Discovering Harvey Graham.

I’ve been back working with Brisbane Arcade recently, for its 90th birthday celebrations.

I love Brisbane Arcade: its bloody history, its Art Deco bone structure, and its personalities — many of whom I got to know when I was marketing manager there a decade ago. For the 90th, I’ve had the exceeding good fortune to work with the current (awesome) marketing manager and a canny publicist. The luxury of a team of three! Just like Charlie’s Angels.


Faye Rolf in Royce Facy

How gorgeous is Faye Rolph? This is one of Royce Facy’s clippings.

As well as event production, this time around, part of my work involved researching past arcade tenants, particularly fashion tenants. And it’s been a joyful little voyage of discovery. I’ve been able to reminisce with designers including Royce Facy, a local treasure. Revisit the RAQ awards (always just a little self-conscious, those televised 80s/90s galas) and the women who would have been supermodels, had they grown up in a city with greater prospect than this “big country town”. Giggle at blowsy advertising claims in old Trove searches. Try to imagine a retail environment where a store that only sold umbrellas made perfect sense. (Or an arcade where two successful dancewear stores thrived for years, facing off at opposite ends of the balcony level…)

Anthony Leigh Dower and Libby Bowley at the RAQ Awards

Anthony Leigh Dower and Libby Bowley at the RAQ Awards


The process has encouraged a contemplation of the nature of history, of what gets remembered (often that which is uploaded, or oft-copied). The creating of history through the telling. Wars that are described by the victors and all that.

Has which chosen history a Wikipedia page?

Serious modelling: Royce Facy designs in 1980

Serious modelling: Royce Facy designs in 1980


I’ve met a talented man who doesn’t have a Wikipedia page (yet).

I thought I’d met, or heard about, a fair swathe of southeast Queensland’s dressmakers and designers from the second half of last century. Surrounded by talk of them since my first after-school job, selling paper patterns in the family business, I sold fabric and haberdashery to most of Brisbane’s dressmakers over a couple of decades in the rag trade. So it was near-mortifying to only be introduced to the designer Harvey Graham so recently.

Serendipitously, as we were planning the Arcade’s 90th events, a southside vintage store had taken delivery of a pristine Harvey Graham collection from a deceased estate, and Andra our publicist had made contact. These outfits were gorgeous: late 60s and early 70s, neat. Adorable.

I googled him: nothing, save an oblique nod to his awesome taste in architecture. (The Graham House in Indooroopilly, noted by Rob Riddel as one of Brisbane’s key mid-century designs, is now a vacant block for sale.)

But then I started talking to people who’d remember.

“Your grandmother loved Harvey Graham,” said my mum. “He was her favourite of the city designers.”

My dad remembered his cool car, of course, and also his consummate elegance.

Others remembered his attention to detail: Buttonholes of perfection. Belts to make you swoon. Trim detail matched only by Helena Kaye, or his arcade neighbour, Gwen Gillam: a designer who one fashionista with a longer memory whispered “wasn’t as good as Harvey, but she was louder.”

But the internet didn’t remember him, and a tip from local fashion insider Michael Marendy led me to one grainy picture of the confirmed bachelor.


Brisbane designer Harvey Graham

Harvey Graham, alias “Sir Bernard”


Harvey Graham’s salon moved from South Brisbane to Brisbane Arcade in the 1960s, and remained there until the early 1980s.

He’s back in there right now, and there’ll be a long-overdue Harvey Graham parade next Friday.


I can’t wait. It’s nice to give back some kind of history, even if it’s just a shout into the www abyss.


You can read an article I wrote about the fashion designers of Brisbane Arcade, as part of Brisbane Arcade’s 90th , here.


Clouds and roofs and trees

I love clouds and roofs and trees. I once even had a blog called “roof porn”. (I guess it’s now part of that pile of dead data whizzing around our heads that will be exhumed by a future tech-archaeologist, if it’s not sizzled by an errant solar flare.)

Keith Burt has painted my dream exhibition. It sounds so gushy when I write that, but it’s true.

Now will someone please buy me one?

This will do. Or this one. Or this, please?

The Esplanade


Oh, there are no photographs, as we were enjoying the moment far too much to bother recording. As usual.

But here’s a recipe for a cocktail we created last weekend.

Get invited to two of your dearest mates’ place for a kind of housewarming on a Saturday night. Go to the Yandina farmers’ markets in the morning (or, as we like to call them, the Good Markets) and buy a lovely pineapple and a bag of limes. Ask your dad if you can have a handful of mint from the garden (which, sadly, you forget. Mint would have made this drink even more awesome.)

Grab a bottle of Stoli, for old times’ sake, and hope that your friends have coconut cream in the cupboard after you forget to pick some up at the IGA. Throw in some mixers.

Deposit the lot on the kitchen counter and have a few glasses of Champagne. Hug old friends. Share some jokes.

Later, grab some accomplices. Gather ice. Chop half the pineapple into chunks. Add these to the bowlful of ice in Lindy’s big thermo thing that presides over the kitchen bench. Ask Justin how much alcohol. He’ll add about ¼ bottle of vodka and 1/3 bottle bacardi to the ice. That sounds about right. While Justin and Lou are trying to talk over the noise of the ice-and-pineapple-smashing machine, muddle a few massive teaspoons of sugar and limes (3? 4? Something like that) with a mortar and pestle. Wish you’d remembered the mint. Steal a can of coconut cream from the cupboard. Grab the ginger beer from the fridge.

When it’s smooth, pour the mashed ice/pine/vodka/bacardi into 2 jugs (it won’t fit in one). Into each, add: 1/2 can coconut cream, half the juice from the muddled sugared limes, and a good slosh of ginger beer. Stir.

Roll the rim of whatever glass you choose in the lime and pineapple juices which are probably still drenching your chopping board, then dump into leftover sugar for super sugarrimmed glamour.

Gently lower a chunk of pineapple to the bottom of the glass. Try to balance a slice of lime on the rim, fail, and drop that into the bottom as well. Fill with the blended goodness of pineapple, ice, vodka, white rum, lime, sugar, ginger beer, and coconut cream.

While glasses are being filled, take a baking tray and fill to about 2cm deep with the Esplanade mix. Secrete it into the freezer. In a few hours, you’ll remember that you did this, and you’ll be delighted to find you’ve got the beginnings of a delightful vodka granita. Or you’ll forget, but it will be perfect for tomorrow’s hangover.

That is how you create the Esplanade.



Too many months have passed without self-indulgent writing, with no wordy rambling save skinny scratchings in a work-related notebook and the occasional sentence plugged into my phone’s orangey notes.


Someone has left a whole watermelon on my doorstep.


The eyes have been scratched out of a massive poster of Wil Anderson up the road. He looks more interesting, satanic.


My beloved rooster is yet to crow and give the whole game up.



Yesterday, we took the boys to Sea World. There were many tattoos. We left at closing time. The nearly empty carpark suffered random discards: bags and containers stealthed down between parked cars guiltily revealed when their cover drove off. In a straight line to our car, I passed two dirty disposable nappies. People suck.


We had stayed at Greenmount, which was a younger sample of the weekend’s generally vintage vibe. I want to save every last faded one of the southern Gold Coast beauties: the random terrazzo floors, proud little skillion roofs, all the asbestos-clad modesty.

Those beaches of the GC’s cooler lower reaches are stunning, and the high-rises grotesque alongside.

Whenever I look north across the sweeping bays towards the silhouetted geometric outline that spreads from north of Surfers Paradise to (where? Broadbeach? or would it have sprawled down to Nobby’s by now?), I can’t help imagining it a smoking ruin. The ocean, sparkling and alive, in front of apocalyptic desolation. An annihilated future.

Autumn, northwards

Autumn, northwards

I must go. Work demands attention, and I also must find out what sort of bird made the nest that landed on the driveway last week.

From the dusty vault…

…in the spare room, covered in cockroach crap, I found a stack of old work from around the turn of the millennium.

I uploaded this one for fun (and in utter self-indulgence). I’d forgotten all about it; I’d forgotten how satisfying it was to write. And I’d forgotten exactly how much I despised Sex and the City.

Road trip to Fraser Island

In the middle of this wet, wet, day, when I was meant to be writing, I finally got around to downloading some pics from my phone.


Here are a couple from a quick road trip we took to Fraser Island at the end of last year. They’re a mix of Hipstamatic, Instagram, and plain old iPhone.

Anger shackles

Pulling into Yandina, the sweetest station of all.

On the train from Eumundi to Brisbane earlier this week, I’d scored myself some glorious uninterruptable hours to write a piece whose deadline casts a megashadow over the month (and a piece that’s proving a challenge on two fronts). Or so I’d assumed.

Lack of chivalry meets lack of self control, and the bloke who should be painted as a prick to the carriage community gets away with it.

Seat sorted: forward facing, single against window. An older train, so no free wifi to distract. (Important.) It all starts so well. But then, somewhere south of Nambour, around Mooloola, my concentration cracks all Humpty Dumpty.

People trickle into the train along the line until only single seats remain. It’s not yet 7am.

Young battler family, straight from Working Dog’s central casting, push their way pram first up the carriage, needing to park pram and sit. Mum, smiling, holds their young baby, bringing up the rear. They stop across from me, diagonally, next to a baby boomer-esque couple in the seats near the door, the seats usually reserved for the handicapped or the infirm. The seats that a gentleman would vacate for a woman with baby in arms.

Young dad (ponytail, buzz undercut, goatee) stops and exercises his polite voice, asks if the couple sitting would mind swapping sears so his family could please sit together and keep an eye on the pram?

The woman continues to stare out the window. Her partner (60ish, blue business shirt, shiny bald head) looks directly at the little family, and abrupts in a surprisingly velvet voice “Why, have you got another two seats together for us? We’re sitting together.”

“Um,” goatee replies, colouring up. “I don’t know, we’d just like to sit with the baby and the pram please.”

“Did you pay extra? No. We’re not moving. You can leave the pram here and sit elsewhere.”

Prick. This is the point I turn, with my best glare.

Young goatee dad is also offended by a lack of chivalry.

(Queensland Rail itself would also be disappointed. Point 2 in their 15-point guide to transport etiquette states: If you are occupying a Priority Seat, vacate the seat for someone who has a disability, is elderly, pregnant or carrying young children.)

 So far, clear moral script. Villain easily spotted… Until goatee boy’s anger grabs him by the balls and he loses it, telling the selfish prick he is, well, a selfish prick, but using all his favourite words starting with C and F. But mainly C.

After a few rounds of fourth-grade playground vocab, goatee is pretty frustrated. And very, very angry.

“You expect us to leave the pram here and go sit all the way in another carriage, and come back and forth for the baby, c***?.”

I stand, fold my laptop under my arm, and offer the mother my single seat, willing the young dad to calm down and shut up, willing the older man to stop looking so smug (because he is smug now, he’s been sworn at, so he can claim moral superiority). He’s still a prick.

“Thank you, madam (!) that’s very kind of you, but i wouldn’t take your seat when this f***ing C*** dog won’t get off his f***ing selfish a******* to let a lady with a baby sit down.” (Turning to throw another “c***” in the direction of his nemesis.)

Etc. You can imagine. For a lot of the journey’s remaining 90 minutes.


This anger breaks my heart. This anger allows the business man (did I mention he was a selfish, unchivalrous prat?) to play the injured part, which he milks, calling for the guard, saying he feels threatened, telling the guard to call the police because a violent man is threatening him in words and actions.

Kids sprawled on seats further down the train stare at their phone screens while elderly people stand in the aisles next to them. Who can expect them to offer their seats, with the example played out at the other end of the carriage?

I stare out the window.

The view from the train


Goatee man, because he lost his temper, threw away the moral high ground, and it’s tempting to extrapolate to the rest of his life, sadder, spiralling in anger cycles, because somewhere he missed a life lesson or two. Always recast as villian.

He did come back down the carriage, and apologised to the man and woman (still seated, she staring out the window) for his earlier language. The “couple” hadn’t spoken a word to each other, and didn’t for the entire journey. The businessman kept his eyes closed the entire apology, which riled goatee boy anew. Apology forgotten, a new flock of cursing was released. Businessman still looked smug. I felt disappointed in the pair of them, annoyed for humanity, and am still trying to figure out why this episode has wormed its way around my thoughts all week.

“The anger of the stupid keeps them disenfranchised,” I SMS’ed to my partner. What an unattractive parable.



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