All that I am, all that I ever was…

I am more than my mental health. I am more than my homelessness. I am more than any one aspect of me. I am Addy. And this is…


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Celebrating Thirteen Years in Australia

Today marks the thirteenth anniversary of the worst decision I ever made in my life; emigrating to Australia. If I could have my time again I would never (in a million years) have come to this godforsaken, sociopathic country as it has done nothing but destroy my soul and leave me a hollow, empty, disenfranchised shell. But, alas, I cannot. So I can only try to focus on the good that my adopted ‘home’ has given me.

As such, in celebration of this auspicious day, I have decided to share thirteen of my favourite photos that were taken on Australian soil.

Hopefully you will enjoy gazing upon them.

~ Click each image to enlarge ~


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Melbourne 2015: Spotlight on Street Art

One of the things I’ve always loved about Melbourne is the assortment of street art that decorates its streets, alleys and laneways. No matter where you look, a talented individual has painted an awe-inspiring image upon brick, stone or wood. One of the major locations for street art in Melbourne has always been Hosier Lane, which runs between Flinders Street and Flinders Lane. There is so much street art on this single laneway that you cannot help but be impressed by the skill some of these artists display.

Hosier Lane, Melbourne

Hosier Lane, Melbourne

Back when I was homeless, you could walk down Hosier Lane and be the only person in sight. Not so now. No matter when I took a detour down this alleyway there were always dozens of camera wielding tourists analysing the artwork and taking selfie after selfie with their favourite piece. It was a tad saddening, to be honest, the touristification of a once peaceful street. But this is happening all over the world as more and more people come to know about a city’s hidden secrets.

Collected below is an assortment of the street art I encountered during my recent adventure in Melbourne. And next time you’re in town, pay attention to the walls around you, for you never know what you may find when you least expect it! :)


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Not to memory, but to dream

Way back in the distant past, in 2001 to be precise, I was nonchalantly browsing the books of a Cancer Council charity shop in Inverness. Various titles jumped out at me, various authors who were familiar to me made their presence known, but none more so than Charles de Lint. For there, sitting on the shelf, was a dog-eared, moth-eaten book entitled ‘Memory and Dream’. I had never read any de Lint, but I knew of him, my friend Deborah, who I’d met whilst long-terming in a backpacker hostel throughout the winter of 1999/2000, had recommended him to me on many occasions. But I’d never had the chance to read his work. None of the bookshops in Inverness carried his art, and at this time in life, few people shopped online as the internet was only beginning to take hold in people’s lives. So, in memory of our friendship, I paid the 50p for ‘Memory and Dream’ and popped the book into my backpack.

“The stronger a woman gets, the more insecure the men in her life feel. It doesn’t work that way for a woman. We celebrate strength–in our partners as well as in ourselves.”

Later that night, as it was quiet at work, I pulled the book from my bag and began to read. To say I was instantaneously captivated was an understatement. From the very first sentence of the book it grabbed my attention and spoke to me in ways that few books ever had. Never before had I found an author so capable of blending the atrocity of contemporary life with the beauty of the magical that so few humans choose to believe in. Within fifty pages I had fallen in love with Isabelle Copley, the gifted artist, and her best friend Katherine Mully, the aspiring writer of fairy tales. Within a hundred pages I knew Deborah had been right; de Lint was the author I had been looking for my entire life. A writer capable of weaving the fantastical and the mundane. A writer blessed with the ability not to simply tell stories, but to make them take on mythic, legendary status.

Over the course of four nights I devoured the book and, by the time Isabelle’s adventure had come to an end, I had grown to love both her and her numena in ways I had never experienced from fiction before. These were not simply characters on a page; they were living, breathing, real life individuals. Human beings that existed not just within the confines of a book, but, if you believed hard enough, able to live in the real world. Leaning back on my chair at work, I announced to an empty reception area that ‘Memory and Dream’ was one of my favourite books of all time.

“But that’s what we all are – just stories. We only exist by how people remember us, by the stories we make of our lives. Without the stories, we’d just fade away.”

As time moved on I became somewhat obsessed with de Lint’s tale of magic, art and myth. The book traveled with me wherever I went. A weekend in the Outer Hebrides; ‘Memory and Dream’ was there to soothe me. An overnight camping excursion to the shores of Loch Linnhe; ‘Memory and Dream’ was there to comfort me. When the time came to leave Inverness and resume living arrangements with my parents, ‘Memory and Dream’ was there to ease the stress. And when I decided to leave the UK behind and begin anew in Australia, ‘Memory and Dream’ took pride of place in my backpack, making the long, stressful plane journey into something less overwhelming and frightening.

For eight years ‘Memory and Dream’ continued to accompany me wherever I went. A weekend break to Apollo Bay. A week-long vacation to Wilson’s Prom and Gippsland. Even a day trip to Melbourne town, ‘Memory and Dream’ came with me. It lived perpetually in my backpack; easing my troubled mind with just the knowledge it was there should I ever need the comforting, inspirational words contained within it. The book was one of the few items that I refused to sell following the tragedy of my breakdown. It remained in my possession as I drifted into mania in Adelaide, was there for me following the chaos of the aftermath of rape and offered solace during those first few months of homelessness.

“It’s a mistake to go poking about in your own past,” she’d told her. “It makes you shrink into yourself. Every time you return you get smaller and more transparent. Go back often enough and you might vanish altogether. We’re meant to put the past behind us and be the people we are now, Izzy, not who we were.”

By 2010 ‘Memory and Dream’ had been through everything I had; abuse, assault, homelessness, breakdown…and it had never let me down. I read it religiously at lease once a year, sometimes twice, sometimes thrice. Sometimes I just dipped into my favourite passages and allowed their grace to wash over me. But then, in April of 2010, a book I had protected, loved and cared for for nearly ten years, was stolen from me. An arrogant, cruel man, who appeared to be one of those hipsters I despise so much, decided to steal a homeless man’s bag; and with it the book he cherished the most.

For months I mourned the loss. No longer was I able to take solace in the magic de Lint weaved. No longer was I able to comfort myself with the unrequited love of Isabelle Copley, or her best friend, Katherine Mully. I knew I had to replace the book. I knew I needed it in my life, for without it, life seemed more frightening, more unbearable. For years I looked in every bookstore, every op shop, seeking ‘Memory and Dream’, but I was always left wanting. No bookstore stocked it. No bookseller had even heard of it.

“One expected growth, change; without it, the world was less, the well of inspiration dried up, the muses fled.”

But then, five years after it had been stolen from me, on a quiet afternoon in Wodonga, the sleepiest, most uncultured town I’ve ever visited, magic returned to my life. For there, on the bookshelf of a Salvation Army op-shop, was a copy of my old friend; ‘Memory and Dream’. It was the same imprint that I had once owned, the same delicious, beautiful nymphs dancing on the cover against the orange backdrop of some long forgotten forest. I grabbed the book in a flash, flicking through the pages to make sure they were complete and undamaged, I rose the spine to my nose and inhaled the gorgeous scent that only a second-hand book can contain; part musk, part hope and part magic. And I took it to the counter and purchased it without hesitation. My five-year search had ended; ‘Memory and Dream’ was mine again.

To relish. To love. To protect.

Memory and Dream (Charles de Lint)

Me, with my new copy of ‘Memory and Dream’, my much loved, much admired friend (August 2015)

The reading woman sits by the window, lamplight falling over her shoulder onto the book. It is the book that glows a golden bath of lemon yellow faintly touched with orange, surrounded by violet shadows. The glow of the book casts a soft light onto the woman’s features, a soft light and softer shadows, and sets the tangle of her hennaed hair aflame.

It is possible to see diminutive figures in the shadows, crouching on the arms of the chair to peer at the words in the pages of the woman’s book, peeping out from in between the curls of her red hair. Tinier shapes still, not quite the size of mosquitoes, hover in the lamplight. Some are silhouetted against the curve of her throat and the shadow of her nose, other against the faint spray of freckles on brow and cheek.

Their heads are like those of fledgling birds: noses sharp and long, features pinched, brows high and smooth. Their figures – when in silhouette – are not unlike a tadpole’s. They have limbs like small crooked twigs, bird’s -nest hair that stands up in surprise and in ungovernably wild. Some have wings with the gossamer iridescence of a dragonfly’s.

The reading woman gives no indication that she is aware of their presence. The book captures her full attention. But surely she can feel the press of miniature bodies as they move against her arm, or the faintest movement as they slip in and about the curls of her hair? Surely she can see the tiny shapes flitting in the dusky air that lies between her grey-green eyes and the page?

Or perhaps they are only shadows, nothing more. And the summer’s night that lies outside her window belongs not to memory, but to dream.

La Liseuse, 1977, oil on canvas, 40 x 30 in. Collection The Newford Children’s Foundation.

~ from ‘Memory and Dream’ by Charles de Lint.


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Melbourne 2015: Spotlight on the National Gallery of Victoria, International Collection

After yesterday’s excursion through the Ian Potter Centre: NGV Australia, today we’re taking a brief stroll through the magnificent collection on offer at the NGV International. You see, the NGV’s collection is so extensive they need two galleries to display the work; one focusing on Australian artists, the other focusing on several centuries of international artists!

NGV International

NGV International

In 2011 the NGV celebrated its 150th birthday and acquired a highly important masterpiece by Correggio, one of the most influential figures of the Italian High Renaissance. The work, titled Madonna and Child with infant Saint John the Baptist, was painted circa 1514–15. The painting was purchased at Sotheby’s London for $5.2 million and is the single highest priced acquisition in the NGV’s history.

Personally, I much prefer the NGV Australia to the NGV International. I’m not sure why. Perhaps it’s because the Australian collection speaks to me more than the international collection, perhaps because I’m more Australian at heart than I would like to believe, but either way, I still relish and adore the international collection. Wandering the dimly lit halls of the exquisite building still fills me with the same calmness, the same serenity, that the Australian gallery infuses me with.

In 1959, the commission to design a new gallery and cultural centre was awarded to the architectural firm Grounds Romberg Boyd. In 1962, Roy Grounds split from his partners Frederick Romberg and Robin Boyd, retained the commission, and designed the gallery at 180 St Kilda Road (now known as NGV International). The building was completed in December 1967 and opened on 20 August 1968. One of the features of the building is the Leonard French stained glass ceiling, one of the world’s largest pieces of suspended stained glass, which casts colourful light on the floor below.

The Leonard French stained glass ceiling.

The Leonard French stained glass ceiling.

So why not join me on a brief tour of the NGV International. Its collection is wide, varied and covers all cultures and countries. It is, without question, one of the best collections of art in the world; certainly the best collection in Australia.

After the Massacre of Glencoe (Peter Graham)

After the Massacre of Glencoe (Peter Graham) [Note: this is my second favourite painting in the collection, mainly because is depicts a tragic chapter in Scotland’s history]

Mount St Michael, Cornwall (Clarkson Stanfield)

Mount St Michael, Cornwall (Clarkson Stanfield)

Susanna Highmore (Joseph Highmore) [Note: I have a bit of a crush on this beautiful woman!]

Susanna Highmore (Joseph Highmore) [Note: I have developed a bit of a crush on this ravishingly beautiful woman!]

The Horsemen of the Apocalypse (Margit Pogány)

The Horsemen of the Apocalypse (Margit Pogány)

The upper level of the NGV International is devoted to contemporary art. Sculptures, installations and mixed-media from a variety of artists that, usually, I wouldn’t much care for. For as long as I can remember I have never been fond of contemporary art. There is something about it that irks me, that rubs me the wrong way. It’s not that I don’t understand it, it just leaves me feeling cold.

However, on this occasion, there was a beautiful installation from Borna Sammak that caused my soul to sing. A large, rectangular screen was suspended from the wall. Upon the screen ran a continuous loop of colour. Colour that exploded, danced and pirouetted before you. Unable to take a video of the installation I settled for a series of still images that I hoped would capture the ever-changing melody of colour that played out before me.

So when viewing the following nine images, imagine them moving, imagine the colour dancing, imagine a glorious symphony of animated wonder!

Splash Into Me Yeah [Still] (Borna Sammak)

Splash Into Me Yeah [Still] (Borna Sammak)

~ Click each image to enlarge ~


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Melbourne 2015: Spotlight on the National Gallery of Victoria, Australian Collection

One of the most beautiful places in all of Melbourne is the Ian Potter Centre: NGV Australia. Ever since I arrived in Australia, back in 2002, I have been positively in love with this magnificent building and the collection of inspirational art that is housed within.

Back in my heyday, when my mental health was stable and I had a loving group of friends, I was a regular visitor to the NGV. On my days off from work I would travel into the city just to walk the halls of this building and gaze lovingly at the artwork on display.

During my homelessness, when my mental health was far from stable and my loving group of friends had long since departed, I was a regular visitor to the NGV. During those long, brutal days, it offered solace from the chaos of my life. I would leave my bag at the cloakroom and spend hours studying the brushstrokes on display, losing myself (and the pain I felt) to the beauty of the art.

The NGV was founded in 1861. Victoria had been an independent colony for only ten years, but in the wake of the Victorian gold rush, it was the richest colony in Australia, and Melbourne was the largest city in Australia. In addition to donations of works of art, donated funds from wealthy citizens have been used by the NGV to purchase Australian and international works by both old and modern masters. The NGV currently holds over 70,000 works of art.

So it’s no surprise that upon my recent return to Melbourne, it was the first place I headed for. In fact, throughout my week-long adventure, I returned to the NGV Australia four times. It is, for me, one of the most calming and relaxing places I know. No matter what is going on in my mind – PTSD flashbacks, anxiety attacks, waves of depression – being in the NGV Australia soothes my soul and negates the evilness bubbling away within.

Collected on this page is just a small sample of the artwork on display at the NGV Australia. For those of you who don’t live in Australia, who have never had the honor of exploring this magnificent gallery, it is a chance to see the brilliance of what is on offer. For those of you who live in Australia, who perhaps have never been to Melbourne, it is an opportunity to urge you to find time for a visit.

It is impossible to be disappointed with the NGV Australia. Its collection is diverse, enlightening and comprehensive, covering every major movement in the Australian arts scene. Its collection is beautiful, ravishing and truly inspirational. As I’m sure this sample of artwork will attest.

So settle back and enjoy this beautiful array of art. You won’t be disappointed! :)

Collins St 5pm (John Brack)

Collins St 5pm (John Brack)

An Emigrant's Thoughts of Home 1859 (Marshall Claxton)

An Emigrant’s Thoughts of Home 1859 (Marshall Claxton)

Lost (Frederick McCubbin)

Lost (Frederick McCubbin)

Swanston Street from the Bridge (Henry Burn)

Swanston Street from the Bridge (Henry Burn)

The River Nile, Van Diemen's Land, from Mr Glover's Farm [Detail] (John Glover)

The River Nile, Van Diemen’s Land, from Mr Glover’s Farm [Detail] (John Glover)

~ Click each image to enlarge ~


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Melbourne 2015: Day 07. A rather solemn affair

My final day in Melbourne was a rather solemn affair. It began innocuously enough; sliding myself out of bed, stepping into the shower, slipping my clothes on and then sidling out the motel room for another day exploring and relishing in the greatest city in Australia, but as the day progressed and time ticked slowly on, I was overcome with a melancholy that I wasn’t expecting. The fact of the matter was I didn’t want to leave. Since being in Melbourne my mental health had, for the most part, not been an issue. I was walking past hundreds of people a minute and my social anxiety was nonexistent. I was in constant connection with memories of the most traumatic periods of my life – abusive relationship, homelessness – but my PTSD had barely registered. Being in Melbourne, it seemed, was good for me.

Unlike the other days of my Melbourne adventure, my final day in Melbourne saw no tourist attraction being explored. I considered going to the zoo (but that was too expensive) and I looked into going to the Old Melbourne Gaol (but that also proved too expensive) so instead I just meandered around the city. I undertook a laneways tour; reacquainting myself with the alleys and back streets that I used to know so well. I explored the Queen Victoria Market; and felt ashamed by the grotesque prices being asked for tatty tourist merchandise. I meandered various shops that I once knew so well; PLAY, a DVD shop selling rare and hard to find titles, JBHIFI, a music/DVD shop selling mainstream titles and various booksellers at the top end of Bourke Street, whose collections were interesting and diverse. Alas, I couldn’t buy anything. After seven days in Melbourne my finances were low and I needed what little money I had left for food and beverages.

Flinders Street, Melbourne.

Flinders Street, Melbourne.

It may sound boring, just walking around a city, but it was anything but. Melbourne may not be the prettiest city known to humankind, but once you get past the hipsterfication, it still heralds many architectural and retail gems. Walking around the city was something I used to do every week, and as I strolled around the CBD that final day, I was overwhelmed with memories of my past lives. Of when I was overwhelmed and excited upon arriving in Australia. Of when I was happily in a relationship with Louise. Of when I worked my arse off at the backpacker hostel. The memories flowed thick and fast that final day in Melbourne, but never once tipped me over the edge, never once did the PTSD overwhelm me. For once, I was in complete control.

By 1:30pm I was settled into Federation Square, shocked at how fast time was moving, so decided to slow things down with a final visit to one of my favourite places in the city, the NGV: Australia in Federation Square. It would be my third visit since arriving, but I didn’t care. There is something calming, something altogether relaxing, about roaming around the gallery, soaking in the majestic, inspirational art on show. To add some diversity to my visit I decided to undertake one of the free gallery tours they offer, in which a volunteer guides you through the gallery, regaling you with stories and history of various, important artworks. There were only two of us in the tour, but the information provided was interesting and informative. It cast the artwork in a new light; adding life and vitality to work that I have grown to love and care about.

Inside the NGV: Australia

Inside the NGV: Australia

After the tour I left the gallery and, on Audrey’s request, returned to the secondhand bookstore we had found days earlier. Bookshops, like galleries, are also a calming and relaxing venue for me. There is something about being surrounded by books that fills me with happiness. For nearly half and hour we scoured the shelves for anything that sounded interesting and, eventually, left with two books; one for Audrey (Riders in the Chariot, Patrick White) and one for me (Glencoe, John Prebble).

After a brief visit to ACMI we still had time left on our hands so, spontaneously, decided to return to the NGV: Australia, where we spent another hour roaming the halls and photographing the various artwork that spoke to us the most. It still amazed me how calming I found the NGV to be, and it hammered home just how stressed I have become from living in Wodonga, and how much I desperately need to leave that rural backwater town.

We ended the day in our usual way; a canister of Irn Bru, a visit to the Little Library and a relaxation session on a bench in Flagstaff Gardens. This bench, like many places in Melbourne, I had a personal history with. When I was homeless in 2007, following a year of abuse, breakdown and mental catastrophe, it was the first place that I called my ‘home’, with many nights spent curled up upon it trying desperately to sleep through the night. But I sat there, that final night in Melbourne, reflecting on my life now and my life then; how far I have come in certain respects, and how similar I remain in others. After solemnly leaving the bench I meandered to the pizza shop, treated myself to another beautiful potato and rosemary pizza, and returned for a night of relative calmness in the motel.

The first bench I slept on when I was homeless in 2007.

The first bench I slept on when I was homeless in 2007.

Unlike my other days in Melbourne, this last day was far more reflective and quiet. I didn’t undertake any lengthy walks, I didn’t spend a huge amount of time doing the tourist thing. I just allowed the city of Melbourne to wash over me and, in turn, reignite my love for the Victorian capital. As I drifted off to sleep, filled with a cantankerous malaise over the end of my holiday and my inevitable return to Wodonga, I realised once and for all that I would need to leave that suffocating country town. For the sake of my mental health, for the sake of my sanity, for the sake of my life; I needed to leave Wodonga.

The next morning I awoke early, switched on breakfast television, and put off packing for as long as possible. I knew that packing would mark the end of my holiday and, truth be told, I didn’t want it to end. I wanted to be walking back into the city for another day exploring the urban landscape and relaxing in the concrete jungle. But I couldn’t. All I could do was stumble out of bed, throw my possessions together, and make the long, slow walk to the train station where a stressful four hour train journey awaited me.

My holiday was over…and it saddened me greatly.

The small library I acquired in Melbourne!

The small library I acquired in Melbourne!

It had been seven blissful days of excitement, exploration and (occasional) extravagance. I had seen centuries old artwork, chillaxed in gardens, played with penguins, fought my demons and reacquainted myself with a city I once called home. It had been exactly what I needed; a break from my mental health, a break from stress, a break from Wodonga and a break from myself.

My holiday was, in one word, blissful.

A week I will never forget.