An ordinary person's thoughts on the complexities of art & life ...

An ordinary person's thoughts on the complexities of life ... or just ramblings from the mind of a working Mum with far too little time to think!

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Seductive Melbourne

The graceful and infinitely charming city of Melbourne, my favourite Australian city, has often been voted one of the most livable cities on earth.

It is a city that will most definitely get under your skin - a warm and welcoming city of parks, beaches, outdoor cafes, art-filled city laneways and old-style trams that glide along broad, tree-lined boulevards.

Situated along the north side of the strangely brown Yarra River, known locally as the 'upside down' river for its muddy surface, this beautiful city is the capital of the state of Victoria and home to the infamous Ned Kelly and his gang.

The architecture is a very interesting mix of 19th-century European elegance and modernistic skyscrapers, built on a virtually flat plain with barely an incline to be seen. 

Though it is seen as Australia’s second city, Melbourne is Australia's capital of avant-garde and is a genuine cosmopolitan oasis.

Melbourne’s citizens come from many diverse backgrounds that span multiple ethnicities and its many bars, cafes and restaurants draw on the best from Europe, Asia and the Middle East whilst still retaining the relaxed laid-back feel typical of Australia.

The enticing network of laneways and arcades that exist between the city’s grid of main streets laden with street art provide much of Melbourne’s famed artistic soul. 

Some are tiny alleyways covered in the most colourful and imaginative graffiti art, whilst others are laneways connecting main roads and are fronted by exciting shops, galleries, warehouses and cafes.

One of my favourite places when visiting Melbourne is the St Kilda Pier, a requisite for romantics, poets, painters and musicians. 

The long timber pier juts off the foreshore, it’s elegant lines leading to the reconstructed historic lemon-yellow kiosk. 

The views of the Bay from here are wonderful, as are the views of the city skyline through the masts of the St Kilda Yacht Club.

Further along the Esplanade is the iconic Luna Park, an old-style amusement park entered by passing through 'Mr Moon’s' giant open mouth.

The City centre lies just to the north of the Yarra River, its wide streets and magnificent old buildings reminding us of Melbourne’s glorious colonial past when the city was considered the most British of Australian cities.

The imposing Flinders Street Station, Australia’s oldest train station, is still as impressive as it was when it was built at the height of the Federation era in 1910.

Across the road is the unique architecture of the modern, but equally impressive Federation Square, built in the 1990’s to be the city’s cultural and events hub.

Framed within the modern lines of the angled glass of the entrance to Federation Square, the magnificent St Paul’s Cathedral looks as though it has been transported from a fairy story and placed opposite Federation Square.

This beautiful Anglican church was constructed between 1880 and 1891 in the Gothic transitional style by English architect William Butterfield.

Built above the Melbourne Central train station, the Melbourne Central Shopping Centre is one of the largest shopping centres in the CBD and well worth a visit. 

It houses a distinctive landmark of Melbourne under an 84metre glass dome - the fully preserved Coops Shot Tower building, one of only five Shot Towers built in the late 1800’s in Australia.

Melbourne is also well known for its broad performing arts offerings and the Arts Centre housing the State Theatre, Playhouse, Fairfax Studio and George Adams Gallery is found right under the famous silver spire reaching high into the heavens.

Docklands is Melbourne’s new waterfront precinct, build on the site of a former industrial port. The sculptural Webb Bridge is just one of a few architectural wonders in that area.

It was built as an integrated artwork that would function as a pedestrian and cyclist bridge and represents the Koori fish traps, drums and baskets once used by the Aboriginal people to harvest this fertile land.

Strolling around Docklands and along the banks of the Yarra at Southbank, there is plenty of beautiful public art to explore and admire. The following are just a few examples.

Occupying the site of Melbourne’s historic Turning Basin, five large figureheads reflect upon the ethnic and cultural diversity of those who worked in the basin during the early years of settlement.

‘The Blowhole’ is a huge animated wind-powered beacon that reflects the area’s maritime history. It uses the prevailing strong winds to form a complex galaxy of colourful orbiting balls.

The enchanting 1885 Tall Ship, the Polly Woodside now residing at Docklands, has been restored by the National Trust of Victoria and is a tangible reminder of Australia’s rich maritime history and the importance of Tall Ships to the settlement of Australia.

‘The Travellers’, magnificent towering steel sculptures depicting the story of the arrival of migrants to Melbourne adorn the historic Sandridge rail bridge, a tribute to Australia’s multicultural heritage.

Melbourne is such an exciting place to visit time and time again. Each visit there is more to explore and more to discover – and so much more to photograph! 

It is a city you really need to get to know. It is warm, welcoming and generous and worth discovering for yourself.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

The Joy of Christmas

As Christmas draws near and I listen to my friends talking excitedly about their plans for special celebrations with their loved ones, and I see my daughters making long lists of gifts to buy for friends and family, I think of all those people around the world who will not experience the joy of Christmas this year.

Just in Australia, nearly 1 in every 200 citizens is homeless. That translates to around 105,000 people with no home, and one quarter of these are children.  And this is in one of the most privileged countries in the world!

Homeless Assistance Services are under increasing financial pressure and are unable to cope with the numbers of people needing a roof over their heads. Recent statistics show that almost 80% of families requesting assistance are currently being turned away each day.

And Christmas, such a joyous and happy time for so many of us, is the saddest and loneliest time of year for those in need … and especially so for the children.

No child deserves be left out of the magic and hope that is Christmas!

It is such an important part of childhood to look forward to Christmas - to write a secret letter to Santa; to ask for that special something you have been wishing for and hoping for all year; to go to bed on Christmas Eve so excited that you can barely sleep; to wake up early on Christmas morning to the magic and excitement of opening a wrapped gift waiting just for you under the tree ... and then that special celebratory Christmas meal with family and friends.

Yet, for so many families battling to cope, there are just no extra dollars to provide even one small gift for their children to open on Christmas morning, let alone a celebratory meal. 

And for the families without homes, even keeping their children warm and free from hunger this Christmas is impossible.

The charities and organizations set up to assist the homeless and needy are all struggling to keep up with the demand for their services.  They desperately need people who care to give of their time or money in order to extend their reach over the Christmas period.

Perhaps it is up to each one of us to bring Christmas to at least one child in need this year.

It is so easy to spend just a little less on each of our very indulged children or friends, and use that money to buy something special for a homeless child.

It is also so easy to pick up the phone and pledge an amount, or purchase a gift and drop it off at one of the convenient charity offices in most cities.

It takes more effort, but it is so worthwhile to be in a position to give just a few hours of our time to help with collecting gifts, wrapping gifts, delivering gifts, or helping to prepare or serve a meal at homeless shelters over the Christmas holidays.

In fact, we should all visit a homeless shelter.  We should all see firsthand how people just like you and I and their children, due to factors such as domestic violence, family breakdown, debt, unemployment and mental health, have ended up homeless and without hope this Christmas.

We should all get involved this Christmas in some way to help those less fortunate than us.

Let’s actually do it! Let’s all make a pledge to give the joy of Christmas to at least one homeless child in our city this December.

And if we are struggling ourselves and can’t afford to help, let us all remember the homeless, the poor and the needy this Christmas, if only in our prayers.