Saturday, August 06, 2011


We have to collect Little Jo today in Dandenong, a place very alien to where she lives on the Bellarine. It is Mother's bestie's surprise 60th party in Dandenong, or as we always knew it, because our grandfather said it, Dandelong. Little Jo will attend a birthday party of a lass her age at a far southern suburb and then we will collect her from Sister and the Bone Doctor at the party and they will go to their billet in a posh city hotel, where they won a night's accommodation while Little Jo has a sleep over at our place.

Uncle R seems to over stimulate Little Jo and she never sleeps well when he is around. We have plans to get her to sleep. The best laid plans of mice..........

We needed a present for Mother's bestie. Apparently I did not inform R that it was from Sister too. Later, apparently I did not inform R that the present was from all of Mother's kids and their partners. Lesson learnt. We have bought an ever so nice vase from DJ's though. I would be proud to have the vase as my own. Mother's bestie loves flowers, so a vase must be good.

In fact, if R bangs on any more about the issues, I will say a bad word, and say, I'll keep the vase for myself then.

Anyway, I am sure there will be some action tonight at the 'making table'.

Friday, August 05, 2011

Ding ding in Auckland

How exciting! Like many Australian cities, the largest city in New Zealand, Auckland, had an extensive tram system. Like many Australian cities, Auckland's tram system was all but shut down by 1960 or thereabouts.

Some fifty years later, trams are returning to Auckland streets, albeit in quite a humble way, this coming Saturday.

Apparently there will be some significant foot ball type match in Auckland soon. I don't know about sports. But in a fairly quick time, Auckland made sure the new tram line will be open for the occasion.

While from here on the big western isle, the tram line seems to be nowhere and go to nowhere, that is not important. It is a building block for the future. Once more a tram may travel down Queen Street in time to come. Maybe it will go to the curiously named Britomart. Maybe it will glide along the waterfront. We live in exciting tram times with tram and light rail systems being built all over the world, even in the normally public transport hostile US.

Apparently our own Victoria's Bendigo Tramways has supplied a couple of trams to run the new line, and the expertise of the Christchurch's tram system, who are possibly a bit idle due to the devastating earthquake, are to run the trams.

Here are a couple of photos from NZ Steam at his excellent Flickr site. I hope Timespanner has been invited to the ceremony to celebrate the historic return of trams to Auckland.

Oh what the heck, let's start with a photo of Auckland's premier Queen Street with trams in it. I would have liked to have found a photo from say 1950, but they seem lacking. This is old photo I found at Transpress NZ. Doesn't Auckland look great!

The like of this tram, one of the ones for the new tram line, were still to be seen on Melbourne's streets in the 1990s.

I think this is another Melbourne tram too. Perhaps is was one that was called an 'all nighter', a tram that ran in Melbourne in the wee small hours and only had a driver, no conductor.

Thursday, August 04, 2011

Down down

Little Jo does not see commercial tv. She does not hear commercial radio. Yet nonetheless, she has picked up the Coles supermarket advertising campaign and gleefully sings Down Down.

She tried to shove some paper into our paper shredder when on her last visit. Sister and Bone Doctor over-reacted and instilled into the horrors of what the paper shredder could do to her fingers. R locked it off and we stayed silent. Later I looked at the paper shredder. There is no way a kid's fingers can fit into the slot. But how did she know how to shove paper into a paper shredder? Not from us. Sister does not have one. She wouldn't have seen it on tv. Maybe she has seen it at her occasional daycare place?

The brain of a child is like a monster sponge. I cannot believe what Little Jo has already absorbed in knowledge.

Like it or lump it, advertising gets to us, one way or t'other.

(note to self. Bring up Petula's song on Uchube and play it loud and sing along with Little Jo to the original)


I met my new boss today. I had no idea what to expect, except that he had a non anglo name. I later learnt that he is of Lebanese heritage. I thought Greek. Both countries have a strong connection to each other I think, so an understandable error on my part.

His shaved head was compensated for by a day or so's grey facial growth. He looked physically trim enough. He had, for want of a better description, that Aussie/wog accent that seems to take more than one generation to breed out. I rather like it. If it comes with a slight speech impediment, even better.

Yeah, seemed ok bloke. I wait for about six months before judging a new boss. Just because they can talk the talk, I like to see them walk the walk too and I take seriously but critically what other workmates say about them in the interim.

And then there was his underling, a person in charge of another area.

He was similar to the boss, but just knock off a decade, a bit slimmer and dreamy looks. He was also of the same extraction as my new boss by his accent, and his was a little nicer, but still very much there.

How does it go? Girls get wet, guys drip? I did neither. I just dreamt of him talking in his gorgeous accent into my ear. I alternated between him throwing me over something and having his wicked way, or me throwing him over something and me having my wicked way. I cared little. In whatever way, I wanted him and to possess him in some way. To envelope him in my arms, or he me. I am your Cinderella and it is not yet midnight. We'll make babies and I will love them to death because they will be just like you. If you feel the need to smack me around a bit to keep me in line, I will forgive you. STOP RIGHT THERE. I AM GOING TO FAR.

Ah well, you gotta do something with your head to pass the time during an otherwise particularly boring day at work.

Wednesday, August 03, 2011

Jumping for your life

I can scarcely believe this could happen.

Workers removed a long piece of rail track and a train has to use emergency braking to avoid hitting a works vehicle and probably derailing after coming to the area where the rail had been removed. A speed restriction of 80 km/h in that section of track due to its poor condition is the only reason why this was not a sure disaster.

Trains have been around for a very long time, longer than the motor car. It was known very early that the potential for disaster was high if the train interacted with another train or if it came off the tracks. The risk to track workers was very well known.

So, protection was applied to various situations, such as interlock signalling, flagmen and detonators laid on tracks to alert both the train driver and the workers and many things I have no idea about.

So how did this near disaster happen? Well, from what I have learnt the train should not have been on the track at all. The track section was mistakenly opened by a person in a control centre who possibly confused instructions or received wrong instructions. No doubt in my mind that it was human error of some type. Human error happens. So that is why there are back up safety systems.

And these back up safety systems? I don't know what they are, but sure as god made little green apples, they failed too.

After what, 16o years of trains, safe working has been detailed down the most minute point, and yet, in this supposed first world country, it all failed and the situation was only saved by again this supposed first world country where trains are speed restricted between our two largest cities to 80 km/h.

Of course had Australian Rail Track Corporation been privatised, this would have never happened......or would it?

Tuesday, August 02, 2011

Dame Maggie

I consider Jane and Lance among the elite of bloggers. While they don't post daily, when they do, they get perhaps 150 comments and they respond to every comment, as well as reading the blogs of many who comment. Truly amazing. Psst, they actually seem to be quite nice too.

So when Jane and Lance commented about Maggie Smith on my post about Melbourne Open House, I was about to respond with pointing out the Australian connection to Dame Maggie. Yet, I did not find the connection at Wikipedia. What was in my mind? I thought she was born here, but no, I am entirely wrong. Obviously she has been to Australia. Hmm, puzzling.

Then I started reading through her film and tv bio. Wow. It is like a history of movie and tv shows I have seen in my adult life and really liked. I seem to recall her playing Lady Bracknell on tv once too. Quite a career.

The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie

Travels with My Aunt

Death on the Nile

Evil Under the Sun

A Room with a View

Talking Heads

Sister Act

Richard III

The First Wives Club

Tea with Mussolini

Gosford Park

My House in Umbria

Ladies in Lavender

Downton Abbey

Monday, August 01, 2011

Melbourne's Open House 2011

The lass in the ABC shop lamented that as she was working both days, she could not do Melbourne Open House. She was under 30 and we were two gay men past 50. She had the appropriate ABC shop snootiness, but was kind of friendly too. Let us just conclude she measured her tones.

Well shop assistant person, I have to work on Sunday at a very unglamorous job, so I can't do Open House either, but I can do it today. Strike this one from the list on Saturday. Strike that one, but still plenty left.

This year's event was attended by Victoria Thornton who started London's open house scheme in 1992.

We tried for the the ANZ Gothic Bank. I don't know why. You can see the features anyway if you go to the bank??? The queue was very long. We bailed.

Myer Mural Hall, so easy. Gorgeous.

I am a veteran of Melbourne Open House, that is I did it last year. I know how it works.

Her Majesty's Theatre. How lucky can you be if you get the theatre manager to show you around.

Something old, something new, something blue. I wasn't getting married but I like to counter balance the marvellous old against the new, and the Grollo Pixel building did not disappoint. Can you not appreciate the greenest building in the world?

As Pixel is not inhabited by tenants, it's methane generation electrical system is not working well. To put it nicely, it needs more shit. It is about to be occupied by the mangers of the of the CUB redevelopment site, so I expect the lack of shit will be remedied.

The Myer Mural Hall is used for fashion parades and similar events. Is it the finest Art Deco interior in Australia? You be the judge.

If you need to make a grand entrance..

When the best Art Deco is not enough, we saw some more at Her Majesty's Theatre. Those of us of a certain age will remember the present owner Mike Walsh, of daytime tv fame. HM is in competition with the David Marriner owned Regent and Princess theatres. HM wins by being very accommodating to producers. The personal touch, you might say. Back stage is an absolute rabbit warren. If you put together all the stairs we traipsed, they would reach the moon.

HM used to have the original portrait of Dame Nellie, but it is now in the National Gallery of Victoria.

The wall of fame somewhere backstage. There were some very famous names. This shot has the late Ricky May, among others.

Maggie Smith loves Melbourne.

The north facing wall of the Pixel building. Lots of shading and glare reduction from the hot summer sun.

Not quite as much shading on the western wall and there was very little on the southern wall.

Wind turbines, solar panels, rooftop garden beds. With average annual rainfall, the building could almost be self sufficient with only a small amount of black waste discharged to the sewer.

It wasn't that long ago that truck after truck of barrels of beer would depart Carlton United Breweries. The buildings are mostly gone.

Did you want another stylish interior? We had to go to David Jones to buy something. I had never been in their lift. Nice nice.

Sunday, July 31, 2011

Go the tigers

Well, I don't actually support Richmond football team. I don't really support any football team. This makes me a bad Melburnian and a possible suspect as being a gay, or at least theatrical. I am at the bottom of the heap, along with a just arrived foreign student from Bangalore. I do know of one fool or two who support Richmond.

ABI Brother skimmed through some football history book. One of us, he cried. It took a wee bit of research, but apparently our great Uncle played for Richmond but better still, our great grandfather was made a life member of Richmond, for services rendered. He died eight years before I was born.

Suppose that is why my father was a Richmond supporter. Wish he had told me why and a bit of the history. All the things my father never told me are now coming up on the internet. Perhaps if he focused less on getting me married to the local nurse and more on what I might be interested in, we may have had a better connection.

Ah well, your Dad is your Dad, better or worse. No probs.

South Australia

The weather in Adelaide seemed much as it is here in Melbourne. I know it gets a bit hotter in summer, and so it is not a place I would swap to live in for that reason. But as Sydney is so different to Melbourne, so similar are Melbourne and Adelaide.

I felt this is a city just like my own, only different. It is not complicated. Within the city, it lacks the natural attraction of the harbour and the Opera House, rather like Melbourne. The focus is on the man made and like Melbourne, there is much fine man made in Adelaide. Some of its buildings are extraordinary, but even basic streetscapes are good. I expect like Melbourne, streetscapes are under threat and Adelaidians need to fight against this.

I had no problem with driving in Adelaide, well apart from driving very fast down the Adelaide Hills. The drivers were not particularly aggressive, but not stupidly polite either. I think the greater city suffers from heavy policing by speed cameras as cars behaved within speed limits much as they do in Melbourne. I was amused by some road safety signs that used symbols to get the messages across. 'Don't be a ... and a picture of a door handle, a knob.

I will always remember some Adelaide roads, Tapleys Hill Road, Military Road, Cross Road, West Beach Road and another major one, Marion Road :-P.

While we did see some traffic congestion, it appeared to be nowhere as bad as Melbourne's. With Melbourne's population pushing 5 million and Adelaide's less than 1.5 million, it really shows how much our life style has been degraded by our the huge numbers who now live here.

It was 1983 when we were last in Adelaide and my memory is very hazy about our visit. I recall being breathalysed, probably in Tapleys Hill Road. We had a few drinks in a bar in Hindley Street. I was clear, but I resolved then and there to never drink if I have to drive. There was an aquarium. We did not visit it, and apparently no one else did either, so it has closed.

I remember a big wall at the bottom Jetty Road in Glenelg. I am not sure what that was about except it looked like a present day rock climbing wall.

We did not order in pizza but I did notice the pizza place Red suggested where we could get a potato pizza.

Adelaide's traffic control engineers could teach some Melbourne counterparts about clever use of red arrows to make intersections safer and work better, although the same has started here.

Public Transport? I can't speak for anything else but the tram. It was ok, but pretty busy. I felt it could have greater traffic light priority through the city. I think five minutes could be shaved off the trip with better traffic light rights.

Where we were staying there seemed to very few foreign born, but once in the city, there seemed to be many and I assumed many of the younger ones were foreign students. However, every person with an Asian appearance who we interacted with spoke perfect Australian, indicating they were born here or were here from a young age. Admittedly, the statistic sample was low, but it was just an interesting point to me. It could have just been a matter of co-incidences.

Shops? Same as Melbourne, just less of them.

If we were BP petrol customers, there was no end of places to fill the car. But as we had shop discount dockets for petrol, we wanted Coles Shell or Woolworths Caltex and they were a bit scarce.

Something I always like to do when travelling is compare the quality of fruit and vegetables to ours back home in Melbourne. Melbourne has lost out everywhere with perhaps the exception of Sydney. While not in the league of Japan, Adelaide was not an exception. The fruit and vegetables seemed superior.

And so we reach the end of our enjoyable holiday. Where to next year? A cruise on the Danube? England again? Spain? Oops, seems like there might be some running and jumping and stuffs in London. Better go a different direction. Maybe Canada? Cruise the Canadian coast? Catch the Rockies tourist train? Who knows.