Rippon Lea House and Gardens

Not far away from Melbourne sits this nineteenth-century estate. It was  designed by Joseph Reed for Sir Frederick Thomas Sargood, and the style has been described as polychromatic romanesque.

There was a lot to see; I especially liked the garden and its fernery, boat house and lookout tower. Here are a few photographs from my visit.












“He raised his eyes to the intensity of whiteness that marked the sun’s proximity to a corner of the office tower. The beds of mums and begonias and liriope all around him were like bikinied extras in a music video, planted in full blush of perfection and fated to be yanked again before they had a chance to lose petals, acquire brown spots, drop leaves. Gary had always enjoyed corporate gardens as backdrops for the pageant of privilege, as metonymies of pamperment, but it was vital not to ask too much of them. It was vital not to come to them in need.”

– Jonathan Franzen, The Corrections

The cruise ship’s place today

Ocean liners aren’t exactly an esoteric subject of interest. The cruise industry lingers on, and what with the Costa Concordia disaster and Australian mining magnate Clive Palmer’s intention to build another Titanic, the transportation method is on the public’s radar. Never mind the fact I suffer from seasickness, the idea that this old-school way of travel is still tangible – and in some cases, able to flourish – is intriguing.

Of course, sea travel is easy to romanticize. Not necessarily modern ocean liners and their wifi-enabled selves, but the mode of transport in its most basic form: slow, isolated, no-frills. I love the idea that ships were once the only practical means in order to travel certain places, and that a community of passengers and crew pass their days with little but the sky in way of entertainment. It almost seems like the recreational equivalent to the minimalist leanings of Tumblr: a reaction to the everything, all-the-time information age; where a level of remedial disconnect is not only palatable, but a predictable consequence.

The industry’s past makes things even more interesting. Consider the Titanic, and the dichotomy of the poor and ultra-rich occupying the same vessel. In recent times accommodations on board have tended towards a more egalitarian state (albeit a bourgeois one). The context of modern cruising removed, I can’t help but think of the link between grandeur of the past and the nouveau riche.

And then there’s the on-board community, who are likely to be from every which place on the planet. Plus, the questions that are raised when travelling in international waters – ships occupy an interesting position.

But darkness permeates the industry. I first heard about the Chittagong shipbreaking yard in a Simon Reeve documentary and sobering National Geographic photo story, and it’s a stark reminder of the consequences of human wastefulness. I wonder if there’s a future where cruise ships could ever be characterized as sustainable. And if not – as intriguing as they may be, they are absolutely not worth it.