Four Years

Canberra MH17 Service 26th July 2014298-mh17-candles

Today marks four years since the Russian military shot down passenger plane MH17 over the warzone in Ukraine.

Above is the service we held for ambassadors and politicians at the Ukrainian Orthodox Church in Canberra in 2014 (twenty-seven Australians were killed in the disaster). In the first picture ambassadors and other embassy representatives from countries including the Netherlands, Malaysia, and the United States can be seen on the left.

The second is a cross surrounded by 298 candles – one for each victim of the attack.

A Reminder

Over the days of the World Cup Third Place Playoff and Final, please remember that nobody should be enjoying soccer on Russian soil while the country is actively invading Ukraine, killing thousands of their neighbours, committing war crimes in Syria, assassinating political dissidents, torturing teenagers to death, committing ethnic cleansing in Crimea, shooting down airliners, illegally occupying parts of Georgia, illegally occupying parts of Moldova, committing war crimes in Ukraine, persecuting Catholics and Muslims and Jews, and actively trying to destroy Western democracies.

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Ukrainian artist Andriy Yermolenko has created an alternative series of posters for the FIFA World Cup in Russia which is set to start on 14 June. war

A Reminder

Over the days of the World Cup Semi-Finals, please remember that nobody should be enjoying soccer on Russian soil while the country is actively invading Ukraine, killing thousands of their neighbours, committing war crimes in Syria, assassinating political dissidents, torturing teenagers to death, committing ethnic cleansing in Crimea, shooting down airliners, illegally occupying parts of Georgia, illegally occupying parts of Moldova, committing war crimes in Ukraine, persecuting Catholics and Muslims and Jews, and actively trying to destroy Western democracies.

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Ukrainian artist Andriy Yermolenko has created an alternative series of posters for the FIFA World Cup in Russia which is set to start on 14 June

Cartier: The Exhibition

Cartier The Exhibition National Gallery of Australia Canberra

Just a little bit too much?!

Australia’s National Gallery, which is here in Canberra, has had some pretty amazing “blockbusters” recently (however I’m worried about the new director coming in soon).

The last big one I went to see was the Versailles exhibition, where So Much stuff from the Palace of Versailles, and so many historically significant pieces, were brought out from France for a few months.

Now, we have the Cartier exhibition – which is ending in a few days. We went to see it on Saturday.

And – wow. For starters I can’t believe that there was no security of any sort when there were billions of dollars of diamonds and other precious jewels on display.

They weren’t just any diamonds either; these were pieces from Britain’s royal collection, things the Queen wears, tiaras from royal weddings (e.g. the one Kate Middleton wore for hers), and crowns worn by Queen Victoria’s daughters. And these were pieces from Hollywood: jewels that belonged to Elizabeth Taylor, Grace Kelly etc. There was even a clock belonging to a US President.

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These heiresses were seriously rich!

It was also fascinating to see how much money was coming from Gilded Age New York. So many obscenely enormous sets of jewels belonged to the American heiresses who married into the British aristocracy – just like in shows like Downton Abbey, and in all those books I read.

There were also other things, like costumes from the Ballet Russes (the NGA bought most of the world-famous company’s costumes many years ago, before anybody else thought to), and pieces belonging to Victorian/Edwardian opera star Dame Nellie Melba.

I was told that two hours wasn’t long enough to see everything, and I thought that was ridiculous: after all how many diamonds could there possibly be?

It turns out two hours was nowhere near long enough.

DIamond Tiara Cartier The Exhibition National Gallery of Australia Canberra

I’ve seen crown jewel collections in a number of countries in Europe. I’ve been whisked past a handful of crowns at the Tower of London on a travellator a few times. Nothing I’ve seen anywhere else is close to what is on display in Canberra at the moment.

This is how close we got to things – even with a weekend crowd. This is Kate Middleton’s wedding tiara:

I’m really hoping the new director realises what an amazing gallery we have here. His “vision” for the gallery’s future sounds, frankly, like garbage. I want more Versailles and Cartier and Impressionists exhibitions, please. Not “homegrown modern art”!

To China

In a spur-of-the-moment thing, I am now booked on a trip to China for November. It’s going to be a bit of a rush, as I’m not back from England until October and China requires a visa (which begins the moment it’s issued, so you cannot get it too early).

Chinese Embassy Australia Canberra

It’s a good thing I live in Canberra, where the absolutely massive Chinese embassy is (above).

I have some certain ethical issues about the trip that I’m grappling with… It’s hypocritical of me to say things about Russia, but not care about other world issues.

It will only be a short trip there and back, into Beijing and out of Qingdao.

Even though I lived and worked in nearby Korea, I have never been to China before – unless you count a thousand trips through Hong Kong International Airport!