Saturday, March 08, 2014

Wide and brown land

Australia is a big country and continent. It is almost as large as the United States of America. It takes 5 hours to fly from Brisbane to Perth, that is east to west, and north to south, over 5 hours to fly from Darwin to Hobart.

When R's late parents visited us, they were told they had crossed the Australian coast line, and so began to get their things together to before the plane landed. They had crossed the northern coast of Australia and it was still five hours before they could set foot on Australia.

This map clearly shows the states of Australia, with me being in Melbourne, Victoria, right down near the bottom. The Tropic of Capricorn runs through Queensland near Bundaberg across to below where the Ashburton River is marked in the west, so the climate is very varied from tropical in the far north to much cooler in the south. Much of the interior land is desert and cannot support many humans. We cling to the coastline.

Within mainland Australia are also two Territories, Northern Territory and Australian Capital Territory. The administration is somewhat similar to the states, but they don't have Premiers, rather Chief Ministers. The ACT, within the state of New South Wales, encompasses the capital city of Canberra, the seat of our Federal Government. 

Within the states are smaller local government areas, usually called Cities or Shires.

So we have three levels of government, Federal, State and Local and I recently heard that we are the most urbanised country in the world.

Friday, March 07, 2014

Friday Foolery

German Chancellor Angela Merkel recently visited England and spent time with the British Prime Minister, David Cameron. There are photos. Some are quite incriminating. Don't look Samantha.

"Ange, I promise. I have no recording devices on me".

Or was it "Ange, wanna see my private school boi tits"? His seduction technique was subtle.

"Ohh Davey, you are so very naughty."

"Oh my god Cammo, Queen Victoria was one of us. Who would have known she had such a sense of humour."

Or was it, "Cammo, we really shouldn't be laughing about President Hollande like this in public. There by the grace of god go we".

The Merke demonstrating her husband's size, which seems quite impressive compared to Cammo's size. Sam Cam sits in the sidelines, perhaps wishing she had married a German. Nevertheless, it is not always about size but attraction.

"Scheisen British weather. It is fine and sunny back in Berlin."

Cammo took The Merke to his local church service and they were mesmerised by the Very Reverend Beauchamp's sermon about forgiving and forgetting. The Merke perhaps less so.

Cammo and The Merke hit the dance floor, quite restrained initially.

But as my great grandmother warned my grandmother about dancing, one thing leads to another. Sam Cam had left, but she forgot one of her children, as is her habit, and came back. Sam Cam was not happy at what she saw.

It seems the Anglo Germanic relationship is really close now. Diplomacy works in so many fashions. 

Herbie's Ignominious End

Thursday, March 06, 2014

A Mother Day

As usual, Mother was on her death bed when I arrived to take her out. She went on and on about her medical problems. In summary, she is perfectly hale and hearty. She is addicted to codeine for arthritic pain, and the codeine is causing her bowel problems, and didn't she go on about her rumbling stomach and her constipation and diarrhoea. From the lunch out, to the chemist, to the bank, to the newsagency to supermarket, to Big W, did I hear about her bowel problems, and many others did too.

She insisted I check that ABI's Brother's house is ok and to start his car, because apparently its battery will go flat if it is not started weekly. People in our building leave their cars for three months or more, and they still start. Brother's neighbour was supposed to be collecting his mail, but the box was full of mail, some quite old. I think miscommunication. A large branch had broken off a wattle tree had broken and fallen onto his garden, and an enterprising business had left a card at his front door, advertising their tree removal service.

We were running out of time when shopping as Mother had an appointment at her doctor's where a caravan was set up to do scans for osteoporosis. I will have to come back after the appointment, she said. No Mother. I am not taking you back to the shops. I want to go home at a reasonable hour. I am not of such generous spirit as R, but then I don't complain afterwards.  Give me some money and I will finish the shopping and give the receptionist my card and get her to call me when you are ready to be collected.  I finished the shopping, emptied her vacuum cleaner, found the stick from under her bed to put the sunblinds up and down, unpacked her groceries and the phone rang and she was ready for collection. Once home I assured her of the safety of very convenient power point behind a photo she had forgotten about and not assured her about the taped up wires in her laundry that used to be the laundry light switch.

"The sun blinds were up but I didn't want to ask my friend Alan to come and put them down, so I just turned the air con to a lower setting." She has had air conditioning for thirty years, and she still doesn't get it. Speaking of which, she told me on our Labour Day holiday, she will have lived there for forty years. I did some mental arithmetic and that would be right. It was before I had my driving license and I used to catch the train to her town from the Latrobe Valley to visit and walk or get a cab to her place. The last task is to put her bins out, except it is day early. I put them near the gate and the lezzos next door will put them out on the street for her.

So that was my day off from work blown to hell. It followed the usual pattern. Miserable Mother upon arrival, brighten up as the day went on, and then tired and needing her nap in the later afternoon (or pass out from overdosing on codeine) .

But never underestimate her. Sister booked The Cuckoo for Mother's eightieth birthday, but Mother got on the phone and rearranged the table. It seems Mother is claustrophobic and needs to be near a window. After some conversation, it was resolved, but 'Mrs C, you will be on two tables instead of one and bench seats'. 'I am a poor widow with many medical issues. I am very panicky that the food will upset my bowels and the oompah band will be too loud and I don't like people brushing past me when they are going to get food. We will need cushions and my daughter's back is not good, so the benches need to have to have backrests.'

To conclude, I posted a letter for her to Sister, informing Sister that she couldn't take the trip to Bright to see the autumn leaves. Half way through the three hour trip, they would stay overnight in Euroa. Check out at 10.00am. Mother is never ready for anything by 10.00. But she had my sympathy on this. Sister will have them all in bed by 8.300pm and up at 6.30am and ready to go by 8.30. Sister will nag Mother to hurry up. Little Jo will stay, 'Gee Nanny, you are slow'. Bone Doctor will say she is wasting time standing outside and smoking and firmly reject giving any kind of free diagnosis of Mother's medical problems.

What can I do? She is my mother.

Wednesday, March 05, 2014

Grease is the Word

Thanks to very generous friends, we saw the musical Grease at Her Majesty's Theatre on Sunday night. It was an enjoyable production with many laughs. The performance was for 6pm, which is a very odd time for us as we usually have dinner between 7 and 8.

I had seen the film when it was first released back in (checking) oh, we won't go there. It was the last time I saw a film at a drive in theatre and shortly after the Toorak Drive In closed. Anyway, I remember little of the film, except John Travolta and Oliver Newton John dancing.

I knew Rob Mills was the male lead in this production. The female lead was Gretel Scarlett, unknown to me. I thought Lucy Maunder was ever so good as Rizzo and she was my fave.

Much to my surprise, veteran Bert Newton played a radio dj and judge of a dancing competition. Bert being Bert did not take the role too seriously. More to surprise, Val Lehman, best known as Bea Smith in the television show Prisoner (Cell Block H), played the school Head Mistress. Then there was the very cute Anthony Callea performing and a couple of appearances by singer, dancer and dancing show judge, Todd McKenney. He too did not take it too seriously and was very funny.

You can see more about the show at the website and check out the cast.There are some very attractive people (read hot guys) there.

We left the theatre around 8.20 and strolled to the ever manic China Town for dinner. None of us was overly hungry and so only had some light food. We were home by 9.40.

So that was my musical for the year, err maybe except for London.

Tuesday, March 04, 2014

Catching the train to Kew

I don't why, but there was once a train to Kew. That is right in the middle of Kew, not far Kew. Kew is perfectly well serviced by trams. Although I would bet if the train still ran, it would be well patronised now, nay packed.

I walked the route, from Hawthorn Station to where Kew Station was. Lordy, it was a hot day. I'm not doing another of these until the weather is cooler.

From my late grandfather's street directory, here is a map showing the train route. Just two stations off the main line, Barker and Kew. The line opened in 1887, which answers why it was needed, as trams were not much about then. Trains stopped running on the branch line in 1952.

Hawthorn Station where I began my walk at one of Melbourne's nicer stations.

Our older stations are a huge contrast to our newer stations, not that we have many new ones, as our system does not expand.

Somewhere at the far end of this photo, the Kew branch line left the mainline. It was only a single line but with a siding as the terminus.

And it went right through this tennis court and heat affected garden.

Really not much in the way of remaining train infrastructure to see. There are some rather grand houses in Hawthorn.

This linear car park is where the linear (snort) train line ran.

It went right past Glenferrie Oval, home of the Hawthorn Football Club, except in our commercial maximising the buck times, it is now called Ausdoc Oval. Extraordinary! It won't catch on.

A linear park, where the train following its linear railway line travelled.

But once reaching Hawthorn Grove, this pretty ordinary place blocked the train linear parkland.

Quite hidden, but this is a very nice place next to the building above.

There you go. On the site of a redevelopment of the Barker Station site is lots of crushed bluestone, always a good clue to a train.

It was a closed construction site, so I had to walk along Hawthorn Grove. There were some nice houses.

Behind the fence, ran the train to Kew. I was walking in the rising heat along the hideous Princess Street, which was so overwhelmed with car traffic.

In a superb and delicious irony, Vic Roads, our state government organisation responsible for our major roads, has a huge mega complex of office towers sited exactly where Kew Railway Station was. I could not believe how big the site was. How many office people does Vic Roads have? I believe this driveway is pretty well the alignment of the railway line.

The trams in the area are pretty busy. I bet if the train line was still there, it would be very busy too.

Monday, March 03, 2014

A detailed review of the Oscars

You know I am a person of high fashion. You can tell by the way I dress. Did someone laugh? How cruel. It could only a person who knows me.

Well I may not be a high fashion person, but I don't think I have a bad eye for what looks right on other people.

Let us look at some stunners at the Oscars.

Our Cate. Pretty good.

Portia de Rossi, another Aussie lass and partner of Ellen Degeneres. It would not have worked if not for the slightly dykey hair. 

An extraordinary choice of outfits by Liza, but wow, does she look good in herself. It is Liza Minelli, isn't it?

But I don't think anyone did better than Angelina Jolie. Her dress is sthimpling sthunning. Yes, I know about the physical impracticalities of having Brad's babies, but could I try to make babies with him just once?

Our Anna

Former Premier of Queensland Anna Bligh has a new look. Isn't it just so de rigeur to focus on a female politician's looks? I see her new look as being freed from the constraints of looking conservative and well groomed. Good on her. I recently read of her legislative achievements for Queensland gays and lesbians when she was in a position of influence and power, and they were significant. Politicians cannot stop homophobia, but if the laws are there, at least the chatter goes behind closed doors. It works the same for racism.

Who could forget how well Anna Bligh handled the disastrous Queensland floods of a couple of years ago. She made not only Queensland proud, but the rest of Australia.

Photo from

Russia seems to be the opposite, where politicians like to gee up the populace against gays. The  protests against Russian government homophobia had some effect. It went behind closed doors, and that is an achievement. My own City of Melbourne is debating whether it should continue is sister city relationship with St Petersburg, because the city has enacted some extreme anti gay laws. I don't think breaking the relationship is a good idea. Keep talking and arguing is best.

Later: City of Melbourne, at the urging of gay organisations in St Petersburg, kept the sister city connection with St Petersburg.

Sunday, March 02, 2014

Sunday Selections

Check to see if River, Jackie and Elephant's Child have posted a Sunday Selection. Here is my effort for the day just one week after we were in town on a Sunday.

As we departed The Highrise to catch the tram to town, two restaurant trams came along. I was too slow with the camera and only captured most of one tram. I highly recommend a meal on the restaurant tram.

At Federation Square, a performance was underway. Kind of a left over Chinese New Year performance, I think.

Mobile phones. It is estimated that Australians have hoarded their old phones to the extent of 23 million of them sitting unused in drawers, wardrobes etc. I live sustainably, as long as I have enough money.

Hmm, critters

Riding a rhino? Really?

What on earth is this about, at the Ian Potter Gallery? A drunken dinner party?

A colourful rug. The words say "Don't touch the dishes! I will do them when I get back from Smith Street. X"

Memories of the 1950s?

Ok, this 'art' was created by a group of women who used to live in a shared house in Hotham Street, Collingwood a couple of years or decades ago.

What do you call it? An antimacassar?

A kookaburra cushion. 

Picasso's Weeping Woman (not the real one). It hasn't been stolen again.

A long view of the earlier seen carpet. Now, go back and look at the dinner party photo. The floor rug is made of piped icing sugar. The rug below and above, also piped icing sugar. In the fifties lounge room, the cushion covers, the antimacassars, the floor rug and Weeping Woman, all icing sugar. It took some careful studying with spectacles on to work out what was as it should be and what was icing sugar. It went from being ok that is art, to suddenly really interesting art.

We were in the gift shop, looking at wonderful things, and Ann O'Dyne, there was a book of Rennie Ellis photos. When is your birthday? Oh, you don't do birthdays. That is a saving for us. The gift shop is so expensive, but Trunk and Orderly did amuse me.

Things were still happening on stage as we left.

It is lunch time, a late lunch. The beer was of an English style, so R told me, and quite disgusting. I hate wasting a dollar and so I have never tried English beer. It that was sample, I am pleased to not have wasted the money......ahh, except I did.  I should have read the menu and learnt that they had Asahi beer by the bottle. Never mind that the deliciously dry Japanese beer Asahi is made in China.

The omnipresent Eureka Tower.

R needed some ingredients for dinner, so we went to the supermarket in Elizabeth Street. I hung around outside and fended off beggars and chuggers (charity muggers, collectors). The tower of Eureka and the Elizabeth Street end of Flinders Street Station amused me.

Here is a closer view. R returned from the supermarket interior with Manny's friend, the retired priest in tow. He attends Mass to the north of city but lives south of the city. He stops off at the station where he has to change trains to do some shopping. It was his birthday, his eighty second. He can talk the leg off an iron pot, so we wished him happy birthday and briskly set off along Flinders Street to catch the tram home. Note there is a camera on the balcony of the clock tower. Big Brother is always watching but it seems he is mostly reactive rather than proactive.