This is the sixth in my series of short reflections on different places in Australia and New Zealand, which I visited in November 2019.
Australia Zoo is one of the jewels of Queensland; I’ve visited it a number of times during different periods of time spent in Australia. Not only is it a shining example of animal conservation, and of education about respect for and protection of wildlife, but it is also a superlative tourist attraction.
I believe that one of its strongest attributes is the personal nature of the organisation, owned by the Irwin family. Some may even view the prominence of the family members as a little like a ‘personality cult’. And yet the emphasis upon Steve Irwin and the work he did, and now upon his window Terri, daughter Bindi, her fiance Chandler, and her photographer brother Robert, only serves to enhance the profile of the zoo and the profoundly important work it does.
When you visit Australia Zoo, not only are you guaranteed a good day out, and the chance to see and admire a magnificent collection of wild animals, but you also learn about how to interact with wild creatures in a more respectful, understanding and compassionate way. The famous Crocoseum performance always includes a teaching element, especially about how to deal with snake encounters.
This is of course more likely to be relevant for Australians than for those living in the UK. And yet, it becomes relevant the more you travel around the world. Interestingly enough, the correct way for us to behave towards snakes is often counter-intuitive. If you meet a snake across your path, stop, turn, and walk very slowly and calmly away. If you get a snakebite, remain still, (assuming you have someone who can call for help). The more you move around and panic, the more easily the poison can move through your system.
If you visit Queensland, do include a visit to Australia Zoo on your itinerary.
This is the fifth in my series of short reflections on different places in Australia and New Zealand, which I visited in November 2019. From now on I’ll be posting twice weekly on this blog: on Tuesdays and Fridays.
Cloverlea Cottage is not only a delightful restaurant with sublime views across the mountains, but also a meeting point for a variety of native birds, some of whom are keen to perform reception duties, as was the case with this king parrot.
As you can see from the photos, the mountain air was cool when we visited – and blankets were provided, to drape over our shoulders during our time there. If you visit Brisbane, do include a trip up Mount Glorious; and make sure you drop into Cloverlea Cottage for lunch, where you may relax over a delicious meal, and soak in the panoramic views whilst meeting the king parrots, magpies, and kookaburras.
Here at the beginning of 2020, I open my new year of blog posts with the fourth in a series of short reflections on different places in Australia and New Zealand, which I visited in November 2019. From now on I’ll be posting twice weekly on this blog: on Tuesdays and Fridays.
These gardens were created through a wonderful initiative by sculptor Graham Radcliffe and his wife Margit in 1987. The gardens are reached along a narrow lane off the main road into the mountains, and they not only provide an enchanting environment to wander through in this lofty location, but also act as a showcase for Graham’s sculptures in bronze, marble and onyx.
This is truly an inspiring place to visit, interspersing the beauty of the natural surroundings, the skill and vision of landscape gardening, and the wonder of human creativity. At the highest point, as you will see in the pictures, the garden opens out onto sublime views into the far distance.
The garden also acts as a perfect setting for retreats, by special arrangement with Graham and Margit.
If you plan to visit when you’re in Brisbane, do look up Graham’s website, to discover the opening times.
This is the third in a series of short reflections on different places in Australia and New Zealand, which I visited in November 2019.
My second post was about Jolly’s Lookout in Brisbane Forest Park, Queensland, in the mountains to the west of Brisbane. Further up the road from Jolly’s Lookout towards Mount Glorious, we find another glorious viewpoint, called Westridge Outlook.
Here as the name suggests you may gaze out to the western plains. These views, to my mind, encompass the best that Australia has to offer, in terms of majestic landscape.
You will see breathtaking, sublime views like this elsewhere on this continent, of course, but here in Brisbane Forest Park, it is encapsulated at a location only forty minutes drive from Brisbane city centre. The provision of boardwalks, walking tracks and information signage is excellent, opening the area up to visitors, and I feel that the park management is of the highest standard.
This is the second in a series of short reflections on different places in Australia and New Zealand, which I visited in November 2019.
Today’s post is about a high place in Brisbane Forest Park, Queensland, which is very dear to my heart. During the time I lived in Australia, from 1986 to 1990, I often visited this lovely lookout, and gazed at the view across Samford Valley toward the Glasshouse Mountains in the distance.
On each visit I would meet several kookaburras, along with the goanas and possums. This time however I found the lookout very dry, and no kookaburras in sight. The region has been suffering from drought, and this was very much in evidence in the bushland of Brisbane Forest Park, where signs warned of a high risk of bushfires and a total fire ban.
However, at the time of writing, I understand there have been heavy rainstorms in Brisbane. But the people of New South Wales still long for those rains to come as they continue to suffer severe drought with dried up grassland and tragic bushfires.
This is the first in a series of short reflections on different places in Australia and New Zealand, which I visited in November 2019.
First I visited Australia, where my travels took me to Brisbane, Queensland, and along the coast through New South Wales, during a time when that region was suffering severe drought with dried up grassland and tragic bushfires. Later I spent twelve days in the north island of New Zealand where a cooler, more temperate climate ensures a landscape clothed in rich green.
My first few posts in this series will take us through Queensland and New South Wales. I last visited Brisbane in 2009 and much has changed in the city and suburbs since then: considerable development means that I was unable to recognise many of the areas from my previous times spent here.
One place I enjoyed walking around when I lived in Australia from 1986 to 1990 was the area of parkland near Wickham Terrace not far from Roma Street Station. I was delighted to find that the changes here are uplifting: for the parkland has been greatly extended and enhanced.
This is a new development that gives nothing but pleasure, for the former railyard has been transformed into a glorious series of gardens, and the genius of the landscapers and garden designers is seen here in abundance. Despite the drought, colourful subtropical flowers and trees give joy to all who wander through the parklands.
In Australia I found a unique Centre – located in Brisbane, and run by an Englishman.
35 years ago, LIONEL FIFIELD, formerly an accountant, set up an organisation called The Relaxation Centre of Queensland, using premises in Brisbane.
I spent nearly five years living in Brisbane, and during that time I must have tasted every kind of course, workshop and seminar that the Relaxation Centre had to offer.
There was only one problem. Attending courses at the Relaxation Centre was addictive.
And I have not found any similar organisation in England – though I believe that it would meet a great need.
Lionel Fifield was an engaging inspirational speaker. He had an entertaining, at times Monty Pythonesque style. And the Australians loved him – and I have every reason to believe they still do.
Here is what Lionel says of himself: “For over 35 years now he has been co-ordinating and developing a programme at the Relaxation Centre of Queensland focusing on managing stress, facing fears, building confidence, improving communication and exploring potential. Lionel likes to talk about his own “funny ways” and how quickly we can separate ourselves from each other and from our own sense of knowing.”
The Relaxation Centre maintains that it advances no one particular religious or spiritual system, and many who teach there have different spiritual outlooks. Spiritual healing, however, has long been on the agenda. I explore spiritual healing in my current work-in-progress, a romantic suspense novel called “A Passionate Spirit”.
BERT WEIR, leader of The Centre Within courseat the Relaxation Centre, was another inspirational figure. Formerly a salesman, Bert was a man full of humour and practical hints. “I’m a very practical man,” he would begin his course, “and I will only talk about things that work.” There was much psychological wisdom, too, in the Centre Within Course, and many practical strategies to combat stress and anxiety and false attitude. Again, The Centre Within Course was addictive. I must have taken the complete course at least four times. And therein lies the danger of inspirational speakers – do we attend purely to delight in the entertaining style of the speaker? Maybe – but we can always hope we are learning something along the way that is permanent!
A third individual stands out in my memories of the Relaxation Centre, and this was a character I shall name only as GREG, teacher of a Dream Interpretation course. Greg again was a very down-to-earth character full of wisdom and humour. Nobody would have guessed he was a spiritual adept in the art of dream yoga – an art he had learned from an old Tibetan lama he’d met in Sydney. Later he was to provide inspiration for my novel “Mystical Circles”.
When I took Greg’s course in dream interpretation there grew upon me this feeling. “There’s something light and bright and fluid and flexible about him… something Puckish, childlike, teasing and infinitely wise and spiritually attuned… he’s like a children’s storyteller, a street corner entertainer.. . he’s mobile, passionately involved and sincere, yet also detached, low-key, non-judgemental.”
It was from Greg that I first heard of the concept of having “a fluid and flexible ego” (mentioned in my novel “Mystical Circles“).
An adept in Tibetan Dream Yoga, Greg possessed the gift of “shapeshifting”. I witnessed his face changing during the course of one of the dream yoga sessions. I later put this experience into my novel “Mystical Circles” when Juliet sees Craig’s face changing. I had by that stage learned that this is one of the arts of a shaman, and part of the skills of shapeshifting. I make no value-judgement at this point; I simply tell you what I have observed, and what has arisen from my own experience.
All these people were way-markers for me. It’s no accident that for me, my spiritual journey began with a mountain and that journey took me to another mountain, in Australia again.
As T.S. Eliot says in his poem “Little Gidding”:
For the end of all our exploring will be to arrive where we started and know the place for the first time (tweet this)
If you live in the UK, have you ever found a centre which runs courses like The Relaxation Centre of Queensland? Whatever you believe, does the work of this centre ring any bells for you? Do you identify with this journey? Share your thoughts and feelings with me about this journey of the spirit. I’d love to have your comments!