Tag Archives: Hearts on Hold

Friday in Five: the Ideas Edition

30 Sep


I’ve been thinking about death a lot lately. Partly because the act and consequences of death are propelling a novel I’m working on in my When-I-Get-Time Life. Partly because I’m anticipating it in my Where-Did-That-Time-Go Life, prompted by the very visible deterioration of souls close to me which in turn is reminding me I’m not going to live forever either.

I got excited by this idea:

“If the body generates consciousness, then consciousness dies when the body dies. But if the body receives consciousness in the same way that a cable box receives satellite signals, then of course consciousness does not end at the death of the physical vehicle. In fact, consciousness exists outside of constraints of time and space. It is able to be anywhere: in the human body and outside of it. In other words, it is non-local in the same sense that quantum objects are non-local.”

It’s from an article, Quantum Theory Proves Consciousness Moves to Another Universe After Death, which is making the rounds on social media. The article and the ideas it contains have plenty of critics. Here’s another article that sets out – and probably succeeds – to debunk the major points of the first.

I’m not a physicist, and neither is the scientist, Dr Robert Lanza, proposing this “biocentrism” theory. Lanza’s expertise – and it’s significant and peer-recognised – is in stem cell research. In 2014, Time included him in its list of Top 100 Most Influential People. So while he’s not a physicist, he’s not a complete numpty, either.

I don’t pretend to understand the science. I’ve read these and other articles trying to develop a definitive sense of what I should think or understand or believe. Maybe it doesn’t even matter. In any case, I’m enchanted by the idea. Not, I think, because I feel any need for myself to live forever. More in the sense that no one is ever lost.

My elderly father and elderly dogs are travelling the roads which will end in their bodies ending, but this idea presents a chance the universe will retain their gentle, wise, mischievous souls. Their consciousness. Their energy.

It follows that the universe will never be free of some of the more regrettable souls I’ve encountered, either, but that’s okay.

Around a year ago I read this idea in another form and found it equally enchanting from a creative perspective. Elizabeth Gilbert in Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear writes:

“I believe that our planet is inhabited not only by animals and plants and bacteria and viruses, but also by ideas. Ideas are a disembodied, energetic life-form. They are completely separate from us, but capable of interacting with us—albeit strangely. Ideas have no material body, but they do have consciousness, and they most certainly have will. Ideas are driven by a single impulse: to be made manifest. And the only way an idea can be made manifest in our world is through collaboration with a human partner. It is only through a human’s efforts that an idea can be escorted out of the ether and into the realm of the actual.”

It all sounds a bit woo-woo, doesn’t it? And I’m decidedly not anti-science. The anti-vaccination campaign enrages me. Climate change deniers drive me insane. Intelligent creation makes me squirm, and not in a good way.

And yet…

I remain enchanted, by Lanza and by Liz and by their ideas. Go figure. I’m probably just getting old.

Which brings me to this other idea of oncologist Ezekiel J. Emanuel that keeps playing and playing and playing in my head, and which is strengthened, for me, by the enchantment of the possibility of consciousness enduring and ideas always finding themselves an outlet. At what age do I want to die?

Not when should I die, or when might I die, but at what age do I want to die?

I find very compelling Emanuel’s proposition that 75 years is about the right kind of lifespan. To be clear, he is not advocating euthanasia. He is not suggesting people who live beyond 75 have nothing to contribute. He has thoughtfully examined his own life and circumstances, considered humbly and sincerely the contribution he makes in the world, and has decided 75 is about right:

“…75 defines a clear point in time: for me, 2032. It removes the fuzziness of trying to live as long as possible. Its specificity forces us to think about the end of our lives and engage with the deepest existential questions and ponder what we want to leave our children and grandchildren, our community, our fellow…s, the world.”

The idea of deciding for myself that 75 is about right establishes for me a neat time horizon to work towards, to live towards. To write towards. I might not make it to 75. That would be okay, too. In my Where-Does-the-Time-Go Life, I’ve been in the habit of asking new team members to imagine themselves at 80, looking back, to identify what they’ll most regret not having done.

life-is-what-happens-to-you-jpgI’d asked myself that and came up with a vaguely satisfactory set of answers. Knocking five years off the question, though, somehow brings the answers into sharper focus.



I’m going off to write. See you on the other side.

Gracie x

Friday in Five: Oceanic Edition

23 Sep

Got five minutes? Here are a few things I’ve loved this week.

View of the week

Here’s a bit of a sad story. After returning from Paris (ha! I had to mention that city just one more time!) I made the rookie mistake of packing away my camera without recharging its battery. So when I was sitting on my deck this afternoon and suddenly spied the telltale ripples of humpback whales making their way down the coast on their southern migration, I snatched out the camera, cranked out the zoom lens, ripped off one photo… and the camera died.

When the whales first appear on our horizon here around June, we mostly see them just blowing and surfacing. Heavily pregnant, they make their slow way north up to the Fraser Coast to give birth. On the way back, though, they’re partying – breaching, flapping, slapping and dancing. Best of all, their numbers are increasing each year.

Is that a ripple?

Is that a ripple?

Thar she blows... or surfaces, anyway.

Thar she blows… or surfaces, anyway.

The shot I'd have loved to take! With thanks to Sunshine Coast Lifestyle.

The shot I’d have loved to take! With thanks to Sunshine Coast Lifestyle.

Still, you have to be lucky, in the right place at the right time to catch a glimpse. Chances are I won’t see whales again this season, so I didn’t waste time trying to charge the camera battery. I just watched… and smiled. So here’s my quite pathetic attempt at capturing the majesty, plus the shot I wish I could have taken. (To be fair, even if my camera was fully operational, I wouldn’t have snapped a shot this good.)


Book of the week

wantedI’m not a terrifically enthusiastic reader of non-fiction – unless it’s memoir – and particularly not of “boys’ own” adventures. But Alfred Lansing’s Endurance is itself an achievement worthy of the saga it relates.

"Night ship", photo by the expedition's official photographer Frank Hurley

“Night ship”, photo by the expedition’s official photographer, Frank Hurley.

Cobbled together mostly from journals written by members of Ernest Shackleton’s Imperial Trans-Antarctic Expedition during their horrific stranding in the ice floes of the Weddell Sea, it’s full of wonderful characters (not least the mighty barquentine whose name gives the book its title), suspense, courage, pathos and humour. And penguins. Fortunately for the ice-trapped, freezing, starving explorers, lots of penguins.

It also has some of the magnificent and very moving photographs which survived the catastrophe, courtesy of the talented and tenacious expedition photographer, Frank Hurley.

Perhaps as a final inducement to read, I found Lansing’s book a more compelling and evocative account than the 2001 movie Shackleton, in spite of that film starring one of my favourite actors, Ken Branagh, in the title role and winning a respectable slew of cinematography awards. So rest assured: this is not dry non-fiction. Thanks to Anna Campbell for the book recommendation.

Song of the week

Lisa Gerrard

Lisa Gerrard

All the time I was reading Endurance, I had this song on loop on my phone, in my car and in my head.

Lisa Gerrard is an Australian musician, singer and composer who, amongst other achievements, collaborated with Hans Zimmer on the soundtrack for Russell Crowe’s Gladiator. This song featured in the soundtrack for The Insider.

Her other film credits include Black Hawk DownWhale Rider and Balibo, all movies whose scores stayed with me long after I’d left the cinema.

Her haunting vocals and mournful, unfamiliar lyrics anchored me in the Endurance story even when I wasn’t reading it.

Second book of the week

Mary-Rose Maccoll's Swimming Home is nominated for the Queensland Literary Awards.

Mary-Rose MacColl’s Swimming Home is nominated for the Queensland Literary Awards.

Am I allowed to tell you about two books this week? (Of course I am – it’s my blog! Also, this is a timely plug for a fantastic book that also fits this week’s Oceans theme.)

Swimming Home by Mary-Rose MacColl is a novel of love, loss, loneliness, secrets… and swimming! Set in Australia and Britain in the 1920s, it follows fifteen-year-old Catherine in her quest to become the first woman in the world to swim the English Channel.

Mary-Rose MacColl writes beautiful stories of ordinary women who prove themselves extraordinary. And Swimming Home is now up for the People’s Choice Award in the Queensland Literary Awards, so if you’ve read it and loved it (or have added it to your To Be Read pile in anticipation of loving it), please take a minute to vote for it online here.

Show of the week

It's easier getting up than down.

It’s easier getting up than down.

Sadly, by the time you read this it will be too late for you to catch “rock stars of the circus world” Circa at the Brisbane Festival, but the company’s latest work, Troppo, an “explosively funny beach party”, will no doubt emerge on another stage in another country in the coming months. In the meantime, Circa is touring Australia as well as playing theatres in Canterbury, Madrid and Paris between now and Christmas – well worth a look if you’re sharing a town with them! Their tour dates are here.

Clip of the week

I still feel badly about not having a better whale photo for you. In partial compensation, here’s a sparkly little clip from earlier this week. My friend Deana says it has a beautiful energy. But then, regardless of their moods, oceans always do, I think.



Until next week,

Gracie x

Friday in Five: City of Gardens

16 Sep

Still in Paris. Not really, but I think this time perhaps I really did leave my heart there. One last Paris post, and next week I’ll try and return to my Writer’s Life.

But first: Paris gardens.

I do love the formality, order and scale of Paris’s beautiful big gardens. Take a wrong turn near Place des Vosges (perhaps my favourite Paris garden), and you can stumble through a doorway and into this:

My kind of backyard: Centre des Monuments National

My kind of backyard: Centre des Monuments National


But perhaps some of the most charming Paris gardens are the ones that break with the symmetry, the rigid lines and hedges clipped within an inch of their lives, that typify the French landscaping style made famous by King Louis XIV’s favourite gardener, André Le Nôtre. (If you’ve not yet seen A Little Chaos, I recommend it with all my heart. Enchanting. Alan Rickman. Kate Winslet. Matthias Schoenaerts. Stanley Tucci. Gardens. Music. Romance. Drama. What’s not to love?!)

Here are a selection of the Paris gardens that charmed me without resorting to all that restrained and stylish magnificence!

At the Institut du Monde Arabe, an exhibition of eastern landscaping traditions is accompanied by this garden purpose-built on the hard Paris pavements. Roses, olives, citrus, herbs - and at its heart, water. Always water.

At the Institut du Monde Arabe, an exhibition of eastern landscaping traditions is accompanied by this garden purpose-built on the hard Paris pavements. Roses, olives, citrus, herbs – and at its heart, water. Always water.


When space is an issue, pretty flowering shrubs in pots outside stately doors made vibrant with blue are about as beautiful a garden as you need!

On a busy Paris street, pretty flowering shrubs in pots outside stately doors made vibrant with blue are simply beautiful!

Another style of street garden - and these lovely plants you can take away with you, if you can bear to disturb the display!

Another style of street garden – and these lovely plants you can take away with you, if you can bear to disturb the display!

Tucked away behind Grande Mosquée de Paris is this charming little courtyard garden. The hot mint tea is fresh and sweet, and the sunshine's free.

Tucked away behind Grande Mosquée de Paris is this charming little courtyard garden. The hot mint tea is fresh and sweet, and the sunshine’s free.

Not a lot of ground for a home garden? Not a problem!

Not a lot of ground for a home garden? Not a problem!



The Gothic/Renaissance glory of Hôtel de Sens is offset perfectly by its tidy but carefree jardin.

The Gothic/Renaissance glory of Hôtel de Sens is offset perfectly by its tidy but carefree jardin.

For a snooze with a view, nowhere beats Jardin du Luxembourg, especially when the season is just starting to turn.

For a snooze with a view, nowhere beats Jardin du Luxembourg, especially when the season is just starting to turn.

This Parisian passage is part hanging garden, part jungle, and all gorgeous!

This Parisian passage is part hanging garden, part jungle, and all gorgeous!

Of course, gardens don't have to be just pretty. They can be productive as well. I can't think of anything much more productive than Renoir's Paris garden, with its row up on row of lush vineyards!

Of course, gardens don’t have to be just pretty. They can be productive as well. I can’t think of anything much more productive than Renoir’s Paris garden, with its row up on row of lush vineyards!

And finally, when you're done tramping the streets and parks and gardens and metros of Paris, it's delicious to come home to an apartment balcony with your own little plot of paradise!

And finally, when you’re done tramping the streets and parks and gardens and metros of Paris, it’s delicious to come home to an apartment balcony with your own little plot of paradise!


I live by the seaside now, and no longer have a garden, or at least, not one that needs any contribution by me! Perhaps that’s one of the reasons I so love Paris, and miss its garden finery.

Time to stop pining! My little part of the world has its own splendour!

‘Til next week,

Gracie x

Friday in Five: Ageless City of Arts

9 Sep

I’m hanging onto my Paris vacation as long as I can! Can you blame me?


Tuning the harpsichord pre-concert in Sainte-Chapelle.

Let’s talk about the arts.

Privileged to attend the opening night of American Ballet Theatre’s The Sleeping Beauty at Opera Bastille as well as concerts in Notre Dame and La Madeleine and Sainte-Chapelle, I was equally privileged to hear a busking violinist on the metro whose skill as he plied his bow all the way from Concorde to Bastille matched that of the (tremendously impressive) ensemble players in those more acoustically-conducive venues.

I’m not saying the arts offerings in Paris are necessarily better than the arts offerings in any other great city.

I’ve seen some amazing theatre and dance in New York. Attended a spine-chilling requiem performance in London. Am even now trying to work out how I can afford to travel to Sydney half a dozen times next year for the STC subscription program, and can’t wait to browse the Indigenous Art exhibition in Melbourne in a few weeks’ time.


The neck-cricking ceiling in one Louvre sculpture gallery.

But there’s something about consuming the arts in Paris that feels different for me. I can’t be ambivalent or arms-length. I can’t be detached. Somehow I experience music and dance, fine art and literature, even graffiti, differently there, my emotions and sensory sensitivity closer to the surface. I walk around Paris soaking up its arts and am almost constantly on the verge of tears.

Perhaps it’s the physical environments. I spend as much time in the Louvre wonderstruck at the building itself as I do the magnificent art collection it houses.


And there’s nothing quite as wonderful as hearing medieval church music soar into the nave of the cathedral for which it was written. Unless it’s the magic of Mozart or Vivaldi or Haydn floating above the fountains at Versailles.


Versailles’ fountains are somehow more ebullient when they’re synched with Vivaldi, Mozart or Haydn.


Palais Garnier: rich, lush, exotic.

It might be the insouciance with which Parisians will wear jeans to performances in the gilded splendour of Palais Garnier, and turn up in vintage couture to the austere and fiercely-modern Opera Bastille. They seem at once innately aware of the statement they make through their clothing choice, and entirely indifferent to how anyone else interprets that statement. And why not? It’s not about the fashion, after all. I don’t know why I spent so long agonising about whether my sandals were suitably appropriate footwear for a ballet premiere.



Opera Bastille: its sleek interiors are almost spartan.

It’s surely in the care Parisians take to decorate their metro stations, below and above the ground:

art-deco-metroand the way they embrace emerging art forms as passionately as they preserve the tapestries and sculptures and ballet notations and musical instruments of generations past. It’s in the way the Seine bouquinistes and street names and corner plaques still venerate the writers – Hugo and Balzac, Zola and Voltaire and Beauvoir and Camus – in the face of weekly incursions of English-language poetry slam.

jesuischarlie-jpgWhile news of a foiled terror attack near Notre Dame yesterday made sudden sense of the occasions when the police presence around the cathedral seemed much heavier than usual (and it was always heavy), it reminded me too that in Paris, freedom of expression through the arts has survived attacks and atrocities through millennia.

This ageless city has always emerged bright and sparkling and vivid and confident. May it ever be so.

‘Til next Friday,

Gracie x

Friday in Five: Time to fly

2 Sep

Oh, Paris, it gets harder and harder to leave you – but tomorrow I’m headed home to my own beautiful place, with fresh memories to tide me over.

I’ll always have my old favourites, like dinner at Polidor, where Ernest Hemingway’s napkin still resides, and the elegant and gracious Place des Vosges, my “go-to” for reflecting, people-watching and writing. And I have to be out at least one night on the hour, to watch Madame Eiffel dispense her sparkly love over the city:


But this week, I was on the hunt for new discoveries and, as always, Paris didn’t disappoint!


Who knew? I packed one in my handbag mostly just because I found it while looking for my passport and decided I should try and get some use out of it. Then I arrived in Paris and found that fans are as “right now” as they’ve ever been. At the opera, in the cathedral, on the metro. Painted, tasselled, ruffled. Featuring Mona Lisa, Montparnasse and Monet.

FanMy cheapie, picked up in Hong Kong a decade ago, got a serious workout and started to fray, so I’ve updated it with this lace beauty, handmade by the artisans of Bruges. Elegant, effective, lightweight – and not just for Paris, I’ve decided!







Let’s dance!

Wander along the Seine on any summer evening and you’ll have to pick your way between all the picnickers enjoying a balmy twilight with their baguettes and vin rouge. But on certain nights in certain spots you might stumble upon a more romantic way to see in the sunset!

And still on the dance theme…

In a little boutique near Palais Garnier I found this gorgeous window full of used pointe shoes, with brief messages from their former owners. Such a simple display; so many dreams realised and, perhaps, broken. Ballet, mBallet shoesusic, storytelling – these were things I’d forgotten mattered, from my youngest years.







Tucked away in the Marais…

Wandering through almost any arrondissement in Paris you’ll find alleys and courtyards and passages – and doors! So many beautiful doors! I could dedicate a whole blogpost to the mysterious and magical doors of Paris.

PassageI’d seen plenty of ornate passages in previous visits, but tucked away in the Marais I found this beautiful, open, airy passage filled with wonderful stores. What I loved most, though, was the trailing vines which, with the soaring glass walls and ceilings, suggested a tropical haven in the middle of this most chic of cities.






And magnificent Magnum!

Finally, emerging from the back of the Marais and its little streets of synagogues and historical libraries of ancient artifacts and quiet, shady rose gardens, I saw the temptation to end all temptations: Paris’s divine Magnum store. My photo does it no justice, so I’ve included this link so you can view the magnificence yourself.Magnum

To be honest, with all the sequins and glitter and precious metals paraded in the shopfront windows, I was too intimidated to go in (and anyway, I was running a little late for a concert, which is a much more acceptable excuse for my gutlessness!).

I’m not a huge fan of ice-cream, and particularly not ice cream that comes in a packet on a stick, but the window displays were drool-worthy in their own right.




And so: some new favourites from Paris, off my usual beaten and beloved tracks. But that’s one of the things I love about this city – there are surprises and delights literally on every street, and it makes me somehow bigger and braver when I return to my Real Life.

And that’s what I’ll do tomorrow… but now I’m off to Opera Bastille for opening night of the American Ballet Theatre’s The Sleeping Beauty – and I’ll report back on that next week, if only to keep my Paris summer magic alive a little longer!

Au revoir,

Gracie x

Friday in Five: City of Rainbows

27 Aug

Paris in summer is all about colour, from temples of retail to temples of grace. These are a few of the fabulous rainbows I’ve loved this week.

What’s more quintessentially Paris than a mandala of macaroons?

I don’t like licorice, but I love the happy colours in these licorice blocks!

Late afternoon twilight sends rainbow shards across the pillars inside Sacre Coeur.

In glorious Sainte-Chapelle, Paris’s little jewel box, the rainbows cast their magic.

Centre Georges Pompidou’s rainbows march defiantly down the streets of Parisian white and grey.

Harry’s New York Bar in Paris splashes its rainbows all over its walls. (It’s the money shot!)

I fell in love with these cute and colourful hand-made African homewares… and am bringing one home with me as my souvenir of a brilliant Parisian summer.

How could a writer resist this alphabet rainbow?

Row upon row of rainbow tassels, in all sizes and shapes!



Anthropologie in Galleries Lafayette takes a whole new approach to decorating with paint!



I’m here for one more week in spectacular, welcoming, warm (hot! high 30s most days), beautiful Paris, and will be back next week with more Friday in Five from the City of Light.

Beaucoup amour,

Gracie x


Friday in Five, live from Provence 2

20 Aug

Villeneuve-les-Avignon street art 3

This week’s Friday in Five comes from the thoroughly charming village of Villeneuve-les-Avignon in Provence, where I’ve been privileged to stay while travelling through some of France’s most beautiful southern districts.

Provence is already famous for so many things: wine, food, history, culture.

For me, though, the memories are more personal.




IMG_2525Driving on the ‘wrong’ side of the road, on the ‘wrong’ side of the car for the first time, I found myself dodging other cars, cyclists and surely-lunatic runners on an unspeakably narrow route all the way up Mont Ventoux, otherwise known as the Beast of Provence.

My reward? Views all the way to heaven, the realisation life can still surprise me, and… bonbons!IMG_2517



Then there was Carcassonne, one of Europe’s most famed and best preserved medieval cities, overrun by tourists and sweating with late-summer fervour. Knights jousted in the tiltyard, and the charismatic and supremely knowledgeable Jean-Francois Vassal gave insights into the life of a thirteenth century knight.

But the real magic happened at dawn, before the hordes returned…
Carcassonne at dawn 2Carcassonne at dawn









Carcassonne at dawn 3


















In Orange, there was a Roman theatre, built early in the first century AD and survivor of Christian disapproval, Visigoths, wars, fire andencroaching housing developments. In the awe stakes, its scale was matched only by its acoustics.

Theatre Antique d'Orange 5, 10816


And behind the theatre, the Orange markets were rich with colour, noise, flowers, cheeses, spices, bags, garlic, and fresh truffles – another first on a trip full of firsts.

Orange market bagsOrange Market garlic







Truffles from Orange, 180816


Finally, Avignon.

Papal palace from Villeneuve-les-AvignonRomantic city of legend and intrigue, capital city of Christendom in the Middle Ages, its immense fortress-cum-palace, the Palais des Papes, soars above its ancient walls.
On a scorching summer day, the small, private studium where successive Popes read and reflected must have been a welcome relief from both the pomp and the oppressive heat.



Tomorrow I return to Paris, City of Light, City of Love, my favourite city on this wondrous planet.

Meantime, I’d love to hear what you’re loving this week! Drop me a line or leave a comment? I’m always happy to share!

Au revoir!

Gracie x

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