Saturday, August 16, 2014

Our Treasurer Speaks, from his a***

Federal Treasurer Joe Hockey is increasing the tax on vehicle fuel. Fuel tax is not a bad way of controlling the use of cars, reducing traffic congestion and reducing pollution but it does hit the poor very hard.  Ok, not the very poor who can't afford a car, but the working poor and those for whom a government pension is their sole income, who live in outer areas and spend huge amounts on fuel for their cars each week. While I may fill my car fuel tank every two or three weeks, many of my workmates who travel a long way to work fill their cars every two or three days.

I could get quite good public transport to and from work, but using public transport would take a decent chunk of time out of my day with four trips a day, so I don't.

But fancy Treasurer Hockey saying that the car fuel tax increase won't affect the poor, as they either don't have cars, or drive very little. There are many relatively poor people in Australia who are totally car dependant and drive cars as old as my 14 year old car. I suppose I could afford a new car, but I don't choose to buy one. It is not important to me. What about people in the country who aren't farmers and fuel is not an expense to write off? They too can clock up incredible distances.

Treasurer Hockey's stupid statement just shows how out of touch the Liberal Party, (= conservative, republican, tory) is with real people and their lives. 

Transport, history and a new tram

Grace from Perth Daily Photo mentioned that I must really love trains. Well, I kind of do. I like travelling on them. I like seeing steam trains smoke and belch steam. I even like diesel trains, spewing out their filth. I like trams too. A dyke friend from years past once told me she loved travelling on trams because they felt human. She thought trains felt like she was part of a mob of cattle being transported.

But there is the bigger picture of trains and trams, that is steam and then electric rail transport. They are such a very important part of our history. Many of our newer western cities, 19th century on, were formed by them. Rail transport made our cities what they now are. Getting a train or tram line to near where you lived involved lobbying, parliamentary inquiries, bribery and corruption and a whole lot more. If you were a land developer who wanted people to buy your new houses on a distant estate, just bribery and corruption and lobbying to get a train or tram line would suffice.

Generally now, the construction of rail transport is reactive, but there was a time when it was pro-active, where a railway encouraged settlement and growth of area.

This was written ages ago and unfinished but now seems to be the time to publish as Queensland's premier tourist area, the Gold Coast, has opened a brand new light rail line.

It runs from Griffith University Gold Coast Campus in the north to Broadbeach Waters in the south, with a possible future extension south to Coolangatta and north to Helensvale. I am not at all familiar with the Gold Coast, so I am unsure of the geography other than what I can see on a map.

There was fierce opposition to the project, especially  by local residents who became prolific letter writers to the Gold Coast Bulletin and some business owners but common sense won through. It was argued that trams, or light rail if you prefer, were terribly dangerous and would kill people. It was argued that no one would use it. Already patronage figures are higher than forecast. It was argued that it would be a drain on public funds. No, it is planned to run at a profit.

Does this look like a failed project?

 The Flexity 2 trams look very smart, built by Bombardier in Germany.

Yes, there have been issues with stupid old motorists.

Another one.

Last photo from ABC, the first three from the Gold Coast Bulletin. Below is my favourite, from the Port Stephens Examiner, showing a tram crossing the Nerang River bridge at Southport. I wonder if my Queensland correspondents, Diane and Bill, are planning a visit and ride soon.

Friday, August 15, 2014

Oh dear, resorting to cat videos again

Should any of my reader's cats appear to be getting bored, you could invest in a walker for their endless entertainment.

Cat number one doesn't quite grasp that he/she needs to walk faster. Cat two is a fast learner and quickly picked it up but was quite flighty and not really persistent. But cat one really stuck in there. He may not be the brightest spark but he is a real trier, gawd love him.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Up against the wall

R said he wanted it up against the wall. Whatever was he referring to? Oh, the tv. He got a little man in who did a good job and also got the leads into the wall. The wall has no timber studs, only metal straps and it was quite challenging. I am not going to tell you what the cost was. Even the spendthrift R said, it could wait when I suggested a new el cheapo dvd player for $50 with a remote control that worked. The only time the dvd is used is when Little Jo is here and we can control it manually from the front panel.

R is a little regretful he did not get it hard against the wall and instead it is on a swivel. Not wishing to spend any more money, I said it is fine and I actually like the way it appears to float, and I do.

Much work was done to the cabinet below that we intend replacing once we find the right thing. Some of the back was jigsawed out so that it will sit better against the wall. The cd stereogram was moved and looks much better and the speakers are now close to each other, giving much better sound. What you say? That is not correct? We once had monster speakers in our lounge room many years ago, and beautifully placed they were for the best possible sound quality. These horrid little tucked away speakers is an improvement.

There were the days in Glen Iris when we had to open the doors of the flame mahogany chiffonier to watch tv. When we sold the chiffonier and the rest of our antique furniture on consignment, the man said, some idiot has put holes in the back of it. Guilty. I had to get the wires through. Life has changed and I am not displeased with the change. Minimal works for us, even is Sister says it is cold.

Scrape marks had to be removed from the wall, pencil marks for the art work that was rehung at a higher level had to rubbed out. Inside surfaces were cleaned. Bits were rewired. We really like our efforts. The storage place is great for cds, none bought for a few years, dvds, same, video cassettes, we can still play them in R's bedroom on the combined dvd recorder/vcr player but why would we? What is interesting is all the cds and dvds that have mine or other people's writing on the them. I must go through them one day. There are some treasures there. We also put Little Jo's music together. For each of Little Jo's birthday's, Bone Doctor compiled a cd of her favourite music. We seem to missing year one, but maybe there wasn't one.

To the Port Phillip electric recycling centre will go numerous redundant remote controls, our first digital recorder and our last vcr. The first digital recorder was so nice looking. What a pity it just kept overheating. Our present one that we watch tv through, just works.

Oh yes, Beacon Lighting had our bedroom remote controlled overhead fan lights on special. I bought a new one to replace my not very old but defective and out of warranty model. The same day as the little man put the tv on the wall, a very cute young electrician fitted the new fan.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

The King and I

I vaguely recall the Yul Brynner movie The King and I from years ago. I am not sure if I have seen it all. I certainly saw some of it. There is a musical production of the movie at the Princess'(sic) Theatre and I I will suggest it the most enjoyable musical I have ever seen. The sets, the costumes, the acting, the script, the cute kiddies, it all just worked so brilliantly and of course it is a great story. The only thing to mar the evening was the awful cramped seats. Thank you to David Marriner for saving and renovating the Princess' Theatre in the 1980s, but it is now in need of a another reno and new seats.

We caught trams to get there, but a taxi home. $14 dollars divided by 4 is nothing, and almost cheaper than the day ticket that would have ensued had we trammed it home. And we saved about half an hour.

We had limited time, so pre theatre we just ate some quite ok Chinese food in the Target arcade food court.

Speaking of food, two weeks ago we dined with our dyke friend and her ex at Moor's Head in Elsternwick. It was quite nice but the $40 bottle of Lebanese wine was not so good. It is a trendy place and quite busy. I liked it.

This Saturday night past, we ate at The Potsticker, an Asian restaurant in Hawthorn Road Caulfield. I remember the place as Millers Bar & Grill. It was huge back then, occupying what is around four shops now. The Potsticker was terrific, great service and nice food.

Walking up Little Bourke Street, or was it looking down. I can't recall.

This is such an ugly Bourke Street building, but somewhat improved with some rather gaudy night time lighting.

The ceiling of the Princess' Theatre.

The curtain of The King and I.

Two monks to the left and two to right burning incense created atmosphere before the curtain went up.

At interval I noticed a pair of poles to introduce people to China Town, in Little Bourke Street. Behind is ICI House, now Orica. It was built in 1958 and was the tallest building in Australia. It was known as the Tear Drop Building as it cried tears of glass as the windows fell out.

I refuse to buy theatre programmes full of advertising now, but R will fork out $20 for them. They are looked at then filed away, never to be seen again.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Minister for Tall Towers

The large Melbourne industrial area known as Fishermens Bend very close to the city is set to become another disaster, like Docklands is widely recognised to be. Planning Minister Matthew Guy is travelling the absurd path of 'recommended height limits' when redevelopment begins. To quote him, Mr Guy said the plan's recommended heights would guide developers for what to build where.

"The indicative heights give a good guide to what we'd like to see,’’ he said.

In other words, free reign for developers, probably overseas investors, to maximise their profit from a given site. If someone knows of an area that has recommended height limits without buildings taller than the recommendations, then I'll eat my hat. Recommended height limits are a farce, as anyone involved already knows.

Like Docklands, we will see the worst of laissez-faire capitalism, just as we have seen at Docklands. Such a development can not be reversed in the short to medium term and we will be stuck with what is built, a soulless forest of second rate tall towers with turbulent winds blasting down the wind passages of streets multiplied by several square kilometres.

I didn't think we would see a worse Planning Minister than the previous Justin Madden, but our current minister Matthew Guy has quickly earnt himself both titles of the Dodgy Minister, with the Phillip Island business which ended up costing we taxpayers, and the Minister for Tall Towers. And he has ambitions to be Premier of our state? Haha.

Whether property developer donations to political parties are to blame remains an unanswered question. 

Monday, August 11, 2014

Doing the Block

In Australian slang, doing your block is getting very cross and angry and reacting. But Doing the Block is entirely different and was a Melbourne evening and weekend pastime where in Victorian and Edwardian times women and their beaus would parade their latest fashions and more in a certain circuit in the city. Part of 'doing the block' was walking through the Block Arcade.

Block Arcade was modelled on Milan's Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II which Hels made mention of here but it was somewhat different as Italians from Melbourne's sister city of Milan pointed out. Why does it turn to the left, quite different to Milan's? Some trickery ensued in the early nineties and a fake photo was produced that did somewhat emulate the layout of the Milan's Galleria Vittorio. The photo has puzzled many people as they searched for the location where the photo was taken from and they cannot find it. I thought a copy of the photo would be easy to find online, but it seems not.  Hels also wrote a little about Royal Arcade here.

Some time ago I saw Eileen Ervine on our ABC TV talking about The Block Arcade. She was clearly quite knowledgeable about The Block and full of enthusiasm for the beautiful arcade. I heard she conducted tours of The Block. I wanted to take the tour and kept it in the back of my mind for quite a time. My and later our tour of Melbourne Town Hall was terrific.

There was another couple taking the tour and we had to pay a measly $9 each which included a Devonshire Tea at the conclusion of the tour.

Eileen can talk the leg off an iron pot, which is I suppose how tour guides should be. The facts, the suppositions and the anecdotes flowed endlessly, all terribly interesting. She was terrific. But she was not the first guide of the Block Arcade. Beth Jackson who lived a two hour train ride away in Bendigo was the first and she continued showing people the building where she worked as a lift operator and and later a guide until she was 90 years old.

Apart from the obvious that everyone sees as they walk through The Block Arcade, above is rabbit warren, with the quite a lot of the interior ill adapted to the external of the building, meaning that a floor will only have half a full sized window. There have been some very famous tenants of spaces in The Block, such as Helena Rubinstein and Prue Acton among many. It is where the recently referred to Tapping Man is in the window of the Adelaide based family firm shop of Haig's Chocolates, the oldest survivor having learnt his trade at Lindt in Switzerland.

The Block Arcade is also where people queue to take tea at the Hopetoun Tea Rooms, with its monster mirror made in Genoa in the very early 20th century. Ah, I remember an anecdote. The mirror was coated with molasses as a cushion for its travel to Australia. It is untrue that once it arrived in Melbourne, baby pigs cleaned off the molasses.Yes, the anecdotes and information flowed freely.

There are some fabulous photos of The Block around, such as Joe's. Mine are a little ho hum.  This is the fa├žade of the Block Arcade with Block Court to your left.

The entrance with its copy of the original ironwork. The firm who made it  is still operating in Moorabbin.

This was originally a Singer sewing machine store. I can't make it out in the photo, but Singer is written around this ceiling mural painted by Phillip Goatcher.

On each side of this mural, are the words mathematics, chemistry, medicine and astronomy.

Next door to Block Arcade is Block Court, a lovely Art Deco arcade.

Block Court is only a short arcade. Originally it did or was planned go through to Little Collins Street.

I have often wondered about this clock next to Block Court. I know nothing more now. Do tell, if you know.

The weirdness in Block Arcade, multiple cornices. It was renovated last century, 1980s I think, to a very high standard and as you can see, sprinklers were added.

Linking across to the next building.

We crossed on an open walkway to the building next door where we saw a slide show and some ephemera. Block Arcade has its own history room. In this lane below are cafes and a noted musical record shop. I don't know why, but I have no knowledge of this lane off Little Collins Street. Seems it is called Balcombe Place. Everywhere we went, except for the above mentioned history room, is not locked against the public and you are free to roam if you want. Later edit: I am an idiot. The lane is Block Place, at the end of Block Arcade. The music shop is the well known Basement Discs.

The tour concluded with a Devonshire tea in Charles Dickens Tavern at the next door Block Court and I have solved a mystery I have wondered about for a long time. I asked Eileen about a basement cafe we once dined at in the early 1980s. I recall it as being called the Athenaeum Cafe. I thought it was nearer to the corner of Elizabeth Street. Eileen has worked in the city for most if not all of her working life and would surely know of it. She replied, you are sitting in where it was.

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Sunday Selections

Check out River, Elephant's Child and Jackie efforts for this Sunday.

We roamed Mother's garden collecting camellia blooms. I had no idea she has about ten camellia bushes.

R bought himself some new bedding. While I like it, it doesn't go well with the colour of the feature wall. I have heard murmurings of a wall colour change, in all three bedrooms.

It is wonderfully peaceful and quiet out on the balcony on Sunday mornings, with few trams and little traffic. Balloons were in the distance as the sun rose.

Looking in another direction is a departing container ship on Port Phillip Bay with Albert Park Lake, once a swamp, in the foreground.

And then there were these mad bastards, some of whom ran past The Highrise when it was still dark. Yes, I was up before the sun rose.

Our friend Manny in Malaysia has been in Australia. Coffee and tea is his business. He gave us this tea. We rarely drink tea, but I expect we will get to it.

The finished McDonald's brightly lit by the reflected sun.

I find bare elm trees very beautiful. It was a strong northerly wind and the branches were swaying.

And the leaves on the shrubbery opposite shimmered in the harsh morning light as they danced with the wind.

To celebrate the purchase of our new television, we stopped off at the way home at the West Beach Bather's Pavillion for a late lunch. It may appear to be warm, but it was not. Nevertheless, sunny is good.