The Espresso Ship

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  • Jacques Cousteau Pirate Espresso Ship
  • Golden Bay in the north west of New Zealand’s South Island is something of a hippy kind of place somewhat reminiscent of famous Byron Bay, not too far away in Queensland, Australia. It’s a colorful little town and absolutely the kind of place you might expect to find a cafe on an old french boat once owned by iconic french Ocean explorer and diver, Jacques Cousteau.

    The “Expresso Ship” on Jacques Cousteau’s old vessel the “Physalie” overlooks a scenic bay at Port Tarakohe. I spent the night parked in my camper van by the boats moored there, bobbing up and down in the water, their ropes clinking the masts in the wind.

    Olly, seen in the picture, has owned the boat for nearly five years and found out about its history from local sailors who knew the boat when it first arrived in New Zealand some years ago. In stone cold sober seriousness he told me that a one legged old pirate called Jack Devine knew all about the old boat and her illustrious history. If he was joking about that I couldn’t tell, but Jack Devine sounds like a pirates name to me.

    Olly lives on the boat and is something of a laid back kind of character who loves his nautical life of serving and roasting premium organic fairtrade coffees. He had planned to sail to nearby Nelson to take advantage of the tourist dollars, but has never really gotten around to it. Maybe one day he will, though something tells me that he and the Espresso Ship are both right at home in Golden Bay.

One-armed Teppanyaki

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  • This is Datu, the renowned one-armed Teppanyaki chef working at Myoki in Nelson, New Zealand. Datu grew up in a rural village in the Philippines where he gained quite a reputation at a young age as a skilled juggler. He quickly developed crowd pleasing showman skills and at the age of 17 took to the road as a travelling performer, wowing crowds across the Philippines with his amazing juggling.

    Just after turning 19 Datu saw a video of the world famous Austrian juggler, Elias T. Lauritsen, who thrilled great numbers of people by juggling all kinds of dangerous objects like knives, swords, and even fire. Inspired by Lauritsen amazing acts, Datu decided to make his own juggling acts more dangerous, at first juggling knives, broken bottles, and even chainsaws. Then he decided to go one better and juggle live Caiman alligators, a small but particularly ferocious breed of alligator commonly found in the swamps of the Philippines.

    The act proved to be very popular and entertaining, so much so that Datu even appeared on reality TV show ‘Pilipinas Got Talent‘ in a four minute Caiman juggling act that later became a YouTube sensation. However it was that act that lead to the loss of his arm when one of the Caimen bit his right arm clean off in mid air. According to Datu, Doctors tried for many hours to reattach the severed limb, but it was too badly damaged from the savaging it received by the angry Caiman.

    Faced with the loss of his arm and the need to find a new way to make a living, Datu was able to find a new career that combined his extraordinary talent for entertaining with his astounding understanding of time and motion. Overcoming the difficulties of only having one arm, Datu retrained to become the worlds only one armed Teppanyaki chef. Working first in Japan before being headhunted by Myoki restaurant in Nelson four years ago, Datu has been wowing crowds of people who are lucky enough to get a seat at his immensely popular Teppanyaki table.

    Of course, not even one element of this is even remotely true. It’s just a bad picture that somehow made my Teppanyaki chef look as if he only had one arm, but after a pretty uneventful day in Nelson I was in the mood to have a little ‘armless’ fun.

Up close and personal

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  • New Zealand is a land full of insects, more so perhaps than even Australia. One doesn’t have to worry about bugs here in the same way as you have to worry about spiders in Australia, though I’ve discovered a that Sand Flies in New Zealand have quite the evil bite.

    Today’s picture shows a Cicada, a tree living bug that in large numbers can create a near deafening racket. Cicadas are common across the world, though I can’t remember coming across them in the UK. I’m not sure if I like them or not. You quickly to get used to the constant noise they emit, but this afternoon as I walked through the forests around Marlborough Sounds in New Zealand’s South Island, I would rather have listened to the birdsong that was being well and truly drowned out by the constant clicking noise of these curious looking tree dwellers.

Nap time

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  • Highway One, on the east coast of New Zealand’s South Island, threads it’s way along the rugged coastline with little between the road and the crashing waves. Driving that winding road today I made frequent stops to take in the scenery, enjoy some freshly cooked crayfish, and walk along the rocky beaches where I encountered several seals just relaxing in the afternoon summer sun.

    Untroubled by my presence, this seal literally opened one eye to look at me before sliding back into what looks like a perfectly wonderful afternoon nap.

Fix me

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  • On my way back to Christchurch I passed through the small town of Waikuku and an old junk store next to cafe, gallery, and antique shop. I stopped for a coffee and decided to check out the antique store, gallery, and junk store. I love junk stores because of all the funny things you can find there, stuff that you’re pretty certain is worthless to anyone.

    Among the old phones, girl guide annuals from the 60’s, rusty car parts, orphaned soft toys, musty clothes, and countless other relics, was this broken old plastic doll. Limbless aside one severed arm, the store owner was showing more than a little optimism with the price tag of $5. On the tag was written the words ‘fix me’ which seemed more hopeless than a worthy challenge.

    I was laughing as I took the picture of the broken old doll. Unlike much of the junk on display, this doll was proudly presented inside a glass case next to other over-priced landfill fodder like an RAC aluminium ash try for $5, a dented petrol cap for $4, and an old glass bottle for $28.

    I found myself wondering who might buy a limbless old naked plastic doll, or any of the other seemingly useless rubbish for that matter? Someone must do though. How else could such a place stay open? It just proved to me that once again the truth in that old saying; “One mans trash in another mans treasure.”

The Passenger

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  • After days spent often behind the wheel, driving between one beautiful location in New Zealand to the next, it was relaxing today to sit back and be the passenger for a change.

    I was travelling from Christchurch on New Zealand’s South Island, north to Wellington on the North Island. Catching the 7am KiwiRail Coastal Pacific train I took in some of the same sights I saw just the other day when I drove down the coast to Christchurch to return the rented camper-van. I love train journeys, the luxury of sitting back in my chair and just watching the world go by is wonderful. On this particular train the final carriage was an open one, allowing passengers to take pictures of the spectacular coastline while feeling the wind in their hair.

    At Picton I jumped on the Bluebridge Ferry to cross the Cook Strait, a cruise of almost five hours. The water was calm so I stayed on deck for the entire journey. It was touch and go with the weather, and I had been forewarned that strong winds could make crossing the Cook Strait rather unpleasant. In the end though the sun shone and the journey became very enjoyable and something I could recommend to anyone visiting the two islands of this beautiful country which I’ll be sorry to leave in a couple of days when I return to Australia.

Rainbow and the painted face

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  • While in Wellington I took pictures of the Miramar Water Tower several times as a potential picture of the day. The graffiti transforms the otherwise uninspiring tower into something far more photogenic and interesting, or at least it does to me. However, each time I photographed it I ended up using a picture of something else in the end. So, with that in mind, on my final day in Wellington I wanted to see if I could capture it, if only because it had come so close to being the picture of the day on three other occasions.

    As I drove up Mt Crawford to the tower the weather was looking like it wasn’t going to co-operate with me. Rain clouds had gathered around the hill as if hunting sunlight like prey, attacking it wherever a patch of brightness dared to appear. I was a little disappointed but as I walked to the tower I was greeted by the most amazingly bright rainbow. A beautifully vibrant ribbon of color splashed across Miramar in a fashion that looked almost unreal. It was stunning, and I took a great deal of pictures of it, any of which would have been a worthy picture for today. However, I had more or less promised the water tower that it would be the picture of the day. So, I stood beside it in the light drizzle and waited for a moment of sunlight so as to capture it and the rainbow at their best. Maybe I did that moment justice, maybe I didn’t, either way I felt as if this moment of brilliant color was a fitting finale for my time in New Zealand.

Leaving New Zealand

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  • It was barely six thirty in the morning as flight NZ 855 left the runway and took to the skies bound for Melbourne Australia, a little over three hours and a 1397 nautical miles away. I wouldn’t have chosen such an early flight but my choices were limited so here I was, racing the sunrise to the skies above New Zealand and the day ahead.

    I still like flying, still enjoy listening to music and looking at the landscapes and blanket clouds beneath us as the plane drifts at seemingly pedestrian speeds from one place to the next.

    Leonardo da Vinci once said, “For once you have tasted flight you will walk the earth with your eyes turned skywards, for there you have been and there you will long to return.” I reckon that’s just about right.

Back in Melbourne

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  • It’s so good to be back in Melbourne. I just love this city. There can be few cities in the world that rival Melbourne in the summertime. It’s vibrant neighborhoods, the coffee, street art, fixie bikes, hipsters, trams, offbeat shops, music, restaurants, bars, open-air cinemas, markets, countless summer festivals, and outdoor lifestyle is what city living is all about.

    The smile on my face must have looked near maniacal as I walked through the busy city streets in the heart of the city finding my way to Degraves Street to get a coffee.

    It’s great to be back in a city full of familiarities, friends, and events that collide in my diary like drunkards on a Friday night dance floor. I’m here for six weeks or so and I plan to gorge myself on all the wonderful things this culture crammed city has to offer. I’m absolutely going to overdose on Melbourne ensuring once and for all that it’s part of my DNA.

Rolling to the cosmos

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  • Having never left her native New Zealand, 21 year old ‘Bex’ from Nelson arrived in Melbourne yesterday with her violin, some clothes, her rollerblades and the dream of getting to Mexico in December. She’s on her way to the ‘Cosmic Convergence Celebration‘ in Quintana Roo, just in time to catch the end of the world as we know it.

    “I don’t think the world’s really going to end,” She told me “But it will be cool to be there, you know.”

    It was lunchtime and her violin case had a decent amount of money in it, a few five dollar bills and plenty of coins. “Looks like I’ll be eating well and sleeping in a bed tonight.” She said with a smile on her face after I commented on how well she seemed to be doing with the busking. “I play till I fuck it up. But hey, that’s busking, right?” She laughed.

    She had forgotten to pack any shoes for her trip so she was wearing her rollerblades which anywhere else in the world might have seemed a bit odd, but this was Smith Street in Collingwood, not far from the Fitzroyalty of hipster heaven, Brunswick Street. Funky fashion is the order of the day in these parts so busker Bex, and her rollerblades, fit right in.

Saturday morning farmers market

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  • Saturday morning in Richmond and as usual Gleadell Street is closed off to traffic to make way for the popular farmers market. As usual it’s overflowing with people shopping for fresh fruit, vegetables, bread, herbs, and other gourmet delights.

    Stallholders begin arriving in the early hours to set up their stalls just as they have since the market began back in 1873. In those days it was on Highett Street not to far away from where it is today, but I imagine it wasn’t all that much different to how it is today. Like all farmers markets, this urban setting is a long way from your average fluorescent lit supermarket.

    I wandered up and down the street looking at the stalls and people buzzing around them. The sound of traders shouting the costs of their produce mingled in the air with the ambiance of the crowd and a lone busker playing guitar more for his own enjoyment than anyone else’s.

    It’s moments like this when I wish that I had some kind of high quality recording device that could capture the sound. This scene is hard to capture without the ambiance and I imagined how this would make a good radio story, how it would be interesting to stop a few people and get their stories on this sunny Saturday morning. Maybe that can be a future project.

In the crowd

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  • At the St Kilda festival a huge crowd of fist bumping, crowd surfing, festival goers dance through the sunset at the beach and into the night as house music is mixed live on stage by DJ duo Miami Horror. I took a bunch of pictures of the crowd and the main stage, many of which were perfect to show the atmosphere of the night, the sunset, and the festival at it’s best. It was a great night, and I felt sure that one of the sunset pictures with the main stage in the foreground would be the picture of the day.

    However, when reviewing the pictures this morning I saw this couple in a blurry shot of the crowd that I was about to delete. To be honest, I had already chosen my picture and I was just clearing up the remaining pictures, discarded the ones I didn’t use in order to save some much needed disk space.

    I have no idea who they are, and at the time I stuck my camera in the air and randomly aimed it back at the crowd I had no idea I was capturing them, and this moment of what looks like sublime romantic exclusion that puts the couple alone in the crowd.

From Russia with love

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  • In Melbourne’s historic Royal Arcade there’s a shop that sells Russian Dolls, or Matroyshki if we’re being correct about the name.

    I’d never really given the store any attention before today, in fact if I’m honest, I’d never even noticed it before. I struck up a conversation with the store clerk, an attractive girl by the name of Elisa, an Italian here on a working holiday visa. The term ‘working holiday’ always struck me as an oxymoron, but who am I to judge.

    Elisa told me that the store, Babushkas, has been in the historic mall for twenty years, though she has only worked there for a couple of months. We chatted for a while as I took pictures and then as I thanked her for allowing me to snap a few shots she gave me a little Matroyshki on a key ring as a gift. Apparently the little Matroyshki had come from an incomplete set. In a sense I guess it was an orphan. I was touched by the gift and pleased attached the little Matroyshki to my keyring. I might not have many keys these days, but that little Matroyshki will join me on my journey from now on.

Of all the gin joints

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Sorry Sidney

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  • I went to St Kilda beach with a friend today. While there I snapped a few beach pictures showing the good weather and people enjoying the surf. As I was leaving I was joking around with my friend when I snapped this couple laying right next to the path soaking up the sun. I took the picture as a joke and expected to simply delete it later when I was choosing the picture for today. However, as has happened on a number of occasions, the pictures I was sure would be contenders for the ‘pic of the day’ were not as good as this ‘throw away snapshot’ that I had taken with little thought of purpose.

    The picture I thought I would end up publishing today was one of the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra playing a free concert at the Sidney Myer Music Bowl in the city. I thought that picture would show something of the culture of Melbourne. Instead, though, you got boobs. I guess that’s just how life goes sometimes, right?

The girl and the owl

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  • Melbourne is a city alive with art, and much of it can be seen on the street in the form of graffiti. Of course, the subject of graffiti is a controversial one. Melbourne has a reputation for great street art, but there is still a strong contingent who are wholly set against the art form, arguing instead that it is nothing but vandalism. Personally I only wish that more walls could be as beautiful, colorful, and expressive as many of the walls around Melbourne.

    Sadly I wasn’t able to identify the artist who created this particular piece found on Union Lane in the heart of the city. The walls in Union Lane are a famously ever changing canvas of some gorgeous graffiti and is a well established tourist draw along with Hosier Lane not far from Federation Square.

The Pierce Brothers

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  • Meet Jack and Pat Pierce, twin brother musicians who I met while they busked on Elizabeth Street in Melbourne. The pair were performing to a small crowd gathered on the steps of the GPO mall and to hundreds more people passing by.

    They told me that they’re trying out the life of full-time busking for a while to see how it goes. Having both just finished university this, according to Jack, was the perfect time to test out this way of earning a living, though they don’t lack any ambition to enjoy more commercial success.

    They’re fun to watch and have no shortage of talent and stage presence, or in this case, street presence. Jack (pictured here on the left) is particularly animated as they perform and I watched a number of people smile and stop to watch them as they bang out their upbeat numbers between moments of banter with each other and the crowd.

    “We’re doing pretty good here, but we’re on the list to get a spot just around the corner there, on Bourke Street. That’s the best place to be.” Jack tells me as I buy one of their CD’s that they sell for a mere $10. They’ve been enjoying the Melbourne summer and have done pretty well so far. “Our best day we sold 65 CD’s and had about two hundred dollars in the guitar case there,” Patrick tells me.

    The Pierce Brothers are currently working on a fresh new album and will also be making festival appearances through the year, as well as more busking sessions right there on Elizabeth street, by the steps of the GPO next to the tram stop.

Burnouts and Bogans

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  • I’ve never been to a drag car racing event before, and it’s probably fair to say that there is little chance I’ll be making it a priority to return to such an event after today.

    The venue was Calder Park, about forty or so minutes from Melbourne. It’s a dusty, somewhat neglected race circuit that is as attractive and charmless as a lumpy truck stop waitress going through a bitter divorce. Where Formula One has glamour and glitz, drag racing has tattoos and tits (and not the kind that you want to see!). It was, by any standard, a festival of fine Bogantry.

    As fun as it was to watch the various races, the on-track action was not as interesting as watching the sun cooked the herds of people gathered to inhale the fumes of fuel and enjoy the aroma of scorched rubber. As the voices of the commentators crackled over the loud speakers and ricocheted around the arena they mingled in the air with the roars and growls of engines. It’s fair to say this wasn’t really my kind of event, but it was a lot of fun because of the great and almost surreal people-watching opportunities.

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Lentil as anything

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  • This is the popular canteen style self service eatery ‘Lentil As Anything‘ at the Abbotsford Convent in Melbourne. ‘Lentils,’ as it’s often called, is a pay as you feel restaurant where customers give what they feel the food is worth and have the opportunity to donate towards the philosophy.

    Lentil As Anything has long been a favorite place for my Melbourne friends and I to meet up and grab a bite to eat from their selection of vegetarian food. There are three of them around, one in St Kilda, another in Footscray, and my favorite one at the Abbotsford Convent, which is itself a great place to visit for art and culture.

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Penguins

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  • Found swimming on a wall on Napier Street in Fitzroy, Melboure.

Storm in a teacup

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  • Hannah Dupree is passionate about tea. She’s the owner of ‘Storm in a Teacup‘ in Collingwood, Melbourne, and she’s telling me the story of the ‘Forest White’ tea I’ve just ordered. While the tea brews in the little glass teapot for a specific amount of time, Hannah explains that the leaves were hand picked on the volcanic mountains of Hawaii then partially sun dried before making their way to fine tea specialts around the globe. When the timer sounds she pours the tea into a large clear glass for me. While this place isn’t in the slightest bit snobby or pretentious, there’s a something just faintly ceremonial about this, my introduction into something a little more sophisticated than my usual milk and sugar brew.

    The cosy little tea room/cafe on Smith street has been open for three months and Hannah is fast becoming an expert in her trade with the helpful guidance of a tea guru from London. I never knew tea guru’s existed, but with some teas commanding higher prices than most bottles of Pinot Noir I suppose it’s hardly surprising.

    Her enthusiasm for tea is infectious. She talks about it with a bright smile and in such engaging tones that you can’t help but feel like she’s introducing you to something you’ve been overlooking in this overly caffeinated city. To Hannah tea is as complex and varied as wine and it can be indulgent in equal measure. She’s been sipping herbal tipples for years, but after being a full-time mother she was up for a new challenge.

    “I wanted to have my own business, but something that was good for people.” She told me as I sat at the polished wood counter atop of a thunderbolt bar stall custom made by local sculpturist, Damian Vick. “I never realised that doing this would mean that I’d end up working in hospitality though, that I’d be doing the dishes.” She said laughing with her hands in soapy water.

    Patrons can choose from a wide selection of blends from far flung places across the globe, most of which have been sourced directly from the producers. Sandwiches and various other treats are also on offer to compliment your tea choice or indulge your taste buds that little bit more. You can also buy the tea, cute teapots and other such tea paraphernalia.

    All in all this place is a wonderful oasis for tea drinkers, and I’m quite sure that the local leaf evangelists will hope that Storm in a Teacup lives up to its name in this city that likes to think of itself as the coffee capital of the southern hemisphere.

Symphony and the stars

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  • There can be few other more pleasant ways to spend a summer night in the city than sitting outside listening to live music as the sun goes down. Today I made an early trek to the Sidney Myer Music Bowl in Melbourne’s Kings Domain Gardens to get a good spot for a night of free classical music performed by the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra and conducted by Diego Matheuz, who I’m reliably informed is something of a young whizz in the world of classical music.

    We enjoyed a picnic as the sun began to set and the Orchestra played. Bats flew around above the gathered crowd of more than nine thousands people. I’m no classical music expert, but I can tell you we listened to Kodaly’s Dances of Galanta, Liszt’s Piano Concerto No.1 in E flat major, and Tchaikovsky’s Symphony No.5 in E minor, Op.64.

    It was the third of four such free concerts at the Sidney Myer Music Bowl. The concerts are a favorite annual summertime tradition in Melbourne and are funded in part by the philanthropic Sidney Myer Fund.

Thrift store wedding dresses

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  • While waiting for the tram today I was looking at a red dress in the window of a Salvos op shop (Salvation Army charity shop). A lady struck up a conversation with me, asking me if I liked the dress. I told her I was no expert in fashion and couldn’t really give an opinion one way or another. “It’s a bridesmaid dress,” She told me. “And an ugly one too.”

    The ladies name was Freda, an Australian lady of Greek descent. As we both stepped up closer to the window to look at the dress, she told me she was a dress maker. She then pointed out the wedding dress next to the red dress. “Now that’s a classy dress, a lot of work went into that,” She said, pointing at the long train of the dress that was rather unimaginatively strewn across the floorspace of the window. “I would guess that’s about a four of five thousand dollar dress.” She said.

    I then looked further into the shop and saw a rack of white wedding dresses. It’s summer here in Australia, wedding season, so the perfect time for a charity shop to display and sell such gleaming white gowns. As I looked at the rack of dresses I told Freda I’d never seen that many wedding dresses in a thrift store before.

    “Who buys their wedding dress from a thrift store?” I asked out loud. “Probably a girl on budget who wants something classy like that,” She said, pointing at the dress with the long train. “You could get that dress at a steal I bet, then just have it adjusted see.”

    Another question then struck me. “Who sends their wedding dress to a thrift store though?” Freda turned and looked at me as if I’d just asked the dumbest question of all time. “Well, they can’t all be fairy tales endings can they.” She said in a matter-of-fact tone.

    I looked back at the rack of dresses that had gone almost unnoticed by me just a few moments earlier as I waited for the 109 tram. Now they seemed like the saddest dresses I’d ever seen, just hanging there in a thrift store, abandoned like the dreams of their once owners who had clearly sent them somewhere to forget.

Country bike

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  • I’ve come to a country town a couple of hours from Melbourne to spend the weekend with my friend Kylie. She’s just got a new job and will be staying in a beautiful little place that looks like it’s come from the pages of Country Living magazine. It’s a rustic old barn house complete with beautiful antique furniture, wonderfully hand crafted fittings, and brilliantly reclaimed items that give the place a quite magical feel that I confess leaves me a little envious.

    I took a few internal shots of her new place, trying to capture its charm in the way those glossy magazines always seem to. But in the end I liked this picture the best. The old blue bike by the door is covered in cobwebs and clearly hasn’t taken anyone anywhere in quite some time.

    I think Country Living would probably overlook the old bike if they came calling, so just in case that happens and it doesn’t make it onto those glossy pages, I thought I’d give the old bike an opportunity to shine once more.

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Sun, sea, sand, and surf

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  • Today my friend Kylie took me to beaches not far from her home at Venus Bay in Victoria. She’s something of a ‘surfer chick’ and was excited about the hot weather that was forecast for the weekend. I’m afraid I disappointed her a little when I didn’t run with abandon into the surf as she did. You see, while it was indeed a very hot day, the water down here in South East Australia is still rather chilly.

    I think I might have developed this aversion to cold water back when my parents used to drag my siblings and I to the local swimming pool for our weekly swim classes. The water then was cold and I hated it. It might also explain why I love sliding into the burning water of a volcanic hot spring like the ones I’ve experienced in Iceland and New Zealand.

    Swim or not, I do love going to the beach on a day like today.

The old bank

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  • In the rural town of Toora, in Victoria, stands the former building of The Bank of Victoria. The flaking faded paint on the building makes it stand out on Stanley Street, the quiet main street of this once thriving town.

    Built in 1906 for the princely sum of 1535 Pounds, the bank served the township that had prospered from one of the largest tin mines in Victoria, as well as a timber trade contract to supply railway sleepers to the Indian government. However, in 1942, after merging with the Commercial Banking Company of Sydney the Toora bank was closed and sold five years later for 750 Pounds.

    I met the buildings current owner, Andy, a mechanic who spends much of his time under old Jaguar and Roll Royce cars at a wedding car centre in Melbourne. The bank has been his ‘weekend project’ for a little while now as he restores the building ensuring it keeps its character for years to come.

    In the unforgivingly hot afternoon sun Andy spoke about his plans to one day move to the township and live in the bank which still includes the original safe. He’s been here for a while working on the restoration, but after five years he says he is “still twenty years from being a local.”

Bucket list shoes

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  • In the small studio of Roberts & Hassett, Theo Hassett carefully crafts a pair of bespoke shoes. The studio sits within the Captains of Industry cafe in the heart of Melbourne, within earshot of trams ringing their bells as they trundle along busy Elizabeth Street.

    With the rich smell of leather in the air, R&H’s handmade footwear and leathergoods studio is equipped with old, almost antique, machines that look like they’ve seen a lot of work. Scraps of leather burst from various boxes as if trying hard to be noticed, waiting to be transformed.

    Using bark tanned Kangaroo leather, cut and dyed by hand in their studio, no pair of R&H shoes are the same. All of them have a completely individual pattern designed for the client who will have come by for several consultations and fittings to ascertain the precise fit and style.

    Ever since I first encountered R&H I’ve made it a goal to commission a pair of shoes from them, though I doubt I’ll be able to afford one anytime soon. As he works Theo tells me an average pair of shoes made by them will take a week to make and cost $1200, which I’m almost ashamed to admit is about $1150 more than I might usually spend on footwear. So for now, my R&H shoes will remain a ‘bucket list’ item.

Love you oodles

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  • “I’ll miss you. Love you oodles my Meggy Pie! xxx Mishy. Call me after work”
    So reads a private note I saw hiding in plain site on the door mirror of a parked car today. It was cute, a kind of voueyeristic peek into a private exchange between two people, one of whom loves the other “oodles.”

    I imagined ‘Mishy’ writing the note early in the morning while dashing out of the door, walking on the air that a new love puts between you and the ground beneath your every step. The car was maybe a minor diversion, just a quick stop with a glance around to see if anyone was looking. After applying the note ‘Mishy’ probably walked away smiling, looking forward to the message that ‘Meggy Pie’ will surely send when she finds the note, and enjoying that wonderful intoxicating excitement that comes with a new day in blossoming love.

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Extra time

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  • When you’re travelling I think it’s fair to say that in many ways you’re more aware of the passing of time than when you’re at home. You’re maybe in a far away place enjoying yourself, trying not to think about the return to work, the office, or the routines that give life its clockwork motion. You’re aware that this time is somehow more precious and each moment should be spent wisely.

    I’ve been ‘on the road’ in one form or another for over a year now. It’s been anything but clockwork, and while I’ve loved the adventure I can appreciate that there is a certain comfort to clockwork which I have missed on occasions.

    My time in Australia is drawing to a close now, and today was that bonus day that you get every leap year. The final day of February is the official last day of summer here, and this being a leap year, summer is a day longer than it ordinarily is. That sounds like a bonus to me, and having paid little attention to this extra day before, today it felt very much like a freebie.

    As the season changes here from summer to autumn, I’m heading into my final days ‘down under.’ In just a few short weeks I’ll be on a plane leaving this country, and I’m not sure when I’ll be back in these parts again. So today I enjoyed what felt like a bonus day in Australia, a gift granted to me by the Gods of time and the saints of good fortune.

Beyond the turnstiles

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  • When I was a kid my parents used to take my brother, sister, and I to a beachside amusement park called Peter Pans Playground. It was always a treat and we loved it, despite the fact it was a pretty underwhelming place with fairly run down amusements. There was a little big wheel, a tiny roller-coaster, a kart track, and bumper cars.

    We would get a huge helping of bright pink cotton candy then run between the amusements. My favorite for a long time was the crooked house, where true to it’s name, nothing was straight or flat. We must have walked through that house so many times, laughing at ourselves in the wonky mirror as if it was the first visit.

    In St Kilda, Melbourne, there’s an old amusement park across the road from the beach that reminds me a little of Peter Pans Playground. It’s called Luna Park and it’s been in near continuous operation for almost a hundred years!

    Inside Luna Park there are a number of rides and amusements, all of which look pretty unexciting to me, just as I suppose the rides at Peter Pans Playground must have seemed to my parents all those years ago.

    While the park is noted for having the worlds oldest continually-operating rollercoaster called the Scenic Railway, the real landmark feature of the park is the famous gate. The vividly colored clown face just looks terrifyingly wonderful with its gaping mouth and crazy wide eyes.

    I’ve taken many photographs of this landmark which looks even more scary at night when the lights are on. In fact, as I stand beneath those maniacal eyes looking up at the crazed expression of the clown, I wonder just how many children are so frightened by him that they simply refuse to go inside the park, despite the promise of wild fun beyond the turnstiles.

    I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t have been one of those kids. In fact I can say with a fair degree of certainty that I would have loved walking into the mouth of the crazy clown, and crossing that barrier between the real world and the wonderful world of magic and make-believe where the old and underwhelming rides would have played only a small part in what makes a place like this fodder for fond memories.

Melting Pot

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  • In an intimate venue above a restaurant on Smith Street in Collingwood, people who appreciate fine music gather to enjoy watching three singer/songwriters perform live around a small table in a dark room. This weekly event feels like a cross between an evening at a friends house and a clandestine meeting of a secret society. But this is no secret meeting, this is Melting Pot’s ‘Songwriters in the Round.’

    A long time Friday night fixture in my Australian diary, Melting Pot has introduced me to a whole raft of musical talent here in Melbourne. Run by a committed and passionate gang of volunteers, this weekly event is something of a hidden cultural gem, and a real find for anyone who loves music.

    The format is simple. Three singer/songwriters sit around a table and perform five songs in rotation while the gathered audience relax on chairs and couches around them. At the end of the five songs there’s a short break followed by a second set featuring three different artists.

    I love Melting Pot and have enjoyed some really unforgettable nights there. Watching the musicians perform, listening to their stories, and enjoying the banter they often exchange, really makes this event unique. Tonight was no exception and was actually one of my favorite such nights.

    It was pretty difficult to get a good picture due to the low lighting and my rather beat up camera, so you’ll have to forgive the rather grainy look of this shot. That said, maybe it communicates something of the mellow atmosphere.

    Pictured from left to right are Tash Sultana, SammyQ, James Hart. They performed a fantastic set which was then followed by another really superb set by Caitlin Harnett, Laura K Clarke, and Kate Walker.

    Of all the things I’ll miss about Melbourne when I leave, this would be very high on the list.

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