Spring has sprung

Spring has sprung
Roses at the Cottage

Tuesday, 18 December 2012

Santa Claus is coming to town

You'd better watch out
You'd better not cry
Better not pout
I'm telling you why
Santa Claus is coming to town

I'm not sure he's going to make it after seeing his car broken down in the nearby suburb of Northcote - in the appropriately named Victoria Road! The Age reported that he has bought fun and laughter to those passing by.
Broken down in Northcote (The Age)
With electricity prices rising faster than Santa and his reindeer (or broken down ute) can travel it's amazing how many houses are now lit up like Christmas Crackers! Once upon a time it used to be just the homes in the Boulevard, Ivanhoe but I guess the traffic jams to see them persuaded others to start their own look-at-me celebration. We even have them in Richmond!
Richmond reindeer flying across the sky, Santa waving over a snow fence - and more
I recently received an email explaining another carol we all know so well. So in my final post for the year I've thrown in a history lesson. Religious history has never been to the forefront for me. But I found this rather interesting. From 1558 - 1829 Roman Catholics in England weren't permitted to practice their faith openly. As with all supressions a way was found to share by code:
Twelve drummers drumming 
(the twelve points of belief of the Apostles' Creed)
Eleven pipers piping 
(the eleven faithful disciples)
Ten lords a-leaping
(the ten commandments)
Nine ladies dancing
(Love, Joy, Peace, Patience, Kindness, Goodness, Faithfulness, Gentleness & Self control)
Eight maids a-milking
(the eight beatitudes)
Seven swans a-swimming
(Prophesy, Serving, Teaching, Exhortation, Contribution, Leadership and Mercy)
Six geese a-laying
(six days of creation)
Five golden rings
(the five books of the Old Testament)
Four calling birds
(the four apostles - Matthew, Mark, Luke and John)
Three french hens
(Faith, Hope and Love)
Two turtle doves
(Old and New Testament)
A Partridge in a pear tree
(Jesus Christ)
I must say singing this in the future will have a slightly different resonance!
My favourite nativity set - created by my grandmother in her 90th year
So whether you believe in Santa, Partridges, French hens or JOY may this world find PEACE in 2013

Tuesday, 11 December 2012

A Magical Christmas Projection

Walking along Swanston Street the other night we came upon a most magical sight. The Melbourne Town Hall was illuminated as I had never seen it before. No warning. No fanfare. (No advertising - as usual!!) But there it was in all its glory (and it is a glorious building) with a moving projection of lighting covering its facade. We rushed to cross the road (watching for trams, bikes, cars and pedestrians) to join the small crowd gazing up in awe while using their smartphones to record and photograph this rotating 5+ minute projection of divine lighting celebrating Christmas. 
Dark and hard to see but I hope you get my drift
I snapped away but I think it is time for 'photography lessons'. Suffice to say I was very unhappy with the results. No problems I thought. I will just visit the Melbourne Town Hall sight. They are sure to have some great photos. Silly me! This was it!
Where is the magic 'sell' in this image?!
Thank goodness for utube - please please click on the 2 links, this one (long) and this one (short) - probably taken on a smartphone by the fellow standing next to me! It's one of the best displays I have ever seen in Melbourne. It was fun, it was colourful, it was clever, it was charming and it brought out the child in all of us looking up. 
Here he is again - telling a story I hope!
So if you are in the city after dark then make sure you stop and take a look (9-11 each night). Make sure you take your children and grandchildren. And if you can't find a child then take the child in you! This is what Christmas is about. It made me all warm and fuzzy! And to think we could have missed it. It certainly pays to look up in this city. I don't even care how much it cost. And the Town Hall either forgot or didn't think it was important enough to advertise it on their website. Pathetic.What is the world coming to.
The Richmond Town Hall projection

And finally, I read in the local Richmond paper that our dear old Richmond Town Hall - in Bridge Road between Church and Coppin Streets is having a 12 Nights of Christmas Projections beginning on 13 December. Local artist Nick Azidis (from Projection Teknik - love the name) has created a different image for the 12 nights and they will light up the Town Hall facade. It seems that projections onto Town Halls are HOT!

Bowen Cottage client comment: We have no suggestions - everything is perfect

Tuesday, 4 December 2012

Public Art in Public Places!

Last night I was invited to the beautiful State Library of Victoria (see earlier post 20 November 2012) to hear John Kaldor speak about the current public art project 'offered' to we lucky Melburnians. For the past 40+ years Kaldor Public Art Projects have been involved in presenting unique public art - from the Christo & Jean-Claude wrapping of Little Bay in Sydney 1968-69 to the Jeff Koons puppy outside Sydney’s Museum of Contemporary Art in 1995 to the Gregor Schneider instillation transforming Bondi Beach in 2007 with a giant cage named 21 beach cells - well the list goes on and on. The current project #26 at the Library's Cowen Gallery is Allora & Calzadilla Stop, Repair, Prepare... It combines sound, performance and sculpture and features a man playing Ode to Joy inside a grand piano - and playing it 'backwards' while moving the piano around the space. As you can imagine it is hard to describe and hard to imagine. But it works!
Have I explained it well?!
How lucky we are to have had this project in Melbourne - after all it was presented to great acclaim at the Museum of Modern Art in New York. So imagine my surprise to discover that the project (which I have never seen advertised - and I'm an avid pursuer of all art related events) has been playing for 3 weeks and ends THIS THURSDAY 6 DECEMBER! Go to it if you have a moment in the city between now and Thursday night! It 'plays' on the hour from 11am - 8pm. 
The view from behind!
Kaldor talked about the philosophy behind the Kaldor Public Art Projects being found in unexpected places. In other words if you go to an Art Gallery you expect to see art. But if you come across art outside the gallery environment (Bondi Beach, State Library etc) it introduces art to those who would not normally go to see it.
En route around the gallery - included for the hole in the piano lid!
Which brings me to my second Public Art comment! Last weekend (sorry - only found out about it by default - yet again!) I 'heard' about Art at Burnley Harbour 2012 - an initiative of the Contemporary Art Society of Victoria Inc. Burnley is part of the greater suburb of Richmond. And there tucked under the City Link/Monash Freeway and right on the Yarra River with the famed bike path passing by were displayed over 100 pieces of art (paintings and sculpture) for purchase. 
En route along the Yarra River bike path under the freeway
What a great idea. What a unique setting. What an unexpected venue. But how many people knew about it - well I would say very few. I went on the final morning and the viewing numbers were lean pickings. Many were Sunday bike riders who just 'happened to be passing'. This was a great idea - that in my opinion was a wasted one.
Bikers passing by
Public Art wherever it is shown needs to be advertised. And not just once or twice. Finding out about unique events which enrich our lives in this day an age seems to get harder and harder, not easier and easier as you would expect with social media (not for me!). I don't know the answer - do you? All I know is that it would have been wonderful to have known about both these Public Art events in time for you to have the opportunity to plan a visit!
The sculpture garden

Bowen Cottage client comment: There is everything you could need. A true home rather than a holiday rental. It's the provision of these little, thoughtful things that really made the stay.

Wednesday, 28 November 2012

Inner Urban Veggie Gardens

When I first moved to Richmond (or North Yarraah as we often jokingly like to refer to it) around 10 years ago many front gardens were filled to overflowing with a wonderful array of vegetables. Vegetable growing was serious business. No fluffy flowers, iceberg roses or trendy yukkas. And this was certainly before hunter gathering became 'fashionable'. Many of the gardens were planted by the predominantly Greek immigrants who once made Richmond their Aussie home. (see previous posts May 2012 and March 2012)  Sadly as the suburb has developed the number of cottages featuring lush vegetable gardens has diminished but those that are left certainly make up for it. 
After a hard mornings work in the garden - its time to sit and admire
My aging Greek neighbour can still be seen morning, noon and night tending her garden. There is manure to be dug in, there is watering to be done, there is weeding to be done and of course there is planting to be done. It is constant and ongoing and the results show just what can be achieved if your heart is in it. And after a dig in the garden there is nothing better than to sit on a garden bench watching the world go by and chatting in Greek to your now dwindling countrymen and women who live nearby. 
Oranges and lemons aplenty
It's a lovely thing to watch the work that goes into this garden. Oranges and lemon trees that bear more fruit than I've ever seen - thanks to all that manure and of course the care and attention. Not only are there leeks, spring onions, silver beet and broccoli, I love that there are leafy greens that I don't know. They look like weeds to me but I'm sure they're not! Do you know what they are? Unfortunately I can't ask my charming neighbour. She has limited English - even though she's been here for more than 40 years.
Unusual leafy vegetables
On your wanders in the area keep your eye out for the ever diminishing front garden vegetable plots. They are still around. Just.

Bowen Cottage client comment this week: Thank you for a lovely relaxing stay. The cottage was an oasis to retreat to after a day of shopping and eating. Perfect size, great location, lovely to look at and has everything including umbrellas!

Wednesday, 21 November 2012

A new centenarian - The Dome of the State Library of Victoria

The beautiful State Library of Victoria at 328 Swanston Street is one of Melbourne's hidden gems. The Dome towers 35 metres above the desks in the great reading room where the lamps emit a wonderful glow over the room and the warm timber desks and chairs are a relief from today's moulded plastic and laminex.
Study, read a book, read a newspaper - be inspired (mel365.com)
 Whenever I have visited it is full to overflowing with students studying and the odd Melbourne citizen or visitor (it seats up to 300+) and yet the reverent library hush is actually warm and inviting and not at all intimidating. And there are laptops aplenty so although surrounded by books I suspect that many students are Googling for information!

The Dome-less Melbourne Public Library 1856

Originally named the Melbourne Public Library it opened in 1856. The Dome was added later and completed in 1913! In its day it was the largest reinforced concrete vault in the world - only beaten by the Pantheon in Rome! It now houses more than 300,000 books. So there's something for everyone!
What a Dome. What a reading room (walkingmelbourne.com)
But it's the Dome that's celebrating its centenary. It is such a wonderful surprise to walk into the building and be welcomed by the Dome, the light, the reverence. While visiting I recommend you visit the Cowen Gallery to see their free exhibition: Enchanted Dome: The Library and Imagination - you have until 14 July 2013. And while you are there why not take a free tour of the library and in particular the Dome. They run most days from 2pm - 3pm and begin in the front foyer. (I must do it myself!)

Tony and Maureen Wheeler of Lonely Planet fame have lived in Melbourne since their arrival overland from England in the 60's. They are extraordinarily generous philanthropists and the aptly named Wheeler Centre is 'attached' to the State Library of Victoria at 176 Little Lonsdale Street. This new type of cultural institution hosts some wonderful - mostly free - talks relating to books, authors, ideas and writing. They are often held at lunch time and in the early evening. Check out their programme on line. I recommend a visit. I am sure that this additional innovation assisted in Melbourne being awarded the 2nd UNESCO City of Literature in August 2008 (there are now 6 cities). (see earlier post 29 August 2012)
Welcome to the State Library
So put on your 'intellectual hat' and spend some time in this wonderful building. After exploring I recommend a coffee at the on-site cafe Mr Tulk. Alternatively The Moat is highly recommended. It resides in the basement of the Library 'under' the Wheeler Centre.  

Bowen Cottage client comment this week: Another great stay

Tuesday, 13 November 2012

Nonda Katsalidis - we salute you!

There are architects and there are architectural visionaries who push the boundaries. I have followed our very own Nonda Katsalidis over the years and was delighted to read that his design for Hobart's MONA (Museum of Old and New Art) has just won the Sir Zelman Cowen Award for Public Architecture. MONA is the largest privately owned museum in Australia. Cut into the sandstone cliff it is one of the most exciting buildings I have seen. If you haven't visited I encourage you to do so - and make sure that you travel there by ferry from Hobart's Constitution Dock. The approach is wonderful! The museum is AMAZING. Go if you haven't. It has changed the face of Tasmanian tourism. And rightly so.
Approaching MONA (FenderKatsalidis)
I could go on and on - and on! - regarding 'Mad about MONA' but this is about Nonda!

One of my favourite 'out there' apartment buildings is one of his early conversions. The old grain silos in Richmond. Who else would have created a '5 storey ship'. Because that's what it reminds me of! It's amazing.
The 'Silos' Apartments

Tucked away in an interesting nook of Richmond it is surrounded by some wonderful conversions including the old Malthouse and various other factories and warehouses. It's worth a wander in the area and the streets around it. Laneways, courtyard gardens hidden by high, high walls, it shows how tiny old workers cottages sit comfortably with trendy but sympathetic conversions.
The 'Silos' with the pair of Malthouse buildings to the left (now apartments)
So if you have a moment visit 22 Abinger Street (off Church Street just up the hill from Bridge Road). Photos really don't do the area or the building justice. 
The proud ship towers above its neighbours
Have a wander in the surrounding streets and laneways. This is the Richmond I have grown to love.

Tuesday, 6 November 2012

And their racing.....

I breathe a sigh of relief every year at race time in Melbourne! Let me explain! For my sins my Event Management Company designed and co-ordinated the first marquees in the now (in)famous Birdcage at Flemington for the Melbourne Spring Racing Carnival. What fun you say! Not! There were no catering facilities to brag about, there was no electricity, it could be hot, it could be freezing, it could be a wet bog underfoot. And all had to be met with a smile (fixed) sore feet (rotating high heels, low heels, high heels - need I go on!). Arriving at dawn and departing after the final guests had swayed out the door (well tent-flap) was a triumph for my clients. For me - utter exhaustion. Horses - what horses - I sometimes glimpsed the bottoms of the jockeys as they thundered past. After 13 good - and I must admit rewarding years - I raised the white flag and fled! I have not been near a racecourse since!
Picnic Hampers are all the rage in the Members Car Park (the window in my favourite Laikon Deli in Richmond)
Back in those good ole days (late 80's to mid-90's) corporate marquees were few and far between - in fact almost non-existent. At first my client was the only marquee (corporate or otherwise) 'allowed' in the now famed Birdcage which was the Members Hallowed Ground (MHG). Even one marquee tucked up in the far corner was considered derigeur. Back then the Victorian Racing Club was really only just beginning to dip its toes in the corporate world of entertaining - and thus become the money-making-machine it is today. 

Well the MHG was slowly invaded until there were no more Members car parks in the Birdcage. After all why let the Members have the best view of the track! Today it is wall-to-wall Corporate Marquees vying for position in the front 'stalls', vying for the most 'over-the-top design, vying for the most exotic food created by a celebrity chef and of course vying most importantly for A-lister guests (90% of whom I have never heard of!). 
Our Nicole - dressed as a new version of My Fair Lady - jetted in from Europe for less than 24 hours!
Back then I was of the firm view that we were setting up in a paddock (out of season it still is!) and the then well regarded designs reflected what I still believe a marquee should be. Nowadays I would be considered 'old hat' - or 'old fascinator'. After all some marquees are now 3 stories high and have flushing loos. The Emirates marquee this year is a Dublin Library (my guess is that Emirates newest destination is ..... Dublin). Magnificent tho it is I do question the extraordinary amount of money that is poured into just 4 days of racing. 

Dublin comes to a Melbourne Cup Marquee (The Age)

We Aussies do have an obsession with horses and the track. We love a winner. I was interested to read recently that the famed Phar Lap who stands mightily at the Melbourne Museum now has his own - I can hardly bring myself to say this - facebook page! I wonder what he would make of today's circus. He'd probably be all of a Twitter!

Magnificent Phar Lap at the Melbourne Museum

But if you haven't experienced a Melbourne Spring Racing Carnival then I guess it really should go on your '1000 things to do before I die' list. Book early, stay at the Cottage and take the train (from the end of the street) out to Flemington. You'll have a fun day (I promise). Smell the roses, look at the sights - they are memorable - have a bet and of course a tipple! And as the song goes in My Fair Lady 'with a little bit of bloomin luck' you just might pick a winner. 

Tuesday, 30 October 2012

Happy Birthday Fed Square

I must be growing old. It feels as though Federation Square (corner Swanston and Flinders Streets) has been part of the Melbourne scene forever and yet is is just 10 years young this week. Love it (I do) or hate it, it has become part of the fabric of our city. It's 'our' meeting place in ways that the failed City Square (corner Swanston and Collins Streets) never was. It doesn't matter what time you visit there are always groups of people sitting around just 'watching the world go by'. 
Sitting around in a deck chair in the shade
I've participated in one of the openings of the Melbourne International Festival of Arts - singing along with the crowd to 'Singin' in the Rain. I've been led on a wild ride learning how to laugh with a crowd of strangers. I've joined the masses there at the end of a 'sorry' march and to protest about our engagement in the Iraq war (this is showing my colours!). I've watched the crowd dancing, singing, laughing, crying and celebrating. It's just a lively place to be. Groups gather to watch the big screen to either see themselves (always very exciting!) or their sporting idols participating in the Olympics, tennis, soccer, rugby, football and a host of other sporting activities around the world. They come to see in the New Year, they come to see their favourite band, they come for a guided tour - the list is endless. I was thrilled to see our very own (clean) Cadel Evans take to the stage. There seems to be something for everyone. 
We yelled for Cadel at Fed Square with the Premier Ted Baillieu (Quinn Rooney/Getty Images)
10 years - 10  million visitors. I love the architecture (well most of it). Designed by LAB Architecture - a local firm - it had a torturous birth. The glass shards which were supposed to feature caused outrage as some felt that they would overpower St Paul's Cathedral opposite. Instead we got a hideous 'committee of politicians' shard (neither one thing nor the other) housing the busy Melbourne Visitors Centre. How much better it would have looked as a glass shard mimicking the spires of St Paul's Cathedral
St Paul's Cathedral and the pathetic shard (looking like a temporary booth) on the left 
 The cobbled forecourt also caused outrage - particularly due to the difficulty traversing it in a wheelchair - although this has since been partially rectified. The lack of trees, the fact that it faces away from the Yarra River, the list goes on - and yet thousands flock to it day-in-day-out. It has an energy which can't be created except by human intervention!  The thing is - there is always something happening to draw people to it. This week there is a wonderful installation next to ACMI (Australian Centre for the Moving Image - well worth a visit). Called Stickwork and created by the artist Patrick Dougherty using willow tree saplings and sticks to create a sculptural instillation called Ballroom. Interestingly it seems to have been inspired not only by Flinders Street Station which itself has a sadly neglected Ballroom in its midst. 
The Stickwork Ballroom seems to mirror Flinders Street Station
The 'stick' Ballroom with the city in the background
The Atrium is one of my least favourite spaces - except on a Saturday - when there is a marvellous second hand book market - well worth a visit. Otherwise it's cold, dark and soul-less. Sadly it is the main entrance to the Ian Potter Centre: NGV Australia Collection (closed Mondays) and the marvellous public auditorium BMW Edge (see earlier post 28 August 2012).

The Atrium - a tunnel to 'nowhere'
But it's the forecourt that captures the general public's attention.It's where the people watching takes place, It's where one goes to meet. It's where the restaurants are. Try my favourite Chocolate Bhudda (Japanese) or the Transport Hotel for a drink or their upstairs one chef's hat restaurant Taxi Dining Room with seriously great views down the Yarra River.
The empty forecourt on a hot Melbourne morning
Do you love it or hate it? What is it about it that you love and what is it about it that you hate? Melbourne is divided but even so it has become 'our meeting place'.

Wednesday, 24 October 2012

Strike a light!

The historically significant Bryant & May industrial complex of Redhead® Matches fame is now a rather well converted group of offices, showrooms, car parking and other assorted paraphernalia including gyms (yuck). You will find it in Church Street in a HUGE block between Swan Street and the Yarra River surrounded by Balmain, Chestnut (I thought it was the next street - Walnut!) and the very well-named William (!) Streets.
The view from Church Street
The original factory was opened in December 1909 by Australia's second Prime Minister The Hon. Alfred Deakin (see earlier post 17 July 2012). The newly formed (1901) Federal Government wanted to encourage industry and pledged tariff protection. Sadly no amount of tariff protection or other government support could sustain the business and we lost the manufacturing in the early 1980's to a Swedish firm in Tidaholm who now ship our favourite 'Aussie brand matches' back home for us, so we can use 6 million Redheads® a day.
This is a seriously big building just to make matches!
Being the colour of danger - fire engine red - I think Redhead® is a great name for a match (certainly better than their blackhead once they have been lit!). When Googling for its history I was stunned to read that 'Redheads is an Australian Fireneeds brand'. What on earth does that mean - fireneeds. Of course a fire needs a match (or some other lighter) and if there is a fire it won't need a match! Is this a weasel word or perhaps the word of an overpaid marketing executive on fire!
The old (now non-polluting) chimney

The Bryant & May factory was run on model factory conditions. The amenities introduced in the 1920's included the first on-site industrial nurses, tennis and basketball courts and even a bowling green for the staff. Much of which can still be seen in the 'renovated' complex.
The new mod grass tennis court with the old clubhouse

Of course my favourite Richmond mural art wall (see earlier post 8 August 2012) must be included here as it features Miss Redhead.(There's not much it doesn't include)
Miss (or perhaps Ms!) Redhead amongst our history
 The original redhead was a rather glamorous gal in her day and many incarnations followed
A silver jubilee reincarnation (photobucket)
Her 'firey' reputation meant that she needed to keep 'sparking with the times' and she was continually updated!
Perhaps our most familiar image
I think you'll agree she does bear some slight resemblance to our (assisted) redhead Prime Minister!
The clever Illawarra Mercury Newspaper front cover

So next time you're in the supermarket buying 'Aussie' Redhead® Matches spare a thought for the workers of Sweden who are saving our heritage! (I wonder how many Swedes are redheads?). Take a walk down Church Street towards the Yarra - you won't miss it the site is enormous - and toast our Aussie Redhead® icon at either the trendy Royal Saxon Hotel or Pillar of Salt cafe opposite. And if you're a smoker then strike a light and pay homage to the Redhead® while overlooking the old factory site - before butting out!

Tuesday, 16 October 2012

Melbourne's Petit Giverny

I've been fortunate to have spent time in the world-renowned gardens of impressionist painter Claude Monet, Giverny, in France. 
Giverny - the waterlily pond and the crowds (on a rainy day)
It had been on my 'must do list' for years and finally on a wet and miserable day I took my chance. It was wonderful, the crowds were thinner than usual thanks to the weather - I hate to think what it would have been like on a glorious sunny day - and it was memorable.
Looking towards Manet's home
For those of you who have been fortunate to visit and for those who still have it on their 'must do before I die list' then I encourage you to visit our very own petit version!  And it's right here in downtown East Melbourne (a mere hop, step and a jump from Richmond). Words fail me with its beauty. 
Inner urban Giverny with its own bridge

Located in the Conservatory of the glorious Fitzroy Gardens it will bring a leap of joy to your heart. 
What can I say
The colours, the choice of plants and the symmetary all combine beautifully. And to make it even more joyous is the choice of glorious music to really make your heart soar. Watching other visitors I was struck by their silence. The beauty is almost overwhelming.   
The mass plantings - divine
There is something rather wonderful about the intimacy in the Conservatory. So if you are looking for a little uplift for your soul then I can't recommend it more highly.

Tuesday, 9 October 2012

What is it about the Rhino?

It seems that Rhino's are invading Melbourne at the moment! It follows on from all the pachyderms that I wrote about recently. Those elephants have now all headed back to the Zoo. Walking along Bridge Road the other day I came across the most striking graffiti (or is it art) wall - advertising Richmond's postcode - and the appropriately named Three One 2 One Cafe. You can see the 3121 on his (or her) hump!
The 3121 Rhino on the corner of Hunter Street & Bridge Road
Co-incidentally Yarra Trams are currently running a series of advertisements to alert people to the weight and strength of one of their trams (50 tons). They are using the image of 30 charging rhinoceros (or is that rhinocerosi!) bearing down on you at speed on skateboards.
Imagine 30 rhinos heading straight for you - the winner would be....
It seems that the problem tram drivers have is that so many pedestrians are now hooked into their ear phones that they have no awareness of their surroundings and don't hear the approach of a tram - and that can have disasterous consequences. The Beware The Rhino passenger safety campaign is in response to an alarming increase in pedestrians being hit by trams.

If you haven't seen the advertisement - here it is. It's worth watching! 
You'll find reminder advertisements at most tram stops
Why not take a rhino tram - or walk - east along Bridge Road to see the 3121 mural. I'm not sure about the colour but I think it's a nice piece of graffiti art.  Alternatively take either the number 75 or the 48 direct into the city along Bridge Road - just around the corner from the Cottage. And please be mindful while in the vicinity of 30 skateboarding rhinocerosi particularly if you're chatting on your smartphone or 'groovin' to your favourite music.