Friday in Five

6 May

Got five minutes?

tapdancers

It’s been a big week DownUnder, or at least in my own little part of the world, and I suspect I’ve missed many fabulous things as they’ve flashed past me, but this… this I loved. Hope it gives you a lift, too.

Have a wonderful weekend!

Gracie x

Friday in Five

29 Apr

Got five minutes? Here are some of the things I loved this week.

Person of the week

The Natural way of thingsThe Stella Prize celebrates Australian women’s contribution to literature, and in its three short years has already significantly improved the profile of women’s writing (and reading) in this country. This year, the Stella was won by Charlotte Wood for her novel, The Natural Way of Things. It’s a powerful book, but equally powerful as her book, I think, is her passionate plea for an arts renaissance, dressed up as her acceptance speech for the Stella.

 

Flick of the week

alanrickmanI was relieved to discover I HADN’T missed Eye in the Sky, which had appeared briefly in our cinemas some weeks ago and quickly disappeared. It’s back again, and it’s brilliant. For the first time in as long as I can remember, the audience sat utterly still and silent through the end credits. Then BoyWonder and I talked about it all the way home… and for some time after that… and I’m still talking about it with friends. It’s a quiet film, with none of the Hollywood brashness that would probably guarantee better box-office takings here. I hope it’s a sleeper. It deserves to be seen.

Pic of the week

How beautiful is our world? Hubble nails it again.
Our beautiful earth through Hubble telescope

 Play of the week

4000milesOur little coastal community was spoilt for dramatic choice this week, with playwright Willy Russell’s Educating Rita playing at one end of the coast and Amy Herzog’s 4000 Miles at the other. I plumped for the Herzog, and was reminded yet again what a wealth of talent we have in our Australian arts scene (refer above for the arguments why it matters!), and how lucky we are that independent theatre companies bring their work to small communities. American Herzog possesses an uncanny gift for writing poignant, funny, profound and contradictory characters who, in this case, were so familiar to me it was like watching a home movie. The cast was brilliant, the performances finely nuanced, and for not a moment did I recognise I was watching this wonderful story play out in a community hall more commonly used for school prize nights and fitness classes. Wonderful!

Song of the week

Katie-Noon-Brodsky-Quartet-900_GalleryI’m not a huge fan of Katie Noonan’s, but my goodness, this collaboration with the Brodsky Quartet sounds amazing! Judith Wright is my favourite Australian poet, and to hear her words so hauntingly delivered in song is magic. Enjoy!

 

I’d love to hear what you’ve loved this week! Drop me a line?

Gracie x

Lest we forget

25 Apr

It’s Anzac Day, a day of sacred remembrance in Australia and New Zealand, commemorating a bloody and blunder-ridden battle that was one of the first Australia had fought as a newly federated nation. It wasn’t glorious. It certainly wasn’t romantic. We weren’t even victorious. How typical of Australians to cling to the memory of a blue* we comprehensively lost; with our Kiwi brethren, our annual day to bash the Brits for their ANZAC_biscuitsmilitary ignorance and strategic stupidity, and to break our teeth on syrupy biscuits that, more than any other culinary tradition, proclaim our loyalty to our colonial and rural past and a way of life that most contemporary Australians have no genuine relation to.

It certainly makes for pretty movies. Mel Gibson never looked so good as he did ducking snipers and dashing across trenches in a futile effort to stop his mates going over the top.

In spite of all that cynicism and the sense sometimes that really, it’s just another excuse to stay home from work, Anzac Day is nevertheless the most important day in our national calendar. More important, certainly, than Australia Day, the purpose of which nobody seems too sure about, beyond its marking of the definitive end of the Christmas/summer break. And it’s becoming increasingly significant, as the swelling throngs of visitors to Gallipoli, the barren peninsula in Turkish Thrace where it all went wrong, and to the dawn ceremonies that take place in every city and town, attest.

dawn ceremony

There are plenty of commentators more expert than I to explain why a farcical fight a century ago is growing in fascination for Australians. I think perhaps it’s because we are increasingly uncertain of what it means to be Australian – a kind of national thrashing-about for values because we’ve let go of concepts like a fair go for everybody.

At the same time, we’re letting go of the respectful hush with which we’ve historically spoken of our war dead. We’re less ready to believe they were all heroes, although not for one moment or by one inch do we respect any less the courage, endurance and determination they carried into Anzac Cove. This article tells how the release of war archives are giving new generations the chance to know something of the Anzac ancestors they never met.

“My grandfather’s story does not fit easily with the Anzac myth. But unlike many from the older generation, my siblings and cousins are happy to look the truth of his service in the face.”

We’re also becoming more respectful of the role our indigenous peoples played in this and other wars. Around a thousand of them fought in the First World War, and returned home to the same prejudice, discrimination and lack of rights or recognition they lived with before they enlisted. As their descendants now march in Anzac Day parades in remembrance, it feels like perhaps we’re dismantling some of the walls, just a little, that should have come down long, long ago.

GallipoliSo that while the golden cinematic glow gives way to a more realistic assessment of our ANZAC legends, the real lustre of ANZAC Day remains and grows. These were real men and women serving in brutal and terrifying conditions, with next to no control over their lives or futures. They had each others’ backs; they served and sacrificed and suffered and skylarked. Those who came home came home damaged, whether or not they brought home visible wounds, and they picked up where they left off, raising families and building a country.

Individually and collectively, their stories are worth remembering.

“They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old;
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning
We will remember them.”

Happy Anzac Day.

Gracie x

* a “blue” is a fight in Australian slang

Friday in Five

22 Apr

This week’s favourite thing will take a little longer than five minutes, but it’s so worth it!

sunrise

I had the very great privilege of being in the Brisbane Baroque Festival audience when Emily Cox’s Canticum Chamber Choir performed Vivaldi’s Women of the Pieta suite, which Vivaldi wrote for the Ospedale of the Pieta, a home for the care of illegitimate daughters of Venetian noblemen in Venice. These received a thorough education and superb musical training – usually funded by their (mostly anonymous) fathers – and their performances were famed throughout Europe and beyond.

It turns out Vivaldi wrote a lot of music just for these young girls, and accomplished conductor Emily Cox made sure we understood why, artfully leading her choir and orchestra of women into producing some of the finest choral music I’ve ever heard. It was breathtaking in its beauty, soaring and sweeping and perfectly set in Brisbane’s Gothic Revival Anglican Cathedral.

Sadly, this week’s performance in Brisbane wasn’t recorded – or not yet that I’ve discovered – so here instead is a recording made for the BBC some years ago. Should you have the opportunity to hear this wonderful piece live, don’t miss it!

I’d love to hear your favourite things this week! Why not drop me a line?

Have a beautiful weekend!

Gracie x

Friday in Five

15 Apr

Got five minutes? Here’s what I’ve loved this week.

Jaw-drop of the week

JudithbeheadingHolofernesA new Caravaggio! I can scarcely believe it. In my first-ever visit to the Louvre in Paris many years ago, I spent a few minutes fighting the crowds to see the Mona Lisa then wandered into the gallery next door, where I was very much more moved by Caravaggio’s Death of the Virgin. Since then I’ve become a bit of a Caravaggio crack-head. So I was very excited by this report of an unknown Caravaggio discovered – aren’t they always? – in somebody’s French attic. It’s believed to be related to this painting of Judith beheading Holofernes, currently on display in Rome. Can’t wait to hear where the new discovery will end up – I do hope it becomes available for public viewing.

Pic of the week

Pippa going to the partyEagle-eyed reader and author-in-the-making, Helen from England’s Oldham region, discovered this pretty girl recently and thought she could have been purposely painted for A Case for Trust. If you’ve read the book, you can probably guess the scene! Flirty and fabulous – perfectly fitting! Thanks, Helen!

 
 
 
 

Fashion of the week

Apparently Adidas is ageless! time travel

In another fascinating discovery this week, scientists have discovered a 1500 year old Mongolian mummy, seemingly wearing Adidas boots!

 
 
 
 

Awwwww of the week

Because you were so delightfully interested in the future of our koalas (thank you!), here’s some good news on another critter, very close to my own heart. Brush-tailed rock wallabies, also known as pretty-faced wallabies (for obvious reasons!) are critically endangered in the southernmost parts of Australia, and vulnerable in the rest of their natural geographic range. I have a mother wallaby of this type who often appears in my backyard, and the last two years she’s brought a joey in her pouch with her. This is her right here.brush-tailed rock wallaby kb

Song of the week

darren percivalYou might not know him outside of Oz, but Darren Percival is a local performer who was runner-up in Australia’s first The Voice competition a few years back and has had some terrific commercial success since. The reason he’s my singer of the week, though, is because he’s one of the most generous performers I’ve seen, consistently sharing his “airtime” and visibility with up-and-coming performers. This week he kicked off a series of very affordable workshops that give a whole range of people from all walks of life the opportunity to open up their lungs and hearts and have a good sing. He’s a true “soul” performer in every sense of the word – and his music is magnificent, too. Enjoy!

I’d love to hear what you’ve loved this week! Drop me a note in the comments box? I’m always happy to share!

Gracie x

Friday in Five

8 Apr

Got five minutes? Here are the things I loved most this week.

Pic of the week

fieldoflightuluruOh my word, how glorious is this? I am madly trying to work out how I can possibly afford to get there to see this amazing Field of Light installation by Bruce Munro at iconic, sacred Uluru in Australia’s outback. I already have my big trip planned for this year, but get there I will.

Flick of the week

WeareallconnectedWatch this brilliantly crafted and intriguing little clip right to the end, for a message so pertinent, wherever you are today.

 

Book of the week

It’s been a difficult week for a number of women close to me. How to help? How to support? In the end, I gravitated to one of my favourite women in crisis: the sublime Nora Ephron. Here’s what she said to me from across the chasm:

i-feel-bad-about-my-neck-2“Reading is everything. Reading makes me feel like I’ve accomplished something, learned something, become a better person. Reading makes me smarter. Reading gives me something to talk about later on. Reading is the unbelievably healthy way my attention deficit disorder medicates itself. Reading is escape, and the opposite of escape; it’s a way to make contact with reality after a day of making things up, and it’s a way of making contact with someone else’s imagination after a day that’s all too real. Reading is grist. Reading is bliss.”

After that, it was obvious. I bought my friends books, by Nora Ephron. Their problems are not trivial, but they are all helped by courage and humour.

Person of the week

veiledvirginSomebody I’d never heard of, but who has brought so much joy and awe to my Facebook friends this week that I thought I’d share his work here as well.

Giovanni Strazza was a 19th Century Italian sculptor working in Rome. His exquisite piece, the Veiled Virgin, carved from Carrara marble, now resides in the Presentation Convent at St John’s, Newfoundland.

Another big trip for me to add to the bucket list, because when I look at her, I can’t believe my eyes, or his talent. I want to see it up close.

 

I’ll leave you with this, my song of the week. Let me know what you’ve loved this week?

Song of the week

Happy days indeJudyandBarbed. Two of the best songstresses of all time, together, making me happy.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Have a wonderful weekend!

Gracie x

 

Are koalas really as cute as they look?

2 Apr

One of my favourite bloggers, Servetus, asked after my last post if koalas really are as cute as they look. And yes, they really are. At least as cute as puppies, certainly as cute as kittens. Watch this koala joey’s first photo shoot for a cuteness overload!

Sadly, they’re a lot more vulnerable than those domestic pets, despite their cute factor and their popularity as Australia’s national symbol. koala sleepingThey’re wild animals, generally nocturnal, very curious and often surprisingly trusting of humans. It used to be very rare to see a koala in a suburban environment, but increasingly as their habitat is destroyed by urban encroachment, we’re seeing them during the daytime seeking help – usually needing water. Here a young male has wandered into a suburban backyard and gets a drink from a kind stranger.

It’s not only urbanisation that’s threatening them. Along with many native Australian animals, they suffer severely during our summer bushfire seasons. Photos from this video were seen around the world after Australia’s 2009 bushfires. Again, a koala is desperately needing water, and puts up with being petted for the sake of a drink.

Domestic dogs are a threat. Cars are a threat. Backyard swimming pools are a threat (in my suburb, homeowners with swimming pools are installing ropes just under the lips of their pools, so koalas who fall in after seeking a drink have a way of climbing out again). Chlamydia is ravaging many koala populations, causing blindness and infertility.

koala bathIn rural areas, cattle are a threat. Young male koalas, particularly, are attacked by cows which herd and trample them as they attempt to move between trees. This photo went viral in Australia under the heading “Koala takes a bath”, until it was pointed out the koala was probably trapped between the water trough and the cows behind it. Unlike roos, they’re fairly slow moving and can’t get themselves out of trouble in a hurry, particularly on open ground.

Sorry, this is all very grim! The question was their cuteness, but it’s hard to talk about how beautiful they are without despairing over how endangered they are. Back to the cute!

Their fur is just as soft as it looks, even on full-grown adults. They have very sharp claws, and have been known to climb human “tkoala mum and joeyrees” standing too still watching them. And they’re often not terribly nice to each other, either. This pair fought like children over a favourite tree. The crying you hear in the video isn’t how we usually know koalas are about. More often, they sound like this (and usually in the depths of the night!).

Their feeding habits also appear to be changing. It used to be believed they only ate leaves from a very limited range of eucalypt species, but researchers are now discovering they’re also eating insects as well as from a much wider variety of tree species – whether this is an adaptation to their changing environment or simply a new discovery of longstanding behaviour, we’re not really sure.

Their smell is unmistakeable, thanks to their eucalyptus diet, but unlike possums, it’s not particularly unpleasant. In fact, there’s nothing nicer, really, than bushwalking through a eucalyptus forest and sniffing that koala aroma on the breeze!

So yes, they are absolutely as cute as they look. Come on down and visit, Servetus, and I’ll introduce you!

Gracie x

 

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