Saturday, January 24, 2015

Holiday Plans

As if it is not enough to plan one holiday, we are planning two. Our Friend in Japan will be in Sydney on work related business in March, so we plan to have a few days Sydney side to catch up with her and hopefully catch up with Victor and see some sights of course.

I was looking at the website of the hotel where we stayed for our last visit, unbelievably five years ago, and it is all much the same. We were upgraded from a small studio to a large studio with a balcony, so of course this is what we want this time. Although the website indicated one price, quite cheap given the standard and location, when I began booking, a different figure was coming up. I called and queried it. Amazingly the same woman is still running it the show. She explained the price was higher because of a post Mardi Gras conference. Oh well, I bit the bullet and paid the higher price. R has looked at airfares and they are very cheap. I have refused to fly Tiger as I have too many real tales of woe, not just minor whinges.

As for Canada, that part has been booked, our tour, a combination of train and coach, accommodation in Toronto, flights from Melbourne to Vancouver via Hong Kong, (avoiding LA airport), from Vancouver to Toronto, Toronto to New York, and home, again via Hong Kong from NY Newark Airport.

But we really have struggled with New York accommodation. I sought from the aforementioned Victor details of his accommodation when he and his companion stayed in NY last year. The price was very good and the two bedroom apartment looked comfortable. But the price Victor paid was very cheap compared to what we would have to pay, it being the peak of the summer season.

Our travel agent gave us many hotel suggestions which we looked at last year and thought we will worry about it after Christmas, as many do. Guess what. The prices had risen substantially, not helped by our dollar falling against the US dollar. And apparently we have a most expensive and unreasonable requirement of a hotel, two separate beds. The concept of twin share does not seem to apply at all in NY. (So the Brady Bunch was a lie? Married people in the US do sleep in the same bed?) The only option our agent and us too could find is two double beds, which added substantially to the price. It was all becoming a bit much for us as money seemed to be draining away at a rapid rate. Blood pressure and tempers rose if NY was brought up.

While we had discounted where Victor stayed, with two bedrooms being far more than what we wanted, we thought to have a look at what else this website, had to offer, and although we have not chosen a place as yet, there are some excellent properties at prices much cheaper than a hotel room. I have just learnt  vrbo stands for Vacation Rental by Owner, so I guess it is not so terribly different to Airbnb.

VRBO is quite good because after you choose your location, you narrow it down by filters. In our case, Times Square, three beds, which gives us separate beds,  air con, and wi-fi. We have now selected a place and we are awaiting a response from the owner, but all the info was there. We are just checking there is someone who will respond.

The price for the week is about $1000 cheaper than hotels we were looking at.

Friday, January 23, 2015

Musical Monday on Friday

An alliteration fail, and oh how I love alliteration. River does Musical Monday on Monday but she doesn't do Wednesday's Words until Friday, so surely there is no issue with me doing Musical Monday on Friday.

Twenty minutes is not too much time out of life to note down the lyrics to this song and I didn't mind doing it, because some selfish uncaring person had not done it for me already. In spite of excellent diction, it is an old recording and not every word was fully clear to me, so my version of the lyrics could be disputed, but I am are pretty close.

The song released in 1934 was composed by Jack O'Hagan, of The Road to Gundigai fame, and the singer is Clement Williams. Note Clem's correct pronunciation of Melbourne.

It is a terrifically catchy and rollicking piece of music, and as songs were produced back then, with a long musical introduction. It references the visit to Melbourne by the Duke of Gloucester to open Melbourne's centenary celebrations,  The MacRobertson Trophy Air Race (London to Melbourne) and of course our famous horse race, The Melbourne Cup.

Here are the lyrics.

Let's Take a Trip to Melbourne

Here is a tonic for those depressed
Now listen a moment and I'll suggest
A method so sound to banish all the gloom
Pack up your troubles and let them ride
Cast every worry and care aside
You've everything to gain and not to lose
What is this remedy, I hear you ask
It's simple as ABC, an easy task
Follow the throng, along
Make life a happy song
Let's take a trip to Melbourne
There's lots to do, and through
A welcome waits for you
So let's take a trip to Melbourne
Come along and greet the Duke and see the Melbourne Cup
And see the air race finish. Watch the numbers going up
So follow the throng, along
Make life a happy song
Let's take a trip to Melbourne
Follow the throng, along
Make life a happy song
Let's take a trip to Melbourne
There's lots to do, and through
A welcome waits for you
So let's take a trip to Melbourne
There'll be sports galore
And there's the Grenadiers Band
So be a dinkum Aussie
Give the Guards a hand
So follow the throng, along
Make life a happy song
Let's take a trip to Melbourne
All the greatest golf in sight
And tennis players too
Have come afar from foreign lands
So why not you
So follow the throng, along
Make life a happy song
Let's take a trip to Melbourne

Thursday, January 22, 2015

A holiday memory

I keep toothpicks in my wallet, usually collected from air flights or commercial eating places and they are in some kind of sealed packet. I don't just keep them in my wallet. They are used for what they were intended. I have finished up my Singapore Airline toothpicks and popped one of these colourful packets into my wallet. Then I wondered where they came from. The .hu in the web address is a good clue, but I could not remember.

Before I had a chance to enter the web address, R remembered that it was where we with our two travelling companions and Jane and Lance bought lunch on the day JayLa took us out and about in Budapest. The lunch was memorable for the wrong reasons but we had such a laugh about it all. There was nothing wrong with the food, just a communication problem, shall we say. For a small place, it has a decent sized website. It is one of a chain. Here is a link to the website, if you care to look. Hungary is very strict about selling alcohol to minors, so you may have to click that you are over 18. Don't worry, it won't ask you how much you are over 18.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

An observation

He was about 190 cm tall, ok over 6', of a dark but not too dark exotic appearance. His hair was perfectly coiffed in a modern style, long on top and very short at the sides. Although he was probably naturally hairy, his face looked as smooth as a baby's bottom. His eyes were smouldering and dark. His face was longish and angular with sharp cheekbones and I doubt anyone would not describe him as very handsome.

He was wearing a perfectly pressed narrow and tight very dark blue suit of the absolute latest style, with a crisp white shirt. He moved in a masculine manner, but not overtly so. If you think hot Latin/Spanish as Madonna would like, you might not be far wrong.  And then I looked lower, to his shoes and I could not believe how such a perfectly presented person could be wearing such dirty shoes. Yes, they were nice shoes, pointy toed to the point where people who wear such shoes must change their gait a little, but when I say they are dirty, they were filthy. I expected to look down and see highly polished and gleaming shoes, and they were not.

Call me shallow if you must, (if you say delusional, screw you) but based on his filthy shoes, I decided not to offer him my virginity and life long commitment. R with his clean shoes will just have to do.

Where is R btw? I had to serve my own dinner, lasagne in the oven and salad in the fridge. Ah, he is with Bone Doctor and Little Jo seeing a Horrible Histories production. Sister is at the cricket.


Nestled in the foothills of Mount Baw Baw is the small timber milling town of Noojee. Originally established when gold was found in the area, the name of course is Aboriginal, a word for contentment or place to rest. It is indelibly imprinted in my childhood memories as it was a place we visited many times. I started thinking about the place when White Angel posted about a Tasmanian town where there are topiary sculptures and it is a tenuous connection really to the dinosaurs of Noojee.

Dinosaurs? What dinosaurs. Made from Bull Tree Fern trunks, in 1964 Jack Kelly carved and assembled the timber into dinosaurs, with one very large T-Rex gracing the front of the Noojee Hotel. Behind the hotel were several smaller dinosaurs in a grassed area next to a creek, like a Jurassic Park, long before that name was coined. We thought the sculptures were great and always enjoyed a visit to Noojee. Sadly as the years went on, the tree fern timber deteriorated and the last time I saw them, they were in a very sad state. I expect they are long gone, but I am sure there are photos around. Here is one of T-Rex from the Noojee historical society. It could almost be a photo of we four children, except Sister is the youngest.

This is the Noojee Hotel in I guess the sixties.

An older photo. They may well be miners' cottages along the road.

Without going into too much detail, Noojee, surrounded by bush, was almost completely burnt out in fires in 1927 and 1939, but the hotel survived. I seem to recall a number of lives were lost in the fires, especially at the timber mills. 

The railway arrived from Warragul in 1919 and closed in 1954. Timber trestle bridges were used to cross large steep valleys and here is one very famous one at Noojee that miraculously was not destroyed by fire but was damaged and subsequently repaired. 

Photo by mrgnat.

I believe this is the same bridge. Victorian Railways regrets to inform you that all trains to Noojee today have been cancelled. We apologise for any inconvenience caused.

This steam locomotive used to sit in a park next to the Warragul Railway Station. It is a static exhibit at the non functioning Noojee Station.

The area around Noojee is normally very green and there is plenty of natural attractions to see. Not far away is the Toorongo Falls.

The massive Ada Tree, a Mountain Ash, named after Little Ada River, 300 years old, 76 metres tall and a circumference of 15 metres. Not as tall as the one that was chopped down, to measure and make sure it was the tallest tree.

The roads in the area are now quite good and generally sealed. It's a nice part of our state to visit. I am not suggesting you wander in the bush and get lost, but if you did, you may come across water races, used for gold sluicing where channels were dug following contours of hills, more trestle bridges for the timber tramways and maybe remains of timber tramway wooden rails. Keep a look out for dangerous vertical mine shafts and horizontal shafts too. Maybe you will stumble across an overgrown clearing where there is evidence of a brick house chimney or some tough old roses or spring bulbs flowering in a long abandoned garden. I saw all these things in my childhood during bush rambles.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Tech score #1 Mother score #0

Mother likes R's oldest sister. Mother once told R if his sister lived here in Australia, I think we would be friends. R's sister is very experienced in the care of old people. She knows all the right things to say and in a very natural manner. Mother wrote a lengthy letter to R's sister and included it with a Christmas card and R's sister wrote back to Mother. Goodness knows what was in the letter, but as Mother said, she lost it.

Mother often 'loses' things that may be inconvenient to her purposes.

Remember the week before Christmas when we wasted a whole day taking Mother to the local hospital for unnecessary tests, and the diagnosis was essentially, stress and anxiety? Not that these are minor matters, but in her case, they are.

R was and is mega annoyed with Mother and is on a path to treat her as we her children do, that is not putting up with her silliness and limiting her manipulation. With much glee this evening after R had taken Mother out today, Thursday, including a doctor's appointment, he told me that Mother told her doctor she had lost the letter from the hospital that she was supposed to give to him. Mother is clever in some ways. She has been known to steam open a doctor's letter and to study a specialist's file about herself when they was out of the room.

But the system beat her this time. Her doctor said, no problem Mrs C, they emailed the letter to me anyway. Yes!!! (I do now get how people punch the air) How we laughed.

After I had written the above, Mother convinced at least two of her gullible children to stump up for a visit to a gereantologist (that is the the best I can do to spell the word). Mother did not like the letter her doctor gave to her to give the aforementioned 'g' person and asked him to change it. He said, too late Mrs C, I have emailed it to her already.

Technology is beating Mother's life long manipulation of matters.

Monday, January 19, 2015

Why I whinge about our trams

From the balcony it is quite clear to me how the tram system is running. In the two or three weeks after Christmas, trams glided past The Highrise, unhurried and relaxed. Before Christmas was very different. The trams sped around the curve below at high speed, no doubt trying to catch up time to the timetable.

I remember public announcements on trams before Christmas, that the timetables had been altered and may not match details at tram stops, but the service had not been reduced and the pre Christmas timetable was in effect to deal with different traffic conditions. What different traffic conditions? A fool can tell you that the timetable would allow more time for trams to make their trips, given the extra activity and people out and about shopping pre Christmas.

But no. I had a look at a timetable for earlier in the year and the current online timetable at the time and unbelievably Yarra Trams reduced the times for trams to make their trips. That is, say our trams leave the University terminus at a certain time, and pass The Highrise a certain number of minutes later. In the lead up to the busy Christmas period, this time was reduced. Extraordinary. Who would have thought that would work?

Now, the performance results depot by depot from Yarra Trams have published for the month of December. Generally the results were good, with the exception of two depots. And guess what? They are the two depots that run the St Kilda Road trams. Frankly, the results were appalling. A pre Christmas timetable to deal with different traffic conditions? Really? #YarraTramsFail

Take a look for yourself. I expect the Department of Transport insists on the foreign owned private operator publishing such damming statistics. The first one is Malvern Depot, the second Glenhuntly Depot. Wow, they dip below a line. Does that mean Myki card holders get some compensation?

Yarra Trams are very busy making improvements to the system, so they tell us often enough, but not too much happens to improve the service in St Kilda Road where in the evening tram after tram arrives at the Toorak Road tram stop, too full to pick up any of the waiting crowds. I see it every evening when I am home and observing the happenings below The Highrise.

The graph on the right is the one to note. The blue line is an average across the tram system, the tan line is for trams along St Kilda Road.

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Sunday Selections - A domestic edition

Yes, all very home focused this week. See what River has posted, along with others.

R has decided smaller portions are better for us and the way to go about it is to serve the food on the centre of the table and then help ourselves and I think he is correct, we are eating a bit less.These tongs cost about $14 in Maling Road, Canterbury. The $2 supermarket ones are better.

The Spanish wine mentioned a couple of weeks ago. Waddya reckon Mitch? A good drop?

How the other half live on New Year's Day, Domain Road South Yarra.

Isn't half the fun of a barbeque doing it yourself? In my case that is watching R do it. This one was professionally catered in parkland along Domain Road. A little girl kicked a ball with her daddy. Little Jo does not care to kick a ball and is such a disappointment to her mothers.

Our relatively new carpet was stained and in spite of some thirty years of removing stains from carpets, especially when we had pets, these ones beat my efforts. Woolmix, Borax poultice, Shellite, nothing worked. I don't know what they are or when they happened and neither does R. Visitors, I reckon. This one at the dining table.

And this one, so obvious at the balcony door with daylight shining directly on it.

I was getting quite distressed by the stains, so I thought I would try a commercial product. Spray it on and wait a few minutes for it to dry to a white powder then vacuum. It is brilliant. Not a trace of any stain remains and a couple of weeks later, nothing has reappeared. 

An amusing and tasty gift from Our Friend in Japan, translated as cat's tongues. The chocolate is unlike any chocolate I have tasted before. It is not sweet and creamy milk chocolate, but nor is it bitter dark chocolate.  Let's just say it is mild.

An older woman graffiting a building hoarding. Her behaviour was very odd. I forgot to check what she had written. There was already plenty of graffiti on the hoarding. I am just wondering if there was something written relating related to the murder that took place there last year, and she was covering it up.

We were in town and made it home before the rain started. Five minutes walk from The Highrise, this was the scene at the Domain (tram) Interchange. Thanks for the photo Fen and the Channel 7 screen grab.

As you can see, it absolutely p.............recipitated down.

By evening, all was quite benign, with the Spirit of Tasmania setting sail as scheduled. I hope my cropping of the ugly building rooftop meets with Hels approval.