Sunday, July 26, 2009

Above the Verandas

Do you ever look above the shop fronts?
I do and I wonder why I haven’t hit the car in front.
Above the shop fronts, there is another world. Sometimes it shows you signs of the early history of the buildings, or shows the contrast between a modern street level and the original second level.
Many of our inner suburban strip shopping streets have evolved from the late 1800s through prosperous times, the depression and times of migration with enclaves of different nationalities.
One street that has fascinated me has always been Brunswick Street, Fitzroy.
I decided that during a break during the working day, I'd park the car, not easy in this very busy area around lunch time and walk a small portion of Brunswick Street with my camera.

Fitzroy is actually one of Melbourne's first suburbs, in fact the oldest being proclaimed a borough in 1858. My early ancestor, George Sims arrived in the late 1800s at the age of 16 from London to make a new life for himself. Originally living in the inner city, he later moved to the Fitzroy area as did later generations of the family, the last being my father as a child. The life was particularly tough during the 1930s and 1940s.

I remember the rough times during the 60s when it was not a nice place to be when the sun went down. Towards the city end of Brunswick Street was the Rob Roy Hotel. It had a reputation as a bit of a blood bath of a drinking hole. Things started to change leading into the late 70s and then the 80s.
Today the street is vibrant with the Bohemia and trendy mixing with long term residents and the not so well-off.

The shops have a similar theme to the people in the street. Next to the community help centres for the poor could be a trendy boutique beer bar. Eclectic music and book shops snuggle up to pre-loved clothing stores and all manner of cuisine from the many cafes and restaurants.

Brunswick Street somehow, despite its buildings of peeling paint, graffiti and hotch-potch appearance, it oozes with a vibrancy that can’t be found outside the inner Melbourne district. It really is worth a walk down its three kilometer length.

Above the verandas is well worth a look in Brunswick Street.

For more information on Fitzroy's history and the day to day life within the suburb, go to the link below.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Good friends, good food, good wine = good times.

Several of our friends have this year taken trips overseas, mainly France and Italy so we decided to organize a night where we could share our experiences.

Two of the couples, Dags and Denise, Bet and Nico went to Italy for the Giro (Tour of Italy) with a group of twelve, while Jenny who works for Loreal and her husband, Bob the Brickie have been to France. All have had time in Paris.
Initially we thought Bastille Day would be a good choice but trying to get four busy couples together is never an easy task.
We all discovered this Sunday night was free so off to the market on Saturday morning.
Now when Sue organizes a casual get together, it becomes a major production and an all out dinner party becomes, well let’s not go there (having said that, it’s worth being there).
I never mean it to be a production – I always start small and it grows, seemingly by itself.
I’ll let Sue explain the menu.
I decided that instead of a sit down formal type dinner, we would all just sit around the fire (But I have to light the fire and then clean up afterwards) and have nibbly finger food all night – with a Frenchish theme. Some people have indicated they are bringing a plate of nibbles and I am preparing –
Sweet corn and red capsicum soup shots
Little tarts of blue cheese and roasted cherry tomato
Smoked salmon crepes with crème fraiche and salmon roe
Roasted duck breast slices with a plum sauce in lettuce cups with
Pear, caramelized walnut and parmesan salad in lettuce cups
Prawns with aioli
Caramelized onion and brie tart
Seared scallops with honey and lime dressing served in Chinese spoons
Chocolate and raspberry cake with cream
Tomorrow I might decide to do spiced, baked chicken spare ribs as well – just in case there’s not enough food……oh be quiet Leon, you know you’ll eat them!
Yum, yum........

The food, the company and the wine was superb. We finished off with a viewing of the different couple’s photos from various trips and although its only been a few short months since our return, we are already enthusiastic to plan our next adventure.
Where to next time – France of course, although Sue mentioned New York.......

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Sometimes, don’t you wish you hadn’t started?

Recently for my birthday (April 1 – yes I know, April Fool’s Day), Sue presented me with a 350 gigabyte portable hard-drive. I actually took this on our recent trip with the little Eee PC so we would have music on our travels. I’d been a bit of a music freak prior to entering my teenage years.

I guess my mother influenced me by allowing me to watch all those musicals starring Judy Garland, Bing Crosby, Dean Martin and Frank Sinatra, not to forget the great Sammy Davis Jr.
My first two LPs were of Sammy (I still have it) and the other, a Bill Haley release which came with my first record player. Being a portable player of the era it looked like a large make-up case. What did I know (or care), I was probably seven years old at the time!!!
Anyway that was the start of the rot.
Later came Elvis Presley, Little Richard, Chuck Berry just before I entered my teenage years. That’s when I moved on from my parent’s music – much more exciting and of course, rebellious.
The Study needs a bit of a tidy up, but I know where each CD is placed.
Amongst the few LPs I had were many 45s which these days are probably landfill somewhere.
My first real foray into an obsessive music collecting mania was when I had my first job and money burning a hole in my pocket. The LP collection grew dramatically with the latest releases from the Beatles, Rolling Stones, The Who, and many other British bands along with the many black blues artists that they drew their influences from.

Now where am I going with all this????
That’s right I remember now, Sue bought me this 350 gig hard-drive and I thought, “why not put my CD collection on it”.
My collection of CDs has reached around 1500. I’m not sure why I bought some of them as there are some truly dreadful examples of poor music amongst the collection. Also some very dated music, which at the time seemed great.
But, yes there are some unbelievable classics that bring joy every time I play them.
Like catching up with old friends, they give a satisfying moment when enjoying a bottle of wine or a well made coffee over some reminiscing conversation.

After three months I’m just about to add Warren Zevon and the Zombies to the hard-drive. From A to Z has been a long journey but I’ve re-discovered some great memories.

But, sometimes, don’t you wish you hadn’t started?

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Nar Nar Goon - the Mural Town

This morning was my corner duty day – if you have been watching the Tour de France, you would be aware of the traffic control involved? Well smaller club races are no different, albeit on a smaller scale. Safety and duty of care are always the main issues today in this litigious society.
Get on with the story Leon….
OK so I did my corner duty out in the cold with my Hi Visibility vest and the all important stop/slow lollipop sign (I felt important) and did my bit for the year.

These days road racing is some distance from the built up areas of the Melbourne sprawl. On this occasion the race was about 65 kms south east from the city.
Not far from the corner that I was marshalling is a small town called Nar Nar Goon. It’s probably no more than a km or two from the main highway. I’ve always been intrigued by the name, even as a child. It means Koala in the language of the Aboriginals from the district.
I can remember a radio personality by the name of “Joffa Boy” Allen talking about the local Nar Nar Goon football team. Before the war they would race cars on an old dirt circuit out there. I’d interviewed some of the drivers who raced there before the war in my book “Rob Roy Hill Climb”.
As well as the local footy club, Nar Nar Goon would have their Potato Festival to raise funds for local community projects – there was even a Miss Nar Nar Goon, a title to be proud of by a local Belle that raises the amount of funds.

Anyway, I thought being so close, I’ll have a look at the town out of interest.
These days Nar Nar Goon is known as the “Mural Town”. The walls of the different establishments are tastefully painted with scenes from an earlier era of the town.

Hope you enjoy the photographs – click on them to enlarge.
Have to go now, Sue wants me to vacuum. I have to build up some Brownie points for next weekend.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Jack, my Dad

It’s been some weeks since I last raced on the velodrome due to six weeks on holiday, followed by a cold. Nevertheless I decided that Thursday night would be a good time to start again.
This blog is not so much about my racing but the friendship I and my track racing mates have with my 88 year old cycling passionate father Jack.
Yes, you heard correctly, he’s 88 years old, sharp as a tack and cheeky as all hell.
Pic 1: Jack showing his elation at reaching his 88th birthday and still being a regular on the bike.
He still rides his bike five days a week, never on the weekend. “After all” he says, “If I rode seven days, how would I know when the weekend started".
Jack first started racing the bike back in 1937 when bikes didn’t have gears and the roads were dirt most of the times. I remember as a child seeing his bikes and trophies hanging about in the garage. His last track bike was my first. The wheels had wooden rims.

He didn’t talk much about his racing career. I learnt that from people of his era when I started racing.
Jack turns up at the indoor velodrome every Thursday night to sit in his “reserved” seat.
Despite the fact that very few spectators attend this club style racing, it’s a brave person that sits in “his” seat.

Everyone knows Jack. Kids of 12 years to an old mate called Ian Browne who turned up last night to watch. Ian was a gold medalist at the 1956 Melbourne Olympics on the Tandem. Jack knows them all.
Pic 2: Jack's Track - The Indoor Velodrome

Anyway that’s the main reason I race Thursday nights – to sit and have a Guinness after racing with my Dad.

Wednesday, July 08, 2009

Astounding Moon

Early this year we saw the stageshow Poor boy starring Guy Pearce. The script was written by Tim Finn from Split Enz before joining his brother Neil in world aclaimed Crowded House.

In a recent solo CD, Tim released a beautiful song called "Astounding Moon".

Leaving the office Tuesday night, I couldn’t miss a full moon hiding behind the tall city buildings as I drove home.
As the buildings started to level out, the moon had lost its shyness and exposed itself against a clear dark sky.
On arriving home, my first thought was to rush inside to get the camera and capture its brightness against the criss-cross branches of our gum tree.

Will I use available light or hit the gum tree with the flash. I did both – you be the judge.
This mornings 6.00 am ride was freezing with ice on the car when I threw my leg over the bike to meet my friends.

Surprisingly we had a good number to enjoy our “after-ride” coffee with.

But Brrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr, it was bloody cold.

Sunday, July 05, 2009

Don't you love weekends

Before I tell you about the “Jersey Boys” the stage show based on Frankie Valli and the 4 Seasons, I must tell you about an interesting experience during my morning ride.
As I was travelling thru a neighboring bayside suburb of Mordialloc, I noticed a building that screamed history. I’d ridden past this building thousands of times in a sweaty riding frenzy with my mates to our end of ride coffee stop.

Now when I say that this “building” screams of history, this is not quite true – its just a power sub station.
It’s what has been painted on all four walls that makes it significant.
My photos, due to the lack of light don’t do the murals justice however here they are.
Wall 1 shows an indigenous scene of the original tribe of our area, the Kurran band (a sub-tribe of the Bunarongs) who settled along the Mordialloc creek.
Wall 2 shows the mouth of the creek looking towards the early pre-1900s Bridge Hotel, now a favorite hotel and restaurant of the locals.
Wall 3 shows the permanent carnival that use to live on the parklands beside the creek. Although not a local when a child, I actually was reminded today of what it use to look like when my parents brought me here from the other side of Melbourne.
Wall 4 is a serene painting of the creek with a row boat at its shores when it was a small village.
How come after all these years of living in the area, I haven’t seen this before.
How true the saying – stop and smell the roses.

A little further down the road on the beach is a bronze statue, not of an important person as many are, but a thoroughbred race horse. Our area use to have several racecourses, which today are housing estates.
The famous Melbourne Cup winner Phar Lap spent many happy days being trained and frolicking on the beaches here. What was strange was that a local walker asked if I would like him to take a photo of me with the statue – he thought I was a tourist!!!!! Maybe I’m becoming a tourist in my own town and seeing home with new eyes.

After a great triple shot coffee, I had to rush home to get changed, pick up Sue and our friends to see Jersey Boys in the city. The Princess Theatre was host to the show (where we saw Phantom of the Opera) and has its own resident spirit rumour has it.
Big Girls Don’t Cry, Walk Like a Man, Sherry Baby, all the big hits were there with some of the gritty history narrated between the songs. A great entertaining show.
I wonder what Tom Cruise and family thought of it in the upper circle. He’s here shooting a film located in Melbourne at the moment.
As for us, we were in the very front row and not able to see below the kneecaps of the artists.
Were the cast wearing shoes, I couldn't tell but the girls had very, very short skirts.

Well to finish off, all I can say is – Don’t you love weekends?

Saturday, July 04, 2009

Le Tour begins, Vegemite on toast and the Jersey Boys.

1. Rain on Friday morning falling on the Gum and Jacarana trees in our back yard.

Not quite sure where this week went – seems like only yesterday I was driving home from work for the weekend in drizzling weather. Deja vu, it’s the same one week later but its an exciting weekend coming up with the start of the Tour de France on Saturday starting from Monaco. It travels thru many of the villages that Sue and I have stopped or driven thru over our trips to France. This year we had lunch in Vatan and Tonnerre where both towns were celebrating Le Tour in their towns with posters and banners in readiness for when the cyclists pass thru. Go Cadel!!!!!
2. Yes that's Vegemite on toast - not a pretty site for the uninitiated.

Speaking of our time in France, I miss those breakfasts of coffee and croissants. This morning I had the usual Aussie breakfast of tea and vegemite toast. Now vegemite is somewhat an acquired taste. We are brought up on it as kids so we probably don’t know better. My experience is that a European adult, when inflicted with vegemite on toast is repulsed. On our travels, we carry vegemite in a tube, just like toothpaste. I must admit to never cleaning my teeth with vegemite. I might try that one day.
I actually have an Aussie mate who lived in Paris due to a transfer by his employer for several years. He developed a habit of spreading vegemite on his croissants. Oh Well!!!
3. The Yarra River looking from Southbank across to the CBD of Melbourne.
The Boss and I had a luncheon appointment with one of my clients today and we decided on a cafe by the Yarra River on Southbank. A chicken and wild mushroom rissotto was my choice.
The area used to be an industrial zone with many food and confectionery manufacturers mixed with warehouses and narrow streets. Its now a thriving entertainment and restaurant district frequented by the workers from the high rise commercial buildings on the river.

Sunday, Sue and I are off to the live show, “the Jersey Boys” – a musical based on the Four Seasons and lead singer Frankie Valli. I’ll let you know how it goes on Monday’s blog. We also have two exhibitions that I would like to get to. The Salvador Dali exhibition has works from Spain and New York on loan. The Melbourne museum has the Pompeii exhibition on as well.
4. A Friday night favorite - Sparkling Shiraz from Banrock Station.
Must go now as Sue is about to serve dinner, Roast Beef washed down with a Banrock Sparkling Shiraz.
I guess you could call this Foodie Friday - how come I'm not wider than I'm high.
Need to rise early tomorrow for a training session at the indoor velodrome to burn some calories.