Tuesday, 26 March 2013

I Do

Have you ever watched a film or read a book, and when you get to the end of the story you feel like you must have been holding your breath since the beginning?

I think it's a pretty rare thing.  I have only ever read 2 books that made me feel this way*.  I come back to them year after year, because as much as they make me feel like a wreck, I can be sitting there for days after, still being affected by that story like I was living it myself.

This weekend I went to see a film.  I was in a theatre at a UK premiere with a few hundred people.  When the credits rolled, there were tears running down my cheeks and I wanted to be anywhere else but there because I didn't want to talk, I just wanted to be in a dark room by myself because I needed to catch my breath.  I'm not sure I've ever felt like this about a film.  I don't think so.

"I Do" (Written by and starring David W Ross) is set in New York, where British photographer's assistant Jack is based - close to his extended family. His work visa is denied after many years living legally in the US, so in order to stay in the country, Jack has to find a solution - the options being to leave the country and return as a visitor periodically, to stay illegally and risk deportation as soon as he is found out or to marry his best friend, Ali.  But things aren't that straightforward, as Jack is gay and when he meets a new love his relationships become more strained.

The main issue in the film is around DOMA (the Defense of Marriage Act), the problem being that gay couples in love don't have the same rights as straight ones - in this case the right to sponsor someone's green card, even if you are in a state where gay marriage is legal.  (there are many more legal rights not available in a gay marriage beside this one).

Although this is the major point running through the film, it is much more than that - it is a story about relationships and family and love and the complications of life.  Having never really watched anything with gay scenes before and unsure what to expect, I felt that it was well done, only what was important and relevant to the story.

The film has a twisty turny plot, and up until the very end, I found I was unsure about how things would turn out.  There seemed to be little suggestions placed along the way which left me wondering 'oh, is this going to happen?'.  Some very intense emotional scenes, a few things in there which made the audience laugh and the most incredible cast made this one of the best things I've seen for a long, long time.  Coupled with well placed music, a really involving story and beautiful production, I found that my attention was grabbed and held from the first second and it didn't let go until the last word.

In a world which is continuously changing, it is rubbish that some people still have to pretend to be someone they are not in order to have the rights that many people take for granted.  The film has come at an important time for the US as the debate continues over DOMA and the Senate is due to vote on changes to gay marriage laws.

If you get a chance, please go and watch the film and then spread the word. At the very least, watch the I Do the Movie trailer.  (If you'll be seeing the film, my advice is not to look at the 'About the Film' page too much as it does have a lot of the story details on there).  I hope it gets a general release in the UK.  It deserves to.

This film will break your heart, but it is worth it being broken for a little while.

* Paullina Simons' books "Tully" and "The Bronze Horseman"

Thursday, 21 March 2013

Flashback...Uluru Sunrise Tour

All photos copyright Robert May

Written 17th March 2011

Uluru as the sun came up
(Kata Tjuta in the distance)

Today was a very early start, and I set 5 alarms just to make sure that we did get up at 4.30am.  All was fine and we sprang out of bed and were at the front of the hotel for our pickup at 5.30.  We headed out in the 4WD minibus towards the sunrise viewpoint and were the first group there. Rob managed to get a great spot and we watched the colours changing on the huge rock as the sun came up – really very beautiful, and we were lucky with clear skies after rain for the last couple of days.  

The same view a short time after -
Amazing how the colours change

The tour took us to a number of other stops with different views, including the point where you can climb the rock, although it is strongly suggested that you don’t do this any more for a number of reasons - the aboriginal owners ask you to respect their culture and prefer you not to climb, but also the weather conditions and the fact that it is a strenuous climb make it risky.  It looked too steep and scary to me anyway.  The tour guide told us some great stories and bits of information as we went round, and we saw some artwork on the walls and also a beautiful watering hole.  We also spent a little time in the cultural centre and saw some of the artwork made by the local people and got to know more about the culture and community.

For more information about Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park, please see the website here.

Beautiful Aboriginal rock art
These used to be used for telling stories and teaching

Spot the heart in the rock

Because of the early start, we were back at the hotel by 11am, although by that point it felt more like 5pm. Rob went for another dip in the pool, whilst I sat in the shade watching the dragonflies and butterflies darting around the gardens. Then we had some poolside drinks and a bite to eat – thank you to Sarah King for our rather delicious refreshments!
Back to the room for an afternoon nap for me and some photo processing for Rob, followed by dinner at Gecko’s cafe again.  Now we are just packing (well, Rob is packing while I play with his iPad) as we head to Melbourne tomorrow!

Wednesday, 20 March 2013

Flashback... Ayers Rock Resort

All photos copyright Robert May.

Written 16th March 2011

Today we had a nice free day, so we had some time to just relax from all the rushing around.  We didn’t really see much of the resort in daylight yesterday, so after a much needed lie in, we went for a wander.  One of the few things we noticed was people wearing nets over their heads.  We laughed at them to start with, but then we realised that the fat little flies were really very irritating, probably the main downside of this part of the trip.  Everything would be fine and then one would come a buzz really loudly in your ear.  If you're planning to do a trip here, I'd be taking something to cover my head, because they were a real annoyance in the outside spaces (not a problem at all indoors).

The view from our Rock View room
(with a little bit of zoom)

We found the pool in our hotel, which was nice, but we decided to have a peek at the one in the 5 star hotel too, which was better.  Apart from that, there is a wide range of opportunity for shopping here – clothing, crafts, hairdressers, post office and a remarkably well stocked newsagent and supermarket, we were really pleasantly surprised given that we thought being somewhere like this would mean there really wasn't much to do.

The nice pool

We had a quick sandwich in the deli, and then Rob went for a long swim in the fancy pool while I read my book in the comfort of the air conditioned bar while enjoying a pot of tea.  Afterwards, Rob did some MORE shopping and bought me back a present (for organising such a wonderful honeymoon) … a lovely purple necklace.

A bit later after more reading in the room and a quick change, we had an early meal in Geckos Cafe and a couple of drinks in our hotel bar.  Now it’s time for an early night as we are off on the 4WD sunrise tour tomorrow morning and it’s a 5.30am pickup! Night Night!!

Tuesday, 19 March 2013

Flashback... Uluru / Ayers Rock

All photos copyright Robert May

First posted 15th March 2011

We packed up and left Perth early, heading to the next stop of our trip, the Ayers Rock Resort.  We landed shortly after lunch, blimey they don’t half feed you a lot on these Qantas flights – we were quite happy with just a bag of pretzels and then they brought out trays of lunch. My waistline is growing by the day.  We didn't have this stop on our itinerary until a few days before we booked the flights and thought it would be a bit different to all the city stops we were doing so we added it in.

A quick transfer to the hotel and we were all checked into our Rock-view room, looking out onto Uluru - Kata Tjuta National Park.  What strikes you immediately is the amazing red colour of the ground all around you and the contrast of the green vegetation.  I had never seen anything like it, it was beautiful.  

We couldn't quite stretch to the 5 star hotel, and so we opted instead for the Desert Gardens Hotel, which was a short walk away and had a better view.  Rob made us a lovely cup of tea… with some little chocolates, to celebrate our arrival.

Lovely cup of tea.  Just realised one cup is bigger.
That must have been mine.

Unfortunately, the weather had been bad the day before, and so the Dinner Under The Stars wasn’t able to go ahead – instead we booked a table at the nicest restaurant in the resort and ate up some delicious Wagyu Beef, accompanied by a tasty bottle of Red wine. 

Posh beef in the posh restaurant.

The rest of the evening was spent listening to the torrential rain – I did start to wonder if it had been worth booking the Rock View room as it completely vanished from sight, and we had to navigate so many pools of water in the dark on the way back to our room!!!  We were told that it hardly ever rains, and so it would be just our luck of course!

Monday, 18 March 2013

Flashback... Perth's Famous Wine Cruise

All photos copyright Robert May.

First written 14th March 2011

Today was all about Wines, Cheese and scorching Sun!   

We had a tour booked on Captain Cook Cruises to take us to the beautiful Sandalford Estate in Swan Valley about 30 minutes outside Perth by car, or over 2 hours (!) by boat.  The boat set off quite early from the Barrack Street Jetty and we were only about an hour into the trip until the first four wines appeared.  Before we could get drinking, the crew decided it would be fun to get a few of the other passengers to model the wine for the rest of us… to some dodgy music!  During the tastings, we really liked the Sauvignon and the Cabernet Merlot from the Jane Brook Estate, but weren’t that keen on the other two.

Just lazing around on the river...

The trip was good and we landed at the Sandalford Estate to a lovely view of grape vines and other flowers (apparently planted near the vines as they act as an early warning system for diseases and similar).  At Sandalford, we tried another 7 wines (and really liked about 4 of them) and 2 ports.  We bought a bottle of the rather special Sandalera Port as a anniversary present to ourselves.  We’ll open it at our first Christmas together as a married couple and share it with the friends & family that we see.

The beautiful Sandalford Estate

After quite a few more tastings of the nicer wines, we headed back onto the boat (just about walking in a straight line) to go to the Waters Edge Winery for a 3 course lunch and even more wine tasting – this time for another 3-4 wines that we could pick from a big selection, including a sparkling.  The tasting was in the the oldest underground wine cellar in Western Australia and it was fantastically rustic, although also a bit musty smelling… in a reassuring way.  We had another walk back to the boat and were hit with a wall of intense heat as soon as we got outside, which made the the wine go to our heads even faster.  On the boat, we were greeted by the friendly crew and even more wine.  

Swan River at Sunset

Once back in Perth, we visited the Lucky Shag Bar on the riverside for some water (!) and contemplated what else to do on our last night.  After finishing off the drinks, we had a wander down the rest of the jetty and then made our way over to Northbridge again for some food in one of the local restaurants.

Perth city at Sunset

It was a really lovely last day in Perth and we both agreed that we would come back again – lots of exploring around the city and suburbs to still be done.  I'd definitely recommend the wine cruise and Captain Cook Cruises in general, they were excellent.  Onwards to Ayers Rock tomorrow… apparently, the weather isn’t so good… oh dear, I can see a large bill from the Spa coming my way!!

Wednesday, 13 March 2013

Flashback... Rottnest Island

Still one of the most stunningly beautiful places I've ever been to.

All photos copyright Robert May

Written 13th March 2011

Absolutely amazing day out today on Rottnest Island, about 30 minutes from Fremantle on the coast.  It is possible to stay on the island, but just a day trip for us since we had so many other things to see!

Looking out towards Perth
(can you spot it in the distance?)

 There are so many beaches and bays on the island, and hardly any people on them all, despite the boat having been pretty full.  We bought a bayseeker bus pass from the visitor centre for later on and set off walking (plenty of other people had hired bikes).  We did a few km before realising we should get out of the sun for a while. There wasn’t much in the way of food and drink stops outside the main ferry stop/village centre, so we caught the bus a little further while we cooled off under their air conditioning and took in some more gorgeous beaches.

Beautiful clear waters

We decided to get off and have a walk a little further on, in fact when we got down to the beach we managed to get down to the clearest sea I’ve ever seen and it was beautifully cooling on the feet which were rather hot at that point and glad to be out of their sandals.  We walked on the beach in the water for an hour or so and it was so amazing and perfect.

Empty long sandy beaches

After that, we hopped back on the bus, back to the main centre again and saw some of the native little furry Quokkas just hanging around. We had a bite to eat and a mojito each in the bar, while we looked out onto the gorgeous greeny blue water and waited for the ferry to take us back to Fremantle.

Refreshments after a long day in the sunshine

A perfectly relaxing and beautiful day, couldn’t have asked for anything better.

Tuesday, 12 March 2013

Caversham Wildlife Park

All photos copyright Robert May

First posted 12th March 2011

We were going a little way out of town today and so managed to get up early. We caught a train to Bassendean, changed onto a bus at Whiteman park and then got the cutest little old courtesy bus into the main part of the park and to Caversham Wildlife Park.

Barking Owl
(one of my favourite ever owl photos)

Once inside we pottered around for what felt like ages, Rob snapping away on the camera. We both find the animals and birds very entertaining, particularly funny was the Barking Owl (we think the Barking might be Barking Mad). Too many other animals to mention them all, but we made a special point of stroking the kangaroos and the koala, lovely and soft they were too.  

Ignore the knobbly knees
(mine, not his)

Afterwards, we walked over to the main bit of the park and had a wander around. The park was brilliant in that it had lots of covered picnic areas where large family/friends groups were meeting up, great idea - I'd love to see this kind of thing in the parks in London - easier to take shelter from the usual rain or occasional sunshine!  It didn’t take us the whole day to get round which we were quite grateful for, so we headed back into Perth and stopped for a much needed afternoon coffee and berry cheesecake.

It's a very relaxed way of life...
being stroked endlessly while sunbathing

After a swift change back at the hotel, we headed out into restauranty area Northbridge again, as Rob had got his heart set on Mexican food. Zapatas was good with the portion sizes and incredibly tasty and we both enjoyed it very much, especially washed down with some cocktails.

We fancied coffee on the way back, but strangely the bar we ended up in only had alcohol (what a shame!) Some drunken Aussies got into a conversation with us before handing Rob a honeymoon pint to drink… oh dear. Then they got thrown out for their clothing choice, so it was just like being in the UK, hahahaha!

Monday, 11 March 2013

Flashback...Perth Walkabout...

The weather in London is utterly miserable and I've been thinking a lot over the last few days about Australia since we've been there twice in March.  I thought it might be nice over the next couple of weeks to go back over some of my older blog posts from when we were there and to post some photos up here to cheer things up a bit.  All photos copyright Robert May.

Perth Walkabout - Written 11th March 2011

Perth from Kings Park

We spent the day in Kings Park – had someone told me that it was up the steepest hill I’ve seen for ages, we might not have skipped breakfast and gone straight for lunch.  However, we did feel like a bit of a lie in would be a good idea to try and get into the right timezone.  Of course, after that, the more important consideration was to get one of the devices online so that we could make everyone jealous at check-ins along the trip as we go.

So, we set off up the big hill and reached the park, trailed round for an age looking for the restaurant and ended up back where we started, realising that it was closed for refurbishment, and so we ate in the Botanical Cafe instead. Rob had some mammoth Bruschetta, and I tried a delicious goats cheese and fig salad – to be honest it was way too hot for anything more substantial.  The thing I noticed most was how delicious and fresh all the salads are here.

Fresh & delicious for the hot weather!
We spent the rest of the afternoon in the park, we did the law trail loop, which was half down a sandy path and we got very dirty. The park was beautiful and we wandered in the botanic gardens before enjoying an ice cream. Then we walked back down the hill to the hotel, laughing at all the sporty types who were doing crazy running up and down a steep set of steps to the top and back.

Running up here...in that heat!
... crazy people!
In the evening we had a walk into Northbridge, which seemed to be where the majority of nightlife close to the city is, quite a studenty/backpackery area, lots of young, fun types! We found a lovely Italian restaurant called Valentino’s, I enjoyed some delicious veal on mashed potato in a yummy mushroom sauce and Rob had fettucine pasta with chicken and bacon in a creamy sauce.  Sitting outside to eat was just the nicest thing.

We were going to go back to the hotel at that point but could hear the sound of live music close by. We thought we should check it out. it was coming from an American bar called the Mustang Bar, quite hard to describe, there was quite an array of different funky shirts going on and patrons of all ages. We saw 3 bands, with the first being the best, 4 young lads who sounded like a cross between the Beatles, Oasis and Arctic Monkeys. 

I had some crazy drink called Mother, which I tried to order in a pint, thank goodness it only came in a half pint as it seemed to be a nicer tasting vodka/Red Bull that was going to probably keep me awake all night. Thankfully though we realised the mistake and switched back to beer so we could fall into a peaceful, deep sleep.