Saturday, April 28, 2012


Something whimsical for a Saturday afternoon. I recall showing a still of these on a workmate's car but there is nothing like the live action. Kitsch, twee, cute, awful. There are many adjectives for these sun powered silly things.

Speaking of such things, I have heard St Kilda's Rain Man is back in action, after being recast. I showed you him here and I was quite depressed last year when I saw him again here. I must get back and show you the new Rain Man.

Screwing the worker

R's sister works full time, including weekends at an old age person care place in the north of England. Using today's exchange rate, her weekly wage is AU$296. Surely that must be after various deductions. She likes the work and has her own place and received a decent settlement from her ex husband, so she can manage, but she gets nothing extra for weekend work. It is not really comparing apples and apples if you take into account their free health care, as against our 'free' healthcare. Regardless though, it is a pitiful wage. Isn't our old age pension a good bit more than that? Perhaps we in Australia aren't so badly off at all.

She found Australia expensive this visit but not on her previous visits. Not surprising really as in the past and when we went to England, it was about 47 pence to our dollar. Now it is 67 pence to our dollar. The tables have turned.

As is the wont of Tory Prime Ministers, Cameron is doing a fine job of taking from the poor to give to the rich. Taxes are lowered for the rich while services, pay, working conditions and pensions are cut for the poorer. And they wonder why people riot.

Friday, April 27, 2012

Stike up the band

With my car now mechanically sound and well serviced, I decided it desperately needed a scrub. R has taken to paying someone else to do his now. Even though I used to help him out with it at times, it seems he now needs to involve a commercial third party. I am still up to doing mine using the tried and true old fashioned manual hands on method.

So doing mine by hand, we did, in Ashburton. Why there? R used to work near there and we know it is a good car wash and we were going on somewhere.

We went on to Box Hill, in the past a small shopping area servicing local market gardeners and orchardists.  How can I describe what Box Hill shopping centre is like now? Think of yourself in a shopping centre in Bangkok, KL or Singapore. You can see other fair people like yourself around but you are the minority among the black haired. Melbourne is no longer a dull place with everything shut on Sundays and this includes the very vibrant Box Hill. Whether I like all this Sunday busyness, matters not.

Can you get decent coffee in Box Hill? Maybe, but we failed, even in quite a likely looking place.

Wattle Park is land in the ever so middle class suburb of Surry Hills. Either one of the private tramway companies in the early twentieth century or the later government owned Melbourne and Metropolitan Tramways Board bought the land and created the park. I've forgotten which. Some of the park's fences are strung with cable extracted from conduits below the ground when Melbourne converted its tram system from cable operation to electric. It is a very nice park, with some semi formal areas and some areas with native vegetation. Even in the early twentieth century there was a cable tram trailer there to amuse, and there has always been a tram body there since. Vandalism has necessitated replacement of the tram bodies at different times in the history of the park. The various tram bodies have always been magnets for children, and even in these days of online interests, kids still love to play in an old tram.

Well, that is a bit of the park's history. It is now under the control of Parks Victoria, the transfer happening in the late twentieth century.

We have never done anything like this in our lives, but we visited the park to see a performance by the Tramways Band. Of course the Tramways Band used to be staff of the Melbourne and Metropolitan Tramways Board, but no longer. It is tramways in name only, performing in a park that is no longer owned by the tramways. Modern times, hey.

For a while I feared I was the youngest person there, but no, some younger people did attend. But essentially it was older folk there. Unlike us, they were well prepared, with fold up seats, sun hats, umbrellas and other rain protection garments.

'Andrew, get a picnic blanket from the car for us to sit upon', the order went out. As I walked to the car, I lamented the tartan picnic blanket that used to be spread along the rear seat shelf of my Humber. One day I picked it up, only to find it crumbled away at my touch. Ah yeah, it was a present for my 18th and it was over twenty plus years old and has been exposed to sun for many years. I also realised that my car does not normally go out for picnics and all picnic blankets were in R's car. I brought back a Geelong seconds football club rain jacket that Bone Doctor had given to me and a Dan Murhpy's liquor carry bag for us to sit upon. We were all class among the good teetotal folk of Surry Hills.

As the band struck up, down came a shower of rain. It was light and we ignored it while most pulled out the rain protection garments and umbrellas. Being near Anzac Day, and the band earlier playing for an Anzac Day service at the park, the music had a war theme. The shower passed and we changed our uncomfortable seating positions on the ground many times as we listened to the band. I called it. I could see there was another shower approaching and I am too old to sit on the ground for long. As we left, a heavy shower dumped on the park. I have subsequently heard that people bolted to shelter and then came back once the shower has passed. After the Tramways band, a swing band performed. A swing band member personally chatted to us to gee us up for his performance.

By the time the swing band performed, we were home.

(I have decided, against my own logic, to caption photos like nearly everyone does, below the photo. It makes sense in a book, but I don't think it does in a blog where you read from top down)

One of the many old trams that have been placed at Wattle Park for kiddies to clamber around in and the youth to graffiti and torch.


The Wattle Park Chalet, available for hire for weddings, parties, anything. The building has nice proportions. Hard to believe that rain bucketed down half an hour after I took this photo.

Pretty, with a play area for the kiddies. The sound of children playing is almost up there with the warble of magpie for me.

I think there were well over one hundred people there by the time the band started.

Lying on my back staring up into the branches of Australia's most volume successful exports to the world.

The band in action as we departed. One minute later, I could hardly see through the car windscreen for the rain. We could have been in England. The plate on the tree reads, 'In honour of Elizabeth Welsh, whose lands became Wattle Park. 31st March, 1917. Friends of Wattle Park. Parks Victoria.'

I wasn't sure if R enjoyed it, but he said he did. So, while the Tramways Band's season has finished for the year, we will go back for a performance during the next season. But next time, with rain protection, seats, umbrellas, sun shades and hats, snacks and bugger the ultra conservative good bible bashing teetotal burghers of Surry Hills, a bottle of wine.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

My very earnest man

Dear Mrs Maud, I thank you for teaching me how to remember the order of planets, My Very Wise Man Just Showed Us Nine Planets. I know you would have rather been actually doing science than trying to teach science to us brats, while we constantly tried to gas you by turning on bunsen burner taps. I thank you for your diligence in not allowing us to blow ourselves to smithereens. Oh yes, Mrs Maud, I did not make the rotten egg gas. It was Johnny Breit and Fats Aitken.

And I really am stretching it, now mentioning the spelling formula for Woolloomooloo for the third time. Sheep loo, cow loo.

But I am so excited as I have learnt a new aide de memoire. I just hope this one turns out to be as genuinely useful as the aforementioned. 

I could test your knowledge with a quiz. I better google it as I don't trust you not to.

No quiz.

Does M'lord Ever Visit Brighton Beach?

This will be terribly useful to me when I meet such people, that is when I finally gain the station to which I am best suited. I will know the precise amount of deference to show when I need to fawn.

In descending order of importance, Duke, Marquis, Earl, Viscount, Baron, Baronet.

Absolutely invaluable.

What a pity I can't remember the proper name for these aids de memoire.

Later edit: Why did I need to know about this? I was interested because of the Pippa Middleton Paris photo where someone in the car she was in showed a gun. In the car was Vicomte Marcy de Soultrait, a viscount, who may or may not be the boyfriend of the sister of the Duchess of Cambridge. Isn't it good that I get life's priorities right.

Rage, Rage, Rage

In an attempt to keep with modern music and what the kiddies are listening to, I recorded ABC1's Rage, a young peoples' tv music programme. It was a special broadcast, the Silver Jubilee edition, and I figured they might have some good stuffs on it.

If you play the brief clip below, you will understand why whoever is nearest, reaches for the television remote control when the opening theme to Rage begins. If the set is not turned off, the volume is muted at least. The beginning of Rage usually means bedtime for us. The commercial tv equivalent is when those ads start.

First cab off the rank was ACDC's It's a Long Way to the Top, filmed in our very own Swanston Street with our very own old trams trundling back and forth. That was good. Oh dear, that is thirty six years old.

How would Nivarna's track Smells like Teen Spirit be described? Is it thrash? Is it metal? How can they make music with all that long hair flying around? In spite of myself, I found I was reaching for the control to turn the volume up. Then my head started nodding. I would normally shut the radio off if such a track came on, but here I was, quite enjoying it. The visuals do help. Oh dear, that is twenty one years old.

What would the nephew and nieces think of Aunty Andrew?

Oh look, this is not too bad. INXS with a medley of Love you Tonight and Mediate. Oh dear, was it really 1987?

Wow, Mental as Anything with Live it Up. Now we are getting modern, 2003. Oh dear, that was  a live performance. Back to 1985.

OutKast? Black men running around without their shirts on? Visually appealing but....well, a bit to rappy for me. Anyway, at least it is in the 2000s.

Pat Benetar with Love is a Battlefield. Nope, 1983. Jeepers!

I love this one, Send me an Angel by Real Life. So gay! So good! I don't believe it. 1983 again.

Brilliant, Madonna's Vogue. An anthem for gay men. I confess that I may have just struck the odd pose when this was popular.  Still in the eighties.

George Michael, Freedom. Hmmm, I never minded the track but I didn't find GM so interesting. Of course now he is interesting. We never know which public convenience he might be found in or what drugs he has taken when he is found slumped over his steering wheel.

Brittany, My Loneliness. Spice Girls, Spice up your Life.

I'm bored now. I can only conclude Rage programmers are as old as I am and I shall remain ignorant of the modern music that the kiddies like.

Later edit: Movie Show host Margaret does the Rage scream.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Diggers Day

Today is ANZAC Day, the acronym standing for Australian New Zealand Army Corps. The day marks the anniversary of the first major military action during World War I. As a percentage of population, no country paid a higher price with the loss of life than Australia and New Zealand.

It is a public holiday in Australia and at least for the morning, Australians do become sombre and serious. This is quickly forgotten by the afternoon when significant sporting events are played and consumers are free to get out and consume.

This morning a dawn service was held at our very grand Shrine of Remembrance and the rain poured down. For once the council takes a lenient view of illegal parking and as people depart, over their solemnity can be heard the veterans of Vietnam War who are rather fond of spoiling the quiet with the roar of their motor cycles. This year as soon as the service ended, sodden people flocked to their cars to return to the comfort of their central heating, a luxury the dead of Gallipoli could have only dreamed about.

Some time ago Time Spanner mentioned how few memorials there were to the fallen of the Boer War in Auckland. Well, I thought, we have plenty here in Melbourne, but actually I don't know that we have. What made me think that we had is the very prominent memorial in the triangular park at the corner of St Kilda Road and Albert Road.

I looked online for a photo and there were none. This could be because although it is a very fine memorial, complete with guarding lions, it is very hard to photograph. The only decent vantage point is the median strip of St Kilda Road. In better weather than this morning, I took my own Boer War memorial photo.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Look wot they dun to my street ma

We visited Acland Street St Kilda, for reasons I can't recall.

Keep calm and drink coffee. I do. I do. Vote early and often and drink coffee early and often. This place is almost down to Barkly Street in the entrance to the Coles arcade and makes very nice and slightly unusual sausage rolls.

Greasy Joe's is not quite the same anymore. In fact as we knew it, it has gone. A place of the same name is a couple of doors along. I had not been to Acland Street since the time we met up with two blog mates Ann O'Dyne and Pants, and we refreshed ourselves at Dog's Bar, just a little up the Acland Street hill.

What happened to Deverolis? Gone, no doubt to be smart apartments.

Today I was looking at old photos of the marvellous Crystal Ballroom at The George Hotel. It is disused at the moment. Later I looked at photos of the more gorgeous Gershwin Room at The Esplanade Hotel. Both The Gershwin Room and Crystal Ballroom were important music venues in the seventies and eighties, with the Ballroom more focused on punk music. Should I go out and steal a couple of photos to show you? Ok, you have convinced me.

This is the Espy Gershwin Room. No, I haven't ever been.

Nor have I have been to the Crystal Ballroom at The George. It might be too late. It is up for lease. Oh if its walls could talk......that is if the walls could hear anything over the music.

Monday, April 23, 2012


Build it and they will come, the saying goes. That is what they used to do with train and tram lines. They were extended out into undeveloped suburban areas and hey presto, development happened. While I was thinking of the early 20th century, there is a more recent example, London's Docklands and the DLR, Docklands Light Rail.

Parts of it and some stations were in no man's land in the disused docks area land and what happened? Development expanded out from the DLR. It became a victim of its own success and has been extended and upgraded many times since it opened in 1987.

It really does look like a new light rail may be built in Sydney, right through the centre of the city. The question the authorities need to be asking themselves now is what they are going to do when it turns out to far busy than expectations, which is what happened with the DLR.

Yesterday in greater Melbourne two new railway stations opened and a extension to an existing railway line with a new station opened. The extension which takes three minutes to travel along cost around half a billion dollars, a mine boggling figure and viewed suspiciously by many. But this is the cost of building through existing areas, even though the new line followed a disused old railway line.

Rail corridors need to be a part of all housing developments in the mega growth outer areas. Even in the above with an existing old corridor, the government vacillated for years about it, when it was clearly needed and work on extending the line even further needs to begin post haste.

Our State Transport Minister has recently said that people wanted roads for their cars in the past and now they want trains. So get to it Minister.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Begonia Tree

Well, these snaps outside the Melbourne Town Hall don't quite show what I thought a begonia tree might look like. The top photo is in focus but was taken through a tram window.. The bottom photo taken through the open window is out of focus. Oh well, it was a nice floral display.

Meals out

I have nothing scheduled for this morning. I better write a quickie tonight. Comedy Festival performance by Shappi Khorsandi was good. One hour of a comedian is quite adequate. It was easy to see. The Comedy Festival performances that have mega queues are for the very popular performers, such as Wil Anderson.

We had a nice meal at Lemon Bistro, a Thai restaurant in town, with Sis in Law afterwards. We enjoyed her company for the two night visit, but always nice to have our place back to ourselves. Non Dreaded Nephew is giving up his Carlton garret and so I felt obliged to tell Sis in Law to pass on that he is welcome to stay with us if he has had a night in town, or a night on the town in town. He knows that already.

Thursday was an expensive day, with my car getting its annual service, which was three months late, $1200 for a 12 year old car. Drive shafts were replaced, rear brake shoes and cylinders were replaced. When I was rung and told the details, on the list were globe replacement, a brake light and a parking light. I protested that I was very surprised about that. Because R and I park in front of or behind each other at home and we often have to swap cars, we quickly notice if a light on either car is not working. They did not appear on the bill. I suppose out of $1200 a couple of dollars for light globes is nothing. But I don't like to feel ripped off, even if I am being.

I also went to the dentist the same day, who sends reminders every six months. Golly gosh, is it four years since I have been to the dentist for a check up and clean? Damn, said the dentist under her breath. There is nothing wrong. How can I earn some money? You have some old fillings that may need replacing and one or two teeth may need a crown. I nodded in an agreeable manner that did not indicate, when hell freezes over. If my teeth aren't broke and hurting, then I am not doing anything but a check for cavities.

Saturday, shopping and a deliciously greasy breakfast out. Arvo, drive to Station Pier and take a decent walk, the benefits immediately ameliorated by a serve of chips and potato cakes, scallops for youse up north. And then more Thai food at Siam Thai in Caulfield. Great decor, great service, weird Tom Yum and everyone was happy with their food except me. I made some poor choices by being adventurous but doesn't Galloping Horse sound so interesting? So unlike me. Next time I will go for the sweet and sour pork chicken, a fine Aussie food staple. We were dining in bagel belt territory and most of our fellow diners were locals. A Hindu friend was with us, so beef was off too. While he never comments, we know how strongly he feels about eating beef and we attempt to not obviously eat beef in front of him. We were just lucky as there wasn't a vego among us, sorry V.