Saturday, February 26, 2011

The toll just rises

In my mind I am speculating whether the 200 odd missing people in Christchurch includes the 140 confirmed dead. I suspect not. ABC Melbourne's Jon Faine broadcast on Tuesday morning at about eleven o'clock our time that an earthquake had occurred in Christchurch. Who could have imagined those few simple words would usher in the disaster to unfold.

I got into a bit of an online blue with a local bloke in an email list who had lived in New Zealand, not Chch, for a few years. Essentially he was focused on what people had lost, that they even were being subjected to the indignity of digging holes in their backyards to use as latrines , and I, as a dispassionate outsider, was stressing the importance of symbolism. That is, if the cathedral can be repaired, it should be. If the tourist tram can run again, it should, and soon. Of course neither should be ahead of ensuring the restitution of basic services and housing, but creating a sense of the future, that all will return to normality is important. It creates faith and reinforces to locals that the political will is there for them. The familiar, symbolism and routine are so very important in our lives. That said, I perhaps should have been more sensitive to the pain my protagonist was feeling.

Oh, I just refreshed the New Zealand Herald website and the toll is now 145. This is truly a nightmare.

Christchurch is going to need money pumped into it, lots of money. I will guess that Chch is New Zealand's second largest city and there seems to be a little antipathy towards the largest city, Auckland. I found the latter half of this article quite interesting.

In the manner of a curate's egg, natural disasters such as Queensland and Victoria's floods, Queensland's cyclone and now Chch's earthquake can give incredible economic stimulus. Imagine the way money starts being exchanged. Imagine the employment available. People working and spending makes economies work, on local and larger levels. I very much doubt PM Key can hold true to the usual conservative mantra of lower taxes and less government involvement. Of course though, serious money has to come from somewhere. Over to you PM Key and the gnomes of Zurich.

Queen Elizabeth

She is named after the late Queen Mother. I managed to miss her sailing up the bay to Station Pier. I fell back to sleep after checking at 5.30am and did not wake again till 6.30am. R was up at six to go to work but forgot to look.

I caught a tram down to Station Pier to take a look at her. The pier area was in a state of organised chaos. That is, it looked chaotic, but was there was organisation. Sadly only the arse end stern was on show. The Zemira is owned by Royal Dutch Shell and I suppose it was feeding some petrol to the Queen Elizabeth.

I rather like that the two names are both visible, although Zemira, Melbourne doesn't quite have the cachet of Queen Elizabeth, Southhampton.

Ah, I just realised there was another cruise ship. I just assumed it was Spirit of Tasmanian. Wait, and I'll check. Crystal Serenity from the Bahamas. Funny, I said to R later that Queen Elizabeth didn't look much bigger than the Spirit on the other side of the pier. Now I know why.

Clearing Photos 8

Damn boring drain covers we have in Melbourne. The name Danks was often seen at mens urinals in relief on the overhead chain operated cisterns. Go and take at look at how NZ do there drain covers. Puts ours to shame. Kiwi Nomad has a tag that links them all together under Aducpas, Australasian Drain and Utility Cover and Plumbing Appreciation Society.

Friday, February 25, 2011

50th Anniversary

Fifty years ago today Sydney lost its last tram. The trams were replaced by a combination of motor buses and trolley buses. Julie has posted some nice commemorative photos here.

Below is one of my favourite Sydney tram photos. I am unsure where it came from or of copyright. It is a location familiar to many. It certainly should be to you if you have ever visited Kings Cross.

To your right is William Street, leading to the city and to your left is Bayswater Road leading to the eastern suburbs and of course the intersecting street is Darlinghurst Road. If you look terribly hard, you may see tram tracks in Darlinghurst Road, which was only a short siding. The trams in the photos should have travelled from Watsons Bay, but it is possible that they are extra trams which didn't travel the whole route and were provided to offer a good service to Kings Cross and beyond.

At the Pier

I had to visit the large hardware store in a tin shed in Port Melbourne. Certainly beats driving to the same Moorabbin. Jah Teh and Fen (still no remote controlled power boards, I looked) never invite me for coffee, so I'll just be a loner and go to Port Melbourne. I had a photo to take in the area too, so I killed two birds with one stone. Three actually as Dan Murphy has opened in South Melbourne.

However, it is all work and no pleasure. Pleasure is good coffee at somewhere with a nice outlook. While the place adjacent to the tram terminus is convenient and familiar, I really don't like it much. The staff are......desultory. I challenged myself to go somewhere new and chose 3, I think it is called. It was very pleasant. I sat outside in a cool breeze under the shade of a large umbrella and drank my coffee. I had limited time, otherwise I would have had another and a cake.

Looking towards the place where I chose not to have coffee. There is tram resting before making its long return journey to the eastern suburb of Box Hill. The tram line replaced a proper railway line. Now the tram is so busy, some argue that a train is needed again. It won't happen.

One New Years Eve we watched fireworks go off at midnight from a friends highrise rooftop at Beacon Cove. The fireworks were placed on this beacon. The new Port Melbourne estate is called Beacon Cove, after the beacon I guess. In the background is Princes Pier, and finally works are happening there. There have been so many plans that I have forgotten what is actually being built there. It is a short length of pier that is being saved. But many of the bare pylons will be kept.

The Tasmanian ferry is berthed and ready to take its load of humans, cars, motorbikes, bicycles and cargo to Devonport on Tasmania's north coast.

This is D'Lish Fish, a restaurant and take away that is or was owned by Rex Hunt, a fisherman, football broadcaster and loud mouth about town. We ate there once. Ho hum.

I just can't get over how lush grass is in Melbourne, nearing the end of summer. If this has been a lousy summer, please give me more of them.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Is that a panda in my cup?

Was it only last year we were in Japan? I guess it was. We stayed in the area of Ueno in Tokyo. We took a lap of Ueno Park one day and heard blood curdling noises coming from behind wire fences and shrubbery. It sounded like an animal being tortured. No one about us took a scrap of notice, so we took their lead. Later we worked out we had been at the outer edge of Tokyo Zoo.

Had there been a panda in the zoo, I doubt we could have resisted. They have one there now. More of the story is told in The Age.

Clearing Photos 7

I was up the top end of Little Lonsdale Street.

The old and the new.

Is this a Phoenix?

I checked and you can still buy Agfa film for your camera, but I doubt you will be able to for long.

Vic Roads, At Your Service

Let me say that I find the state of the Queensway Underpass at St Kilda Junction awful. It used to be well maintained and tended. The grass was mown, the ivy clipped and irrigated marigolds adorned its walls. It is nothing like that now. Vic Roads must have decided that their roads do not need to be things of beauty, but maintained as cheaply as possible.

In other areas verges and trees used to be trimmed around before mowing, now grass is poisoned resulting in bare earth. Rubbish and tree branches were picked up before mowing, now they mow through rubbish, shredding it and mow around fallen tree limbs and branches, or occasionally stack them on one of the poisoned bare earth areas.

Look at all those cars and all the taxes that accrue from their use and Vic Roads can't even keep weeds off islands on one of Melbourne's busiest roads.

Vic Roads also seem to be unable to keep up with mowing grass. Mow is not really the right word. Slash is more appropriate. For once the grass seems to winning over the weed killer. It is about about 1/2 a metre high now. I am starting to like the the look of the corn fields rising as high as a mile.

But while Vic Roads may not have money to keep their road verges maintained, they sure have plenty of money to spend elsewhere. What about this traffic light signal for cyclists. If it operated independently in some way, it may be worth while, but it does not. It flashes red in unison with the pedestrian lights and holds red and green with the pedestrian lights. How much did that cost? How many traffic lights are so treated? What is the point?

Now, when is a red light not followed by a green? When it is a car and pedestrian shared space. In my experience cars and pedestrians do not mix well and are better kept separate, but Vic Roads have decided that pedestrians and cars can get along and cohabitate in a shared space. I am sure this car/pedestrian cohabitation is why there is not a green light. It is a bit fun to see how cars hesitate when they have stopped at a red light and they are then faced by no lights. It is just another absurd project funded by Vic Roads. What really annoys me about this set of traffic lights is that although they have pedestrian push buttons to activate the lights, they are on a set cycle and change whether a pedestrian has requested a walk call up or not.

Does anyone remember an announcement a few years ago about Yarra Trams and Vic Roads co-operating to improve tram flow? Vic Roads would take manual control of traffic lights to speed trams on their way if they were late. As I suspected at the time, it has turned out to be a load of tosh. Last Saturday R and I were in a tram trying to cross the the major intersection of Flinders and Swanston Street and Flinders Street traffic kept blocking the intersection and the tram could not get across. Eventually the driver just went against a red light.

Vic Roads can't move Melbourne's traffic around very well and seems to be very anti moving trams along their way too.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Cooking a steak

I don't often post recipes, possibly because I rarely cook. But here is one for T bone steak marinated in beetroot juice. Yum.

Place you steaks on a plate to thaw in the fridge. Make sure when the fridge door closes, it presses on the plate which in turn presses on the beetroot container which slightly distorts and a small gap opens where the lid seals. Over the period of a few hours beetroot juice will trickle from the container onto the steaks and presto, you have steaks marinated in beetroot juice. I left Household Management to deal with them. They tasted fine after barbequeing.

Clearing Photos 6

It has taken the best part of two years to renovate this multi dwelling house. Three storey houses are quite unusual in Melbourne. This one in Park Street, South Yarra is a stunner.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Kiwiland bad

Kiwis, New Zealanders, a bit different but the same. We have fought wars along side each other, carped at each other and we have a very common history. We are a bit like brothers and sisters. We hate each other, but also love each other.

I just feel so so sad about what has happened in Christchurch. Loss of historic buildings is terrible. Disruptions to lives, unbearable. The loss of lives, tragic. There is not much more to say......except neither the christian god, mohamed, buddha, the popery, david and the torah or maori gods saved anyone and I expect the atheists perished too.

Clearing Photos 5

Long before I was born, City Hatters was trading here at Flinders Street Station in what was the Station Master's office. Long may it trade on. I believe it is owned by Henry Bucks.

The Plan

R decided one day we will become grey (gay?) nomads. He wanted to sample it. I wasn't so keen. He had forgotten that after driving back from Broken Hill, I commented that I wasn't very keen on long driving.

However for our forthcoming mid year holiday, we hatched a bit of a plan, to see if we would like driving and camping. I say camping advisedly, I mean in a campervan in caravan parks. We thought we would leisurely head along the coast to possibly northern New South Wales and return home in a short time. We hired a campervan in New Zealand and we had a good time, although I wouldn't do it with a friend again, as we did that trip. We are both too old and selfish now to share.

We looked at maps and decided we would return inland, but divert to Lithgow to see the Zig Zag train at and Jenolan Caves.

Right, the transport. This is supposed to be a cheap local holiday. Just at a guess I said to R that we could do the same but take the car and stay in cabins in caravan parks or motels and it might be cheaper. Well, it would be considerably cheaper.

Ok, the campervan. I knew of two companies, Britz and Maui. They are probably the most expensive. Bone Doctor's parents have one that maybe we could have borrowed, but it is a modest affair. We wanted a shower, basin and toilet in ours and a bed each and a bit of space. But we didn't want one that was too big either. Compact would be good, but well equipped.

For twelve days hire it was going to cost nearly $2000 plus maybe $30 a day insurance. Powered caravan park sites seem to be about $20-$30 a day. Add fuel, food and drinks and it was not going to be cheap at all.

Our outgoings this year will be large. We just couldn't responsibly spend that sort of money. We are disappointed, but we have other options. We started looking at Sydney. Yes, the same place we stayed last time is still available. Bali? We looked. Nice places to stay. Did we really want to go to Bali? No, we concluded.

Our plans for Adelaide late last year while I was recovering from surgery didn't happen because I did not recover as I thought I would. We were going to do it after christmas but family matters intervened. So, at this stage, it is a driving visit to Adelaide with a night at Sister's on the Bellarine and a couple of nights perhaps at Mount Gambier. I thought this place looks ok to stay at in Adelaide. It seems expensive now, but I am sure the price was ok when I looked a few months ago. I will follow it up soon.

Where is Gaddafi?

Peter put this cartoon up on the 18th of this month. I thought it was a clever cartoon. But is it an accurate forecast, I also wondered? Possibly, maybe, not sure really, a chance, but... Four days can make such a difference.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Clearing Photos 4

You would never think it to look at me now, but I used to be so trendy that I shopped for clothing in Dangerfield when it was in Greville Street Prahran. A couple of decades later and Dangerfield is in the city and I would not dare enter. 'Hiya old man. Do you need change for the tram ticket machine?' It is rather a nice building but badly painted. It adjoins Melbourne's very historic Young and Jacksons Hotel.

Favourite large world buildings

Strangely for me, you may think, one of my favourite large world buildings is quite modern and has come to almost represent London for me. I speak of 30 St Mary Axe. Know it? No? Better known as The Gherkin. 30 St Mary Axe is its street address. It is very visible from many parts of London and a good focus point to keep your sense of direction. It was constructed in 2004.

A couple of other favourite buildings of mine are both in New York City. One is the Flatiron building. Why? I don't really know. It reminds me a bit of the demolished Junction Hotel at St Kilda Junction. I guess I just like its shape and proportions. It was completed in 1902. The photo is large if you click on it and I recommend you do as it has some wonderful street detail. It was posted at the marvellous Below it is a photo of St Kilda's Junction Hotel. Note one of those new fangled electric trams in the photo. They can't last. Well, they didn't at the Flatiron, but they certainly have at St Kilda Junction.

Could humankind ever construct a building more beautiful than the Chrysler Building. Not for my money. It was completed in 1930. After the destruction of the World Trade Center in 2001, it once again became New York's second tallest building, after the Empire State Building.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Hoodies in the breeze

It is deliciously cool in Melbourne tonight. There is a gentle breeze coming from the south, bringing crisp and clear air from the ocean between Australia and the Antarctic. The windows of the highrise are wide open to allow the breeze to enter and reduce out thermal mass temperature. Being Sunday night, there are hardly any trams grinding past, minimal cars passing by and as happens so rarely, not a building's air conditioner unit can be heard.

The day started warm but it changed. The lads about town found their hoodies and pulled them around the heads. I forlornly hoped hoodies were a passing phase, but it seems they will be around as an item of fashion for this approaching winter at least.

I have never worn a hoodie. Perhaps I should buy one and maybe with most of my head and face hidden, I will look like an attractive young man bent on vandalism, graffiti and petty crime. I am seriously considering it. It is such a bother to be responsible and put my rubbish in a bin. If I had a hoodie drawn really tightly, perhaps I could be brave enough to leave rubbish on public transport vehicles. Perhaps I could bring myself to spit in the street?

While I am not sure that I could get the walk right that goes with wearing a hoodie, I rather like the idea of such anonymity that a hoodie could give me. Yes, I need a hoodie. I've written myself a note to remind me to get one.

Clearing Photos 3

Looking up at a friend's second storey. There are some fine historical pipes in the photo. Note the drain from the bathroom floor. Although it appears to be frozen shut by paint, why would you need a vent that could be opened or closed? See the handle on it? (sorry, maybe tomorrow's scheduled post will be more interesting but don't bet on it)