Sole Sister

Cruising in the single lane


Perfect one day, perfect the next

Is there any more perfect spot in winter than Noosa Heads? Maybe I’m biased but I reckon Noosa has to take the prize, at least for Australia.

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When the kids were young we owned a unit in Noosa and took every opportunity to escape Brisbane for time out at this little piece of Paradise. Post-unit ownership trips have been less frequent, but it remains one of my favourite places, especially in winter.

Who can ignore those breathtaking views from the National Park looking back across Laguna Bay to the Hinterland, the horizon broken by old volcano cores such at Mt Cooroy, one of many in the region which includes the famous Glasshouse Mountains?  Or looking across to that wonderful stretch of beach up the Cooloola coastline to Double Island Point?

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As ever on a sunny Noosa winter’s day, the balmy air encourages surfers, swimmers and beachcombers to soak up the rays and the walkers emerge in numbers to pound the coastal tracks. Surely some of the world’s best  views to exercise by. Often on walks back then we would see koalas in the trees. A giveaway was a crowd of people at the base of a huge old gum, but another was the distinctive smell – probably koala pee.  No luck on this visit despite checking favourite old haunts.

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No koalas home today.

When we were regular National Park walkers the spectacular pandanus trees for which the park is renowed were in trouble with an insect pest causing significant die back. It was wonderful to see many healthy specimens along the paths so maybe the crisis is over. I note that pandanus like a sunny position and a frost-free environment so Noosa National Park is a perfect home.

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Pandanus…looking good.

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Noosa River mouth and the wonderful stretch of  Cooloola coastline to Double Island Point.



My generation well remembers the pre-migrant culinary landscape – meat-and-three-veg nightly, weekend roast (not knocking that!) and chicken once a year. Prosciutto? Laksa? Sushi? Not on the radar. It’s hard to believe that in my generation’s lifetime we’ve gone from that food culture to today’s multicultural gastronomic abundance. 

A Sydney visit this week allowed me to experience a  new chapter in our Italian-influenced culinary cookbook, Mosman’s Fourth Village Providore, a one-stop eating experience that tempts the taste buds from the front deli, bakery, fromagerie and greengrocer to the rear bar, restaurant and gelaterie. Not only is it an eating one-stop-shop, the owners – Peter Quattroville and family from whom the Fourth Village takes its name – grow and make much of the produce on their own 100-acre farm in the Hunter Valley, including their own wines.

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For lunch we tucked into shared platters of shoestring calamari and zucchini fritti with limencello mayo, and mozzarella, roast potato, pork sausage, smoked cheese and truffle oil pizza, accompanied by a crisp rose. Paddock-to-plate vertical integration at its best!

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Baby talk

My two-year-old grandson is in the process of learning to talk. Fascinating, and made more so by his being in a two-language household. Both languages – English and Japanese – are emerging with no obvious preference. Luckily, at this stage, my limited Japanese can cope with the Japanese bits.

Now on a maternal home visit, it’s his Japanese grandparents who are juggling the transnational language barrier. My daughter-in-law emailed that her parents spoke to him in Japanese, but he replied in English, which they cannot understand, much to their consternation.

There are theories about language development in two-language households. Should each parent speak to the child only in his or her mother tongue, at least in the development phase? Does hearing and acquiring two languages inhibit initial development while the child absorbs contrasting grammatical patterns? While at this stage not speaking a lot of either language my grandson obviously understands well what is being said in both.


In an interesting article in The Conversation online newspaper, University of Canberra Senior Lecturer in Language, Literacy and TESL (teaching English as a second language), Misty Adoniou, urges our politicians and policy makers to recognise and nurture the resource of our bilingual students, which she describes as the greatest wasted resource in our schools and the waste of a precious economic resource. While in the rest of the world speaking only one language is abnormal, she wrote, we position second language learning as unusual and difficult. “We spend millions of dollars cajoling monolingual students to take up foreign language study and ignore our bilingual students,” she wrote.

Misty Adoniou describes bilingual brains as more flexible, more creative and better at problem solving. She said being bilingual means that, cognitively, students are the most advantaged learners in our schools.

With my grandson being in a Japanese-only environment for a while, I’m confident before long he’ll be replying in Japanese to his Japanese grandparents.  By the time he returns I’ll be the one trying to work out what he’s saying. Thank goodness for Skype!



A winter’s tale

Winter is my favourite season. Notwithstanding getting up in the dark and cold, and biting westerly winds, I love winter’s toasty warm rooms, open fires, pea and ham soup, colourful sweaters and scarfs, wearing a coat, and Queensland’s stunning azure winter skies and sublime temperatures.

IMG_1837Jack Frost was here. 



These last few days the soup pot has been bubbling overtime with overnight temperatures dropping to around 4 degrees and below in inner-Brisbane suburbs and frost whitening suburban lawns. And my heart went out to schoolgirl rowers on the Indooroopilly reach of the river as they braved the early-morning chill. It brought back memories of delivering my secondary schoolgirl daughter to rowing training in the pre-dawn winter darkness. Capsizing was not an option!

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One of Queensland’s coldest spots is Oakey on the Darling downs, one of my childhood homes. The mercury dropped to -6 degrees there this week. I recall my mother saying the only heating we had in those early post-war years was the kitchen wood stove. She would sit on a chair and put her feet in the oven to warm up in the mornings.

Living in Canberra was an experience in a genuinely cold climate, frosts and fogs frequently lasting to mid-afternoon. Heated windscreens and rear windows were not a common feature of 1970s’ cars, especially those we could afford. I recall friends who would judge the early morning temperature by how many buckets of warm water were needed to clear the ice. A three-bucket morning was a bone-chiller.

But these are the musings of temperate clime dweller. If I was a native of Alaska, or Russia – or Iceland – I may not be so fond of winter.






The road to Damascus

Anyone who has enjoyed the hospitality of the Syrian people and wondered at the country’s amazing treasure trove of antiquities will be despairing at current events. The destruction of lives and dreams and the displacement of millions are an unfolding tragedy; the vandalising and looting of irreplaceable cultural riches a catastrophe.

Reports in recent days that one of the last remaining border crossings between Syria and Iran has been commandeered by ISIS forces seems like another nail in the coffin.  It brought back memories of traveling unperturbed less than four years ago, cruising aboard a bus past the turnoff to the Iraq border crossing on the road to Damascus.

IMG_1102edThe road to Damascus…or Iraq

Just before that fork in the road we had lunched at the eclectic Bagdad Café which I described in my diary as  “a flourishing enterprise offering homemade jam, yoghurt, omelettes of home-laid eggs, dips and pickles, backpacker accommodation, artisan gifts. The young entrepreneur behind Bagdad Café has already opened two others and obviously has plans for expansion”.

What of this young entrepreneurs dreams now? Does the Bagdad Café still exist?


The eclectic Bagdad Cafe…in better days. 

At a timely lecture this week on the ancient history of Syria, focusing the rule of the Hittites from around the 12th century BC, Professor Trevor Bryce a former Professor of Classics and Ancient History at the University of New England and long-time visitor to the region, lamented the paucity of information on the fate of people and places.   He reminded that Syria, at the crossroads of ancient empires from the east, west, north and south, has been buffeted throughout the millennia by ambitious rulers. Looks like nothing much has changed in the 21st century.