My I Spy: something beginning with ‘R’

It feels like the end of this alphabetical quest is approaching, although there is still quite a bit of spying to be done. After the challenge of Q, spying for R felt like being spoilt for choice. This is what I came across.




When I was growing up the record player was usually kept in a small, glassed-in room at the front of the house. It was a treat to be let loose and to be able to play from a selection of records, albums and singles such as these. There was an art to song selection, the careful alignment of needle and track. Rough handling led to scratches, the song lurching forward or being stuck in a groove. This stash of singles was spotted at an op shop. By chance, Racey was at the front with ‘Some Girls‘.




Not a huge leap, really, from records to radio. I like to have music on, especially when cooking or cleaning up. This radio picks up my local station and due to a mix of programs there is an element of surprise as to whether it will be a local program or something on a broader community network. I love the quirkiness of some of the shows, and the ease with which you can keep in touch with local news and events. It helps me to feel connected.




On a dull day the magenta flash of rosella wings provide a jolt of colour, irresistibly drawing the eye. There are variants of the rosella across Australia with deviations in plumage and shape. The birds were originally named after the locality of Rose Hill (near Parramatta). But rosella is also the name given to a native shrub or small tree which bears fruit. It is used in jams which may create a degree of confusion if you (like me) mentally associate the word with a beautiful bird. The fruit can also be used in tea, syrup or cordial.

Red hat at Leura

Red hat at Leura

Red Hat

I spotted this beautiful felt hat many moons ago when I spent a weekend in the mountains to see if it could be somewhere that I could call home. It was in one of the boutique shops in Leura Mall, a popular stroll for tourists. I love the shape of it.

Rhino at Cowra

Rhino at Japanese Gardens, Cowra


This brightly painted chap was visiting the Japanese gardens at Cowra when I spied him. Rather than looking incongruous he seemed to fit right in with the spring blossoms.

Have you spotted anything riveting beginning with R lately? Keep an eye on Autumn‘s excellent spying here, and is posting alphabet inspired posts on Instagram. Now I’m off to spy something beginning with S.


In Stillness: A Photographic Exhibition @ Everglades, Leura

It was one of those days when it would be so easy to stay at home. The weather was undecided, and then the skies darkened, a large storm approaching at speed. I waited until the worst of it was over before heading out, still feeling like it might have been a good call to stay put.

In driving rain I made my way to Everglades at Leura. I’d spotted a notice for a photography exhibition called ‘In Stillness‘ with the following blurb:

The photographs exhibited each draw on the essence of the Irish proverb, “In stillness, the world is restored”. The concept of stillness is explored by each photographer in their own way, with works ranging from monumental mountain landscapes to exquisite native birdlife to impressionistic interpretations of the landscape. The breadth of style and subject matter will give visitors to the exhibition a chance to join with the photographers in experiencing the concept of stillness in a myriad of forms.

There are three photographers exhibiting work: Louise Bishop, Fiona Huddleston and Dilshara Hill. Each photographer has an overall theme and style, but the work is complementary and creates the sense of stillness that it promises.

Winter is the setting for Bishop’s work, a time of ‘waiting, conserving, decaying and surviving’. The intrinsic stillness of this time of year, inherent in nature, is demonstrated in a myriad of forms including the nakedness of nature in winter. Decay is evident too, illustrated in landscapes and through dilapidated buildings. The quality of light itself is different in winter, and this too is captured in the work. Animals and landscapes feature throughout the photos, with a variety of textures and filters used for different effects. I particularly enjoyed the following: Sunrise, Kanimbla Valley; Once a Home, Hartley; and Winter, North Yorkshire Dales. The Hartley home is one that I have spotted on the Mid Hartley Road. I have also wondered at the lives that echoed within the old house.

Trees are the defining element of Fiona Huddleston’s photographs. They are identified as symbols of life, wisdom, strength and knowledge, amongst other things. Each part of the plant is revered: root, stem, leaf, trunk, branch. In her overview, Huddleston writes that her aim is to ‘endeavour to see rather than just look and to express rather than just capture’. Her exhibit is stunning in its range, with the works offering both depth and transparency. Tree of Contemplation, Tree of Connection and Tree of Imagination stood out for me, particularly with the gold highlights. It made me think differently about something that I see everyday.

Native birds feature in Dilshara Hill’s photographs. Her aim is to capture the world around her, recording the beauty in landscape and nature, and she hopes her work encourages and inspires others. The birds are captured in a striking array of poses: in bird baths, gracefully gripping grevillea, poised to take nectar from a camellia. And the range is broad: rainbow lorikeets, eastern spinebills, pelicans (a personal favourite), brolgas and zebra finches amongst others. The silvereye stood out, along with a clutch of fairy-wrens and an eastern yellow robin. But for me the showstopper was the gang-gang cockatoo, captured with a cheeky, over the shoulder look. I smile whenever I think of it.

There are prints and cards of some of the work available for sale, in addition to the exhibition pieces. When I wandered through, one of the photographers was there, providing an overview along with a friendly welcome. It was such a treat.

As I headed back through the mist-cloaked gardens of the Everglades, my mind was abuzz, filled with the wonderful images I had seen. Definitely worth leaving the house for.

Everglades Gardens Gallery, 5 – 27 November 2016, Wed – Sun 11 am – 3 pm.

[Photo: pool at Everglades as mist rolls in]


Be a Tourist at Home

The proximity of the Blue Mountains to Sydney makes it a popular tourist destination for weekends, short stays and longer visits. Within two hours by train, less by car, you can be in a different environment altogether with a wide assortment of activities to do and sights to see.

I have lived in the mountains now for over 3 years, but there is still a lot that I haven’t seen, and places I am yet to explore. If you have spent any time in Katoomba, you will be familiar with the big red double-decker buses and the brown trolley buses that offer all day tickets, along with various other packages to some of the attractions around the town and nearby villages. When I’m in Katoomba, I often see these buses full of tourists in all sorts of weather, pressed against the windows and generally having a good time. So I thought I’d give it a go.

On a fine spring morning I boarded a trolley tour outside the Carrington Hotel along with quite a few tourists ready to do a loop around Katoomba and Leura. We headed off to Leura, driving up the main street and stopping just around the corner – a handy spot to stop if you want to explore the many shops and boutiques. We then continued on, heading past Bygone Beauties which I have visited before. Then it was off to Leura Garden Resort, through the Leura Golf Club (oldest of the four golf clubs in the mountains) and past the Fairmont Resort. Everglades Garden is the next stop, a beautiful National Trust property with spectacular gardens. As we approached there was a magnificent peacock on the nature strip: apparently his name is Andrew and he is well-known in the area.

Once we turned onto Cliff Drive there was a succession of beautiful outlooks and views, including the Kiah, Honeymoon and Silvermist lookouts. Various walks are accessible from these points, and with buses coming by at regular intervals it’s possible to walk comfortable distances and get back on if required. The Three Sisters and Echo Point, perhaps the most recognisable of the lookouts, were next, before we headed past Lilianfels and towards Scenic World. This is yet another place I haven’t made it to yet, and it was good to get an idea of the layout as we passed by the east landing before continuing around past the Katoomba Falls to the main entrance.

There were various stops and points of interest on the way back into Katoomba before the trolley bus paused at the Carrington Hotel to fill up again.

It was a real treat to be a passenger, rather than a driver, and to be able to focus on the scenery rather than the road. The gardens throughout Katoomba and Leura are so lovely at this time of year, with beautiful blooms and exquisite garden design on display. Leura is famous for its garden festival in early October, and there were still many visual treats to be enjoyed. The driver provided an overview of the history of the towns and key places along the way, and this added to the experience.

Being able to get out and about, especially if you travel up by train, is made much easier by tours such as this. I really enjoyed the experience and have added quite a few things to my local to-do list.

Do you ever get the chance to be a tourist in your home town?

[View from Kiah Lookout]

Bygone Beauties: Treasured Teapot Museum & Tearooms, Leura

Tucked a block away from the main thoroughfare in Leura, Bygone Beauties is the home of the world’s largest private teapot collection. The collection spans over 5 centuries with teapots from all over the world and they have been predominately collected within Australia. The teapot collection commenced in 1974 when a geisha girl teapot was spotted by Ronald Hooper, a previous joint owner of the museum.

The museum reflects and preserves the diversity of tea drinking in Australia. The scope of the collection gives an indication of how wide-reaching the tea drinking culture extends around the world, with samples of teapots from Australia, America, Europe, Africa and Asia. The materials used in the making of teapots includes china, fine porcelain, silver and cast iron, to name a just a few.

A wide selection of teas is on offer in the tea room, along with morning and afternoon teas, traditional high tea and champagne high tea. There are light meals and refreshments, and the specialised teas can be purchased along with all sorts of tea-related paraphernalia.

The tradition of drinking tea has been honoured for centuries. For millions of people, it has been an integral part of the fabric of daily life, providing structure to the day at set intervals, offering familiarity and comfort in times of need. The phrase ‘tea and sympathy’ comes to mind.

Thinking about the ritual of tea drinking reminds me of a tea tray set with a well-used teapot, covered with a hand-knitted cosy, surrounded by a milk jug, sugar bowl, tea cups, saucers, spoons and a tea strainer. The loose leaf tea had been measured into the warmed teapot. Then there was the pouring of tea and the requests for the weaker first cups rather than the more robust later cups of tea. There were everyday, serviceable cups and saucers, made of a heavier china to withstand regular washing as well as the fine bone china sets which were used for special occasions, exquisitely decorated with flowers and intricate patterns. I am still compelled to check the bottom of cups and saucers when I come across them to see where they were made.

It was a delight to look around the teapot museum and see the extensive range and variety of teapots, cups, canisters and even tea cosies on display. There were some tea sets in smaller cabinets, and the collection is grouped into various sections including geography, age, novelty and Australiana. Silver teapots are displayed along with Art Deco style teapots; teapots were also used for advertising and were popular as souvenirs. Children were given miniature tea sets and there are several on display. There were the sturdy Brown Betty teapots as well as fine china that was almost transparent in its delicacy. It was thirsty work and I needed a cuppa after taking it all in.

Do you have a tea-drinking ritual or memory?

[Photo: detail of one of the many exquisite tea sets in the museum]

The Exhibition

I have been living in the mountains for about 3 years now, and it would be fair to say that I know very little about the place that continues to surprise and enchant me. It is a work in progress, and it is interesting to see what other people encounter when they visit briefly or live extensively in the mountains.

The Exhibition, which is currently showing at the Blue Mountains Cultural Centre in Katoomba, is a celebration of various works that capture some of the elements of the mountains and mountain life. It is the first showing of the gallery’s own collection and is a sample from over 90 significant artworks by local and Australian artists.

One of the original tourist attractions, Jenolan Caves, is featured in 5 canvases by Evan Macleod. The painting tracks the scale of the caves, ascending from the depths of the caves into the light. There is a series of 14 artworks consisting of various well-known spots in the mountains by Peter Kingston. These pieces capture the essence of many familiar places including Leura, Katoomba, Mt Wilson and the Hydro Majestic. I particularly enjoyed the beanied dog travelling on the Scenic Railway.

Another highlight was the portrait of Jenny Kee by Scott Marr. This is a fittingly vivid portrayal using pyrography and natural pigments on paper, honouring her love of the Australian landscape and devotion to Buddhism. There is also the portrait of Kee in the 2015 Archibald Exhibition showing in the gallery.  ‘Wollangambe Wilderness’ by John Caldwell was memorable, capturing the mountain landscape in a dark mix of blues, greens and greys, along with the crisp portrayal of rocks and vegetation. There is a rolling storm gathering around the mountains, true to life.

Four of Andrew Merry’s photographs are on display, and my eyes were drawn to the Casino Cupola of the Hydro Majestic. It is a magnificent photo of the iconic dome, and I was interested to read that it was captured using a cherry picker during very specific atmospheric and lighting conditions, 18 metres off the ground. Merry was the official photographer during the Hydro’s recent extensive renovations. His other photos depicted storms, sunlight and the devastation of scorched earth following bushfires. I also really enjoyed four pieces from the Black and Blue exhibition. This was a collaboration of artists and writers portraying stories, real and imagined, in visual and written form.

All of the pieces meet the selection criteria of excellence, relevance, value and ability to celebrate the cultural identify of the Blue Mountains.

How is the cultural identity of your neighbourhood displayed?

[Photo: Katoomba outlook from the viewing platform at the Blue Mountains Cultural Centre]

A Different Track

The journey from Sydney to the Blue Mountains by rail is a well-travelled one, particularly for the people who commute each work day to the city. Depending on where you start and finish, it can be quite a lengthy journey through the mountains and the ever-extending suburbs of Sydney.

On a Wednesday afternoon, I embarked from Central Station on the Indian Pacific. The Indian Pacific leaves every Wednesday, heading to Perth via Broken Hill and Adelaide. My journey took me to Adelaide in 24 hours.

I could quite easily rave about the train and the trip as it was extraordinary in many ways. Once I got over the excitement of getting onboard, patiently waiting whilst the two sections of the train were coupled together (it is too long for a single platform with 2 locomotives and 27 carriages on my trip), I settled back to watch the Sydney suburbs slip by before we began the slow climb up the mountains.

The gradual ascent was felt physically through the train – you could feel the engines at work, and I sat by the window entranced as it curved around the bends. There were sandstone segments as we approached Lapstone, moments of darkness through tunnels before bursting out amongst an ocean of trees. At Warrimoo there were houses tucked into gullies. Then a glimpse of a sandstone cottage built in 1867 near Springwood. Passing by the Corridor of Oaks at Faulconbridge, then scorched tree trunks came into view. There were vistas towards Sydney or acres of wilderness, depending on the turn of the track.

It was interesting to see what was familiar from a different angle, a higher viewpoint. I spotted some lovely character cottages near Hazelbrook, then we were running alongside the Great Western Highway and the shops and pub at Lawson sped into view. Little ferns poking out of stone walls, a kid practising discus near Wentworth Falls. As we approached Leura I saw the last lingering remnants of autumn colour and the beautiful sandstone cliffs in the distance. Then Katoomba, the soft glowing lights of guest houses, welcoming weary travellers. Tree branches slapping the side of the train, then the Hydro Majestic, lit up amongst the darkening shadows. Towards Blackheath, the depths and folds of the valleys in the last light, through Mount Victoria, last light over the Hartley valley.

Have you taken a different track on a well-travelled road?

[Photo taken near Emu Plains before the climb up the mountains]