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”!

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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!

The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight by Jennifer E. Smith

The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight by Jennifer E. Smith

Who would have guessed that four minutes could change everything?

Today should be one of the worst days of seventeen-year-old Hadley Sullivan’s life. Having missed her flight, she’s stuck at JFK airport and late to her father’s second wedding, which is taking place in London and involves a soon-to-be stepmother Hadley’s never even met. Then she meets the perfect boy in the airport’s cramped waiting area. His name is Oliver, he’s British, and he’s sitting in her row.

A long night on the plane passes in the blink of an eye, and Hadley and Oliver lose track of each other in the airport chaos upon arrival. Can fate intervene to bring them together once more?

Quirks of timing play out in this romantic and cinematic novel about family connections, second chances, and first loves. Set over a twenty-four-hour-period, Hadley and Oliver’s story will make you believe that true love finds you when you’re least expecting it.

The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight by Jennifer E. Smith

As with every young adult book ever written, The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight has such wildly varying reviews it was impossible to know whether I’d like it or not. Turns out I liked it more than I expected.

Much of this book’s appeal to me was that I, too, in my later teens, caught an international flight to London on my own and ended up hanging out with a young English guy on the way. Unlike this story, I severely doubt it was true love – in fact I can’t even remember the guy’s name. However, it was a setup for a story that I wanted to read.

The book is – unusually – written in third person present tense, which was a little odd at first, but once I got used to it, it worked well for the story. As the entire thing happens over only one day, the immediacy of the tone worked.

A book billed as a teen romance with an English guy, starring an American heroine, is likely to be a little clichéd, and this is something I worried about going in. However – for the most part – I found the British language and the descriptions pretty accurate, with a few exceptions (e.g. I lived in London for years, and nobody walked around saying everything was ‘grand’.) But more on that later.

The book’s heroine is travelling to London for her father’s wedding. A couple of years earlier he travelled to Oxford on a poetry fellowship, met another woman, and abandoned his wife and daughter to stay in England.

Much of the story deals with the reconciliation between father and daughter. I think the father’s character was written better than any other in the story – but this is a bit of a problem. The guy is made out to be so sympathetic, and the author is obviously determined to manipulate us into feeling sorry for him.

It worked: I loved the guy. And I don’t think that was fair, considering what he did to ruin other people’s lives. Sometimes, I think, an author has a responsibility to not characterise the “bad guy” so we love him (new adult authors, I’m looking at you!).

So: to the Britain-versus-America theme.

Firstly, let me say that I think the language barriers were handled well. I generally can’t stand those ‘isn’t it cute how Brits speak differently!’ scenes, but in this book the author managed to portray the differences without falling into that trap. I also think that, as we saw the story from the American heroine’s perspective, she could be forgiven for some of her clichéd assumptions, especially as she learnt as she went on.

On the other hand:

London isn’t the jolly little fantasy land of mid-twentieth century children’s shows. It isn’t Mary Poppins. In Paddington you’re more likely to find speciality shops with Arabic writing on the signs than a vintage little chippy on every corner, and Westminster is crowded, multicultural, bustling, and chaotic on a quiet day; not quaint.

Talking to a stranger (hell, even making eye contact with a stranger!) in London is considered a huge social no-no, but here we have dear old brolly-toting ladies pottering about the Tube, helping our heroine out.

And no, most people in the world don’t shove wedding cake in each other’s faces!

I think it’s always easier to find faults and discuss those than to talk about what you loved, and I think I’ve done this here!

I will say two things: Jennifer E. Smith surprised me with her writing, and I definitely intend to seek more of it out.

And: never rely on Goodreads reviews to pick young adult reads. They’re as drama-filled as the books!

Easter Long Weekend

We spent the Easter long weekend at Broulee on the New South Wales South Coast. The weather changes so fast at the beach – as you can see with the contrast in the sky from one day (and even hour!) to the next.

The best thing about the South Coast is how unpretentious and underdeveloped it is.

Here is Broulee:

A Victorian era cemetery on a cliff a short drive down the coast:

And Shelly Beach at Moruya Heads, where I used to go in the 80s and early 90s: 

From the Shadows

The Australian War Memorial here in Canberra, (which is actually a big military museum, not just a “memorial”), currently has an exhibition about the Special Forces: From the Shadows. As Monday was a public holiday we thought we’d better go and see it before we forget and it closes!

When we arrived, the brand new Army recruits were on a visit from Kapooka, and lined up outside for a group photograph.

The first two images are from the Special Forces part. The third is from the Vietnam War section of the building (my father is a veteran, and there are exhibits dedicated specifically to where he lived in Vietnam, and to a major battle he fought).

The fourth photograph is the view down ANZAC Parade from the War Memorial entrance. You can’t see it, but at the end of the road is Lake Burley Griffin, and then Australian Parliament is in the background.

ANZAC Parade is the street where people honour Australia’s military, and where parades happen. Both sides of the street are lined with monuments to military events (e.g. the First and Second World Wars, Vietnam, and beyond).

Look at the spectacular blue sky! According to the national news, it was cloudy and raining in Canberra. Uh…

IMG_20180312_175846_799 From the Shadows Special Forces Exhibition Sonya Heaney Oksana 12th March 2018 Australian War Memorial Canberra Australian Army Australian Armed Forces

IMG_20180312_180202_131 Vietnam War Sonya Heaney Oksana 12th March 2018 Australian War Memorial Canberra Australian Army Australian Armed Forces

IMG_20180312_180445_236 Sonya Heaney Oksana 12th March 2018 Australian War Memorial Canberra Australian Army Australian Armed Forces ANZAC Parade Parliament House

Four Years

Kyiv Ukraine Euromaidan Memorials Sonya Heaney May 2016

A memorial to the dead I photographed in 2016.

Today is the fourth anniversary of the end of Ukraine’s Euromaidan revolution. On the 20th of February, 2014 pro-Russian snipers took to the streets and shot and killed as many civilians as they could manage.

pro-russian-snipers-shooting-ukrainians-in-kyiv-ukraine-20th-february-2014

Snipers in the same spot the memorials are now.

The revolution resulted in overthrowing the corrupt, dictatorial oligarch in charge of the country, but he fled to Russia and paved the way for Putin’s invasion shortly afterwards.