Saturday, July 14, 2007

The Royle Family

It took me some time to appreciate the cleverness of this UK comedy/drama show screened a few years ago in Australia. I was looking for a particular clip but as yet I have not found it so I will make do for now with this one. Subsequent episodes always showed the wallpaper in the same state as it was at the end of this clip.

Friday, July 13, 2007

Travelling North Day 6 Part B

Our mini bus driver was quite old and we quickly learned that that he knew everything about everything. He was part of the Broken Hill community and proud of the town. From training football teams (btw, no rugby in BH, AFL only) to local Progress Association to Historical Society, working in mines, tour bus driver, bringing up an Aboriginal orphan to politics that swung wildly from left to right but seldom in the middle. I expect he was even on the school Mother's Club. He raised his index finger to locals who he knew. He did not recognise them, only his finger did.

He drove us out into the industrial area while talking all the while about whatever. We then went out towards the airport past mining houses in South Broken Hill. At the airport we had a guided tour of the Royal Flying Doctor Service by a staff member. A salient question was asked by one person with us. Why don't the government fully fund the Flying Doctor Service? The reply was that they contribute a lot already but the service can still keep its independence. We don't want them telling us what planes we ought to have. I only had sketchy knowledge of the RFDS, so it was very educational for me. Did you know outback stations are supplied with a drugs cabinet and under instruction via radio, they can even use quite dangerous drugs. If you are traveller who has been injured or ill, you too are entitled to the use of the station's drugs cabinet. Yep, morphine was there.

We were then taken on to the site of BHP's first site office. Only a chimney remains and of course guess which tour bus driver saved it? We were told that the chimney was built by the grandfather of one of the members of the music group Crowded House. Finn brothers?

Then onto a lookout that was closed as some hoon had driven his car over the edge. Up to where we were this morning, Broken Earth on the mullock heap. We did not stay long but at least for just once, there was barely a breeze. Our driver was involved in the building of a project on the mullock heap. He wanted a building for a cafe and a place large enough to hold weddings but did not get his way. I think he may be right. It is the most stunning location in BH and I doubt anyone would hold a wedding reception anywhere else.

We then toured the flat lands where the Aborigines predominantly live, past government broadcasting/receiving dishes and the local mosque. On to the race track and golf course. I had wondered where the posh area of Broken Hill was and naturally, it was on the high part. I use the work posh for BH advisedly.

The tour concluded with a drive through the cemetery. Very good value for $35.

Talking of housing and gardens, the houses in BH are generally very plain. Many are made of corrugated iron with bits of house tacked on here and there. As there is not proper soil, there are not many house gardens. There was the odd place where an attempt had been made, but generally no one bothered. A friend who grew up in BH told me that his father used to buy soil so that he could have a lawn. Even public gardens and streets had little in the way of vegetation. I guess when the temperature is regularly near forty degrees and the air is dry during the summer, it would be quite hard to grow any sort of exotic plant. Although Mildura is much the same and it has very nice public and private gardens.

Travelling North Day 6 Part A

In the morning we drove up the mullock heap that divides Broken Hill to Broken Earth Cafe Restaurant. We had a look at the Miner's memorial and then had a drink in the cafe. It was good to be out of the howling cold wind. Broken Earth is quite a classy place with very good staff. The view of Broken Hill is excellent and you can do it while being warm and out of the wind.

X marks the spot where we were staying.

We then went to the Broken Hill Regional Art Gallery which was housed in a huge old two storey building. It had quite a good and varied collection but was obviously in need of some money to build the collection and display it a little better.

The previous day we had booked a City Sights tour for the afternoon. The one we chose would only run if there were at least four people and it would seem there wasn't. So, we chose another for around half the price and I doubt the other could have been better, except afternoon tea was supplied. The Tourist Information place made the booking for us and they were very pleasant to deal with although it did take ages. Pick up time was 1.30.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Travelling North Trivia - Food

After being able to make our own cereal and toast in Mildura, it was not so in Broken Hill. The first morning we went to McDonalds and a bacon and egg roll. It was ok. The next morning we had overpriced scrambled eggs and toast and coffee at a cafe. I am sick of this. I want cereal and toast, I complained. You know McDonalds have cereal and toast, said R. What????? Cereal and toast? So for the last two mornings we had cereal and toast at Maccas and it was very good.

I was quickly sick of main meals from the clubs. Second last night we had fish and chips in our room and the last night, pizza in our room.

Back in Mildura, R once again cooked and it was bliss to be home the next night when he made satay chicken.

You know in Broken Hill, there just did not seem to be any restaurants like we are used to in Melbourne. Nor really in Mildura. Guess we Melbournians are quite spoilt for places to eat well and cheaply. But they are small places. There was a Chinese takeaway in Broken Hill that we may have tried if we stayed another night. I was getting a hunger for Asian food after not having any for a week or so, hence my request for satay chicken when we returned home.

As for coffee, bah. Don't leave Melbourne if you like a decent cup of coffee. Can you believe $3.60 for a watery latte served in some sort of tulip glass bucket with a handle?

Curry pie in Witchyproof (spell check later) on way home was ok, except the maker forgot the curry.

TV Gems

Steam comes out of my ears as I try to watch SBS and ads come on. When I first started using the net in the mid nineties and I was looking for the SBS tv website, I tried .org and .net but instead it is just I thought having .com was odd, but it has come to pass that it was quite appropriate.

To be be fair, they still come up with some great programs. Kick is a ripper half hour show and set in Melbourne's very interesting inner northern suburbs.

The Circuit is a moving and educational drama set in outback Australia. First class tv, and a very powerful performance by Aaron Pedersen. It will be a 'not to miss' show for me if the standard continues.

Travelling North Day 5 Part B

Silverton is an odd place. It was a mining town of course and I think it was around before Broken Hill appeared. It was a mix of substantial buildings such as the church below, with much of the infill being of a lighter construction. Mostly only the substantial buildings are left as time took some of the others and many were transported to Broken Hill when it started going strong and Silverton was waning. So the township is just widely spread buildings with nothing but dirt and some formed streets between them. There was a private train from Silverton to Broken Hill. It was called a tramway though as only the state government was allowed to own train systems. The private company was also contracted to run some government train services.

Below is the gallery of artist who painted our picture that I mentioned back here. We never actually did get a valuation, as helpful as person who runs the gallery was. We did not write the size of the picture down. His work is absolutely everywhere in Silverton and Broken Hill to the point where you are quickly over it. But I did not see a work like ours. I have learnt that it was painted with Vegemite. I think I knew that but had forgotten.
We had a nice lunch in the only proper eating place in Silverton, apart from the pub. I had fruit and nut damper. Very nice. We also ran into two dykes who we had met early in the day at Daydream Mine.

While the area is not quite desert so we were a bit surprised to see camels roaming. Out of shot was a group of them, but the single one shows up better in picture.
These horses were on a mission of some importance known only to themselves. A local person had pulled up her car and was watching them with puzzlement and concern. Perhaps they were irritated by the cold wind blowing.

I suppose you are obliged to see Silverton, but I truly did not find it of great interest. I was starting to get a bit 'art gallery jaded'.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Sister News

My sister and her girlfriend had a baby girl a couple of hours ago. Seven pound 10. Mother and daughter well, in fact the easiest pregnancy and birth I have ever heard of. So I is an uncle once again. Will visit them in Geelong on Friday. Everyone except my step father was sure it would be a boy. Mum now owes step father $10.

Now what do I buy for them? Something small, gorgeous and cheap. They have far more money than we do, so can buy whatever they need.

Travelling North Triva-Gays

I don't think we saw one noticeably gay person from the time we left Melbourne until we returned, except for one and due to a friend, I had some information about this person first. He lives in Broken Hill and is a hot looking guy in his late twenties, but I can't say much more about him as he is easily identifiable. We had not intended meeting him, but just came across him when out for coffee one day and he served us. As I had seen his picture, I knew what he looked like and his gaydar was working just fine.

I have since made email contact with him and he seems like a very nice guy. Love took him to Broken Hill and although the love has gone, he stayed on.

Travelling North Day 5 Pt A

This picture is taken from our room looking south towards the mullock heap that divides the town. Just below the motel sign is the Broken Earth Cafe and to the left a memorial to miners killed while on the job. I believe in unions for workers and you only have to go through the hundreds of names in the memorial and how they died to realise how important unions were in changing work conditions for miners, to what now is still far from a safe environment. Some of them were just twelve year old kids. In the 1920's a new cause of death appeared on the list, electrocution.
Along the road to Silverton is a turn off to Daydream Mine. Seven kilometres of rough gravel road and getting out to open and shut gates brought us to this home like construction where we were offered a Devonshire Tea for a couple of dollars more that the price of the mine tour. There was actually a town here once, complete with hotels and prostitutes, but only a few remnants remain.

The mine tour was supposed to take an hour, but our guide Jason was very chatty and I guess it took ninety minutes. We strapped on a battery pack to power our lamps on our helmets and down we went in a group of ten or so. It was very interesting, although a level of fitness was required. We went down to the third level, the fourth being flooded by groundwater for the first time in many years. Jason was clearly passionate about the mine and I would say not unattractive. It just made the tour that extra bit good.

Being a ten year old child miner already with emphysema and coughing up blood sounds like fun though hey. One miner's daughter died of typhoid and he took her a few kilometres to Silverton to be buried and by the time he returned, his other daughter had come down with typhoid and also died. The real survivors were those who only drank alcohol and not the polluted water.

This is a view of the house of Jason and his parents who run the mine and the mine we went down on the left. They don't live on site at the mother's insistence, but in Broken Hill. I can highly recommend this mine tour at $20. Just before the mine, built into the side of a hill are the remains of a huge smelter. The plants are salt bush and blue bush. There was a cold wind blowing, but the summer temperature can get to 48 degrees.

With some skilful planning and good luck, we did not have to do any gate on the way out. Next stop, Silverton.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Travelling North Trivia-Time Gents

Mass confusion reigned in the car when we arrived in Broken Hill. Our phones had moved back half and hour. Why? I had forgotten, as it was a long time ago that I heard, that Broken Hill runs on Adelaide time. Central time rather than Eastern Standard time that applies to the rest of NSW and all of Victoria.

Bloody cheek of the phones though. They might have asked us first.

Commercial tv operates on Adelaide time, except for ABC which still comes through on EST. Very inconvenient for habit formers like us. ABC tv news seemed to be a national bulletin, but did give NSW weather and was read by a Sydney presenter.

ABC Local Radio is on Adelaide time too. In fact it comes from Adelaide. Broken Hill has a local weekday morning program though from the Broken Hill studios. At some point all this time and media and location confusion started to do my head in and I just gave up trying to work it all out.

When returning to Mildura, R's phone auto corrected back to EST as we left Broken Hill. Mine waited until we picked up a signal near Wentworth and then this time it wanted confirmation of the new time setting.

I wonder how long Broken Hill has operated on Central Time?

Later Addition: When in the country, you have to become acquainted with Prime and Win. One takes Channel 7 programs and the other Channel 9, mostly, and with some local news and weather and the of course the sheep drench ads. There seemed to be no Channel 10 in Mildura. No Big Brother? What a shame!

In Broken Hill, (memory is a bit hazy on this) we had Southern Cross Broadcasting which seemed to carry Win programs, channel 9, channel 10 I think and ABC. Then there was also Imparja, which has an Indigenous community focus. Confused? I sure am.

Best local radio broadcaster we heard on our travels was Louise Ray of ABC Swan Hill/Mildura

Cute as........

I was going to post the picture of the gorgeous meerkats myself, but Semaphore Junction has beaten me to it. Check out the post here at SJ's blog.

Monday, July 09, 2007

Travelling North Day 4

I thought it was five hours drive from Mildura to Broken Hill. I thought that was what I read on the net. I thought that was what I wrote down. As we left Mildura we saw a sign that said 297km to Broken Hill. I knew there were a couple of towns, but how could it take five hours to drive 300km at 110kph? It didn't and when R queried my information, I said I read it on the net, to which he rolled his eyes.

So it was a three hour trip and it seemed to go quickly. We went through Wentworth and then pretty well nothing until the outskirts of Broken Hill. We stopped once for a leg stretch and this photo shows what is along the whole length of the road. It is disgrace and some Australians ought to be very ashamed of themselves. The picture also gives you and idea of what the terrain is like in the south west of NSW. We stopped a second time at Coombah, the only place in between Wentworth and BH where there is fuel, food and drinks available. We sat on the front verandah drinking instant coffee and chatted to the owner's daughter. Dogs wandered around our feet and the morning sun was shining, and just for once there wasn't any wind. They had toilets available but they were locked to people who did not buy anything in the shop. Fair enough. I saw people who tried them and just drove off. We were also told that people let their dogs out of their cars, who then make a mess and then don't clean it up.

The approach to Broken Hill was through a suburb with very ordinary houses. Later we learnt this was South Broken Hill. There was a large mullock heap ahead and it separated the two parts of Broken Hill. We kind of went around and over it and the main railway lineand entered Broken Hill proper. It was a week day and there were plenty of people and traffic around. As I was now an alien with my Victorian number plates, I was on my best driving behaviour.

We found our motel right on the edge of the shopping area and checked in. It was a disappointing room, especially after Mildura. I would say the motel was built in the seventies and this room had not been touched since. There was lots of dark wood and it was gloomy. The beds were ok, but the bathroom, tiny, cold with one of my favourite shower heads to hate. Water still managed to splash everywhere. Awful. We thought about asking for an upgrade, but decided as it was for only four nights we would make do. The position wasn't too bad. We chose the medium priced room, so I would hate to see the cheapest. It was only ten dollars less than the nice place in Mildura.

It also had an adjoining door to the room next door. Why do they do this? Yes, it is for families, but we cop rooms like this all the time. Fortunately it was only occupied for the first night from 9pm until 8am the next day. I woke when Doug's (the bloke in it) alarm went off. I heard him farting, coughing, showering, shaving and his breakfast being delivered and then him eating it. Way more about him than I needed to know.

We went to the shops and had drink in the Democratic Club. It was under renovation and it did not appeal to me much. We ended up eating at Musician's Club. The food was ok, but it was just like one of Melbourne's outer suburban hotels. I had heard so much about these NSW clubs and I was disappointed. While having a drink before dinner, some bloke started talking to us. He was Sydney drug refugee who was working in Broken Hill. He was still clearly affected by his previous drug use. I was about to move off when his rather hot son arrived on crutches. He was in Broken Hill to work with his father but the day he arrived, he broke his leg and was returning to Sydney the next day. He was nice to chat to.

Later R and I agreed that all he needed was the offer and a bottle of bourbon or Bundy and a promise to get him to the train in the morning and we could have had some fun with him. Fifteen years ago we may have, but really cannot be bothered with the hard work nowadays.

Pokie balance since leaving Melbourne, moi down $5. R up $5. The non smoking rules are, or were very different in NSW. People could smoke while playing the machines but pretty well no where else apart from one small area. The pub/bar/club non smoking rules started on the 2nd of July in NSW, a day after they started in Victoria.

We returned to our luxurious room and there was a cold wind blowing.

Sunday, July 08, 2007

Travelling North Day 3 Part B

After our decent walk we returned to the centre of Mildura and did some banking then strolled the Langtree Mall looking for Lilly (some will get it). We came across Hudaks Bakery (as pictured on their site) and had a fine old bit of nosh. Very nice.

We then went off to the local Arts Centre at the fine old Rio Vista house. We toured the grand house and the quite good art galleries.We then took a walk across the road to look down onto the river. I spied cars and activity so we found the road down to the river bank and Lock 11. I should read my own link but instead I will just guess that the weir with the lock is to keep the water at a stable height for practical reasons such as houseboats. The lock, so someone told us, had just filled before we arrived. Damn. They thought it was because a paddle steamer was coming, so we hung around for a bit, but none arrived.

Enough culcha, exercise and history and as there was a cold wind blowing, we went back to our billet, bought a roasted chicken, cooked some spuds and greens and settled in front of the tv. Tomorrow, Broken Hill bound.

Travelling North Day 3 Part A

We stayed for two nights in Mildura. The first morning we drove to the Tourist Information Kiosk. They did not really tell me anything I did not know already from guides and maps so we drove to King's Billabong about ten kilometres away.

We wanted to do the short work, 3.2 kilometres return, to a bird hide. None of anything was well signposted and the map did not match reality well. We eventually found the car park and set off on the walk. A very cold wind was blowing. We walked through open forest a bit inland and the trail returned along the edge of the billabong.

At the hide, due to the strong cold wind blowing, not a bird was to be seen. This was taken from inside.

This we came across on the way back to the car. It is one of a few disused pump houses used to pump irrigation water around . They used to be fuelled by firewood and it is a wonder there are any trees left.
I took this from the billabong embankment that gives access and holds the water back. Really, I would call it more a dam or lake. I am not sure how it gets its water but there is a dry floodway in the bush where you can see the water would arrive if the Murray River flooded. The water level on the other side of the embankment was a couple of metres lower.
It was a nice walk but I had hoped to see a critter or two. Zilch.