xmlns:og='http://ogp.me/ns#' The Font of Noelage: June 2014

Friday, 20 June 2014

Marvellous Melbourne.

When respected travel writer Bill Bryson arrived in Melbourne for the very first time in 1992, he said that he, “was astounded to find it there at all.” Bryson’s impressions of Australia had largely been moulded by his interest in the film, The Sundowners, which depicted Robert Mitchum and Deborah Kerr as a knockabout shearer and his wife in the late 19th Century.
Upon his arrival on the other side of the world he found a large and thriving metropolis with tall building, trams and buses and he fell in love with the place and its people. Well a lot of people have had that experience, most notably the London journalist, Louis Sala, who on a visit in 1885, wrote back to his English newspaper glowing articles about “Marvellous Melbourne.”  Sala’s description has stuck and on numerous visits to Melbourne I always have to agree that Melbourne is indeed a marvellous place. It is possessed of magnificent colonial architecture, many spacious and well cared for public parks and gardens, an excellent public transport system and a town plan built on a rectangular grid of long straight streets that makes it very easy for a visitor to navigate around. And of course it is the home of one of the world’s most exciting games, Australian Rules Football. In typical “weird mob” fashion I can say that Australian Rules Football is actually governed by “The Laws of Football.”  So, as many strangers to our shores have said, there actually no rules in Australian Rules at all. What they are, are Laws. So, perhaps it should be called Australian Laws Football? Not quite the same, is it?
Ah, yes, Marvellous Melbourne. For all of this, I suppose, we should thank John Batman, who ventured over from Tasmania to Port Phillip Bay in June, 1835, sailed up the Yarra until he came to a place where he famously said, “This will be the place for a village.”
Batman is unique in Australian history. In contrast to other early explorers who came before him or afterwards, he was the only one who felt it necessary to discuss the ownership of the land with the original inhabitants. He sat down with eight elders of the Wurundgeri tribe and for various baubles, bangles and beads, plus a few hand mirrors, purchased 600 000 acres (24 000 square kilometres) of land in Melbourne and 100 000 acres (4000 square kilometres) in Geelong. Of course it is possible that the elders, coming from a culture that has no concept of land ownership, may not have had a solid grasp of the real estate business that  John Batman was engaging them in.
Shortly after Batman made his land deal, he headed back to Tasmania to make further arrangements for his Port Phillip Bay settlement. Within a few days of his departure, another group of settlers, under the sponsorship of John Pascoe Fawkner, sailed up the Yarra and established themselves on what was ostensibly, John Batman’s land. Fortunately, when Batman returned a few weeks later, with more settlers, the two groups were able to negotiate a peaceful compromise and the Port Phillip settlement grew and pospered.
The Governor of NSW at the time, and therefore the Queen’s representative of the entire continent of Australia, was an Irishman named Sir Richard Bourke. Governor Bourke viewed Batman’s land treaty with the natives  with much alarm. In 1835 he passed Terra Nullius legislation, which basically said that nobody could conduct any form of trade or sale of land with the indigenous people. This law enshrined the belief that the entire continent of Australia belonged to the Queen of England. Batman’s treaty with the indigenous inhabitants was obviously a threat and Governor Bourke annulled it on August 26, 1835. However, he accepted as a fait accompli that the land around Port Phillip Bay had been settled and allowed the settlers to remain on their land.
We can thank Governor Bourke for the city’s name. He named it when he visited in 1837, in honour of the British Prime Minister William Lamb, the 2nd Viscount Melbourne.
We should all be grateful that Governor Bourke gave Melbourne that grand sounding name, because up until then the settlement had been variously called Batmania, Bearbrass, Bareport, Barehurp and Bareberp. Can you imagine the Australian nation coming to a standstill on the first Tuesday in November each year to listen to the running of the Bareberp Cup?
Of course Bourke Street, Melbourne, the city’s famous thoroughfare was named in his honour. And it was in the bustling Chinatown, at the top end of Little Bourke Street, that Lesley and I stayed in the surprisingly spacious and well-appointed City Limits Hotel on the final stage of our 2014 jaunt around the eastern seaboard.
I had booked our accommodation at City Limits, via the internet, prior to our departure on Queen Mary 2 from Fremantle in early March. When the ship called in to Melbourne about six  days later we went to check it out and then met some friends in a quirky little café bar in Bourke Street by the name of Madame Brussels. This place had a rather risqué menu and drinks list. The young people serving on the tables all wore rather sporting attire. Its advertising brochure promotes the place as Kooky, Kitsch and lots of fun.
I didn’t know it at the time but the real Madame Brussels was actually a very well known, not to say notorious, brothel madam of the late 19th Century. Her well-appointed brothels were situated in Lonsdale Street, which was close to Melbourne’s Parliament House and the legal fraternity, from whence came many of her clients. In fact her brothels were referred to as Gentlemen’s Clubs and attracted the city’s political,  judicial and police elite. It was said of her that her business thrived because of the formidable support she had from people in high places.
Madame Brussels was born as Caroline Lohman in Prussia in 1851. She married a well-connected Englishman, George Hodgson, in 1871 and the newly married couple promptly set sail for Melbourne. George became a policeman and was transferred to Mansfield in the Ned Kelly country of northern Victoria. He went on his own. The 21 year old Caroline stayed in Melbourne. In 1893, her husband, George, died of TB. Caroline, who had placed him in a nursing home during his illness, arranged for his funeral and wrote a loving death notice in the newspapers about the sad loss of her beloved husband. In the notice she also pointed out that George was connected to the British aristocracy. She continued put notices in the paper on each anniversary of his death.
By 1874, Caroline, now known as Madam Brussels, was successfully running a number of brothels, which she continued to do until 1907. Why brothels? Well, some have pointed out that as a young woman in a strange land with little financial support, Caroline had very restricted job prospects while her husband was living so far away from home. Some even go so far as to suggest that running a brothel was by far the best paying job open to a woman in those days. The only other alternatives were teaching, nursing or even lower paid jobs in domestic service. Apparently, Caroline was quite skilled at running a brothel, or two, and they proved to be very profitable.
Just over twenty years later, in 1895, she married a much younger man, Jacob Pohl. She was then aged about 45 and he was about 30. However, the following year, young Jacob mysteriously disappeared in South Africa when the couple were on trip to visit family in Germany. They reconciled in 1898, when Jacob just as mysteriously showed up once again, only to divorce in 1907 on the grounds of his desertion.
In her later years, she was vigorously attacked by members of the moral and righteous in the community as “an accursed procuress” and taken to court in 1907. However, she won the sympathy of the court as a benevolent old lady (she was 56), reciting eloquently how she had been wronged. She was acquitted, but closed her business down that same year and died of diabetes and pancreatitis in 1908, aged 57 years. Surely, someday, someone will write a book or make a film about this remarkable lady. If I was the Casting Director I would be trying to sign up Scarlett Johannsen in the starring role.
In a coincidental connection with her first husband’s stint at Mansfield, where Ned Kelly and his family were well known, her lawyers in the 1907 court case was David Gaunson. In 1880, as a member of the Victorian parliament, Gaunson had been one of the leading lights in the public rallies to have Kelly’s death sentence overturned.
Ah, yes. We were in Marvellous Melbourne and we had a week to enjoy the Annual Garden and Flower Show at the magnificent Exhibition Centre, the Centre for the Moving Image in Federation Square, The National Gallery of Victoria, The Percy Grainger Museum at Melbourne University, The Melbourne Recital Centre, the many shops and arcades and the excitement of watching a West Coast Eagles game at the MCG.
Percy Grainger museum. Gifted musician and very naughty boy.
Melboune Uni student protesting budget cuts to education. Bourke Street.
The first thing I had to do was purchase a new memory card for my camera. We found a camera store and when I showed the lady my camera she shook her head sadly and said that it was very old. Well, aren’t we all? After a search she said that she had found one card that would fit my camera. I said, “I’ll take it.” It cost me fifty dollars, but now I can take 8350 photos before my memory card fills. Of course, I’ll download them onto my computer long before that happens.
The Exhibition Building was opened in the 1880s for the Great Melbourne Exhibition and housed the Federal Parliament from 1901 to 1927. Much more impressive than our current Federal Parliament House in Canberra.

Lesley at the flower show in the Exhibition Building.
 As well as that, we caught up with much loved family and friends and enjoyed the busy metropolis with its cafes and restaurants and first class public transport. The cafes are a feature of Melbourne. When Melbourne people come into town each morning, they do not go to work, they go to eat and drink in coffee shops, cafes and restaurants which are always filled no matter what time of day it is. I think they start at breakfast and just sit straight through till knock off time. In fact a lot of the people in these cafes and such like are actually doing business. A lot of them seem to be having meetings while others have their iPhones, lap tops or iPads out and operating.
As they say, all good things must end and early on a Monday morning we bid a fond farewell to our comfy hotel in Chinatown, caught a taxi to Tullamarine and just over six hours later we were back home in Heathridge. It is wonderful to travel, but, oh, how lucky are we that after it all we can return to Perth in Western Australia. If there is a better place to come back to then I have yet to find it.
When we returned home friends and family asked what the highlights of our trip were. Well, it was all great big highlights coming one after the other. The luxurious Queen Mary 2, exciting Sydney, the beauty of the Blue Mountains, Jenolan Caves, The Alpine Way and of course, Marvellous Melbourne.
However, for me, the greatest highlight occurred at about 3-15pm on our first afternoon back home. I was out the front, watering the garden, when our daughter, Sarah, pulled up on our verge after having picked up our grandchildren, Sophie and Luc, from school. As I turned off the tap, Sophie dashed from the car, sprinted down the path and with a beaming smile on her face gave me a big hug and said, “I missed you, Grandpa.”
Now that is a marvellous highlight. 

Outside the National Gallery of Victoria. National???

Entry to the very interesting Centre for the Moving Image.

Sone genius designed the Visitors' Centre as an oversized bus and plonked it between Flinders Street Station and Federation Square.

They call it Young and Jackson's Hotel, but Chloe's home is properly known as Young and Jackson's Princes Bridge hotel.   Young and Jackson's Princes Bridge Hotel.                                                                                     

Flinders Station.One of the busiest railway stations in the world.

A relaxing beer at the Imperial Hotel on a sunny  Autumn day. Opposite Parliament House in Spring Street.

Jack Pougher (third from right) with Runners Up medals after a thrilling basket ball Grand Final. Jack was MVP.

Jacqui and Lesley at home in Caulfield

David, Jack and Jaqui Pougher.

En route to the MCG through Treasury Gardens.

The Eagles warm up before demolishing Melbourne at the MCG.

Monday, 9 June 2014

Fruit of the vine and the work of human hands.

When we were staying on the farm in Yannathan we actually spent most of the day touring around Phillip Island and the Bass Strait coastline. There were two reasons for this. Firstly Phillip Island and the Bass Strait coastline are extremely picturesque and well worth visiting. The second reason was that everyone else had gone to work or gone to school. Angela went off to her Day Care job, Jo went to her accountant’s job in Pakenham, Matthew was up very early, out working on the farm and the three children were at school.

We decided that if we arrived back at the Yannathan farm around 5-00pm there would be people home to greet us. After a great day of adventuring around the region we headed back to the homstead. On our way back we thought it would be nice to buy our hosts some wine. We saw sign saying “Winery” pointing down a side road and we followed it. I am always wary of signs pointing off the main rode that do not indicate actually how far down the road the winery or whatever is located. This was one such occasion where I should have paid more attention to my wariness.

After we had driven about 15 kilometres we came to a sign telling us the winery was 12 kilometres straight ahead. I immediately knew the wine maker was a canny soul. If his original sign had said “Winery 30 Kms” I obviously would not have been bothered. As it was, I was just about to stop and turn back when we came upon the “Winery 12 Kilometres” sign. As I said, a canny soul.

We drove the fifteen kilometres down a side road and came to quite a reasonably sized vineyard with a large brick house and a slightly smaller brick winery situated near a small car park. We entered the tasting room to be greeted by a very little Italian lady who looked at us rather nervously, as if we had come to rob the joint.

After a largely one way conversation we indicated that we would like to taste the merlot. She produced ONE glass and poured about 10 mls of merlot into it. We looked at each other and decided that asking the little Italian lady for another tasting glass would probably have her calling the police. 

We each took a small sip of the merlot. The entire contents of the glass would have constituted a small sip in a normal winery. We then asked for a taste of cab sav. The little old Italian lady poured an equally small portion of cab sav into the SAME glass from which we had just tasted the merlot. We looked at each other and thought asking for a new glass would probably cause a visit from the Riot Squad ...or the Mafia.

Despite the very small taste samples we decided to purchase a bottle of Merlot and a bottle of Cabernet Sauvignon. Navigator Lesley then asked the little old Italian lady if there were any gift bags the bottles could be placed into. The little old Italian lady muttered $2 each and then disappeared down beneath the counter. I hoped she wasn't calling the hit squad or reaching for a sub machine gun. Just then, through the window, I caught a glimpse of an older man working on some vines. Papa Don Corleone perhaps? Or maybe Marlon Brando or Robert Di Niro?

Eventually, the little old lady emerged from beneath the counter and handed over a brown paper bag which presumably contained our purchases. We said thank you. The little Italian lady said nothing and quickly disappeared through a back door. In the car we opened the paper bag and saw that she had just put the two gift bags in with the bottles. She had not placed the bottles into the gift bags. As we drove away the older gentleman working at the vines raised his head, took off his hat and gave us very cheery wave. It wasn’t the Godfather, or Brando or Di Niro. It was obviously the very canny soul who owned the place.We waved back and I hit the accelerator.

Well pleased with our purchases, we presented them to the family soon after we arrived home. We just knew that they would be happy to receive such a thoughtful gift. Later that night Angela told us in confidential tones that Matthew is a wine judge at the local show. Judges can buy any surplus bottles from the wine show for $5 each...which explains why Matthew has cases and cases of wine in a shed at their back of their house.

Now he also has a bottle of merlot and a bottle of cabernet sauvignon, with Mafia connections, to add to his very large wine cellar.