Thursday, February 28, 2013

What's on Your Study Desk?

Funky Friday it is and I took a photo of my study desk with my iPhone to send to my Mac Book. Not sure why I would do that but maybe I should rename Funky Friday to Frivolous Friday.

Anyway, let's examine my littered study desk.
Starting from the left is a pocket camera that Sue and I have taken 1000s of photos of our trips to France that we have shared with you on past posts. It sits on an MG Car Club Melbourne magazine by the name of Wheel Spin. I was an editor of the Mag for 5 years. It was a great experience.

Next is a book by Tim Krabbe called "The Rider". It describes a cyclist in a bike race from start to finish. As you read this book you feel that you are in the writer's head, you ride with him and share his inner most thoughts - his feeling of confidence and at times the demons that tell him he is suffering. It is one of the most insightful books on cycling that I have ever read (twice).

Then there's those bicycle book ends that Sue gave me a few Christmases back. They sit on four other books:
Chateaux of the Loire Valley - Manor Houses in Normandy and my very favourite dog-eyed and tattered cover, "The Great Rock Discography". It's my bible of Rock Music. I'm very concerned that my CD collection is almost as large as the contents of this book.......

Then there's that silver Peugeot 307 model car that I bought for Sue on our recent stay in Paris because that's what she drives at home. Under the 307 is a classic Alfa Giulietta Spyder 1959 because its the closest that I will ever get to own one.

Beside the little cars is Andrew Hussey's book "Paris, the secret History" purchased in 2010 and I have never finished it - still dog eared on page 320 of 488 pages. Those early years of Paris were much more interesting but I must get back to it.

There's a pair of French bicycle hubs I bought on eBay that I hope to build with antique wooden rims which will then be finishing touches to a 1940s racing bicycle that I'm restoring.

The rest of the desk has a few scribbled notes and spreadsheets of things to do and project schedules that never seem to reach completion - dreams and expectations.

What does your study desk tell about you? I'd like to know!!!

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Fire and Rain

James Taylor wrote and sang a song of Fire and Rain. It was about a friend who died from a drug overdoes but, the title of the song does in a way describe what our vast country has experienced in the last few months.

Here in Victoria we have experienced many bushfire, some even encroaching our outer suburbs. Both New South Wales and Queensland are experiencing never ending rain and floods, The border of Victoria and NSW had a violent windstorm lift rooftops from houses while to the west of Australia hurricanes approach.

And many politicians are still adamant that global warming is nonsense.

Bushfires in Victoria

Storms lift rooftops on the border of Victoria and New South Wales.

Storms approach Western Australia

Floods rage through Queensland
Today Victoria was covered in a blanket of rain offering a relief to our Fire Fighters throughout the state.

Monday, February 25, 2013

It's been busy

Yep - It's been really busy - work and family. I have my DAD staying with us for 10 days. I might have mentioned that he's 91 - 92 next year.
He really is a character. I took him to to 115th running of the Australia wheelrace - a track cycling event. I actually was the first loser one year back in the 80s and my father often laments that I was robbed but its in the past I tell him. Lets move on.

He's been a bikie since he was 15. He tells some great old yarns. He grew up in the depression. mixed with many desperadoes in his time and with people in all walks in life.

This is my excuse for not posting regularly lately.
He's great bloke.

Dad enjoyed horses, motor bikes, bicycles and cars.
He also loves his grand children - my son Mitch
I guess he might like his Son as well
Hopefully we''ll be posting frantically soon. After Jack, that's he's name - goes back to Queensland, we take off to Launceston at the top end of Tassie. We should have daily posts for you all.
Until then I have a Wednesday's in France ready to go in two days time.

We've missed you all.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

100 KMS for a Cold Beer.

It's Friday as I write, end of the working week once again although I suspect there are things in the brief case that will get some attention over the weekend.
Melbourne today had clear blue skies and a top temperature of 33 degrees - even as I sit here writing at 6.00 pm its still 27. Saturday's low will be 18. Magic!
We were sitting around with friends last Sunday and discussing movies that we would like to see and we all agreed that LINCOLN was on our list.

We actually started watching Lincoln at home recently but were too tired to absorb the dialogue. SO! We've invited our friends around for a Friday Movie Night. That's all very fine but Sue who can't resist the temptation to put on a spread for friends turned the night from take away Pizza to a sit down dinner with a candle chandelier on the table - TRUE. Go figure.

Nibbles of humus on olive bread with feta stuffed olives.
Seafood pie and salad - something that Sue whipped up during the day.
And of course the candle chandelier. 
It was a late night - well that's relative to age I guess because on my Saturday morning ride I mentioned to a friend that it was in fact a late night! Yes, I didn't put my head on the pillow much before midnight. He said "tell that to a teenager and they will laugh at you".

So, after what "I" thought was a late night and after an early morning get-up for the ride, I'm home at 10.30am, I said to Sue, what would you like to do today - I thought maybe she would like to go shopping.
She was looking at real estate on her iPad and had an interest in a house. The catch was that it was located 100 kms away in the dairy farming area of Gippsland. The town of Warragul is not unknown to me.
We get these little notions about retirement and wonder if a sea or tree change might be on the cards one day - we can dream!

Call us impulsive - driving 100kms to see a house and then drive back home again.

Quite like the floor plan - there's a wine cellar below.

With views across the valley to the Baw Baw mountain range.
With a very pretty little courtyard to relax in with the papers and a cuppa.
As young fellow, my parents would take me to Warragul to race on their local velodrome. It is the Dairy Capital of Victoria and Melbourne's major milk supplier. Today it has a population of around 12,000 people and growing. I think people are coming to appreciate the rural lifestyle and many new more modern homes are being built even though there is a core of the early homes within walking distance from the CBD.

I know a few people from the sport of cycling that live there and they love it - Melbourne can be reached in a little more than an hour.
Warragul I'm told comes from the Aboriginal term for wild dog. Settlement of the area was around the 1860s and was a staging point for the coaches that continued further to the other settlements along the Latrobe valley. The railway came through in 1878 and Warragul as a town was established.

These days the area takes on the mantle of a gourmet region due to its dairy, beef and wine industry. There is a gourmet trail that surrounds Warragul and annual festivals are held to promote the area and the produce.

Being a very warm day, I took Sue to the Courthouse restaurant for a cool Corona with a slice of lime. She doesn't drink beer except for a hot day. I'd been here a year or so ago.
The building is actually Warragul's old courthouse and much of the original features have been utilised within the building. As you walk in and look up you see the great wood trusses - to the right, the witness box is now houses the cash register.

It was a warm day - in the 30s so a cool beer went down very well. 100 kms for a cool beer
seems a little excessive maybe!
The interior of the court house retained much of the beautiful timbered beams. Even the witness box.
The menu and wine list was up to city standards (along with the prices).
Being a person who enjoys the odd chat, I asked the waitress if she was a local and what she liked about Warragul. She loved the more relaxed lifestyle. The snow in winter is an hour away to the north and in summer the beaches overlooking Bass Strait are an hours drive to the south. The big smoke, Melbourne is 90 minutes on the freeway to the west. The lakes district and the 90 mile beach are to the east.
It seems that the locals love their town and I also know people who have come to live in Melbourne and still speak glowingly of their time in Warragul.

Who knows what the future holds.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

A Ride-By Historical Site

In the early hours of Sunday morning (6.15 am) I rode down along the bay area on my own. When you ride alone, you get to think, take in the environment around you. I often think that I must stop and take a few photos (but no camera with me) - there is so much material to post that I might think could be interesting to readers. I'm the same - I like to read about where people live, their local areas and lifestyle particularly in other parts of the world.

Riding from our suburb of Mentone, passing Parkdale and then Mordialloc, before  crossing the Mordialloc Creek, I passed by an iconic boat building business to my left - the creek stretched to the bay to the right. It was around 14 degrees, no clouds and the two blues of sky and sea morphed into one.

To my left were the old buildings of Jack Pompei's boat building business - the new bridge I crossed was named in his memory. A metal sculpture of the framework of a rowboat sits beside the bridge also remembering the boat building and repairs that Jack Pompei offered to the local fishermen in those early years. Here is a little background from our local council.

From the local council archives:

Jack Pompei, boat builder, fisherman and non swimmer is unsure where he was born but the year was 1924. He thinks his elder brother, Salvatore, was born in Sicily and perhaps he was born there too. His own earliest recollections are of being a toddler in Williams Street, Mordialloc. The second child of Salvatore and Edna Pompei, Jack had three brothers, Salvatore, John, and Joseph, and two sister; Maria and Rene.

Jack’s father was a sailor on sailing ships and later steamers. "An orphan, he could neither read nor write," said Jack. "He was married in Sicily. He was torpedoed twice by the Germans during the First World War. He went right around the world and always wanted to go to New York but he never got there. Eventually he decided to settle with mum and the family in Mordialloc. Dad was a professional fisherman. When I was 14, 15 and 16 I would go out on his boat called Peter Pan, although it had a different name before that. Later he had the Victoria. which they started to build at Frankston and I finished at Mordialloc." 

In 1987 Jack Pompei was awarded a Medal of the Order of Australia for his services to marine search and rescue in Port Phillip Bay. 
(Jack Pompei OAM died of a heart attack on Tuesday 30 December 2008.)

Further down the road, maybe 20 kms I passed by Frankston where there is an exhibition of sand sculptures is currently in operation - Sue and I must take the time to visit it soon.

All of the above photos were lifted from the Internet as I was rising without my camera.

Friday, February 08, 2013

Funky Friday Foto

As I post this - Its still Friday here in Melbourne - 11.05 to be exact. Its been a long day, and a long week at work. I thought that it might just settle down after the new year but NO! I guess I should be grateful that we are busy.
Australia has an unemployment rate of around 5%. Not too bad compared to many other countries.

Last Friday I posted a Funky Friday Foto of a young man in his undies riding a bike path painted stencil of a bike for the lady readers - Today I'm posting a photo of Vicki Pembleton. Vicki has recently retired from a great career as one of Britain's most successful female track cyclists. I'm just starting to read her book. Its not just about cycling but about her family, her ealy school years and feelings of self doubt.
I think I will enjoy her story.

Here she is with her state of the art track bike modelling
 her  National  racing skin suit.
And her other skin suit .

Thursday, February 07, 2013

The Latin Quarter and the Sorbonne

We had nothing in particular on the list for the day - maybe just a maendering walk around the 5th and 6th arrondissements of the left bank of the Seine. Although definitely touristy by the Seine, the back streets and lanes can hold some surprises. We've stayed in the area on a few previous occasions and feel very comfortable there. We even return to the same cafes just to see if the same waiters are there. There is one little cafe in the Sorbonne we had breakfast at in 2006 and he was still there last year.

Its a comfortable feeling climbing out of the Metro and seeing the sunlight on Boulevard St Michel. There's the book shops, Bistros and of course the St Michel fountain. Instead of walking up Boulevard St Michel, we decided to turn left and seek out the church of Saint Severin in the Latin Quarter. Its one of the sights that has eluded us in the past, not sure why but we didn't want to miss it this time.

Its not huge, and a little hidden away. Where Notre Dame has tourist everywhere and long queues, Saint Severin was almost deserted and you could just wander both inside and around without feeling like sheep being herded into a paddock.

Named after a hermit, Severin lived on the banks of the Seine during the early 5th century. On his passing he was buried on the site where the current church is today. Previously though a small church was built over the tomb of Severin - the old church was burnt down to the ground and by the early to the mid 1500s the church we see today evolved.

The gargoyles, flying buttresses and the beautiful and colourful lead light stained glass windows are at a size where they can be appreciated better than some of the more grand cathedrals of France.

As we walked back towards the Seine via the smaller back streets we came across many games and toy shops along the way. One was devoted to Tin Tin. We have some devotees of Tin Tin here in Australia but in my childhood years, he wasn't a character that entered my world and it wasn't until recently that I've become more aware of his popularity.

It was in fact Shakespeare and Co that I wanted to visit - a bookshop that sits on the left bank of the Seine and looks across to Notre Dame. Shakespeare and Co originated in 1919, foundered by Sylvia Beach, an American lady who opened this English language bookshop in Paris. It had two previous incarnations in other locations on the Left Bank leading up to the war. Sylvia Beach closed the doors during the German Occupation in 1940, never to reopen.

Then in 1951 another American George Whitman opened his bookshop and named it Le Mistral with the same theme as Sylvia's book shop - selling English language books. Being a big fan of Sylvia Beach, Whitman in 1951 renamed his bookshop Shakespeare and Co as a tribute to Sylvia Beach. He died at the age of 98 during 2011. While visiting the shop, I bought the book that tells of the history of the shop and the lady that foundered it. It tells of the English speaking writers that frequented the shop - Hemingway, Joyce, Ford, Stein and Fitzgerald.
Sitting at the counter was George Whitman's daughter who ran the shop. Whitman gave her the name Sylvia Beach Whitman. I bought the book, she gave me my change and I tucked under my arm and we returned to our apartment where I opened the first few pages to discover the word of Sylvia Beach.

We were now half way through our two weeks in Paris which I mentioned in an earlier post was to celebrate my 60th year. There was still so much more to see yet the time seemed to be flying by.

Sunday, February 03, 2013

A Country Experience on a Melbourne Weekend

I arrived home from my Saturday morning cycling smash-fest on Beach Road when Sue announced, "I've this crazy idea - do you want to do a B&B this weekend?"
"Hmmmm OK, where?" I said.

Well Sue announced that she had found this B&B in Maryborough smack dab in the middle of the 1850s gold rush district of central Victoria. Now keep in mind, I woke at 6.00 am, joined the crew for an 80 km rather brisk ride, and was told to have a shower, pack a bag and drive 200 kms to a town I've never been to.
We did have a stop along the way around 1.30 for lunch at a little hamlet called Wallace. What sort of name is that to give a town - it's a name you give to an elderly gentleman with a tweed coat, a flat cap and a cane, oh yes and maybe a monocle.

The dining room at the Wallace Hotel
For lunch I had a Cottage Pie - I wonder if it was lamb?
Some very weird, but interesting decoration adorned the dining area.
A stag horn chandelier with the stag head on the wall, some gnomes, the letter W.
Go figure - I don't get it!!!!!
Today Maryborough has a population of close to 8000 but during the gold rush, it is said it was well over 30,000 in the mid 1850s. Wool and wheat became the local produce after the gold ran out.
In 1840, the Simson brothers who were squatters settled in the area and it became known as Simsons but when gold was discovered, the Gold Commissioner James Daly gave the town its current name of Maryborough after his home town in Ireland.

The Bed and Breakfast known as Bella's.
Our bedroom as were the others, had antique French furniture. Lovely to look at but oh, my back next morning.

I must say that on entering Maryborough I was pleasantly surprised by some of its grand buildings. The Courthouse, Post Office and especially the Railway Station. They all show the influence of the Gold Rush days.

I read somewhere (Wikipedia) that Mark Twain had passed through Maryborough.
In 1895 American writer Mark Twain visited the town and remarked about the station upon his visit.
Don't you overlook that Maryborough station, if you take an interest in governmental curiosities. Why, you can put the whole population of Maryborough into it, and give them a sofa apiece, and have room for more. You haven't fifteen stations in America that are as big, and you probably haven't five that are half as fine. Why, it's perfectly elegant. And the clock! Everybody will show you the clock. There isn't a station in Europe that's got such a clock. It doesn't strike--and that's one mercy. It hasn't any bell; and as you'll have cause to remember, if you keep your reason, all Australia is simply bedamned with bells.
The Courthouse
The Post Office
All country towns throughout the world commemorate their  fallen soldiers.
We had dinner at the Supreme Court Hotel which is now a restaurant, coffee house and function house. They had the biggest steaks and a superb list of local wines. The wines are from the local Pyrenees district and our steaks were washed down with a very nice Cabernet Merlot. Sue couldn't eat all of hers due to the size of it - I finished mine off easily........

Huge steak with mushroom sauce - always my fave.
And a local wine always helps make the meal special.
Sunday morning was started with a big breakfast in the grand dining room of the B&B - fresh fruit followed by eggs bacon and mushrooms on toast. We left not long afterwards to the 1st Sunday of the month market at the local harness racing track. What a disappointment!!!!!

The market was a little lack lustre to the point that I didn't take many photos but we did actually see some harness racing.
We were expecting similar markets that we've seen in our travels in France - local produce, a farmer's style market. This was more of a car boot sale, lots of junk that the sellers don't want and the buyers, well us, also don't want. Oh well, off to our next destination.

This is what Mark Twain waxed lyrical about - Maryborough's station.
It actually was quite marvelous.
Although there is some modern changes, many of the original features are retained.
I don't imagine the ticket office is used anymore with people booking on-line (with the Internet that is)
This is what the seats inside the carriages were like - with leather and carved woodwork. I guess the teenagers of the day were not into slashing seats and graffiti.
We mentioned earlier about Mark Twain describing the Maryborough Railway Station and the town folk certainly take pride with the building. Much restoration has taken place over the years and now it holds a cafe and an antique shop. You almost feel that you have walked into the past.

The dining rooms in their prime.
And the platform in the late 1800s or early 1900s.
We had a great weekend travelling around the central goldfields of Victoria but it deserves more time and some of the sights we did enjoy unfortunately we didn't have space for in this post.