The experience of arriving in a city with nothing but an overnight bag and a sketchy map was pretty cutting-edge stuff for stay-at-home me, and I was nervous and excited and worried about having booked us into the backpackers resort, where we clearly didn't belong! But despite the chalkboard out the front bearing a chalky drawing of a blonde good-time chick with big boobies, the room was clean, and the bed was comfy, and it was gloriously quiet after lights-out (earlier there was thumping music from the bar, and the yahoo-ing of young-uns coming in and out of the stairwell). I really did feel a bit silly at first; the two of us sitting amongst the bunk-beds, one a-knitting socks and the other diligently stitching Dear Jane blocks long into the night. I expect those walls had seen many things, but probably not the sort of stuff that we were engaged in.
We had spent our first evening tramping the streets of the West End and down to South Bank to see the lights of the city at dusk and just to generally get our bearings and find something to eat. Oh, we imagined ourselves femme formidable in the jostling throngs of Bo-Ho West-Enders with their outdoor cafe culture and hippy clothes. Eventually we plonked ourselves at a Greek restaurant with quintessentially Greek blue checkered tablecloths and a bevvy of smiling waiters. This was partly because it seemed so very charming, and partly because our feet were feeling the strain of unaccustomed extended walking. My twin and I shared a meal, drank the same wine, discussed politics and life the universe and everything, and finally wandered back home up a darkened street without fear. Greek wine will do that to you.
The following day was spent immersed in the wonder of old and beautiful textiles; of pieces of cloth hand-cut and stitched by daylight or by candlelight; in the midst of the goings-on of life during the Regency period, the Napoleonic wars; through periods of political unrest and social upheaval. There were quilts that featured prized Indian chintzes, sateens and silks. Textiles that were commissioned by wealthy and aristocratic families, and bed coverings that were fashioned from everyday cloth by everyday women. There were woollen quilts, pieced from offcuts of tailoring cloth, depicting scenes or tableau of historic events, famous people and pictorial stories from the Bible. A beautiful rich hexagon quilt, again made from wool-cloth and pieced by a recovering soldier from the Napoleonic war.
We also gained a rare viewing of the iconic Rajah Quilt, pieced by convict women during their voyage to Tasmania in 1841. It is normally housed in the National Gallery in Canberra, and is more often in storage than on display. The fabrics are delicate, but still intact; their colours still vibrant and true. It was worked by many hands, some expert sewers and others of the novice variety. But it is a thing of great beauty, especially given its age and provenance.
And after that we walked the art gallery until we felt almost beyond standing. Lordy my back ached and my knees groaned while negotiating the upstairs and down dales of the winding corridors of glorious things. We had been standing for three and a half hours. I would not have thought it possible that I could have faced any further tourist-ing ... But Pollyanna drove me onwards (Note: a bottle of asprin-water cures many an achy limb), and so somehow we ambulated onwards, down to the river bank, past the tropical-pagoda-gardens, up to the Boost Juice bar for refreshments and a quiet spot of knitting and resting by the ibis pond, before pushing ever onward in our quest to avoid returning to a discordant backpacker hotel.
And after hours of meandering and exploring, interspersed with cups of tea and knitting and poking about the markets, we entered the evening with a free concert outside the Queensland Performing Arts Centre and a shared chicken teryaki at the DoDoMi Korean place on Melbourne Street (so funny finding a Melbourne Street in Brisbane ...)
It's nearly midnight and I have been tinkering at this for longer than intended. Must sleep.