Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Eurocruise The Cost

I often complain about the cost of things and I am inclined to save a penny rather than a pound . R has to drag me kicking and screaming into any big expenditure, as he did for the holiday. We could have had larger room on the boat for more money. We could have added a balcony onto the room we had. We could have had both, a larger room and and a balcony for a lot more money, or we could have gone cheaper with just a high level port hole window. For me, there would have been no point taking the cruise if you did not have proper ceiling to floor windows to look out to the passing scenery. Not that we spent a lot of time in our cabin, but enough to appreciate what was passing by.

The price of the cruise and 'free airfare' was AU$20,000 for both of us. US$18,900, €13,800, £11,000, just for JayLa, HUF4,300,000. For the rest of the holiday accommodation, train travel etc, including spending money, about $5,000. (exchange rates were in late June)

That kind of expenditure on holiday was beyond anything I imagined and my life savings has gone, but I have no regrets.  It was terrific value. All the meals for the two weeks, as much as you could drink (I think I got my share), the tours with local guides were brilliant and so well organised. The personal attention from staff on the boat was without question. Admission fees were all paid for, as was bus/coach travel. The only thing that might be considered hard was to be in the right place at the right time for tours. There were always alternative arrangements for the less hale and hearty, and the highly active people who liked to cycle. 

Divided by two, total, $12,500 each. No regrets at all, good value for money and I recommend APT river cruises but do look carefully at what is a 'free' airline flight. It may take a long time to reach your destination.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Little Jo at 7

It is hard to believe seven years have passed since Little Jo was born. Some of you have been with me for the whole of her life. Again this year her birthday was celebrated over three weekends, one a kids party at home and two family celebrations. The final was a lunch at the Dick Whittington Hotel. The food is good, the dining area light and bright with views outside and the staff are brilliant.

After lunch R, myself, Sister, Little Jo and Hippy Niece drove to the St Kilda Botanical Gardens. Sister had never been there. Naturally mid winter, the roses were quite dormant. There is a very large number of them.

I will have to return to see what the Dolly Parton rose looks like when it is in bloom. Large blooms?

I don't know the purpose of the nets on the palms.

I thought this might have been a possum breeding box of sorts, but no, it is a piece of solid wood. Why?

The gardens border the suburb of Elwood. There are some terrific old apartment buildings.

And some not so terrific sixties style apartments. They would be quite spacious inside though, and how nice to have balcony views over the gardens.

A treasure hunt, and the note requests things to be left there and not spoil the hunt. It was after 3pm though. Surely the hunt would be over. I hope they didn't just leave the clues and not tidy up.

Here is another clue.

I've always thought this was an odd structure in the gardens.

And these even odder. What targets for a baseball bat.

Sweets for the kiddies. A few have fallen or been prised off.

Flower beds yet to reach their prime.

Once again Rainman is missing and the pond is empty. Go to here to see my photo of the original Rainman.

I don't believe palm trees belong in Melbourne but there are rather a lot of them.

These metal bands are controversial. They are placed there to prevent possums climbing into the trees and spreading a palm disease from one tree to another. Possum lovers are against them. Tree lovers are for them. Given the palms could die from spread of the disease and then we have no palm trees, I think the bands are a good idea. Oh, yes, I still don't believe palm trees belong in Melbourne.

St Kilda Botanical Garden aka Blessington Street Gardens is very beautiful, peaceful and well used by many diverse people.

Monday, July 28, 2014

First we nick at the corners of the mouth

(This was possibly meant for publication, or maybe not, but I have nothing else ready for today)

What an awful business in Ukraine where a number of Australians lost their lives, but heaps more people from the Netherlands lost their lives. What goes on Gaza and Israel is beyond the pale.

How terrific was the Commonwealth Games opening in Glasgow. Great Britain is such a civilised place. My nephew lived and worked in Glasgow for a couple years, well just out of Glasgow, in Paisley. I once asked asked him if he ever felt in danger, and there was one night when he was on his way home from work at a nightclub where he outcycled some young men who had bad intents.

R's sister's sister in law's husband grew up in Glasgow. He told us things that made our hair curl about Glasgow, including telling us about the Glasgow kiss. It is a head butt, if you don't know.

I was looking up something and I came across really disturbing stuff. While my head told me not to look further, I could not help myself. What is the Cheshire Smile, or the Glasgow Grin? 

And we can feel so sanctimonious about those damned foreigners and their fighting and violent ways. You can find out yourself about the Cheshire Smile aka the Glasgow Grin. The process is too horrible for me to describe.

Australia is no shrinking violet in gang violence either, especially in the early to mid twentieth century.

Sunday, July 27, 2014

A Sunday Outing

(This was a couple of weeks ago)

I am sorry to hear my European readers have been experiencing bad summer weather. We in Melbourne are mid winter and this winter is very cold for us, with the temperature at times during the day not rising above 10 degrees. We don't have the heating capacity, well economical heating, or the clothes to deal with temperatures like this for very long.

Two Sundays ago we visited Tradie Brother and Oldest Niece brought four month old Great Niece to see us at Tradie Brother's abode. Oldest Niece feels guilty among others with young babies, as she puts her baby to sleep at 8.30pm and she does not wake until 9.30am. Great Niece was looking around and absorbing things, but became a little grizzly after a bit. It is not normal for her, it was said. I've noticed four month old Great Niece already has a Face Book page, with lots of photos of herself, sometimes with her Mummy and sometimes with her Daddy.

Oldest Niece did not hang around for long as she to return home as her husband's grandmother was coming for lunch. Her husband called her, why aren't you here? They are already. I love Oldest Niece's attitude. Doesn't matter. Although when she was younger, she had no interest in her gay uncles, now, as I forecast to R, she has come into her own as she has become older. She makes an effort to see us and for us to see her daughter.

Tradie Brother is the nicest looking among we three brothers. I have written about this in the past and why he looks different, and Mother has confirmed it. However, his teeth were absolutely shocking, with no dental care ever. He spent a few thousand dollars on his teeth and they look really good and have much improved his appearance. He has a girlfriend who stays with him at times but they sleep separately. She is very nice.

Tradie Brother has an elderly female neighbour, whose husband died a while ago. TB and his neighbour used to have bells to ring to contact each other, but TB built a new and high fence and his old neighbour fell off the fence when she was chatting to him. He has cut a 2' (less than one metre square) hole in the fence and Joyce can call out to him anytime.

TB still has his tenant who lives in the attached granny flat at the back of his house, where Ex Sis in Law's parent's used to live before they died. He also has his daily companion, Cobber, his eighteen month old dog, who he loves dearly. TB, myself and R took Cobber out for a walk. We were throwing a ball for him at a nearby park, and then the rain started. We went back home and TB doesn't believe much in internal heating, and as he always sits outside. He does have a gas patio heater, and he turned it on without me asking. Bit different to Sister, who would have us freeze when we visit them on the Bellarine.

We chatted for a while with TB. To my amazement, and later I learnt to R's, TB mentioned the 'g' word. "What's this about a football commentator making a slur against gays?" It is the first time I have heard him use the word gay. From him being a homophobic teenager with an older gay brother to him saying that word some thirty years later is quite a milestone.

The overnight temperature within the Highrise never really drops below 16 degrees, but when I rose this morning, it was 15.7. Whether it is 16 or 15.7, the heating goes on regardless. It had been a clear and cold night, with an absolutely brilliant full moon. But as I said, at TB's place, the rain came. Nevertheless we journeyed on from TB's place to our ultimate destination.

I thought it would be quite curative for my slightly down state, but it wasn't. We stopped off at Red Rooster and ordered an Hawaiian meal each. What? No grilled chicken, chips, and deep fried battered banana and pineapple? The pineapple could be ordered as a side dish. The rain kept falling and the car kept fogging up, requiring bursts of the air conditioning to clear the glass.

We arrived at the Mornington terminus of the Mornington historical railway service. If you pick the right timing, a round trip is under an hour and it was our intention to take a trip. But the weather was just so awful, we did not do so. We will return on a nice day and take the trip. We waited for the arrival of the train and its departure.

What is wrong with the camera? Every photo was so dark. I had to trick the camera into taking brighter photos. Why is this tree in Australia and what purpose does its flat top serve?

There were quite a few people ready to board the train when it arrived.

K163 was built at Melbourne's Newport Railway Workshop in 1941 for light country railway lines. In 1968 it was declared unserviceable at the town of Ararat. In 1973 Frankston's Apex Club bought it. Mornington Railway bought it in 1984.

It is a terrific little engine.

In spite of the weather, the service was quite busy, with many children clutching their teddy bears. It must have been a special occasion. Weather doesn't bother children too much. The  train carriages are as I remember being used on country railway lines when I was a kid.

Doing the run around to get the engine back to the front, and now facing the right direction.

Clunk, it is hitched.

We'll be back to take a paid ride.

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.