For many years I’ve visited Melbourne – sometimes in the summer – sometimes in the winter. Sometimes for both seasons on one day ( plus the Apocalypse and Free Pizza Night. Melbourne weather is like that… ) I’ve often gone to visit a friend. He lives in the NGV on the second floor.
François-Marie Arouet was in the word business long before me…and as it happens, will probably be there long after I am gone. That is the quality of his thinking and writing. I say ” is ” rather than ” was ” because so much of what he wrote and published is still current. Indeed a great deal of his admonishment to tolerance and sensible thinking is still for the future…
Quite what he would make of the current viral crisis, the world’s response to it, and the attitude of the plague’s authors, is open to speculation. I don’t think he would have been surprised at any of it – he seems to be a man who would have been hard to startle – and I suspect he would be more willing to forgive the perpetrators than the rest of us will eventually be. He faced bullies and malefactors himself.
But he’s safe now. He can reside in a bronze bust along Toorak Road and in the bookshops of the city. The rest of us still have to keep our distance and hope that the CSL will pump out a vaccine that won’t kill us. And try to be tolerant when the truth about what set it all off finally comes out.
I shall polish my toleration tools in anticipation.
My recent trip to Melbourne saw me going through the Federation Square premises of the National Gallery Of Victoria with some trepidation. Previous visits were enlivened with rooms full of brightly coloured phalluses and vulvas – always a favourite with the art-lovers – and a full-scale fire alarm and evacuation on one visit. Plus some exhibits of real beauty. Fed Square is a grab bag…
This time was no different, though most of the exhibits were delightful. I am not a fussy connoisseur – give me a brightly coloured vulva and a bag of peanuts and I’m happy. So I welcomed these three pieces of comfortable furniture:
Nostalgic diners of the 70’s and 80’s will have them in a minute. They even evoke the remembrance of smell, though they had no odour themselves.
Call me a cynical citizen, but I reckon that these would be major sellers as lounge furniture if one could overcome the copyright laws.
Note that the Sausage McBiscuit is a North American product – probably closely allied to our Australian Sausage McMuffin.
I get antsy.
It’s not the calendar and it’s not the temperature. It’s the approach of an interstate holiday trip. I’m going to Melbourne and Sydney in a few weeks. And the mental engine is starting to rev up.
It is not like a trip to either of those cities is great wampum amongst other people – there are no end of Facebook posts from my 223 contacts that list trips to Europe, North America, or Asia and glory in the tourist sights that will be seen. Melb. and Syd. do not have that bragging pressure.
Yet…they have a real place in my psyche. I am comfortable in each city, having visited them annually for years. I know the shops, galleries, and restaurants. I know the transport system. And yet…I do not know them…there is still adventure enow.
There are always shops that wink out of existence – sadly. And others that appear. I adopt the wise Western Australian practice of never assuming anything I desire in shops will ever be there again – and I make sure that I have enough money saved to swoop while the swooping is good. Oh sure, I make some duff choices, but I also make some brilliant ones.
The same goes for the amusements and the nourishments of the towns. Not every plate is a winner, but there is a memorable event and taste somewhere each day. All you can ask is one per day – and in Syd. and Melb. you can find them.
Parochial? Dull? Staid? Why thank, you, don’t mind if I do. Please let me have a glass of water that is not a swimming pool for guardia and a sandwich that does not wriggle. I have the money to pay for it. And the hotel room? The one with the clean bed and bathroom…? Fine, and I shall be down at the bar in an hour.
The question arose on the back court of the Exhibition Buildings in Melbourne this year as I was photographing this Dodge. The questioner was a woman who was photographing all the cars at the hot rod show….always a pleasant activity. She was as burdened down with extraneous photo gear – extra cameras, tripod, and lenses as I was free of them. I used my travelling Fujifilm camera with my travelling lens and…well…traveled…
She was genuinely puzzled by the ram on the bonnet. A surprise, because she had a North American accent and the look of a person who covers a lot of motor shows. I didn’t feel it my place to enlighten her, but left as I heard her buttonhole other people over the question.
As it turned out this time., this was one of the very few occasions when there would be a preserved Dodge on display – the RAC show in the park had very few cars on display – God knows why. I am glad that I got to see this one where it was, as the visitors to the VHRS are respectful of the vehicles on display – they don’t climb and smudge over them.
Isn’t it magnificent? The Dodge may not have carried the prestige of the Lincoln or Cadillac, but then again how much better did it penetrate the Australian market at the time. And how many more do we have to see at the end of the day.
I just wish that the makers of modern cars could take a style hint from the 30’s and bring back solid duo-colours. And bonnet mascots. Surely there is a place for meerkats or penguins or something…I wonder how she would have done with a meerkat?
You’ll hear a lot of guff about comedy today – every seedy pub that can afford a microphone and a wooden stool thinks that they can find Dave Allen in their general population of drunks. They can’t, of course, but that doesn’t stop them from chopping off fingers left right and centre in the search…The audiences would be better if they were working on ears…
The guff is generally to do with how vile and obnoxious you need to be to succeed as a joke teller. There’s a fair contest to lower the standard of the art and I must say that some comedians seem to have set their hearts on the Marianas Trench. Dark, cold, and under tremendous pressure – the only creatures to be seen have bulging eyes and enormous teeth. Melbourne comedy festival pub stuff all right.
Mustn’t bag the Victorians too much – I’ve seen local fun merchants roll jokes off the deck here in Perth with the pistols set for 5000 feet and then watched them wait with a silent mic until they detonated. They were so far down by the time that happened you could barely hear the pop.
I’m sorry for the passing of the clean comic. The family comedian who could run a half-hour show on a television network each week and not lose the custom of either the audience or the advertisers. Some of the classics could crack the screen with nothing more than a dead-pan doubletake…a signature silence that you waited all week to see and laugh at.
The humourist – stand-up, sit-down, or whatever – in the days of strict television and print standards had to respect their audience and craft jokes that amused without abusing. They wanted to be laughed with, as well as at, and the very best of them went further than that – they got the love of the audience as well as the applause.
PS: The lust of the audience is also good, but make sure that your clothes can be dry cleaned.
When I am out of town – interstate or just in another part of Western Australia – I enjoy a drink in a pub or a tavern. Generally just the one and usually in defiance of the elements; a cold beer in summer and a whiskey or glass of port in winter. Part of the pleasure is the drink and part the experience of the place.
I accept that the price I will pay for the drink is more than I would pay if I had the same glass in my lounge room at home. This is sound business there in the hotel and sound management in front of my own fire. In neither case is there too much money spent – my tastes do not run to champagne or exotic vintages.
But I also do not wish to find that I have paid over the knocker for something that is under the measure – I suspect that this occurs in more places than you’d think. In some cases it is economics and in others ignorance.
The watering of a bottle of anything at a pub apart from a water bottle is supposed to be illegal. It is also impossible to police – at least from the drinking side of the bar. If you order a cocktail or other mixed drink you may very well see something poured from a bottle with a complex measuring spout, but you have no idea what went into the bottle before it was attached to the apparatus. If you order at a table, you get what comes back on a tray. And you are expected to drink it and approve by leaving a tip…in some cases the only authentic part of the transaction is the government banknote you hand over – not even the change is full-strength.
Has it happened to me? Only in three cities – Perth, Melbourne, and Sydney. And only in certain establishments – If you want to be properly served in Melbourne I should recommend that you frequent The Gin Palace or Young and Jackson’s – no half measures there. Here in Perth The Mechanic’s Institute is reliable, and I am still exploring Sydney. Country pubs generally manage beer well, though their kitchens can be problematical.
In all of these occasions you can depend upon your on-board sensors to tell you whether you are getting the real deal, the deal, or the reel. If it tastes fine, it is fine and if it tastes watered-down….well, it is watered down. The saving grace about an establishment that serves a cheatin’ drink is the threshold of the doorway. You can step over it on the way out and never re-cross it.
We were visiting the Federation Square gallery in Melbourne for a tour of modern art. It was fine and apart from the vague feeling that someone had gotten rich on the public purse, a nourishing experience.
Until the fire alarm went off. It was a gentle, mellifluous sound and would not have been out-of-place rising from the pit of an opera house. Not like a fire alarm or diving klaxon at all. There seemed to be no sense of urgency about it, nor did the patrons of the place worry about it. It took the arrival of an appliance and a team of fireys to cause the staff to round us all up and ask us politely to go downstairs. No-one was crushed in the rush, though a few were miffed that they had to stop browsing in the bookshop.
The most entertaining sight was the last of the firemen heading up the stairs. A young man …fit, as he would be, and clattered out in the yellow reflective protection suit and helmet of the modern emergency services… with a look of intense anticipation on his face. And clutching an axe with the obvious desire to chop something. For his sake I hope they allowed him to make a hole in a door. Or a wall.
From the look of some of the art, I am also hoping they smelled smoke behind the frames of the paintings…he’d have enjoyed himself and done the art world a vast favour.
What a good phrase that is: ” Mean Streets “. It suggests crime, edginess, dirt, poverty, vice, and distress – all the stuff you go on holiday to the Third World for. In my case I went to Melbourne.
You can’t get much meaner than free public transport, and if you are prepared to stay within the CBD of the city, you can ride their trams for free. Choose your time and route and you can be rewarded by overcrowding and public odours. Stay on the tram long enough and you can provide that odour yourself.
If you venture out a little bit on the tram you can select corridors of grot like Fitzroy to do your sightseeing. If your taste runs to hipster cafés and drinking holes plus crap shops and /or public housing, this is your paradise. The denizens are startling but harmless. The food is actually edible, and there can even be surprisingly good stationers and book stores in the main streets.
But there are any number of corners and places that suggest that things are dirtier and more useless than they really need to be. In a city that is always looking for better housing and shopping, it is surprising that this sort of remnanterie can still exist. Served as it is by transport, sitting where it sits, and taking into account the decrepitude of the building structures, it is surprising that Whalen hasn’t been through it and some new shops erected. Perhaps it is beset with historic preservation orders or perhaps no-one is game to open the drains.
But there are charms. The kitty seen in the picture was sleeping beside its bed in Gertrude Street in a very hot window on a very hot day…but in the manner of all cats may not have wanted to admit to the discomfort. I admire the stamina and the bed.
No, it’s not a rude gesture.
Here are two large pink birds from a few years ago in Melbourne. The occasion was a visit to the Victorian Hot Rod Show but these enthusiasts were down at the Federation Square museum on Flinders Street the next day having a display all their own.
The pure sports car enthusiasts will sniff and the continental touring car trendies will snort, but unless you are an ear nose and throat surgeon you need not listen to them; Ford Thunderbirds are an entire class of car to themselves. They started out as the American personal car, then almost made a competition with the Chevrolet Corvette as a sporting car, and then went on their own way as a luxury cruiser.
As with all creatures they got bigger and wider and heavier as time went on – but modern redesign stepped in eventually and toned it down. Unfortunately a revival of the marque failed after about 4 years and the name is currently shelved.
I can only hope that it will return.
I would never consider a visit to Melbourne complete without a day spent looking at whatever is on show at the National Gallery Of Victoria – whether it is at the St. Kilda Road building or the Federation Square site. The collections differ, but they are ever-changing and eclectic. I can’t pretend to like it all but I do like some of it.
Please feel free to hum and haw about these, but the blue pool of constantly circulating water with the ceramic bowls in it is aural as well as visual. They bonk and ding around the basin all day and are ultimately soothing.
The scooters? That’s the Fed Square division of modern art. As is the wonderful chair…
In the St. Kilda Rd. permanent collections you see more of the older canvases and sculptures. I have still not figured out how they hang them on the wall and how they change the exhibits year from year.
One word of caution – there are bookshops and cafeterias at each venue and they beckon. Few wallets can resist.