Posted in Sparks in the wild, Sydney sparks

The Rats and Mice Show

Every year, the Sydney Royal Easter Show is a big deal. It’s held at a huge (former Olympic) venue for a couple of weeks and bzillions of people and animals go along to experience country life – woodchopping, giant displays of fruit and vegetables, farm animals and Chiko Rolls. (If you’re not familiar with this bizarre Australian deep fried mystery, you can read more here.) There are hundreds of showbags for little kids and big kids, live music, carnival rides and all the fun of the fair.

But I’ve found a competition that I think should have top billing – I’m amazed that I never knew about it before today. I blame the marketers – too focussed on the rare breeds of alpacas and cows and dogs, instead of our smaller furry friends. The rats and mice. Yes, there is a whole competition for rodents.

Apparently, the Rat & Mouse Competition is a pet class that promotes public understanding of rats and mice within Agriculture and how we accept them in our community. Who knew that rats and mice were so misunderstood and felt so isolated in the farming community? Poor dears. For too long, they have been disregarded as pests, but really all they want is to fit in. I have images of the barn, with the ‘cool crowd’ of cows, sheep, pigs, horses and chickens chatting in the corner – then the rat and mouse come in, “Hey! Hey, guys! Over here! Yoo hoo! Guys! GUYS?” but no one will make beady eye contact.

Anyways, this competition is run by an organisation with the funniest name I’ve seen in a long time: The Australian Rodent Fanciers’ Society. Hmmmm. Bet you don’t see that listed under ‘memberships’ on many LinkedIn or online dating profiles. Sure, the name is pretty good, but it’s actually their website image that has become one of my all-time favourites. Rodents praying to a giant billboard? Sure, why not, Rodent Fanciers – it’s your Show!

Posted in Sparks in the wild

Welcome to Gnomesville

It’s really tough to explain Gnomesville in Western Australia. Surely one of the most bizarre places I’ve ever been and I’m so grateful to my brother and sister-in-law for adding it to the itinerary when I visited Perth last year. Down a small side road, surrounded by bushland and farms, Gnomesville is another world. Its impossible to capture the scale of it with my limited photographic skills, but trust me when I say it covers a very large area. Just when you think you’ve passed the last gnome grotto, you’ll notice a little weather-beaten sign and yet another collection of slightly worse-for-wear little statues. There are bridges and hills creating sort of gnome-y neighbourhoods, often with their own theme and signage. And often pretty creepy.

There are more bad gnome puns than you can poke a stick at – mostly hand-painted on (sometimes quite elaborate) signs. And that’s probably what surprised me the most: the pre-meditation of Gnomesville tourism. I felt very slack turning up without a bunch of gnomes (tattooed with the names of my family) – like a vegetarian at a butcher’s BBQ or an unmanicured Kardashian, I was feeling unprepared and out of place. Clearly, people carefully plan their visits to Gnomesville – gathering their gnomes, preparing their puns, slapping up their signs and then ensuring that they find just the right part of the village to house their little friends.

And, just like anywhere else in Australia, there is a real mix of characters: from South African and Kiwi gnomes, to dodgy looking gnomes in trailers and on bikes, to a big group of scantily clad girlie gnomes, to gnomes commemorating anniversaries and births and all sorts of families. And a DJ gnome, a Doctor gnome (presumably to staff the gnome hospital, where they seem to throw all the broken pieces of gnome) and some interlopers like frogs and bears that are wannabe gnomes trying to fit into the neighbourhood.There is even a tin of Spam on display in a wooden frame attached to a tree trunk. It’s that kind of place.

  

So if you’re travelling around WA, it’s definitely worth stopping at Gnomesville for a unique experience of life in an alternate universe – where you are giant-sized, gnomes drive cars and run hospitals, puns abound and you start debating the relative attractiveness of little plaster statues with glasses or pointy hats. But be warned – it can get a bit overwhelming and creepy and mess with your head – so whatever you do, don’t camp there overnight. Lest you venture past the point of gnome return (dammit, see what I mean?) and become part of the madness…

   

Posted in Sparks in the wild, WWWhat?

Sea change

I am still not sure if this is true or an elaborate hoax left over from the 1980s (which appears to be when the photos on their website were last updated), but I present to you: Jules’ Undersea Lodge. It is apparently the world’s only underwater hotel, based in Key Largo, Florida. You enter the Lodge via a 21 feet scuba dive and the owners say that the lodge can accommodate up to six friends. Close friends, presumably, as it looks like a pretty small living area.

Whether you’re after a unique sort of venue for your wedding (or perhaps not many people approve of the match, so you’re happy to have just the celebrant and some fishy guests?) or you are one of the handful of people who loved Kevin Costner’s Waterworld and want an underwater holiday, this could be the place for you. They offer wedding packages (with too many great photos to include here) and a range of overnight stays – choose from the Luxury, European or Ultimate Romantic getaway.

Food is an important part of any holiday and don’t think that Jules has forgotten. On arrival, you are greeted with shrimp cocktail (of course!), fresh fruit and snacks. The European Package “comes with a generous portion of grilled chicken breast”. Ooh la la. And despite being surrounded by a seafood smorgasbord, they begrudgingly cater for you wacky vegetarians, who “may substitute your shrimp cocktail with humus and crackers or cheese and crackers.”  And it gets better – late night snacks can even include the underwater delivery of a pizza from a local shop.

I was confused about how you got in and out of the Lodge, but Jules explains all: A five by seven foot “moon pool” entrance in the floor of the building makes entering the hotel much like surfacing through a small swimming pool. Divers find themselves in the wet room, the center of three compartments that make up the underwater living quarters. Aha. And in case you’re interested, each of the bedrooms and the common room is equipped with telephone, intercom, VCR/DVD. Seriously? Surely you can do without technology for one night and LOOK OUT YOUR GIANT BEDROOM WINDOW AT THE WONDERS OF THE OCEAN. And one more thing, given the size of the cabin – WHO ARE YOU TALKING TO ON THE INTERCOM? Mysterious indeed, Jules.

The home page of the website asks Have you slept underwater lately? In the unlikely event that your answer is ‘no’ (but you answer ‘yes’ to the question, Do you even actually want to sleep underwater?) then check out Jules’ Undersea Lodge. And you too could be having as much fun as the couple in this photo.

Posted in Sparks in the wild

Fit for the birds

If you’re up for a different kind of holiday, or at least a different kind of holiday accommodation, you might want to check out this bizarro ‘bird’s nest sphere’ accommodation in Canada (Vancouver Island, to be precise). I saw it on Trip Advisor and it sounds like all kinds of wacky. According to the owner: Once one breaks contact with the ground, energy shifts. The magical environment of the forest canopy conjures up thoughts of elves and fairies. One can feel the presence of the forest. That presence seems to dwell in the canopy where it can watch the meanderings below. Like, totally.

For under $200 per night, you could be tucked away in this spaceage Spherical Tree House, which apparently ‘rocks with the breeze’. And rolls with the stronger winds, presumably. They say it’s a marriage of tree house and sailboat technology. Yep, that’s really what they say. There are a whole lot of details on the website and it certainly sounds complicated – the sphere is “accessed by a spiral stairway and short suspension bridge”, which to me sounds like the way to get to heaven (or at least a neighbouring village), rather than your room, but whatevs.

A word of warning – choose your travel season carefully, as a hazard of life in the forest is trees and branches falling in a strong wind or ice storm. A sphere distributes any impact stress throughout the skin and resists puncture or cracking. But when the company that owns them is called Free Spirit Spheres Inc, could you really be sure?

Safe travels, to the Spherical Tree House and beyond.

Posted in Food sparks, Sparky gifts, WWWhat?

Charming

I know that St Patrick’s Day is over and I promise this is the last Paddy’s Day post. Probably. But I just couldn’t hang on to this for a whole year without sharing it…and really, this is so much bigger than St Patrick’s Day. I dare you not to be captivated by the very name of this product: St. Patrick’s Day Corned Beef and Cabbage Charm Miniature Food Jewelry. Just look at this incredible handmade charm – it looks exactly like a bowl of soup that Heather’s grandma makes. (Heather is the lady who crafts the charms, although this one is lacking the ketchup that she apparently adds to the real version of the soup made by her grandma.)

Heather’s online shop is something to behold – whether you’re a foodie, a jewellery lover or just like weird looking stuff, it’s worth checking out. I bet you will find a gift there for a loved one or even a one that you don’t love quite so much. Heather’s shop is called Sweetnsavorytrinkets, which pretty much gives the game away. Mini macaron charms? Yes, please! BBQ ribs or Cheese enchilada earrings? Totes! Jumbo gummi grapefruit necklace? Alrighty!

And another favourite: 1/12th scale Shepherds Pie in a terra cotta bowl. Why? Well, why not?

If you’re hungry for more, Heather’s charm kitchen is open here.