Saturday, July 04, 2009

Not quite ready to chuck out home phone

Oh how I wish I could do what Rob has done. Read his excellent post on ditching his landline (home phone) here and we would save something like $500 per year.

There are problems that stop us getting rid of our landline. Well, three actually. Mother is one and two friends who refuse to call mobiles the others. Mother I can deal with by just telling her to call me and I won't answer and I will call her back. The friends? Well, I really don't know. They are older than myself and I can't expect them to go against what they strongly dislike. They have both been offered mobile phones for free, but won't have them

I am not the greatest person on the phone normally. I am not keen on using it, but of course I must.

But one of the real reasons why the home phone will stay in the foreseeable future is that I dislike the way mobile phones works and the way you are always talking over each other. One will start to say something, the other will accidentally interrupt then both will start at the same time. Maybe I need to use a mobile more and I would get better at it.

R would never agree either. Stuck with the hated Telstra.

Lady of the Swamp Update

Another comment on the Lady of the Swamp with a link to a photo.

Holiday Day 5 Sydney Day 3

This was our day to visit Watsons Bay and see The Gap. Back down College Street and this time to the main bus stop in William Street. We waited longer than I thought we should for the 325. There was a quicker alternative bus that followed the old tram route more closely, but I wanted the more scenic route of course. I just adored this bus trip. There were some spectacular views of the harbour around Rose Bay. At some point we pulled into a bus interchange in Edgecliff for a change of driver. Reminds me, must contact Victor. The bus followed the coast quite closely, twisting, turning, seeming to back track but evenutally the bus arrived at Watsons Bay.

I did expect there to be lots of shops, including food places and touristy stuff. There wasn't. We seemed to be nowhere. There was a cafe and it was certainly time for coffee.

We were going to stop off at Rose Bay to see where R once worked and used to watch the Catalina flying boats land and take off from the water and we wanted coffee, but since the 325 service seemed so infrequent, I decided not to and R did not really care. It was many years ago and areas change so much, they are no longer recognisable.

Although we could see a bakery a little way off, we decided to check out The Gap first. Walk left or right? I had forgotten that Ben said the way right was easier and we went left. Regardless of steps etc, it was worth it. What sensational views and I could watch water crashing and swirling on rocks for hours. You can see why the lovely flat area of rock when I suppose people think is a good way to end their lives. I don't recall of hearing any survivors of a jump at The Gap.

This is a snap looking back towards Sydney. An Asian lass asked R to take a photo of me and her with our backs to The Gap. Who knows why she wanted me in the picture. Will I end up on the internet as her Australian sugar daddy? Perhaps she just thinks I looked hot, haha. As you often do when posing for a photo with someone else, I put my arm over her shoulder and she did the same. Some things in this world are not for understanding.

We then had coffee at the marvellous Watsons Bay Hotel. Bit cool in the shade. We took a walk along the beach and returned via some back streets. Can anyone tell what the function of this device in the gate might be for? I have no idea.

After the walk, we ummed and ahhhed over whether to eat at Doyles Restaurant

or Doyles take away, informal dine in. Had it have been nightime, it would have been a no brainer......the posh place, well, maybe not really, but we decided to eat at the informal eating area. It was ok, although I thought the fish and certainly the batter was better at the Coogee takeaway yesterday.

I had the ferry departure times noted down, but went down to the pier to check instead. A ferry was there and a staff member beckoned if I wanted the ferry. I waved no. I checked the timetable and we had another hour before the next ferry. Oh well, back to the Watsons Bay Hotel (it has another name, but I can't recall it) for a drink. We sat on the top deck on comfy lounge chairs.

The ferry back was a Cat and we were quickly back at Circular Quay after a stop off for passengers at Garden Island. I missed that one on the timetable!!

I like the electronic music combined with didgeredoo music, but it must get a bit wearing on the staff in the nearby shops.

We trudged up Phillip Street to Bridge Street where the Museum of Sydney sits. The building has a fine history. Look it up yourself, or I will never leave the computer. We looked through the gift shop and were undecided whether to pay the ten dollars and five dollars concession to see Shooting Through: Sydney by Tram. We did so, and the exhibition was very good, although I knew most of the stuff already. The movie showing was great and people were very interested. Bring the trams back, I say. We made a profit on the entry price though. $5 off a $15 daily monorail/light rail ticket and two for one entry to the Tram Museum of Sydney.

We took a cursory look at other exhibits, but we were stuffed. Down the hill to the Quay and the train to Museum and up the Liverpool Street hill to the hotel. Rest.

For dinner we caught the bus along William Street to Kings Cross. We walked the length of the main street but no where appealed. We checked to see if Joe's Cafe was open, but it was not. Finally we decided on a pub meal in Bayswater Road. It was $10 steak night and we had great steaks. Not a flash place but good plain food. We caught a bus back to College Street. That was a cheap meal.

Friday, July 03, 2009

Holiday Day 4 Sydney Day 2

The day started with breakfast in our hotel. It was the same every day. We did not go out for breakfast but just had cereal and toast in our room. As per at home, I awoke about 6.30 to 7.00 and played with the lappy until R arose between 8.30 and 9.00. This time is when I get through a mountain of stuff on the net. It is a time alone I treasure. I have probably blown out his monthly allowance. I did not look at any videos, only pictures, papers, blogs and sites appropriate to our holiday.

I wanted to combine two things. The first being a trip on the bus, route 389, that follows the old tram route from the city to North Bondi via Bellevue Hill. The other, walking from Bondi Beach to Coogee. It was not working too well though. We had no need to start the walk at North Bondi as we know Bondi Beach well enough. Ok, the latter part of the old tram journey is not closely followed by the bus, so we will get off at Bondi Junction and change to the 380 and get off at the southern end of Bondi Beach.

I knew the bus ran along Park Street/William Street and turned into a minor street named Yurong. We walked down College Street to the bus stop in William Street. Oh look, Sydney Grammar. Must call Victor later. The bus stop indicated that route 389 did not stop there. I can see why. It must get from the bus stop on the left of the road and cross several lanes to turn right into Yurong Street. We headed down the hill and walked along Yurong Street to the bus stop. In the photo you can see the rosette on the building that was used to hang the tram overhead support wires. It is the thingie below the rust mark.

The bus arrived and it is quite a busy on/off route, seemingly being a service for local people and not the quickest way to get to Bondi Junction. It twisted and turned along narrow streets and crossed the tram purpose built viaduct over Barcom Avenue. We saw all sorts of things, houses, shops, people, things that we would not have seen on a direct route. It is hard to imagine how a tram ran along these tiny streets and interacted with motor cars.

I decided I need a cap to protect my head from the sun, so we stopped off at Bondi Junction and I bought one in a cheap shop and had some decent coffee. Back to the bus interchange and onto the 380 bus. We alighted at the southern end of Bondi Beach and started our walk. Here is the Bondi Sea Baths.

I expected it was a walk around the cliff tops with gentle grades. It was not. There are steep hills, steps and some reconstruction with not well marked diversions. My feet ended up being very sore and R had calve and back problems. Luckily he had medication with him to treat his problems. I knew my feet would be ok after some overnight rest. While it was challenging for us, we both wanted to complete the walk and see what was to be seen.

Surf life savers. How many people who are with us now who would not otherwise be if it wasn't for lifesavers. Bless. Click the picture to read what is there. 35,000 people at Bondi Beach is impressive.

Now, does someone actually live here or is it artwork? I think it may well be a home for someone with million dollar views.

Hey, the Bronte tram cutting. It is not the same view as when I wrote about the cutting back here, and with an old picture. I was quite chuffed to see it.

Some tram history.

A boardwalk is being built past Waverley Cemetery, so we had to walk through the cemetery. We dawdled and looked at many graves.

I can't recall if this is Bronte or Clovelly Beach and I am too tired to check. Regardless, it is nice.

We were diverted again into side streets as we approached Coogee. We reached Coogee and ate fish and chips from a takeaway. Very nice they were too. We sat at an outdoor table in the sunshine and admired the views. We walked along the beach and then to the parallel to beach Arden Street. We came to Coogee Bay Road and walked along a bit to Brook Street where R used to live. It would seem where he lived has been pulled down and something else built there. We walked past the oval where a few guys were having kick to kick on the oval. Not once did I ever see anyone in parks or anywhere playing rugby, only kicking an Australian Rules football.

We caught the 373 bus back to our hotel. I had forgotten the route number, and thought the bus might not go via Oxford Street but via back streets and we would end up at Central Station, but I did get it right. I must write on paper and carry route numbers. It was an interesting trip back, and yes it followed the old Coogee Bay tram route, right past Randwick Racecourse and along the old Anzac Parade tram reservation. I saw the marshalling area for racecourse trams.

After a rest and a spa at the hotel, we felt up to walking down Liverpool Street to Chinatown. We dithered, as we do when choosing somewhere to eat but eventually chose a place and selected a set menu. It was a nice meal, including hot and sour soup for which I had to pay an extra dollar. It was nearly the weirdest hot and sour soup I have ever eaten. I am a connoisseur of Melbourne hot and sour soup. I love it, but this one was weird, not bad, just different.

We watched people and the trams passing by at the bottom of the Dixon Street and walked back to the hotel. We went a different way and it was nice and flat. But if you are going to the same place, you are going to have to uphill at some point. The last bit walking up Wentworth Avenue was a killer. My notes say we went onto the Colombian Hotel for a drink but I am not so sure. I think we were pretty whacked after such a big day. Regardless, we were home by 8.30 pm.

We must take it a bit easier tomorrow.

Just a comment on Chinatown, sometimes malls work, sometimes they don't. Chinatown's Dixon Street Mall seemed wrong to me. Not exactly sure why.

Thursday, July 02, 2009

Holiday Day 3 Sydney Day 1 Big Post

We had investigated the best way to get to the airport to fly to Sydney. Taxi? Airport bus? Take the car? We decided to take the car and park at the long term airport. Cost $69 plus petrol and Cityclunk charges. Airport bus cheaper but much less convenient. Taxi, maybe $100 return. I had also decided this holiday that we would try not to use taxis, only proper public transport. Ok, it is not making sense that we drove to the airport. Forget it.

The bus from the carpark arrived quite quickly and it is no longer a minibus with a trailer but a proper bus with half the seating area devoted to luggage storage, similar to the airport buses from So Cross Station to the airport.

No cars were parked on the freeway waiting to hear from airport arrivals requesting to be picked up. Maybe some enforcement has been happening? Perhaps authorities should look at the outrageous short term car parking prices to stop the freeway parking?

And why don't we have a train from the city to the airport?

We drank some ok coffee and shared a muffin. More outrageous prices. What is it with Melbourne Airport that they can charge such excessive prices? Their costs should be no higher than a shop in a fashionable street.

The flight was uneventful, as it should be and we arrived on time.

We went to the airport train ticket desk and spoke with a person who's first language was not English. I thought I had it right, but not quite. Only at the end of the holiday do I think I worked it out and remembered what perhaps I should have noted down. I wanted a $50 public transport ticket for five days and an airport train gate pass. The airport pass got me out of the airport but not through the barrier of the city station. I checked with a person at the gate and he asked if I had another ticket. I had my five day ticket, so I said yes and he waved me through. I believe I could have used my weekly ticket to get through the city station barrier but the five day period would not start until the next time I used the ticket.

R was using a one way concession ticket though and he payed a supplement for all day public transport in Sydney, but his did not allow him through the barrier either. Apart from the last day, that was our last real confusion with tickets.

I had checked which was the closest railway station to where we were staying and knew where to walk once off the train from the airport. It would seem I got that wrong. Museum Station was closer than St James. I am totally lost as to how I screwed that up, but still, it wasn't too far to the hotel.

I rang the number as instructed and the lass who I exchanged booking emails with met us in the hotel lobby. She was very nice but had to immediately apologise as the room we had booked was not available. Instead we must suffer the family room, larger, better views and two double beds. Yippee!

She showed us around the room and pointed out the water view. I immediately snapped back at her that it was only a Sydney real estate agent water view, a sliver of water but actually at night I saw ferries and lit boats passing. The main view was to the east over Kings Cross.

The slit water view.

The main view to the east. How dominate is that apartment tower at the Cross? It sits on a high piece of land, almost an island, and can be seen from many places in Sydney. How come we have never really noticed it before? Any goss on it Victor?

Now while this is proper hotel, it seemed we had no connection with the hotel itself. We had no contact with reception. I am not sure how this works. Does a private company lease a floor of a hotel and onsell the accommodation? As you can see from the website where we found the accommodation, it is not quite to the standard of a normal hotel website. This prompted me to do much more research of where our money was going before booking. We still had use of the facilities though, the pool, gym, spa and sauna. Well that will be fun. We have all that at home. Where is the tennis court and barbecue?

In one corner of a bench was a tangle of wires, an odd box and what seemed to be a phone. I would be lying if I said I had no idea of what this mess of equipment is, but it was irrelevant to us. A wireless router and VOIP phone. Better to look at some pics of our room. Someone left that bottle on the bench. Nothing to do with us. We don't drink. We also had a complimentary bottle of red wine. We forced ourselves to drink it. Rather nice actually.

Our hostess had already marked the nearest Coles supermarket on a map she gave us. I had checked that out in advance anyway. We walked to the supermarket at the corner of Liverpool and George Streets and bought supplies. Ah, a Liquorland too.

I think we then rested and freshened up and sampled, or was that emptied the free bottle of wine.

Now I became confused. When we visited our dyke friend in Sydney, I thought we went to the Colombian Hotel. Seems not. The Colombian is not far up Oxford Street. We had a drink. Cute enough barman if you like dark smoldering Latin looks.

I had not eaten fish fingers since I was last in Sydney and of course, we can't go to Sydney without going to Betty's Soup Kitchen. What an institution. I forget what R had. The same Dutch? guy served us who has been there for yonks. He is quite amusing.

Our energy levels were still not bad, so we strolled up Oxford Street to the Oxford Hotel and had a drink in an outside area. The hotel has been remodelled inside since the the last time we were there. I can't remember when that was. I could then also see the hotel where we went with our dyke friend. Stonewall.

I bored R with telling him about this street is where the tram from Long Bay Gaol delivered prisoners to the court for their appearances and Darcy Dugan escaped from the tram by cutting the roof. I think I bored R often with my knowledge of Sydney trams.

We had caught the tv news earlier and saw this Bruno poster being erected by guys clad in something brief and glittering. An promotional image of Bruno seemed to be on every second bus. For a hairy dude, he sure waxes up ok.

Gosh, must be eight o'clock already. Time for home for old men. Must contact Victor tomorrow.

Repost Mollie Sugden

Mollie Sugden 21/07/22 - 01/07/09 RIP

Wednesday, July 01, 2009

Private v Public

I am so angry, I can't even thing of a subject line. The Australian government, the Labor government, the party of and for the workers, is pouring money into private schools while government schools go wanting.

I just stepped out onto the balcony and aside from the huge building project that is happening at Melbourne Grammar, they have now floodlit another building. It is a beautiful old building and is worth floodlighting, even if it looks like a cardboard cutout from here.

Your office cleaner pays her tax. It is snatched from her pay as she is paid. She can't do skillful manipulations of the tax system.

I just see dollars after dollars being pumped into Melbourne Grammar and I know a lot of it comes from taxpayers, never mind your other cranky religious schools.

Don't fucking well tell me how good private education is. I know already. Funded by the poorest paid in our society. It is just so wrong.

Bad Thailand

Our brother friends visit Thailand twice a year. We have been there three times, the last when we were returning from Vietnam. Thailand was a fun country and back then, quite sophisticated compared to Vietnam.

But Thailand has fallen on hard times. In the past foreigners were pretty well left out of the day to day bribery that is the way of life there. Not so anymore. Remember Beer Mat Mum? Life would have been a lot easier for her if she had offered an appropriate bribe, rather than standing on her supposed moral principles.

So I now hear tales of tourists now being targeted for bribery as tourism is down so much in Thailand, the whole local bribery chain is breaking.

Here is one scam I have heard of from two different sources.

You are leaving Thailand after you visit and are doing some duty free shopping at the airport. You arrive at the counter to pay for whatever you have selected and the cashier packs something extra in your bag.

"Free gift Sir/Madame".

They may not even say that. I might look like they made a mistake and put something in your bag by accident.

You leave the shop and you are soon collared and accused of theft from the shop. You have a product in your bags and you don't have a receipt. You have no answer. Face the legal system or pay a bribe.

Generally I like Thai people, well I only know a couple really, but I would suggest if travelling, avoid going via Bangkok and travel via Singapore or Hong Kong. If you want an Asian holiday, consider Singapore, which is a very sophisticated country that works well, or what about Vietnam? We had a great time there and can recommend it. The Vietnamese police look after foreigners. Unlike Thailand, they know which side their bread is buttered. Honkers has plenty to see too.

Sadly Thailand seems to be malfunctioning country at the moment. Avoid it.

Holiday Day 2 Bendigo 2

Sister and the Bone Doctor were concerned that Ipsy had disappeared while they had been away for a few days. Ipsy reappeared from behind the toilet cistern and climbed high onto the bathroom wall. It is a Huntsman spider and he has not lost a leg. It is tucked away somewhere.

How good is the Bendigo Art Gallery? Excellent and very innovative. They had a fantastic exhibition earlier this year and Sister took us to the gallery to see the latest exhibition of the Archibald portrait prize entries. The gallery had a computer set up for popular choice voting. Could I vote for anyone else but Ben Cousins, who's portrait had him lying baretop on a bed? Of course not. We would have liked to have seen more of the gallery but Little Jo was getting restless.

We then climbed the tower near the gallery. It sits high above the beautiful Rosalind Park and a rotunda. I do like a nice rotunda.

Do not graffiti public places, but if you do, please make it something sweet like this.
This is a beautiful water feature but sans water.

Queen Elizabeth Oval. There are some local ructions about its condition, but it didn't look too bad from the tower.
Sister then took us on to Lake Weeroona for Little Jo's daily 'chino', a little milk froth. Sister did a couple or running laps of the lake while we played with Little Jo on the excellent play equipment. The galahs were to busy to notice us.
Time for Little Jo's midday nap and time for us to go home. Sister said to go via Lake Eppalock, only ten minutes longer. Between the larger trees and the hills should be water. Sadly very much not so.
Bendigo is a beautiful city and I don't think you will be disappointed if you visit.

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Holiday Day 1 Bendigo Day 1

Now where is Sister living? I had forgotten the Bendigo address and needed to look Google maps. I had a mental picture of the map and I found where she is living. So we set off in R's motor on some big wide roads. Can't go too far without a caffeine hit though.

Pulled off the freeway at Malmesbury. One end of the historic town had a window display with two statues of guys embracing, the other end had statues of two girls embracing. Gayville big time. It looked to be a nice town, although bathed in grey cloud and cold air. It has the biggest gutters I have ever seen, including large bridges to cross said gutters.

A decent sized shack in Malmesbury.

A trough for watering your horse. None were evident in the vicinity.
Sister, the Bone Doctor and Little Jo were travelling too, from Geelong. While we were in Malmesbury having coffee, they were doing the same in Castlemaine.

The Bone Doctor and Little Jo were home by the time we arrived. Sister had gone out to buy stuffs for lunch. She had taken the Bone Doctor's bush basher 4wd machine and arrived soon after we arrived.

After lunch the Bone Doctor had some things to do, so R and Little Jo and myself headed off with Sister to Central Deborah Gold Mine and hopped on a tram. Ok, this is an historic tram. Bendigo used to have a proper tram system but the State Electricity Commission who owned it, closed it down. Fortunately some peoples thought that some of it was worth preserving and so Bendigo has a decent tourist tram line.

I am very interested in old trams but not in the way of an enthusiast. I like their place in history and the role they played. I am not interested their bogies, bearings or colours, although I do have a little knowledge.

I heard that we were on a Birney Car? Don't know. Maybe American. Lots of them made. I would have preferred to be on a Melbourne tram. This Birney Car rocked and rolled big time. Little Jo loved the movement. The bit I do know was that at times it was being driven full speed and it was terribly slow.

After a turn into the tram depot for a quick look around we went on to Lake Weeroona and then returned back to the old mine.

I understand these Bendigo trams and motor cars often came into conflict. I wondered why this was more likely than elsewhere? Well, the track is mostly single track with little sidings for trams to pass each other. This becomes very interesting when the tram is at a set of traffic lights and on the other side of the intersection is a car right turn lane, facing the tram. Not only did this seem odd, if not a recipe for entanglement, generally there seemed a lack of awareness of trams by motorists and really, the separation between the two very different vehicles could be much improved.

All aboard, destination Lake Weeroona.

Sister took us on from the gold mine terminus to see the Botanic Gardens. They are a good bit out of town and she told us they had been neglected but now were undergoing renovations. We saw some nice flower beds dug and planted. The Gardens also have a small native animal collection, mostly swamp wallabies. They looked cold and bored and did not have a lot of space and I think it is an inappropriate way to keep animals.

The entrance to the Botanic Gardens. Can you say Arch of Triumph without it sounding odd?

We went on then to look at some of the bush fire damage that occurred on Black Saturday. I had no idea how widespread the fire was in Bendigo. I was shocked and while it wasn't exactly the centre of town, it was quite a built up area. Some areas of quite open land had burnt bushes in the centre, falling embers no doubt.

I think these burnt trees will reshoot come Spring.

We called in to a football match briefly as the Bone Doctor was now umpiring. We watched her for five minutes but then light rain started, so back to the house.

Sister cooked us a fine roast meal and I curled up to sleep with my own doona in the protective castle. I slept well. Is it a seventies thing where you slept under a pyramid so that energy waves hit you correctly? I heard Little Jo get up in the night and crawl into bed with Sister and the Bone Doctor. She did not notice me in the tent.

My sleeping quarters.

Monday, June 29, 2009

Il Returne and a discovery

I have returned from Sin City where I indulged in very few sins, the principle one being too much alcohol. I should start on holiday posts. You are begging me to start aren't you? No? Don't worry, you will suffer them. I seem to have lost my blogging stroke. Holiday posts will begin in Bendigo where Sister is living. The overnight visit was a little hard because of personal relationship difficulties, but it is hard to be angry around the gorgeous Little Jo.

Vik, as well as learning Japanese, you know Italian. How is my subject heading? Have I mixed French with Italian, exclude the English?

But before the holiday posts, this evening I discovered that my new razor's trimmer can be very useful. I suppose my old razor would have done the same, but instead of shaving down under, which leaves you smooth for one day before you become prickly, you can use a trimmer to keep the bush under control.

Both shaving your bits and waxing your rear is hard work and very time consuming. The razor's trimmer thins it all down and there won't be any rash. While I will miss the ultra smooth feel for a bit, the razor trimmer that works like clippers is much more practical.

I read, I think on a blog, about a woman who waxed herself smooth. Her bloke did not like and questioned whether she thought he was a pedo. I can see the point he was making, but still, it does feel very nice to be ultra smooth.

And a shaved set of knackers does look bigger when denuded of hair, not that that is a problem I have. Big brings unrealistic expectations, so perhaps in some ways it is a problem.

So have I shocked anyone into the knowledge that I am back?

Ah, such self aggrandisement.