Archive for ‘smell’

26 January, 2012

The Little Things

For happiness, how little suffices for happiness!… the least thing precisely, the gentlest thing, the lightest thing, a lizard’s rustling, a breath, a wisk, an eye glance-little maketh up the best happiness. Be still.

~Friedriche Nietzsche, Thus Spake Zarathustra: A Book for All and None

Things haven’t slowed down for me yet but here are a few shots from my summer break.

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5 October, 2010

Jasmine

I’ve realised that my last few posts have centered around flowers. Which was not artful, or purposeful or any kind of ‘-ful’, really. It’s just that lately, I’ve been quite bedazzled by all manner of spring gorgeousness (gorgeousities?) unfurling in our garden. The latest surprise – a hitherto lush green hedge has suddenly sprouted delicate white blossoms and is perfuming the little path to our front door wonderfully.

‘Tis jasmine!

7 August, 2010

Saturday a.m.

Calm. Quiet.

The coffee maker (from Sorrento, Italy) burbling merrily on the stove.

The occasional call of the bellbird.

An intermittent passing car.

The smell of mushrooms, topped with blue cheese and butter, under the grill.

Baked beans heating on the stove.

And the scent of fresh lilies.

28 July, 2010

The Ikea Run

By a quirky, unexpected turn of circumstances, serendipitous meetings, straight out opportunism, leaps of faith and perhaps pure, blind luck (always easy to see, in retrospect), I seem to have landed pretty much where I want to be: in a new job in a beautiful building with friendly, supportive managers and colleagues, and I’m just about to move into a lovely light-filled house close to shops, a cosy café or two, lovely restaurants, a purveyor of fine wines and a fabulous bookshop and library.

The only catch?  It’s not in my hometown of Melbourne but rather, Canberra – Australia’s capital – and famed for well, just that fact. Cultural goings-on are minimal, and certainly not of the eccentric, underground sort which Melbourne and London is known for.  Canberra is also famed for the grand ole business of government, of course.  But, as I’ve said plenty of times, life certainly takes you where you least expect and sometimes, you need to grasp opportunities when they present themselves, even if all the boxes aren’t ticked.  And given the upcoming federal election, it’s quite the place to be.

The one fly in the ointment? There is no Ikea. A revelation which seriously made me reconsider my move. Because no matter what those design snobs say, there is nowhere like Ikea for a well-designed, nice-looking, inexpensive household bits n’bobs. Especially for people new in town.  Quite a glaring omission for the Swedish company, I think, given Canberra’s highly-skilled, cashed-up, transient population. Apparently ‘Ikea runs’ (2-3 hours’ drive to the nearest store in Homebush, Sydney) is quite the thing in this town.

But one thumbs up for Canberra? No Starbucks. Apparently the last one fled town a couple of years ago. And amen to that.

A tasty exotic mushroom pizza with a perfect crust. At one of Canberra’s culinary surprises.

23 April, 2010

Perfect Day

Oh it’s such a perfect day
I’m glad I spent it with you

-Lou Reed

Probably not Mr Reed’s cup of tea but mine is taking advantage of Melbourne’s architectural gems, quaint streets and lo-fi laid-back bars…

…a film in art deco surroundings here.

…a wander, brunch and a cuppa along here.

…and then later, a few drinks with friends here with munchies from here. (Mmm, sweet potato gyoza!)

A girl couldn’t ask for more, really!

Happy weekend, all.

8 April, 2010

A Harvest-Time Easter

A day out to this laid-back, gentle, gentrifying, creative ‘burb during my first topsy-turvey autumnal Easter for many years.  The sun was blazing but harvest-time was in the air.  Nary a hot cross bun or a chocolate bunny was to be found, but there were googly-eyed gingerbread palominos, red berries, orange gourds and porcelain bunnies a-plenty.  And a yummy, eggy brunch and a cuppa, of course.

20 March, 2010

Granada is my kinda town

Ahh, summer in EspañaCafé and jamon that rendered me speechless, cold beer and languid wine, a weighty, quirky, macabre history, knock-your-socks-off architecture, fashion, textiles and art.

Barcelona…  Lively, energetic, vibrant, hipper-than-thou, pared-down style, its organic, swooping over-the-top modernisme curves, cutting-edge textiles, warm, friendly folk and the coolest kids in the world.  The ghosts of Picasso, Miró, Gaudí and a thousand artists haunt this beautiful, creative city.   It’s enough to make a girl buy a wholly inappropriate orange and green swirly patterned jumpsuit, wander off the beaten track and almost get mugged (a big gracias to the lovely old ladies out for an afternoon stroll who saved me from a couple of young punks with designs on my camera by appearing in the nick of time in the Parc de Montjuïc).

Madrid… Colder and formal,  with grand boulevards, architecture and plazas to rival those of Paris.  And the Museo del Prado – oh the Prado! with its radiant, terrible, sinister, lively, questioning, weighty, calm, infinitely beautiful works by Velázquez, Caravaggio, El Greco and Goya (to name but four)… the oh-so-very cool, modern Centro de Arte Reina Sofía and Picasso’s stunning Guernica, subjected to the indignity of the same cacophonous chattering, demanding, snap-happy mob which beseiges the Mona Lisa… And the Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza with its Old Masters, Cubist and lovely Fauvist, Impressionist and Post-Impressionist works.  Madrid could stupefy and render a girl senseless with Stendhal’s Syndrome.

Little Toledo in Don Quixote country. Once the country’s capital, beloved by El Greco and site of one of the oldest mosques in the Western world.   Now increasingly a ghost town, the local populace driven out by heavy rents caused by tourism.  Wonderful winding, oft-deserted cobbled medieval lanes where I had my most memorable meal in an unpretentious café catering to the local construction workers and the more adventurous tourist.   Fried chiperones, paella and a creme caramel.  Finished off with a café cortado, a Spanish espresso with a shot of milk.

But I lost my heart to Granada of Andalucia.  “Oh yeah, that big castle,” said an Australian acquaintance whose mother was born in Granada.  “I forget the name.  [oh to be so unmoved by and detached from the glories of Alhambra!] Did you go?”   Yes, I certainly did visit that ‘big castle’, the war fortress of Alhambra which watches over Granada from the nearby hill of La Sabica.  That grand, intricately constructed Moorish castle which once housed kings and queens, sultans and their concubines.  With its elaborately planned garden of roses, oleanders, magnolias, cypress and orange trees, and a hundred other types of flora each carefully chosen and planted for the perfection of their intermingling scents.   With its gurgling fountains and water channels, built so that wherever you are within the fortress or its gardens, you can hear and be soothed by the tinkling musical laughter of water.

In Granada, the heart of flamenco country where come evening in the shadow of Alhambra, you will be serenaded by student guitarists plucking exquisite notes from their instrument for a few euro.   Where for twenty euro, you can join the masses in one of three evening sessions to watch the gypsies dance in the world famous caves of Sacro Monte.  Where you can purchase una caña and be presented with a hefty plate of delicious tapas, free of charge.  Where it is not surprising to see young children, their parents and their grandparents – three generations of one family – out together for a promenade around town at 1am during weekends.   Where the people drink to be merry, convivial, to dance, to relax, rather than to engage in a drunken fisticuffs.

The heady combination of food, music, architecture and history, the indelible cultural influence of the MoopsMoors, a young, lively university community, the friendly, laid-back vibe of my hostel and the people I met there, and the spiritual energy which crackled around the town was intoxicating. Something had compelled me to visit Granada and the Alhambra as a last farewell to Europe.   And surprisingly (or not), whether wandering the quiet, shabby streets of the Albaicín, dancing the night away in a little bar to modern and traditional Spanish music, pausing in the Alhambra’s Generalife Gardens to take in the mingled scents of roses, oranges and myrtle or listening to the haunting sounds of an intricate flamenco guitar riff beneath an almost full, bright moon, everything felt like it was in its right place.

4 March, 2010

The Red Cup

Reunited with my Mac.  And it feels so good.

Sunday morning brekky at this little cafe in Melbourne’s eastern suburbs.  The café’s owner had recently made her way into suburbia from the foyer of one of the city’s most prestigious addresses.  Quite a change from the new lodgings, a former laundromatt where not much washing had been done, so I was told, the teller punctuating his tale with a surreptitious wink.

“Oh, was this a house of ill repute?” I asked, trying to fathom the comings and goings on at a laundromatt-cum-den of iniquity smack bang in the middle of the ‘burbs.  At the very least, the establishment’s sheets would be clean.  But would the hum and whirl of the machines be conducive to such illicit activities?  Or perhaps, that was the point?

“No, I think it was more non-washing white powder related activity,” came the response.

Whatever its former purpose, the cafe is a cosy urban oasis with lovely walls of exposed brick, in a wide, wide surburban sea.  And the coffee’s pretty good too.

26 January, 2010

Cake and Calm

Ten days of hiking, walking, splashing about waterfalls, wading through rivers, living out of a backpack, negotiating tents, toilet blocks, avoiding snakes, spiders, lizards and dehydration in the desert, wondering if things would ever dry again in the tropics, standing in the presence of colossal, ancient monoliths, fighting off swarms of flies, mosquitoes and nasty, nasty sandflies – well, a girl could get a little preoccupied, and forget the little things in life. I only realised how much I missed a cuppa when tea bags miraculously appeared on the sixth day and I sat down to a mug of thick, steaming tea despite the sticky closeness of Kakadu.

“How can you drink hot tea in this weather?” asked an aghast Sydneysider.

“I can drink tea anywhere,” I responded, calm, peace and a feeling that all was right with the world descending as I held the mug between both hands and drank. Seven years in London, and an Irish flatmate who would have had tea fed intravenously into him if such technology was available, had taught me as much.

Back where I could drink as much tea as I liked ie. civilisation, and it was time for friends, a little holiday photo slideshow, and this amazing cherry cake, courtesy of Rachael.

Happy Australia Day, all.


28 December, 2009

On Tea