Taking a peek at Mt Macedon

View from Camels Hump, Mt Macedon

View over Hanging Rock from Camels Hump


Mt Macedon, the peak, as opposed to the village on its slopes, is just over an hour’s drive from Ballarat — less from Melbourne — and has become a rather handy day trip.

Highlights so far:

Mr. This cafe is in the town of Macedon. I pulled in the first time because of the sign saying ‘all day breakfast’, and went back the second because the food was excellent and the staff friendly. (The only blooper so far, a failure to deliver a juice.) They have a beetroot fritter that is to die for, serve pancakes with fresh berries and honey comb, and have some of the best coffee.

Koala at Camels Hump, Mt Macedon

Koala at Camels Hump

Cross Memorial, Mt Macedon

Cross Memorial at Mt Macedon

Camels Hump.
This short but steep walk leads to a viewing platform atop granite cliffs that looks across Hanging Rock. On the most recent visit, we saw an echidna, a koala and two wild goats.

Top of the Range cafe and gallery. This cafe, near the Memorial Cross, is open 10am till 4pm seven days a week and has a veranda with a wide view. It has a resident peacock called Kenneth, as yet unseen by me. It also has friendly staff, delicious scones and a very tasty iced coffee, as well as handcrafts and souvenirs. The memorial itself is a large (rebuilt) cross, 21m tall, commemorating the dead of World War I, with other campaigns acknowledged at the start of the path. Melbourne is visible from the site, if the haze and smog allow. It is surrounded by dense eucalypt forest and manicured flower garden. There is also a memorial to a 1948 aircraft crash nearby, the Kurana memorial,in which the crew of an ANA DC-3 were killed and the air hostess honoured for her bravery. On one visit, visitors paused to allow a brown snake to cross the path.

Sanatorium Lake, Mt Macedon

Sanatorium Lake

Sanatorium Lake. The parking area closest to the lake is at the end of an attractive dirt road bordered by huge pine and gum trees. The small lake was built to service a tuberculosis sanatorium — one had already been established nearby in a former hospital, since destroyed by fire, but plans to build a newer, bigger one were scuppered. But the lake remains, and is only 200m or so from the car park through forest, and its stillness offers a lovely spot for, ahem, reflection.

Forest Glade, Mt Macedon

Forest Glade

Forest Glade Gardens: We ambled through these impressive private gardens in Mt Macedon for about 2.5 hours, and still hadn’t covered all the trails. The garden offers a variety of flora, from manicured gardens to Aussie scrub, as it spills down terraces that can make steep going at times. But there are plenty of flat trails and lots of shady seats, with sculptures ranging from myth to kids at play to portraits and more. The site is also home to the Stokes Collection, but you need to book, and pay extra, to see this private antique collection. The gardens are open daily and cost $8 by honour system at the gate — limited street parking and no public toilets or water on site. Well worth the visit, even for someone like me who doesn’t know their flowers at all. Also, we saw an echidna in a garden bed abutting the house — very cool.

More pictures of Mt Macedon

 

And Then — a brand new adventure

Figurehead illo by Vicky Pratt from And Then... adventure anthologyClan Destine Press (publishers of my Vampires in the Sunshine State duology) has announced a new adventure — And Then…. The Great Big Book of Awesome Adventure Tales, a mammoth two-title set of tales featuring dynamic duos.

So far, 26 writers have been announced — the preliminary list is below — with stories to 15,000 words: ‘old-fashioned rip-snorting action adventures’.
My contribution takes place in the same world as Night Blooming, published earlier this year in SQ Magazine. As CDP publisher Lindy Cameron says, ‘ooh what fun’.

Check out that TOC below: that’s some serious firepower.

Readers can be part of the adventure, too. The books — more authors are yet to join — are to be crowdfunded through Indiegogo, so you can essentially preorder a copy of these rollicking tales and get other cool stuff besides. Stuff such as other CDP ebooks and paperbacks (lots of ’em), notebooks and pens, and themed critiques on 1500 words (fight scenes, erotica, openings, Ancient Rome and MORE!).

The figurehead illo, by Vicky Pratt, with this post is from the title page of one of the yarns, ‘Come Now, Traveller’, by Amanda Wrangles. It just gets more interesting, doesn’t it?

AND THEN… PRELIMINARY CONTRIBUTORS

Peter M Ball ~ Deadbeats

Alan Baxter ~ Golden Fortune, Dragon Jade

Mary Borsellino ~ The Australian Gang

Lindy Cameron ~ The Medusa Code

Kat Clay ~ In the Company of Rogues

Emilie Collyer ~ The Panther’s Paw

Jack Dann ~ The Talking Sword

Sarah Evans ~ Plumbing the Depths

Jason Franks ~ Exli and the Dragon

James Hopwood ~ The Lost Loot of Lima

Kelly Gardiner ~ Boots and the Bushranger

David Greagg & Kerry Greenwood ~ Cruel Sister

Narrelle M Harris ~ Moran & Cato: Virgin Soil

Maria Lewis ~ The Bushwalker Butcher

Sophie Masson ~ The Romanov Opal

Keith McArdle ~ The Demon’s Cave

Jason Nahrung ~ The Mermaid Club

Andrew Nette ~ Save a Last Kiss for Satan

Amanda Pillar ~ It

Michael Pryor ~ Cross Purposes

Dan Rabarts ~ Tipuna Tapu

Tansy Rayner Roberts ~ Death at the Dragon Circus

Fin J Ross ~ Genemesis

Tor Roxburgh ~ The Boudicca Society

Amanda Wrangles ~ Come Now, Traveller

Foto Biennale day trippin’: is there a doco in the (open) house?

Luxville 5 exhibition by Erin McCuskey

Luxville 5 exhibition by Erin McCuskey

Spring sprang, momentarily, on Sunday, so we carved off a chunk of the arvo and hit Ballarat to tick off a few more sites in the Foto Biennale.

There was no doubting the power of the documentary images: in the City Hall, Mitchell Kanashkevich‘s superb depictions of life in Belarus; and, more naturalistic, a joint project offering slices of life in the town of Swifts Creek in Gippsland, ensconced in the upper floor of the refurbished restaurant and music venue Sutton’s House of Music (love this space). Keeping the Creek company were some most excellent travel pictures from Lesley Costley-Grey — one of my favourites, a smashed typewriter on the footpath, already with three red dots beside it.

There were interesting techniques such as cyanotype and sunshine (at boutique beer store Coach House Ale near the railway station) and photogravure (at Backspace Gallery, which also has on show some stunning South American landscapes — flamingoes add splashes of colour in some).

A couple of Vicki McKay’s “Bohemia” images, inspired by Norman Lindsay, at the Miners Tavern (luckily, you don’t have to pass the pokies to get up the staircase to the upstairs exhibition, which has been thoughtfully marked as featuring nude women *gasp*), also popped, but I really enjoyed the personalities on show at the Regent theatre, where Erin McCuskey has a stills exhibition of characters in a fictional town.

lost ones gallery

Lost Ones Gallery

More starscapes, these from Tim Lucas, at the Beechworth Bakery (amazingly, no bee stings were eaten during this visit); a seascape with ship carved into panels at the Yellow Espresso cafe (yummy coffee that you can take away, unlike the big print), and some exceptional images from India by Rochelle Wong at the Trades Hall were among the list that took in about a dozen or so venues. Some others were closed (Sunday, you take your chances in the Rat), but a peek through the window was enough to go yea or nay to a revisit.

We also caught up with the print books competition, which showed a range of styles and themes. One, for instance, had folded pages; another was a narrative of being nekkid and in love in the woods; another had landscapes from the waterline, taken from a kayak. Another documented female residents of a town.

I love the former Freemasons building, now Lost Ones Galley, on Camp Street with its slightly risky stairs down to the welcoming basement (and outdoor toilet block) with sofas, bird cage, and a puffer fish under glass.

So not only does the biennale open up a range of photographic topics and techniques, it also gives access — encourages access — to a range of buildings that maybe wouldn’t normally get a visit, and puts galleries and cafes and the like on the radar. Even if you do cop the occasional glare over a coffee cup for peering over someone’s head at the pictures.

Getting crafty at the biennale

Photographic exhibit by Vanessa Brady

Photographic exhibit by Vanessa Brady

Wendouree circuit of the Ballarat International Foto Biennale has been achieved — with added craft!

First stop was breakfast at one of our favourite cafes, Eclectic Tastes, which is hosting a small group exhibit. Then:

  • chic French cafe Eau Verte for Nina O’Brien’s black and whites of kids being kids;
  • road kill at the Wendouree Performing Arts Centre — a few victims were missing (an aside: there are a couple of wonderful works by Aboriginal artists — curse me for not getting proper details — in the foyer, a feature of which is a hanging Marc Rogerson sculpture reflected in mirrors);
  • wildlife and landscapes on canvas at the Lake View Hotel (a woman with blurred face in a forest, kind of Blair Witchy, was my pick) — sadly, still running on the big brekkie so couldn’t snaffle a $15 lunch special;
  • Oodles of wunnerful black and whites ’80s concert photos by Jeremy Bannister, including — gasp — Sisters of Mercy! at Racers (hard to get up close to, though, in the busy cafe);
  • cool landscapes set against star fields by Matt Thomson at the Ballaarat Yacht Club (old spelling of Ballarat reflects the club’s founding in 1877);
  • close-ups of flowers at the Statuary Pavilion at the Botanic Gardens;
  • and finally, probably the day’s highlight, rural landscapes from Vanessa Brady on show at the Robert Clark Conservatory in the gardens. Brady also has some wildlife pictures, and also in the conservatory are sculptures by Kim Percy.

    A morning well spent, with plenty of variation and an admirable matching in most instances of theme to venue.

    Adam Lindsay Gordon Craft Cottage

    Adam Lindsay Gordon Craft Cottage

    Also in the Botanic Gardens is the Adam Lindsay Gordon Craft Cottage, a store run by the Crafts Council of Ballarat occupying the relocated home of the intriguing poet (1833-1870). A wide selection of handmade giftware is on offer, including exquisite timber pepper grinders and cute door stoppers.

    The biennale runs until 20 September 2015. The cottage is open daily September-mid June, otherwise at weekends and public and school holidays.

  • Moira Finucane, does it again

    glory box la revolucion


    The milk was good, but it was the tomato sauce that took the prize.

    There on Collingwood’s Melba Spiegeltent catwalk, Moira Finucane in a white gown, tearing out her heart — only her heart was a family-size bottle of tomato sauce, dribbling and spurting in time with her anguish. Exit to Hollywood blonde Clare St Clare taking that dripping container while singing Blue Velvet.

    Yes, it’s Finucane & Smith, strutting their art — some new, some old — in Glory Box La Revolucion (until 13 September 2015).

    The troupe provide about 90 minutes of entertainment: another highlight, one of the best covers of Bowie’s Wild is the Wind you’ll ever hear, by Mama Alto accompanied by piano.

    That same piano that keeps our table, only a row back from the catwalk, safe from flying milk as Finucane empties two 2l bottles over plastic-wrapped audience, self and stage in wild abandon.

    Elsewhere, she’s nude under witchy fingernails and black diaphanous cape, and rockin’ it out to Garbage (if memory serves) in jeans and leather jacket with St Clare.

    There’s acrobatics involving chairs, rope, trapeze, cork screw … this is 18+ wine drinking. A bewigged industrial thrash dance. A song about more than coffee in Paris, an ooh la la to equality and respect.

    Boobs, chuckles, politics, art: always entertaining. All in the luscious surrounds of the Spiegeltent with its Innocent Bystander pinot noir at the bar.

    The card on the table tells us that Finucane & Smith are heading off to Cuba and may be some time. NO, we say. For all that we’ve seen of Moira Finucane, we still haven’t seen enough.
    Melba Spiegeltent at Collingwood

    SIDE DISH

    lamp at savanna ethiopian eritrean restaurantBefore the gig, we had dinner at Savanna, an Ethiopian and Eritrean restaurant. Check out this funky ceiling lamp! Check out the delicious menu — we shared a platter of various veg and meat with injera for $45, washed down with organic Ethiopian shiraz at $6 a glass, and walked out pleasantly stuffed. Highly recommended.

    Ballarat International Foto Biennale (BIFB): a quick snap

    Home by Nightfall, by Angela Bacon-Kidwell

    Home by Nightfall, by Angela Bacon-Kidwell

    The Ballarat International Foto Biennale officially opened on Saturday night — pizza, wine (Langi Ghiran, no less! oh so noms) and a whole lotta people checking out the exhibits in the Mining Exchange.

    We managed to roll two other venues on Saturday — one before and one after. The first was Stacey Moll‘s ‘Frankenstein Atomic Frontier’ at wonderful comic shop Heroes HQ (darn, the latest Saga trade isn’t out yet) — I particularly like a gloomy alley shot of a woman with book, like an urban mage with grimoire. The second was ‘Silver’, by a collective of non-digital aficionados, which included some nice black-and-white industrial decay, hosted at Sebastiaans, the cafe, which included a pretty decent fisherman’s basket.

    There are about 80 venues this year, many of them eateries — you could easily put together a food tour based on the exhibits.

    My favourite so far, at the Mining Exchange: ‘Home by Nightfall’, an exquisite narrative of dust, sunlight and birds from Texan artist Angela Bacon-Kidwell, in which she reflects on her emotional journey during her father’s fatal illness. Also striking, some of the refugee photos from Maltese news photographer Darrin Zammit Lupi — incredible captures, brimming with emotion.

    We moved to Ballarat in time for the previous biennale, and found it an intriguing way to explore the town. We hope to spend a few more days this time around. Sadly, we missed out on participating in the ‘Ballarat Through My Eyes’ contest, because it runs in the lead-up to the biennale itself. The event asks photographers to present photos in three categories taken in the Rat — bit of a treasure hunt! Maybe next time.

    The biennale goes until 20 September 2015. Look for the biennale lens logo outside venues, or check the website for who’s got what. Amazingly, most of the exhibitions, as was the opening-night shindig, are free.

    Aurora: Earth is a spaceship too

    aurora by kim stanley robinsonAurora (Orbit, 2015) by Kim Stanley Robinson is named after a planet on which humanity hopes to found a colony; it’s a long way away, so far it’s a multi-generational voyage in a time without fancy stasis chambers. Instead, the spaceship, simply called ship, is composed of biomes representing different terrain types on Earth, big enough for lakes, glaciers, forests, critters of all kinds. Maintaining the balance of inputs and outputs necessary for agriculture — for life — occupies much of the humans’ time, in cooperation with a quantum computer. Starvation is never far from the horizon. It’s a delicate see-sawing balance, both scientifically and socially.

    Things don’t go to plan, of course. And while I can’t reveal too much, it’s not spoiling things to say the colonists have decisions to make about the best way forward — or backward, even.

    The first section, detailing the trip and the travails to Tau Ceti, is told in the third person centred on a young girl, Freya. The central story is narrated by the computer, allowing a great deal of info dumping — mostly painless — leavened with humour as the AI grows. It also allows scope for commentary on human foibles, one of the delights of the story. The final scenes are again in our protagonist’s viewpoint, reflecting on Freya’s experience, on the space program, on humanity.

    There is a singular moment, a single line of description relating to ship, that defines the power of KSR’s prose, but I can’t repeat it here, because spoiler. It is beautiful, poignant, pragmatic, elegant. It made me love this book.

    This is the first KSR book I’ve read — I know, I know — but based on this, it won’t be the last. Note even dubious amounts of repetition in the text can overshadow the deft handling of technical terms and processes; the sheer imagination that manages, mostly, to keep humanity at its centre, even when ship is narrating at some emotional distance.

    KSR has something to say, and for the most part he says it well.

    For me, Aurora is not just a superbly unromantic story of space colonisation, but also an allegory — would ship agree, I wonder, given its interest in metaphor and the like? Hell, maybe it’s not even — best summed up by this translation of a poem that captures the attention of two characters, talking to how we need to look after this world as man-made climate change threatens to radically change our biome, how we are ‘kleptoparasites’, stealing from our descendants:

    ‘There’s no new world, my friend, no
    New seas, no other planets, nowhere to flee–
    You’re tied in a knot you can never undo
    When you realise Earth is a starship too.’

  • A review copy of Aurora was provided by the publisher. You can read an excerpt here.