When it’s dark enough you can see the stars. When It’s really dark you can see the heavens coming and going, winking in and out of existence like sparks in a bonfire. And when you do, when you look up and the sky is like a mottled hide shredded to breaking point by tiny pin holes of light you wonder how it just doesn’t collapse, how the dark skin doesn’t give way and let all that brightness fall.
There’s something beautiful about the old cottages, former shearers’ quarters and derelict sheds that dot the Australian countryside. As people forget them, they take on a soft, faded attractiveness. This slab shearers’ quarters with its pastel paint and rusted tin rainbow is in Somerton. Ironically it seems the sheep have taken up residence.
Last week I found myself on a tropical island wrapped in warm breeze, fringed by coral sand beaches, festoon with gently swaying palm trees. The sort of place anyone who’d ever seen a holiday brochure with the standard photographic cliches would want to be during winter. In fact many thousands of anyones had not only seen the brochure but picked it up, rung a travel agent and flown to the island with all the family not to mention their entire wardrobes packed into mounds of luggage.
Not being a big fan of luggage or hundreds of ferocious holiday makers hell bent finding happiness in paradise, I escaped as best I could (it was a relatively small island) walking on deserted trails (it seems finding happiness is more focused on the hotel buffet than rocky footpath to small coves) taking along my reading material of the moment – Alain BeBotton’s The Art Of Travel.
If you have not read it, I highly recommend you do before you are seduced by the next airline advertisement or picture of paradise dipped in a turquoise sea. Oh and the message in the bottle read: bring more wine.
The annual Frost Over Barraba Festival has been another success with more than 650 artworks and numerous workshops including photography in the historic Oakhampton woolshed. Two workshops were held in challenging grey sky conditions but thanks to some great models and well behaved sheep, everything went according to plan.
At Mazamet in France the train stops. From here you get on a bicycle and stretch your legs along one of the many Voie Verte or “greenways”. The voie verte is a series of meandering bike trails along former rail lines. It boasts some of the most stunning architecture ever to have been devised for a train, from mile long tunnels to wrought iron bridges and monolithic stone overpasses. Beautiful French villages punctuate the voie verte to Bedarieoux (80km away to the east). The gradient is civilized, having once been a train track and the scenery is bucolic perfection.