17 February 2004

Greetings from Queensland!

Here we sit, overlooking the beach at Yeppoon (near Rockhampton), warm breeze blowing through the open doors, with parrots and butterflies flying by outside. We've been in Australia just over a week now, and it's time for the first of our travelogues for this 3 month tour.

We left home on January 28th, over to Vancouver for the night to prepare for our early morning flight the next day. We first flew to Hilton Head SC via Los Angeles, to sing at Jinny Beyer's annual seminar. It was a return engagement ("back by popular demand"!) and it was marvelous. This time we went a day early, so we could more fully experience the event. We met Caryl Breyer Fallert, a quilt artist extraordinaire, and spent some quality time with Jinny and event administrator Carole. The big surprise came after our performance at the banquet. My 50th birthday was on Feb 3rd. The banquet was Jan 31st, but the celebrations were about to begin. After our encore, Jinny came to the podium to thank us. She said she knew about my birthday, and my lip collection at home and they had a surprise for me to help celebrate. Then, at every table in the room, big red paper lips were held up - at least 50, but probably more like 100! What a great surprise. It was all the idea of our good friend Barb Tricarico, who had been on Jinny's staff in earlier years, but this year was home in Vienna VA. Thanks Barb!

We flew back across the country to do a few gigs in southern California. A house concert at Arline and Dick Grotz's home in Palos Verdes CA, complete with theatre people and Red Hat Ladies. There, I learned that I am now eligible to wear a red hat - after the poem "When I Am Old, I Shall Wear Purple" (and a Red Hat). Does that mean I'm old now? I was SURE I'd have to wait till at least 60 - or 70? John is keeping his eyes open for my birthday present - a red hat!

From there, we headed down to San Diego for a performance at the guild there. We stayed with Cindy and Robert Feagle for a couple of days, and they treated us so well! Cindy is a long arm (professional) quilter, and Robert also does some quilting. There are more quilts in their house than we've ever seen in one place before! We had a great time with them, and Robert even got John interested in making a rag quilt for himself. John bought his first fabric too!!! Cindy took us to the San Diego Zoo on our day "off". What a great zoo! Both John and I had just finished reading "Life of Pi", and were interested in seeing the Bengal tiger and the meerkats. But we loved the polar bears and the pandas too.

Our last gig in California was in San Marcos for Eleanor Burns "Quilt in a Day". It was a sewing retreat with about 45 quilters. It was fun and we even got a tour of "Quilt in a Day" head office, courtesy of El's son, Orion. These are the folks who have made the music video of my "100 Ways to Hide Your Stash" - hilarious!!

Then the long flight to Australia, from LA to Brisbane, via Auckland. 17 hours. 'nuff said.....

Our home in Brisbane is with Jenny and Rod Lanham in Eaton's Hill. I wrote "Healing Hearts" song (on "A Quilter's Embrace" cd) based on Jenny's story. Last year they flew up to Weatherford Texas to meet us at Pam and Rich Luke's house (mutual friends). Jenny organized a number of performances for us in the Brisbane area while we are here, and they are all going very well. I think she has a future in the concert promotion business!!! They live in a lovely home in an ecological area, so there are lots of trees and birds around. We've thoroughly enjoyed staying with them.

Jenny and Rod Lanham, working hard!

We didn't have much jet lag this time, and the next day we were out touring Brisbane on the City Cat - a catamaran ferry system that runs along the winding river right through the heart of Brisbane. It was a great way to see the city, and to cool off. The weather has been particularly hot and humid (mid-30 degree C) and any relief has been welcome. On Wednesday we zipped out to sing at a shop in Toowoomba, a two hour drive from "home". Also on the program that night was Sandy Corry, a sewing and quilting teacher who was conducting workshops during the days. It sounds like she has a similar travelling life to ours!

Our next gig was on Friday night in Yeronga, a suburb of Brisbane. Jenny set this up in an elementary school hall. The walls were nothing but sliding doors, and we had them all open, and there were lots of fans going. It was still meltingly hot. But 100 people braved the temperatures and came to the show. We all had fun.. Jenny brought her healing hearts quilt with her for show too.

The next day we had two shows: one at Twin Towns Services Centre (air conditioned - YAY!!), where Petula Clark and Steeleye Span were performing. This is a really prestigious gig; I'm told that I should put this on my resume!! We had about 88 ladies there, and a really fine quilt show with a few tables of fabric for sale too. Jenny organized this too, with the help of Kay Kissane. Great job!

Then up to the hills to a quilt retreat in Tamborine. The 40 or so gals there were working on the same project - using Robyn Pandolph fabrics. We stayed overnight, and I got a bit of sewing done the next morning before we left.

We've been seeing a lot of wildlife so far on this trip. Some wild goats on our way up to Tamborine, some big kangaroos under a tree on our way back from Toowoomba. Lots of birds, including a Tawny Frogmouth (an owl) at Jenny and Rod's, as well as a yellow-headed parrot. They have a "resident" kookaburra called "Jack" that they feed bacon fat to. He comes right up on the balcony looking for treats.

Today the house concert has been organized by our friends Mary and Bruce Gates. We are staying in their beautiful home right on the beach, enjoying cold beer and the sound of the surf. Last night we had an amazing light display from lightning in the south, with clear sky and stars overhead. We have the house to ourselves, since Mary and Bruce are travelling. How idyllic! Somehow being this close to the sea makes the hot temperatures bearable.

Anyway, that's the news from Queensland just now. It's all going very well so far, and we're looking forward to seeing even more friends and having more adventures before we get home again. Check out the website for the complete tour itinerary <http://www.singingquilter.com/tourinfo.htm>.

We hope this finds you all healthy and happy. We'll send more news as time and adventures allow!!

cathy and john



22 March 2004

G'day all. We're now in Victoria (Australia) for another few days, before we head over to South Australia on Monday for the last gig on the tour in OZ on 1st April.

Our time in Yeppoon was great, even though we missed out on seeing our hosts, Mary and Bruce Gates, who were off in India! The afternoon house concert took place at Kathy Butler's, another ex-pat Canadian. That evening the drought broke and looking out over Keppel Bay from the balcony of M&B's we watched the lightning and storm work its way north towards us. In the morning there was an accumulation of 18 cm of rain in the gauge. But as we headed south to Brisbane again, the day was fine, if still very warm.

Back to Jenny & Rod's at Eatons Hill and then on down to spend an evening with friends on the Gold Coast. A swim in the Currumbin estuary followed by a bbq at the beach and a very pleasant evening. The Quilt Expressions shop in Eatons Hill was our next gig. The shop started off air-conditioned, but as the place filled up with some 60 guests, the temperature rose inexorably until it was only a few degrees below the 35 degrees outside! Sweat & glow we did!!

On Saturday afternoon our indefatigable hostess Jenny, had organised another house concert in her downstairs area, which was slightly cooler than outside (42C). Standing in front of a fan, we presented our last Queensland show, again to a very receptive audience.

Rod dropped us at the airport on Sunday evening for our "red-eye" flight to Darwin and the tropical "cool"!! (well, it was cooler than Brisbane) The usual 4 hour flight was prolonged by two hours plus, sitting in the aircraft at the loading gate, while a ferocious thunderstorm bombarded Brisbane airport. The airconditioning remained on so the enforced delay was not too onerous, although our friend, Alison McShanagh, at the Darwin end had to wait until 2:30 am to greet us!

Our week in Darwin went altogether too quickly. Jenny Armour and Tony Suttor, of The Darwin Patchwork & Quilters and Top End Folk Club, respectively, had arranged for a public concert on Tuesday night. In attendance was the Administrator of the NT (=Lieutenant-Governor), Ted Egan, who is also a famous folksinger. Cathy serenaded Ted with "Prince Charming", a song about charm quilts (asking for the shirt off his back), and we performed a number of non-quilt related folk songs as well.

John, Ted Egan, Cathy, Bob Juniper, Nerys Evans

The last several nights in Darwin we spent with Jeff and Lyn Stratfold in their unit overlooking Cullen Bay. Not too hard to take!! Cathy picked up some aboriginal-printed fabric in Darwin to supplement her stash, so the trip was a success on several fronts!!

Back to Brisbane on Saturday, again on the "red-eye", but this time without any delay. Rod kindly met us at 5:30 am and took us back to Eatons Hill for a couple hours of shuteye, before we said au revoir and headed the Holden S/W south to Tamworth NSW. Anne and Bob Ware were our hosts there, and gave us a quick tour of the Country Music Capital of Australia, including the big Golden Guitar (photo op!)

We stopped at the Moonby Quilt Show the next morning before continuing on to Sydney and the Blue Mountains. It's an annual show in a heritage house organized by quilt artist Glenys Mann. In Katoomba we met up with friends from Sydney, and spent a day walking and exploring the escarpment, including a ride down the cable railway into the valley and a gondola ride back to the top. This is the steepest cable railway in the world, and we set out to the strains of Indiana Jones theme music... Hold onto everything you own, or it'll fly away! It felt like we faced almost straight down at a few points.

Canberra was our next stop, with Scott and Michelle Law, a SCQuilter whom we had met in Victoria BC late last year. Our Can/Aus friend Donna Sunderland inspired a SCQuilters dinner (this is the on-line Aus/NZ quilting group we belong to) the night before our show there, and Cathy got to see Jenny Bowker's wonderful photographs from Iran, from which she had just returned. She was there teaching quilting there to a number of Irani women, and she has some really incredible stories of her time both in Iraq and in Palestine. Cathy got started a new song with the help of Kathryn Hailey using quilt block names to tell the story. No men allowed at the dinner, and John was missed by more than just Cathy. We presented our program to the Canberra Guild on the 4th March. The effect of the bushfires which hit the ACT last year was very evident, with huge open fields where pine forests had once stood to the west of the urban area. Our friends told of their successful fire-fighting when the crowning wildfires roared up into the forested area at the top of their street. Some of the suburbs were not quite so lucky. All in all, 461 homes were lost, and there has been a review of the readiness of the fire authorities and questions about the appropriateness of pine forests surrounding the capital of Australia. Although they haven't replanted the forests, the pines have self-seeded and are well on their way to re-establishing themselves.

Camperdown Victoria was our next destination, where we performed for the Victorian Quilters. Our journey there took us via Wagga Wagga and The Rock, where Judy Hall has established her "Punch with Judy" quilting supply business. We had a cuppa with her, took a look at their emus, and then headed off to skirt round Melbourne on late Friday afternoon of the Labour Day long weekend. Carol and John Eagle, our hosts in Camperdown live in a hundred-year old converted school dormitory: large entry hall and superwide staircase to the 2nd floor, huge bedrooms and gargoyles! The entire town main street remains much as it was in that time - very charming!

After the Vic Quilters meeting we retraced our steps into Melbourne to meet up with Dan Miller, Cathy's nephew. We had tea that evening with him in Young & Jackson's pub, looking out on to the Flinders Street railway station, with a veritable tide of people coming and going from the Formula One car race which was taking place just down the road. Not a place for a recluse!! Dan was off the next day to NZ to explore the bungee-jumping and sky-diving activities there!!

On Sunday we embarked on the Spirit of Tasmania II for a ten-hour trip across Bass Strait. The crossing was uneventful, under a leaden sky, so Bryce Courtenay's "Solomon's Song" provided a good read. Cathy completed sewing another row in her silk hexagon garden maze. (each row is currently taking about 6 hours.....) We spent that night in Bridport with Fran Williams, another quilter, and then pushed off down the east coast of Tasmania on Monday. We fetched up in Bicheno that evening and had a great walk along the foreshore and up to the Whalers Lookout, before feasting on curried scallops and good red wine!! Bicheno seemed the sort of place where John might be able to live, although Cathy commented that there was no fabric shop!! (but that can be fixed, I reckon! - C)

Freycinet National Park at Coles Bay enabled us to stretch our legs again the next day, climbing up to the Wineglass Bay lookout (along with thousands of others!). A beautiful, if popular, spot. Cathy and David Craig were our hosts just north of Hobart. From there, in between a couple of quilt group gigs, we explored Mt Wellington (awesome view), the Cadbury chocolate factory (John's birthday present - how appropriate!), and the Female Factory. The latter was the destination of some 15,000 female transportees from England in the early 1800's. Conditions there were very grim, well-described in Bryce Courtenay's "The Potato Factory". Some 1200 babies were born there to women prisoners, but 900 did not survive. A memorial installation of 900 handmade baby bonnets placed on milliner's head forms has been placed in the grounds of the Female Factory ruins. A very powerful statement about the conditions of that time!

900 Baby bonnets at Female Factory in Hobart
To find out more about the artist who created this, visit

I must say, singing "The Rajah Quilt" while looking out the window at the mountain these women saw every day of their incarceration was very powerful for me.

On Saturday we drove up to Perth, Tasmania to present our program to the Tasmanian Quilters. Again, another very successful show. That evening we spent in Penguin, on the north coast of the Apple Isle, with Chris & Harry Seccombe (no, not from the Goon Show!). She is current prez of the Tas Quilters. Their house looks out over Bass Strait, in another very attractive place to live! Back on to the Spirit of Tasmania the next morning for a crossing in brilliant sunshine and minimal swell, with whales, dolphins and albatross along the way! Another row of hexagons completed, as well as "Solomon's Song"!

Monday morning, after an evening with Brenda and Peter Dean, we did our thing at the Mornington Peninsula Patchworkers in Mt Eliza. A patchwork letter banner greeted us for the program. That afternoon we motored on down to Blairgowrie near the tip of the peninsula, to meet, and spend an evening with, Judy Anderson, quilting friend of quilter Mary King in Salem OR! What a small world this is!! And wherever you go, there is always a quilter!!

Back to Melbourne again to Sandy and Andy Hamilton's, friends from 1979, when Andy was an exchange teacher in Kelowna BC. A couple of evening excursions to SCQuilty Tarts and NOTY (North of the Yarra) quilters, and then back down to Sorrento to catch the ferry across Port Phillip Bay to Queenscliff. (do you have your atlas out?) A 45 minute trip, more like the one from Swartz Bay to Tsawwassen in British Columbia. That evening was the first of 4 gigs in four days, with Pat and Barry Whitford hosting a quilters house concert in Clifton Springs. Barry has to be the best DH ever - he made a longarm machine for Pat!!! Saturday found us in Geelong (where the brochures for Butchart Gardens in our Victoria BC are printed!!) for a return appearance at the Geelong guild, Sunday in Hoppers Crossing with Glenice Bust, and Monday back to Melbourne for the biggest show thus far on this tour, for Waverley Patchworkers - about 175 in the audience! The Hamilton's came to the meeting in Waverley and experienced what we do, and seemed to be suitably impressed!! One of the other members of the audience was a woman from Kelowna, Sharon McCoubrey, here with a group of exchange teachers from Okanagan College. She isn't a quilter but attended with a woman who was!! So John and Sharon and the Hamilton's spent some time talking about Kelowna. small world again, wha?

Today we're having a much needed quiet day. We'll head up to Bendigo on Friday and on to Adelaide on Monday. Just a little over a week until we're off to NZ ourselves!! More from the Land of the Long White Cloud!


16 May 2004

Our last week in Australia was spent in Victoria and South Australia at the end of March. We had gigs in Bendigo, Cohuna and Adelaide, before flying on to Christchurch, New Zealand. Our show for the South Australia quilters in the Burnside Town Hall was the largest of the tour, and was part of the 25th anniversary celebrations of the guild.

You've gotta love a country - New Zealand - where the security guard at the airport sees the guitar and asks to hear a tune! As we made landfall on the South Island we saw tall bare mountains (the Southern Alps), giving way to a large flat expanse of green farms on the Canterbury Plain. It was the green that was so amazing, after two months in Australia. Our eyes couldn't get enough of it. Our hosts here were old friends of John's from his Vancouver days, Audrey & Earl Kyle, although Earl was off in Africa. Our first venture, after exploring Christchurch on Sunday in the rain, was out to Banks Peninsula. The remnants of two huge ancient craters that have filled in with sea water flank the peninsula. We drove along the top, on a winding, sometimes gravel road. Beautiful views. But it was clear right off that Cathy wouldn't be doing much sewing in the car as we drove through New Zealand!

We had lunch in Akaroa, originally a French port in the early days. It was lovely to be surrounded by French names. I bought a gorgeous orange sweater made of merino wool and possum fur. Possums (possa?) were brought in from Australia and are now a serious pest in New Zealand. One way of getting rid of them is to use their fur for sweaters... it's the new thing there. I'm wondering what it will smell like the first time it gets wet.

On to Dunedin. We had intended to head over to Mount Cook, but it had snowed significantly in the mountains, and we didn't really need to drive in snow in NZ - we see lots in Canada! We stayed mostly in hostels and backpacker places during our three weeks in NZ, and this type of travel is very well organised. There are lots of tour buses (Kiwi Adventure) that would drop off travellers at the backpackers' spots, then pick them up the next morning to continue their explorations. Being able to cook our own meals in the communal kitchens is also great. We spent a couple of nights at the YHA in downtown Dunedin, a short walk to the Octagon (the centre of town) and access to the tourist buses. It's a charming town, known as Edinburgh of the southern hemisphere. The university is modelled on the one in Edinburgh, and there's a distinctive "burr" in the accent around town. Cathy bought a skein of gorgeous hand-dyed wool at a shop on the Octagon, which she's intending to knit into a scarf someday. We enjoyed our tour around town, especially the stop overlooking the town and environs. The next day, we headed out to see albatross on the Otago peninsula.

We've been very interested in birds since Cathy's first visit to Australia. Now, if there's a chance to see a nesting colony, or an unusual bird, we always go for it. In Christchurch we visited Willowbank nature sanctuary where we saw our first kiwis - in the dark, as they are nocturnal, flightless birds. Out at the end of the Otago peninsula, we saw Royal Albatross, one of the largest of the world's flying birds. There were only four nests in sight from the hide, but we were fortunate to see an adult female come "home" to feed her chick. The "chick" was as big and heavy as she was (about the same size as a bald eagle's body), but without the 3 metre wingspan of the parent. These birds are made for soaring, which they do with great efficiency. It was very exciting to be so close to these magnificent birds.

Albatross and Chick

The other great birding experience in NZ happened just after Dunedin. We headed south down the east coast of the South Island to Balclutha, where Robyn & Stewart Thompson - friends of our friend Karen Dicks - live. They drove us out to Nugget Point (one of the great photo ops of the Catlin Coast) to see Yellow-Eyed penguins. These birds stand a couple of feet high and have eyebrows of bright yellow. We watched a few of them climb a very steep slope to get to their nests.

The next day we drove through Invercargil to Te Anau, at the entrance to Fjordland. We had booked a day kayaking on Doubtful Sound (so called because Capt. Cook was "doubtful" that he could get his boats into the channel). This is an area that gets the second-highest rainfall in the world, so we weren't surprised that it was rainy and cool. But it was a most wonderful time! There were seven of us on the kayak tour. We took a boat from Manapouri first thing in the morning, across the lake to a power station. Then a 20 k drive up over the pass and down to the fjord. Another boat loaded with our kayaks awaited us at the dock. As we explored the inner part of the Sound from the water, we were kept warm in our wet suits and by very welcome hot chicken soup at lunch time. One thing about rain mixed with sunny bits - we saw more rainbows that day than we've ever seen before! It was great to get out for a day in this strikingly beautiful part of the country, away from the hordes of tourists.

Doubtful Sound, South Island, New Zealand

From Doubtful Sound, we went north and inland a bit to Queenstown, the "adventure capital of the world"; home to bungee jumping, jet skiing, tandem hang-gliding/sky-diving, and rafting, among other things. No, we didn't do any of these, but we did hike up Queenstown Hill for a panoramic view of the area. We were reminded strongly of parts of British Columbia, as we were for most of our visit to the south Island.

We left Queenstown to head north and on to the west coast - a night at Fox Glacier. Like most glaciers, the ice mass has significantly retreated in recent years, but it's still impressive. First thing in the morning, we took a walk around Lake Matheson, to snap the picture perfect shot of Mount Cook (the highest mountain in NZ) reflected in the still water of the lake. We encountered lots of tourists here, as well as at Pancake Rocks further north along the coast.

Then on to our first NZ gig in Picton. Thanks to the recent first airing of my episode of "Simply Quilts" on NZ TV, the show was sold out with an audience of 70. It was very exciting - the host quilt group has only 17 members!

We love ferries - you pretty much have to, living on an island as we do. The ferry from Picton (South Island) to Wellington (the capital, on the North Island) was wonderful. We were lucky to have a calm, sunny day and a smooth crossing. I saw dolphins playing in the bow wave. It got a bit windy as we approached Wellington - the Windy City. We were heading to our next gig, the SCQuilter's Retreat in Auckland (this is the Australia/NZ on-line quilting group that holds an annual retreat in different locations), so there wasn't much time to linger. The drives in NZ always seem to take longer than you expect, since the roads and terrain often require slower speeds.

The Retreat was great fun. We were there to sing as well as to mingle, and see a lot of our Australian friends for one last time on the trip. Jenny Lanham was the first person we saw when we arrived - she of the Healing Hearts quilt, and our well-met friend from Brisbane and Texas and Hobart and now Auckland. Where shall we meet next?

There wasn't a lot of time left on our visit to NZ after the retreat. We headed back towards Wellington for a gig in Plimmerton. Then we spent a day in Wellington, staying with friends of Barb Tricarico's (she's from Virginia!). The Te Papa Museum was magnificent and very informative on Maori history as well as the effects of geothermal activity and earthquakes.

Napier is a town on the east coast of the North Island. In the 1930s it was very nearly wiped out by one of the most powerful earthquakes in NZ. In rebuilding, the Town Fathers decided to have every building designed in the Art Deco style, which resulted in one of the best collections of the style in the world. Cathy's getting inspired to make an Art Deco quilt now.

It was a short drive to Rotorua the next day, where the geothermal activity is most evident. There are places in town where the pavement feels hot because of the activity just below the surface. Because of the warmth all the bubbling pools, geysers and springs, the area was settled heavily by Maori before the arrival of Europeans. They still have a significant presence in the area, and this was our opportunity to attend a "hangi" - a Maori dance and cultural event, followed by a meal. It was fascinating to learn more about their customs and traditions. We learned about their weaponry, too, but alas didn't experience much music. We understand they have wonderful harmonies in their songs. Next time.

Maori Marae, or meeting house, Rotorua

Just outside Rotorua we saw a short hill and a sign saying "Zorb". Had to stop there, as my nephew Andrew has been looking into this as an activity to import into Canada. At the top of the hill, you climb into a very large plastic ball - it's your choice if you wish to be strapped in "dry" or slosh around the bottom with a bit of water "wet". The ball is pushed down the hill and it goes till it stops. It only takes about 5 minutes, but the delighted screams of the 9-year old girl in her bathing suit "wet" suggested that it's great fun. Sorry, Andrew - we didn't try it!

Our time in NZ was almost over. On the day we flew out of Auckland we got up very early to witness the Anzac Day celebrations. This day is very important to both Aussies and Kiwis, it being the commemoration of the assault by Anzac troops at Gallipoli (with disastrous results) in WWI. There is a traditional dawn service, which we attended. It was amazing to have about a thousand people standing silently in the dark awaiting the ceremony. We were honoured to be able to be there.

Our theory for long flights is to get ourselves very tired before we get on, and to book an evening flight. That way, we are already tired and it's much easier to sleep on the plane. We spent the rest of the morning and early afternoon walking around downtown Auckland, before we headed towards the airport. The harbour has lots of activity, including displays of the America's Cup challenge (including one of the boats which is available for charter).

We survived the flight, and hit the ground running. We were home for only two days before driving to a conference in Calgary, and flying to another conference a week later in Springfield IL. Things are going very well just now, but it is very busy. We'll not be home for any length of time until July, after recording the third quilting CD in Toronto.

So that'll be the end of travelogues until our next Big Adventure. We hope you've enjoyed hearing of our travels Down Undah!

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