Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Open Studio

Apologies to non-Melburnians for the second Melbourne post this week, but I had to share this place with you.

Friday night was a friend's 30th birthday party, which was held at her friends' bar Open Studio in Northcote. Such an amazing night! The theme was along the lines of Orientalism and Egypt at the Berlin Cabaret, and there was a positively Bacchanalian atmosphere. Dim lights, exotic costumes with a bohemian edge, Serbian plum brandy to welcome you, trays of champagne and a live band which included cello, accordion, double bass, trombone, trumpet and violin all in one joyous cacophony. Numerous languages could be heard between songs, which ranged from wild gypsy-like music to cabaret classics. The mood was exultant and leaving was like stumbling out of another world back onto the streets of Northcote. You could imagine returning the following week and finding only a deserted shell, and having imagined the whole affair.

Check out someone else's review here. I was lucky to experience it in such an intimate way, with all of those who created the place and love it, but I'm assured that our night wasn't anything particularly out of the ordinary for this bar.
Also, the myspace profile for the band Vardos, which formed part of the large band playing can be found here. I don't know who else was playing, but I think they were all regulars.

(And apologies for the poor photo taken with a phone, I never remember to take a camera when I'm out on the town. I'll have to try and remember next time.)

Monday, April 27, 2009

Straight Lines

When you visit other cities you invariably compare them to your own, and I always find this even more the case when I'm in Sydney. Perhaps this is due to the famed Sydney/Melbourne rivalry, or more likely because Tom was nice enough to leave his family and friends behind and move to Melbourne not long after we met, so I've always sort of felt that some time living up there is on the cards. (Plus there are so many magazines based in Sydney, which is another draw-card for me.)

I know that for some of the things I love about Melbourne I could learn to love the opposite in Sydney, but right now, here's one of the things I love about Melbourne.

Straight lines. I understand that behind a curve in the road lies mystery and surprise, but I love that you look all the way down Swanston Street and see the Shrine of Remembrance, and pictured below is another favourite.

The view down Brunswick Street towards a church in East Melbourne.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

That's right, just back away slowly

Having arrived in Sydney at 3:30am on Friday morning after driving through the night, an 11am family get together was probably a big ask. It involved meeting all of Tom's aunts and uncles and cousins and anyone else vaguely related to him (or so it felt) and given that I really only function on a minimum of eight hours sleep (I know, it's pretty decadent) my performance that morning was probably always going to be sub-optimal.

Add to this the fact that one of my jobs involves writing for a mothers magazine. This alone is enough to make people a little nervous, because I'm not to their knowledge a mother. (Nor to my knowledge for that matter, and I would probably know.) They ask me polite questions about what I write about, and when inevitably the word birth is mentioned (or sometimes I'll just say 'vaginas' if I want to shut down the conversation super-quickly) they usually offer up some attempt at conversation about the topic, such as 'I read an article about how dangerous home-birth is, I heard women are dying because of their foolish attempts at this' (or words to that effect). I'm not really a strong advocate for a particular way of birthing because although I have my own views I feel it's something that's pretty personal, but it is something I now know quite a lot about. So I inform them of the differences between home-birthing with a medical professional and free-birthing without one, and that it's usually free-birthing that's dangerous and the media should make this distinction. We then have some chit-chat where I say I think the state of birthing in Australia kind of sucks, I give examples of why, they back slowly away making nervous pointing gestures to outdoors and saying things like 'I'll just...' 'I might go and..' 'Aaah...' etc.

After scaring Tom's uncle away like this I retired to a chair in the sun and only spoke to other people sitting in chairs in the sun. This generally involved the elderly and hungover. This suited me just fine.

Tasks for the holiday: impress the family? Tick.

Friday, April 17, 2009

While I was gone...

I went on another long drive. Not as bad a long drive as the one I wrote about below, but a drive from Melbourne to Sydney via Mt Buller for a spot of mountain biking.
In Sydney there was plenty of hanging out with Tom's relatives and friends (he's from there), lots of reading, sometimes in lovely spots like Balmoral beach, below (by the way, like the foot I'm growing out of my nose?)

some posing with landmarks

the odd bit of walking (Blue Mountains, below)

and a train ride up to Newcastle.
Then, thank goodness, no more driving or training, a flight home.
Home sweet home, where you could be forgiven for thinking I had chosen a handmade rug in the sophisticated shade of 'dirty clothes', where aphids and caterpillars took advantage of my absence to ravage the cabbages, something else damaged the flowers in the backyard, and where I now have to actually look at a calendar and realise there are some deadlines creeping closer than might be comfortable.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

A Long Drive

I decided to play along with the Meet Me At Mike's Words and Pictures after reading a very evocative entry on Megan's blog. This week's theme is A Long Drive. My mind immediately turned to some of the horrendously long bus rides I've taken as a traveller; this was one of them that happened last year. (It should be noted, the country wasn't as bad as this welcoming drive might have indicated.)

It was already four in the afternoon, and we had no idea where we were going to sleep that night. We'd been in a different town every night for the past week, and had just got off yet another all-day stint on a bus. The border crossing had been horrible as we were heckled, jostled and scammed at every turn. Taxi drivers, people trying to guide us through the process, market stall holders, small children, they all crowded in at us, each trying to negotiate something. As we started to waver, and considered accepting the taxi driver's ridiculously high price, a security guard at the bank caught my eye and gave a barely noticeable shake of his head. It was the jolt I needed, and we fought our way through the crowd until we got to the police station to ask directions.

The taxi driver we finally settled on whisked us off to the official border entry point further along the road, and then took us to the next town, from where we could catch the bus to Lima. He bargained with us the entire time, and even as we paid him more than we'd agreed on, he fixed us with puppydog eyes. As soon as he'd left we bought food, pointing to each item without knowing the price. Tom tried to bargain, naming a price that seemed cheap to us. The storeholder looked at us oddly, and named a sum that was half of what we had offered. We immediately realised how much we'd given our taxi driver in real terms.

We had made it just in time to catch the last overnight bus, and half an hour later we were cooped back up and on the move again. Dusk fell, and the barren landscape became just potholes and small towns that rushed by in the headlights. As a Spanish film started on the television screens the stewardess came around with a small meal. The night wore on, and I'd pulled an eye mask on to try and sleep.

Half an hour later I still couldn't sleep. 'Tom, I don't think I feel very well' I whispered, prodding my half-asleep boyfriend and getting a grunt in return. I writhed in my chair, struggling to overcome rising nausea that worsened with every bump in the road. When I felt the bus slow I leapt from my seat and dashed down the stairs to the door, pushing past the stewardess and policeman checking the bus's papers and only just missing his shoes as I vomited into the dust. They looked down at me as I vomited again, before turning away to finish their paper check. 'Time to go!' the stewardess said chirply as I leaned my head on my knees, crouching barefoot on the roadside.

Soon after dawn broke it became obvious that this was going to be a proper bout of food poisoning. I headed down to the toilet, only to discover a sign reading 'Solo urinario'. I asked the stewardess if I could go to the toilet in the next town. Despite much overuse on my part of the word 'emergencia', we passed through one small town, then another, then another as I grew more and more uncomfortable. Finally I couldn't wait anymore, and used the bus toilet. Half an hour later the bus stopped in the middle of nowhere. Cries of 'Where's the gringa?' rose up from downstairs. I headed down to see what was going on. 'Okay, here you go' the stewardess said, gesturing to the open door. Outside there was nothing. We were in a desert with not a single shrub to squat behind in sight. 'Where's the toilet?' I asked the driver. 'This is Peru!' he replied, 'The whole country's a toilet!'

By the time we reached Lima that evening I became glad of the design of bus bathrooms: I was able to vomit into the sink without leaving the toilet. The bus had only stopped three times in 24 hours - the two paper checks and five minutes at a service station. We finally reached a hostel in Lima and I crawled into bed feeling weak and exhausted. Half an hour later I pulled back the sheets, only to find myself covered in bedbug bites. Welcome to Peru.

Dear Nasturtium,

Sorry for pulling you out the other day. I looked at you for awhile before deciding you might be a weed, because I couldn't remember planting anything where you came up. I grabbed you with my thumb and forefinger and as I broke your stem I realised what you were, just a moment too late. I'm not very good at taking the blame for things, so I would like to point out that you took a really long time to come up. (The fact that three other nasturtiums came up just days after you did does kind of excuse you though.) Anyway, thanks for coming back and giving me another shot.


P.S. Sorry about the birds. I don't know why they're so hellbent on digging up your little patch of garden. I think there might be some bugs they like there. Or maybe they just copied my wanton destruction - if that's the case, sorry for fostering a culture of nasturtium destruction, will try hard to correct it.