul says.
“Yoga was always about the mind for thousands and thousands of years. It was only really when it came to the West in the last 60 years that is has become dominated by the physical.
“For 4000 to 5000 years yoga was not about postures. It is about developing the mind. It is about neuroplasticity – the ability to retrain out minds.
“Whoever came up with that phrase ‘you can’t teach an old dog new tricks’….that’s bullshit. It is about feeling better, living longer, happier and more contented lives.
“As long as we’re heading in roughly the right direction, it is OK.”
On a scorching Saturday afternoon we perform a Hindu chant 108 times – the number 108 believed to be the figure required to achieve enlightenment. I arrive at roughly the 38th Om and my mind starts to play a nasty trick. It reminds me it’s the weekend, my throat is parched from chanting, and I need an ice-cold Sav Blanc. It takes everything in my power to sit still and return to the next 70 chants by which time I forget Sav Blanc, let alone the sacred Marlborough region, exists.
Paul teaches us a simple seven minute practice that we can take home. Seven minutes to serenity. On the drive home and after a weekend of gorgeous vegetarian fare, I implore Jess to stop at the first coffee shop she can find before she drops me at the airport. I’m in the middle of a long check-in line when my tummy starts to grumble. I break into a cold sweat. Fuelled by caffeine and possibly the fact I can flush the loo all I wish, my bowels have decided upon the most inconvenient time all weekend to do what they are designed to.
I barely make it through check-in and rush to the toilet. Afterwards, I celebrate with a large carton of greasy chips and a New Zealand pinot noir. My enlightenment is tested three times on the way home. The first time, when the passenger next to me decides to shake a tin of breath mints all the way home; the second when we hit severe turbulence; and the third, when a maniac cabbie picks me up at the airport, road-raging his way to my front door. I practice breathing in and out slowly and saying “I am” over and over in my mind.
I think back to what Paul has to say about this modern, frazzled world in which we exist.
“There is too much masculine energy in the world. We can be both, soft and strong. Women are better at that,” he says.
“I’d like to see more men at this retreat. It is the story of my life at the moment. I haven’t spoken to a bloke in three months.”
Welcome to my world Paul. Welcome to my world.
The Global Goddess travelled as a guest of Billabong Retreat. To find out how you can achieve serenity in seven minutes, go to www.billabongretreat.com.au or better still, book yourself in for an enlightening adventure.
THERE were frogs in the pond, pigs in a blanket, a gaggle of geese and a gargle of girlfriends. White cockatoos sat at arm’s length over the back fence and Joe the dog slouched under the table, barely able to conceal his bemusement.
We arrived in the one-horse, one-pub Queensland country town in the height of the noon-day sun. The girl we like to call Jodi (who has insisted her friends stop naming her in blogs, so for the sake of this story let’s call her Clarky) had packed ice blocks for the 45 minute drive west of Brisbane. Things were going swimmingly, until I drove the wrong way into the town’s drive thru bottle-o. Clarky swore she heard a banjo play somewhere in the distance and I thought I saw a tumbleweed blow past, until I realised it was just Corina stumbling out of the bottle-o with some lemonade. We kept the engine running…just in case.
It was Retro Sunday lunch at Dame Alison’s where a mob of top sheilas, six of us in all aged between 39 and 72, gathered on the verandah for a good old chinwag and some fine food. Except this year the food wasn’t so much fine but funky. We harked back to the 70s, clutching at the recipes of our mothers and grandmothers. I pulled out old faithful: my spinach cob loaf and some sausage rolls. Mr Lee brought cheer and cheerios. Clarky baked some chooks, Heaney tossed a salad, and Alison, a Shepherd’s pie which mysteriously contained no lamb.
But the piece-de-resistance was Corina’s nana’s jelly salad. Imagine, if you possibly can, yellow jelly, carrot shreds and, wait for it… mustard, and you’ve got the salad. Unfortunately for me, who’d spent the week suffering from a gastro virus, it too closely resembled what I’d been trying to keep down and from the looks of the others, they were about to join me as fellow passengers on the proverbial porcelain bus. Nana would have be turning in her grave if she could have heard our comments, that is, if she wasn’t so preserved from all the mustard she used to consume.
But it wasn’t so much about the food, as friendship. Feisty femme fatales dining on the deck to swap stories and secrets, swatting flies and egos. There’s no bullshit with Brisbane women – they’ll slap you down if you get too big for your boots, but are the first to pick you up when you break a heel. That’s what I love.
As the perfect Pimms afternoon wore on, we braved the gamut of conversations. Should Vegemite be kept in the fridge? Would you look after your cheating ex-husband if he was dying of a terminal illness? We spoke of death and dating (sometimes, for me, in the same sentence). Three of us had boyfriends, three of us didn’t. Those of you who remember the Joh Bjelke-Petersen era will enjoy the irony of a group of journalists and PRs standing, side-by-side in the back yard, feeding the chooks. We collected fresh eggs from the chook pen to take home.
We spoke of sex, travel and work. That’s another thing I love. In a town like Brisbane where you have to compete furiously for the work, our foes are our friends. There’s no room in this river city for small-minded competitiveness. What goes around, comes around. And so it is with these girls.
They keep me honest, they rough me up, but they are the first to be there when I need it. A group of us were recently up in Lombok for our annual travel writer’s conference. Someone from Sydney paid us one of the nicest compliments we’d ever heard. “You Brisbane girls are just so friendly and fun. You’re down-to-earth. You’re earthy.”
And she hadn’t even seen Nana’s jelly salad.