I’M currently on assignment in Hong Kong and Macau, but wanted to send you a pictorial post card of Hong Kong’s eclectic use of its tiny spaces. Please enjoy.
Washer woman. This elderly woman perches precariously on her outside ledge. No backyard in which to hang your washing? No worries. Hong Kongers use every inch of space and washing is no exception.
Hot off the press. I’m told this old printing press is now a secret bar in Hong Kong. Next time I’m in the city I’m coming for a tipple.
Stairway to heaven. A steep and mysterious stair case replete with traditional Chinese entrance to frame it. One of the few old staircases of its type left.
Sky high. This is One96, the new boutique hotel in which I’ve been staying for the past three nights. Each room is its own floor. But don’t get excited. They are tiny floors, but excellent use of space.
Sassy street art. Graffiti art is slowly creeping into this city, whose government remains conservative about urban art. You’ll find cheeky pieces everywhere.
Packed to the rafters. A traditional Chinese shop. This one has been serving succulent sugar cane juice for decades.
Cutting it fine. Potentially the world’s smallest barber shop. For $16 you can expect a hair cut and shave.
Clinging on for life. Even this beautiful banyan tree has found a way to co-exist in this city of limited space.
The Global Goddess travelled as a guest of the Hong Kong Tourism Board – http://www.discoverhongkong.com.au and Cathay Pacific – http://www.cathaypacific.com
Cathay’s A350 aircraft boast 38 business class seats, fine dining, luxury amenity kits and plenty of storage. While in Hong Kong, check out Cathay’s newest lounge which includes an exclusive Noodle Bar and Teahouse.
IT’S a busy couple of weeks for The Global Goddess. Just back from assignment on the Southern Great Barrier Reef, I’m home long enough to unpack, wash and repack. I’m off to Fiji tomorrow for the wedding of an Aussie girlfriend who is marrying her Fijian partner. The best part of this: I’ve been promised to at least half of his cousins. Stay tuned to this page to see how things work out. And in the meantime, follow me on Instagram @aglobalgoddess
A little interview on me, with the Queensland Writers Centre, and why I keep writing.
THE most delicious things happen when you scrape off the exterior. Sand yourself back and prime yourself to move forward. January has proven to be just that at my house. After 16 years I decided to give my crumbling, rumbling, beautiful Queenslander workers’ cottage a facelift. It was much-needed cosmetic, and a little bit of emergency, surgery. We’ve survived 16 harsh Australian summers of scorching, peeling heat, punctuated by fierce storms and flooding rains, this old girl and I. Oh yes, the sunburnt country we all love has taken its toll on me and my house. Wood rot, pernickety possums with their scratchy claws, ballsy bush rats, scrub turkeys and my beloved wild snake have all burrowed into her psyche and the outside walls. And something had to give.
My builder/painter Gregg arrived on a typical tropical day where the humidity slides right off you like a melting ice cream. I’d selected a grey palate for my paint job, thinking it was befitting of my 1920s cottage which was nearing her first century. Little did I know there were 50 shades of grey from which to choose, nor did I realise that this summer I’d understand that life comes in those same 50 shades.
Gregg smoked and swore like a sailor and so much for both of us, that I found I gave up swearing. I’ve never been a smoker so that wasn’t a problem. But he also worked bloody hard under that hot Australian sun. Brisbane in January? What a bugger of a job. Humidity is your worst enemy and sleep is as rusty as my old gate. But soon we found our rhythm. I adopted his tradie hours, rising with the sun and working until early afternoon until the heat got the better of us. Gregg scraping and painting outside, hammering nails, and me inside, writing in symphony. We’d stop occasionally to chat, about lives we’d left behind. Pasts we’d rather forget and of futures we were looking forward to. Gregg, 48, had recently married the love of his life Fiona. He gave me dating advice. “You’ll just know, darl.”
This rough, big bloke and I slowly forming a bond and friendship as the old paint, and our natural walls, fell away. Again and again I was reminded that life comes in 50 shades of grey. You can’t judge a book by its cover, and don’t even bother buying wine with a fancy label. It’s what’s underneath that peeling paint that counts. And day by day my house transformed, from what Gregg described as “old, mouldy green” to contemporary grey.
He clipped away the trees that had been pushing on the front fence, and one day asked me why I was “hiding”. Isn’t it funny? You don’t even realise what you’re doing until someone points it out. Meditation and yoga teachers believe the concept of “house” equals “self”. And here I was, crouched behind the bushes, hiding from the world. And so we chopped away at that notion, and opened it up, keeping just enough shade and privacy, but allowing in the light.
I like that idea. Letting in the light. Gregg painted me a white picket fence, the “great Australian dream” kind. And joked now I just needed the bloke. My letter box was splashed in a shimmer that would make any Mardi Gras parade proud. Another shade of grey used to tie together the white and the dark grey of the walls. I grew accustomed to Gregg and looked forward to his daily quirky company. On those hot days when my mind wandered from my work, I imagined myself as Frances Mayes in her Villa in Tuscany, with her rabble of foreign workers knocking down walls and painting everything fresh.
And then, the day came when the job was done. I asked Gregg what I would do without him. “A bit of (expletive deleted) gardening wouldn’t go astray,” he laughed, referring to the wild Aussie bush I like to keep at the back of my house in the tree tops, and the much-neglected garden patch out the front. A green thumb, I am not. For years I’ve wanted to fill the pits surrounding my draw bridge entry with crocodiles, to sort the men out from the boys. Apparently they won’t let you do that in Brisbane. Then, on his last day on the job, Gregg and the lovely Fiona arrived to plant me a beautiful garden. He’s that sort of bloke.
It’s interesting how you grow used to the daily presence of someone. Gregg taught me the difference between oil-based and water-based decking oil. The importance of using good quality paint on a house which has to withstand Australia’s harsh climate. How a nail with a screw design won’t pop out under the demands of our sun but an ordinary nail will drive you nuts. But most of all he taught me, like my house, that we all come in 50 shades of grey.
If you are looking for a quality painter with a building licence as well (a rarity in Brisbane I can tell you), someone who will go above and beyond, and who charges reasonable prices, contact Gregg on: 0458 572 523 (and tell him his new journo mate sent you).
You can run, but you can’t hide. The Global Goddess, last spotted in Bali by Hector’s Diary before she headed for the Bali and Flores high seas.
His diet of worms and other non-religious fare
Bali, Jan. 4, 2017
WE have a lovely friend, a former media colleague who goes by the pen name of The Global Goddess. She has a tough life, poor thing. She’s forever flitting off from Brisbane, her home city, to go to distant places and write about them. Well, someone has to do it, we suppose.
Her most recent gambol was a cruise to Komodo aboard the Al-Iikai, a 37-metre Bugis pinisi fitted out for maximum comfort and operated from Serangan in Benoa Bay. It was, she tells us, a program that gave her plenty of stories about messing about in boats.
The goddess, real name Christine Retschlag, apparently didn’t read Kenneth Grahame’s marvellous fantasy tale Wind in the Willowsas a child. But we’re sure that Ratty will forgive her, given her later experiences. Hector…
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GREETINGS from Canada, where I’m heading tomorrow on my next travel writing assignment. I’ve been a little quiet on these pages lately, catching up from my last big trip to South Africa, which, like all of the best travels, stole a piece of my heart. I’ve been writing stories, saying goodbye to winter in Australia, and coming out of hibernation to spring clean my mind, body and soul. I’ve been stretching my mind in meditation classes, my body in yoga, and feeding my soul through plenty of long walks along the Brisbane River. And now, it’s time to hit the road again. I’ll be travelling to Vancouver, Toronto, Winnipeg, Churchill, Montreal and Quebec. And, as this picture suggests, I’ll be going on a polar bear walking safari with Churchill Wild in a remote, pristine arctic location. I’ll be back on these pages soon, with plenty of travel tales, and I’m sure, one or two stories about scaring both man and beast in the Northern Hemisphere. Wish me luck!