Friday, August 30, 2013

The Taj's Mosque

The Mosque to the west of the Taj Mahal, made of red sandstone and featuring the distinctive white domes of the great mausoleum and monument to love, is an important gathering point and place of prayer for the Muslims of Agra. This is also the reason the Taj complex is closed to tourists on Fridays - visitors take note!

The Mosque has an identical jawab on the other side of the Taj, added into the design for symmetry! Such was Shah Jahan's vision.

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Monet’s Garden and Footy

When I was standing in line for a MIFF movie earlier this month, I had just managed to wade my way in the rain after an AFL football match at the MCG. Upon seeing the beloved ‘G from Flinders Street, and the stream of footy fans straggling back to the city, the woman in front of me in the line commented that I was certainly making a “change of pace” in my day from one to the other.

I guess that all depended on the pace of the game I had just seen, and the pace of the movie about to be watched, but I just kinda laughed at her incredulous comment that someone who was into film could be into footy as well. I mean, that is the essence of being a Melbournian, and surely a citizen of the world! Follow what you are passionate about, whatever the form!

Nicole and I paired a similar contrast a couple of weekends ago, after our feast at the Melbourne Trailer Park. First up, just up the way on St Kilda Road, we entered the ever amazing National Gallery of Victoria for the Monet’s Garden exhibition.

I am always in awe of the curation at the NGV, they always do things so well! As we weaved through the line to the ticket box we took in the themed décor of the café, which we were to later learn within the exhibit is the kitchen style at Giverny.

After marveling at the abstract version of Monet's waterlillies in the foyer, we moved into the gallery space, and took in the journey of Monet's from his early works and inspiration, to his Waterlilly masterpieces. The acquisition of Giverny, and the development of the garden and lilypond, in addition to the Japanese inspired bridge.

Seeing the garden evolve on his canvases as time moved along, the exhibit also paired his life timelines of love and loss, a fascinating personal history, and the shocking journey of his cataracts, colour vision loss, and repair.

The highlight of the exhibit was Giverny on show - a final room set out as a surround cinema, which takes you through the garden. Having the screens fill your periphery vision, it really felt like you were walking through it - and made me want to add a visit to the real garden to my wanderlust list!

Then we made it across town to Etihad Stadium, to watch the Bombers play the Roos, and my cousin play for the second time this year in the Seniors.

I have discovered that it's so very hard to keep track of just one player during a game. But so very refreshing to watch a game without the emotional investment of having your team in it!

Monet's Garden is on till the 8th of September, and I totally urge you to get along and experience it. The Bombers however, have finally met with the end of a season long saga, and taken their punishment. This coming weekend will be their last for the year.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

185 Empty Chairs

Returning to Christchurch this month was pretty confronting, seeing the devastation of the earthquakes of 2010 and 2011 and the ongoing state of disrepair of the city. Memories of my visit with Mum back in 2009 made the experience of walking through what felt like a ghost town now all the more.

As I walked around the rubble, nothing was as powerful as the art installation named 185 Empty Chairs.

Out in the open, these chairs, all white, are placed to represent each person lost as a result of the February 2011 earthquake.

All kinds of chairs, which is a moving representation of the ages and range of people the quake took. Some of the chairs in the installation actually belonged to the person for whom it represents.

As Christchurch works away at recovery and the rebuild, this art is a strong symbol of what happened, and the impact these natural forces have had on the city.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Melbourne's Trailer Park

I am fairly sure the only novel foodie thing better than a food truck is a gaggle of them all together for a feast of tasting! That dream has come true here in Melbourne for the month of August, and will continue into September, and is planted on St Kilda Road where the old Belgium Beer Cafe once was.

Each weekend of August Corntopia, The Curry Truck, Gumbo Kitchen and The Brulee Cart has been making up the Trailer Park, along with a pop up outside bar, and the bluestone indoors one.

Two weekends ago Nicole, Carly and I met up under the warming Winter sun in the make-shift courtyard to taste the food of trucks we have not actually had the chance to track down before.

We grabbed chicken and bean tacos from Corntopia, the "Flavoursome" dish from The Curry Truck, which gave us a sample of two different curries on offer - beef rendang and the butter chicken - plus a samosa, some ratia, and rice. The Smoked Mesquite Pulled Pork Po' Boy was the other choice of our feast, from Gumbo Kitchen.

One of the most anticipated tastes of the Trailer Park though, was the chance to sample The Brulee Cart's little morsels of goodness. Changing flavours each weekend, I had the Nutella and Strawberry, Nicole the Salted Caramel and Carly had the French Vanilla - each had the required crack on the top, which whilst meant to be in place, still seemed like a delightful surprise coming from a tiny blue truck!

The food was pretty amazing. Fresh, and each so varied. Oh! Beatbox Kitchen was there too, for burgers, but I have sampled them before! Each dish went down well with a cider, and the much missed sunshine!

The truck combination is set to change for September, and so will surely need another visit to sample the collection of tastes, all made within the confines of one of the trucks!

What a great idea, and an amazing community feel, getting together to enjoy these tastes.

Monday, August 26, 2013

Views Of The CN Tower

How fast a year seems to go! It’s 12 months now since I finished up my Summer in Toronto, and headed back home to Melbourne via New York City and the US Open. A year! To mark the occasion, I am going to give you a selection of the view I was most enamoured with in TO – the glimpse of the CN Tower from all areas of the city.

Right from my first walk around the city on my first weekend, I always got a rush from spotting it. Even in the everyday walk to and from work at the Hospital - I would spot it from the park, and then the view towards the city centre from University Avenue.
There was also a buzz from seeing it lit up at night, and it changing it's colours. The light show gets started just at dusk and runs much of the evening every hour on the hour. It also lights up different colours to commemorate different national holidays and events, which is actually pretty cool. To assist with bird migration, the lighting is dimmed during the autumn months! Wow!

I guess the CN Tower in Toronto is like Big Ben in London and the Empire State Building in NYC. Like the Eiffel Tower in Paris, and the Sydney Harbour Bridge. That iconic view you look for in the skyline, that tells you where you are.

I remember being a little resistant to going up inside the tower, because I thought that doing that to get a view of the city would be missing the very item of the skyline that you were standing within. Although, it was totally worth the visit!

But one of the best views, of course, remains the one you get from across Ontario Lake on the Toronto Islands.

A year! Seems like no time at all, and yet an age ago all at the same time! I will have to include Toronto again for a visit next year - surely that will fit in with a ticket home from anywhere I may go! Would love to catch up with the people I met when I was there, and also get a glimpse of the CN Tower again!

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Project 52: Wednesday Evening

This particular Wednesday night was the night all Aussie cricket fans had been counting down to for weeks - the start of the Ashes series over in England. Regardless of the worry about the team and how we might actually go, there was excitement for the start of the First Test - butterflies-in-the-stomach type excitement!

I was housesitting a pretty amazing house, and had Graham join me for pizza and mulled wine for the first session. Perfect! Watching play get started from the other side of the world, this night was the beginning of seven weeks of serious sleep deprivation!

This post is part of Project 52 with Jess from FuShMuSh.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Secret Gig: The Basics Are Back!

Upon hearing the news that The Basics were to do a secret show on Saturday night at the Post Office Hotel in Coburg, Nicole and I instantly plotted out our day with the end being the chance to see the lads play again together after 3 years off doing other things.

Wally has been dominating the world music scene and winning Grammy's, Kris has been working in Kenya, and Tim has been playing in another band in that time, and there were thoughts about whether they would ever come together again as The Basics - but there had been a bit of online buzz, and then shows announced. Saturday night seems to have been their first proper rehearsal!

Taking a place in the front room of the pub, weaving in among the tables of people there for dinner and drinks, the room soon filled as 9pm arrived.

Opening with Money (Gimme, Gimme), the boys were on stage in new matching tailored suits, and fresh energy. Wally seemed so relaxed and really enjoying himself at the back of the stage behind the drums, as the other two warmed up to the spotlight again.

Lots of tracks from their last album release, like What Do You See In Me? and a stripped down version of With This Ship. I was pretty pleased to hear The No 1 Cause Of Death Amongst Youth Today live again, before the new release of So Hard For You seemed to pull in the attention of the crowd of new The Basics fans since the Gotye boom.

More old favourite were played, like Memory Lane, She's Gonna B Late, and Just Hold On. The banter picked up pace and bite as the gig kicked on. Then Yeah Yeah, Can You Trust Me? and Hey C'mon!

Call It Rhythm and Blues and Looking Over My Shoulder was also there, after taking requests from the crowd. Covers ended the night, with Tim leading the harmonies of Rain, before Have Love, Will Travel. The night ended with an AC/DC cover of Jailbreak.

The Basics are back! They are playing another show tonight - so looking forward to it!

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Jimmy P, These Birds Walk and In Bloom

My last three Melbourne International Film Festival movies of 2013 were an intense selection, but maybe more to do with the fact that I had seen 10 already in quick succession!

Jimmy P
Inspired by a true story, Benico Del Toro plays an Native American who has returned from war and is experiencing a host of symptoms connected to a head injury. Admitted to a psychiatric facility by his concerned and frightened sister, it’s determined that there is nothing physically wrong, nor mating a full psychiatric criteria wrong, but something is amiss nonetheless. The hospital calls on anthropologist George Devereux to treat Jimmy’s condition, who has been out of favour, and is pretty eccentric. Devereux has a deep interest and body of work within Native American culture, and his language and learning process is fascinating to watch.

The sessions take on a journey for both men, and the film has you the viewer eavesdrop on the exploration of past, of dreams and intimate thoughts, and works through realisations, reframing and mental processing. The exploration of trauma and significant events, and the impact of racial discrimination, is powerful and gentle. Engaging in a mixture of curiosity and concern, this film is a study of who therapy could be when it is good and meaningful, and allowed the time to follow it’s own path.

These Birds Walk
I wonder whether MIFF fatigue with so many movies in one week impacted on my engagement with These Birds Walk, or whether my Social Work and International Development accountability background kicked in to overdrive and tainted my ability to just watch without judgement. This is a documentary bringing the work of the Edhi Foundation in Karachi, Pakistan to our screens – showing the man behind the organisation and shelter for children – which Wikipedia describes as the biggest welfare agency in the country. The film shows us the children who find themselves there – some runaways, some street kids, some kids who got lost, or were kicked out of home. It also shows us the work of the drivers of the ambulances of Edhi, who pick up the kids from the streets and bring them to the shelter, but of course they also need to balance this work with the need to make a living through morgue transportation and medical transport jobs. These are the staff members also responsible for returning the children in the shelter back to their families, and this is where my concerns are based.

We see a happy reunion, where an extended family receives their lost son back through one of these returns, and all seems well. But we also see one child returned to a dangerous area, to a family where the uncle states boldly to the camera that he would rather not have the child back. This boy exhibited serious stress and anxiety symptoms upon learning he was to be returned home, and the whole journey back and reunion is an uncomfortable watch.

In a world where accountability and assessment, and monitoring is so crucial, particularly to charities which pull donor monies in from so many different places, the level of care needs to be better. Safety of the child needs to be considered. Someone needs to check on the situation before this kind of child return is completed. This depiction of such a charity was disturbing and alarming.

I don’t want to belittle the work Edhi does because clearly this is just one little snapshot of their work, and further research outlines extensive medical support services in a country that needs so much, but these kind of practices bother me. There is a real need for care and accountability here, to the children that need protection and safety.

The documentary also spends time showing the kids as they stay at Edhi, playing, fighting, figuring out rank and little power balances, as any group of kids thrown together would. Some lovely moments of bonding and care, some painful displays of bullying and hazing. Altogether, an unsettling film and a glimpse into the difficulties of programs in countries where there are few regulations.

In Bloom
In Bloom was my final film for MIFF, and was a tale that made me despair for girls and young women in so many oppressive cultures the world over. Set in Georgia, the story follows a group of school aged girls trying to get through school, the ups and downs of being a teen in an adult world.

Complications in life come from boys, and a gun. A very early marriage changes everything, and teenage affection leads to tragedy.

This was another gem on the MIFF program by a female director from a land where women have such limited freedoms, and yet have such strong character.

Oh my word, I love MIFF, and the huge range of stories it brings to Melbourne for the two weeks in Winter.

Monday, August 19, 2013

The Taj Mahal: Early Morning Contrast

After visiting the Taj with the group in the middle of the day, I decided that I would go back the following morning to spend more time with the white marble beauty.

Getting up when it was still dark, I got to the gates just after 6.30am, which was the time of sunrise - the Taj complex is not open until sunrise nowadays. I paid entry again, at the Foreigner rate, went through the metal detectors, and made my way inside for that first glimpse of the mausoleum through the red sandstone gateway.

And there was the Taj, in peace. In the serenity it was surely intended. With just a handful of other people there at the time, all was still. The fountains all along the water feature were off, and the reflection into the water was stunning.

Without the crowds, I could take my time, get photos from every angle with no people in them, and take in the detail of the manicured ornamental gardens. I could stand still and soak in the view of one of the most incredible sights in the world, without being hurried or moved along by anyone.

The other factor of this early morning experience was the light. As the sun was just starting to really make itself known, it gave the white marble so many shades as the light increased into the day. The shadows created a whole other effect on different angles of the structure - the arches of the entry, the detail around the faces of the mausoleum, and then four minarets.


Walking along the water feature again, and making my way up to the home of the cenotaph, I was a group of about 12 people completing the full visit.  This meant the experience of inside was silent, peaceful, and reverent.

It also meant I could stop and examine all the details, including the marble inlay work including the precious stones embedded, the marble lattice screen inside, the calligraphy... I would imagine you could visit countless times, and still see new things with each visit. There is so much exquisite detail, it's mind-blowing!

Back out into the warming sunshine, I got to explore the two mosques on either side of the mausoleum, again with next to no one around.

Looking back to the Taj, the bright sun again created a different hue from the white marble - brilliant white. Again, stunning!

Just as I had completed the circuit of the visit, and started heading back towards the gate and the entrance/exit, I could see the hoards of tours groups start to arrive at that first point of seeing the Taj. Perfect timing!

I definitely recommend the early morning visit, before most people are out and about, as you will get the Taj Mahal complex almost to yourself. I was back to our hotel in time for our breakfast buffet, totally buoyed by my special morning with the Taj.

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Royal Children's Hospital: Open House Melbourne

The chance to have a good look at the new Royal Children's Hospital was too good to pass up, so I added it to my list of buildings to run around and see as part of Open House Melbourne. Having volunteered during first year uni at the old RCH, and then completing my uni placement at the Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto last year, I have been really interested to see the inside of this new building and the features designed for it's purpose of caring for kids.

I remember being nearby when the Queen attended to open the new building, and the plaque she unveiled was one of the first stops of the tour. We were taken around most of the ground floor areas by a volunteer, with so many of the new details pointed out.

The Creature is the unmissable art feature of Main Street - a colourful, giant being that fills so much of the space. The Creature has a butterfly sitting on his hand, who's wings gently open and close - symbolising the fact that something so big (the hospital) can take care of something so little and precious (the sick child).

In addition to this, the space overhead is filled with giant mobiles of fairies in the form of children at play.

There is so much natural light streaming into the building, and from almost every window of the hospital is a view of the parkland all around the building.

One of the most impressive and well-thought out aspects of the new hospital is the outpatients clinic - a now centralised point for families to attend their appointments, instead of running all over the building to different departments. The Consultants come down to this area to see the family - genius, and so patient-focused.

The waiting area of this outpatients area houses the meerkats, another one of the lovely features of the new building. Melbourne Zoo staff come across daily to care for the animals, who provide a distraction to waiting children, and indeed kids staying up on the wards, as they watch these busy little 'kats.

The other talking point of the hospital is the aquarium along Main Street, which runs down through two floors, to include the Emergency Department downstairs. Another point where families can escape their visit purpose by watching colourful fish, and mini sharks swim around in the water. So cool!

We also visited the Hoyts beanbag cinema, and the Starlight Room. A sample room from a ward was on display downstairs, as the ward names were described, which are all based on Aussie flora and fauna like Koala and Banksia. Each level of the hospital has a theme, from Beach to Tree Tops to Sky.

It's so impressive, and such a special place when you remember all the amazing things going on in here. It is still very much a place I hope to work in one day!

Friday, August 16, 2013

Sarah Blasko’s I Awake

At the start of the month I got to see Sarah Blasko on stage once more, to perform most of her new album. I so love seeing a new collection of tracks come to life, as their singer-songwriter intended, and Ms Blasko puts on the most mesmorising of shows, always.

Grabbing the train after work, Andrea met me at Ballarat Station, and we went off to The Forge for an amazing dinner. A catch up among the rustic setting, with such delicious pizza choices. The old antique shop in Armstrong Street never looked and smelt so good!

Taking our seats in the fourth row of the Wendouree Performing Arts Centre, we were soon treated to lights down on the impressive theatre and Fletcher on stage. Rare for the support to have a darkend room for his set, he took to his acoustic rock-folk story-telling songs, and captured the seated audience.

Then Sarah took the stage, with Fletcher back out on guitar, and the rest of her travelling band. She wore all black as she float about on stage in her characteristic performance movement delivery. In the middle section of the set, she donned long black gloves with sparkles, to add to the effect, and it was hard to draw your eyes away from the movement and glitter!

Opening with All I Want, Ms Blasko treated us to a handful of older tracks like We Won't Run, before introducing her new album material. Hold On My Heart continues to be my favourite song of hers, from my favourite album of hers, As Day Follows Night, and so lovely to hear live once more.

I Awake has come to life for me after hearing it live this night, being the title track of the new album. Cast The Net stayed with me for days after seeing it performed on stage. Sarah was chatty and engaging between songs, so cute. She finished a rousing God-Fearing, and explained that it was about bullying, which made her angry.

I was at a gig where Sarah declared that she wouldn't play the Cold Chisel cover of Flame Trees anymore, and then changed her mind, and so I was delighted to hear her doing it again - particularly sentimental having returned to my own hometown for the night.

I was pretty surprised when Andrea said that she hadn't seen her live before, as we both walked out of the theatre at the end of the show in awe of our incredible night. Ms Blasko, it was a treat as always!

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Pussy Riot and The National: MIFF Movie Reviews

Backbeat during the Melbourne International Film Festival always brings a diverse range of music related stories to the cinema screens, and this year I saw Pussy Riot: A Punk Prayer and Mistaken For Strangers, alongside Good Vibrations.

Pussy Riot: A Punk Prayer
I was in Toronto when the members of Pussy Riot were sentenced to jail time, a year ago this week, but I didn’t really follow up on what their actions and the charges were all about – I just knew that they had raised the attention of many feminist human rights angst, and called out Putin’s Russia in a really profound way.

Nicole grabbed seats for us to this film, and as I joined her the film started and we were walked through a final rehearsal of Pussy Riot’s punk performance number 4 - the one that led them to become a worldwide name and symbol for feminist and secular protest. Making a stand against the links between Russian government and the church, they have been thrown into prison for what really was a misdemeanor. A gross misplacement of their human rights.

The doco provides a really good look at the purpose of feminist punk movement that is Pussy Riot, and their acts – including the performance on the alter of the Church of Christ the Savior in Moscow, and their subsequent arrests and court trial for hooliganism.

With colourful balaclavas and punk music, this extensive group of girls have performed some pretty poignant protests, for which just three had been caught and charged.

The girl's families were interviewed during the documentary, with some compelling moments of pride and justification, as well as raw shock, shown. But the impact of the legal process and media attention on them all was clear.

It also takes you, the viewer, through their trial and allows you to see Nadia, Masha and Katia stand up for their rights, and what they believe in, in such a measured, intelligent and strong way in the face of the court and the media.

Despite the shock of seeing them perform on the alter like they did, the message and strength in their voice and convictions was impressive and powerful. Kill All Sexists, indeed!

Mistaken For Strangers
A doco by Matt Berninger from The National's brother Tom as he accompanies the band on their Europe and US tour for High Violet. Tagging along as a roadie, he takes his amateur filmmaking as a much more serious role on the road.

Rather than a film about the band’s tour, it was more a study on a sibling relationship, with The National forming a background to it. Captured is the sibling rivalry, competition, and differences present despite growing up in the same environment, within the same cultural conditions, and knowing the things each other knows, between the Berninger brothers. Seeing one brother’s struggles, and the other brother’s desire for the other to do well.

Of course, the other 2 sets of brothers that make up The National featured also, but really they were a comical prop in the story of Tom.

As a fan of the band it was electric to see footage of their live gigs peppered through the documentary. Goosebumps as Matt does his crowd-walking. Excitement as they tested out a new track, which we are now devouring in their new release this year. So interesting to see the waves of emotion from the band members before and after being on stage, and also the processes of such a tour.

It’s funny and raw and so utterly revealing. A brave release for both brothers, and as a The National fan it made me like Matt even more!

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Melbourne City Beauty

I have known she was around somewhere for sometime, based on other people's photos, but never spotted her myself until I was on the rooftop of the Queen Victoria Women's Centre with the views of the inner city.

Her sultry look is often hidden away by highrises and laneways when you are walking on the street level, but from this vantage point made possible for Open House Melbourne, she peers out from her home on the side of a building. I think I would like to find her from ground level, but this view across streets of the city was pretty amazing.

Thursday, August 08, 2013

Alone, Wadjda, and The Past

The next three MIFF sessions for me were beautiful stories about people in such different parts of the world, facing challenges. Reading subtitles whilst listening to conversations between characters in Mandarin, Arabic and French, these stories were so rich in place. I moved between the Forum and Greater Union for these at the end of last week.

Alone is the tale about three young girls essentially living on their own in a rural mountain village in the hillside of China. Their mother has left, and their father works in the city and returns when he can – otherwise the oldest, the ten year old, is essentially in charge, and also completes the chores such as cooking, and washing the clothes and bathing her siblings.

Their gruff aunt lives nearby, and the girls spend some of their day there completing chores, or working the fields and managing the livestock for this extended family. But essentially, they are on their own in this sparse village.

A simple look into their life, the camera rolls as they go through their days, as they play and play fight, and wait their father’s return from work on his rare visits.

I booked Wadjda after both Jenny and Jessie went to the first screening of it for the Festival, and raved! Touted as the first film shot entirely in Saudi Arabia, and also directed by a women, this story centres around a feisty, cheeky teenage girl who struggles with the restrictions of her culture and gender – and just wants to play, be a kid, and take on her friend in a bicycle race! Girls don’t ride bikes though, and Wadjda also struggles with the rules placed on her as a girl, and the need to remain out of sight of men and also with her clothing requirements.

Wadjda decides to find a way to buy her own bike so she can race her friend, and her manipulative bargaining with the adults in her life raise some funds. She then also hears about a school competition, with a monetary prize, for reciting the Qur’an and answering randomised questions based on it. Whilst not a studious pupil, usually told off for her lack of application and pronunciation, Wadjda sets her mind to this, doggedly.

It’s a heartfelt, beautiful story with an amazing lead in the role of Wadjda, and easily one of my picks from MIFF for this year of my 13.

A follow on from Oscar winner A Separation a few years ago, The Past brings a complicated, blended family in many levels of emotional turmoil to the screen. I am kicking myself for not seeing A Separation beforehand now, as this has given me the next chapter for the characters from that film, set some years forward and beginning with the need for Marie and Ahmed to finalise their divorce.

Ahmed’s presence within the home raise tensions and jealousies for Marie’s new relationship with Samir, and Ahmed’s father role to Marie’s two children picks up from where it left off when they were together. Add into the mix her new partner’s young son, and the pain he carries from the mysterious and unexplained absence of his own mother. So many elements, so well told and played out.

The layers of pain for each family member are unravelled as Ahmed’s stay goes on, with secrets and teenage guilt, and subsequent rash actions and their impact are pieced together. The shocking and emotional implications are then compounded by further details about Samir’s wife’s whereabouts and the sequence of events beforehand.

A film with many intricacies which left me thinking about it for days, this one also rates in my top 3 picks of the Festival.

Speaking of MIFF, I wrote a guest post talking about the Festival for the uninitiated - you can read it here over on The Aussie Word.

Wednesday, August 07, 2013

North Melbourne’s Flying Girl

She's been around North Melbourne for some time, flying through the air, heading towards a busy round-a-bout. She seems free and as if she has a plan for where she is headed..... I certainly hope that is what her flight is about!

Tuesday, August 06, 2013

Queen Victoria Women's Centre: Open House Melbourne

Nestled among the shiny new, modern buildings of QV in Melbourne is the Queen Victoria Women's Centre, which was open as part of Open House Melbourne.

The QVWC was the site of the first Royal Melbourne Hospital, and the place where nursing practices were pioneered by Lady Superintendent Jane Bell from 1910 to 1934. Following this period, it became the Queen Victoria Memorial Hospital, where the focus was on women's health, being 'for women by women'.

Mid-wife birthing, the use of interpreters, gender dysphoria, IVF clinic and support for women who have been victims of sexual assault, are all attributed to this Hospital. Today's QVWC is actually the only surviving pavillon of the vast Hospital, and the most ornate.

Since 1986 it has been the QVWC, a place for women's organisations of support, activity and leadership, starting out with a campaign to keep the building for this purpose, despite the modern developments going up all around it.

Just inside the front gate is the Shilling Wall, which celebrates over 500 women's contribution as mothers, sisters, grandmothers, caregivers, community contributors - teachers, nurses, politicians and journalists.

Entering the building itself, the interior is grand and beautifully fitted, with the gallery after the lobby featured an exhibition of photographs of the intricate details of the building above.

Up to Level 4 and the Victoria Room, the medical care aspect is represented with old hospital beds - which, in it's peek, spilled out onto the vast balcony.

Up again to Level 5, I was treated to spectacular inner city views of Melbourne, with the grand dome of the State Library at one side, and then the vast cityscape sprawled out in beyond the other.

Up on this level was also the Atrium, which can he hired as a function or meeting room, which is just stunning. Stained glass windows with this view - inspiring!

Monday, August 05, 2013

Cricket On The Shores Of The Taj – A Waving The Flag Tradition

One of the things I have always wanted to do was join Waving The Flag in their cricket match on the shores of the river that runs along behind the Taj Mahal - the photos from this excursion are always a sensation, and a real highlight of most trips to India to watch cricket.

We almost didn't get to do it, with the beach in front of Mehtab Bagh actually wire-fenced off, and security officers with guns patrolling the entry to the area. We needed to compromise and set up our game just next to the fence, ensuring we still had that magical view.

Our little Agra travelling group improvised our game to get the desired feel, and view - all taking it in turns to bowl and bat, with one brave Bloke usually being the one to volunteer to dare to venture out into the fenced off area, when a ball went astray.

An unforgettable travel moment, an amazing afternoon playing cricket with the Taj!

Photo credit: Luke, Waving The Flag

Sunday, August 04, 2013

Project 52: Wednesday Afternoon

Just another work day for me, spending most of the time in the office on the phone or firing off emails to set things in place for carers of a person with a mental illness, plus a handful of disability cases. This locum position was originally for 4-6 weeks...4 months later, they still have work for me, and I am still happy enough to turn up!

This post is part of Project 52 with Jess from FuShMuSh.

Saturday, August 03, 2013

In Guns, Narco Cultura, and Blackbird

Another short pulled me into a Melbourne International Film Festival session for Tuesday night, which turned out to be the 12 minute piece before the full length Narco Cultura. Oops! Ha!

In Guns We Trust was a vignette about Kennasaw, the US town in Georgia, where a law was passed that stated that every head of a household must have a firearm. Talk of the Second Amendment and the right to hold arms, and the right to defend your family was voiced. Thomas Jefferson’s assertion that every American should have the means to overthrow the government, their “right to revolution” was thrown in…wow. Also crime statistics were touted, as reportedly dropped since the introduction of the law, claiming to be a place of one of the lowest crime rates in America.

They did not, however, mention how many accidental deaths or injuries were sustained by gunshots within the town during the same period, which would have helped with a more balanced view in my passivist mind!

The film was mainly black and white stills, with a clever use of movement within a picture, on occasion. Confronting for this Aussie in the audience was the images of children firing weapons at a firing range – an abhorrent scene within the context of our country’s careful gun control.

Set in Juarez, Mexico, Narco Cultura depicts the current violent murder capital of the world, the drug wars and also the music movement coming from this dark and scary element happening in these parts. Graphic images of the murdered are confronting and shocking, as we follow the crime scene investigators going about their jobs and responding to the horrific volume of deaths in the streets of this small city – just across the border from the most peaceful and safe American city of El Paso, Texas. We hear of the fear, and also the pain of the families of those often in the wrong place at the wrong time. We follow as this team of investigators deal with their very real concerns of being targets themselves, the underground corruption impacting their work, and then of the powers behind the killings. The money, the drugs, and the current most wanted man in the world.

Out of all this horror and pain, there are rappers producing music about the violence – and it is becoming a musical movement sweeping Central and Northern America, with an astounding popularity. “We will be the next Hip Hop”, one artist tells the audience, as lyrics tell of murder, methods, weapons and hero statuses are sung, preformed, and worshipped. We see packed out concerts and fans excited to see their musical heros. All emulating the killings in such graphic ways.

Disturbing on so many levels, this film stuns with the very real and frightening state of this town, and this music movement.

Blackbird is a film which would rank within my top 5 so far for the Festival, which was a Wednesday morning session at ACMI. Set in Canada, it’s a story about a misfit teen dumped into a small town to live with his father, after being rejected by his mother and her new husband. A self-proclaimed goth, he is unpopular and a target for bullying; but develops a strong friendship and growing romance with one of the most popular girls at school.

The usual teenage difficulties proceed, leading to a point where Sean is threaten by his new friend’s boyfriend, and makes an equal threat in return over an online chat with her later than night. The difference is that his was made in a format that was recorded, such is our online lives these days. He also made mention of having the means to do it, in relation to the collection of firearms his father kept at their home.

This online chat throw-away threat is then used to accuse Sean of plotting a school massacre in the post-Columbine North American fear, and amazingly he is sent to juvenile detention centre to await a formal trial for these charges. Here, his awkward misfit ways are a target for the violent inmates he is thrown in with, and this becomes the most dangerous of situations for him.

The acting performance and script leads you the viewer to completely sympathise with Sean, a victim of fear and circumstance. The portrayal and evolution of Sean and his father’s relationship throughout the film is a powerful side story, adding to emotion of the story, and added depth to the movie.

In Guns… mentioned the old turn of phrase that guns don’t kill people, that people kill each other, and that is of course true – people with guns! These three stories on film show this, from several different angles.

Friday, August 02, 2013

An Aussie Rite Of Passage – The UK “Youth Mobility” Working Holiday

My littlest sister Katie has just set off to embark on the adventure her 3 older sisters have completed before her – to travel over and set up home in London for the duration of the Working Holiday Visa. Well, that’s what it was called when I did it, but now it’s the Youth Mobility. With her 30th birthday looming, and without the luxury of having a parent or a grandparent born in the UK and the ancestry rights that that allows, each of us have only had access to this style of visa for such an adventure.

It does seem to be the thing that most young Aussies do. And rightly so! London is not all that different to living and working in Australia – just bigger, and closer to Europe! It is also the perfect place to procrastinate about what you want to be when you grow up, about getting a real job at home once you have completed all that university study, and also a chance to spread your wings in your chosen professional area outside of the maybe tired (and tried) and tested work options of home. Plus, it’s an hour to Paris!

Essentially this Youth Mobility Visa is available to Australians (and other agreed nations) with a desire and the means to do it. The visa permits living and working in the UK for up to 2 years, provided you have applied before you turn 31, and you need to show you have money in your account to support yourself. You can work, or study, full time on this visa, which pretty much sets you up to live the good life for that time period.

Katie has mentioned the option of going over to live and play in London on and off for some time, with the pull of a collection of mates who are living the good life over there at the moment. It seems to be her social circle’s time to be doing this. Of course, she came to visit me when I was there doing my Working Holiday stint, and she also visited Jessie when she was doing hers – so London is not an unknown for her, although certainly the experience of living there, and being so far from home, will be!

(Ha! In writing this and running it past her, at this point in the post she wrote “no it won’t!” Ahhhh, she has no idea the waves of homesickness that can come out of the blue! Even I felt them, when I could not have imagined them as I set out!)

The process started with filling out the online form, which required things like our parent’s date of birth, previous travel details, and plans to enter the UK. Next, once she received word that this was processed, she was asked to come down to Melbourne, to the Visa Application Centre, to have her fingerprints scanned, and photo taken, as part of the process. Just like arriving at the airport in the US, this took all of 3 minutes, and the next step to London was done.

About 1.5 weeks later her little blue book was returned to her in the mail with a new full page sticker in it, that has let her into the UK! Just over 4 weeks ago now she finalised her packing, and boarded her flight. So exciting! Her adventure has begun!

Arriving into a heatwave Summer there in London, she has also been there in the thick of it for the Royal Baby arrival, which is pretty amazing. She even popped down to check out the Official Announcement posting in front of Buckingham Palace.

I am so looking forward to following along with her adventures, and am already planning a visit to Europe to hang out with her for a bit while she is there. It's still one of the best times of living for me, and something I seriously think everyone who has the chance should do!

I have also found another travel blogger post with helpful information about the Youth Mobility visa process, you can read here.

Thursday, August 01, 2013

Black Balloon, New World and Good Vibrations

That time of year has descended on Melbourne again, where I have a eMini Pass for the Melbourne International Film Festival and am running from cinema to cinema in between other life commitments, to see as many films as possible. I am doing quite well so far, and may in fact see all 13 that the Pass provides! Loving it!

Up first the synopsis of The Black Balloon had pulled me in to book Saturday night’s session, which turned out to be the short to a longer movie feature. Nevertheless The Black Balloon was a short about loneliness in a big city, as it followed the path of a floating and free balloon in NYC, and it’s encounters of people along the way. An amazing amount of people befriended this balloon which crossed their path and seemed to follow them along for a little while, speaking to it, telling it all sorts of personal secrets and walking along with it as their companion. A brief encounter with an inanimate object seemed the closest some of these people had had for a friend in some time. I had actually pictured a whimsical trail through skyscrapers and Central Park, and along the iconic landmark of the city – alas it as more Hoboken than Manhattan… The final scene of freedom was the highlight for me, and for the black balloon!

Marvin, Seth and Stanley was the main feature of this booking, about a father and his two grown sons going on a fishing trip together in rural USA. Themes here were around the lack of communication between men, misunderstandings despite the long family history and bond, and each one’s personal issues and their impact on their demeanour towards others. Each unlikable people to be fair, it was a sad tale about the state of some families and the burdens and troubles people carry with them.

Back to cinema darkness on Monday night, Jenny and I saw The New World, which to date is probably my third favourite film of the Festival so far. A story about Mirta, a cleaner in an asylum seeker processing centre in the Netherlands, who is also a single mother battling her own grief and pain and struggles with her life. West African Luc arrives to be processed, with no papers and a heartbreaking story of loss and fear, and despite Mirta’s often quick judgements on new arrivals, something sparks between the two of them, each having a strong impact on the other. It’s a beautiful story, told in a way where there are gaps in her story left for you to fill in yourself. The acting and music are well done, in that as an audience member I felt her very real symptoms of anxiety at one point, and the moments of joy and care between this friendship that is formed. It’s heartwarming, and sad. Luc’s story is powerful, as powerful as an example of the dire circumstances of fleeing your homeland, and the journey and mental toll that takes. There is a moment when Luc is first processed and his photo is taken, where he shifts for a side view, and the officer says, no no “you are not a criminal”. Indeed.

With so much made of the refugee issue and dastardly politicalised platform it has become in Australia, it was humbling to know that these very personal stories are happening the world over. And that they are very individual and yet similar no matter where the asylum seeker has fled from.

Good Vibrations will easily be my pick of best movie for the Festival, and indeed film I will see for some time. I left this later screening with such joy in my heart, and a renewed love of all things music. Set in Belfast in the peak of The Troubles, Terri Hooley opens a record store in one of the most bombed streets in the city at the time. His love of music and the terror all around him collide, and he becomes an icon of hope for youth in the middle of those times – watching him discover the underground music scene just after starting his shop moves the soul of any music lover. He then works on recording some of the bands he discovers, and thus The Undertones, Rudi and The Outcasts are released on his tiny label, produced from the record store.

Moments where he first hears the recorded track of one of these bands is one of the greatest scenes I have seen and felt for a very long time, in addition to the excitement of hearing Teenage Kicks played by John Peel on the BBC Radio National the first time, and the pinnacle gig to close out the film – I already want to see this movie again! The meeting of his future wife in the film is gorgeous, although the pain of the turmoil of the relationship throughout the film is heartbreaking, as Terri’s love of music and the live scene consumes him. An amazing biopic of an incredible man and spirit, it’s funny and witty, and a film for every music fan.

I have been raving about Good Vibrations since walking out of the cinema at Greater Union, and am telling people to see it! It screens again next Saturday!
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