Tag: photography

Voted into the house

After the trauma of my last houseshare interview, I was obviously in danger of accepting an offer from any strangers who smiled at me and liked Chinese food. Luckily, in my vulnerable state, no bad decisions were made.

Forty-five minutes late, I ran to the next house interview and met Damian and Andrea from New Zealand, their six year old boy, Neo, and Richard, an Englishman who works as a pirate at Madame Tussauds.

They had put up their ad on Gumtree only that morning and I was the sixth person to visit that day. They seemed easy-going, and sympathetically expressed horror at the idea of anyone banning garlic and onion in the house. Other goodness: they laughed at my jokes and have every season of House on DVD.

‘You know I like cooking,’ I said. ‘The other thing is that I really like is dancing.’

Andrea perked up. ‘What kind of dancing?’

‘My favourite is swing dancing.’

‘What kind of swing dancing?’

‘Well, do you know lindy hop?’

Andrea clapped excitedly. ‘I do lindy hop too!’

At that point, I thought, ‘In the bag!’

We talked for a bit longer, then it was time to go. Damian said, ‘You’re the last one we were waiting for before we made a decision. We’ll all have a chat between us now and I’ll call you to let you know what we decide.’

I left the house, thoughtful and tired. It was an eight minute walk to the tube station, then maybe another twenty-five minutes before I could get back to my temporary apartment to make dinner. Then my mobile phone rang.


‘Joan? It’s Damian. Have you ever seen X-Factor? Well, it was like that. We took a vote and you’re in. Are you interested?’

‘That’s great! Definitely. I’m really pleased.’

‘Can you come back during the week some time to pick up the keys? I guess you’ll move in on the weekend…’

‘Actually, I’m still near your house. You guys were just too quick on the voting. I can come back now if that’s convenient.’

Five minutes later, I was back at my new home. They gave me the key and I stayed to celebrate with a glass of wine and a home-cooked dinner, which definitely involved garlic!

I’ve been here for two weeks now and have finally gotten my room mostly organised. Here are the first photos. I will eventually rejig things so that the desk isn’t in such an awkward position.

Here’s the widest view I can get with my camera.

I bought the desk online and waited all last Saturday for the company to deliver it. When they didn’t come, I was pretty peeved. The desk arrived on Monday. Luckily, Damian was as sick as a dog that day so was home to pick it up. I spent Monday night, happily wearing my engineer’s hat, screwing things together and twirling my allen key. Now that I have a desk, I am more inclined to be on the internet. Hopefully I will blog more regularly now.

The curtains are quite flimsy and there is a street light outside my window. Orange light filters through, making it tricky to get to sleep. Damjan has given me one of those eye-cover things you got on aeroplanes (what are they called?) and that’s worked well — easier than buying new curtains!

I needed more shelf space but don’t have much room for it. Along with my desk, I ordered a set of seagrass baskets and have stacked them to make a reconfigurable shelf space. I’m really pleased at how they’ve turned out.

The sword in the wardrobe! Whoever can pull it out is the rightful king of England.

Going bush

Continuing on from last time, these pictures are from the main track of a bush conservation area about 1.5 kilometres (a mile) from my house.

This is what it basically looks like. I especially like coming here on a hot day because the path is shady and cool. It smells nice, like gumtree and onions (I think the onion smell comes from some kind of wild onion grass). However, right next to this scrap of nature is a golf course.

The air here is full of bird sounds. I brought my camera, hoping to photograph a flock of cockatoos that I’d seen here a few times. Unfortunately, there were no cockatoos when I went walking that day (there were two when I went out today, though!).

I did photograph this little bird. The following two photos come from the same snap. I don’t know which crop I prefer. I like the branches but compositionally, I’m told it’s often good to leave space in the direction that the subject is looking. I explained this to dad and he suggested using the computer to flip the bird around so that it was looking at the branches! Dilemma solved, eh.

Also, the photo isn’t very sharp. I don’t have steady camera hands. My photos often come out a bit fuzzy 🙁

Here’s a tree that caught my eye. You can’t see how big it is. I’d say it were four storeys high, so maybe 25 metres.

This is my favourite part of the walk. I am standing on a bridge over the creek I wrote about three years ago. It has been very dry for years. It used to be that I didn’t see those rocks on the riverbed at all.

Over the weekend, we’ve had thunderstorms and flooding rains. When I visited the creek this morning, it was serenely full. It was a happy sight.

Being full means that this sign by the creek is finally of use. On other days, the sight of the riverbed rocks themselves should be enough to warn even idiots off.

When I snapped that sign, I heard a voice behind me, which said, ‘Do you want me to smile?’

This couple was happy for me to take their photo. The gentleman told me that he had spent hundreds of dollars on a camera some years ago and now it was worthless. While we were talking about photography, a woman walked by with her dogs and the couple said hello and introduced me. It turns out the couple enjoy meeting new dogs.

The next lot of photos will be from the path going from the bush to the park. There are paddocks along the path so I promise there will be horses.

Pavement pounding

Near my house, there is a big suburban park. Sometimes I walk there in an effort to avoid degenerating into a lazy house slug. If I walk quickly, the return trip takes about 100 minutes. I go from my house, through a bush conservation area, beside some paddocks, then around the park lake.

Last week, I brought my camera on the walk. I thought it would be good to get photos of my favourite part of (tame) Australian bush. I ended up with about 180 photos. I want to share about 40 of them with you but so that you don’t fall asleep with boredom, I will spread my photo posts out over a couple of days.

The first bunch of photos are of the section of the walk that goes from my house to the bush conservation area. It’s about 15 minutes of pavement pounding.

Look! It’s the letterbox from almost two years ago. Strangely, the block is still empty. The grass has grown and the letterbox is a shell of it’s former self. I’m afraid its days of loyal service are over.

Coming back to Australia, I was bemused at how water conscious everyone is, even more than I was when I left. My parents and relatives use buckets to capture cold shower water — you know, when you’re waiting for the water to warm up before you jump in? My parents use the water to flush toilets. I’ve heard other people using it to wash dishes and water plants. It gives me hope that huge cultural change can happen very quickly, given enough government advertising.

You may have heard that a few days ago, a man was killed by a jogger who was upset at him watering his garden. I took photos of these signs in our neighbourhood. These signs are probably a sensible defence against against water rage.

I also spotted four or five of these huge backyard satellite dishes. If my grandma didn’t have one of these, I might have thought my neighbours were spying on each other. My grandma gets satellite TV from China and Taiwan.

These are mulberry ‘multiple fruits‘. There’s nothing special about them except that they always remind me of silkworms (Bombyx mori). Isn’t it amazing that a moth can turn these leaves into something that people will wear? I can’t imagine how anyone would have figured out that the cocoons of larvae could be made into beautiful material.

Do you know what this is? It’s a leaf from a really big cactus I saw in someone’s front yard. It looked like a slide.

You can tell that my writing is rusty. I can’t express myself with any sophistication, which is why I’m using phrases like ‘really big’.

The last photo is of two fire hydrants stacked on top of each other under a tree. I wonder why they’re like that? Was it vandalism or are they waiting to be picked up by a council maintenance worker?

The next lot of photos will be from the bush conservation area, which I mentioned three years ago.

Brighton weekend

Last weekend, Damjan and I went to Brighton, England’s most famous seaside town. We had a great time. More than any city I’ve visited in the UK, Brighton feels like Melbourne — full of young people, relaxed, and multicultural. We arrived in time for Brighton’s food festival. So not only did we enjoy the tourist guide attractions of the beach, tacky seaside pier and King George IV’s extravagant Royal Pavilion, but we also got to eat ate lots of the best kind of ethical (free range, organic, international and local) food.

Brighton’s beaches are a poor substitute for Australian beaches. Instead of sand, there are pebbles. The good thing about pebbles are that they don’t get into your shoes and clothes like sand does. They can be painful to walk on. The English Channel also makes for cold swims. I only waded in up to my legs.

Walking out of the street of our hostel, directly in front was the wreck of Brighton’s West Pier.

A lady from the Brighton West Pier Trust told us that it was in perfect condition in 1975. Here it is intact, with its concert hall and pavilion on the walkway to the big bit at the end (whatever it is).

Its private owner wanted to turn the pier into a casino but the local council refused permission. Having no other plans for the pier, the owner offered it to the council for £1 but the council declined because it couldn’t afford the upkeep. The pier was left to decay. The West Pier Trust was set up to raise money for its restoration. They finally managed to secure funding from the Government and private funding (£15mil each) but in 2003, there were two fires. The pier was already falling apart so fire was the final straw and the structure was completely gutted. Also gutted was the funding from the government (bye bye, £15mil). The Trust now says they’re going to build a massive needle tower type thing in front of the pier that will somehow save the whole project. Erm. Right.

When we walked by the beach each morning, we saw this fellow with the metal detector. We once saw him stretching and flexing. He looked funny.

The Royal Pavilion was unlike any castle I had visited in England. King George IV was a party dude. He liked clothes, food, women, food, music and food. Over about 35 years, he turned his Brighton holiday farm house into this ‘fantasy palace’. They tried to make it look Indian on the outside and Chinese on the inside. I giggled at some of the attempts at ‘Chinoise’ styling by people who had never been to China.

Damjan’s favourite room in the palace was the huge kitchen. It had all the latest mod cons from the 1800s — self-turning spits, steam tables to keep food warm, exhaust vents. We saw a menu for one of the daily feasts. It had 36 entrées and many more dishes.

We didn’t know that the food festival was going on when we planned our trip. We had stepped out of the Royal Pavilion and suddenly saw tents in the garden. At the first tent, someone offered me a strawberry and banana smoothie. All I had to do was blend it by riding this bike. I was delighted that someone had also thought of harnessing the energy of stationery bikes. Imagine if we could have blenders on our normal bikes. We’d all have smoothies by the time we got to work.

At the food festival, there was a table full of sage plants. I never knew there was such a variety. Pineapple sage?

On the left are giant turnips. On the right are tiny pumpkins.

Like Melbourne, Brighton has laneways of shops, cafés and restaurants. We visited a nice art gallery, a very fun kitchenware store, a shop of well designed futons, outdoor adventure stores, ethnic grocery stores, and quite a few eateries and bakeries. The last three photos are from the Lego shop.

You can buy individual Lego pieces from these portholes. It reminded me of M&M land in Las Vegas, where you can buy every colour M&M in existence.

Even Lego figures like to play basketball and soccer.

Shiny transparent red and blue bricks.

While we were in the Lego store, Damjan and I thought, ‘They should make movies out of Lego!’ And then, what did we find on YouTube?

The Han Solo Affair

Indiana Jones (hehe, watch for the twist)

Amazing Lego dancing on Michael Jackson’s ‘Thriller

And a rap music video, Circle Circle Dot Dot.

Scouting the Lakes

I do lots of fun things. Two weeks ago, I went to the Lake District (my second visit) to look around the town of Ambleside. The next batch of scholars are coming to Cambridge in September and will spend four days kayaking, hiking, and building giant newspaper towers at the Lake District.

Rachel, Tristan, Danielle and I hired a car and made the five hour trip north. We wandered the town, scoping out any pubs that could handle a hundred post-graduate students, visited the home of the ‘best gingerbread in the world’, put together a treasure hunt, and toured a countryside mansion. We spent the night at Ambleside YHA, which will be hosting the camp in September.

Here is the view ten metres from the front door of the YHA.

Windermere Lake

America in food form

Our house celebrated Independence Day with a BBQ today. I stuffed myself silly with cookies, brownies, strawberries, pie, watermelon, zucchini bread and a concoction of orange, cottage cheese and whipped cream. Then, when dessert was done, I had a homemade hamburger and hot dogs, hot off the grill, plus a Southern pasta salad and American chilli. I am so sad that I am too full to eat any more food.

Vegetarian kebabs

Blueberry pie, which was declared, ‘America in food form’.


What Independence Day party would be complete without an American flag cake?


I went to Oxford on the weekend for my first gig as the designated photographer (I was paid in food, drink and dancing). The event was the Balliol College MCR garden party, ‘A Summer Night at Sea’. I learned something about being an event photographer: because you don’t know the people, it’s difficult to remember if you got everyone at some point during night.

Seaside weekend at Sheringham

This weekend, I went stayed at a seaside town called Sheringham, about two hours north-east of Cambridge. I went with 34 fellow scholarship holders and their friends. We played kickball on the beach, had a hog roast feast (delicious, although perhaps not politically correct), and played Scrabble until one in the morning.

Beach houses, which people can buy to store their bathing gear, deck chairs, and surfboards. Such houses can be very expensive.

It was very, very foggy. You can’t see it from this photo (I adjusted the contrast). It was funny to see someone pushing a stroller a foggy beach.

Sand anti-buckets.

The beach was very pebbly in places. Friends delighted in how smooth and beautifully patterened the rocks were. As I understand, the smoother the rock, the older it is because it has had time to erode away.

Lunch! They fed us roast pork and pork crackling (yum…), stuffing, roast potato and chicken, green salad, potato salad, mustard, apple sauce, and chives in Crème fraîche. Dessert was fruit salad, strawberry cheesecake and some sort of chocolate caramel cake.

There were a lot of big rocks. They had furrows on the surface, showing where they had been drilled out of a larger monolith. I think someone told me that the rocks were transported to Sheringham from Scotland. Maybe it was Wales.

For Cambridge students, I thought we were pretty bad at spelling and vocabulary, actually. Ian and Rebecca put down ‘sinned’, then ‘atoned’. That’s spiffy.

It says, ‘Probably the Largest Cone in the World’.