Saturday, February 09, 2013

The Black C***

ABC newsreader Jeremy Fernadez in the company of his two year old daughter was on a bus yesterday and a woman called him black c***. There was some to-ing and fro-ing between them before she resorted to such offensive words. The tale is here.

I've mentioned this before, but a long time ago I did have a best friend. He was Anglo Indian and had attended the poshest English school in Calcutta and spoke as you would expect, with a deep and mellifluous voice and ever so clearly, courtesy diction classes at school.  I worked with him and we, R and myself, became friends with him. Although something happened to end our friendship, we met our Brother Friends through him, also our ex NT politician/policeman friend through him. He was not very dark skinned, just exotic looking. Nevertheless, exotic enough to be called a black c*** by a customer at work. I think I made the right call by pretending to not hear what was said. It would have embarrassed him had I said anything. Down to the last, I know every Indian born workmate I have has been called a black c*** at some point during their career. Some deal with it better than others. I suggest to them that they replace the black with gay, or red haired, or pointy nosed, or fat.

Back to Jeremy. He decided it was his Rosa Parkes moment and made a stand. In my opinion, he made a wrong call. The woman was clearly a vile type who one sadly comes across at times. I saw one just today. She had a beautifully dressed toddler with her, a gorgeous looking kid, but the mother was truly scary. She had drug addict written all over her. The tram I  was on was slightly delayed as she tried to finish her cigarette before getting on the tram. Her hair was so tightly pulled back, it had stretched her face tight.

What do you do when you come across someone as unpleasant as the woman Jeremy encountered, especially if you have your two year old daughter with you? You remove yourself from wherever the unpleasant person is. You get away from them. If they are at back of the bus, you move to front.

Frankly, I am disappointed in Jeremy. This was not a Rosa Parkes moment, the right for a black person to sit anywhere on a bus. It was about protecting your child and avoiding an obnoxious woman who is no doubt at the very bottom of the social scale. If any pity is to be felt, feel for the two children she had with her who will perhaps grow up like her.

I suppose at least Jeremy did one positive thing, he drew attention to the great middle class white Australia of the random racial abuse people with dark skin or even not pure Anglo Saxon looks have to deal with often.

Friday, February 08, 2013

What's in a name #37.5

To Australians, English place names can be a little perplexing. I did not realise that until we were there.

In London we stayed in Sussex Gardens. It is not the name of suburb but a Paddington street.

We walked along Whitehall and lunched in a pub in Whitehall. Not Whitehall Street, Road or Place, just Whitehall.

The marvellous Gherkin building is to be found at number 30, St Mary Axe, (City of?) London. St Mary Axe? What kind of street name is that?

We changed trains at Embankment tube station. Not The Embankment, just Embankment.

One of London's very busy stations is Bank. Just Bank.

Monopoly players may remember Strand, a London street. How can it not be The Strand?

Just a quick list of what we have here; street, road, highway, crescent, close, court, drive, lane, rise, way, avenue, boulevard, esplanade and probably more. The only confusing one I have come across in Melbourne is Musswell Hill, a street in the suburb of Glen Iris. Do you have any local ones, or Australian ones to add that don't have the usual suffix?

NB tourists: In Melbourne you need to use the full name of the street you want. Fitzroy needs the appendage street if  you mean the main street in St Kilda. Fitzroy is a suburb no where near St Kilda, however, there is also a Fitzroy Street in Fitzroy Street, so the correct phrase when asking directions is Fitzroy Street, St Kilda.

A starling show

"Hello boys and girls. Today we are going to learn a big new word. The word is murmuration. Isn't it a long word children? Do you know what it means? While I know what it means, rather than me explain the word to you, let me show you an example of murmuration."

"Sir, you are fibbing. I bet you did not know what the word meant."

"Shut up brat and watch the video."

Thursday, February 07, 2013

Happy New Year (Lunar)

I really must try to be more topical. Lunar New Year was a couple of weeks ago. As it usually is, the Sunday public celebration was centred on Victoria Street, Richmond, closed to traffic and trams. Trams were terminating nearby at Hoddle Street, so we could have caught a tram, but instead I decided we would catch the train.

We want North Richmond Station. Now, it is the Epping/Hurstbridge line and one of the two trains runs express from Jolimont to Clifton Hill, so I better check carefully. Well, it seems that is generally a thing of the past with both trains stopping all stations on weekends. Good for us, as it means a train every ten minutes and better still, the train is not going via the City Loop, so we will be there in a few minutes.

Tailed creatures greeted us as we approached the festivities.

Lots of colour and movement.

Somewhat of a congestion point. I wonder what will happen here. It looks like it may be dangerous as there are a number of fire extinguishers.

I have only seen these around this summer. I understand they are of South Korean origin.  It is single potato, skewered, spiralled, battered, deep fried  and then dusted with gold dust. Gold dust? It is the only way I can explain a single potato costing $5, although afterwards we saw a place selling them for $4. They are very nice. Photo from My Purple Spoon and apparently they are called potato twisters.

 Ah, are they dragon bits I can see? Notice the cutest ever kid.

Meanwhile the dodgem cars had loaded and the start signal given. They all promptly travelled to one end in a crush and became jammed solid.  Nothing to do with them almost all being Asian drivers, it was the sole white guy wot started it

Ah, here are the dragons, chasing away evil spirits as they dance and prance.

Evil spirits begone.

Oh, now I have just remembered the fire extinguishers. I know what is coming. Firecrackers, lot of them and very loud ones. We are outa here. Many years ago we were in Little Bourke Street in town for Chinese New Year celebrations and the fireworks started. Somehow they set the second storey of a building on fire. Can you imagine a fire truck trying to get through the crowds to put the fire out?

Damn, where have our rickshaw pullers gone? Such lazy boys, probably skiving off in the crowd. We'll have to get the train home. As we were walking to the station, the firecrackers began. They were very, very loud and probably had kids crying.

It was such a quick trip out to North Richmond, but we sat for nearly ten minutes between Jolimont and Flinders Street, I guess waiting for a train to move from a platform since the Loop was not operating.

PS I have checked the Epping/Hurstbridge timetable and it seem off peak express trains between Jolimont and Clifton Hill are a thing of the past. Good for some, bad for others, but an off peak ten minute service for the inner suburbs is surely a good thing.

Speaking of trains, a bat shorted out some wires and has managed to send our eastern suburb train lines into meltdown for two days. Unbelievable.

Wednesday, February 06, 2013

Please, no more

I would really like a dollar for how many times I have heard these tracks over the years, courtesy ABC Local Radio. Please, please ABC, delete them from your playlists. The world is full of wondrous music. Why not play some? Techno, lounge, classical, operetta, drums, some variety please (not country and western though).

Otis Redding - Dock of the Bay

Paul Simon - Anything, but especially Graceland.

The last plane out of Sydney might have almost gone, but gee I wish that song would too.

I can even listen to a bit of sport on our ABC Local Radio, but when it starts doing music, I just switch off. There are serious music stations around, for every taste. Why do ABC talk stations focus so much on music? Boring, boring, boring.

Bands and music? Raphael Epstein has promised many in the coming year, as has Richard Stubbs. Well that is when I switch off and listen to podcasts. I like my talk radio to be talk, not music.

Swanee, how I love thee

For you younguns, I don't have a huge admiration our Federal Treasurer. It is a corrupted line from an old song. I will get to the point eventually, but hopefully something of interest first.

For the Australian Open Tennis Match, we import ball boys and ball girls. It is not because we don't have enough local applicants but Tennis Australia like to spread the love around to our neighbours. Depending on which Asian country they come from, they have to be told that they cannot cross a road by just walking out into the traffic as they would at home. Our motorists will not dodge around them and are not used to fine manoeuvres to avoid crossing pedestrians. It is more like a driver will slam on their brakes and there will subsequently be large insurance payouts to many damaged cars.

We were youngish when we ventured for the first time to Thailand and we were quite intimidated by the thought of walking out into moving traffic to cross the road, and that was at a pedestrian crossing. With much subservient wai-ing by us, we got locals to get us across the roads. They enjoyed the interaction with the farang.

We were older and wiser when we were in Vietnam and did it. We walked out into traffic across many lanes and the traffic just dodged, nay, gently steered around us. No, not even that. More that they slowed or speeded up to avoid us. NB. Cyclos don't steer or stop easily, so you need to be extra careful with them.  You have to do it with confidence and keep a steady pace. You have to behave so that whoever is driving on the road can see your actions and predict what you are doing.

A minor newsworthy item today was when a tram driver held up traffic in St Kilda Road for swans to cross the road. Ah, what a wonderful and kind tram driver, thought some of his passengers. The others were fuming at the delay.

I know the street where we live rather well, but I have never seen swans cross it. I can only surmise that they were moving from the Botanic Gardens Lake to Albert Park Lake. Hmm, they have wings, why didn't they fly? Perhaps parents moving juveniles who have not learnt fine flying skills. Did you know swans mate for life but only pretend to be monogamous? The truth is in the genes.

I often drive home from work via Lakeside Drive as St Kilda Road and Queens Road have become increasingly congested. At times there is long bank up of traffic in Lakeside Drive though, because swans are crossing the road. They are big birds. People see them  and stop, which is just as well, because swans seem to think they have a right to cross the road against oncoming traffic. Swan behaviour is perfectly predictable when they cross roads. They don't hesitate, they don't check, they just keep walking. Drivers see them and stop to let them cross.

So while the tram driver meant well when he stopped the traffic, it was not necessary. Motorists would have stopped and let the swans across St Kilda Road regardless.

Tuesday, February 05, 2013

One pint please Mr Milkman

To the lay person, what are we to make of the milk wars? Two major supermarkets are selling milk at very cheap prices and dairy farmers are complaining that they are being hurt by this practice. How can this be? Surely farmers sell their milk at a price and it is up to retail outlets to sell milk at whatever price they want to?

As always, I have a little knowledge, which is surely a dangerous thing.

When I were a lad............yes, very much that sort of post.

My father disappeared for three days after a Victorian Dairy Farmers Association meeting in Melbourne. Mother and Uncle had called the police. I must ask Mother if she knows what happened, but all I can recall was that upon his return Father announced that he had been invited to be president of the VDFA. He was secretary, treasurer and president of various local country sport and school organisations, but I don't think he would have been effective in the above described role as he lacked the political animus. It was as well he declined.

Waffling and reminiscing again. To the point.

We sold our milk to the local co-operative, which in turn collected our milk and paid us, processed and bottled the milk, made cheese etc. It was not just the quantity of milk that was paid for. The butter fat content came into the equation too and this is where my father excelled. He bred our cows to produce very high butter fat milk.  At times we received dividend payments from the co-op as well. With a couple of hundred cleared acres that supported around 90 milking cows, we lived well enough to keep mother in new shoes, something like 65 pair Father counted as he threw them out the door one day when there were budgetary problems.  So, ninety milking cows could support 3 adults and four children reasonably well.

I think if a present day dairy farmer  reads this, they would find that number of cows quite amusing. Dairy herds are now much larger and the collection of milk from the cows very high tech.

I believe in the nineties, dairy farms and milk production was deregulated. Clearly the move had some support by farmers, possibly very large companies that owed numerous farms. Did the government set the price paid to farmers before deregulation? I don't know. I think the government may have set the retail milk price.

Once the milk left the farmer's property, the rest was done by the co-operative, right down to door to door delivery, at times. No doubt grocers and perhaps later, supermarkets took delivery of the milk and paid the price set by the co-op. What was to stop the price of milk rising? Political pressure on the government from consumers, I expect. Milk was a important part of people's diets, more so than now.

So why is it so different now? Nothing I have heard or read, and that it quite a bit, explains it to me in any way I can understand. Why is there such downward pressure on the price a dairy farmer is paid for his product by the price a supermarket sells milk? Where else can a supermarket chain buy its milk from? New Zealand? Do farmers not join together in co-operatives so that they have some power in price negotiations? Perhaps the supermarket giants play one co-op off against another. Why no solidarity? Australia exports the majority of is milk produced overseas in various forms. Does this have a bearing?

Many questions about a complex matter. Surely we want dairy farmers to have sustainable incomes if they supply milk effficiently. There have been calls to not buy the cheap milk, at times adulterated with what is referred to as permeate, a substance I have never heard of until recently, but I think it is just a deceptive name for whey. But if you are poor, or even just cautious with your pennies, why would you pay a higher price for milk than you have to? Such calls to not buy cheap milk are futile.

While other countries could take our export market by selling milk products more cheaply to countries we now sell to, on the face of it to me, there is no alternative for the supply of milk and milk products in Australia to retailers. Have the two giant supermarkets divided and conquered dairy farmers?

Monday, February 04, 2013


What bird is nocturnal?
What bird is flightless?
What bird is the heaviest of its type?
What male bird does not look after its young?
What bird has a very low resting metabolic rate?
What bird is herbivorous?

It is New Zealand's night parrot, known by its Maori name as Kakapo. They are the strangest of birds, having lost the ability to fly because it had no predators. That was until the Polynesians and Europeans arrived and presto, it had predators such as rats, cats and stoats.

A kakapo took rather a fancy to the head of zoologist Mark Carwardine, in the company of Stephen Fry.

Sunday, February 03, 2013

A brief visit to the Bellarine

Because I had the week off preceding Australia Day, I rather forgot that it was a public holiday weekend. Fortunately R finished work early, so on the Friday we headed down to the Bellarine as Little Jo was complaining we hadn't visited her for a while. As usual, we stopped at McDonalds (drink only) in Geelong, as we did when we used to give our dogs a break and a run when we had them and we were heading west to visit our friend at the foot of Mount Elephant. The traffic through and out of Geelong was heavy, but it could have been worse. We left home at 3pm and so avoided the worst of it.

I was going to suggest we go to a pub for a meal, but no, Sister cooked us, not them, pasta and then she and Bone Doctor went out to a posh doctor function. Think of a successful doctor with a big house and land on the Bellarine with room for not only a pony and spa, but a pool, in ground trampoline and tennis court. Sister returned early on her own. I think she wanted to watch an Australian Open tennis match on tv.

Little Jo was grumpy that evening. She had been on a whirly gig at a playground in the morning and in spite of Sister telling her enough more than once, she continued on to spin around and around. The inevitable happened, four episodes of projectile vomiting. I suggested that pineapple on toast for breakfast may not have helped. The wee lass was exhausted and for once, it was no trouble to get her to sleep and she was bright and fresh the next morning.  The next day we gave her a good stirring, 'Little Jo, do you want to go to the new play park and have a whirly gig ride?'

Telstra has improved the signal on the Bellarine, and so the note book, via my phone as a modem worked perfectly without having to sit outside facing a certain direction, or inside at a window. Not before time. I am not sure if using my phone as a modem or listening to radio through the loudspeaker the next morning flattened my phone battery, but it was clear early the next morning that my phone had a flat battery and I had not taken my charger and Sister and Bone Doctor both have primitive phones with different charger plugs. Andrew was internetless. Quell horreur.

The morning was a slow start. The cuckoo clock went off at seven and woke Fuzzy, who barked, and in turn woke Little Jo. Little Jo went to her mummys' bed, having forgotten that R was in the house. She remembered. She opened the door to the lounge room, where I was sleeping, possibly to check the availability of tv watching, but I wasn't encouraging. She then went to R's room for an in bed cuddle.

'Come for a walk Brother', urged Sister, while Bone Doctor had a rare sleep in. 'Too early for me to be walking Sister. Bye'. I had some cereal and read my electric book while R and Little Jo were crafting a puppet theatre and robots.

Bone Doctor rose from her sleep in when Sister returned. I had planned to have some toast bust Sister said, 'Who is for ham and eggs.?' 'Yum.' We had it with some special bread from an upmarket Queenscliff bakery. Sister had bought some Dick Smith Ozemite, a Vegemite substitute. His Australia Day tv advertisement was judged controversial and so restricted to certain times. He pulled the ad. We opened the Ozemite and none of us really liked it. R does not eat Vegemite, having grown up in England where unlike us proper Australians, he did not suckle it from his mother's breast. The best thing about Ozemite, was that the Dick double entendres stretched to at least five minutes.

Little Jo wanted to watch tv after breakfast and was allowed. We sat outside where we had eaten breakfast under the shade of the mock grape vine, myself reading my electric book, R the Geelong Advertiser, while Sister and Bone Doctor fought over the sports pages of The Age.  I watched Bone Doctor unwrapping The Age from its plastic wrapped delivery state. It took her quite a while. Co-incidently, at work this week, I found a plastic wrapped newspaper. It took me about three minutes to unwrap it from its plastic and then it had nasty creases and rolls in it and would not lie flat. Does anyone know of a good technique?

By eleven we were at Queenscliff Harbour and had a very good cup of coffee at an ice cream shop. Who would have thunk that? We went up in the tower to admire the views. Back down below, I saw a monster stingray cruising among the moored boats. Don't point it out, Sister whispered. Apparently Little Jo gets scared, unless they are in an aquarium.

We left and went on to the Australia Day celebrations at Queenscliffe Town Hall. Speeches, a sausage sizzle and lots of entertainments for the kiddies. We called by a house to pick up some ordered mussels, but they were not there. It was ok as they had been delivered to Sister's home and she made a very nice mussel dish for lunch.

Little Jo wanted to make some biscuits but we had used all the eggs, so we all walked off to the shop and Sister and Bone Doctor continued on while we returned and and got the oven going.
'Little Jo, I counted the Smarties that were to be pressed into the biscuits and now they are done, there are many Smarties that have not appeared on the biscuits', I queried.
A big grin, 'R ate them.'
'I don't think so.'
I didn't count them, just took a stab in the dark. I would have done the same at her age.

We had a thought that we might stay the Saturday night, but we really weren't sure. The decision was made for us as a friend of Sister's had asked if their Canadian visitors could stay the night at Sister's before hitting the Great Ocean Road early next morning and flying out of Australia that night. It was the only way they could fit the Great Ocean Road in their forty hour visit to Victoria.

We were home by six and Household Management was very reluctant to busy himself in the kitchen, so he went out and bought us fish and chips.

Moomba in Melbourne happens in March, around Labour Day. It is a local festival, essentially for kids, but there are big kid activities. Moomba is supposedly an Aboriginal word meaning 'let's get together and have fun', but our local tribe, on whose land we live, suggest it means baring one's bum to someone.  Someone named their boat with doubtlessly the first definition in mind.  Look at the mother of a boat in the background. Queenscliff was home to many couta fishing boats (barracouta), but redevelopment of the harbour with massive increases in mooring prices has driven them elsewhere. 

The boat in the background is very interesting, with its massive lights surrounding the boat. I thought it might be a boat for catching flounder, but Bone Doctor said, I think, it was for catching squid.

Pilot boats guide large ships along the relative narrow dredged channels in Port Phillip Bay. They are based at Queenscliff. Tip: There are 'eco' tour boats that operate from Queenscliff, showing you some interesting things in Port Phillip Bay. If you book them through the local Marine Discovery Centre, you pay about a third of the normal price.

As a kid,  I can only remember the greeting Happy Easter and rarely Happy Christmas. In the nineties I first heard Happy used for other purposes, Happy Mardi Gras. Now, it is used often and the greeting of the day was Happy Australia Day.

I spied this from the main street of Point Lonsdale and I have never seen an apricot coloured oleander before. I dragged R down for a closer look. He agreed, he had never seen one either.

Oleanders seem especially good this year. They don't like wet feet.

 This bogan collection of cars is a bit out of place in the quiet and wefined (sic) streets where Sister lives, but I am sure they had a happy Australia Day.