Let’s forget all the things that we say

Julia Stone. At the Toff. I could have leaned over and touched her. There is something very exciting about seeing a musician live, on the stage, a metre away having listened to their albums over and over, the tracks forming the cinematic backdrop to many thoughts, journeys and nights at home on the red couch. And she was better than I expected even and so real and vulnerable and sincere, revealing her nerves and the story of missing out on the friend she realised she had fallen in love with. I wanted to have a cup of tea with her and talk some more.

All too soon it was over, the feeling of being caught in a spell, a moment outside of time, caught in the energy of Julia Stone.



Stone walls do not a prison make, nor iron bars a cage

Port Arthur. 60 kilometres south-east of Hobart on the Tasman Peninsula. From 1833 to 1853, Port Arthur was home to some of Britain’s hardest criminals. It was the place they sent the convicts who had re-offended or who just would not ‘behave’. Port Arthur had some of the strictest measures of the British penal system. Port Arthur was an example of the Separate Prison type or ‘model prison’. This was based on theories put forward by Jeremy Bentham, an English author, jurist, philosopher, and legal and social reformer. The Separate Prison model signaled a shift from physical to psychological punishment. The idea behind it was that physical punishment such as whippings and beatings only hardened criminals and did nothing to reform them. The Separate Prison and its Silent System was supposed to allow time for the prisoner to reflect upon the actions which had brought him there. Prisoners were hooded and made to stay silent. Many of the prisoners in the Separate Prison developed mental illness from the lack of light and sound.

Walking around the property and exploring the buildings, the weight of the things that had gone before was palpable. The memories or the ghosts, perhaps, were almost like a presence.

I got a story for you – once you’re dead, you’re dead

MONA – the Museum of Old and New Art. It is the largest privately funded museum in Australia. The museum presents antiquities, modern and contemporary art from the David Walsh collection. David Walsh described the new museum as a “subversive adult Disneyland.

I had to visit MONA twice. On Saturday afternoon I went for a preliminary visit and then I went back for more on Monday. It was sensory overload. I felt as though I’d stepped inside someone else’s head. You get given iPod like things which you out around your neck and which tell you on the screen about the artworks. Some of them have accompanying audio; interviews with the artist, the artist yodelling, music. There is also a summary of the work and extra articles that may have been written about them.

The Museum itself is an architectural masterpiece. It takes 30 mins from the Hobart pier down the Derwent river to Mona and suddenly it’s there on a promontory, distinctive for its red rusted effect.The building goes down into the bowels of the earth. And the suggestion is to take the spiral staircase down to the bottom and work your way up. There are a myriad of rooms and walkways and spaces and ‘hidden’ bits. And it is absolutely a mixture of old and new. Sarcophagus, Damien Hirst, a room devoted to very beautiful but foul-smelling science lab paraphernalia which was a ‘poo’ machine. There is sculpture, painting, photography, conceptual. I was overwhelmed and I loved it.

One of a kind

Hobart. Australia’s second oldest capital after Sydney.

Blue sky, golden sunlight filtering through trees which are still holding on to their autumn raiment, sampling Tasmanian whisky at 10 o’clock in the morning at the Salamanca market, hearing French people chatting…Hobart turned it on for me, and I fell in love with it. Immediately. In that giddy sort of way, where there is a heightened sense of appreciation for life and everything just feels as though it has fallen into place. That’s what I felt in Hobart. I’m pretty sure I spent the whole weekend walking around with a big smile.

For me, Hobart was about all five senses. I felt as though I was constantly assailed by experiences which swept in, filled me up and left me feeling all the more rich for having had that experience.

I had my list of Things One Must Do When In Hobart and there was a lot of ticking going on.

Tasmanians feel a little like New Zealanders in their pride for the uniqueness of their state. The stunning landscape, the crisp golden light, the food and the wine are all reason to be proud.

Mark Twain, the American novelist, travelling through the colony on a lecture tour, arrived in Hobart in 1895:

‘Suddenly Mount Wellington, massive and noble like his brother Etna, literally heaves in sight, sternly guarded on either hand by Mounts Nelson and Rumney; and presently we arrive at Sullivan’s Cove – Hobart. It is an attractive town. It sits on low hills that slope to the harbour – a harbour that looks like a river, and is as smooth as one. Its still surface is pictured with dainty reflections of boats and grassy banks and luxuriant foliage… How beautiful is the whole region, for form, and grouping, and opulence and freshness of foliage, and variety of colour, and grace and shapeliness of the hills, the capes, the promontories; and then, the splendour of the sunlight, the dim rich distances, the charm of the water-glimpses!’

I wish I had said that. But Mark Twain got there first.