Saturday, July 26, 2014

Changing times

It wasn't always called Cafe Plateia. It had another name. I don't recall what. I think it was 1992 when we moved to Balaclava and started catching either the tram or the train to Prahran on Saturday mornings. Initially we brunched at Cafe 151 in Commercial Road, but later grew rather attached to the cafe in Pran Central. For the best part of twenty years we have been customers there.

Suddenly an Indian person began working in the cafe. Some weeks later, the Greeks have gone, so R tells me, and Indians have taken over.

Fen will remember the the place well enough. This is pure conjecture but Tim Zanios was the boss. His mother (Helen?) was the hostess with the mostest. Tim's brother and sister in law and father all worked there. I've seen them give food to the poor without charge. I have seen them pile up a take away container for an old person's evening meal. They were generous to their regular customers, including us. We will dearly miss them.

Friday, July 25, 2014

The Vesteys and Dame Nellie

Well, I have done some interesting reading about Dame Nellie Melba and the Vesteys. A little background first, if you are not well up on either.

Dame Nellie Melba (1861-1931) was an Australian opera singer and surely at the height of her career, the best known Australian in the world. She was briefly married and bore one son, George.

The English Vestey family owned vast amounts of cattle grazing land in the north of Australia (around the world too) and became more well known here than they would have liked when their Aboriginal stockmen walked off their Wave Hill Station. The cheeky buggers actually wanted to paid the same as white people, instead of a flour, tea, sugar and tobacco allowance (slight exaggeration, but only slight). The walk off had huge repercussions, leading to land rights for our native people.

So, you know who they are. I want to know how Melba and the Vesteys are connected and it ended up being quite simple when I found the 2011 obituary for Lady (Pamela) Vestey.

Pamela was the daughter of Melba's only child George. In 1939 she married Captain William Howarth Vestey who was killed in war service in 1944. Obituaries, Wikipedia and various other sources are conflicting about Captain Howarth Vestey, so I will not add any more information about him suffice to say he was an heir to the Vestey empire.

Post her husband's death, Pamela was granted the title Lady Vestey.

William and Pamela had two children, (Lord) Samuel and (the Honourable) Mark, who are now in control of Melba's Coldstream home Coombe Cottage and the estate.

(Would you believe this took over 2 hours to put together. No wonder I don't do this sort of post too often. Still, I found it interesting).

Oh yes. Coombe Cottage garden is to be open to the public and there will be a restaurant and winery sales.If you would like to see photos of Dame Nellie, check out this Pinterest page with heaps of photos of her, good and bad.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Memo to Metro Trains and Yarra Trams cuts

What would be like to be back in Melbourne and not complain about our public transport.

Last Friday I just missed a train and filled in the time by studying timetables and using the toilet on the Flinders Street Station concourse. I was shocked. Here is the message I sent to Metro Trains. They have not responded as yet.
I have recently been travelling in Europe and England and nowhere during my travels did I come across toilets as disgusting as that on the concourse at Flinders Street Station. It was filthy, plenty of graffiti and very shabby. There appeared to be no hot water and the air from one hand dryer at least was cold. It is an absolute disgrace. Clean toilets are not difficult. You just employ someone to clean them, regularly. I can forgive shabbiness and graffiti perhaps but not filthy.

Meanwhile Yarra Trams is busy cutting services, but they have painted the cuts as improvements.

Route 112 is to be divided into two, and this does seem to be an improvement. If service intervals are maintained, the Collins Street service will be better. At the moment route 112 is an eight minute service during the day.

But 'in order to make catching a tram and knowing where it will go be as simple as possible' we will cut them out.  The loss of the 31 will be ameliorated by the extra service by the division of the 112. But the St Kilda end of route 112 that passes through Albert and Middle Park I am sure will be reduced. It only gets such a good service now because the West Preston end of the route is very busy. I can't see an 8 minute service for the new route from St Kilda to Victoria Gardens.

Route 24 is an evening peak service (used to be morning too), but the loss of it will mean a reduced service in the already underserviced Latrobe Street.

Bourke Street will lose its extra route 95 service, put in place to help with overcrowding of trams in Bourke Street and with only two routes in Bourke Street and a tram seldom on the horizon in Melbourne's main east west street, the service will be dreadful. I have not seen any mention in an increase in the service of the two routes, 86 and 96, in Bourke Street, so that will mean longer waits and more overcrowding. Why is the service so neglected in Bourke Street?

Route 79 will disappear. It now only runs at night time, whereas it used to run all day Sunday and I can remember back to when it was a full time daily service. It is the North Richmond to St Kilda Beach service. The cut will mean it will run as route 78 permanently, to Brighton Road, Elwood. Some people will benefit from the change, with the Chapel Street service extended to Brighton Road at night time, one stop, but so many will lose by having to transfer to a  16 tram at Carlisle Street. Imagine missing a tram in Chapel Street and having to wait 20 minutes at night time, and then just missing the 16 at Carlisle Street to get to St Kilda and having to wait another 20 minutes. We will see how the timetables shape up, but even if there is only a five minute wait at Carlisle Street, both the 79 and 16 trams have the worst on time records of any routes and what might appear to work well on timetables, may not work at all for passengers.

This may seem all so esoteric, but it is not if you are actually waiting for a tram.

What Yarra Trams is doing is cutting services more than they are improving them but dressing them up as improvements. Well, when you the give the operation of your public transport to private companies that must give a good return to overseas shareholders, this is what you get.

While the bulk of this was written some time ago, subsequently Daniel wrote a more detailed and sensible piece on the changes.

Over two weeks later, I have yet to hear back from Metro Trains about the filthy and disgusting toilets at our premium suburban station.

Later edit: I have heard back from Metro Trains. It was the waffle I expected. There are permanent cleaners on duty to look after the toilets during the day and outside of these hours they are on a thirty minute cleaning cycle, which makes the toilets' filthiness rather mystifying. This bit was a bit interesting, As you may appreciate, the cleaners are required to work around our customers, making the task more difficult.  

Whatever, I don't think I am being unreasonable in expecting clean toilets at our premium railway station.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Look what they done to my views, Ma

This is how McDonalds across the road looked a few weeks ago. As far as I can recall, it has had the same canopy at the front for over ten years. I quite disliked the garishness of it.

Some scaffold went up and the store was closed for a couple of days while the canopy was removed and the small overhang was placed over the entrance. Yes, it is bright, but overall I thought the appearance of the store was very much improved. You should have seen the dejected looks of patrons when they discovered it was closed and they instead they had to choose the healthier Subway option.

But it was a bit too early to be overly gleeful. This damn balloon was installed on the roof. I think it has a permanent air pump to keep it up and has guy wires to keep it stable. It might take a .303 rather than a .22 bullet to deflate it. Where is my father's gun cache? I'll fix the damn thing, without even leaving home. (that is something we will have to address one day, Father's hidden unregistered firearms)

It gets worse. The balloon is also illuminated. I am sure there are council regulations about St Kilda Road signage. I am surprised this is allowed.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Lying with dogs

Faces to trust? There are a few men in our parliaments who are beyond the pale and simply should not be there, having indulged in disgraceful public behaviour in office. New South Wales Senator Bill Heffernan is one such bloke, but let us leave him aside for today.

Let us have a look at the federal House of Representatives Member for Menzies, Kevin Andrews. He was once Immigration Minister in the Howard Government and night after night on tv he supported the Federal Police in their persecution of the seemingly innocent Indian born and respected Queensland medical practitioner Dr  Haneef. Haneef was persecuted to the extreme by our government, but never found guilty of any connection to terrorism. He received substantial financial compensation from our government. It is quite unbelievable that Andrews was allowed to stand again for election.

This character, Member for Box Hill and Victorian Attorney General Robert Clark, doesn't quite have the reputation or history of  the above Andrews, but I have serious issues with him too.

What do they have in common?

They are both attending meetings by the World Congress of Families. So what is this group about? It is opposed to civil rights protections on the basis of sexual orientation. It supports anti gay policies in Russian and Uganda. It pushes the proven incorrect information that there is a connection between a woman having an abortion and breast cancer.

I think most of my readers will know that families come in all sorts of shapes and sizes, and not just the conventional white picket front fence families that this group promulgates. 

In other words, it is a disreputable and discredited right wing nutter organisation that all too often seem to emanate from a minor US state. If you were a public figure, wouldn't you run a mile from being connected to this group?

Not so Andrews and Clark. Clark will give the welcome address at a World Congress of Families conference here in Melbourne. Andrews is scheduled to speak at the same event.

The Liberal Party of Australia really needs to get its act together and get rid of tossers like these blokes if it is to have any relevance in the future. 

Monday, July 21, 2014

The Personal

Just to record, dinner out on Saturday night with the Brighton Antique Dealer and our friends at a restaurant in Bay Street. Champers and nibbles at BAD's place before and coffee and chocolates after. The pompous black American, B was there for the champers, but he does not dine until 10pm, and so did not join us for dinner. He is quite amusing. Guided tour of BAD's old rich person's retirement place for the benefit of out Brother Friends.

Sunday lunch at the Dick Whittington Hotel for Little Jo's seventh birthday. A great time with family and later with Hippy Niece, Sister and Little Jo to St Kilda Botanic Gardens. Maybe some photos from there later.

Hippy Niece came back with us to stay the night as she had a specialist allergy appointment the next morning nearby. It was a pleasant evening, pick up Thai food, and in the morning after fruit toast, we all set off on foot, she to her appointment and us to mine in Prahran. For once cogs merged well. Within half an hour I had been to the doctor's, had a haircut and been to the chemist and we were on the bus back home.

Home briefly and then took the car for a clean. Home again and two loads of washing done and it was only 1.30. Relax for the the rest of the day.

Thirty two questions

Dina posed one of those question posts where you can participate or not. I thought I would have a crack at it. Here is Dina's original post. I sure she would be happy if you had a go. I must say, it did make me think about a few things. I've fixed the formatting twice but it reverts to a mess. Sorry about that.

1. What makes you proud to be Australian in a deep and profound way?
The first questions are the hardest but then it came to me. I am very proud of the way workers fought against the rich and powerful in Australia in the 1800s and perhaps more in the 1900s. The battles of labour against capital made Australia what it is today, for its good and bad, but sadly things are slipping backwards.  Also community support against landlords and for the evicted who had lost jobs during the 1930s depression. I am talking of the poorest of poor who lived in slums.
2. What makes you proud to be Australian in a corny/cheesy way?
A film camera pan around Sydney Harbour.
3. What is your favorite Cold Chisel Song?
Cold Chisel? I think I have heard of them.
4. Are you slightly annoyed, deeply annoyed, or not annoyed by American Cultural Imperialism?  Whatever answer you choose...what American thing infiltrating Australia annoys you the most? What annoys you the least?
Language probably. But while I might write and rant about it, the Australian accent and expression just keep going on. For every 'hey dude', that we might hear from America, we are just as likely to hear, 'cheers mate', from the UK. Hearing American basic nouns used in Australia really annoys me. Our cars do not have fenders, but mudguards. Water comes from a tap, not a faucet.   A toilet is not a bathroom, although the toilet may be in the bathroom. 

What annoys me the least? America has given us Hollywood, movies, tv and music galore. How poor the world would be without American culture.
5. Do you like, love, dislike, or hate Vegemite?  How often do you eat it?  Do you ever use it in recipes?
It is mother's milk to me. I almost eat it daily. I have been known to stir it into a soup and put it on a hot cross bun. It's saltiness goes well with many things, including sweet things.
6. Who is your favorite Australian author?
Probably the author of a book on the book shelf that is falling apart because it has been read so many times, Norman Lindsay.
7. Who is your favorite Australian science hero? (Note: I am asking for one favorite of things, but I won't yell at you if you list more than one favorite)
Robyn Williams, presenter of The Science Show on ABC Radio National. Honourable mention to Dr Norman Swan, also an RN presenter, of The Health Report.

8. What is your opinion of Ned Kelly?
He was a murdering thief, but in the context of the times, rebelling against the English ruling class by the Irish born poor was de rigueur.
9. What is your favorite topping for Pavlova?
Kiwi fruit, passionfruit with some strawberries.
10. What Australian TV shows do you watch? Or which ones did you watch in the past?
This one is too hard. I watch many different shows, but ok, I will indicate my preference is for Australian news and current affairs and English tv shows. But how can I watch tv when I have to answer blog quiz questions.
11. Australian TV has some pretty tragic (fictional) deaths.  Is there anyone in particular that devastated you?
I didn't see Molly die, but my mother told me about it in great detail. That was A Country Practice, I think.  I was going to say when the deli was blown up in Number 96, but no, when the hot musician bloke fed whats her name to a crocodile. Right, I have looked it up. James Reyne was the actor in Return to Eden and the victim was played by Rebecca Gilling.
12. Which of these things about Prime Ministers would you know without consulting Google (or other websites...or books....or the person sitting in the room with you)
a) the first Prime Minister of Australia
b) the second Prime Minister of Australia
c) The Prime Minister that disappeared at sea
d) The Prime Minister that was in office for only 8 days
e) The Prime Minister that was dismissed from office by the Governor-General
Yes, I know all of them, but I expect most younger Australians might get only 1 out of five, if that. The question in my mind is does it really matter if people don't know the answers?

13. What is your Australian music "guilty pleasure"? (I think that's a silly term, but I'm using it anyway).
The Pushbike Song.
14. What is your favorite Australian movie?
Muriels Wedding, among quite a few.
15. Have you ever traveled around Australia in a caravan?  Care to share any stories about that?
A caravan? Really? Like a gypsy? How ghastly.
16. What is your favorite Australian candy/lolly?
I am not sure if they are Australian, but Minties.
17. What is your favorite flavor of Tim Tam?
The original.
18. What is your favorite Arnott's biscuit that is not a Tim Tam?
Iced Vo Vos. Or maybe Butternut Snaps.........or maybe Ginger Nuts.
19. Who is your favorite Australian sports star?
I am impressed by Steve Hooker at the moment, although I don't think he competes any more.
20. Which do you prefer...Peter Garrett the singer or Peter Garrett the politician?
No answer. I don't like screaming music nor people taking on jobs that are way over their heads. Garrett the politician was thrown into very deep water, and to hear his responses in the forthcoming Royal Commission will be interesting.
21. Do you have an adorable Australian accent?
I don't really hear myself, so I am not sure. The way I speak is a bit different, and has been since childhood.
22. Do you have a Hills Hoist in your backyard?  Do you use it often?
No, God invented electricity to power clothes dryers. Truthfully, most of our clothes drying is on a clothes horse in the spare room. Many people who have a backyard have a variation of Hills Hoist.
23. Would you rather spend a day with Gina Rinehart, Clive Palmer, Bob Katter, or Katie Richie?
Gina. I reckon I could teach her to have a kinder attitude to those who don't have what she has.
24. Would you rather go a year without eating Vegemite or have a week where you can eat nothing but meat pies (or veggie pies if you're vegetarian)?
A slim waistline does not come from regularly eating pies but I would eat them for a week if I can keep my Vegemite.
25. Where is your favorite place in Australia?
Difficult. Maybe New South Wales' Blue Mountains.
26. What place do you love more, Sydney or Melbourne?
Brisbane or Adelaide?
Perth or Cairns?
Coober Pedy or Broken Hill?
Home of course, Melbourne.
27. What Australian stereotype do you think is the most ridiculous? Are there any you feel that are kind of true?  (Like maybe you DO ride a kangaroo to work, but no one takes you seriously when you try to tell them this).
That we are so easy going and friendly. Some Australians are, some are not, which is probably the same as the rest of the world.
28. What dangerous Australian animal (not including humans) scares you the most?  
I am pleased you excluded humans. Snakes. I hate them, as do many people who grew up in the bush. We know about them.
29. Would you rather eat fish and chips or fairy bread?
Who you callin' a fairy? Fish and chips, of course.
30. Would you rather eat fish without the chips or chips without the fish?
As is said in the US, hold the chips.
31. If you went to the the Sydney Royal Easter Show (or similar event) would the show bags be the highlight for you, or would you care more about something? Regardless of your answer, if you were to get a show bag, which would you want? 
Showbags used to be free, full of wonders for children. I can't get past that. $20 for a showbag full of rubbish.
And...if you could invent your own Show bag, what would the theme be? And what would you put in it?
A packet of sugar coated jube lollies, some liquorice and something that promotes the company whose bag it is, but has a value in itself. Say a bank show bag would have a decent money box. The charge should be a token amount, not a profit maker for all concerned.
32. What question did I forget to ask you?  Please ask it and then answer it.
How do you feel about being Australian and living in a country that was taken over by your ancestors not so many generations ago and they oppressed and murdered the local native people?
Not great but there is no going back now. That is not to say they we should not make the strongest effort to address the issues of those who we took the land from.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Sunday Supplement, Why wasn't I told?

An intriguing snippet from The Age. I did not know Dame Nellie Melba's grandsons were Vesteys. This requires further investigation, which I will get to in time and let you know.

For generations, people driving into the Yarra Valley from Melbourne have wondered what lay behind the thick cypress hedge lining Nellie Melba's property.
Our curiosity is set to be sated from next month when the opera diva's stunning 30-hectare Coombe Cottage estate at Coldstream opens to the public.
Melba's great-grandsons Lord Samuel Vestey and the Honourable Mark Vestey are spending millions converting outbuildings into a cafe-restaurant, gallery and cellar door, which will open on August 23.

Let's Go Shopping

Must be Sunday, the day when River and often Elephant's Child and Jackie post Sunday Selections.

Here we are, crossing from Myer department store to the retail complex Emporium. Finally within Melbourne city is an ABC Shop, after the last one closed in the old GPO building. The Emporium ABC Shop is a bit smaller, but adequate. This is the view towards Chinatown up Little Bourke Street. As an aside, I was filling in a crossword the other day, and a clue was 'an old name for China' and it really had me scratching my head. I was sure I should know the answer. Sino certainly did not fit. What about Cathay? It fitted. So that is where the airline name Cathay Pacific comes from. I did not know Cathay was an old name for China. Did you?

A bit of glitz at the Emporium entrance.

But what if it rains?

I assume this kale is ornamental and not edible. I saw someone nip off some parsley though.

Melbourne is an odd place, where motorbikes are allowed to be parked on the footpath, and they do, often badly and obstruct pedestrians.

The Melbourne Town Hall porch, from where The Beatles waved to the mega crowds back into about 1964.

Opposite, a quite nice old building, clearly built after the invention of lifts. Did you know Melbourne's lifts used to be water powered by a high pressure system supplied by the city council? I believe there is still one left, but I am sure the high pressure supply has long been shut down.

Mirka Mora's mural, restored a few years ago, but it is not looking great now and one end has been truncated by the wall of a gambling establishment.

This does not give you a good idea of Melbourne's Federation Square, or Fed Square, as we call it. I'll try better next time.

I was quite pleased when we bought our new battery operated salt and pepper grinders and I am sure I posted about them at the time. However, I now consider them to be quite ugly and I can't say they worked terribly well, and each needed four AAA batteries. I like our new very manually operated set. Found the post when the old ones were new.

Gifts for Little Jo, a dinosaur card, a dinosaur dvd and not pictured, a moving dinosaur bought elsewhere. All fitted nicely into a Peppa Pig gift bag. It is Sister's birthday soon and for a few dollars as a novelty gift, we bought her these track suit pants with her football team emblazoned on them. Instead of showing people about 3000 digital photos of our Euro holiday, we selected 300 to have printed and bought an album. It can be viewed and things pointed out in less than ten minutes. NB 10 cents per print at Officeworks against 15 cents at Harvey Norman saved us some money and was worth the bother of price checking first.