Life Cycles

IMG_6911
“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.
IMG_6918
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.
IMG_6904
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.
IMG_6895
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.
IMG_6906
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.
IMG_3830
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.
IMG_3821
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.
IMG_6910

Life is Suite in London

IMG_5773
LONDON is in a jolly good mood and so am I. The sun is shining both literally and figuratively upon the English capital, which, judging by the number of cranes in the skyline and the smiling populous, is finally shrugging off the Global Financial Crisis and the last remnants of winter. And the sun is shining on me too, having just checked into Lancaster London, opposite Hyde Park.
IMG_5780
There’s even more cherries on the cake today, as I’m catching up with an old Singapore mate, an ex-Londoner and now Geneva-based Murray, who I haven’t seen in two years. We’ve got just 24 hours and Murray arrives in his trademark flurry of excitement into which I am instantly swept. I’ve been upgraded to the luxurious Lancaster Suite – used by the hotel’s Thai owner when he’s in town – and which peers down over Hyde Park. You can see London’s most famous green space from the cavernous lounge room, the spa bath and even the toilet, and the London Eye from my bed. So lovely is this room, it seems almost criminal to leave.
IMG_5760
And in a city probably better known for its pollution than being lean and green, this hotel is ardently eco-friendly, boasting a range of impressive environmental initiatives which include:
• A honey farm on the hotel’s roof, home to 500,000 bees which produces on average 80kg of Hyde Park honey every year
• E-brochures available to all guests in place of print collateral
• All bottled water on site is in reusable bottles, saving 12 tonnes of glass each year
• None of the hotel’s waste goes to landfill
• Salmon is smoked on site on an old plate warmer remodelled by the engineering department
• Old uniforms, bedding and soap are donated to The Passage, a local charity for the homeless
(And, on the week I arrive, a celebration of British tomatoes, in recognition that 4 in 5 tomatoes in the UK are imported – making it imperative that I try a Bloody Mary, in the name of research, of course).
IMG_5747
Like English aristocrats (well maybe one and a convict mate), Murray and me sip tea while we catch up on the past, plot fantasy-filled futures and plan our day ahead in the city in which I first arrived 20 years ago as a backpacker. But it was not the likes of Lancaster London for me back then, but the Oxford Street Youth Hotel, and I still get a buzz wandering along one of London’s best shopping streets all these years later, catching ghost-like glimpses of my younger self in the reflections of familiar buildings.
IMG_5794
Our Monopoly-board adventure continues down to Piccadilly Circus for lunch, Murray’s marathon legs 10 paces in front of me as I plead with him to slow down. It reminds me of our Singapore Sundays, where we’d meet and spend the day exploring the sticky city, jumping on random boats, searching for beaches, and like many expats I suspect, daring to dream of what we’d do next when we left south-east Asia. But it’s not Singapore but through Soho we trek this day, and on to Covent Garden, grabbing a bar and a beer just in time to escape a typical London downpour. Then we step off the board, and across the River Thames to amble along South Bank, check out the theatre listings, snatch another brew, fly through the Tate Modern, before heading back across the river towards St Paul’s Cathedral.
IMG_5803
The whole day we’re chatting, scheming, laughing and in my case, limping along, by now my dress boots proving unsuitable for the pace and length of London we are traversing. But on we march towards East London and Brick Lane for its famed Indian restaurants. We could do anything this Saturday night in one of the world’s most exciting capital cities, but after eight hours of walking, blistered feet and some weeks of travel for both of us, we concede defeat and head back to my suite.
IMG_5771
Like a comfortable old couple we lay on the couches, drink wine and watch the Chelsea Flower Show on TV before Murray falls asleep on his assigned couch and I retreat to the bedroom. A swift goodbye early the next morning and Murray is off to Geneva, the only evidence of his stay the scent of his cologne in the bathroom which lingers like a bittersweet moment. It’s both the curse and the blessing of the insatiable traveller, who gets to meet so many people around the globe, only to say goodbye to them again, not knowing when or where in the world we might meet in the future. Several hours later I, too, reluctantly leave my sweet suite and head to the airport, this time bound for Stockholm buoyed by old faces, old places and magnificent new memories. Till we meet again.
IMG_5799
The Global Goddess was a guest of Lancaster London. Lancaster London is a member of Summit Hotels & Resorts, a brand of Preferred Hotel Group. To write your own London adventure go to http://www.lancasterlondon.com

The Goddess’ Briefs: Travel & Lifestyle tips for strong, smart, sexy and spiritual women (and the great men who love us!)

SurfersParadiseSep2012 047
QUEENSLAND’S ICONIC REEF NO BARRIER TO GREAT SEX THIS YEAR
We’ve all heard of sex on the beach, but what about sex on the reef? Queensland’s scuba diving fraternity is poised for the raunchiest sex show on the planet as the Great Barrier Reef prepares for its annual coral spawning season. A combination of warm sea temperatures, plus a late November full moon, has scientists predicting this year’s November 22-24 spawn (or should that be porn?) spectacular will be the best in years. Two Cairns-based dive operators – Tusa Dive and Quicksilver’s Silverswitft – have packed special night diving tours specifically around this event. And if you miss that, on the Southern Great Barrier Reef at Lady Elliot Island Eco Resort, coral spawning is expected to occur between December 20 and 25. http://www.queenslandholidays.com.au
OriginalCoralSpawning[1]
SUNSHINE COAST SET TO SIZZLE THIS SUMMER
As The Global Goddess prepares to head to Noosa this weekend (it’s all work, I swear it is), it seems timely to give you a snapshot of what you can expect on the Sunshine Coast this summer. Among a menu of tropical treats, you’ll find the Woodford Folk Festival (December 27 to January 1) about which I regularly wax lyrical; and the Ginger Flower & Food Festival (January 17 to 19) – The Global Goddess and ginger have been long-time friends when it comes to rough travel. But you’re really not Australian until you’ve attended the Australia Day Dunny Races at Ettamogah Pub on January 26. While The Global Goddess lost a considerable amount of money last Australia Day at Brisbane’s Story Bridge Hotel backing a racing cockroach she called The Global Goddess (we’re lovers, not fighters), perhaps she should consider a dunny race next time? And if I met a bloke there, imagine the toilet humour stories we could tell at our wedding. http://www.visitsunshinecoast.com.au
AussieWorldAustraliaDayDunnyRaces[1]
GIRLS LIKE TO GET DIRTY
No, I’m not talking about some kind of crazy Russian porn flick, but the Dirty Girls 4×4 Weekend on Brisbane’s Moreton Island. Following its super successful sellout first weekend this year, Global Jamboree has announced this event will be held once a month in 2014. Billed as the ideal girls’ getaway, you can spend your days 4WDing around stunning Moreton Island on its long beach tracks and beautiful bush trails, exploring its expansive national park, before returning to your luxury tent and the recently-opened Glampsites. Each tent here is furnished with a queen-size bed and private ensuite and veranda. The Global Goddess might just have to grab some of her girl gang and head over. http://www.globaljamboree.com.au
1262683_402401056527667_1804566524_o[1]
NOW YOU CAN SCOOT TO HONG KONG
Some of the best headline writers in the airline game, Scoot, is encouraging passengers on this Low Cost Carrier of the Year to “don’t be dim, save sum loot” and enjoy its new service to Hong Kong. The service, launched last week, is Scoot’s 12th city in 7 countries. Twenty years ago, when The Global Goddess was a cadet journalist in the Murdoch empire, she was sent to Hong Kong for four months to gain some valuable experience. It changed her world, from the sunny Gold Coast to the bright lights and big city of this vibrant Asian destination. You too can Scoot to Hong Kong with fares from Singapore – Scoot’s hub – starting at SGD$119, one-way, including taxes. There’s some great deals on flights out of Australia to Singapore to connect you with Scoot’s other destinations in the region. http://www.flyscoot.com
COM763D Scoot 777
SUPPORT SASSY SURVIVORS
Those sassiest of sheilas, Gold Coast-based Sassy Survivors which supports young women with breast cancer, have published an awesome calendar for 2014. This colourful calendar, designed to show there can be a positive side to breast cancer, did so well in its first year it expected to sell 100 calendars and ended up selling 1200. The 2014 Sassy Survivors calendar is aimed at reminding people there is life after breast cancer. All money raised from calendar sales, which is just $15 plus postage, goes towards continuing to assist young women battling this disease. And, as the cover below shows, it’s fun, it’s flirty, it’s fabulous, just like this terrific organisation. And what a great Christmas present it will make! http://sassysurvivors.org/sassy-survivors-2014-calendar/
$T2eC16VHJGoFFv3gIMvNBSSL3c6i8g~~60_57

Beautiful One Day, Perfect The Next

SEQC 017
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.
SEQC 006
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.
Samoa 172
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.
SEQC 003
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.
SEQC 005
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.
SEQC 023
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.
SEQC 032
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.
SEQC 035
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.
SEQC 009
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
SEQC 021

Where are all the fellas, Cinderella?

MY friend Tacky leans over and purrs in his American accent: “We both need to face it, you’re just not hot in the tropics.” We’re in Bali, drinking the lethal Indonesian rum the locals call Arak. I’m complaining to Tacky about the GFC (Global Female Crisis: a lack of men). Tacky is dead right. While I sweat bucket loads up in Singapore, I’m seriously not hot. Not in the dating sense. We both agree I’m a better version of myself south of the Equator, which tends to exclude a fair whack of the world.

 Singaporeans, it must be said, are even less tactful than Tacky. I wear a new red dress to work and stop at my local fruit seller “Ah, Chris, you look good in red lah, but don’t wear black, you look terrible in black.” In the lift, my Asian colleagues launch into a conversation about my weight. “Chris, you lose some weight can?” “Um, no, I haven’t lost any weight,” I reply awkwardly, while 8 sets of eyes fix firmly on my buttocks. “Yes, Chris not so fat, lah?” they discuss among themselves. My British mate Murray has a theory that after 2pm Ang Mohs or “red devils” as the Singaporeans like to call us, start to go off in the heat. Murray should know, he perspires so much he looks like he’s battling malaria every single day. He reckons we smell like vinegar. I come to the stinking realisation he is right. So, not only by Singaporean standards am I fat and poorly dressed, I now also pong. My theory isn’t helped when my boss decides to implement a seating reshuffle and positions me next to a Singaporean colleague. “I don’t want to sit near her,” my colleague announces to the meeting. Everyone, including me laughs. After the meeting she approaches me: “I wasn’t joking. I don’t want to sit near you.” I try to sniff my armpits without being caught.

 To escape the unwanted attention, I meet Tacky for a Balinese holiday. The locals call us Tom & Jerry. He’s Tom. They also think we are married but remain confused as to why we have separate rooms. Around this Indonesian paradise we roam, which I punctuate with intermittent moans: “Where are all the men?” Tacky suspects they are all in Kuta, one spot on the island to which he has refused to accompany me. “If you can’t find a man in Kuta you are seriously not trying hard enough,” he says, before waving me off with a final word of warning: “Just stay out of trouble.”

 I manage to do this for all of one hour. Right up until check-in at my hotel where I discover my booking has been cancelled. I’m a little bit tired, a little bit hot and a little bit ready to go home. I toss my passport onto the counter with a little more enthusiasm than usual. They give me a room key and someone else’s passport back in return. I intend to spend the rest of my days travelling the world as Natascha from Minsk. I’m convinced she has better luck with men than me.

 I wander the beach, witness a fiery beach funeral ceremony, drink icy cold beer and have a head massage. I frolic in the first surf I’ve seen in many, many months and read a “penny dreadful” as my great, great grandmother used to call romance novels. I have one afternoon to live it up before I return to Singapore. I feel like an escaped prisoner on the lamb. I linger over some lychee martinis before wandering down to the main drag of Kuta. It’s loud and lively and before long I’m dancing in a Reggae bar where brash Balinese “rent boys” rub their bodies against me. It dawns on me that I have become one of those sad women who dance to Bob Marley while attracting young male prostitutes in foreign bars. All I need now is a floral kaftan and a bad sunburn. Tacky’s words linger in my ears. “Don’t get into trouble.” I walk home alone and am offered sex and drugs, both of which I politely refuse to the dodgy dude on the motorbike in the dark back alley in which I find myself. I run all the way back to my hotel room and lock the doors. I picture waking up with a dead body beside me, half a dozen Indonesian police standing by my bed, and no plausible explanation for what has happened.

 I fly back into Singapore. I’m in search of its soul but so far, all I can find is sweat. On a bright note, I never need to shop for vinegar again.