Saturday, January 18, 2020

Grass Trees and Wollemi Pine

We used to know them as Black Boys but for obvious reasons they are no longer called that. They are excellent at withstanding the ravages of bushfires and as you can see by 'Winston', they live to be very old. I am not sure why they had to be rescued, perhaps because of a land development.

These came from the Margaret River area of Western Australia. The most expensive one is a lower two crown one about one metre tall and is for sale for about $4,460. A taller one with three crowns about two metres tall is cheaper at $4,300.

Most varieties are quite resistant to fire and as you can see in their natural state in the first photo taken by Matthew Newton and published on the website of Bush Heritage Australia, they retain their lower dried up spines and in the case of fire, like with our Eucalypts, the fire will race up to the top of the plant and give some protection to the trunk. Most of the growing action takes place underground and this also helps them resist fire.

However, I would not be spending thousands on such plants when some brief research tells me they are notoriously difficult to transplant from one site to another.

In some really good news, Wollemi Pines, only discovered in Australia in 1994 and dating back to the time of dinosaurs have been saved from a bushfire in an all out effort secret mission by National Parks and Wildlife Service and the New South Wales Rural Fire Service. Clearly there was a plan in place to protect them and it was enacted.

They grow in a gorge west of Sydney and their location is not publicised as visitors could be a terrible threat to their existence of one of the rarest trees on Earth, numbering somewhat over 100. They have been successfully propagated and you can buy them at plant nurseries. Some trees are estimated to be 1,000 years old but because of the nature of they way the grow, they could be very much older. Photo from the Sydney Morning Herald.

Friday, January 17, 2020

British Rail

I wish I could blame Maggie Thatcher, but she was not guilty. Her Tory successor John Major is to blame for privatisation of British Rail. The list of defunct companies who subsequently ran different train companies approaches about 50. I can't be bothered counting them up.

Public transport in the UK is pretty good but it is very expensive to use. Nevertheless in the last ten years internal air travel has dropped significantly as internal train travel has risen. Air travel is a nightmare. Train travel usually so easy. The cost of train travel in the UK is not so bad if you book well in advance, but the quality of trip varies hugely from one operator to another.

The regional train we have mostly used was once known as The Flying Scotsman, travelling from London to Edinburgh via Newcastle. For its time, it was very fast. The first time we used it was in its privatised form I think known as Great North Eastern Railway. It handed the operation back to the government. The next time we visited the UK, it was owned by Virgin Trains, again handed back to the government. Our visit last year saw us travelling on the government run London North Eastern Railway. All trips on the different operators' trains were pretty good, although last year the train was showing its age but the line is now serviced by new trains.

I don't have a complimentary word for the Trans Pennine Express first class. It was a lousy trip from Newcastle to Manchester and as for first class, what a joke. It is one of the companies expected to hand the service back to the government.

Of the now 23 companies who now run passenger trains in the UK about one quarter are expected to throw in the towel, that is either go into bankruptcy or just hand over to.......well, this was not known to me, a government owned company named Operator of Last Resort, OLR. Extraordinary!

With expensive train fares, why can't these companies make money? They will firstly cite staffing costs. While I am not sure about pay for regional train drivers, I do know what the pay is for London Tube drivers and given their responsibility, I don't consider them overpaid. You can't run a successful business without good staff and staffing levels and the staff need to be well enough paid.

Will the privatisation of essential services in the late 20th century and early 21st century be seen as a terrible mistake? I think so. With good management, there is no reason why governments can not run good essential services, such as trains.

Thursday, January 16, 2020

Mother, personal and some frivolity

While R is a very kind person, at times he can be unsympathetic to people who have different emotions to himself.

Mother is getting closer to selling her home, although it is apparently it is too hot to sell the house at the moment. None of my siblings who grew up there seem emotional about the sale of the family home but of course Mother is very emotional about it. She lived there for just short of 40 years.

She bangs on and on about a garage sale, to sell off what is in the house that she doesn't want or that ABI Brother has forbidden her to take to his home.  Her best garage sale made her $900 and she did much of the work herself, but she is well past that. Her expenditure now seems to match her income, so I don't think her grand finale garage sale is so much about money, but it is about things like her high quality old crystal and china going to some wants it or thinks they can sell it on. Such things are now virtually unsaleable in Australia now. No one wants them. She even wants to sell some of her cheap ornaments.

While we speak logically to her and say that her final garage sale will not raise much or receive much interest, she is not convinced. However, I do understand her sentimentality about getting rid of  her precious objects.

I think about this myself, with my huge collection of DVD, USB and Cloud Storage. Why do I save things? Who will be interested once I am dead? All of my say 15 years of photos plus scans of old photos are on DVD and the Cloud and I will try to make them available as there are many family photos among them. I think they are labelled well enough for the family to find photos by date and name when family events happened, but who will care about the rest of the photos I have taken? Absolutely no one. Nearly twenty five years of saving things from the internet of no interest to anyone.

Cheered you up a bit? I think not and I certainly didn't cheer myself up. See if these photos ameliorate.

It's hard to believe it was last June when we got together with our Indian Friend and our Hairdresser Friend across the road for dinner and came back home for drinks and our Indian friend played a bit with a phone photo app. I hope I haven't posted these before.

R remembers his grandmother's pink or lilac hair rinse and tries experimenting with her style.

Indian friend, ready for the discotheque.

Hairdresser Friend, also ready for the discotheque.

R. Not doing blackface are you hon?

Indian Friend, airline pilot. Trust him with your Boeing?

Me, school girl. The pretty lass gives head jobs to senior students for no charge.

Me as a sylishless Arab gentleman, ready to impregnate you with my Muslim seed. Your children will look just as stylish as I do.

Me. That shade of lipstick really suits me. Does anyone know its name as I need to buy some.

Wednesday, January 15, 2020

Finishing Footscray

Just a few photos to wrap up my short visit to Footscray.

These two are Kensington actually where some thought the trees in the summer needed to be kept warm.

Remember this quite nice photo taken where freight trains in Footscray enter or exit the Bunbury Street Tunnel?

The other end isn't as attractive.

Of course I should have crossed the bridge and taken a better photo of this fine looking rotunda, but it was a bit warm and I had already walked a long way.

Tuesday, January 14, 2020

Franco Cozzo

As soon as a Melburnian reads this post headline, they will know who I am talking about. While I've seen the mural from a train, I've never seen it properly, so I made an effort. The Italian immigrant Cozzo became a very rich man by selling furniture but after peering in the windows, I really can't understand why. Clearly I have no class whatsoever and no respect for whatever this furniture style period these pieces are from. Perhaps Hels can advise me on my ignorance?

Here is a brief tv ad from the 1980s. Can you believe the same ad is still shown here on some shopping tv channel late at night, but in the tv ratio format of the time.

Here is a two and a half minute video of an older and very prosperous looking Franco talking a bit about his life here in Australia. As we say in Australia, he has been in a good paddock for a bit too long (face slap to you who thought, haven't you Andrew?).

Monday, January 13, 2020

Monday Mural

I am not sure this is really a mural. Shall we say it is some nice and bright paint work on what be a really dull and bland wall.

Little did I know how bad the appearance of the building once was until I looked at Google Street View. Essex Street, Prahran. Clearly the building has had a complete makeover. 

Sunday, January 12, 2020

Odd Trains

After dropping off the old towels at the Lost Dogs Home in North Melbourne, I walked back to the station arriving just as a train departed. I knew it would be twenty minutes until the next one. I checked my phone and decided to catch the 402 bus to Footscray and then the train and tram home, because I could. I did take some photos in Footscray and had a cup of coffee and I seemed to be a bit of a curiosity among all the black men surrounding me. Oh, what were they thinking about me??? Surely not...... I should be so lucky.

As the well patronised bus bounced over the road level crossing at Kensington Station I spied something that caused me to hop off the bus for to investigate and catch the next bus ten minutes later.

I've not seen these engines in these colours before, although the shape of them is very familiar. I don't know a lot about trains, so research was required. My eyes glazed over as I read the history of Southern Shorthaul Railroad so I won't bore you with that. Odd that they use the American term railroad and not our own term railway, but we have nothing to protect our language nor the imperialisation of our superior metric system.

Briefly though, the engines are diesel electric S Class (diesel engines power generators which then power the electric motors), built for Victorian Railways around 1960 at Clyde Engineering in Granville, New South Wales and mostly used for pulling passenger trains in their early days. Nowadays they are used for freight. In service for sixty years. Impressive and the first was built the year I was born. They have no doubt been overhauled many times. Though badly needed, I haven't been.

One is named Jenny Molloy and I can't find out who she was. The other is Victorian pioneer settler Edward Henty. I believe the yellow and black is the newest livery.

This Wikipedia photo taken by Marcus Wong is as I remember them being, although often quite grubby but always proudly displaying VR for Victorian Railways.

Aussie Fires

The kind and heartfelt generosity of millions if not billions of dollars from other countries and people overseas towards our fire appeals have been amazing. What generosity. Even gay porn stars in the US have been raising money for our fire ravished nation, so I've heard.

The resources and offers of people power have been even more amazing, from first world countries to third world countries. Fire fighters from Denmark? Really? Armed forces from Papua New Guinea? Really? Who knows what from Solomon Islands.

Keep in mind this before you donate your hard earned.

Australia is a very rich country being among countries with the highest living standards in the world. Due to the generosity of people and own resources I think the people of Australia will be ok.

But our animals are not ok. The fires have been a disaster for animals large and tiny in Australia and if you wish to donate, please direct your donation towards an animal rescue charity that will help the creatures who have survived these catastrophic fires but may be injured, re-establish environments and so forth.