Mushrooms!

Sometimes I find mushrooms disgusting, sometimes I find them interesting and cool. Sometimes I find them everywhere, especially in Sydney.

I never used to notice them until last year when I was on a walk and nearly stepped on some. I was surprised to see them, but then I saw more and more, of many different types.

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In Sydney it can often rain for days at a time, and mushrooms love that. They will pop up for a little while, and then when the sun comes back out they are gone for a few weeks until it happens all over again.

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They really were all over the place, in many different shapes and sizes. Next time, after it’s bucketing down, you should go outside and look for them to see what ones you can find.

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Also, obviously don’t do what some unfortunate souls have done in the past, and try eating them. That won’t end well for you.

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Versailles: Treasures from the Palace

Recently on display in the National Gallery of Australia in Canberra, this exhibit showcased some of the many treasures from the Palace of Versailles. It was a collection that ranged from old plumbing equipment to intricately carved, gold clocks.

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It was very busy at the exhibition, but the people there with me were relatively polite and accommodating- people would not stand directly in front of something and block the view for everyone else, no one shoved anyone out of the way, which I think has happened to everyone at least once.

The tour began in a room with portraits and the gates from the palace of Versailles, then led through to a room with large, patterned carpets, as well as vases and this godly image with one heck of a frame.

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After that there was a room with portraits and range of elaborate luxuries, including what I think was a perfume-fountain-dispenser thing. There was information about the immense plumbing work done to create the gardens at Versailles, and some of the equipment used.

There was a statue from a fountain as well as ones of creatures on display in the gardens. The fountain piece has the soundtrack of running water, as well as a screen with water playing in the background. There was a little sitting area and it was a nice spot to rest for a moment.

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After the garden part, the exhibition led into a room filled with furniture, fans and bits and bobs that were all just as intricate and beautiful as those before them. There were more portraits on the walls and a lot of cool stuff.

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All in all it was a great day out and worth the money. Unfortunately, the exhibition has ended now, but if it ever comes back I definitely recommend giving it a go.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Bondi to Coogee Coastal Walk

This coastal walk has been at the top of my to-do list since I moved here, and after close to two years I finally did it. I put it off for ages thinking that I would need to carve out a whole day, as well as coordinate my public transport route, but it was surprisingly easy to get to.

I walked from Bondi to Coogee. I caught a train to central, then changed and went to Bondi Junction. From Bondi station, they have buses that take you directly to the beach. From Coogee, there are buses back to Central. It was very easy.

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I began my trip, walking along the pathway in the beautiful autumn weather- meaning it was raining on and off the entire time, with huge gusts of wind coming off the waves. It would rain just long enough to be annoying, but not long enough that it was worth unfastening and holding an umbrella.

This walk is absolutely stunning. It is so beautiful, in sunshine and misty rain. The water is incredibly blue and the waves have carved awesome shapes out of the rocks over the past thousands of years.

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The walk around six kilometres and could be done in just over an hour, but I prefer my slow, wandering pace that stretched it out to about three. The good thing about the weather meant that most of the crowds dispersed and I was relatively alone there; no hordes of tourists blocking the fair share of photos I was taking. Some of the walk has been diverted due to collapse, and the path leads through a cemetery, but the ocean is never out of sight.

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If you are interested in doing this walk, I recommend going from Coogee to Bondi, not Bondi to Coogee as I did this time. I have never really liked Coogee beach, and it smelled awful the day I went. Every time the wind blew there was a smell like sewerage, and it was an underwhelming end to a great walk. Next time I do it, because it is definitely something worth doing more than once, I will start at Coogee and end up on Bondi Beach, which is much nicer.

 

Moscow Ballet: Swan Lake at the State Theatre

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I saw Swan Lake at the State Theatre back in March and I do not recommend seeing a ballet there, for a couple of reasons.

There was no orchestra for this ballet. What a pompous comment, I know, but they are important and here’s why. Instead of an orchestra there are speakers in place at either side of the stage, and all the music is played through them. These speakers loudly hum and crackle from time to time throughout the performance, and it was very off putting.

The next issue with the speakers is that I think the music track for each piece must be individually started and stopped, and as a result the dancers were often out of sync with it. Or, rather, the music was out of sync with them. It must be hard enough to be a professional ballet dancer (staying in character, working with costumes and props, focusing on your technique and movement being perfect…) without having to worry about whether someone will press a button at the right time. So sometimes the music started, then they would, and sometimes they would start and after a few seconds it would play.

Moscow Ballet Swan Lake

The backdrops were pretty and the costumes were intricate and stunning. The swans glittered and moved gracefully, as did the ones playing people. I honestly don’t know enough about ballet to comment about the dancing, other than to say that I thought it was wonderful.

The other issue I had with the State Theatre hosting the ballet is that it doesn’t have great seating. Usually seats are staggered, whether with height or put in a kind of brick pattern behind people- e.g. so that you are sitting and looking through the gap between the two people in front of you. Where I was sitting, I was stuck directly behind the huge, bald head of a man who thought it was acceptable to keep talking to his girlfriend throughout the performance. I had to sit with my neck strained to the side to see properly. That, and there were children behind me who were too young to be at something like that, because all they wanted to do was talk through it as well!

So a combination of poor sound quality, synchronisation, seating quality, and shitty audience members made this ballet at the State Theatre really brought down what could have been a great night

When I saw the Nutcracker there last year it had been much more enjoyable- I had been slightly closer to the stage with correctly alternating seats, the timing was better and the speakers were a little bit better.

So it can be quite nice, but if you are forking out hundreds of dollars for a ticket, you should expect more than that.

Big Little Lies, Liane Moriarty

Oh, the lies. Some big lies. Some little lies. Some Big Little Lies.

A school fundraiser ends in death. Who dies? How?

Big Little Lies is a story about the lives of three women. It is a story about friendships and feuds, facts and rumours, loving relationships and abusive ones.

It took a little while, but I became invested in the characters. In the beginning I found it difficult to be interested in their inner thoughts and insecurities, wondering if they were acting too much or too little in a particular way. I slowly began to care about them as more and more of their lives were laid bare. Why is Jane super thin and always chewing gum? Why is Celeste always off in another world, and treading carefully around her husband? The little questions have big answers.

The other main gal, Madeline, has her own issues, but they were almost a calm reprieve from those of her friends’. Madeline is insecure about the simple things that she enjoys, such as makeup and reality television. She is worried she is too superficial, and never knows how to act around her (naively and dangerously) humanitarian daughter. She constantly questions the things she says and does, worrying about what she should have done and what people think about her.

These are things she has in common with her friends, although none of them know this. Although I found it very frustrating, I also found it very relatable.

The book is 470 pages long and has a nonlinear storyline, and the end of each chapter has conversation snippets from after the trivia night, when someone ends up dead. These snippets slowly dole out key bits of information, but often are just the inane prattling of a parents that attended the event, making some comment about running races, being a working mum, or whether someone threw a drink on someone else. It got quite annoying to read it all, but I think that was intentional- those are the types of people the protagonists are dealing with day to day at the school. They are annoying and infuriating gossipers and helicopter parents. Occasionally the interviews would hint at something big, and I became intrigued by the jigsaw I was slowly piecing together. Who dies? How? Accident? Murder?

The story is told from the alternating perspectives of the three main women, which allowed for a sort of cliff hanger between action to allow tension and anticipation to rise. They slowly began to grow on me; they are three interesting and complex women, and I was very worried that one of them that was going to die.

There are many other characters and events I am glossing over or flat out omitting, and that’s because I don’t want to spoil the story. There is so much going on that gets revealed page after page.

This book was different to ones I usually read, and it was cool to have a story based in Sydney, where I live, instead of The UK or USA like usual. It added something else to the experience: these people could be friends of friends or walking beside me as I wander through the crowded city. Since it’s primarily set on the coast I knew they weren’t too close to me, because as if I can afford that!

It’s not everyone’s cup of tea but I would suggest giving it a try, because you might be surprised, like me, and enjoy it a lot.

Why I Stopped Listening to Music When I Walk

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It was an automatic thing I checked after I tied my shoelaces and before I left my apartment: phone, keys, ipod. Before I was out the door, music would often be blasting and I would sing along in my head as I set off on my (almost) daily walk. Sometimes it’s more like my weekly walk.

Listening to music while I exercised was something I had done for years, ever since I was a kid allowed to go wandering off by myself for the first time, and back when the ipod was a still a small, battery operated mp3 player that stored a bunch of songs I am now a little embarrassed by. Before then, when I had walked the dog with mum, there had been no music. It had just been panting breath and small talk- which had been fine, but who doesn’t like listening to music?

Having a song I loved playing while I trudged along in the name of fitness could be a helpful distraction from my sore feet, dry mouth and the layer of sweat covering my body. It was also a way to block everyone else out: no nearby traffic honking, no loud children, and no catcalls from random assholes as they drove by. I could just obliviously bop along to one of my playlists, carefully designed for whatever mood I might have been in.

Now, years later, as I walked by myself I had to schedule walks in at different hours to fit in with my shift rotation at work. Sometimes I would walk in the evening, in the cooler months it could be at midday, and for some weeks, especially in the warmer months, it would be early in the morning. During the off peak hours there was no noise while I walked. There was nothing to block out and my fitness was good enough that I did not need to be distracted by something in order to push on. One day my ipod’s battery died, and suddenly I had no choice but to go without music.

In the silence I realised that all those times the music had been playing and I sang along, I had not been thinking. With the distraction of music I had not been alone with my thoughts for so long, and the idea of doing so for an hour should not have seemed like an inconvenience. But it did.

What surprised me was how much I enjoyed the sounds of everyday life. There were the birds (and the bees!), the sound of the wind, the occasional car passing, but most importantly, there was the sound of silence. (#Hello darkness, my old friend…#).

With so many devices designed to stimulate (haha) and keep boredom at bay, it has become harder for me to focus. This was a good way for me to ease into a tech detox and reset my mind.

For me, going for a walk is not just about fulfilling a health obligation and trying to fit as much as I can in a day. Now it’s about slowing things down in a time when things seem to pass by so quickly.

With one little change I am able to be more present in my thoughts and with my surroundings, forming connections rather than blocking them out. I highly recommend giving it a try.