Legends, Friends and Fun

P1080532
St Kilda Pier

Back from a relatively quickfire trip to Melbourne to see Adele in concert. I don’t need to tell anyone reading this post that Ms Adkins is the biggest singing star in the world at the moment and probably the greatest talent of her generation. You will always get argument of course but no-one else has the ability, charisma, stage presence, personality and iconic songs to match her. Not even Beyonce. A quick check of Twitter profiles sees Adele with 28.7 million followers to Beyonce’s 14.7 million. Telling? Perhaps.

The concert itself was flawless and Adele shows a great command of herself and her show. She sings just as well live as she does on iTunes and has a self-deprecating sense of humour and a potty mouth which, when combined with her working class London accent seem made to go together and cause no offence. Whatever you expect of Adele she will deliver. A self-aware and professional performer who may not even have reached her peak. She’s only 28.

The only other artist I have ever heard who sounded as good live as he did on record was Johnny Cash-one of the legends of popular music who I managed to catch on his last Australian tour in 1992-an experience which has never dimmed in my mind.

Our tickets were in the bleachers at Etihad Stadium so Adele herself was a mere dot in the distance but the large screen above her stage gave us an up close and personal view of her performance and it was impressive to see how hard she was trying. It was her last show in Australia after a long tour but you wouldn’t have known it. An exceptional performer who has probably already attained a legendary status.

P1080525
A church converted into apartments in East Melbourne.

We stayed in East Melbourne in a comfortable enough apartment complex just off Victoria Parade. I love this part of Melbourne. Old style homes abound and walking the streets gives a feel of what it must have been like living here many decades when life was simpler but perhaps harder.  The old church above in Hotham Street has been converted into apartments and a quick check of real estate prices today revealed that one of those abodes recently sold for 2.5 million dollars!! A little out of my price range.

Explored Bridge Street in Richmond and had dinner in Victoria Street, wandered Fitzroy Gardens and took a tram to St Kilda, pounded the promenade and ventured out onto the pier. A fine weekend shared with our great friends Michael and Julianne.

P1080520
Linda (r) and her friend Julianne in Fitzroy Gardens Conservatory.

I hadn’t been in Fitzroy Street St Kilda since I was 14 when my Dad and I came down to follow the Melbourne to Warnambool bike race which started at Port Melbourne that year. Fitzroy Street at the time was noted for it’s frequentation by “Ladies of the Night” back in those days (and I must point out I was well and truly in bed before that sort of business was plied!) but is much more upmarket now and St Kilda is very much a jewel in Melbourne’s glowing crown.

As we were strolling down Fitzroy Street an elderly gentleman rounded the corner in front of us and I immediately recognised him (although it was lost on Linda) as the figure of Ron Barassi, legendary player and coach in the VFL/AFL and probably the most influential figure in the history of Aussie Rules football. Of course I was too scared to accost him and ruin his day by asking for a snap on my iphone but for a sports fan it was a bit like seeing God wandering along the street. We are a bit insulated from sporting heroes here in Canberra. Perhaps they are seen out and about in Melbourne all the time?!

We perused the markets at the end of the street and I bought myself a reasonably expensive hat. I normally wouldn’t fork out $40 on a handmade Panama style piece of headgear but it was as warm as the far side of Venus and a brilliant blue sky was giving the sun plenty of leeway to scorch my skin. Another hour in that heat and you would have mistaken me for a tomato to be sure.

P1080531
Michael (l) and I with friends. Notice my new hat.

The hat certainly saved me some discomfort even though I felt like a bit of dandy among the beautiful people of St Kilda.

A tram ride home and a short rest and we were off again to the aforementioned night with Adele and were all suitably satisfied.

Monday dawned steamy but wet and yet the weather had cleared a little by the time we boarded the flight home. As if sighting one living legend of Australian sport wasn’t enough, providence granted that we should sight another on our flight home. Adam Gilchrist, the heroic, legendary wicketkeeper/batsman was sitting in business class, two seats in front of us. Linda of course had no idea why I was pointing out the tall and lean stranger and gasping at the fact yet another famous face had appeared in our path on our short trip away. She claimed she had heard of him yet she surely wasn’t as incredulous as I at the close encounter. Again, I left Mr Gilchrist to his own devices and noted that he was accosted by a cricket fan at the baggage carousel and was suitably polite and friendly considering the interloper was trying to coax him into a surely unwanted conversation about cricket. Nice to know he lives up to his reputation as a nice guy.

And that was my weekend. Legends, friends and the sights of a great city rolled into one. One can’t ask for much more.

Until next time.

 

 

Advertisements

Melbourne, Work and a Worthwhile Life

P1080145 Photo of the day is the old Exhibition Building in Melbourne, just outside the CBD. The photo was taken this last weekend during my latest trip to Melbourne which Linda and I undertook with friends, ostensibly to watch some AFL football. There use to be a velodrome out the front of this building before the Second World War. It was used before the North Essendon board track was built. It is of course most famous for being the building which held the first sitting of Australia’s Federal Parliament in 1901, an event made famous by Tom Roberts’ painting. Very historic indeed.

Of course it’s back to reality now. Back to work. I’m tired. I’m aching. I have a long term problem with my foot which can only be from standing up on concrete floors all day. I’ve woken up with a stiff and sore middle finger on my right hand. Not sure what that is from (it’s not from flipping the bird!) but it’s a little swollen from my knuckle to the joint of the finger. My back is sore which is nothing unusual and I really would just like to stay home rather than go through the motions one more time today. Alas, it’s not to be and I will struggle on though my heart won’t be in it.

I have often wondered about people who claim to love their job. Do they really mean it? Is there really such a person who jumps out of bed every morning, chomping at the bit, keen to race the rat, willing to give their soul for the greater good and the benefit of someone else? Surely they would rather stay at home and watch the telly, surf the net, do anything rather than face 8 more hours of emasculation at the hands of a Nazi love child?

Of course there are plenty of ambitious folk who get satisfaction from what they do and that is what is missing in my work life I guess. Just going through the motions every day hardly makes you feel worthwhile. Achieving something, or I suppose believing you are doing so is just the tonic for making work bearable. A modicum of satisfaction relieves the monotony I guess.

Was it John Lennon who said “life is what happens while you are planning other things”? It is very true. It just takes a long time for those “other things” to roll around. Anyway, I’m still alive, in relatively good health and the future is promising. Now, if I can only find a way to become one of those people who loves their job.

Hope you all are enjoying your work today. Take care.

P1080143
Linda and I in AC/DC Lane, off Flinders Lane, Melbourne City.

The Shrine

P1080056

I was in Melbourne a couple of months ago and walked to the Shrine of Remembrance from my motel in the city. I have been to the Shrine before but many years ago when I was with my father and we followed the Melbourne to Warnambool road cycling race. I was only a boy then.

I would recommend a visit to the Shrine, not just for it’s historical significance but for it’s magnificent architecture and position on the edge of the Melbourne CBD. It’s surrounded by the Botanic Gardens on one side and St Kilda Road on the other but it’s long, straight concourse gives a magnificent view back to the CBD which is well worthwhile. Melbourne is a lovely city.P1080053

The Shrine was built after the Great War of 1914-18 to honour Victorian servicemen and women who served, fought and died in that conflict and of course veterans of later wars hold their commemorations at the Shrine as well. It plays a major role in Melbourne’s Anzac Day services.

My grandfather and great uncle on my mother’s side and two great uncles on my father’s side have their names recorded in the crypt in the bowels of the Shrine and it was nice to go and see the battalion colours hanging from the ceiling representing every Victorian unit which fought in the First World War.

P1080059

In the photo above I am pointing to the colour patch of my grandfather’s regiment, the 8th Light Horse. He served at Romani, Gaza, Beersheba and Damascus and made it home in one piece, just a bout of malaria laying him low, only to die fighting a grass fire near his home in Wangaratta two days before Christmas in 1943.

His brother, though younger, joined earlier and served in the 5th battalion AIF, dying of gunshot wounds in the spring of 1917 in a casualty clearing station at Grevillers in France. He was 20 years old.

My father’s uncles served in the Second World War, the elder in the famous 2/7th battalion. Captured by the German army on Crete he spent the rest of the war labouring in a POW camp in Germany itself. His brother, joining later, fought with a militia battalion in New Guinea, notably on the Mubo Track, a campaign described by many veterans as being a harder fight than that on the Kokoda Trail. He died in a car accident a few miles from Wangaratta a few years after he returned home. I guess some young men use up all their luck on the battlefield. Lest we forget.

P1080052

And, this is the Shrine itself for those who haven’t seen it with my lovely partner, Linda on the steps. It’s a significant landmark in Melbourne and a magnificent piece of Victorian and Australian history. Government House is close by and it is only a relatively short walk from the centre of Melbourne. Don’t miss it next time you are in the southern capital.

Have a nice day.

 

Cycling and Architecture: A Very Strange Notation!

Picture by Linda Meacham

 This is Flinders Street station as it stood last Sunday morning when Linda and I and my mother and father wandered by it whilst in Melbourne. It is one of the great iconic buildings of Australia, it’s majesty only tempered by the eyesore of Federation Square which is very inappropriately placed directly opposite the station.

 Sometimes, when gazing upon modern architecture such as the aforementioned Federation Square my mind can only wonder, “what the hell were they thinking!?”

 I didn’t bother staining the memory card on my camera by taking a picture of the building in the square with it’s odd shaped facade and myriad of bright colours which are thrown across it’s surface as if a giant incarnation of Pro Hart has come to life and attempted to perform his own signature method of painting upon it’s walls. I don’t like it.


  I can only gather that Federation Square was designed as a focal point and gathering place for people in Melbourne City and I must say it seems very popular with large crowds gathering there to partake in all sorts of activities which no doubt add to the community feel of the central business district. But why design and build such a new age structure directly across the road from a classic building such as Flinders Street Station?

 Melbourne is a great town but it city centre does seem to be a mish mash of the old and the modern and it doesn’t always meld together as it should. Perhaps I am being harsh and anyone reading this is welcome to counter my point of view but at times I think there is not a lot of thought put into how the city will fit together when it’s various pieces are conjoined. I am a classicist and much of the modern architecture we see today leaves me cold. Would Paris council erect a structure such as we see in Federation Square across from the Eiffel Tower? I doubt it.

 I really don’t know what I am talking about but it is my opinion for better or worse.

 I was in Melbourne briefly for the running of the 117th Austral Wheelrace, the pre-eminent track handicap cycling race in Australia which was held at Hisense Arena at Melbourne Park, a stone’s throw from the Melbourne Cricket Ground. The sporting heart of Australia.

 Track cycling, once a vibrant and unique discipline in Australia has deteriorated as a result of tardiness and ignorance perpetrated by the ruling bodies of the sport in this country and although there are still a few famous track handicaps left in Australia the numbers of participants willing to ride them are dwindling due to lack of care and disinterest. All the youngsters coming through the ranks of the sport nowadays want to be Cadel Evans not Sid Patterson.

 The old amateur  federation dogma which dominated the cash-less ranks for nearly a century which was aimed at producing top riders for international and overseas events to the detriment of the perceived “also-rans” who were in reality the backbone of the game, seems to have overwhelmed the old professional way of thinking since the two sides of the sport, amateur and professional were combined in the early 1990’s.

 The professional attitude was one of attempting to provide racing for bike riders, no matter your standard and the very egalitarian system of handicap racing ensured that everyone in theory had a chance to win. Archaic to modern ears of course when winning is everything and if you are not a heavy hitter then your welfare and interests don’t count. But we will still take your money for a license fee thank you very much!

 The old ways still survive in minutiae with the Austral Wheelrace being one of the last few professional classics to be raced on the track but it was sat very oddly among the very elite and specialized disciplines of Keiren racing and the Australian Madison Championship which of course only attract the best riders and are an enigma to the average punter on the street.

 The heats of the Wheelrace were run in an empty stadium earlier in the afternoon and the matinee program was finished before the arrival of the large crowd which swelled the stadium for the evening session which began at 6.30pm.  No half mile handicap, just a heat of the Austral and a scratch race for your entry fee. You would think some of the old hands at Cycling Victoria would have more of an idea on how to run such a promotion.

 So, it’s fair to say, although entertaining as track racing invariably is, I was disappointed with the promotion and felt it left a lot to be desired.

 Track cycling at all levels needs to be nurtured and a place for the lesser lights maintained via handicaps and graded scratch racing. The modern notion of grooming top riders for overseas teams and road racing can survive alongside our traditional Australian track racing.  But I won’t hold my breath for the men who control Australian cycling to lend their weight to such a thought.

 That is my rant for the night, architecture and cycling and how I can do it better! Hope I haven’t put you to sleep too early.

 Have a nice night.

Oh, Melbourne

I haven’t asked permission of my lovely better half if I am permitted to put this photo of her on my blog but there it is and if she is worried or annoyed I will delete it accordingly.

 She is a pretty good sport and I don’t think she will mind and I thought it was a bit different to having some shot of myself as I usually do as my “photo of the day”.

 The photo was taken last Saturday when we were in Melbourne to attend an AFL game at the MCG and we spent our time before the match perusing the environs of the Fitzroy Gardens in East Melbourne, right on the edge of Melbourne city proper.


  We stayed in Richmond, just near the ground and joined the Tiger faithful as they streamed into the MCG in the late afternoon for their match against Greater Western Sydney, a team struggling to find it’s feet in the AFL.

 The bandstand in the photo above was built in the 1860’s and I thought a shot from it, of Linda, looking back towards Melbourne’s modern skyline added a nice touch to an historic piece of the city which has been in place a long time and seen it all as time has flown by. To the right is a shot of the full structure with the apartments of East Melbourne creeping into the background.

 I’ve never been particularly fond of big cities and their crowds and the fast paced lifestyles of those who inhabit the central business districts of metropolitan Australia and I certainly could never see myself living in the outer suburbs of such a place. Traffic, noise, vice and the crush of people in large cities seem to twist my senses and I am much more at home and at ease in our easygoing national capital where almost everything and everyone I may ever need is within a twenty minute drive from where I live.

 That being said, the Victorian era homes which proliferate through East Melbourne, Richmond, Collingwood, Carlton and other inner suburbs of the great southern metropolis are handsome abodes and if I lived in one and worked in the city, the need to own a gas guzzling, environmentally unsound piece of machinery designed to transport me from here to there would be negated. Shanks pony or tram would surely be the way to travel. Now, if someone could spare me a million quid to buy such a home then I will be on my way! Oh, and find me a job too please?!

 And at last, a photo of myself in one of the cobbled back lanes which retain so much character and hold so much history from our past. You didn’t think I could put photos up and not show one of myself did you?

 All in all we had a lovely trip to Melbourne viewing the football, taking in the sights and sounds of the city, attending the theatre, riding trams and enjoying all this great town has to offer. Maybe you should try it some day?