Spring has sprung

Spring has sprung
Roses at the Cottage

Wednesday, 26 March 2014

A walk down memory lane

Recently I went exploring with a friend who was brought up in Richmond and then escaped to the UK for almost 50 years before returning to his hometown Melbourne (not Richmond) a few years ago. It was such a special day as we retraced his Richmond life. So join me us we walk down memory lane. 
John (holding Struggletown - my gift to him) outside his family home
The book Struggletown by Janet McCalman (you will find a copy in the Cottage 'library') is a reminder of how tough it was to live in Richmond where many were caught in the poverty trap particularly between the war years. It was tough to survive, it was tough to make ends meet. And if you were someone who wanted to escape it was even tougher. John forged a wonderful life in London as an actor, teacher and much more - and you will hear him with his partner Chuck (the one with the Yankie accent!) on the ABC 774 Sunday Arts Programme talking about the arts in a way that is invigorating, charming and most importantly - knowledgeable. I heard one listener recently describe them as 'those charming gentlemen' - and they are!
The programme for their Cabaret Festival performance - a couple of years ago!
So let's go walking and reminiscing with John!  We head off to the eastern end of Abinger Street (see my post here about the Nonda Katsalidis conversion of the Malt Silos in November 2012) with John reminiscing as we go. And then we find it - the house he grew up in - which amazingly is still there (the hideous over-development on the opposite side of the road doesn't bare thinking about - and I couldn't bring myself to photograph the 3 storey monstrosity!) 
Down the laneway - the development at the end - where the horses were kept
A laneway just one house from John's took us to another development - this one was not gross. It was on this site that his father kept his horse in the paddock (smelly, horse manure - one can imagine) and from here his father would head off to work in his horse and cart. John became quite emotional as we were walking down the lane - he recalled that when he was very young his mother would tie him (not unkindly) to a long rope so he didn't run away. We spent some time peeping through fences at backyards in which nothing much had changed in all that time. 
Sack merchants (established 1934) - a development in keeping with the original building
And then on the corner of Abinger and Lord Streets we discovered the Bag Merchant where his father used to sell recycled bags which he had travelled to the country to collect/buy. Remarkably it is still there - albeit with a sympathetic development of townhouses on it - but it retains the facade! I could feel the waves of emotion as we worked our way though his past. 
The Murphy Street home where his brother still resides
From there we headed to Murphy Street where the family moved as things improved. Horse and cart were replaced by car and truck and his father and brother went into business together. In the 60's/70's his brother bought the 2 houses behind for their own Bag Merchant factory. His brother still lives in the house. Still today, for some, it is 'once a Richmondite, always a Richmondite'. Not John!
The original Yarra State Primary School - a rather grand building
Whilst living in Murphy Street, John went to the local school - built in 1888. Yarra Primary in Davison Street stunned him on arrival. In his day there was just the original building but now almost every space is covered with buildings, awnings and ramps leaving just a small playground. 
Granny's house - original fireplaces awaiting their return to the house
Perhaps the piece-de-resistance of our sojourn was another trip down memory lane when we went to Edinburgh Street to find his grannys house! Not only did we find it but the door was open wide and massive renovations were being done. John was reluctant to go in - but why not - the door was open - so in we plunged. It was the typical 2 bedroom cottage and he popped his head into granny's room - where he told me that a cocky used to sit in the front window saying "Nothing today thankyou" - in his Grannys voice! - when salesmen - or those collecting money owed - would come aknocking on the door!!
The original archway in the passage - down to the new extension
Down the passage we went with John chatting all the way about his memories of the house. Out the back the workmen were laying concrete/tiles beyond the new 'family' room. We opened the door and peered out. "There was a toilet out there on the lane" said John. "Yes, we pushed it down a couple of weeks ago" was the reply. Just imagine it had been there all that time! "During the depression my aunt used to run a sly-grog shop at her home along the lane. When the Police arrived the grog was pushed down the lane to Granny's place, and when they had gone it was pushed back down the lane". Lanes were useful for all sorts of things - nightcarts, playing and sly-grog moving!

I'll leave you with a rare sight these days - chatting in the street (outside his original home) "Everyone chatted in the street then" said John
It was a fascinating walk and a privilege to be taken down memory lane. Thankyou John for bringing alive a Richmond I knew had existed but knew little about. The small area we covered will always remind me of you.

Wednesday, 19 March 2014

The Yellow Peril

Over the years I've felt so sorry for the Vault - commonly known as the Yellow Peril. This piece of urban sculpture has had more moves than a dancer on Dancing with the Stars! I have always liked it. I think when it first arrived at the previous city square (corner Collins and Swanston Streets) it was so different to a statue of Queen Victoria or a soldier on horseback that many citizens just couldn't accept it and move with the times. I thought it sat rather proudly in that open space (pre Federation Square) but I think I was one of the few!
The original City Square - were all these people protesting against The Yellow Peril?! (walkingmelbourne.com)
And I have to say I also felt so sorry for the sculptor - Ron Robertson-Swann. The outrage, letters to the editor and public discussions on this work must have been 'difficult' for him - a man ahead of his time. It was commissioned by the Melbourne City Council in 1978 costing what was then considered the outrageous sum of $70,000. It was installed in May 1980 and removed by the end of that same year! And to add further insult it was moved from City Square without advising him. Just imagine putting all that work into a piece only to have the-powers-that-be schlep it around the city until they found a resting place down at Batman Park (near the corner of Spencer and Flinders Streets). It remained there in relative obscurity - except for the passing traffic, graffiti artists and those walking to the Casino - until it was finally moved and restored to its current resting place. And a mighty fine location it now has - well in my opinion!
In grassy Batman Park - en route to its next resting place (the age)
If you are heading to either the marvellous Malthouse Theatre to see a play, or to ACCA (Australian Centre for Contemporary Art) in Sturt Street, Southbank then go and give it pat and a welcome. It now has space around it and in my opinion 'sits proud'. 
At 'home' at last - with 'rusty' ACCA and the 'sculptural' exhaust tower from the freeway tunnel
The juxtaposition next to the rusty steel facade of ACCA which pays reference to the former warehouses, foundries and sheds on the site, the ACCA building is itself a sculpture in which to show art. And right next to it is the old Coopers Malthouse which was built in 1892 as a brewery and malting works. 
Looking towards the current Victoria Police Mounted Branch horse stables
The Malthouse building was donated by Carlton and United Breweries in 1990 to be used for the creation and presentation of contemporary Australian theatre.
The marvellous Malthouse Theatre complex - stop in for a coffee, a drink or even a play!
I guess you could say that the Vault has now been vaulted into position! It's an interesting corner of the world and one that's worth a visit.

Wednesday, 12 March 2014

Meeting the Beatles - 50 years ago!

Much has been written recently about the Beatles arrival in Melbourne 50 years ago this year. I have been reflecting on their visit 'downunder' as their first stop in Australia was my hometown Adelaide. And the only reason they visited Adelaide was because the firm to which my father was Managing Director (the department store John Martins - or Johnnies as it was fondly called) sponsored their visit and the hire of the venue. Can you believe that the promoters felt they needed the security of the visit underwritten! In fact Johnnies had listened to the disappointed fans (and their customers) who had learnt that Adelaide was to miss out on the famous four visiting Adelaide as the original itinerary only included Brisbane, Melbourne and Sydney. And what an amazing marketing coup it was. Not only were Adelaide fans forever grateful for this decision but John Martins was also the ticket seller for the concerts!! And 300,000 fans welcomed them to the city (half its population!) Amazing.
Inside the souvenir programme cover - 'In Adelaide THE BEATLES are presented in association with JOHN MARTIN & CO. LIMITED'

On the back cover of the programme - ooh how young they look!
And of course as a young baby in arms (joking here - I was the 'perfect' age - 18) not only did I get to meet them but of course we had the best seats in the house at the concert! And what a concert it was. The only embarrassment for me (those dreadful teenage years when having your parents attend anything with you was well....derigeur) was that not only did my parents attend but my father thoroughly enjoyed himself and led the arm-waving, stomping and leaping out of his seat. I don't recall if he screamed along with the rest of us but I think you've got the picture. Being probably the oldest in attendance he was going to have a great night whatever the look of horror from all around him! I was mortified! If only the crowd had known who he was - and the reason the Beatles were able to visit Adelaide - he may well have been swamped with screams and kisses from grateful fans!
That's me peeping over the shoulder of the Lord Mayor and right next to John clutching his koala!
Meeting John, Paul, George but alas not Ringo was pretty exciting but I have to say as a shy young thing - dressed up to the nines in a knitted suit (in those days we dressed like our mothers!) and hair sprayed to within an inch of its life (it didn't move!) was a bit intimidating! They were 'pretty cool'. Ringo didn't make it to Adelaide - he was ailing - so we had a 'stand in' Jimmie Nicol whose hair was also styled in the Beatle Cut which had by then become famous!
On the aircraft stairs arriving in Adelaide waving to the fans - Ringo stand-in Jimmie Nicol is in the light coat
Talking with the 'boys' was exciting and those Liverpudlian accents certainly added to their charm. I do wonder what they thought of us all - at the Lord Mayor's reception - it was such a stuffy affair, but I do believe that it was early days for them with fame and fortune still a novelty so perhaps they didn't laugh behind our backs. We were such a conservative lot in the city of churches. But that was the way it was 50 years ago.

So here are some photos of their autographs for me - just to prove that I was there! Lovely George called me Jane but he signed 'with love' so who am I to complain! Cos after all with both Paul and George signing 'with love' I know I sure was glad!
She says she loves you
And you know that can't be bad
Yes, she loves you
And you know you should be glad
No love from John!
The 3 'Adelaide' Beatles - To Jane (!) love George
Paul loves me - yeah yeah yeah!
There's a Beatles in Australia free exhibition at the Arts Centre in Melbourne from 8 March - 1 July (see details here). I think I'll pop along for a bit of a reminisce even though it probably won't mention Adelaide - or Brisbane! 
Official souvenir programme
Did you go to their concerts in Australia? Did you see them elsewhere? Does this take you back? Are you jealous (well perhaps not now but maybe then!)

Monday, 3 March 2014

A vineyard on the doorstep

On a weekend wander recently I was stunned - and thrilled - to discover hidden behind some trees a private vineyard on the banks of the 'mighty' Yarra River. Now Victoria has some great wine regions to explore including the Mornington Peninsula, the Yarra Valley, the Bellarine Peninsula - to name just a few - but would you expect to find a vineyard right here in downtown Richmond? (well technically speaking it is just across the walk-bridge in Kew - but....!) It's right at the junction of Victoria and Burnley Streets (park your car if you're not walking at the Victoria Gardens Shopping Centre). Keep walking north and voila there it is. As you are crossing Victoria Street look up to your right to see the famed Skipping Girl sign (see my earlier post September 2012 here
Little Audrey Kingston - askipping since 1938 - and still going strong!
You're on the right track after passing the Skipping Girl sign so walk across the footbridge to discover a little piece of private paradise.
The footbridge at the northern end of Burnley Street - looking back towards the Skipping Girl (she's above the warehouse on the left)
The Studley Park Vineyard is located at 5 Garden Terrace, Kew. The vineyard which is on 1 acre was only planted in 1994 but historically winegrowing and other agriculture had been carried out in the Kew, Hawthorn and Balwyn areas for over 100 years. The land where the vineyard is located had previously been a market garden and had been known as the Chinese Garden (hence Garden Terrace).
Who says the Yarra is not beautiful - in all it's natural glory
And there on the Yarra flat is a tiny piece of Cabernet Sauvignon and Rosé paradise
I'd call this a hidden gem - imagine owning it
Not surprisingly this is the closest vineyard to Melbourne - and even closer to Richmond!. You can even go on line and buy the wine at www.studley.com.au. Right across the river in Richmond development goes on ad infinitum - so it is wonderful that this little piece of paradise has been saved - so far - fingers crossed - from the developers. 

The Richmond side of the Yarra - more apartments on their way - but what a wonderful view of the river they will have - eventually!
And while you are on the Kew side of the river why not take a walk through the lovely Walmer Street bushland right opposite the vineyard - can you believe this is so close to the city! It's another hiddengem that we Richmondites are pretending is ours!!

The Walmer Street Bushland - it's just a hop, step and a jump to the city!
So park the car at Victoria Gardens Shopping Centre and put on your walking shoes (you can even walk from the Cottage if you really want a long walk), cross the river and a new world will open up. Want to bike-ride or walk along the river - that's just another option for you. Just be mindful of speeding bikers who think they own the shared pathways. Bell-ringing on approach doesn't seem to be part of their lycra ethos!
Good old Google will help you get your bearings!
Bowen Cottage client comment: Oh no you are full - I will try to shift things - because we just love BC. (book early!)