A Picnic at Hanging Rock

photograph by @ingridweir

“On Saturday 14th February 1900 a party of schoolgirls from Appleyard College picnicked at Hanging Rock near Mt. Macedon in the state of Victoria.
During the afternoon several members of the party disappeared without trace…”

Miss McGraw from the film

photo by @helloemilie

To celebrate the 40th anniversary of my father’s film “Picnic at Hanging Rock”, I invited 4 Instagrammers whose feeds have inspired me for some time now – @mrpaddingtonbear @stephaniesomebody @helloemilie and @deanraphael to meet me at the Rock and share their artistic interpretations of the film.

that fateful Picnic…. still from the 1975 film

photo by @mrpaddingtonbear, dress by Lover

We planned to meet at the base of the Rock in the early afternoon, despite weather reports a thunderstorm was coming in.

photo by @helloemile


I arrived early on the hot and sultry day and found a group of schoolgirls, dressed in Picnic at Hanging Rock inspired clothes, gathered for a photo on their annual Valentines Day excursion.
It’s like that Hanging Rock. Coincidences and strange things happen there. You enter the park and are instantly on the location of the film. The majority of mobile phones cut out…

photo by @deanraphael


The question most people want to know is what happened to the girls. Joan Lindsay, the author, never answered the question. She begins the novel with an enigmatic introduction – saying whether this story is true or not hardly matters as the events occurred so long ago. Her secrets stayed with her.

“Waiting a million years, just for us”

lost on the Rock


The impending storm made our shoot a memorable experience. Growls of thunder were heard intermittently. The clouds rolled in… time seemed to speed up and go very fast.

by @deanraphael

by @helloemilie


In the end we were completely rained out. Soaked. Escaping down the Rock on the path through an otherworldly landscape of tree ferns, misty with rain and strangely very dark.

photograph by @deanraphael


“Everything begins and ends at exactly the right time and place” Miranda, Picnic at Hanging Rock

A Pie made with Apples from the Garden


Missing a country fix this week, so stole away for a few days. Got the total experience: the kangaroos grazing in golden afternoons, shaky legged little foals by the side of the road and an abundance of heritage apples fallen in the garden. The apple tree is of a very old English type and dates back to Gold Rush times. The apples are small and tart and delicious. There is something immensely special about making a recipe from food from your own garden…

the hour when the kangaroos all come out

an abundance of apples in the village


The lovely Country Apple Pie recipe I used…
5-6 apples, peeled cored and sliced ( I used 10 of the small sized heritage apples)
1/2 cup raisins
1 tablespoon lemon juice
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/2 cup light brown sugar
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon nutmeg
1 tablespoon of flour
2 tablespoons butter
1 9-inch pie crust- store bought or homemade

a beautiful little foal seen alongside a country road

the apples from the tree on La Paloma pottery

Toss apples and raisins with lemon juice. Sprinkle vanilla extract 1 teaspoon at a time over fruit and toss after each sprinkling. Mix together remaining ingredients, except butter, and toss with fruit. Pour apple mixture into piecrust. Dot apples with thin slices of butter.
Top with piecrust and crimp bottom and top crusts together. Make slits in top crust so steam can escape during baking. Bake in a preheated 175 degree centigrade oven 45-50 minutes until golden brown. Serves eight to ten.

The Little Wonder in Bathurst, named after a gold mine

A Summer Evening in Coogee

Cabinet of Curiosities: hand made mushrooms at the Coogee Pavilion Rooftop bar

The beachside suburb of Coogee takes its name from an Aboriginal word meaning “smelly place”. I would associate the main intersection of Coogee with a fast food smell but I think they were referring to the decaying seaweed that washed up on the beach…

large bird mural in the Coogee Pavilion rooftop

the Ross Jones Memorial pool in South Coogee

Just recently Coogee has had a major shake up with Justin Hemmes opening the Coogee Pavilion Rooftop bar. Designed by Amanda Talbot, the Rooftop is generous in scale and feels fresh and new. To sit up on one of the city’s few rooftop gardens sampling the Turkish inspired dishes while the sun sets and the air gets all salty is a true Sydney summer experience.

the previous incarnation of the Coogee Pavilion; it has been and aquarium and a swimming pool

Many years ago, the Coogee Pavilion was housed an aquarium and 1935 saw the infamous “Shark Arm Murder” case. After a local fisherman caught a large shark at Coogee, he donated it to the aquarium: a few days later it vomited up a man’s arm. On closer inspection the arm had not been bitten off but sawn through. Tattooed on it was a distinctive tattoo of two boxers that led the police to the identity of the victim- a member of the vicious 1930s gangster underworld…

a Coogee apartment block

the whale nook in the Coogee Pavilion

There were no references in the current design to the shark arm that I could see but lots of interesting little nooks and vignettes. Sydney artisans from knitters to blacksmiths have been involved and it gives the space a real individuality. An eccentricity that somehow relates back to Coogee and its Victorian funfair history.

dramatic sting lights at the Coogee Pavilion downstairs

the bird inspector


At the south end of the beach are the fabled McIver’s Ladies Baths and the entry fee is still an unbelievable 20 cents.

how can anything be 20 cents ?

like an element from a stage set


Walking down the sandy grassy path to the pool, past the narrow old fashioned changing sheds is like entering a secret world. The pool itself is more like a rock pool and winds its way around the cliffs. Apparently this is where the Aboriginal women would come to swim. This is another magic spot in Sydney- a swim here followed by roof top drinks could just make a perfect night.

at McIver’s Ladies Baths…

the rainbow lorikeet tree

Designing a pop-up bar at the Opera House


The Sydney Opera House transcends being a building- Utzon’s sails are embedded deep in the collective unconscious. It’s kind of mythical. I’ve loved it for a very long time, ever since I was a child & then later when studying Architecture at Sydney University. This summer I designed a pop up bar to go on the Western Promenade for the month of January. . .
sometimes a dream job just finds you-

the magical approach by ferry

the bow tie & braces uniform of the bar staff


Being a UNESCO heritage building there are many protective regulations in place but for 40 days of the year the rules are relaxed with the “Summer at the House” program. In 2015 the theme was “Beach”. To get a handle on it I started to think about the unique flavour of Sydney in summer- that relaxed, casual, abundant feeling. Anyone can go down to the harbour, to a park or a public area, take a picnic and have a millionaires’ view. I wanted this bar to be somewhere where people would feel at their absolute best. . .

the inspiration – Jackie Onassis on Skorpios


The reference that seemed to encapsulate that feeling was a photo of Aristotle Onassis and Jackie on their private Greek Island, dressed all summery, under a pergola dripping with vines. Also influential was the look and feel of the Soho House group: their masterful mix of the simple and rustic with the sophisticated that create a unique feeling of comfort and charm.

checking back over my concept document

the lucky anchor I found on the beach


Even though it looks onto the stunning vista of the city, the Bridge and passing boats, the actual area in front of the Playhouse is windswept and harsh. The bar needed to provide patrons shelter from the rain and sun. I also wanted to bring in a sense of fun and to do this, used a colour palette of Indian Red, Turmeric Yellow and Aqua Blue. Hot spicy colours that promised a good time.

the front of the cool room

the waterside bar front of the kitchen/bar cabana


The footprint was 1000 square meters and comprised of a lounge area, bar/kitchen cabana and a pergola where musicians would perform every night. An engineer had to certify the structures for a high wind rating. Given that is was only for a month, the strokes had to be broad.

looking through to the kitchen/bar cabana

the circus like canopy of lights

The bar is coming to an end in a few days: it will be dismantled and packed up – the show will be over. What I’ll remember most, apart from the challenges of the process, are the actual nights spent there. Lying on the cushions with friends drinking pina coladas and listening to beautiful live music. The canopy of lights glowing next to the sails. And a couple of times when stepping back and looking up, the privilege of designing a space, however temporal, at the Sydney Opera House.

that view…

The Sydney Summer


I’d been wanting to write this blog post since Sydney’s jacarandas were in bloom but my very sick little computer had to be send away to the Apple store to convalesce… I’d been thinking about the mood of the Sydney summer – the abundant flowers spilling over backyard fences, the evening swims in salt water pools, & the easy festive socialising…

looking down to the Bondi Icebergs pool…

at Kaspia’s Caravan pop up shop

Among the traditional signs of summer a new contender is emerging in Sydney: the pop up shop. Like all temporal things there is a freshness to these spaces – a low fi looseness of style. The goods are authentic- containers just unpacked from Morocco and Pakistan like in Kaspia’s Caravan and piles of cushions, throws and scarves from India at Sally Campbell’s Handmade Textiles.

mural by James Gulliver Hancock at Kaspia’s Caravan


The dynamism of the spaces often extends to collaborations with artists; the murals by James Gulliver Hancock at Kaspia’s Caravan are inspired by the motifs in the rugs of traditional nomads that are stacked and piled round the room – carrying on the bohemian tradition of what was once Sydney’s famous Yellow House.

fool house products at etsy at David Jones

etsy workshops at David Jones


The other form of the Christmas pop up is collective of Australian makers as seen at The Design Residency in Darlinghurst and Unwrap Etsy at David Jones. The inaugural Etsy event was held on the dramatic 7th floor of the David Jones city store with panoramic views out over the park and cathedral. Entering though a massive macrame and rose installation by artist Cleo Ryan I came upon a room buzzing with energy: stalls and stall holders, workshop tables under the large windows, dumplings by Miss Chu, a Photo Booth and the comforting sound of a well run expresso machine. This carefully curated collection of talent made for a stimulating experience: I loved the “curios for any room or reason” from foolhouse, Brian Dakin-Davies’ redesigned African fabrics, and the ‘stitch your own adventure maps’ from Sconnie and Jam. It’s great to have a real life focal point for these online artisans – who knows what creative collaborations might come out of casual meetings at this years event…

Cleo Ryan’s massive macrame installation at David Jones

a summer evening light


Its been a very sad week in Sydney & a shocking one. With people dazed from this unexpected turn of events, the mood on the streets has been different to ever before. But for me too it has reinforced the preciousness of Sydney and what makes it beautiful and unique.

Real, Raw Beauty


There’s a spareness, a lack of clutter in the country. The textures are different to the city. There’s more old, rusted things, lots of spare parts lying around. Sometimes they’ve been there so long that they are bleached like a bone- simmered down to an essence. Machine skeletons.

the bones of a petrol pump

the texture of a gum tree

Looking through a book on Georgia O’Keefe’s houses – you can see how she embraced this aesthetic. The cow’s skulls, the simple black and white clothes, the houses with minimal, purist furnishings. Objects gathered from nature. Stripped back, her spaces become timeless.

Georgia O’Keefe’s studio, photo by the National Park Service


up above the clouds

old cars out at the tip


Sometimes when friends stay I show them the village’s tip: a drive out into the bush, then an area with a big hole in the ground that you throw garbage into. Wild cats and crows scatter around when you come close. Next to the hole is a pile of twisted metal and old cars. It’s so different to the way waste is treated in the city. Somehow it makes you pause. An avant garde theatre director could stage a Samuel Beckett play here.

I like these layers, this access to other eras. It’s not the pretty side of the country – the lambs gamboling, the huge fragrant roses blooming. But it is real. Authentic.

the herd of wild goats that roams near the lookout… ….now I just need to find some of their horns

Spring in the Old Schoolmasters Garden

Spring is new growth, new beginnings. In the old schoolmasters garden plans that once seemed endlessly stalled, now come effortlessly into being. Decisions are made. The garage/shed is finally painted barn red. The rustic structure at the back of the courtyard is finished off – the infill made of loose cross hatched logs sourced from the local area.

blue buttons & lavender

the shed now painted red


There is an excess of prettiness in the country in spring. Swallows mate and nest, abundant lilac sweeps over old rustic fences and the garden is alive with the sound of bees. Everywhere a constant reminder of growth.

lilac gathered from a back country lane

In the gravel garden there has been a glorious eruption of irises along the path. A subtle yet heady scent emanates from them- it could be a rare perfume from a small Parisian boutique. A couple of years ago all this was contained in a basket of bulbs- a gift from a friend’s garden. Now all this beauty. Like a real life Van Gogh.

heritage iris

…the iris path


I suppose you could take it all as encouragement really. To keep going – scheming, planting, dreaming. It may yet one day all pay off…

new neighbours – some shy swallows

Hidden Cafes by the Harbour


There’s a great theatre to Sydney Harbour. It starts as you head down to Circular Quay, with strange unexpected glimpses of the Harbour Bridge; its powerful curve bisected by skyscrapers . The buildings get older and grander, the distinct yellow ochre colouring of the Sydney sandstone more dominant. Old partially forgotten monuments like obelisks and huge anchors start appearing – remnants of the former naval colony.

there she is…

on the Department of Education facade

It’s the business end of town, the tourist world held at bay by the barrier of the Cahill Expressway, an example of myopic 20th century city planning. Street wear generally fits into one of two categories: grey suits or fluoro jackets. Yet a change has crept into this fast moving somewhat impersonal world over the last 18 months – interesting, original cafes & bars have opened.

Marlowe’s Way which looks onto the Tankstream Way


At Marlowe’s Way in the Tankstream Way where they play vinyl records and serve good coffee, the owner says that he likes being in the working end of town. And it does stop things getting too pretentious: there’s no one scene but a mix of different types. More a bustle of people coming in and out- a vibrancy that’s mirrored just over in Bulletin Place with Cabrito Brothers, which spills into the lane way and above it the secret bar Bulletin Place.

old sandstone arch

Bulletin Place bar

at Cabrito Coffee


I’ve always loved that meeting point of unpretentiousness and good design. Usually it means a space that is buzzy yet comfortable. Maybe that’s the best of what big city can offer…

Learning to Love a Winter Landscape


‘You should learn to love the winter landscape’ a friend recently told me – ‘You get see the bones and the shapes that lie underneath.’ I’d never thought of it like that. Usually I’d use terms like ‘barren’, ‘desolate’ and ‘gnarled’ to describe it. Missing the colour of Autumn, the bucolic prettiness of Spring. Seeing it in terms of something lacking.

a curious alpaca

the rustic fire pit structure

But a few flowers still struggle on in the garden- even an abundance of lavender, which would seem to be breaking the rules. Surprisingly a couple of narcissus have popped their heads out; misled by the unseasonal warm weather into thinking that it is their time.


The air is very cool and bright and clear. It seems to have health giving properties; the kind of oxygenated tonic prized by 19th century European alpine resorts. I go to visit Golden Gully for the first time; it is remarkable. An area on the outskirts of Hill End where the Chinese camped & mined during in the Gold Rush. Walking through giant termite like mounds, the gully leads to a magnificent arch. No one else is around; a forgotten tourist site, eerie and beautiful. There’s a silence that seems like it is trying to tell you something.

winter cheer: records and fire

in Golden Gully

In his inspiring book ‘A Time of Gifts’, Patrick Leigh Fermor said that if you spent time in a great European city in the off season, you became an honorary citizen. Maybe that links to the secret of winter in the country- if you know its rawness, its essence, then subtly your connection deepens…

The Kangaroos Leave Town

I’d been away for a while & I’d heard that the kangaroos had left town. It had rained and rained and the grass was all green and lush, like Ireland, – so the kangaroos didn’t need to come out of the bush anymore to feed on the village Common.

I was already missing them. It’s a privilege, never quite taken for granted, to get so near to a group of wild animals. Not too close, there’s always something of an edge to human/ kangaroo interaction. Better to look from a slight distance, no need to find out where the phrase ‘boxing kangaroo’ came from…

But the village with out the kangaroos- like a Western with out cowboys. Missing the drama.

At first it seemed to be holding true, but then, the first sighting; one of the old males who has been forced out of the mob and who sticks close to town. Always a slightly haughty look, as if trying to hold onto past dignity.


They were still there, more on the edges of town, gathering in the dusk. A couple in the slightly comical reclining “Roman” pose near the camping ground. Still there, for now, those other magical inhabitants of the village.