AN organised man, my best mate is not. Loyal, kind, and the sort of caring bloke who will take your call at 3am if you are broke, or worse, broken – absolutely – but he was obviously buried under a pile of dirty laundry when the organised gene was handed out. And so I find myself, at the end of our weekend camping trip, straddling the side of a busy highway, semi-trailers brushing past me on one side, snakes in the grass on the other, thonged feet and desperate eyes searching frantically for the tyre to our campervan that has mysteriously flung off as we drove. How did this happen? My mate forgot to tighten the wheel nuts when he changed the spare.
We’ve known each other 30 years, my mate and me, so none of this should have come as a surprise, least of all to me. But each time it somehow does. The ante upped on what could possibly go wrong. Our trip out to Queensland’s pretty Girraween National Park starts late. We’re meant to leave at 6.30pm for the four-hour journey south-west but that is pushed back as my mate is getting his car serviced. The same uninsured car we discover he’s been driving without brakes. He can’t find the camp stove which is meant to be where all the other camping gear has been plonked. Under his house, home to piles of unwashed laundry and a plethora of treasures owned by a variety of people, both living and dead, who may or may not also be buried beneath the rubble.
We eventually hit the road and arrive at the National Park close to midnight. We’re meant to be meeting our mates in their Kombi as they know in which of the two campsites we’re booked. My mate hands me a cigarette lighter in the dark. “What’s this for?” I ask. “I forgot the torch,” he says, as I stare incredulously at the stick which is meant to illuminate the night to allow us to make camp. Just as we pitch the campervan for the night in the middle of the Aussie bush, the Kombi arrives, having come off second best to a kangaroo, with all of its right hand side panels dented. I climb into bed for a restless sleep about angry kangas, and a nagging fear an equally annoyed park ranger is going to shine his torch into our illegal impromptu campsite in the death of night.
Things are looking brighter the next morning and we decide to move to a proper campsite where we don’t have to wee in the bush in the dead of night in the middle of snake breeding season. My mate decides he’s not going to put the pop top down on the campervan, instead driving the short distance to our new site with protruding beds still made. Things are going well, until my mate turns a tight corner and the van crunches into the back of his expensive black jeep, denting not only two corners of the four-wheel-drive but putting the pop top out of alignment. All of a sudden, our cheap camping weekend is looking expensive.
But troopers that we are, we set up camp, drive into the nearest town to pick up eggs (my mate forgot the eggs), and the four of us regroup over a few beers on one of those all-Aussie bush hotel verandas. We spend the next day walking the tracks for which this particular park is known. It’s three hours of solid bushwalking and food for the soul among the blooming spring wild flowers. It’s my job that evening to cook dinner – Beef and Guinness stew in a camp oven – while the others take a second hike. I’ve never cooked in a camp oven before and I’m nervous. What if the hungry hikers return and I’ve burned the beef? There’s not exactly a pizza place out here in the bush.
It’s a stunning afternoon as I stoke the fire, sip on a beer, and the others set off on their walk. And then the weather changes, rapidly, dramatically. Angry thunder starts grumbling in the distance and I have just enough time to put my beer (first rule of camping: save the beer) under some shelter before the sky erupts. I jump around like a mad marsupial, simultaneously racing to zip up the campervan, close the Kombi, the car windows, save the fire wood from a soaking and most of all, salvaging dinner. The storm is raging all around me, my friends are somewhere in the blackening bush, but there’s no way the stew on which I’ve spent the past 3 hours is going to spoil. I stand in the cold, wet, dark, hair plastered to my face, stoking my fire and stirring my stew like a wild witch.
The storm blows over as quickly as it arrived and my friends are swept back into camp. The camp table is set for dinner, red wine is poured and my stew is sumptuous, all tender and smoky and made with a kind of frenzied love. We wake up the next day, our cars and bodies a bit bruised and battered, feet and faces dusty and ready to hit the road. It’s only when I’m standing on the side of the highway with my mate several hours later, looking for our missing tyre, that his words of earlier that weekend hit me: “This doesn’t happen sitting around at home, you know.” We never do find the tyre and instead, limp into the tiny town of Aratula on the original shredded spare, and abandon the van there, until we can return the next day with new tyres. We stop further down the road and crack open a warm beer from the back of the car and laugh outrageously. And that’s the crux of this story. In life, sometimes you come off second best to a proverbial roo or two, you get dinged and dusty, wet, hungry and tired. Things don’t go to plan. But, like a kangaroo, it’s how you bounce that matters most.
I RECKON they were good signs. Literally. I’m out in the Queensland countryside on a man hunt. Well, I’m actually meant to be doing a story on polo. But I know bloody bugger all about horses, contrary to what I told the editor of a new horse magazine whose title sounds suspiciously like the tome for which Hugh Grant pretended to write in the film Notting Hill. And so I do what Hugh did. First rule of journalism: fake it till you make it. Second rule: hope like hell you figure it out somewhere along the way. (For the record, I’ve been doing this for 25 years now and suspect any day now I shall get caught).
But I wasn’t entirely lying. We did have a pony when we were children which one of my sisters ridiculously called Fairy Twinkle. I’d never call a pony Fairy Twinkle. Particularly a male pony such as ours. Unless it was gay. But no one was gay in 1970s Queensland. Not even my two uncles who wore tight white shorts, as many rings on their fingers as Liberace and lived with other men. They were the only men back then who crossed their legs when they sat down. Which in my opinion gave the game away. Mum insists to this day it was because they lived in New Zealand.
But I digress. My sister most prone to nostalgia believes it was she who gave the horse such a stupid name. Fairy Twinkle died on the eve of one of our sports carnivals, and our parents didn’t tell us, because they feared it would “upset our performance”. Just for the record, there was no “performance” to upset – the girls in my family more apt in scholastic than sporting abilities, only just beating the fat kid to last place. The day after the sports carnival Mum sat us all down and simply said: “Fairy Twinkle has gone to the glue factory”. And then she went all Senate Estimates Committee on us and refused to take further questions.
So here I am, on a sunny September reminiscent of my sports days, out in the country about to write about a polo game. I’m told there will be men. Plenty of stallions. I’m driving to country Canungra and the first sign is a good one. It simply says: “Boyland”. I drive a bit faster and sing along to Katy Perry. Five minutes later, I past through another town: “Wonglepong”. If that isn’t a sign, I don’t know what is. Canungra’s Café Metz is full of men in army fatigues when I arrive, but men in uniform scare the anti-authoritarian in me. Instead, I grab a coffee and sit under a sign which simply states: “Today Is My Lucky Day.” Another sign.
I’m here to interview Australia’s top polo player and my photographer friend Cathy is here to shoot him (not literally, as my accountant Shaun thought recently when he saw that I was claiming my phone on my annual tax return for “shooting” jobs). Cathy and I both like a bit of eye candy and the prospect of spending the warm afternoon with a bunch of hot men and getting paid to do so is all rather attractive. If only we could get to the men. You see, there’s the issue of the horses, who seem to have taken a liking to both Cathy and me. At one point I feel some rather rapturous breathing down the back of my neck, followed by a slow, sticky, unmistakable slobber. It seems Mr Ed has gone all horny and has found the back of my head a rather attractive prospect. Meanwhile, Cathy isn’t faring any better, and with each click of her camera, the mob moves in and she’s flat out photographing the subject.
But professionals that we are, we spend six hours on this job, Cathy shooting it till it’s dead (again Shaun, if you are reading this I don’t mean murder) and me, tiptoeing through the tulips of manure and interviewing every human I can find. Which is where I stumble across 72-year-old Jim MacGinley. Jim’s been playing polo for 52 years and he’s my go-to man about how to find a fella on these fields.
“Well, it would be best to be a player…you can take that whatever way you want,” he chuckles outrageously as his naughty joke.
“The Aussie boys are there for the games and want to play polo. Go to England or the US if you are looking for a fella with money and Argentina if you are looking for a playboy.”
And hence we two fine fillies leave the polo field. Hot, a bit bothered, with no fellas but a nice story, some great pics and a good tip on how to find a polo player. Don’t be surprised if next time you read me, I’m off to South America. Chasing a story about a horse, of course. Just don’t tell my accountant.
IT’S a Wizard of Oz kind of weekend, where I discover courage and compassion in the most unlikely of characters…the Gold Coast. Beneath the naughty neon lights, the throaty hum of the ocean and the throbbing drum of nightclubs for which Surfers Paradise is famous, lays a rip curl of creativity which is building into the mother of all swells.
My weekend starts with a yoga session in front of Kurrawa Beach, in the park named after swimwear supremo Paula Stafford, whose two-piece bathing costumes put bikinis and the Gold Coast on the global catwalk. I’m in a public park, with my legs in the air, spread wide apart, simultaneously contemplating my form and hoping the swirling seagulls don’t poo on me. It’s a day of downward dogs and inward reflection.
Our yoga teacher for the morning is Laura Humphreys from Threedom Wellness, who gently urges us to accept the notion that yoga is a balance between courage and compassion. And you can forget about bringing your ego to class.
“Backbends are about the future. Forward bends are about looking inwards. We often don’t like to look inwards, it scares most of us,” she says. Interestingly, Laura has to force my body into a forward bend, which becomes easier with each deep yoga breath. Some days, you’ve just gotta breathe.
There’s just enough time for a short break at Broadbeach’s eclectic Elm for a dirty chai – a coffee and chai – before the next wave deposits us at Burleigh and Roar Food. Business Partners Darren Jones and Suki Kasinathan are passionate about sustainable eating, and in two hours will teach you how to prepare 10 raw food recipes. It’s here I learn that cauliflower is “sensitive” – the kind of vege you might avoid if you were dating it, but a perfect substitute for couscous. Want a new twist on pasta? Why not try zucchini spirals? Or a raw food apple pie – cheeky crusts need not apply.
“Each of your vegetables has a personality. When you are eating raw you really connect to the food. Each individual apple will have a different sweetness,” Suki says.
“For me it is a journey and I don’t know where it is going to end but it feels really good.”
The plates you eat on during this class are made from a bi-product of sugar cane, as are the forks and even the recipes are printed on ethical paper made from wheat and soy rice.
The current sweeps me to Budd’s Beach and onto a kayaking journey with Steve Vah from Australian Kayaking Adventures where we cut through the water with our paddles and through the bullshit of life with talk of love and passion. Steve is married to a Colombian and he knows a thing of two about fiery females with big hearts. Our journey along the Gold Coast canal takes us past Bar Helm Bistro @Surfers, where later that night I’ll indulge in Helm’s Smoking Texas Mary cocktail take on a Bloody Mary and reluctantly concede that my friends made a wise choice in the Parmesan Crusted Snapper Fillet with lemon butter.
I’m on the Gold Coast for Australia’s premier blogging training event – ProBlogger – and it’s here that courage and compassion raise their handsome heads again. In his opening address, ProBlogger architect Darren Rows proffers an insight into facing your fears.
“Fear is a signal that something important is about to happen. It’s a good thing. Ask yourself – what’s the worst thing that can happen, how would you recover if it happened, and what’s the best thing that could happen? The reality is somewhere in between,” he says.
“Even wobbly courage is courage. Figure out what the fear actually is. Don’t play the comparison game, comparisons are not fair. People show the best of what they do, where you know everything about yourself, even the bad stuff.
“Compare yourself to yourself. You are unique. Use that to your competitive advantage. No one has your story.”
Guest speaker Trey Ratclif, a photographer who is blind in one eye, is 42 and only picked up a camera 7 years ago. His self-taught imagery is legendry around the world. The kind of excellent work that attracts jealous detractors.
“It is arguably better to have a weird brain than a normal brain. People on the edge of the bell curve do interesting things with their lives. Let the rocks people throw at you just fall,” he says.
“There’s a few people out there who are evil and feed a white core of hate inside of me. I fight back with awesome.
“A blog is probably the greatest self-discovery tool of our age. You find out new things and truths within yourself. When you are telling your stories you are living in the now.”
Actor Samuel Johnson, who is riding around Australia on a unicycle to raise money for breast cancer research in honour of his sister Connie who is battling the disease, makes a surprise guest appearance at the conference. You need courage and compassion to make an epic journey around a monster-sized country like ours. And a heart of gold. And that’s where the crux of this story on courage and compassion lies for me. As a blogger, I think you must write with heart, humour or humility. Like you should live your life. And, if you’re really lucky, you might find all three.
The Global Goddess explored The Gold Coast as a guest of Tourism and Events Queensland. For more information on a Gold Coast holiday go to http://www.queenslandholidays.com.au.
To donate to Samuel Johnson’s ride for breast cancer, please go to http://www.loveyoursister.org
SPRING has sprung and The Global Goddess’ thoughts have once again turned to love. (Not that they’ve ever really left this topic, but in recent months, I’ve also been preoccupied with lots of travel). And so, I did what I said I wouldn’t do, and rejoined a dating site. And it’s not at all like my bogan dating site, this one promises to find me the man of my dreams based on my core values. Or, so the survey says. And I really, really want to look like the handsome couple they have on their television advertisements.
Now, this may shock no one, but things have got off to a bit of a shaky start. Yes, I’ve been contacted by a number of men, but whether we share the same core values based on the 400 odd questions I painstakingly answered, remains to be seen. Hot off the blocks was Wayne, followed quickly by Newton, which made me immediately think of Wayne Newton and question whether I needed to don some sequins and book a ticket to Las Vegas. I overlooked Wayne and Newton as they were significantly older than me, and I’m not interested in aged care. There was also a bloke who called himself “Chicker” who happens to be black and clearly hasn’t stumbled across any political correctness manuals in the past few decades. There’s also a fella whose name is Innocent…in case the police are looking for him, and another one called Yasser, who looks mysteriously like the late Arab leader. Seriously, I couldn’t make this stuff up if I tried.
But my favourite so far has been a guy called Guy, who is not only peddling the aged pension, but cited the “three things he can’t live without” as: his rifle, his Bible and sex. I am entirely unsure about what I said in my survey question which could possibly match me with this pistol poppin’, God-fearing sexaholic, but Guy and his gun won’t be getting near me anytime soon. (Lord knows I can’t sew, so I wouldn’t begin to know how to make a white pointy hood from a bed sheet). On the plus side, there was an age-appropriate bloke called Adam who actually conversed with me until I told him what I did for a living, at which point he confessed he couldn’t spell (which was quite apparent from his written conversation). It was my moment of truth, but I decided (against my better judgment and on the advice of a few male mates) to let that one go, and joked instead how I couldn’t count. I never heard from Adam again. Adam, if you are reading this (you can read, can’t you?) where are you, my love?
So what has drawn this slurry of strange men to me? Perhaps it was in the way I answered the questions. There were a few curious ones, such as “Do you slip, slop and slap?” Silly me, I thought they were referring to applying sunscreen, so I diligently answered that I indeed do this regularly, enjoy it and particularly like it all over my face. And then it occurred to me. What, if in hell’s name, this was a sexual question? Was this what was encouraging this gaggle of Grandpas out of their retirement homes and into my inbox?
What has interested me is that each and every one of these men who have contacted me has asked a curious question. Out of all the questions they could have posed from a long list supplied, they chose this one: “What is your view on traditional gender roles?” Oh, fellas, puhlease. That question is more transparent than grandma’s nightie. I get it. You don’t want a woman with a mind of her own, but rather someone you can boss around, all the time complaining that your missus does nothing but spend all your money. In the meantime, one week in and the site itself has shown interest in me, emailing me at 4.45am the other day to tell me “you’re doing great”. Really? How do you know this, computer-generated message? How do you know I’m not clutching a bottle of Sav Blanc and weeping into my pillowcase, when I’m not waking up from nightmares about bad spellers, who are on the lamb from the cops and who love guns and bibles?
And so, after week one, things are going as well as expected. I’d love to stay and chat, but I have my own income to earn, a mind of my own, and some more sunscreen to apply.
AND THE WINNER IS….
The winner of the Gaia Goddess competition is Annabelle Watt. Congratulations Annabelle, Gaia will be in touch directly with you to organise your gorgeous two-night stay valued at $1585.
IT’S a wretched Wednesday of dastardly deadlines and tawdry tax returns. A day which begs to end with a bottle of red and in the foetal position, not a drive to the Gold Coast in unpredictable traffic. But life is a funny flirt and I find myself frocking up, fishnets and all, stopping to pick up an old friend on the way. We use the journey to catch up – on life and love, words and work, wealth, health and happiness. The drive passes in a fabulous flash, two garrulous girlfriends snatching a moment in our otherwise busy lives. We arrive on time, champagne and strawberry in hand, and plonk ourselves down in the theatre.
Opening night of Cabaret De Paris at Jupiters Hotel & Casino opens with a flurry of flame red feathers and big, bare breasts. Yes, those teases glitz and glamour have returned to this Gold Coast institution, channelling Paris in this new show reminiscent of the Moulin Rouge. And this performance has brought with it flaxen-haired Marissa Burgess, billed as the Longest Serving Star in the Moulin Rouge’s 120-year history.
It’s cheeky Cabaret as we know it, a dash of nice, a splash of naughty, some wizardy, magic, pole artistry and a touch of comedy. There’s more boobs and plenty of bums in this stage show and you’ll find yourself toe tapping to some of the upbeat numbers such as Parlez Vous Francais and Abba’s Voulez Vous. At the same time, it will make you wish you’d been to yoga class a little more lately, such is the flexibility and strength of some of the performers.
More than $250,000 has been spent on creating the bejewelled costumes which make this show visually spectacular and, harking back to the Moulin Rouge and a first for the new Jupiters Theatre, guests can also experience Cabaret De Paris in quintessential cabaret style with round-table VIP seating. All the better to see the boobs and bums, I say. But the real scene stealer lies surprisingly in the lone comedian on his bike. Acrobatic cyclist Justin Case is pole thin and a rodeo clown among the bedazzling bullfight before you, and packs a punch with his wit as much as his skill on his cycle. I won’t spoil the surprise but there’s a lovely moment which will have you on the edge of your seat from this charming comic.
The show ends with more furious feathers. On the drive home I ponder my original question of the day, about whether we should flirt with life, even on days when we don’t feel like it. The words of the show’s star Marissa Burgess, sung so beautifully in French, swirl around in my head – Non Regrette Rien – No Regrets. Should we fully participate in this thing called living? The answer is undoubtedly yes. Because we Can-Can.
The Global Goddess was a guest of Jupiters Hotel & Casino. Cabaret De Paris runs until October 11 with nightly performances Tuesday through Saturday at 7.30pm, Sundays at 4pm, Wednesday 1pm Matinees, and a Saturday Matinee starting at 3pm. Tickets are on sale through Ticketek at http://www.ticketek.com.au or by calling 132 849 or from the Jupiters Box Office.
WITH just one week remaining to enter the Gaia Goddess competition, I wanted to remind Global Goddess readers of what they could win. Yes, you could win two nights valued at $1585 at Olivia Newton-John’s Gaia Retreat in the Byron Bay Hinterland. Imagine…
…lazing on this plump day bed…
…washing away your worries in this cool pool…
…or a hot spa bath…
…refuelling on only the freshest food…
…drinking exotic teas from this magical tin…
…booking a health consult with a true professional…
…saluting the setting sun over this rolling hills…
…for the keys to the competition, go to http://www.gaiaretreat.com.au/enquire-now/newsletters
and sign up to receive Gaia Retreat newsletters. The competition will close at 5pm Australian Eastern Standard Time on Monday, September 9, 2013. Gaia will draw the lucky winner, who will be announced on The Global Goddess blog on Tuesday, September 10, 2013.
This lovely prize package includes two nights accommodation staying in the Layana Room double/twin; all gourmet meals and snacks; spa gift on arrival; daily yoga and all retreat activities; and use of all the facilities.