Did you have a defining moment in your life when you found the purpose in your life? A moment when you finally realised just how useful you are, that sees a change in your life? Sullivan Moss thought he was useless, an underachiever, but after waking up in a hospital, being so carefully cared for by the Doctors and nurses, he finds a new purpose for himself and embarks on a journey to change his life.
Last week, I was privileged enough to see Debra Oswald speak about her new book Useful, that follows Sullivan Moss’ journey from useless to accidently forging a new life for himself.
If her name rings a bell, it might be because you watched a little Australian show called Offspring
, that was viewed by nearly a million people each week. For the nineties kids out there – she’s also one of the writers for our favourite talking pieces of fruit, Banana’s in Pyjamas!
Debra has an impressive body of award-winning work across film, television, stage, radio and children’s fiction; but her latest project is with the MGallery Hotels, Accor Hotels luxury boutique properties, and The Wheeler Centre, founded by Tony and Maureen Wheeler, the founders of Lonely Planet.
Nine Australian writers have been commissioned to write a short story after immersing themselves in a three-day residence at one of 9 MGallery properties around Australia. These stories will be collated in a special pocketbook available at the MGallery Hotels and The Wheeler Centre.
There has been some incredible authors taking part in the project, including Graeme Simsion (‘The Rosie Project‘) and Toni Jordan (‘Nine Days‘), and as part of the collaboration, literary enthusiasts are invited to attend the ‘In Conversation’ with the writers, accompanied by a cocktail event or dining experience.
I was fortunate enough to be able to get my hands on a ticket for the In Conversation marking the end of Debra’s stay at The Como Melbourne.
It only seemed appropriate for Debra to stay at The Como, the MGallery’s South Yarra properties located where Toorak and Chapel intersect. South Yarra is known for its luxury, chic-ness, and a growing arts fever, seeping in from neighbouring Prahran and Richmond. But that’s not why it seemed an appropriate choice.
Next door to The Como is Network 10 – that’s Channel 10 for us watching at home – the station responsible for producing and broadcasting the multi-award winning telemovie Offspring.
If you are a bit of a celebrity spotter, you may have noticed in the credits of many of Channel 10’s TV shows, such as The Project, that The Como Melbourne is listed as the location their guests choose to stay. It’s easy to see why it’s so popular with celebrities and guests from all around the world when you step inside. But more about the rooms later!
The glittering event was every bit as glamorous as you’d expect of a hotel located in chic South Yarra, with a 4-course dinner being hosted in the properties Gold Suite. Somehow I’d found myself dining at the same table as the guest of honour, a number of co-writers, and the gorgeous Kat Stewart – one of the stars from the hit TV show – who I was lucky to be seated next to.
The menu was sophisticated casual dining. An entrée of Duck Terrine, with a Fig & Lime Chutney (pictured above), alternating mains of King George Whiting and Carrot Tarte Tatin or Beef Eye Fillet with a Potato Rosti (below), and ending with a Chilli & Dark Chocolate Pudding with Vanilla Bean Ice Cream and Popping Candy (far below). Each course was expertly paired with Victorian or South Australian wines.
As the mains were packed away the In Conversation began, which gave attendees the chance to engage in a discussion, led by Sarah Greentree from The Wheeler Centre, about Debra’s vast array of work, writing process, inspiration, and – the eternal question for Offspring fans – if the show was going to return for a sixth season; to which Debra remained tight-lipped. (Later in the week it was announced that Offspring will be returning!)
Debra’s writing style is bold and brazen, much like how she comes across in real life; a risk taker, even willing to kill beloved central characters. Her latest work, the novel ‘Useful‘ which was published earlier this year, is another example of this, as the underachieving protagonist finds himself ready to commit suicide during the first pages of the novel. I won’t spoil the story for you because it’s a good read – I’m half way through it already!
While just minutes from my own Melbourne apartment, a stay at The Como had been on my ‘Melbourne Wish List’ for more than five years, so I was excited that Accor Hotels invited me to spend the night.
A recent refurbishment has seen The Como returned to the glamorous heights it was built some twenty-five years ago, even keeping their signature blue rubber duck – you’ll find your own waiting for you in the black marble tiled bathroom of your room.
The rooms, really studio suites, are spacious, with a study tucked away near the entry – the perfect spot to work from but not keep your partner awake, and kitchenette and lounge overlooking Chapel Street.
The bathroom won’t disappoint, with the huge space including a walk-in shower and spa bath. Be sure to do as I did have a warm bath, slip into one of the fuzzy charcoal robes, make yourself a cup of tea and curl up into the comfortable bed with ‘Useful‘. It was the perfect way to unwind from a busy week and exciting dinner and In Conversation with one of Australia’s most talented literary writers.
A full review of The Como Melbourne is coming on Monday!
The Como Melbourne
630 Chapel Street, South Yarra
MGallery Literary Collection
For more information on the MGallery Literary Events, check their website.
Upcoming MGallery Literary Collection events are as follows:
The Reef House, 21 November 2015
Indulge in a 6-course degustation dinner with matching wines at The Reef House in picturesque Palm Cove while Hannah Kent, shortlisted for the Baileys Women’s Prize for Fiction and the Guardian First Book Award, will join you to share her tales of novel writing.
The Wheeler Centre
For more information about The Wheeler Centre, and all upcoming literary events, you can find information on their website.
Photo of the Lavender Martini is owned by the MGallery Collection.