Saturday, March 06, 2010

Sydney v. Melbourne, again

Melbourne, the fashion capital of Australia. (true by my observations)

Melbourne, the coffee capital of Australia. (certainly was the case. Good coffee can now be found in most large cities in Australia, and even some small towns)

Melbourne, the sporting capital of Australia. (please, we will forgo that title if please, please Sydney, take the Grand Prix from us)

Melbourne, the literary capital of Australia. (possibly, but Adelaide would be close by)

Melbourne, the arts capital of Australia. (yeah, whatever)

Melbourne, the culture capital of Australia. (yawn on)

Melbourne, laneway bar capital of Australia. (but only if you can find them)

Melbourne, the largest tramway system in the world. (arguable)

Melbourne, the casino capital of Australia. (a dubious honour)

Melbourne, the largest city of Greek speakers in the world aside from Athens. (I think this has been discredited)

'Excuse me Ms foreign celeb, which city in Australia do you prefer? Sydney or Melbourne?' This question is only ever asked in Melbourne and with soothing compliments to us local Melburnians, the answer is usually Sydney.

I enjoy the 'which city is better' banter as much as anyone, but c'mon. Why are Melburnians seemingly so defensive that we have to make all these best of claims? Surely it smacks of serious insecurity. We should just be quietly self satisfied that we are the best. We don't need to tell anyone about it.

Friday, March 05, 2010

Just a day

Wake 3.30 am and recall that I need the Etag today. Get up and write note for R to put it in my car when he goes to work. Back to sleep until 6.45. Arise to coffee.

Alternate between doing things and computer. I never sit for too long at the computer. I am sure it frustrates R when he is around. I am up and down like a yoyo, but I get things done and keep up with what you are doing in your lives via your blogs and what sweet Emanuel is doing in Latin America, especially his antics that create huge internet traffic. So I did a load of washing, hung up shirts, hung up rest of washing, loaded and put on dishwasher, had cereal and toast, cleaned balcony door glass. I tried doing that yesterday but the Windex was drying as quickly as I sprayed it on, outside of course.

Gather bits together and detach gas bottle from barbecue. Leave home at 9.45. Go to garage, swap gas bottle and have altercation with attendant. I need to see the bottle to make sure it is in sound condition. I reply, it is out at the cage. She said, you need to bring it in. I replied, It is sitting at the cage and you will see when you go out to unlock the cage and we will perform the swap. Grumpy moll, gas bottles are too heavy to carry needlessly. I availed myself of their free air to pump up my tyres. Aren't these modern tyre inflation machines marvellous, compared to the awful old air gauges that were so inaccurate I carried my own tyre pressure gauge.

Head to the Burnley Tunnel. For once people were driving quite well and I did not get hemmed in with trucks to the left and right, front and rear.

Arrive Mother's 11. She has a 12.15 appointment at a doctors' surgery near Berwick. She tells me it will take 25 mins to get there but she is not hurrying when at 12 she calls the surgery to see if the doctor is on time. No, come at 12.45. We arrived at 12.40. I sat for a while in the waiting room and then went out to my car and had a twenty minute nap and then finished reading Wednesday's newspaper. Some old dude in the car next to me was listening to ABC FM and had the classical music too loud. It was bugging me. Mother exited the surgery at 1.30, one hour fifteen minutes after her original appointment time and she was fuming. It is a long long time since I have seen her angry but she was. She had booked the appointment two weeks ago and asked for a long appointment. After the long wait and she finally went into the surgery, the doctor said it was her last appointment and she was running late. She checked Mother's blood pressure and refused to discuss any other matters and suggested Mother go back to her usual doctor in Pakenham. From Mother's discussion with people in the waiting room and the sign I noticed on the wall explaining why doctors run late, this clinic has a reputation. I reckon if my doctor can always be on time, so should most, most of the time.

Mother is a very good letter writer, so I will suggest that she writes a letter of complaint. I know Mother is something of a hypochondriac, but she is an old woman, living on her own and she is very insecure. She could not really direct me how to get to the surgery, even though she is familiar with the area. L used to worry about all that, she said. I never took any notice. She is still in shock over all the things she has had to learn and do since he died. These are basic day to day living stuff, that her father did for her when she was young, that my father did for her and that my step father did for her. Yes, she was spoilt, but she is making an attempt at learning these new skills even though she is in her mid seventies. It is not easy for her. While I had no real idea where we were, I have just located the clinic and I will name and shame, Berwick Lodge Medical Clinic, and btw, sick people don't normally want a blaring tv showing Days of the Young and Restless in the waiting room.

On to Fountain Gate and I felt like I was in a episode of Kath and Kim as I drove around and around and around until Mother noticed something familiar. We lunched at the marvellous White With One cafe. The owner remembered Mother from when she and my step father and two friends of theirs used to meet there every Friday night for a meal and shopping. It would be nearly two years since Mother has been there.

We went our separate ways, Mother to Big W for a new brassier and an engagement card and me to Safeway because some person in the highrise had forgotten to buy a new jar of chilli, and Helga's Light Rye was on a two for one special.

Next stop, Flower Pot or something like that. It was a Kmart plant nursery but another company took them over. Same one as the one in Warrigal Road. Mother was lamenting that it was a long weekend with nowhere to go, so she would console herself with planting a few seedlings. They were expensive and the last time I bought potting mix, it was around $5 for a decent mix. It is now around $11.

I needed some harware and there was a Bunnings nearby. Mother waited in the car while I bought a patio bolt. Little Jo is of an age where she could reach the handle of our now smoothly sliding repaired balcony door, reach the snib and get out onto the balcony. I do not want to see Little Jo splattered down below so the plan is to put the bolt at the top of the door and not worry about key locking it. I can drill another hole and it can be locked a little bit opened too.

Mother knew of a chemist warehouse nearby but we couldn't find it. Instead we went to one in Pakenham on the way home, but also stopped at KFC to get her something for dinner. Arrived home and ABI brother was there. Mother had decided she would like to cook herself corned beef, so ABI brother who does her shopping obliged by getting her some. She will cook it tomorrow. I told her she must have cabbage with it. She said she didn't want cabbage with it. I replied, well neither did we when we were kids, but you made us eat it. She is considering getting Meals on Wheels. A good thing, as it will mean some outside contact too. Mother is a lousy cook and she is getting to the point where she will no longer cook. She is happy enough to heat things up though. While she has never been very competent in the operation of a stove, she is no worse than she has ever been. Because I seldom cook, I have to study the hotplate illustration about which burner to switch on. I will be on to Meals on Wheels at the first opportunity if R is not around to cook for me.

I took my leave about 4.30 and of course the road I have to pay to use was congested. I was one third into the Domain Tunnel when the signage changed to 'Because of congestion on the West Gate Bridge, the left lane is closed for the use of emergency vehicles'. All the cars, me included had to squash over into the middle lane. Why do we have to pay for this congestion privilege? I can travel for free on congested roads. I really feel for the people outbound though, traffic on the freeway was banked back from the South Gippsland Freeway to East Malvern, stop start all the way for them.

Arrived home 5.45. At home, sanity is restored.

Sorry for the mistakes. I am very tired.

You have the facts wrong

Without getting the Concise Oxford out, isn't a fact a truth?

I suppose I am being extremely pedantic but it is something that pulls me up every time I hear words like, 'you have the facts wrong'. Maybe, 'I doubt the facts'. Or, 'The facts are not accurate'.

The marvellous ABC broadcaster, the very late Peter Evans, used to say in reference to unique, and I am sure he was not the first, you can't be quite unique, like you can't be a little bit pregnant. Something is either unique, a one of, or not. Unique is not a halfway word.

You can't be a little bit pregnant and surely a fact is a truth. Facts are inherently not wrong.

But aren't facts like knowns? Donald Rumsfeld coherently explains.

Thursday, March 04, 2010

New Zealand Holiday

We plan to go to New Zealand again, perhaps next year. We have been once already and given I have a couple of New Zealand readers, I will retrace the holiday. It may be of interest to them, even though they are ever so much younger than I am. I don't have a diary, mainly just place names, so it is mostly from memory. I can't even remember the year, perhaps 1982.

We had a third person along with us for the trip, a workmate of Rs. While after the holiday R and I declared we would not go on a holiday with a third person again, well not where you share everything, he was not such a bad travelling companion.

We flew with Air New Zealand into Auckland. The airport seemed quite provincial, the staff less look down your nose than Australian airport staff but were also quite brusque. We caught a taxi from the airport to our accommodation. The driver was a white chap, Kenyan born. Interesting chat with him. Lucky that he bolted from Kenya before turned into the disaster it later became. He left after the Mau Mau uprising but before independence. He pronounced Kenya as Keenya, as they used to. Funny the little details you recall but not so many bigger things.

We had booked a flat for the night, well arranged the whole holiday, through the New Zealand Tourist Bureau here in Melbourne. I think our campervan was delivered to us and I think the company was Blue Sky, which was not nearly as popular as Maui, but then our Bedford van was quite big. Maui vans seemed smaller.

We had chosen not to go north, to the Bay of Islands and so forth for time reasons. But I cannot understand why we did not want to look around Auckland? But we didn't. I am looking at a map of Auckland and I think we may have stayed at St Heliers or Mission Bay, perhaps the former. Next morning we took off down the highway. We drove at the speed limit yet old ladies in old Morris Minors kept overtaking us. There were some very old cars in New Zealand back then.

Stopped Feran, Hamilton, stayed Rotorua. Everything you are told about the smell of Rotorua is true. It pongs big time. You get used to the odour after a day or so, we are led to believe. I am not sure. Note says AM Art Gallery. I kind of recall that. A large Tudor looking place. In our ignorance we entered a Maori meeting hall. Get out, we were told, followed by stage whispers of bloody tourists. There was a cemetery with collapsed graves issuing clouds of steam. The van was backed up to the lake and there seemed to be pipes carrying hot water from the ground to someplace for some purpose. The lake was very beautiful. We went to a thermal area and saw mudpools with mud bubbling away like air bubbles rising in a pancake mixture. Plop, plop. The champagne pool was a rusty rock pool full of hot water with bubbles coming up like champagne in a glass.

Notes, stop Bulls, Otaki, night Wellington, pizza. Wellington was the only night we did not stay in a caravan park. We parked on a hill a kilometre or so out of the city properly overlooking the city. We were sitting having breakfast in the van as a suit walking past, raised his hat and wished us good morning. We had a look around Wellington shops. I recall trolley buses with baby pushers hooked onto the front and very nice two storey housing. Some vague memory of a housing connection with a San Franciscan style.

Notes, ferry to Picton, gathered supplies. I can only remember the marshalling area to load vehicles onto the ferry and nothing more about the trip across Cook Strait. I guess we stayed somewhere near Picton. Is it plausible that we went on to Greymouth and stayed the night there?

I think to get to Franz Joseph, we travelled over Hass Pass. While it was fine when we started out, the weather turned bad as we climbed into the mountain. I think the road was partly unmade, that is only metal or gravel.

Notes, stopped Murchison, lunched Hokitika, night Franz Josef. Franz Joseph glacier was fantastic. We took a long walk in the forest. We spent some time on the river where the water was a strong grey colour. We flew up a tiny plane and landed on the glacier. Blue ice. Stunning. Note says walked Mathersolu. No idea.

The following day the note says breakdown near Arrowtown. The water pump broke. After getting a tow and an authorisation for repair of the pump (note says Trunkton, but also something about Raururea Gorge), we were on our way to Queenstown.

Ah, R's workmate took over the driving. I did not like the way he drove. I am a control freak in so far as if you can do it better, good. I am happy and relaxed, but he did not drive better than I did. He was erratic and aggressive. I took back over driving. We arrived at Queenstown, I turned up a side street that was very steep. The suitcases cascaded down from the sleeping area above the cab and even first gear would not get us up the hill. I had to reverse back down the hill.

We took a gondola (kind of chair lift) ride up the steep hill and a cruise on the lake.

On to Te Anau, with a pause for a punctured tyre. From Te Anau we took a boat cruise on the waters of Milford Sound. Stunning. Waterfalls into the sea, seals etc etc. Became very friendly with an older Canadian couple. They must have been nearly forty. Later a boat trip to see glow worms caves.

Notes, lunched Clinton, stayed Dunedin. Actually a suburb of Dunedin called St Kilda. The weather was lousy, the caravan park not much. There was a delightful fountain in the city which operated in sync with music and with lots of coloured lights. We took a guided tour of an old mansion, Olveston. Very impressive.

Onto Christchurch. The central city square had a tower which we climbed. There were lots of teens hanging aimlessly around the square. We drove to Lyttleton where there was time ball. We bought a duty free Waterford crystal decanter duty for $200, a lot of money back then. We still have it. It has a chip and the dishwasher has clouded it a little. Oh look, here is a photo of it. It is full of McWilliams finest cream sherry. The reputation of Fails Fish Cafe had reached Australia and of course we had to go. Pity my memory of the cafe and meal has gone, except it was perhaps oversold.

We left the van at the airport and flew home.

The van had huge windows in the accommodation area, unlike Australian caravans, but no fly screens. There were no flies, but monster bumble bees and we could not stop them getting inside.

Although it was Autumn, May I think, it was not so cold. We had an electric heater at night I think, but the days were generally fine and sunny.

The service from Blue Sky was very good and cheaper than Maui. Let me check if they are still around. Seems not. Maui certainly is. Is there a pricing lesson there?

We saw shades of nature's green that I had never seen before and only since in England. The trees changing colour were stunning, with many deciduous trees planted in the countryside. I particularly recall poplars.

Two and a half plus decades later, I am sure NZ is very different now. One thing that occurs to me is that I don't recall seeing anyone of Indian or Asian extraction. I know that has changed.

Piggy Muldoon was the Prime Minister when we were there. Reading about him now, he does not sound as bad as my memory tells me he was. Not too long before there was the awful Springbok football tour, with mass protests, as there were in Australia when our version of Piggy, Joh Bijelke Petersen, allowed them to tour Queensland. It was to do with the Springboks coming from apartheid South Africa when there were bans on sporting contact.

On everyone lips in NZ was the recently signed Closer Economic Relations agreement with Australia. Many in Australia remained and still are ignorant of it, but I suspect it may have been good for New Zealand.

The return air fare was over $AU500 return, quite a lot of money.

I can't recall where, but one night we paid the cheapest of all caravan park fees, $4, and had the park pretty well to ourselves, it was on the edge of a placid boulder strewn lake. Wish I could remember where. I don't think we paid over $10 for a caravan park any night, which included electricity and use of communal facilities.

The accents became broader and broader as we travelled south, culminating in almost Scottish accents in Dunedin.

While now I would suggest that we do it as well, back then New Zealand was extremely well set up for tourists. Australia was not.

The next NZ holiday will be quite different. It won't be a one town per day trip. I want to see the north and Auckland and more of Wellington. I want to go on the newish tram in Christchurch. There is a very good transport museum somewhere, Ferrymead? And I could not miss these train trips. And Napier of course.

Feel free to point out the inevitable errors and extra information.

Trucks out of the right lane

It should have happened here years ago. I didn't think much of English road driving skills around town, but by golly, they walk all over us when it comes to motorways.

Slower cars, buses and trucks sit in the left lane at about 60mph and use the centre lane for overtaking.

Those travelling at the speed limit, 70mph, sit in the middle lane. The outside lane is for overtaking for those travelling in the middle lane and those who wish to exceed the speed limit.

It all seems to work with the smoothness of a Swiss watch rather than the mess that our motorways have become.

Banning trucks from the right hand lane on motorways is a step in the right direction.

Wednesday, March 03, 2010

What facade is this?

Even when it was newly built, could this building have ever been considered attractive?

There is not much to the building as you can see at the side in the second photo. Just sheets of tin. There wasn't a clue to indicate what its use was. But wait, maybe there is.

In the third pic there is the small plaque that says Founded by Inspector G W McCulloch 1953, designed and built 1956. Googlie tells me that McCulloch was probably the policeman who went on to become Superintendent, Chief of the Traffic Branch, in 1966, when .05 blood alcohol legislation was introduced. I'll take a stab and suggest it was a Police and Boys Clubhouse, or boxing or whatever to keep naughty youth off the streets.

Tuesday, March 02, 2010

The annual dread

I am sure I have done this before, that is criticised what I have to do every year. I must attend a work training course to teach me how to do the job I have been doing for thirty plus years.

I tried to maintain an interested face for the goings on, but a close workmate suggested that I was looking very bored. My way of dealing with it was to keep my mouth shut. Maybe some thought I was snobbish, maybe some thought I was very quiet, maybe some thought I was being superior. But by keeping your mouth shut, no one thinks you are a fool. Ho ho. In my blog I open my mouth and you know I am a fool.

Normally at such training courses there is a fool, one who talks absolute nonsense and wants to aggrandise him or herself with work tales and personal ancedotes and take the whole thing ever so seriously. Perhaps in a way you could call it venting. Such people vent at work often enough. I would have thought that was enough to get it out of their system.

But this time the course was a cracker. There were four of them, all competing for space and attention. I tried desperately to not roll my eyes as they opened their mouths. I carefully examined every power point and communication connection. I know the screens in the room and outside in great detail. I had suspicions that the person who was standing and lecturing might have been wearing a wig. I concentrated hard but I am not sure. Only two of the guys were vaguely attractive. I thought about what it would be like to have some fun with them. Another who I lusted after years ago is now ever so old.

Ok, I will fess that there were a couple of interesting bits today, a total of ten minutes perhaps but generally, I just did not want to be there.

Saving them from themselves

Today a woman tragically died when she was crossing over train tracks. She did not use the pedestrian crossing. One train passed by and she ducked under the boom gates and did not notice a train coming the other way.

She made a terrible mistake which cost her her life.

But let me put forward this theory. People are now so protected by infrastructure, laws and rules, that they have lost the ability to look after themselves. I am not saying the infrastructure, laws and rules ought not be there, but at some point people must really take responsibility for their actions.

In the above case, the woman chose to ignore the infrastructure, laws and rules and do her own thing. I can understand this. How long before the next train arrives if she misses the train she was aiming to catch? But if you choose to ignore everything that is in place to protect you, then you really have take good care of yourself.

No doubt for decades people were crossing this railway line before any infrastructure was in place to protect them and no doubt many did it without incident. They simply looked left, looked right, no trains and crossed. It is not too hard for a pedestrian to see if there is a train coming.

The gates and rules are there to protect the stupid from themselves, drunks and kids who are not old enough to accurately asses risk. They are not to protect sensible people who are careful. Yet all the rules, the regulations and the infrastructure do not protect any of the aforementioned. They will just go around the gates.

Rather reminds me of the panic a year or so ago when a train travelled between stations with a door open. People were terrified of falling out. Yet, it is not so long ago that on a warm day older model trains would travel with all doors open, as did trams. I am sure there was on the odd occasion someone who fell out, but it was a very rare event. Now trains and trams cannot proceed unless the doors are closed and this causes a huge number of operational problems and delays.

Maybe the price is worth the safety value, but as the poor lady who was felled by a train today shows, you just cannot save people from themselves.


Very busy. No time to post. Lucky I have something I prepared earlier for such emergencies.

Don't you know by now to click on the pic to read it? Ah, you still can't read it. I could barely either even the original. It is a plaque at the sand playground at Albert Park Beach. It states that the park was was supported by the country of Nauru. Hey, that place used to be ours, wasn't it? My great uncle lived there. The phosphate mining has stopped on Nauru and the country is impoverished so I guess the gift of a park was in its more wealthy days. Yes, I can read enough to say it was 1976. I figure the park has had a makeover or two since then, probably with my council rates.

Sunday, February 28, 2010

Buffalo Train Station and South Melbourne Depot

Jayne took off to Buffalo, a town well known to the late Margaret Clements of Lady of the Swamp fame. Buffalo's exact location slipped my mind and I had to check on googlie maps. Straight away I could see there was a problem with the map. Pretty bleeding obvious to anyone in South Gippsland or anyone vaguely interested in Victorian trains. The train line to Yarram, originally to Woodside, closed in 1987, so why on earth is it still showing on googlie maps some twenty three years later?

Take a gander.

View Larger Map

Although I lived in Yarram for a time and we would collect freight from the train, I never used its passenger service. It would have been tortuously slow. I have a vague recollection that the two and half hour car trip to Melbourne was five hours by train. Let us follow the train through the many towns I came to know when I lived in Yarram.

Cranbourne is the last station still in service on the South Gippsland line. The train continued on from there to Clyde. I had a great uncle who lived at Clyde and I can remember the train line. One room of his house had been taken over by bees. He kept the door shut and they came and went via the open window. We were terrified of them.

M stands for missed, is shown in brackets and means the town is not serviced by the replacement Vline coach. Tooradin, Koo Wee Rup, Lang Lang (annual rodeo held there. We used to go to it. Hot and dusty. I did not like). Nyora (a speedway for cars used to be there, or still is, and it is here that the South Gippsland train line separated from the Wonthaggi line), Loch, Jeetho(M), Beena(M), Whitelaw(M),Korumburra, where the Bone Doctor hails from and a couple of coal branch lines ran off here, Kardella(M), Ruby(M), Leongatha, Koonwarra(M), Tarwin(M), Meeniyan, Stony Creek(M), Buffalo, Boys(M),Fish Creek, Hoddle(M), Foster, Bennison(M), Toora, Agnes(M) where a short line ran off to service the oil drilling platforms out from Barry Beach, Welshpool, Hedly(M), Gelliondale(M), Alberton and then terminated at Yarram.

Thanks to Jayne's Lost and Found for those interesting links.

Quite a long time ago the train then went on to Devon, Calrossie, Won Wron, yes where the prison is, and Napier before terminating at Woodside.

The Melbourne to Yarram train was one of few, if not the only mixed train, that is it took goods, including freight wagons and freight carriages along with passengers. It would have been such a pretty trip through the rolling green hills. Gee I wish I had taken it. A bit of it still operates as a tourist train.

Well, that brief post rather blew out. The other googlie map that is very wrong shows a location near to us where the old South Melbourne Tram Depot used to be. You can see the tracks running into the depot from Kingsway. The Depot closed in 1997, only thirteen years ago. Googlie is such an innovative company, but not too fussed on the basics.

View Larger Map

Time Payment to the Jew

If this sounds offensive, it is not meant to. Different times and I am using the word that was used.

One of my exes, well I only have one, favoured a very personal way to buy on credit, especially when it came to electric appliances. The Jew would call, the ex would tell him what he wanted, say a new fridge, and the following week a fridge would arrive without any money up front.

Every week the Jew would call to collect money towards repayment. I imagine there was an amount of interest paid. Would it have been high? The ex's mother was a long time user of the Jew's credit facility. They both treated him like a friend, so I guess his interest rate was quite reasonable, especially for people who could not get normal credit at the bank.

Probably preferable to formal Hire Purchase. Anyone know what that interest rate might have been for HP, as it used to be referred to?