Mitchell Marsh firming as heir apparent to Shane Watson

Australia crumble in heat
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ABU DHABI: Mitchell Marsh reaffirmed his standing as the heir apparent to Shane Watson but Australia’s vulnerability against spin bowling in foreign conditions was again cruelly exploited on Saturday.

Marsh accepts Watson is a walk-up start in the Test side when fully fit but “If you score enough runs they have to pick you”, he said of his chances of remaining in the side for the first Test against India in Brisbane next month.

Watson’s future appears to be at No.6 though Marsh’s promising start to his Test career combined with the moderate form of Alex Doolan at first drop has left the door ajar on both all-rounders featuring in the side.

Watson and Marsh have both been named in Australia’s squad for the first two one-day internationals against South Africa.

Marsh had a maiden Test century within reach but succumbed to the dual curse of 87 and 66.6 overs.

He was the bright light on another bleak day for the Australians in the Middle East.

Australia were dealt another blow with Brad Haddin not taking to the field in the second innings with his shoulder injury though he was able to bat, making 10. His arm was in a sling on Saturday.

Australia’s capitulation for 261 was the 10th time from their past 11 innings in Asia where they have failed to score 400.

Highlighting their woes this series, Australia’s batsmen have made just one century compared to Pakistan’s seven.

Marsh was the only player to pass 50 and clearly the most comfortable of the Australians.

The second-gamer said getting through the first 40 balls of his innings was what allowed him to succeed. Embarrassingly, only four players achieved that feat and two were tailenders – Nathan Lyon and Peter Siddle.

“I just went out there and tried to play my natural game, obviously it was a little bit tough losing a few wickets around me, but I just tried to put it out of my head and bat the way I do and it was good fun to get a few runs but we are behind the eight ball in this match,” Marsh said.

“There’s no doubt that we didn’t make enough runs as a batting group this innings. The wicket is pretty flat, their spinners bowled really well, they got the ball reverse swinging and it was a good all round effort from their bowling attack.”

Marsh entered this match with a first-class average of 28 but if his effort on Saturday was any guide it will not stay that low for long.

“I think over the last 12 months I have matured as a batsman and I have worked out what works for me and all cricketers growing up go through that period,” Marsh said.

“Just learning how I want to play, I probably got a little bit caught up when I came into the first-class scene of trying to play too cute and look like a real batsman, rather than just going out there, backing my own ability and taking the game on.

“Because that is when I play my best cricket and that is when most players play their best cricket and that’s been the best thing for me and hopefully that will continue.”

Marsh said he wanted to be aggressive against Pakistan, though the strategy did not serve many of his teammates well.

“Everyone has individual game plans  but the way we are taught to play cricket is to take the game on so that was certainly what was going through my head,” Marsh said.

Marsh said he was nervous on debut but felt more relaxed in Abu Dhabi.

“I didn’t have 25 of the Marsh clan in the stands watching me so that made me feel a bit better,” Marsh said.

Pakistan chose not to enforce the follow on but are in a near impregnable position with two days remaining. The Australians have all but conceded they will not win this match and level the series.

“We’ve got a huge challenge ahead of us. Whatever total they set us will be a huge one and we’ll fight as hard as we can to hang on to this Test match,” Marsh said.

“If we get some early wickets you never know.”


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20 reasons to visit Lyon, France

1 Eat at a Bouchon
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Once frequented by hungry silk workers in the 17th and 18th centuries, these cosy inns specialise in hearty, no-nonsense French cooking flying in the face of fussy haute cuisine. Tourist imitations are rife but a smattering of traditional establishments remain. While sampling dishes such as blood sausage with stewed apple or rich duck pate, the checked tablecloths and frantic cheek kissing will leave you in no doubt you’ve discovered an authentic French experience. See lesfedeslyon杭州龙凤论坛m. 2 Lumiere Institute Museum

Cinema was essentially invented here after Lyon brothers Auguste and Louis Lumiere came up with the Cinematograph projector in 1895, so a visit to this intriguing museum is a must. Housed inside what was once the Lumiere family home, exhibits throughout 21 rooms include some of the earliest picture reels and prototype cameras and even the Photorama, a reproduction of Louis Lumiere’s incredible invention that ensures visitors can view photos projected 360 degrees to a height of more than six metres. See institut-lumiere杭州龙凤论坛. 3 Walk the Old Town

Lyon’s medieval Old Town (also known as Vieux-Lyon) is one of the best preserved in Europe. Located on the west bank of the Saone River, it’s a charming mix of cobbled alleyways, boutique shops, wine bars and restaurants. In 1954, the area became the first in France to gain protection under a law to preserve the country’s cultural sites resulting in an unparalleled mix of Renaissance, Romanesque and Gothic architecture. Don’t miss the covered Passage Thiaffait in the silk quarter. 4 Museum of Miniatures and Film Sets

Housed inside the famous “Maison des Avocats” building, a 16th century UNESCO protected gem, this five floor exhibition details everything from the use of special effects in cinema to reproductions of daily life through elaborately crafted miniatures. The museum is partnered with numerous LA-based studios who work closely with local artists to ensure exhibits change regularly. Highlights include life-sized sets from the film Perfume in the basement and even a Gremlin. See museeminiatureetcinema.fr.  5 Basilique Notre Dame de Fouviere

A visit to this elaborate basilica perched on the crest of Fourviere Hill offers the best views across the city and surrounding Rhone Valley. Built between 1872 and 1884, the ornate interior is testament to the sheer opulence and outrageous wealth of the Catholic Church; a heady mix of gilt, marble, stained glass and coloured mosaics perhaps overcompensating for the church’s lack of genuine political clout around the time. Frequent tours are available. See fourviere杭州龙凤论坛. 6 Les Halles de Lyon-Paul Bocuse

Named after Lyon’s celebrated Michelin-starred chef, this covered market originally dates back 1859 and although the original incarnation fell into disrepair, it underwent an extensive renovation in 2006. Now home to 56 specialist food shops and restaurants spread over three floors, it’s the sort of place to bring chefs and foodies to their knees. After perusing the high-end cheeses and gourmand smoked meats, pull up a stool, grab a glass of wine and sample fresh oysters or ham off the bone alongside the locals. See hallesdelyon.free.fr.  7 Hotel Le Royal Lyon

With its plumb location on Bellecour Square in the heart of Lyon, this elegant boutique hotel has been artfully furnished in the style of a traditional country “maison”, fusing modern classicism with tradition. From the plush lounge lizard bar to the quiet airy rooms, this is a slick oasis where details matter. See lyonhotel-leroyal杭州龙凤论坛m.  8 Escape to wine country

As well as its gastronomic prowess, Lyon is also on the doorstep to some of Europe’s most eminent wine regions; in particular the Rhone Valley and Beaujolais. The Rhone Valley is perhaps more prestigious, known for outstanding Syrah and Viognier grape varieties while the Beaujolais’ Gamay grapes make for dangerously easy-drinking fruit-driven wines. Both regions are easily reached by car but an organised day tour from the city is the best way to avoid ending up tanked behind the wheel. See kanpai-tourisme杭州龙凤论坛m.  9 Cruise on the Saone River

Gain another perspective of the city from the water on an evening boat cruise along the Rhone or Saone rivers. Running between April and October, cruises are a laidback way to learn more about a town with more than 2000 years of history but, at just over an hour, they avoid descending into tedium territory, making instead for a very civilised pre-dinner sojourn. See lyoncityboat杭州龙凤论坛m.  10 Musee des Confluences 

Set to open in December, this science centre and anthropology museum will be the latest edition to Lyon’s cultural landscape. Housing permanent exhibitions detailing anything from the Big Bang Theory to the mechanisms of evolution, the museum’s unusual architectural design is also drawing attention. Referred to as the “Crystal Cloud”, it is an angular mix of glass, concrete and stainless steel set at the top of a steep headland. See museedesconfluences.fr. 11 Lyon City Card

Available as one-, two- or three-day passes, this handy little card is the key to the city. Pay a one-off fee and gain free admission to dozens of museums, galleries, guided tours, public transport and boat cruises and get discounts at certain shops. See lyoncitycard杭州龙凤论坛m.  12 Lunch at Brasserie Le Silk

Stylishly decked out with a slick, New York loft feel by Parisian interior designer Patrick Norguet, this Sofitel brasserie is a decent option for a more up-market dining experience. Food emphasis is on Mediterranean classics such as beef or salmon tartare with an Asian twist. An outdoor terrace is open during warmer months. See sofitel杭州龙凤论坛m/gb/hotel-0553-sofitel-lyon-bellecour/restaurant. 13 Shopping

The shopping here could placate a Beverly Hills housewife. More luxurious, boutique stores are located in Rue de President Herriot, an elegant stretch of 19th century buildings. For more mainstream offerings, nearby Rue de la Republique and Rue Victor Hugo are a safe bet. If second-hand books and antiques are more your scene, try Rue Auguste Comte or hit the Canal Flea Market on Sunday between 6am and 1pm. See en.lyon-france杭州龙凤论坛m. 14 Museum of Fine Arts

Home to a treasure trove of European painting spanning the Middle Ages to the 20th century, this is one of Europe’s premier art museums. Exhibits showcase anything from Egyptian antiquities to Renaissance sculptures and paintings by European masters, from Claude Monet to Henri Matisse. See mba-lyon.fr. 15 Parks and gardens

Escape the city with a stroll through Park de la Tete, a lush, tranquil oasis filled with rose gardens, Mediterranean plants, boules courts and even a sizeable zoo. Also stroll the renovated promenade on the left bank of the Rhone, veering off to nearby Parc des Berges. See loisirs-parcdelatetedor杭州龙凤论坛m/en. 16 Nightlife

Lyon’s nightlife scene is as trendy as it is diverse. The streets around Vieux Lyon are a good place to start, where the Smoking Dog pub is a favourite for a no-nonsense pint. Other traditional hotspots include the streets around Croix Rousse and Place Terreaux, while many former riverboats have since been converted into bars and clubs on the Quai Augagneur along the Rhone.  17 Gallery Hopping

Located at the base of the slopes of La Croix-Rousse, The Rue Burdeau is a bohemian hub of art galleries, workshops and exhibitions incorporating photography, paintings, illustrations, sculpture and more. Be sure to check out the cutting edge photography exhibit, Galerie le Reverbere before rounding off your cultural immersion with a nightcap at the achingly cool Bec de Jazz bar at No.19. 18 Chocolate

In a city with more than 2000 restaurants, there’s always room for dessert. Chocolatiers are ubiquitous in Lyon and among the most famous are Bernachon, known for its iconic Palet d’Or and Bouillet, a chocolatier-cum-patisserie famed for the sort of intricate cakes, tarts and macaroons your waistline won’t thank you for. See chocolatier-bouillet杭州龙凤论坛m/boutique-en-ligne.  19 Festival of Lights

Over four days in December (5-8) Lyon will explode into a kaleidoscopic visual treat as designers from all over the world convene to create the Festival of Lights. Comprising intricate light installations throughout parks buildings and rivers, the festival will see Lyon transformed beyond recognition during dark winter nights. Best of all, it’s free. See fetedeslumieres.lyon.fr/en. 20 Guided tours

Learn more about the silk trading era, traboules (secret passages for which Lyon is famed) Renaissance district or Old Town on a guided walking tour that will help you make sense of the city’s convoluted 2000-year history. Alternatively, rent an MP3 audio guide and meander through the Croix Rousse district at your leisure. The latter is available for rental in various languages from the Lyon Tourist office. See en.lyon-france杭州龙凤论坛m/Guided-Tours-Excursions.

The writer was a guest of Rail Europe and The Lyon Tourism Board.


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Wallabies hang on to beat Barbarians at Twickenham to start Michael Cheika’s tenure with a win

LONDON: The Wallabies finally have something to smile about after beating the Barbarians and new coach Michael Cheika wants Australia to “get on the ride” as his team attempts to restore its badly dented reputation.
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The Wallabies started Cheika’s tenure with a 40-36 win at Twickenham on Sunday morning Australian time, holding off a Nick Cummins’ inspired charge to secure a morale-boosting triumph.

The Barbarians’ helter-skelter style and attacking freedom exposed some flaws in the Australian game plan in an 11-try bonanza.

But Cheika believes that can help accelerate his side’s development after a winless month filled with off-field dramas.

The Wallabies also unearthed a potential Test star in Melbourne rookie Sean McMahon, who starred in his Australian debut after getting a shock spring tour call up.

“The win helps, but the issue is about the players and the team taking the initiative and changing people’s [perception], get them enjoying the game again,” Cheika said.

“Forget about all the other stuff, just enjoy footy for what it brings. Sometimes it’s going to be great, other times it won’t be perfect.

“But it’s about getting on the ride and enjoying it, being proud of the team. We can do that by showing our commitment on the field.

“Our defence is probably the part of our game I want to improve the most … it’s a new system so you’ll have that slight hesitation but hopefully we’re a bit more aggressive next week.”

Australian rugby has been bashed and belted from every angle and the Kurtley Beale-Di Patston drama has engulfed the sport.

The Wallabies are intent on rebuilding respect with a four-Test tour of Europe, starting against Wales in Cardiff this weekend.

“[The game plan] of the Waratahs isn’t going to work, we’ve got to build a unique style and embrace the characters in the team that will suit us,” Cheika said.

McMahon stepped up to make his mark on the Wallabies, coming on as a replacement for Scott Higginbotham after just 19 minutes.

Higginbotham is in danger of missing the rest of the Wallabies tour after injuring is hamstring, but will be given two days to recover before a decision is made.

Cheika described McMahon’s debut as “outstanding” and the Australian under-20s captain and Commonwealth Games bronze medal winner didn’t look at out of place in front of almost 54,000 fans.

McMahon is in contention to replace Higginbotham in the backrow next week, with Cheika saying he would not panic into calling a player into the squad.

But the Wallabies had hearts in their mouths when cult hero Cummins, also known as the Honey Badger, led the Barbarians on a late charge.

The crowd roared as Cummins made break after break against his former teammates as the Barbarians closed the gap from 18 points to just four with time running out in a seesaw battle.

“It was a tough game … they kept throwing the ball around and our defence stood strong at the end,” said captain Matt Hodgson.

“We knew they would throw it around at the end to try to catch up. We just had to stick to our system.

“It’s a big step forward for us. We’re on a five-week tour and we needed to start with momentum … not only with a win but with that physical style.”

Sam Carter, Benn Robsinson, Tevita Kuridrani, Rob Horne, Bernard Foley and McMahon all scored tries while the Barbarians refused to give up.

Queensland duo Quade Cooper and Will Genia got their chances to start as a five-eighth-halfback combination but were a little rusty after injury-enforced breaks from the game.

Outside centre Tevita Kuridrani was outstanding again and has all but locked up the Wallabies’ No.13 jersey for the tour.

Cheika’s impact on the team was evident right from the opening whistle.

The Wallabies adopted Cheika’s plan to have players start 10 metres behind halfway at kick-off, a ploy used by the NSW Waratahs in their Super Rugby success.

The Barbarians were intent on entertaining and put on an experimental masterclass to try to catch the Wallabies napping

From their first lineout No.8 Steven Luatua launched the ball 35 metres over the set piece to a flying Nick Cummins, who dropped the ball in contact.

From their first attacking penalty they put the ball five metres from the Wallabies’ line and used a 12-man lineout to try and force their way over the line.

When that was illegally stopped, halfback Tomas Cubelli used an audacious no-look kick over his head from close range which resulted in a scramble for possession in the in goal.

Both teams had less than a week together in preparation, but it was the Barbarians – made up of players from all over the world – who steamrolled Cheika’s men early.

At times the Wallabies appeared to lack some cohesion in the helter skelter fixture, with running rugby taking precedence over tactical play.

AT A GLANCE

WALLABIES40 (Sam Carter, Benn Robinson, Tevita Kuridrani, Rob Horne, Bernard Foley, Sean McMahon tries; Quade Cooper 3, Bernard Foley 2 conversions) bt BARBARIANS 36 (Frank Halai, Adam Thomson, Francis Saili, Nick Cummins, Marnitz Bashoff tries; Colin Slade 2, Marnitz Boshoff 2 conversions; Colin Slade penalty) at Twickenham on Sunday morning. Crowd: 53,568. Referee: Jaco Peyper.


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Who shot the barman?

In good spirits: Dan O’Leary with Who Shot Thebarman, named in honour of his aunt. Photo: Vince CaligiuriDan O’Leary remembers it being three fingers as a small child and two fingers as a bigger kid.
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Be it weddings, funerals, 21st birthdays – “Aunty Julie” was always heard when running on empty.

It rarely seemed to matter she could not remember most of the kids’ names. They all knew how she liked her gin – with only a dash of water, of course.

“She would just yell out, ‘hey you kids, who shot the barman?’ That was her call for one us kids to grab her glass and go and fill it up,” nephew Dan O’Leary said.

“Whoever was close would always know … little kid three fingers, big kid two fingers. As we got to be bigger kids it was two fingers of gin and not much water.”

“Aunty Julie” would be pretty proud if she was around now.

Despite admitting to having reservations about lending her catchcry to a horse the dairy-farming O’Leary brothers from New Zealand’s North Island will be the toast of the once-a-year Melbourne Cup punter on Tuesday.

“I didn’t want to call a good horse a name like that, but a lot of people have bought into it the name,” O’Leary said.

Dan O’Leary is the eldest of the four brothers – along with Michael, Humphrey and Shaun – who race Who Shot Thebarman with expat Kiwi trainer Chris Waller. Dan’s wife, Jane, also shares in the ownership.

The brothers’ distinctive tangerine racing colours worn by Who Shot Thebarman have been passed down through the generations.

It is much like the family’s dairy farming background in the Wanganui district after arriving from Ireland, which means milking cows has primarily funded this Melbourne Cup dream.

“The whole family have milked cows in the Wanganui Valley for just over 100 years … and all four brothers have still got cows today,” Dan said.

The brothers’ father, Humphrey snr, had always dabbled in training a few horses. The boys used to be in tow, often racing around their paddock on ponies.

“We’ve raced horses for a long time and we know how hard it is to get a horse of this calibre,” Dan said. “There’s a lot of interest – not only from Wanganui but right across New Zealand – in the horse.

Maybe none more so than “Aunty Julie”, ready for one almighty heavenly shout on Tuesday.


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How to stay safe on a cruise ship

Man overboard: It is difficult to fall into the sea from a cruise ship. Man overboard: It is difficult to fall into the sea from a cruise ship.
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Man overboard: It is difficult to fall into the sea from a cruise ship.

Man overboard: It is difficult to fall into the sea from a cruise ship.

Exotic: The RV Samatha’s restaurant.

Set sail: The Northern Lights are on the cruise itinerary for 2015.

Opulent: The River Princess’ reception area.

NEWS

As we head into another record-breaking cruise season, I’ve heard the question “Are cruise ships safe?” more times than I can recall. Certainly it seems that whenever there is an accident or outbreak of illness on a cruise it hits the headlines, but considering how many people cruise worldwide (some 21 million last year, according to CLIA), it’s worth keeping a sense of perspective. The catastrophic sinking of Costa Concordia in 2012 was, thankfully, a very rare occurrence – it was Italy’s worst maritime disaster since World War II.

While you hear stories about people falling overboard, it’s actually extremely hard to “fall” from a cruise ship. Railings are (by regulation) at least 1.1 metres high and most overboard incidents are tragic accidents involving someone climbing over a balcony after drinking too much alcohol, or someone deliberately jumping – for reasons known only to themselves.

Cruise lines operate under the international Safety of Life at Sea  (SOLAS) rules, which govern everything from navigation to man overboard procedures, food-handling practices, firefighting, and safety drills for passengers. The safety muster (when all passengers gather on deck or in lounges for instructions on lifeboat location and wearing life jackets) must be held within 24 hours of a ship setting sail with new passengers. Captains have the power to chuck you off the ship if you don’t attend the muster, so you’ve been warned – take it seriously.

Other concerns that people express about the safety of cruising include being robbed on board and whether there are lifeguards by the pools. You should take normal precautions against robbery: stash valuables in the safe in your cabin, or don’t bring them in the first place; keep an eye on your handbag or wallet when going ashore; and if something goes missing inform the cruise director or staff at the guest relations desk straight away so a search can be conducted if practical.

Ships’ swimming pools aren’t usually supervised by lifeguards, so if you’re travelling with children it’s important to be aware of this. It’s up to you to take the same sort of precautions you would in everyday situations and keep a close eye on your children all the time they are in or around the pool.

Meet the crew

NAME: Rik Sprengers, from Holland

POSITION: Cruise manager, Uniworld’s River Queen (Rhine, Main and Danube rivers)

MY JOB: I make sure the program is running smoothly and take care of our guests.  I enjoy my job because of the people I work with. All the staff – from the Los Angeles, European and Sydney offices to the staff on board – are so dedicated.

MY TYPICAL DAY: I’m normally confirming buses, tour guides, writing daily programs, daily talks, making sure we deliver what we promise and helping with individual guest requests or medical help if necessary. I also assist guests in choosing from our diverse program and help them decide what to see and do in the ports.

FAVOURITE CRUISE MOMENT: I once had a request from a guest to make the Icelandic volcano stop erupting, so she could go home and see her newborn grandchild. It’s difficult to pinpoint just one moment, every cruise has a different group and different individuals. Every day we are in a different port, city and perhaps a different country. No two days are alike.

FAVOURITE PORTS:  Amsterdam, especially on the Tulip and Windmill cruises in spring. I can show off my home country when it is at its most beautiful.

TIP FOR PASSENGERS: Never put your money belt and passport in the garbage bin of the bathroom in your cabin for safekeeping – use the safe! I had a guest who learned this the hard way – it took a team of three ladies from housekeeping, the hotel manager and me 35 minutes to sort through all the garbage bins to find the money belt she’d hidden and  which was removed during turn-down service!

TIP

Pack stuff in your hand baggage that you might need once you’ve boarded your ship and are waiting for your cabin to be ready, especially if you’re travelling with kids: swimsuits, medication and important documents.

RIVER

New Burma rivership

Check out the artist’s impressions of the interiors of APT’s new rivership, RV Samatha, in the company’s 2016-17 Burma river cruising brochure. The lavishly decorated main restaurant (pictured) will serve dishes devised by APT’s Asian ambassador, celebrity chef Luke Nguyen. RV Samatha also features a private dining room for eight that offers a degustation menu. The new rivership will have 30 twin-balcony suites (the biggest being 48.7 square metres), a sun deck with pool, day spa, free Wi-Fi and a main lounge and bar, and will sail from Mandalay to Yangon. Book by March 31, 2015, for free return flights to Burma; see aptouring杭州龙凤论坛m.au.

HIGHLIGHTS

See the Northern Lights with Dr Karl

Everyone’s favourite scientist, “sleek geek” Dr Karl Kruszelnicki, is accompanying a nine-day World Expeditions cruise from Longyearbyen, in the Arctic, to see the aurora borealis. Just 20 passengers will sail on the schooner Noorderlicht, which is equipped with zodiacs for onshore wildlife-spotting excursions. Dr Karl will be on hand to explain this extraordinary phenomenon and deliver a series of lectures. The voyage departs on September 25, 2015, and has been timed to offer the best chance of viewing the Northern Lights (and polar bears and Beluga whales). See worldexpeditions杭州龙凤论坛m.

TV star to join Love Boat cast on board Regal Princess

Tori Spelling, actress and daughter of famed Love Boat producer Aaron Spelling, will serve as the official Master of Ceremonies for the christening of Princess Cruises’ Regal Princess later this month. The original Love Boat cast members are reuniting for the ceremony in Fort Lauderdale, which kicks off the cruise line’s 50th anniversary celebrations. The 3560-passenger Regal Princess is virtually identical to Royal Princess, which was famously christened by the Duchess of Cambridge last year, just before she gave birth to Prince George.

DEALS 

OFFER OF THE WEEK

has just released a new 34-night cruise tour package that takes in Alaska, North America and the Panama Canal with introductory discounted prices of up to 40 per cent, when you book by December 15. The package, which starts at $6489, includes return airfares, 29 nights aboard Norwegian Sun, three nights accommodation in Tampa, Florida, and two nights in Vancouver. It departs April 19; phone 1300 369 848, see ecruising.travel.

MORE DEALS

CAPTAIN COOK CRUISES is offering a range of Christmas party packages to suit all tastes and budgets on MV Sydney 2000. Christmas party lunch cruises start from $59 per person while dinner cruises start from $79. Or you can charter your own vessel and enjoy a private party on Sydney Harbour from $109 per person. Phone 02 9206 1111, see captaincook杭州龙凤论坛m.au.

EASTERN EUROPE TRAVEL has developed a series of cycle itineraries and maps for guests to enjoy on their Amadeus river cruise programs from Budapest to Prague in 2015. Passengers can cycle in Bratislava, Vienna, Linz, and from Durnstein to Melk in the picturesque Wachau Valley. All equipment is provided and prices start from $2990 for the 10-day fully inclusive cruise. Phone 1300 668 844.


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Kids parties go all out

All out: Xavier Montano at his first birthday party. No expense spared: Victoria Montano with her son Xavier at his first birthday party. Photo: Mama Privee/mamaprivee杭州龙凤论坛m.au
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Pocahontas was there, and plenty of teepees too, and a balloon artist and a face painter and a petting zoo with 35 animals. There was a cowboy and Indian photo booth, and craft stands, and Wild West-themed snacks, plus oodles of “gorgeous champagne and incredible food” for the adults.

When little Xavier Odillo Maher turned one recently, his mum spared no expense.

“For me hosting any party is about doing things beautifully,” says mother Victoria Montano, co-founder of parenting website, Mama Privee. “Throwing a beautiful party, where no detail is missed is basically just an extension of how I live my life.”

The cost? “Well, let’s just say that it was an amount that would make people feel uncomfortable,” she says. “But it’s hard to put a price on the first birthday of your only child.”

From Humvee limos to harbour-front high teas, kids parties aren’t what they used to be, with bobbing-for-apples giving way to chocolate fountains and design-your-own-muffins.

“It’s become like weddings now,” says children’s performer Andre Pech, of Sydney company Superheroes Inc, which does 50 kids parties a week.

“You know how you have bridezillas who want everything because their best friend had it? We now get people calling and asking what their friends had for their kids party, and then asking for the next level up. If their friend had two entertainers, they want three. If their friend spent $2000 they want to spend $3000.”

Pech even provides a kids movie-making service. “It’s a portable green screen movie-making studio which we bring to your house,” he says. The cost: $2685 for four hours.

“We’re definitely moving away from old-fashioned parties to the big event,” says kids’ caterer Anya Webbe, who recently helped at a party for 25 four-year-olds in Camden. “It had a Frozen theme, and the mother had a stylist come in and do the whole thing, with really elaborate draped decorations and themed cakes and lunch boxes.”

Webbe’s fee was $1400; the stylist cost another $3000. “Parents are time poor,” Webbe says. “And they don’t spend as much time with their kids as they used to, so when they do they want to make it really special.”

One-upmanship is also a factor. “People see what other people are doing and they want to emulate that.”

Parents are also having fewer children and having children later, with lucky kids subsequently occupying a more exalted status than ever before.

“With the Frozen party, the mother had tried for 25 years to have a child,” Webbe says. “So every year at her birthday, she counts her blessings.”

Those blessings now extend to the Park Hyatt, where a friend’s eight-year-old daughter was recently taken to high tea ($49 a head; $65 if you want champagne with it). And while you’re at it, why not get a limo to drop the tots off?

“We do lots of kids parties,” says Hathan Naamo, a driver with Wow Limos, which charges $1000 for four hours in a 20-seat Hummer. “We’ll take kids to the movies or to the playground or bowling. We give ’em lollies and soft drinks. They put the music up – they love that.”

But such extravagance is “a bit grotesque”, according to Lane Cove mum Hilary Heffernan. “There is something wrong with our generation, where everything has to be micromanaged and bigger is better. And we have more money now than our parents did – our parents could never have afforded the $1000 kids party – and that means you can do the ‘prestigious’ thing, along with getting the 4WD and having two cars in the garage.”

Hefernan recently threw her five-year-old, Joe a birthday party,paying $239 for a Superhero to entertain the kids for an hour. “That means I have time to talk to the adults,” she says. “Also, Joe is my third child, so I am a bit over pass-the-parcel and musical chairs.”

Joe, she says, would be happy with just a few friends and some basic games. “They really don’t care if the party is elaborate and expensive.”


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Tattoos a mark of the times but is permanent beautiful?

Erik Mosley stands underneath his brothers and sisters who are all wearing temporary tattoos. Photo: Simon O’DwyerKrysia Mosley was 22 when she won a London nightclub competition that earned her a tattoo, inked on the spot. She now has a little devil on her back and, she says, no regrets.
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“It’s one of those things I did on a whim when I was young and silly,” she says. “Luckily, I was sensible enough to have it done in a discrete place.”

Now 40 and living in inner-suburban Richmond, Mosley is one of the estimated 12 per cent of Australians who have at least one tattoo. It is a rapidly expanding industry – an average growth rate of 4.7 per cent a year since 2009.

In its wake, the kid-friendly market in temporary tattoos has also found an audience. It is prompting debate over whether it is a bit of fun that passes as soon as the ink is washed away or could develop a child’s interest in body art.

Mosley has six children, aged 10 months to 11 years.  They are interested in their mother’s skin art, but bigger fans of the transfers created by New York-based tattoo artist Virginia Elwood, who has designed bespoke temporary tattoos inspired by children’s characters from digital play studio Toca Boca.

Mosley believes temporary tattoos are fun, but also encourage her children’s creativity. “I think these types of tattoos are really beautiful. They’re not just the roses or skulls that we had when we were growing up,” she says. “My kids really connect to the little characters.”

Elwood makes a similar case about her work. “I think transferable tattoos are a really great way for kids to express themselves,” she says. “I was always playing dress up and drawing on my skin with markers as a kid and temporary tattoos are just another extension of that.”

Not everyone agrees. Sydney mother of three Julia, who has three tattoos she regrets, says even temporary tattoos could have longer term consequences.

“I know that tattoos are so commonplace now that they are hardly an issue, but I think to put even temporary ink on young children tells them it’s acceptable to tarnish your skin without really thinking through the consequences,” she says.

“Children can hardly be expected to differentiate between real and fake. I think it just allows a certain casualness to creep in.”

Julia says she checks her sons’ party bags to prevent them indulging in temporary skin ink.

In Victoria, the legal age to get a tattoo is 18. In New South Wales, however, a child under 18 can get a tattoo provided they have parental consent that explicitly allows the type of tattoo and the positioning on the body.

Within the education system, policies about children wearing temporary tattoos are left up to individual schools. Coralee Pratt, principal at Camberwell South Primary School, says she would discourage children wearing temporary tattoos to school.

“We feel it is a fun home activity…that is more appropriate for home than at school.” 


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Letter from Sydney sheikh sparked international drama

Mahassen Issa with her new partner Mohammed Awick. Photo: Supplied
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Charged with bigamy and adultery: Mahassen Issa was unable to return to Australia from Lebanon. Photo: Janie Barrett

Mahassen Issa with her new partner Mohammed Awick. Photo: Supplied

Mahassen Issa with her new partner Mohammed Awick. Photo: Supplied

A letter written by a Lakemba sheikh stating that Sydney mother Mahassen Issa was still married under religious law was the catalyst for her being charged with adultery and bigamy while holidaying in Lebanon with her new partner.

The letter from the Islamic Centre’s Dawah and Fatwah office in Wangee Road, dated June 30, 2014, and signed  by Sheikh Yahya Safi, was sent to Lebanon and used to put a stop order on Ms Issa leaving Lebanon and returning to Australia.

Ms Issa’s plight, which made international headlines, resulted in the mother of two being trapped in Lebanon for three months in a case that highlighted the problems between religious and civil marriage laws and procedures in the two countries.

There are reports that other women are being trapped in similar circumstances in Lebanon and other countries and in some cases being blackmailed by vengeful former partners.

Womens’ rights advocate Eman Sharobeem said “this is not the first case we hear about and I don’t think it will be the last”.

“Many women from different religious backgrounds will suffer equally and for many years. For a woman to obtain her divorce from the Australian court is not necessarily the end of the marriage, obtaining the religious divorce is the actual paper that can give women a ticket to freedom or a fresh start,”  Dr Sharobeem said.

Ms Issa has been critical of the sheikh’s intervention, claiming that he knew the two were not living together and were in the process of a civil divorce with a hearing set down for July. A translation of the letter said that the marriage was in reconciliation and the Islamic Centre had not issued any decision regarding divorce. Sheikh Safi did not return calls from The Sun-Herald.

The charges of adultery were triggered when Ms Issa’s former Australian husband, Bassem Abou Lokmeh, registered their marriage in Lebanon and then made a complaint that she had travelled there and was getting married to another man while she was still married to him. Mr Abou Lokmeh told The Sun-Herald they were still married when she travelled to Lebanon.

A court order was obtained prohibiting Ms Issa, under her married name Mahassen Abou Lokmeh, from leaving Lebanon by the Lebanese Office of General Security.

Ms Issa’s lawyer, Zali Burrows, said it was an unusual situation because Ms Issa, who is Australian-born and was married in Australia, had not committed any crimes against a Lebanese citizen.

Ms Burrows who travelled to Lebanon and managed to negotiate a deal allowing Ms Issa to leave, said she had also obtained a certificate of singleness for Ms Issa which showed her Australian marriage had not been registered in Lebanon.

Samir Dandan, of the Lebanese Muslim Association, said women need to ensure they have an Islamic divorce certificate before travelling to Lebanon.

Mr Dandan said that under Islamic law women can obtain a divorce, even if the husband has not consented, but they have to follow a process and that takes time.

He said divorces can be granted by the Islamic Centre in Lakemba or by the representative in Sydney of the Mufti of Lebanon.

Ms Issa said while attempting to get help for her situation she was told that there were numerous cases of Australian woman being trapped by the system.

“I was told there are two or three cases a week,” Ms Issa said.

A spokeswoman for the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade confirmed that other Australians, including mothers with children, have been prevented from leaving Lebanon by stop orders.

She said that DFAT warns travellers to Lebanon that crimes under Lebanese laws may not be considered offences in Australia.

“Under Lebanese law, Lebanese nationals and non-nationals may prevent family members from leaving Lebanon, even if they are Australian citizens.

“Australians, including mothers with children, have been prevented from leaving Lebanon when relatives have legally placed border alerts (known as ‘stop orders’) on them. The Australian Government cannot prevent or overturn the issue of a ‘stop order’ on an Australian citizen.”      


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Writer Maggie Mackellar shares the ‘books that changed me’

Devoted reader: Author Maggie Mackellar.
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Devoted reader: Author Maggie Mackellar.

Devoted reader: Author Maggie Mackellar.

Maggie MacKellar has published two books on the history of settlement in Australia and Canada and two memoirs about her life, loss and loves in rural Australia, When It Rains and recently How to Get There (Vintage Australia). She now lives on the east coast of Tasmania with her partner and two children.

FAMOUS FIVE

Enid Blyton

Each good book I read shifts me towards some new knowledge, some other version of my world. As I’ve got older the books that change me have changed. I think of my first decade as the decade of the series. The first books I became truly obsessed with were Enid Blyton’s Famous Five, or more specifically George. In the Famous Five I met an outsider, a tom boy, just like me. George gave me hope. I was George, a lot. Thinking like George made me brave and angry. It had just taken reading Enid Blyton for me to realise it was allowed. Honourable mentions must also go to Walter Farley’s The Black Stallion series and Elynne Mitchell’s The Silver Brumby. If I wasn’t George, I was a horse.

AN IMAGINARY LIFE

David Malouf

Ten to 20 was the decade I hid my reading habit. I buried it because none of my friends read books, or if they did it was only because they had to. It took me the first half of the decade to realise this and the second half to not care. I found David Malouf. I read An Imaginary Life and the rhythm of my thinking changed. This was the first book that did this to me, the first book that inhabited me rather than I it.

PILGRIM AT TINKER’S CREEK

Annie Dillard

Twenty to 30 was the decade of non-fiction, when I learned to read with purpose. Barry Lopez, Gretel Erlich, Wallace Stegner but the one that stuck was Annie Dillard’s Pilgrim at Tinker’s Creek. She described the collusion between the physical world and her movement through it, and it stilled me and stayed with me. I thought, I want to write like that.

A GIRL IS A HALF-FORMED THING

Eimear McBride

From 30 to 40 my life detoured from the plan and fiction returned with vengeance. To read a novel is to be transformed. It’s to be consumed, eaten up, chewed, digested and reborn. Janet Frame, Ann Carson, Marilyne Robinson all shifted me away from myself, but the novel in the front of my head is A Girl Is a Half-formed Thing by Eimear McBride. It’s a devastating read from the first page to the last. It chopped up all the words for all the things and rearranged them. It’s brutal and its form is an uncompromising commitment to telling a truth. It told me you must find the way to say the things you need to say.


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Not flushed yet: Rumours circle Game of Thrones’ Tywin Lannister

Delightful: David Thompson examines the origins of pad Thai in his series, Thai Street Food.In the next season of Game of Thrones, Cersei Lannister will be nude, Tywin Lannister will be dead, and Bran Stark will be unseen. That’s three rumours disposed of, five months before the season is due to start in Australia.
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Filming for major scenes in season five of Game of Thrones began three weeks ago in Spain, which is appearing as the kingdom of Dorne. About 86,000 Spaniards applied for jobs as extras in a battle scene that required a cast of 600, some of them giving up well-paid jobs to travel to Seville and beg the producers. Every one of the wannabes seems then to have generated a plot rumour, causing the producers to issue a series of denials.

One rumour was that the much-anticipated nude scene by Lena Headey, who was the only significant actress under 40 not to have taken her clothes off so far, had been blocked by authorities in Croatia. In fact, after a church in Dubrovnik expressed reservations about it, the producers moved filming to a less religious location, and it was completed in August. It is not, however, a sex scene, but a “walk of shame” in which Cersei has her hair cropped and is partly covered with mud and blood.

Then there’s the mischievous rumour started by Charles Dance, who plays the patriarch of the evil Lannister family. At the end of season four, his son, Tyrion, fired two crossbow bolts into him. Dance told a British interviewer recently: “I’m not completely missing out on the next series … You haven’t seen the last of Tywin Lannister is all I’ll say.” The producers have suggested that any Tywin sightings are likely to be in flashbacks or funeral scenes.

But it seems we won’t even see flashbacks of Bran Stark, son of the only decent political leader from season one, who survived all sorts of attacks to reach his destination in the far north at the end of season four, and looked like being a guaranteed prospect for more adventures in season five. Isaac Hempstead-Wright, who plays him, and Kristian Nairn, who plays his protector, Hodor, have complained that they have not received any scripts or been called to the set.

Nairn revealed too much to the ABC’s 7.30 program when he visited Australia recently:  “We [Hodor and Bran] have a season off and we have a year’s hiatus, solely because I imagine our storyline is up to the end of the books.” Or possibly because the producers decided they were juggling far too many plot lines. This column will keep you up to date on all Game of Thrones rumours as they come to hand.

Top Aussie foodie eyes up pad Thai

This country’s national dish has not been the meat pie for decades. In the past 20 years, the single dish most consumed by Australians has been spaghetti bolognese, a version of pasta and meat sauce unrecognisable to people from Bologna, but evidence is growing that in the past five years spag bol has been replaced in Australia’s affections by a dish called pad Thai, a mixture of rice noodles, egg, vegetables and chilli, which we buy in takeaway cartons and gobble in front of the television.

If pad Thai is our national dish, it’s appropriate that the world’s most famous Thai chef should be an Australian – David Thompson, who runs Nahm restaurant in Bangkok, judged this year the the top restaurant in Asia and No. 13 in the world in the San Pellegrino listings. On Thursday, in his delightful SBS series Thai Street Food, Thompson examines the origins of pad Thai.

Thompson rose to fame running Darley Street Thai and Sailor’s Thai in Sydney, then went to London and opened Nahm in 2001. He got his first Michelin star within six months of opening, but he’s such a perfectionist that he closed the London Nahm in 2012 because he kept having trouble finding the ingredients he needed. Now he concentrates on perfecting the Bangkok Nahm, which is a very upmarket experience.

Thompson admits he used to be snobbish about pad Thai, and could not deny the rumour that if anybody asked for pad Thai in London, they would be asked to leave his restaurant. His study of street food has mellowed him.

“I’ve become much softer, much tenderer, and if it was a kid under 16, of course we do a pad Thai if we’ve got the wherewithal,” he told me. “Nahm in London and here [in Bangkok] is quite a different beast from the easy casual street food that pad Thai stems from. It’s a bit too popular for my liking, but I’m an arcane beast.

“As I’m getting older, I’m dropping the preciousness of fine dining. There’s an ease and a delight in that type of food. Now that I’m living here, we don’t cook at home. We go out and we might have some sort of stir-fry noodles or noodle soup or any of the multitude of dishes that are just on the streets ready at hand, delicious and affordable.”

In the series, Thompson chats to street cooks and customers about their attitudes and mixes that with serious historical research. Foodies will be shocked to learn that pad Thai has no ancient heritage. It’s a recent adaption of a Chinese dish that first appeared in the 1940s.

“Even though it’s considered to be a classic of the Thai canon, it was developed in the late ’30s and early ’40s, on the orders of a guy called Field Marshal Phibun,” Thompson said. “This dictator issued many cultural mandates where Thais had to change their traditional customs and present themselves in a Western way – what he called a more civilised way.

“Among those mandates was one requiring a national dish that should be nutritious, frugal and easy to make. A competition was launched around schools and various organisations. Not surprisingly – and it still works like this in Thailand – the wife of a government minister won the competition.

“It was normal Chinese noodles, stir-fried with egg, bean sprouts, bean curd, Chinese chives and dried prawns, all of which you see as the basis of so many traditional Chinese dishes in south-east Asia. What they added to make it different was some tamarind water and some palm sugar. It was something that echoed the rather nationalistic zeitgeist and met the demands of the dictator, but was also quite delicious.

“It then became gentrified with the addition of fresh prawns or other expensive ingredients, and in the [United] States I’ve seen it stir-fried with green beans and pork and even tomato sauce, but here in Thailand it is still eaten in roughly the same way.”

I ventured the opinion that Australia’s national dish was a version of pad Thai with chicken or sometimes duck. Thompson was not amused: “David, if you tell me you serve pad Thai with chicken in your house, that’s when I would have to hang up in disgust. You could do stir-fried noodles with chicken, but that’s a different dish. A chook is not part of a pad Thai.”

You have been warned.

Thai Street Food airs on Thursday, November 6, 6pm, SBS One.

Carping and beefing 

You know, of course, that the ABC is a communist conspiracy, which uses a facade of quality journalism to brainwash viewers into hating politicians and capitalists. Now it seems that SBS is a vegan conspiracy, using a facade of foodie programming (see our top 10 chart across the top of this page) to cloak its secret agenda of terrifying viewers about animal-based protein.

On Thursday nights it’s running a series called What’s the Catch?, in which Matthew Evans reveals how much of the seafood Australians eat comes from endangered species or polluted waterways.

On November 3, SBS will start making us feel equally bad about eating meat, when British gastronome Michael Mosley looks at farming practices that kill 65 billion animals a year, mostly in ways most people would consider cruel, and eating habits that massively increase the risk of heart attacks and strokes. Mosley concludes that the biggest health risks come from processed meats such as bacon, but you may find the weight of evidence is enough to drive you away from spag bol and towards pad Thai, without the chicken, of course.

Michael Mosley: Should I Eat Meat? airs on Monday, November 3, 7.30pm, SBS One.

For more, see smh杭州龙凤论坛m.au/entertainment/blog/the-tribal-mind.


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