Leunig gives voice to our existential concerns and can so poignantly express what we repress. It seemed apposite then to reproduce these pieces that remind us to bring joy and levity to what often becomes a manic time for many, as the frenzy builds towards the festive season and self care goes out the door.
As a much loved National Living Treasure, I am reminded of two treasures Melbourne and we lost this year. I want to share my thanks for having known them both.
The irrepressible, irreplaceable, divinely inspired Mirka Mora died in August. Decades ago a doll making workshop with her taught me that the rural community I had just moved to was only going to be as good as the community I’d contribute to. Years later she danced on my birthday table at Stephanie’s and fed them cake. I’ll never forget driving her from St Kilda to the Benalla gallery as her painterly eye appreciated the light and the vastness of the bleached landscape in late summer. I loved how she wore her petticoats inside out and brought a smile and much joy to all she encountered. No ordinary life and one of Melbourne’s brightest lights extinguished.
If you are in Melbourne over summer do not miss out on seeing the glorious exhibition celebrating Mirka at Heide.
The soul of elegance, perspicacity, intelligence and discretion, Patricia O’Donnell died in October. I first met Patricia with whom I shared the same convent education, when she joined my Ladies Culinary club to which she was a warm and feisty contributor, though from memory when it was her turn to host/cook she’d source the dishes from her sister Mietta’s restaurant. Years later, she hosted some memorable parties for me at the North Fitzroy Star, and Gastronomic Symposium gatherings at Queenscliff. Her contribution to Melbourne’s cultural life is inestimable, without which we might not have the Convent precinct, and one of her greatest strengths was her fierce faith in other’s talents and I was blessed by being the beneficiary of that faith.
Thinking about these amazing women reminds me of the power of friendship, generosity and love and how much more of these qualities this chaotic world needs now. This was so powerfully reinforced in our latest retreat with Saraswathi who filled our tool box with lessons on how in all our transactions in daily life, and in how we relate to the world and each other – we can cultivate the wellspring of loving kindness with equanimity and compassion.
I extend to you my warmest wishes for happy reunions and safe holidays ahead, halcyon summer days, healthy eating and invite you to join me in my prayers for a world of peace, deepest human connection, tolerance of diversity, absence of fear and love all around as we embrace the festive season.
Last Minute Inspiration
The Jaipur Literature Festival, at last, are finalising their lineup of speakers for 2019.
I am excited to see the return of Rana Dasgupta, the Oxford educated British Indian author who has written two novels and a vivid, non-fiction portrait of twenty-first-century Delhi. His next book, After Nations, will appear next year; also the charismatic Simon Sebag Montefiore the much acclaimed, prize winning novelist and historian who lectures around the world on history, Russia and the Middle East, and on subjects such as leadership and revolution. His extempore talk on Stalin a few years ago was simply riveting.
The large stellar pantheon of Indian and Asian authors also includes the illustrious classicist and readily accessible Cambridge scholar Mary Beard; one of my cultural anthropology heroines and trail blazing cookbook author, Claudia Roden who is of Iranian – Pakistani descent and whose flourless orange almond cake might be the most ubiquitously reproduced recipe in the world; Anish Kapoor the Bombay-born sculptor whose sublime work was celebrated at Sydney’s MCA in 2012; and beloved actress, author and mental health campaigner, Ruby Wax.
I am accompanying a small group of book lovers to Delhi and Jaipur late January and there are still a few spaces left if you’re feeling inspired.
Contact me if you are keen to attend and would like to receive the brochure.
I am very excited about this New Tour. Mexico, without justification, gets a jaundiced media wrap that bears no resemblance to the reality of travelling in this astoundingly diverse and very beautiful country, which I did for four weeks earlier this year. Mexico is one of the most megadiverse countries of the world. Although the Mexican territory represents only 1% of the earth’s surface, it hosts more than 10% of the world’s biological diversity as well as striking landscapes, a fascinating history dating back to pre-Columbian times and conquest by the Spanish through to the modern Independence Movement.
Let me surprise you with wonderful art, deliciously varied cuisines, stunning Mayan sites, elegant and colourful colonial towns, traditional Mayan and modern lifestyles, and gorgeous boutique accommodations. I have just added Mexico to my ‘heart’ countries that include India and Morocco. READ MORE
MOROCCO in SPRING 2019 31 May-15 June – Now in its 3rd Edition
Twelve wonderful guests joined me recently in Morocco. One of the great joys in returning to a place is to make new discoveries and make new friends. I love how my guests bring their own specific interests and one of our couples were curious about the Jews in Morocco – thus, we visited some very beautiful hidden synagogues, and danced with singing Israelis in the laneways who were exploring their culture and a bittersweet history that dates back to the Roman period.
The newly opened YSL museum was a highlight both for its architectural design, the intimacy of its collection and especially for the deeply moving temporary exhibition of photographs of Moroccans by Leila Alaoui who was killed whilst on assignment in Burkina Faso.
So was a breathtaking new driving route through the Atlas Mountains.
We enjoyed a private and deeply informative visit to the little visited archaeological site of Aghmat with the charismatic Emeritus Professor Ron Messier.
And it was a delight to meet and lunch with expat Aussie, vagabond and writer Virginia, better known as Pin who recently established a colourful life in Tangier, via Paris, who writes an evocative blog about daily life experiences there and posts lovely stories about creating her new flat on Instagram.
Thanks again for the wonderful tour of Morocco. Your choice of five cities and two additional overnight destinations (in the Agafay Desert and the Ourika Valley) provided us with as broad and varied an exposure to Morocco as could possibly be fitted into two weeks. Carolyn and I have, at last, “twigged” to your focus on authenticity and on getting close to the sense of a place.
On this tour, again, your choice of accommodation, your selection of tour guides and the numerous locations you identified for meals, all reflect your own style as well as your intuition for the tastes of more occasional travellers such as us. For meals, the food and the ambience and the view provided, repeatedly combined to create unique experiences; your ability to identify local artisans gave those of us so inclined with the focused opportunity to shop and to learn still more about this incredible country; the unexpected interactions with hotel and Riyadh owners, ex-pats and academics left us feeling enlightened and very special.
Perhaps the best “measure” of your talent is the fact that we both had such an extraordinarily good time, one of our very best holidays. There were just so many high spots and we proceeded at such an agreeable pace, rarely pushed but never bored. And always exceptionally well fed and watered.
Many thanks once again for your expertise and guidance and wonderful company.
Have you fallen in love with India from previous travels?
This tour has been designed for travellers who wish to explore a deeper experience and understanding of the sub-continent’s extraordinary culture, history and belief systems.
This kaleidoscopic sweep through India’s great dynasties traverses six states – Karnataka, Maharashtra, Punjab, Kashmir, Uttar Pradesh, and West Bengal focusing on architectural marvels and some of the world’s most ancient religions from Hinduism, Buddhism, Sikhism, Sufism, to Jainism. You’ll also come across some of India’s collisions with the British Raj. Experience some of the greatest human efforts and architectural marvels, invariably tied to some sense of the Divine.
This will appeal to energetic, adventurous travellers imbued with great curiosity who share my love and fascination for India. Accommodation will be of the highest standard in each region and a great deal of attention will be given to your sampling a multiplicity of heady regional cuisines.
Steeped in the cultural past of immense richness, you will of course be touched by the pulse of daily life in India that is unlike any other on earth – larger than life, over a billion people, 23 official languages, sumptuous food, endearing people, colourful, complex and a tapestry of conundrums.
Call out to any Woman who has ever had India on her bucket list- an unforgettable trip curated from 25 years experience of and passion for India.
India has been Marieke’s second home for twenty five years and her top “heart country”. She knows and loves it intimately well beneath the tourist veil. She has curated this enthralling tour around women’s predilection for design, fashion, food, fun, fitness, beauty, sense of adventure and love of good company and being cosseted. You’ll meet women designers, artists, cooks, entrepreneurs and free thinkers. You’ll visit vivid markets, inspiring ateliers, women’s co-ops and studios so as to deepen your appreciation of the exquisitely hand made, as well as issues that touch the hearts of women everywhere. You’ll stay in divine boutique accommodations ranging from palace forts, to intimate and ambient havelis.
This tour is ideal for women seeking the company of like-minded souls and those who feel a reluctance to travel solo in India. It will appeal to singles, intergenerational friends, soul sisters, young and mature women, mothers and daughters.
Travel with adventurers at a slow enough pace that allows a deeper immersion as you get behind the scenes of Marieke’s extensive networks.
Mother India will ignite all your senses with her intoxicating colours, scents, sights, multiplicity of cultures, cuisines and ancient spiritual traditions.
With well over 25 years travelling around the globe, I have developed a very deep knowledge of some of the world’s most fascinating countries. I have planned romantic honeymoons, grand extravagant celebrations, academic research trips, buying trips, treks and adventures for countless happy travellers, with particular specialisation in India, Sri Lanka, Bhutan, Kashmir, Morocco and Mexico.
I offer expert services from phone/email consultations to steer you in the right direction and share my valuable contacts to all-encompassing travel arrangements for a once in a lifetime experience. I am also able to negotiate the resurrection of past itineraries for small special interest groups.
Thank you Saraswathi for gracing us again this year with your warmth, wisdom and life-changing teachings. Inner Talents Yoga hosted Saras at a three-day immersive residential retreat at Trentham on the theme of Loving Kindness.
FRIDAY 4 January 9 am, Inner Talents Yoga will host Lionel Lauch for a special didgeridoo sound healing session, to bring in the New Year with joy. $10 donation to join us. Lionel is a Gundijtmara Kirrae Wurrung-Bundjalung man who lives on the Mornington Peninsula and shares his knowledge of the land by guiding walks on country, healing meditations, smoke ceremony’s and educating people about his culture. Bookings essential as spaces are Limited. Register Now
A WALK for Adventurers in Utah’s Well known and secret parks and canyons.
My friend Pete Grant is a true blue and passionate outdoorsman who lived many years in Utah and now resides on the Mornington Peninsula. He is offering two stunning, small-group programs in April and September next year. The minimum requirements: you must be able to back-pack 15kg and walk 15 km a day. Email Peter for more information.
Even though it’s been a while since giving cooking classes or catering, my passion for cooking has never abated and I most love entertaining at home in my simple casita with its farmhouse table that seats twelve guests. A shared table is one of the most convivial ways to meet and get to know people. A number of friends keep suggesting that I should offer the occasional pop-up supper club. My other thought is to gather a group of like-minded Peninsula food enthusiasts and create a culinary club with rotating dinners in each others houses. Decades ago I did this with a group of women friends with the idea that this could be a forum for real experimentation and discovery, no need for perfection. For example it could have a literary theme such as an Elizabeth David Provencal dinner or a particular country’s cuisine. Email me if you wish to discuss further.
Miscellany – ephemera you might find useful
This Somnil Light has been a godsend and now travels with me everywhere. It clips easily to a book or stands on a bedside table as a night light. It is rechargeable from its usb cable and emits an amber light that reputedly increases melatonin and induces sounder sleep and beats the pants off bed reading lights that even in the best hotels are badly placed.
My travel survival kit when flying – Bach’s Rescue remedy, Australian Flower Essences Love Travel Mist, Aesop Ginger Flight Therapy, Eucalyptus oil. When it’s long-haul I also add JetEase (a homeopathic pill) and always carry an Elanra ioniser pendant, a large pashmina shawl for warmth, and a muslin scarf sprinkled with eucalyptus oil worn around the face.
To protect myself from all potential and real harmful radiations I keep my phone in a TOCA sleeve. Made in Germany, I originally purchased it through a Kickstarter campaign. It blocks GPS, Rfid, Wifi, 3G, 4G, 5G, bluetooth and any other signal.
I first discovered this miraculous liniment in Bali where it’s widely used by surfers for reef cuts and motorbike grazes. It is a combination of eight Chinese herbs with anti-septic, anti-inflammatory, anti-biotic & anti-microbial properties. I’ve used it a few times on scrapes and it leaves no scar tissue. I recently managed to find Tieh Ta Yao Gin in Australia, but it is much cheaper in Bali.
Endorsed by Coeliac Australia this is the best gluten free pasta I’ve found. Regular pasta lovers will hardly notice the difference between it and the best dried pastas as the texture, colour and taste is just like wheat-based pasta. The pasta is available as gemmine, fusilli, maccheroncini, penne, spaghetti and linguine.