At last, Marriage Equality

Last week the Australian Parliament voted in a bill to say that marriage was between two people, not just a man and a woman.

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It sounds so simple, but the right-wing in the Parliament put up every possible barrier to stop it. I won’t dwell on that, but rejoice that now all relationships are recognised before the law.

David Marr, a journalist who calls out cant and hypocrisy, was on the panel of The Drum, a current affairs program, when the final vote happened in Parliament. This clip posted  on Facebook shows his pride and emotion, and is interspersed with images of the aftermath in the House of Representatives. It is a moving moment.

Marr is so right to point out that in his lifetime he has seen the change from imprisonment for homosexual sex through to recognition of everyone’s relationships through marriage equality. And he is right to honour the men, women and trans, those warriors, who have fought for rights for the LGBTQI community.

Behind these scenes of jubilation is a long and proud tradition of fighting for rights, from Stonewall and the beginning of the Gay Liberation Front through campaigns to stop discrimination of gay men and increase funding during the AIDS epidemic to Same Sex Marriage. Behind these campaigns, and many more, have been men, women and trans who have been prepared to stand up and demand their rights at home, in their workplaces and in society.

Let’s not forget the suffering too ~ the beatings, deaths, suicides and stunted lives of many in the LGBTQI community.

Rejoice, but remember.

If you would like to watch something uplifting and heart-in-the-right-place-warming these holidays, I would suggest Pride. It is a movie about the support gays and lesbians gave to a mining village during the long miners’ strike in Britain in 1984. This is a great article to give background to the story.

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How was your trip?

Well, thank you so much for asking. My trip to Japan was fantastic, and will spawn a number of blog posts! This first one will be a general overview of the cities I visited. There will be lots more traveller’s tales to come.

In Japan I travelled all the time with my mother, most of the time with my younger brother and some of the time with my older brother and his family.

Our first stop was Osaka, which I loved unconditionally. No “this was good but I didn’t like that”. It was a great place to walk around in, narrow streets, something interesting wherever I looked. Every corner showed a street that I wanted to walk along.

And it was quiet, because there seemed to be more bicycles than cars. Not safer though, as the cyclists are rather crazy! It was one of the contradictions of Osaka…..In Melbourne I happily walk against the red light if it is safe; in Japan I waited patiently with all the other pedestrians for the green light . Meanwhile the helmet- less cyclists would ride through red lights, go on the wrong side of the road and meander across the road, often while talking on the phone or holding an umbrella! There were no crashes because they seem to allow for the path the pedestrian is on. The only ‘accident’ we saw was a lady loosing her high-heeled shoe as she cycled!

And the food….a post for another day!

We left Osaka and travelled by train to Uno. Before I tell you about that let me rave about the train system.

Foreign tourists are able to buy a JR Rail Pass. Like a Eurail Pass, it must be bought before you enter the country but it allows unlimited travel for the life of the pass. Rail is the way to get around ~ efficient, frequent, safe, clean and goes to most areas. To get to Uno we needed 3 trains, which would seem, by anyone used to Australia’s rail system, to be rather a nightmare. However we walked into the JR office, told the clerk where we wanted to go and after a few taps on the computer, she gave us tickets for all the legs. The connections were perfect. (You only need to go into the office if you wish to reserve a seat. Otherwise you just flash your pass as you enter the station.)

Our first train was one of the Shinkansen trains. They used to be known as the bullet trains. They are sleek, fast machines.

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The next trains got progressively smaller as we got further into the country. Uno is a ferry port on the Seto Inland Sea, with stunning views over the many islands in the sea.

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We were there to visit Naoshima, aka as the Art Island, which I will tell you more about in a later post. For now let me tell you about the place where we stayed, Uno Port Inn.

It is the brain child of Max, who lived for a while in New York. He has created a welcoming place to stay that has a great vibe, including jazz streaming from a radio station in New York. There are only about half a dozen rooms, all with tatami mats, but western beds; you get the feel for Japan while still being able to get up in the mornings! There aren’t ensuites. Instead each room has its own private, well appointed little  bathroom down the corridor.

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There’s a guest lounge, and they make fabulous coffee!! The ferry is close by and the staff, who speak good English, are happy to help out with visiting Naoshima.

After two nights we were back on the two trains to Okayama and then the Shinkansen to Kyoto, to meet up with the other parts of the travelling family.

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The view from our hotel room

I love Kyoto too, but with not unconditionally.  The main streets are busy and modern, and some leading to the big temples are quite touristy. You have to get off them and, like in Osaka, just wander to find the little delights. We were staying in the Gion area of old Kyoto, so the houses were old and wooden and utterly charming (and probably expensive!) The houses and shops come right to the street, and doorways have lanterns or pot plants or maybe a tree. I was delighted to find an neighbourhood with a car mechanic, a supermarket and a hairdresser who was crocheting between clients!

Kyoto has narrow roads that run alongside canals. They are lovely to walk along during the day and quite enchanting at night.

And how could I resist this photo?!

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Off again on the Shinkansen, all the way from Kyoto to Nagasaki, which is on the western tip of Japan. We changed at Hakata from the Shinkansen to a local train, and had lovely views of the coast and the mountains.

Nagasaki is nestled into valleys, which makes it very picturesque. It also has a tram system that brought a joy to this Melbourne heart! As it’s smaller than the other cities it has a country town feel about it, despite the ship yards!

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Of course the Peace Park was the thing we wanted to see. I was disappointed. It was so busy with Chinese tourists from a cruise ship and school children that it lacked any solemnity. (Although the school groups were very respectful, often with heads bowed, but they were teenagers.)

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There were lots of statues; the one that moved me most was in recognition of atomic survivors world wide, including indigenous Australians, service personnel and civilian workers who were affected by British nuclear testing in Maralinga. This is a world wide issue, and one one that has become so prominent again.

Back on the trains again to our last stop at Hiroshima.

It is a very modern city, as so much of it was wiped out in by the first atomic bomb in 1945. Although many parts of Nagasaki was destroyed, I think a lot of it was saved because of the hills and valleys. Hiroshima, like many Japanese cities is very flat, with the mountains in the background. The blast just radiated out.

The A bomb dome and Peace Park area were more solemn than Nagasaki ~ fewer people and a drizzly rain helped build the atmosphere. There are many memorials discretely through the park, while the A Bomb Dome rightly dominates.

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There is a very moving memorial to the victims of the bombing. Oral accounts were collected in 1950, and those survivor stories are told in this memorial. Stories that world leaders who talk of annihilation should be forced to listen to.

The Children’s Memorial is another place that touched me. You probably know the story of Sadako and the 1000 paper cranes. Now children from all over the world fold cranes and some are displayed both at Nagasaki and here in Hiroshima.

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Some cranes have been created into pictures.

Shikkeien is a beautiful old Japanese garden not far from the epicentre of the bomb. It was devastated by the blast, but has since been rebuilt, to provide a serene and restful antidote.

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So that’s the overview. We took the Shinkansen directly from Hiroshima to Shin-Osaka and then the airport train to Kansai airport. So easy!

I still have lots to tell you, but my adventures in fabric shops and restaurants will have to wait for another time.

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The sketchbook (br)enters Europe

You know about the Travelling Sketchbook, (in case you don’t, click on the previous link)….Chas is one of the Sisterhood, and her post about the Sketchbook arriving in Europe sums up what I think the whole thing is about. I hope you agree.

Ladies and Gentlemen of the world – I give you that most democratic of instruments, that most trans-boundary of objects, that most diplomatic of materials –  the Travelling Sketchbook o…

Source: The sketchbook (br)enters Europe

“I am eleven”

I have found a lovely gift for my Mum. (It is NOT a Mother’s Day present. It is an I Love You and Thank You present.) It is a film and I had to watch it before I wrapped it. Now I have to tell you about it, because it is a wonderful film.

It is “I am eleven” and I was delighted to meet the thirteen 11 year olds who Genevieve Bailey interviewed. They came from 15 different countries, and spoke so engagingly about their lives and their hopes for themselves and the wider world. The only requirement to be interviewed was to be eleven.

All 13 of the kids were wonderful and so open. There was Billy in London, who made me laugh out loud; the Iraqi/Swedish rappers, Osama and Sahin; Goh impressed me with his confidence and surety as he worked with the elephants in Thailand; Siham lives in a remote village in Morocco; Remi, a thoughtful, wise French boy.

Six of the kids, five girls, Priya, Ginisha, Vandana, Sree-Kutty and Remya, and one boy, Jitter, lived in an orphanage in India. Despite hardships their smiles were wide and they spoke optimistically about their futures. They were delighted to be moving into a new building for their orphanage, one they could call home.

As you can tell their backgrounds were very diverse. It was fascinating to read the notes with the DVD, explaining how Genevieve met the children. Some, like Oliver in New York, were friends of friends of friends. To meet Giorgi she walked kilometres in Sophia before finding him. Sharif was interviewed when he offered to clean the windows of the house Genevieve was staying in. She found Luca after asking a woman in a bookshop in Berlin if she had any children. The woman didn’t have any of her own who were the right age. However she had a book, “Ten in Berlin”. Luca was one of the kids in the book, and she lived right across the street!

Genevieve Bailey is the directory, producer, cinematographer, editor, as well as distributor. That makes it sound like a film cobbled together in a back room. It is not. It is a well crafted, highly engaging and charming film. I would highly recommend it. The DVD is available on the website iameleven.com I just know that my Mum will love it……….once she gets the DVD player to work.