Outside of Australia these were my favourite places
NORWAY The Leprosy Museum in Bergen
Ahh, the Leprosy Museum, what a relief that was. Wandering up and down Norway it soon comes to your attention that every girl either looks like Claudia Schiffer or actually is Claudia Schiffer and every guy looks like this only less groomed, less sephardi, and wearing a diamond patterned jumper and with blonder hair and a hoady, hoady nice to see you expression
To fit in with locals I bought this Norwegian jumper and like everyone else in Norway I wore it everywhere. I tried but after a week of endless sweet natured, easy going, good looking Norwegians the leprosy museum is a soothing relief to the 24 hour a day Viking beauty parade.
HOLLAND and a Relationship with Herrings
When you travel on your own you’ve got a patter for getting to know other people. It comes naturally because that form of travel is a roller coaster of new people and it’s the way of joining in. Except in Holland. I’d go up and down the streets feeling at home, with my herring and my pushbike and I’d forget the patter. It’s the closest thing I’ve had to a mystical tourist experience, like coming back to family. I’ve tried to recreate that connected feeling by eating herrings and those Dutch almond cakes. It’s hard work but someone’s got to do it.
I went to a Roddy Doyle play in Dublin and as a member of the British Commonwealth of Nations I thought I’d understand it. Not a word. Suspecting that I’d wandered into the medieval Turkish language version of the play I asked a local and that was when I got to experience Irish hospitality. The play was explained to me until I could recite it, as was local cooking, the Dublin shule, the best bookstore, pub and places to go which was how I ended up at Glendaloch. Relentlessly hospitable, interesting and personal, that’s the Irish, the whole lot of them. I love the place.
SWITZERLAND Seduced by a Cow
average Swiss view
What used to get me when I travelled was the instant change in atmosphere and personalities when you cross a border. The grandeur of the French becomes the rollicking enthusiasm of the Italians and one inch over the border into Switzerland Italian mayhem becomes Assaulted by Beauty. You walk down the street in Interlaken going Mein Gott that’s just beautiful. About everything. And a minute later, hah! that was nothing and the next bit of scenery is more beautiful. Everything, the flowers, the mountains, the window boxes, the street signs, and whoa, the chocolate is beautiful. There’s department store sized chocolate shops with a section for say white chocolate the size of a normal shop. I miss it so. Any doubts about the Swiss monopoly on beauty were removed when I glanced over at a local cow. Large but soft and caring eyes that met mine. Beautiful shiny coat. Confident yet inclusive demeanour. And the bell! It was polished art. I think we connected.
Which oh which hits the spot the most when you’re tramping from one end of the Normandy beaches to the other? Hard to say but if you prefer modern history to cathedrals you’re in heaven.
Parco Di Mostri
A 15th century spooky garden full of giant animals, monsters and all sorts of twisted things. For devotees of Bruce Campbell and Evil Dead 3 it’s a cultural paradise. And the food is astonishing as in every village, town, campsite, worker’s hut and cafe in Italy.
DENMARK The Walking Tour of Copenhagen
There’s pretty well nowhere in Europe where you won’t hear about the Jews being thrown off the tower or expelled or burnt or shot and right here, here’s the bullet holes. The antidote is in Copenhagen. Some Danish bureaucrat found out that the Jews were being rounded up by the Gestapo the next day and with no organisation the Danes spontaneously grabbed their Jews off the streets, got them from their homes, shuffled them to the back of the bus when the Germans got on, and then took them to the coast where more Danes, the fishermen took the whole lot over to Sweden and life. Only 4 old Jewish ladies refused to go (yes, I may be related to those 4 old ladies) and ended up in Theresienstadt and the King of Denmark made sure they stayed alive. This story was told on the walking tour of Copenhagen in an offhand, of course we did it, way. I was absolutely floored, rubbing my eyes and thinking buy Danish.
USA Santa Fe
On my way into Santa Fe the woman sitting on the bus next to me turned out to be a Buddhist nun. I thought wow, how interesting, how unusual until I found out that everyone in Santa Fe is a Buddhist nun or has just spent a week in a sweat lodge wrapped in a horse blanket or is an artist working only in celery. Combine all that earnest 70’s hippie stuff with the American enthusiasm for everything and mountains of Mexican cooking and it’s just great.
CANADA Lake Morraine
I bicycled from Banff to Jasper and my tuchas still remembers every inch. Now that may have been it. Getting off that bike, hooting with disbelief that I finally got off the thing, or it could have been passing by the bus tourists who could barely look up let alone get off the bus. Maybe it was some combination but what I remember was dropping that bike, walking with legs that just wouldn’t walk, going around a rock and seeing Lake Moraine and thinking it’s the most breathtaking thing I’ve ever seen, better even than the Swiss cow.
You know when you’re in the country and yay, it’s another pottery gallery, looks good to me, and then you spend 10 minutes stroking your chin with the look of mild awe. Yes? Because there’s nothing in that shop, no vase, no mug, no weet bix bowl that interests you but you don’t want to hurt the feelings of the potter who’s right there behind the counter. Same thing in the jewellery shop, the tie store or the modern art gallery where the artist has his latest piece in egg yolk, beaver fur and live goldfish. Well, try Berlin, especially the every second Sunday market on Unter Den Linden. Ties, there’s brilliant ties, jewellery, art, lectures, street music, exhibitions you name it. The kind of things that would normally put you to sleep are fascinating in Berlin. See, you are an intellectual.
Food, people, life by the bucket load, the taxi driver’s daughter is the Professor of Paediatrics of course, the guy behind the counter explains your whole life in one sentence and you feel completely connected and absolutely foreign at the same time. Being a half breed myself I’d get a glow from thinking about a nice anglo-saxon queue at the RTA but then be on the receiving end of some inclusive, usually very smart, Jewish bravado accompanied by a tasty morsel of course and a history lesson. You could do worse. Tomorrow, the UK, Japan and the Glorious Motherland, Australia,
The reason I became a photographer was that in the early 80’s I was wandering around Fitzroy Falls and a young rider pulled up on a pushbike, dressed in very cool black biking clothes with a camera around his neck. He was Canadian and he told me he was a working photographer doing weddings and I asked him how it was and then he said these words that changed my life forever, It’s great, no one gets married in winter so I always take 3 months off and bicycle down a continent. Kapow, straight away I said that’s it, brilliant, wedding photographer is the career for me. And bless his little Canadian cotton socks, he was right. Out like a shot in June and back 11 weeks later I’d go.
Hiking in Norway, driving through the lavender fields in France, Israel, biking in Canada, Thailand, Japan, Eastern Europe, Australia, it was great. I hitched with a 19 year old Danish punk rock drummer across Canada and a car with gay guys would stop and they’d say we’ve got room for the slim hipped blonde Dane but not you chubby. I’d wait till they were over the hill then I’d hail a cab and catch up with my backpacking buddy in the next city.
He’d ask me if it was hard to get a ride and I told him no problem at all. I remember standing in an endless field of sunflowers in France and thinking that there wasn’t one moment on any of the trips that I wasn’t enjoying myself. And there were two things that stuck in my mind and haven’t left. People of all ages were travelling like me and enjoying it, it wasn’t only for the young. And in Corleone in Sicily I saw the future after weddings, my retirement plan playing out in front of me. I was thinking that maybe only the Italians can get away with this and then I saw the same thing on Spetses, a Greek Island. These old guys had shops or stalls in a market but what they did for 99% of the time was sit in a cafe joking with their friends.
These shops the old guys had looked like excuses for the coffee drinking and I think if the business was burning down they’d finish the cup before calling the fire brigade. As for customers, they and their pesky money could take care of themselves. The guys had coffee to drink and jokes to crack. I thought this was great and there must be a way of transplanting this to Australia and thus began my plan for central coast Moshav.
I figured this is what you need. A beautiful location which is no problem, Australia is riddled with them.
Not too pricey, you want your own place. You want the comedians, your friends, people who look up and are happy to see your face to be around, not necessarily for the daily hoop dancing session but just to know they’re there. You want your talent out there or a thing that makes you leap out of bed in the morning. You want to be near the kids and the grandchildren. You want a moshav in some gorgeous place 90 minutes from Sydney.
I’ve been tossing this idea around for about 10 years and it’s a growing thing. There’s a timeshare idea where someone swaps for a place in Jerusalem or Byron. There’s the little self serve tourist centre with wine making, cheese, antiques, writing groups, theatre, organic farming, cooking lessons and film making and the resident mohel. No one thinks small. Plus there’s the grey nomad caravanning plans.
See, it’s going to be fun, fun, fun in our old ages and the good news is you’ll never be rid of me.
Back in my sweet young days I did a second wedding/30th anniversary in Mosman. When he wasn’t busy growling at the waiters the married for 30 years groom would rise and belt out a gushing speech about the utter perfection of his radiantly gorgeous wife.
I’m sitting between the speakers and the garbage chute which is where you put the photographer. I’m chowing down royally out of respect for the love that Mr Caring down the front is beating his chest over. There were enough prawns to stock a fish market so I was busy and the guest who’d been seated next to me arrived. We did our introductions and he said, with some passion, Arghh, they sat me next to the photographer, I’m nothing. Of course I tried to console him over reaching the social low point of sitting next to me but he was one aggrieved relative so he went on to tell me every possible piece of schmutz he could dig up on our prawn providing, Highland fling performing, dazzled with love host.
Well, I was told Mr Love is All You Need down the front was, as of last week, dipping his pen in the company ink, getting his nookie where you get your cookie and was now right in the middle of his amends. My dinner companion then placed his thumb on his nose and wiggled his fingers in the direction of our host and this was the beginning of quite a few mildly aggrieved at the seating arrangements, wedding guests telling me what was really going on.
It works both ways. Yes, sometimes the groom should be driving straight off to appear on Jerry Springer, and sometimes the bride too, but there’s the opposite.
I’ve listened to countless wedding speeches from parents and those speeches are all about how to be happy 30 years on. And some of it is brilliant. I’ve sat and chatted to the parents finishing their desert for them while the kids are cutting a rug on the dance floor. I’ve heard some very wise parental life tips, source verified by the unfortunate seated next to me back at my table. I’ve also heard many sermons from Catholic priests on the same subject and there are Catholic priests out there with insights to write home about. Hey! That’s what I’m doing now. These guys may be batting for the other team but smart is just the beginning of some priests and yes, one of us did write their book. One day I’ll do a piece on what two Korean war nuns told be about their experiences. I’m still recovering.
This is what I’ve gleaned from my wise priests and still in love parents.
1 Look after your self
Don’t be tempted to sink into that comfortable ooze of relying on the partner for happiness. Or demanding it. Have your own fun. That ability to make yourself happy, to grow into yourself, is like a drumbeat that’s going on all the time and you want to stay with it learning about yourself and getting more and more interesting as a person. Be your own party director, creative department, personal trainer and your self respect will be magnetic. No victimhood here, you’re a mover and a shaker.
2 Back to the second date
This is another anti-complacency one. No matter how much you don’t feel like it, schedule in a little nice. A pattern breaker. Plan the lunch, the flowers, the cuddle, the listening, the encouragement, the life sized statue, anything that’s above and beyond. Once a week? Expect nothing, just do it and see, it’s a kind of slow habit setter where your commitment to nice spreads like tentacles.
3 Know the Enemy
OK, it’s The Shining at home. This will save the day providing there’s two little things going on. You’re in the right place being together and you’ll both put some gusto into this technique. I call this The Woman’s Weekly Technique because it seems so simple and cutesy but it’s more like opening a box of hidden secrets. You make a date, say every Sunday at 7pm. You sit down like the North Koreans facing the South Koreans at the table. Or not. This is good if everything’s fine too. The rule is this. One person says one thing they have decided that will be this week’s request for something to be done for them. Then the partner reciprocates with some request for something for themselves that will take roughly equal effort. The deal is no laughing, no questioning, just do it and meet back in a week for the next pair of requests.
What happens is this. If someone knows that they’re actually going to be given what they want then they give serious thought to what they’ll ask for. And then you know their big one too. Say you’re dealing with The Complaints Master, you’ll find out which of their many complaints is really driving them nuts. If you’re dealing with the cards close to the chest type you’ll find out at last what’s on their mind. And that can be a big surprise. Not always, the usual requests are to talk for half an hour a day or don’t gripe for half an hour a day but some very obscure but heartfelt ones come up too, as in don’t blow your nose in restaurants.
What’s the result of this? Lots. The exercise gets people above the general fog of broigus by focusing. Breaks the pattern. The partner now knows some vital truth that usually floors them. The requests are positive moves and they work much better than complaints. And far and away the most important is it’s practised kindness and hoo boy, that’s the path and the goal in one.
Yes, a big hoorah to those wise priests and happy after 30 years parents of the bride and groom. The big guy up the back with the camera, the schvitz and the many and varied crumbs thought you were pretty good.
1 Shoot a lot. Two ways of doing this are walking around with the camera bouncing on your stomach waiting for something to happen and the other one is putting aside time for a session. I’m a believer in the second because if, say, you’re on holiday, finger never leaving the shutter release, your keen artistic eye always scanning for that special moment then your travelling companions will probably drop you down a well. I think you get better shots if you take 20 minutes, work your photographic magic with all you’ve got then join back in with the living. A session means coming up with more than your first couple of shots. It means pushing it. Changing background, angle, lighting, distance, going on when you can think of nothing, pushing yourself and then taking that final last careless grabshot which is usualy the one that will have everyone telling you how sensitive and artistic you are. There are high level photographers who have low-level family shots because they extend themselves at work and at home one or two shots will do. It’s better to act like a pro and make it a, throw yourself all in, work session.
2 Shoot like a pro, well a couple of pros. Find your talent by seeing which style makes you shine. If you’ve got something lined up shoot it in three different ways. Firstly your best shot, the one you think is most creative or most saleable. Next your wild, dumb, break the rules shot. Swing the camera around, climb a tree, blur it, shoot a small part of the subject, chuck a bucket of water at the subject, that kind of thing. Thirdly, and this is tough, shoot innocently, no thinking, like when you first took your first camera out of the box and photographed your foot. Like a wide eyed child. One of these styles will be tough for you. Concentrate on that one. One of my kids shoots in style #3, I break out in a sweat when I try to do it and one day I hope I’ll be as good as her.
3. Find photographers you love and duplicate them, you learn by doing something different. Plus you just may be the genius of something you’ve never considered, food, aeriel, pets, sport, who knows until you try and someone’s got to do it. Here are my personal idols
I love Elliot Erwitt, the master of the visual gag
and Sebastio Salgado who does raw emotion for breakfast
and Shinzo Maeda who I want to be when I grow up
4. Read the camera manual and then turn the dial off auto. While 95% of other photographers don’t know how to select exposure you’ll be laughing in your beer when you’re the only one who doesn’t have pitch black silhouetted subjects, white sunsets and blurred lowlight shots. Plus you’ll be doing long exposures and nighttime work and you won’t be pointing the camera in difficult situations and relying on the power of prayer.
5. Learn natural lighting. Where is the light coming from? If you’re out in the open in midday it’s coming from above which means deep shadows under the eyes. Move the subject under a tree branch and you’ve cut out this down light, it’s blocked by the leaves, and now you’ve got nice flattering direct light. Move them next to the tree trunk and now you’ve blocked the sidelight on one side of the face as well as that miserable top light. Very artistic! And avoid direct sunlight. It means squinting and harsh shadows. Of course if you’re shooting skateboarders forget all this and shoot straight into the sun any time you like.
6. Double chins, get the person to lean forward from the tummy, and shoot from high. A Roman nose, the nose will point slightly in a direction, shoot from this direction for less Rome. Small eyes, sit them down and shoot from above and get them to keep their chins down while looking up and you’ll get big eyes. To find the better side of the face, look for the vanishing point, if you draw a line through the eyes and the mouth it will meet, shoot from the other side. Big jaw, frame the face with hair. And number one is that the cheek line is always more flattering than the jaw line, so you move the face around, or you move around the face until you’ve found that cheek line.
See! Cheek line, always works.
7.Natural is best. In the words of my mother, not on your Nelly. Sometimes natural is good but be careful with this hoary old chestnut. Some people thrive in the studied considered set up as with the beauty tips above. Some are great responding to interacting and fun or being casual. And sometimes natural is good but oy, be careful. For example, with actors for the natural feel, set up a mirror behind you so they can see themselves. As soon as they get the Dash Riprock look they know it and you get them to wiggle a finger or something and you shoot away. My style is horseing around, enthusiasm and watching for what they do. It’s not Sebastio Salgado but hey, seems to work.
It’s that time of the year. Time to see if my organic, homegrown, freshly picked scores higher that Woolworths frozen for a week or two. It’s a close call with the macadamias, definitely the eggs, the persimmons and the passionfruit romping ahead of the frozen food. Woolworths creamed me with the oranges, chestnuts and avocados but like Miamonedes, I’m perplexed. Some years the avocados are the stuff that dreams are made of, unbeatable but this year it’s therapy level disappointment. The therapist says chicken manure, maybe cow and this is helping me come to terms with my feelings.
Macadamias, you can’t go wrong with these little fellas. There’s buckets of them and aside from the hernia you get trying to crack them it’s all joy.
Apart from a slight disagreement with the chicken over who’s egg it is nothing tastes better than the backyard egg. We’ve got our own cholesterol pump now and that makes us proud.
The in-laws in Nagasaki have their very own persimmon tree. They wrap it up in winter, feed it sips of green tea, perform kabuki for it and generally give it the respect that a Kobe cow gets. And the fruit shows it. So, in the family persimmon stakes I am nothing or less but to the uninitiated, bless their ignorance, I’m a somebody. You have to eat them within 5 seconds of them coming off the tree but they’re very tasty.
Pomegranates are the second topic I discuss with my fruit therapist after avocado inadequacy. With pomegranates the issue is addiction and the giveaway sign is 11 pomegranates trees in the backyard. I’ve only eaten one from my trees. Foolishly I couldn’t help myself, I picked it too early. The 3 seeds that had actually ripened were so lip smackingly superb I have big hopes.
These are chestnuts, they’re good but they are just like sabras. The prickles are a gift that keeps on giving. I go out dressed like Michelin man but somehow I always end up with a prickle right where I don’t want it.
This is the avocado that’s toying with me. Will it be the delicious masterpiece of 3 years ago? I had dreams of an orchard then. No insect damage and about 200 perfect and extremely tasty avocados on a 3 year old tree. Fruit tree growers ecstasy. The next year not one avocado and this year nothing brilliant so far. Oh why do you torture me so, South American tree? I’m going out with my mandolin for a serenade.
This lemon may not look like a world beater but it grew spontaneously out of the compost heap and I admire it’s plucky spirit. Taste’s fine too.
To give you a feel of Amazon on Kensington there’s flowers
actually lots of flowers, 22 rose bushes in the front selected for scent
there’s the pampered livestock
classical sculpture for cultural wellbeing of the inhabitants
and fresh rain water too
It’s a tad crowded in there, this is the view from the back and my neighbours love it
Love might be an exaggeration. There may be differing points of view here on which house style should go into Kensington villa of the week. Try this quick quiz, which side of the fence is mine?
It’s spreading too, here’s my bit of the nature strip. Pristine!
A foretaste of what’s to come..
This is the just planted grove of 8 pomegranate trees and 4 metre wall of passionfruit replacing the busted trampoline. Next year a pomegranate and passionfruit jungle.
For those who want info
The fertilisers, soils, lucerne by the bale and secret additives all come from http://kensingtonproduce.com.au
They’ve got the best you can get, including a lot you can’t get elsewhere and cheaper. They sell chickens too. Great place.
The trees come from http://www.daleysfruit.com.au. Don’t even think of buying elsewhere, you’ll be sorry. They’re not so cheap but the trees grow faster, bigger and better and the variety is the stuff that dreams are made of.
I’ve got about 45 fruit trees in the backyard. There’s mangos, 6 olive trees, grapefruit, mulberries, blueberries, bananas, paw paw, sapote, carob, figs, grapes and a thing called wampi. And tomatoes and strawberries in the summer. The trick in a confined space is growing a few trees in one hole. If they cross pollinate, which is easy to check, then glory is yours.
I had a friend who ran the dating part of a big dating agency. Kind hearted and smart as a whip, her job was to make the matches. After hours of interviewing the love seeker, her computer would start puffing, bells and rockets would go off and a name would pop out. But really what happened was that my friend knew everyone on the books and she’d decide who should meet who. I asked her how was her success rate and she said zero. What happened was that they’d come in and for their money they’d get 10 dates. She said it never worked out, ever, but right after finishing with the dating agency someone and someone good would turn up and hey presto, happiness. Her interpretation was that it was a matter of how many frogs they had to go through before the prince came and that the dating agency was a frog provider. Beautiful words. Worth remembering too. It’s not a straight path, there’ll be frogs but, cute little warts and all, that’s a good thing if it gets you there.
I asked pretty well every couple where they met and over and over again it was the same answer, introduction. And who did the introducing? Always a woman. And what kind of woman? A single, kind, smart woman. There’s an underground of them out there and your job is to find them. It may be different nowadays with internet dating but I doubt it. The singles scene then was filled with people with battle hardened agendas and I’ll bet it still is, computer or not. Nope, what you want is a human from out there in nice normal land with no oversized judging board. Your job is to figure out where the nice normal men go in their fun time, a political discussion group, a bush walking group, a koi lovers association, an underwater club but not a cake decorating class. OK, you’ve picked your clubs, you know you’re on the path of the frog so instant results are not your game and you head out. What are you looking for? A man? Nope, a woman, a single kind, smart woman who is going to do you job for you and do it with glee and insight that you can’t come near. A major problem out their in single land is wasting time with the duds, ploughing through the stories because once in a while, not often mind you, cough, men have been known to bend the truth.
Well, your very own single, kind smart woman, who loves you will know the candidates and tell you the whole story up front. It’s her job. The one who doesn’t look like Dash Riprock but hides a kind heart, the one who’s still recovering, that kind of thing will be all told to you along with the introduction.
That’s your job, find and befriend, seduce, entrance these single, kind, smart women. Also, move on, remember you are on the path of the frog. It won’t the first or the second that turns into a prince so keep going to new places. This is not easy but it’s not so hard and there’ll be a mountain of new people and experiences. OK, maybe a sore tuchas too after you get roped into the 10 mile mountain bike race to the summit but isn’t love worth it?
What attracts a guy, what does he really want? Nope, not that, not as far as I’ve seen in that, reveals all, life centre that is your local wedding photography studio. The girls who came into the studio talked, actually always talked about their difficulties in finding a decent guy or their difficulties in fighting off the never ending army of men chasing them. It was one or the other, too little or too much and what I noticed was that there was no correlation with the looks or charm of the girls, it was the way they dealt with men. There were three factors and if a girl had all three she was irresistible, if she had two it was shaky, and any less and there was trouble in the romance world.
The three factors that made for irresistibility when they came together were if the girl was happy, was friendly and was distant. The winning look from the girl was I’m having fun, I’m a naturally friendly person, and I’m busy, busy, busy. It was laughing away then Hi, you seem like a nice person and finally a gotta go. There was one girl who even by her own reckoning was plain at the best but definitely her own person and happy about it, naturally friendly, affectionate and then just gone pretty quickly. It was like watching an artist at work seeing her in action. The guys saw a girl who was happy and together, the guys wanted to be tickled under the chin with a little friendliness and they wanted what they couldn’t have. She was magnetic.
Among the other girls there was one who was half Polynesian, half Norwegian. You guessed it, winning Miss World wouldn’t have been out of the question. She was happy alright, a real bright spark, naturally friendly but knew nothing about distance. Guys just seemed to leave her up until I heard her friends explain to her something about men being hunters. Problems solved. Another beauty queen was perfectly happy within herself, relentlessly distant but not one bit friendly. It didn’t go well. You get the drift, all three are needed in this little game. And maybe it’s not such a game, actually being happy friendly and strong, well, that’s a good thing.
It’s not so easy to change yourself but if it’s a matter of being a little friendlier or a little less friendly it’s worth it if you’re in the game to win. What I could hear was that the girls were completely preoccupied thinking that their problem was how they looked or that there were no good men out there. I couldn’t see it. Miss Happy, Friendly & Distant had no problems at all.