This is the fifth post in my Highlights. Today, we travel to Australia Zoo: always such a joy to explore and to enjoy the lush landscaping and the vast variety of animals, both from Australia and around the world, including those who are endangered and who are at the forefront of conservation efforts.
Located in Beerwah near Landsborough, an hour’s drive north of Brisbane on the Sunshine Coast, the zoo always gives me a buzz when I visit. It does have, of course, a strong commercial element, with the shops, Crickey Cafe, crocodile and dinosaur models and the show in the Crocoseum, not to mention the new upmarket accommodation Crocodile Hunter Lodge; but this is all vitally important to draw in the widest possible range of visitors and to ensure funding for the hugely important animal conservation work done by Australia Zoo.
I loved Bindi’s Tree House among the gorgeous landscaping, a profusion of palms and other subtropical trees and shrubs. The animals are of course the main attraction and this time I was particularly delighted by the red pandas being hand-fed by a devoted keeper.
Here is a selection of photos from around the parkland, giving a flavour of our latest visit to this captivating zoo.
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Today I am delighted to be sharing with you my review of an advance copy of a new collection of poems, photography and flash fiction by fellow author MJ Mallon. The book is due out on Kindle on 25th November 2022, and the paperback will follow in due course.
I’ve read this author’s work before: young adult novels, poetry and flash fiction, and I love her imaginative handling of the magical, the phantasmagorical and surreal. This short book is no exception to the quality of MJ Mallon’s output. I found the exploration of her past life captivating.
Here are MJ Mallon’s books of poetry and flash fiction so far published:
These are her volumes of YA fiction:
We may consider that the inclusion of often very personal material in a compilation such as ‘Do What You Love’ would make it difficult for the outside reader to find a way in. This is not true at all of MJ Mallon’s poetry and prose: in many places, I related so much to what she writes, especially about a daughter ‘flying the nest’ to a faraway country. I particularly loved the device MJ Mallon uses to draw all this together: she presents it as a conversation with Atropos, one of the three Fates in Greek mythology: the Morai.
Atropos presides over the past. I thought this worked extremely well as a central metaphor. It had me googling the three Fates, and reading all about them: Clotho, who spins the threads of life, guardian of the present; Lachesis, who measures the length of life with her measuring rod, and is guardian of the future: and Atropos, who is the guardian of fate and destiny, and who chooses the manner of death by snipping the threads of an individual’s life. The close relationship between these three Greek supernatural beings and the Three Norns in Norse mythology, also intrigued me. Anyone who loves Wagner’s operas The Ring Cycle will be familiar with the Three Norns who weave the threads of fate; they certainly spend a long time singing about it!
MJ Mallon has had a fascinating and varied life history: born in Singapore, she spent her childhood in Hong Kong and her teens in Edinburgh. She lived in Cambridge for a while, and she now spends some time in Scotland with family, some in Cambridge with friends, and the rest of her time in Portugal where she is about to take up residency. With every culture and environment she has lived in, she has absorbed so much which has influenced her imagination, her interests and her approach as a writer. In this book, we find a compilation of words and images which draws us in: poignant, sensitive, delicate, playful, as she opens up for us her past and present relationships, the places she has loved and spent time in, and her thoughts and feelings about it all.
A highly recommended book for you.
Do What You Love Fragility of Your Flame Poems, Photography & Flash Fiction is a personal poetry collection celebrating how the fates may have a part in all that we do.
With special poems and short reflective moments inspired by family, flowers and nature, love, scrumptious morsels, places I’ve visited, lived and intend to live in, the friendships and hopes I have for the future.
The overarching theme is to live a life well lived… And to do what you love.
float along with me
create clouds of sweetest joy
to do what you love
hold fate’s hand as we venture
near and far on life’s journey
Release Date: 25th November 2022, able to preorder via the following links.
M J Mallon was born in Lion city Singapore, a passionate Scorpio with the Chinese Zodiac sign of a lucky rabbit. She spent her early childhood in Hong Kong. During her teen years, she returned to her father’s childhood home, Edinburgh where she spent many happy years, entertained and enthralled by her parents’ vivid stories of living and working abroad. Perhaps it was during these formative years that her love of storytelling began bolstered by these vivid raconteurs. She counts herself lucky to have travelled to many far-flung destinations and this early wanderlust has fuelled her present desire to emigrate abroad. Until that wondrous moment, it’s rumoured that she lives sometimes in the UK, and often times in Portugal.. Her two enchanting daughters have flown the nest but often return with a cheery smile to greet her.
Her motto is to always do what you love, stay true to your heart’s desires, and inspire others to do so too.
Here is the fourth post of my Highlights. Today, Roma Street Parklands, Brisbane. Reclaimed from a railway goods yard (and using land which was, of course, prior to that, used for thousands of years by the local indigenous peoples for ceremonies and meetings), these exquisite parklands are a joy to wander through and to rest awhile, which I did for a few hours, accompanied by thieving ibises.
Here is just a taste of these lovely parklands. Everything is here: lakes, gorgeous display gardens, performance area, arena and auditorium, cafe, children’s play areas rainforest, waterfalls, a network of winding paths and boardwalks, fabulous city views, birds, animals and fish. For a writer this is a perfect place to explore, admire, reflect, and also to sit for hours with your Moleskine notebook and a cup of coffee to review your writing ideas and add many more.
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Here is the third post of my Highlights; today, the south bank of the Brisbane river, with its Art Galleries, Performing Arts Centre and State Library, along with the headquarters of the ABC (Australian Broadcasting Corporation, where my daughter Abigail works on the news programme), the Big Wheel, and the inspired South Bank Parklands, formerly the site of World Expo 88.
First, the River scenes from the area by the Art Gallery. In the gallery, I saw an exhibition called ‘Embodied Knowledge‘ which presented cultural art by aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. In the gallery water mall I found an installation with floating white tablets, each of which represented a coroner’s report into an aboriginal death in custody across Australia: ‘Inert State’, a very moving and disturbing installation by artist Archie Moore.
After viewing the exhibitions here I went to meet Abigail at the ABC and we walked through the Arbour to a food court where we had lunch. I remembered this site when Expo 88 was held and I have many happy memories of the pavilions, the landscaping, the plaza and all the many exciting events and buildings and performances. The subsequent development and use of the site has been sheer inspiration. Here are further South Bank views.
Finally we visited the GOMA (Gallery of Modern Art) to see an amazing art exhibition of works by the Japanese artist Chiharu Shiota: The Soul Trembles. I was captivated by this exhibition. The first installation, I describe as “tiny boats of dreams, all suspended by black threads, and we all have different ideas of who’s holding the threads.” I found the exhibition dreamlike, profound, transformative.
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Now I’m back in the UK after my two month trip to Australia to see my daughter Abigail I’d like to share with you the highlights of my amazing journey through some of the most awe-inspiring and sublime scenery in New South Wales and Queensland, along with birds, animals, flowers, art galleries, cafes…. and a few tourist selfies thrown in along the way!
I flew back to London on Qatar Airways on 15 October 2022 and said goodbye to my sister Julia and her husband Bruce, and to my lovely daughter Abigail, at Brisbane Airport.
Niw I’ve arrived back in the UK I’ve been looking through all my photos during the past 2 months. The perennial question we ask travellers is: So what were your highlights?
Let me show you my highlights then during the course of my next few blog posts here on scskillman.com. The theme? A Travel Diary. (And fortunately I did keep one!)
I’ll go back now to the beginning of my journey 16 August 2022 with a few views from my window seat. Actually, these are views as we landed in Doha, which was the transfer point.
Then we drove to the village of Samford, via Dayborough. Samford is like an early colonial settlers town, and has a beautifully landscaped park with a gift shop, art gallery and garden centre. It also has The Store of Requirement – all things Harry Potter. Samford is distinctively different from an English village, with places like The Slab Hut: and, of course, rainbow lorikeets in the melaleuca trees. We had a delightful lunch at The Flying Nun Cafe.
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Here is the second post of my Highlights: and today, one of my favourite areas, the mountain backdrop behind Brisbane, which is of course part of the Great Dividing Range. First of all, Mt Coot-tha and its Lookout, a hugely popular destination for tourists which also has a lovely restaurant/cafe where visitors may enjoy the magnificent panorama from their tables.
Below the Lookout, further down Mt Coot-tha you may find the Botanic Gardens: a wonderful combination of different terrains: lake, succulents, rainforest, Japanese gardens, all created on the mountain slope.
We drove from Mt Coot-tha to Mt Nebo. Mt Nebo Road takes the traveller from the western suburb of The Gap, up towards the magnificent lookouts: Jolly’s, McAfees, Westridge and Wivenhoe. Here’s a taste of what you may see up there.
On your journey you may find Smokey Mountain Hideout formerly called Cloverlea Cafe. I met the kookaburra there in November 2019 when I last visited. I was glad to see him here again (or his relative).
More glorious views were to meet our eyes on our journey.
Finally, we drove on down to Somerset Dam, quiet and peaceful.
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As I look through all the photos I’ve taken during my 2 months in Australia, it’s fun to look for themes, rather than posting images of places visited, in chronological order. My first overarching theme is ‘Birds and Animals’.
Not so many bird photos I’m afraid as I rarely managed to capture them on camera but I have included a kookaburra! And a video of rainbow lorikeets at the end.
Moffat Beach Caloundra. Overcast, rainy and windy with a cool humidity that creeps up on you, and a boisterous sea surging onto the beach. This is the Sunshine Coast of Queensland. And still beautiful!
As we passed through New South Wales to the border with Queensland, we stopped off at Tenterfield, known as the ‘birthplace of Australian Democracy’. Sir Henry Parkes signed the all-important document, and is commemorated in the museum named after him here in this town.
I love the area of the New England Highway which becomes the Cunningham Highway, as we drive through the plain heading for the mountain range ahead: the Great Dividing Range. As we drive up through Cunningham’s Gap we glimpse a glorious panorama: and at one point we begin to hear the exquisite sound of the bellbirds.
It’s curious how there are certain places on this earth we can associate with distinct feelings: and the vision of driving through a great plain towards the mountains, always stays with me.
I was delighted to visit Norman Lindsay’s property in the Blue Mountains. He was an extraordinary man who lived from 1879 to 1969 and he was a writer as well as a children’s writer poet and illustrator, a wartime cartoonist, a propaganda poster designer, artist, garden designer and sculptor. His home is now an art gallery owned by the National Trust of NSW. As an artist and sculptor he was self-taught; he loved nature and celebrated it in his work.
He first entered my life as the creator of ‘The Magic Pudding’ a book which came into my hands when I was about 8. I loved it and read it over and over again. It gave me my first concept of Australia and of Australian people. I thought all Aussies were like the characters in ‘The Magic Pudding’ – Bunyip Bluegum and his companions Uncle Wattleberry and Sam Sawnoff, not to mention the very rude and outspoken Pudding himself on his spindly legs!
Here is a selection of images of Norman’s beautiful property in the Blue Mountains of New South Wales. All the sculptures are by Norman Lindsay and one of the fragrant wisteria on the columns of the verandah is one he planted himself.