TIME OUT: Swim against the tide

This weekend's top things to do include a beach sculpture exhibition in Sydney, a Tasmanian craft festival and a new take on an old classic in Perth.


Stop searching. We’ve found this weekend’s top five:

1.      This is the weekend to discover Deloraine

For most of the year, Tasmania’s Deloraine is a fairly sleepy place, albeit a very attractive one. (The whole town is classified by the National Trust.) But one weekend each spring sees the population of around 2,000 surge to 30,000, as visitors come from all around Australia for the Tasmanian Craft Fair. This is that weekend.

If your idea of "craft” is oatmeal-coloured crocheted doilies, you’ll be amazed by the high-art quality of much of the work on show and for sale. Nancy Kowalski must be used to seeing faintly condescending expressions change rapidly to admiration and delight – it happens all the time at her Artifakt Gallery where, year round, she exhibits beautiful work such as Claire Badcock's finely stitched images from nature and Doreen Campbell's delicate handwoven silk scarves.

Gallery B, just down the street, is the place to find the fine glass produced by local artisans: fluid swirls of colour in perfume bottles from Richard Clements, romantic pink fluted glasses from James Dodson, plus larger vases and serving dishes, and glass bead jewellery.

There are stalls selling fine food throughout the weekend (much of it organic and sustainable) but don’t overlook the Deloraine Deli, a cheery sun-filled spot that is the local’s go-to place for a decent coffee and snack, as well as a good range of pantry items. Stock up on local honey while you're here — this region is responsible for the bulk of the specialist honeys in the country.

2.      Swim against the tide in Bondi

This is the final weekend of the 2008 Sculpture by the Sea exhibition and if you are in Sydney and haven’t been so far, you really should make the effort. It’s bigger and better than ever, with 100 works dotted along the coast between Tamarama and Bondi.

Our advice is to start at the southern end. It’s busy in either direction, but most of visitors start at Bondi, so you’ll have a slightly clearer run if you come earlyish and park the car at Bronte. Then you can spend an hour or two strolling along, touching, talking and gazing.

Mark McClelland won the $30,000 major prize this year for his huge "she thought” piece, with its sideways keyhole effect framing the coast. Is that your top pick, or are the humpback gunship, sea urchins or oversize toy soldier more to your taste?

Continue the debate at North Bondi Italian Food, a funky beachfront trattoria that’s another big, slick operation from Icebergs’ Maurizio Terzini, the zeitgeist meister of Australian eating. The big sprawling menu has something (Italian) for almost any mood. You can't book, but they built the bar long enough to console the most impatient and, positioned right on the carpark to the surf break as it is, you can always take a dip while you're waiting.


3.      See the big men fly, and duck and weave, in Melbourne

Tonight’s International Rules game between Australia and Ireland will be tough but fair, promises Collingwood’s Mick Malthouse, who is coaching the Aussies. The Irish aren’t exactly delicate flowers but last year they declined to play because of concerns about biffo and player safety. The year, Malthouse vows, his team will be playing the ball, not the man. Officials will be coming down hard on transgressions, empowered by new rules that bring automatic red cards for slinging tackles and "shirt-fronts” that risk head damage. If everyone plays in the true spirit of the game, it should be a great night out for sporting fans no matter which side wins.

Afterwards it’s just a 1.5 kilometre stroll to Little Collins Street. Many of the other spectators will be rolling on to carouse at Bridie O’Reilly’s, but you’ll be peeling off at Bar Lourinha. Chef/owner Matt McConnell is equally in love with the Spanish take on eating and drinking and the Melbourne mood for living. His food could be described as tapas haute cuisine if it weren't for the lack of pretension and the laid-back lounge-room feel. As busy and buzzy as a Barcelona bus station, with a high bar and communal tables, Bar Lourinha stays intimate and friendly even on the noisiest nights. You can’t book, but they keep serving till late.


4.      Get the good word on The Word

Saturday is All Saints Day and that’s as good an excuse as any to start reading the new book from A.J. Jacobs. Jacobs is, as his official bio puts it, ‘a best-selling author and human guinea pig’. He’s very funny, too.

As editor-at-large for Esquire magazine he has a highly enviable freedom: he gets to dream up a goofy stunt and then follow it through to the nth degree. One early experiment saw him living by the principles of Radical Honesty, where not even small, social fibs are permitted. (The resulting article was called "I think you’re fat”.)  For another, he outsourced every possible aspect of his life to a team of people in Bangalore, India — their tasks included answering his emails, arguing with his wife and reading bedtime stories to his young son.

Then came his biggest challenge so far: live for one year following as literally as possible the precepts laid down in The Bible. He began by writing down "every rule, every guideline, every suggestion, every nugget of advice”. "You shall not marry your wife’s sister” proved easy; "Put to death men and women who commit adultery” was more problematic. (He did, in the end, manage a brief exchange of hurled pebbles with a cranky septuagenarian he encountered in a park.)

Extravagantly bearded, dressed all in white and blowing a ram's horn on the street to mark the start of each month, he made a striking figure, even in Manhattan. But to his own surprise, amid all the goofy incongruities that arise when you mix biblical literalism with modern life, Jacobs found himself on a genuine spiritual journey. His book The Year of Living Biblically is snortingly funny but has an unexpected depth, too. Click here for more.


5.      The nose knows in Perth

Black Swan’s new production of the romantic, funny, touching classic Cyrano de Bergerac is nothing if not action-packed. The play, which runs until Sunday, is a new adaptation by Andrew Upton (based on a translation by Upton and Marion Potts). Focusing on the story’s "passion, poetry and panache” it is a spectacular piece, featuring dozens of characters, lots of flashy sword-fighting and a horse-drawn carriage created entirely from food. Andrew Hale and Renée McIntosh star in a show that doesn’t wear out its welcome, even with a 3½ hour running time.

If you’re curious to see how others have done it, make a beeline for Planet Film Music Books in Highgate. There’s no need to hide your love of cult movies, game or TV shows within these walls. The word nerd is never heard here. Instead, aficionados are welcomed.

Fittingly, the focus is on content, not décor.  The atmosphere comes from the people who arrive at all hours to browse, research, idle and daydream their way through the huge range. The owners boast that this is Australia's most extensive film library, and they have the stock to back that up, including a Cyrano double DVD that features the two best known cinema adaptations. The first is the 1950 movie for which Jose Ferrer won an Oscar. The second is the acclaimed 1990 French version starring Gerard Depardieu, for which Anthony Burgess provided English subtitles that retain the rhyming alexandrines of the French text. C’est magnifique.

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