When her here and now is our here and now

I mentioned a couple of weeks ago that our daughter Maddy had been in India on a university textiles tour. Her experience was so special I’ve asked her permission to share some of her photos. So if you’d like to join me …. step this way …

UTS (the University of Technology in Sydney) took 10 second year fashion students
to Delhi for three weeks to see first hand the incredible skills of local artisans.
They experimented with block printing …

and dyeing techniques …

but it was the embroidery that really blew Maddy away.

And it’s easy to see why.

So beautiful.

So exquisite.

Detailed beyond belief.

Every stitch made my hand.

Maybe Madz has a bit of story teller inside her because this was the
embroidery that she chose to focus on.

It’s called Sujani and every work has its own narrative.

It describes all the simple things that make up a day to day life.

A here and now of the very highest order I’d say.

There was time out to do some shopping … how could you take 10 girls away and not!

And some exploring.

An opportunity to see the wonders of India…

And experience first hand its pressing environmental issues.

It’s a bittersweet moment to watch your little girl step out on her own.

It’s what you want.

But you can’t help but want to protect her too.

For us it’s always been a high priority to try and get the kids out into the wider world,
to encourage them to travel at every opportunity.

To realise that they are part of something much bigger…

This time round, it was lovely sitting on the sideline watching her start her own journey.

Who knows where it will take her but one thing was certain.

She was in the best of hands.

Thankyou so much for everything you shared with our girls.


Happy Hands Foundation is a not-for-profit organisation reviving Indian arts, crafts and culture. The People’s Project is an art studio-cum-residency where rural artists challenge and explore various theories of creativity.

You can buy Happy Hands products online here.

Or follow them on facebook here.


All photos: Madeleine Hogan 2012


A tale of friendship that keeps getting lost but keeps getting found

I am elated tonight.

I will tell you why in a moment but before I get to that I need to give you a little background.

As a young 23 year old, I traveled through Europe largely on my own for a few months. At the very tail end of it I headed to Istanbul and was befriended by a young female medical student. I can’t even remember how we met but she took me under her wing, showed me her city, introduced me to her friends and took me to places that I would never have found including a beautiful last hurrah of a day swimming on the Princes Islands.

That night, after a day of salt water and sun, reluctant to let the day end, we stayed on for dinner and she read my future in the remains of a Turkish coffee. In darkness we caught the last ferry back from the islands to Eminonou, the main ferry port of Istanbul, and to this day that ferry ride is etched in my memory and I say to every one I know who goes to Istanbul “If you do nothing else, have dinner on the Asian side and catch a night time ferry back to the old city.” (I’m feeding you pearls here)

If you’re lucky you’ll hear a call to prayer.

A tanker, a wall of darkness on its way to the Black Sea, might slip past you in the night.

But always, that skyline of minarets will be waiting for you and it is truly one of the most beautiful sights in the world.

So that was 1985.

A few postcards in ensuing years.  Then a gap. A very long gap.

Until we made the decision to take the kids overseas in 2007 and visit Turkey.

So I dug out my old address book. And hit Google. And I found my old friend, now a doctor in Adana in the far south of Turkey. But do you think I could find an email address! So I did the next best thing. I sent her boss an email. And explained my story, and said I don’t know if I’ve even got the right girl but would you pass this message on to her.

So she gets a call from her boss. You have to come and see me.

“I’m busy. Can’t it wait?”

“No you will want to hear this.”

So she wanders over and he starts telling her the story … “Once upon a time there was this young Australian girl who met a young Turkish girl….” and well, you know the rest.  So great happiness and disbelief all round at re-finding one another after nearly 20 years!

A month or two later we arrive in Turkey and for one reason or another we miss each other. It just doesn’t work out.


Fast forward three years.


Our daughter Maddy is in Europe, traveling for a few months after finishing high school.

We decide to meet her. In Damascus. (If you want to see a different Syria to the one currently on the night time news you might be interested to read this or this.) But back then, in November 2010 we had the most surprising and joyous two weeks in Syria, eventually tearing ourselves away to head north from Latakia on the coast into Turkey, to Antakya.

To meet my friend.

But emails had gone awry and once again our plans went wrong.

But we made up for it in Adana.

After 25 years there we were, face to face, on her doorstep, welcomed into her home with the most sincere generosity, so typical of middle eastern/Turkish customs.

And she spoilt us. Big time!

As did her brother when we arrived in Istanbul a couple of days later.

And seeing this is going on for ever and you’re probably asleep, I might as well mention that the Haydarpaşa Railway Station (below) had a massive fire four days after we visited it. It’s still standing but the interior was gutted. It’s the main terminal in Istanbul on the Asian side. A stunning building.

After our visit I sent a little package of things from Australia and never heard a word. We had a momentary unsuccessful crossing on skype a few months ago before we lost the connection but other than that … nothing.

And then this niggling feeling started to creep in. After all those years had I been a bit of a disappointment? Was I not what she expected? Did she hate me because I put her cats on the verandah because they kept sitting on my face while I was trying to sleep?

I wasn’t obsessing about it (maybe I was when I read this back) but you know the sorts of thoughts I’m talking about…

Then tonight. There she is on facebook. And then on skype. Well kind of on skype. She can hear and see me but I can’t hear and see her. So I’m sitting here talking and chuckling away to myself while she’s madly sending written replies and questions on facebook. Communication tools obviously aren’t our thing.

The point is, suddenly ALL of those weird feelings and worries washed away. Because there had been emails sent and never received. And that sense of connection was still there and so very real.

And that is why I am elated tonight.

Because I have an old friend in Turkey who’s door and heart is still open.

As is mine if she ever makes it to Australia.

So Gulşah this is for you.

I’ll send you an email and hope that it gets through so that you can enjoy this long, silly celebration of a lost and found friendship.

Our love to you and your family.

I’m so glad I sent that letter to your boss 🙂

And you know what else? Everything you read in that coffee cup came true 🙂


I’d like to take credit for the photos above of the Süleymaniye Mosque but I think
Maddy actually took them.  Actually I think she took most of these. Good job hon x

Quiet thoughts on a frozen friday morning

We’ve had a week of great sadness…

Sadness that we’ve been carrying for months

The sadness of losing a dear friend

A joyous man who loved life more than most.

We’ve brought our little girl back from India a couple of days early.

She arrives today.

I’m hoping Steve will light a fire tonight.

We’ll break out the red wine …

… and treasure our here and now a little bit more than we would normally do

because that’s what he would want.

Hope you do the same xox

I can’t get this performance out of my head …

And I can’t help thinking this is the start of something special.

This young girl, Karise Eden, was apparently living in a refuge 12 months ago.

A week ago she won “The Voice”, a singing competition on a national Australian TV network. Seal was her coach.

When you’ve got a spare 5 minutes sit back and tell me this doesn’t blow your mind.

Karise Eden singing Stay with me Baby

And if you want more …



Nothing’s Real but Love

I’ve been driving the boys insane all week, wandering the house, trying to screech out my own version of Stay With Me Baby.

Just had to share the joy. x

Do you agree? Is she something special or not?

Photo courtesy The Music Network

Letters to myself from Syria #2

I thought I could share another letter from Syria.

But I’m actually finding it really difficult.

Because every time I go to share the words or try to find the words to describe how safe we felt travelling throughout this extraordinary country it seems like a nonsense compared to what is at play now.

When I try to describe a beautiful night we spent on a hotel verandah …

… overlooking this…

… talking to an ex-Australian AFL star who married a beautiful girl from Cairo
it fills me with sadness because all I can think of are the atrocities being committed 50 kilometres away.

They were expecting their first child.

If I said this Aussie lad with a bad boy reputation had left his country, left a life of fame to become a quiet, gentle Muslim called Mustafa what would you make of it?

Sometimes it’s good to have our defenses challenged…

There are so many different ways to lead a life …

And what started as a rather defeated post … could perhaps be one of hope …
if we are open to seeing things from a different perspective.

Change is possible.

We saw it.

That night.

On a simple concrete verandah in Syria.

And I know from press reports that our friend and his wife gave birth to a healthy little boy in the peak of the Cairo riots. If by any chance they stumble upon this, I wish them continued peace as I do for the people of Syria.

Who knows?

Assalamu alaikum  (Peace be upon you)

I hope I got it right. If I didn’t, you’ll know my intention was good 🙂

Letters to myself from Syria #1

We visited Syria in November 2010.

At the time we copped quite a lot of flack “Why would you want to go to Syria? blah blah blah…” But we wanted to. And we did. And it was everything and more than we hoped it would be.

We have been finding the night time news stories increasingly heartbreaking. The massacre in Houla was just 50 kilometres from Krac des Chevaliers where we had a particularly special night. That’s the same distance as Bathurst to Orange.

I dug out some emails I sent to friends at the time, but in a way they were more letters to myself. I thought I might share them.

“We have a hotel. Near Bab Touma (Thomas’s gate) in the old city of Damascus. Learnt today that 18 million people live in Syria and 2/3 of those in Damascus, so it must be a huge city outside the old city walls. We have some exploring to do for sure.

I know you know that I am a bit of a softie but for the third time today I have been moved to tears by the unexpected kindness of the people here. It is only 24 hours and ours will be a very shallow impression at this point but if what we have experienced so far is indicative of the people as a whole, the Syrians are just the loveliest people. The Syrian women are so soft, smoky eyed and beautiful. There is little hardness in people’s faces. We noticed that on the second leg of the flight from Cairo last night. The men too. 

We found a hotel after walking the city most of the morning and returned to the hostel to tell them we were pulling up stumps early. (It was pretty rough) Walked in as they were sitting down to lunch.They understood that we were leaving – and why – but nonetheless asked us to sit and have lunch with them.  Spicy chicken legs, marinated lamb, silky hummous, flat bread and fresh fresh salad of cucumber, capsicum, tomatoes and lemon. Out came the arak. Another gentle try to get us to stay with the offer of another room. A gentle no. Please eat, eat!  What a way to do business.

We sat for dinner in a little square tonight surrounded by olive trees and low hanging street lanterns that wouldn’t survive a day in Bathurst. Three women sat at the table next to us smoking apple flavoured tobacco from a hookah and we thought we’d give it a try. It actually wasn’t too bad.  Across the square, heaps of children from littlies to teenagers were in uniform like scouts or guides, giggling and teasing each other…running up the street to talk to their mother on the first floor verandah. Everyone is so uninhibited. Sunday night and everyone, young and old, are out walking the streets. We walked a different route home to the hotel, down an alley we would never consider walking in Sydney. An old man smiled and said ‘Merhaba’ (hello) and we got talking – turns out he is a history professor with three sons, all doctors, all now working in Germany. He is off to visit them next week.

Just chatting over dinner, looking at this lovely street scene…thinking people just want the same thing the world over,…peace, enough to get by and good family and friends. Makes you realise that the politics do not necessarily represent the people.

Encountered the fringe of the immense souks this evening and again, no pressure like Istanbul and Marrakech. Makes you wonder if in another few years if tourism takes off, this will follow the same way.

So here we sit, in the lobby of the little Albal Hotel, looking at the lanterns on the walls, the cacophany of architectural styles and mother of pearl inlaid wood, the trickle of the little central fountain,thinking man it’s nice to have clean crisp sheets.. strike that….man it’s nice to have sheets (as opposed to last night :)))

The bottom line here…get yourselves over to Syria as soon as you can. I’m feeding you pearls here :)) 

Big love,


Five months later all hell broke loose.



Dear Margaret…

Tomorrow it will be 12 months since my mum passed away.

I needed to feel a sense of her today so I went digging for a pile of letters I had tucked away.

Letters that span 30 years from when I first left home to come and study journalism at Mitchell College in Bathurst.

It wasn’t the content of these letters that was important because most of them are just filled with the day to day stuff that make up a life.

What struck me was the power of pen on paper and how it feels so many years later to hold something in my hand that she’d held in hers.

There’s something very deliberate, very calming about the idea of sitting down at a table with pen and pad and taking the time to write a letter…

with such beautiful hand writing

and don’t even get me started on Dad’s…

You can say things in a letter that aren’t so easily spoken…

I love you too…and always will.