Back to a Land Down Under


It is January 2019 and this is becoming a habit, leaving  a miserable UK winter for what is becoming an annual tradition for us, escape to the sun in Australia. This trip is no different, an extended tour ending up in Melbourne with friends and family.

So after spending over 21 hours on 2 aircraft (for the aviation geeks, an Airbus A380 and A350 from Singapore Airlines), a 17 hour stop-over in Singapore, we finally staggered in to Brisbane to an overcast sky and recent rain! Why Brisbane you may ask, you were there two years ago? Well, Lyn was so taken with the place on our last visit, she has always wanted to return……so here we are for summer acclimatisation and the intention of exploring more of Brisbane in the 2 days we have.

There is a perceived wisdom in travelling that you never go back.  You can’t recreate what you experienced the first time.  Then, experiences are all fresh and new.  Going back brings with it some familiarity and what was fresh has become, well, familiar, and less exciting.  Thus it was the following morning, after a long sleep we re-visited the breakfast/coffee shop we found and enjoyed on our first visit.  It was still there, however the staff had changed and the atmosphere different.  It seemed a bit tatty and unkempt and the service brusque and a little charmless. Not what we remembered.  Never go back!  Fatigue probably had much to do with our mood but eating breakfast here was not as pleasurable as we remembered.

Welcome back to Brisbane – Out and about on our first day back

Our first day was to be an easy one, time to relax, reset the body clock to Australian time, and get gently active after so long sitting on a jet.  We decided on a walk to the Arts complex on the South Bank. I wrote about this in our first Brisbane Blog two years ago.  We needed lifting and a gallery often does it for us, even if some of the exhibits in this place are “a bit odd”.  Many featured work by artists and sculptors from around the Asian region and were as diverse as could possibly be.  One exhibit featured four bundles of tied up fabric piled upon a long board painted blue. At one end a wall had been taken over by another sculptor/artist who had created a floor to ceiling collection of short lengths of rope, knotted in a loop and hooked to a backing. On one end of each piece of rope a piece of coloured wool had been woven around.  I looked at it close up, I looked from a distance, I looked from the other end of the piles of bundled cloths thinking they were linked (they were not). In the end I gave up and walked away, wondering what was going on in this persons mind to create such stuff…….or am I a complete philistine?

Some of the Exhibits I did not comprehend:  Top:  Map of Technological Ethics by Qiu Zhijie – “Depicts an archipelago of moral quandaries in applied science” and is painted on a wall of the gallery.  Bottom left:  La Grande Jatte by Rasheed Araeen – a nine panel work depicting American forces in the Middle East and juxtaposes references to western imperialism and colonialism with images of art and conflict in the Islamic world. (His words, not mine) Actually it is the US version of the Harrier jet, the AV8B.                      Bottom Right: Not Sure, I think a representation of the power of destruction.  

One exhibit that I did understand and like was by Jonathan Jones, from the Kamilaroi/Wiradjuri people in New South Wales.  His exhibit which was untitled suggested that  “Understanding Wind is an important part of understanding country.  Wind brings change, knowledge and new ideas to those prepared to listen”  The work, made up of pebbles and feathers woven to represent birds and set on a  swirling weave is very effective at re-creating the current of the winds in pictoral form.

Two images of the Jonathan Jones exhibit.  The whole thing was a figure of eight

The showcase exhibition in the nearby State Library of Queensland however was actually quite interesting.  Frank Corley was one of a number of commercial house photographers who worked in Brisbane from the late 1950s onwards, selling photographs of suburban homes to their owners, often in the form of calendars. He used to journey around the suburbs of Brisbane and other towns in Queensland in his pink trademark Cadillac taking photographs of homes whilst his wife Eunice followed in a van equipped to process the film.  The resultant images were then sold to local residents by a team of door to door salesmen.  In his career it is estimated that he shot over half a million images and today Corley’s photographs represent an important and unparalleled survey of suburban Brisbane during postwar decades, capturing the city during an important time of transition and expansion. The exhibition featured many of these images in collage with biographical snatches of the couple.  The interesting thing is that, although the images were not of brilliant compositional quality, it illustrated the type and variety of homes being built, each one looked different, unlike many of the estates in the UK where all the houses look the same.  Sadly no photographs were allowed in this exhibition.

Brisbane is blessed with many parks and gardens, indeed the City Botanical Garden is about 30 seconds from our hotel and a wonderful place for an early morning walk/run.  However there is another, newer Botanical Garden about 5 miles from the city centre sitting on the side of Mount Coot-tha, Brisbane’s highest mountain.  These gardens are a short bus ride from the city centre.

The Brisbane Botanical Gardens, Mt Coot-tha  were completed only in 1976 having taken six years to develop.  The Gardens have many attractions including the Sir Thomas Brisbane Planetarium and a wonderful Japanese Garden designed by Kenzo Ogata. I was particularly inspired by this garden, as I am in the middle of a garden rebuilding project at home and was looking for ideas I could reproduce on a smaller scale!

Four views of the Japanese Garden with water being a key feature. 

We came across several spiders webs with attached spiders.  This one is called the Coastal Golden Orb Weaver Spider.  They are harmless!

Tucked away on top of a hill in one corner of the garden was the National Australia Remembers Freedom Wall.  It is not a memorial wall but was built to honour servicemen and women who gave their lives in all theatres of war but also to honour all who were involved, including the millions of civilians who played their part in maintaining Australia’s freedom.  On this wall are inscriptions commemorating these personal sacrifices.  A fitting and beautiful place to honour those people.

Images from the National Australia Remembers Freedom Wall.  It is unique as all plaques are from remaining family, friends and work colleagues.  There is a National Memorial in Canberra.

Numerous trails led around the forested slopes, past a lake, and pockets of interest including a clearing featuring a garden planted only with native plants found in a typical Brisbane garden. The whole garden was a lovely peaceful place and well worth the bus fare out there.  The garden, owned and run by the city council,  was free to get in and the bus fare about £4 for two of us one way. Very reasonable and a great day out.

This was a short visit to Brisbane, we move on quickly to Coloola Cove, a coastal village about 3 hours drive north of Brisbane on the Sunshine Coast for a few days exploring this area of Queensland.

Finally, four images of us and the view from Eagle Street Pier on our last evening in “Brizzie”







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