Friday, 28 June 2019

Some Oz some Scotia. pix that couldn't fit into the space.


I didn't plan it this way.

Invited to cover the Vivid Festival, a winter festival for three weeks in Sydney, where the city lights up like a permanent firework, everything from the bridge to the iconic Sydney Opera House, a breathing canvas for the artists to create the most extraordinary, exhilarating storytelling.

It is quite simply, phenomenal. Like walking into a scene from Bladerunner.

Its a privilege to be invited to events such as this.  Most go to Australia during our winter months (understandable) but their Autumn turned out to be much better than our Summer.  accompanied by two of the most awesome journalists and a PR who rocked, we had a whistle stop tour of the cool Sydney, the outer suburbs of Redfearn and Chippingdale, which has been gentrified, and now home to the creatives, who do as they do, and turn everything in to a piece of art, until the bankers come along and make beige everything.  A guide from Culture Guides - Scot - was so cool.  The lights were turned off, but the colour still shone from every walkway.

Bondi Beach.  I stalked the surfers along the beach to get some 'board' shots.  And my surfing.  OK my jumping shots.

The food. Oh yes. They do gluten, lactose, sugar free.  But oh, the food.

What made it even more cool, it was my birthday the day we took the tour. The day started off in the air, literally, my head in the clouds, as I took a balloon ride over the vineyards of the Hunter Valley, with the roos bouncing underneath our shadow.   Mist rising over the lakes and yes it was very good being me.

The day before we had ridden on camels at dusk by Port Stephens, famed for its whales and dolphins and also Great Whites.  We saw whales and dolphins, but no sharks. It was not the season.   Then to the quad bikes, riding (fairly) fast over, up and down, the dunes, like a Lawrence of Arabia on speed.

We did the tour thing. The tourist thing. The walk over the bridge, but even that had an edge, with a psychedelic disco on top of the bridge, head banging to foo fighters, Pretender, testing the solidity of the build. The tour of the opera house, far more interesting than I could have imagined. The place has 1000 rooms, was built by a Dane who wasn't invited to the launch, and has self cleaning tiles. Those facts stick with you.  Or they do with me. I wish I had self cleaning tiles in my bathroom.

The Vivid Festival now in its 11th year, not only has lights and music but also talks from the good and great. I listened to a marine archeologist talk about her trips to the Titanic, and an astrophysicist talking about her finding a different type and class of star (one that prefers to be in a relationship but ultimately destroys everyone they touch - narcissist star??).   A mathematician that saves rats and mice but testing on computers rather than on animals, and a forensic scientist who works in a zoo who is fighting a war against wildlife crime, fastest growing type of crime in the world. All women in  the most male of all cultures - Australian.

Im not a wine person, but there were vineyards I did like - Tinkers - which was more like a pub in the Hunter Valley.  Try it out. They play brilliant music which helps the grapes go down smooth.

So that was Australia. Practically perfect in every way on every day.   Four Seasons, Chateau Elan and Ovolo in Wooloomooloo hotels.  All wonderful, stylish, distinct, recommended.

The pix say what the words don't.  I l-o-v-e-d everything about this trip. I spent my birthday in the company of strangers.  So many images, memories, so little space to put it in.

And then to Nova Scotia.  Didn't plan it that way. Just happened. One slap after another. I love Canada.   But ended up going to the second largest natural harbour in the world after..Sydney.   Must have a vibe about harbours.   Cooler, as in the weather, and I didn't have the two wonderful journalists with me.   One from MTV who is amazing, the other from Associated Press, who dislikes city types even more than I do, probably because he knows more about them than I do.

Toured the South Shore, which is more Celtic than Ireland and Scotland put together.

There's also a German tinge to the place, in places like Lunenburg on the coast, which is a fishing town (they have fish hanging from the lamp posts - not real ones but different types - a tad disconcerting but arty nonetheless).   There's distilleries and craft beer places all over the place, and lobster nets (lobsters are big in Nova Scotia - that eat it like tuna in sandwiches).  Lunenburg looks slightly spooky, unsurprising as lots of people have died there, and not returned from fishing trips. And the church burnt down in mysterious circumstances in 2011 on Halloween just before 9/11.  The port is wonderful, but chat to the locals. They are the real stars, telling you which generation they are of local. (My guide was 11th - the original immigrants had 11 sons).  The English don't come out of it well (lazy, hypocritical and dishonest). Nothing changes then.  Note the promises on this mustard.

The PR gave me a time scale which was impossible to keep, so I didn't.   I made the first port of call, literally in Lunenburg and the tour, but had to zip past phenomenal lakes and villages of Chester, Hubbards, and Mayhone Bay, and got up at six the next morning to make sure I missed nothing and could get lost and meander - which I did - both.  I then visited the National Park - Kej for short, where the original First Nation the Mi'kmac were based and treasured the land in a way we don't.  The more I travel and learn about wildlife the more I think the world would be far better if mankind disappeared. The animals would get on fine without us.  I helped build a kayak with Todd Labrador (fab name), well - I cut a few things and lifted a few things, and did a few yoga poses by the lake.  Lovely wonderful people again. The sort of people you want to hug.

The lobster below is asleep.

Then to Wolfville, where I met Bill, Glaswegian, who had moved here, over thirty years ago, and led me round the vineyards, one to Peter, who was from Nottingham and was a barrow boy, and now has a stunning vineyard, serving olives shipped in from Spain and a view to die for from his restaurant and a red phone box which offers free phone calls throughout North America.  He smiled a lot. So did Bill.   I liked Wolfville.

Then to the capital Halifax, which has seen the world's largest man made explosion outside Nagasake and Hiroshima.   French and English playing chicken in the harbour with ammunition ship. A bit like they are doing with Brexit. Who will give in first? No one, so everyone loses. When will we learn from history eh?  And the Titanic sank off Newfoundland and the bodies were brought to Halifax.  The funeral parlour was busy and the city is literally built on bodies.  Kept thinking of The Fog and Ghostbusters.  But Halifax is a liveable city. Its got culture, a great library - allegedly one of the best buildings in North America (best?) and a cannabis shop - a cross between an Apple store and tea shop - posh one. Very hygienic and fresh faced attendants help you decide if you would be better off with floral, earthy or citrus, snip, drink or smoke.  Relax or energise. You click the buttons and find what you need, want and can afford.  They should do this for marriage, relationships, having babies. Everything really. Very efficient.  I didn't partake.  I had to drive back to the airport later that day, having been on a happy hopper, one of those cars which goes on land and on sea.  It was fun. I ended up with a group of school children, which I enjoyed for the forty minutes.

Which harbour would I chose to live in?  Sydney.  But both have an insularity to them. One because its away from everything else geographically, the other because its, well, just insular.  But I loved the people. They were wonderful. Although they did ask me about 'Boris' as if I knew him personally.  He's an icon but they also think him a prat.  He won't find a safe harbour in Scotia or Sydney. 

Bud the Spud. Still there opposite the library in Halifax. Was there 18 years ago. I interviewed the original Bud. He served Clinton. Bill Clinton that is. Don't know if the wife does carbs.