Friday, 23 December 2011

Happy Christmas everyone

It is Christmas Eve in Auckland and the weather is perfect.  It is hot, sunny and calm with still, sparkling blue seas. It feels so good to be alive on days like this.  I hope it is lovely where ever you are and if it's cold I hope you are snug and cosy.

Here are some photos I took this morning on my walk.

A calm still morning at the beach.

Pohutukawa tree...known as the New Zealand Christmas tree because
it flowers right on Christmas when the coastline becomes ablaze with colour.
A close up of the Pohutukawa flower often used to decorate
the Christmas table.

Christmas Eve at St Heliers, Auckland.  A beautiful morning for kayaking.......

.....and strolling

All my very best wishes for your Christmas and holidays .  I hope they are filled with love and laughter.

Saturday, 3 December 2011

Lanterns of Japan

Anyone who knows me will know I have had a life long passion for Japan and things Japanese.  Of all the countries I have visited it is Japan that I feel homesick for. My travels in Japan have taken me from Tokyo as far south as Kumamoto on the southernmost island of Kyushu but unfortunately, so far, not north of Tokyo.  Having visited many places in Japan several times I realised I had been taking the same photos over and over again so decided on my last trip to take photos of lanterns only.  I found this absorbing, liberating and just plain fun.  I was a bit like a train spotter whooping with excitement when I found a style of lantern I hadn't seen before.  Here are a few of my lantern photos with a haiku they inspired.


Waves lap the sea path
Ancient lanterns glow softly
Cherry petals fall

Monday, 14 November 2011

An Unexpected Friendship

There are all sorts of people who touch our lives, some just in passing and some who are more than strangers but not quite what we would call friends in the usual sense.  I had one such friendship with someone I never met but who I felt I knew really well.

This is the article he wrote in the Pacific Business News May 25 2007.  My quoted e-mail was the start of a brief but enjoyable e-mail relationship between us.


The flattering e-mail arrived unexpectedly one morning from New Zealand.  It lit up my den.

"Dear John," it read. "I was going through my bookcase recently and came across your wonderful series of books entitled 'How to Get Lost and Found In....' Seeing them brought back wonderful memories of some thoroughly enjoyable trips."
"I was an ardent fan of these books and read them religiously, waiting always with great excitement for the next in the series to be published.  I have every one of them.  As a mother at home with children in distant New Zealand they were a perfect armchair trip and escape from routine.  You managed to transmit a wonderful joie de vivre in your writing and mirrored my own love of travel and my desire always to see what is around the next corner.
I was lucky enough to use many of your books as travel guides.  When I visited places you wrote of, your book was tucked carefully in my suitcase and referred to constantly.  I would like to say a sincere thank you for the great pleasure your books brought me.  I hope life is treating you well in beautiful Hawaii.  Aroha from beautiful New Zealand." signed :Miriam

Well! What a great start for the morning and it unlocked a steamer trunk of great memories.
The writing of travel books started off as a "make work" exercise.  My wife and I had scheduled a year of Saturdays, taking a full year away from Hawaii and going around the world, anywhere we wanted, doing anything we wanted.  Our first target was New Zealand, which I had visited and written about.  Our research revealed a paucity of travel books about New Zealand - ergo, let's do a book on New Zealand.

We flew to New Zealand, bought a car, found a cottage on the shores of Lake Taupo and spent six months travelling every mile of the fabulous land and loving every minute of it.

The largest publisher in New Zealand bought "How to Get Lost and Found in New Zealand". Then Air New Zealand not only bought thousands of copies of that first book but also wondered if I would consider doing a book on Fiji offering expense money up front and first class transportation.

That successful series grew to include Tahiti, Cook Islands, Australia, Japan, Hawaii, California and a final book on London.

By this time I had taken control of the publishing and selling of the series.  Air New Zealand would contract for a certain number of books and I would enlarge the print order to sell books world-wide, including by direct mail.  I remember my accountant saying "You started doing this for a lark but you are now making money!"  The venture was much more rewarding than just making money.  Writing can be a drudge or it can be a joy.  Writing the "Lost and Found" series was a joy.

Travel is funny, often hilarious.  Getting lost is almost as rewarding as getting found.  The first book's title was based on hundreds of wrong turns - and obeying the masculine mandate to never turn around and never stop and ask for directions.

Another truism is that there is beauty everywhere.  It's in children most of all.  In the cloud formations over Australia's Snowy Mountains, the coral reefs of Fiji, the temples in Japan, the full moon over Diamond Head, the changing of the guard in London, the vineyards of Napa Valley
And, of course, there is the tragic and the ugly.  The aboriginal settlements in Australia, the original prisons in Tasmania, the stark remains of devastating bush fires and earthquakes and lessons-learned tidal waves.


John McDermott in Japan
After my initial e-mail John and I e-mailed each other  quite regularly for a while and he also mailed me a hard copy of the above article. We discussed all sorts of things but mainly Hawaii, where he lived, and New Zealand, which he loved equally. He always called me Lady Miriam and used an enormous font so I was aware that his eye sight was failing.  When, after a while the e-mails petered out I thought it was due to sight problems.  Last week John came into my mind again and I went onto the Internet to try and track him down only to find that he had died in February last year, shortly after his last e-mail to me and at the grand age of 89.  He was writing a regular column for the  Hawaii based Pacific Business News right up to his death.  I have been feeling inordinately sad all week.  Farewell dear friend.

This is me on Muri Beach in Rarotonga in 1984.  I am clutching a copy of
"How To Get Lost and Found in the Cook Islands"

Monday, 31 October 2011

Victory at last!

We won, we won! After a thrilling, nail biting final, in which we managed to hold off a determined French team to win 8 to 7,  it's all over and the whole of New Zealand is basking in the sweet satisfaction of once again being the world champions.  Rugby is our national game, some would say religion, so winning the world cup has raised morale in our country which has been battered by  major earthquakes, a serious mining disaster and the world wide recession during the last 12 months.  The world cup has been an opportunity for people to escape their worries, if only for a little while, and victory a cause for celebration.
A triumphant Richie McCaw, Captain of the All Blacks, with the World Cup

We wait to join the victory parade...yes, that's me with thumb up..

We volunteers were invited to join with the All Blacks in their victory parade and it was a thrilling experience to walk the length of Queen St, Auckland's main street, amidst joyous crowds elated at seeing the All Blacks.  We basked in their cheers and shouted thanks to us for our work and contribution to the success of the event.  It is estimated 250,000 people watched the parade and it was just wonderful to see everyone so happy and up lifted.  It is something I will never forget....a truly memorable occasion.

What an amazing and memorable experience...I'm on the left, camera in hand

The following night the wind up party for volunteers was held in Shed 10 on Queen's wharf, with over 1000 attending.  On a glorious balmy evening it was fun to mix with fellow volunteers, enjoy good food, drink and entertainment and say a sad farewell to people we have worked with and are unlikely to see again.

Relaxing with fellow volunteers at the wind up party

I have never been a fanatical rugby fan although I have always enjoyed major games played by the All Blacks. Being involved in this was, for me, never about the actual sport but more about being a huge fan of New Zealand and of Auckland,  having a passion for making the event successful, giving visitors to New Zealand the best possible experience and enjoying an amazing feel good festival. And I think it is fair to say that it has been an outstanding success.  It was a privilege to be a part of it and I have to say I loved every minute.

So now life abruptly returns to normal. It is back to catching up on things I have neglected over the last few weeks like tackling the weeds in my garden, catching up with friends  doing  a few needed odd jobs around home and looking forward to what the weather forecasters predict will be a long hot summer.  Bring it on!

Friday, 14 October 2011

Diary of a volunteer - Fans, Fanzones, Fan Trail = Fun

We are now down to the final nine days of the tournament and many of the volunteers are starting to feel sorry that it will soon be over.  It has been the most uplifting of carnivals and Auckland has been a constant buzz so things are bound to feel a bit flat after all this excitement.  I have carried out eleven volunteer shifts, so far, and have enjoyed every one of them.  For the most part I have been stationed at the central fanzone on Queens Wharf at the foot of Queen St, Auckland.  The fanzone has a multitude of attractions which ensures a constant flow of visitors any day of the week. The most popular attraction has been the giant rugby ball which is actually a small theatre holding around 200 people.  The entire interior surface of the ball, apart from the floor, is a movie screen which showcases the beauty of New Zealand and aspects of our history.  It is brilliant and some days the queues for this attraction have been extremely lengthy. I spent one day working in the ball organising people in and out and seating, or should I say, lying, them for the shows.  The best way to view it is lying on your back on the floor.  people are taken aback when you tell them this but, in the end, most do lie on the floor, even the elderly,  and are glad they did. It was the most exhausting of all my shifts, so far, but also rewarding to see how much people enjoy the show.
Volunteers at the giant rugby ball cinema
Volunteers outside The Cloud
 The other outstanding feature on the wharf is the stunning Cloud building.  Designed as a long undulating cloud, to reflect New Zealand's name, Aotearoa i.e.  "land of the long white cloud",  it is quite spectacular and has certainly been a major draw card.  During the tournament it has hosted trade shows, public lectures, childrens' ukelele exhibitions, fashion shows, comedy shows and, best of all, the Taste New Zealand food hall where, for a fee, people can taste the very best of New Zealand food and wine. The Cloud also houses two giant TV screens, both measuring 16 by 8 metres, these show films showcasing New Zealand and televised tournament games.  At night the interior is lit with a changing light spectrum which looks beautiful from the outside. For hard core rugby fans there is Shed Ten, certainly the biggest bar I have ever seen and am ever likely to, I think.  There have been nightly performances there of bands of all types from loud rock to soft and mellow.  This is where thousands of fans have watched the rugby games on giant screens.  Other attractions are scattered along the wharf including an interactive display of New Zealand film and a huge memorabilia shop.

My shifts have been between five and nine hours long, some during the day and some right up until midnight.  For the most part our role is to meet and greet people and to provide any information about the tournament, or Auckland/New Zealand, requested.  The fun part has been meeting people from all over the world. I have been astonished by the number of people who have travelled from places such as Georgia and Romania to follow their teams, however, there have been people from every country in the competition.  They all came with the intention of having a great time and their positive attitude has been a joy. On game days the fanzone has been awash with good natured team supporters in their national colours and costumes waving flags and chanting. I have met many very interesting people, including a group of English parliamentarians here to play rugby against a team of New Zealand parliamentarians.  They were real gentlemen and good to chat with. The most popular fans of all, though, have been the Irish.
With a vibrant and joyful Township band from South Africa......

.......and Irish and Australian supporters..........

....and let's not forget our own enthusiastic if colourless fans.
One day the volunteers were invited to have a private meeting with the French rugby team.  They were most generous with their time spending about an hour signing autographs and posing for photos.  Some of the young female volunteers were quite weak at the knees.
Enjoying meeting the French rugby team.
Two of my shifts have been spent standing in pretty steady rain....and, surprisingly, I have still enjoyed them.  One shift was at Eden Park lapping up the atmosphere and another I spent along the Fan Trail.  The Fan Trail has been a particular success of this tournament.  In order to free up public transport it was decided to encourage people to walk the four and a half kilometres from downtown Auckland to Eden Park.  To make it interesting there are all sorts of activities, buskers, art works and refreshment spots along the way. Fans, people going to the games and just Aucklanders generally have embraced the Fan Trail with enthusiasm, so much so that thousands walk it every time there is a game on simply to enjoy the carnival atmosphere.

Thursday, 29 September 2011

Diary of a Volunteer - Opening Day

Thankfully the  opening day of the tournament dawned fine and clear. Thankfully because  New Zealand's weather is unpredictable in spring which is famous for having four seasons in one day and no one wanted it to rain on our parade. And it seemed as if the whole of Auckland was excited at the prospect of a truly memorable occasion.
A glorious day and the crowds start to arrive on Te Wero Island
By mid afternoon the numbers grow
At our workforce centre we were briefed and divided into teams.  I was allocated  Te Wero Island, certainly a case of drawing the long straw as it was a perfect vantage point and turned out to be one of the least congested areas of down town Auckland.  Te Wero is not really an island, rather it is a finger of land running along the Northern side of the Viaduct Harbour. As the balmy, sunny afternoon wore on the crowds swelled and I enjoyed my role as a host..meeting, greeting and helping visitors from all over the world.  I was impressed at what lovely people these international rugby supporters are,  mostly middle aged and in excited anticipation of the tournament.  Many had saved for years to come and were thrilled to be here.  Others go to all the major  rugby international tournaments around the world. All were keen to chat and grateful for assistance and I loved the interaction.The Te Wero crowd was a combination of family groups settling down with picnic baskets who had come for the fireworks display and enthusiastic rugby supporters many of whom were heading to watch the opening game at Eden Park.

The first of the waka arrives
At 4pm the festivities began with the arrival into Viaduct Harbour of 20 ceremonial waka, Maori canoes, paddled by crews of between 20 and 40 paddlers in traditional dress.  It was a stunning and moving sight as the canoes arrived one after the other to the chants of the paddlers, the haunting karakia ( a call of welcome from a maori woman), from the shore, and the echo of the conch shell. The paddlers walked the length of Te Wero island to a small square, as Dave Dobbyn, one of New Zealand's top entertainers, sang his song Welcome Home for them.  The words of this song are poignant and moving and I felt quite emotional at that point.   Then the paddlers performed the haka, the Maori war dance, causing the earth to tremble beneath their feet.
The waka paddlers prepare to do the haka
The crowd relaxed, picniced and waited for the opening ceremony and the fireworks display to follow.  While they waited they were entertained by the royalty of New Zealand pop music, Tim and Neil Finn and Dave Dobbyn, among others. Then at 7pm the opening ceremony at Eden park was  screened on the huge screens located at various places around the Auckland waterfront and what a magnificent ceremony it was, portraying some of the history of New Zealand and rugby in spectacular style.  A moment for us all to feel very proud.  Finally came what  the children were waiting for, the fireworks display.  It was to be the biggest display that New Zealand had ever seen and it didn't disappoint.  I felt so lucky to have a prime view, with the harbour to one side of me and the Sky Tower to the other.  At times I didn't know where to was amazing, wonderful, exciting.  At one point a downtown skyscrapper was spotlit to reveal two men performing acrobatics high up on the side of the building.  They appeared to be running up and down the building and turning somersaults and landing on the wall.
By late afternoon the crowds were increasing...but still comfortable
Once all this excitement was over everyone settled down to watch the first match of the competition, New Zealand versus Tonga, on large screens (NZ won 41 - 10) and we volunteers went for our first meal break.  No complaints there!  Delicious catered food served in our workforce centre  with a wide view over the viaduct.  I know I'm going to enjoy this volunteering!
I'm far left with fellow volunteers and some rather bewildered looking young rugby supporters
Auckland had been inundated with people, an estimated 200,000 people flocked to the down town area for this opening night, much higher numbers than predicted, and causing traffic chaos in some areas, but I was lucky, missing out on the worst of it and loving every moment of the experience.  I left to get my bus home at 11pm and it arrived only 10 minutes late.  I ended my first shift tired, with an aching back from nearly 9 hours standing, but happy and so proud of our beautiful city and country.

Thursday, 15 September 2011

Diary of a Volunteer 2011 - Part 1

About a year ago I was invited to work at a seminar held at Sky City Convention Centre in Auckland to recruit volunteers to assist at the major world sporting event being held in Auckland from September to October 2011.  For copyright reasons I am not allowed to use the official title of the event but most readers will know about it and for those who don't, it involves New Zealand's national sport, rugby.  The organisers of the seminar were thrilled to find the convention room packed, but it was amusing, nevertheless, to see many of the attendees' enthusiasm drain away when told they were most unlikely to see any of the games.  I was blown away by the professionalism of the presentation and the enthusiasm of the presenters, so much so that, while not particularly a fan of rugby, although I do always watch our national team, the All Blacks, I applied to be a volunteer myself. 

Why did I volunteer?  Well there are several reasons,  Firstly, I love the work I do as a guide for  Auckland Tourism, I enjoy meeting people from all over the world and this would be an extension of that.  Secondly, I am very proud of New Zealand and my city, Auckland, and wanted to show it in a good light, make our visitors feel welcome and help make the event  a success.  And lastly, I wanted to be a part of the buzz and excitement surrounding it all.

Just volunteering did not mean you were accepted. There was an interview process to go through and after acceptance the allocation of a role appropriate to your skills.  My role is as a Festival Host and I am eagerly looking forward to this role.   Next we were measured for the uniform, still enticingly top secret at that stage.   Then there were 9 lessons to be completed via the internet and at the end an exam requiring a 100% pass mark.  That sounds harsh but to be honest if you had completed the lessons it wasn't too challenging. Then there were 3 more role specific lessons delivered via the internet, an afternoon of training at Auckland University of Technology and another  at Sky City Convention Centre.  Accreditation photos were taken, we visited The Cloud and Shed 10, the two major features of Auckland's Fanzone and  walked the 4.7km Fan Trail to Eden Park, Auckland's premier rugby stadium where the major games of the tournament will be played.  So, all in all, it was comprehensive, top class, training.
Watching a game on TV during a meal break.  I'm 3rd from right top row.
Finally, it was time to collect our uniforms, in shades of turquiose and teal they stand out in a crowd and reflect the sea, sky and paua shells of New Zealand.  We are all delighted with them. Then our rosters arrived and, at last, we were ready, willing and raring to go.  Bring it on!!

Wednesday, 24 August 2011

The Sunshine Coast was

You know you're in Australia when the main highway is called Bruce and before long you are being passed by four wheel drive vehicles with snorkels mounted at the front, very handy for crossing crocodile infested rivers!  I was on a short trip to the Sunshine Coast, Queensland, Australia.  This was my first trip to the area and I was lucky enough to choose New Zealand's coldest week in decades to be away, so while everyone was shivering back home I was basking in warm, balmy, perfect weather and feeling kind of smug.

View of Mooloolaba Marina from my hotel
I flew into Brisbane, was through the airport in less than ten minutes and then onto a shuttle bus to take me to my destination, Mooloolaba, to the north. Throughout the journey of about 1 hour 20 minutes there was a running commentary.  Not from the driver but from the woman behind me talking to the person beside her.  She told tales of camping in the outback, riding trains across the desert, climbing Uluru (Ayres Rock) being trapped by snakes in a canyon, trips on the Murray River in a house boat...on and on and on. Boy could she talk! but it was fascinating. She was returning from her latest exploit... kayaking down a river in the Northern Territories.  She clearly had a life full of adventure.  I was flabbergasted when she told her companion that it would have been her 58th wedding anniversary that day if her husband was alive and her great grandchildren were coming to see her.  What a woman!! A real Aussie adventurer.  I felt a bit shamefaced and wimpy when the shuttle dropped me at my very attractive beachside resort accommodation.

 Mooloolaba is the archetypal Australian picture postcard beach resort.  The fine golden sand stretches as far as the eye can see with glossy green breakers sssshing onto the beach and throwing up fluffy, snow white plumes on the rocky outcrops.  The beachfront is lined with cafes, restaurants and shops and is blessed with a relaxed, laid back atmosphere.  The seaside walk between Mooloolaba and Maroochydore to the north is about 6 kilometers long and very scenic.  I loved this walk, walking it several times during my stay, mainly to spend time with my friends, Juleen and Brian.  Longtime friends, (Juleen and I were at High School together), they live a life of endless summer.....summer in New Zealand and winter in Maroochydore.  Fantastic hosts, they were so good to me, taking me on several day tours of the region.
Mooloolaba at sunset

My friend, Juleen, in Montville
 One day they took me up into the hinterland behind the Sunshine Coast to a town called Montville. Montville is leafy and cool and as pretty as a picture with stunning views to the coast and picturesque old buildings now restored and housing crafts people and artists, shops and galleries.  We spent some time picking and poking around and enjoying a leisurely lunch in a delightful tree shaded courtyard serenaded by the songs of native birds.  Another day we went to Noosa, a little more to the north.  Noosa is a long time favourite with New Zealand retirees and I can see why.  There is a bylaw banning any buildings more that 3 stories high which ensures a low key, laid back appearance to the town.

Yours truly (right) with Juleen in Noosa
  The main street, lined with palm trees, smart shops and restaurants runs parallel to the beach making everything easy and accessible. We had a genuine Aussie experience here, lunch at the Noosa Surf Club, inexpensive, excellent and with fine views over the beach. One afternoon Juleen and I had a "girly" day and went to the Sunshine Plaza, a large modern, vibrant, shopping centre in Maroochydore which spans the Maroochy River and reminded me a little of shopping centres I have been to in Japan. Other times we hung out at their beautiful apartment, catching up on news, eating Juleen's delicious food and enjoying the stunning views up and down the coast line.  A big thank you to Juleen and made my trip.
View from my friends' apartment, Maroochydore
When I go somewhere new it doesn't take me long to find a favourite cafe.  In Mooloolaba it was Jamaica Blue, right on the waterfront with a good view of the sea, morning papers and excellent coffee.  Every morning I made my way there to enjoy a flat white, catch up on news and watch the world go by.  In the evenings I sat on my terrace with a narrow view of the sea  basking in the evening sun and sipping on a glass of bubbly.  Life doesn't get much better than that! 
Jamaica Blue, Mooloolaba
My morning coffee and the paper
Evening bubbly in the sun...shame there is only one glass,but that's how it is...otherwise life doesn't get better than this

I found  the locals to be happy, cheerful and friendly.  Like anywhere, of course, they have their issues concerns and problems, parts of Queensland had devastating floods recently,  but the wide blue skies, long pristine beaches and clean blue ocean must make those problems a little easier to bear. Beach culture is alive and well with surf lifesavers dotted along the coast in their bright red and yellow uniforms and surfers, like so many sleek seals bobbing along the shore, looking out to sea, waiting for that extra special wave.  Here Australia does look like the "lucky country". This was my first trip to the Sunshine Coast but it certainly won't be my last.

Wednesday, 10 August 2011

A Tale of Two Cinemas

I reckon a lot of us walk around with our eyes shut most of the time oblivious to the rich architecture that surrounds us. I am as guilty as anyone so today, to make amends,  I am rehashing an essay I wrote for an Art History paper at university.  The paper was called Ways of Seeing and I took as my topic a comparison of two iconic cinemas on Auckland's main street, Queen Street.  The two cinemas are in the same block and less than 100 metres apart but, while both aptly reflect the cinema experience of their era they could not be more different.

The Civic Theatre was built in 1929 and is a superb example of an atmospheric cinema.  This style of architecture was developed by the Austrian/American architect, Eberson, during the period known as the "golden age of hollywood", a time when cinema, while still a novel experience, was reaching out to a mass audience.  The idea behind an atmospheric cinema was to transport the audience to a world of exoticism and romance and to give them a more complete sensory experience at a time when most films were still silent.

The Civic Theatre, Auckland. In the lower left hand corner you can see The Force Cinema Complex
The exterior of The Civic gives clues to the opulence of the interior.  In order to create interest on a facade which has no need of windows, ornate panels, reminiscent of the screens used in eastern palaces, have been used.  Friezes of cherubs and garlands of fruit and flowers run around the top of the exterior walls adding an air of luxury and romance to the design.  The entrance on the corner of the building, squared off in a typically Art Deco style, commands attention with a towering clock tower and a canopy arch which echos the proscenium arch over the stage and screen inside. There is an immediate sense of grandeur in the foyer with its opulent sweeping staircase and elaborate decorations including seated buddahs, elephants and panthers with glowing red eyes, which leads to the upper level of the cinema proper. The interior of the theatre is a romantic recreation of the dream landscape of an Indian temple courtyard.  The whole auditorium is a rich and elaborate spectacle and over all is the ceiling with its sparkling night sky stars complete with drifting clouds and the occasional shooting star.  During the silent movie era an orchestra would accompany the film and it is not very many years ago that audiences enjoyed the music of a wurlitzer as they waited for the film to start.

The Civic is still a busy working cinema and theatre and as it is a home to the New Zealand  International Film Festival I still go there regularly.  I never fail to delight in it and tilt my head back before the film starts to make sure I see at least one shooting star cross the sky.

Is it a castle?
Less than 100 metres up the road is the Force Imax Cinema complex built in the 1990's.  While the Civic was designed with the idea of transporting the audience to an exotic location the architects for the Force complex used the theme of the block buster movie for their design. The building exterior, therefore, is complex and interesting and like the plot of a block buster movie has many twists, turns and unexpected developments.  From every angle of the building there is a different picture.  Is it a space ship? It is if viewed from Aotea Square. Is it a bricked castle turret?  It is if viewed from Queen Street. From another angle it is a ship and the Imax Theatre itself rises phoenix like from the facade of an old building as a highly symbolic image of a new culture rising from the old. Where the exterior of the Civic is clad in uniformly coloured stone and plaster the Force Centre makes use of a wide variety of materials including stone, glass, aluminium and steel.  Perhaps this is a reflection of the complexity of modern life.  The interior clearly reflects major changes in popular culture.  Whilst in the 1930's cinema was a new and exciting activity, today it is only part of a wide variety of leisure pursuits available and this is reflected in the diversity of activities found within the complex.  Apart from the several cinemas there are many different food outlets, a games parlour, an internet cafe, a florist and a large bookstore.

Or a ship?
Visually the interior of the building gives the impression of the giant set of a space adventure movie.  It is an exciting mix of light, colour and movement with a great attention to detail.  The interior of the Imax cinema itself, however, is austere, prosaic and functional.  The massive screen dominates the theatre and there is no ornamentation to distract the audience from the main purpose of the theatre which is to watch film.

Much has changed in the movie industry in the more than 80 years since the Civic Theatre was built.  The improvement in sound technology, in cinematography, in acting and the use of music have all led to film itself becoming a more sensory experience.  There is, therefore, no need to distract the audience and/or enhance the film with elaborate surroundings.  The philosophies behind the designs of the CivicTheatre and the Force Imax Centre are quite different and provide us with an apt commentary on the history of cinema.  On the one hand we have the Civic which seeks to transport its audience to a magical and exotic world through the architecture of the building and on the other hand we have the Imax Theatre which is at pains not to distract the audience from the magical and exotic world portrayed in the films themselves.  Both buildings are, in  my opinion, architectural treasures.

footnote:  the Force cinema complex has changed hands and is now known as Event Cinemas and, sadly, the large book shop is now a bowling alley.