Wednesday, 31 October 2012

Open garden

Without going into all the details, friends who had opened their garden for a charity invited a group of us around the next day for a private view.

It was a really well designed garden, taking advantage of every corner, with an amazing display of flowers in bloom, resulting in a mass of colours:  irises, crab-apples, rhododendrons, pansies, roses and many, many more.

There was a little pool with a fountain and goldfish (obviously content, given the rate at which they're said to be breeding!) and a genuine well.  We came home and vowed to do better in our garden!

Tuesday, 30 October 2012


We didn't have Halloween when I was young, but we did have Guy Fawkes Day which we don't now have. It seems that in recent years we've reversed the substitution of Guy Fawkes Day for Halloween which I understand occurred in Britain in the 17th Century*.   Of course, the change in the 17th Century had strong puritanical overtones, whereas the reversal in recent years seems to be related more to the banning of fireworks and the importation of trends from overseas than anything else.

I'm not sure that I entirely approve of Halloween as it now stands, but be that as it may, we respect the care that some local families go to to make it enjoyable for their children.  Each year we get an invitation to participate, which we do.     My biggest problem is identifying the children whose families have gone to the trouble of planning the event as against the "free loaders" who just arrive at the door step. 

This year, we're planning to have two categores of "treats", with the better category reserved for the younger children and/or the better costumes (especially where there are parents just outside the gate!), and some more "basic" handouts for the ones who appear less-deserving.

* - based on some very quick research on Wikipedia, so apologies if this is an over-simplification!

Monday, 29 October 2012

Council elections (2)

Well, the council elections are (nearly) out of the way.   There have been media reports about some "dirty tricks", and I don't think Stonnington was immune (see image).  Likewise, the fact that one of the candidates in our ward was 19 and the daughter of an existing councillor in a different ward (who, over the years, appears to have been involved in some of the more, shall I say, "colourful" issues) gave rise to comment.

On checking the internet on election night,  the votes of only about 32% of eligible voters had been counted, and no results were offered.   I assume that this may have been because so many people voted beforehand (I was told that, on Thursday and Friday, the pre-poll centres were very busy). Perhaps these votes weren't counted on Saturday night?  By Monday morning, the votes from just over 55% of the enrollment had been counted, and apparently more counting is to occur.    But in one of the other wards, it was stated that counting was complete, and only 64.35% of voters had voted.  I know that people over 70 don't have to vote, but even so,  the turn-out seems to be low.  And in our ward,  over 9% of votes that have been counted were informal.

Hence, we don't know yet who will be successful.  At the time of writing, the two councillors standing for re-election look to be in a reasonable position, followed by the Greens candidate.    Some distance behind him, there are two more candidates quite close together.  Given the rather complex proportional representation system, perhaps things could yet change.

Saturday, 27 October 2012


A number of us travelled to Greensborough for Norma's funeral.   We had some inkling of her life, but learned a lot more during the service which was carefully planned to let those present see the overall picture.  Norma was a ward of the state from an early age and had a very tough time in unsuitable foster homes as a child, although she finally made it into a more caring environment.    A friend from that time was present, as was another from one of her first jobs.    She then gained work with an extremely supportive family who treated her as a member of their family for over 50 years, right up to the time she died.  It was not until quite late in her life that she had contact with her brother.

Living Faith Church, Greensborough
She was a conscientious attender at Armadale Uniting until just a few months ago, when she transferred to different accommodation, which was closer to the Greensborough church.  Her Church was important to her, as I found out when driving her most weeks in the last few years (after taking over from another Church member who had driven her for years).   

She was an enthusiastic and able knitter, until her extremely severe gout made this impossible for her.

It was a privilege to know Norma and to realise that she, like others of her generation,  endured some tough times.

Friday, 26 October 2012

Mt Macedon

Nice dining area
We caught up with E and P for lunch at the Mt Macedon Hotel.    Great chicken pie and duck and mushroom risotto, and needless to say the chocolate pudding desert certainly slipped down.  

All this with a bottle of local shiraz came to a very reasonable tab at the end (helped by just $3 for a cappuccino!)  Pity it's an hour away, too far to get to on a regular basis!  I'd imagine it would be busy at weekends, especially on the deck on a warm day.
The Mt Macedon village is quite nice, although small.   The general store is interesting and the azaleas and rhododendron at the Uniting Church, rebuilt after the 1983 fires, were in full flower and were very impressive.
Uniting Church

Garden area at rear of hotel

Main street.  Rhododendron is in front of the church.

Thursday, 25 October 2012

A Short History of Christianity

I've been reading Professor Geoffrey Blainey's Short History of Christianity.    In its 553 pages, this book spans an immense amount of material relating to a complex subject, which Blainey deals with in his readable style.   There are no footnotes, but in the "sources" section he sets out the source for a number of his statements, typically about 20 per chapter.

In a work of this nature, inevitably some aspects will be of greater interest than others, and I found myself skimming some sections.   Perhaps I'll come back to these.  I found his treatment of Christ's life and the early years of the Church of particular interest, given that Blainey's approach is from a historian's perspective, as opposed to that of a religious scholar (as he makes clear in the preface).    Thus, he tells us at page 46 that the oldest book in the New Testament is Paul's First Epistle to the Thessalonians.  

Later on, he provides an insight into the influence of influential individuals (obviously including Luther and Calvin) and this leads us to an understanding of the development of the various orders and other groupings within Christianity, including the Dominicans, Franciscans, Jesuits and the like, and later on the Methodists, Quakers, Mormons, Salvation Army and so on.  .

On the other hand,  although I am in no position to offer an authoritative comment, I was a little surprised to find that the Spanish Inquisition doesn't appear to receive much attention, compared with, for example, the development of Christianity in America. And I noticed one or two little errors, such as a reference to the Battle of Kosovo as having occurred in 1395 (page 230).  Any Serb could have told him it was 1389! 

One of Blainey's skills is the ability to relate particular issues to the broader picture, and to place things and events in context.   For example, he points out that the work of medieval and Renaissance artists was often intended to convey messages to people who were illiterate.   They could recognise Mary, the mother of Jesus, by the lily in the painting.   St Peter is recognised by the a set of keys that he carries - the keys to the kingdom of heaven.  St Mark is often shown in company with a lion. 

Similarly, his comments on developments over the last century or so, in the context of changes in society, are interesting, too, as are his observations on the current position of Christianity in today's world.

There are many other insights, such as the role of Sunday at various stages of history and the place of singing in church.   In short, there's a lot to absorb in this work. 

[Minor edits 27 October]

Wednesday, 24 October 2012

125th anniversary at Queens

We went to the dinner commemorating the 125th anniversary of the founding of Queens College.    There were 450 people in attendance, and I'm told that there was big waiting list as well.    It was a fun occasion, catching up with a few people, some of whom we hadn't seen for years.  The weather was kind, and drinks beforehand were in the courtyard (not sure what "Plan B" would have been had it rained!), the speeches were fine (including a good one by Professor Geoffrey Blainey) and even the food was OK (seemingly a challenge, given the large number present).

It certainly seemed that a number of recent graduates quickly reverted to at least one student tradition (spoon banging) once in Eakins Hall - and were joined even by a number of people who are now eminent in their chosen fields!   
Cake with Wyvern

There was an afterparty, but the hour was too late for us to get to it.   But there was no singing.  In hindsight, I realise that there doesn't appear to be a Queens song.  In our time, we had one, but perhaps it's fallen by the wayside (could it have been deemed inappropriate?)


Tuesday, 23 October 2012

Council elections

The Federal election is, well, whenever, but it's months away, and already we know the players and have some sort of feel for what the issues might be.  The Council elections are less than a week away, and at least in our part of the world, we know very little!   There's a field of 13 candidates (for 3 positions) in our ward, there are just a few signs around, we've had a small number of letter-box drops but not many .... what's going on? 

There was a local forum, but it wasn't very well-publicised and apparently not all the candidates turned up.

The two sitting councillors standing for re-election have letterboxed us with some useful information.   A couple of the other candidates have distributed flyers.  However, overall, given the size of the field, I would have expected a lot more.  

It all reinforces the feeling that some of the candidates are "stooges" who have no hope but plan to direct their preferences to others (assuming they get any votes....), and so just aren't going to any trouble.  Perhaps some of these candidates were relying on the election being by post (as it was last time), allowing them to include some information in the mailout (paid for by the council).   The election this time is in the traditional format, so there's been no such mailout.   

 I don't know what the deposit payable by candidates in council elections is (which is forfeited unless they get a certain percentage of the votes), but it seems to me that there's a case for it to be increased.

Monday, 22 October 2012

Roadworks (2)

We're now in October, but things aren't finished yet!
The extensive road works in the nearby side street (which we rely on for access to our garage) were supposed to have been finished by now.   However, there's been a lull recently, after a stage when a lot happened (see  Clearly the planned completion date hasn't been met. But we've now received notification that access is going to be restricted for a couple of days, so we hope that the final stage is about to occur.   We are looking forward to  getting this issue out of our lives!

Equipment lined up, so perhaps the end is nigh?

Saturday, 20 October 2012

Hello Dolly

We were a little apprehensive when we headed out to the Whitehorse Centre at Nunawading for a "non-professional" production of Hello Dolly.   But our fears were totally unfounded.   The production by Babirra Music Theatre (see was excellent in every respect:  the costumes, the standard of the singing and especially the choreography.  While of course some performances were a little stronger than others, there was no-one in the large cast who wasn't up to the task.   Perhaps we were too absorbed in the witty dialogue, catchy melodies and vibrant colours, but we didn't notice a single mis-step (and some of the dancing seemed very challenging) or anything even resembling a wrong note.

Although this company describes itself as "non-professional", it's clear from the CVs in the program that some of the actors have trained and/or worked professionally.   But obviously, others of them are just talented.   It really was great to see so many  dedicated people (including the orchestra) who clearly enjoy the challenges of the theatre getting together to present such a great production .

I was of course aware that there are a number of non-professional theatre companies around Melbourne.   We regularly attend productions by the Malvern Theatre Company (mostly straight drama) but I was not aware of the extent of the musical theatre scene  in Melbourne.  I knew about the Gilbert & Sullivan Society (see because I attended quite a few of their performances when younger.  But in the musical drama space, besides Babirra, I now see that the Whitehorse Centre is also used by NOVA (see  In addition, there's  CLOC ( who use the National Theatre at St Kilda and Whitehorse Musical Theatre ( who perform in Burwood  [EDIT - but see comment below].   It's apparent from the profiles in the program that the actors cross over between these various groups.  We're certainly planning on getting out and seeing a few more productions.

Friday, 19 October 2012

Refrigerator buying

I wasn't sure that we needed a new refrigerator, but it wasn't really up to me.   And a family member was prepared to take the hand-me-down one. So, the process of buying a new one commenced.

Fortunately, the choice was to some extent dictated by the space available, on the basis that we ought to get the biggest one that would fit.    In fact this conveniently limited the choice to a range of refrigerators that, while slightly bigger than I would have thought necessary, were not excessive.  But as a result of a little research on the internet, by reviewing catalogues and by visiting bricks-and-mortar stores (four, by the time we'd finished!), we found out that there were at least  half a dozen brands with the desired capacity.  This was narrowed down to a short list of three, and eventually the favoured model was selected. 

None of the retailers stocked the full range of brands (perhaps understandably), but interestingly, Mr Harvey's franchisee stocked the most limited range (and was eliminated early in the piece both because of this and a strong perception that his pricing wasn't competitive).

Having made the decision, the next issue, obviously, was to get the best price.   As is well-known, all is not what it seems when it comes to pricing for whitegoods, especially regarding sticker prices.    The internet is very helpful here, and as it happened, the chosen model was on "special" at one of the retailers, at what the research had shown was a good price (similar to the best price available on-line).  Even so, we asked for the "best" price, and, lo, a few more dollars came off!

Yes, it took some time and effort.  Was it worth it?  I  guess you have to go through the exercise to decide what features you want - although how important these will be in the longer term is difficult to say (for example, is the shape of the door racks really that important?)  However, in hindsight, for a number of reasons, we're glad we didn't buy the first refrigerator we saw - although at the time we would have been satisfied with it.  But delivery is still a couple of days away, so the final chapter remains to be written.

Thursday, 18 October 2012


Another of the good restaurants at Port Fairy is L'Edera.  It's an upmarket Italian restaurant, in an older building which has been nicely refurbished.

I had the gnocchi, which was really nice.   The harpuka was also good - it came with a varietry of other seafood, including a crab, mussels, pippis etc.

The menu also had a range of other interesting-sounding choices.

However, as I've said, this is up-market, so it's not the place to take the kids for a quick and cheap spag bolog!  

Wednesday, 17 October 2012

Celtic House

We returned from Port Fairy via Mortlake and the Hamilton Hwy.   You get a good run on the Hamilton Hwy, but in addition we were able to stop in Mortlake at the Celtic House cafe.    This appears to be the former Catholic rectory (is that the correct word?):  it's between the Church and the school and was obviously used as a residence in the past.   It now operates as a cafe (every day except Tuesday).  The look and feel is a trip down memory lane, back to the 60s (at least).  But the food is pretty good (I can recommend the steak sandwich), you can get a cappuccino, the ladies are very friendly and there are lots of jams and spreads to buy!


Tuesday, 16 October 2012

Street trees

We've become accustomed in our area for the street trees to be pruned well clear of the power lines (after all, we don't want any bushfires to intrude on our urban peace), but lately there must have been a decree that branches are not to intrude over the roadway.   So even trees on the other side of the street to the power lines have come in for some savage treatment, resulting in some lop-sided results.

No power line in sight!

Monday, 15 October 2012

The Stag

Port Fairy has a number of "fine dining" restaurant (with prices to match), and on our recent trip we had dinner at The Stag.  We hadn't been here before.  It's attached to the Country Comfort motel, but don't let that put you off, the restaurant is in an old part of the building.  However, it seems that in the country, people dine early, so when we arrived for our 7.15 pm booking, we were amongst the last to arrive at a nearly-full restaurant - and hence we ended up with a long wait for both our entrees and our mains.
Our rolls arrived fairly quickly, but it was a choice of soy and linseed or nothing!

There were mixed reactions when the food finally arrived.  It certainly displayed all the signs of careful and thoughtful preparation, but ...... .   The calamari entree was said to be very good, but I had mixed feelings about my "spring vegetable" salad:   it looked pretty, and I'm sure the various little bits and pieces were prepared and arranged on the plate with great care, and the dressing was good.  But it wasn't what you'd call "substantial".  My flathead was good, but the duck was pretty raw (and hard to cut)  - oops, sorry, that should be "rare", because, when queried,  the waitress assured us that it was intended to be that way.   Seems we have some catching up to do in this department.  The steak was said to be good.

So, in culinary terms, The Stag would probably be well-rated by those who take it on themselves to assess these things.   But, being mere mortals, we were left with mixed feelings.

Saturday, 13 October 2012

Tower Hill

While at Port Fairy, we spent a morning at Tower Hill.  This national park, situated in a large volcanic crater, has been revegetated over the years and now has lots of vegetation and wildlife, including emus, koalas, kangaroos/wallabies and many varieties of birds.  It also has numerous rabbits! 
When we were last there, the water levels were very low.  This time, the lakes and wetlands had much more water in them.
There are a number of very interesting walks, and we did two of them.    We didn't see any kangaroos, but we did spot an emu and a koala.



Friday, 12 October 2012

Port Fairy

We had a couple of nights at Port Fairy with M and D.   It was showery, but we still managed to fit in a bit of walking as well as dinner at a couple of the local restaurants.   We even saw a seal playing in the river.

Port Fairy itself is as picturesque as ever, so here are a few images.

For some reason, my netbook wouldn't recognise my usb modem, so I didn't even get to first base when I tried to access the internet.   I'm still trying to work out what the issue is!