Saturday, February 02, 2008

Fitzroy Post Office

Melbourne used to have very grand inner city Post Offices. Post Offices were serious places. They were not places for levity. You were dealing with Post Master General's department, PMG, or Pigs Meat and Gravy as we used to call it. They even continued into the Australia Post days, when the telephone section of the PMG was separated and became Telecom. But gradually they were all sold off and turned to other uses. Now we have Post Shops, where it is much less formal, the staff are more friendly and you can perhaps buy a box of blank dvds, a soft toy for the kiddie and a doorbell.

No surprise I guess, but delivery standards are not what they were back in the days of serious Post Offices. Below is the Fitzroy Post Office at the corner of Fitzroy Street and Johnston Street. A building likes this gives you confidence when you slip a letter into the post box. No posting of letters to France there anymore though. You can buy a very expensive bread toaster if you care to.

Racist Joke

I don't tell racist jokes unless they are really really funny. Most are not and depend on stereotyping. I expect Bengalis have racist jokes about Punjabis, like the English do about the Welsh. I have made a public gay media stand about racist jokes, with some success.

At best, they should be shared in private among like minded and same skin coloured friends.

I suppose this is what this petrol station owning fool thought he was doing when he shared an aboriginal joke with ABC broadcaster Jon Faine when de Faino was on holidays in Queensland. He picked the wrong one there. Lucky the guy did not tell an anti Jewish joke.

Now that is an interesting point to ponder. I originally wrote Jewish joke, then changed it to anti Jewish joke. Is there a difference? I think there is. So there could be aboriginal jokes and anti aboriginal jokes perhaps?

A good point was made that it was outer suburban Brisbane and not inner Brisbane where this happened.

Not sure that there is a difference really. Wasn't when I was last there, but it was quite a while ago. The undesirables were all restricted to South Brisbane.

De Faino wishes he had made a scene, instead of just saying 'That is not funny'. I reckon he did ok anyway with his comment, and eventually via the airwaves giving some public humiliation to the petrol station owner.

But that is Brisbane. Inner or outer Melbourne, you would never hear anything like that at a petrol station. After all, the staff are all Indian or Sri Lankan nationals.

You could be paranoid when you hear a few of them chatting among themselves. What are they saying about me in their own language. More than likely nothing about you. They have the same preoccupations as we long time Aussies do.

After we dined in Caulfield last week and went for a walk in Caulfield Park, there was a group of young Indian men in the park chatting, way too loudly I might add. I asked our Indian friend what they were talking about, and alas it wasn't what six old poofs were doing in the park. They were talking about money and finances but in a different dialect to my friend, so he could not understand properly.

On a personal level, I might have some problem with an Indian friend and his cultural baggage, but the ones who staff our servos and 711s and travel on our public transport are very polite and friendly. And of course the Sri Lankan highrise building staff are marvellous. It is now hard to imagine how we survived without them.

Friday, February 01, 2008

Hotrodding at the REB

This is a lousy picture of our most beautiful Royal Exhibition Buildings. Really though, I prefer the appearance more from the southern side. This is the eastern and main entrance.

Construction was completed in 1880 and soon after it held Melbourne's first International Exhibition. I doubt they would have envisaged it hosting a display of hotrods.

A bit of trivia for you. Around the building are three small lakes. Their intended purpose was for fire fighting should the bugger catch alight.

It also hosted the opening of Commonwealth of Australia's first parliament.

In 2004, it became the first Australian building to receive World Heritage listing.

And just coz I can, aren't these cars that were on display outside the building gorgeous.

I thought you might think I am bit butch because I am posting car pictures, but then I have spoilt it with gorgeous haven't I. Of course there were some Aussie cars there too, but these Yank Tanks (we use that in an affectionate way DJ)are just so so big and stylish.

Die Young

It is probably a bit too late for me to die young and beautiful. It certainly is too late for me to die young and I was never beautiful. Awful to hear of young people dying from accidents or cancer or disease.

My father used to hire a machine every so often to spray blackberries on the farm. It was great fun to be covered in the spray of the milky white liquid from the spray tanker attached to the tractor. A mist of DDT is so cooling on a hot day.

This cement sheet stuff is fun. You can jump on the old stuff and break it up. You can saw it into shapes, you can file it into shapes. Even in my and R's first house in Waverley Road, East Malvern, our garage had this cement sheet product and we patched up holes with some sawn pieces. What fun asbestos was.

Trips in the car were always fun for us kiddies, we did not bother that Fa, Ma and Uncle smoked away. Shut the windows please, we would ask, it is cold.

I suppose it is in the genes, but so far, I have survived DDT poisoning, asbestos pollution and passive smoking, ok yes, some active smoking too.

Along with a fondness for the juice of the grape, the fermented hops and the distilled product of barley, it is not a recipe for a long life hey.

I am very close to the age when my father first was diagnosed with cancer. He lasted for about eight years after diagnosis. (Can you get cancer from boredom?)

While I hope to live to be 100 and see Microsoft go bankrupt, cars banned within five kilometres of the city, computers that just work, tv I really like, and the great greenhouse effect reversal, I don't expect I will.

But I would like to know like exactly when. I don't want to run out of money in my old age, but nor do I want to leave a heap to anyone, obviously R excepted. None of my family or friends are rich but nor are any of them really poor. I arrived in this world with a zero bank balance. I hope I can go out that way.

Thursday, January 31, 2008

Stylish Little Jo

My sister has been known to wear a dress. I have a vague memory of this. I heard the bone doctor even wore a skirt once for a job interview. Their home furnishings are functional and sensible.

I worry about little Jo not having a grounding in style and fashion and as a gay male, I feel I must assist her in this area. Don't all gay men have style and a good sense of fashion? While I have no style now, because I can't be bothered, there was a time when I made an effort.

Clothing and make up wise, I do have a sense for what looks good and what doesn't for women.

Thanks to some of my female blog mates, I do have some names to repetitively whisper into little Jo's ear, such as Prada, Alannah Hill, Beverly Feldman etc. I will have to do this surreptitiously as sister will be horrified at such shallowness as labels.

Poor lass will have no-one to go to for fashion advice. No good asking Nanna Fud. She will just say blue eye shadow and coral pink lippy. Really I am no good either. I can see when it is wrong, but cannot say this will look good. Guess I better steer little Jo to her teen cousins. They know about such stuffs.

Society Five and Anglers Club

The top picture is where Society Five used to meet. In (70's?) Sydney an organisation was formed to lobby for gay rights called C.A.M.P. Other chapters were spread around the country but calling it CAMP in Melbourne was thought to be too provocative. So they used the name Society Five. Five laws being targeted for removal from the statute books. This is where they used to meet at 21 Queensberry St, Carlton. There was a fire and the premises badly damaged, so they then moved into the city. One day there will be a plaque in front of the building.

Now known as Dream nightclub, this building was originally the Anglers Club, yes a group meeting place for fisher folk. It was not the first time an angling club let out their premises to a gay organisation, nor the last. It has been at various times, Hellfire Club, venue for the Barramundi Ball, Breakfast Club and Psychic Harmony. Many one off gay nights were held here too. It is located at 229 Queensberry Street.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Dog 0. Snake 0.

I wrote a post about it at the time, but I cannot find it now. My stepmother who lives just out of Echuca has two indoors dogs, and some outdoor breeding dogs. One indoor dog is a little Jack Russell and the other a large black dog, species unknown, but it is a big bugger.

They get on perfectly well and the big dog is a great indoors dog. He is very playful and affectionate.

However, outside he is quite different as we observed and were quite distressed the time when we were visiting and he decided to tackle a heifer. He grabbed her by the throat and hung on tight until he was beaten off. Honestly, I could never trust a dog like that ever again.

Blackie, is locked up every morning for about three hours while the breeding dogs are exercised. Whether it came in after he was locked up or was already there, there was a snake in his enclosure. Blackie killed the snake but the snake killed him too. A zero outcome. Stepmother is upset, but I feel the place will be safer for all now.

Email jokes

Do you have friends who send you lots of jokes via the email system? We do. Occasionally I will send them on to other people who send me jokes, but really I find them a bit of a bore. They are all variations on what I have heard or seen before. I can safely say this, as the only friend who reads this, does not send us jokes. It is to her credit, although I have sent her the odd one.

But jokes aside, there are more important things in life, like the death of this chappie. Here is a cut from his obituary.

Larry LaPrise Dead at 93

With all the sadness and trauma going on in the world at the moment,
it is worth reflecting on the death of a very important person, which almost went unnoticed last week.

Larry LaPrise, the man who wrote "The Hokie Pokey" died peacefully at
the age of 93. The most traumatic part for his family was getting him into the coffin. They put his left leg in. And then the trouble started.

Update on domestic and mundane

Car: $790 later, half was for its almost annual service. I am crying. Sam at the garage saw us walking in Port Melbourne in the weekend and tried to attract our attention from his bicycle, but we did not see him. That he is such a nice guy does ease the pain a little. A few minutes later a jumper from the West Gate Bridge landed near him as he was about to cross the river on the bicycle punt.

Air con: Called service department on toll free number Tuesday morning. Yes, they have a replacement remote control. $60. Fine I said. She then rattled off plus GST, plus freight equals $80. Me: Can I come and pick it up? Her: Of course you can. Me: Where are you? Her: Moorebank. Me: Sorry, I thought you were in Clayton. I don't know where Moorebank is? Her: Are you in Melbourne? Me: Yes. Her: I am in Sydney. Air freight it is then. This was about 9.30 Tuesday. Unit just arrived here 11.00am Wednesday. Can't complain about that.

Computer: Highriser new rechargeable battery policy. Change batteries once a week whether flat or not. I will do it every Sunday when I wind the clock.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Roof Roo Update

I suppose it is just a co-incidence that this article appeared in the Port Phillip Leader this week, not too long after my blog post and my post to Walking Melbourne. They did not use my photos.

This one keeps slipping my mind, but a while ago I had contact from an organisation asking if they could use a photo I had taken and published on my blog. Of course I said yes. They could have just filched it and I would never have known. This is the post and here is where it was used.

The Carey Tapes

Wayne Carey in a spot of bother within his own apartment block is of great interest to me.

Not whatever deed he may or may not have committed, but how the camera footage, note it would be a digital recording, not a video tape, ended up in the hands of the media. I need to choose my words carefully here I think, but I saw someone on the footage, who I presume was the building's concierge. He was dressed in a suit and easily knew which lift buttons to press.

The incident happened on a Sunday night. I find it hard to imagine that the building has security guards on a Sunday night, in addition to a concierge. It is quite possible that the guards were on call and not far away of course. Our building's security viewing area is in a locked secure area with only four keys to the room I believe, and two of those are in the possession of the body corp management staff, one with the building manager, one with the body corp secretary.

Every few days our security footage is backed up onto dvd. To burn a dvd of the security footage from the hard drive requires knowledge of the system. To my knowledge only two people within our building know how to do this.

I can't imagine it is so different in the block where Wayne Carey lives. I doubt the guards would have the knowledge to burn the dvds if they haven't done so before.

I suppose it is possible that it is video footage, but I have never seen non digital security footage as clear as what was shown on television.

It is alleged that the security footage was sold on to the commercial television station for $20,000.

All very odd to me.

The Balmain Dummy

No, this is not another story about The Bolter, aka my paternal grandmother who ran away from Melbourne with one of her students to live in pre bohemian Balmain.

It is another Sydney tram post and it is about the Balmain counterweight dummy car.

While there was an earlier and alternative route, the quickest way to Balmain by tram in about 1910 onwards was from Central Station then called Railway, via Harris Street, Ultimo, then Glebe Island Bridge, Commercial Road, Barnes Street and Weston Road, the last three roads now known roughly as Victoria Road. (I hope)

The Balmain tram then turned into Darling Street and headed straightish to Balmain along Darling Street. At some point later, a branch line was built down Rowntree Street to Birchgrove.

The tram terminus was at the Nicholson/Johnston Street corner in Balmain. This was most unsatisfactory for people who wanted to catch a ferry at the end of Darling Street, but it was an exceptionally steep hill and it was thought that the electric trams could neither climb, nor safely descend the hill. So those on foot faced a trudge uphill of about a kilometre, the distance the tram was short of the Darling Street Wharf.

Not good enough, the citizens cried and in response very expensive plans were drawn up that involved property resumptions to avoid the direct steep descent.

Work had even started when along came a chappie with an idea. I find it quite complex and as I cannot properly understand it, I cannot explain it to you. But here is a general view. There was a tunnel dug under the tram line as the line was constructed and a system of cables and hydraulics were installed Above ground was a mini tram, the counterweight. To descend the hill, the arriving tram would 'kiss' the counterweight dummy tram and then the tram's speed would be held by the counterweight while going downhill. The reverse happened when the tram ascended the hill, with the counterweight dummy helping the tram back up the hill.

The system worked extremely well, saved the government thousands of pounds and the person who invented it was offered a pittance for his trouble. Eventually he did receive proper renumeration.

Towards the end of Sydney's tram system, in 1955 the Balmain counterweight dummy was taken back to a depot and trams once again terminated at Nicholson Street, with no replacement bus service up and down the hill until a terminus and turning area was built.

A month later, the Balmain tram service was cut short back to Rowntree Street. Late 1958 saw the last tram to Balmain.

I can't remember now if the counterweight dummy is on display at the Sydney Tram Museum at Loftus or Powerhouse Museum but I am sure you could track it down if you want to.

Picture courtesy The Western Lines of the Sydney Tram System.

Wildlife in the city

Barely had I read Lid's post with a lovely and rather artistic photo of cockatoos in the bush, when there was some squawking outside, heralding the arrival of our local troup. I watched them carefully in case they decided to massacre my geranium again.

Monday, January 28, 2008

Big silver bird mid year

Well, we have done it. Regardless of me having no spare moola, we have booked our mid year flight to and from the UK.

We travel to Singapore on Quaint Ass airlines and have four days there before going on to London where we have flexible number of days at this point, and then travel by train onto Newcastle (that was the only thing I asked for, a train trip from London to Newcastle, well, and to not stay with rels but in rels caravan). Coming back, we are doing it as quickly as possible, Newcastle to Melbourne. Clearly we will have to stop along the way for petrol and airport botheration. We could have bought the tickets online cheaper towards the end of last year, but we did not realise how much cheaper it is by using the net rather than a travel agent.

Trip is now costing $2609 return. Probably could have got it for $2400 last year. Yes, we are indulging in some self kicking, but we are not knowledgeable about such matters.

I have just been looking at train travel from London to Newcastle. The last time I looked, it was by the impressively named Great North Eastern Railway. It seems since then, the contract has been awarded to another company, National Express, the same company who ran half our Melbourne trains and trams and then bolted. Yes, I gave a shudder.

R is fuming at Qantas as he thought that when he looked at the 'online check in example' that he would be able to choose our seats once we paid. From what we can see now, we can't until 24 hours before the flight. I am not convinced about this. Further looking or a telephone call is required.

On a personal level, since I have to worry about collecting the motor from the garage tomorrow and fainting when I hear the cost, buying a new remote control for the aircon, probably fainting at the cost of that too, and needing a blood pressure medicine prescription entailing a visit to the doc, I have decided I am unwell tomorrow and cannot go to work.

A quietish Monday

If it was so quiet, why do I feel so tired.

Last night we went to a place we had not eaten at before, Almazett in Caulfield. It seves Lebanese cuisine and it was pretty good. Decor lacked something perhaps, but food was plentiful and excellent in the banquet. We all had entertainment cards, one way or t'other, so that knocked $54 off the bill, which made it a bit of a bargain.

We took a stroll in Caulfield Park afterwards and our Indian friend sized up the geese to see which might make a good curry. He approached them a bit and they all turned and starting honking and walking towards him. He did not run, but moved briskly away.

Today was coffee and walk on the Port Melbourne Beach to Beacon Cove and back. I could sense an acrid smell in the air as we passed by HMAS? Ah, must have been left over from this bad ass not so young lad.

Then home and out for lunch with family to Village Green hotel. Nice to see family as always, but. At least no one had too far to travel.

Meanwhile, sister, the bone doctor and little Jo are camping at Porepunkah. Where will you wash her bum, in the Ovens River? I asked. Evidently it is not in the bush, but somewhere where there are facilities. Actually, it is a very nice area. R and I stayed there twice in a caravan owned by a friend many years ago.


I had no idea what these traffic signals were called. As kids we used to call them the clock traffic lights. They are sometimes referred to as Marshall (the inventors name) signals, but it would seem Marshalite is the correct name.

Before the big large roads to travel to suburbs very south and the Mornington Peninsular, the only way for us was along the beach road, known by us as the Beach Road, actually the Nepean Highway.

We were always excited as we approached Chelsea and were about to come to the clock traffic signals in our grandfather's Zephyr.

'May as well slow down Pop, the lights are going to go red'.

'Put your foot down Pop, you can make it'.

'Slow down Pop, no one has pushed the pedestrian button as the hand is not moving. We want to see it move'.

The 'put your foot down' was one good reason for their removal, because that is what people did to get across before the lights went red and often did not but kept going anyway.

A picture tells a thousand words and you can see how the system worked. I think the hand in the picture is in the resting position, ready to move once someone pushes the button to cross. There were some others spread around Melbourne, but this is the only one I remember.

Picture courtesy Hobbies Plus and I just realised I have bought a book from them via ebay. I can recommend them.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Gay Carlton

I have never thought of Carlton having much relevance to gay Melbourne so I was surprised to learn of its gay history during the Australian Lesbian and Gay Archives annual walk, this year around Carlton. The walk was supposed to be an hour and a half, but stretched out to nearly three hours.

We started at the Royal Exhibition Buildings where the was a hotrod display happening, both inside and outside the building. Forty odd poofs and dykes mixing with hotrodders seemed somehow inappropriate. The Exhibition Building has a history of connection with the gay and lesbian community (I hate that last phrase), as does the Carlton Gardens where the Exhibition Buildings are located.

We moved in westerly direction and I not going to retell the walk, but here is where we stopped along the way.

Stop 1 Kangaroo Fountain
Stop 2 Exhibition Buildings
Stop 3 Australian and New Zealand College of Psychiatrists (Rathdowne St)
Stop 4 Society Five (Queensberry St)
Stop 5 Australian Union of Students (Drummond St)
Stop 6 Christ's Community Church (Queensberry St)
Stop 7 Dover Hotel and Trades Hall (Lygon St)
Stop 8 Draculas, aka Cactus Club and Vegas and Open Leaves Bookshop (Cardigan St)
Stop 9 Pissoir (Queensberry St)
Stop 10 Bouverie Theatre and Social Biology Resources Centre (Bouverie St)
Stop 11 Anglers Club (Queensberry St)
Stop 12 University of Melbourne Law School (Pelham St), Graduate House (Leicester St)
Cyril's Tearooms, Cheeks and Gresham Hotel (Elizabeth St)
Stop 13 University of Melbourne (University Square).

All of the above have some connection to the gay and lesbian history of Melbourne.