Saturday, September 12, 2009

Old Streets and New Streets

Daniel got a new street directory for his birthday, a Melways of course. I inappropriately bought myself a Father's Day present, also a new street directory but mine is Universal Business Directory, UBD, of Melbourne streets and it is a reproduction of the 1956 UBD with info about the Olympic Games which were held in Melbourne that year.

I often wonder why Melways succeeded in Melbourne and other street directory companies such as Morgans did not. You can buy a current UBD directory of Melbourne for about a third of the price of a Melways. One interesting little discovery. UBD seems to be now published by Sensis, a subsidiary of Telstra.

While Daniel posted about what he noticed was new in his street directory, I will note what I noticed has now gone but in my edition, or changed.

There was no Ashwood but part of Ashwood was known as Tally Ho. I recall there being a Tally Ho naughty boys home. It was at the corner of Springvale Road and Burwood Highway, now Tally Ho Business Park. I think that may have been where the tv station Channel 10 used to be too.

While I thought Docklands used to be called Dudley Flats, it seems in 1956 it was called the much more descriptive West Melbourne Swamp. Dare I ever refer to Docklands as West Melbourne Swamp? Reminds me of a question directed to Dame Joan Lindsay, 'Why do you want to live in the swamps of Langwarrin?'. She did, in their house called Mulberry Hill . I have yet to see it but it is still there and is very nicely proportioned.

The southern edge of the city has changed to be pretty well unrecognisable. Drive south along Swanston Street, straight ahead into St Kilda Road, or left into Alexandra Avenue, right into Sturt Street or harder right into City Road.

Yes, there is wonderfully named Sloss Street, parallel to St Kilda Road where the National Gallery is now. The Glaciarium is marked with a large green dot. Another large green dot shows the Exhibition Buildings in the Carlton Gardens. Do not ride your bike through the Carlton Gardens.

Hoddle Street north of Victoria Street looks very narrow. Slum clearance, housing commission towers and road widening I would guess.

Da trains.

Gone, train to Kew with Barker Station in between Kew and the main line. Very ironically Vic Roads now occupies the site of Barker Station.

Gone train to Mont Park lunatic asylum.

Gone train to Springvale Cemetery.

Gone Inner Circle train line, through the inner northern suburbs.

Gone train to St Kilda and train to Port Melbourne, replaced by light rail. The train tracks ran out onto both Station Pier and Princes Pier.

Where is Patterson Station on the Frankston line? Must have a been a more recent addition.

What? South Brunswick Station? Ah, now Jewell. Vaguely recall a blogger researching the origin of the name.

Racecourse Railway Station on the Altona line? Gone. It serviced Williamstown Racecource, funnily right where I wanted to drive across the ford two weeks ago. It is now a wetlands and Altona Coastal Park.

C.O.R. Railway Station? I will guess Commonwealth Oil Refineries. Looks like Mobil owns it now. More privatisation. It was where the train line crosses Kororoit Creek Road.

Further along, near Maidstone Street was Galvin Railway Station, missing in action too.

Oh, Paisley Station towards Newport has gone as well. These three losses seem to be about a new line for Altona.

I recall Jayne writing about White City. Yes it shows on a map, after Tottenham Station.

Williamstown Pier Station, the last on the Willie line, with tracks to the dry dock, Nelson, Gellibrand and Breakwater Piers.

Look at all the train lines winding through Newport, no doubt serving large factories or facilities.

Yep, the short line into the APM factory alongside Chandler Highway is there. Chandler Lane would be a better name.

Hmm, not Fairfield Station but Fairfield Park Station.

There are a few railway stations for Jayne to add to her Lost and Found and I am sure she would if she wasn't off sunning herself on the Mornington Peninsular.

Now the trams. How useful. A tram from St Kilda Station through Elwood to Brighton Beach, and yet another from Sandringham Station to Black Rock. Bring back the St Kilda to Brighton tram at least.

Yep, the Holden Street tram line is there.

So are the Footscray trams, although I thought the Footscray to Yarraville tram finished at Williamstown Road but the map indicates it terminated at a minor street, Hamilton Street. Must check that out.

The Airport West tram did not go so far along Matthews Avenue and turned into Vaughan Street for a short distance. While I knew it was extended to Airport West, I did not know it turned off the main road before it was extended.

The now 112 tram to St Kilda and South Melbourne Beach turned right into Mary Street, West St Kilda and then along Beaconsfield Parade. Yeah, I have posted about that, with photos.

A tram along Glenhuntly Road to Point Ormond. Bring it back.

That's enough for now. Maybe some scans later of ads or the Olympic programme later. These serious posts take so long to write. I can rattle off a rant in five minutes.

How to make babies 5/7

Friday, September 11, 2009

The Nephew

The Nephew is leaving fine old Glasgow town and moving to London for his remaining year in Great Britain.

His long time mate has a grandmother in London and the mate is staying with his gran and Nephew is going to stay there too. The mate's mother is travelling to London from Australia to see her mother and her son. Sis in Law, mother of nephew, is going too, but her arrival will be a big surprise. She misses her little boy, even though he is 22.

Sis in Law's boss paid for her air ticket. She is a good manager. She thinks it will be her christmas bonus in lieu. She will be travelling via Seoul. That will be interesting. She has one night there in a five star on the way over, just a fuel stop on the way back. Somehow I don't think she will return to Australia speaking Korean. She will have culture shock from staying in a Seoul five star hotel.

Must say, I am quite proud of Nephew for getting out and travelling and working overseas. He is not the brightest stone on the beach, but he has done well. Good kid too.

How to make babies 4/7

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Buying a high rise apartment

Just some observations about buying into a high rise apartment. These are my personal thoughts so be wary. I am not god. I only think I am.

Why do you want to live in a high rise apartment. Ask yourself this question many times. If you are moving from a house, will you miss the garden, the privacy (perhaps overated), space in your back yard for barbecues? In your house, you control exactly what is done and when and where money is spent. In a large high rise apartment, you have very little control of what is spent outside your four interior walls. Yes, you can get onto the Owner's Corporation Committee or lobby the OC manager, but the decision is not yours alone. Although I did not really want to move from our house to a highrise and my partner did, I adjusted more quickly. All very well to miss the garden, but I was the one who did all the work in the garden. I would suggest to make sure you have some nice parks nearby. Ok, it is not your private garden and you have to share, but hey, everyone else is paying for it.

If you are buying a brand new high rise apartment, you are probably buying off the plan, supposedly giving you some stamp duty savings. Because it is new, you will be paying a premium price for the property. The stamp duty saving is only to make you feel good. Forget about it and just look at comparative total prices, as you would when buying a motor car. Do not delude yourself that because you saved $15,000 stamp duty, that you have done well. For mine, an existing building with residents already there is preferable.

Condo or apartment? Surprisingly they are different and in Melbourne at least defined by ceiling height. Ours is an apartment with high ceilings and bulkheads and some lower areas for services to run around. Condos have low ceilings with a decent space above the ceiling for services over the whole apartment. The definition seems to have become irrelevant but the point about higher ceilings has not. They are very desirable and yes, you will pay more for an apartment with higher ceilings, but it is money well spent. You will feel much less boxed in. They can be too high though, as in some expensive apartments I have seen. They give a barn like feeling and are not so practical.

You arrive at the building to check out an apartment with a view to buy. Stand back. Look at the block from the outside with a critical eye, especially the balconies. Start knocking dollars off the price if you see clothing hung on lines or clothes airers on balconies. Ditto bicycles, exercise equipment or god forbid, old couches. Cardboard boxes and other junk are no nos. Dead or dying plants look bad as do plants in white poly styrene boxes. If this is how balconies look now, it can only go downhill, along with the money you have invested in your property.

Does the exterior look well maintained? Is the public lighting in good condition and working? Is the entrance clean? Is the intercom in good condition and functioning? Glass and or mirrors clean? Later check the mail room. It should be clean and without junk mail lying around and a bin nearby for advertising brochures that invariably sneak through. You can change your apartment all you like, but the public area is what your visitors will see first. The lifts should be clean and all lighting working.

Once you step out of the lift to the lobby on your floor, how does it feel? If it feels like you have entered a rabbit warren, you have. But given I am judging from our decade old place that has particularly large floor lobbies, possibly most are a bit space tight on the floor lobbies. It is just something to take in and think about. There should be clear markings of directions to individual apartments.

I won't say much about fire systems. They are well policed in high rise apartments in Melbourne and probably the rest of Australia. Sometimes things slip through cracks, but they are of minor nature. Short of a terrible catastrophe such as a plane flying into your building, you will not end your days in a towering inferno. There is a lot of protection, much of it unseen by residents and it is assiduously maintained. Should you buy a high rise apartment, be terrified of knocking or setting off an interior sprinkler. It is gonna cost you if you do.

Once inside the apartment, it is much as buying any property to live in. In this case, you will probably be looking at views too. I don't understand why you want to live in a high rise apartment without good views, but many people do. Perhaps it is the convenient location and ease of living. If views are your thing about living in a high rise, be careful. Look around carefully and see where your views could be lost by another high rise being erected next door. Look for older low rise buildings especially but even newer building can be extended upwards. You may have a right to amenity before the authorities, but you have no right to a view. I can't stress this enough and take nothing for granted that you may be told by a real estate agent. In Sydney recently there was a court case where the the agent (better be careful here) allegedly truthfully told that the low building next door was owned by the developer of the apartment building. It was alleged that less truthfully, the agent said that the developer would never build there and block out the views. Take the utmost care here. A lost view can devalue your place by tens of thousands of dollars.

And I think lastly, the Owners Corporation, previously known as Body Corporate. The OC is all the apartment owners. The building is probably managed by an outside company. Get on the net and find out all you possibly can about the managing company. The OC elects a committee to manage the building, that is to set policy, ensure things are repaired in a timely manner (that is a joke) and generally make sure the building is well maintained. A contribution to a sinking fund for long term expensive maintenance is compulsory in Victoria. I expect there is a minimum, but if you are in a large highrise building, you are talking about balance figures of hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Now I think it is par for the course that you will get minutes from the Owners Corporation last AGM, but these won't tell you much. I am not sure if you are entitled or not, but try to get hold of the last couple of OC Committee meetings including financial statements. Once you recover from the shock of seeing how much tradespeople charge the OC for minor work, check how the sums balance out over the year. The OC fees you pay should be pretty close to being spent each year. The sinking fund will show separately. Check this out too. Money should be coming out of the fund each year on improvements, not being held back and saved for spending in ten years time when you may no longer be there. Look for disputes and how votes fall on a decision. Votes should generally be the same, indicating that there are not strong factions and the matter has been properly discussed beforehand and there is not ill will. An hour or so perusing OC paper work is time well spent.

Truly lastly now, if you have taken all care and it seems ok, how do you feel? Excited at the prospect? Relieved at having a smart clean place where you don't have a lot of work to do? Time to let your heart rule.


Does anything make me more furious than government funding of private religious schools. Not a little bit of funding, a huge amount, while government schools have paint peeling off their walls and green playing fields are only a dream. The photo does not come close to illustrating the money that was spent.

Melbourne Church of England Grammar School has buried their huge project under grass so none of the working class can see what they have done with the taxpayers money. Actually, it is not government money for this project. A blog mate clued me up about this. School fee are not tax deductible, but contributions to a building fund for schools can be. The government funding goes towards running costs. Parents are no doubt encouraged to contribute to the building fund ahead of school fees. Don't worry about the school fees. Just contribute to the building fund.

How a Labor Government can continue to give taxpayers money to these religious institutions and their schools astonishes me.

How a Labor Government can continue to give taxpayers money to the privileged elite astonishes me.

How to make babies 3/7

Wednesday, September 09, 2009

Melbourne Metro Underground

(I started writing this two days ago. Suddenly Melbourne's underground railway is in the news)

It is absurd that Sydney's Eastern Suburbs Railway does not go to Bondi Beach and stops at Bondi Junction. Yes, I have heard and read all the arguments as to why it shouldn't. The hoards will get there regardless of the inconvenience of changing to buses that can't cope with loading, that are slow and that add an extra thirty minutes at least to the trip. Please, they drive their cars there too and pay something like five dollars an hour to park.

Before Sydney's eastern suburbs train line was built, they had a very extensive and good tram system, but even such an excellent tram system struggled to cope with the numbers of travellers.

I have no idea how the buses coped once the tram system closed.

The eastern suburbs train line had been talked about in the early 1900s. It is unimaginable that it would not be there now.

When the number of passengers for trams, buses or light rail increase to the point where they can't really cope, it is time to introduce heavy rail. That is, big trains on isolated tracks, to deliver people quickly and efficiently.

As a St Kilda Road resident and frequent traveller, it is clear to me that the trams along St Kilda Road are barely coping with their loading. The heavy loading delays trams. The heavy loading leaves people behind. The heavy loading makes for unpleasant travelling conditions. The service will slow down even more once Myki starts.

It is time to re-invent the wheel and the proposed underground railway is a good starting point. So while they are digging a new tunnel under the city, they can get about turning the city loop system into something much more useful such as train lines that can run high frequency.

Myki will start here in Melbourne before the end of the year. I reckon for about an eighth of the price, we could have adapted a system from elsewhere. Money is spent now. But it will be good once it beds down, although I remain unconvinced about it working on trams without delaying them. Still, it can't be worse than when tram drivers were selling tickets under the Jeff Kennett regime. Nothing could be that bad.

New train and tram companies are about to take over our rail systems. Their spin doctors will be even better than those of our present operators. I have no faith that they can make a silk purse from a sow's ear. It still falls to the feet of government no matter how hard they try to shift responsibility.

I have thoroughly depressed myself.

How to make babies 2/7

Tuesday, September 08, 2009

Pork Barrelling

It has been suggested, and disputed mind, that most of the Federal Government's stimulus spending has gone to marginal Labor electorates.

My reaction? Ho hum. No surprise about that. The Liberal Party would have done the same had they been in office, except to different electorates. I recall some instances of Liberal Party largess to their electorates. Yawn yawn.

And this is wrong of me. I should be outraged. I should be writing to newspapers. Journalists should be tapping out columns of criticism. Media commentators should be thundering away at the impropriety. Radio talk back hosts should be firing up their callers.

But no, we are just so conditioned, so cynical, so jaded, so spin educated that we are failing to react to wrongs. Manana. What are tomorrow's headlines anyway? Anything that will outrage me for ten minutes?

Sunday Drive to the Hills

Sunday drives are in my blood, my genes. Mother has always been taken out for a Sunday drive, by my father and then step father. We will do it occasionally for her. Since I have none of them left, I did not know it was Father's Day.

We collected Mother and ABI Brother and took them to Grants Picnic Ground at Kallista. We heard a bit about ABI brother's overseas adventures and an awful lot more about Mother's medical problems.

I may have been to Grants Picnic Ground before, but I can't remember it. R tells me it used to be where the public fed Crimson Rosellas and there was a homely little tea shop where you can buy Devonshire Teas. Parks Victoria banned the feeding of the birds, but no one took much notice, so they have relented and offer signposted advice, such as washing your hands after feeding the birds.

Nowadays Sulphur Crested Cockatoos outnumber the Crimson Rosellas by about three to one. There were a good few Galahs too. The cockies only want sunflower seeds and the rosellas are quite content with the left overs. The Crimson Rosellas are truly beautiful birds. I hope I have a good snap of one.

We had Devonshire Teas in what is now a very decent cafe, which of course comes with much higher prices. But the food and service were good. While it was too cold to sit out on the decking, I expect it would be lovely on a warm day. There was good information about walks from the park too. I always read these signs, never do the walks though.

Mother came out of the gift shop proclaiming everything they sell is Australian made. The gift shop was quite good. However, I noticed that the caps while designed in Australia, were made in China.

Superbly tall Mountain Ash trees surrounding Grants Picnic Grounds.

The crowd feeding the three different types of birds.

The cockies are quite heavy when sitting on your arm.

A Crimson Rosella. They are more shy than the cockies.

Cockies are very destructive birds at times.

How to make babies 1/7

Published 9am each day.

Monday, September 07, 2009

Petrol Station Etiquette

I normally buy petrol every second Tuesday, the cheapest pricing day. Well it was, but the day has now shifted to Wednesday. Last week instead of buying petrol on Tuesday, I bought it Wednesday. I won't do that again. Too busy.

But I was disturbed by what happened at the petrol station. Maybe it is standard practice and I am out of touch. What I saw was certainly a breach of polite behaviour though, by my standards.

I went to the Shell garage, or is that Coles?, in Dandenong Road. I am unfortunate, like many of us who have their filler on the left hand side of the car. Most people do. So that side of the bowsers are always busier. The far right lane looked to be the quickest, so I pulled in behind the car that was sitting at the second bowser. The car in front of that one pulled away from the first bowser as the car owner at the second went in to pay for her petrol. I won't have to wait too long.

A chap drove into the service station and reversed into the first bowser, hence blocked the forward exit for the car at the second bowser and me being behind her, she was trapped.

I reversed and went in front of another car who's owner was in paying, but it was wider area and I left plenty of space for the driver to get around me when he came out.

The woman who was in front of me where the guy pulled in, reversed out and used the centre gap to leave.

The guy who pulled in front of her went to pay and I was glaring at him and he picked this up. I glared at him as he left after paying too, and I could see he was conscious of me. If all else fails, pick snobbery. He was very badly dressed and had a dreadfully ugly old car.

I queried R about this situation, as he has to buy petrol weekly and is more in tune with service station ways and means. He agreed it was wrong, but he added a qualifier, that some people go in to pay for their petrol and then do their weekly shopping while inside. Slight exaggeration, but they come out loaded with coffee, papers and terrible food.

I hate buying petrol at Coles/Shell and Woolworths/Caltex and I suppose I should just pay more and buy it at the non supermarket BP. How I lament the loss of our small petrol service stations. I used them until the disappeared in the early 1990s. There was a marvellous one in High Street Ashburton I used.

While I already know that that guy's actions were wrong, what are your thoughts?

Sunday, September 06, 2009

Home Tech

Low tech first. My remedial attention to the paper shredder worked ok for a wee while, but as I thought, it was broke. Dickie Smith had one for $30 on special. We bought it. It is already giving bother. How hard is it to make a paper shredder that works? Well at least more than a year or so.

We have a dual tuner digital recorder machine in the lounge room, the Topfield as it is known generally, or the Toppy we call it when is working ok, connected to the big tv. While it does amazing things, it is a problematic machine. R got the point about once I told him that it was like a computer. It must load once turned on, it has a hard drive, and it must shut down too. It gets befuzzled too, just like a computer. Switch off, restart and all is well.

But R bemoans that technology has gone backwards. Why can't something be recorded on this machine and then he could later watch it in his room, as he used to with a vcr. I mentioned about portable hard drives etc etc, but I did not really want to go to the effort of working all this out.

Again at Dick Smith's we spied a single tuner Topfield recorder at a good price. You cannot watch one tv show while recording another, but it is ok for his bedroom.

The good news is that in the year or so since we bought the first one, technology has improved muchly. It starts and shuts down quickly. The electronic on screen progamme listing loads quickly. So far it has not missed a beat. It is not a Freeview model, so it has the thirty second skip forward or backwards buttons, which bashes through ads and makes watching recorded commercial tv bearable. And rather than being at the mercy of a salesperson talking you into an expensive HDMI cable to connect the machine to your tv, it came with one. Full marks to Topfield with this model.