Spring has sprung

Spring has sprung
Roses at the Cottage

Wednesday, 27 June 2012

The Pelaco Sign

It is reputed that Richmond boasts the greatest number of sky signs in Victoria. Certainly one of the most iconic signs, and the one closest to Bowen Cottage, is the Pelaco Shirt Factory sign sitting atop Richmond Hill.  I can see it from the end of my street but the difficulty I had was trying to photograph it without the hideous overhead power lines which are draped all over this beautiful city (what happened to underground lines - if Paris can do it why can't we?) 
Pelaco - 'draped' in power lines
 Last week I mentioned the book Melbourne by Sophie Cunningham which is now in the Cottage 'Library'. One of her most fascinating pieces of Richmond trivia was the fact that 'in the early 20th century the Pelaco factory closed at midday on a Saturday in time for the women to get to the game'. I wonder where the men were? No doubt already in the bar at the ground preparing for an afternoon of hurling abuse at the umpires! Football games were either played on the world famous M.C.G or in those days at the old Richmond Oval on Punt Road - still used to this day as a training ground for the Richmond Football Club. 

She continues with a wonderful vignette '..a canopy had to be constructed over the Richmond players' entry onto the field because women, (I am sure not just the Pelaco women) angry at some of the performances, were poking them with knitting needles. There is a long tradition of Richmond fans actively haranguing their team'.  Nothing has changed although the team is certainly on the improve this year!  

Richmond has 'gentrified' over the years and the site currently hosts a variety of rather more genteel businesses - although Madman Entertainment might just hark back to the knitting needle Pelaco women of the past. I fear it won't be long before the developers - who have mooted a number of plans - finally 'ruin' yet another historical site so close to the city.

Wednesday, 20 June 2012

Book Talk

Not only do I love the name - Book Talk - but it actually spells out exactly what it is! A book store selling both new and pre-loved books with a cafe where one can TALK - but more importantly HEAR! Oh the joys of a carpeted floor! 
A cafe surrounded by books or a bookstore with a cafe!
Located at 91 Swan Street, Richmond (9428 1977) it has a lovely homely atmosphere. Friendly knowledgeable staff and good wholesome food! What more could a 'girl' want! I love that they have a selection of Richmond focused books - all of which are in the cottage 'library'. I have just added to the library with the new book Melbourne, by Sophie Cunningham. 
I love the cover - courtesy MWF
Drop in for a coffee, a read, a browse, a buy, a chat - this is the true 'neighbourhood' bookstore. 

Bowen Cottage - client comment this week: We have had a wonderful time. You have set this little cottage up perfectly and we congratulate you on making our stay with Ollie and Ruby memorable.

Wednesday, 13 June 2012

Vale Vlado

I was sorry to read that Vlado Gregurek - a Richmond 'institution' had died recently in another Richmond 'institution' - Epworth Hospital (just a few doors from his restaurant). Vlado's Restaurant at 61 Bridge Road ( 9428 5833) was renowned for its MEAT, MEAT, MEAT! His restaurant never really changed since it opened in 1964! How often these days do you know of a restaurant staying open for more than - well let's say 10 years - but 48 years! It's the longest running restaurant under single ownership in Melbourne.  Amazing. 
Vlado in 1964 - courtesy The Age
I recall being taken there by my parents way back in the early 70's. My father was a man who enjoyed his food (and has passed this onto me I'm afraid) but even he was defeated by the amount of food (MEAT) which was presented that night. I can remember we just accepted the 'fixed menu' which began with sausages, followed by a tasting plate (more meat) and then a choice of steaks (I think he ordered large - his eyes were bigger than his stomach!) which always came with only a coleslaw salad (I think it was just called cabbage salad) and that was followed by strawberry pancakes (hardly crepes - nothing so light!). I can see my fathers face now! My mother and I had given up long before. Suffice to say we didn't return.
The 60's grey brick facade on a beautiful old Victorian building!
But many a man (and perhaps the odd woman) returned frequently to this 'institution'. Locals and interstate and overseas visitors ensured that the restaurant remained a force to be reckoned with. Vlado was always on show in the front 'butcher counter' stroking his beloved meat before cooking it on his special mallee root (now there is another wood dying out) charcoal grill. The quality of the meat was second to none. After all that is what the customers had come for. Vlado received an OAM and was inducted as a Melbourne Food and Wine Festival Legend in 1994. Imagine being a legend in your own lifetime. What an achievement - as was eating an entire meal at the restaurant! 
I was pleased to read that Vlado's will continue as it has for so many years. Ivan Glavas the former head waiter will now operate the grill after just a short 28-year apprenticeship!

Wednesday, 6 June 2012

Napoleon rides into town for the Queen's Diamond Jubilee!

I find it fascinating that Australia could have been a French colony! And rather than celebrating our long reigning Queen Elisabeth II as we have done this week we could have been celebrating - well let's just say Bastille Day! After all the first name for Victoria (named of course after the Queen's great-great-grandmother) was originally named Napoleon-land (Terra Napoleon). Our region was part of Napoleon's imperial ambitions. We would have spoken French and not been part of the Commonwealth. And Melbourne may have had the architecture of Paris (without the Eiffel Tower). The Paris end of Collins Street - now ravaged by the developers - perhaps eludes to this!

Napoleon crossing the Alps on a white steed

Napoleon: Revolution to Empire has just arrived in Melbourne (until 7 October 2012) with a wonderful exhibition at the National Gallery of Victoria. I suggest booking a ticket on line rather than waiting patiently in the queue to see this Winter Masterpiece. It seems the masters of spin were at work during his reign - after all he is depicted in this wonderful painting above (which is included in the exhibition) as riding to victory on a white steed when in fact he rode over the mountains on a mule!
Crossing on a mule - not so uplifting!
I haven't yet visited the exhibition but it has already had great reviews. I have been fascinated to read that Josephine - Napoleon's first wife - kept kangaroos and black swans at her home Malmaison outside Paris. Josephine was tiny and stood around 4 feet (I am hanging onto the old English measurements!) while my image of Napoleon is that he was short - but he was in fact taller than most at that time.The exhibition also contains maps and drawings from the French explorer Nicholas-Thomas Baudin expedition (1800 - 1803).
The Queen - who has been a constant in most of our lives
 And so if Napoleon had not been defeated by the English at the Battle of Waterloo we may all be French-speaking today.  Which brings me (in a circuitous route) to the Diamond Jubilee of the Queen this week. What a spectacle of pomp and ceremony the English are capable of organising and all done without seeming to put a foot wrong. 60 years on the throne - what a selfless feat. I can't imagine how tedious much of what the Queen has seen, heard or participated in over the years could have been - suffice to say she has done it with dignity, grace and aplomb. 
But I can't help but wonder if Henry VIII was as interested in his civic duties as our Queen. Only the English with their wry sense of humour could have created this advertisement for the London Underground - removing yet another wife for his own interests seemed to be more important to him!