Wednesday, April 25, 2007


A sunny Anzac Day

I've been strolling through Cairns, appreciating a public holiday with nothing particular planned. Apparently there was a dawn service, but I didn't see it advertaised anywhere. I took a lot of photos of the empty town, which I'll post soon.

There was a crowd of about 40 vacant-faced people outside the mall waiting for the cinema to open at 1pm - a forlorn situation. At the Lagoon, my new favourite hangout where it's possible to lose an entire day, I encountered an astonishingly pale couple from South Wales who'd just emigrated to Cairns a week ago. Their little daughter, who was about 5 years old, leapt into the water and began stomping on the bubbling fountains with expressions of delight, before crawling around pretending to be a crocodile. Her mum half-tried to restrain her "Lyddie! How are we going to get you dry? We didn't bring a change of clothes!" but seemed remarkably relaxed about the situation. We chatted about their decision to make a new life here, and it occurred to me that within a few years, little Lyddie who found the lagoon such a novelty would be a proper swimming and surfing Aussie water-baby - maybe even a surf lifesaver herself. I lent them my travel towel and wished them well, with a sudden rush of emotion at all the possibilities open before them. I feel a huge sense of excitement and opportunity when I arrive in a new place and see it with fresh eyes, and I think I picked up some of that from this couple and their joyful daughter.

Although I'm exploring more exotic locations, when I read articles like this I'm reminded how much of Europe I'd still like to explore. Here, Yann Martel, the author of Life of Pi, explains his decision to send the Canadian Prime Minister a book every fortnight. What a great idea! I always got the impression that arts funding was pretty important to Canadian life - to know that in a small way Martel is keeping the campaign going is pretty inspiring.

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Sunday, April 22, 2007


Could I be any less interested?

I'm in Brisbane. It's modern, it's warm, and I'm liking it a lot more than I did when I first arrived in Australia 18 months ago. Then, it was humid November with intense pelting rain bucketing down between 3:30 and 4:30 pm daily. I felt clammy, light-headed, and unable to deal with the heat - on the verge of passing out for much of the time I wasn't in an air-conditioned building. Now, though, I'm appreciating the modern library and the art galleries. I wonder if another change might be that I'm not wearing traveller sandals and trying to boldly stride out. I'm in flip flops, and my walking speed has slowed to a calm shuffle.

The State Library has an exhibition entitled "War and Sport". I stared at this for some time. Normally I love libraries. But this? The only way I could be less interested in their exhibition would be if it was "War, Sport and Motor Vehicles."

Tomorrow I fly back to Cairns looking for a job. I'm feeling hopeful. This last month of madness has been so intense, and I've covered so much ground, I need this weekend of reading books and lying in the sand at Streets Beach to let my soul catch up.

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Friday, April 20, 2007


Saying goodbye

Well, my sister left. We got up early and went down to South Bank, where I had a lovely chai latte at Lagoonas Cafe. The sacred ibises prowling the city's open air cafes are pretty feral - a small boy was teasing one, waving bread at it then snatching it away again. They feared the cafe proprietor as he chased them, flapping a tea towel, but not me when I attempted to run at them. My shouts diminished to embarrassed whispers of "Shoo!" and my aggressive movements slowed to embarrassed flapping. I suppose they've been there since long before the construction of the lagoons and cafes, but it's still disconcerting to have them prowling across the table next to you, their beady eyes unreadable.

It's weird, when we came through here in 1998 the council had just constructed the wavy white metal sculptural walkway - now it's shaded by glorious bright purple bougainvillea. My lovely aunt accompanied us to the train station, and was good enough to be a shoulder to cry on after Hil's train pulled away to take her to the airport. I was all right today but felt emotional again when she texted from Sydney to say how much she'd enjoyed the journey.

Anyway. It was a sunny day. I watched some school sports team training by running up and down the sand on the artificial beach, sat with my feet in the water reading a book, bought a swimsuit (thanks again, Hil, for pointing out where my previous one went see-through when wet. In all fairness, how often does one look at one's own behind though?) and went to the Gallery of Modern Art. They have some interesting exhibits: a room dedicated to the films of Jackie Chan and how his fight sequences are choreographed; a peaceful yet eye-popping infinity room installation, "Soul Under the Moon" by Yayoi Kusama; the Asia-Pacific Triennial of Contemporary Art; and some exhibits, like Anish Kapoor's holes filled with dark powdery paint, or William Yang's brutally honest yet compassionate "About My Mother," which I can't assess dispassionately but I know I had an intense response to.

I'm glad to have this chance to see Brisbane again: I feel as if I'm seeing it more dispassionately and leaving behind the painful memories I have of the place. I can also admire the relentless modernity of the city now - last time, it all seemed so overwhelming, improbable and roaring with traffic. I still wouldn't choose to live here, but this second visit's made me appreciate its good points.

I'm off to book a flight to Cairns.

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