Saturday, July 11, 2009

On a Big Rock

When I go into a church, providing there are no thunder claps or the doors do not slam in my face, I am usually there to look at the interior of the church. Churches can be very beautiful buildings and very peaceful and restful inside.

I don't go any further forward than the front row of pews. I don't really know, but I would guess that forward of there is a place at least reserved for believers if not the professionals of religion. I don't think they would want me picking up and examining the bits and pieces of their rituals. Hey, it might be fun to swing one of these smokey things around. Can I give a sermon from the stand? I just couldn't stop myself from fiddling with the flower arrangements.

I don't do it not because I have respect for religion. I have none. I don't do it because it is a special place for the believers in the religion. A sacred place if you like. I am not about invading people's sacred places.

Our indigenous people believe Ayres Rock is such a place. I hold no truck with their dreaming and their mythical goannas, rainbow serpents etc, as interesting as some of the tales may be. Hey, I like the story of Joseph and his multi coloured coat too, and wasn't the big flood story interesting, with all the animals in a boat. How come the non carnivorous animals survived?

Nah, if the Aborigines tell me Ayers Rock is sacred to them and they don't want me clambering all over it, good enough for me. Rest assured you believers of myths and nonsense, I will stay off your church alters and your sacred rocks out of respect for you.

At my age and fitness level, it probably wouldn't be a good idea to climb Ayres Rock anyway.

Now what about the rock where the drag number was performed in Priscilla? Can that be declared a sacred place for drag queens?

Friday, July 10, 2009

A day for Mother

I could hardly have two weeks off work and not offer to cart Mother off to wherever she would like to go. I learnt a couple of lessons.

Twelve o'clock last Thursday was the negotiated time to arrive. Another call, pick up pies for lunch on your way. Ok. Another call, I am not well, not sure if I can go to chiropractor. Can you call him and cancel for me. I have cancelled twice already. He will be cross. Ok. Another call. Can you pick up some long life milk for R's coffee. Ok.

By the time we arrive she was in a state. She had had two visitors and two phone calls that morning, the power had gone off for half an hour and she was thrown out of her routine. That would probably throw me too actually. She warmed the pies and heated the soup, after R pointed out she had the wrong element on the stove top switched on.

Her front blind was playing up, so instead of using a gentle touch, she gave it a good hard yank and the fabric separated from the blind. A friend that morning had taken it down as it was looking very bad from street side. We took a look, but it is too modern for us to work out. Turns out later it is just glue that holds the fabric in place.

Battery vacuum cleaner not working properly and is blowing out dust. That is because Mother, you haven't placed the dust collection tray properly.

Bedroom lamp shade glass has fallen off. We repaired with the help of a washer from late Step Father's mega junk collection.

Now Andrew and R., I want to go down the street and deposit this cheque at the bank, the unused balance of late Step Father's driving license, then go to the newsagent, then get some vacuum cleaner bags, (for the vacuum cleaner she no longer uses) and some ciggarettes from the Richie's IGA. It is no good pointing out that smoking is not good for her. Sister goes troppo but I figure out, it is too late now. Giving them up would do more damage to her mental state.

You will need to drive to the vacuum cleaner shop. It was no distance to walk actually. The bank gave her much botheration over the cheque and would not let her deposit it because it wasn't in her name. It is not how I understand cheques work, correct me if you will Mr/Ms Banker. Eventually the grieving widow got her way.

Bank and newsagent took about an hour. Back to home and she called the doctor. It is the best way she said. He will fit me in. Be there in half an hour, she promised. Cups of teas and food made it 3/4 of an hour. That was why we could not go straight from the shops to the doctors, so she could have a cup of tea.

She doesn't like the doctor she saw that day, but he did reassure her that her blood pressure was ok. That was all it was. She wanted reassurance.

We returned her home and did not hang around as heavy peak traffic was on our minds. Sure enough, 40 minutes to get from Toorak Road to home. Total trip time off peak is 50 minutes, instead about an hour and twenty.

Right, I am putting my foot down with a firm hand. No more of these late starts. If you want us to do things, then we will arrive at 10.30 to 11.00. None of this of nonsense anymore that she can't be ready so early. Sister listens to what time Mother says, and then just turns up early regardless. I must be harder.

Would you believe I said to R the night before, I am quite looking forward to seeing Mother tomorrow.

More on Defense

This is worth its own post so that none of you miss it. Just when you might be feeling cynical about the whole world of blogs, someone does something like this. Thanks heaps Ian. Good laugh in the kindest manner meant and you have it nailed.


I will just sneak this post through while Brian is asleep in one of his excavations. He will come around soon enough. The post is unfinished, but I have lost my way with it.

We are told that Australia is a classless society. It is a lie. I have class and so many don't. It is a cross I bear, or should that be bare? I have so much class, I don't care which spelling, because I have class.

In a posh restaurant in Australia where your recent immigrant serves the mighty and powerful, the server will be reasonably subsequitious but just doing his or her job. He or she won't be puzzled by a tantrum by the rich over an error in the serving of a meal. He or she will expect it. If your third generation Anglo Saxon was doing the serving, they would do it well, but don't expect much subequetioness.

But generally in Australia, there is a pretense that Jack is as good as his Master. Those with plenty of money tend to go along with it and will politely thank their waiting staff and the waiting staff would expect the thank you. The wealthy who do not behave like this will be looked down upon by their social equals.

Fortunately when we were in the UK, we did not come across any upper class people. Given the areas we visited, this is not surprising. Actually, it was quite hard to find a UK person in the UK. I expected to find regional accents in various places. Instead I mostly heard foreign accents in regional places.

Getting off topic. I can only go by what I read and see in the media, on tv, ok that is media too, and movies, ok it is more media, but those who serve the rich really are badly treated. It seems especially bad if the staff members are English born. They seem to be treated with such disdain, as if they are nothing. Utterly no respect for a fellow Englishman or Englishwoman, solely because they are of a different class.

When the revolution comes, by golly, I hope the English upper class don't expect their worker fellow countrymen and countrywomen to stick up for them. They will be the ones holding the baskets to catch their heads.

As for the UK foreign workers, 'You should pay me £6 an hour like you pay bloody Aussie'.

Thursday, July 09, 2009

And here is the news

I just adore The Sydney Daily Telegraph. When I am feeling flat, it always gives me a lift. Although it is a sister paper to Melbourne's Herald Sun, the Hun is not even a patch on the Tele. Of course I don't believe much that I read in the Tele, but no matter. Here are today's news headlines.

Bruno violent gay cage kiss attack ending dumped

Newcastle mum told daughter to bash up her bully in 'brain snap'

Worker dies after falling into chocolate

Model cheats on soap star with teen son

Tom dumps Kat at Target for Packer

Man tells of sex with 'cabbie'

Pink's hot sex tip - naked wrestling

How Bruno found a terrorist

Should we probe our cops' drinking culture?

Half-blind pensioner puts thug in jail

Vermont : Man 'kept boy as sex slave for six years'

Court: Ex-Swan frauded home loans

Who needs men with 'Frankensperm'?

Emma Watson's embarrassing wardrobe malfunction

In defence of defense

I thought I knew most commonly used words that we and people of the US of A spell differently. I was reading a post by Dina and I noticed she used a word defense more than once. She does not normally make spelling errors or typos, unlike me, so I immediately thought, have I been spelling defence wrongly? Hah, my American spell checker just indicated I have.

But no, my spelling is not that bad. I know how to spell defence. Grrr, stop doing that spell checker. I refuse to add a word to you that is not a name.

I could do some online research but this time I thought it was best to pull out the Oxford. There is is, defence. I turned to defense and it referred me back to defence. Defense is listed under defence and marked with a asterisk. It is so long since I have picked up the dictionary, I forget what an asterisk means, but I would assume it would along the lines of 'alternative spelling' and/or 'American usage'.

So there you go. Now has anyone got a Webster and can check it? No online research please. I want the original. What does Australia's Macquarie say I wonder? Am I the last person to know that Americans spell defence as defense?

Wednesday, July 08, 2009

Michael Diana Presley

If you are like me, you have probably heard quite enough about Michael Jackson, yet I continue to listen to the details, sometimes rolling my eyes, sometimes shaking my head, often groaning. The reaction to his death has been extraordinary.

I liked Michael's music. I even thought he was kind of cute when he still had a nose and some colour to his skin. I am sorry he died, but that is about it.

His funeral/memorial was not the first to be bigger than Ben Hur and it won't be the last. But why do some celebrities generate such fuss and others don't?

I heard one sentence today that put it all in place for me. There will never be another Michael Jackson. The speaker was correct and like there will never be another Michael Jackson, there will never be another Elvis Presley, a Princess Diana, Marilyn Monroe, Charlie Chaplin or Ruldolph Valentino.

Is this the difference between being a star to being a superstar? To have or create such an individuality of your person or persona that you can never be re-created?

Now who will be the next one to go? You could vote here.

Sydney Da Trains

We only travelled off peak, the same as I do at home. Score, pretty good. Punctual. The trains are much bigger and carry more people, mostly eight carriages compared to our six and theirs are double deck. That central grab post near the doors is great. Forward/backward seating could be better or just forget about it and get the max number of seats.

I think we travelled on three different trains. One was an older non air con train, with glass windows and had good visibility. The other two were air con trains, one seemed to be older with a different air con system to the newer one. I seem to recall another non air con train from the past that also had the plastic windows. All seemed to suffer from the same problem. That awful plastic/perspex on the top deck. Viewing out was hard through the clouded and scratched plastic.

Staff were like most public transport staff, some great, some very perfunctory, but they all responded well enough when we asked something of them.

Museum Station is marvellously old but the steps!!!! No escalator nor lift in an underground railway station. Absurd. A lot is to do with the topography of course, but Sydney is much less disabled and old people friendly than Melbourne.

It is a bit annoying that the Eastern Suburbs railway did not go through Museum Station. While I can see why and that there are benefits, I don't like isolated bits. It is very good that the trains go both directions in the underground part of the train system. I wonder what Melbourne's city train loop would be like with trains in both directions? I expect a lot more could be done with it. If dual tracks are very useful it is a disgrace that our system, built comparatively not that long ago, is single track.

The train to the airport is very good, and so it should be for the price you pay. I understand that the airport station is privately owned. Not sure about the rest of the line, but if I get on a government owned train and travel from a government owned railway station using government owned infrastructure, I expect to pay normal prices. That just to go through a gate and pay such a price is wrong.

Still expensive or not, Sydney is one giant step in front of Melbourne there.

In summary, a pretty good system from my viewpoint.

What struck me every time we caught a train was the number of staff. A static guard was on every train we caught and checked by getting out of the train that all was safe for departure and on many minor stations were staff to flag the train off. Staff were plentiful at all city stations. I was very impressed. Overstaffed? Maybe, but it made for a much better system from my viewpoint.

Like Melbourne, Sydney's trains are under huge pressure by passenger numbers, although I bet, as is the case in Melbourne, they used to carry higher numbers. I can recall from my last visit to Sydney, the alarmingly crowded Town Hall Station. It looked like a disaster ready to happen and I suppose it is worse now.

While it might be different for everyday peak commuters, my experience of Sydney trains was very good.

Tuesday, July 07, 2009

Bad Day

The bad day was Monday, but the preceding Friday was not great. I had my car booked in for a service. I forgot about it and did not remember until early afternoon. Actually R remembered. He yelled a bit.

I rebooked for Monday.

We usually print any photos we want, usually for Mother, at Harvey Norman for around 20c per photo. If desperate, we pay 50c in Prahran and get very nice service. We noticed new photo printing machines in Big W at QV, just 11c. I thought I would give them a go and so did what you do at the photo printing machines. I went to pay, the lass took the money and told me they would be ready by 12 the next day. What? I want them today, like in an hour, like at Harvey Norman. Cannot. 12, tomorrow. Not sure when I will get to pick them up.

Call from car servicing place at 1pm. This does not bode well. I mentioned that the windscreen washers were not working. Please fix if will not cost too much. No mention of windscreen washers. Blown head gasket will cost $1500 plus though. No symptom apart from water in the oil.

I have been forced to use public transport to get to and from work. Worked ok today. Fingers crossed for tomorrow.

Almost getting the evil card paid off is now only a dream.

The princely sum of $0

Bad luck you lowest paid workers. A government appointed authority says you are not getting a payrise.

It's the economy of course. We can't have you upsetting the economy with your unreasonable $21 per week demand.

It is argued that if you were given a pay rise, many workers would be put off. Not sure I think that is right.

But I don't understand economics very well.

What I do understand is that many of your bosses earn hundreds of thousands, if not millions of dollars a year and they say you can't have a lousy $21.

All decided by a panel who are probably on a few hundred thousand a year too.

Sharpen the guillotine Gillaume.

7th of July

Four years since London Underground bombs went off. We were in the Casino in Darwin with R's Sis in Law and her partner and watching on a big screen as it unfolded.

I knew at the time where the bombings happened, but the places slipped my mind. I never checked before I went to England, as it might have put me off a bit.

Lucky that I didn't check as we were often around Edgware Road near where an underground bomb went off.

Terrible business. Bad people. The English just got on with it, the best way to fight terrorism.

Noah knew

Over the 12 years of the drought, Melbourne has missed out on 1.8m of rain, or three years of average rainfall, Dr Stern said. "It is going to take many years of good rainfall to remove these deficiencies," he said.

A snip from the Herald Sun. We are at around 27% of our water storage capacity. I don't like the statement above as it is not how I understand our water supply or weather works. Since when have we ever had many years of good rainfall?

I refer you to the lines from Dorothy Mackellar's poem

I love a sunburnt country,
A land of sweeping plains,
Of ragged mountain ranges,
Of drought and flooding rains,

That's right, droughts and flooding rains. If our drought ends, it won't be after many years of good rainfall. It will be floods.

Sydney Day 6

Our last full day and we are off to the suburbs. Unfortunately two railway stations past where my ticket allows me to go. I had to buy a supplementary ticket for $4.40 return. Nobody checked and there were no barriers at Loftus railway station.

We were off to the Tramway Museum of Sydney. It is a decent train ride of maybe fifty minutes, made much longer by it being located on the Eastern suburbs to Illawarra line that does not go through St James and Museum stations, meaning we had to change trains. It was an opportunity to see Central Station from a different perspective.

The train journey was uneventful and we passed through suburbs I had never heard the name of. Actually there are some in Melbourne I have never heard of.

We had a bite to eat in sleepy Loftus and crossed the train line to the Museum. The museum is very good and the two for one entry made it cheap. This is the tram I really wanted to ride on, the second last tram type built in Sydney, and R class. Luckily it was out and running this day. We took a brief journey up to near the Sutherland train station and back. The driver was a youngish guy and VERY enthusiastic in his driving. The tram felt quite like an old Melbourne W class tram. Pretty stylish looking beast I reckon.

We then transferred onto this ex Brisbane tram, built only a few years before the Brisbane tram system closed. Australia's first tram with fluorescent interior lighting, we were told. I looks odd on the outside and felt a bit train like inside. This ride took us across the Princes Highway and into the Royal National Park. The driver was very relaxed and professional.

A fellow passenger lass who I had taken no notice of came up to me and asked me if I was Andrew. Whoaaa, I am freaking here. My instinct was to say no, but I didn't. I had no idea of who she was, even when staring into her face and hearing her voice. However, once she mentioned that she used to roller blade to work, and then through the workplace, I worked out who she was. I worked with her about ten years ago and I remember her best for her pet goose that she used to walk along Punt Road. We had a bit of a chat about our respective lives. The world is a small place.

This O class tram was also being used on the day, but I did not get to ride on it. Certainly plenty of fresh air on this tram.

This sad sight was spied along the way into the park.

Some trams just fall to pieces and others meet an inglorious inferno end, as can be seen by this photo in the museum.

The museum itself was interesting with lots of photos and bits and pieces and quite a number of trams. Look what I found you Vik, a Japanese tram.

Isn't this photo of Circular Quay, also in the museum, just great.

The museum is very well set up with facilities for barbecues, plenty of shelter and interest for kids. The volunteer staff are friendly and helpful. It is an example to all tram museums. Long may it prosper.

We took the train back and that night ate at a modest Asian restaurant in Oxford Street after a drink at the Shift. Another bowl of weird hot and sour soup, very different to the one in China Town, but just as odd.

Bedtime and hometime tomorrow.

Monday, July 06, 2009

Sydney Day 5

This day was not highly planned. On my mind was to catch the tram, sorry, light rail vehicle, to Lilyfield and return. The rest would be something nearby to or at Darling Harbour.

We walked down Liverpool Street to the World Square monorail station. The token vending machines had gone and there was a decent queue at the ticket seller's window. The seller had not seen my $5 off the $15 daily monorail/tram discount voucher from the Museum of Sydney before. It required a telephone call before he accepted it. R paid for his daily concession. Riding the monorail is quite fun, not that I approve of it ever being built.

We alighted at Paddy's Market and waited for the tram to Lilyfield. This is very quaint. There is someone on board to take your money and issue a ticket. I wonder how that would work on Melbourne's trams?

The conductor soon got off the tram and another boarded. He took R's money for a day ticket and started giving R back a heap of small change. R started giving him a hard time, and honestly the guy really did not seem to know what he was doing. Coins were swapped for notes.

The tram goes through plenty of tunnels and along a viaduct. The route is an old goods train line and there is talk of extending the route further along the old goods line.

We alighted at the terminus and took a look around at absolutely nothing. I do recall that Norton Street was not far away, a street with Italian restaurants, but it was too early yet to be thinking of food.

The most exciting thing we could see was tracks running off into long grass and imagining the tram just accidentally sailing along into the grass. This photo is cheating a bit. There is a barrier to stop the tram behind where I was standing.

We caught the next tram back. Snapped a nice view of Anzac Bridge. As you can see, the sun does not always shine in Sydney.

R had mentioned getting off at Star City Casino but seemingly had gone off the idea. I hate Star City, so that was fine with me. We went back to Paddy's Market and had a look around. It was like all markets of its size except there wasn't really any food stalls. We took the tram back to Darling Harbour and found somewhere to eat and have coffee. We sat near the edge of the harbour whereby people insisted on feeding seagulls. Millions seemed to come from no where and then the people got scared of there being so many. Serve them right as it rather spoiled the ambience.

We came across this bloke doing wonderful things with bubbles. The kids just loved it.

I had kind of crossed Powerhouse Museum off my list as we were running out of time, but R was keen enough to see it, so onto the tram to Powerhouse. Parts of the museum buidling is an old building where power was generated for Sydney's trams. The museum is first class and I would go so far as to say the best I have ever been in. We spent a couple of hours there but a couple of days would almost cover the whole museum. It is a great museum for kids too. A chatty volunteer guide guessed that we would not really be interested in women's fashions! and directed us to the more technical areas. We saw heaps of Australian inventions, some transport related things including NSW's first steam train, stationary steam engines, antique furniture, old jewellery... just so much stuff. There was a huge stationary steam enngine from a factory, but there wasn't a qualified steam engineer available that day to start it up. Unlike the one at our Spotswood Science Museum, this one still ran on steam.

We debated getting a cab back to the hotel, but instead caught the monorail to World Square and tiredly trudged up the Liverpool Street hill.

Dinner was at an excellent Indian restaurant in Oxford Street called Tandoori Palace and this was preceeded by a drink at Midnight Shift. The Shift had a very different layout to the last time I was there. We forewent the Indian restaurant offering goat.

Sunday, July 05, 2009

The Naughty Navy

Oh dear, our navy is in trouble. Not a sinking ship but just some navy blokes doing what they do.

The blokes have drawn up some sort of score card, that is, how many navy girl chicks they can do the biz with. Ah well, if they can't pull a chick, we all know what they get up to.

Did I hear mention of forced sex? No, don't think so.

Did I hear of rape? Nah.

Did I hear of complaints from female navy gals? Don't think so.

Did I hear of harm to anyone? Not really.

Did I hear of bois being bois? Yep, I think I did.

Did I hear of horny young men? Goes without saying.

Did I hear of something distasteful in my eyes? Yep..............well, no not really. Don't forget I am gay and we have a higher tolerance for such things...........ok, I have set myself up there haven't I?

Watching on tv the competition for blokes scoring by pulling the fattest and ugliest chick was far worse than what these navy dudes were up to.

Media FAIL, jury still out on navy brass.

Sydney Day 4

Today R suggested a plan. He wanted to see an exhibition at the Art Gallery of New South Wales and how could we visit Sydney and not take the ferry to Manly? He had a point.

More consultation of bus details. Ok, the 441 bus comes to the city from Birchgrove and every second bus goes to the Art Gallery. We catch the bus in Park Street. The driver kindly checked that we really wanted to turn left and not continue down William Street. I noted that the 389, North Bondi via Bellevue Hill could be caught from here too. The stop for the gallery was a short distance past, so as we walked back we took in the nice views of Woolloomooloo's Finger Wharf. (THAT word I had to correct of course)

This is a very nice smallish fountain near the bus stop where we waited.

I was not so impressed with the exhibition called Intensely Dutch. Abstract.... I no like mostly. But we wandered around and looked at other works too. There were a decent number of Sydney Nolan's paintings.

We then walked through the Botanic Gardens. While they are very different to Melbourne's, they are just as impressive. Not sure though about the Cahill Expressway going through the guts of the gardens. A very courageous decision Minister. The Governor's flag was flying so she appeared to be at home at Government House, but she hadn't sent us an invite, so instead we passed by the Conservatory of Music and out into Bridge Street.

This odd but appealing sculpture was located just outside the gates. Funnily I saw something on tv about it after we returned to Melbourne. It needs wind to work properly and there was little that day.

We made our way down to the Quay and boarded the ferry to Manly. While I have been on the Manly ferry maybe ten times, this is the first time I noticed that, unlike the other smaller ferries, it is double ended. The Narrabeen does not have to reverse out and change direction. I assume the other Manly ferries are the same. No wonder I have been vaguely confused in the past. The trip was smooth until the near the heads where as per usual, there is some fun rock and rolling.

We alighted from the ferry. I did my good deed for the day by reuniting two gay German tourists. I did not recall aggressive touts outside the Corso cafes, but they are there now. We were going to eat there but R had some instinct to continue on. He was right. Along South Steyne were better places. We had some lunch and then took a walk northwards. Very pleasant and heaps of people lunching on sandwiches, reading books and papers and enjoying the sunshine. I took this photo from opposite where we ate. Not so interesting, but I like it.

Ahhh, where has Manly Beach gone? Temporary barriers were up and more permanent steel ones were being installed. Seems a king tide and bad winds had taken away half of Manly Beach.

Walking leisurely back along the Corso, we stopped off to buy Little Jo a Manly tee. Why do kiddie sizes jump from 2 to 4? What happened to 3? I expect the 4 size tee will fit her. It cost $25 for such a tiny bit of fabric, and then the bastard shop wanted to charge a credit card fee. Hello, we are Australian tourists, not foreigners. We paid cash and made our displeasure known. It is an excellent quality tee shirt for her to grow out of in a couple of months.

Michael Jackson had died that morning. I liked him before he went weird. I read it online before the tv morning shows picked it up. We had to watch atrocious morning tv as there wasn't any AM radio reception in our hotel. By 6.30 pm we were already over MJ's death. This shop amused me and and a music shop on the Manly Corso was playing MJ music loudly.

Back onto the Narrabeen to the Quay and train from Quay to Museum. I would like to say we went for a swim and spa, instead I just went and took photos.

While we can walk quite well on the flat, for us from Melbourne, hills and stairs are hard work. Our day had been quite flat walking, so for dinner we had the energy to wander up Oxford Street, stopped at Stonewall a drink and then crossed Taylor Square and went on a bit further. We found a Spanish place called Catina or Cantina. Not sure. Great food. We reminisced about the long gone Green Park Diner. (I thought it was long gone, but it is still very present on google.)

Stonewall for one more drink and home.

If it is still July the fourth in the US, best wishes from down under.