Sunday, October 30, 2011

Cuban Jazz Festival

Last Sunday my sisters and I, and Heath and Greg, had a gorgeous day in the Yarra Valley for the annual Cuban Jazz Festival. A great, and easy day out, with great wine, fresh air and sun, and music!

We'd booked our tickets through Wine Quest, with a bus arrangement from The Saint in St Kilda. Having stayed at Jessie's the night before after my gig, I drove us and Katie and Heath over to Melissa's new place in Elwood, where we had breakfast, before getting a taxi to the pub. Here we grabbed our tickets and wrist bands, and then boarded the bus out to the Valley.

Arriving at the glorious setting of the Rochford Winery, with rolling green hills and paddocks of vines all around us, we set up our picnic blanket behind the dancing space in front of the stage, and settled in for the day.

Whilst Zumba classes were offered from the stage early on, we sampled the white and rose wines, before having our lunch. Included within our ticket, the lunch was amazing - succulent salmon fillet with potato salad and garden salad, it was delicious!

The Cuban dance lessons started from the stage, with many people dotted all over the Rochford hill up and dancing.

As helicopter rides were set up quite close to our picnic set up, and hearing that I had never been in a 'chopper, the girls gave me a ride over the Yarra Valley as my birthday present. Greg come along with me, and as he and the other male passenger on board were keen on steep turns, that's what we got!

Flying over the Valley, it's mountain ranges all around, and wineries all around, the lush green scenery was amazing from the air. We could see the Jazz festivities below, and could then also spot the city off in the distance. Was a great experience, thanks girls!

Back to ground level, the dancing started to kick off, and we spent most of the last hour up within the dance floor of the stage. This included Cuban music by Carlitos' Way. We also shared around a few of our collective remaining Cuban cigars, from our trip, just to top up the theme!

Once the music finished, we made our way back to the bus, and back into St Kilda, for a BBQ dinner put on by The Saint, again part of our ticket. Further drinks here, and a look at the Rugby World Cup final, we soon called it a day. A big Sunday, but such a fun day!

Notes From The Hard Road and Beyond

Last Saturday night I drove down to Melbourne in the rain to meet Jane, and attend the closing night of the Melbourne Festival, at the Sidney Myer Music Bowl. The musical event called Notes From The Hard Road and Beyond, and was divided into two parts - first up were the songs of struggle, fight and plight. The second half of the night was about strength, love, and hope, in an event that brought together a surprising collection of artists, both locally and internationally.

As we took out seats on the grass, The Revolution Will Not Be Televised was played before the night was introduced and the music collaborations began. First up was Paul Dempsey and Shane Howard combining for Bob Dylan's A Hard Rain’s A-gonna Fall, which was perhaps overshadowed by the images of asylum seekers in boats up on the screens. Dempsey then stepped forward to do The Future by Leonard Cohen, ending it with an amusing grab of Green Day's American Idiot.

Following with images of war, John Schumann gave us I Was Only 19 before Sudanese former child solider and rapper Emmanuel Jal hurtled around the stage delivering his own War Child. This amazing man and his story stole the attention and hearts of the audience in an instant!

The women of the event were not to be overshadowed, perhaps encapsulated by the soaring I Am Woman by Joss Stone. Mavis Staples introduced us to her gospel sound, with This Land Is Your Land with several of the female artists of the evening, before playing a song from 'Papa Staples' called Freedom Highway, being the story of her father's march as part of the fight for black rights in the US's South. The shocking image of a hanged woman made Emma Donovan's version of Strange Fruit, and Archie Roach delivering The Children Came Back with stolen generation footage, both very powerful moments of the night.

The collaborations were impressive, as were the members of the Black Arm Band, particularly Mark Atkins and Lou Bennett. Paul Dempsey and Joss Stone bring us Hunters and Collectors' Throw Your Arms Around Me displayed some serious chemistry between them on stage, albeit a puzzling song choice for the night.

Emmanuel Jal returned to stage to sing Emma, telling us all of the woman who inspired his song - the aid worker who saved him from his horrific childhood.

The presence and performance of Ricki Lee Jones was alarming at times, and puzzling about whether this night's performance is how she is, or if a shadow of her former self, given the audience appreciation when she was announced for her first song. Her version of Tom Traubert's Blues, penned by Tom Wait, was shaky and emotive. The parallel performance with Archie was great, Somewhere, perhaps given the clear struggle it was for him to get through it, and was yet amazing. He really battled to be on stage, I think, health wise, and a tribute to him for his poise and persistence.

The moment of the night was indeed Archie Roach singing Nick Cave's Into My Arms. So beautiful. I think I held my breath through the whole song - it's was amazing! Goose bump material!

The event culminated with an introduction of a song for all the ages and struggles, an Aussie song, which turned out to be AC/DCs It’s A Long Way To The Top (If You Wanna Rock’n’Roll), for which every artist for this amazing night performed. Their collective curtain call ended this amazing evening, before Joss Stone ran back out for a solo encore of the lovely and uplifting People Get Ready.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Food For Thought

Today is World Food Day, which is also this year's theme for Blog Action Day.

As Alex Schlotzer discusses on his post for the day:
It’s important to really start to tackle food as a serious issue. It’s not about whether or not some countries can or can’t feed their populations now, but whether or not we’ll be able to feed an ever expanding population.

There are complicated issues at play in this debate from safety and peace in different regions; to failing food bowls; to population growth; to food wastage in industrialised nations; and to the continued industrialisation of a growing number of third-world nations.

If nothing else, I hope this blogging day worldwide raises awareness of the famine in the Horn of Africa.

Kaylene and Kane's Wedding

Kaylene and Kane got married yesterday, after months of planning. Sitting next to Kay at work let me in on the effort and dramas of such planning and preparation, and I am sure I only saw a fraction of it! She had started preparing herself pretty early on for the possibility of a rainy day in October, with us all assuring her that surely it wouldn't happen. And boy, did it ever! But amazingly, this union of marriage survived it's first test during the ceremony - and handled it beautifully!

Michelle and I arrived at the Red Lion Hotel for lunch and wine, meeting Jane and Kate there, ready to head out to the ceremony. We then drove out through Creswick, to the Tangled Maze, on the road towards Daylesford, and joined family and friends in the outdoor amphitheater. Marveling at the sunshine and blue sky all morning, almost as soon as we took our places, little spits of rain started.

As the bridesmaids made their way down the aisle, partnered with their respective groomsmen, the rain drops got heavier. As Kaylene and her dad made their way from the cars, and through the garden to the gathering, the rain started becoming heavier and heavier.

As we all huddled under umbrellas, or toughed it out, vows were said and rings were exchanged. Kane was brilliant in calming any of Kay's nerves, and was probably totally distracting her with his little comments to her - so cute!

Once the rings had been exchanged, we could move the ceremony apparently, and we all moved inside for the rest of the service. Both sets of parents contributed a piece of a family portrait puzzle, before the signing of the registry and the introduction of Mr and Mrs.

After the group photo, and wishing the bride and groom congratulations and that they would have a great day, the 4 of us made our way back to Ballarat, for some post-wedding drinks at the newly refurbished Bunch of Grapes. Taking over a little lounge-cove in the main area, away from the noise of the sports bar, this new look pub is very cute! Just needs to be more accepting of the non-betting mid-afternoon gatherers! Michelle and I then went on to have further drinks at the Lake View, before calling it a night.

There are all sorts of things said about rain on your wedding day, from it being a good omen, to it just being a weather coincidence! Either way, congrats to Kay and Kane on their lovely and special day!

Monday, October 10, 2011

Angels-Demons, Vienna and Babies

Yesterday was all things babies, art and Melbourne for me, in a great Sunday! Having heard about, and tracking the progress of the AES+F Angels-Demons. Parade, I was very keen to see them in person. They arrived in Melbourne, these 7 Angel-Demon babies, dotted along Swanston Street and on St Kilda Road at the Arts Centre forecourt on Thursday last week.

After grabbing a park, I walked along Swanston from Flinders, avoiding the amazing runners completing the Melbourne Marathon, past the big baby alongside St Paul's Church, then walked up to the City Square and the Town Hall, for the 2 there respectively.

The crawling one is in Federation Square, which I could spot from the road over the runners, before I walked over the Yarra to the front of the Arts Centre, where the final 3 babies are located. So amazing! They will be there till the 22nd of October.

Reaching the Arts Centre, I then went in to catch the last day of the Vienna: Art and Design exhibit at NGV. Here the art pieces and interior and graphic design of Viennese artists of the early 1900s were laid out, to walk the guest through the artistic challenges and innovations.

Consulting Erin later, apparently I missed the erotic section, which I am guessing was an overly crowded area that I just decided to pass over. I really think those audio guides make people forget the notion of other people around them - behaviour in a gallery is just ridiculous!

After taking all this art in, I drove out to Heidelberg, for Bree's Baby Shower. Here I got to catch up with Bree who has just finished work last week, ready for the pending baby arrival.

Erin, Bec and Sam were the others gathered from work, and we also got a chance to see a lot of the ladies we met at Bree and Dam's wedding celebrations, about a year ago.

The sweep for baby's name, sex and weight was taken, as was a guessing game about how big Bree's belly is right now, before the gift unwrapping was completed. So the anticipation builds for this baby arrival, so exciting!

Friday, October 07, 2011

Ballarat Sanctuary Day Spa

On a particularly vulnerable and stressed out day at the office some months ago, a hawker walked in when tensions and tantrums were mid-scream, selling a little taster package for the Ballarat Sanctuary Day Spa. Amazing timing! I think she sold three that day, and was called back the next day!

So I started my four separate sessions a month ago, spaced apart as per the voucher instructions. Truth be told, I needed to confirm where the spa was, but made my way to the tranquil rooms on the grounds of the Mercure on Main Road. Taken into a treatment room, the first experience was a skin treatment facial. Asked to take my top half of clothing off, and take to the treatment today, I didn't really think much of it, and complied. And then wondered why I needed to nude up for a facial! Nudity aside, it was lovely, but totally indulgent! Warm quite room, pressure points working all stress away. Massage and skin treatment, all good.

The next session I was running late for, due to extensive driving all over country Victoria in a day's work (nothing unusual there), and so upon arrival we decided that I would have the eye lash tint only, and skip the curl. Fine by me! Having tinted eyelashes made me feel and look girlie enough! They are still tinted, and I have been pretty happy with this one.

The third session the following week was the hydrotherapy bath. With a back and shoulder massage first, I was then taken into a room with a big mounted bath, and more nudity was required. Once in the bath, the jets were activated for a full complex routine targeting different areas, with essential oils as part of the treatment. The jets changed without warning, which frankly took some of the relaxation out of it, but nonetheless was a pretty nice experience - plus given that the Miner's Cottage doesn't have a bath, it was a total treat!

The final session I had this week, and was a follow up facial. This one utilised a steam ritual, and a mask, and was another indulgent escape to relax! I was definitely liking the weekly visits to the spa, in a total self-care strategy away from the stresses of work. The staff at Sanctuary are lovely, and the whole experience is very calming, and a complete escape.

Thursday, October 06, 2011

Timor/Maryborough and South Sudan/Trentham

On Monday I had to drive all day for work, and just outside of Maryborough I found a town called Timor. Which caught my eye, because Liz and her husband James are about to go to East Timor to work, through AVI.


I caught up with them a few weeks ago, at the Union Club Hotel, when they were completing their per-departure training. Pretty exciting, an amazing adventure they are about to have, in awesome work roles.

After Maryborough, I had to cut across mid-Victoria to a meeting in Trentham. Nothing there reminded me of South Sudan, but Rach is about to move there, for work. So impressive!

So while these guys are starting new, amazing adventures, I am in Ballarat! In the same job now for 4.5 years.....oh dear!

Sunday, October 02, 2011

Making Mirrors

With the release of Making Mirrors, being easily one of the albums of 2011, and despite having seen him live on three other occasions this year, Nicole, Mary and I went along to the Gotye gig on Friday night, to see it played out on stage again.

I drove down to Melbourne after work, and met Nicole and Mary at Tazio for dinner, and a chance for the three of us to catch up with each of our recent overseas trips of late. After pizzas and beer, we then made our way in the rain to The Forum.

Opening the night was Oliver + Martin, who were well into their fun hip hop set when we took our places in front of the stage.

Gotye opened with the album opener, Making Mirrors, before filling the theater with the percussion and environmental message of Eyes Wide Open.

Smoke And Mirrors allowed the 10 piece orchestra on stage to stretch their scope, with the intricate detail of the track coming to life from the recorded track through additional drummer, and horn section, backing Wally. The animation added to the life and energy of the song.

Chatting to the crowd, Wally confessed that with the beginning of the album tour, he has come down with a chest infection, with his voice a little shaky. Here, he introduced the vocoder as a tool to compensate, and launched into State Of The Art. Images from the video clip projected on the screen behind him, this track about a family organ and the loss of natural sounds in released music today.

Easy Way Out, and I Feel Better got the crowd moving, although many didn't seem to know the album material. Wally then started to instruct the crowd to sing the catch to Save Me, which was really just thwarted by his low volume vocals at the time. Having seen this attempted a couple of times now, I think the idea of splitting male and female audience voices would have been great...if only everyone had caught on! He joked that he had clearly not managed to write a sing-a-long hook for this song after all - but the song was still amazing!

Don't Worry, I'll Be Watching was then followed by the accidentally released cord for Somebody That I Used To Know. Tempted to switch from playing it as a result, Wally soon launched into the massive single, to the crowd's delight. As the song worked up to the moment of the female vocal, the anticipation built...and there was a feeling of disappointment that Kimbra didn't manage to grace the stage for her part in the smash, but her silhouetted image and vocals played their part. Well, she can't just follow Wally around on this tour, considering she now has her own album to promote! We were very spoilt at Splendour and the Opera House!

Merging the end into the crowd favourite Heart's A Mess, which was disarmingly strong as always, before finishing the set with the beautiful and moving Bronte. An encore of Learnalilgivinanlovin finished the evening, in another chapter of Gotye's music masterpieces and treat for live crowds.
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